In common.

Today as we walked outside for recess, David grabbed my hand. This isn’t unusual for him… as we walked to the hill, he looked up at me and said, “You know what Mr. _______, you and I have a lot in common.”

“Really? Like what?” I said, taking the bait.

“Well, first of all, we are both smart,” he began.

“Very true,” I agreed.

“Secondly, we both love to write,” he continued.

“Also a fact,” I said. I’ve shared my love of writing with my sprouts.

“Finally, we’re both quite handsome,” he said with a smile.

“No arguments from me David… now go run and play,” I instructed.

And with that, he took off like a bullet. My miniature carbon copy.



Last week, when we took our field trip to the beach, I sat next to Cindy on the way back. She, like the rest of the sprouts, was tired and quiet from all the sun and salty air. About halfway back to school, she looked up at me and said, “You know, we don’t have school on Monday.”

I’m always tickled when kids tell me something I already know and think I don’t (like when Luther arrived that morning and asked me if I knew we were going on a field trip today…). It never occurred to Cindy that I didn’t know we had Monday off.

“Yes, I know, but do you know why we don’t have school?” I asked her.

“Um… so we can have a barbeque?” She offered.

“Not really,” I replied.

“Is it because it’s getting warmer and nice out?” She tried again.

“Well it is warmer and lots of folks have barbeques, but we have the day off because of Memorial Day,” I began.

I could see the blank look on her face.

“Memorial Day is a day we take off to honor all the soldiers and people who have fought in wars for our country's freedom,” I explained.

Summing up complicated ideas and concepts in one sentence is a skill needed when working with five and six-year-olds.

“We’ll talk more about Memorial Day tomorrow and next week,” I assured her.

With that she closed her eyes and rested until we arrived back at school. The next day, when I asked about Memorial Day, Cindy had her hand proudly waving. She knew why we take this day of remembrance off.



A good friend of mine passed this article on to me from The Economist. The research presented debates the practice of telling children how something works first versus letting them explore on their own.

As teachers, we struggle with this all the time. As a rule, I want to let my sprouts discover new learning tools, manipulatives, and toys on their own, but I do have to take safety into consideration.

When introducing a new tool in the classroom, I try to use The Responsive Classroom’s Guided Discovery model. In a nutshell, this process involves:
  • naming the material
  • collecting ideas about its use
  • exploration
  • sharing what was learned or observed about the material
  • cleanup
During the ‘collecting ideas about its use’ brainstorming, I always interject my ‘safety concerns’ – For instance, while introducing Play Dough, when I feel like we’re coming to the end of our ideas, I throw out something like, “So if you make a pizza out of Play Dough, would it be all right to actually put it in your mouth and eat it?” I try not to come out and say “Don’t eat it!” – which is what I really want to do… instead I guide the class to their own conclusion about the edibility of Play Dough.

I’m always amazed at how children find unique ways to use something… often in ways new to their classmates and me. Yes, you can make a video game out of wooden blocks! Sure, the dollhouse is a wonderful way to practice what we’ve learned about fire safety. Building bridges with snap cubes and testing the number of cubes before it snaps is Engineering 101.

When we let children use their imaginations to create their own rules and boundaries around toys and tools, the possibilities for learning are endless.

How do you introduce new items?

(a wooden block video game)



These last few weeks of school are always a challenge. Mother Nature is partially to blame. With the warmer temperatures it’s more difficult to sustain the attention of a six-year-old, but I do my best. In kindergarten, more than some of the older grades, the kids are also beginning to become anxious at the prospect of leaving the safety and comfort of their friends, classroom, and teacher. Behaviors often spike.

When we began our Ocean Unit a few weeks ago, we also began our ‘fish’ whole class incentive program. It’s rather simple. A fish bowl is drawn on the board and for every morning or afternoon we can go without any major behaviors we draw a fish in the tank. Physical contact or a child needing to visit the Rest Stop defines a major behavior.

The incentive was an indoor beach party. We’d planned the party for yesterday weeks ago, but the class didn’t know that… they thought they had to earn it. We set our goal as ten fish. Ten. That’s it. With each day they had the chance to earn two fish - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. They could have those ten fish in one week. As luck would have it, we only earned the tenth fish the day before we’d planned the party. It took over two weeks to earn those fish.

