Horseman Four.

Like many of you, I grew up with The Peanuts. I'm going to go out on a limb here and confess that I slept with a Snoopy stuffed animal until about the fifth grade. After that, he systematically moved from my nightstand to my dresser and finally a shelf... point is, he never left my room. My brother and I always relished the television specials relegated for each holiday.

While my all time favorite is A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (really, the scene where Snoopy dances and then fights with the chair still has me in stitches), a close second for me is It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I know these are now out on DVD, but there is something magical about catching them on the TV when they're actually aired. Well, last week, in anticipation of the special, I saw this:

I realize it's 2010, but Charlie Brown rapping? Really? Quite simply, I consider this one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse... because I like to name things, we'll call it Horseman Four. You've been warned. Happy Halloween!


Halloween Sharing.

Yesterday, during our Morning Meeting, the sharing was almost exclusively about Halloween. This was fully expected. We heard about everyone’s costumes, a few plans for Halloween parties, and even some of the members of trick-or-treating groups. With a holiday like Halloween, this is anticipated. What’s also expected are a few totally random, and quite unexplainable sharing moments.

About two-thirds around the circle, after every single sprout had shared at least their costume, one little boy shared, “I’m really excited for Christmas Eve!”

Really? O.K.

Finally, as the sharing was almost complete, and again, almost every child shared something about Halloween, a little girl shared, “I love… something!”

Sure you do.

Ah, I suppose, as Sally says in the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, it really is time for ‘tricks or treats’… in kindergarten we always get a little of both.


3 words.

Working with Mrs. D. this year I’ve already learned many things… of all the gifts she’s given me, there's one that rises to the top.

Last year, when I began teaching kindergarten, something happened to me for the first time in my professional career. Students began saying, ‘I love you’ – something most teachers don’t hear unless you work with the real itty bitty ones. Unsure how to reply, I usually said something like ‘Thank you, you’re special to me too’ or ‘You are so kind to say that’… typical guy reply, right?

In all honesty, I just wasn’t sure it was appropriate for me to say it back. To be clear, I do love my students… almost all of them, almost all the time. They bring light and joy into my life on a daily basis and I realize they teach me just as much as I teach them. I just didn’t know if those three little words were supposed to be used in the classroom.

Turns out, I was wrong... dead wrong. The first time I heard Mrs. D. say ‘Thank you, I love you too’ back to a child was a turning point for me. Hearing her say those three small words back to a child was liberating. From that moment, I began saying it back.

So to all my sprouts from last year that I denied this gift, here it is, in writing: I love you.



Yesterday my school held the (cue scary music) flu clinic. About half my class was signed up to receive their shot at school and in solidarity, I decided to get my own flu shot with the kids. I planned a big speech about my ‘magic secret’ to ensure the shot doesn’t hurt… look away!

Well, as luck would have it, the clinic was running a little behind and our time to go as a group came and went. As we walked to lunch, I found out we’d be summoned in the afternoon.

As I finished my lunch, I was notified my class had gone to get their shots during lunch to save time… without me! Wait, I needed to run down and get mine first, show them how easy it was, and tell them, by all means, look away!

As I bolted into the gym, I realized I was too late. My entire group had already come and gone… they were currently being held for fifteen minutes to make sure nobody had an adverse reaction to the shot. I filled out my form, sat down, looked away, and got my own shot. The nice nurse even gave me a cute band-aid and sticker for my bravery. A sticker really does make everything a little better.

As I sauntered into the waiting room to greet my friends and share my band-aid and sticker, I announced, “Look, I got my shot, it didn’t even hurt!”

“You all were so brave and it didn’t hurt at all did it?” I asked as I pulled my sleeve down from showing my war wound.

“Nooooooo!” They all exclaimed in unison.

“We got the nose spray instead,” one sprout informed me.

As I soon found out, they were all given the choice of a nasal spray or shot and being the wise, shot-adverse five-year-olds they are, elected the spray over a needle in the arm.

Wow, I never felt like such a sucker.



The uniform of a kindergarten teacher is a curious thing. As a teacher, I want to command respect and wear clothes that show my reverence for my students and job. On the other hand, as a kindergarten teacher, I’m moving, dancing, stretching, kneeling (a lot!), running, bending, and sitting in all manner of ways.

