T-ball and tiaras.

Well the power of the Royal Wedding is supreme. It managed to infiltrate the walls of my kindergarten class yesterday… no doubt due to the fact that while all my little sprouts were getting ready for school they’re parents were glued to the nuptials.

As each little girl filtered into the room, something was mentioned about the dress, the wedding, the PRINCESS. It was all about the princess... the Disney marketing machine is powerful and the allure of a REAL princess was overwhelming. My favorite comment was from Audra who asked me, “Did you see that show on TV about the wedding?”

During Sharing Time, every single little girl shared something about ‘the princess’… there was a fascination with her dress, particularly, the tiara. I couldn’t help but laugh at the pattern of comments… to keep talking down to a minimum, we sit in a boy/girl pattern in our circle and the comments were also in a pattern… T-ball, tiara, T-ball, tiara… T-ball season starts this weekend and almost every boy shared his excitement over hitting off the T.

During dress up, we had more princesses than ever. Wedding reenactments were in full swing. The fever had taken over… when Betsy commented, “The other prince isn’t married yet!” I knew the royal frenzy had hit its peak. I’m hoping by Monday it’s died down just a little… we only have so many tiaras in the Dress Up bin.



Today, we our amazing third grade reading buddies had a special treat for us… they brought some of the personal narrative stories to share with us. As luck would have it, we’ve been working on trying to add more detail to our own stories to make them more interesting (not an easy task in kindergarten) and having our older buddies share their own writing with us turned out to be an unexpected perfect way to model the importance of details to a story.

As the children read with their buddies, I could see a few kindergarten eyeballs pop… these third graders were brilliant writers. They clearly knew what they were doing and maybe my sprouts could learn a thing or two from them.

When they left and we shared some of the stories they’d heard, the details all bubbled to the surface.

“My buddy wrote about a visit to a haunted house… there were skeletons, mummies, zombies, and a trail of bloody footprints!” One sprout shared.

“My buddy went to a fair and went on a rollercoaster, ate lots of food, played games, and had a really fun time,” another offered.

All these details are what make good writing, great writing. As much as we try to model with mentor texts and our own writing, nothing Mrs. D. or I could use is as powerful as the writing of a third grade buddy.



Two things I love and am not afraid to admit are Legos and Star Wars. There is actually a Star Wars Legos video game that is heaven… the kids know I love Star Wars as I have quite a few t-shirts with R2-D2 and C-3PO I wear from time to time… today, during centers, Andy called me over to show me his creation.

I was really impressed with his creativity. Out of regular Legos (not the super cool Star Wars kits – we don’t have those at school), he’d created a Star Wars fighter ship and two characters… Darth Vader and his ‘alien friend’ – my amazement was palpable and quite a few boys came sauntering over to see what the hubbub was all about.

I sat and played with Andy for awhile… I made my own Luke Skywalker ‘man’ by copying his model and we had a little light saber fight… as Andy pointed out, light sabers are NOT guns, so we were allowed. I agreed and we had a little fantasy battle. I let him win.

When I got up to leave, he stopped me by grabbing my hand, pulled me back down to his level, gave me a big smile and said, “May the force be with you!” Indeed, it was.



This afternoon, as I dismissed the class to get ready to go home, Evelyn hung back, standing a few feet away from me, just looking up at me. Clearly she wanted to tell or ask me something, so I took the bait.

“Do you need something?” I inquired.

She didn’t reply. She hesitated for a moment and then, with quite a bit of gusto, dove in for a tight hug.

That’s all she wanted. A hug… which naturally got me thinking about hugs and affection in our classroom.

Some sprouts can’t get enough hugs… they grab one whenever the opportunity arises, and often, even when it’s not the best time, like when the class is loud and I’m trying to quiet them, someone will lurk up to me and steal a hug. These are the sprouts that always seem to want contact... when they know a hug might not be right, they reach up and take your hand or lean on your shoulder when you're taking a brief moment to sit down.

Others almost never offer a hug. They’re sweet and kind, but for whatever reason, they don’t particularly want or need hugs… and then, out of the blue, they do. Like Eveylyn today. I think this might have been only the second or third time she’s wanted a hug all year.

Sometimes I think those rare hugs are extra special because I know a lot of thought and affection went into them… on the other hand, the ones that never stop hugging me are special too. I suppose pondering which type of hug is best is a good problem to have.