Our party was a huge success. We made our own beach visors, wore sunglasses and flip-flops, laid our beach towels out, and sang all our ocean songs. We also watched Finding Nemo. I always feel like Mr. Ray was my inspiration to become a teacher... Being a movie released almost ten years before any of my sprouts were born, I was surprised how many of them hadn’t seen it. It’s always fun to watch a child enjoy an amazing movie for the first time… plus with all we’ve been learning about the ocean it’s really a good representation of all the facts we’ve discussed… except for the talking fish of course.

We’ve got a few more days to wrap our Ocean Unit and then it’s on to insects… I’m thinking we’ll be working on getting spots on a ladybug…



Slow down… breathe… take it all in. Things I know I should do, but when the day is spinning, sometimes hard to do. Kids have a way of forcing us to… in their own special way.

Today, after writing facts about whales in our Ocean Journals, I sat reading them to the class. As usual, I had one eye on the clock and was thinking about getting the class to the cafeteria on time. I was doing my best to be in the moment and relish praise on each author, but I also knew we needed to get to lunch in a timely fashion.

When I finally read the last journal, a few hands went up. At this point, we had about five minutes to wash up, get our things, and be down the hallway.

“Dan, is it an emergency?” I asked.

This is my ‘we don’t have time for you to tell me about your grandmother’s new puppy’ comment.

“No, I just wanted to tell David his writing was really good today,” he spit out before I could cut him off.

Yes, universe, stop, slow down, take the moment.

David was displaying an enormous smile.

“You’re right Dan, and thank you for that compliment… now to get ready for lunch,” I said.



Yesterday was my birthday. I got many gifts and cards from friends, but, not surprisingly, it was the treasures from my sprouts that made my day. As they each arrived I got many ‘Happy Birthday’ shout outs and extra hugs. They really were excited for my big day. As we do for all birthdays we sang our special birthday song, A Cat Hat A Birthday. It’s way more fun than boring old ‘Happy Birthday’…

A few had made special cards, paintings, notes, and some even had treats! I oohed and ahhed over each surprise and by the time we arrived at the end of Morning Meeting I was on cloud nine. Then Mrs. D. told me they had a surprise for me.

When I was out a few weeks ago, they made me a special book. I had a clue there was something special, but I wasn’t sure what… kindergartners don’t keep secrets well, but they hadn’t spilled the beans entirely.

After reading The Important Book (one of my all time favorites), they wrote a book for me… The Important Thing About Mr. _______. Each child wrote and illustrated a page. As Mrs. D. read the book to me and shared the pictures, I tried my best not to get choked up.

As I sat and listened to her, I was overcome with a deep feeling of gratitude. How lucky can a guy get? I also couldn’t help but be taken aback by what the majority of my sprouts found important about me… sure a few mentioned ‘school stuff’ (he reads to us, he helps us count, and he teaches us), but overwhelmingly, they had written about feelings.

Here are a few highlights.

(Really, what could be more important than love?)

(Hugs are super important too.)

(Overwhelmingly it was about hugs and love. I also realized today, without me for a kindergarten teacher, they wouldn't have mastered the art of drawing curly hair...)

(Whoa.  This one really got me.  Simple, yet surprisingly deep.  Probably my favorite.)

There’s a famous quote, ‘They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ My sprouts definitely feel loved and really, isn't that the most important part of my job?  After reading my book, I consider myself a success... and that truly is the most awesome gift.  Best. Birthday. Ever.



Well today is my birthday. Yes, I’m a grown-up and I still get excited about my birthday. I got some amazing cards and gifts (more on that tomorrow) from little friends. Being my big day, I don’t have time to give my sprout’s gifts the attention they deserve today, but one grown-up card, from Mrs. D. just tickled me silly and I had to share it quickly.

In our class, we sing and dance to nursery rhymes daily. Each week we learn a new one and it then becomes a part of our motor break repertoire. The very first rhyme we learn is Jack Be Nimble. Naturally, we don’t just sing it – we sing the Jack Hartmann version which basically rocks out and has us jumping up and down like fools.

Well, this was the card Mrs. D. handed over today (click to make it larger).

I’m not sure how where she found it, but somehow, it was just the perfect card for me. Tomorrow, with more time, I’ll share my other gifts… Some of them literally took my breath away. Come back tomorrow to share my bounty.



