Kids Who Make me Laugh

One of my favorite things about being a preschool teacher is listening to what children have to say. Little ones are incredibly funny! Often times, they don’t mean to be, but when they tell you things they are absolutely sure is the truth, and they obviously can’t be, they are very entertaining.

Here are a couple of examples of things I heard at the end of the last school year that made me laugh:

4 year old girl – “I went to the moon one time. We went in a rocket ship and we bounced really high in our space suits.” When I asked if that was a dream, she said, “No, it REALLY happened. I went with my mom and my brother!”

3 year old girl looking all sad – “I wanted to go to the moon, but my mom doesn’t have a spaceship.” I told her maybe when she was older she’d be able to go to the moon. She looked at me as if I were stupid, and said, “No, I’m going to be a COP!”

 

This summer, I have had the privilege of working at Lakeshore Learning. If you aren’t familiar with this store, many people refer to it as Disneyland for teachers. I have also heard teachers refer to it as their “candy store.” It is a dangerous place to work, because I am daily seeing many things I want for my classroom. That said, I get a great discount, and will be slowly adding items here and there.

Anyway, we often have children coming in with their parents.  One day, a 5 year old boy came in to the store with his mom. This boy had the entire store laughing! He is sure to be a stand up comedian some day. He also was sure that everything he was telling us was true. He told us all about his restaurant he owned called “Andover, New York.” The specials usually consist of “recipe soup”, but is different on Fridays when the other chef is there. He told me I should go in on Friday to try the other chef’s specials, because he is a much better cook. Then he told me that I should go at lunch time on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday if I want the recipe soup special. Instead of begging for everything in the store (like many children do), he told his mom (who was looking at educational items to help him with his reading), to stop looking at the “lame stuff”, and to please come look at the toys he wanted. At least he was polite about it, right? ;-)

 

What would this world be without laughter? A pretty boring place! Instead of being annoyed by children’s “fantasies” they are spinning, try to enjoy them, laugh with them, and you will find your heart feels a little bit lighter.

Why I Love my Fitbit

My Fitbit has changed my life. Not drastically, but it has changed the way I do some things – enough that I thought it was worth posting about.

Just keep walkin'...

Just keep walkin’…

My experience with Fitbit started a couple years ago as I was training for The 3 Day. You can read about why I would do something so crazy here.

I met this woman, Ally (@Allybird82), on twitter. We started training together. One of the times we were out walking, she told me about her Fitbit. I had seen some other friends tweeting about theirs, but didn’t want to spend that kind of money on a pedometer. After all, I could spend $12 on one that lasted a couple weeks, or fell of somewhere in the woods while I was training, right? I had probably spent over $100 on pedometers to track my training, but never had luck with any of them. As my kids would say, #FAIL!

Ally ended up losing one, getting a new one, then finding the other one (or something like that). She gave me her old one (I know, I still can’t believe it). I tried to get it synced to my computer, but did something wrong, and I set it aside. I tried again just before The 3 Day, but my computer was having serious issues, and it didn’t work again.

During The 3 Day, my teammate, Kathi (@Auntkathi), had her Fitbit on. Somewhere around the same time, my husband Jason (@StrateSQL), got one. After The 3 Day, I decided to try again with the Fitbit. This time, it worked. It was actually really simple to get started on. I don’t know what my problem was before that.

What IS a Fitbit?

A fitbit is a little device that you wear. It tracks your steps, calories, number of stairs climbed, and you can even use it to track your sleep (I tend to forget to set it before bed). It’s different from other pedometers in that it has an interactive website that you can sync it to. On the website, you can set goals for steps taken. You can also track your weight goals, your diet, calories, exercise, etc. The most fun part of the website, is that you can compete with your friends that also have a Fitbit device for the most steps taken in a week. You can also cheer them on, and leave encouraging messages.

My first Fitbit Tracker broke. As a preschool teacher, I tend to sit at itty bitty tables often. Wearing my Fitbit on my pockets of my pants, meant that at some point, I would hit it on the edge of the table. When I did, it snapped apart. The electronics in that thing were tough though. I was able to get it together several times before I lost the pieces inside, and had to get a new one. I bought my 2nd one off ebay. After enough time, the same thing happened to that one. This time, I had glued the entire outside together, but the lawnmower brought it to its demise.

Finally, I bought my newest one at Target. I got the newest, most updated version of the Fitbit One. Right away, I loved the design of the new one. It is a smaller, sleaker version of the old Tracker I had. It is held inside a silicone clip/case, so even if I bump the edge of my preschool sized tables at work, it won’t just snap apart. I’m pretty sure that it would take some effort to break this one! I also discovered that there is now a mobile fitbit app (available in the Android Play Store, and likely in the Apple store as well). I can turn on the bluetooth on my phone, and it will automatically sync my Fitbit stats. It works hand in hand with the website, so I no longer have to worry about plugging in to my USB port to update it. It is slightly more waterproof than the older version (not something I have had to worry about yet, but my husband has been known to forget to take his off while jetskiing). It also seems to have a longer battery life than my previous two!

In addition to our devices, we also own the Aria Scale that syncs right with the website. It not only tells your weight, but also your body fat %. I’m never happy with the numbers that show up, but it’s nice that it all works together.

What’s the point?

I originally titled this post “How Fitbit Changed my Life”. Since the point of the story came so late in the post, I decided to change the title. So, why DO I love my Fitbit?? Because, it has made me walk more. Walking more is good for your body! The goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps in a day. That seems really hard, but it equals about 5 miles total for an average person. It makes you realize a few things:

  1. You walk more than you think you do. 10K steps is not that hard to reach with a little extra effort. For my mother-in-law, this means 2 extra walks around her neighborhood per day.
  2. You go up (and down) your steps more than you think you do. The goal I set for myself is to climb 20 flights of stairs/day. I think the default is 15, but we have a lot of steps in our house, so I raised mine. The Fitbit only counts flights you climb, not the ones you go down. It will however, still counts those in your steps taken per day.

How can you get in 10,000 steps?

For me, there are a few ways to reach that 10K mark. I don’t always get there. In fact, I usually average about 8,000-9,000 steps per day. What I can tell you, is that the numbers would be lower if I didn’t have a Fitbit, or if I didn’t pay attention to what it tells me. I watch where I am at, and try to boost the numbers when I can. Also, I can tell you that being really close to your friends on the “friend rankings” list is a great motivator! No one wants to see that their friend is only a couple hundred steps ahead of them! I may be a little obsessed, because I have gotten to the point that not wearing my Fitbit makes me feel as odd as taking off my wedding ring. That being said, I know others are way more obsessed! ;-)

Here are some ways to get those extra steps in:

  • Park further away  – I no longer park in the closest spot possible (unless it’s raining). I park further away to get those extra steps in.
  • Don’t pile all your laundry up – I used to make a pile of all the clean clothes that needed to be put in the closet, then do the whole stack at once. Now, I walk from the bed (where I fold all my clothes) to the closet to hang up each item individually. I also take each stack of kids’ clothes to their rooms separately (even though they are right across the hall from each other). Doing these extra little things can add a couple hundred more steps on fairly easily.
  • Take your dog for more walks.
  • Go on more walks with your family –  Our block is exactly one mile around. Jason and I enjoy going for walks together. It gets us both moving, and gives us some quality time together. We sometimes bring the kids or dog, but usually go just the two of us.
  • Walk around the store more – My mother-in-law has been working really hard to get her 10K steps per day in. She told me that one night, it was raining. She didn’t feel like walking in the rain, so she went to Target, and walked the inside perimeter of the store until she got to her step count. I thought that was brilliant! I sometimes use getting more steps in as an excuse to just walk up and down the aisles at Target or the local grocery store.
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator
  • Use the push mower vs the rider – we pretty much always push mow the front, and use the riding lawn mower in the back. Last week, I push-mowed the entire thing. It was a lot of work, but I got a lot more steps in that way! Mundane walking tasks (like mowing, vacuuming, and even sweeping or mopping) can add a lot of steps as you go back and forth, over and over.

How do you get your extra steps in each day? Feel free to write in the comments section!

Interesting note, just as I thought about writing this post, I found another post on the same topic.

Have a happy, and step-filled day! :-)

Warm Fuzzies

The week before Spring Break was an amazing week at preschool. Not because the children were doing anything extraordinary (although they were), or because lesson plans were beyond amazing, but because I felt our teaching team was really appreciated!

On three separate occasions, we had parents showing their appreciation for our teaching team. Now, I have gotten emails before that say “Thank you for all you do” in the past. I don’t know why it hit me differently this week. Maybe, because they were all in the same week. Maybe, because it was completely unsolicited… I don’t know why, but it really made me feel good! :-)

The first warm fuzzy came in the form of an email. One of our 3 year olds had a really tough day. His friends were pushing in front of him, not taking their turns, etc. He was feeling very sad. I talked to his mom about it after class. The next day, I got the following email. Yes, this is an amazing family that we are so blessed to work with. If only every parent had this attitude (focusing on things that make them happy):

“I just wanted to say thank you for sharing with me about some things that happened in class yesterday. We were able to speak to B about it to find out how he felt. He shared that it did make him sad. So I decided to ask him if there was something that happened in class that made him happy. His response was, ” yes! ” so I asked him what it was that made him happy. He said, “it made me happy to sit next to Ms. Sarah.” So I asked what makes him happy about sitting next to Ms. Sarah and he said, “because she is funny!” 

I just thought I should share with you because I feel it’s important to focus on the things that make us happy and for him it happened to be you yesterday.
Thank you for making him happy. It means a whole lot to us.

You and Ms. Kim are what make it fun for the kids and make it exciting for the kids to come to school. You do a great job and I am happy B gets to have you both again next year :) (hopefully!)”

The second warm fuzzy came in the form of a card from a family. The card was letting us know that their preschooler passed his pre-Kindergarten screening with excellent scores. The parent said “We just want to say thank you, because we know you both had a lot to do with that. This year at Preschool has been very good for him. Thank you for all you do.”

The third warm fuzzy came from a grandparent after class. I was letting her know that her preschool age grandson participated in our large group action songs for the first time all year. She thanked me for letting her know, and said, “thank you so much for everything you guys do for those preschoolers. You give them so many great opportunities…” She went on to let me know that her daughter had asked her if she wanted to sign her grandson up for next year’s preschool classes at a site closer to her (the grandma’s) home. The grandma told her daughter that no, she felt he should stay here, because he has come such a long way, she thinks we are great teachers, he gets great opportunities, and finally, because he will be with peers that may be at the same school for kindergarten the following year.  Program wide, he would have great opportunities at any of our sites. It felt really good to hear the grandma say that she was willing to drive further to keep him with us. :-)

I’m not writing this to toot my own horn (or Miss Kim’s). I just wanted to say how good it feels to receive compliments from time to time. Make sure if you appreciate someone, you let them know. You just might make their day (or week)!

Emailing Parents

This year, I have been sending out weekly emails to parents letting them know anything we did that was special, and what we will be doing the following week. Sometimes, I send out links or other resources too. This seems to have been greatly appreciated by parents, and has opened up communication in ways that we previously have not experienced.

More parents are emailing me to check in on their children, let me know they will be absent, etc. We also have a higher number of grandparents, aunts, or daycare providers dropping off and picking up children, so many parents are not there to hear/see what we did each day. Email has been a wonderful way to keep lines of communication open, and keep parents “in the loop.”

Email has also been a great way for me to touch base with parents when I have concerns that I want to talk about. People are so busy these days, that reaching them by phone can be difficult. To be honest, I am so busy, that calling parents during non-school hours can be difficult. While I know that email is much less personal than a phone call, it is sometimes the best way to reach out. There have been times when a parent and I use email to determine the best time for a phone call, or for them to come in to the classroom.

The downside

First and foremost, not everyone has email, or checks it regularly. Even with email reminders, newsletters, etc, information sometimes still gets missed. Attachments don’t always want to open, so we end up needing to give them a paper copy of our newsletter anyway.

Also, at least 2 times this year, one of my contact lists “broke.” I still don’t know quite what happened, but both times, it was in the class that has the most movement as far as kids coming and going. I think it has something to do with the removal of people from the list. Parents who have been relying on those emails to know what’s going on (or get their child excited for the week) get frustrated when they don’t receive them. Not only do they get frustrated, but they also miss out on information that may be important.

While email and technology can be really great for teacher or classroom communication, it is not perfect. This year, it has proven to be more effective than not, despite the “downsides” I mentioned above. Overall, I think parents feel better connected to the classroom, and I feel better connected to them.

My weekly emails are something I started doing this year, that I will definitely continue in years to come!

A New Book: No More Perfect Kids

NMPK Cover with Chapman nameI have had the great honor to be part of a launch team for a new book called No More Perfect Kids, by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch, PhD. I was given an advance copy of the book, so I could share my thoughts with you.

This book is a great reminder that we need to love our kids for who they are, not what we want them to be. We need to stop expecting perfection from ourselves as parents, or from our children. By doing so, we are not allowing anyone to live up to their full potential. God has a plan for all of us. Sometimes, we get in the way of His plans by trying to be something other than who/what he intended for us. The same is true for our children.

