Thursday, February 25, 2010

more risk for healthier kids

Found this on Teacher Tom this morning. So awesome! And TED is a great resource.

Tom wrote this morning about getting kids to do their own safety assessments, to figure out themselves how to do what they want and do a lot of learning, while keeping injuries to a minimum. Imagine a society where instead of hovering over our kids to keep them safe we empower them to make their own

More risk for healthy kids! I definitely want to think more about this, and post more later.

Safe risking Nerd OUT!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

yesterday we made that, today we made this, what are we gonna make tomorrow?

The kids at placement are really into the materials we used for the shaker bottles yesterday, so today after we made more shakers, we just played with the materials! So awesome for fine motor development, and scooping and pouring, we ended up transferring the stuff over to the kitchen in the house area and 'cooking' with it. Pretty fun - the kids had a really good time and it got pretty messy. It felt like a gong-show, but somehow somewhere in there it gelled, and I got to witness some pretty high-quality play going on.

Now - I'm coming to understand the value of mess. It's pretty awesome to encourage kids to explore a material until they have a thorough, experiential understanding of it. Usually that can get really messy. I can understand how a lot of educators are a little put off by this - it takes time to clean up, time educators often don't have, or find it hard to invest. It's so much easier to work at controlling the classroom, making sure messes don't get out of hand, do our best to tame the chaos. However, kids are messy, and if they get messy, it seemed to me today that they were really getting a lot out of it. I'm not talking about making a mess for the sake of making messes - that's behavioural and doesn't need to be encouraged - but I think over-controlling kids, be it helicoptering over them, overscheduling their lives, or making sure everything's always neat and tidy impacts play, learning and ultimately kid's civil rights to be kids. Are we so concerned about our kids not getting hurt, or getting too messy, or staying safe that we are limiting them, holding them back from experiencing things fully? Is controlling kids the most effective way of ensuring their safety, health, learning?

Kids need protecting - our society is shaped in a particular way that necessitates that. And I don't want kids to come to any harm, by any means. But the constant mantra of "be careful" and "that's not safe" is starting to sound like walls hemming our kids in. It's exciting to think of alternative ways of being with kids as they learn. Thank goodness I'm in school for this.

Make the messes, my friends. I'll clean it up so we can make more messes tomorrow. I feel like I owe you all that, considering how many messes you're going to get handed in the future by us.

Messy Nerd out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Nana laughing

Today I was at placement, thank goodness, and we made some great shaker bottles, practicing scooping and pouring. I'll get some photos tomorrow. Isabel comes up with some great ideas.

I was feeling sick all day long, and so my energy was not that great. Ate some ginger, felt better, and then found out my Nana, my dad's mom, fell yesterday and broke her femur high up near her hip. She had surgery today, got a pin and a cable installed, and apparently is already on the mend. The thing is, she's in Texas, and here I am in the frozen (well, slushy today) north. Far away from family in times of trouble. Doesn't feel so great right now. So so glad that my Aunt Pam and cousin Erica are there. Whew!

My Nana's 87. She got me into reading, by first getting me into Star Wars and then science fiction. My omnivorous insatiable reading habits stem in good part from there, I'm sure. I have deeply felt memories of her reading A Wrinkle in Time, Fantastic Mr. Fox and other books way beyond what was judged to be our 'reading level', and my sister and I eating it up like the best dessert. Nana would laugh at the funny parts harder than we would, probably because she understood them way more than we did, but her laugh is still a deep part of my delight in reading, imagination, story and literature. I'm GLAD she's ok.

Been thinking a lot about outdoor play, due a lot to the weather here and blogs like Teacher Tom, Place + Inquiry, Free Range Kids, and I'm a teacher, get me outside here! . Our half-day schedule doesn't allow us too much time to get outside at Bloorview Nursery School, but the kids do tend to play outside all together when their folks come to get them in the playground outside our classrooms. Alternatively, at the Early Learning Centre at Ryerson, the kids spend about 2 hours a day outside. It so necessary to get ourselves outside, no matter the weather, maybe even because of the weather. I know I feel so much more human when I've been outdoors. I've also been thinking a lot about this video, about outdoor preschools in Norway. I want my life to be kinda like this.

Wouldn't it be amazing to do more of our learning outside. "There is no such thing as bad weather, only improper clothing." Stuff to dream on.

nerd OUT!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

reading and reading and reading...

I will catch up. This is possible.

Everyone I talk to in the field and at school - they all agree with me. Placement semester is a gong-show. We have so much to do! A full course load + two days a week of placement + jobs to help us bolster our much appreciated but not-quite-adequate student loans = a lot to do. Not to mention homework, projects and papers.

So the academic powers-that-be invented Reading Week, so that we can attempt to catch up on everything and not become blubbering basket-cases.

HOWEVER, if you're nerdy like me, and get obsessed with all you're learning and immerse yourself in extra projects to explore and inquire even further, and go to your placement on your break so you don't lose connection with the kids (lose your place in placement) because really, is two days a week enough to learn all that this opportunity presents? And read inspiring books and articles and blogs that get you even more excited, ever more sure that you made the right choice, even though your brain feels like it's overheating sometimes.

Then, OH THEN, you need to remember to breathe. And make space. And not get too thrashed up over things. And that way you - I mean I - will become the teacher I want to be and not a burnt-out bonglehead.

And then, when I am that teacher that I want to be, I'll go on to maybe inspire a kid who'll in turn go on to invent a time-machine or something that will enable us to get all the things we want/need to get done in the time allotted to us, or add a couple of extra days onto the week. Or something.

Anyways. in my readingreadingreading, I have bumped into something I like thinking about - in my Creative Arts course text Art & Creative Development for Young Children by Robert Schirrmacher and Jill Englebright Fox (2009), in the chapter about designing early childhood art programs they talk about 4 important elements to include. I think they're all really important -

1.sensory experiences - situations that engage and enliven kids through stimulating all of their senses
2. beautiful and creative experiences - exploring nature, culture and art to create a relationship with beauty
3. time, space and materials for making art - provide a place and long enough periods of uninterrupted time for kids to express themselves, and enough interesting materials to explore and play with
4. an introduction to the world of art, artists and a variety of art forms and styles - what is art? Who are artists? Why do they do it? Beginning to ask these questions, even in early learning, is useful and important.

I really enjoy thinking about this, and picturing how to shape curriculum to incorporate them. Starting to understand different ways of thinking about curriculum, from the very structured plans that seem to be expected in our school systems here, to the more almost philosophical stances, open-ended questions or points of inquiry that seem to underlie emergent curriculum.

OK - I gotta get back to homework. BREATHE and DIVE.

NERD out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

chalk murals

wella wella wella -

These are some photos of the chalk murals I did in the classrooms at my placement at Bloorview Nursery School - High Park. I'm real happy with them, particularly when we were discussing the new tiger one and one of the girls in our class said "What happened to the boat?" Well, sweetheart, don't worry. It's still in the other classroom...all chalkboards are not the same chalkboard.

This is the Tiger I did for Chinese New Year - I peeled away the blue corro-tint to find a green chalkboard wreckage beneath. It was covered in tape and the sticky remnants of some teacher's great idea. It took the better part of an hour, a scraper, goo-gone, two steel-wool pads and a shit-load of elbow grease to get the gummy residue off, and leave an easily chalkable surface. I'm happy to say I feel like it was worth it.

Because sidewalk chalk is so light, and doesn't come really in black, I had to get inventive -- and erasing the tiger's stripes worked really well.

This other mural I did in the classroom we were in at the time, when the kids were captivated by pirates and treasure. It was pretty gratifying to hear the kids talking about mermaids and islands a couple of weeks after it was up - amazing what enters the kids' stories.

I was a bit more aware of my language today - that is going to be an ongoing thing. Good thing it's so worth it, and awesome, and I'm into it. It's a challenging thing, though, and being aware in that way of how I'm speaking and framing things takes a lot of effort. I talked about it with Isabel, who said she'd be happy to back me up if I'll do the same for her. She framed it as having an inside voice and an outside voice, and letting your inside voice say what it needs to -- "NO!" "Don't do that!" or "Hey, buster, don't sit on the table!" -- IN YOUR HEAD -- and translate it into your outside voice saying "Hey, friend, it looks to me like you're thinking of sitting down. Let's go get a chair or a beanbag instead." Awesome. Demanding. Fake-sounding? A little, but I think that's just the constructed clarity and intensified intent that grates on my ear. Practice that for say, ten years or so, and it oughta come out more naturally. It's a good goal to point towards, anyway.

Always learning, even when it feels against my will! Positive attitude, check. Sense of humour, check. Loads of stuff to do, check. Groan!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

reading week...

ARG - just found out that my sister and nephew AREN'T coming to visit this week - which sucks, but there is a silver lining in that I can get the schoolwork done that I need to, study for my other midterm which is coming up, and work away at my projects. It was going to be complicated but worth it that they were here, and now it'll be a bit easier.

I did decide to keep going to placement, and I'm really glad I did. My new project at placement is a personal one, born out of noticing that the language I use when talking to kids is not really the kind I want to be using. Not like I'm swearing like a sailor (do they swear that much these days?), but I'm not always clear and my speech could be a lot more helpful, more conducive to communication.

Teacher Tom, one of my blog education heroes, wrote about it here, and here, and also along the same lines here. Check out his great great blog Teacher Tom. It's on the blog list over there in the sidebar, too. It's chock-full of good teacher stuff, told in great narrative, with real kids and real teacher action.

So, today, I kept messing up how and what i was speaking, and after a particularly wonderous blunder (done out of earshot of the kids, and I'm still chewing on it embarrasedly) I resolved to really really REALLY be mindful about how I speak. Good thing, too.

We also changed rooms again, and this week are in the room I started placement in. I'm not really sold on this room-switching business - I mean, I see some logic (fresh environment, fresh materials, new perspectives) but it just ends up feeling like a whole of transitions for everyone. All the kids did was wander around and explore, really, except in the House Centre where things were familiar enough to dig in and really have a feed-the-babies-wooden-birthday-cake love fest. However, switching rooms means four walls that i haven't really been able to have much effect on, so here we go! Got at it after everyone was gone, and spent most of the afternoon doing new chalk mural for the Year of the Tiger. Again, I forgot to effectively document the thing, but will do better next time, and take some photos of it to post tomorrow.

Also, even tho my mouth wasn't up to par, my play was - totally inspired by Vivian Gussin Paley, I played with the kids in a really engaged way today. It felt great, and a boy who's shy and a bit anxious blossomed and had fun with me after a unusually short interval of shadowing one of the regular teachers first thing. AWESOME.

Nerd Out - for now!

PS - Had a great time in Montreal over the weekend, and went to the ridiculously gorgeous Waldorf school stuff store, La Grande Ourse on Duluth. Wood wood and wood, lovely toys, and wonderful colours - those anthroposophists sure know how to make fetching felt fairies and wooden gnomes. Check it out if you're ever around there, and look at this gorgeous photo of the wooden kitchen, all kid-sized, that they have for sale for an unfortunately enormous price. I found the photo on flikr at pleasurecraft's site.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vivian Gussin Paley makes me excited

Among the 18 other books I'm reading, studying for my midterm tomorrow and working on two papers, shoveling the snow, and getting ready to go to Montreal for the weekend, i am reading the amazing Vivian Gussin Paley's The Girl With the Brown Crayon.
I can just barely handle how excited I feel about getting back to the classrooms I spend time in, about having a classroom of my own...yowza!

Check this -

"It is passion Reeny wants: a roomful of dancing brown girls and dreamy mice, mother rabbits who rescue babies from an eagle's nest, princesses who sleep with their cousins and have crocodiles for pets, and friends who color and hug and whisper to each other all day long.

I too require passion in the classroom. I need the intense preoccupation of a group of children and teachers inventing new worlds as they learn to know each other's dreams. To invent is to come alive. Even more than the unexamined classroom, i resist the uninvented classroom."
- Paley, V.G. (1997) The girl with the brown crayon. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts. (p. 50)

Nerd Out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

the book tree

I'm in placement this semester at Bloorview Nursery School, it's High Park site. It's an integrated classroom, meeting the requirements of our second year Children with Special Needs placement - there are about half and half kids with extra support needs and kids with typical needs. I am lucky - it's a really great school, and I'm learning tons.

My field educator Isabel is really great, and encourages me to 'be artistic' in the classroom. We laugh about it, as her background is in performance, and so we're a good match of artistic temperaments.