There was some major excitement in class today. No, it’s not our field trip later this week… we’re not having pajama day or a pizza party… we didn’t get a class pet pony… What is it then? Well, tomorrow is my birthday.

Yes, you read that correctly, my birthday. For some reason, this year, more than ever, my sprouts are totally freaking out about my birthday. To be fair, I don’t think I’ve hyped it up or talked it about more than any other birthday… they are just super ready to celebrate with me tomorrow.

I know they’ve got something special brewing… How do I know? Well, kindergartners don’t keep secrets well. Here’s what I know.
  • They have some sort of present for me.
  • They made it with Mrs. D. when I was out for a meeting a few weeks ago.
  • It’s not in the classroom so I shouldn’t bother looking for it.
  • I’m really, really, REALLY going to love it.
I’ve been told the above facts about eighty-two times by different children at varying times. It’s awfully cute, but heaven help them if they ever needed to keep a really important secret.

Today at calendar Andy was Calendar Helper. He was up there, super excited to be doing his job. When it came time to read what day was Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, he said, “Yesterday was Monday, today is Tuesday, and tomorrow is Mr. _______’s birthday!”

Actually, tomorrow is Wednesday… but it’s my birthday too and I suppose that trumps Wednesday in Andy’s book.

Most people with ‘regular’ jobs often take their birthday off… I wouldn’t dream of missing my big day tomorrow with my smallest friends.


Teaching Tolerance.

I'm thrilled and honored to announce I've been selected to write for the Teaching Tolerance website. Teaching Tolerance magazine has been a favorite of mine since I began teaching and the chance to write for this amazing magazine's website and share my love of... well teaching tolerance, is another dream come true.

Here's my first entry - another peek inside my classroom. I wanted to share this story about breaking down gender stereotypes with the reader's of my blog. I hope you enjoy it... perhaps after reading, you'll come back here and let me know how you help children break down gender stereotypes.

You can click the image below to read it.



It never ceases to amaze and delight me the way a six-year-old (yes, most of them are six now…) can raise me out of a foul mood. As I wrote about Friday, it rained ALL WEEK. It was miserable. By Friday, I was not my usual chipper self to say the least.

During Center Time, I was sitting, gloomily, in the Kitchen when David came over to take my order.

“What do you feel like today, Mr. _______?” He asked.

“Hmmm. I’m not really hungry, why don’t you just bring me something light,” I said.

“I know just what you need,” he murmured as he walked back into the kitchen.

After a few minutes of rustling and mumbling from him and his co-cooks, he emerged with this in hand:

“David, is that a… a money sandwich?” I asked him.

“Uh-huh – sure to satisfy your belly and make you smile!” He cheered.

How could I not have a huge grin on my face as I pretended to eat my expensive snack?  Rainy gloom... you've met your match.



We are smack in the middle of our Ocean Unit. We’re learning about the water cycle and many ocean animals. I’ve shared some of my own ocean adventures (scuba diving, whale watching tours, etc.) and brought in some ocean relics to share. We’re taking a field trip to the beach next week and we’ve really just all got ocean on the brain… some of us a little more than others.

Yesterday during Sharing, Rebecca, who has a tendency to embellish, announced, “Last Wednesday I went scuba diving with my dad… we saw a… dolphin, but the waves were so big the dolphin got washed up on the shore… then my dad and me saved it.”

She ended with a big smile intended to convince me her story was true. I wondered, 'Who goes scuba diving on Wednesday?'

Mrs. D. was out and her substitute, the lovable Mrs. Hashbrown, looked at me and just started giggling.

“OHHHHHH… K then, thanks for sharing,” I said.

I’m thinking of asking Rebecca’s dad along on our field trip next week, with him, some scuba gear and Rebecca’s imagination, maybe we’ll spot a mermaid… or at least save a beached dolphin.


New Math.

Well it's been raining all week long here... we haven't been able to go outside at all and I swear I can see the skin literally crawling on some sprouts... as I drove home today, thankful for a respite for a few days, a math formula popped into my head.

