Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cell Phones in the Preschool Classroom

As cell phones have now become a necessary item for most families, it becomes the teacher's responsibility to teach her students proper cell phone protocol, and establish firm rules about student cell phone use in the classroom.

In preschool?

That above paragraph is a standard blurb that comes home from my daughters' junior high and high schools. I read it every year, warn my daughters that if they use their cell phones inappropriately at school I will toss them in the pool, and mentally thank goodness I teach three-year-olds and don't have to worry about such things.

Until this year.

I always have broken and cast off cell phones in my classroom. They make terrific additions to the dramatic play center; the kids love to call each other and text. It is always fun to see them talk on the cell phone, cook dinner and hold a baby all at the same time. They are practicing multitasking!

But this year I have found them to be a distraction...

Me: "Come on everyone, time for our story!"

Jill, age 3, with a broken cell phone pressed to her ear, gives me the international signal for "Hold on, I am on the phone" - index finger raised in my direction. She then turns her back to me and says into the phone, "Sorry, I gotta go, my teacher is calling us for a story". Obviously, the pretend friend on the other end gave her a hard time, because it took her a bit to get to the carpet. And then she was mad that I started without her.


Another day, Sasha is in the library, laying on the couch, talking animatedly on a broken cell phone. A friend asks her to move over so he can sit on the couch and read a book. "NO!" she tells him emphatically, "I am ON THE PHONE!"

This escalated, and by the time I made my way over to the library to diffuse the situation, we had full blown tears. From Sasha, who thought that everyone needed to give her privacy in the library when she was on the phone.


The final straw happened this week when while I am trying to read a story. Two friends had the cell phones and they were "texting" each other. One would pull the cell phone out of her pocket, tap on the keyboard, and then put the cell phone back in her pocket. A few seconds later her friend would squeal, pull the cell phone from HER pocket, laugh uproariously, tap on the keyboard, and then put the phone back in her pocket. And then friend A would squeal, take out her get the pattern.

I didn't let this go on for very long - I firmly established the rule: No cell phones during Story Time. I was asked the question, "Can we have them if they are on Silent?"


This week, my students will discover that the classroom is blissfully cell phone free. They will have to their communication with the rotary dial phone in the dramatic play center.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bodily Fluids and the New School Year

I had a milestone this year. It was the first year in four that I didn't get peed on on the first day of school.

Getting peed on, or puked on, are normal occurances in the life of a preschool teacher. After a while, you get really good at figuring out how to avoid these things, but it usually takes a few weeks when the school year starts.

Three-year-olds all have their individual "I need to pee" signals. The signals can be subtle, like a slight rocking back and forth, or very apparant like the grabbing the crotch and crossing the legs while still trying to play with that truck. Some kids also have very specific times when they need to go. After a few weeks, I get quite good at reading each child's signal or knowing their schedule, and can calmly and firmly lead them to the restroom when it becomes apparent that the need is there.

Today I spot a little guy making the international signal for "I need to go now!" and tell him it is time for him to go to the potty. (I have a bathroom in my classroom, so the kids can just head in there when the need strikes).

Little Guy: "But I don't need to go"

Me: "It is time, come on, I will go with you."

The little guy puts his head down, slouches his shoulders and shuffles over to the bathroom, glaring at me from the corner of his eye all the way over (like 10 steps). He gets to the bathroom and just stands in there, head down, looking put out.

Me: "It is time for you to go potty....go ahead, I will be right outside the door."

Little Guy: "I don't want to go!"

Me: "Don't you need to go?"

Little Guy: "I need to go really bad."

Me: "Then why don't you just go??"

Little Guy: "Because I DON'T WANT TO!"

And he drops his head to his chest and heaves a dramatic sigh. By the way, this whole exchange is taking place while he is still performing his "I need to go" dance.

Me: "It is time for you to go."

Little Guy huffs over to the potty, starts to pull down his pants and I close the door to give him his privacy. A few minutes later he comes out, having flushed the toilet and washed his hands without being reminded. He looks at me, beaming, and says, "Thanks for reminding me to go potty, I feel SO much better!"

The first few weeks of school also brings the inevitable mystery pile of poop on the floor. This is always fun. First of all...gross! There is poop on the floor! Everyone please stay! Don't touch it!

But I, as the teacher, get to touch the poop. (Seriously, the absolute worst part of my job). How do I clean it up without actually touching it, all the while keeping an upbeat and cheery look on my face while at the same time trying to figure out whose poop it is?

This year, it was surprisingly easy. I was informed by a student to "check out what is over here on the floor!" I make my way to the offensive pile and start trying to identify possible suspects without actually having to use my nose.

Me: "Well, what happened here?"

Adorable new student, looking at me with the cutest eyes: "I pooped in my pants and it fell out onto the floor."

Well, that was easy.

Long story short, I cleaned up everything and everyone and I made a mental note to stock more baby wipes in my bathroom.

So, here's the thing. School is a big deal for these little people. It's new, different, exciting, and probably quite scary. Can you blame them for pushing the urge to go potty to the back of their minds? I mean, they are not me, where an unplanned sneeze is not a fun experience. They have so many other things to do and to see and to experience, going potty is just TOO boring. Plus, they might lose their turn with that awesome truck.

It is my job to learn their signals and routines, and help them understand that even if it boring, going potty is necessary.

One day last year, I went to the potty in the public restroom at the same time my students were in there (we go to the public restroom as a group after recess). This was apparently a big deal, because, I was informed quite seriously, that "teachers don't go potty!" The girls were so excited to tell the boys "Mrs. Velarde peed!". I was so famous for that incident that I vowed that future students would think I never went to the potty except to tell them to go.

So good.


Room Set- Up

Every year I am faced with the daunting challenge of setting up my room for the upcoming year. Why, I ask myself, is this so hard?

I have the same furniture, in the same room, as I have had for the last several years. So, why oh why is this such a hard task??

A couple of years ago, a colleague's daughter was in my room as I complained that I couldn't remember how the room was arranged the previous year. She came up with the genius idea to take pictures of the room so I could remember how it was set up. Have I ever followed this very clever bit of advice? No, not once.

Why do I have to set up my room every year? Because every summer each classroom is emptied of all the furniture so the floors can be stripped and waxed. So every fall, we have to set up the classrooms again.

Each year I have visions of how I want the room to look. I plan it out mentally in the shower for weeks. I get excited to finally be able to arrange the room to look like the vision that is in my head.

And, inevitably, a few things happen...

I forget to include a center (who needs an art center?)
I think the room is bigger than it is (why don't these two extra bookshelves fit?)
I forget where things are (I guess I shouldn't put the easel where it blocks the bathroom door)

So, I spend endless amounts of time moving around shelves and tables and rugs, and then getting on my knees to see what a three-year-old would see, then moving everything around again.

But, quite frankly, all of this is an exercise in futility. Because I don't know how this new group of kids is going to be. Will they spend lots of time enjoying my carefully designed library, or will it collect cobwebs from lack of use? Will they love all the room in the block center or will they take all the blocks to a quiet corner to build with? Will having a music center be just too loud to handle?

All questions which cannot be answered until my new students come into the classroom and begin to explore. I know it will take a few weeks for me to get a feel for this new group and to design my classroom in a way that will be best for them.

So, why do I spend all this time the week before school starts rearranging my room 600 times?

I need to take pictures this year...