Sunday, June 28, 2009

Proven Wrong, Yet Again

Every year, I do a unit about Transportation. As part of this unit, we have a discussion about traffic lights. It is a good opportunity to talk about spatial relationships, colors, and introduce perennial favorite, Red Light/Green Light.

I get out my red, yellow and green circles, and arrange them on my white board, putting them in the correct order. We talk about how the red light is on top, the yellow light is in the middle, and the green light is on the bottom. And this is when little David raises his hand and says, "But really, green is in the middle."

I reply, with a note of condescension in my voice, "No, honey, green is on the bottom." And I reference my handy diagram on the white board to illustrate my point.

David, with a tone of condescension in his voice says, "Yes, there the green light is on the bottom. In a real traffic light, the green light is in the middle."

Obviously, David is confused. But, this is easily remedied, because the preschool is located right on an intersection, complete with traffic light. Field Trip!

I gather the class and we march outside to look at the traffic light. I was so excited to have the opportunity to use a real life example to show David this concept.

We all look up at the traffic light, and....from the top, here is the order of the lights. Red, yellow, green, yellow arrow, green arrow. Yes, The green light is in the middle. I am a dork, and obviously not versed in traffic light appearance in my city.

David, being a kind and understanding soul, did not jump up and down and yell, "In your FACE!" He simply said, "See? Real traffic lights are different than ones you make out of paper."

When will I learn that these kids know way more than me???


Friday, June 19, 2009

Watching Them Grow

It is no secret that I truly love my job. I can talk non-stop about preschool, and the kids, and what they're learning, and how they're growing, for hours. And one of the best parts is watching these kids grow. Not physically, although that is always amazing, but socially and emotionally. We teachers work very hard to provide our students the tools they need to navigate in the world. We strive to teach them empathy, conflict resolution and self-reliance. And the absolute joy I feel when I see my students put to use what we've worked so hard to teach is AWESOME. I have been known to cry.

Our little preschool offers a fabulous summer program every summer. Every summer, several students new to the program join us for the summer to get them ready for preschool in the fall. Last summer, one of our new students was Mark. Mark was painfully shy and had never been to preschool before. Preschool, I think, can be a pretty intimidating place to a child, even if you do your best to make it as friendly and inviting as possible.

Mark really had no idea how to interact with his peers. He wasn't sure how to initiate play, he didn't know how to join in play, wasn't sure how to go about asking for a turn, and was completely helpless if another child took a toy away from. He was so overwhelmed with everything, that he spent a lot of time under tables, crying.

So we started to work with him, and give him the tools he needed. And little by little, Mark came out of his shell, and gained his confidence. We cheered the first time he asked a group of kids, "Can I play with you?". We were beside ourselves when he approached a friend for the first time and said, "Do you want to play with me?". And when he finally had the confidence to tell a child, "Please don't do that, I don't like that, you can have a turn when I'm done!", we all congratulated ourselves on a job well done. The jumping up and down and cheering came when he tentatively started to make mischief. We knew then he had finally come into his own.

(For the record, Mark was not my student, his teacher, Mrs. M., deserves the credit for helping with his social and emotional development).

Well, here it is summer again, and Mark has joined us for our summer program again. He is a leader in the group, showing the younger ones the ropes and being a good and kind friend. Of course, we have several new students, and Mark is so patient with the kids who just don't know how things are at school.

I witnessed this exchange last week....

A little boy who is new to the program, Todd, went up to Mark and tried to take the hammer out of Mark's hand. Mark, very patiently says, "I am using the hammer now, you can have a turn when I am done."

Todd makes another grab for the hammer. Mark: "I am using this, wait for your turn."

Todd wedges his way between Mark and the nail that Mark was hammering. Mark: "I don't like that, you are in the way and you could get hurt. Please get out of my way."

Todd, still firmly in the way starts grabbing at the hammer and shoving Mark. Mark's patience has run out, and he is clearly frustrated and starts yelling, "I don't like that! Wait for your turn! You can have a turn when I'm done!" It was like he opened up his tool box of ways to deal with conflict and used up every tool he had. He looks up at me, throws his hands in the air and shrugs his shoulders and gives the non-verbal "I got nothing left, here, Mrs.V."

