It never fails me. This inner knowing.
This part of me that just feels it when young children are around and I ditch the lesson plans and I let my genuine excitement and interests for learning awaken, and I listen to theirs. It is electric. If I could bottle it up I would sell it for nothing and call it “the Elixir of life,” or “waters from the fountain of youth,” because the fountain of youth has nothing to do with age and everything to do with mindset.
If I could do my dream job, it would rest happily alongside the one I actually go to every day. My dream job would still be teaching little kids. And I would go to a school every day and there would be snacks and real work to do and a playground and a place to eat. But the way those things happened would differ. The biggest change would be that the main focus on what I did all day would be to SEE and HEAR every child in my classroom and to feel what their souls are telling me and listen to what their hearts have to say.
I have big distaste for forcing children to all sit on a rug at the same time. I always have. When I taught preschool I let children exist on the periphery of the “circle time,” or “rug time” if they chose to. The only rule was-don’t be a distracting jerk while you do it. (Sorry to the jerks out there. Know I am one of you, a recovering circle time jerk.) I had to fight for this. Parents thought I wasn’t teaching and administrators got kind of twitchy and didn’t like having to have the twenty-eighth brain science/child development/emergent curriculum/sheknowswhatsheisdoing conversation of the day.
It’s hard to explain to parents that are people that grew up like I did, going to learn in a box where we were told what to do and what bubble to fill in, what algorithm to learn and how to raise our hands, and what was an acceptable essay topic that didn’t shake too many boats.
Clearly I was doomed early on.
I have ADHD and am highly intelligent. I came to accept that I’m exceptionally bright about 12 years ago, and it still makes me kinda queasy to say. I give all the credit to helping me come to terms with my giftedness to Paula Wilkes, my mentor at Pacific University when I was getting my 2nd MA in teaching. I was getting my 2nd MA. And I still thought I was not very smart. I thought the thought police and the degree police were going to come get my Master’s Degrees and call fraud for over a decade. I had done well! I was actually GOOD AT SCHOOL! That must mean it was too easy, right? And I don’t deserve it?
I already admitted to you that I am a work in progress. Having ADHD is like having 30 tabs open on your browser and trying to give each attention. Having ADHD is like being Spiderman and having exceptionally honed skills in sensory sensitivity. I can HEAR EVERYTHING. Yes, what you just said under your breath, I heard it. No, I didn’t just say I was Spiderman, I just compared myself to him and his Spidey Senses. No, I am not a superhero. I just play one in my classroom every day.
And so I digress. Being smart and highly distractible makes me a pretty keen bullshit monitor of human interaction. I instantly weed out the non-authentic stuff and throw it away. This is why I eat salad instead of a lot of Bologna sandwiches.
I’ve never fit in a box and I honestly don’t want to. My kids’ dad sits in a cubicle all day working on Excel spreadsheets and managing the transfer of commodities for an international company. He’s really good at it and enjoys it. More power to him, but I would LITERALLY DIE if I had to do that job every day. I cannot stare at lines of data without wanting to hit something and throw my computer across the room. Yet, I do this every 4 months when I do report cards.
If I could distill the parts of teaching and learning that fire me up and make me the most completely serene and fulfilled, it would be to create an incredible prepared environment where there are a few chairs and tables, but mostly shelves and easels and baskets and ledges and tanks and nature and art supplies and books and cloth and couches and wood and soft music and lighting and a lovely scent and children so focused and learning and excited that the sound is a soft hum or buzz of activity and engagement.
It would be so different than what I spend my day actually doing. I spend my days nagging children to pay attention and
stoptippingyourchairbeforeIloseit telling them to put “all four on the floor,” and to stop wanting to pay attention to what they are paying attention to that isn’t me.
I don’t want to have to save all the lovely engagement up for the 60 glorious minutes a day that we set aside for free-choice, and independent work time where they call the shots.
This is a place where they engineer elaborate creations from omni-cubes, blocks, K’nex. A place where they design books, magazines, brochures, advertisements, costumes, jewelry and accessories using paper and recycled materials. A place where they recreate home that is more stable and less chaotic than the ones that some have using our baby dolls and plastic butterflies. A place where they put on veterinarian scrubs and grab a cordless phone and a purse and go deliver the mail holding a baby, because they are acting out powerful female role models they have in their lives. -Jennifer Fogerty
I am desperate to figure out how to make my classroom environment fulfill the requirements of common core and state standards learning without giving up the authentic explorations of the true experts-the children. I want that 60 minute feeling ALL DAY.
I read something early in my career, or heard it. It was likely from Bev Bos, the early childhood education guru. Her words and big hug will always make me work harder. She said something like children already know what they need to learn. They will actively seek it out and practice it, wanting and knowing what comes next. Bev’s 40 years of teaching preschool were firmly rooted in child development and brain science, so I can assert that she had research backing this up. All I know is that I’ve seen this to be true. We can take an illustration from our own lives. We may have been taught/shown/read to/pushed/cajoled to learn something so.many.times, but until we are actually ready to learn it, we don’t. It stays firmly rooted in the middle space, like, “I sort of know it, sort of don’t” place.
I am just over it. I want to make Kindergarten (and all of school, that’s my dirty secret, I’ll just let that sit here) feel like a science museum/library/art studio. It is the right of children to pursue knowledge with excitement and anticipation, not dread. I am bummed that I have 5 kids that I have to basically force to pay attention to rug time every day, in a rotating chorus of “stop doing __ and do__.” Yes, I know that I have to prepare children for “the real world.” But trust me, they aren’t going to want to join the “real world” if we make it this BORING.
I wish it didn’t have to be like this. I wish I could just let them know I see them and that their frustrations are valid and that together we will find a way to make learning less of a pain to endure. I wish that I could honor every little excitement that comes in the door in the morning and let that be the work of the day.