With two teachers and double the number of kids, walking in line in the hallway has become an art form. Usually one of us takes the front and the other the back. It works well because between the two of us, we can see almost the entire line.

Today, as I waited to take my place at the end of our line to head out for recess, the kids walked by waving, smiling, and hugging me.

Martin walked out of his place in line, approached me and said, “Mr. _______, can I take your hand and walk with you, please and thank you.”

What? ‘Please and thank you’? Really? This was something new… and for one of the few times in my day, I was speechless for a moment.

“Um, sure Martin,” I replied.

I mean really, how could I argue with such etiquette?

He reached up took my hand and we walked out.

I looked down at him and he said, “You said ‘yes’ because I’m so nice, right?”

“Partly… also because you asked so politely,” I answered.

With that we headed outside to play.



Let me start today with a confession. This morning, after my alarm went off and I was shuffling around trying to get my act together after a week off from school for Spring Break, I had a bratty baby moment… when nobody was listening, I whined a little… it was something like, ‘I don’t wanna go back to work’ in the most pathetic voice you can imagine.

Well, I did go in, and about two seconds after eight o’clock, when the first few sprouts skipped in, I felt much better. There really is something about smiles and hugs from five-year-olds that can brighten your day and make work, well, not really work.

As the day went on, I expected to become increasingly tired… I’m still fighting off bronchitis and am not quite back to my true self. It didn’t happen. The hugs, smiles, and stories just kept coming and kept me alert and ready. On the drive home my day finally caught up with me, but when I’m there, with the kids, experiencing our joy together, I’ve got the best remedy you could ask for.



No matter what they say, size does matter. Class size that is. Having only taught in one area of the country, my class sizes have always stayed rather uniform. When I taught second grade, I would have as many as twenty-three, which seemed like a lot. In kindergarten I’ve had as much as twenty, which, when they’re all there, seems like a whole lot. Funny thing is, many teachers have more… much more.

Obviously, the number of children in your room directly affects how much attention a teacher is able to give to each one, but class size goes deeper. In a kindergarten room, where you need room to move, stretch, dance, and play, the more bodies, the less space you have… as I found out last year, they start of like tiny munchkins, but by June they’re a whole lot bigger and take up a lot more room. Last year, with every straw we added to tally the number of days in school, our circle kept getting more ‘cozy’.

I’m not sure if there is data to back this up (I tried to find out, but gave up after awhile…), but it appears the closer you teach to a major city, the more kids you have. Obviously with a more dense population, you’re going to have more people to serve, but I have to imagine in bigger cities those kids have bigger challenges and could really benefit from smaller class sizes. When I read a reader in Baltimore had thirty-three students, another in Malibu had forty-two, and another poor teacher has so many sprouts two of them have to sit on the floor because she ran out of table space, my heart sank a little for each of them. I know they give it their all and do the best they possibly can, but forty-two kids with one teacher is just simply to many.

With budgets being slashed left and right I keep reading that class sizes are only going to be bigger… I can’t help but think that the politicians, and maybe even voters, who suggest and agree to this have no clue how it impacts the learning and success of children. What can we do? Unfortunately not a whole lot… parents have the power. I try to empower the parents in my classroom community to speak up and advocate for their children.

Here’s hoping our class sizes get smaller so every sprout can get the time and attention they deserve.  What are your thoughts on class size?



Well apparently when you are sick for over two weeks you need to go to the doctor… thankfully my dear friend Ms. R. nagged me enough and I finally went… severe bronchitis. I’ve never had bronchitis before, and the ‘severe’ just was the icing on the cake… I was given three medications and told to ‘rest’… not always easy for me. I cued up some movies and was thrilled to see there was a new Peanuts flick I hadn't seen called Happiness is a Warm Blanket.

Now I love me some Snoopy. If I ever was brave enough to get a tattoo it would surely be Snoopy… for the record I’m not a fan of needles so only temporary tattoos for me. As I watched the new movie I came to a stark realization… as much as I love Snoopy, I’m actually more of a Linus. I had a major blanket infatuation as a child and had some major connections to the story.

The basic plot centers on Linus and his beloved blanket. His sister Lucy wants to rid him his dirty habit and enlists the help of the entire gang to try and remove the pale blue blanket from his constant grip. In one of the final scenes, Linus stands in front of his sister and friends and first, admits his insecurities and need for his blanket, and second, makes them all realize they too are insecure and perhaps if they all had a blanket, would be better off.