Now I teach kindergarten.  We don't do much algebra, so I have no clue how accurate this is, but here it is:

A few clarifications:
  1. I realize the + in front of rain kind of looks like a 't' making it look like 'train' which would totally change the formula... it's not.  It is a + not a 't'.
  2. X = the grade level exponentially increases the value... maybe it should be -X because the lower the grade the higher the value
  3. Y = Teacher Frustration
There you have it... the new math!  I'm praying for sunshine and rainbows next week!



As part of our Ocean Unit, we’re learning about sharks… kids love sharks. They’re scary, but since they live in the ocean and we don’t, not super scary. We read Don’t Eat the Babysitter and many, many non-fiction books about sharks today. I wanted a simple shark craft, but didn’t have a clue what to do…

After searching online, I found this wonderful idea. It was actually thought up by a child, which made me love it even more. I got the supplies and prepped it for the class.

I just loved this activity… many kids struggled with making the triangles in the paper plate for the teeth, but it was good fine motor practice and an excellent way for me to see who needed help.

After we wrote some facts about sharks in our ocean journals, I wrote a few of them down and placed the facts and sharks out in the hallway. When we walked back from Music (that’s when I put them up), I heard David say, “It feels like we’re being attacked by a group of sharks!” I knew then it was all worth it.



Today Audra came in and I noticed right away something was different... as she came over for my morning hug, I swore I saw eye makeup on her... it didn't look right to me and not being a makeup expert (add it to the list of things I'm not an expert at), I asked Mrs. D. for her opinion. After scoping out the situation, she decided it was indeed mascara and because of the clumpy sticky look, most likely put on by Audra herself.

About midway through the morning, during Snack Time, when Audra came approached me for another hug (she really loves to hug), I thought I smelled a rather strong perfume.

"Are you wearing perfume," I asked.

She blushed.

"Yeah, it's my mom's... but she doesn't know I'm wearing it," she admitted.

"What about your makeup?" I prodded.

"No, I snuck it, but my dad saw before I left," she confessed.

"Well you look and smell lovely," I said.

"Lovely... I like that," she answered.

Another hug.

I'd love to see her mother's reaction when she gets off the bus and sees and smells her handy work.



I love Writing Workshop… I love to write and I love to share my passion for writing with my sprouts. Most of them take to their pens (yes, we use pens in kindergarten… authors need special tools!), but there are always a few that are more… hesitant. They hum and haw, stare off into space, get up for a tissue, get up to use the bathroom, crumple papers, and do just about anything but actually write.

Well today, we introduced our Ocean Unit. After reading and talking about some general ocean overview topics, we announced we’d be heading to the beach next week for some science exploration. We then introduced our Ocean Journals and our first prompt: What do you think you might (or hope) to see at the beach?

Some of my most reluctant writers took to the assignment like, well, a fish to water. Here’s some of their work.

(I might see a shark.  I would like to see a lot of fish.  I like jellyfish.)

This friend has the skills... he just doesn't care to use them often... not today.  He also did the most careful coloring I've ever seen from him.

(I hope I see all kinds of fish.)

Wow.  This sprout never writes.  When I sit with him one on one, he'll get through a word, maybe.  He's smart, but writing is like pulling teeth.  Not today - he did this all on his own and I was blown away.

(I might see a killer whale.  I might see a jellyfish.  I might see a starfish.)

This little girl has struggled with her letter sounds all year.  Writing has not been easy for her and she almost always waits for adult support to produce anything.  Not today... she did this all on her own and was super proud to share it with me.

(I might see a electric eel and a starfish and I might see a blowhole and a fiddler crab.)

This little boy loves to write... never any reluctance from him.  I was just so impressed with how much he wrote and the amount of sounds represented.  Amazing stuff.

We're studying the ocean for next few weeks and I'm hopeful our writing will continue to shine.  The motivation from the sea was inspiring and has me energized to see what other work I might see.



Today we took a field trip to a local wildlife rescue park. They take in wild animals and take care of them. Most are hurt or injured and wouldn’t survive on their own. They have some amazing animals and was a wonderful way to celebrate our animal unit.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided a cold, wet, drizzly day was in store and so, with apprehension, we set off for the park. Here are some lessons I learned today:
  • When it’s cold, wet, and raw, you get the entire park to yourself! No crowds!
  • When you have the park to yourself, there’s no waiting for bathrooms – bonus!
  • While teachers and parents may complain about the awful weather, the children could care less… they’re on a FIELD TRIP!
  • When it’s cold and wet, ALL of the animals come out and are much easier to see – today we saw everything.
  • In said weather, the moose, usually elusive, comes right up to the fence and almost looks like she wants to be petted.
  • When all your chaperones show up on time and make your day easier, be grateful and make sure to thank each of them profusely.
  • No amount of dreary weather can take away from the majesty of seeing a bald eagle from six feet away.
Rain, rain, don’t go away, you made our field trip extra special today.


Evelyn and Jason.

We all know the drill. The sprouts with the highest academic and behavior needs get the higher percentage of our attention… day in and day out. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles and there’s not much you can do about it.

Lucky for me, with a team teaching situation this year, I’m finding I can give more attention to all children, regardless of academic or behavior concerns. No doubt, those ‘squeaky wheels’ always get a little more regard, but those ‘rocks’ as I like to call them (rocks as in, ‘like a rock’ sturdy and steady, I don’t have to worry about them too much) get more than usual.

Two of my sprouts who fit into that category this year are Evelyn and Jason. Both are quiet, respectful, and academically strong. It’s easy to see how each could get lost in the shuffle, but having two teachers has allowed them more one on one and ‘small moment’ time.

As long as I teach, I’ll never forget hearing Evelyn’s mother tell me at last summer’s open house, “She doesn’t really like men.” Yikes. Good thing my teaching partner is a woman. Funny thing is, turns out Evelyn just hadn’t met the right guy yet… me. Surely she was slower to warm up to my charms, but eventually, in her own time, she allowed me to show her the kindness she deserved.

Last week, Evelyn presented me with the following:

“Thank you,” I said.

“I think you’re sweet too,” I finished as she smiled at me. She offered a rare and cherished hug.

Jason too is a quiet boy who, unlike most boys in kindergarten, rarely acts silly or needs to be reigned in. If I never said, ‘Jason, thank you for sitting politely and being ready to learn,’ the poor boy would barely ever hear his name. While other boys seek me out for hugs and handholding (yes, the boys crave them), Jason would always stay back, preferring to offer a smile instead.

About two weeks ago, Jason came up to me during Quiet Time and asked if he could have a hug. Naturally, I obliged, but I was surprised by his request. After our hug, as he pulled back, I said, “Thank you for such a nice hug.”

Since then, he’s begun asking for hugs every day. I’m not sure what exactly prompted that first hug request, but as with most things hug related, I don’t question it, I just take my hugs as they come… and they are plentiful.

This year, Evelyn and Jason have taught me an important lesson. While the squeaky wheel usually gets the grease, silence is golden and deserves to be noticed, rewarded, and hugged.



I love Fridays. Not just because the weekend looms, but during Centers on Friday afternoon, I take a break from pulling kids to assess and read and just play with them. Lately the Kitchen Center has been where I spend much of my time. I’m the customer in their ‘restaurant’ and we chat about this and that and I get to order whatever food my heart desires.

Yesterday Connie was my waitress. With paper and pencil in hand, Connie asked, “What can I get you?”

“Hmmmm… how about a nice vegetable pizza?” I said.

She leaned over and wrote, ‘PEZU’ – then crossed is out and said, “Wait, I know this word has an ‘A’ at the end.”

With that she wrote ‘PEZA’ and I smiled as she walked back to the kitchen to give the cooks my order.

I sat and waited for a few minutes. A few friends from Dress Up came over to show me their outfits. Finally, David came sauntering out of the kitchen with no food, but my order in his hand.

He had a mischievous smile on as he said, “We have a slight problem…”

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Well we’re all out of pizza, so I had to change your order…” he grinned.

With that he put the paper Connie had written my order on down in front of me. He had crossed out ‘PEZA’ and written, well, see for yourself.

“Worms!” I shouted.

“Yeah, I’ll go dig some up for ya,” he laughed.

With that we giggled together and walked off to rustle me up some worms.



Today we walked up to the high school to see the district Art Show… as we perused the show, the looks on each sprout’s face as they saw their piece of art was priceless. For a moment, they were famous. It was a sight to see.

On our way back, as we walked on the sidewalk, I quickly saw the soccer field sprinklers had come on while we were in the building. A dilemma presented itself. We could avoid the sprinklers by walking in the road for a bit, but obviously this seemed unsafe… or we could walk through the water. The sun was out. It was the warmest day in some time… I put my hands up and walked through the sprinkler with glee.

