Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day Jitters

It was with much anticipation and excitement that I arrived at school this morning. Despite my relatively calm nerves the night before, I couldn't help but feel anxious about the fact that this was it...this was my first day of teaching.

Much like I've done for each first day of school in the past, I set out my outfit the night before and made sure I had everything ready to go. I even went into school to prepare my art materials for the next afternoon. I read my book (Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum) before going to sleep and then lay in bed wondering about the day ahead. My thoughts sort of went like this..."Am I prepared? Did I plan enough for math? Will the kids like their new classroom? Will they listen to me? Is my lunch ready for tomorrow? Will I have time to eat breakfast? Will it be noisy? Will I have to send anyone to the 'think spot'? How will my art lesson go? Did I prepare enough supplies? Will they get it? Will they be shy or will they talk a lot? Will they like me?"

To my great relief, the first day of school went beautifully! Maybe even better than I had imagined (Of course, I didn't really know what to imagine). My day began outside on the sidewalk greeting excited children and their families as they arrived. Once we'd all arrived we had our morning meeting and Mrs. Johnson read the poem "What's in the Sack" by Shel Silverstein. By the end of the poem everyone was wondering what was in the sack she was she shared the contents which told us interesting things about her. Wednesday it will be my turn to share "What's in the Sack."

During literacy I was amazed to read what wonderful writing the kindergartners were producing and was thrilled to listen to some impressive reading. During math we explored and created designs with pattern blocks. During our shape hunt around the classroom I was impressed by what careful detectives the kids were when finding the sneaky shapes that are "hiding" all around us. The afternoon was filled with ideas, discussion, and painting as the kids painted "community" flags that will hang around our classroom as a reminder of what we think is important for maintaining peace.

Once afternoon meeting was over and we'd sent the final kiddos on their way, we looked at each other and all let out an enormous sigh. "I feel like I should have brought some wine!" Rachel said. "This was the best first day we've ever had!"

And it was! My first day was the best first day. How lucky am I? The next best day will be the second...

Until then, here are some snapshots from my wonderful first day :)

'Twas the night before open house and all through the classroom...

...the teachers were busy stapling, labeling, and humming a tune.

Here I am, FINALLY back to my blog again. It's been a whirlwind these past few weeks and I'm excited to update. I think I should back up to what I've been up do these days...

This year I am teaching in a multiage elementary classroom at Stephens College and am working with three other teachers. The elementary classroom is housed in the basement of a residence hall and was in major need of renovation. Over the summer walls were torn down, the floors were re-finished, and (some) walls were given a fresh coat of paint. When my fellow teachers and I arrived to set up our classroom two weeks ago, we were overwhelmed by the amount of dust, construction debris, and stacks of furniture looming before our eyes. It wasn't until the night before open house that we finally finished setting up the classroom. But our time spent painting, cleaning, re-arranging (and re-arranging again), going out to lunch, dancing to 90's music as we worked, and sharing many laughs made it an enjoyable bonding experience for our team. Last Thursday when we finished putting away the last of the supplies and taping on the last name tag, we finally sighed in awe of the beautiful classroom we had created.....

I enjoyed setting up my office area. I feel especially at home :)

I know we love it and I can't wait to see it filled with happy children!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Really, Really BIG Questions

I always LOVE finding a great book to add to my classroom library collection, especially when it's unexpected. Today I found this one in a clearance bin at Marshall's five minutes before the store was closing for the night (we'd stopped in after dining out to see if they had chop sticks).

Really, Really Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything by Dr. Stephen Law is literally a book full of philosophical questions. A few of my favorites include:

Did someone design the universe?
What is the meaning of life?
Can I think about nothing?
Is my mind my brain?
How can you fake psychic powers?
What makes stealing wrong?
How important is happiness?
Is it okay to eat animals?
What is knowledge?
Are we all selfish?
Are there really miracles?

These are only a few out of about a hundred questions. I find them fascinating and have a feeling kids will too. I could see using this book as a inspiration piece for writing. It would be so cool to challenge kids to ask questions such as these and write what they think and then find out what others think.

It was a great find, a hardback for 7 bucks. And it has an introduction, table of contents, glossary, index, and humorous illustrations by Nishant Choksi. I always consult to find out more about books I'm interested in. Here's what they had to say...

" unusual and fun introduction to philosophy that explores life’s important but often unanswered questions. Readers will be able to explore the history of thought and the great thinkers and learn how to think rationally for themselves. Mind-teasers, optical illusions and thought experiments make this philosophic journey unforgettably fun!"

"Dr Stephen Laws a senior philosophy lecturer at Heythrop College in London and the editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy’s journal THINK, which aims to introduce philosophy and its merits to a wide audience. Stephen has written numerous academic papers as well as books for both adults and children including the hugely popular The Philosophy Files."

It's amazing how one book can spark so many ideas...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Driving through the world like a teacher

I've been reading What You Know by Heart by Katie Wood Ray lately. The book is about teaching writing from our own writing experiences. She talks a lot about how, as teachers, we go through life differently and are always thinking about possibilities for our teaching. I find myself thinking in this way often. Ray gives an example of a first grade teacher who, while driving home from a lunch with friends, stops mid-conversation to pick up a large cardboard box she sees on the side of the road. When her friends ask what it was for she says, "I'll take it to school. The kids will figure out something interesting to do with it." Ray goes on to explain, "Mara drives through the world like a first-grade teacher. She is constantly on the lookout for things that have potential. Often, she doesn't even know what that potential might be exactly, but she knows her students well enough and she understands what she wants for them deeply enough to recognize potential when she sees it. So she stops whatever she is doing and gathers it and then can't wait for the day she can take it into her classroom and see what her students will make of it."

I've been thinking like a teacher a lot lately...

