Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'm supposed to teach what?

Yesterday was the last day for me to set up my classroom before the big day Monday. Which means I was there from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and still plan on showing up at 7 a.m. on Monday to finish. I left with the worst headache I've had in months and the firm belief that teachers of younger grades have it the hardest. My whole classroom has to be one big welcome center, so that the kids feel at home.

Moreover, I have about five bulletin boards. Have you ever tried to make a bulletin board? There's an unsung art form. It took me at least half an hour to figure out how to find the butcher paper in my school, tear it off that awkward 10-foot metal holder, and then get it to stay and to fit on the cork board. Trim is another half an hour. Jaren did my first round, but the rest looks completely lopsided. Oy.

It's easy to get caught up in all those little things - name tags on cubbies, where to put the crayons, which blocks to put out in the construction center - and put aside the fact that on Monday I have to teach EVERYTHING. As I learned this summer, you could get a kid who will read you the entire "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie," write his name for you and count to 20 backwards... and you can also get the kid that doesn't understand he needs to sit in the circle with the other kids, doesn't know how to hold a crayon, and doesn't know how to ask a question. Actually, that's a popular one. It never, ever, ever occurred to me that some kids simply don't know how to ask a question. Instead, they just say a statement.

Me: "Jane, share with the class what you did this weekend?"
Jane: "I went to the store with my mom."
Me: "That sounds fun. Does anyone have a question for Jane?"
Student 1 raises his hand and is called on: "I like the store!"
Me: "That's nice Joe, but we are asking Jane questions to find out more about what she did. Does anyone else have a QUESTION for Jane?"
Student 2: "My mom takes me to the store!"
Me (inwardly): Oy.

There are actually a million things like that that I didn't think of as an early childhood teacher. Here's a brief rundown:
1. How do you explain the idea of a pattern? A rhyme?
2. How do you turn playing into a lesson?
3. How do you teach a lesson when they can only sit still for about 10 minutes?
4. How do you test their knowledge when they can't write?
5. How do you keep a 4 year old awake from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. without a nap?

Part of this is probably the fact that I barely remember kindergarten, let alone pre-k. I know for me, kindergarten was definitely half-day and definitely a joke. I remember in kindergarten my teacher (who, looking back, was a dead ringer for Ricky Ricardo) stapled his finger one day and had to go to the hospital. That's it! Jaren apparently remembers more. He flipped when he saw the Baby Beluga CD on my counter the other day. We listened to it on the ride home, and I have never seen Jaren so innocently happy. Just a pure smile. He was five again and I felt like, ok, maybe these kids will remember some parts of our year together 20 years from now. So, I better go plan something memorable. Apparently Where the Wild Things Are is a big deal?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's 5 to 6, snap snap

So it’s 9:10 on a Tuesday night and I just got home from driving to three craft stores looking for die-cuts of cars (couldn’t find) and jumbo popsicle sticks (pack of 75). I’m eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich for dinner. I just left my roommate/4-year-old in the kitchen… Jaren has just awoken from a nap and was standing in the kitchen in his underwear eating applesauce. My beautiful MacBook, which worked harder than any computer ever has over the summer, is already ready, playing a CD I got from my CMA (corps member advisor) before leaving Philly. My new playlist includes a lot of “A, A, A for alligator” and “A circle, a circle, everyone draw a circle!” This is just the littlest piece of the whole “my life looks nothing like it used to” theme.

I get online to work while I eat this magnificent feast (a new habit – never do one activity at a time. Eating always means working too) and see that Hilary’s status message is “can’t wait to read the 5 to 6 blog.” So, it’s about time I write it. Even though I am supposed to be nailing down a behavior management plan for the 20 little students that will be running around my classroom in less than a week.

The 5 to 6 hour is what we fondly called the first hour after getting home from teaching summer school in Philly. After the buses dropped us off, it was always the same: Hilary and I got our workout clothes on and grabbed random other people to go to the dining hall for the usual dinner (Captain Crunch, vegan sugar cookies, a couple pickles, a pack of Emergen-C and a “Hey Mama, what’s up? What you want, baby?” from the cafeteria lady in the home-cooked meal aisle). And, like clockwork, Hilary always got reaaaaaaalllllyyyyy fricken goofy between 5 and 6. We all kind of did. Ask most teachers and they will admit to channeling their students once school gets out.

So now, we describe most moments of insanity as the 5 to 6 hour. When you can’t get the right words out, when you’re making more noises than actual words, when you’re tripping over your workout shoes, when you’re about to pee your pants from all the laughing, when you make people repeat what they just said 4 times, when you phonetically segment the name of your hipster date and when you gossip way too loud about the boys walking in front of you, etc. It was such a problem that we made a song to go along with it... (t the tune of the Addams Family) "It's 5 t 6 *snap snap* 5 to 6 *snap snap* 5 to 6, 5 to 6, 5 to 6 *snap snap* It's the 5 to 6 hour, we really need a shower, We're gettin kinda silly, because it's 5 to 6. (refrain) The rest of the song was actually really inappropriate...

And, thus, the title behind the blog. I have a feeling it’s going to be a loooooong goofy, insane year. This will certainly be my 5 to 6 year.

The whole blog thing was really Celeste’s idea. I knew that I was going to have to keep a journal of this year, to keep myself honest and help with the self-reflection. Also I need something more public so everyone back home (I miss you!) can see things and read things even when I can’t talk (because I got 4 hours of sleep due to lesson planning). This is the public journal… the truly bad/embarrassing parts are going in my new beautiful red leather journal (thank you John).

Celeste is walking me through it like I’m going to walk my 4 year olds through using scissors. Baby steps. So, enjoy. Channel your own inner teacher and be patient with me when this blog runs long, runs boring, runs emo, or I get the html code wrong (help! Celeste! Is it the greater than or lesser than sign?). Also, all my J-school readers – cut me some slack. I haven’t written in 3 months! Also hopefully there will be lots of pictures. We like lots and lots of pictures in Pre-K.

A few early pics of the classroom, it's mostly a mess:

And a few early pics of the apartment - my room and the living room/view: