In The Ideal World

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

Thinking again and so am writing. I am if nothing else pragmatic. I have strong beliefs and feelings about many topics..but as this blog focuses on kids and education that’s where I’ll venture now, to sound off. My gripe, (just so your ears will perk up and you’ll want to read more) is the when, where,why and how to start “teaching” kids to read, pencil and paper tasks and stuff like that. Many pundits have written dissertations on this topic..many more lucid than me.. and truthfully I am more in the camp of @TheTeacherTom @DEY_Project and @NAEYC proponents of play as the conduit to learning in the early years.

In the ideal world of education there wouldn’t even be a question of banned books, of excluding kids and their clubs because you don’t agree; of hostile environments that make teaching and learning an insurmountable challenge created by people who’ve never been in a classroom!

In an ideal world the measure of a human is not based on test scores, nor on IQs, but on the challenges they’ve overcome to where they are now!

In an ideal world we hear other voices and listen, to understand and learn. In an ideal world students’ interests are encouraged, not ignored. In a ideal world, the push to get to the finish line is set by the individual who’s delineated that journey for themselves. In an ideal world when we say there’s no rush..find the best way for you, we really mean it!!

In an ideal world we know that play is the field of learning to be encouraged, not squashed.

Now go back to the first paragraph. We have come along way in education over the years. Not to the “ideal” of course, but an awareness that change is necessary and how to reach those goals. So with heavy heart, about this, for me, is that young children are bombarded with academics. So much is started early and it is naive to think that will change. How to balance that, I think, is where we need to keep our focus. Kindergarten children across many nations have reading and writing instructions as part of their curriculum. Math is a focus beyond working with manipulatives. Cookie cutter projects still decorate classroom walls. And the same holds true for some preschools. We’ve become a nation of sooner is better and more is better.

This little one is stopping at the wonders on the lawn. Do we move her along, or do we stop and let her take it all in before she is ready to move on?

And the pragmatic me says..certain areas of the curriculum are here to stay. We teach emergent literacy and beyond, we teach math with manipulatives and paper and pencil. We incorporate STEM We are more aware of children’s “emotions” in learning and look at SEL and it’s impact. In our world with the children we teach (whoever they are, wherever they are and whatever grade they’re in), we bring to the table what we know works best for them. We balance and temper what we’d like to root out, with what gives meaning to the age and stage of each student. So, as much as I would like to have the “ideal world” for them, it’s not possible nor realistic. But I’ll be darned if I don’t push for it when and where I can.

My fervent wish is that more educators use their voice to support what has value and meaning to their students and their teaching. I would love to hear your “voice” on this topic.

Stay safe, stay healthy and keep that teaching joy in the forefront.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cri de Coeur

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

Let’s not count the years we’ve let behind, Let’s not look back with regrets. Let’s not think of what might have been. Let’s not sit in dread. Let’s not cry for deeds gone bye. Let’s not scream out WHY oh why!

Instead…

Let’s look at our lives with joy. Let’s look at the now with pride. Let’s look what still could be done with the time that lies ahead! Let’s look at our memories, as remembrance, and build some more. Let’s be thankful for the time that lies ahead.

For the time..

To say I’m here to be the best I can be. To say I will speak up, I will speak out. To say more work is yet to be done. To say as the mother, the grandmother, the teacher, the friend: To say I am the vanguard of my destiny.

It’s been a tough few years, and as Rosh Hashanah approaches, I reflect, looking forward to a Happy New Year across the globe.

These beautiful cards were sent to my family from my dear friend Roen who passed away last December 2021
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We’re All Family

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

When a student asks a questions, do we take the time to stop, think and reflect what the student might be asking us? Or do jump to conclusions and answer something that wasn’t even asked?

The old question of “where do we come from” with a different twist. But grateful I was tuned into my inner wonder.. Why and what was this question about? The variation had me stop and think!

