Satin Diapers

The other night I was at dinner with my husband’s family.  At one point, my husband’s brother and his wife were talking about their daughter’s acceptance into college.  So I asked, “Will she be bringing her car?” Mom said no, Dad said yes.  Mom gave all her reasons why her daughter shouldn’t have her car–she needs to get used to walking places, she needs to focus on her studies, she can certainly take the train three hours to get home!  Dad countered with his thoughts.  She may want to go into town with friends, it would be easier for her to go back and forth from home and hey-she’s been driving all this time, why should she have to suffer without her car?

To which Mom said, “Were you raised in satin diapers?”

Which made me laugh.  But it also got me thinking.

Do we swaddle our students in satin diapers?  Do we do for them what they should be doing for themselves? I think sometimes we do.  Instead of letting them solve some of their problems, we tell them what to do, every step of the way.  We figure it all out, then give them a fill-in-the-blank worksheet.  Or we ask a question and in the next breath answer it for them.  Why do we do this?  It’s quicker.  It’s easier.  But it doesn’t get them to think.  It doesn’t teach them to explore or investigate.  When I trained for Reading Recovery, our teacher leader always told us, “Whatever a kid CAN do, a kid should do.”

Not always easy to let the process unfold.  But it’s better than dressing them in satin diapers.

The Blubber Mitten

No, it’s not a fat busting device, ladies.  The blubber mitten is part of an experiment.  Marybeth Pupa, a teacher at Valley View Elementary School in New Lebanon Township, NJ, shares this with us.  The Blubber Mitten Experiment is done with this question in mind: Does blubber keep polar animals warm?  The procedure is as follows: Spread Crisco on the inside the walls of a quart sized ziploc bag.  Then place another quart size bag inside this one, so the Crisco is covered by the bag.  Place water and ice in a large bowl.  Ask your students to hold one hand in the ice water.  Then have them wear the blubber mitten on the other hand and place it into the water.  Which hand is warmer?  Do we think blubber keeps polar animals warm?  Yes!!  Kids love doing the experiment.  Makes a great how-to, as well.  

Assess the Process

When teachers start doing writing writing workshop, they often ask me how to grade the work students do on a daily basis.  My colleague, Lauren Benjamin says we need to assess the process.  So, with the help of some teachers in New Egypt, New Jersey, I created a specific way to keep track of the writing work students do.  We’re thinking that the kids can assess themselves, too.  See Assess the Process on my website under Tools.

This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness

Link

Every time I read this book, This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness, I read it all the way through and I cry every time.  I don’t know if it’s all that forgiveness.  Or if it’s the fact that the author, Joyce Sidman took the time to write in the voice of some very unique sixth graders with such heart and feeling. Bonus: if you write to Joyce at her website (Joycesidman.com) she’ll write you right back.

A Joke a Day

Kids are full of all kinds of jokes!  Why not start the day with a joke?  Cindy Piano, 3rd grade teacher in Bogota, New Jersey tells me, “Every morning we stop and take a long cleansing breath after we leave the line-up area.  Then, whoever has a joke, steps to the front of the line to start our morning on a good note.  We have even gotten the 2nd and 4th grades to join us some mornings.  After leaving the noisy gym or maybe having had a rough morning at home, it is nice to breathe and start fresh.”

This joke was overhead in reading workshop (not Cindy’s, though she might want to steal it…)

Text to self connection is when a book reminds me of myself.

Text to text connection is when a book reminds me of another book.

Text to toilet connection is when I bring a book to the bathroom.

At least we know they’re reading!!!

Teacher of the Year!!

For anybody who was reading me last year, you know that my son’s Kindergarten teacher was awesome, inspiring, and amazing.  I want to publicly congratulate her for winning Teacher of the Year for Cranford, NJ schools.  My letter to those in charge of selecting her says it all:

Dear Teacher of the Year Selection Team,

I would like to recommend that Brianne Falisi be selected Teacher of the Year.

I met Brianne in the summer of 2010.  At the time my son was five, and had just completed two and a half years in special ed Pre-K.  I was worried about my little boy.  Even though he was going to be mainstreamed, I wasn’t sure he could make it in “big kid” school.  He was coming from a class of eleven students and three teachers. He had been held and nurtured and yes, in that situation, he was doing fine.  But how would he do in a class of twenty?

And then I got Brianne’s letter.

In it, she was inviting families to a before-school-starts play date at the school playground.  She also invited us to take a look around the classroom, and take pictures.  In her letter she gave the kids a list of items to look for once they got inside and instructed them to give her a “super high 5 on the way out!!!!”  She signed it, LOVE.

I knew then that my son would be fine with this teacher.  I knew that she understood kids.  I knew that she would make Kindergarten a blast!

What I didn’t know, is that Brianne has a talent for getting to know individual students and teaching to each one’s strengths.  This ability helped my son reach his highest potential.  He learned over 80 sight words in Kindergarten.  He learned to read and he learned to be a good problem solver.  He also learned to take risks, and not be afraid in front of his peers.  That was all Brianne’s doing.

What I also didn’t know is that Brianne would enter my heart and make a home there.  As a staff developer, I have met thousands of teachers.  It is rare that I meet a teacher who has Brianne’s drive to learn more about the profession.  It is even more rare that I meet a teacher who so willingly opens her door to parents.  And I’ll bet I’d be hard pressed to find a teacher who sends more emails!!!!  Brianne certainly kept us informed.

During my son’s Kindergarten year, I found myself blogging about Brianne, wanting to to share her ideas with the world, wanting other K teachers to learn from her, wanting everybody to know–there ARE great teachers in the world and here’s one of them!

I am not at all surprised that Brianne has been nominated Teacher of the Year.  In my mind, I have nominated her many times over, and so have lots and lots of other parents and kids who have been lucky enough to work with her.

Thank you for considering my opinion.

Mom of a Recent Kindergarten Graduate,

Constance Foland