Lunch buddy.

After the email from Bill yesterday asking how/when do you engage in meaningful conversations and foster a stronger classroom community? (seriously, please help Bill out and read below and post your replies...) I was reminded of this post from last year. I woke this morning to a surprise snow day so one more day of reposting from my first year. We should be back tomorrow and I will begin writing new entries. I'm actually missing my itty bitty friends at this point.

This week, I’ve noticed my buddy Chris seemed a little more quiet and sensitive than usual. He’s a gentle and shy boy, but something was up. After a few days of asking him if anything was wrong (his reply, “No, I’m fine”) I figured I’d do something.

“Chris, how would you like me to be your lunch buddy today?” I whispered to him while he was working this morning.

He just looked at me. What was a lunch buddy? I knew that’s what he was thinking. Isn’t if funny how you learn to figure out what the real hushed ones are thinking from just a look?

“I’d like to come with you to lunch and eat with you… would you like that?” I asked.

He began to nod and I saw the glimmer of a grin. I haven’t seen that smile in some time.

When I announced to the class I would be joining Chris for lunch in the cafeteria he appeared to be on top of the world.

I stood with him in line, helped him with his mustard packet, cleaned the mustard off his sleeve from helping him with it, and basically let him know, I’m your teacher… you may not be able to verbalize something is wrong, but I know… I care… and I’m going to try and help you anyway I can.



Today I received the following email from a fellow kindergarten teacher:

This past week, I've become more and more frustrated with myself and the students over the dreaded, "talking." My lessons are teacher guided but always student driven. Therefore, I take great pride in knowing each of my students interest and I tailor our lessons around them. The students share prior knowledge on out topics so that we have a starting off place each day. My classroom routine/structure leaves little room for misbehavior, but my animated personality balances the atmosphere for academic growth.

So, while the students are somewhat verbal during a whole group introduction to a lesson, they NEVER get the chance to talk about their day, family, or new shoes. Subsequently, they all come to talk to me during transitional times (moving to and from school locations and lining up). I am constantly moving from the front to the back of the line monitoring, and they are reaching out with those BIG kindergarten eyes sharing, "I know hippos kill more people in Africa than lions," "Two hundred and two hundred is four hundred," "I like Aquaman, too, Mr. Cameron," etc. To me, these are conversation starters that I feel unable to complete due to my responsibilities to get the class to music, cafeteria, etc. In the afternoons, I do have writer's workshop, where they can write anything about themselves. During this time, I do try to listen to a few students share personal accounts/feelings/narratives.

I just feel like the proverbial dream-smasher when I have to cut someone off, postpone a thought that will never be answered, or reply with a hastened grunt. How / When do you engage meaningful conversations with the five year olds and foster a stronger classroom community?

Thank you,

Bill Cameron, Kindergarten Teacher

What a wonderful and important topic. How do we find time to engage our sprouts in meaningful conversations that build the strong community we all crave while still navigating the obstacles presented by increasing academic goals? Here are a few of the ways we do it in my classroom:

1) Arrival routines – Our arrival routine is a quiet one. Each child comes in, takes care of their belongings and begins either Read to Self or Read with a Buddy depending on the day. Part of that routine is handing me their home/school folder. In that moment, when they hand it off, any pressing news is shared. Sometimes a gift or hug is given. It’s a quiet and wonderful way to start each day connecting with each sprout for a minute or two.

2) Sharing – Quite simply, sharing is a time during our morning meeting when everyone (even teachers) get to share a sentence or two about their life. Sometimes it’s weekend plans, movies seen, play dates made, babies expected, pets passed, pets arrived, or basically anything on the mind of a five-year-old. I myself go between sharing events from my own life to commenting on the kids new haircuts, new shirts, new shoes, etc. It’s quick, because we use a pretend microphone and only the holder of the fake mic speaks. We practice being respectful listeners and I get to learn things about my students I wouldn’t have otherwise (Apparently the going rate for a lost tooth just keeps going up and up...).

3) Writing Workshop – As mentioned in Bill’s email, Writing Workshop is a critical time to explore the lives of our students. We have ours in the morning and I find it helps children share those pressing thoughts earlier in the day. As I walk around conferencing, I hear and learn about what is important to them… sometimes, by just stopping for a second and reading over a shoulder I’m welcomed into a world I wouldn’t have been otherwise.

4) Lunch Buddy - I don't do it regularly, but from time to time, I (are you sitting down) sit and eat with my class in the cafeteria.  It's laid back and relaxed and I'm a SUPER celebrity in the lunch room.

5) Quiet Time – After lunch we always have about fifteen minutes of quiet time… the rules are no talking, but to be sure, talking goes on… between me and them only. They filter over to have shoes tied, grab a hug, etc. and we always share a whisper or two. Sometimes, I invite one child over to huddle close to me and check in about an issue or just check on their day. It’s a nice quiet way to connect.

6) Center Time – Our center time each afternoon is designed for multiple purposes. Besides allowing children to practice social skills, fine and gross motor,  and play, it also allows me to pull children to assess and/or read with one on one. We usually take one day off a week (mostly Fridays, but sometimes a different day) and I just circulate. I walk from center to center spending time interacting, chatting, and playing with my sprouts. There’s no better way to connect and build community then to get down on the floor and build or be the customer at the restaurant.

7) Bus Time – Besides being the end of my workday, bus time is really one of my favorite times of day. My school has a staggered dismissal so only a few sprouts line up at a time. The rest are sitting quietly whispering until it’s their turn. This time with just a few children is precious. It’s kind of like an extended sharing where everyone is part of the conversation with me guiding and negotiating the topics and speakers. Almost everyone leaves with a smile and a hug and I feel like I’ve connected with each child before sending them off for the night.

8) Breathe - In those transitions, or other times when it's NOT a good time to share the important goings on of five-year-olds it's hard to not get frustrated.  Mrs. D. has a mug that says, 'relax, Relax, RELAX' - I refer to it often.  Having these other times does significantly cut down on interruptions, but for sure, they still happen.  I often try to reply with a 'Oh, that sounds like an awesome story for writing...' or 'I hope you share that during Sharing...' or 'Let's chat about that at bus time, please don't forget...' to help ease my dwindling patience and not squelch the story inside.  They almost always remember to bring it up again, so nobody feels unheard.

These are just some of the ways we make time to relate to children in our classroom. It’s not always easy, but the amazing community we’ve built is what makes our classroom click. How/When do you engage in meaningful conversations and foster a stronger classroom community?


New songs creep into the soundtrack of the movie of my life... yes, someday it will be made. I still think this Alicia Keys song is one of the best ever... and Marvin Gaye is still on continual replay in my car. Another tune that smacked me across the face is Time of Our Lives by Tyrone Wells. I discovered it right as I was saying goodbye to my first group of sprouts last June and it might deserve a spot in my movie too.
I love music. Sometimes when I'm driving, I imagine my life as a movie and wonder what the soundtrack would be. There are usually a LOT of Marvin Gaye songs. I do this in the classroom as well. When you listen to children's music all day long, you have to keep adult tunes going in your head to keep the kid ones from overtaking your sanity. Trust me, they try to.

Right now, I'm starting to mix the two music worlds and imagine the soundtrack of my life as a teacher, as a movie. Hey, I'll be the first to admit I can't keep a lone thought in my head for too long, so music is constantly popping in and out. Many times, when I'm in the classroom, I'll find myself humming a tune from my 'adult' world... the kids get a kick out of this. Luckily for me, they do the exact same thing, so nobody thinks I'm nuts.

Anyway, after hearing the song, Wait Till They See My Smile, by Alicia Keys, I thought, wow, that would be the song played over the end credits of my movie! You know, the movie about my life as a teacher... with all the Marvin Gaye tunes.



With all the bru-ha-ha going on in Wisconsin, I keep thinking about the article by Mr. Leonhardt that prompted the post below. After reading his article, I actually did something I don't often do, I wrote him an email thanking him. Guess what? He actually wrote me back and we had a nice dialogue back and forth about the issue of teacher pay. As I noted in my post, teachers clearly aren't in it for the money. That being said, we deserve a fair wage and the respect of our communities. I try to keep my posts out of the political spectrum for fear of offending someone, but I hope our dear sisters and brothers in Wisconsin don't give up... if they lose, we all do.

No I didn’t win the lottery. A rich relative didn’t pass away making my dreams of a huge flat screen TV come true. $320,000 is the amount a quality kindergarten teacher is worth according to a new study. I rarely reflect on articles I read, but this one just got me… in a good way… in an amazing way.

Teachers know we do important work. Most parents realize this too… for some reason, the general public forgets from time to time how critical our roles are. While the study cited does reflect test scores, there was much more at stake than academics. We don’t just teach reading, writing and arithmetic. According to Mr. Leonhardt, kindergarten teachers impart “patience, discipline, manners, and perseverance” to their charges. “Skills that last a lifetime” – truly we are gardeners tending to precious crops.

As I read the article, smiling to myself and giving an occasional fist pump that slightly alarmed my dog, I felt affirmed. Obviously, I'm never going to make that salary as a kindergarten teacher, but my students help subsidize my pay with pictures, flowers, and endless hugs. Even when you know you have the best job in the word, it’s really pleasant to hear your opinion backed up by research. Thank you Mr. Loenhardt for helping me go back to school with proof my work is significant.


I never tire of watching five-year-olds trying to wink. It sounds like an easy task, but really you need to practice in front of a mirror to master it.  I don't see Andy often... when I do, he gives me a big smile and an attempted wink... apparently first graders can't wink much better than kindergartners.  Every time I see a sprout wink at me, I think of Andy and his constant winking last year.

Have you ever had a five-year-old wink at you? Andy continually attempts to master his wink with me.

The problem is, his wink looks more like someone just spit in his face and he’s trying to avoid the embarrassment and mess of it all. The eye he is trying to wink is closed, no doubt, but the other one is pretty much shut too and his entire face is pinched and contorted. Naturally, he looks hilarious – not quite the result he is going for.

Andy mostly practices during Quiet Time. I try not to laugh, but it’s hard. This is what I believe separates me from most other teachers. While others have their serious teacher face down to a science… I’m still working on mine – with about as much success as my friend is having with his wink.



This revelation from my first year still holds very true. I recently read a fortune cookie that said, 'Just be yourself; you are wonderful.' This message is one I wish all my sprouts would take to heart. I still see Kevin in the hallways from time to time - he still smiles and calls my name. As lucky as these kids are, I'm pretty lucky myself.

When I was little, my mom used to tell me, “You’re lucky that you’re cute.” I never understood what she meant. These days, I don’t have any children of my own to say the same thing to, but I think I’m finally beginning to comprehend what she meant.

There are a number of kids in my class who know very little. I’m talking about the basics, stuff we educators hope they would know coming into kindergarten. But they don’t: no letters, no numbers. Some don’t even know the difference between a number and a letter.

Some of these kids, as I’ve mentioned before, have never held a pencil. They can’t read, write or recognize their names. And the list goes on and on. You could fill a very large hat with all they don’t know.

But does that make them less than their more advanced peers? Of course not. The low kids, as we call them, have their own talents and skills. They’ll come up to you, smile and ask if you need a hug—just when you really do. Or they’ll come into the classroom giggling about something silly they saw on the bus ride—and just couldn’t wait to get there to tell you about it. Or, they’ll thank you for doing your job. Or ask the kid nobody is playing with to join in. Or laugh at your very stupid joke.

Even the ornery ones are like this. Take Kevin, for example. He can’t keep his hands to himself to save his life. Seriously, if I told him his sweet life depended on keeping his little five-year-old hands to himself, he’d be dead by tomorrow afternoon. But then, in line, while I’m trying to quiet the class before heading into the hallway, he’ll just lean over and lay his head on me. And every irritating thing he’s ever done, every lesson he’s been unable to learn, goes right out the window.

What can I say? They’re all lucky that they’re cute.

29 Days.

Wow, this one is interesting. I was quite naive in my early kindergarten days. I've learned since that almost every child, no matter what they come in knowing, can meet our benchmarks. Am I an amazing teacher? Not really... the kids are just sponges and they make my job easy. Kind of. Chris is doing well in first grade. I remember fondly how excited I was after this assessment... it's awesome to feel like you've made a difference.

In my classroom, we have a calendar routine. Each day, we add another number to our chart, where we keep track of the days we’re in school. There are many reasons why we do this, most of which revolve around building number sense. It’s a good way for the kids to apply what they’re learning (reading and writing numbers, and counting) to a real-world situation.

One day, however, I realized that the routine is also for me. Each day, when we chart how many days we’ve been in kindergarten, it helps me reflect on what we’ve done and how much farther we have to go. I had this epiphany on day twenty-nine, and I’ll always remember it fondly.

That morning, we took a field trip to the local public library. It was a blast for the kids and filled with many amusing moments, but those aren’t what I’ll remember about day twenty-nine. I’ll remember something that happened in the afternoon.

Towards the end of the day, while the kids were working independently in Choice Centers (blocks, dramatic play, puzzles, etc.), I pulled a few of them aside to assess them for upcoming parent conferences and report cards. Before each report card is prepared, I have to assess each child’s understanding of letters, sounds, numbers, and some other basic skills. I began with Chris, who had begun school knowing only eight letters of the alphabet. I had been worried about him from the start. He was quiet and a little slower than the other kids; mostly, he just seemed very young. (I know, they’re all young in kindergarten, but Chris was really young. Honestly, I wasn’t sure he was ready for school.)

When I assessed Chris that day, however, he knew twenty-five letters. Twenty-five letters. Out of twenty-six in the entire alphabet. In twenty-nine short days of school, he had gone from knowing barely any letters to almost all of them. I was surprised when I realized this—and pleased beyond belief. I tried not to overdo it with the happy dancing, but I was on cloud nine. My school has a set of benchmarks, or standards, each child is expected to meet by the end of the year. As I assess each child throughout the year, these benchmarks are like a target we’re trying to hit by the time June rolls along. All along, I’d been pretty sure Chris would never meet the benchmarks by the end of the year (many kids don’t) but now, after such a short time, I felt quite confident that he would not only meet them but perhaps surpass them. Whatever I was doing, I thought, it was working!

Day twenty-nine was a Friday, and Fridays are tough sometimes—we have no specials, such as Library, Music, P.E. or Art, and therefore I have no planning time. Chris’ assessment was a gift that I needed at that moment.

If you ask yourself what you’ve truly accomplished in the last twenty-nine days, what do you come up with? I did, and I’ve never been so pleased with an answer.


Mr. Weenie.

Oh Sonya. I adored her last year - she made my first year in kindergarten truly priceless. Her spirit and sense of humor literally made me laugh at least once a day. She makes sure to stop by and see me at least once daily... I've been her guest in her new class as she read to me. I didn't cry, she was cracking too many jokes. Recently she came in sporting a fancy necklace. When I complimented her on it, she quipped, "It's not a necklace... it's a choker." Here's one of the first classic Sonya stories.

“Mr. _______,” Sonya told me one morning as she walked into the classroom. “I saw Mr. Weenie today.”

“Um, excuse me, what did you say?” I asked her.

“Mr. Weenie!” She was practically jumping up and down—not an easy feat in those boots. “I love Mr. Weenie!”

As usual, I had no idea. “Who is Mr. Weenie?”

“Mr. Weenie is my friend. He’s long and sweet. Ah, Mr. Weenie…” Sonya’s eyes grew distant and she smiled, fondly thinking of her friend.

At that point, I was rendered speechless. Sonya, of course, was not. She continued: “Mr. Weenie loves me too. He is my loooong friend. We play together sometimes, but my mom doesn’t know.”

Okay, I thought, time to grab the school social worker. One last time, though, I attempted to get the bottom of things. ”When did you see Mr. Weenie? And who is he?”

Sonya actually rolled her eyes at me a little. “Mr. Weenie is my next-door neighbor’s dog. He plays with me every morning before I get on the bus. Him a good friend.”

Oh boy. A wave of relief washed over me as Sonya pranced into the room to get ready for her day. Dismissing what a child says as silly is never a good thing. Even when that child is Sonya, I need to take time to get to the bottom of things before moving ahead.


Teaching children to take care of themselves is just part of the game in kindergarten. Zipping is serious stuff... they don't teach you about zipping in teacher prep classes, but they should. The art of zipping coats is delicate. This year, I've made enemies with a particular pink fluffy coat that gets stuck on the way up and the way down about ninety-nine percent of the time. I still fight with that coat daily, but the child who owns it can zip, she just can't get it unstuck...  The gift of independence is invaluable.

Learning to zip your own coat seems like a simple task. It’s not. This is not something I’ve ever had to teach anyone. Taking the ordinary, everyday, mundane skills and breaking them down into simple steps is par for the course in kindergarten. Some kids come in able to do this already, but most don’t. We work on it… and then work in it some more.

Last week, I had two little boys do this for the first time on their own. Now, I know a child’s first words and steps are monumental events for parents, but zipping for the first time is monumental for a teacher. Outside at recess, Chris and Kevin ran right up to me with unzipped coats. Neither one had to say a word. The look of helplessness on their faces said it all. Could I zip their coats for them?

I do not zip coats. I teach kids how to zip. Sometimes I have to teach them how to zip two or three times. Sometimes fifty or sixty times. I squatted down and began my lesson again.

“Put this part into the other part… push down… now pull up,” I explained as I demonstrated on Kevin’s coat as Chris looked on. His coat was zipped, but I unzipped it so he’d have to at least try it on his own. I make sure they put in a good effort and fail before I zip it for them.

Kevin went through the motions and… did it! I wish I’d had my camera with me on the playground. The look on his face was a mixture of genuine pride and surprise. He couldn’t believe he’d finally done it. He and I looked at Chris… now it was his turn.

“You can do it,” I assured him.

Slowly, he grabbed the ends of his coat… he was struggling. He couldn’t get the male end into the female end of the zipper. I stopped him by gently taking his hands away from his coat.
“Look at me,” I said. I wanted his full attention.

Slowly, I comforted him, “Just remember, you can do this. I believe in you.” Before he could try again, Kevin, still watching chimed in, “I can do it for you, but I know you can do it yourself.” Wow, they really do listen.

Chris grabbed his coat with the determination only a five-year-old can muster and zipped his coat. He turned to his buddy and they gave each other a celebratory hug, smiled at me and then ran off for the important business of recess.



Recently I bumped into Nathan and was able to have a conversation with him for the first time this year. I asked him how he liked his first grade teacher. "She's a pretty good teacher, she'll do," was his reply... his quip made me think of this little gem from last year.

I called in sick.

I’d been fighting a cold and sore throat all week and decided that a day of rest was in order. It’s hard to fight sickness when you have twenty five-year-olds sneezing and coughing on you all day long as well. Yes, we go over proper etiquette for these matters, often on a daily basis. But for some reason, they forget about it all and decide that using me as a tissue is just easier.

In any event, I stayed home, and the rest did me some good. By early evening, I was feeling better, and I figured that I should check my school e-mail to see if I missed anything earth-shattering. There were some get-well wishes from fellow teachers, and then, there was an e-mail from a parent. Nathan’s mother.

That day, because I had been out sick, a substitute teacher had been called in to teach my class. And apparently, this was a big deal to my students. I’m sure it caused quite a ruckus in the classroom, and according to this parent, some of the kids had lots to say about it when they got home, too. Nathan, who always found a way to make me smile, had jumped off the bus and exclaimed to his mother, “Mr. ______ was sick today. We had a prostitute teacher!”


Happy Dance.

This story, about the moment a child learns to read, is one of my favorites. Kindergarten teachers are truly blessed to experience these moments all the time. As many of you know, I'm using Megan Milani's amazing The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers, so my class this year knows many more sight words than in this story from last year. I still see Chris in the hallways almost every day. He always stops, smiles, and waves. I always remember the look on his face when he realized he could read when I see him and smile and wave back.

When I taught second grade, almost all of the kids came to me able to read to some extent. A few really lower ability readers struggled and needed tons of extra help, but even they could read a little.

I figured that kindergarten would be different, and boy was I right. One child came to my class able to read—I mean really read. The rest fell somewhere in between being able to read a few simple words and not knowing what a letter was. Some can’t read or write their own names and a few don’t know how to hold a pencil. I’m not sure what their parents were doing for the first five years of their lives, but teaching their kids how to read, spell, and write obviously weren’t among their priorities.

When I saw the enormity of the task ahead of me, I panicked. Had I made a huge mistake by switching to kindergarten? What had I been thinking, taking on this huge responsibility? Would it be possible to bring all of these kids as far as they needed to go? Was it too late to hop a plane for a warmer location and change my identity? I truly had my work cut out for me, and in truth I was more than a little bit scared.

And then, something happened. After the first few weeks of learning the rules and routines of school, my students slowly began to focus on their work. One letter at a time, they learned how to read and write their names. They learned other simple sight words too. These are words that can’t be sounded out and therefore just need to be known at sight. If you tried to sound out the letters in the, you’d never read it correctly. And the more we did, the more they wanted to do. I’ve always heard people say kids that young are like sponges. I think they’re more like those fancy Sham Wow cloths you see on the late-night infomercials—soaking up gallons and gallons of whatever you put in their path.

In kindergarten, we focus on learning two new sight words every two weeks. That’s not many, but it’s enough. For the first four weeks of our reading program, a research based curriculum for teaching letters, sounds, sight words, and reading comprehension, we learned the words I (yes, it’s a word, not just a letter!), am, the and little. We drilled those damn words every free second of the day. Then, I pulled out the readers that came with our program. These simple little books have only a few words on each page and large colorful pictures to help beginning readers feel successful. You’d be amazed at the sentence variations you can make with those four simple words:

I am happy.
I am sad.
Am I happy?
Am I sad?
I am the little cat.
I am the little dog.
Am I the little cat?
Am I the little dog?
The list goes on and on.

One day I was reading with two of my lowest kids, Kevin and Chris. These are the ones who couldn’t read, spell or write their names coming into school. Chris still struggles with holding a pencil. I wasn’t sure how smooth this learning process was going to be for them.

I showed the boys their copies of our reader. I asked them if they thought they could read it on their own. Both of them shook their heads no. I could smell the panic. I read the title of the reader aloud to them, and then we opened the books, and I explained that we would take turns reading each page. Then, I sat there and waited.

Chris began: “I…am…the…little…” He paused, stuck on the next word. There was a picture next to it to illustrate its meaning. I pointed to the picture. “Cat!” he finished. There was no exclamation point at the end of the sentence, but you’d never know by the way he read it. His face lit up—and mine did too. I was pretty sure he’d never read anything in a book in his life.

“You’re reading!” I shouted, wiggling around in my chair. The boys giggled and asked what I was doing. I told them that sometimes, you just have to do the Happy Dance. I demonstrated mine for them again, and then they joined in, coming up with their own expressions of their happiness. Sitting in our chairs, we shook our hands, bopped our heads and celebrated. We had good reason to.


Forever Young (or how teaching kindergarten is like an 80's song).

This one was a favorite. I miss it on the blog, so here it is, reinstated as it should be.
Forever Young by Alphaville - Forever young, I want to be forever young

I grew up in the 80’s. I’m a sucker for 80’s music; it’s sad, but true. Lately, as I listen to my massive collection of 80’s tunes, I started thinking, being a kindergarten teacher is a lot like an 80’s song.

Safety Dance by Men Without Hats – ‘We can dance if we want to, We can leave your friends behind
'Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance
Well they're no friends of mine’

In kindergarten we dance. If you don’t dance, well, come into my room and you will.

Walk Like an Egyptian by The Bangles - All the kids in the marketplace say 
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh 
Walk like an Egyptian

Walking down the hallway with a gaggle of five-year-olds in tow is a science. Keeping them relatively calm and quiet is a no small undertaking. We tip toe, wave our arms, and yes, walk like an Egyptian… hey, kindergartners think it’s hilarious.

Hold Me Now by The Thompson Twins - Hold me now, warm my heart
stay with me, let loving start (let loving start)

One of the biggest lessons I learned this year is that kindergartners love to hug. They practically beg to be hugged. When I stand at the cafeteria door wishing them a nice lunch, I get hugged by each child. Every single one.

Abracadabra by The Steve Miller Band - Abra-abra-cadabra, I want to reach out and grab ya, Abra-abra-cadabra, Abracadabra

There is magic in just about everything we do. Finished a book, applause! Turn white flowers blue with food coloring and water, applause! Make symmetrical paintings by painting half the paper and folding it, applause! You get the idea.

Vacation by The Go Go’s – Vacation, All I ever wanted, Vacation, Had to get away

There’s no denying it. Teachers get a lot of time off. That being said, we need it. I need my time of to relax, regroup and recharge.

Holding Out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler - I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light, He's gotta be sure, And it's gotta be soon, And he's gotta be larger than life, larger than life

Like it or not, when you teach young children, you are a hero… Plain and simple. I wear my cape with pride.

Voices Carry by Til Tuesday - hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry

You can try with all your might, but teaching kindergarten means learning to love the voices. Mrs. D., my neighboring teacher jokes, only a kindergarten teacher can assess students one on one while the rest of the class partakes in Dress Up, Blocks, Kitchen, Legos, and Puzzles. It is a skill for sure.

Dress You Up by Madonna - Gonna dress you up in my love, in my love, All over your body, all over your body

Dress up has to be one of the craziest things about kindergarten. The kids constantly amaze me with the outfits they come up with. I’ve been proposed to and arrested by the same purse toting cop in the Dress Up area.

I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters - I'm so excited and I just can't hide it
I'm about to lose control and I think I like it

My sprouts are excited by just about anything… and they do have a propensity to lose control… every once in awhile, it can be freeing to let yourself behave like a five-year-old. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

True Colors by Cyndi Lauper - You with the sad eyes, Don’t be discouraged,
Oh I realize, It’s hard to take courage In a world full of people, You can lose sight of it all, And the darkness inside you, Can make you fell so small, But I see your true colors, Shining through I see your true colors,
And that's why I love you, So don't be afraid to let them show, Your true colors, True colors are beautiful, Like a rainbow

If nothing else, I want my sprouts to hear these words and know how true they are.

Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House - Hey now, hey now, Don't dream it's over

When the last day comes, I know it will be bittersweet. This journey we’ve taken together will, like it or not, be over.


Look at my happy rainbow!

As I continue my vacation, I'm happy to share another story from the vault. This one holds a special place in my heart... it's how I came up with the name for my blog.

The amount of enthusiasm I see on a daily basis constantly amazes me. If you could bottle the enthusiasm in most kindergarteners and sell it, you’d be richer than Oprah, Bill Gates and Donald Trump combined.

I’m also in awe of the little things that children will get excited over. You’d think that in this age of video games and constant instant gratification, it would take something monumental to get a kid’s attention—something with bells and whistles and flashing lights. But you’d be wrong. Often, all it takes is some paper, glue and, perhaps, if you’re feeling brave, glitter. Even a blank piece of paper and some stubby crayons can bring a child’s imagination to life in a way no $300 video game system can.

One morning, I had my class drawing pictures of their friends. Sage, feeling adventurous, decided to hold four or five crayons in his hand at one time—an idea that had never occurred to him before, and that in itself was exciting—in an attempt to make a rainbow above the picture of the friend he drew. After completing this task, he pushed his chair back, stood up and shouted, “Look at my happy rainbow!”

I walked over to Sage and gently put my hand on his shoulder as I studied his picture. Indeed, his rainbow looked pleased. The absolute innocence on his face as he beamed up at me was transforming.

In that moment, I knew my job was truly unique. Not only was I charged with teaching these children to read, write, and understand math, but I was also given an even more important role. In our time together, I had to encourage their love of learning… really their love of life. By fostering the seed of creativity and joy already deep within each of them, I could cultivate the most pure and beautiful sense of the person each of them was destined to become. More than a teacher, I was their guide. Our journey had only just begun, but I was beginning to realize the gravity of my task.

Sage repeated his dictum, this time a little quieter, “Look at my happy rainbow, Mr. _______.”

The look on his face spoke volumes. He had never seen anything so delightful, and neither had I.



Last Fall, when my blog was discovered by The Powers That Be, in a frantic frenzy, I deleted all the posts from my first year in kindergarten. This week, as I rest my mind and soul for a week, I'm revisiting some of those old posts. As all good authors do, I've revisited and revised some of them. If you're new to the blog, they'll be new to you, if you've been with me since the get go, you've probably already read them, but maybe my revisions will give them a facelift... who doesn't relish a fresh coat of paint. Enjoy.

Hugs. What other job lets you get, on average, forty to fifty hugs a day?

Everyone says teachers don’t get paid enough (we don’t, but that’s a story for another day), but what we don’t get in cash is made up for in hugs. At least, that’s how it is if you teach kindergarten. Some children, like Sage are constant huggers. He’s what I’ve begun referring to (only in my head) as a ‘Velcro boy’ – that is, he always seems attached to me in some way. Other students, like Nathan, don’t dole the hugs out so often. Like a rare treasure, he saves his hugs for when he really wants to express his affection or really feels the pangs of missing me over a long weekend or extended break from school. I cherish both kinds equally because any hug is truly something to relish.

For my little friends, hugging is the ultimate show of affection. Some fellow teachers have told me that they don’t like being hugged, and they certainly don’t allow kids to hug each other. I’ve heard it may cause issues with personal space and can lead to rough housing. But I say, with the correct modeling and expectations, bring it on!

Kids need to be shown how to give and receive them appropriately. Toward the beginning of the school year, I took the time to explain and model proper hugging with a willing volunteer—though believe me, they were all willing. First and foremost: always ask for a hug before you give one. “May I give you a hug?” became the most-repeated question around the classroom.

I also explained that there are certain times—say, when I’m in the middle of teaching a math lesson or talking to another adult…or when I’m just feeling crabby—when a person can respond, “No, thank you, not right now.” This lesson stuck, and I often heard kids declining hugs from their classmates—especially when their parents were there to pick them up. Apparently, it’s the same whether you’re five or twenty-five: nobody wants a PDA in front of Mom.

Most of the time, when a student asks me for a hug, if the timing is appropriate, I accept it. And believe me, they want to hug me a lot. I get the most hug requests after I’ve spoken to them firmly or on the rare (yes, rare!) occasion when I’ve need to raise my voice. Sensing that I’m upset, I suppose, the kids suddenly want to run over and hug me. Sometimes I stop to wonder why—do I remind them of their parents? Do I scare them? Do they not like seeing me upset—but then I just tell myself to stop analyzing and just enjoy it.

The end of our day, when the buses come, is premium hug time. Realizing they won’t see their friends or teacher until tomorrow, the kids cling to one another, getting in enough hugs to last them until the next day. Fridays, of course, are especially crazy and in the fervor, once, Sonya bypassed the formalities and grabbed my leg—and in doing so, basically violated me. I knew she didn’t mean to, and I know the look on my face probably didn’t make sense to her. But that brought up another very important lesson about hugging: the arms must always land above the waist.

As I explained this quietly and gently to Sonya, Elizabeth, behind her on the line for the bus, stepped in to show her how to do it. Oh, Elizabeth—she liked to model correct behavior almost as much as I do. When she was done, Sonya asked if she could try again and did so successfully. I looked at it as a teachable moment. Now that Sonya knew the way to correctly hug me, she looked to practice as much as possible. For my little friends, hugging is the ultimate show of affection. A smile is nice, a picture a gift to cherish, but a good tight hug really lets you know how someone feels about you.

Sonya still visits me for a hug almost daily. I never get tired of her smile or her wonderful hugs.


Mama Zooms.

One of my favorite times each day is our afternoon read aloud. When everyone returns from our afternoon special, we read a book. Last year I read chapter books. With our large class and split specials twice a week, that has become harder to do.

Instead, we read picture books. Unlike the stories we read in the morning that have to do with themes and usually include literacy extension activities, in the afternoon, the stories are read simply for pleasure… often they have a social studies angle and I relish the conversations that follow.

Today we read Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher. This book has been a favorite of mine for some time now. On the cover, a little boy sits on his mother’s lap, both of their arms spread out pretending to fly. I always ask for predictions and most have to do with just that… pretending to fly or go very fast. They never guess the mother is actually in a wheelchair pushing her son around. The author/illustrator cleverly keeps the wheelchair out of the illustrations until about halfway through the book.

We had a wonderful discussion about wheelchairs. I always pose the question, “Why would someone be in a wheelchair?” to the class. We brainstormed some possible reasons (they got hurt, they’re old and can’t walk anymore, or they broke a leg) and I always explain that sometimes people are born and their legs don’t work or sometimes people can get sick and their legs stop working.

Every year, a sprout points out the little boy loves his mother just the same and they have fun together, perhaps even a little more, than any other mother and child. Mama Zooms is a wonderful story and always starts amazing conversations, two things I love to experience with my class.



Today, as I was walking to Library to pick my class up, I had a celebrity sighting… you know the kind where you’re the celebrity. It happens often when you teach kindergarten, but this one was special. The entire first grade was walking to the cafeteria and a group of about eight of my sprouts from last year were all together.

We have rule in my school… there is no talking in the hallways. It isn’t always followed, but as a teacher, I try to obey. When my friends started shouting my name, I didn’t speak, I just smiled and began patting heads and giving hugs. Apparently the excitement overtook them and they got a little loud… from halfway down the hallway, the lunch monitor in charge of them began shouting… at me.

“Mr. ______, are you causing trouble?!?” She yelled… apparently the irony of her yelling at me for causing noise in the hallway was lost on her.

Always one to follow the rules, I didn’t speak, but only shook my head no and motioned to her that I, unlike her, wasn’t making a peep.

The kids meanwhile looked a little scared. Their beloved kindergarten teacher was being… well, scolded.

She walked closer and gave me a scowl. Yikes. I had officially caused a ruckus in the hallway.

I stopped and gave one more hug to a few of my previous students and dashed into the library to meet my class. The dangers of being loved should never be underestimated.



Each year our school does a drive for the local food pantry. Like I do with many emails (really, does a kindergarten teacher have time to read email?) I only scanned the message. What I read was, ‘Kindergarten classes are going to collect canned goods. The goal for each kindergarten class is to collect one hundred cans.’

One hundred cans? That’s a lot of cans for a single class, but I figured, hey, it’s a goal, let’s shoot for it and do the best we can.

After communicating this with the class, and getting them on board, I reread the email and realized it was the entire kindergarten, not each single class, that was to collect one hundred cans. Ooops. Well, naturally, it was too late. The seed had been planted. My sprouts wanted to collect one hundred cans, no question about it.

Parents were dragged to the store and asked to by multiple cans. Cupboards were cleaned out. Backpacks were weighted down with one too many cans for a five-year-old to carry. We counted and tallied our cans everyday… the number grew and grew… The deadline arrived. Our final tally was one hundred six cans. Whoa.

We packed the cans in boxes and even made a sign to celebrate our love of giving back to the community. The lesson was clear, giving feels great.

Today, at bus dismissal, they announced the school total and then congratulated our class by name for collecting more than any other class… ever! You could have heard a pin drop during the announcement… something that doesn’t happen often. When the secretary finished, it sounded like she had just announced our entire class had just won a trip to Disneyworld.

Cans are powerful… and sometimes not having time to thoroughly read your email pays off.



Yesterday, among all my sweet Valentine’s, I received three temporary tattoos. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I decided to apply them all today. Hey, why not? I put them on my forearm before leaving for work and wore a nice sweater that covered them up. Here’s what my sprouts saw:

This way, when I pulled the sleeve of my sweater up, I could say, “Kitten, kitten, SKULL!”

Some of them didn’t blink an eye… others replied by showing me their tattoos. I suspect, this is what goes on in the tough guy biker tattoo community as well.

In related tough guy news, my buddy David presented me with not one, but two gifts today. When he handed them to me and I opened them, he made sure to note the ‘blood where the hand was bit off” as well as the ‘blood all over the monster from when he bit the hand off.’ Awesome.

I couldn’t help but think of Ralph Fletcher’s amazing Boy Writers. The blood, the guts, the violent imagery and fantasy of it all are exactly what many of the boys yearn to write about. Maybe David felt comfortable presenting me with the pictures because, in his eyes I’m a boy too.

I suppose, when your students give you tattoos and you can’t wait to show them off, you’re still a kid at heart. I’ll wear them with pride and be just fine being one of the boys.



Today, in all the flurry of Valentine’s Day, one child began coughing. He clearly didn't feel well. As I walked over to him, he looked up at me and said, “I don’t feel good.”

I felt his forehead and it seemed warm so I whisked him off to the nurse. She quickly took his temperature and reported to me, “Ninety-nine degrees – he’s all right for now… keep an eye on him.” (On a side note, our school nurse is nothing less than a rock star. I told her so and she seemed pleased.)

With that we went back to the celebration of opening Valentine’s. The child walked up to a parent who was helping and said, “Well, I’m ninety-nine percent sick.”




Friday, as I walked around the room helping clean up from a project, I overheard Rebecca say, “Michael likes pink!”

She said the word ‘pink’ like it was some horrible disease… something so awful it almost shouldn’t be uttered. It seems each year there are children, for whatever reason, that haven’t had the gender stereotypes perpetuated by society smashed. Add one more hat to my ever expanding collection… Gender Stereotype Smasher.

“Michael likes pink? So do I!” I said loud enough for not only the entire class, but probably the one next door too.

“You do?” Rebecca whispered.

How could it be?

“Of course I do. Pink is a wonderful color… you do know colors aren’t only for girls or boys, don’t you?” I asked her.

She looked confused.

“Michael, why do you like pink?” I asked him.

“I just do, it’s a cool color,” he replied.

“Exactly, same here. Boys can like pink… and play at the dollhouse… and wear whatever they like in dress up…” I started.

“And girls can like blue and play at construction or with blocks and Lego’s,” finished Darlene. She had wondered over and wanted in on the stereotype smashing.

With Darlene and my quick and clear clarification, the conversation was over. We’ll definitely be talking about this more as a class very soon. Michael had a huge grin on his face and I felt a little better knowing I’d rid the world of a tiny injustice.



Yesterday at bus time, after my fitful afternoon, Audra slipped a note into my hand. The intensity of Valentine’s Day is bubbling at the surface in what I like to refer to as ‘Pre-Valentine’s’ – a few days of holiday excitement in itself.