Did I get a little wet? Sure. Did the kids get a little wet? Absolutely. We were almost completely dry by the time we returned to our school… it was just a little water… and it was a ton of fun.



Today, when I escaped my room for a moment to use the bathroom, something strange was in the hallway… a little boy holding a soccer ball. He wasn’t in my class and there was no adult with him… he was clearly waiting for someone – a tech, a service provider, I’m not sure… what was clear was he had a ball and needed a partner.

Without saying a word, I opened my arms and nodded. He gently tossed the ball to me. I threw it back… we played toss a few times and then I said, “Nice job.”

I walked off to use the restroom and when I returned he was gone. It wasn’t my job to stop and play catch with him, but he looked like he needed a partner and who am I to deny a kid with a soccer ball?



Today I had a special moment… if you’re a teacher, you already know what I’m talking about. One of those instances where something magical happens and the energy from it just overtakes you. Sometimes the sprout doesn’t even realize it until you let them in on the moment… today, when I pulled Darcy to read, I had one.

We’ve been pulling kids at quiet times (yes, they happen in kindergarten) to DRA them. The DRA – the Developmental Reading Assessment is a reading test measuring accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. At the kindergarten level, we start low, usually with a level one or two, sometimes higher, depending on the child. Darcy was reading a two.

For most kids, the two is just about right. The teacher reads the first page, ‘I can see a red boat’ modeling pointing to each word and then the child reads the rest of the book. Each page has a large picture with a clue to finish the line, ‘I can see a…’ – if children take their time and point, they usually pass.

The problem is the last page. After an entire book with the ‘I can see a’ pattern, the final page reads, ‘And I can see bubbles’ – that ‘And’ is the fly in the ointment. Even though they are pointing to each word, many kids pass right over the ‘And’ and just keep reading.

When Darcy first got to the ‘And’ she didn’t read it. She pointed to each word, “I can see…” She stopped. Without looking up at me, she knew something was wrong. She began again, pointing, “I can see” not reading the ‘And’ – after a third time she finally, she got it. She paused her finger over the ‘And’ and after a moment, read the page, pointing to each word correctly.

The hairs on the back of my head stood up.

We finished the assessment and I gave Darcy a hug. I couldn’t help it. These moments are why we teach. Don’t forget to notice and cherish them.



‘A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.’ - Herm Albright

I don’t know who Herm Albright was, but I adore this quote. I’ve seen it before, but upon reading it again, I couldn’t help but smile. Being positive, or happy, or whatever you want to call it, doesn’t come easy for many people… I’m not one of them.

I have coworkers (who don’t know me very well) ask me in the hallways all the time, ‘You’re always smiling… are you always happy?’

Naturally nobody is happy all the time, but I really try my best to stay positive. From time to time, when I’m feeling down or upset, I try to smile through it. I know, ‘turn that frown upside down’ is corny and trite, but there is something to it. There’s lots of research on smile and laugh therapy… I’m not familiar with it, but I know smiling and laughing keep me feeling young and healthy.

The only problem with being Mr. Happy is not every one is thrilled to have you around. At first I tried to transform their gloom with my smiles and laughter. What I realized, after time, is that misery really does love company… not some happy guy who always sees the glass as half full.

I still smile and spread my positive energy, but now I know – steer clear of the folks who just want to wallow. Instead, I surround myself with the positive cheer and love of the ladies who remind me of what I always try to remember… find the joy in teaching. Find the joy in each moment. Working with young children each day is nothing short of a blessing. Life’s too short to be anything but happy.



Well, it’s Mother’s Day. As a kindergarten teacher, I encounter all types of moms. Whatever separates them, they all share one thing… they love their children and want what’s best for them… actually, I share that with them too. Maybe that’s why I get called ‘mom’ from time to time… the biggest compliment... even for a guy.

Happy Mother’s Day out there to all the moms who help me do my job… and to my mom and her mom, my grandma, I learned from the best.



With the arrival of spring, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and the need to be first in line more than anything else in the world as begun. I’ll never quite understand why certain children have an overwhelming desire to be first in line all the time… there are always those rebels who want nothing more than to be last, but most wish to be at the head of the line.

