A Rainy Day Insight

View from the Javits Center

My week in New York is a lot different this time, from last year. True I’m here because my son is in the New York NOW show at the Javits Center. Last year I came, I saw, I conquered. I hadn’t been here in almost 18 years! It was all about me exploring and enjoying all the Big Apple has to offer. No obligations, no work entailed, really, all about me. This year I’m my son’s assistant, so to speak. I helped him set up his booth, was a sounding board for some questions and decisions. And mornings were with him at his booth. Afternoons were for exploring on my own. Excursions in the rain are just not my thing, so taxis and Uber’s took me from here to there, which led me to unexpected adventures and will get me to why I’m writing this post.

“My misadventure. I took a “bootleg” cab ( I was clueless) from the Javits Center to what I thought was the MET. (Apparently there are such cabs outside of the Javits. I saw many when David and I left for the evening.) Told the “cabby” I wanted to go to the Met. No clue what he thought I said, but ended up at the “Natural History Museum” When I went out of the cab just saw many steps going up to a museum. It was raining and I had to walk to the end of a long line. After 35 minutes went inside and saw two big dinosaur replicas. Guess what, I knew I WASN’T IN KANSAS ANYMORE! Took a “real” cab to the MET, stood in line another 20 minutes and “ta-dah” I saw STUFF.”


I was exhausted when I returned by “real” cab to the Javits Center but quickly reflected and thought of our students and their unexpected adventures. The unfamiliar is just plain not easy! Why does it take so long for us to understand this.

Some days just work and click for our students! We have our lessons planned. We know what’s on the agenda. We talk, we share, we discuss, we teach; they understand and they learn. Well maybe and then we go on. But more often then not there are missteps, bumps on the road and wrong turns. It’s really all about how we face those times, wherever we are in our continuum of learning and life. Do we give in? Do we give up? (At one point I thought maybe I’d forget about the museum and head back. Was it worth it to get stressed out and what was the payoff? It was.)

If you didn’t know about me and rain, you’d say what’s the big deal. If didn’t know that I could be challenged just so much, you’d say what’s the big deal. If you didn’t know I had different responsibilities this trip, you’d say what’s the big deal? You need to know me, to know about me.

We need to know our students, where they’ve been, where they are and where they’d like to be going. Let’s make a plan. Not about the curriculum to be covered, we know about that. Let’s make a plan to get to know our students, their families and let’s plan to work together. Let’s build those relationships that show we care. We will get to the curriculum. We will face the unfamiliar together. It’s who we are. It’s who they need.

I have a plan. I will be subbing again this year. My dream job at this time in my career. As the school year starts, what will your plan look like?

Book vendors at the Javits Center

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Reaching Out

I look around and what do I see,

I see you, do you see me?

I look around and what do I smell,

I smell the good earth, how about you?

I look around and what can I taste,

I taste the fruits of our labor, I hope you do too.

I look around and I reach out,

To have your words touch my heart.

I wonder, will my words touch yours?

I look around and what do I hear,

I hear your voice, will you hear mine?

I look around to understand who we are,

It’s time to give it a try.

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“Focus, Focus”, I Say.

I sometimes wonder with amazement the words I’ve spoke to my students through the years either in frustration, in amusement, in curiosity or in bewilderment. I’d love to say that they were always sensitive, on target and correct; wise pronouncements filled with incredibly, astute understanding. But I can’t. My hope is that they weren’t hurtful and  comments long forgotten. We talk about the power of words, I hear it, I read it and I know it. Those do overs really aren’t possible, however, moving forward has been and is my course of action. And this becomes the prelude for my post today as I look at the words we use during “play work” and “academic work.”

