Today, while doing some Spring cleaning, I ran across some cards my students made for me during Teacher Appreciation Week. Our Art Teacher asks the children to do this every year and it is really funny to read what a five year old thinks is special about his or her teacher. Here are some of the reasons my students think I am special:

She doesn't make me eat my peas at lunch like my Mommy does!

She can tie shoes in a double knot!

She doesn't have to be quiet in the hall!

She likes to wear a pencil behind her ear.

She likes to jump around like a monkey when we play dance music!

If we spill juice on the rug, she doesn't get mad at us.

She thinks there is stuff called magic dust that makes us get in a straight line when we line up. We just let her think that. 

She loves me.

She tells good stories and puts us in them.

She knows a lot of clapping kind of songs.

She hugs me!

She is fun! Sometimes she lets us watch a movie during rest time or she reads us a story.

She doesn't make you go to the thinking chair if you are good!

She is nice! She holds are coats  on the playground.

We get to have parades a lot.

I got a good chuckle out of reading them again with the exception of the dancing one. All I could think of was Elaine on Jerry Seinfeld. Have you ever seen her dance? My daughter especially liked that one. Go figure.

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you all have a blessed day tomorrow!

John 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (NIV)

I mentioned in an earlier post that whenever a child is absent in my classroom, we call him or her at home and the entire class yells "We miss you  and their name......!"  Why do we do it? Childhood is such a brief moment in time, and  I want to do what I can to give each child the best possible start as they begin the journey of lifelong learning. Little gestures like this one only take a few minutes and  it seems to make the children feel so special. I want children to love school and get excited about learning.

Does that mean that I come in happy and excited every morning when I get to school? No! I have to admit that there are days when I come to school tired and wish I could have slept one more hour. On those days I try to remember what a gift God has given me to  impact the life of a child.  Children are our greatest asset and I want to do what I can to give them the best possible start in kindergarten. The choice to be  a positive impact or a negative one God leaves to me. Since my goal as a teacher is to have my students remember me as a positive influence, I keep this saying by an unknown author above the computer on my desk along with a bible verse. It serves as a gentle reminder of how precious each child is and why I have to leave that tiredness or grumpiness outside the classroom door before I enter each morning. I bought it several years ago when a little girl in my class had to move again for the third time in one year. Her little eyes filled with tears as she told me " I don't want to leave. I want to stay here. I love school and  my friends and I know you love me!"  She cried and cried as she left. I didn't realize until after she had gone just how difficult home life had been  for her and her siblings until  a social worker shared it with me.I thought about all of the days that I could have shown that child more empathy or given her more attention  and I felt so sad.

So, on days if I am feeling out of sorts, I look at this sign, and the bible verse below, and I remember that little girl. I remember how oblivious I had been to just how much school meant to her and it turns my day around. I am so thankful for all of the parents out there who do their best to provide a safe and caring environment for their children.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 18:10 ESV)

On Monday I blogged about discipline issues in kindergarten. Anne from  Life Is Good left a comment  about a child that injured my foot and asked me how children get that way. I gave that some thought the last two days. I tried to think of what, from my experience, causes a child to misbehave  in school in a disruptive and at times dangerous way. Was the child I blogged about born angry or did that behavior develop over time?  I am no mental health professional so I can only answer from a kindergarten teacher's perspective. 

Some of the reasons I feel that children misbehave in school are due to:

  1. A lack of sleep: A sleepy child who hasn't had enough sleep can be cranky and irritable. I have had children come in and ask if they can take a nap first thing in the morning because a parent kept them out too late.
  2. Lack of parental involvement: The child I blogged about on Monday came from a foster home. It was not the first one he had been in. Children need consistency and stability. Many children with a learning disability have supportive nurturing parents to serve as an advocate. It is the child who has an absentee or disinterested parent who I found often developed behavior problems if they had a learning disability.
  3. Low self-esteem: The child mentioned above was covered with eczema. He did not feel good about himself.
  4. Coming to school hungry: I have had children misbehave because they were hungry and had not eaten since lunch the day before. It is very hard to concentrate when your stomach aches from hunger.
  5. High absenteeism: Children who miss a lot of days may often misbehave because they have gotten so far behind in their work.
  6. Inappropriate curriculum: I blogged about this before. Too often school systems try to turn children into little robots, squeezing them into a cookie cutter curriculum. As a leftie, I remember what it was like in first grade to be in a classroom where everything was designed for a right handed person. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Smiley, used to pull my ear if I did not write with my right hand. Imagine how a child feels when he or she is not getting the curriculum fit that is needed.
  7. Lack of a comprehensive evaluation: The bottom line is that  kids like the one I blogged about on Monday need a comprehensive evaluation. Often, children come into Kindergarten never having been to a therapist if they need therapy or having diagnostic testing and data completed. You can't tackle severe problems successfully without a comprehensive evaluation and good data.
  8. Ineffective school administration or teaching: I guess it sound like the pot calling the kettle black but in all honesty, over the years, I attribute some of the blame to ineffective teaching or administration. I have blogged about it before and I will blog about it again. You can't fit children to the curriculum. You must fit the curriculum to children!
I haven't had a behavior problem in the three years I have been in my current school. When I was in the public schools, I did not have many children like the child I blogged about on Monday. Just one child with severe problems can wreak havoc until he or she gets therapy and an individual education plan.

For most children, I have found that if a child is interested in what he or she is learning, there will be a motivation and excitement to learn! My goal as a teacher is to ensure that no child gets left behind...for any reason! Do I always accomplish that goal? I give it my best effort!

I had a hard time not laughing out loud  as I listened to my little charges talking during centers today. "Why didn't the Easter egg cross the street ?" said one. "Why" replied his friend. "Because he didn't want to get smashed." said the first. Lots of giggles followed this exchange. A third child piped in "Can you eat cracked Easter eggs?" "No way!" replied the first. "They have germs all over "em". "Well, that's no big deal" said the other. "You can't taste germs!" Then a fourth child piped in "Have you ever seen an Easter egg hatched?" "No!" "Nope!" two of the children replied. "Me either" said the fourth child.

And then it started again. "What bunny doesn't come out at Easter?" said one. "What?" said another. "The sleeping ones." which was followed by a burst of giggles. I love working with little kids!

I blogged about initial and end of the year assessments yesterday. Today I would like to blog about what I feel is just as important if not more so when it comes to kindergarten readiness. When I taught in the public schools, my big concern when school started was whether each child walking through my door would have the self-control to learn how to control their impulses.

About ten years ago, I got a new student after labor day. I had recently had a bunionectomy and had just had my cast removed. I was wearing a soft shoe to protect that foot but I hobbled over to welcome my new charge. He had not been in the room more than a second when he started screaming at the top of his lungs and ran for the door. I went out after him and took his arm. He turned around and dug his hard soled shoe into the foot that had recently been operated on. The pain literally blindsided me and I released him. The Principal  gave chase and finally caught him and brought him to the office kicking and screaming. Over the next few months, he threw tables, hit children, kicked me, and was basically out of control. This is the behavior in the public schools that I do not miss. I ended up having to go back in for more surgery because the marrow got infected where the child broke the bones in the top of my foot.  I spent the remainder of the school year in a knee high cast because my foot wouldn't heal properly. This child simply did not have the capability to control his impulses. If he had to follow through on a difficult task, he would get frustrated and lose control. He was eventually taken out of my classroom and placed in a residential setting. 

Two years later, during the first day of school, I heard a child yell "Hi, Mrs. B!" I turned around and probably looked like I had just stuck my finger in an electric socket. I wouldn't be surprised if my hair stood up on top of my head when I saw him running toward me. Can you picture me standing there going "Ackkkkkk!"  in fear? My first impulse was to run in the other direction.  He ran up gave me a big hug and  definitely  did not act like the child I had known two years earlier.  

He was placed in a smaller class setting  that year and did well. He even told another teacher that he had not been nice to Mrs. B when he was in kindergarten but he didn't know why. I am glad that the child is doing better now but what about the year I had him in kindergarten? I had to spend so much time trying to keep him from hurting the other 25 children  and me that I know I wasn't as effective as I could have been. How fair was that to my other students for the six months he spent with us? How many teachers have to deal with this kind of behavior in some schools on a daily basis?

Every morning that I drive to the private Christian school I now work in, I say a silent prayer of thanks. My students have the self-control to listen to me give directions for more than a few minutes. I haven't had a child who was out of control or a discipline problem since I started there three years ago. Would I ever go back to the public schools? No! I feel so fortunate now to be able to do what I was trained to do. I get to spend all  of my time teaching!

This afternoon I went over to my classroom to do some work and get ready for more final assessments before we get out for Easter break. I will be assessing the children on reading concepts tomorrow and finishing up with math assessments. On Friday, I called one child over and asked him if he knew what one shape was (a hexagon). He looked at me and smiled before he said "I give up, what?" I told him that he needed to try and then he responded " Well, it looks like a stop sign with not so many sides!" Not bad, I thought.

In the public school system I worked for, we also did assessments in Kindergarten. All Kindergarten students had to go through a screening process before they officially started school. It involved a series of tests administered by a team of teachers, including the classroom teacher.

My role as the kindergarten teacher was to administer a reading readiness test. My job was to read a book to the child and then ask specific questions about the book.

 I remember one year when I had finished reading to one little boy,  I  began asking the questions. "Can you show me the front of the book?" I asked. The little boy looked at me with a puzzled expression, hesitated, and then pointed to the front. "That was great" I said. "Now can you show me the back of the book?" This time the child looked really puzzled. Finally, after a long pause and look of frustration, he pointed to the back of the book. "Terrific!" I said. "Now, can you show me where I start reading?" The child threw up his hands in frustration and said in a loud voice "HELLO! WHY AM I HERE?" I burst out laughing, getting frowns from my other colleagues positioned at other spots in the room, who were administering other tests.

I have no doubt that child went home and told his Mom that he hoped he didn't get the teacher  who didn't know any of the answers to the questions she was asking him questions at school that day!