A New Type of Resolution.

I’m not sure about anyone else, but in my world, New Year’s resolutions are usually overrated, overstated, and quite unattainable. Losing copious amounts of weight or exercising hours a day just aren’t in the cards for me. To be clear, I’m quite happy with my weight and I do exercise a few times a week. What more can I hope for?

I’d like to offer a new type of New Year’s resolution to my friends this year. Try something small, something attainable, something not only to help yourself, but those around you. Try smiling more.

I know, it sounds silly… and simple, but sometimes silly and simple are the way to go. When I’m asked in a job interview (it’s been awhile) about my strengths, I always list smiling as one. While I’ve been told I have a nice smile (thank you to my dental hygienist Nicole, she’s the best), I don't mean the quality of my smile, but the frequency that it’s offered.

A few years ago, a coworker who I didn't know very well stopped me in the hallway and asked, ‘You always seem so happy, are you really?”

I was surprised by her question. After taking a slight pause, I replied, “Yes, actually I am.”

It’s the smiling. If you smile a lot, you actually feel happier and those around you pick up on it. Like almost everything else in kindergarten, it’s contagious. According to several spiritual traditions, smiling is the secret to health and serenity. Sometimes I smile when nobody is looking… giving yourself a smile is like buying candy for your soul… except it’s free and won’t cause cavities.

So this New Year’s, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by trying to keep some lofty goal, borrow mine. Try smiling more.


Giveaway - HeidiSongs! - WINNER!

Using the lovely (and free) service at random.org to pick a winner (truly the only fair way to do it), Sarah L. was selected! Sarah will receive the HeidiSongs prize package detailed below as soon as I receive her mailing adress (Sarah - you've been emailed, just reply back to me privately).

Congratulations to Sarah and thank you to everyone who entered. There was almost five hundred entries! Thanks for a wonderful 2010 and here's to an even more amazing 2011.


Giveaway - HeidiSongs! - Last Day to Enter!

The HeidiSongs Giveaway (below) ends tomorrow, 12/29 at midnight E.S.T. If you haven't entered yet, go ahead an enter! Remember you can enter once a day until the deadline! So far over 400 amazing folks have entered! I'll be announcing the winner here Thursday 12/30. Good luck!


Giveaway - HeidiSongs!

Recently, as I perused the data from my first report cards, I realized, as a whole, my class was really struggling with teen numbers. They are TRICKY - that's for sure, but we needed to focus on them and try to get the majority of the class on track. As I was flipping through my resources at school, I stumbled upon my HeidiSongs CDs and DVDs. Heidi Butkus is a kindergarten teacher who created these resources to help her own students. They are extremely catchy tunes that really do help with remembering skills and concepts.

HeidiSongs has a CD or DVD for almost everything you can think of... sight words, letters, sounds, numbers, math concepts, you name it. In my classroom, we have been singing and moving to the songs for numbers 11-19 for a few weeks and I'm starting to see a big improvement. Her catchy tunes really do hit the spot. Heidi also has a blog with LOTS of free resources. Her music and blog are truly invaluable.

As my holiday gift to one lucky winner, I'm giving away the following HeidiSongs prize package (click on each for a product overview):

Pretty cool, huh? How do you enter to win?

Click here and leave me your name (first name is sufficient) and email address. That's it. No need to follow or 'like' me on facebook, although I always appreciate both. The contest is open to friends in the United States only (sorry my international friends, but this to keep my shipping costs down). You can enter up to once a day until Wednesday, December 29th. The winner will be announced Thursday, December 30th. Good luck to all!

This is my chance to say thank you and help someone else utilize a wonderful resource that has proven so helpful in my own classroom.



Twice a week, Mrs. D. and I are able to split our entire class by ability. It’s brilliant. Half of them go to a special and we’re left with half the number of sprouts and both of us. Sometimes we even get another adult in to help out. We are able to do some serious interventions with a small group and our class really seems to thrive with this individualized attention.

Last week, on one of these days, we decided to play Alphabet Bingo with our group needing more work on letter identification. One of the aspects of kindergarten I love most is introducing your students to something they’ve never experienced before. When you’re five, you haven’t lived long and there is much to take in. As luck would have it, most of the kids had never played Bingo before.

Now Bingo is nothing fancy. There are no flashing lights or blips and bleeps. It’s pretty boring if you stop to think about it. Well, you would think these kids were playing for all the booty under their collective Christmas trees. They were seriously excited, enthralled, and entertained.

Oh, and there was learning going on to boot. That’s the catch – they’ve having fun, playing, but learning and they don’t even know it. Us kindergarten teachers are sneaky that way. And what did you get if you won a round of Alphabet Bingo? Why you get to come up and call out the letters for the next round. What a prize!

As we finished our time with Bingo, I walked around the room and saw sprouts helping each other identify letters and strengthening their letter identification skills. Of course, they were having a blast. Like the sign outside my door says, ‘Work hard, have fun.’



This afternoon, as we watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on our Smart Board, I was grateful for the mix of high-tech wizardry (the Smart Board) and low-tech magic (the stop motion animation of the 1964 classic). Sitting in Mrs. D.’s rocking chair and looking out at our sprouts, finally calm in front of a video after a day of pre-holiday activities, I was calmed by the tranquility of the group.

And then the part of the program where Rudolph meets Clarice arrived. For the uninitiated, Clarice is a doe who, naturally, has ridiculously long eyelashes that never seem to stop batting at her new beau Rudolph.

After a few moments of speaking, Clarice, overtaken by her love for Rudolph, breaks out into song. As she opened her tiny stop motion mouth to belt out the tune, ‘There’s Always Tomorrow’ suddenly the quiet of our room was pierced.

Betsy, who herself spends an awful lot of time batting her eyelashes, was singing right along with Clarice… every single word. I was surprised she knew all the words and was able to match the high pitch of the doe. As the song reached it’s climax, Betsy reached out her hand for dramatic effect. It was quite a performance.

Tomorrow is the last day before our holiday break. The pre-Santa energy is reaching a peak in the classroom. As the children filed out at bus time, someone mistakenly wished me a premature ‘Merry Christmas’ a day too soon. I reminded them we still had school tomorrow and then began singing, ‘There’s Always Tomorrow’… Betsy, never one to miss her cue, joined right in and made for a wonderful duet partner. And with that, I leave you with this:



id·i·om –noun. an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or hang one's head, or from the general grammatical rules of a language.

One of the many joys of working with young children is their discovery of language. The ins and outs of the English language can be tricky, and as children uncover the nuances, often humor is involved. Today at bus time, Martin was chatting with me about his brother.

“Is he older or younger?” I inquired.

“He’s older… oh, that brother, he really drives me up the nuts,” he said.

