Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Kinder Time

In a kinder world Mr. Rogers reigned Supreme. His neighborhood envisioned wonder, curiosity, joy and inclusion. Topics surfaced and Mr. Rogers didn’t shy away. But he approached them with respect and gentleness; listening and no bickering. He had lots of answers, but more importantly he wanted us to find out and question! Before my kids went to preschool they had Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I never worried when they roamed, wandered and wondered there.


The recognition he deserved was given in his lifetime. I’m so glad that his legacy lives on in the tributes I’ve seen on social media. Maybe it’s time to join in and live his message.

I’ve seen many wonderful Mr. Rogers’ quotes over the years as I peruse Twitter and Facebook. More often than not, they resonate with me, right to the core of my being. There is so much out there in the world that is beautiful, kind and worthwhile to embrace. And much that makes me shudder and wish it weren’t so. I often wonder about life (as I’m sure many people do). I look forward to the movies about Mr. Rogers and hope that “kids” of all ages have a chance to see what his “Neighborhood and Friendship” looked like. And just maybe…….

A poem I shared fits in here just nicely as “I WONDER”

I wonder if reflecting on what Mr. Rogers’ meant to us and our children/students can be used in our curriculum? Can we guide our students (and ourselves) to look at Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as a point of reference to moving forward in our footprints for tomorrow?


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Geniushour and Origami: No Lazy Learners Here

I subbed in four classrooms this week: Monday, 1st grade; Wednesday, a 4 year old program; Thursday, kindergarten; and Friday, another 1st grade class. It was a busy week and I’m becoming quite adept in wearing different teacher hats! A through line, to my surprise (or truthfully, maybe not), is what I call the “lazy learner.” In many ways it resembles the “learned helplessness“  teachers have noticed and discussed. I’m wondering if you’ve come across any “lazy learners?” The kids who know their stuff, who can often apply what they know to extend their learning; to participate, to discuss, to broaden the conversation, but don’t. I call these kids my “lazy learners.” They sit back and wait before starting their work. They call your name, they say, “But I don’t know what I need to do.” They want you to talk them through it, to expedite their work or to give them a pass. They want to be done!

I see this whether it’s cleaning up an art activity, transitioning to the next activity, or completing math or spelling assignments, or a multistep art activity to create a desert scene. I see it with writers workshop, when “I’m done” becomes a chorus, a cacophony of shared voices. I see it when showing your math work is not an option and trying to negotiate becomes their focus.

Have you experienced this with any of your students? Have we (parents and teachers as well) aided in this “learned helplessness” that now our “lazy learner” sits back and waits? The question then becomes what do we do and how can we help these students become more self-reliant, more independent and motivated to do their work?

An opportunity for Geniushour in 1st grade had me wondering (after the fact as I reflect), if I’d also see the “lazy learner” here?

Both first grade classrooms met to learn how to make objects with origami. They had talked about it and some of their friends had exposure to origami, and they were eager for their classmates to learn. One student, demonstrated how to follow the step by step directions. There were papers with directions to make a swan, house, pig, frog and pinwheel. Students were given origami sized paper and chose which one they wanted to try. They could chose how to partner up; whether with a group or in groups of two or by themselves.

The excitement in the two rooms, as the kids could go back and forth between the two classrooms, was discernible and delightful. And the noise level, as one would expect, as the students finished an origami and rushed to show it to friends and teachers, was high. Most of the students were engaged, trying, asking for help from peers or teachers as they tried the different folds. Some went on to try another origami when done with one or when they weren’t successful with their first one. A few were discouraged. They were challenged and asked for help after the first fold. Without that immediate feedback, they wanted someone to do it for them. And with those kids we (classmates and teachers) talked them through it, we helped them persevere, we guided them through the folds that needed to be done one at a time, in the order shown.

Then we went back into our room (the classroom I was subbing in that day) and their teacher Kristin had them discuss their “takeaways”, their reflections of this Geniushour experience. Kids shared how they weren’t sure they could do it. They talked about the origami they made; why they chose that one; who helped them and what they did when they couldn’t do the origami. One student talked about his idea to combine two origami papers. Another shared how she was going to give up, it was too hard and she wasn’t successful. Then she talked about the teacher helping her follow the steps one at a time. And she proudly shared that she was able to help her peers with theirs.

Kristin’s tag line to them that has become their mantra TEAM WORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK! How wonderful is this! I’ve often shared that lessons learned during  Geniushour applies to all academics, to the playground, to makerspace, to innovation; to spaces and places we are committed to giving students access to learn and share their interests and passions. In these instances I feel we see less of the “lazy learner” as the students build intrinsic motivation that they can apply across the curriculum.


