Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thankful for Making



When I started this adventure of teaching creativity and innovation I thought that I would be guiding young children in passion projects in grades 2-5 and providing a maker space for the little ones in k-1. I thought that the maker space made so much sense in the younger grades because I suspected that the little ones needed that time to explore and make. I was right and wrong. The little ones love to make. It's actually a bit comical to watch them as they work. They have to, and I mean have to get EVERYTHING out at the creation station. I tried to get them to take out only what they need (because clean up is a nightmare - at least it was). They quickly let me know that they need it all.

When I look at the things that they make, I have to sometimes fight the "wow that is craptastic" urge that fights to overcome me. The things they make look like they aren't anything meaningful until you talk to them. When I ask them to tell me about what they are working on, their sweet, precious voices tell me what they are working on and they never, ever disappoint. They are so stinking creative, I think that it is something that I could never ever teach.

So that got me thinking about that. Kids are so creative... in so many different ways. The more I get out of their way and let them create, the more they are willing to try. They sometimes ask if they can do certain things, with a look like they know that I will say no. Then I say yes and they light up.  

I was wrong when I thought that the 2-5 kiddos would be better off with passion projects.  Don't get me wrong, they love to learn about whatever they want to when they come to my class.  The thing is that they also love to make.  They come in with ideas and sometimes materials because they just aren't sure that I will have it in my room.  They love to sew.  It's very rudimentary since my skills are very limited, but they try.  When their lines aren't straight, they comment their concern, but I tell them that it is a perfect first try.  I tell them to celebrate that they did it all by themselves and that they should be very proud.  :)  

I'm so thankful for making for several reasons.  The two biggest reasons in my life are that I love to make myself.  Making helps you to see things in different ways and it makes you feel so empowered to do things yourself, whether perfect or not.  The second reason is that I get to watch a whole new world open up to all of the kids in my school.  I get to share my passion with them and to help them to find their own.  

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week everyone!  I hope you find yourselves feeling thankful.  :)  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Passionate about Passion Projects

I have been teaching children about what it means to be creative and to follow their passions.  I facilitate discovery, wonder, creation, imagining.  It is amazing to me day after day after day that the children come into my room for a scant 45 minutes every four days and they practically burst through the door.  When I started this journey in August I didn't know what it would turn into.  I opened myself and my time with them to the wide open possibilities that they could come up with.  I believe in childhood, and while I deeply respect the teaching of content, I find that the children are in desperate need for discovery.
On any given day, the children might be building with legos, experimenting with paint, or wax and water (no joke), creating something from nothing.  Tinker boxes in the creation station are full of materials that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and yet the children put them together in a variety of ways to create something new.
One little girl used a tissue box, a tape box, four toilet paper rolls, yarn, paper, ribbon, tape, a glue gun and a HUGE dose of imagination to create the cutest puppy!  She worked on it for weeks, putting a "please do not touch" sign on it.  She originally asked me for puffs for the dog's fur, but I didn't have any.  I asked her if she could use yarn instead.  She took the yarn, wrapped it around her fingers, tied it in the middle and trimmed the ends to make the fur.  I watched her lovingly construct this little friend.  When she was done, she shared it with the class and talked about her process.  We all marveled at her ability to take all of the things she used to make something so cute and so special.
Two fifth graders are building a life sized car out of cardboard right now.  They showed me a picture and asked me if they could do it.  I talked to them about how they were thinking about constructing it, made sure that they could get it home when they were done and cut a TON of cardboard for them.  I am so proud of them for taking this on!  They want to try to make it work and I say go for it!  I can't wait until they are done and I will definitely add pictures to my blog.
My point is not only to share my tales of amazing kids and the things they are doing, but to marinade in wonder myself.  I have learned so much about kids and the things that they can do just from letting it happen.  I'm wondering how this can impact their lives in school.  They always tell me that they love Discovery and when I see them in the hall they share when they will be coming to me.  So... why do they love it so much?  It's not me.  It's the opportunity.  Two little girls stopped me in the hall and told me that they are discovering at home too.
I have always wanted my students to love reading and writing as much as I do and I have always had some that do.  I am going to continue to watch and guide and foster a love of exploring and while I do, I am going to be thinking about how I can help kids to love everything that they are doing as much as they love their 45 minutes in room 4.  I wonder where that will lead and I look forward to it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

New Position Requires a New Attitude

Hi everyone!
I am in a brand new (freshly created) position in my school this year.  I am teaching a 4th special called "Discovery".  The idea behind this course is to help children to find what they are passionate about and to learn new things in a creative or innovative way.  OR they can learn new things any way they can and share them in creative or innovative ways.  Basically, I am creating this class as I teach it.
So where did I begin?  Well, that's quite easy...  It all began with a yes.  My principal came to me, along with our intervention teacher, and they asked me if I would be willing to change what I am doing and teach this 4th special.  I had thought about it and said no to myself prior to this conversation, but I found myself saying yes when I was asked.  Does this happen to anyone else???
I had no idea what this course would look like or sound like or even where it would happen (other than in the school building).  I still said yes.
I attended the Columbus Museum of Art creativity summit, which was lovely.  At first very little was resonating with me as something I would do for my position, but then quietly, slowly, ideas started to percolate.  It didn't matter how I did it as long as I have the kids the opportunity to wonder, investigate, build, create, etc.  They need it more now than ever.  I reread my notes from the week at the museum and so many quotes  and notes from the experience began to make sense in the light of this new job.
So what did I decide to do?  I decided to begin.  I didn't have to figure it all out before it started.  I just needed to know how to begin.  I decided to do the following:

