Over our winter holiday vacation, something happened. I stopped drinking coffee. It wasn’t really conscious, I just was sleeping in, napping, relaxing, and coffee wasn’t a necessary vice. Without the caffeine, I was sleeping better too.

When school started back, I thought, ‘Hmmm, maybe I don’t need coffee. Maybe I’ll try decaf instead.’

I was an idiot.

I’ve been dealing with horrible afternoon headaches that are getting progressively worse. I fear my stubbornness may just get the best of me. I’m not willing to throw the towel in just yet, but I’m wondering if I made a rash decision.

Am I the only nut who doesn’t drink caffeine to get moving in the morning? What’s your wake up ritual?


Dr. Spock.

Today, for some reason, as I perused the produce section of the grocery store, I craved an orange. I’m not a big orange fan, so I just picked up a single loose one. I put it in the seat portion of my cart with my gloves and other produce and then finished my shopping.

When I got to the checkout line, in the whirlwind to unpack my cart, I had forgotten about my lone orange. As I pushed my cart through to the bagger, I noticed the orange and pulled it from under my gloves.

“Whoa, I almost stole an orange,” I said to the cashier.

“Yes, I can see the headlines, a… well, what do you do for a living?” She asked interrupting herself.

“I’m a teacher… I teach kindergarten,” I confessed.

Her eyes lit up at the prospect of her punch line.

“Kindergarten teacher arrested for theft of orange!” She laughed.

Suddenly, the bagger’s interested was piqued.

“Wait, you teach kindergarten?” She asked.

“Yup, I do,” I said.

“Well, my daughter is four, she’s in preschool two days a week… do you think that’s enough? What do you think she needs to know to be ready for kindergarten? She can write her name, but doesn’t know all her letters yet, is that enough? What about numbers?” She literally rattled off questions.

I tried to answer her the best I could. Her eyes were pleading… obviously she was concerned she was doing the best for her daughter. Clearly, she viewed me as an expert.

It never ceases to amaze me the way as soon as my profession is revealed, I’m viewed as a childhood development expert. While I’ve read Chip Wood’s Yardsticks a few times, and I do have a few years of experience working with young children under my belt, for sure, I’m no Dr. Spock. I’m always willing to share my opinions, but I also worry I’m giving inaccurate information. A little trick I use is always finishing with, ‘That’s just my opinion…’ because it is.

Yes Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility… today I was reminded, even when I leave the classroom, I’m still ‘on’ and that orange… I didn’t mean to almost steal it, really.



Happiness is cheap. If you teach kindergarten, it’s offered by the bucket for free.

Yesterday, during Quiet Time, as most friends sat with their heads down resting in the dark to the soothing piano music of Yanni, I looked over at Darlene and got one of the many laughs of my day.

There she was, sitting up, staring into space, with both hands moving around her. She was doing a perfect mime in a box routine. She wasn’t putting on a show for anyone… the sprouts around her weren’t watching and she was unaware I noticed her artistry. I’m not sure where she learned such a feat, but Darlene was content in all her mime glory.

I had to choke back my laughter. The randomness and delight of her mime show just tickled me. As I turned off the music and turned on the lights, I invited Darlene to line up for Music.

“I’m stuck, I’m inside an invisible box and I can’t get out,” she whispered.

Hmmm, maybe an email to the school guidance counselor was needed… but I know Darlene, and she was just playing.

How can you not be happy when you’re watching a five-year-old inside an invisible box?



This afternoon I sat with a group of six sprouts at the kitchen center and pretended to be their ‘customer’ as they waited on me. Two children rushed over with pads and pencils to write down my order.

“I’ll have spaghetti, some vegetables, and a glass of water,” I ordered.

I sat for a few minutes as the boys stretched the words out the best they could and jotted my order down for the kitchen.

A few moments later, Penny arrived with the start of my order.

“Here ya go! Spaghetti and some baby powder!” She exclaimed.

Sure enough, she handed over a bowl of fake pasta and a little plastic bottle of baby powder. Hmmm, interesting.

“Baby powder, I didn’t order this… why would I want this with my pasta?” I quipped. I was trying to add a little realism to their restaurant.

“I dunno,” she replied and was off back to the kitchen, leaving me to ponder who would use baby powder for a condiment.

Jason came with a piece of purple plastic cake. I’m not sure why anyone would make a purple plastic cake, but here was my dessert.

“Thank you Jason, I love cake!” I informed him.

Jason, always quiet and shy, smiled.

“Why don’t you sit down and share it with me?” I asked.

Without a word he did. We had a calm conversation about his day, his family, and his weekend plans. It was a fantastic way to end my fake meal.