Children need to feel secure. Part of our job (and the jobs never end…) as teachers is to make our sprouts feel safe. When we hold them accountable to the rules, they understand we’ll keep them in bounds… they feel secure and the love flows. I love how when I get firm with a child, or heaven forbid raise my voice (really, it’s rare) and they turn around with a ‘I love you’ and a hug… they crave boundaries. Sometimes being firm can be a lot like a warm blanket.



Dear Mr. Movie Executive,

As a kindergarten teacher, I have the unique perspective of watching a room full of five and six-year-olds (your target audience) for seven hours a day. I know you are constantly looking for the next ‘hot property’ for your children's movies and I figured, being the generous guy I am, I’d offer some advice.

I grew up satiated by classic two dimensional, hand drawn animation. My Saturday mornings were filled with Looney Toons, Smurfs, He-Man, and bowls of sugary cereal carefully prepared by my older brother. A trip to the movies was usually to see an hour and a half long animated version of a favorite… The Peanuts had a few that I fondly remember and every few years Disney would rerelease a classic and I was in heaven.

As I grew up, Disney began churning out new hits. The Great Mouse Detective (a seriously overlooked gem), The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King brought the modern Broadway musical to movie screens across the world. Adults enjoyed these as much as the kids and the box office receipts exploded.

Then something peculiar happened. Somebody got the idea that computer animation was required to bring in the masses. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Toy Story flicks, but as the computer animation revival took off (really, do we need another Shrek movie?), the warmth and emotion of traditional hand drawn animation fell to the wayside. It’s almost disappeared altogether and I’m a little sad about that.

Last week, on a dreary rainy day, I popped in a DVD I’d bought with some Scholastic points (seriously, kindergarten parents buy a ton of books!). The DVD was just some fun children stories that had been animated. One of our class favorites, Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type was played… with simple animation and zero special effects, we laughed and giggled through the entire movie.

With a few minutes left, I played Let’s Give Kitty a Bath. This one was live action… two children, a boy and a girl, decide to give their kitty a bath. The smart feline outwits their attempts and eventually, well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise ending… this movie looked like it had been filmed with a camcorder in the mid-eighties for about two hundred bucks. It was bad… the quality that is… the movie itself was cute, engaging, and had my entire class roaring with laughter.

So the next time you’re sitting around your big important conference table trying to think of the next big idea (Gnomeo and Juliet? Really?), come ask my kindergartners what makes them laugh… they don’t need 3D glasses or computer animation… Keep it simple...just a boy and girl trying to bathe their scrawny, dirty kitty.



Ah Spring Break. How I love a week to sleep in and take naps. I suppose I’m a little addicted to sleep these days… With no travel plans, I fully intend to both sleep in and nap everyday. I have plans to do other stuff outside… but if Mother Nature plays her cards right, some of those naps might be outside.

Last year, as a cost savings measure, my district started closing our building during extended breaks. Makes perfect sense to me. By not allowing access the building can significantly cut heating/cooling (depending on the time of year) and energy costs. Apparently, some teachers didn’t like this idea very much…

I guess some folks like to come in during vacations to prep, plan, and I don’t know, take naps on their classroom floors? I’m not sure, but I can tell you I give one hundred and fifty percent of myself to my sprouts when school in session, but I have zero problem staying away when we don’t have school.

Sure, I may bring some planning or reading home with me, but the operative word there is ‘home’… at least for me. Part of my mental and physical recharging is not being in the space… I suppose I’m the exception and not the rule.

After some finagling, we were informed we could indeed access the school during Spring Break. I think I may have heard a few cheers through the hallways when the email was sent… not from me. A polite, ‘thanks, but no thank you’ was all I whispered. I’ll take my Break with a side of sleep, home, and rest and leave the school to others. After all, it will all be waiting for me when I return.



Today during Centers, I was sitting in a seat in the middle of the action (Vet Center, Kitchen, and Dress Up). I was just kind of sitting back and watching them play. It’s Friday and Spring Break started when school was over… they were ramped up and I was trying to stay out of their way.

Connie came over from the kitchen to announce she was baking something special just for me.

“You’ll know when it’s done because there will be a beautiful smell coming from the oven,” she proclaimed.