During the day, when we line up, we have always have a line leader and a caboose. These ‘jobs’ are listed each morning in the message so sprouts know exactly who needs to be where and there’s no question about it… naturally, being second becomes the goal at this point.

The major problem arises at bus time… our school dismisses students in bus waves, so there are basically about six bus lines that form in a twenty-five minute period. If you’re ‘first’ that day, you get to be first in your bus line, but what about the other five lines? Children know they aren’t allowed to run… you’d be amazed at the speed walking to line. I happen to know speek walking is an Olympic event and some of these kids could definitely medal.

I’ve tried joking with them.

“Does the person first in line get a pony? A giant chocolate cake? A pot of gold?” I asked.

Blank stares. My rapier wit is lost on them. I’ve tried a more literal approach.

“Aren’t you all going to the same place… the bus? Why is it so important to be first?” I prodded.

More blank stares. I’m starting to realize, they don’t really know why they want to be first.

Which naturally made me start to think about why… why do some kids (again others could care less…) just NEED to be first?

For some, they simply want to be closest to me. I’m a nice guy. My hand is big and ripe for the holding… but there are others who have never given a hug, never grabbed my hand and yet still, everyday, the race to the front ensues. Why?

Maybe some kids are just super competitive… maybe they fight for their parents attention at home with a sibling and are just conditioned to try and elbow their way to the front… maybe the survival of the fittest really is hard wired into some people’s DNA more than others…

Whatever the reason, I’ve started a new strategy. On certain days, for certain lines (they never know which…) I do what I call the ‘Line Flip’ – after everyone has arrived in line, I shout ‘Line Flip’ and the entire line has to flip. The leader becomes last, the caboose the leader and everyone in between changes position. It’s a lovely thing.



Last night was our spring kindergarten concert. There isn’t much more entertaining than watching a gaggle of sprouts sing their heart out in their Sunday finest... even if the silly songs get stuck in your head.

As I stood backstage waiting for them each to arrive, their excitement was palpable. David was wearing a shirt, tie, vest, and dress pants. I don’t think he figured how warm it would be under those lights… ever the gentleman, every time a new little girl arrived, David commented, “Wow, you look beautiful… just like a rag doll!”

I’m no doll expert (or fashion or hair for that matter), but aren’t rag dolls made of… rags? Aren’t they the least beautiful of the dolls? David meant it as a compliment, of that I’m sure… and none of the girls seemed offended, so what do I know?

The show began and as I sat there, watching them sing (except for David – he was either extremely hot or struck with stage fright). The ones I was worst worried most about being silly did amazing… a few I never thought to worry about sat down and made faces. What could I do? I sat there and thought, ‘Well, it’s a kindergarten concert – what do you expect?’

As the last song finished and I walked up to the stage to dismiss the class to their parents, David looked like he was about to fall over… I quickly snapped his tie off (really, is there anything cuter than a clip on tie?) and unbuttoned the top button on his shirt – that seemed to cool him down a bit and he offered the first smile I’d see all night.

As I drove home, after a twelve plus hour day, I couldn’t help but think, yep, still love everything about my job… even having silly kindergarten concert songs stuck in my head.


Tooth Drama.

Oh tooth drama. A loose tooth in kindergarten is a big deal. Sometimes the bulk of the show happens at home, at night, on weekends… other times, it all seems to revolve around our school day. This week Penny had a loose tooth… right in the front. It wiggled, it jiggled, but it wouldn’t come out.

At one point, she asked Mrs. D. if she would yank it out. She wasn’t kidding either… I think she could tell by my reaction when she jostled it for me that I wasn’t the man for the job… Mrs. D. suggested her mom do it… I suggest she eat an apple when she got home. Neither happened and the tooth hung on… and on.

Finally, yesterday she came in with the tooth missing. She had worked up the nerve to pull it on the bus on her way in. It was a very big deal. We got her a tooth holder from the nurse to carry her treasure around her neck until she got home.

She arrived today announcing, “The toof fairy game me two dollars!”

She asked me to take a picture of the whole in her mouth… she wanted to see if her ‘big girl toof’ was coming in yet and she couldn’t see ‘up the hole too good’… naturally I obliged. Yes! It was coming in! All that tooth drama really was exhilarating… it’s a good reminder to listen to the wisdom of the toothless ones.