We all have dreams for our children, we sometimes put pressure on them to live up to those dreams without taking into consideration (or appreciation of) who they really are. This can cause children to question many aspects of their lives and who they are. Some questions we or they may ask, make up several titles of the chapters in this book:

  • Do You Like Me?
  • Am I Important to You?
  • Is It Okay I’m Unique?
  • Who Am I?
  • Am I a Failure?
  • What’s My Purpose?
  • Will You Help Me Change?

Each of these questions (and many others) is discussed, and an “antidote” to the problem in question is suggested. It helps the reader understand him/herself better as a parent, and to understand their children in a new way.

The end of the book has many great resources for parents, including:

  • Age appropriate activities and chores for children
  • How to pray for your children using Bible verses
  • Character qualities to develop in your children
  • Recommended reading for perfectly imperfect kids
  • Leader’s guide (for leading study groups)

If you purchase the book from any store or online retailer between March 13-23, Hearts at Home and Moody Publishers are offering over $100 of additional free resources for you.  What a deal!! Hurry though, the offer is only “good” during the introductory launch period!

I would recommend this book to anyone who has children, or plans to some day have children. It may even help you understand yourself a little!

Moments in the Classroom – Winter 2014

The children in our preschool classes make me smile! From time to time, I like to share a glimpse into cute or funny moments. Sometimes, I like to share things just to give you an idea of how a preschooler’s brain works. Enjoy!

The other day, I was chatting with one of our 4 year old boys. I asked him if he had any pets. He said he had a cat. I asked what the cat’s name was, and he replied, “Well… Stinky’s kind of dead right now…” YIKES!

When I was doing our winter assessments, I was testing a child on his letters. In the Fall, he was only able to identify one letter, the first letter in his name. This time, he identified 18 letters. He was so excited, he actually cheered when I told him how many he knew! If only every child got that excited about learning!

I was assessing a 4 year old boy on his letters. Every time we’d get to a letter that was in his name (both lower case and upper case versions), he would say, “Give me a minute.” Then, he turned his back to me, and looked down at his name tag (we happened to have the children wearing them, due to adult volunteers in the class). He’d go through the letters on his name tag, and say the letters to himself, until he hit the one I was asking him about. Then he’d turn around and say the letter. I couldn’t help but crack up. I had to give him props for using a strategy to help himself remember the letters.

I was chatting with a 5 year old boy. Out of the blue, he asked me, “Do you think there’s evil teachers?” I asked him what would make a teacher evil. He said, “They’d make you do hard things. Things like… a course, with alligators, and rocks, and things that go swoosh… you know, a shredder…. and a volcano, and sharks, and a rocket.” I love the imaginations of kids! :-)

I was trying to get a shy 5 year old girl to chat with me. I asked if she liked being in our class again this year, she said, “Yes.” I asked her if she liked playing with her friend, A. She said, “Yes”. I asked if she liked having almost all boys in our class (we have 15 boys, and 3 girls), she smiled, and sheepishly said “NO!”

We have a 3 year old girl in our class that LOVES Spiderman! On Halloween, she wore a Spiderman costume. Not a girly version, but an actual Spiderman costume. On Pajama Day, she wore brand new Spiderman PJs. When she was Star of the Week, she brought in her stuffed pink dinosaur wearing a Spiderman outfit. I love that while she’s very “girly” in so many ways (like how she dresses on a daily basis), her Mom lets her be who she is. I love that she doesn’t try to girl up the love of Spiderman. Go Mom, go girl!! :-)

I asked a 3 year old girl to count for me. I had 25 green pom poms on a strip, and told her to touch each one, and do her best to count them. She got up to 12, then said “16, E, O, D, B, N…” Those are the moments that show me how things get mixed up in their heads while they are learning so many new things.

One of our 3 year old boys has twin babies at home. I asked him how it was going with the babies. He said to me, “I love my baby K!” I asked what it was he loved about her. He got a really big smile on his face, and said, “I love her laugh!” So sweet! :-)

Kindergarten Through the Eyes of a Preschool Teacher

Recently, I had the opportunity to observe both the reading and math times in a Kindergarten class. I was amazed at what I saw! I can’t believe how far these kindergartners come in the short time from the end of preschool (when we are hoping they can recognize up to 40 letters) to December, when all are working on sight words, and some are reading.

When I first got there, the kindergartners were just coming in to start their day. There was a sight word on a white board that they all had to write. There were activities set up for them to do on their tables while classmates were coming in, and the teacher was getting ready to start the day. The activity that was laid out for them to do was a combination literacy and math activity. The page was set up similar to a Bingo page. Children had to roll a die, whatever number came up, there was a sight word that corresponded to that number. Kindergartners had to write the sight word that correlated to the number that they rolled. What a great idea!

