Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Say Please!" Where Has the Expectation of Respectful Children Gone?

I rarely use this blog to rant about personal preferences, but this topic is one that has my blood boiling lately. If you work in childcare or any education field I'm sure you have noticed the lack of manners and respect amongst today's children!  And quite frankly, I'm disgusted with it! Each day, I am constantly told "NO!", yelled at, ordered around and screamed at by three, four and five year old preschoolers. I watch my preschoolers order their parents around and I watch parents obey like scared puppies. What really makes me angry are the parents who think it is cute and funny that their child is acting "like a little grown up" or "a little diva." Are you kidding me?? It may be cute to the parent, but to the teacher who is getting paid less than a teenager working at McDonalds and has had to listen to that smart mouthed rudeness for the past nine hours, it isn't cute and it isn't funny. Its disrespectful!! 

I'm a firm believer that manners are first learned at home. If a parent lets their child boss them, the main adult in their life, around what makes the parent think their child is going to act any differently towards the other adults in their life? I was no where near a perfect child and I definitely had behavior problems, but I knew better than to be disrespectful to adults.  I knew to say 'yes please' and 'no thank you.' And I would NEVER talk back to my parents or teachers. Respect was expected in my home and in my classrooms growing up.  I think many teachers today have just learned to accept rudeness and disrespect as something that they can't change. "Its just how kids today are!" How sad!! How sad is it that we parents and teachers are so scared of "squashing a child's spirit" that we allow them to talk to adults and peers disrespectfully.  We have become more concerned about being a cool parent or a cool teacher than about a child's social well being. When did it become acceptable for a child to scream at, yell at, and hit an adult or peer?  When did it become acceptable for children to have such a sense of entitlement that they believe parents and teachers exist to cater to their every need? That three year old ordering you to "tie my shoe" in a cute fumbled accent may seem cute now, but it won't be in fifteen years when he has job and a boss that he doesn't know how to respect. Just because parents cater to their own children, does not mean the world will. And shame on you as a parent if you expect it to! 

I'm not saying that adults have to crush a child's self esteem or talk down to children to get respect. That is not how respect is taught! Respect is best learned through example.  Children can be taught to respect others without being disrespected themselves. You can talk to a child respectfully and you should expect them to talk to you the same way. Adults do not have to be dictators or authoritative to garner respect from children, they can simply not tolerate disrespect from children and then in turn show respect for the child and others.  When a child orders me to "zip me up now!" or says "no I don't want to!" I ignore them! You may be thinking, oh no ignoring the child will make them feel badly or that it isn't respectful to the child to ignore them. I disagree. Why would I give attention to a behavior that I do not want to see?  I refuse to remind my students to say "please," because children are not parrots! They may say please when told to, but they are not saying it with respect, they are saying it because they were ORDERED to (see where I'm going here?)  My ignoring of the child's disrespect doesn't last long, most of my kids know me well enough to know what I'm waiting for and they will ask me to help them in a respectful way.  Often I will take the opportunity to talk to the child about what happened. I let them know, in a respectful way,  that I do not like to be talked to like that. I tell them that it hurts my feelings. Sometimes, I tell them that it makes me feel angry when they talk disrespectfully to me. (If you want a child to talk to you about their feelings, you should talk to them about yours. Newsflash, they know you're angry anyway.) 

As I said earlier, respect and manners are learned behaviors. Just like children aren't born knowing how to walk or talk, they aren't born knowing how to behave or how to respect. Its never too early to teach a child respect. And its never too late to start. In a society where respect among adults is almost nonexistent, shouldn't we want a different society for our children when they become adults? 

Lesson of the day: Children are watching and learning from us adults! What behaviors are we teaching them?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Preschool Goes Postal...

For the past two weeks my classroom has explored one of the oldest institutions in our country, The Unites State Postal Service.  We learned about stamps, letters, envelopes, and postcards. We turned our dramatic play area into the Preschool Post Office. We were able to get USPS boxes, envelopes and mailing labels donated to us from our local post office.