Much of my day is spent on the floor. The floor of a kindergarten classroom is not a sanitary place. Glitter, glue, paper scraps, and God knows what else falls to the floor each day before our saintly custodian fastidiously cleans it each evening.

With so much movement and potential stain inducing elements, what’s a guy to do?

There is no formal dress code at my school, but the basic unwritten rule is no jeans except for Fridays. I’m not sure what is different about my teaching on Fridays that allows for jeans on that day only, but I take it for what it is and relish my chance to wear comfortable pants one day a week.

The other day, I was working with a small group of sprouts on letter identification. We each had a small white board and dry erase marker. I was writing and erasing, calling out letters, modeling handwriting, and watching my friends work closely. As often happens in a small group setting, I was not stationary for long. In my moving here and there to get a good look, work hand over hand, and give everyone the attention they needed, my purple (why oh why did I use purple?) dry erase marker swiped against my thigh.

As I looked down at the offending mark on my khaki pants (alas, it wasn’t a Friday), my first thought was, ‘Ah, who cares? It’ll wash out.’

Little did I know, dry erase marker does not wash out of khaki pants. I even bought some supposedly magic stain removing concoction. Nothing worked. I actually washed my pants three times in one day, something I’ve never done before in my life. The stain faded only slightly, but it’s still there, clear as day.

Those khaki pants were not cheap. You don’t throw away khaki pants due to a purple dry erase stain when you earn a kindergarten teacher’s salary. It’s no Purple Heart, but when I wear those pants now and glance down at the blemish, I look at it as my own medal for the work I do each day.



Oh, Halloween week in kindergarten. The excitement of the impending tricks and treats is palpable. We’ve been hearing a lot, I mean a LOT, about costume ideas, costume purchases, and costume quandaries. An avid lover of all things candy, I also adore Halloween. If we can harness the enthusiasm and channel it into some literacy and math activities, more power to us.

Today we read a shared poem about Halloween. In the poem, a different scary Halloween creature (spiders, pumpkins, monsters, etc.) goes flying through the air. Each time we read the poem, the creature changes and a different sprout comes up to ‘fly’ the critter in the air.

To enable the creature to ‘fly,’ Mrs. D. has a tiny kindergarten sized finger puppet for each character. I know, when she first told me about this lesson, I thought, ‘finger puppets’? They didn’t seem too thrilling to me, but wouldn’t you know it (Mrs. D. always knows…) to come up in front of the class, put a tiny plastic finger puppet on and wave it around to make it ‘fly’… you would think these kids had won the lottery.

Well as Mrs. D. pulled out the pumpkin, she commented, ‘Oh, it’s a bloody pumpkin.”

Indeed, the little tiny pumpkin man had some fake blood on him… nothing too gory or scary, but bloody just the same.

After the bloody pumpkin, she pulled out a little mummy. Oh yes, it was indeed a bloody mummy. When she held it up, I asked, “Oh, a bloody mummy?”

Without missing a beat, Audra fired out, “Well, it is Halloween.”

For the record, a former student had simply attacked the mummy with a red marker... hence the 'blood'.

Oh yes, it is almost Halloween. Bring on the bloody mummies!



Ok - I know, waiting for Superman is all the rage today. Just for the record, today I had not ONLY Superman, but also Spiderman in my classroom. Yes, I had a boy wearing a t-shirt with a big ol' S on it AND another with Spidey. So, stop waiting for a hero and come on down to my kindergarten class. We've got heroes to spare.


One of our sprouts jobs when they arrive each morning is to move a magnet with their name on it. This serves a dual purpose. First, it quickly shows us who is present. Second, it lets us know who is having a school lunch and who brought their lunch from home… this is critical information for the cafeteria. When you’re making popcorn chicken, you’ve got to know how much to pop.

But I digress. Another job that has surfaced is moving all the names back to the ‘At Home’ side at bus time. For some reason, the kids all really want to do this rather mundane task. Ah to be a five-year-old and relish the monotonous.

Usually, whoever asks first at bus time get the honor of moving the names. If the same few children keep asking first, we try and mix it up and let others have their turn.

This morning, as he walked in the door, before removing his coat, saying ‘Hello’ or offering a smile, Luther planted his feet inside the classroom door and shouted, “Can I move the names today?”

Now that’s foresight.



When I did my education coursework many years ago (ugh, it wasn’t that long ago…) one of the buzz terms flung about was ‘Multiple Intelligences’ more easily understood as learning styles – apparently every person has multiple ways of accessing their education. Some children prefer to see everything, others need to hear it, still others need to use their hands, etc. You can go a little deeper and say some sprouts prefer a logical/mathematical or musical approach to learning.

To make matters more confusing, most people don’t prefer one style, but rather a spattering of one or the other or some combination of all of them. With so many approaches to learning, how is a teacher to reach all his students successfully?

Now I adore being a kindergarten teacher… I think that’s rather clear. I don’t mean to suggest teachers of other grade levels are lacking in any way, shape, or form, but what I’ve found is that in kindergarten, we hit upon every learning style in almost every lesson just about everyday. It’s just the nature of dealing with five-year-olds.
  • Linguistic intelligence ("word smart") – You can’t begin to think about words until you’ve mastered letters and sounds… something we do almost every second in kindergarten. Using The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers, my sprouts have already mastered almost every sound and most of them can read about eighteen sight-words. It’s only the end of October – this is revolutionary word work we’re doing here people.
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart") – It all begins with numbers and counting. We count the numbers of days in school starting on day one. The number increases by one each day, moving us forward at a developmentally appropriate pace. We also sing about writing numbers to help us remember the strokes involved, but we’re not talking about music… yet.
  • Spatial intelligence ("picture smart") – A picture really is worth a thousand words. Kindergartners know this better than anyone. Before we’re ready for letters and words, we’re writing complicated stories using nothing but pictures. Staying in the lines is encouraged, but not imperative. Scribbling (i.e. rushing) often turns into careful crayon control as the year progresses.
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart") – When you deal with five-year-olds all day long, you learn they don’t sit still for long. We have a motor break, on average, every ten minutes or so. Sometimes we sing, sometimes we dance, and sometimes we move from our tables to the floor or from the floor to the tables. Sometimes we take an extra long way to the cafeteria. Whatever we do, you can bet we’re not sitting still for long.
  • Musical intelligence ("music smart") – Sing, sing, SING! We sing and dance all day long. I’ve never actually counted the number of songs we sing and move to on any given day, but my guess would be the total would be somewhere around fifteen. Yes, we could record (a rather long) album of tunes in a single kindergarten day. We don’t all sing in tune, but we ALL sing. We all don’t have amazing rhythm, but we ALL dance. Quite simply, in kindergarten, we love music.
  • Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart") – Have you ever watched a group of children navigate the tricky trail of playing with LEGO pieces? When there are only a few treasured wheels in the set, sharing and negotiation skills are developed quickly. Ditto for the dollhouse and the playground.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart") – There is no more explicit instruction on the identification and understanding of feelings than in kindergarten. We read, write, and talk about our feelings daily.
  • Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart") – We go outside at least twice a day (many times more). 'Nature Walks' are standard fare. We use nature to discover symmetry and learn about life cycles.
I’ve only touched on how we hit upon each intelligence in kindergarten here. The examples are numerous and ongoing. The simple fact is, kindergartners are an open book. They are, by nature, divergent thinkers. A kindergarten teacher incorporates all of these styles daily, often many times each day. The energy and spirit of my sprouts demand it and, thankfully, it helps keep me vigorous and young.



When non-kindergarten teachers enter my classroom for the first time, one of the first things they notice and comment on are the chairs. Kindergarten chairs are small. Some of them are downright tiny. If you’ve ever seen a four-year-old you’d know why. They don’t take up much room and to sit comfortably, their chairs need to be sized down.

In our classroom, we’ve got a mix of chairs, from ones that look small enough for a doll to larger ones that would comfortably sit a second or third grader. When I’m not kneeling next to a sprout helping her streeeeeeetch out a word, I pop a squat in one of the many sized chairs in the classroom. Am I comfortable? Absolutely not, but changing lives isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t always cozy.

Being the small spheres of compact energy they are, many sprouts have trouble sitting for more than about four seconds. I’ve seen children find a way to ‘sit’ in their chairs in just about every way possible except the proper one.