Those who have read some of my posts or heard my voice during Twitter chats and periodic tweets that perk my interests, know how much I value and promote with a passion (or mission) my views on play. Articles on understanding of play  and  Geniushour  /makerspace play-based opportunities are in abundance. (A quick Google search will find you a plethora of articles on play, geniushour and makerspace.) I have written before about Geniushour/makerspace and this summer during my time at kindercamp I introduced the concept of makerspace and Geniushour reading, “What Do You Do With An Idea” by Kobi Yamada and then when the activity was over, a reflection piece, with Caine’s Arcade Video

And then in our Innovation Center, these rising kinders worked with friends or independently, putting their idea into action. Never once did the teachers admonish them to “focus, stay focused.” Our words encouraged, asked questions, answered needs as the hub of activity and the joyful banter went on. They laughed, some had quick successes, some had bumps on the road and some had frustrating moments, but they stayed engaged for almost 45 minutes.

And how often I observed the moment the kinders ran on the yard, eagerly greeting friends and teachers, their excitement and joyful play was evident, as they shouted to each other, “Oh, I have an idea” scurrying around motivated to follow through on their idea! And the teachers watched with amusement, awe and amazement how these “ideas” played out. Never once did we say, “focus, stay focused.” Our words encouraged, asked questions, answered needs and the hub of the activity and the joyful banter went on. They built intricate marble runs, played hide-and-seek and discovered how to connect water wheels so that a hose could set the trajectory of the wheels in motion.

And then I reflect back to classroom experiences that involved academic work, from group lessons and directions, to math lessons, to Readers and Writers Workshops when our voices echoed the need to lecture, to discuss, to guide, to mold to the cacophony of “stay focused, you need to stay focused.” Seemingly harmless sounding words that ask them to do more, to revisit, to do better as their glazed over look we often ignore, with our “stay focused”.  There are no absolutes when we teach. Some days we’re on a roll, students and teachers. Some days, well some days we take a deep breath and find a way to change course, do what teachers can do best, stop, regroup and move on.

And here is my quandary, my question: How can we design our programs and our curriculum where our students can share with us that “this,” (whatever or whenever), is not working for them, now. Some teachers look from flexible seating, to adjusting the schedule, to giving more opportunities for “brain breaks” and movement to ease their students’ internal tension and turmoil (that place where they no longer are with the “lessons”) to where focus becomes the loser and it impacts our students.

A thought, a reflection. What do you think?



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Two Weeks

In the four weeks of kindercamp many of the four-year-olds from our early childhood program participate for the amount of time that fits their families’ schedule. The new children to kindergarten have similar options. The kinder teachers can also choose which weeks they are able work, and I was given this opportunity as well. I worked a few days the first week and then the last two weeks of kindercamp.

I just finished two weeks of kindercamp.

Two weeks that brought back visceral memories of what I had done for 25 years.

Two weeks of learning. Two weeks of observing. Two weeks of interacting. Two weeks of being there for these rising kinders.

Two weeks of watching them develop friendships, navigate play, temper their energy. Two weeks of hugs. Two weeks of conversations. Two weeks of wonders, theirs and mine.

Two weeks of water play, field trips and activities as I learned about “ must do” and “may do” from Rachel, one of the kindergarten teachers. (Thanks Rachel for showing me another way to help kinders understand guidelines.) 

Two weeks of helping with lunch. Two weeks of rest time (kinders asking if there is rest in kindergarten and then, like many before them, they’ll be clamoring for rest time in the fall).

Two weeks of my friends looking at me askew, rolling their eyes, as if they thought I forgot I retired!

Two weeks of replenishing my soul.

Two weeks of amazing kinders, teachers, administrators and parents testing the waters and starting to build relationships before school starts in the fall.

Two weeks of learning more about who I am, as an educator, and as a person in a world where we can be change makers.

 Our two field trips: Visit to the old Los Angeles Zoo; Visit to the Endeavour at the California Science Center


What are some of the teaching practices that you’ve looked back at and wonder what possible changes you can make.


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Jumping Into The Fray

Kindercamp. A day of water play, making “stuff,” snack, lunch and now rest. I’m back from my lunch break. I played with the kids as they made mazes, domino like trails and read class library books. We helped clean up and then it was rest time for a while.

I went on Twitter, I went on my FB Page and took a few minutes to check out what was going on. I had thought about blogging about some of the troubled discourse I had seen in both of these platforms, the last few days (really weeks) and then said, maybe not. But I changed my mind after our kindercamp field trip.  We’re here for them!