Have you tried Geniushour with your classes? Do you think giving students opportunities to focus on their interests builds resilience when they face challenges? Have you experienced “learned helplessness” and/or “lazy learners” with your students? If yes, how do you help them become more independent learners?






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What We Do, We Do For Kids

I don’t want to offend, shouldn’t be the answer or the reason why I might not want to share my thoughts, questions or ideas. I still have much to learn from the educators out there, either face to face or my online interactions like Twitter and Facebook. And in all modesty, I hope they can learn from me.

Both statements are where I am now; not boasting, but sharing. We’ve all come from a different place to get to here: classroom teacher, blogger, tweeter, chat or FB group facilitator, wherever place or role you might have in education.

I’ve been so fortunate to sub in different grades this year and the learning that takes place, both the kids and mine is what brought this post to fruition. I was able to share with a group of 2nd graders my thoughts (thanks to reflecting with classroom teachers, Twitter chats as well as blogs I read). After reviewing a test and recognizing the confusion some of them had on a section of the test, we talked about it. And I explained that an important learning experience, for the teacher, after giving a test, was looking at the areas the students didn’t understand (or get); not at their error, but as an area, we, the teachers, needed to do a better job teaching. They sat wide eyed and thought about this. Some made comments and others asked questions. Learning beyond the scope of the curriculum was validated by the time given to this discussion; the time the students needed.

Not to offend, so we speak with respect and kindness, but we need to speak. We need to share our stories, our truths, our experiences if we’re here to understand best practices (with a shout out to #kinderchat) and apply them to our teaching. @gcouros posts often whirl around in my mind as he shares what I call “the big picture”. If people don’t share, tweet, post or write books how do we get to learn more and more from our little corner of the world? When @mary_wade @avivaloco tweet and blog, I read and ponder. Their perspective often meshes with mine even though our backgrounds differ. I look as @pernilleripp writes on literacy, @joykirr writes on #geniushour #nerdybookclub and @CarrieGelson introduce me to books; #g2great encourages me to reflect on reading and writing, and the list goes on and on. (Not to offend anyone I have not mentioned, but you know who you are as I engage in “conversations” with you.) How would I know about this unless you’re willing to take risks to share your POV, your perspectives, your experiences, as I share mine?

And it goes without saying, but I do, what we do, we do for the kids we teach. We have made that commitment when we became teachers.

When in a quandary who do you turn to for guidance, support and learning? Are you reluctant or available to share your POV even when it differs from others?

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I’m Not Sure


I went for a walk today. Still not 100%, with my cold lingering a bit, I decided a stroll in the beautiful, crisp, wintery Los Angeles day is what I needed. And whether driving or walking an a-ha moment hits at unexpected times. I email myself my thoughts and then I reflect some more. My thoughts aren’t far from the tragedy in Florida. Another shooting, more have died. Once again children don’t go home to their parents. The grief shared in social media, newspapers and interviews draws me in and I can’t escape the anger and rage I feel. Many erudite writers share how they feel, and the idea of arming teachers fills me with dread. So I reflect after reading many blogs and posts on Twitter and FB.

I marvel at those who know with such certainty what they say or share in tweets, blogs, Facebook and face to face conversations. I envy you. I’m not sure about so much and I question all the time.

But what I know, I know from my experiences, my reading, from my conversations with you; in the classroom, at dinner, over coffee and chats.

I’m not sure.

But what I know, I know comes from a place of wonder, questions, love and respect.

I’m not sure.

Are my truth yours as well? Do we find common ground? Do we go from that, to see how we make change, make things better, for me and you?

I’m not sure.

But I’ll stand by the motto that works for me: First do no harm. I’m not sure if it’s always been that way for me. I once was young and thought I knew all the answers but not always the questions. But it’s what I’ve known now for a long time; it’s what I feel, what I believe and what I share. How often have I said I’m not sure, let me think about it, let me get back to you? It was never a “cop out.” It was my bookmark, waiting to be sure.

And so I write this post. It’s been a rough few weeks.


Four year olds worked together, so proud, to create. I’m sure about this.

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When Provocations Change The Landscape

I remember around six or seven years ago reading a tweet about “looking closely” and researched books that were mentioned . Our kinder team liked the idea and since we were doing a unit on the Rainforest it seemed a good time to introduce the book and the concept. We were excited and we bought a few books in the series. Although I had known about the Reggio Emilia approach I found more and more information on these programs. After some time, I saw some tweets and blogs about ”provocations”and I was intrigued by the term; being more familiar with the term “provoke” On twitter I learned how a provocation was a positive, opened-ended, student-centered discovery to engage children in their learning. Then “provoke” took on new meaning for me; to prod children through environmental and other opportunities to discover, to push, to try to make sense of their world. I liked that, it sat well with me.

