Tonight I am writing about Hope. Every Child a Star! Leo The Early Bloomer.
One of my favorite children's books, Leo the Late Bloomer, resonates for us all. Regardless of who we are teaching, there are lessons galore in this special book written by Kraus, illustrated by Aruego in 1971.
Maybe even more relevant today, as we push children to exceed, meet sometimes unreasonable standards and expectations, at least as measured by standardized testing. My opinion, as a believer in DAP, developmentally appropriate instruction.
Poor Leo. He couldn't do anything right, couldn't read, write, draw, was a sloppy eater and never said a word. His father, in particular watched him for signs of blooming but pretty much gave up. In our class, many of the children have no daddies, only tired working mothers who trust our teachers to provide a seamless sense of family from home to school. Parents are our partners.
I've taught this story so many times for so many grade level kiddos, a great book for introducing contractions and onomotopoeia. Moreover, this book is about the gift of time, empathy and never giving up. It's first and foremost a story about hope.
I love the part where Leo finally pulls his learning together. "Then one day, in his own good time, Leo bloomed! He also spoke. And it wasn't just a word. It was a whole sentence. And that sentence was I made it!"
Besides whole class Circle time we share each day, our class, ages two-eight, rotates to me. I have Cowboys and Cowgirls, Butterflies and Sunshine Kids. There are no other labels. Each child has unique needs and a multitude of talents, waiting to bloom. Probably every child could have an IEP, which would be great.
There is no typical, no simply easy. They are all perfect to me, every child a potential star. I can't teach a single lesson that works for all the students even with scaffolding and differentiating to the max. It's not the kids. It's up to me to figure it out. My responsibility.
I consider each chunk a victory when I engage in any way two pretty much non-verbal kids, and the two year old, totally adorable but frequently distracting.
Normal for the age group, the master teachers I am working with model learning to get along means no hitting, kicking, biting, no bad words, saying sorry and being good friends and learning partners, all day long.
Teaching in this extraordinary multi-age school is the challenge of my career and I pray each night I am making a difference. I know I am learning much more than the children. The two skillful director/teachers are far superior to what I ever knew when I was a K-6 and Preschool Principal. Humbling. I ask a lot of questions and watch and listen. I work on pure instinct, and stretch myself in areas I thought were impossible.
I think it's easy to get complacent when we've taught a grade level or subject a long time. I always thought I could handle most grades and content areas, excepting math and chemistry. For me, moving from Middle and High School, then back to elementary and college teaching was loads of fun. I like variety and enhancing my creativity. This time, I felt for awhile I was like Leo and better bloom a lot faster for kids' sakes.
If not me, who? If not now, when?
By talking to, listening and observing the children I finally know their names and a little more about them. They also check me out. One little guy told me I have a crooked tooth. They notice if I wear nail polish or lipstick that day. They are most curious about my life, as I am, theirs. They know I have four children and five grand children, lived in the mountains in California and love them dearly.
They see my wedding rings and ask about my husband. When I say he's in heaven, I don't make a big deal but clearly note their empathetic little souls and feel their hugs. I know I can never read them Love You Forever, or I will totally lose it. So I focus on my kids in Eugene and Morgan, five, who attended this school and recently made it to the big leagues.
The most challenging part of teaching this age group is the assessment piece. I have been doing rating scales on Social-Communicative Interactions and Pre-Literacy Ratings. I am so opposed to this, the notion that standardized anything has trickled down to the littles.
It is so obvious by watching and listening to the children that we recognize when they use complete sentences and get needs met without resorting to physical means. However, check out a couple of these criterion:
"Uses words, phrases, or sentences to inform, direct, ask questions, and express anticipation, imagination, affect and emotions." Or, "Responds to topic changes initiated by others." How about "Uses words, phrases, or sentences to express anticipated outcomes." You get the idea.
The Pre-Literacy Rating Scale starts ok with usual book handling skills, then moves to joining letters to make syllables or words. Too soon for preschoolers! Emergent writing includes self-correcting errors if letters or numbers are copied incorrectly. And more. What are policy makers thinking?
I'm ready to help these children become rock stars. I'm capable of following the lead of two expert teachers and turning Late Bloomers into Early Bloomers. What we lack is the gift of time. What we share is love of these children and belief what we do, matters.
Every Child A Star! Leo The Early Bloomer.
If you missed my first post about joining the preschool, take a peek.
Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita