Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In Their Own Words

At the end of the year, a perk of being a teacher is you get some pretty cool gifts. My favorite gifts are the ones that somehow commemorate my students. Being able to look back and remember those little faces from years past is so cool.

This year my class made me a scrapbook. It is absolutely awesome. It has an amazing photo of each child, a picture they drew, and questions that they answered about preschool and me in their own words. I want to share some of their answers, because, seriously, three-year-olds have some amazing insight!

Question: What do you love best about your preschool?

  • Cleaning, because we get to go outside
  • When I get to hold the flag
  • Playing, because I love to play. Playing gives me the energy to get all that food out of my tummy.
  • The playground

Question: What does Mrs. V. smell like?


  • soap
  • honey-apple
  • apricots
  • flowers
  • like "pretty"
  • blue ballerina
  • peppermint patties and polka dots

Question: What does Mrs. V. wear to school?


  • her bunny hat
  • her Def Leppard shirt
  • her shirt, her panties, and coat
  • crocs
  • pants and crocs and pink shirts

Question: What was your favorite thing you did in preschool this year?


  • Rodeo Day
  • learning about beautiful
  • going on field trips
  • making ice cream
  • making lots of friends

It would be very interesting to have these students come back to me in five or six years, and read some of their answers to the questions they were asked. I wonder if the impression they will have of their preschool experience at that time will be at all similar to the wonderful moment in their lives that I have captured forever in an amazing book made for me by amazing parents.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mobile Sensory Experience...Continued

During the last week of school, we always have a Pajama Day. And this day is exactly what it sounds like - we all wear our pajamas to school. And everyone must wear their jammies, including me as well as the parents that are working in the classroom that day.

Pajama Day always stresses me out. Even though I know it is coming, I am always caught off guard, and find myself running to Wal-mart the night before to purchase myself appropriate jammies. Because, seriously, who wants to see me wearing a ratty t-shirt over my husband's boxers?

This year I purchased a night shirt and some "sleep pants". Which I guess is the new term for "soft comfortable jammie bottoms that you wear to bed". I felt I was dressed ok for preschool - nothing showing that shouldn't, and all embarrassing lumps properly camouflaged. Yep, I was feeling pretty good.

Until I got to school. I was laying on one of the tables in my room (see, here's the thing about wearing pajamas to work - you feel sleepy all day. I had set my room up, and then was compelled to lay on the table because I was I was laying there, on my side, talking to one of my coworkers (school had not yet started), when her son, a former student, walked up and started punching my behind. At my repeated requests to PLEASE STOP, he then started pinching my bottom. "It is so soft and fluffy!" was his justification for his actions. Eventually, I did get up, but for the rest of the day, every time this little guy saw me, he poked me in the bottom.

Later on, during school, we were watching The Wiggles (of course) - we always watch a movie on Pajama Day - and I was laying on my side on the floor with my students. One little girl was leaning on my stomach ("I love how it feels like a pillow") and several kids were sitting behind me. When, suddenly, the kids behind me started poking my behind. Then they were pinching it. And finally, I sit up and ask, "Why are you guys doing that?" Their answer? "Because it looks so soft and squishy."

Ahh yes, what every woman wants to hear about her bottom. Apparently, that Buns of Steel workout that I did that one time in 2004 didn't do its job. And sleep pants, apparently emphasize the soft and squishy qualities of my Buns of Fluff.

I pondered making this my last Pajama Day, but decided against it after I heard from parents how the kids had picked out their pajamas for the day weeks in advance (a big deal at three and four). The kids arrived at school, wearing their special jammies, excited to show me and their friends their awesome pj's. Most of the jammies had a special significance..."my aunt bought them for me," "I pretend I am Spiderman when I wear these," "I am a princess in this night gown," "my sister let me wear her favorite nightshirt."

So, because the kids love it, I will continue Pajama Day, but maybe next year try something other than sleep pants? A thong? Hmmm....where did I put that Buns of Steel dvd??

Saturday, May 24, 2008

And Off They Go...

My school year has ended.

This is a bittersweet time of year for me. I am filled with pride as I watch each of my little ones use the tools I have given them. I watch them play together, compromising and negotiating the use of popular toys, comforting each other when knees or feelings get hurt, remembering to wash hands not only before eating, but after peeing as well. These kids can sit at Circle Time, and have a relevant discussion about the story we have read, as well as help plan activities for our day.

I am also filled with a little bit of sadness - most of these kids will not remember me in a couple of years. Most of my students will remain at our little school for Pre-Kindergarten, a smaller amount will stay on for Kinder, and then I will see a handful of them at the elementary school where my own children attend. The ones who move onto a different school, I will more than likely not see again. And while I will always cherish the time I spent with them, these kids, if we ever encounter each other again, will wonder who that crazy lady is who is so excited to see them at Wal-mart.