I used to resort to endless reminders… ‘four on the floor’ (referring to the four legs of the chair), ‘bottom to bottom and back to back’ (bottom of the chair to child’s bottom and back of the chair to child’s back), and the ever witty, ‘please sit properly!’ said with a smile hoping to mask my frustration.

I’ve given up on all of these… now I just walk over to the squirmy sprout and whisper, ‘Stand up, push your chair in, and work.’ I usually get a look of astonishment. Yes, Virginia, you do not have to sit in our classroom. You can stand up, push your chair in, and wiggle and bop till your heart’s content. As long as you’re safe, I don’t care.

So the next time you start twitching and itching in your chair (am I the only one this happens to?), remember how tiny the chairs are in my classroom and be thankful your chair is at least large enough to hold you… then stand up, push your chair in and dance… but keep working and, by all means, stay safe!



Today was the first real chilly day of the year. As we headed out for recess this afternoon, I actually had my winter hat on. The kids have all been practicing zipping their coats and I still get a thrill when I demonstrate for a sprout how to zip and they do it for the first time successfully. It’s awesome.

This afternoon, as I was standing outside watching the kids run and play, my buddy David ran up to me with an enormous grin.

“Hey, Mr. A. do you wanna see me break-dance?” He asked.

Break-dance? Do kids even know what that is anymore? Apparently yes.

“Sure, I’d love to see that,” I replied as I walked a little closer intrigued.

As I approached him, he said, “I might need a little help… can you give me a beat?”

Thinking this was absolutely normal, I busted out a beat-box with my mouth. As I made noises resembling a beat, true to his word, David got down on the ground and did some pretty slick moves. A few other kids came over and started clapping and bopping up and down. We must of looked rather foolish, but I prefer to think we looked hip.

There’s nothing like a little collaboration to help warm you up on a blustery afternoon.



This afternoon, one of my sprout’s fathers picked her up. As luck would have it, I hadn’t met him before. Bus time is busy and we didn’t have time for a lengthy conversation.

“Are you her teacher?” he asked me.

“Yes, I am,” I replied.

“Ah, thank you for your hard work. Good night sir,” he said as he walked off holding his daughter’s hand.

Sir? Excuse me? At what point did I become a sir? In all my years of teaching, I’ve never been referred to as a sir. To be clear, I don’t think I’m any older than this parent. I’ve always associated ‘sir’ with a wiser more seasoned person… It’s definitely a term of respect and I suppose this dad was just offering his admiration in that small moment we shared together.

I suppose I am a sir and I guess, in my role, I’m all right with that.



This week we’ve been studying community helpers. We’ve had a few visitors and read many books, but today, the local firefighters came to talk to us about fire safety. Whoa. Firefighters are way, way cool and this was a huge deal.

First, let me say, three out of the four firefighters were women. I loved that. We’ve been talking a lot about the gender stereotypes in many professions and really trying to hit home the idea that anyone can do anything, so seeing these three phenomenal women in the flesh talking about their jobs was amazing.

Now let me be perfectly clear. Firefighters are brave, courageous people. They risk their very lives to help others. I have the utmost respect and reverence for them and the job they perform. After their presentation on fire safety (they covered all the basics: stop drop and roll, practicing an exit strategy at home, having a meeting place outside your home, not hiding from the firefighters, etc.) they made a grave mistake. They asked a group of kindergarteners (over thirty sprouts), “Does anyone have any questions?”

Gulp. Yikes.

We reminded the group that a question is an asking sentence… it’s something you want the answer to.

“What if there are no windows in your house?”

“What if your meeting place is on fire too?”

“What if my phone is on fire?”

“What if your smoke detector doesn’t wake you up?”

“We don’t have fire at my house.”

“How do you know if you should jump out your window?”

“Why is the fire so hot?”

“What if you’re in the bath when there’s a fire?”

I have to give the firefighters credit. They didn’t giggle or laugh and really did their best to give answers to some really ridiculous questions. I wasn’t as admiral. I laughed at least once… I just couldn’t help it. Those firefighters have one of the hardest jobs in the world. They face dangers we can’t ever fathom. I think they might think twice before asking a group of five-year-olds “Does anyone have any questions?”