The children had lots of fun, packing boxes and mailing them to friends across the room. I think they got the most enjoyment out of stuffing envelopes! Which is  a great fine motor activity that also strengthens hand-eye coordination.
 For art activities we decorated our own stamp with the number 44 on them. We learned that each stamp costs 44 cents.  (number recognition/pre-math). I showed then children numerous pictures of stamps from the past and they were amazed at some of the pictures that have donned the faces of postal stamps in years past. I must admit, so was I. We've had some really cool stamps over the years.

We also learned about postcards. My co-teacher brought in postcards for each of the students and we learned that we didn't need an envelope to mail a postcard. We decided to make our own post cards, using a postcard template that we glued to a sturdy piece of cardboard. The children then decorated the front of the postcard with magazine cut outs from Ranger Rick and other kids wildlife magazines. The children had fun designing their own post cards while strengthening their cutting skills and other fine motor skills. They also were encouraged to write messages on their postcards and most of the children made wonderful squiggly lines (pre-writing) and also practiced writing their name. Fun and learning all together.

For a an open-ended process art activity we painted with bubble wrap. I cut the bubble wrap into squares and then taped the edges to make a bubble wrap glove. It was neat to see where the children took this activity. Some of the children didn't use the bubble wrap to pant, they simple popped the bubble wrap and then used their hands to paint. Others had fun seeing the texture and prints that the bubble wrap glove left behind. Colors were mixed and imaginations were free. It was really great sensory/art activity.

 One of my favorite activities that we did this week is one that will stick with me forever. In our weekly newsletter, we asked parents and grandparents to write letters to their child and send it to the school. My co-teacher and I were amazed at the amount of letters the children received. We used an old metal mailbox as our preschool mailbox and after rest time everyday the children would check to see if the red flag was up. If it was, that meant that some lucky preschoolers had received mail. During our afternoon snack time we read the letters to the children. (Well, we attempted to read them it was a little difficult through the heartwarming tears the letters brought to our eyes)

After we read the letters we taped them on a bulletin board for the children to look at through the week.

I think what I enjoyed most about this activity was that the parents whom I didn't think think would send letters, actually did. (Lesson in humility for me) Those letters were the most heartwarming and special because it reminded us the special bond between parent and child. And the pride that each child exuded as we read THEIR letter from THEIR loved one was so special that it reminded me of the importance of a handwritten letter and that letter writing is a lost art. It also reminded me of how special it is to see familiar handwriting on a piece of paper. In an age of email and texting, I wonder how many children would actually recognize the handwriting of a loved one? I know one of the strongest memories I have of my mother is her handwriting. She had the most beautiful penmanship. I remember finding a letter from her shortly after she passed and I will never forget the feeling that flowed through me. I still have that letter safely put away and I pull it out sometimes when I'm missing her. Can you recognize your mother's handwriting? Can your child recognize yours? Hmmm!

Lesson Learned: The importance and impact of handwritten letters. 

*Also, The US Postal Service was established on July 26, 1775 by Congress. Benjamin Franklin was made the first Postmaster General.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday's Wacky Words...

Me: "What was your favorite part of today?"

Child:  "Getting stuck in the toilet!"

Me: "What?"

Child: "Getting stuck in the toilet. You know the game we are playing outside. I'd get stuck in the toilet and [friend] pulled me out!'

Me: "Oh!" 

Yup, I went into college debt for these kind of conversations! 

My New Classroom... What's Been Going on in Preschool.

Its been a couple weeks since I've posted because  its been a whirlwind settling into my new school and getting adjusted to a new schedule, new students and new co-workers. Its been very busy these last few weeks but it has also been very productive . I've been very excited to share pictures of my new classroom with you and to let you know some of the things I have been doing!

When the children enter the classroom they are excited to find their name and put it in the pocket letting us know that they are "here today!" Each child is able to find his or her own name which aids in name and letter recognition, further strengthening their pre-literacy skills. Some of the children even try to find Ms. Candy's and my name and put them up for us.  *This also helps us keep a head count of who is already at school and who is missing, not that we'd ever co-teacher and I are professionals!