I never did smell that beautiful smell, but I got a plastic strawberry on a plate. Just what I wanted!

I helped Michael shimmy into a shiny turquoise dress that was really too small for him… he made it work and even found a crown to go with it. It was the first time he’d donned a dress this year and I smiled when I heard him say, “I like this… I think I’ll leave it on until Centers are over.”

In the Vet Center, David informed me his bear (how did that stuffed bear swindle his way into the Vet Center… last I checked it was only stuffed dogs and cats) was named ‘Mr. _______ Bear’ after me. He then told me Mr. _______ Bear was sick… I was out sick two days last week and haven’t fully recovered. The kids know I’m under the weather.

He spent his entire playtime taking care of that bear and telling me all the things he needed to do to help make him feel better. Finally he realized, “Mr. _______ Bear just needs some rest… good thing we have a week off!”

I think David was right…. Mr. _______ Bear and I will enjoy sleeping in for awhile.



Meetings… ugh. Today I had an entire full day of Very Important Meetings. I had a sub and everything. I was doing more shifting in my seat and leg tapping than all my sprouts combined. I abhor meetings. I finished about forty-five minutes before the day ended. The office told me I could just do some work since I already had a sub and the day was almost over… I went back to my classroom.

I was attacked with smiles and hugs and in that moment I remembered why I’m not a ‘meeting’ guy but rather a ‘kindergarten teacher’ guy.

Connie gave me this picture she had worked on…

“I’m not finished with it, but you can take it home and color the rest!” She exclaimed.

Of course that must be what I do when I get home… color!

Kelly, who has some major speech issues and has yet to string more than two words together came up to me, handed me a note and said, as clear as day, “I love you Mr. _______.”

Cue the single tear and my heart breaking just a tiny bit.

As much as I don’t love meetings, they help me remember how much I love my job and I love my sprouts.



Today Martin had a field day at Snack Time. For the record, Martin has trouble staying in his seat… we usually push it in and have him stand.

“Martin, what did those goldfish ever do to you?” I asked.

They were scattered on the floor lifeless… awaiting crushing.

“I dunno,” he replied with a mouth full of crackers.

By this time, they’d been smashed to smithereens by passers by.

“Come with me,” I motioned to him.

We walked over and got the dustpan and brush.

They were soul mates. Martin took that dustpan and brush and wouldn’t stop cleaning… after the trampled goldfish were cleaned up and scampered around the room cleaning up any crumb and wrapper in sight. Even after we’d started our next activity on the carpet, he kept sweeping… and I let him.

Martin found a new companion today. Sometimes good friends are a match made in heaven.



Today, as part of our animal unit, I read two of my all time favorite books. I'm a sucker for non-fiction and I think my sprouts share my enthusiasm. Learning about the world around us is just plain fun and these two books bring a bit of the world into our classroom, not something to so easy to do. As a child, I have such vivid memories of going to the zoo. We always lived near one and trips to visit the animals were an often occurrence for my family. I live and work in an area not close to a zoo... both of these books help me bring a little of that excitement to my itty bitty friends.

The first book, Actual Size by Steve Jenkins is a beautifully illustrated oversized book showing different parts of animals in, you guessed it, their actual size. As we read the book, I invited children to come up and compare their eye to that of the giant squid and their foot to that of an elephant. It's pretty powerful.

The second book, Life-Sized Zoo is the same kind of idea, only with photographs. Many of the pages fold out two or three times to show the actual head and neck of the animal in real size. The amount of cheering and elation from both books made my day.

We truly love non-fiction and these books are an amazing asset to our classroom library. Can't visit an actual zoo? Take these over-sized books for a spin and bring the animals to you!



Oh how I love snack time. In kindergarten, our snack time is a short ten minute break in our morning when sprouts get to socialize and practice fine motor skills as they attempt to open their snacks. Last year I did a group snack, but with the multitude of allergies in my room this year (really, there are allergies this year I wasn’t even aware of before… apparently people can be allergic to anything…), we each bring our own this year.

I usually walk around and help open items deemed too difficult for a five-year-old to open… which leads me to the question, why send your child with a snack they can’t open? Surely parents don’t believe teachers have time to open the snack of every child in the room… or maybe they do? I learned quickly to try and teach rather than do. Usually most kids are able to open their snacks, I get the feeling they’ve just never had to before. It’s quite empowering to see a child open a snack.