The first few days of school, we had an unwelcome class pet in our room. A small innocent fly was buzzing around the class distracting the new sprouts as well as the teachers. It would land on children causing a frenzy of smacks and whacks in attempt to destroy it. It would land on my head and I would try (unsuccessfully) to ignore it crawling on my hair.

In a meager attempt to cease the constant distraction of the fly, I christened it the ‘learning bug’ and said it was just in kindergarten to learn. Well like a fly on flypaper, the name stuck. From then on, whenever an intruder entered the class, you were sure to hear ‘look, a learning bug!’ from the mouths of any sprouts who could see it.

As the cool autumn days have begun creeping up on us, the flies seemed to disappear… until today. During a lesson, with all the children on the carpet, I spotted an interloper. I tried to ignore it, but the kids all saw it and began swatting at the ‘learning bug’.

After dismissing the class to their tables for an activity, I saw Jenna approach me with quite a sad face.

“What’s wrong Jenna?” I asked.

“Somebody murdered the learning bug,” she whimpered.

“Oh no! That wasn’t very kind. Well, hopefully he was done learning,” I offered. I really wasn’t sure how to reply.

Farewell sweet learning bug, here’s hoping you’re in a better place and don’t come back until next year.


This is pretty amazing... what do you think about it?



Oh the conversations we have at bus time. Usually it’s a pleasant opportunity for Mrs. D. and I to learn more about our students, but today, they learned a little more about us.

“How about I call you Mrs. A. and you Mr. D.?” Suggested Penny.

She thought this switch in the gender of our titles was quite clever.

“Well, Mr. D. is my husband,” Mrs. D. replied.

“Mrs. A. is my mom,” I replied.

“You have a mom?” Evelyn asked, sincerely shocked.

“Of course I have a mom, where do you think I came from?” I asked.

All the sprouts in line looked at me. They looked at Mrs. D. They’d never thought about this before… did teachers have parents?

“I have a mom and dad,” Ricky chimed in.

“We all do,” Mrs. D. added.

With that, the bus line was called and off they went... with their teachers a little more human then when they arrived.



Apparently, being a male kindergarten teacher is a bit of an anomaly. I know, I know… men don’t usually work with the little ones. In my school, I’m the only man in kindergarten. There are no males in first or second grade either. You have to reach the realms of third grade before getting a teacher with a little testosterone. One of the unique aspects of working with young children is, by default, I work almost exclusively with women.

One of the questions I get asked most is, just how is it working with only ladies all day long? To be fair, before I began teaming with Mrs. D. this year, I really worked with myself all day long. Teaching, no matter your gender, is a profession usually void of a lot of adult contact… something I’m fine with.

As for the rest of the ladies I’m surrounded by, I’d say for the most part, they are respectful and supportive. There are always those that appear to be less than friendly and helpful, but I don’t think being a man has anything to do with it… they don’t discriminate in their impoliteness. I’m lucky to have a small group of friends who have literally lifted me up at times. I try and remember to tell them all how wonderful they are, but I’m sure I don’t do it enough.

The teacher’s room can be a dangerous place for a man at lunchtime. I’ve heard and learned more about pregnancy and birth than I ever cared to know. I’ve seen more ultra-sound photographs than an ultrasonographer (for the record, no I can’t see the baby, they all like a cross between a peanut and a squirrel to me).

I’ve been to enough wedding and baby showers to make a small dent in my bank account. Apparently you are not supposed to dig into the food until the guest of honor arrives, something I learned the hard way. The good news is there’s almost always cake and enough frosting can make almost anything bearable… even the sight of twenty women ‘oooohing’ and ‘aaaaahing’ over tiny baby clothes.

Being a rooster among hens isn’t as glorious as it sounds. Thankfully, most of the ladies I’m surrounded by help make my job easier (Mrs. D., Ms. R., Miss M., Mrs. F. – you all make coming to work a joy). And let’s not forget the kids. The little smiles and hugs can sometimes literally propel me through a bad day. When a small sprout looks up at me and says, “I love school and I love you!” it puts it all into perspective.


