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Pennies from Heaven

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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Rain clouds and rainbows, every cloud offering "pennies from heaven". Lately we've been finding a lot of pennies. It definitely took some looking, as political storm clouds, snows, floods and other things dominated our conversations.

I feel like I'm just catching my breath, so much has been happening so fast.

Hope. Belief.

My late husband always told us he would leave pennies around to let us know he was our angel, and that's been happening a lot. I found one in my shoe the other day and my kids report similar experiences. What's weirder is I've been finding random pennies at school, too, some real and some fake from the cash register. So I'm taking this as a sign, despite some really rough things in the past weeks, the future is bright. 

It started with my sister calling with devastating health news, then my daughter's car got rear ended. Out of nowhere I had to put down my beautiful big poodle. Devastated! Shortly after, our school Director got very ill on a cruise, so I needed to give my all at school, as well as help my family. Multiplicity.

Not enough of me to go around. Life just seems to go like that. Do you ever feel like you are on a treadmill? I had to reframe to a positive place, make peace, find solutions, accept what I cannot change.  

Today I am writing from my heart. Great leaders are also followers. We take turns leading and following. Having restructured, reformed schools, with full funding and smaller class sizes, there are no limits to what our teachers and students achieve.

This past week I was a leader and follower. I was in over my head at school, barely keeping up with the kids, due to circumstances which pounded us, that one just cannot prepare for. Sometimes we need others to prop us up and give us strength. Teamwork.

Teaching is Love.

I had the best teaching week. Whenever I'm stressed, I just walk into the school and the world is brighter. Such a happy place, caring classroom, kindness part of the daily curriculum. Because the school has kids aged 2-8 and is full inclusion, I hope to always be on my 'A' game, especially when we are short a teacher, as last week. 

I am so happy when I am with young children. Their innocence, creativity and desire to learn burns brightly. When we talk about aha! moments, it is obvious with the littles, sometimes minute to minute. Any problems, worries or sniffles vanish when I see the kids and start getting those hugs.

The art and craft of teaching goes varoom! on auto pilot until I warm up a little, then the pieces fall into place. Morning activities, singing, moving, Circle Time, teaching in chunks, routine and rhythm reassuring, comforting me in my personal loss, doggie tears, daughter and sister worries pushed onto back burners at least while I am with the littles, who demand my full attention.

I found my smile again.

Just like always.

Kids are so hilarious. And it definitely brings out my comic side, or maybe I am the ony one who thinks that. Not sure about that one.

Sense of purpose.

I think we all need a sense of purpose and belonging. In times of doubt, complacency or feeling fear of failure, our littles and bigs boost us up, give us clarity and provide impetus to overcome any obstacle. We are all servant leaders, giving from heart and soul.

Planning great lessons.

Each day I plan at least three solid lessons, depending on school theme for the day, following the openers. Circle Time is my favorite. I consistently do the following, which seems to be working with the class:

1. Structure and model expected behaviors.

2. Review yesterday's top two things we learned. CFU.

3. Check or build schema.

4. Hook to new learning topics for today.

5. Build interest and excitement with props, music.

6. Stories. 

Because the school is multi-age, learning buddies are a significant part of the success and each lesson, by all three teachers is differentiated by age and skill levels. There are no set groups.

My professional growth.

I learned that young children are so smart and can do much more academically than I thought possible. Children who are labeled special needs are also flourishing, which gladdens my heart.

I also learned to get real on expectations. Plan extra, do what I can do every day. Pick the best activities for the partiiular moment and let the rest go. 

1. Expect interruptions. Part of the territory. If a big truck is outside stop and look. The children love trucks and the outside construction is driving only me nuts. Teachable moment.

2. Hungry children cannot learn. Three meals are critical. Sit with the children, rotate around, encourage them to explore new foods. Model healthy eating with my own lunch.

3. Spills frequent. Pour minute amounts or milk and water, keep refilling. Teach how to hold cups and use utensils. 

4. Hand washing, basic grooming, everything I never thought would matter before curriculum and instruction, matter the most. Kids not having preschool and going straight to Kindergarten are at quite a disadvantage.

5. Literacy predominates. Everything is full immersion about listening, speaking, reading and writing as developmentally appropriate, through play and structured mini-lessons.

6. Recess is a time of discovery, as well as sharing, caring and learning to play fair, by the rules. Outdoor education is a big part of our school's focus on healthy minds and bodies. 

7. Children have access to dance, swim, gardening and sports, depending on the weather.

Kindness. Sharing and caring.

I've started incorporating mat work with the children, mixing basic "Brain Gym" with Pilates. Quiet music and calming breathing really worked this week. The school also focuses on positive affirmations. Very calming.

I didn't do it.

Thursday was like Lord of the Flies, honestly. Kids were mean to each other and I saw some bullying that really surprised and angered me. What happened to our polite, following the rules, treating each other gently class?

A couple new girls got added into the mix. Teaming up, nasty to each other. "You can't play with me". and "I don't want to sit by you". 

Not on my watch. Nipped it. Tears. We needed our Director back. She's the glue. I feel like a student teacher with two Master Teachers and Coaches. But holding my own now.

Best lessons. 

Teachers Thom and I team taught several great pieces.

1. Sharks.

2. Shapes.

3. Syllables.

4. Word families.

5. Math. Counting and writing numbers.

6. Alphabet. Recognizing upper and lower case.

7. States. Kids know through 'I', and love maps.

In this time of unknowns in the larger world, I think it is imperative we focus on all the good we accomplish each day, the children we boost up, values we embed through discussion and modeling. This is the most important teaching time of my career, that's for sure.

Thanking you all for the love you share with the children in your keeping, your school, a sanctuary for heart and soul. I implore you to rest, relax, find some balance as you meet upcoming challenges with grace and dignity. Blessings to you all.

If you happen to find a penny today, pick it up "and all the day you'll have good luck."

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 47 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. Rita is currently teaching in a multi-age, fully incuded preschool, ages 2-8. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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Guest Friday, 22 March 2019