Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to School...Back to Reality!

Well the time has finally come...the welcome letters from my kids' teachers arrived today!  Being a teacher, I love back to school time.  I got so excited when the stores started stocking all the great supply items...I love the look...I love the smell...I love the idea of a new school year!  To me the year begins in August...not January.  I am looking forward to my school year starting up again next week...even with a week's worth of meetings it is an exciting time.

Here are my highlights for the semester:

  1. I am teaching my favorite classes--FCS 390 Interacting with Children and FCS 490 Developmental Planning!  I also have interns, student teachers, and senior applied learning students.  I am also teaching FCS 571 Directed Readings--it isn't that I don't like this class but it is online and I don't get the real interaction with my students.
  2. I am mentoring a new faculty member.  This means that I get to go to the new faculty orientation sessions next week--stuff I have already heard before but I still like attending because it gets you excited about the new year...and sometimes even though I am the mentor I will meet new people and learn new things.
  3. My Developmental Planning course was selected to participate in a pilot project in which all 5 of my students (small class is ideal for this project) will receive an iPad to use for the semester.  My job will be to guide them in how to use iPads in preschool/kindergarten curriculum and planning.  This will be fun...especially since the students have no idea about the iPads.
  4. I am up for promotion and tenure so I get to turn in my dossier this fall--October 12 to be exact.  Butterflies...nail biting... nausea...OMG!
  5. I am presenting at the NAEYC Annual Conference and Expo this November in Atlanta.  This is a first for me and I am so excited and freaked out all at the same time.

Those are my planned highlights...I am sure there will be many adventures along the worthy adventures...I hope.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Things I have done for kids...

I was reminded the other day of a few incidents involving me, bats, and preschoolers.  I don't mean wiffle ball or baseball bats...but the furry winged rodent type.  This memory made me think of the things I never thought I would do...but I did...because of children.
Back to the bats.  On two different occasions I was able to capture bats to show to my preschoolers.  I am not a huge nature fan so capturing these bats was quite a step for me.  The bats that I caught were both "hanging" out on the ceiling of our covered patio on our playground.  I figured bats are creatures of the night and didn't belong there during the day.  I wasn't sure if I could "shoo" them both times I trapped them in butter tubs.  Imagine non-outdoorsy me on a step ladder with a butter tub and a possibly rabid bat.  Putting the butter tub over the little critter was was the next step I had not thought do I keep it in the tub while I turn the tub over?  Next step was a piece of cardboard slid between the opening of the tub and the ceiling...keeping Mr. Bat in the tub.  I quickly went to the kitchen (not sure licensing or sanitation would have approved) and I covered the opening with plastic wrap.  I wasn't too sure if the bat wouldn't freak out and claw its way out of the wrap but I did it anyways.  This way it provided a window for the kids to see a real live bat up close.  Did you know that bats do not like being in butter tubs with plastic wrap windows?  I know this because when I saw it up close it was hissing and wrinkling its little nose in protest.  I still think bats are kind of cool.  The first bat visited all classrooms and then was turned over to animal case he was dangerous.  The second bat still visited all the kids...but we were a little braver...he was released to the wild by a fellow teacher...who returned with two lipstick "bite" marks on her neck...hahaha!

The next story isn't about bats but frogs and it happened during my student teaching semester.  I was student teaching in a first grade classroom and our science topic was amphibians.  How can I possibly teach about amphibians without a live frog...I truly believe in first hand...hands on experiences.  I talked my then fiance (now husband of 17 years) into catching a frog for me.  So one spring evening we went out with a bucket, a net, and a flashlight to a pond at a local park.  It looked like we were up to no good but I swear we were only after frogs.  My man quickly went to work hunting for a frog...and soon he scored a bullfrog.  He was really excited because it was a HUGE specimen.  He brought it over to me and I cringed...I had to pick this thing up at school the next day...I didn't think I could do much to his disappointment he had to release the big one and capture a more manageable size of frog.  With a reasonable size frog in my bucket (along with a little pond water, some grass, and a rock) I was ready for the next day.  Did I mention it was to be one of my recorded student teaching lessons?  When it was time for science I shared a flannelboard of the life cycle of the frog and then it was time for the piece de resistance.  If anyone is thinking this is a great was but...I didn't think though all aspects of my frog viewing.  I had the kids sitting on a carpet around me...which worked well.  Against my better early childhood large group management knowledge I stood up when I was getting ready to take the frog out of the bucket so it would be in view of everyone.  The other thing I didn't think about was the fact the frog was slightly wet and now high above the floor.  I was a little nervous and possibly squeezing a little when the frog popped out of my grip...and landed smack on the forehead of a little boy with a buzz cut.  I can still see his face...the kids scrambled...the frog hopped...there were screams and laughs...and the video camera kept rolling.  I did pass student teaching and I think the kids learned a little about frogs.