Who says play isn’t critical to a child’s development? My observations and interactions deepened my understanding of my sprouts as learners. As an educator, that’s priceless… and also a lot of fun.



Today was our first two-hour delay. Hearing the news, I took a deep breath and relaxed. I didn’t have to rush. I actually laid down and fell back asleep!

Waking up at a normal hour (after seven) instead of an insane one (about five) I felt refreshed. I spent some quality time with my dog and even watched a little morning news. Apparently, there is a lot going on in the world that early, I just never had the time to notice.

Driving to school, I was amazed by the… well, light! It wasn’t pitch dark! I could see the road, other cars, and trees, I could see! People who have the benefit of driving to work in daylight don’t realize what a luxury it is.

Sure the kids were a little rattled by the delay. No, we won’t have snack… we’ll be going to lunch in about an hour. No, you won’t be going home early, we came in late. Yes, I know you just arrived, but it’s time for lunch!

All in all, I could get very used to coming in a little late. Perhaps an hour later would make all the difference. For sure, I love my job… I’ve been called a rooster in a world of hens… but I don’t love getting up before the roosters. With our delay today, I was in full celebration mode.



During centers this afternoon, I sat down at the pattern block table to chat with the boys working. There were only boys at the table today for some reason… you’d think this would happen quite often, but in our class, it’s actually rare. In any event, David looked like he was in the middle of a heated discussion with Barry and Dan.

“They say they’re the boss of me,” David uttered through a few tears.

“Wait, why would they say that,” I asked David as well as the other boys.

“Because they say I don’t have a DS, but I do,” he said.

Wait, why would it matter if David had a Nintendo DS and how would that correlate to Barry and Dan being the boss of anyone? I was a little confused.

“Wait, why would it matter if you had a DS?” I wondered.

“But I DO have a DS!” David exclaimed, missing my point.

“Well I don’t have a DS, does that matter?” I posed. The boys’ faces went blank.

“Some kids might not have the money to buy a DS… they’re really expensive,” I added.

“Well, I have one and it was free,” David said.

“Wait a minute, they’re not free, and how did you get one for free?” I asked.

“Santa brought me one!” David shouted.

With that, I stood up and wondered over to puzzles.



This afternoon, as I was reading a big book about a small door mouse looking for a safe place to rest, called A Bed for the Winter, I got a little surprise. Now revelations in kindergarten are quite common, but they never get old. It’s part of what I love most about my job… little surprises.

During the story, the little mouse keeps bumping into other animals in their nests and is, for one reason or another, scared away. It’s a big book, full of photographs of the animals, many in threatening poses, so each time I’d turn the page, the group would gasp with delight. It’s a pretty awesome book.

One page had a close up of a snake’s head with his long black tongue slithering out of his mouth. He was fierce. The text on the page referred to his tongue going in and out of his mouth and the mouse scurrying away. That’s about it. Now I figured most of the children knew that snakes eat mice, but not much more.

I asked the group, “Why do you think the mouse was scared?”

Betsy raised her hand. Now Betsy is one of the girliest girls in the class. I’m pretty sure everything she owns is either pink or purple. I was quite curious what she had to say about this snake and mouse.

“Well, the mouse is running away because the snake is using his tongue to smell him… snakes use their tongues to smell! Hee, hee!” She exclaimed.

At that moment, I’m pretty sure my tongue was hanging out in disbelief.

“Betsy, I’m so impressed you know that, how did you learn that amazing fact? I wondered.

“I watch Animal Planet all the time, see, it makes me smarter,” she informed me.

Well, I was, surprised indeed. I guess I should watch more Animal Planet myself.



This afternoon as we were getting ready to go home, I noticed Betsy had a new backpack. Trying to sound hip, I commented on the cartoon princess smiling from her bag.

“Oh, I saw that movie, it was really good… what was the princess’ name?” I asked.

“Princess Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog, it’s my favorite movie!” She exclaimed.

Hearing the conversation, Richard and Nicole came over joined in.

“The ending of that movie scared me!” Richard announced.

Now I have actually seen this movie and I knew exactly what Richard was talking about. There is a scene towards the end where spirits drags a voodoo master to the underworld… definitely a little scary for a kindergartner. As it turns out, this isn't what Richard was talking about.

“Scary? I wasn’t scared – they get married, I liked it,” Nicole said.

“Yeah, that was the most scary part, when they got married. Getting married is soooo scary!” Richard said with a straight face.

“You are so silly,” Betsy giggled.

“Super silly,” Nicole agreed.

“No guys, really,  marriage is scary,” Richard finished.