“I can’t wait to tell your mom how smart you are at your conference Andy,” I said after Andy read his writing to me.

I meant it too. Andy is what I like to call an ‘exposure sprout’ – meaning when he started kindergarten, he feel into the basket of students who knew very little. No letters, no numbers, no name recognition, and no handwriting skills… you get the idea.

Unlike some of his counterparts though, Andy has taken off. And not like an airplane, but more like a rocket. For whatever reason, he’d simply never been exposed to the information in a way that allowed him to access and retain it. Within days he knew his name. A few days later, he could write it. Now he knows almost all the sounds and is writing words and sentences that are easily read.

I’d like to take all the credit. I suppose Mrs. D. deserves some too. The reality is Andy deserves most of the recognition. From the first day, he’s worn a smile and shown a genuine enthusiasm for learning. He’s become a learning junkie. Each morning he arrives awaiting his knowledge fix.

I meant what I told Andy about expressing my joy at his progress to his mother in a few weeks at his conference. I don’t know her very well, but I’m sure she’s going to be as ecstatic at his growth as I am. It just took a little exposure.


Please stand by...

With all the changes to the blog lately, I've been in a little bit of a funk with the 'feed' - I'm not exactly sure what the feed is, how it works, or how to change it, but after finally figuring out how to point it to the new blog address, I think I may have dropped all the subscribers (sorry!). The NEW feed is UP and working, so please feel free to resubscribe and enjoy the new feed. Thanks again for everyone's support and patience.


A few days ago, at bus time, I had walked over to my computer to put my keys down from recess and saw an email that annoyed me. Without going into details, I wasn’t happy. As I walked over to the last group of kids lined up to head home, I let Mrs. D. know how angry I was.

To be clear, I didn’t use any profanity. I didn’t use any names. I didn't raise my voice. She knew who sent the email and what the issue was. I was venting quietly and she, like the good friend she is, was listening.

Well, Audra, one of our brighter little sprouts, overheard me.

“Mr. A., are you and Mrs. D. having a fight?” She asked with sincere concern in her voice.

“Oh no, not at all. Mrs. D. and I don’t fight. We may not always agree, but we respect each other and always talk to each other in a kind way,” I told her.

“What are you so upset about?” She inquired.

“Just some grown up stuff, but nothing to do with Mrs. D.,” I reassured her.

Sometimes I forget that in addition to teaching our class how to read and write, Mrs. D. and I are modeling a caring and respectful relationship between a man and a woman, something new to some children. Although we don’t live together (yes, we’ve been asked), we’re friends and friends are kind… always.



Yesterday, during a lesson, Lenny raised his hand. He didn’t shout out and so, even though I wasn't looking for an answer, I called on him.

“Lenny, do you have a question?” I asked.

“Yesterday, I went to the doctor and got TWO shots,” he began.

Clearly he didn’t have a question, but he was also speaking quickly, on a roll, and had a sweet smirk, like the punch line to a joke was coming.

“BUT, even though I got two shots, I got THREE stickers!” He finished.

I glanced over at Mrs. D. and she smiled at me. The ball was in my court.

“Well, that’s a pretty good ratio,” I replied.

Lenny smiled and we continued with our lesson.


Teachers have rough moments. Occasionally an entire day is rough. A whole week? Unheard of. I’ve been out of sorts lately, and I have four people at school to thank for the therapy.

Without going into details or giving away their identities (there’s always one person looking to steal your joy), let’s just call them Ms. A., Ms. B., Ms. C., and Mrs. D. Between cute emails with photos of puppies (sometimes a cute puppy photo really can cheer you up), to a homemade apple pie made by Mrs. D’s husband (I’ve yet to spend any quality time with him, but I already know we’re going to be good buds), to a sweet voicemail, and even major candy therapy, my web of support at school came out in FULL force this week. I work with some amazingly caring, loving ladies and for that, I'm truly grateful.

I’ve also received many emails of support from readers like you and for that, I sincerely each and every one of you. We teachers are in this business for one simple reason – we love kids and want to make their lives better. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way, but we can’t let those folks ever, EVER let us forget why we’re here… for the kids… and many times, for each other.

Allright - enough! We will now resume our regularly scheduled Happy Rainbow programming!



