Category Archives: Philosophy

The Environment As a Classroom

If you conducted a poll amongst my family and friends, it would be unanimous: they would all tell you that I “hate outside”. Not, “She doesn’t like outside,” or “She’s not a fan of outside,” but I guarantee you they would use the word hate. I mean, in the summer, I might hang out on my deck and read a book, or chat on the phone in the sun, but in the winter, you can find me curled up in front of the fireplace in my basement, with four blankets around me. While I wouldn’t say personally that I hate outside, but rather, that I just don’t feel like I get it.  All of the activities that seem to unite my Northern Ontario brethren under a banner of “Look at how outdoorsy we are!” just wasn’t passed along to me. I feel like I’m missing some part of my Greater Sudbury DNA.

The kindergarten curriculum treats outside like another classroom, which you can imagine,

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We explore how to make igloos with molds. Can you make an igloo with cones?

to me, sounds like a special version of my nightmare. And they don’t mean it the way that you might remember the outdoors when you were at school – this is not 20 minutes of recess. This is at least an hour of meaningful outdoor learning. When I came back to kindergarten and found out that the outdoor exploration time of my students would be facilitated by me, there was a certain amount of anxiety. And probably not for the reasons you’re imagining. I wasn’t worried about having to go outside with the kids, but rather, about making that time outside meaningful.

But what does meaningful learning even mean?

Continue reading The Environment As a Classroom

What’s a Scribble

Have you figured out what that picture is up top?

September and October are the months where I spend a lot of my time writing for my students. We’re just beginning to review (or learn!) the letters of the alphabet, but don’t always feel confident or capable to write their thoughts to accompany their pictures. In September and October, what is most important to me is that my students understand that their thoughts and their voices matter. Their captions for the beautiful pictures that they draw are important. Their explanations matter.  Continue reading What’s a Scribble

Whole Body Listening

I know that at the beginning of the year, I can only get six-eight solid minutes every carpet time out of my students, so I have to make it count. I have found that this isn’t always easy.

So this gang of sweet, great and smart kids likes to shout things, which is not uncommon in classrooms. And there was no trick that I could think of that was helping me solve that problem. I didn’t like asking them to leave our carpet, just because they shouted something out. I’m excited that they’re excited about learning. I want to capitalize on that excitement, but it’s impossible to do so when kids are just shouting over one another to be heard. They have to learn to take their turn. But of course, we forgot that they have to be taught that.

It’s not about being “quiet”, it’s about being respectful to the fact that we need to listen and hear each other while we’re having whole group discussions. It’s about being calm so that you can really hear what someone else is saying. It’s about looking at someone when they speak, so that you can watch their facial expression.

Listening is hard. Listening is hard for adults … can you imagine how hard it is for kids that are just learning to listen?

But with the help of the Cookie Monster, it got a whole lot easier.

The video I’m embedding is called “The Biscotti Karate”, and teaches the Cookie Monster how to listen with his whole body: eyes watch; ears listen; mouth quiet; body calm. And so far, so good – it’s the most respectful I’ve seen them since we’ve started coming together for discussions on the carpet. We’re taking turns, we’re being mindful, and we’re breathing in deep. We’re listening, instead of thinking about what we’re going to say next. We’re reflecting on the words of others, which is an important part of listening.

So really, at the end of the day, the question is this: what does the Cookie Monster have that I don’t? What does he have that none of us have? Watch it to find out.

One Week Left …

As of today, there is only one week left until students meet their teacher’s at their new classrooms. Of course, that is if you’re a teacher that’s on full-time contract. I, however, still have a whole month and a half to get ready, as I will be covering a maternity leave starting that is anticipated to begin at the end of October. Still lots of time to relax for me!

So that means, of course, that today, I finally began looking through my things and trying to find what I’m missing. I’ve had such a crazy summer, and now, it’s time to actually get some work done. I had promised myself that I would make a comprehensive French Literature Circle kit, and that’s what’s on the docket today.

With one week left, I’m beginning to think of my annual New School Year Resolutions.

Last year, my resolution was, simply, this blog. Of course, anybody who maintains a blog knows that it’s not that simple. When I first began this journey on Hey Ms. K!, I didn’t quite know what to make of it, or what would come of it, or even, how I would use it. I had seen many blogs that were being used as a tool to keep up with modern teaching practices; being used as a means to connect with others in the profession; being used as a way to promote the lesson plans that they were selling. I feel like I’ve taken those three standards, and I’ve added a fourth that came to dominate my blog throughout the year: connecting with parents. During the summer, it’s been easy-going back to the original purpose of why I began a blog – when I started Hey Ms. K!, I didn’t have a teaching job yet and was still expecting to be supply teaching all year, as I had done the year before. The day before school began last year, I was hired for an amazing position, and spent my year at Chelmsford Public School. This blog’s priority quickly shifted as the need became apparent that I could use this as a way to connect with parents. And honestly, it was a very effective switch. I loved being able to include families in our school day by posting the things that they did. The kids were always excited about the website, and regularly asked if we could post their accomplishments online so that mom/dad/aunt/uncle/cousin was able to see it easily. It was a great medium to connect.

This year, I have to figure out a new New School Year Resolution. And I will, I know – I’ve got a week to come up with it. And I know this blog will somehow be involved. I just have to figure out how …

What is your New School Year Resolution? Share it in the comments. Maybe it will inspire me. 🙂