I could tell Audra was a little shy about by the note. She blushed as I opened it. There was a picture on one side and writing on the other:

I was totally impressed. She really captured my likeness quite accurately. The kids always have fun with my curly hair. Let’s face it, curly hair is a lot more fun to draw than straight hair. The day before, I’d spent a few minutes during Writing Workshop detailing the way to draw hands with five fingers and she nailed it… I don’t think my hands are so particularly enormous, but at least the fingers are there. She also remembered my glasses… a detail often left out by less careful illustrators.

Her writing also wowed me. Two of the words on our lists from The Three Habits of Successful Reading Teachers are ‘be’ and ‘my’… last year, before I’d read the book, I would have seen ‘B’ and ‘mi’ for sure. She also had most of the sounds in Valentine. The teacher in me loved these successes in her writing.

I’m quite positive Monday will be a flurry of Valentine frivolity… but I’ll always enjoy the more quiet Pre-Valentine’s notes.



Wow. Today was the first full week of school since before our holiday break. It sounds like I’m complaining about nothing, but for some reason, five full days just whipped me this week.

By a little before two o’clock, I was sitting in a chair watching the hum of centers around me and hearing my name said, over and over, and over, and over again. This is quite typical in kindergarten, but we really try to encourage hand raising if assistance is required.

Hearing your name said repeatedly, like a broken record forever skipping can really grate on ones nerves… I kept thinking of the scene in Finding Nemo when the seagulls begin chanting ‘Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine’ like a symphony of chaos… that’s pretty much what it felt like today. If I heard my name said one more time, I felt like I might pop.

As the last sprout left for the day and gave me an extra tight squeeze for, as she put it, “Before I see you on Balemtime’s Day” I was officially spent.

Pulling out of the school’s parking lot, I got a text from a friend… ‘Wanna meet for a quick drink?’ My reply? ‘How about ten?’ TGIF.



Warning: This post is graphic. You may want to think twice before reading if you’re close to eating, eating, or just finished eating. You’ve been warned… proceed with caution.

Today it finally happened. During calendar, I was helping a friend and turned to the class. I saw, not one, not two, but three friends with their fingers up their nose... one had one finger up each nostril. Enough was enough… I had to take action. We had to have… the talk.

I interrupted our calendar time for some ‘science’ as I called it. It’s cold and flu season and anything to keep the germs to a minimum is helpful. We had to talk about… boogers.

“Boys and girls, I want to talk to you about sticking your fingers in your nose,” I began.

This really got their attention. A few of the boys looked thrilled their teacher was talking about nose picking.

“You may not know this, but there are tiny little hairs inside your nose,” I continued.

Let me tell you, if you want to get a group of five-year-olds’ attention, start talking about the inside of their noses. They had hit pay dirt... it only got better.

“Those tiny little hairs catch dirt when you breathe in through your nose… when enough dirt gathers, it turns into…” I hesitated…

I didn’t really want to say ‘booger’ or ‘snot’ but what is the medical term? Turns out there is. Rhinolith. Did you know that? Neither did I and without time luxury of Wikipedia at that moment, I had to just say it… booger.

Nobody snickered or laughed. My tone was serious. This was science after all!

“With all the snow and cold we’ve had lately and friends wanting to stay healthy, keeping your fingers out of your nose is very important… all right, back to calendar!” I finished.

It wasn’t pretty or fun, but it had to be done.


Brain food.

Today during our pre-writing routine (letter sounds, sight words, blends) I noticed my friend Richard paying extra close attention. We make a big deal about really watching the letters, words, and blends as we chant and read them to help make the connection. Richard doesn’t always do a wonderful job at paying attention… today he was on top of it.

When we finished, I stopped, turned to him and said, “Wow, Richard you are really ready to learn today… what did you have for breakfast?”

“Cream of Wheat,” he smiled.

“Cream of Wheat? Really? Wow, do you put sugar and milk in it?” I asked. Honestly I was a little surprised at his answer and I guess I figured he must sweeten up a bit.

“Nope, I like it plain, it’s good!” He exclaimed.

“Well, maybe I should send a note to everyone’s mom and recommend Cream of Wheat for breakfast,” I joked.

Seriously, who knew?



Today during Writing Workshop, we worked on finishing our second books. Most sprouts are either done or almost done with their second masterpieces… Martin was not one of them.

Martin is a bright little boy with a plethora of skills, but he just can’t get out of his own way. He usually does write during our workshop, but getting more than a word or two down is painful for him. It’s very hard for him to sit still and focus on his work. I wanted him to have a new book to share at our next celebration and I knew he was capable if I kept on task so I sat down with him to work.

In the fifteen minutes we had left for workshop, Martin was able to think of an idea and write the first three sentences of his story. It was still a struggle, but with me prodding him along, he was more than capable of writing most of the sounds and all sight words in his story. The problem is with his attention. Writing the word ‘then’ sounded something like this:

Me: ‘then’ what sound do you hear first?
Martin: /th/, look, I’m sticking my tongue out like you showed us! /th/, /th/, /th/ (with his tongue sticking out really far)
Me: Good, do you remember the two letters that make the /th/ sound?
Martin: No, I’ll go look! (He jumps up and runs over to our blends poster – points right at the ‘th’ and shouts ‘TH!’)
Me: (trying to keep up with him) Yes, ‘TH’ is right, ok back to your story… (me prodding him back his table)
Me: OK, your word is ‘then’ – write your ‘t’ and ‘h’…
Martin: (writing a ‘t’) T! I have a ‘t’ in my name! t, t, t, t, t, t, t, t… (Finally he writes a ‘t’)
Me: Now the…
Martin: H! /H/ Horse, hey, I saw a horse on the TV! Horsey, horsey, horsey, horsey… (Finally he writes the ‘h’)

I won’t continue with the ‘e’ and ‘n’ in ‘then’, but suffice it to say, Martin had lots to say about both letters. After finally finishing his third sentence, it was time to end Writing Workshop. He turned to me and asked, “Will you help me finish at Center Time?”

“Of course Martin, you only need two more sentences and you’ll be ready for a book,” I said.

“I have a compliment for you,” Martin announced.

“Oh, go ahead, I love compliments,” I replied.

“Thank you,” he smiled and gave me a huge hug.

I made sure to really hug him back. We both deserved it.

Martin did finish his story during Centers. He just needed someone with a little patience to take the time to help keep him on task. Tomorrow, he’ll be ready to copy it into a book… a considerable accomplishment for both of us.