So...we're decorating the book-nook. I am into this - DEEPLY. I've already done a chalk mural of a pirate ship, following some of the kids fascination with pirates from a couple of weeks ago. But this project feels a little bit more integrated. Anyway, Isabel and i were jamming ideas about how to pull documentation, the kids' art and beautifying the classroom all together, when we realized that making a 'book tree' on the wall above the book area was the way to do it.

I sketched and cut out the bare bones of a tree (one of my favourite motifs) and stuck it up on the wall last week, on my first day of placement for the week. Then, on the second, we started a collage project with the kids, getting them gluing and cutting with different colours of cellophane paper and glue to make leaves to add to the tree.

The kids got right into it, glopping glue on and layering the clear colours on top of each other in a totally unexpected (why didn't i see that coming?) way. A couple of random objects also made their way into it, as well as the inevitable bits of glitter. Isabel and her team-teacher Tatiana continued it with the kids while i was gone, and i got back today to an interesting, still drying (after 5 days, that's how much glue) layered piece of work.

After all the kids left, i got to it with the scissors, chopping up the bigger collage into vaguely leaf shaped pieces, and this is what resulted.

The idea is to start with these leaves, all different colours of the imagination, and slowly add photos of the kids reading, pictures of favourite books and characters, and maybe even letter or words to the tree, tying it all together into a living documentation of creation and literacy in the classroom.

I feel real good about how we documented this too - the only thing is I forgot to take a picture of the bare-branched tree and the collage before i started cutting it up - but I'm a learner, it's ok.

I am proud of this. It feels great to merge two of my worlds, and felt great to put it together like this. I can't wait to see what the kids say tomorrow...

Nerd Out!

Monday, February 8, 2010

beauty and the smartypants

"...aesthetics are a quality as of play, describing it as a meaning-making process, capable of generating both cognitive and affective engagement - important components of the aesthetic dimension."
- L. Vygotsky in Wright, 2003 p. 213.

Wright, S. (2003). The arts, young children and learning. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

And isn't this one of the most powerful reasons we love education - using beauty as a way of making meaning with children, so as to help them become as deeply engaged in the world as we can.

Nerd Out.

Quotes from Bluma...

My dear friend Bluma has been in the hospital for about a month now. She's an older person, and has a neuropathic disorder that has severely affected her balance and motor skills. She's in the hospital because she contracted pneumonia, and since her family is far away in Rochester, I've been visiting her as much as possible.

This lady kinda reminds me of her...

She is an awesome, hilarious, crotchety jewish lady, who swears more than I do and cracks one-liners non-stop. She is a talented musician, who sang and played both flute and guitar. She also worked for years as a music teacher and an arts educator, both here in Toronto and in New York, and has about a million stories and tons of advice to share. She's become a real mentor to me, and has been totally supportive of my switching over from the arts to teaching.

I biked over there in between classes (the hospital is real close to school) and found her sitting up in the sun, going through some of her papers. Her illness has been a real kick in the teeth, as she can't play music or sing anymore, and pretty much feels like she won't be able to again. Instead of getting real depressed or gloomy, she's been pretty realistic and her amazing sense of humour keeps her from going completely crazy.
She was feeling a little sleepy, so after i got her a coffee and a couple of timbits, she said, "OK, what words of wisdom can i impart to you today?" Here's what she had to offer-

"I loved it. The children, all the different kids, shining like a garden. Their responsiveness, and their differences -- that is what i loved most about the work."

"To feed them with the things that they need, and to be sensitive to who they are."

She told me that even as a child she strove to "make the unfamiliar familiar." And that's what we can be doing with our kids, too.

Pretty awesome...but she didn't even swear once.

Nerd OUT.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

wow the amazingness of the early childhood education blog

In honour of the total amazingness that is the early childhood educational presence out there in blog-o-land, I've connected the folks who are really inspiring me these days out there on the internet to this blog. Over on the right there's a list of blogs written by thoughtful, insightful educators all over.

Really really amazing thinkers out there. Thanks folks - it's really inspiring and affirming.

Nerd Out!


so - i think that i'll start this thing - a record of my writing and thinking about education, my nerding out about this stuff that is FASCINATING to me. I'm going to start by importing some of my writing from those other blogs of mine about education. Nerd out! That is what's below.

Up above, will be little articles and thoughts and excitement about school, learning, curriculum, education and all that kinda stuff.

awesomeness. Nerd Out!