After they "sign in" in the morning, depending on what time they arrive, they go straight to free play. Certain activities are set out for them, but they can almost always do whatever the "In Preschool We CAN..." can Popsicle sticks say. Sadly, this hasn't been utilized as much as it was when we first started, but it is always at reach for a quick reminder of what the children can do in preschool. It is also a good option to pull out for those kids who are bored, you know, that child who "can't find anything to do in the whole entire classroom!" Whip out your "CAN" can!!

Before we truly begin our day, we all meet at circle rug and find out what jobs we are going to do today! We are "Handy Helpers" We have nine classroom jobs and each child has a hand with their name on it. Again, strengthening those pre-literacy skills. 

After job designation we have breakfast quickly followed by morning meeting. This is our morning meeting area. In our morning meeting area, we have our calendar, our Choice chart and our Classroom Expectations.


Our Exploration Choice Time chart has each of our work/exploration center choices listed with the number of people allowed at that center at a time (number recognition, counting skills and word recognition) At end of morning meeting each child puts their picture under which activity they are going to do, then they move their picture before moving to another center. *This also teaches turn taking and promotes good communication skills.

               Classroom Expectations/ Rules are posted and we spend a lot of time giving daily reminders of what we CAN do in our room. I would love to say I came up with this all on my own, but I didn't! I got it off Pinterest. However, I did change the wording!

I am enjoying my new classroom and my new bunch of small human beings! Yes, they are human, I'm also quite the fan of my new co-teacher, Candy!  I'm sure you can imagine how much fun the children have saying our names and connecting the fact that they rhyme! Its almost like we are one person, BrandyCandy. Oh well, more pre-literacy!

Lesson Learned: With change comes creativity!  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"I CAN" Week in Preschool.

"In Preschool, I CAN...."
Traditionally for the first week of preschool I plan an "All About Me" week, but this first week of school I did something a little different. I planned an "I CAN" week.  Using some ideas I found on one of my favorite blogs,, I decided to spend my first week at a new school with new students focusing on all the things that they CAN do in preschool. The concept allowed me to implement some expectations for them, while also laying basic ground rules for the classroom without focusing on all the things that the kids CAN'T do.

Each day during our morning meeting we began filling  our "I CAN" can with all the things that we can do in preschool written on Popsicle sticks. I asked each child to tell me one thing that they can do in  preschool and then my co-teacher would write it on a Popsicle stick and then allow the child to put the stick in the can. Now, we have a can full of all the things we 'CAN' do in preschool. When I catch a child doing something they shouldn't be doing I grab the can and ask them if what they are doing is something we 'CAN' do in preschool. When they say no, I have them pull out a Popsicle stick and I read what is written on stick to them and then encourage them to do that activity instead of what they were doing. Its brings the focus back to what the kids CAN do in preschool instead of what they can't.
Continuing to draw on the "I Can" analogy, my co-teacher and I collected a bunch of cans in many different shapes and sizes and put them in all the centers. We used cans to build in the block area, we used cans in our water table, and we even used cans to paint with. Using cans in each center area allowed us to introduce the centers to the children and help them learn all the things they can do in each area.

Here are some activities that my preschoolers did during "I Can" week...

"I Can Paint!" We used cans of many different sizes and rolled them paint and made cool looking pictures. Some of my students rolled the cans on the paper, and some children used the cans as stamps and made circles on their paper.

Along with cans, we also learned that we CAN paint with other obscure objects such as cotton balls attached to clothes pin. This exploration allowed the children to work on color recognition and sorting skills. It was also a really great way to strengthen fine motor skills.  Best of all, the kids LOVED it. It was new and different and therefore interesting.