A few other small things that I have done for or learned from kids that do not involve animals:
  1. I have fake drank milk...I am not a fan of milk but given a carton and straw I can fake it.
  2. I was a picky eater as a child so there were many things I never would try...until I had little faces watching me at lunch time...thanks to preschoolers I like broccoli, peas, and cole slaw, and beans now.
  3. I learned if a child dressed as a doctor tells you to close your eyes...don't do least keep one eye open or else you will end up with a popsicle stick rammed really far down your throat...and I cannot guarantee that it was a sterile popsicle stick.
  4. I can will myself to stay awake while patting backs during naptime...with Enya playing...while on a drowsy formula of cold medicine.
  5. Given enough Advil in my system I will get rhythm sticks out.
  6. I will blow bubbles inside on a rainy day...we use the slippery when wet signs from the block area.
  7. I will do the Spooky Walk in April.
  8. I will read The Bear Under the Stairs (or any other good children's book)...again...and again.
  9. I am not scared of fingerpaint, play doh, markers, stamp pads, or scissors like your parents are.
  10. I will love and cherish all the coffee mugs...dandelions...and apple Christmas ornaments.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summer is Here!

It appears that summer has arrived!  My academic year was great and very busy at the end.  By April we had word that our preschool program was officially accredited by NAEYC...a huge accomplishment for us!  My early childhood development students were busy with many great projects and I with grading...but alas it is finally summer!

This summer I have a few things going on--first our new house is being built and we are watching the progress each day--second I am teaching an online class in July (Lifespan Human Development--birth to death in 4 short weeks).  I hope my college students are busy with classes and gaining experience working with young children.  I am looking forward to opening the preschool in August with a new batch of kiddos and eager practicum students and student teachers. 

But in the meantime here are my hopes for the little ones this summer:

  1. Popsicles
  2. fireflies
  3. wiffle ball games
  4. wading pools
  5. sandboxes
  6. pinwheels
  7. sprinklers
  8. dripping ice cream cones
  9. fireworks
  10. baseball games
  11. sticky sunscreen
  12. dandelion necklaces
  13. running in the summer rain
  14. catching the following:  ladybugs, frogs, worms, crawdads, caterpillars, fish
  15. honeysuckle
  16. sidewalk chalk
  17. muddy toes
  18. blanket tents in the backyard
  19. inner tubes, beach balls and water wings
  20. lemonade
  21. snow cones
  22. driveway car/trike/bike/wagon wash
  23. late nights
  24. strawberries
  25. family vacation or staycation

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Journey to NAEYC Accreditation

I am writing this post exactly one week after our NAEYC Accreditation site visit.  I have come down off my adrenaline rush enough to make sense and I wanted to document our journey toward NAEYC Accreditation.

This journey began on June 14, 2009 when we received the letter confirming that we had officially enrolled in the Self-Study process with the NAEYC Academy.  Soon Kari (the lead preschool teacher) and I received our self study kit, a box of 11 workbooks.  We began reading through the criteria and evaluating where our program stacked up or fell short, where we excelled, and where we felt comfortable being right on target.  Kari and I met frequently and poured through the workbooks deciding what might need to be adjusted within our program.  This took a good deal of time because we had many jobs to focus on at the same time.  We successfully completed the self-study materials and was ready for the next phase.