The other day I was helping with a particularly difficult Tupperware container… seriously, it was almost impossible for even me to open. When I finally pried the nasty lid from its nest, I said, “Phew, that was hard, I deserve a reward for all that hard work.”

Without missing a beat, Michelle lifted up a single tiny cheese cracker, “Here, take one.”

Now who am I to refuse the gift of a small child?

Naturally, the other kids wanted me to try their snacks too. I politely accepted anything healthy and declined sweets. I love sweets, but I’m a role model here and I do want to promote healthy snacking. I walked around snacking on this and that and by the time snack time was over, my heart was light and my belly full. Snacker… just one more job you take on as a teacher.



Wow. After missing two days last week and then the weekend, I wasn’t prepared for how darn missed I was. From the moment the sprouts filed into the classroom this morning, I was showered with ‘I miss you’ and hugs from left and right.

David made a point to pull me aside and tell me, “Mr. _______, I missed you so badly, I missed you the two days you were out and I thought about you all weekend long, I’m so glad you’re back.”

He really seemed to mean it too.

Martin forgot our conversation and tried to climb on my lap… a few times.

Audra gave me a few random hugs during transitions… she just couldn’t resist.

I got a few hugs from boys who were first timers… they’d never offered one before.

I started my day not feeling so well. I wasn’t sure I’d even made the right decision to go in today… but as the day progressed and I was showered with hugs, smiles, and genuine heartfelt love, I actually felt better. I know, it sounds corny, but it’s true. Those sprouts were just the medicine I needed.

I wonder how many of my non-teacher friends are missed so badly when they miss a few days of work?



So in my flu fog of lying on the sofa napping on and off (which felt more like going in and out of consciousness), I heard something on one of the morning talk shows about love. I’m not sure what channel it was, what show it was, or exactly who said it, but the discussion was about measuring the success of your life in love.

Instead of how much money or fame you’ve accumulated as a barometer for success, how much love have you given and how much have you received would be a better way to measure the achievement of your life. This thought perked me up… if only for a moment. I jotted it down in my notebook and fell back to sleep. When I woke hours later (seriously, being sick stinks), I was still thinking about it... which also made me think of this little guy playing his heart out about... yes, love.

Naturally, as a kindergarten teacher, love is a currency exchanged daily. I get more notes and pictures that proclaim adoration for me than I can count. I’m told ‘I love you’ dozens, if not more, times a day. Beyond the concrete displays of love (hugs are numerous and heartfelt), the smiles I get (particularly from one little guy who would probably never say he loved me), just exude love.

I have to admit, I feel it back. Even during my worst moments, when my patience is dwindling, when if I hear ‘Mr. ______, Mr. _______, Mr. _______!’ one more time I think my head might pop off, even then, I still love my sprouts. Each and every one of them.

This love fest I encounter each day at school leads me to believe I’m doing quite well in life. I’m not famous and have zero interest in starring on a reality show. My bank account isn’t busting at the seams and probably never will. My love piggybank is busting at the seams though… color me successful.



Kindergarteners are an enthusiastic bunch. Whenever a question is asked, hands go up, arms start waving, and grunts and other unpleasant noises can usually be heard. God forbid a sprout needed, oh say time or quiet, to think, they’d never get either.

Last year, in a last ditch effort to offer those who needed a little peace and quiet to think some of both, I devised, on the fly I might add (my best ideas come to me that way…), a way for everyone to get the time they needed to think. I don’t have a name for it, but here is how it works.

After I ask a question, children take their index finger and tap it on their chin. This signals ‘thinking’ – it’s nice to look around the room and see all those fingers tap tap tapping away. When an answer formulates, they simply move the finger from their chin to the temple of their forehead. The entire movement is silent and I can quickly see who is still thinking and who is ready with an answer.

Whenever we do a group sharing activity, I model it myself and, naturally, they all want to copy me. Calm, peaceful thinking is always good to see.



Well, it's official. I'm sick. As I fight the flu (I'm feeling better today than yesterday - today I only feel as if I've been run over by a van, not a bus), here's another one from the archive. An oldie, that many probably haven't read. I've got a new post sometime this weekend and plan on resuming my normal work/writing on Monday.