What really impressed me about this beginning of the day ritual, was how independent the kindergartners were. It also made me a little worried. When I think of some of my preschoolers, I wonder, are they going to be ready for that level of independence and responsibility in just a few months?

Notes about the class

The teacher I observed, Mrs. M, was fantastic with her group! I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time chatting with her. She told me that she has a Special Ed Cluster, and the lowest class over all, from a reading/math score standpoint. She really seemed to know her kids. She had all sorts of tips and tricks that seemed to be what worked best for them.

Modifications

Mrs. M told me some things that other kindergarten classes are doing, and about the modifications she has made to ensure the success of all the students in her classroom. One example would be, instead of completely open free choice time, she gives them choices within their center areas. She said doing it this way with her class maintains a bit of structure that her children need, but also allows them to choose for themselves what they are going to do during that time. While I was there, almost all children remained on task within their different areas. 

Mrs. M also continues to have a 15 minute rest/reading time after lunch. She commented that math time, which is towards the end of the day, falls apart if they don’t take that mental break. She still has some children who fall asleep during that time. While I have a feeling that it’s not the norm, I hope all Kindergarten teachers realize that a little down time can make a big difference in how children will function at the end of the day.

In this kindergarten class, as in any class, there are a few children who rarely ever talk. Mrs. M told me she will always call on these children in group time. She said she doesn’t expect they will actually answer, but she wants to make sure they always have the opportunity to do so. I thought that was pretty brave, as our tendency as teachers might be to not call on them, because we don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. This tactic must be working, because one of the children who she had previously pointed out to me, actually answered when she called on her!

Transitions

One thing I saw the teacher do a few times that really impressed me was whenever she gave a direction that meant a major transition between activities, she counted to 10. When she got to 10, she said, “All of Kindergarten should be at their working spots.” Children hustled to get to the next activity, and got right to work. It was a great reminder of what a little bit of “training” can accomplish. I’m sure it did not go so smoothly at the beginning of the year!

Is Preschool Helpful?

The class I observed is at an elementary school that has many children from a lower income population. Many of these children qualified for our district’s Kindergarten Readiness (KR) program. This is a 4 day/week program which buses children to school, and includes a meal. It is more intensive than the 2 day/week program I teach in, but our goals are basically the same. Last year, one of the KR classes was in this same school. Mrs. M told me she could tell which children had had preschool before. Some skills she specifically stated they knew how to do at the beginning of the year that other children didn’t, included:

  • walking in the hall
  • sitting at the carpet for group time
  • they knew many letters and how to write their names
  • they were familiar with numbers, and could make them on their fingers. 

I asked her what skills she wished her children had had more practice/exposure to before coming to Kindergarten. She said, “cutting”. I was a bit surprised, as I feel we do quite a bit of cutting, at least in my class, and the one I had subbed in a few years ago. She also said, “directed drawing.” She said that right at the beginning of the year, they are doing activities where the teacher will ask the children to draw something, and then cut it out. She said most children weren’t familiar with the concept of drawing something specific that someone asked them to. Interestingly, this is something that I used to do in my classes, but quit doing, because I questioned the value of the activity with preschoolers. Now I know I need to add that back into small group activities. 

Final Thoughts

Next year, every school in MN is making the transition to all day, every day kindergarten. This class already follows that model  (our district currently has the options of every day K or every other day K). I know some children will do fine with this major change. What worries me, is not just that it’s going to be all day, every day, but also that it’s so academic. The children in this class seemed to handle it ok, at least at this point in the year. I have to point out again, that they are also getting a 15 minute rest period. I know this is not the case in all classes. 

The visit also reminds me of our responsibility of helping those children in our classes be as ready for what is to come as is possible in 5 hours/week. I got some ideas of things to spend more time doing in our classroom (like continuing to work on writing letters, recognizing numbers, etc). It was also reassuring that even the simple things, like sitting in group time, are helpful in preparing them for Kindergarten. Much of the redirection, and wording we use while talking with children in preschool matched what they were doing in Kindergarten too. I resolve to continue to keep the fun in preschool, while preparing children for the academic rigor that will become their life in the next year. 

It was a great experience to observe a kindergarten class at this point in the year. Next year, I am hoping to observe a kindergarten class by the end of September. I would encourage all preschool teachers to spend a day, or even a portion of the day in a K class! A lot can be learned by seeing first hand what is in our children’s not-so-distant futures.