Friday, April 13, 2007

What Would YOU Do For a Klondike Bar?

January 2, 2007- Upon returning to work after Christmas break, the main site director greeted me with the frenetic news that I could order $300 of supplies for my classroom. The catch was that I needed to order them TODAY, as the order was going out the next morning.

Three hundred WHOLE dollars, you say? Hot diggity day-um. I didn't know whether to cartwheel or do the Snoopy dance. Or whether I should think about the thousands of dollars in tuition that my students' parents spent in total, and the fact that this was the very first time I was approached with this chance to order supplies.

After careful consideration and the realization that the Almighty Pastor's Wife decreed to the parents at kindergarten orientation that their 4 year-olds would in fact be "fluent readers" by June (as she is not a teacher, and in no way has had any literacy training beyond Google, she has no clue what this means), I knew what to do. So, I ordered plain, two-sided whiteboards and three sets of leveled readers for Guided Reading Groups.

February- No word on the stuff. Site director says that the bill had yet to be approved by the home office.

March- Ya kidding?

April- I was greeted with the excited news that the supplies had arrived. Not that it mattered in terms of half my students, I had bootlegged some other readers and supplies to make a fairly passable Guided Reading format, but hey. I look at the stuff and see-

- Lined, one-sided whiteboards
- An alphabet puzzle (For kids ages 2 and up! According to the box)
- A toy kit for growing and viewing roots
- Story wands that inquire about plot and character
- Beach balls that inquire the same

Well, fuck me silly. I asked the director about the location of the leveled readers, and received a rambling answer that included a shipping special, a doctor's appointment, a sick child, and as usual for either director, blame that the other one was prodding for results. My poker face held, and my pregnancy hormones did not cause me to reach out and strangle-lift her over my head. I mentally reminded myself that this freckled-faced poppet of a director before me was a good year younger than my younger sister, and had no single clue at all.

C'mon, guy from That 70's Show, will you just pop out from behind the giant drum set which is front and center in the sanctuary, scream that I've been "Punked," and let my life continue?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mice and Things

The one thing I always HAVE to do, when I taught preschool and now kindergarten for the second year in a row, is to have a Leo Lionni theme. There is just something about that collage style of illustration, and vocab-rich writing of the dearly departed Lionni that just makes me feel all school-y.

So this week, instead of the Reading Group Gulag, we've been kicking back with an assortment of Leo Lionni titles, and doing some fun projects to go along with them. Yesterday, we read Frederick. This classic fable is of a little mouse who doesn't help gather food for the winter, but has other gifts for his mice friends when the winter days are long, cold, and dark.

I wanted my kids to hear a few messages from this story. One was that words are important! Lately, some of my kids have inexplicably returned to whining. Whining is at the very top of my list of things I will not tolerate, no way, no how. You can certainly chatter nonsense to me all day long, you can forget to raise your hand to speak a billion times a day, but whining will absolutely turn me into the Wicked Witch of the MidWest. I also wanted them to hear the "everyone has a special gift" message, and I wanted them to see an example of a habitat.

So, some things they noticed about the book, right away:

H2O- "That mouse over there, (gesturing) he's glaring at those ants."

Very Young Boy- "I read this book. He's not glaring at the ants. He's just tired."

H2O- (glaring) "He's glaring, see? Right there. You're not looking at the right mouse."

I started reading the book, stopping at a few enticing vocabulary words and letting them guess what they mean. I'll have to look at the book to jog my memory, but it's always fun to see what they think a word means. After talking about the stone wall where the mice lived, I stopped and said, "I see a mouse habitat! Did anyone else hear it?"

Confused Girl: "Mouse! It's a mouse!"

Me: "CG, my question was- where is the mouse's habitat? Where do they-"

Confused Girl: "Berry! Ant! Habitat! I know, Mrs. Clarateaches, Habitat- it's their habitat."

We finished the story, and my kids were still a bit confused. They didn't understand why Frederick didn't go ahead and help gather the food if he was going to eat it. H2O was very worried about their drink situation. Serious Girl and Very Young Boy both seemed to understand, but the rest of the kids were more concerned about the prospects of real mice somewhere out in the snow starving.

On a serious note- there really is something to pulling books and expressing an interest in them. When I brought out the five Lionni titles on Monday and set them up along the front wall of the room, I explained that they are very special books to me, and I wanted to share them. I once read a literacy theorist's quote that teachers simply by reading a book can "bless" a book for a child, and spark a desire to explore for themselves. This entire week I have had the books out on display during the day, and the majority of the kids have made a beeline for the books as soon as they have some time to kill. The most popular ones to be snapped up are the books we have already read (and therefore, blessed).

Read to your children. There, my PSA for the day.