Today at Choice time, Mrs. D. called me over.

“Between Note to a Friend, Writing Workshop, Computers, and Library over half the class chose academic centers,” she said.

We’d opened Gears, Lego’s, and a few other centers, but they just wanted to engage in literacy activities. They crave it. They also know we spend most of our time during centers helping friends with reading and writing. I sat with one friend and she read four books to me. Four. Awesome.

It was a nice way to start the week.



One of the many things I love about kindergarten is the way our year ebbs and flows from holiday to holiday. The excitement of Halloween runs into Thanksgiving, then slides into Christmas, takes a turn at Martin Luther King Day, and then we take a long layover at Valentine's Day (before heading straight for St. Patrick’s Day).

Valentine’s Day has to be one of the favorites for five-year-olds. At first, I didn’t understand why… after all, kindergartners haven’t quite discovered romantic love yet… then this year I finally figured it out. My sprouts just exude love.

How did I figure it out? Well, when they realized the calendar was turning over from January to February, the love began. Talk of Valentine’s (or ‘Falentime’s’ as many of them call it) began. David, always the charmer, walked right up to me and asked me to be his Valentine. David has no problem telling me he loves me (daily as a matter of a fact) and so asking me to be his Valentine just came naturally.

Darlene, a little more quiet with her affections, handed me a folded piece of paper. When I opened it, here’s what I saw:

Really? Come on now. February fourteenth can’t arrive soon enough for me. I love February. We get to celebrate the caring and loving nature that’s in our classroom all year long… and a grown man can never have enough Hannah Montana and Star Wars paper Valentines. As I tell them every year, I’m a sucker for the homemade ones… they get me every time.



During our Spanish this lesson this week, I had a ‘hold my breath’ moment. As our high school Spanish students were teaching us the names of Arctic animals, the word for ‘seal’ came up… it’s ‘foca’ and they even had a cute little song to help the class learn the new vocabulary.

When she said ‘foca’ and had the class repeat it, Andy shouted out, ‘FOCA! That’s a bad word, foca, foca, foca…”

This is when I held my breath. When the high schoolers come down, they lead the class. Mrs. D. and I usually stand to the side or in the back and participate, but truthfully, they are the teachers for the short time they’re in our room. I wasn’t sure how she was going to handle Andy’s blurting out…

Before I could catch my breath and open my mouth to intervene, she replied, “Oh, it’s not a bad word and we don’t use or talk about bad words in school, right?”

He nodded sheepishly.

I turned and smiled at Mrs. D. This young lady handled Andy like a pro. She wasn’t rattled or shaken in the least. We moved on with our lesson learning the Spanish words for bear, penguin, whale, and others. We sang our song a few times and Andy never flinched. She had put him in his place and I was quite proud of the way she handled the situation.



This week we opened a new center… Gears! For the uninitiated, Gears are kind of like Lego’s, but they’re round, snap together, and come with a crank and if you put them together, they turn, much like the gears of a watch. They are SUPER cool.

All week long, I walked by and watched sprouts working with the Gears. It’s rather easy to snap them together flat on the floor, but the really cool thing about gears is you can build them up as well… the tricky part is getting the gears on those vertical towers to turn. I sat and waited and said nothing…

Finally today, I sat down with two boys and worked with them. It was definitely a fine line between sitting back and doing nothing and butting in and showing them how it worked. I guided and suggested options to try rather than just did it. Eventually they got it and boy, were they wowed. They called other friends over to share and there was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment in the classroom.

It was an awesome way to end the week. Go Gears! Go Friday!



Today, when our high school Spanish teachers arrived, they had a friend with them… a special visitor. It was Alexander’s big sister, who happens to also be in high school.

Well, when Alexander saw his sister walk into the room, you would think Mickey Mouse himself had walked in. His face lit up. Alexander doesn't talk a lot, but the he smiled in a way I’d never seen before… he was, quite simply, beaming.

His sister stayed for our Spanish lesson and then for the rest of the afternoon. Alexander was in heaven. At the end of the day, she signed him out and drove him home – a special treat. As he was waiting for her to sign him out, I bent over and whispered, “Your big sister is really special… you really love her don’t you?”

He smiled and nodded feverishly. It was totally awesome.



By this time in our year in kindergarten, we’re really starting to ramp up some of our academic expectations. One way we work on our writing mechanics each day is with a fix it. We write a simple sentence on the board with LOTS of mistakes. Children have to identify the mistakes and ‘fix’ the sentence. We start with simple mistakes, such as capitalization, and then move to more complicated concepts like punctuation.

For weeks, our fix it has been missing a period and just about all sprouts notice the missing ‘dot’ at the end of the sentence. A few weeks ago, we introduced the question mark as an alternative to the period

Yesterday, our fix it was: cAN YOU Get A cat.

It was written just like that.

The first problems we fix are usually capitalization. At this point, most kids know we need capital letters at the beginning of sentences and for people’s names… and that’s it. For sure, this isn’t always transferred into the writing we see, but slowly improvements are happening.

After we fixed the ‘c’ to a ‘C’ and changed all the uppercase letters that to be lowercase, Andy raised his hand.

Andy is a reluctant writer. He once told me he ‘hated writing’ and wanted to ‘quit school and never come back’ if it meant he had to write. He’s come a long way, and I was thrilled to see his hand up.

“The ending… it needs to be a, a, a… a mystery dot!” He shouted.

Oh, the ever elusive, enigmatic ‘Mystery Dot’ – like Big Foot and the Lochness Monster, it’s rarely seen and its existence is still questioned by the scientific community.

After a few seconds, he continued, “It has a period and it’s a question… oh a question dot!”

He was getting warmer.

We eventually identified the punctuation mark as a question mark and moved on, but now, every time I see one, I’ll be thinking of the mystery dot.



When you teach kindergarten, kids bring you gifts. Letters, notes, drawings, paintings, leaves, rocks, you name it, I’ve gotten it. Well today, David walked in and handed me this:

I was stumped. I had no clue what it was. Of course, I didn’t want him to know that…

“Oh, I love it David! It’s so unique,” I began, using the vocabulary word we learned recently.

“I knew you would… remember my library book last week, with all the dinosaurs eating each other? Well my favorite dinosaur is the velociraptor and that’s a velociraptor claw! Neat, huh? I knew you’d love it.” He rambled.

“Oh, velociraptor is my favorite dinosaur too!” I exclaimed.

And it is. And I do love the claw. Somehow David just knew.