I think he was going for either ‘he drives me up the wall’ or ‘he drives me nuts’ – but what he said was, ‘he drives me up the nuts’.

“Excuse me?” I asked for clarification.

“He teases me and tickles me, my brother just simply drives me up the nuts,” he explained.

With that, Martin’s bus was called, I received a great big bear hug, and he was on his way. Teaching kindergarten is no piece of cake… it’s often all Greek to me and I find myself having to bite my tongue or feeling like the new kid on the block, but working with these kids, with all the hugs and laughter, the learning that takes place is just icing on the cake.



Oh how I adore The Polar Express. We spent a full week reading and learning about Hanukah. I think my sprouts know much more about the festival of lights than they did before. That being said, I haven’t found a book about Hanukah that is quite as magical as Chris Van Allsburg's award winning story.

As the cover was displayed, most of the children had some connection. This was a story they were at least familiar with on some level. We learned about Santa and his gift of a bell to the boy in the story. We discovered that his sister could also hear the bell, but his parents could not. As the boy’s sister got older, eventually she couldn’t hear the bell anymore, but the boy always did. He believed.

At the end of the day, we headed out for recess as usual. When we arrived back in the classroom afterwards, I heard the jingling of bells. Then the screams… ‘He was here! Santa was here!’ erupt from the children like the elves in the story upon seeing their mighty leader. Not one child questioned where these bells came from… Santa (or maybe one of his elves) had come to our classroom to deliver each of them an enchanted bell.

I’m not sure when children stop believing. I’m sure at some point I questioned the existence of the plump jolly guy in the red suit. Then something magical happened to me… I started teaching kindergarten. The spirit of the sprouts surrounding me each day began turning the imaginary clock of my soul backwards. Their exuberance and innocence started helping me see the world a little differently. They don’t question, they just believe.

I’ve become a convert. Watching their excitement, enthusiasm, and sheer joy for the season as made me believe again. When they raised their bells in celebration today, I heard them too. Each and every one.



An important part of building our classroom community is the Sharing component of Morning Meeting. During this time, each child gets to share something important with the entire class. We use a fake plastic microphone that really adds some pizzazz. Everyone has to listen to the microphone holder and it’s another opportunity to practice patience and listening skills.

Most friends share items from home. We’ve found out about little brothers and sisters on the way, new pets, the passing of loved ones and pets, movies seen, holiday decorating, visits from grandparents, you name it. Naturally in kindergarten, sharing is often humorous.

Today, when Darlene got the microphone, she reported, “I went to the doctor’s and had to get my fluke shot.”

Yes, fluke shot. Sometimes when sprouts make these errors, I question them and try to correct the misuse of a word, but in Darlene’s case, we didn't really have time, and I thought it was quite cute. So I let her go on believing it’s called a fluke shot. Personally, I don’t care for shots, so I don’t see how one could be considered a stroke of good luck, but hey, I don’t usually get a sticker and lollipop afterwards either.



During those first few days of school, teachers do something bad… well most teachers do… well at least I do. In the chaos of those initial days, as I try to reach the surface and get a gasp of air, I scan the room and identify those kids who you think are going to be difficult and those who aren’t. It’s not fair, it’s not on purpose, it just happens. With each year of experience I gain, I realize more and more how wrong I usually am.

This year, the sprout I was most wrong about was Audra. It didn’t help that a few staff members knew her from outside of school and had ‘warned’ me about her… it didn’t help that her parents let me know she could be ‘difficult’ at times… it didn’t help that she showed up those first few days and looked like she’d rather be getting a cavity filled than be in kindergarten.

In a word, Audra appeared crabby. She didn’t seem to like anything we did, any of the other children much, or her teachers. When we sang and moved, she just stood there. Sometimes I thought I could see her lips moving, but I think she might have just been grumbling. I feared it was going to be a dreadfully long year for all of us.

After a few weeks something started to change. As we all settled into the routines of kindergarten, Audra relaxed and began… blossoming. She started singing… she started dancing… she started to love working – especially writing. She started giving hugs… she’s become one of the most frequent huggers… the other day I called her my ‘Velcro friend’ and she laughed. She laughed.

Now when I see those staff members who know her and they ask about her, I gleefully report how well she is doing in all areas. I take a small bit of satisfaction in the surprised looks on their faces. She has become a child who loves just about everything about school. She’s a model student. She’s showing her sweet and caring self just about all the time.

Naturally the lesson here is not to be quick to judge our students. I’m not sure that will happen, because those first few days, we’re all in survival mode. Rather, become aware of those judgments, but don’t hold on to them. Realize, just as the craziness of those first few weeks morphs into a calm and trusting community, so will your perceptions.

Our class wouldn’t be the same without Audra. I sincerely look forward to seeing her smile each morning and knowing she’s going to be helping out anyway she can and offering up hugs every few minutes. She now clearly loves school and I simply adore her.



The other day I was rushing around looking for some bookmarks I’d sent to be laminated. The supply room where the laminating is done is on the second floor. All the ‘big kids’ are on the second floor and I rarely am up there anymore. The lovely ladies who do the laminating also keep a candy bowl in the room and on my way out, I grabbed a small bag of M&M’s – hey I can use a sugar jolt whenever I can grab one.

As I left the supply room in a rush, I walked by a third grade classroom and couldn’t help but notice… the quiet. Looking much like a whirlwind, perhaps the Tasmanian Devil, I moved in, over to the teacher, and whispered, “Do you have any allergies?”

She looked surprised to see me and at my question. She shook her head no. As I quickly moved away from her, I whispered back, “You’re class is so quiet and everyone is working and on task.”

I began giving each student a single M&M from my bag. They were indeed silent and at this point, most likely stunned at the crazy man in their classroom giving them candy. As quickly as I entered, I left and ran (when nobody was looking) back to my classroom. Time is precious when you teach kindergarten.

As I reflected on the quiet and calm I had just witnessed I couldn’t help but think of the often noisy, busy, and, let’s face it, sometimes chaotic place a kindergarten room can be. Those third graders’ level of independence was admirable, but I’m guessing my friend who teaches them doesn’t have nearly as much fun as I do… or get nearly as many hugs.

The next morning, I came in to a few thank you letters on my desk. Having the easily distracted mind I do, I had forgotten about my M&M delivery, but quickly remembered after reading the sweet letters from my third grade friends. I guess every grade level has its pros and cons. I’ll keep the loud, active, distracted, and sweetness of kindergarten. It suits me just fine. It just feels right.



Quiet time. Darkness. Yanni soothing my sprouts to a calm rest. One by one, they file over and begin hugging both Mrs. D. and myself. A few of them going back and forth like ping pong balls… hugging me, hugging her, then back to me. They were staying quiet. They were lining up. They were loving their hugs.

