How do you spell love? Literacy on little angel wings. Such joy, the most amazing learning experience of my life.
Here’s my update, year two preschool, teaching kiddos emergent skills of reading and writing, well, a lot more than that. Never sure who’s teaching whom. A day in the passionate life, so to speak. Since I wrote about the infamous PreKinder assessments, I'm into the sheer joy of teaching and learning from the kids, my best teachers. Life lessons, sometimes minute to minute.
I walk into school, immediately surrounded by sticky fingers, hugs and checking out whether I have on my Minnie Mouse rainbow light-up watch. Loaded down with bags of mini-lessons, supplies, my lunch bag and layers, I barely make it to our little middle room to organize in about three minutes. Feel like the Pied Piper. "Good morning, Teacher Rita!"
I already told you I am really bad with crafts, so back out of the art room, big room so distracting, at home in the middle room, with all my favorite things, calendar, maps and globe, alphabet, flannel boards, our little table and chairs and loads of teaching sets, readers and books. In the corner is a huge beanbag with big stuffies and pillow. We read there a lot. And talk. And I listen.
My room has a big teacher chair, but I prefer to sit in the little chairs, and I’m small anyway, or I lay on the floor with the kids. I like to be right at their eye level, so I don’t miss a single expression or nuance. I never know what life lessons will pop out. Kids really do say the darndest things and observing their interactions, stunning.
“What’s Learning, Teacher Rita? I know, it’s letters and stuff!” Our youngest learners, ages two through five teach us a great deal about life, its natural wonders, excitement of mastering what seems so simple, yet profound. Like how to hold a pencil, cut with a scissors. You know, that kind of stuff.
New Tablets arrived. University of Oregon donated, and is involving our tiny children in a special program. I’m going to learn so much!
Best of all worlds, play, sign language, dance, swimming, arts and gymnastics. Of course, basic math, reading, grammar and everything you can imagine and probably more. For kids with labels. Multi-age, fully included heaven. First, second and third chances matter, even at this tender age. Just like “Leo The Late Bloomer”, our children are blooming at their own rate. And it’s spectacular.
I’m sure we all agree that our life has to mean something, we need to have a passion and purpose. I’m wondering now if I was meant to do this, and what encouraged me in this millennium, to follow a hunch, take the biggest risk ever and savor the sweetness of teaching tiny kiddos.
It all has to start somewhere. Why not me? I can do this. I am, and each day the children lead the way, life lessons in bold neon, when I am receptive and not distracted. I give my all, with laser like focus, eyes and ears seeing, feeling and knowing what is being offered to me.
On my most exhausting days when I again ponder my sanity of this chosen course, the proverbial epiphany drops into my head and I heave a sigh of relief and laugh.
Each day I watch, listen and participate in an extraordinary learning experience for me, probably way more than the children are getting. I am really learning how to teach. The art and craft of teaching, at its most basic Maslow (needs), Dewey (interests) and yes, Bloom’s Taxonomy.
What I’ve Figured Out On My Own:
1. Model teamwork with my mentors and the children. What they see is what they do.
2. Be over-prepared. Plan for variations in variations, three small groups a day, plus teachable moments. Circle Time is big opener.
3. Model soft skills during outdoor education and recesses throughout day. Pilates. Brain Gym.
4. Daily calendar, about three minutes worth, teach in 10-15 min. chunks including story, skill, hands-on activity (no worksheets). Levels within levels. Differentiating within differentiating.
5. Include multi-sensory strategies & DAP worthy (developmentally appropriate) lesson design. Make mid-course corrections. Keep routine, but enliven my lessons. Students self-select seating, learning activities, help each other and me.
6. Old fashioned, time-tested staples: Globe, maps, abacus, teaching clock, magnet boards and letters, flannel boards. Books. Reading, writing, Dramatic play centers, maker spaces, legos.
7. Do what I do well, everything literacy.
What I think is super important for little learners:
1. Be a friend and mentor.
Every little, ages 2 and three has a bigger mentor who helps all day long, meal prep, clean up, getting mats out, putting shoes on right feet and getting that jacket on. “Reading” to each other.
2. Empathy. Say you’re sorry when you’re wrong or hurt another. Show compassion through your hug and words. Console one another.
3. Clean your mess. Everybody helps clean school. Everybody.
4. Be kind and considerate. Take turns.
5. Teach each other. Share what you know.
6. Treat worms, bugs, all nature, with respect and care. No squishing.
7. Please and thank you go a long way.
Life Lessons From Kids:
1, May the joy and wonder of learning continue from Pre-K through Adult. We learn together. Lifelong learning, lesson number one.
2. Kiddos clamor to play with my red Minnie Mouse watch that lights up. They take turns pushing the tiny button that makes the colors revolve. Learning to wait and take turns, life lesson number two.
3. The children model empathy, they just don’t know the name. That’s surely life lesson number three.
4. Curiosity is natural. Nurturing it and discovering genius in every child, life lesson number four.
5. Each child is part of the larger learning community, a caring place with buckets of sunshine. Life lesson number 5 has to be making relationships, children to teachers, children to each other, teacher to teacher and parents.
By modeling a caring, lifelong learning community comprised of our school, neighbors, nursing homes, swim pool, library, you get the idea, our children have opportuity to prove they are more than the neediest of the needy. Our kids are super star learners.
In closing, one little guy left for Kindergarten, the big school. He comes back for day care after school. His mama picked him up tonight and this was heartwarming. "He is doing great in Kindergarten. He was so ready. He is way ahead in all his academic skills and because of this little school, he is excelling and happy."
Leaving footprints on your reading hearts,