I've had a rough few days. Without going into the details, things at work have been stressful. My students, ever the caring loving souls they are, just seemed to know when I needed a hug or smile.

Today, as I walked the last bus group out to line up, one little girl said, "Mr. A., it's a long weekend - you must need extra hugs to get you through until next week."

I did and when she gave me them, the other sprouts came over and joined in. It was pretty freakin' awesome. It really is all about the kids.



Yesterday I wrote about our adjective lesson with pumpkins. One of the sprouts I visited to help with his descriptive word was Billy. As I squatted down next to Billy’s seat, I glanced at his pumpkin… it was a big ol’ mess of a scribbles, so I wasn’t quite sure how he was going to describe his pumpkin.

“Billy, what adjective do you want to write for your pumpkin?” I asked.

He looked at the picture and then back at me.

“Scary,” he replied.

I couldn’t agree more.

“All right, ‘scary’ – What sound do you hear at the beginning?” I prodded.

“/S/, /S/, ‘Snake,’” he said as he wrote the letter S. We’ve been chanting the sounds every day (sometimes more than once) and most children can identify a sound and write the corresponding letter without naming it – amazing.

We continued with each sound in ‘scary’ until the final one.

“Scar-EE,” I said, emphasizing the last sound.

“What sound do you hear?” I asked, fully expecting Billy to write the letter E.

He wrote a Y.

“Wow, you know it actually is a Y, but in this word it makes the /E/ sound, how did you know that?” I wondered.

“It’s just like the Y at the end of my name,” Billy replied as if it were as plain as the nose on my face.

I got chills when he said that. I called Mrs. D. over and had him explain it to him. I then looked up at her and said, “Genius.” She nodded in aggrement.



Today we introduced adjectives and as a way to practice the skill, we colored plain white paper pumpkins and then wrote a describing word for each pumpkin. As I walked around, helping each sprout sound out their describing word, I was amazed at the letter sounds I was hearing after only twenty-one days of school.

Last spring, my principal sent out an email stating he had a new book called The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers: A Quick and Easy Approach to Helping All Students Succeed and wondered if anyone wanted to borrow it. Being the nerd I am, I thought, why not. I got the book, put it in my bag and there it sat… for weeks. One rainy Sunday afternoon, I pulled it out and read the entire book. Based on research, it has some ‘out there’ concepts about how children learn to read, but I thought it sounded promising. I wondered what Mrs. D. would think about it.

Without telling her my thoughts, I gave her the book and asked her to read it and share her thoughts. She agreed, the book’s approach was different, but also seemed revolutionary. We prepped the materials and began the program after the first few weeks of school.

Basically, the book proposes that letter naming (a big deal in kindergarten) has absolutely zero to do with a child’s ability to read. This was a major shift for Mrs. D. and I as letter naming has always been integral to kindergarten success. We’ve always been told, a child’s letter naming ability directly correlates to their ability to read. The book explains, when you look at a word, your brain decodes the sounds only, and the names of the letters are irrelevant. A system for teaching letter sounds only is laid out step by step in the book.

Well today, as I walked around helping children with sounds, I was amazed at the number of sounds even some of the our lowest sprouts had. The program is not only working, it’s wildly successful. We are truly empowering children to feel successful, even so early in the year. We always tell our students to take risks, but how often do we heed our own advice? This is one risk I’m thankful we took.



Every time I turn on the television news lately I’m alerted to the sad state of American public education. Apparently, teachers, administrators, and everyone down to the cafeteria staff are in the middle of the crisis of our lifetime. Supposedly we’re all waiting for Superman to come save our education system. There’s only one problem. He’s already here.

Not just superman, but Spiderman, Batman, and certainly, Wonder Woman are in classrooms making a difference in the lives of children one lesson and smile at a time. They realize there are obstacles to overcome, but each morning they arrive with the optimism of Pollyanna, hoping, knowing they will make an impact and become someone’s hero.

No doubt there are a few Lex Luthors, Jokers, and Green Goblins lurking about, but in my humble (and I hope not too naïve) opinion, even they want what’s best for the students in their classes… they’ve just lost their way, lost sight of the excitement and energy that brought them to education in the first place.

