Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Charlie Brown Days

            This week has been a mix of rain and snow so far, but at least it’s been warm enough that kids are outside for recesses and the snow isn’t sticking on the ground. I’ve been really appreciating that my classroom has an entire side full of windows (that open without falling out! My parents and friends have heard about my windows being blown out by prairie winds in the teacherage where I’m currently living). It has been so nice to have fresh air and some sunshine in the room, and to shut off the lights in the classroom, especially as our days get progressively louder when the little guys join us for the afternoons. Classrooms without fluorescent lighting seem so much calmer to me. It’s been nice to finally try out what I think will work set-up wise in a classroom this year. Many of the rooms I had been in before just had too much stuff for me! Some rooms during my practicum had artwork still stuck on the walls from years past, and posters put up just for the heck of it. I hate that. Less is more in a Kindergarten room in my mind, as the kids are so full of energy and easily distracted. Plus, who looks up near the ceiling (where most of my bulletin boards are placed)? So this year I’ve kept things as minimal as possible while designating space for the students’ work and some seasonal decorations. Luckily, we also have a boot-room attached to the classroom with three large bulletin boards on it, so I’ve kept one for extra student work, Curious George’s travel stories, pictures and adventures, and a parent board for information coming in, volunteer hours and important notes. We also have a bulletin board in the elementary end hallway that is updated with our latest projects.

            As I’ve mentioned before, my Dad found a beautiful book for me at Christmas called, “Old Billy’s Enchanted Valley.” The story and illustrations are done by a mouth painter, and while the story is a little complex for my kids so far, they really appreciate the artwork within, especially as five year olds usually aren’t all that practiced in controlling their own hand movements while drawing or painting. We did some mouth painting using shaving cream and dowels first to draw lines, shapes and our names (the kids really noticed how strong our mouths need to be to do this, and how tricky it is to manipulate something without having the help of our hands!) One of our centers this time around is set aside for kids to do mouth painting with actual paint- there haven’t been any wrong-end-of-paintbrush-in-mouth incidents yet! It’s neat to see what the kids can do, and there have been some really interesting connections made because of this project. This is what has been taking up our hallway bulletin board space for the past month or so, along with a quote I found by another mouth painter saying,
“Art is in the heart, art is in the mind, not in the hands.”

            In addition to thinking about and appreciating the challenges that others’ go through, we have been practicing some sign language (one of the Moms came in to teach us a few songs and greetings!) It was really interesting to see what the kids thought of this different ‘language.’ Many didn’t grasp what it meant to be deaf, and kept reverting to speaking, or trying to use a different verbal language to communicate.

            Today was a busy day for us, and I think I’m all played out! It’s the feeling the assistants and I have started to call a “Charlie Brown” day. You know how Charlie Brown sometimes ends up face down on the floor saying, “good grief!” THAT’s the kind of tired I am.  It was a good day though, full of laughs and a little loud for my liking, but we got a little done! We had a parent volunteer in for the whole day (I love parent volunteers!) It’s always nice to see the dynamic between parents and their kids, and for them to see what their kids are talking about when they come home at night! I do need to get better at designating tasks to people, but I’ll get there eventually. So far I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by people that put the kids first, and make their decisions based on them. It does feel like the adults in the room are a team now, as we’ve worked hard to get to know and trust each other, and there’s always someone to step in if you need a time-out! (I’ve had to take a few time-outs this year, though it’s usually from laughing too hard and needing to leave the room!)

            Today there was a constant flow of people in and out of the room. Kindergarten in Alberta sometimes includes ‘PUF’ students, or pre-kindergarten-aged kids who have been identified with a speech or developmental delay or need. As we are in a rural school that does not have a pre-school program, these little guys are in my class. The PUF program is funded differently than ‘school-aged’ public programs, and often the kids will qualify for a part or full-time aide, depending on their needs. As a result, there are four adults in my room or more at any given time. In addition to this, Speech and Language Pathologists and their assistants (three or four different people, as some of the kids are funded under PUF, and some under the K-12 public system), Occupational Therapists, Behavior Consultants and PUF Coordinators are constantly in and out of the room. This is apart from the normal Kindergarten visitors who check hearing, dental and immunizations. Today we not only had a parent in all day, but a SLP and an assistant, dental assistants in and out, and for a very short time, the principal who came in to observe. He only lasted about 4 minutes, and couldn’t understand how we could take so many people in and out all the time. So, it’s a Charlie Brown kind of day.

            Two funny stories to note before I sign off:

-       Today during snack time our parent volunteer started laughing really hard. One little girl turned around to show her ‘hula dancer’ chest made by two butter tarts…I don’t think I’ll look at those the same again! (Another time-out for me, though all of us should have left the room, even the SLP)

-       There’s one little boy who wears glasses, is very sweet, and very disorganized. He often needs some quiet space to finish his printing or crafts as he gets distracted so easily. Today I asked him to come finish his puppet that we did on Monday, and he chose to do it in the hallway. He cut out his puppet, glued on the stick, and started to skip back to the room. I asked him to put away the scissors, glue and recycling that he took out. He did this (or so I thought) and went out to recess. During the break I went to take something out of my bag and what did I see in the extra pair of shoes underneath my desk? A pair of scissors, a glue stick and wouldn’t you know it, the paper he had cut his puppet from…with his name printed on it. I had a good laugh, then when the kids came in from recess I began to tell the story of how I went to get my snack, but then saw that something had been left in my shoes! This little guy was completely enthralled in my story, and wasn’t connecting that my story was all his doing, until I said, “if you’re going to try to trick me, never leave a paper with your name written on it, J----!” Once he understood that I was talking about him he though he was pretty funny. Little nerd!

            On a final note, I was so excited that our quiet little guy actually communicated with the SLP today (who he had just met), and then played and joked with three other kids during free play. This is a huge step for him, and each time I see how comfortable he’s getting in the classroom environment, it makes me so glad that we didn’t push him to make progress faster.

            Charlie Brown out!
(Except this time I’ll pass out on my beauteous new quilt covered in daisies- thanks Mom! Xoxo)

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