Kindergarten teachers are notorious for multitasking. One year another Kindergarten teacher walked next door to my classroom to ask me for instructions on an art project. She had seen it drying in the hall and wanted to give it a try with her class. Since her students were having rest time, she thought she could steal a few minutes to come over to my room to ask about it. While she walked down the hall, she reapplied her lipstick.

When she entered my classroom, my assistant and I both doubled over in laughter. I can't remember when I have laughed so hard. My students, who were resting, popped up and started laughing too. They had no idea what they were laughing at but they did not want to miss out on the fun. Get a mental picture in your head of the three year old that gets hold of Mommy's lipstick and applies it herself. Now substitute my teacher friend for the three year old. Talk about missing the mark. We all three were reduced to a pile of giggles along with my class who was laughing hysterically in the dark at they knew not what. We laughed so hard we cried. The assistant Principal picked that moment to enter the classroom. I guess he wanted to check out what all the ruckus was about. He took one look at her and he started laughing too.

If you want to read some great posts about lipstick by another teacher, head on over to My Lipstick Life.

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowlege.
                                                                                                -Albert Einstein

Today I am going to blog about a teaching idea that I have found to be so popular that other teachers might want to implement it as well. Since it is Friday, and we could all use a good laugh, I am also going to blog about a five year old's fascination with hair.

Every year in my current school we have Special Friends and Grandparent's Day in the lower school. Prior to that, I would hold my own Grandparents Day in the public schools. First, we would let each child finish a sentence "I love my grandparents because...".  You can alter the phrase depending on the child's home situation. For example, if there was no grandparent, we would let the child write about a special friend. If the child was unable to write it, we would write what they dictated. We used blank paper that was 12 x 18. The child would draw a picture on the top portion and write on the lower section.

We also let the child decorate a big yellow ribbon (writing would not show up as well on blue) that said "Grandparents Day" or "Special Friends Day" with glitter and then cut it out. We invited the Grandparents to join us on this special day.When his or her guest entered the classroom, we would pin it on for them.

 I would get a karaoke machine or portable speaker system and let each child introduce his or her special friend or grandparent at the front of the room.  Either I or the child would read the page they had created , show the audience the picture, and then the child would present it to the guest. At that point, if a grandparent wanted to share something special about themselves, we would encourage them to do so. For example, I remember once that a grandmother brought in a doll that she had been given by her mother that was over one hundred years old. The audience would clap after each introduction and each child would just beam! If a child was unable to have a guest, I would ask someone like the music teacher to come in to be with them. In all of the years that I held this, there were very few occasions where a child did not have someone come in. The children AND the special friends loved it. After the introductions, we would have a simple reception and let the guest look at artwork displayed around the room.

Now, to start the week-end off with some humor, let's talk about kindergarten students and their fascination with hair. For some reason, if you put a pair of scissors in a kindergarten child's hands, chances are one will eventually want to try them out on hair. Bangs are a popular location to see if the scissors really work. No matter how many times we start out the year telling children that we do not use scissors to cut hair, once in awhile it happens.

We were in the midst of center one day this year when a large screech emanated from my assistant. I rushed over to find her standing over one adorable little boy. In front of him was a good sized chunk of bangs. Kindergarten scissors are not known to be very sharp, so how this child managed to cut his hair with them, I will never know. He looked up and smiled. I had to call his poor mother to tell her the bad news. He has one of those dutch boy haircuts so it was obvious that a small rectangular piece of his bangs was missing. If you can picture the top of a  jack-o-lantern's mouth with a tooth missing, you can get an idea of what his bangs looked like for awhile.

Other years I have had children experiment on a classmate. One year a little girl screamed when she saw the boy next to her holding the end of her pigtail in his hand. He told me "My brain told me not to do it but my hand didn't listen." I can only imagine what his Mom had to say to "his hand" when he got home. Everybody knows that teachers have eyes in the back of their heads but no matter how hard I tried, a few times in all my years,somebody got scissor happy.

The moral of this little snippet is that no matter how many times you say it, or how hard you try to keep your eyes on everyone, eventually one year don't be surprised if a child in your classroom gets a little scissor happy!

I have taught many an in-service workshop in my day but one really sticks out in my mind. I worked really hard to put together a workshop on integrating writing into all subject areas. My audience appeared very enthusiastic and before I knew it, it was time for a lunch break.

All the teachers were back in their seats and ready to continue after lunch. I showed lots of examples and gave each teacher a notebook I had put together for them. When the workshop ended, I felt that they had been a really receptive audience. They applauded and several came up to thank me for my presentation. 
I began putting my materials away when one more teacher approached me. I smiled, waiting for another positive comment, and looked her way. "Did you know that you have a piece of spinach wedged between your top front teeth" she asked.  Sure I did. I ALWAYS get up in front of fifty teachers with a green leaf stuck right where I can show it off. I replied that I didn't and thanked her for telling me. 

I ran for the nearest restroom and yuck! She was right! Why couldn't they have told me sooner! 

Lesson learned: always check your smile after lunch when you are doing a presentation. I learned the hard way!

Okay, I can't not tell you another funny experience in my classroom. This one ought to get at least a smile out of you.