I won’t connect links or tweets that have me wondering what’s going on. I’ll just say that I’m upset. Upset because people are venting about bloggers, educators, educational book authors and just plain tweets that close conversation, instead of trying to do what you think is best for your kids and your teaching. PEOPLE you don’t have to read the blogs,  you don’t have to buy those books, you don’t have to read these tweets, you don’t have to engage; you have the power to IGNORE! However, when you do engage there can be incredible opportunities for learning!

My caveat though and my big concern is that educators, newbie teachers or new to Twitter and Facebook, might easily be swayed by what they read or the “words” and “writings” of these “sages.” There are many “superstars” out there on Twitter and Facebook in all fields. If you’re here to be that one, then I’d say, relax find your PLN, share your learning and your voice. And if you’re here to listen, I’d say, share you voice, your questions and your learning. Ask questions, think about works or doesn’t work for the kids in your classrooms.  No one knows it better then the hands on deck. Be open to what others have to say, but don’t fall for it hook, line and sinker. There is tons of research out there. Some support your thinking and ideas, others may not. It’s not about right or wrong it’s about those kids who enter your room and what you create, for that year, with them.

I shared this on Twitter and @DrMaryHoward shared it on her FB Page. “Two chats today,  #whatisschool and #g2great lead me to this idea: HINDSIGHT IS A GOOD TEACHER. If we take time to look at our practices, reflect on what worked or didn’t, then we make intensional decisions where to go next.

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Where We Were, Where We Are, Where We’re Going

At times a post takes on a “mind” of its own. Some of my recent posts have veered from classroom reflections to looking at “issues” that on the surface don’t seem connected to education, but looking deeper, I see (and think you will too) how they are related.

These past few weeks #g2great has chatted about our practices in teaching reading. If you have time check these out on Twitter.

With a quick flashback I remembered that I was an early reader; learning early on what books had to offer. In the 1950s (yes I’m that old) there were no programs, no levels. We were taught sight words and some phonics with Dick and Jane basal readers, Once I gained a good grasp of both, I picked up books and read. My book choice was only limited by books on hand. And of course there were school and public libraries to feed my interests. Those library cards were treasures! My mind quickly ventured to my grandkids and their love of books/stories that we share. Their journey was different from mine and, truthfully, different from each other’s. But here they are, readers! The genres differ, they came to their reading at their own pace, but with confidence and reassurance that they were readers. In the long run, isn’t that what we want for all our kids!

With the storm of blog post reflections of the past year focused on reading, I’m caught up in the chats that help me understand the “where we were, where we are and where we’re going.” (To me this is more then just in education; it’s about our peoplehood.)

And then there is the reality check on what’s going on in the outside world (one that isn’t directly involved in education). I have read tweets and posts on white privilege and thought I’d share an interesting conversation with my nephew. I mentioned to him how much he looks like Donald Glover

He said, “Can’t be, because we’re not the same color (my nephew’s father, my brother,  is white and his mother Latina).” I said, “I wasn’t looking at color, but at your expressions, the twinkle in your eyes that look so mischievous; your curly hair. As Childish Gambino, the bend of his head, the smile when he talked and rapped, reminded me of you.” So he, and then his brother piped in, “So you don’t see color?” I answered honestly that I did see color, and I’m more and more aware of white privilege, as it pertains to people who “don’t have what we now identify as white privilege.” But for this instance, I told them that my comparison was focused not on color, but how adorable I thought they both were.

Which led me to thinking about the kids I’ve taught over the years. They came from diverse backgrounds and, now with the lens of hindsight, I understand more and more the parental concerns, wondering if color (or socio-economics or a multitude of differences) influenced my interactions with their kids. I won’t answer with platitudes, other than to say, I don’t think so, I hope not. I hope I treated each child the way I wanted teachers to treat my kids. For many reasons I went into teaching to be that teacher that focused on building relationships where kids understood I was there for them; and that the parents could trust that I would to do what’s right for their children.

Now that we’re on summer vacation, it’s time for us. However we reflect on our teaching practices, I want to say upfront, We’re Appreciated!

Andy Goldsworthy  inspired kinders’ art.  



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