I walk over to physically remove Todd from the situation, and start him down the road of how to resolve conflicts in preschool ("Mark is using that hammer. I bet if you asked him if you could use it when he was done, he would say yes"). As I walk away, Mark says, "That boy really needs to go to preschool."

And, we have come full circle. How awesome is that?


Preschool to a Three Year Old

Imagine coming to preschool for the first time. You arrive at a brand new place, filled with a lot of kids you don't know, and a lot of grown-ups you don't know. The grown-ups seem nice, but why do they come on so strong? Why do I have to give this lady a high five? I have no idea who she is. She's my teacher? And a teacher is what exactly? And, wait a minute, MOM IS LEAVING ME HERE??????? With all these people I don't know????? What if I need to go potty? What if I don't know where I am supposed to go? .......sniff....

OK, these toys are pretty fun. I LOVE this truck. This is the coolest truck I've ever seen! I am going to make it go down this hill and pick up some....hey! Wait! I was playing with that. That is MY truck. Well, I am going to grab it out of your hand and then hit you with it. That will show you to take my truck. The teacher just told me to "use my words". I thought that is what I did.

Circle time? What is that?? Nope, I will stay here and play with this awesome truck. Why does the teacher keep telling me I have to come sit with her for Circle Time when I don't even know what that is?

Ohhhh, Circle Time means the teacher is reading us a story. I love stories. Why didn't the teacher say "read a story" instead of "Circle Time"? I wouldn't have thrown my truck across the room if I had known we were reading stories.

Oh no, I have to go potty. Really bad. I don't remember where the potty is, and I don't know how to unbutton my new shorts....sniff..

Wow, my teacher knew I needed to go potty, and she helped me unbutton my shorts. And then she stood outside the door in case I needed help. She seems pretty nice, I wonder what her name is?

Hey! That is MY truck. You can't have it. I am going to take it from you, because I want to play with it NOW! My teacher is saying I can't play with it because you are playing with it. So? I want to play with it NOW!!! I was playing with it and it is the only thing I want to play with and I don't want to wait until it is my turn and what is a "turn" anyway and I want that truck and I am going to hit you because that is my truck and.....sniff....

Teacher just said I could play with play dough while I waited for Jack to finish playing with the truck. I LOVE play dough. And teacher just gave me a different truck, and look! I can push my truck through the play dough and the wheels make tracks! This is so fun, now I am going to cover the whole truck in play dough and...

is that paint? There is paint here? I love painting. I want to paint! I want to paint right now! That girl is painting, I want to paint too. I wonder if I could just paint with her?

That girl started to cry when I painted with her, I thought my painting looked good and then she started to cry and teacher said "Let's find you a place to paint" but that girl is still crying and I just wanted to paint and I don't think I want to paint by myself.....sniff...

Teacher made me a place to paint right next to Ann. Ann isn't crying anymore and she said she likes pink. Ann said my painting was good. Ann is pretty. I am having so much fun painting next to Ann and we are both three years old and what? We get to go outside now? I LOVE playing outside!

This sandbox is the best sandbox ever. Teacher put the hose in the sandbox and showed me and Jack how to make rivers. She got really dirty. I am really dirty but Teacher said that is what laundry is for. She gave us little boats to float down our river and I think Jack is the best kid ever. We are going to make our river longer and race our boats and...

Why are we going in? I want to play in the sand! Why can't I stay outside? Why does Teacher keep changing things? What does "line up" mean? I don't want to stand next to that boy. I want to stand next to Jack. Now Teacher is telling me to sing. I don't know this song. I want to play in the sand. I am going back to play in the sand. Teacher just told me it was time to line up, but it really is time to play in the sand. I don't like this song and I don't want to sing, and I don't know what "line up" is and I don't want to go back in and what is snack time and.....sniff....