“Bubbie,” asked my 8 year old grandson, (my step grandson who is Thai), “Where do people come from?” And, stunned, because I really wasn’t ready to go to the “birds and the bees” and asked, “Can you tell me more what you mean, what you want to know?” He looked at me and said, “Well you know there are so many people in the world, where did they all start?” Whew! Not about making babies! Then another dilemma arises. I’m Jewish, he’s Buddhist and I don’t know what that answer might be for families that practice Buddhism. (I will definitely need to ask his mother!) So I said, “You know I’m Jewish and we might not believe the same thing, so we can check with your mother to help with answering your question. But many Jewish people (did not go into other beliefs, we have more than enough to figure this out with two religions!), believe that Adam and Eve were the first people that God made and they had children who had children.” He looked at me, didn’t question what I said, and asked/said, “So Bubbie if they first made the children, then we’re all related. We’re all brothers and sisters. We’re all family. And so it doesn’t matter how we look or what’s different about us, because we’re the same.”

This little boy is trying to make sense of what’s going on. He must be hearing a lot of “chatter” on the playground. A divisive world is not lost even on elementary school kids. He is curious and questions everything (yup!) and loves to talk! And some conversations are filled with “nuggets”; this being one of them.

I had just picked him up from school and he was playing with his friends. None looked exactly like him, black, brown and white children. And the hues in between! I was stunned, as they say, out of the mouths of babes. He made it all so simple. To him, if we all came from the same beginning, then we’re family. An esoteric conversation between grandchild and grandmother. A conversation that brings me right back to my days in the classroom.

As you read this, those a-ha moments will certainly arise for each of us. How many times did we jump to conclusions and respond to a question that wasn’t asked? How many times did we “hem and haw” because we weren’t sure what to say and not stop and ask the student, “Can you tell me more so I know what you want to know?“ I feel the vulnerability in seeming not to have all the answers has lead to many misunderstandings. The art of listening is an ongoing practice.

Now back to “we’re all family .” However we define family for ourselves, respecting our differences is much more than tolerating our differences. A little like “live and let Live “ We have so many more similarities when we stop and look.

For some school just started. Others have been in the swing of things for awhile. Wherever you are in this 2022-2023 school year, certain truths are constant.. kid will keep you on your toes! Find the joy and laughter that brought you into the classroom in the first place.

Friends and a puppet show.
3 Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And The Word Is Stamina

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

I have spent a week at home with COVID-19 and recuperating from It. Truth be told, at first I thought I caught the flu, but quickly realized I had been exposed. The cough, temperature and sore throat a give away once I realized that was going on and a “at home” test quickly confirmed it. I rested, took prescribed medicine, over the counter stuff and in a few days I felt much better. And then what happens to me when I get the flu, I feel drained and I know I have to slowly build up my stamina. Oh that word, stamina, always meant I was drained of energy and had to do what was necessary for me to get that energy back..that stamina I needed to do my work and function in a way that was most comfortable for me!

And in the years (around 2012/13?) I started teaching reading using the Daily5 framework. And wow building stamina had a whole different meaning.

So sit I here, ponder and reflect. I wrote about Bandwagon Cheerleaders (my blog post) as I thought about the Daily 5 then and still have many questions. So as I sit and think about stamina, in the various ways we can look at it. I decided to analyze it for me and you, if you’d like to come along?

I see a major attribute of building stamina must be seen “as the desire to build IT up..” if that’s what’s needed to reach a goal. How do we instill it in our students..in others, really? And is that framed under intrinsic or extrinsic motivation..? I would stipulate that until it’s understood as an intrinsic Motivation, (my blog post) success is limited and easily wanes.

The “staying power” whether in the physical stamina or the reading stamina realm, that motivation can be a deciding factor. There are others, but for my purpose I’ve narrowed it down to motivation for this post. What’s the purpose, what’s the intent, who gains, what and why, when stamina is built?

For me, being well enough in a timely fashion was important so I could go about my daily routine. I built stamina with short walks around the neighborhood. Taking pictures and enjoying the calming breeze was just what I needed! I found the beauty in the trees and flowers, in the singing of the birds and taking deep breaths. I knew what worked and my plan of action was quickly put into play.

