Sunday, August 30, 2009

starting the school year

it's been awhile, but I'm back!

End of August is always a conflicting time for me...I love the start of fall--cooler weather, the smell in the air of things changing, my birthday, my son's birthday, last days at the beach....but also back to school...August is just never long enough!

Here I am though, preparing for the beginning of another adventure in teaching and learning. I've been tossing around ideas all summer, especially with the use of my weaving grant which I am very excited about!

So the arc for the year is: Time, Traditions, and Changes: who am I? where do I come from? how do living things change over time? We'll begin with "seasons". Of course most of our first session focuses on who we are as a learning group, what can each individual contribute to the whole group, and how we can work together to solve problems and create products this year. So the first few weeks will focus on establishing routines, and I am definitely going to buff up my calendar/weather routine so we can cover curricular aspects & vocabulary while also developing responsibility & awareness of time in terms of seasons & weather.

How do the seasons illustrate change? In what ways can we measure time?

Each table will be labeled with a different force of nature: thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, nor'easters (picture & sentence strip). This will establish relevant vocabulary & a sense of belonging to the members of each table, and it's more fun than just "the blue table" or "table #1", etc.

I'd like to inject a "precipitation chart" to the daily weather routine. Just a chart to tally days w/precip and days with--also including what kind of precip. This also targets a vocab word & puts math skills to work (counting & tallying). maybe I'll post a wipe board up for kids to draw a picture of the weather & someway of identifying the season we are in, that can also lead to creating a list of seasonal words, which we can use during writer's workshop, writing projects,etc.

I also want to post the words: imagine, create, wonder, investigate. As explorers of the world, these are the things we are going to do this year and what I want to measure progress in--use of imagination, products created, questions asked & explored, and where their personal motivation leads us as a learning group.

meanwhile, I have to deal with the nitty-gritty of setting up my room, the contents of which are as we speak completely piled on top of my rug--floor to ceiling--everything from chairs and tables to books and boxes of sea shells. which reminds me, I also want to set up a regular nature center based on the seasons. here we go!

Monday, August 10, 2009

day 2 and anxiety

well I made it back for a second posting, although I will be away from my computer for a few days but hopefully will get right back on track.

I'm thinking about anxiety and how my anxiety effects my own children. Ironically, I think for the most part I am a pretty laid back person, but when we have an event--family, social, a trip, etc, I get very anxious. Yes I have self-diagnosed from tv commercials--sounds like SAD--social anxiety disorder, but would rather not do any drugs, so instead my anxiety manifests itself through making list after list, occasional panic attacks, and wildly zipping around the house to cover all the details. how is this behavior perceived by my own little primates?

M is very anxious--he's exactly like me, and we hear a lot of "I hate school" "I hate parties" "I want to stay home". C is her father's daughter and just totally goes with the flow.

Children are so open and receptive to everything that goes on around them--things we do and don't even notice are things they internalize. The influential power we have as parents, teachers, adults, on little primates is enormous. I often think of my dad's similar anxiety, even my mom's, and wonder if that's why Im so anxious. but there is no blame here--just looking for reasons--not rationalizations--reasons. I suppose if there is a predisposition in the child toward a particular personality trait that is nurtured--whether knowingly or not, it will develop. So I am going to try to curb my anxious behavior--get a grasp on it, at least in front of the kids--and see if that will help M.

I hope it's never too late to learn from a mistake. that's a theme I'm going to explore next year with my class--using your mistakes. So many little primates today are afraid to take risks as learners, afraid to make a mistake or not do something perfectly the first time. this affects many adults too as it was probably unknowingly nurtured in them as children. so we will focus on identifying mistakes and figuring out ways we can use them to our advantage. that's just a general theme--this is how I teach--big themes that sprout meaningful life lessons. I usually develop my plans as I go, trying to take advantage of daily experiences and letting those lead my teaching. I prepared a big sign that states: "use your mistakes" for the wall. subliminal message and also a reminder that we are considering this thought all year. we'll see......

Sunday, August 9, 2009

my challenge

I'll begin with the title--which maybe should be "my primate project". Recently I looked into applying to the doctoral program at Harvard--yes, the big H! It's a wild goal, a long shot really, but my mentor (also my former principal many years ago) actually suggested it and when I stopped laughing so hard--I realized he was serious and got it into my head that maybe I could apply to the big H. So I did some investigating, met with a good contact at Harvard, and quickly learned I was pregnant with my second child. Doctoral plans, step aside. She's 2 now, so I am beginning to emerge from the mommy haze I associate with those first two magical years, and I am thinking about my own career plans once again. Which brings me here....

As I researched successful applicants to H's program, I was overwhelmed at the accomplishments of each one--published books, starting programs in foreign countries, and most astoundingly, this one guy who lived with primates (other than humans--gorillas or apes or something) in the jungle for a year. My hopes of even being considered started to fade quickly--needless to say I have only lived in the Boston area and worked as a teacher for many years--I mean I do have some pretty impressive accomplishments, but nothing compared to the jungle!

So I'm starting this blog as a way to get into the habit of writing everyday--or as close to everyday as possible--to build up my writing skills in anticipation of putting together that application by next fall. It's my primate project.

So I hope to just reflect on the children in my life and experiences that stand out. It may just be a bunch of blabbing, but I'd be interested in anyone else's thoughts on my thoughts or shared experiences, so if you are so inclined, please join in!

Being a teacher and a mom has given me a different perspective than I had before my own kids, and I think often about my own children as learners--the ways I think of my students. I'm always having this running dialogue in my head that sounds like a blog to me, so I hope writing it down will provide the discipline, focus, and practice I need right now. ciao!