Everyone knows that teachers are held to higher standards than regular folks. Kids look up to us—it’s that simple. We’re the ones who put Band-aids on cuts, comfort the homesick, reattach eyes to beloved stuffed animals (I’ve already done this...twice) and navigate the tricky waters of five-year-old friendships. Anyone who has run a classroom of young children knows it’s not a stretch to say that we’re worshipped.

But the funny thing is, we’re normal people.

I teach in a town relatively far from where I live. It takes me almost thirty minutes to get to school. Yes, I often complain about the commute, but one day I was reminded why the distance is a good thing.

While driving home from work, I figured I could save some time by popping into a local grocery store—local to the school, that is—to pick up some items I needed for a special snack the next day (mini Oreo cookies…wheels for our graham cracker buses). While in the store, I picked up a couple things I needed for home as well, including a twelve-pack of my favorite beer. It had been a stressful day; I thought I deserved it.

And as I headed toward the checkout with my cookies and beer, I bumped into a parent and former student. Neither said anything about my purchases, but I saw their eyes. I knew what they were thinking.

Okay, so I’m a teacher. I have a great responsibility and I take it very seriously at all times—not just when I’m in the classroom. I understand, too, that my students think I’m a rock star (a few have even told me so). However, I’m also a human being. I get stressed out and, trust me, I’m not always good at hiding it.

For the most part, though, I like to think—I hope—that my students are not aware of my stresses. I’ve had moments where my personal life was in turmoil and I wasn’t sure I could hold it together, but in front of my class, I smiled through it. I had to. Not only would my students not understand my grownup problems, but they didn’t need to hear about them. In fact, they deserved not to. They’d have plenty of grownup problems of their own—as we all do—in the future.

That day in the grocery store, I was reminded why living a distance from my students is a good thing. Sometimes, keeping my home life separate from my school one is what’s best for my students. And because from time to time, I need a beer. Don’t hate me because I’m human.



Well I'm sick again. I had just said to someone I thought my immune system was doing really well warding off all the germs and then, boom, cold chills and aches. Naturally, I debated staying home this morning and then after I finally called in, I fell back asleep for almost three hours... and then woke up, ate, and took another two hour nap. Clearly my body wants rest... and yet why do we teachers always feel GUILTY (a word my mother and grandmother have drilled into me well) when we call in sick?

In honor of my illness, which I'm convinced was brought on by me being a sucker for a hug, even if the child giving it has a runny nose and is literally coughing in my face, here's one of my all time favorite poems.  Now for nap number three.

by Shel Silverstein

I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash, and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox,
And there’s one more – - that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue –
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke –
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose I cold, my toes are numb,
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have hangnail, and my heart is – what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is … Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play.



Today we took a field trip to a local sporting goods store… the reason? We’re studying animals and their habitats and this particular store, Cabella’s (their a national chain) has stuffed animals all over the place. Here are some memorable things you might have heard if you were on the trip with us…

“Cabella’s! Cabella’s! Cabella’s!” – the entire bus chanting/screaming as we approached and they saw the sign. You’d have thought we were pulling into Disney.

“I know they say those animals are dead, but I know they’re not – they’re just staying really, really still.”

“Please don’t pick your nose and then put your fingers on the aquarium glass.”

“It says that elephant skulls weighs 100 pounds – do you weight that much Mr. _______?” (Love that kid.)

Me – “Xander, where’s your jacket?”

Xander – “I don’t know, I dropped it somewhere…” As he walks towards another animal with no regard for his lost jacket.

“Look! Those tents are just floating in the air!” (You could clearly see the rope.)

“Mr. _______, why is that hyena jumping on the back of the other hyena?”

"Prairie dog butt! Prairie dog butt! Prairie dog butt! Prairie dog butt! Prairie dog butt!"

And my all time favorite (drum roll please…)

“Thank you for setting it all up, but no our kindergartners aren’t going to be able to use the gun gallery to shoot fake animals.”

We had a blast looking at all the animals. I know that a field trip day should be easier, but for some reason, they’re always more tiring and exhausting than a ‘normal’ day. I’m almost wishing I was one of those stuffed animals and able to just relax a little.



