Thursday my Superkids left my classroom for the last time. When they walked out my door, they stopped being mine. They are moving on to Kindergarten, full-time programs, and new teachers, on to chase the dreams they’ve told me about all year. They came to me in August as babies; they left as big kids ready for big adventures. In a few weeks I will be that teacher they had once upon a time. But to me they will always be my Superkids, the precious babies who made the last year of my Master’s Degree bearable, who made my days challenging but rewarding, who loved me unconditionally. So what have I learned?
1. It can be REALLY hard to get the attention of ten 3, 4, and 5 year olds WITHOUT constantly raising your voice. I knew from the beginning this was going to be something I would have to work on if I was going to be a good teacher. My boss found this awesome set of Attention Grabbers at http://ilove2teach.blogspot.com/search/label/classroom%20management . My kids responded so well to these that they started using them AT HOME to get their parents to quit talking…oops!
2. Sometimes a stuffed friend is better than a live friend…Meet our classroom friend, Marvin the Moose. Marvin served many purposes. At first he was a way of getting everyone to get in a neat line. They would get in line then pass Marvin back as friends lined up behind them.
3. This brings me to #3: How to teach students when it is ok to tattle and when it isn’t. Marvin became our tattle friend. Instead of constantly coming to me with tattles, I would encourage the Superkids to tattle to Marvin. I explained that they should come to me if they were hurt, but in most other cases they should go to Marvin. This helped them to understand when it was important to tell an adult about things that are going on in the classroom and when it is better to vent frustrations without telling the teacher. Also, I could still listen to the tattles and could monitor the serious issues when needed. THIS REALLY WORKS!!! More than anything, Marvin gave hugs and comfort when my Superkids needed it. He was a huge part of our classroom experience.
4. Pencil grips are hard concepts for lefties. “Thumb on the star, pointer finger in the circle, wrap the others around.” The grips are meant to teach proper pencil grip. I realize some people will say I did this way too early. For some of them, yes, it was early. But it was fine motor practice. Some will say that some people need to hold a pencil differently or in a more comfortable manner. I get that…I don’t hold my pencil “correctly.” But pencil grips were a great starting point for us. My lefties, including Jerm Worm, really struggled with these grips! I never understood how critical it is to build fine motor skills in order for little ones to simply hold a pencil.
5. My most successful units were The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. The kids really respond to the idea of multiple versions of texts. They understood the patterning of the texts and were even making up their own versions by the end of the units. There are so many great versions which totally enable the insertion of multicultural teachings in a meaningful way. I used Lon Po Po, a Chinese version of Little Red, in my unit and then bridged the story with the celebration of Chinese New Year. The variety of versions allow for the discussion of “difference,” a key component in the development of children who can respect and love others for who and what they are.
6. Preschoolers love their Moms, and they LOVE to show it! My favorite day of Pre K was our Mother’s Day Lemonade Luncheon. The decorations were fun…lemons everywhere! I had United bake some color swirled bread—pink and yellow of course—and I made PBJ and Ham and Cheese sandwiches. I had a mom make a veggie tray, another make a fruit tray, and a third made Pink Lemonade Cookies (Betty Crocker Mix!). My kids performed “Over in the Meadow.” But most exciting…they painted Moms’ hands and Moms painted kids’ hands to make a really cute handprint craft. I have never seen so many smiles. It was a perfect day! I am so doing this again. On top of everything, it made Mother’s Day a little less hard for me by helping me to focus on my kids and my Pre K moms and kids instead of missing Mom.
7. Pre K kids love to be asked questions! I taught them how to play “reporter” and ask interview questions. I developed a Mother’s Day Questionnaire and a Graduation Questionnaire, each time having them answer the questions in a one-on-one setting where their answers would be their own and not influenced by their friends! Here are Jerm’s results…pretty hilarious/cute.
8. Teaching Pre K reminded me of the fact that I have a volunteering gene built into my DNA. And so, NATURALLY, I volunteered to make Oreo Cookie Pops for graduation. I had made Oreo Balls before, so how hard could it be? Well…here are some things to note: 1. When you quadruple the recipe, remember to crush the Oreos one bag at a time, otherwise they won’t get fine enough. 2. Almond Bark does not respond well to food coloring…I tried to turn it blue three times and every time the Bark would lose its smooth texture. 3. Dip the sticks in the chocolate first and then poke them in the balls…serves as a great glue! 4. Styrofoam works great as a decorative holder. Throw some ribbon around the edge and you’re good to go! 5. Try making cookie balls when you only need a batch of 20 or so instead of 60!
9. The color your own graduation hats may be really cute and creative, but they fall apart. Or at least the ones we made did. They weren’t that hard to put together…as UNmechanical as I am, I don’t think I messed these up.
10. Preschool kids are so much more capable of BIG concepts than people generally assume. They like to be challenged, they like to explore, and they like to learn. They CAN do math and science. They CAN make their own discoveries, guided or alone. They CAN learn about literacy and the importance of letters and words. They CAN understand big ideas like friendship, forgiveness, love, hurt. They CAN grasp ideas of difference and sameness…the basis of a multicultural curriculum. They CAN grow in God’s love when nurtured and encouraged. (They can also learn to walk in a line, lay down for nap, clean up their own lunch boxes, use their listening ears, and follow rules.) Early childhood professionals who really do it right are amazing. I’m sorry that I have not always given them the credit they deserve.
All this being said, I feel like I have grown this year! Now I just wish I knew if God wanted me to teach Pre K forever or do something else. Pray that I can hear His voice and know where I need to be going!