This week, as we prepare for Mother’s Day, we’re reading books all about the love of dear old mom. Today, as I read Kiss It Better by Hiawyn Oram about a little bear whose mother kisses all her hurts better, I couldn’t help but think about the way my sprouts kiss all my problems away.

To be clear, there is no kissing in kindergarten. When someone has a boo-boo that needs attention, I usually brush it off, hold it up to them, and have the child kiss it. A kiss really does make everything better, but we can’t kiss, so other things will have to suffice.

When I’m feeling down, frustrated, angry, or blue (usually because of something to do with another adult, not a child…), it’s a child that ‘kisses’ my troubles better. Smiles, hugs, or taking my hand is all it takes. A simple gesture goes a long way in making you feel better. Children inherently know this… I wish more adults did.



Each morning, as sprouts file in, I try to say ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ and often compliment them on a hat, shirt, or outfit… today, I realized, sometimes I shouldn’t try so hard.

As Audra walked in with a few other girls, I noticed she had on a beautiful spring dress. Now Audra doesn’t usually wear dresses, so I figured I might compliment her on her outfit.

“Audra, what a beautiful dress you have on, I love the flowers… it’s so colorful,” I said with a smile.

Without missing a beat, she replied, “Thank you, but it’s not a dress, it’s a skirt.”

“Come on Mr. ______, clearly that’s a skirt, not a dress,” Mrs. D. teased.

“Oh sorry, well I like your skirt then,” I said, trying to fix my mistake.

I never claimed to be an expert on girls’ fashion (or hair for that matter), but I still love them all the same.



Today, when I picked up my class from P.E., Andy, standing in the front, looked up at me and said, “Nobody got in trouble today!”

Apparently this was a big deal… and it was. Usually when I pick them up from P.E., I’m told about at least one (if not more) sprouts who had to sit out and miss some of their P.E. time. So, truth be told, nobody getting in ‘trouble’ is something to celebrate. That being said, I wanted to try and put a positive spin on it and let them see why this was so significant… all in two minutes.

“Well, while I’m glad nobody got in trouble today, I don’t really care if you do get in trouble,” I started.

They looked shocked.

“What I care about, is that you get to enjoy all your P.E. time and don't have to miss any for not listening or following directions,” I continued.

“Nice job enjoying your P.E. time!” I finished, taking Andy’s hand to walk back to class.


The Man.

While I’m fully aware of the rarity of my species, a male who teaches kindergarten, the novelty is lost on me from time to time… Last week, I was reminded why being a man makes me so much different from my peers.

I received an email from a co-worker, another kindergarten teacher, about a situation with a little boy, let’s call him William, in her room. Apparently last fall, a little girl in my class told him that he was going to be in BIG trouble for wrecking some fairy houses her and her friends made on the playground… how much trouble? BIG trouble. Such big trouble that Mr. _______ was going to come after him!

Now I realize most of you have never met me, but I’m hopeful my personality has come through in my writing… I am not a scary guy. I’d like to believe I’m rather kind, caring, and open. I’d also bet good money than a few of my female counterparts are a lot scarier than I am… well wouldn’t you know it, poor little William was apparently so afraid of me it was beginning to cause some problems.

With spring here and the fairy houses returning, he thought it was about time for me to come after him… naturally, because this is kindergarten, this isn’t the whole story… in fact, William didn’t wreck anything. The girls in my room were just taunting him, scaring him, with… me!

William ended up writing me a letter explaining the whole situation and professing his innocence… he actually wrote ‘I’m innocent’ – I tried to keep a straight face when I read it. Thing is, when I went to his classroom to tell him I’d read his letter, thank him, and explain I wasn’t upset with him, he looked absolutely petrified as I walked over and sat next to him. You would have thought the Incredible Hulk had come for a chat.

When I spoke to his teacher afterwards and relayed his reaction, without missing a beat, she said, “You’re the man.”

Apparently my gender makes me scary to some children. The little girls in my room know this because they used MY name and not Mrs. D.’s to frighten poor William. They also know I’m not someone to fear, but they were banking that William didn’t. I hope after our conversation William realizes I’m not a raging ball of anger… he smiled at me the next time I saw him on the playground so I think I may have changed his mind.