Oh how I love working in a K-3 school…

This morning, our math lesson was a dice game where sprouts worked in pairs. Each child got a pair of dice, rolled them, and then had to total their dice. Whoever had the higher number got a chip. There were ten chips in each cup, when all the chips were gone, they were tallied and a winner identified. The tricky part was we’re working on 'counting on' as opposed to just counting all the dots on the dice. 'Counting on' can be tricky for kindergarteners…

We worked all morning during our math time and even played again in the afternoon… many got it, but many struggled too.

I also popped into my dear friend Mrs. F.’s room. Mrs. F. teaches third grade and her students are also our reading buddies. When I opened the classroom door, the room was totally silent. The boys and girls were all sitting and working in their math journals. I looked at the board and saw a problem much like this:

In third grade. Coming from my classroom, this looked downright like college algebra to me. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent guy and I had to look at the problem for a few moments before I realized how to solve it… not only were her students solving it correctly, I was told by more than a few that this was ‘easy peasy, lemon squeezy’ and felt even dumber than before… are all the hugs and hand holding turning my brain to mush?

I turned to go and was eager to return to kindergarten.  Hats off to Mrs. F. and her third graders. They are doing some amazing stuff up in that second floor classroom. I’ll stick with 'counting on' and counting to one hundred… hey, we all have our roles to play.



Wow. It’s a little on the long side (yes, I’ve got ADD and twelve minutes is a long time for me to attend to almost anything…), but this video is powerful. Ali Carr-Chellman (I’ve never heard of her before but she’s one of my new heroes) expounds on why boys are overwhelmingly failing in today’s schools.

Here are her basic three reasons why boys are out of sync in classrooms. After each symptom, I’m giving a little bit of my perspective… because you know, I have to so much to say about stuff.

1.Zero Tolerance – Most schools today have a zero tolerance for anything that resembles a weapon. With the violence in middle and high schools, these polices are certainly understandable… problem is, most boys yearn for the magical, the fantasy, the otherworldly elements in their reading and writing.

If you’ve never read Ralph Fletcher’s Boy Writers (another hero of mine), do yourself a favor and pick it up… especially if you’re a female and work with boys. He does a remarkable job of explaining why boys are drawn to these elements and offers many tips on how we can be inclusive of their desires.

Simply put, Zero Tolerance rules are black and white and we all know the world is made of many more shades.

2.Fewer male teachers – According to Ms. Carr-Chellman only 7% of elementary teachers are men. That’s it. That’s pathetic.

When I walk the hallways of my school, it never ceases to amaze me the number of boys that I don’t know who seek me out for waves, high fives, smiles, you name it. They are craving a male to look up to.

Whatever the reason, men aren’t going into teaching, especially in elementary grades. Boys need to see men in the classrooms. When you walk into an unfamiliar place and look around, you see who is in charge… it helps guide your opinion about that place. Quite simply, boys walk into classrooms and only see women feel like this is definitely a place for girls, but wonder where do the boys fit in?

3.Curriculum Compression – Everyone knows kindergarten is becoming more like first grade (Ms. Carr-Chellman suggests it’s the new second grade… scary). With boys generally developing slower than girls, where does this leave the boys? Far behind, that’s where.

I’m not exactly sure how we as educators can help boys keep up, but we need to be asking the question and thinking about solutions. So go ahead, please comment below and share your ideas for helping boys be successful.



My friend John over at Spencer's Scratchpad's post about how he'd fix the education system (prompted by a post over at Teach Paperless - really, the blogosphere is awesome...) prompted me to think how I would fix the education system... hmmm, a big task no doubt. John summed up his fix in one word: love. I'd add another: Joy.

Besides being the name of my favorite cousin (Holla Joy!), it's also on a plaque a dear friend of mine gave me when I first became a teacher. When I asked her about it, her simple reply was 'Teach with joy' - I try to look at it and remember that each day I walk into the classroom.

I'm not trying to brag or take anything away from folks who teach other grades, but there isn't anything much more fun than working with kindergartners. Sure, they're demanding and the level of independence is rather low at the beginning of the year... but to see that lightbulb go off when a sprout learns to write his name for the first time or reads her first book - there's just nothing like it.

So my proposal - you know to fix the entire education system, is for everyone, I mean EVERYONE, responsible for making those big decisions to come spend a day in my classroom. Watch the sheer joy with which I try to teach my young charges how to, above all else, love learning. Watch the complete joy with which they enter the classroom each day and do nothing but give their all to try and become the best they can be. Take even a sliver of that joy back to (fill in your nation or state capital) and remember those faces, those smiles, when you make your decisions.