And I have absolutely nothing to add to that.



When I first heard the acronym 'PLC' a few years ago, I hadn't a clue what it meant. Yes, I'm the first to raise my hand and say I don't know what something means. Playing dumb comes easy to some of us.

In any event, when I started this online journey almost two years ago, my only intent was to reflect and document my experiences in the classroom. An amazing side effect has been the wonderful Professional Learning Community that has arisen from the network of folks from literally all over the world I've 'met' online.

In addition to support and laughter, I've brought countless ideas from others into the classroom. At this point, I can't imagine what my teaching would be like without the PLC I've come into. So here are just a few, in no particular order, (really, I hope I don't forget anyone) folks that have made an impact in one way or another.
  • Deborah at Teach Preschool - Deborah has been a friend and provider of support and countless (I mean IMMEASURABLE) number of ideas. Her work in the preschool community is truly priceless and I'm grateful for her friendship and ideas.
  • John at Learn Me Good - John makes me laugh. It's nice to read the reflections of other dudes too.
  • Theresa at Substitue Teacher's Saga - Theresa is a gifted writer of young adult books. Her reflections on being a sub, her family, and writing have proven inspirational to me on many occasions.
  • Susan at The Book Maven's Haven - Susan is a colleague who is widely considered THE literacy guru in our area. She probably knows everything about any book ever published for children. She's a wonderful resource and I love having lunch with her!
  • John at Spencer's Scratch Pad - John always makes me think about education in a new way and I appreciate that.
  • Sneaker Teacher - She has been a help from the start, with blogging and teaching. Her posts always make me smile.
  • Roxanne at Books That Heal Kids - I've written about Roxanne many times. Her blog is priceless, 'nuff said.
  • Mrs. Smythe at Vodka Mom - Funny kindergarten stories AND alcohol don't sound like a mix made in heaven... but they are. Mrs. Smythe makes me laugh out loud and she's a sweetheart too.
  • My tweeps at #kinderchat on twitter - twitter is a new bag of tricks for me. The folks on #kinderchat have been helpful and just one more amazing place to go for tips and ideas. They 'meet' every Monday night for an hour long chat at 9 P.M. Eastern time... a little past my bedtime, but sometimes I make it for the first half.
  • All the amazing folks on the Look at My Happy Rainbow facebook page - Wow.  Some of the friends I've met and connections I've made on facebook are brilliant.  The ideas shared on a daily basis never cease to baffle me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!



Almost all kindergarten teachers wish there was more time for play. With the pressures of rigorous standards, testing, and benchmarks constantly increasing from The Powers That Be, finding time for our students to be, well kids, can be difficult at best.

Teachers know that play is an integral part of early childhood development. All you have to do is walk around a classroom during play centers to see the language and social skills development happening. It also gives our sprouts some time to take control of their day and learning.

Recently, I stumbled upon an article in the New York Times about a school in Forest Hills, Queens where parents decided enough is enough. Working together, they petitioned administration to change the structure of the day, increase recess, and allow more time for play in kindergarten.

It sounds simple, but it’s a powerful reminder. Parents are partners. Just like us, they genuinely want what’s best for their children. Just like us, they know how essential play is to the development of the whole child. Just like us, many of them are frustrated at the increasing academic stresses placed on such young children.

How do you incorporate play into your day? How does your administration feel about play? How do parents? When teachers and parents work together, amazing things can happen.



Every year, a local children’s musician puts on a small concert for our kindergartners. We walk up to the high school and sit in the big auditorium for the show. It’s quite a big deal for the sprouts and always lots of fun.

This year, as he does every year, the singer asked if anyone had a birthday that day. As luck would have it, one little tyke did. He was invited up on stage for the next number. In order to have a few more kids up on stage, the crowd was asked, “Does anyone have a birthday tomorrow?”


“Was it anyone’s birthday yesterday?”


“How about anyone whose birthday is in January?”

A few children began filing up.

Now Mrs. D. and I know full well who in our class has a birthday in January. Two friends, that’s it. We both looked in the rows we were sitting to make sure these two boys headed up to the stage. There they were, heading up for the next song.

In the confusion, Martin had wiggled his way out of his seat and right up front and center. There he was, an imposter singing and dancing along with all the January birthday friends. The only problem is, Martin’s birthday is not in January. He knows it’s not in January. I had half a mind to walk up there and yank him off stage with a big hook.

When he came down and walked over to sit down, I asked him, “Why did you go up there, your birthday isn’t in January?”

“I know, but I really wanted to be up there,” he admitted.

Well, he’s honest, I’ll give him that.



Today at bus time, I asked Luther, whose mother is expecting, about the impending new addition.

“Luther, how is your mom doing?” I began.

“Good, she’s good,” he said.

“When is the baby due?” I prodded.

“Soon, I think in the spring,” he said.

“Do you know if it’s going to be a boy or girl?” I asked.

“No, it’s going to be a surprise!” He exclaimed.

"That's the best surprise," I added.

“Ohh, maybe it will be twins,” Mrs. D. wondered.

“No, it can’t be twins,” he told us.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Well with me and my little brother, there’s only room for one more baby in the tub,” he explained.

Now that is logic. Apparently, three in the tub is a perfect fit, but four in the tub?  No way.



Often, during our Quite Time, kids come up to have a shoe tied, offer a hug, or whisper something. Our rules are simple and clear – no talking. We use lots of sign language in our room, and kids are allowed to sign to each other or even us.

Today, during our rest time, David walked up to me and began waving his arms. We always play some peaceful music that helps relax our minds and bodies. It looked like David was pretending to be a conductor. His arms moved up and down, this way and that, around and around. I had no clue what he was doing.

I glanced at Mrs. D. She didn’t know what David was doing either.

Finally, after a few minutes of watching David accompany our music, I motioned him closer.

“Whisper what your trying to tell me,” I said quietly.

He got closer, wrapped his arms around me, and whispered, “I love you.”

“Oh, I love you too buddy,” I replied.

It doesn't get much better than that.

I think he was writing the letters in the air over and over instead of signing them. We hugged and I sent him back to rest. Sometimes, our sprouts try to communicate with us and no matter how hard we try, we don’t understand their message. Today, what I needed to do was ask for clarification. Once David had permission, he told me exactly what he was trying to convey. It was a message I wouldn't want to have missed.



Last night, as I’m fighting a terrible cold and wondering if I should call in sick, I kept second guessing myself. All the while feeling horribly guilty at the prospect of not going in. This is the lot of a sick teacher.

Do businessmen feel this way then they have to miss a day? When I used to work in the ‘real world’ as I like to call it, I had a boss, she was Russian, and with the thickest Russian accent you’ve ever heard, she used to always say, “If we don’t get our reports done, the world, it will still be spinning, no?”

Don’t get me wrong, I realize our dear Earth will spin regardless of whether or not I call in sick or not. I’m actually in the unique position of not having to write sub plans this year. That is only one of the many, MANY perks to co-teaching. We write and prep our lessons at least a week out together. I also know there will be consistency when I’m not there because my partner will keep things running as usual. So why the guilt?

Perhaps my mother taught me (as taught to her by her own mother) to really lay the guilt on myself. Who knows?

I did bite the bullet and call in sick. As luck would have it, a massive snowstorm moved in late morning and my school had an early release. I suppose Mother Nature has her own way of telling us what to do. Point taken. I’m off to rest on the sofa with my dog.



After a week of studying the life and mission of Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m confident my sprouts have a better idea who the man was and why his life’s work is so important. After reading, writing, and singing about his dream of peace, I’m hopeful they understand why we have his birthday off. As one of my little friends said, ‘Wow, he must be really important if we don’t have school on his birfday.”

Happy Birthday Dr. King. There’s a new crop of soldiers in your army of peacemakers.


Great expectations.

Teaching kindergarten can be a funny endeavor. Friends who don’t have a clue think you do nothing but play with puppets and make macaroni necklaces all day long (sorry Brad, I do use puppets a lot, but it’s always academic). No doubt, there is a playfulness and innocence in kindergarten. For many children, it’s their first school experience and for others it’s the first time they’ve been away from home all day long five days a week.

A kindergarten teacher has to find a balance between catering to the needs of the sprouts spreading their tender leaves for the first time and the increasingly rising academic standards set for us by the Powers That Be. As the sign in our classroom says, we want to work hard, but have fun.

I’ve realized kindergarteners can do amazing things… and not just with glitter and macaroni. In our class, everyone reads independently for close to thirty minutes. Yes, you read that correctly, thirty minutes. To be clear, this was a months long process of teaching, re-teaching, modeling, discussing, tweaking, and practicing. Walk into our classroom during arrival and you’ll find an almost silent room of children getting themselves ready for the day and then quickly grabbing a book bag, finding a good spot, and reading. It's an affirming and peaceful way to start each day.

But kindergartners can’t read!  Um, yes they can. From day one they can. In our class you can read the pictures, read the words, or retell a familiar story. By using The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers (really, I don’t get a cut of sales), our class already knows forty sight words. FORTY. We’re starting our second list and we’ll know eighty pretty soon. That’s double what the rest of the kindergarteners in our school will know by years end. My mom always taught me not to brag, but sometimes you’ve just got to.

Don’t get me started on writing. While the standard for the end of the year is for children to be able to write with most sounds coached by an adult, that’s not good enough for us. We’re looking for independent writers… and we’ve got most of them there or really close already. As my friend David told me when he finished his second book this week and eagerly got another piece of writing paper to start another, “I’m an AUTHOR!”

Please understand we have fun in our classroom. We sing, dance, play games and have wonderful discussions together. We’ve become a real community of learners who take care of each other. If the number of hugs given instead of test scores measured success, our class’ accomplishments would be immeasurable. I’m not too worried about our scores, I’d just prefer to see some data on hugs.

Again, I’m sorry Mom for bragging. I am constantly in awe of what my little friends are capable of achieving. Reflect on your expectations. Raise them just a little and your sprouts will find the sunshine and nourishment to reach them.



I’ve written about Books That Heal Kids before. It’s a brilliant, invaluable resource for teachers. Recently, Roxanne the amazing school counselor that writes the blog sent me the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? I’ve heard about these bucket books, but have yet to read one or share one with my class.

Well, after reading the book myself, it seemed to fit quite nicely into our theme of peace and kindness as we discuss Dr. King this week. We read the book and brainstormed ways we could be bucket fillers at school. When you say or do something kind to someone, you help fill their bucket. When you say or do something unkind, you empty it. Here’s the magical part… by filling someone else’s bucket, you also fill your own!

We wrote one way we could fill someone’s bucket at school on paper shaped like little drops of water and I created a bulletin board for our hallway.  Standing back, looking at the display, my bucket was filled.

Mrs. D. also had the wonderful idea of making a smaller bucket for our classroom. When we see someone filling a bucket, we’ll jot their name on a small drop of water paper and place it in the bucket.  Here it is empty, by the end of the day, it was FULL!

All day long, sprouts were not only being kind, but noticing others kindness. ‘You’re filling my bucket’’ was a common phrase heard through the class. There were lots of full buckets by days end. And the best part? All those small full buckets made my bucket overflow.


Play by play.

This afternoon, as a treat, we watched a video of Leo Lionni’s classic Inch By Inch. It is a simple story of an inchworm that loves to measure anything - a robin’s tail, a flamingo’s neck, a toucan’s beak. Then one day a nightingale threatens to eat him if he cannot measure his song.

As we sat listening to the story unfold, David, sitting right in front of me, offered a quiet play by play of the entire tale.

“Hmmm, I’ve never known any kind of worm to be friends with a bird. How peculiar.”

“Hmmm, a heron. I wonder if it’s a blue heron?”

“Wow, that bird certainly has long legs, I wonder if it can run fast…”

“Look at the beak on that bird, that inchworm surely isn’t safe.”

“Now how do you expect that poor worm to measure a song? Impossible!”

“That is one sneaky inchworm. I like it. Two thumbs up!”

When the video ended, I asked David to stand up.

“Can I give you a hug?” I asked him.

He looked a little surprised.

“That was an awesome play by play,” I explained as we hugged.

“Yeah, I’m good at noticing stuff,” he said and walked back to his place.

It was an awesome way to end the day and week.



Last week we started Spanish lessons with some high school friends. We’ve been practicing our Spanish all week and today, when they came again; we wowed them with our prowess. Ok, it was only one phrase, but we nailed it.

Before they arrived, we read an English and Spanish book called No Means No and Si Means Yes. We talked about how the book was written in both languages. It told us what the Spanish words were for some common words. About four or five pages in, Betsy raised her hand.

“This book, it doesn’t really make sense what your reading…” she noted.

She totally missed the boat on the bilingual aspect of the book. Apparently she thought Mrs. D. had gone temporarily insane and was just reading gibberish.

After our high school teachers arrived, we learned some new Spanish vocabulary and then colored some Spanish pages while they walked around giving each sprout a Spanish name. Not everyone’s name had a Spanish equivalent, so some names were just invented. I felt like we were getting alter egos – very James Bond.

When David found out his new moniker was Roberto, he smiled.

“Oh! Roberto… I think that’s Spanish for robot!” He exclaimed.

His new teachers laughed hysterically. They were getting a true taste of kindergarten.

When Lonny heard his new name, Cristobal, he raised a hand in triumph.

“Cristobal! That will be my new name… forever!” He proclaimed.

We have a Maria, a Fernando, and an Alejandro. All music tastes are covered.

I’m not sure how well we’re going to remember our new names, but we’ll try. Next week when we have our Spanish lesson, we’re only using our Spanish names. It should be very… interesante.


Snow Day!

It’s the first official snow day of our school year… we’ve had lots of snow, just never on a school day. As I woke up, saw the cancellation announcement and went back to bed, I couldn’t help but wonder how excited my sprouts are to have the day off to play in the snow… or how their parents are feeling about it. As I woke up again a little after eight, I'm thinking those parents didn't have that luxury. Thankfully my dog loves to sleep in as much as I do.

Here’s hoping there are lots of sleds, cups of hot cocoa, and board games by the fire. A little more books being read and a little less television and video games. Tomorrow will come soon enough… for today, enjoy the time off and let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!



As you know if you teach kindergarten or have read here, Bingo is about the most fun and exciting game in the world. There’s something about shouting out ‘Bingo!’ that just motivates kids to focus and learn. We don’t play too often because we don’t want to dull the shine, but today, when we played, we offered an amazing prize… a strawberry scented sticker.

Each winner got to come up and select a strawberry scented sticker. We played ‘Letter/Sound Bingo’ today. The caller gave a letter sound and the players covered the corresponding letter. In addition to the awesome sticker, the winner got to call the next game. We played enough so about half the kids got a sticker.

Every time a winner received their sticker (I always put it on their hand), they’d offer the others at their table a sniff of the prize. What tickled me was how even those who already had their own strawberry scented sticker on their hand wanted a sniff. Was there some different, deeper or richer strawberry smell on the new sticker?

Scented stickers always fascinated me as a kid. They’re not easy to find. The website EverythingSmells.com has some rather cool ones. I keep them in a tightly sealed Zip-Loc bag to keep them fresh and ready. They don’t come out often, but when they do, the room smells like a strawberry field... or hot dogs... or root beer... or pickles. Pick your poison.



Today, after reading two books and two Scholastic News articles to our class about Martin Luther King, I asked the class if anyone had questions.

Audra raised her hand.

“Why?” She wondered.

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“Why did people treat the African-Americans differently?” She posed.

And there you have it. The five-year-olds in our class couldn’t comprehend, on any level, why anyone would treat another person differently based on the color of their skin.

We’re going to spend the week learning how Dr. King changed our nation, but it’s kind of nice to know the next generation can’t even fathom how different attitudes were just forty years ago… I wonder how much views will change in the years to come.


Rise Up.

This week we’ll be celebrating one of my favorite holidays… it’s not Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or even Christmas. This week we’ll be learning and commemorating the life of Dr. King through books, activities, and of course, song.

As a ‘teaser’ on Friday, we showed a photograph of Dr. King and asked the class if anyone knew who he was. The few brave souls who answered all thought he was President Obama. That happens every year and it always makes me smile. What would Dr. King think of President Obama? I’ll leave that question to the older grades…

After explaining this man was so important we don’t have school on his birthday (this always makes a big impact), we also previewed the song we’d be singing all week long. In our kindergarten class, we have a song for everything… even for Dr. King.

We listened to Rise Up, the gorgeous song by Jack Hartmann about the beliefs of Dr. King.

He believed we would rise up,
live all together in peace.
He believed we would rise up,
people everywhere would be free.

Of course, this week as we sing it, we’ll stand in a circle, holding hands, and lift them each time we sing ‘Rise Up’. It’s a powerful song and image… all of use joined in a circle of peace.

How will you be remembering Dr. King this week?



Lately, there has been much debate about both the relevance and reliance of data in education. As teachers, we’re being told more and more to use data to drive instruction and having data used to judge our performance. Looking back at our first week back from vacation, I’m struck by the variance in my sprouts reaction to coming back to school... I wonder how the data would support my theories.

Many children, who struggled before vacation, have taken huge leaps in the week since we’ve returned. Others who began to make great gains seem to have forgotten all they’d learned. A few who I thought would really labor behaviorally have not – they’ve blossomed instead. All the data, both concrete and anecdotal, I have at my disposal told me these children would do one thing, yet they did another.

Why? The only reason I can think of is quite simply, they are children… human beings (albeit tiny ones), not cogs or robots... (Alas my boyhood dream of living in a robot world has not been realized yet.) No single score on an assessment, a snapshot of a child on a particular day, one very small moment in their day, is going to explain the way a child learns or behaves. The minute we stop looking at the whole child and only data, that’s the minute we stop doing what’s best for children… we devalue the people they are when we summarize a sprout with a score.

Don’t get me wrong; assessment data is helpful… it helps me see what I need to focus on and where I might improve my teaching. It shows me if new practices and theories I’m using in the classroom are making an impact. It helps me understand myself as a teacher much more than it helps me comprehend my students. We need to be careful about remembering what the data is most useful for.