There are many ways to promote the concept of CAN in a classroom and the important lesson to be learned here is that children need to know what they CAN do instead of what they can't do. One of my favorite quotes is from Scott Noyes, "Say Yes when you can and No when you have to!"  This concept of focusing on what children CAN do has changed my entire way of classroom management. And when they are doing or want to do something they CAN'T do, I try to remember to give them a clear and simple reason as to why they can't. Then I'm sure to follow up with an idea of something they can do instead. This idea leads to the ultimate goal I have for my students and that is SUCCESS! I want my students to feel successful while they are in my classroom, and if I'm lucky and am doing my job well enough they will feel successful when they leave my classroom.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back to School Survival Tips for the Unprepared Teacher

This fall I'm teaching at a new school. I will still be teaching 3-5 year olds, but everything else will be different. What is especially different about this year is that I start teaching on Monday, today is Saturday, and I am not prepared! In the nine years that I have been teaching I have never felt more unprepared for the first day of school than I do right now. My classroom is set up, I have activities and lesson plans for the week prepared, posters hung up and and yet, I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Maybe its new school jitters, maybe its all in my head or maybe I really am forgetting something so huge that I'm going to ruin the lives of my new students. (Hey, I've never claimed to not have a flare for the dramatic!)  While I'm sure that there is probably a poster or picture that I forgot to hang up or some other small thing that I have forgotten, I'm also pretty sure that I will survive and so will my students. Here are a few tips that might help you survive too.

Back to School Survival tips for the Unprepared Teacher...

  1. Coffee!  Since bringing alcohol into the classroom is generally frowned upon (oh, come on, like you have never been tempted.) I suggest bringing coffee and lots of it for that first day. If you are not a coffee drinker, bring lots of whatever is you do drink. That familiarity of a guilty pleasure, will aid you in forgetting that you are unprepared for the day. It will also keep you sane when the kids are in their back to school, drive you nuts, hyper mode.  Never underestimate the comfort of a guilty pleasure.
  2. Look Cute!  Nothing says "I'm prepared for the first day of school" like a well dressed teacher. If you look like you have it all together, parents and students and co-workers will believe that you do have all together and that you are rock star teacher! (All teachers are rock stars in my book, whether prepared or not, just FYI.) So, rock your best teaching outfit, even if there's a chance it will get paint, dirt, snot, or coffee on it. I promise the confidence you will feel will be more than worth the extra cost of stain remover.
  3. Back-up Plan!  No matter what I have written down on my weekly lesson plans, on the bottom of the page, in the notes section I always write down a back up plan or activity. These are the activities you pull out when nothing on your daily lesson plan is of interest to the children. Here are a couple of my staple back-up activities: shaving cream, floor painting, washing dishes, and band-aids.  I will write a post based on these activities in the near future,  but for now they are only serving to prove my point that every successful teacher, even if he or she is unprepared should always have a back-up plan that they can use in case of emergency. In a way, having a back-up plan is being prepared, hence making you less unprepared. (See how I did that? You feel prepared now, don't you?)
  4. Lie!  Normally, I'm all about the truth. I'm actually kind of a stickler about it in both my personal and professional life, however, there is one time where I condone lying, in fact I even encourage it in this certain situation. Every teacher at the beginning of the school year is asked the most annoying question in the world... "Are you ready for the first day of school?" When someone asks you this, you must lie! No one wants to hear a surgeon who is about to perform a complicated, life-saving surgery say they are not ready for the surgery, do they? Of course not! They also do not want to hear that a person who shapes young minds is unprepared for the first day of school. So when in this situation,  I say lie! Lie your butt off! Tell them you have been prepared for the past week and that you couldn't be more excited for the first day of school. That's what they want to hear anyway. Plus, if you say it, you might actually believe it, and then again feel better prepared for the first day of school.  **Disclaimer: Answer honestly when a fellow teacher asks you this question. They will know you're full of crap if you try to lie. Remember, they're probably unprepared as well and we teachers are in this together. 
  5. Consider the students!  When all else fails to make you feel better prepared for the first day of school, remember why you signed up for this underpaid, under-appreciated, stress induced career! Who the hell cares if you forgot to put up a poster, or if your classroom is in shambles, or if you really are unprepared. The only thing that matters is that you are teacher! You signed up for this job because you love kids and want to make a difference in their lives. (If this not true in your case, then quit your job and let the people who care about kids do it!) So spend the first day or first week getting to know your students. Build relationships with them. Set the foundation to make a positive difference in their lives. Set them up for a successful school year and ultimately a successful life. 
I truly believe the most prepared teacher is a committed teacher. Students are not going to remember what a teacher wore or how the classroom was set up, the only thing students will remember is how the teacher made them feel when they entered the classroom.