As I watch politicians, businessmen, and even evening news anchors try to solve the ‘crisis’ in the American education system, I can’t help but wonder where are the teachers? Who asks us for guidance and opinions? From what I gather, the solution might just be money. It appears the more money you throw at a problem, the easier it is to solve. Problem is, with the cool crisp air of autumn, the money tree seems to have lost most of it’s leaves.

As we wait (and wait…) for Superman, let’s not forget, even if he decides to show up, Lex Luthor always managed to find a shard of kryptonite to foil his plans. As we see the focus on test scores increase it appears the system is falling harder and faster than ever. We need to remember a huge part of our jobs as educators (and parents, and friends…) is to instill a love of learning in our sprouts. We need to show them the value of eye contact and a firm handshake is just as important as a high score on an assessment. Perhaps the answer to our children’s future isn’t going to be found in a bubble filled in with a number two pencil, but in the smile of a hero.



Have you ever had a sprout do something wrong, but the execution was so flawless you had a hard time holding them accountable? Recently during Writing Workshop, Martin gave the performance of a lifetime.

During our Writing Workshop, we’ve been talking about how good writers write about what they know. In order to focus on the details of the story, we’re looking at ‘small moments’ in our lives and expanding on all the information we can remember. Most children are doing an excellent job, but a few are having a hard time with the ‘real’ part.

Yesterday, when I knelt down to conference with Martin, I saw lots of detail and action in his picture. He’s really been doing well with staying on task during work time and I wanted to hear about his story and offer him a plethora of praise.

“Martin, wow, look at all the detail, can you tell me about your story?” I began.

As he pointed to his paper, he told me his adventure.

“One day I was outside in my backyard climbing a tree… when I got to the top part of the tree I saw a chipmunk,” he said.

So far, so good. All fairly plausible.

“When I got close to the chipmunk, it got scared and farted on me,” he finished.

Realizing Martin had reached the fantasy portion of his story, I tried to have him explain it a little further to see where he had veered off the path of telling a true story.

“So how did you know the chipmunk farted?” I inquired.

“I heard it,” he retorted. Touché.

“Oh and I smelled it… see these lines coming out of the chipmunk’s butt, those are the stink lines,” he finished as he pointed out the offending lines.

With that, I nodded my head and stood up. I was simply speechless… something that doesn’t happen often.



Kindergarteners are like sponges. They really do soak up knowledge and experiences like little critters starving for a drink. As my experience with this age group expands, I’m realizing the absorbency of each sprout isn’t the same. Some of them come in with their sponges already saturated and others come in with theirs bone dry.

Nelson is one such friend. Like a newly opened sponge dehydrated of all moisture, this sweet little boy came to us with nary a clue. I swear I wonder sometimes how some of these little guys get through the first five years of life with nobody exposing them to learning, but there are always a few that appear to have been raised in a cave with no letters, words, pencils, paper, or books.

The first few days of school, it became clear Nelson didn’t know how to write his name. He didn’t recognize his name. He didn’t know any letters or even the ABC song. Math wasn’t much better. He couldn’t count past two. Two. The poor kid was five and couldn’t count up to his own age.

What happened after those first few days, when we settled into the routines of school and began learning was nothing short of a miracle. Nelson’s sponge began taking in water like a cactus longingly awaiting rain. Slowly, but surely, he began learning to write his name, recognize his name, and count.

One afternoon, while playing count around the circle – a simple game where we count to a specified number and the sprout who says the target number sits until there’s only one child standing – I literally saw Nelson learn to count.

We start with low numbers so those who can’t count can learn the pattern quickly and this day our target number was nine. The first few times around the circle, each time it was Nelson’s turn to shout out his number, he looked at me, clueless and scared, and I’d whisper the number to him. After a few minutes, though, he began catching on. He was determined in his study, soaking up the numbers.

At bus time, I asked him to count for me, and right on cue, with a huge beaming smile he counted for me.

“One, two, free, four, five, six, seven, eight,… nine!” He shouted the last number.

He couldn’t go any higher then we’d practiced, but wow, he did it and will only learn to count higher. Watching that light bulb go off and the accompanying smile is what makes me feel like I’ve earned my paycheck. Nelson’s hug when he walked out of the room counting aloud was my bonus.