Our next phase was to apply for candidacy.  The first task was to select a due date for our candidacy materials which would set the timeline for the whole process.  Our application was accepted on September 23, 2010 which set our candidacy due date as September 30, 2011.  During this year long time frame we compiled the evidence necessary to prove to NAEYC that our program was worthy of accreditation.  We organized this evidence in a program portfolio and a classroom portfolio...both housed in four inch three ring binders...brimming full.  Prior to our candidacy deadline we would receive access to our packet of candidacy materials to complete and submit.  Basically this step proves to the academy that we are compiling the portfolios and that all our ducks are in a row.  These activities were time consuming but it helped us see the good, the bad, and the ugly that still needed modification.  Our candidacy materials were mailed on September 21, 2011 and by October 17 we received word that our program was accepted as a candidate for accreditation.  This notification also opened our site visit window of October 1, 2011 to March 30, 2012.  Wow!  Winter break eats up a lot of that time frame.  We were pretty certain that our visit wouldn't happen during the NAEYC conference week because everyone would most likely be in Orlando.  So after conference passed we waited for the phone call that would announce our 15 day site visit window.

On a December afternoon I received a phone call from our chosen NAEYC assessor who set our 15 day site visit window--January 30-February 17, 2012.  Great...second week of preschool after the break and a perfect time period for a snow or ice storm.  We relaxed a little, it was nice to know it wasn't necessary to panic...yet.  We made final adjustments to the portfolios and anxiously awaited the call signaling our visit would occur the next business day.  We figured the earliest they would call would be Thursday, January 26 and when that day came and went without a phone call we knew we could enjoy that weekend without fretting over an impending visit. 

Then came Monday, January 30.  At approximately 8:00am while I was at the grocery store before heading to work the call came.  I am not sure what I must have looked like but I know I froze in place worried that I had nothing to write on.  It was an exciting moment knowing that the our site visit would occur the next day.  Instead of texting or calling Kari, knowing I was less than 5 minutes from arriving, I drove to work with that queasy feeling you get before delivering exciting news.  Without stopping by my office to put down my bags I opened Kari's door and simply stated, "Tomorrow."  I think she gave me the same look I must have made in the grocery store when the assessor called.  Wow, it is becoming a reality.

We spread the news to those who needed to know, ordered a parking pass, and reserved the conference room.  I emailed my Tuesday class to cancel and threatened Tuesday's lab students not to "call in" with illness or flat tires.  Portfolios and supplemental materials were in place on the conference room table before I left for the afternoon.  I ordered a good night's sleep and was ready to get this part over and out.

I arrived to preschool on Tuesday by 7:25am, that is an hour early for me (I drive 30 minutes to work).  Kari had been there since 5:00am, fearing that the custodian wouldn't show she cleaned and super prepped the room.  It looked awesome!  Bring it on!

Our assessor arrived early at 7:45am and quickly got to work with our pre-visit conference and checklists.  She was not scary at all and put us at ease.  Since we are a small program it was easy for her to stay ahead of her scheduled agenda.  Our closing meeting was originally scheduled for 2:15pm that time was changed to 12:30pm because our organized portfolios sped up the process.  Plus we only received one of the dreaded "MERFs"  (Missing Evidence Request Form)...the missing piece of evidence was in place within 10 minutes (an hour is given)--it felt like a beat the clock game show. 

Our closing visit was pleasant.  We went over many forms and procedures, watched her seal up the materials that would be sent to the Academy and by 1:00pm our assessor was pulling away from the is at that moment that Kari and I took our first breath of the day.

Our construction theme border has a
hidden appears to be the
Village People...and yup...they are
doing the YMCA.
After the visit, Kari and I ran through many things:  We thought of things we wished the assessor has witnessed or asked about.  Did she like our materials?  What did she think about being outside to begin the session?  Was the bulletin board with the kid's drawings and predictions cool?  Did our storage room make us look like an episode of pre-K hoarders?  What did she think about seeing the Village People in our wallpaper border?

Now we wait...for up to 90 days...for the decision.  I hold my breath every time I open my word yet...maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You Know it is a Good Day in Preschool when...

Our preschool program reopens for the spring semester next week.  We all have high hopes for another wonderful semester...which causes me to reflect back on those days when I was in the know those days when at the end of the day you took a breath and realized what a good day it had been.  This post is simply a random mess of the moments that made for a good day in preschool. 