Happy first day of school, peeps! You're a rock star!! xo

Saturday, January 26, 2013

It Pays to Play...

There are many aspects about my job that I love and one of the things I like best is that my classroom is a play-based classroom!  My students learn important academic and life skills through play. In today's society, preschool programs that encourage play as a learning tool are often thought of as inferior to those programs that don't. The truth is that neither programs is superior or inferior to the other scientifically, both have good arguments for success. What it comes down to is which philosophy you believe in (you believe in one or the other whether you realize it or not.) I believe in PLAY!  And the really best part of my job...I get paid to do it!! How awesome is that?! I get paid to play!

Maybe its the kid in me or maybe I'm just weird, but I love the fact I get to go to work and play with one of my all-time favorite childhood toys: Play-dough!  I love the feel of it and the smell of it, especially when I add some of my own ingredients such as Kool-Aid, cinnamon, or vanilla extract! (Yes, I make my own play-dough! Its cheaper and I can get creative with the recipe.) If you played with play-dough as a kid you remember all the really cool sculpture you could make. I always enjoyed making "cookies," and other food items.  Like many other play items that fill my classroom, play-dough is a multifaceted learning tool! I love strengthening my student's reading and math skills when I sit down and join them in play-dough play. You are probably wondering how a hunk of dough can teach a child to read and add aren't you?  Well, did you ever roll your play-dough in a long snake-like roll? Did you ever make it into the letter 'S'? I'm pretty sure you did, or else you were robbed of proper play-dough play AND a happy childhood. Anyway, when I roll out really long snakes, which the kids ask me to do quite often because evidently I'm awesome at it, I will often make a letter out of the "snake" and ask the child if they recognize the letter. Most often they do, and when they don't I get help them learn a new letter. This is all pre-reading!! (You can't read if you don't know your letters.) If the child knows the letter I will often continue my teaching opportunity by asking if they know what sound the letter makes and if they can think of a word that begins with that letter. Another way, to reinforce literacy skills using play-dough is by giving the children straws or toothpicks. Kids love straws!! I often flatten out a ball of play-dough into a clean slate and then use the straw or the toothpick to write my name or the child's name or just some letters. The children will often practice writing their own name in their play-dough! They think it is pretty cool to see their name written in play-dough.

Now on to play-dough math fun! This often starts out with the child using cookie cutters to make cut outs. Most of my students also enjoy making "cookies" and they usually make quite a few. Leaving the opportunity reinforce counting skills. If they have have made different types of cookies, there is an excellent opportunity to encourage sorting skills (necessary for math) and even work on patterns. Sometimes I will throw in some early addition skills by asking how many of each cookie and then how many all together.

So in one fifteen minute sitting, my students and I have worked on literacy skills and math skills all the while having fun with play-dough!  Its an easy and inexpensive way to make learning fun through play.

Lesson of the Day: Never underestimate the power of play! (or play-dough)

Kool-Aid Play-dough Recipe:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
2tbs of cream of tartar
1tbs vegetable oil
1 cup of very hot water
1 packet of favorite Kool-Aid (if using Lemonade, have yellow food coloring on hand to enhance color)
*Mix dry ingredients (except Kool-Aid) in bowl. Add Kool-Aid to water and stir well. Then add oil to colored water. Stir until ball forms and all ingredients are absorbed. Lightly flour surface and then knead dough until its no longer sticky and all the flour is absorbed.