  • k-1 Makerspace focusing on STEAM.  
  • 2-3 Genius hour
  • 4-5 Passion projects
I have been sharing some of these ideas with the kids in 2-5 and they are very excited!  My k-1s are thrilled to be able to engage with science, technology, building, art and math.  I sat with a little guy in kindergarten today who doesn't speak any English.  He and I built several structures together, smiling and laughing and speaking to each other in our own languages.  It was so touching to have that common work between us even though we have a language barrier.  
I am really enjoying the work so far, but my attitude had to undergo a change...  is still undergoing a change to be able to open up to the possibilities.  At first, after 22 years of teaching academics, with a primary focus on literacy, I felt a bit benched.  I didn't like that feeling at all.  To be honest, I still struggle with it a bit.  I see others giving the fall benchmark assessments and I am not giving them.  I am not analyzing running records or looking for strengths and needs for the students in reading, writing and math.  I am not on any of the committees that I was on for years.  It's hard having academic value and then losing all of that.  
I am trying to take this as an opportunity to stretch myself as an educator though.  Obviously I needed this challenge if I put all of my worth into my abilities as a reading and writing teacher.  
So, to adjust my attitude...  I am going to see this as another room in my teaching house.  It's the attic.  I can still visit all of the other rooms, but my focus needs to be there.  The kids need this.  They need me to show them that what they care about matters and that they can independently continue to learn outside of the classroom walls.  
I am also excited to involve the community.  So many of the kids are talking about learning about things that I don't know how to do yet.  I can learn, but I can also ask for help.  I am excited to have that relationship with people in our community and hopefully make them aware of the value that they have to give.  
It's all a big adventure and I don't know where it will go, but thank goodness I get to see. :)  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Mind of her Own

My littlest one has had a mind of her own from the very beginning.  My sister and I would laugh because we always said that she reminded us of our grandmother.  One of the things my grandma always did when she didn't agree with you but she didn't want to say anything (which was rare), was to give a loud "Huh".  You knew when you heard that, that she didn't really like what she was hearing.  
I think A was about one the first time I heard the "Huh".  She was climbing on something, as usual, and I told her that she wasn't really very safe and that she needed to get down when I heard it.  Her little tiny fists went on her little tiny hips and she said it...  "Huh".  
I didn't think I heard her right at first.  In fact, I was sure I had imagined it.  But then it happened again, time after time until I was absolutely sure that even though she had only seen my grandma once in her life when she was only days old, she was going to be just like her.  :)  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The College Green

Walking across the college green is magical
as things happen all around.
If you walk with your head down 
you can hear
talking and laughing
dogs barking
the soap box preacher
preaching
hell fire 
and 
damnation.
If you look up
you can see kids playing
with an old hacky sack
laughing 
smiling
jumping and
kicking.
Cute boys (and even some not so cute)
walking with puppies
hoping
to catch the eye
of a pretty girl.  
People sitting
on the statues
reading, 
eating, 
listening to music
as if 
no one else
is around.  
The college green 
is a living space
full of activity 
and possibilities.  


Friday, March 11, 2016

My Little Exhibitionist

Every summer, my kids and I drive to Texas to visit my aunt.  She lives alone there, with no family close by since my grandparents passed away and we just love to be with her.  We don't do anything fancy.  She has a pool in her backyard.  We hang out at the house, cookout and swim.  My kids all learned how to swim in that pool...  and how to skinny dip.  :)  
We usually like to drive in two days.  One summer, my husband was out of work and we didn't want to spend the money on a hotel so we decided we could make the 18 hour drive without stopping for the night.  It. Was. Awful. 
Things were going pretty well all the way to Arkansas.  Then it started to get dark.  Driving in the dark in Texas is not fun.  Armadillos run across the road, snakes can be seen in the headlights and there are no street lights most of the way making it pitch black.  Then my mom says she has a shortcut.  
The last shortcut we took with my mom added 8 hours to our trip by taking us to Louisiana on our way home from Texas and then we went up the Natchez Trace which was beautiful, but had a speed limit of 45 to 55 mph instead of the 70 on the main road.  
I was unsure of this shortcut but I was willing to try it since I was getting tired.  Shortly after heading on this alternate route, a car on the side of the road started driving really fast to get on the freeway, throwing a rock in the middle of my windshield, making a very large mark.  About an hour later my a/c went out.  We are talking Texas in July people...  It was so hot I wanted to stick my head out of the car like a dog.  
The kids seemed ok, other than poor A who was in the way back who said that she was very hot.  At one point, I looked in the rear view mirror and my jaw dropped.  My littlest one, about 6 or 7 at the time, was in her  car seat, reading a book, naked as a jay bird.  She didn't wait for anyone to tell her how to cool off.  She took care of it herself.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Let's Talk Handicap Bathrooms

This may seem like a strange post, but for the last month I have been using a scooter and let me tell you...  There are some bathroom issues I will never forget.  Don't be alarmed.  I am NOT going to go into anything too personal.  :)  
So...  the very first thing I want everyone to know is that there is usually only 1 handicap bathroom to the regular 4 or 5.  This means that when you (not you literally of course) use that one, we have to wait until you are done, even if all the other bathrooms are empty.  
Think about that now...  Did you really have to go that badly that you have to make me wait on you?  Hmmmm...  I know I will never use a handicap bathroom again.  
The next thing I want to mention is that the handles in the handicap bathroom are not always in the right place.  When you need a handle close to the toilet and it is all the way across the giant stall... well... you probably know what I am thinking.  
There is no hovering over a public restroom when you are impaired.  You have to sit down.  There is no choice.  So...  if you sprinkle when you tinkle...  be a sweetie and wipe the seatie.  And then grab a clorox wipe and clean it thoroughly.  Oh a girl can dream...