 Around eight years ago, I had an adorable blond, blue-eyed girl come up to my desk and hand me a paper plate first thing in the morning. I asked her what the plate was for and she explained to me that she had swallowed a marble the night before. She went on to say that her mother wanted me to go with her every time she went to the bathroom to see when the marble came out. Now, I truly try to accommodate the parents in my classroom, but I draw the line at looking for swallowed marbles. I handed her back her plate and explained that I would be unable to accompany her. I also told her to have her Mom call me if she had any questions. 

Evidently, the marble was retrieved that night at home or that's what she told me the next day.

Winter Break is a wonderful thing! It was such a treat to sleep until 8:30 am again this morning. I am going to talk about class size today. Does the size of a class make a difference? From my experience, I would echo a resounding yes!

The year I retired from teaching kindergarten in the public schools, I had twenty-one students in my classroom with one teacher assistant. The first year I taught kindergarten, I had thirty-two students and one teacher assistant. I currently teach kindergarten in the private school where I have been employed since leaving the public schools. I have had sixteen students and one teacher assistant every year for the past three years. 

The smaller class size gives me many more opportunities for one on one instruction with my students. Couple this with the fact that my assistant is never pulled for extra duty, to substitute in another classroom, or to help in another grade level. That means we ALWAYS have a 1:8 ratio.  Reduced class size is also important since my teaching methods emphasize hands-on and individualized learning, rather than rote memorization. Another advantage is that I am able to provide more support to students who need extra help. 

I feel very thankful to be teaching in a school where administrators realize that class size makes a difference! It makes going to work a joy everyday.

I am basking in the luxury of a week off from teaching kindergarten for Winter Break this week. I got to sleep until 8 am this morning and it was such a treat! Today I am going to blog about another issue that I know might not be popular with all teachers. It is the issue of tenure.

In my current private school, there is no such thing as tenure. You are expected to do a good job or your contract is not renewed. My school is a K-12 private Episcopal school where parents pay a lot of money for their child's education. Mediocrity is not tolerated.

While working in the public schools, I would often hear administrators complain about ineffective teachers being protected by the local teacher's organization. What I often SAW were administrators who at times rarely observed a teacher and gave good evaluations until a problem arose. In all honesty, if they had done their jobs correctly, many situations could have been corrected and possibly avoided. I have seen situations where a principal gave a teacher glowing evaluations regularly only to learn that there were some serious problems in the classroom right before or after tenure was granted. Teachers need regular feedback and support from administrators. With our economy in its current state, it is a travesty for an incompetent teacher to hold on to a job simply because he or she has tenure. There are too many good candidates out there like Theresa at Substitute Teachers Saga who want a job.

I saw many young teachers leave the public schools for more lucrative paying jobs in the private sector. A few felt that they just weren't cut out for the profession. Many more were driven out by lack of support, too much paperwork, long unproductive staff meetings, or committee meetings where more time was spent tossing ideas around than actually implementing them.

In my current school, lesson plans must be turned in a week ahead of time. Our Principal is very visible in the classrooms and is knowledgeable about what is being taught. Teachers get lots of "warm fuzzies" regularly and are provided with help and support if they need it. The majority of my time is spent on teaching. If a staff meeting is called, it has a purpose and a specific agenda. Teachers are encouraged to attend National Conferences in order to keep current on the latest research, strategies and techniques and are given the funds to go.

During my thirty-one years in the public schools, I felt that most of my public school colleagues were hard workers who would strive to be excellent teachers. Those few that aren't should be evaluated regularly and given a plan for improvement. Consistent help and support to achieve the plan should be provided.  If a teacher still isn't successful, then they should not be able to hide behind tenure. Incompetency by a few puts a blight on the profession as a whole.

I can't emphasize to you enough how very special it is for a teacher to receive a note of thanks from a parent for a job well done. I treasure each and every one that I have ever received because to me they are more valuable than gold. When I go back and read one, memories of a particular school year flood back through my mind like a motion picture. The child and the mother who wrote the note below will always have a special place in my heart. The fact that she would take the time to write a note and thank me for my efforts means so much to me.

Letters from children are just as precious. I received this from a child twenty-six years ago when I was named Outstanding Educator in the State. This little boy is now a thirty-two year old man with a family.

The year I received this note was a very special year. I received flowers, cards and lots of special gifts to celebrate the award. My most memorable remembrance is not one I can post on here for you to see. It is a plastic wrapped mint one little boy gave me that year. I knew this child's home circumstances were very difficult but the thrill on his face every day as he entered the classroom will be forever stamped in my memory. He was like a little beam of sunlight. Although his clothes were worn and I often had to wash his face for him when he got to school, he had such a sweet precious spirit. He loved school and every Friday  he would wait at the door before he left holding out his arms to me for a big hug and saying "I love you". 

He was so proud of himself the morning that he came in and marched up to my desk announcing that he had a present for me. He held out his little hand and proudly placed the mint in my palm. I oohed and aah-ed and gave him a big bear hug. His grin spread across his little face as he told his little classmates to come and see what he had brought Mrs. B for her "A-ward!" I keep it nestled  with all of the letters, cards, etc. that I have collected over the years to help me remember him by. The red stripes on the mint are beginning to blur  and the white is mottled but my memories of this child are still fresh.