No matter how much I comb over spreadsheets or analyze charts and numbers, I’m never going to really know why Charlie, who struggled behaviorally more than almost any other child, had a stellar week back. I’ll never really understand why Barry, who never wrote a complete sentence before vacation, wrote an entire story the week after.

Working with children is not like working with reports or charts. The human body has close to ten trillion cells… that’s more than any spreadsheet I’ve ever seen.



At bus time today, I looked down and saw Martin staring up at me. He wasn’t so much hugging me as attached to my side.

“Martin, you are really hugging me, aren’t you?” I asked him.

He smiled.

Bus time can be crazy. When a kindergartener misses their bus, worlds collide. Part of our routine is for friends to sit in their seats and use only a whisper. It’s imperative we can hear when specific buses are called.

I knew Martin needed to sit down, but I didn’t want to offend him or make him think I wasn’t grateful for his affection.

“Buddy, you need to sit down until its time for your bus,” I reminded him.

“I can’t… I just can’t stop hugging you… I’m attached,” he replied.

Another smile.

With that, I let him cling to me as I continued to call friends to line up, say our goodbyes, and go about the business of dismissal. All the while with a little sprout clinging to me.

Sometimes you have to pick your battles. Sometimes you can’t deny a good hug. Sometimes you can manage with a five-year-old clinging to you like his life depends on it. It’s nice to be loved.



This afternoon, two young ladies from the local high school came down to begin some basic Spanish lessons with our class. I’ve had students from the high school come before and usually with mixed results. To be fair, my expectations weren’t super high. Boy was I wrong.

These two seniors came in and took over… and I mean that in the best way possible. They had the class make a circle and then proceeded to lead them in a short lesson in saying ‘hello,’ ‘What is your name?’ and ‘My name is…’ By the time they left we were all speaking Spanish better then when they arrived.

What struck me most was how well they managed the group without any direction from Mrs. D. or myself. They kept them engaged and on task for almost thirty minutes, no small feat in kindergarten. These young women praised the children constantly and reminded them to listen and keep their hands and feet to themselves. Mrs. D. and I were amazed.

Our new amigos will be back every week to help us improve our Spanish. They have our entire class (including me) excited about learning… as each child left today, I got a big ‘Adios amigo!’ A few mangled it (my favorite was “Ami-mos mos-migo”), but the exhilaration about learning was there… and for that all I can say is… gracias.


Ladies first.

I’m not sure where the idea of ‘ladies first’ first came from, but from the time I was a little boy, my family always drilled manners into me… one of the golden rules of etiquette was always letting ladies go first. Men open doors, pull chairs out, and just generally let ladies go first.

I’m not sure if this ideal has diminished, but apparently none of the sprouts in my class have ever heard of it. Today at bus time, when there was a disagreement about who should be first in a particular bus line, I turned to Nicole and Luther and said, “Hey, Luther, how about ladies first?”

He looked at me like I had ten heads. Ladies first? Huh?

“You know what a lady is right?” I asked, thinking maybe this was part of the problem.

“A girl,” he replied.

“Right, a girl or a woman – they can all be called ‘ladies,’” I explained.

“So what?” he quipped.

“Haven’t you ever heard the saying ‘ladies first’?” I wondered.

“You notice how Mr. A. holds the door for me or often lets me go first when we’re playing a game, right?” Mrs. D. asked. Was all this respectful modeling going unnoticed?

“In my house it’s boys first!” He replied.

Oh boy.

“Has anyone heard of letting ladies go first?” I asked the remaining sprouts.

A chorus of ‘no’s’ from everyone shattered my hopes.

“Well, in our class, it’s respectful to let ladies go first sometimes,” I finished, allowing Nicole to the front of the line.

A gentleman’s work is never done.


Come on.

As part of the New Year’s process, we always read The Little Engine That Could. It’s a good way to begin our conversation about setting goals for the rest of kindergarten. After all, if that little blue engine thinks she can hard enough, what can't you do? It’s a classic story that most kids have heard before, but they enjoy it all the same.

Today, during the story, after the second engine refused to take the cars with all the toys and treats for the children over the mountain, David, called out, “Oh, come on!”

Clearly he was frustrated at the lack of caring by the trains.

There was another train who wouldn’t help out the broken down engine… after this one, David exclaimed, ‘Really? Come ON!”

As we all know, finally the little blue engine did help and get the cargo over the mountain. As David put it, ‘Finally!’



In line today, Martin was wearing a new hat. The way he’d pulled it on his head, it resembled a beret.