  • fresh box of crayons...or finding a like new crayon at the bottom of the tub
  • bouquet of dandelions from your favorite little stinker
  • the invention of velcro made for many happy days
  • a "note" from a child presented in a sealed envelope
  • birthday cupcakes...bonus is sneaking an extra one at naptime
  • busy days where you never look at the filled days zip by!
  • no runny noses
  • HUGE block structures that no one knocks down
  • butterflies and ladybugs on the playground
  • chocolate milk
  • peanut butter balls for snack...with orange juice
  • Scholastic book deliveries
  • Valentine's Day exchange
  • finding enough money for a candy bar from the vending machine...then the vending machine dispensing two for the price of one!
  • taco salad for lunch
  • finding the right size of extra pants for someone in need
  • discovering a "fossil" rock on the playground
  • a nature walk that includes a surprise...snake, golf ball, construction equipment, dead bird
  • a nature walk that doesn't include a surprise rainshower
  • listening to the "Three Bears" and "Goldilocks" in the dramatic play center
  • a no-bandaid-day
  • stickers!  (Still makes my college students still get stickers!)
  • donated cardboard appliance boxes
  • a visit from a new baby brother or sister
  • hearing, "Please stop, I don't like it when you take my blocks" instead of hearing the thud of a unit block hitting a head followed by crying
  • paint that washes out
  • watching the first snow fall...the hushed wonder...the excitement...and my sore back from lifting kiddos to see out the window...what really made a happy day was the set of stairs my hubby made for my classroom!
  • baby birds hatching in their nest tucked into the playground equipment
  • a no jacket kind of day
  • hugs from my little friends

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yes...Kids Really do Learn Through Play!

We are just around the corner from another new semester...for both my college kiddos and the preschool kiddos.  The courses I teach change each semester with the exception of my early childhood curriculum course...which I know I shouldn't have favorites...but it is my favorite class to teach.  In this class we look and learn about all the developmental domains and create activities for preschool children to fit within a play based developmentally appropriate curriculum. sounds like fun doesn't it?  And to add to the fun factor...the students have to enroll in a practicum experience in our preschool lab.

My students get the idea of developmentally appropriateness...because I drill it in then in every single class that I teach!  Play based curriculum is another issue.  My students "get" that kids need to play and that they can learn through play...but when it comes time to plan activities the playfulness sometimes goes away.  Sometimes I think it is because they don't feel that a lesson plan should focus on play because a lesson plan sounds more like a  formal document that surely must not include play.  Another idea that crosses my mind is my students may have not had the opportunity to learn through play in their educational experiences...that push for more academics that lead to more worksheets and less dramatic play and block centers in the kindergarten classroom.  Then there is the final option that I do not want to even think about...that it might be that they just do not "get" it.

There are times when my practicum students mention that there needs to be a more focused academic curriculum in the preschool.  "The kids should be doing more learning activities."  What?  Learning activities?  What exactly do you think we do all day?  This is where I feel my preaching and numerous examples have failed.  In a prerequisite course I have my students defend play to imaginary colleagues, parents, and administrators...they can do it...but when begin planning they tend to focus more on product based activities.  I continue to point out examples of how children learn through simply is so much easier to learn something when you don't realize you are supposed to be learning something.  I was a master of physics as a child in the bathtub...just let me experiment with an empty cup and the water.  What do children learn by exploring fingerpaints...without a preconceived idea from their teacher of what their masterpiece should look like...they learn about textures, color mixing, properties of the paper, force of the push of their finger, how to move their arm, elbow...maybe even their nose?

I will start my semester on my soapbox defending learning through play...I will even "make" my students play to experience it on their own.  I want them to be able to stand up and explain all the benefits of the block area (or dramatic play, writing center, puppet stage, painting easel, sand table, tire swing, the list goes on) to a parent who asks, "Why do they play all day?"

Hello...I'm Still Here!

Life gets busy and the blog takes a back seat.  I am working on a new post to publish today...getting back into the swing of things after an almost 2 month break.  Stay tuned...