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Learning To Swim. Letting Go of Our Floaties!

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Summer. A time to rest, relax, rejuvenate, reflect and plan. Before we know it, school bells will ring and here we go again. Tonight I'm writing from head and heart, hoping to inspire you to take a giant leap forward in your school and life. 

 Make it happen. Just do it. Kinders are fearless. Why aren't we? What are we waiting for?

At what point do we learn to swim and let go of our floaties? At what point do we simply take the leap of faith and dive in? Full immersion, probably the best way to learn anything. Just do it.

I've spent several hours lately at the local recreation center, watching the kids' swim classes. Newly five is learning to swim. She comes from a family of champion swimmers, except me. Class size is perfect, only four or five kiddos.

The teacher is expert at the craft of the swim, starting with the basics. Practice. The art of the swim, a swimmer's kindergarten. Life jackets and flip flops ready to change places in a flash. Ready, set, swim!

 Reflective leaders and learners think like Kindergarteners. And that says a lot.

What do we truly believe in?

What are our deepest core values?

Are we wearing life jackets all the time?

In special moments, whether at coast, mountains or backyard we ponder about our life. I fondly think back to my kindergarten experience. My teacher's name was Miss Welcher. I still see her clearly in my mind's eye.

She looks teacherish to me now, whatever that means. Our class was developmentally appropriate. I remember lots of free play. And naps on little mats. And snacks. Lots of recess. Books. A piano. Ryhthm sticks. Blocks. Dramatic play, arts, music. Sigh.

I knew then I wanted to be a teacher. Just like her. So I did. But there were a lot of transitions, decisions, mess ups and start overs along the way. I had a lot of floaties and mentors. Still do. 

Transitions, kindergarten is just the beginning. Season to season, year to year, lesson to lesson. Graceful, well planned transitions are the goal.

 Transitions should be smooth as glass, but are often rough around the edges until we figure out where we are going. Floaties are needed as we learn to swim, but at some point we need to let go and glide through the water of life, gentle and effortless, well most of the time. 

I spend a lot of time with our five year old, besides swimming. In the current transition of fiveness, reading forts and tents, baby dolls, bikes, Barbies mixed with hilarious costumes and grand performances are the norm.

Five year olds have such dramatic flair, moments of tenderness, fierce independence, are fearless and know so much. And love to play bossy teacher, at least in this house.

Our preschool "graduate" talks constantly about going to the big school kindergarten, very soon, now. 

 Every age and level is perfect but I admit to be particularly fond of kindergarten, although I seriously am not the best Kindergarten teacher. 

 I'm sure along the way, you read one of my favorite books "All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten". Such a classic, because it reflects every age and stage of life, way beyond kindergarten.

I love the universal applicability to great leadership, every statement having a logical, maybe profound meaning, grand aspirations for developing Credo, Vision, Mission. The creative heart. That place we call school. It all starts in kindergarten. Just spend a day and you'll know what I mean.

Credo comes first. Passion. Purpose.

Written by Robert Fulgham in 1986, this life altering personal credo gives depth to our belief in empathy, student-centered classrooms, and inclusive, differentiated learning.

The author makes powerful statements about the simplest, most obvious things, reminding us how to have a meaningful, purposeful, inspirational life. 

Fulgham shared this grand, eloquent gift with us:

"All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the the graduate school mountain, but there at the sandpile of the Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don't hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up after your own mess.

Don't take things that aren't yours.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies & cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life- learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the styrofoam cup- they all die. So do we.

And then we remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned- the biggest word of all- LOOK.

  And it is still true, no matter how old you are- when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together."

It's time to swim. We know what we believe. We have our foundation. The roadmap is in place. What are we waiting for? There are mountains to climb, places to go. We don't need our floaties anymore. Trust our instincts. Weigh the merits. Act. Look forward.

Afterall, we have each other. We know how to hold hands and stick together! That collaboration makes the difference for Kinders, and beyond.

You make the difference in the learning lives of kids. Be bold. Be brave. Be you! May the joy of Kindergarten guide our actions as school leaders and learners, with positivity and love.



Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita 

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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 45 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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