Mrs. D. commented on this to him.

“Oh Martin, your hat looks like a French beret,” she said.

“You know, Martin, I’ve been to France, in French, your name would be Mar-tan,” I interjected with my best French accent.

Joining in on the fun, Mrs. D. added, ‘Ah, oui!’

Without missing a beat, Martin replied, ‘I have a Wii at my house.”

“No, not that kind of Wii,” I explained.

At this point, Audra had come over and tried to clarify, “Oh, you mean like wee when you use the bathroom.”

“No, ‘oui’ is how you say ‘yes’ in French,” I said.

Both Martin and Audra looked confused. With that, we headed outside and ended our lesson in French. It’s good to be back.


They shoot male kindergarten teachers, don't they?

Oh, the internet. It never ceases to amaze me (I hope I don't sound like an old fuddy duddy here...) how people are brought together through the web. I receive emails from folks all over the world with comments, questions, and ideas.

Recently, Philip, a reader from Australia (a place I've always wanted to visit), sent me an email. He's been thinking of changing careers and becoming a kindergarten teacher. Philip has been getting a lot of flack from his friends and family about this decision. He had a few very specific concerns that were brought to his attention by those around him. Here they are and my reply.


Teaching kindergarten has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my LIFE. I mean that too. Each day presents challenges, but an equal number of rewards. Let me reply to each of your concerns one at a time.

Ok, here goes.

1. But you're male (people will think you are weird)

People think I'm weird anyway. I smile all the time. I sing and dance in the teacher's room with veteran teachers. I wear green sneakers (really, they are green!). I teach my class the robot and other awful dance moves from my youth. There's nothing wrong with being DIFFERENT. If being 'weird' means being different, sign me up. Who wants to be plain, boring, or ordinary? If loving the work you do - teaching children to observe and notice the world around them in unique and creative ways makes you weird, then be weird. If knowing you are making an impact on a child's life, even just for a short time makes you weird, then be weird. If wanting to share a little bit of the joy you have for life and learning with sprouts just beginning their own journeys in education makes you weird, then embrace being weird!

2. People will think you are a molester (you cannot touch or be touched by the kids)

If people think I (or any other man who works in my school or with young kids) only works with children to 'molest' or 'touch' them, they are idiots. I hate to be crass, but that's how I feel. I'm offended by anyone who thinks that about me... spend an hour in my classroom and then decide how I feel about my students. Oh and by the way, I'm affectionate with my students all the time... it's ok to rest a hand on a shoulder in support... sad or tired kids lean on me on the carpet all the time... it's fine to offer a hug or receive one if the giver asks first. I do show my sprouts how to hug me properly (hands above my waist please), but there are tons, I mean TONS of hugs in my classroom. Heck, even the parents have been known to offer me a hug. A hug is a smile with your arms - who wouldn't want that?

3. It won't be as mentally stimulating

Um, that's ridiculous. I am challenged, both academically and socially daily by my students. When you have a room of twenty plus kids, all with different backgrounds and abilities and you have to teach them all - that's not just mentally stimulating, it's downright overwhelming at times... trust me.

4. You're wasting your potential

Again, ridiculous. What's your potential? How many of your friends who work in the business world change lives? That's all I have to say about that.

5. You've never been into handicrafts

Here's a secret nobody wants you to know. You do not have to be crafty to teach kindergarten. Trust me. I'm just about the most uncrafty person I know. Kindergarten is NOT, I repeat, not all about crafts. We do some basic stuff (paper bags, cotton balls - real basic) and my class has a ball. You'd also be surprised what you can find online... I've made some quite dandy stuff based on others' lesson plans and ideas.  Most sites even offer pictures with steps for the craft-challenged.

6. Screaming kids are really hard work

If you do your job, they won't be screaming. Crying? Maybe the first few weeks, but that ends quickly. We're having too much fun dancing, singing, learning, and playing to be screaming.

7. The mothers are the big problem

I have to say, when I started teaching kindergarten, the parents were a big fear of mine. Here's another secret, if their child loves school and loves you, the parents are going to be very, VERY happy. Keep the lines of communication open (I send a daily email with what we've done in class) and invite parents in to observe or volunteer. I do think the first time many of my students' parents meet me they are a little surprised to see a man teaching kindergarten. This dissipates very quickly. After a few years, you'll get a reputation in the community as a fantastic teacher and you'll have nothing to worry about. Mothers want their kids to be happy and successful. I can't say I blame them.

So there you have.  Go out and buy yourself a pair of green sneakers (or whatever your favorite color is) and find the joy in teaching.