When they finally settled down, I leaned over to Mrs. D. and whispered, “Did you have this much hugging in your classroom last year?”

“No way,” she replied.

“Me either… I wonder why?” I asked.

“It’s the community we’ve built,” she replied.

She’s right. Last year I had my one hugger and a few very affectionate others, but nothing like this… almost every one of our students gives hugs. Some more than others, a few have never given one, but I can count them on one hand. They all feel comfortable hugging. Some needed some time to see others and know it was permissible, but once they knew, the hugs haven't stopped.

One little boy, Jason, who refused a hug from me a few weeks ago when I asked if I could give him one as a thank you after he presented me with a picture, offered one up today. I was pleasantly surprised.

Others, like Martin and Audra hug non stop. They find any excuse to come over and give a hug, but for the most part, they keep them to transitions and non-teaching times. They understand how to ask and are all right if we say ‘not now’ which happens from time to time.

This community of learners we’ve created from the unfamiliar little friends who entered our room back in August just bowls me over. They have blossomed into the most respectable and downright sweet bunch you’ve ever seen. They give back two-fold. I leave each day exhausted, but I go back the next morning with a big smile on my face. A hundred or so hugs a day will do that to you.



Today’s craziness is brought to you from the teacher’s room – not my classroom. Every once in awhile I do something so crazy, so nutty, that I feel I must share. While it may not directly have to do with teaching or my students, it might give you a clearer picture of the spirit and energy I try to share with my co-workers and students.

This morning, as I was rushing to use the bathroom before my sprouts arrived, I walked by the vending machine and literally stopped in my tracks. A Hershey’s chocolate bar was dangling from its spot. You know, when you’ve scrounged your money in the bottom of your top desk drawer for that candy fix, escaped to the teacher’s room for two seconds, and then, the machine doesn’t turn the spiral contraption holding your candy all the way and it just hangs there taunting you? That was was was staring at me from the vending machine.

Well some poor soul had this happen to them and apparently walked away from the machine in disgust… how could they just leave? I took one look at that hanging candy bar and saw one thing… free chocolate! I walked over and began shaking the machine. By this point a few co-workers had gathered to watch… one got close thinking if she tried to help me I might share my prize with her. I quickly maneuvered so I was blocking her attempts to help me.

That stubborn candy bar wouldn’t budge. In a last ditch effort, I pushed the door at the bottom of the machine open, inserted my foot, climbed up on the machine and began really rocking it. At this point, I may have looked like a major fool, but at least I was a determined fool. After about five minutes of jostling and rocking, the bar began to budge. Finally, it fell free and everyone in the room cheered. Free candy! Free candy!

I offered to share my trophy with the group, but nobody took me up on it… perhaps they didn’t have the heart to steal any of my thunder after such an effort? Persistence really does pay off.



Safety is a big deal at school. We have lots of different kinds of drills. Today we had our first planned evacuation to another building. Much like an outside safety drill (we don’t call it a ‘fire drill’ anymore), we all leave the building, but instead of meeting outside, we walk to one of the other school buildings on our campus. It’s not really a big deal unless you’re five.

We explained the drill to our sprouts during Morning Meeting. We went over all the expectations for behavior (no talking, staying together, walking in a straight line, etc.) and then, a few minutes before the drill, we bundled up in our winter gear and waited. When the evacuation was announced, Mrs. D. and I held our breaths and waited.

A funny thing happened. Our entire class was… amazing. Nobody talked. Nobody got lost. Nobody got out of line. Nobody acted like a crazy person. They were, quite simply, perfect.

When we got back from the long drill, I made sure to let them know how well they did. Perfect isn’t hilarious and doesn’t make for an amusing story, but it sure made my day.


'Tis the season.

Well it was bound to happen. The dance of the snow bunnies… also known as, a class of kindergarteners attempting to put on snow pants, boots, hats, mittens, scarves, and other random extraneous snow gear. To be perfectly clear there is no snow on the ground… well maybe a tiny amount… less than a quarter of an inch and that’s only in a few spots. It is cold and well, kids just love snow.

As I stood and watched the quiet chaos (we try to keep the talking to a minimum so we actually get outside to play) I couldn’t help but wish I were able to video tape the madness to share… for the record, I can’t. The amount of severe tugging, pulling, jumping, and groaning is like nothing you’ve ever witnessed… unless you teach the little ones.

When we finally were ready to head out, I had a little boy come up to me, with mittens on and ask me if I could zip his coat.

“Do you know how to zip it?” I asked thinking he did.

“Yeah, but I have my mittens on,” he reasoned.

“Well so do I… I’d have to take mine off to zip it, so you mine as well take yours off and do it yourself,” I retorted. Ah, I will not be outwitted by a five-year-old today!

Not coincidentally, with the frigid air arriving, talk of Santa abounds. I learned a few facts about him I didn’t know. Apparently Santa watches adults too, so I’d better not speed when I’m driving or I’ll be placed on the naughty list. Santa also will bring presents to kids with no fireplaces, he just slips in an open window so do not, under any circumstances, lock your windows if you don’t have a fireplace!

Naturally, between all the dressing in our snow gear and talk of Santa the hugs never stopped. I would love to count the number of hugs I receive each day, but really, I have no method simple enough to keep track of them all… I’d say a hundred would be a good estimate – and not a bit dramatic either. Truly if I had a nickel for every hug I got today, I’d have one fat piggy bank.

Santa, snow and hugs are about all you need to sustain a sunny outlook when you’re five. Lucky for me, it’s contagious. That, all my friends who teach older friends, for the record, is why I’ve always got a big smile on my face.



As part of our literacy program using The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers (I don’t get a cut of the sales, I promise…), Mrs. D. and I have been preparing a packet of materials to send home to parents. A few weeks ago, I had the brilliant idea (Mrs. D. was reluctant, but much as I usually do, I plowed ahead) of videotaping parts of our instruction to help parents transfer the specific skills we’re teaching at home.

Last week I videotaped some lessons and posted them on our class website. Today we finally were able to gather and package the materials to send home. As part of presenting the materials to the class, we wanted to share the videos. If you’ve never watched a class of five-year-olds watching videos of themselves, let me tell you, it’s an experience.

There were smiles, laughter, giggling, covering of eyes, and plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ – I was having more fun watching them than the videos. It reminded me of a recent news story I saw about dolphins responding to their reflections in a mirror – magical.

When we told the class they were taking home materials to help them become better readers and writers, they literally screamed with glee. Come ‘on – it doesn’t get much better than that. You would think we had just told them they were having an ice-cream pajama-pizza movie party, not sending home alphabet charts and sight word lists. Kindergarteners love learning and I love them for it.



The other day, during an activity where each child was given a card with a name on it for sorting by the number of syllables, Martin stood up when it was his turn, walked up to me and burst into tears. He then literally fell into me, hugging me as he cried. To be clear, Martin has never done this before. He was, quite simply, exhausted.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (who knew such a place existed… if I get a job there do I get to nap all day long?), kindergarten age children need between eleven and thirteen hours of sleep a night. With a full day program, we often see sleepy heads by the end of the day. Funny thing is, during our rest time, most children don’t actually rest. I think they’re afraid they’re going to miss something.

I’ve had many parents look surprised when we have the sleep talk. It usually goes something like this:

Me: I’ve noticed little Johnny seems tired most days, what time does he go to sleep?
Parent: Oh usually he get’s into bed around nine o’clock and then we read and tuck him in.
Me: (as tenderly as possible) Um, well, I usually go to bed at nine o’clock and I’m a grown man. Five-year-olds need on average about twelve hours of sleep a night.
Parent – look of surprise and shock and then: Oh, we’ll have to work on going to bed earlier!

As for Martin, he clearly hadn’t gotten his eleven to thirteen the night before. It was as if he needed to put his pajamas back on and go curl up in the corner of the room. I felt bad for him and also wondered if there was a reason he was so tired.

“Martin, you seem tired today, do you know what time you went to bed last night?” I asked him.

“I’m so tired ‘cause my mom tucked me in and then poof she was waking me up,” he stammered.

That was all I was getting out of him. We tried to have him take it easy the rest of the day and I told him to try and catch up on some sleep over the weekend. He did offer many hugs throughout the day, which while nice, I think was really just a way for him rest for a few seconds.



Oh those tricky teen numbers. For some reason (I think it’s developmental) kindergartners have the hardest time learning numbers eleven through nineteen. I’m not sure who decided we’d say ‘twelve’ instead of ‘two-teen’ or ‘thirteen’ instead of ‘three-teen’ or ‘fifteen’ instead of ‘five-teen’, but surely they’ve never tried teaching five-year-olds. These numbers don’t make much sense.

In a constant effort to drill these numbers, we sing songs and play games at every opportunity. One of the simple games we play is Teen Tangle. We lay large teen number cards out on the floor out of order and a child has to step on them in order while saying each number. The other day after we play a few rounds, we decided to challenge a few of the sprouts that have already mastered these numbers.

“Can anyone start with nineteen and go backwards?” Mrs. D. asked.

A few friends volunteered. This was going to be complicated.

Dan was up first. He walked over to the nineteen card and began. As he said each number, he would look over his shoulder straining to see the other cards and then take a giant step back to reach it. When he finally made it to eleven, we gave him a big cheer and then Michael came up to try it. He did the same thing. I shot Mrs. D. a look and we both realized at the same time, they thought we meant in addition to counting backwards, they had to walk backwards.

We both smiled with the realization of our mistake. These kids are so literal, when you say ‘count backwards’ they really do it backwards.



Today, as Mrs. D. read Splat the Cat, I sat next to Richard who was simply tickled pink each time the teacher’s name was spoken. For those not familiar with the story, her name is Mrs. Wimpydimple – a seriously funny moniker.

I can’t explain why the sound of her name was so hilarious to Richard, but watching him crack a smile and attempting (rather unsuccessfully) to suppress giggles each time her name was spoken just made my afternoon.

When Mrs. D. finished the book, I commented on the silly sounding name.

“Richard, you really loved that name, ‘Mrs. Wimpydimple,' didn’t you?” I asked him provoking more smiles and laughter.

“Does anyone know what dimples are?” I questioned.

A group of blank stares signaled me to explain.

“A dimple is, well look at my face when I smile…” I began offering a wide grin and my own dimples as evidence.

We then proceeded to have everyone try and show us if they had dimples and watched as they all tried to out smile each other. All the smiling lead to more laughing… laughing led to a spontaneous hug-a-thon where everyone made a line in front of us and gave us hugs… a few friends for the first time this year and others going back and forth between the two of us like a ping pong ball hugging one, then the other, then back again for more.

Even with all the learning going on, we never stop smiling, laughing, hugging, and having a grand old time. Just another amazing day in kindergarten.



Sometimes your class just doesn’t cooperate. You can ask and ask, try and try, but no matter what you say or do, some days, they just don’t listen. Today, during a working time, after multiple reminders from both Mrs. D. and myself about staying focused and keeping the chatting to a minimum, I brought out the big guns. I brought out… Clifford.

Clifford is a red stuffed dog, much like the character in the books. I bought him at a Scholastic warehouse sale for one dollar. He’s priceless. As I explained to the class when I first introduced him, Clifford, like many dogs, doesn’t like loud noises. He loves to visit children’s tables, but only if they’re using a working whisper.

We’ll like magic, a hush came over the room. The only sound heard was children whispering, “Shhhh! We want Clifford at our table…” When an entire table of sprouts was relatively quiet, Clifford would come rest in the middle of their table. Each child would offer a pet or two and then continue working. If they got too loud, Clifford would flee and find a quieter table.

Clifford doesn’t come visit everyday, only on those days where a little extra ‘something’ is required. He never fails to charm and dazzle the class. Oh, how I love that big red dog.



This morning as Martin was up reading the Morning Message and then answering a few ‘challenge’ questions about the message (find a word with three syllables, find a word that stars with the /L/ sounds, etc.), I noticed Mrs. D. smiling at me. Not knowing what she was grinning at (I can be equally distracted and clueless), she finally motioned with her head. Martin was leaning on my leg as he worked. I hadn’t even noticed.

Kids do offer these small, tender gestures all the time. Unlike the overt hug, these little signs of affection are not extravagant or showy. Whether a head leaning on you in while you wait outside the cafeteria for lunch or placing a hand on your shoulder when you kneel down to assist with writing, these are just another quiet way your students express how much you mean.

In the hectic whirlwind that early education classes often become, it’s easy to overlook these small representations of caring and trust our sprouts feel for us. Try not to let them go unnoticed like I almost did today. Find them. Cherish them. Be grateful.



Lately, during calendar time, Mrs. D. and I have been trying to let the calendar helper do as much of the work independently as they feel comfortable doing. Most kids who have been listening and paying attention know what to do, but it’s a little overwhelming standing in front of the entire group with the proverbial spotlight shining on you, so one of us usually hangs back to assist. Today was my turn.

As I walked over to Dan to help him, my nose caught a whiff of something… something pleasant! The smells in kindergarten aren’t always pleasing, so this was surprising. As anyone who has spent more than five minutes with me knows, I’m easily distracted (poor Mrs. D., she certainly is one of he most patient people I’ve ever met, I’m not sure how she puts up with me…).

“What’s that smell?” I asked.

I was greeted with lots of curious looks… what was this mysterious smell?

“It smells nice, something very sweet…” I clarified.

“It’s my hair… I use coconut shampoo,” Rachel offered.

Needing to know, I walked over and smelled her hair. This might sound strange, but not in kindergarten.

“Nope,” it wasn’t her hair.

Mrs. D. walked over and tried to help me find the culprit, most likely to help move along our calendar time. She couldn’t identify the perpetrator either. I’ve had students in kindergarten wear excessive amounts of perfume before, so I was wary.

Trying to ignore my propensity to distractions, I walked back to Dan to continue calendar. The sweet smell strengthened. I leaned over and smelled his shoulder…

“It’s you!” I exclaimed, happy to have solved the case.

Dan looked at me like I had ten heads. He had no idea why he would smell so nice.

“I think it’s the detergent your mom uses to wash your clothes,” I explained.

He smiled, grabbed the pointer, and turned to the calendar.

I am officially a crazy man able to be distracted by laundry detergent. Call me Distracted Man. At least I can admit it.


Monday, Monday.

That picture isn’t for me. It applies to my sprouts. I’m not sure if they were all still sleepy from eating too much turkey or what was going on, but they were, for the most part, exhausted from the moment they arrived. The day seemed to wallop many of them. It made for a really laid back day, something not really expected after a break.

When I walked the class down to P.E. in the afternoon, David asked me quite politely if I would tie his shoe. I quickly knelt down to ensure his safety before he began running around and the minute I took his laces in my hands, I remembered David was the one with his laces in his mouth all morning long. They were sloppy wet. I quickly tied his shoes and walked as fast as my legs would carry me to the teacher’s room and scrubbed my hands like I was about to perform major surgery. I am a trooper... I earned my gold star for the day.

At the end of the day, as we walked outside for recess, I heard shouts of, ‘Snow, snow, snow!’ from children running up the hill beyond my view. To be clear, we did not have any snow today… or yesterday. We’ve had no snow yet and we live in an area where feet of snow are on the way. When I climbed the hill myself, this is what I saw:

I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was only frost, not actually snow… they began sliding down the hill, trying to enjoy the ‘snow’ as much as possible. It really doesn’t get more optimistic than that. Monday, Monday, yay!



As I prepare to go back to school tomorrow after not seeing my sprouts for nine days (we had some teacher only time last week) and quite a few days of resting and relaxation, I can't help but think, wow, how lucky am I to not hate going back to work. Don't get me wrong, by the time the last cherub gets on the bus tomorrow afternoon, I will most likely feel like I've been run over by a bus, but I'll have a big smile on my face after just receiving forty or fifty 'I missed you' hugs... see kindergartners have a hug for every occasion.

  • The 'I'm not going to see you for two whole days Friday afternoon' hug
  • The 'I just learned something new and oh my gosh I'm so smart' hug
  • The 'I'm not going to see you for an entire week because we have break' hug
  • The 'I just somehow cut myself and you gave me a band-aid' hug
  • The 'You just made me feel like a million bucks' hug
  • The 'You were out sick yesterday and the sub was really mean I'm so glad you're back' hug
  • The 'You're my hero and for no good reason except I love you' hug
  • The 'I haven't seen you since three o'clock yesterday afternoon' hug
  • The 'You look down and I'm not sure why because I'm five but this might help' hug
  • The 'Whatever lesson, game, or song we just did was super fun and you're an amazing teacher' hug
  • And as mentioned above, the 'Dear Lord, I missed you' hug

With a hug silo like that in each of my little friends, going to work is never a chore. When my alarm goes off super early tomorrow morning and I'm dragging myself out of bed, I'll be sure to remember those hugs. Which hugs are your favorite? Did I forget any?



One of my more colorful sprouts from last year, Sonya, is, luckily, right down the hall from me this year. I see her almost daily… she makes a point of it. A few days ago, on the way to her bus line, as I stood in my classroom door, she held up a book, like a trophy and called out to me, “Mr. A. I’m taking this Biscuit book home… I’m going to read it!”

At the end of last year, Sonya met the benchmarks, but just barely. She struggled at the beginning of first grade and then, like a flower waiting for just the right ray of sunshine to bloom, she blossomed. I know because she invited me (via her first grade teacher) to come listen to her read. It was a proud moment for both of us.

Well the morning after Sonya flashed her Biscuit book at me she appeared, as she always does like some sprite magically materializing from a puff of smoke in front of me.

“Sonya, good morning,” I whispered trying not to disturb my class’ reading and hinting to her the tone of our impending conversation.

“Hi… I stayed up all night long reading that Biscuit book,” she began. She sounded almost out of breath from her late night of reading.

“Really, all night long?” I prodded.

“Yes, almost ‘till midnight. That Biscuit book is good,” she said with a smile. She’d lost another tooth.

“I bet, those Biscuit books are cool,” I agreed.

“You should really come hear me read it,” she suggested.

“I’ll make sure I talk to your teacher about that,” I confirmed.

“OK, bye!” She exclaimed as she grabbed me for a quick hug and managed to maintain her whisper.

And just as frantically as she arrived, she was gone. I’ll be checking in with her teacher next week to set up that Biscuit date. Not all my sprouts from last year are as near my classroom this year, but I’m sure glad Sonya goes out of her way to make sure I see her flourishing. She never ceases to make my day.


Thanksgiving Wordle.

Oh how I love a good wordle to reflect.  Click it to make it bigger and read the love.



Yesterday, during our workshop day (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I became a teacher to avoid sitting in meetings all day long…), one of my old teammates from second grade was sitting in front of me. Yes, I usually sit towards the back. I find it’s less distracting to the speaker when I begin to ignore them and look around the room in a constant struggle to stay awake. Anyway, my second grade teacher friend, turned around before we officially began, and handed me this.

She knows I write about my classroom experiences, saw the book and thought of me. At first glance, I thought it was a book of cute kid stories, but as I flipped through it, I realized it was an empty journal, perfect for jotting down anecdotes during the day. As I thanked her for my gift, my mind wandered back to my days as a second grade teacher.

One of my yearly traditions (and one of the few original ideas I had), was a big Grateful Book project for Thanksgiving. Each child completed a prompt about what they were grateful for (I am grateful for the _______ that I eat, that I wear, that I play with, that I love, etc.) on a page. They then illustrated with pencil, traced the pencil with black marker, and then colored with crayons. The pictures were cut out along with the writing and glued onto brown construction paper. The whole affair was bound and laminated and became a beautiful keepsake.

What I remember most about those books was the teamwork that took place. They took an entire week to create. By the third or fourth day, some children would finish. Those who were done with their books would then help their friends will illustrating and coloring. By Friday, usually all but my special education friends were done. The entire class would rally around my sprouts who needed a little extra help to ensure their books were not only complete, but beautiful artifacts to be proud of. I would stand back and watch them all work together and realize how grateful I was to witness such camaraderie.

When I moved to kindergarten, I knew my younger students wouldn’t be able to complete such a complex project. When I spoke to Mrs. D. about it (who at the time was my neighbor, not yet my partner), she told me about her Thankful Placemat. Much like the books, but in a single prompt and turned into a placemat rather than a book, I was truly grateful to be able to continue the focus on what we have to be thankful for and allowing my sprouts to share these sentiments with their families.

As the nation prepares to give thanks (and stuff themselves silly and watch lots of football), I find myself truly grateful. My life is truly bountiful, but when it comes to my professional life, above all else, I’m grateful I get to wake up each morning and enjoy my job. Going to work each day brings me a small sense of joy and loving your job is truly a blessing.


Interview Part Two.

Here's the second set of questions... these are from a fellow dude. He's in a teacher preparation program. The questions focus on classroom management and being a male primary school teacher... I'm curious what your feedback might be. Cheers!

7. What type of behavioral management system do you use in your classroom?

I use a Responsive Classroom model for management. At the beginning of the year (the first week or so) the class comes up with a list of rules... I guide them, but they own these rules. Once the rules are set, I introduce the 'Rest Stop', 'Take a Break' seat (call it what you like - I like these because they're not super negative). When a child isn't following a rule, they're reminded of the rule and given a warning. If they continue to break the rule, they take a break in the chair. They come back when they are ready... the teacher doesn't set a time limit or instruct when to return. When the chair is introduced EVERY child in the room takes a turn going and returning so they know a) what it feels like and b) that it isn't a big deal. Other than that, I try to use LOTS of positive specific praise.

8. How did you come up with this system/technique?

After attending many Responsive Classroom trainings and reading MANY of their books. :) I can't take credit for creating this system. Using it effectively creates a positive fun learning environment where children feel safe.

9. How do you implement it?

I think I answered that one already. It's a continual work in progress. We go over the rule every day at first and then usually every Monday and perhaps more times through the week if needed. Some of it depends on the makeup of your class. Good classroom management is truly an art that takes years to perfect. Only after my fourth or fifth year of teaching did I feel like I was beginning to come close to mastering it... I'm still learning and tweaking it all the time.

10. How do you let a child know when he/she breaks the rules? What are the consequences?

Children know the rules... they helped create them and know the consequences clearly. In rare cases where a major infraction takes place, the consequences are always logical. You punch somebody - after your rest stop you need to apologize and then do something to make them feel better (draw a picture, write a note, play with them at recess, etc.). Logical consequences and apology of action (more than just saying you're sorry) help children understand a quick 'I'm sorry' doesn't cut it.

11. What types of incentives do you use?

Personally (there is a lot of debate about this...) I don't believe in incentive or reward programs. I don't give out stickers, toys, or prizes for good behavior. Respectful, responsible, and safe behavior is an expectation in my room. That's not to say we don't have celebrations, but they're usually around learning, not for behavior. That's not to say there aren't specific cases where a certain child needs a little more of an incentive. When needed, I do that one a child-by-child basis and in private so the rest of the class doesn't know about it. It's called 'everybody gets what they need' and not everyone needs a sticker for behavior.

12. How effective do you feel your behavioral system is in your classroom?

So far, very. The Responsive Classroom model is research based and in my experience, it works.

13. Have your ran into any issues with the stereotypes of male elementary teachers? If so, how did you handle it?

I haven't had many negative reactions from coworkers or parents. Most people think it's 'cute' or 'adorable' that I teach kindergarten. While the kids surely are cute and adorable, I don't think I am or the fact that I work with them is either. It's hard work... very hard work. I do wonder if parents are skeptical I will be caring or nurturing enough, but nobody has ever expressed this to me... I've been working in the same school since I began and what I've learned is... parents talk. If you're good, everybody knows and if you're bad, they know as well. I think I've earned a reputation as a caring and effective teacher - that supersedes my gender, as it should.

14. What is your opinion about hugs and telling your students that you love them?

If you don't want to be hugged, don't work with young kids. I love getting hugs, it's their way of saying 'You're special, you mean something to me, thank you for being you' - I'm not going to deny a child expressing that. I do have a rule that everyone must ask before giving a hug... including me. I also have modeled how to hug. When a child hugs me, their hands need to be above my waist... I learned that one the hard way. They don't mean anything by it, but it's a bit alarming when it happens. I've also learned (recently) there is nothing wrong with saying 'I love you' to a student. They tell me all the time. I always say, 'Thank you, I love you too' - mainly because, quite simply, I do.

15. What do you do during the first week of school?

In kindergarten, it really is like herding cats. The first few weeks we're learning how to be in school and settling into routines. I highly recommend The First Six Weeks of School - it's a Responsive Classroom book and a bible for many teachers in the summer as they gear up to go back.

16.What is your best advice for building a rapport with parents? (Parents are my biggest fear for when I become a teacher.)

Be yourself. Don't be afraid to be honest. Show them you care about their child and their learning. Try to be a partner. Communicate as often as possible. I send a daily email that has proven invaluable for parents in communicating with their child about each school day. When you have a concern or bad news to report, try to find something positive to lead with... this goes a long way. Invite them into the room to volunteer or observe. Above all else, parents just want their children to enjoy school. If they do, they'll love you as much as their children.

17. What do you think is the most effective instructional grouping method?

Whole group, small group, and one on one are all valuable for different reasons and I use them all almost equally. In kindergarten, a lot of one on one work is valuable, but obviously not always possible. I do try and do as much of it as I can squeeze in.

18. What is your opinion on tangible incentives?

I don't like them. I've given a sticker of two in my time for behavior, but I try steer away from it. When we celebrate, I prefer to do it with extra recess, a special visitor reading a book, or a pajama day. I think these events mean more to kids than a sticker or toy they're going to lose anyway.

19. How do you feel about behavioral systems such as the traffic light, colored cards, moving clips, or putting names on the chalkboard for misbehavior?

I have mixed feelings. Personally, I don't use them, but I have in the past when I had a particularly challenging class. I think if you set up your rules, routines, and consequences early and stick to your guns, you don't need those systems.

20. How do you manage children who are "spicy" and refuse to participate by saying "no" constantly? (FYI- I say spicy instead of "bad". I strongly dislike that word.)

I tell kids that participation (in my class that means singing and dancing too) is part of their learning. If I can stand up and shake my behind and sing my head off, there is no good reason they can't too. I think once you give kids permission to let go, most do. If they are really stubborn, I might pull them aside and explain my expectations again and find out if there is some other cause for them not participating (painfully shy, etc.).

That's it! All my answers. What? I didn't answer a specific question you had? Let me know!


Interview Part One.

For some reason, I receive an email, about once a week, from an education student looking to ask me questions for an assignment. Being the sucker I am, I almost always take the bait. Here is the first part of two such 'interviews'... I liked these questions and though I'd share my answers.

1. Why do people, including you, become teachers? What is probably the best reason for becoming a teacher? Should there be a “best” reason?

I can't speak for anybody else, but I became a teacher because, above all else, I love working with children. It's not easy, but the rewards are priceless. Personally, I feel if you don't love and respect children, don't be a teacher... we've got enough of those teachers already (I've met a few who don't even seem to like children). That being said, you have to love teaching. I know that sounds overly simple, but what I mean is, you have to want to push children a little further than they thought possible... find a new way for them to see things and experience the world around them. I love teaching because sitting behind a desk and computer all day long (I know, I've done it) is painfully boring. Working with kids, showing them new ways to experience their world, keeps me young and happy.

2. Have the working conditions of teaching in public and private schools changed over the past generation? If so, what are the most challenging aspects of this change?

The most challenging aspect for me is the ramp up in academics. Don't get me wrong, I realize kids are in school to learn, but the pressure is really on to have higher achieving students. People say first grade is the new second grade and kindergarten is the new first grade... it's true. When I was in school, kindergarten was all about socialization and some basic literacy and math concepts. Now, my sprouts are expected to be reading and writing at a rather high level by the end of the year. Is this a bad thing? I'm not sure. Most of them are capable and we still find time to play... yes play, it's becoming a dirty word in early elementary education, but I still say it is critical to the development of the whole child.

3. The issue of classroom management and discipline remain a challenge to teaching in America. Any ideas, secrets, or pointers regarding this situation?

Don't let them see you sweat. Seriously. Don't try to be their friend. You're their teacher, leader, captain, commander, and personal boo-boo fixer, but when you go down the path of wanting them to 'like' you, you're doomed. Please understand, I truly believe most of my students DO like me, but it's not because that's my goal... it's because I respect them and provide clear and firm boundaries. Kids crave boundaries. Provide them boundaries, stick to your word, and the admiration will flourish.

4. What do you believe are the primary benefits of being a teacher?

Well the health benefits are good... you get lots of candles and knick-knacks around the holidays. All kidding aside, there's nothing like getting, on average, twenty hugs a day. The pay isn't good and you won't always get the respect of your friends ("You teach kindergarten? Oh how cute!" - it's my job, the kids are cute, my teaching them is not), but the rewards are truly endless. When you feel like you've changed the life of a child, pointed them in the right direction, made a difference... that's it. That's what teaching is all about.

5. Is teaching in the current moment of standardized state testing and academic accountability more than teaching?

It can add a lot of pressure. The simple fact is, standardized tests are only one snapshot of a child's learning. It's a picture of a child at one time on one particular day. Who knows what might be going on in that child's life. Didn't sleep well? Parents fighting? Problems on the bus? No money for healthy food this week? Argument with your sibling? Who knows... the moment you define a child (or teacher) by a test score, you devalue them as a whole person. Use data to help your instruction, but don't let it define a child... or you.

6. If you had to do it over again, would you still be a teacher?

Absolutely. Being a teacher makes me a better person - it's that simple. I've met some amazing teachers, parents, and children.



I have a confession. On Friday, as I sat in the Rest Stop chair waiting for the last bus group to be called, I actually felt a little pang in my heart.

A few moments earlier, Mrs. D. had announced, in the guise of a number story, that we wouldn’t be seeing our sprouts for nine days. As if on cue, the hugs began. These weren’t the usual, ‘see you tomorrow’ hugs, but rather the, ‘holy cow, nine days is a long time away from you’ hugs. They were both numerous and intense. There was some major squeezing going on… you’d be surprised how tightly a little five-year-old can grasp you when they want to.

Maybe the holiday spirit has taken over me a little early… or maybe I’m finally becoming a big softy. Those little buggers have certainly worked their way into my heart. As I ponder those hugs, I’ve come to the conclusion those pangs I felt were a sign. I’m in the right profession, that’s one thing I know for sure.


Turkey laughs.

Nothing really school related here, I just find these funny and thought I'd share.


During snack time, I usually walk around the room helping open lids, rip stubborn packaging, and chatting with my sprouts about this and that. Yesterday, as I walked past Nicole’s table, I noticed her snack seemed unusual. She was eating something out of a baggie, it was small and red that almost looked like cherries, but not quite.

“Wow, Nicole, that looks healthy, are those cherries?” I asked her.

“No, they’re pomegranates,” she corrected me.

“Oh, those are yummy,” I said.

Now suffice it to say, this was an unusual snack for Nicole to bring to school. She’s never brought anything exotic before. As I walked away from her table I heard Dan question her further.

“What are pomegranates?” He wondered.

“You don’t have them…” Nicole began.

“They are from my world,” she finished.

I always thought Nicole played by her own rules, but never realized she came from an entirely different world.



There’s nothing I love more than giving a complement to a sprout and seeing the pure proud feeling on their face. In our kindergarten class, we’ve been working on manners… it’s not uncommon to hear ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘your welcome’ in the room. Hand a child a paper, and most likely, they’ll thank you. Yes, it’s rather pleasant.

The other day, we were announcing the child we’d selected as the most respectful, responsible, and safe student of the week. For the record, this is a program my school as implemented… I have mixed feelings about it, but the kids seem to love it and really look forward to the announcement.

Evelyn was chosen this week. She has really worked hard at making good choices and has emerged as a model student… truly worth recognition.

After the reveal, the class congratulated her with lots of applause and even a cheer. Finally, in an attempt to move us along and wrap up the celebration, Mrs. D. turned to Evelyn and said, “Congratulations, Evelyn.”

Evelyn, ever the polite little girl, replied, “You’re Welcome.”

Now, nobody thanked her, but she knew she was supposed to say something polite, and ‘You’re Welcome’ is one of the replies we give to be polite. I’m not sure what Miss Manners would say about her reply, but I think it was simply perfect.



Today as we walked outside for recess, David stopped me and asked if I would tie his shoe. As I knelt down to help him, he took the opportunity to bend my ear a little.

“You know what I want to be when I’m a normal man?” He asked.

“Do you mean when you’re a grown man?” I questioned.

“Oh yeah, when I’m a grown man…” He confirmed.

“What?” I wondered, not sure of his answer.

“I wanna be an author,” he said with a smile.

By this time, I’d finished tying his shoes and we joined the rest of the crew outside.

“But David, you’re already an author,” I reminded him.