Problem solved.


Last week, as the snow approached and the energy from our conferences peaked, I found myself in need of calming my entire class down… quickly. I know, this is the situation in most kindergarten rooms most of the time, but let’s just say the energy was overflowing and I needed to squelch it.

As the case with many folks with ADD, my mind can be like a tornado… all the thoughts and information are swirling around at high speed and it actually takes effort to grab one for my use. Luckily, at this moment, as the noise increased and my nerves began to rattle, I was able to pluck a useful gem out of the chaos in my mind.

“Girls and boys, has anyone ever heard of yoga?” I asked.

A few hands went up, but mostly I got perplexed looks.

“Yoga is the little green guy from Star Wars! I love Yoga!” Andy shouted.

My need for yoga increased.

“No, yoga is actually something you do with your body to help you stay strong, but it also relaxes your mind and relieves stress,” I explained.

“I do yoga sometimes, would you like to learn some poses?” I offered.

To be honest, I’ve only gone to a few yoga class with different friends that have dragged me… I do like it, but I don’t do it regularly.

With that, I modeled the tree pose. A silence came over the room as I watched my little sprouts try to be tall trees. I explained the slow intentional breathing. We then moved into the warrior pose. I did my best, trying to sound like the yoga expert I’m not, but they did well and actually begged to do more.

I was telling my friend Susan this story because she IS a yoga expert. She suggested I share the lion pose with my class. Apparently you stick your tongue out as far as you can and make a lion growl with your throat. All I could think was, ‘Heck Yeah!’ they are going to love that pose. We’ll be tree loving warrior lions in no time.



A new pastime of mine at school has become being silent intruder… I don’t get a fancy Mission Impossible outfit and I don’t break in with ropes. Lately, I’ve been prone to walking into first grade classrooms unannounced. The lovely teachers in my hallway don’t mind a bit. Their classrooms are always calm, quiet, organized, and tranquil… so nothing like a kindergarten classroom. If first grade is learning to leave the nest, kindergarten is the, sometimes violent and erratic, business of hatching.

During my lunchtime, I just can’t resist popping in to see old sprouts from last year and just see how their rooms are running. At this point in the year, first grade is starting to look a lot like second grade. Reading is becoming fluent and writing is getting longer, neater, and deeper. It’s a sight to see.

The funny thing is, the two first grade teachers I share the hallway with are on opposite sides of the spectrum. One is a veteran with years of experience and the other is a newbie… it’s her first year. Yet both rooms are almost identical. I pride myself on fostering independence in my classroom, but the amount of autonomy I see in these first grade rooms is staggering.

The other day I walked into the newbie’s classroom. She was sitting at a table with a few friends and the rest of the class was working around the room. Some were reading in the library, others were on computers, a few were writing, and one little boy was doing a math activity on the floor. It was virtually silent. I was almost jealous… almost.

While I envy the calm and peaceful atmosphere I find in the first grade classrooms in my hallway (ahhhhh, the sound of silence…), part of me enjoys the chaos that comes with kindergarten. The crazy, loud, and even frantic, nature of five and six-year-olds suits me. We’re learning to be independent… I’m getting them ready for their first grade serenity. Those first grade teachers owe me big time.



This week, Audra’s mom went away for a few days for work. As often happens when moms go away, I get humorous emails asking to make sure hair has been brushed and children are clothed. Really moms, dads aren’t totally incompetent. Are they?

I did check in with Audra a few times. She appeared clean, clothed, and her hair even looked like it had been brushed (for the record, when I asked about it, it hadn’t been). I gave her some extra hugs and she seemed happy as a clam… really, why are clams so happy? Everyone is digging them up and eating them… but I digress…

Yesterday afternoon in the Library Center, I was listening to sprouts read to me and after Audra finished a book, I asked her, “Hey, did your dad take you out for dinner last night?”

“No we ate at home,” she replied.

“Oh really? Is your dad a good cook? What did you have?” I inquired.

“Well… we just had bowls of cereal,” she answered.

I have to admit, I’ve had cereal for dinner on a few occasions. It’s quick, easy, and cleanup is minimal. Bravo to Audra’s dad for being quick on your feet and showing the world that dads can hold down the fort just fine… at least for a few days.