And so back to what this meandering is all about. Many are back at school. Many have “teaching curriculum deadlines.” Many are overwhelmed. I’m pretty sure the kids are wondering what happened to summer. I’ve written posts about taking it easy, slow starts and what’s the rush. Many of my posts look at the importance of building relationships with our students first, getting to know them and they us. I’ve written about joy, laughter and words! The power of words, the meaning of words and in a way that’s what this post is about, isn’t it? My rambling brought us here; the word is STAMINA! How do we get it, why we need it and how we use it?

Thinking that we all take a deep breath and see how we build up the stamina we need. Many suggestions and ideas out in our internet universe. We read, we may try but we decide. And we empower ourselves to find the way that works best for us. Giving our kids that same respect leads to intrinsic motivation as they build stamina.

If you’d like to share your thoughts and ideas, I’d welcome hearing from you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So This Happened

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

This post was inspired by a conversation shared by an administrator at my school. That it has all the “feels” can’t be overstated. Through the years I’ve had parents share with me how much their child grew in their social-emotional and academic lives as students in our classroom. That they and their child will miss me and what I have meant to their families. The hugs, cards and gifts, at years closed, were so heartfelt and touching! And we often kept in touch as the kids wound their way through the grades and then graduated. Many students would come and visit kindergarten and share their experiences from middle school to graduation from high school. Then as college graduates they came back to say hello. Catching up was great!! Time went on and some of these alumni had their own children in our kinder class! An added joy and perk of teaching in the same school for many years.

Over the years I’ve heard first hand what they remembered and cherished in KCD. And yes my teaching partner and I laughed with them when they shared some of the foibles that we were aware of (and some we were not!). Reminiscing was so joyful! Before kinder I spent 13 years in the Early Childhood program teaching Toddlers to 4-year-olds. Many of these parents had children in my kindergarten class as well. And to this post… Do I think I’m the only one who had an impact on students? OF COURSE NOT! But as an early childhood educator my hope is that I’ve been one of many who have made a difference in a student’s life!

This week I learned, through a conversation that was shared with me, what a profound effect/influence I had on someone’s life. As I write this I still sit stunned. A young man, who is now also in education, shared with a colleague, how I changed the trajectory of his life. Apparently he was a “handful” in preschool, but as he relayed, “I got him” “I understood him,” and our connection, teacher and student made a difference; showing him how much I understood him and how much I cared. Hearing this I thought of all the students who came through our classroom doors, and who have come through ALL our classroom doors. To say anything about things being perfect would lay cause and effect on teacher’s shoulders; and that would be too heavy a burden to bear. We are but one spoke on that wheel, but one that can make a difference.

And now to how this conversation came about?? My colleagues were visiting another school looking at their campus and programs. One discussion centered on PD and staff meetings and by chance I had sent this article to my colleague. In their discussion, the Dean of Students, made the connection between me and the school and a story of how PD/meetings started. (Hopefully this is close to what occurred.) He said often at meetings the participants were asked to close their eyes and remember who from their school years left an indelible impact on their lives? AND he said that’s when he thinks of me. He said, “I always think of Faige (Fay). She got me right away and I’ve kept that with me all these years.” He knew me by name, not just as the preschool teacher he had! To say that brought joy and tears to my eyes, is truly beyond words.

Life with its ups and downs.. few constants. I have seen where I’ve been, I know where I am now, and where my journey takes me depends on how I forge that road. This week one granddaughter turns 18, another will be 3 years old. Life is such that I get to celebrate with one and not the other, but video calls and text allay the sadness. My retirement may not be what I envisioned, but turned out to be a road well taken.

The classroom continues to call. The smiles, hugs, pictures given, stories shared, challenged plenty, successes many and I can say I was there when… and I’m still here for now.

I hope as you read this you can reflect back on all those kids who have had untold opportunities because you were their teacher!!

Every Child Deserves A Champion Rita Pierson. https://youtu.be/F23ak31YnTI

We all have stories that remind us why we’re here.. inspire and give us hope and joy.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Slow And Easy Comes Into Play

From The Desk Of The Retired teacher

Subbing for this year, done! On summer break. What will be for next year as far as substitute teaching, unknown; but reflecting never far for me, so, here goes.