He really is a wonderful writer and we call our students ‘authors’ each day during Writing Workshop. I guess it’s working.

“Yeah, I know, but I mean a real grown up author,” he answered.

“Then you will be,” I said.

I can’t wait to read his books.



At bus time today, after about fifty or sixty hugs, the following conversation took place between Luther and myself.

Me: I love being a teacher.
Luther: Yeah, cause everybody just loves you.
Me: Yeah, pretty much.



Today something big happened… I mean really huge. We completed our first sight-word list. Forty words. That’s a lot of words for mid-November in kindergarten. Last year, my class only learned forty words by the end of the school year… this year, thanks to The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers (I swear – I don’t get a cut of the sales…), our sprouts have learned that many already and we’re not done… we’ve got an entire new list of words to begin soon.

As part of our celebration, Mrs. D. and I decided to whip out the ol’ Pajama Day card. Oh yes, like a master poker playing saving his ace, the Pajama Day announcement is a sight to behold.

Picture in your head announcing to a group of kindergartners you are taking them all to Disney World. There will be candy, soda, and lots of cartoons on the plane ride there. Children will have Mickey Mouse (or their favorite character) as their personal tour guide for the visit.

That’s the reaction we got just from announcing our Pajama Day… a day where you… where your pajamas to school.

Oh how I love kindergarten.



Today, as part of our Thanksgiving study, we did a sight-word book on Native Americans. The words we were focusing on were ‘we’ and ‘have’, but one of the pages said, ‘We have papooses’ with a little picture of a cute Native American baby. Nobody knew what a papoose was so we discussed it and all practiced saying it.

As we moved to small groups to work on the book, I had each child in my group read the book. ‘We have corn,’ ‘We have arrows,’ We have friends,’ not so difficult. When each child got to the page with the baby papoose, they all barreled through the word, although nobody got it quite right. Here’s what I heard.


Just about everything, but ‘papooses’. Nobody laughed or giggled. Each sprout made a concerted effort and a few genuine looks of straining were observed. Apparently ‘papoose’ is not in the average kindergarteners vernacular. Sometimes even with pre-teaching, teaching, and review, a word (or concept) is just too difficult to grasp. All together now… ‘papoose’!


Run, Turkey, Run!

OK, I almost never review children's books, but I found one that many may not have heard of, and the amount of sheer joy (something we can all use an extra dose of) it is bringing to my classroom needs to be shared. Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr with illustrations by Laura Rader has got to me my all time favorite (non-historical, that goes to Tapenum's Day) Thanksgiving read aloud. This simple story about a turkey trying to evade becoming the main course on thanksgiving has brought more giggles and laughter to my class than any other book in recent memory.

We've actually read it every day since it was first brought out about a week ago. Every single day. The text is predictable, and the children get to read (or shout, it's up to you) 'Run, Turkey, Run!' ever couple of pages. Every time they urge the poor bird on in unison, all I can hear in my head is Jenny from the Forest Gump movie shouting, "Run, Forest, Run!" in that deep southern drawl. It's awesome!

Our hero, the turkey, has many tricks up his sleeve to outwit the farmer, and the illustrations match the text for laughs. When turkey decides to hide in the duck pond he's outfitted in full scuba gear. Hi-la-ri-ous. Really, you will be smiling and laughing right along with your sprouts... trust me.

If you've never read Run, Turkey, Run! do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. Your class will thank you for it. Otherwise, it might just be grilled cheese sandwiches for you and your family on Thanksgiving too!


Mrs. Hashbrown

So far this year, between Mrs. D. and myself, we’ve only been out a total of three days (for various reasons). As luck would have it, we were able to secure the same substitute all three times. She is, I’ll call her Mrs. Hashbrown, well known in our school for her subbing prowess. I was lucky enough to work with her one of those days and she is, quite simply, a peach.

Well yesterday, Mrs. Hashbrown was in for another kindergarten teacher. I knew this and had seen her a few times in the hallway and at lunch. My sprouts did not know this and at the end of the day, when we were outside playing and enjoying the unusually warm sunshine for mid-November, Mrs. Hashbrown emerged from the school like a butterfly from it’s cocoon.

You would think either Lady Gaga, the Pope, or the Dalai Lama (take your pick) had arrived. As word of Mrs. Hashbrown’s attendance spread over the playground, she was, quite literally, swarmed by kindergartners. She was at one point almost totally enveloped in hugs… not that she was complaining.

When one of my friends ran up to me to report, “Mrs. Hashbrown, Mrs. Hashbrown is… HERE!” what else could I do? I ran up to her and embraced her too. There’s not much more I love than a fantastic substitute teacher and a good bear hug.



Each morning, our morning message is a predictable text that children help build (the words are on cards) and then read to the class. They love being a part of the message and when a child hears their name read, their little face just lights up. Today at bus time, Ricky told me how he thought the message should read. (I've provided the correct words in parenthesis for you.)

Good Ricky (Morning),

Ricky is first.
Ricky is last.
Ricky is calendar helper.

Today is Ricky (day of week).
We have Ricky (special for that day).


He thought this was the funniest thing he’d ever said or heard and I had to agree it was rather hilarious. I told him I didn’t think the rest of the class would approve of such a message, but I appreciated his creativity and humor. He asked for a hug… then ‘more hugs’ and I, like the good civil servant I am, obliged.



Yesterday afternoon and evening, we had the first half of our parent conferences. Whoever thought teaching all day long and then staying into the evening to meet with parents was a good idea has never spent much time with a group of kindergartners… just sayin’.

As the early evening approached, a parent arrived for her conference. As she walked in, she had one of those little cardboard coffee carriers you get when you buy more than one coffee… low and behold she had stopped to buy herself a pick me up and brought both Mrs. D. and me one too.

“I just figured you both might like one too,” she explained.

A small simple gesture just made my night. Not only did she really help us get through the evening, but she cemented my philosophy that teaching is a collaborative effort… parent and teachers have to work together and sometimes a little coffee goes a long way.



One of the big Thanksgiving projects we do is making a placemat to bring home. The children color a turkey picture, write about what they are thankful for, and do some patterning on the placemat. It takes several days to complete and then the final product is laminated. It’s quite impressive when complete and it’s a nice keepsake.

One afternoon, while working on the turkey color by number page, Michael raised his hand and I walked over.

“I’m done with my chicken,” he said.

I looked at him with my head cocked to one side. My dog sometimes looks at me this way when he’s confused.

“Chicken?” I replied back to him.

No reply.

“Don’t you mean turkey?” I suggested.

He started laughing, I started laughing, and finally the laughter overtook his entire table.

Of the many, many things I’m thankful for this year, laughing with my sprouts it right near the top of the list.