Wait-snack time means we get to eat! I am so hungry! I love carrots. What? I can only have three? What does "pass" mean? I am really hungry, if I give the bowl to the person next to me I might not get more. I will give him one. Why do I have to pass the whole bowl? I know how to give out a carrot. OK, here's the bowl. "Teacher!! Jack took a lot of carrots, you said take three!" I am going to take those carrots off Jack's plate because he took too many and, oowwww, why did Jack just hit me? He took too many carrots, and owwwww.......sniff...

Teacher is holding my hand and asking me if I am OK. I guess I am OK. She tells Jack that hitting hurts, and that we don't hit friends at school. Jack asked me if I am OK and I say yes and we give high fives. Jack is my best friend.

MOM IS HERE!!! She asks me if I had a good day at school. Ohhhh, this is school! I LOVE school. When do I get to come back? I love my teacher, mom, she made rivers! Who is Mrs. Velarde, and how would I know if she was nice?


Monday, June 8, 2009

Lunch Conversation at Preschool

Our little preschool offers an after school program, where children can stay for an extra two hours after the school day is over. They can play on the playground, do crafts, and generally just have fun. They also get to eat lunch, which they bring from home.

I had the privilege of working Stay 'N' Play this year, and got to eat lunch with the students nearly every day. This is always fun. A highlight for the kids is when they ask me to help them open their fruit cup or yogurt. Because, inevitably, without fail, I would spill whatever it was that I was opening down the front of me. By the end of the year, I could seriously rock the "yogurt down the chest with Dole peaches splashed on top" look. My own kids absolutely loved it when I picked them up from their school sporting this look.

One of the best parts of working Stay 'N' Play for me was simply talking with the kids. I love listening to how they interact with each other, the things they say and how no matter how outrageous the lunch conversation might be, no one under the age of 6 ever bats an eyelash. Those older than 6? Well, I for one have blown Diet Pepsi out my nose on more than one occasion.

The following is a lunch conversation that took place during the last week of school....

Lynn: I haven't pooped in a long time.

Kobey: I pooped just now. It stank.

Lynn: My mom says I need to poop everyday. She said my poops are all stuck in my butt.

Lilly: Why would they want to stay in your butt? Mine always want to come out.

Lynn: My mom says I need to eat different food to make the poop come out. I have an apple and a bagel (holds them up for all to see). She said if I eat these the poops will come out.

Me: Well, go ahead and eat them.

Lynn: But I don't want them to come out here!

Me: It will take at least an hour for that food to make the poops come out. Your mom will be here before then.

Lynn looks at me doubtfully as she begins to munch on her apple.

Lilly, to me: Do you know Zack?

Me: Yep (Zack is Lilly's older brother, and one of my former students)

Lilly, to everyone else: Well, Zack, he is my brother, and he is a dude. Dude means he is a boy.

Everyone else: nods in understanding and agreement.

Lynn: I don't have a dude for a brother. I only have a sister. Who's a girl.

Lilly: Well, since Zack is a dude, he has a penis. And I am not allowed to touch his penis because that is his private place. Mom tells me over and over to respect his privacy.

Bob: I have a penis - does that mean I am a dude?

Lilly: Yep. Only dudes get to have a penis.

Bob: You know what I have? (I am expecting the worst here) A new Lego set.

Kobey: Cool!

Lilly: I don't like legos.

Lynn: My dad likes Legos.

Me: I love Legos, but I can't make cool things out of them

Bob, with exasperated eye roll: No, you can't, Mrs. Velarde, Legos are for KIDS.

And so the conversation continued in that vein. I think they eventually jumped to Star Wars. What struck me about this whole exchange is that I was the only one freaking out about the topic selections. Everyone calmly ate their sandwiches and drank their juice boxes while I was was mentally trying to figure out how to delicately change topics without anyone's feelings getting hurt or causing some other emotional damage. But my intervention was not needed, because, to little ones, talking about their body is as natural as talking about their toys.

Gosh, wouldn't it be nice to have that ability as an adult?

Colleague: Wow, you seem a little off today.

Me: My poops are stuck in my butt.

Colleague: Did you eat an apple? That always makes my poops come out.

Me: No, but thanks for the advice!

Yeah, that will never happen.....