I recently saw a former student, now in second grade. She, of course, had no recollection of me, but her mother kept trying to convince her of how much fun she had in my class, and how much she used to adore me. She simply smiled, and gave me a small hug that was designed to make her mom hush. A few days later, she saw me again, and this time, ran into my arms with a real hug. 'You're the teacher my mom says had a significant impact on who I am today!" Quite a large statement from a second grader - awesome vocabulary! - and while I don't really buy the significant impact part, I am always happy to get a hug from a former student.

This has been a wonderful year for me. I can't honestly say that about every year that I have taught - but this year had a great mix of children and parents; and I feel we all learned so much.

So, as I send my babies on to the next step in their education, I start to ponder many things. How young they are....most have turned four when they leave me, but a few won't hit that milestone until this summer. Yet we expect so much out of them. It boggles my mind that a mere four years ago these children were held in the crook of their parents' arms, all toothless and wobbly headed (Heck, I held many of my current students when they were infants), and now they are expected to control their temper, share, be a kind and understanding friend, see a task through to completion, not miss the toilet, put on their own shoes, clean up their own messes. Wow. That is a lot for such little people. Yet they all rise to the challenge - amazing.

And I worry about them as they move on to a different teacher, and in some cases, a different school. I feel I know all of them so well, will their new teachers see the beauty in each and every one of them, even if it is not readily apparent?

Will they see Garret's* amazing sense of humor as a distraction or for the gift that it is?

Will they understand that Douglas's family is going through a divorce, and his negative behavior is a direct result of that?

Will they figure out that Jake is having trouble adjusting to a new baby?

Will they appreciate Ann's precociousness, and not think she is simply sassy?

Will they work with John's obsessive tendencies, and not just ignore them?

Will they see that the hyper little girl that is bouncing off the walls with her friends used to be so painfully shy that she couldn't even look you in the eye, so this behavior is amazing?

Will they understand that when Steve says unkind words, this is a huge improvement from the talking he used to do with his fists, so he should be congratulated at the same time he is coached on the proper behavior.

My list goes on and on. I have given the teachers at my school the evaluations I wrote on each of my students, but I still worry. I want them to experience the same joy and amazement I did with these kids. And sometimes, to find that joy, you have to be willing to look for it buried way down deep. All kids have it, we as teachers just have to be willing to do the work to locate it, and then nurture it and help it grow.

So, I have a couple of months to regroup and get ready to start all over. My coworkers and I call the beginning of the school year "The Kitten Stage". The first six weeks of teaching three-year-olds is like herding kittens. Imagine trying to get 12 kittens to sit still and listen to a story, and there you have the perfect description of how I will be spending my time come August.

*all names have been changed

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Overheard in Preschool

Brody: I am going to the Diamondbacks game tonight, and I am going to eat dinner there!

Mrs. A: (joking) Wow, Brody - are you going to have a hot dog and beer?

Brody: I don't like beer.

Henry: I like bee-yah! (raising hand excitedly)

Brody: Henry, you need to give that up, it's bad for you.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Art Night

We recently had my favorite of all events at our little preschool: Art Night. Art Night is a celebration of the childrens' art. We hang it, museum style, in the church hall for all the families to enjoy.

There is something so amazing about children's art. I have a hard time trying to pinpoint why I love it so much. Is it because their art is so pure? Three-year-olds don't say to themselves, "I can't draw" or "I am not an artist". They simply create. Because it feels good. And they put their whole self into the work, figuratively as well as literally. In my class, if you want to paint with your hands, go for it. You want to paint with your feet? Have at it. If your friend doesn't care if you paint her then by all means do so. If you want to mix paint and glue and buttons together to see what happens, then I will provide the paper on which to try it out.

After the kids create their art, I ask them to tell me about it. Sometimes, there is nothing to tell, "it was just fun". Or I get the details of how the art was created, "I mixed blue paint and yellow paint and made a little green and then I glued some beads here and then I punched a hole in the paper here and then I taped it." And sometimes they have simple explanations, "It's a shoe." and some have elaborate and intricate plots, involving all the intrigue and suspense of the best romance novels.

Let me share some of my favorites from this year...

"My Mom"

"A Big Storm"

"This is my mom and she is grumpy and she has beautiful eyebrows"

"My Mouses"

Maybe it is just me, but I think these are simply amazing works of art. And I bet if the art dealers that run all those fancy galleries downtown thought these painting were done by a trained artist, as opposed to a carefree and passsionate three-year-old, some parents could make some cool cash.