A few weekends ago my boyfriend and I took a trip to New Hampshire to go camping and hiking. We went to this great place for dinner one night called Flatbread Company. The restaurant uses local and organic ingredients and is supported by the community. Kids from the local schools made artwork for the menus and local artwork is displayed throughout the lodge-looking building. Hanging from the exposed wooden beams of the ceiling were flags designed by children and community members. I saw this and immediately thought of using this idea in my classroom. I took out my small notebook I keep with me and jotted down this idea:

I think it would be neat to have my students decorate a flag on the first day of school to express what they would like for our classroom community (fairness, friendship, respect, fun, sharing ideas, etc). We'd hang these around the classroom on a string as a reminder of our wishes and goals for our classroom community, almost like a pledge.

This is one of those things I look forward to trying someday. All I have to do is see what my students will make of it!

Here are a few photos of the flags and other artwork seen in Flatbread Co.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I need this book!

I love browsing and every time I look at the "Recommendations for you" section on my account they are eerily dead on. Today I noticed this book and wanted to share it. It's a must-have for my classroom library.

"Seen from space, our planet looks blue. This is because almost 70 percent of Earth's surface is covered with water. Earth is the only planet with liquid water -- and therefore the only planet that can support life. All water is connected. Every raindrop, lake, underground river and glacier is part of a single global well. Water has the power to change everything -- a single splash can sprout a seed, quench a thirst, provide a habitat, generate energy and sustain life. How we treat the water in the well will affect every species on the planet, now and for years to come. One Well shows how every one of us has the power to conserve and protect our global well."
(Description provided by the publisher on

Monday, June 28, 2010

"We've made these test scores the be all and end all of existence...they're not."

I came across this video featuring renowned and inspiring educator, Rafe Esquith. He discusses his newest book Lighting Their Fires and how he strives to instill character traits in his students, "trying to raise honorable children in a world that is often dishonorable." He addresses our emphasis on test scores and that, although he believes in assessing children, the standardized tests aren't measuring what's important.

If you are not already familiar with Esquith, I recommend reading his books. I have read Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire and was inspired by his passion and belief in integrating music, theater, and real-world experiences into his classroom.

"A library card and a musical instrument and your child is set for an extraordinary life." - Esquith

Friday, June 18, 2010

Current Reading

A few books I'm reading for my action research as well as personal professional development...

And now it begins...

I'm Kat.

I am a teacher. (Wow! It's exciting to be able to say that!)

As the daughter of a kindergarten teacher, I've spent my whole life in the classroom (before, during, AND after school). Over the years I went through phases of wanting to be a teacher and thinking I'd NEVER be a teacher. I saw how rewarding it was, how much fun it can be. One year Mom was moving to a new school. As she cleaned out her classroom I dove into the bins of discarded materials and took home all the stickers, outdated teacher's editions, and posters I could manage. My next door neighbor and I set up a classroom in her garage complete with a dry-erase board, classroom library, teacher desk, and two student desks made from boxes and turned-over paint cans as chairs. Oh, and a prize box of course. Our students were our little brothers. While we enjoyed forcing our siblings to do worksheets we'd made up, their interest didn't last long. All they wanted was recess and a trip to the prize box. So that's what our "school" consisted of: recess and prizes. If we didn't give them their way, we'd no longer have students, you see. However, we did sent stern letters home to parents that we insisted be signed and returned.

I suppose we thought that was what teachers did. Of course, as I grew older I became more aware of the work my Mother really did both in and out of her classroom. I no longer considered teaching a profession I thought I could handle. It wasn't until my senior year of high school when I began thinking differently...

My school was just down the road from the school where my Mom taught. Each morning I would work in her classroom until I had to leave for school. Being there from day one, meeting the kids, getting to know them, and watching them grow throughout the year made me realize what an incredible experience it is to see children actually learn and love to learn. And what an incredible gift it is to be able to play a part in setting the foundation for someones life, helping them realize all they are capable of and all the possibilities in life that await them!

So that was that. I was going to be a teacher.

In 2006 I arrived at Stephens College. Quite honestly, I couldn't have chosen a more perfect place to receive my education. My experience in the classroom began my first year. I taught in the Stephens College Children's School on campus as well as a public school, Lee Expressive Arts Elementary, a few blocks away. The faculty and staff of the Education Department became my mentors and resources. My fellow students became my family. And most importantly, the classroom became my home. It just felt...right.

I think when you find something that you feel like you're meant to do, something inside you wakes up. Something that was waiting for you to find it...your passion...your purpose. A part of you that you didn't knew was there suddenly feels alive. That's what it felt like for me.

I graduated this past May with my BS in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. I have just begun Graduate school at Stephens and am working toward my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. And......

I'M A TEACHER! I will be teaching at the Stephens College Children's School in the Multi age classroom. (For those who are unfamiliar with this, it is Kindergarten through 5th grade together in one classroom.) I will be teaching pre-k/kindergarten age children. But the best part is, I will be doing action research during this year for my graduate program on how integration of the arts across content areas will enhance learning and learning outcomes. We shall see...

The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences in the classroom, my thoughts and ideas on teaching and learning, and to share books and other teacher resources I find valuable. I also wanted to become more familiar with blogging and other technology to incorporate into my classroom.

Well, I've come a long way. Turns out, teaching is more than stickers, worksheets, and recess. (Thank goodness!) Teaching is more than I even know yet. But I do know that teaching is one of the most important, rewarding, and fulfilling things a person can devote their life to. I'm one of the lucky people in this world that has this opportunity. In about a month I'll enter a classroom...not as a volunteer, college student, or student teacher...but as a teacher. I'll still be a learner, though. That's one thing I want my students to know. Everyone in that classroom is a learner and a teacher.

We are all in pursuit of knowledge.