Sunday, May 30, 2010

Wherever you are, be there.

"We must start from where we are
not from where we want to be.
For where we want to be
is to be content
with where we are."

Ian McCrorie

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

just trying it out to see what happens.

So much of starting a new school is just making shots in the dark and hoping your good intentions will guide them. Cultivating an attitude of adventure/curiosity ("let's just try it out and see what happens") often followed by a disclaimer ("if it doesn't work out, we won't do it anymore") has become a big part of my personal journey as director and teacher. It's the friendliest way I have found to deal with the fact that so much of what I do is completely new to me, and often out of my field of experience. Ranging from simple things like making new recipes that I've never tried with the children, to the more complicated world of handling situations with a child or parents, or the often mystifying world of school finance and accounting.

When I stumble on quotes, blog posts, songs, books, mug quotes, that celebrate the process over the final product/ simply trying as succeeding, I find it really encouraging.

"Enthusiasm, a sense of fun, and high energy are more engaging than skill. William Blake observed, “Exuberance is beauty.” from Martha Writes

"Trying is the same as succeeding." from Molly O'Shaughnessy

"I remind myself of the important lesson for any creative pursuit, “No one cares about my mistakes. What’s important is to do what I want to do.” from The Happiness Project

"Do one thing every day that scares you" Eleanor Roosevelt- from the mug that Sayenne gave me

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Routine Books

Our school staff (of 2) is participating in a 7 month long "Conscious Discipline" workshop. I couldn't be happier. This came about after we attended a morning long session intended for parents back in November and found it to be so complementary to what we do in the classroom that we signed up for the long term workshop that is geared specifically for teachers. (Whoo, that's one long sentence.)

The group gathers once a month and discusses a specific aspect of the technique. And for that month, you work CONSCIOUSLY to integrate that aspect in your classroom. A lot of it, so far, has to do with cultivating friendliness with error in yourself.

If you are not familiar with "Conscious Discipline" you can refer to their website, or to the post I wrote previously on the shorter workshop. The book that is on the cover of that post is what this long workshop is based on. It has been a very helpful book with classroom management this year.

This month, we were assigned a homework in which we had to create a material for use in the classroom that would visually remind children of all the steps included in a daily routine.

We made a set of "Routine Books" for our room. The materials needed were basic photo albums, camera and printer. We made a list of all the routines we carry out in the classroom that involve multiple steps and that could be broken down into pictures.

The main ones we included are:

-Arriving at school
-Choosing Work
-Using the bathroom
-Lunch Routine
-Clean up

But we expanded: Using the book corner, Using the outside necklace, Working in the kitchen...

For each of these, we made a small booklet that has a pictures of a child carrying out each one of the steps involved in the procedure. It was really fun for the children involved to mock the process so that we could take the pictures- and yet another great reminder of the lesson without us actually giving the lesson.

Here are some excerpts from the bathroom routine book (Sorry about the neck craning, I didn't realize I had uploaded these twisted):

We also decided to write simple text on the opposite side of the books for engaging readers.

I presented the booklets as stories during small group lessons. My oh my! The children LOVED seeing their classmates in the "illustrations." They listened and looked very attentively as I told each story. And then many of them promptly went on to re-enact the stories. ("Miss Susanne! Look! I'm flushing the toilet like Cristina in the picture!")

We then made the booklets available in the book corner and the children look at them a lot, read them, and tell each other the stories.

This is like a grace and courtesy lesson that keeps on giving itself!

I am impressed at how quickly routines have become smoother in the classroom with the help of these booklets. Toilets get flushed more often, clean up gets done more efficiently, morning greetings are less frequently forgotten.

It is a great way to reinforce these lessons without having to invest a lot of time in re-giving the lesson. I super recommend it!

I took pictures of the formats that other teachers in our workshop used for making the routines "visual". Some of them made a visual "schedule" of the day. And others focused more on micro routines instead. Here's some of what they brought:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chinese Evening- Rolling with the punches

I had been planning our "Moving On" ceremony for the end of the school year for months, when parents let me know that 4 out of my 6 oldest children would be leaving early for vacation (one of them 4 weeks early!). It would be very tricky to honor the "graduates" if only 2 of them were present at the end of the year! So I scratched that plan, and I found another way of honoring their confidence and skill before they all move on.

The oldest children are putting together a performance for a "Chinese Evening". The whole school will be decorated with red lanterns and Chinese characters! The whole idea started with the intention of having them put on a play for their younger peers. Out of several choices, they chose the book "Tiki Tiki Tembo" to base the play on. And little by little, the idea grew until we now have a performance in 5 acts!

We will have the "Chinese Evening" on a Saturday, from 4-6 pm. It will also serve as our first fund raiser for the school (we are planning on purchasing a dish washer for our kitchen, and some more outdoor play equipment.)

The five acts of the performance:

1) The two oldest girls will give a short presentation on some basic facts about China (they are independently preparing their poster to go along with it)

2) One of the boys will teach the audience how to count from 1-10 in Chinese (with big flash cards that he is making, that have the numerals 1-10 on one side, and the Chinese symbols for 1-10 on the other)

3) Two boys will do a short Chinese inspired dance

4) The children who are taking violin lessons after school will do a demonstration of how to stand, hold, and play notes on the violin.

5) All the oldest children will present the play "Tiki Tiki Tembo". They have been painting the scenery for the play in the mornings, and practicing their lines and blocking in the afternoons. It has been such fun!

The play will include a song in the middle from the movie "Big Bird In China", which is my niece's and mother's favorite movie to watch together. The clip is unbearably cute, and now to have all the children in the class singing it is even more so! Here it is:

For the fund raising part: We will be selling popcorn, baked goods (that the children will bake at school during the week), school stickers, and we are having a raffle for which lots of parents have donated prizes and teachers have donated baby sitting services.

It will be the first event of its kind at our school and I'm really excited about it!

PS. Here's a post from NAMC Training Center with some really nice ideas for "Moving On" ceremonies.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Amazing things.

"...if you work really hard
and you are kind, amazing things will happen."

Conan O' Brien