Thinking about looking forward for kids who will be back at school before we know it. Do we look at our students’ progress or where Common Core Standards say they should be at in each grade level? In the early years do we focus on DAP , before standards that define what’s next in the teaching trajectory? Do we hold fast to curriculum guidelines or do we get to know those students; some eager, some unsure but all who have their own stories to share.

This is where Slow and easy comes into play. Teaching kindergarten for many years, the holy grail for me stayed true to course: build those relationships first! Get to know them! Let them see who you are! Let them know you care! They are not a data point in a scale of 1 to 10!

Is that push to follow a timeline the driving force to start the year, so I can have them ready for the next? A post I wrote many years ago holds true as I reflect on the “now.” Playing devils advocate of course! Better to prepare our students to discover the joy in learning, to relish life long learning. But the worry is real and the concern rests heavily on teacher’s shoulders. We will start the year face to face, no screens, no zoom. But in many places masks are still on; some support, some oppose it. Schools make decisions with flexibility regarding masks. Hopefully Zoom School a thing of the past. I know for some students it worked . However for others, especially in kindergarten through 3rd grade (maybe higher) it was a nightmare for students, teachers and parents! Dramatic, I know, but I want to get my point across.

This year in my role as a substitute teacher I worked mainly in the four year old program (with some days in 3 year old class, kinder and 1st). From September 2021 to June 2022 I spent my days with lively, curious four and five year olds. Then I had the opportunity to work with some of these rising kindergarteners in a Summer Transition Program, where my reflections took hold and weighed heavily on my mind as I said goodbye. The growth I’ve seen in their joyful exuberant play, their curiosity, their conversations and their interest in learning and knowing may not show up in “standards” but are so clear to me!

Let’s give ourselves a chance to get to know who sits in our circle at Morning Meetings and who has heard the “singing bowl.”

#5fingermeditation #singingbowl #stilllearning

A favorite quote reminds me to be present.

I often think of this quote when the worry (in any aspects of my life) starts to overwhelm. Being present, being available and keeping it real. As we start back to school my hope is that this year continues to bring us the joy, the passion and commitment that teaching keeps us coming back.

If there are any questions or comments you might want to share, I’m here to continue the conversation.

Stay well friends.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It Must Be Said

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

I sit here trying to figure it out. So much whorls around in my brain, The hate is palpable, coming from so many directions! I don’t remember life that way growing up. And not when raising my kids. I’m trying to figure it out. Because my focus is education, I’ll gear this post to what’s on my mind now in figuring out the diversity of identity and what that means.

And then a a-ha moment, a thought, an idea. The collision of voice and gender identity has me writing, Do I need to figure it out? As I meander down this road, I think, I don’t need to figure it out. I need to understand and accept. The classroom culture is often determined by the attitudes and interactions of the classroom teacher. The building blocks of acceptance starts early in a student’s life.

Come along with my meandering.. let’s look at the many Drews. There sits Drew, born a boy, comfortable wearing a dress or pants. How do I figure out what to do? Why go there so automatically? Maybe mine, to support and accept. Then there is Drew born male, adamant he now identifies as female. Then on the climbing structure sits Drew way up high as she watches her friends, wondering how to join in their play, will they accept her differences. Mine not to figure out..mine to support and accept, be the ally needed.

That 3 year old in dramatic play, lovingly caring for the baby doll, making dinner. Then twirls around with scarves waving high. Later in the day runs to the building blocks shouting with glee at the tower built. No crisis, no gender confusion to figure out, just a child at play. And along the way some take a stance sooner than others, letting us know who they are and wonder about US. How will we and their world respond, react? Some aghast. Some questioning. some trying to figure it out. Maybe LGBTQ+can help us understand.

If we encourage student voice (although I don’t think it was meant in this way originally), then what they tell us about their identity is an important place to start. Our suppositions, our assumptions close dialogue and communication. We’ve talked about representation in books, movies and different media. We’ve talked about building relationships based on trust. We’ve talked about social-emotional learning. We’ve talked about inclusive classrooms. I think we’ve more or less figured that out. Now maybe it’s time to act on it. To get to the acceptance and support of kids in our classrooms (our families and communities). They need us to listen more and worry about figuring it out less!