I met @avivaloca Aviva Dunsiger on Twitter and her blogs had me thinking: prodding me to look closely and differently at the provocations she set up for her classroom.  Then also on Twitter, I met Mary Wade @mary_teaching and her blog where she also used provocations to push my thinking. I saw #ReggioPLC and was intrigued. Here I met @DianeKashin1 Diane Kashin) who introduced me to “Forest Schools” and their approach to learning.

As I look back at my years of teaching, I often think about what my motivations and goals were; not only for my students, but for myself as well. Was happiness, joy, the inquisitiveness, the love of learning, the wonder of it all, a big part of what my classroom looked like. Certainly in my years in the early childhood program, it did! Kinder initially was like that as well and then a shift to a more “academic” program where we often teetered between academics and a child-centered, developmentally appropriate program. But then we looked closely, reminding us that’s how kinders really learn.

I reflect and share here, because as I sub, I still try to make sense of what we’re doing as educators. That pendulum swings and I see educators are taking a closer look at what’s “right” for students, especially in lower elementary. It’s in the mindset, isn’t it. We can make changes. If we want to give kids’ agency, then we have to take it for ourselves as well.

Do you use provocations in your program? Is there flexibility to teach with a more open lens of ideas that fascinate you and are eager to “give it a go?” Have you discovered a way to integrate student-initiated learning with the acaemdics you’re mandated to teach?

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On The Go: Life As A Substitute

It’s been a busy few weeks of subbing and I didn’t realize that I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. So much to share as I reflect again about my time as a substitute teacher. I subbed in kindergarten, for the lower elementary librarian, in 1st grade (in the school I taught at), in 1st grade at the other school and in the 3 year old program. As I said, I’ve been quite busy and I continue to learn so much about me as a teacher and about teaching. Comfortable wearing this new hat, flexibility has become a norm and really listening to what is needed from me gives me agency to find the right path, for that time, in that classroom. A follow up to a 1st grade’s learning about Ruby Bridges gave me the opportunity to share that I met her.

In the EC program with 3 year olds and visiting 4 year olds, we explored with paint what objects moves faster down a plank. Lots of giggles and paint all over. They were vested in making sure what they had moved the fastest. Then they graphed. (Unfortunately no time for pictures.)

A field trip with 1st grader to a local Trader Joe’s and then lunch at a park, reminded me that kids can be cool with change, if you are too!

Whenever I get to participate in a read aloud my day is made.  My day in the library reading to EC class, 1st and kinder reinforced my belief  that listening to their questions and comments  leads to a fascinating discussion. (Guide lines and anchor charts are just that guidelines.)

And then moderating a #geniushour chat, another growing and learning experience. Stepping out of my comfort zone is not easy. But for me at this time in my career, I’m comfortable in my skin and more willing to take risks.

When your days are so busy are you able to take a few moments for youself to relect on how it’s going? Have you found the best way for you to do so? Do you blog, write in a journal or brainstorm with colleagues?

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The Day After MLK Day

I subbed in second grade today, a day after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. To my delight I was asked to read to the class. And right away I knew what read alouds I would choose! I went to my old kindergarten room and there, as if those books knew I would be looking for them, were On The Other Side and Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson. I sat down with the class and explained where these book were from and one boy quickly shouted out, “Oh I remember On The Other Side, but I’m sure there’s so much I forgot. Can you read it again?” And then many others chimed in agreement. As I read we discussed what was happening and as they looked at the pictures they had more questions. At the end Woodson writes about fences coming down, their understanding of the multi-layers of meaning to the fences, gave me such joy and hope. Then I read Each Kindnesses. Only a few children knew about this book. Again, concern, trying to understand why the children ignored and isolated a new student, generated so many questions. We talked about “hand-me downs” and second-hand stores. And the end will always touch me as the teacher helps her students understand the “ripple”effect in how they treated Maya.

Woodson writes: The next day her seat is empty, the same day that teacher Ms. Albert drops a stone into a bowl of water, and the children watch as waves ripple away. “This is what kindness does, Ms. Albert said. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.”

When the students drop the stone in the water they recall an act of kindness. One little girl remembers the many times she missed a chance to be kind to Maya. That stone had its own impact, a ripple effect that couldn’t be taken back. The students sat mesmerized listening to the stories. These second graders asked thoughtful questions and made connections as they discussed kindness and the ripple effect it has.

From taking a stand to include a new friend while breaking down barriers in, On The Other Side to reflecting about missing an opportunity to reach out to another in an act of kindness in, Each Kindness, the children looked around at their classmates and I believe they saw the beautiful smiles of friends, not their skin colors, but who they played and worked with. Who they’re growing up with and how they make room for new friends, as they continue learning about the stone and the ripple effect of kindness.


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