We are often asked to look at our biases, prejudices; to try and figure it out. But while we try and figure it out, how much harm is done by waiting. I sit and reflect and share here. So I’ll end with this quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.. To thine own self be true. It may be a long lonely road.

The joy inherent in play!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loss Of Innocence

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

In a stream of consciousness I write. On my mind the unknown prevails. Grounded by past, present and future to no avail. The world has lost reason and the fear sits right at the door post.

This is to all who suffer loss, who grieve for what might have been. To the path, the journey we know not why or where. This is to remember, so they are not forgotten. This is to those whose footprint was shortened, for a number of reasons, some unknown.

A long time ago, in a land far away, sat a little child in dismay. Quietly sobbing with no help insight, a decision was made that night. It was time to say good bye. Was it the loss or the hopelessness of the loss, that marked the course? Guided by unknown powers, there was hope insight. Quickly murmurs, death be not proud; not by your own hand or illness circumstance that abounds. A voice of reason shone a light.

When that loss of innocence hits its mark, who’s there at ones side, to have ones back. To speak and not hide when cruelty mocks the core.

A long time ago, in a land far away, a child finds solace, comfort in outstretched arms, “Hold on my love, we’ll find our way.” Look for the helpers, Mister Rogers tells us. And while so true, one wonders who they really are. In a country with This VS That, the helpers align to what you believe. In a country where truth becomes one’s projection where fact and fiction collide, the helper might not be so visible when you don’t know where to look.

In a land far away, the adult reflects, looks back and remembers that the loss of innocence differs for all. But in recent days the force of change, a wake up call, that can’t be ignored. Can hope reign as the vanguard for change?

Overwhelmed and saddened I worry, wonder and reflect. I think of our children who have been confronted by realities we thought we could protect them from. The outrage and rage is palpable. And our kids hear it..they too worry, wonder and reflect. Their loss of innocence earlier than expected and we have done a dismal job of guiding them to find their helpers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Barriers Of A Facade

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

She tries to see herself through your eyes. Pleasing to the eye, smile so bright, laughter but a moment away. Look past the facade, look at her; look at her heart and find her soul.

See the girl, she grew up. See the woman she has become! The journey through circuitous paths, gave her strength to be! The person she was meant to be.

Look past the facade, there dwelt anguish and pain along with joyful refrains.

She shares her past, she regales you with present stories. Leading to curious wonders, meandering thoughts of what’s yet to come.

She listens to stories of Woman of Valor reminded of her own family tree and heritage that brought her here. L’dor V’dor from generation to generation she venerates, that’s who she is.

Look past the facade, there is the woman she wants you to meet; much more than the image before you!

I write this after attending a beautiful Sabbath Service in memory of my friend who past away from cancer. I sat teary eyed reveling in the joy filled service. The prayers and songs familiar in their own bent, so true to my friend’s joi de vivre. And she was much more than the facade of appearance. We often reminded each other of that! So this post to her, to you and me.

To learn more about my friend, I wrote this before Roen past away. May her memory be a blessing. https://faigemeller.wordpress.com/2021/12/15/a-gift-for-giving/

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Double Digits

Double digits, you made it!

A birthday date, a birthday year, what a joy what a milestone.

Double digits, little boy, little girl,

Birthday joy, birthday cheer.

Double digits,

The first of many, how much glee that you made it to this year.

Double digits, 10 years old, how we weep for no more.

Sit here, think, what to say to those who care.

Sit here, think, what to say to those who don’t.

Sit here, think, the double digits, 10, the magic ends here.

Those who weep, need to do more.

Those who talk, need to act.

Double digits ended here.

I write this as I listen to the news and look at the faces of these beautiful children killed in Uvalde, Texas at the Robb Elementary School. I recall all the years of joy (as a parent, grandparent and teacher) when kids reach that special double digit birthday! I see pictures in my minds eye of the growing awareness of being a 10 year old and what it means. We made it look!! And then it hits me so hard that this is not to be for these children. For those who understand the significance of the “10th” birthday will know the heart ache felt with these families and here. And those beautiful children who never made it to their double digits. And the pervasive fear as we worry for our kids, all kids.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment