Monday, September 1, 2014

striking .... for public education

It's Labour Day Monday.

Usually, I am soaking in the last day of summer freedom, while looking forward to getting back to school, reconnecting with my kids from last year, and looking forward to meeting the new little ones that I get to share with their families for the coming year.

Usually, I have already spent hours (unpaid) in my classroom, thinking about how the children will interact with their environment.  Reflecting on their learning and how I can support it.  Moving furniture, making sure the house area is inviting, checking over the dress up clothes, putting out intriguing bits and pieces from the beach or the forest (magnifying glasses included), looking from all angles to see that the classroom is warm, inviting, intriguing, but not overwhelming.  Making sure that it is a place that 20 (or so) little people can feel that they belong and can make it their own.

But not this year.

This year I am on strike.

And I have been since the middle of June.

It is a complicated strike with a long history.  If you are interested, here is an entertaining 3 minute synopsis.

It is not a battle over wages and benefits.  

It is a difference in belief in what public education should be.

And it has got me thinking. There's lots of time to think on a picket line.

I believe, more than ever, in the importance of public education.  

Public schooling is available to everyone. Everyone  -  regardless of gender, religion,ethnicity,  socio-economic status, learning needs, family situation.  All students in the community have the same right to walk in the front door and the same right to a desk in a classroom.  

Students attending public school interact and learn with their classmates - students who may look different from them, may have different beliefs, may have a different family situations.  In my books, that is a good thing.  

Public education supports everyone.  Robert Niles states:  Education ought to be about lifting up, not weeding out.  Without a free, public education system open to all, those who are born without money and power never will have a change to make their lives better by developing new knowledge and skills.

Let's look at education systems that work.  Finland is top of the educational charts.  When Finland gave  their education system a make over in 1963, they chose "public education as its best shot for economic recovery"  (Smithsonian).  Equality  was their "prime directive".  Well funded schools,  well trained, well paid and well respected teachers, a nation-wide curriculum with guidelines, intentionally leaving room for local autonomy - and it is successful.  (Smithsonian:  Why are Finland's Schools Successful?)

Public education is vital to a healthy democracy.  Wendy Brown of UC Berkeley
Without quality public education, we the people cannot know, handle, let alone check the powers that govern us. Without quality public education, there can be no substance to the promise of equality and freedom, no possibility of developing and realizing individual capacities, no possibility of children overcoming disadvantage, or of teens reaching for the stars, no possibility of being a people guiding their own destiny or of individuals choosing their own course. Above all, there is no possibility of being a self-governing people, a democracy. 
If such capacities have always been important to democratic citizenship, our increasingly complex world demands them all the more, and quality public education is the keystone to their acquisition. Without quality public education in our future, there is no future for democracy. 
Without quality public education in our future, we face a huge divide between the educated and uneducated, corresponding to a divide between the rich and the poor and magnifying the power of the former, the powerlessness of the latter. This is plutocracy, not democracy. 
Without quality public education in our future, we face a populace taught only the skills needed for work, ill-equipped to understand or participate in civic and political life. This is corporate oligarchy, not democracy. 
Without quality public education in our future, we face a people manipulable through their frustrations, mobilizable through false enemies and false promises. This is the dangerous material of democracy’s opposite — despotism if not fascism.  (Wendy Brown: Without Quality Public Education There is No Future for Democracy)
 Education is powerful.  I believe in a public education system that supports and is part of creating people who go out and change the world for good.

And that is why, sadly, I walk the line.

disclaimer:  I am not looking to engage in a debate over the benefits of public vs private vs homeschooling.  Everyone choses what they believe is best for their children. 
full disclosure:   I went to a private Christian school grades 1 - 9 and a public high school. I teach kindergarten in a public school. My children attended the public schools in our small town, k - 12. 

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

sunflower sensory bin

Who can help but love the amazingly tall sunflowers that stand sentinel over the last days and weeks of summer.

Blazes of yellows, oranges, russets and browns.  

Bringing us into Fall.

And inspiring a sunflower sensory bin.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

a braided rug for a cosy corner

My friend Val Galvin makes the most amazing rugs.  

I figured that one of her braided rugs needed to be in my kindergarten classroom.  And I told her that each time I saw one that caught my kindergarten eye.

She didn't give me a rug.  She did one better.  She taught me how to make a braided rug.  

I wanted a nice soft, comfy rug for sitting on in  a quiet, mellow time corner in my kindergarten classroom.

Recycled blankets would make a soft inviting rug.

There's a special fancy bit to do right at the beginning.  I happily let an expert take over. 

First job was to rip up the blankets and roll them ready to use. 

And then braid. And braid. And braid. 

And change colours. And watch it grow. 

Until it was ready to be laced.  

I used a flat, slightly curved, round topped  needle that Val has made locally
 (by the father of one of my past students - the joys of small town living!), and special linen lacing thread.

It was almost exciting to see the rug showing its personality.
Val would say it is very exciting to see the rug find its personality. 

And a fine personality it has.  
It's warm, inviting, gentle, and random with a wee bit of structure.

A perfect place to take some time away from the business of a kindergarten classroom.
A perfect place to curl up with a book.
A perfect place to think and to be.

Imagine this rug, a cosy corner, a couple of pillows, soft light from a small lamp
and a couple of kids curled up, making plans for the day. 

Can't wait to see it. 

If you can't make it to Vancouver Island for one of Val's courses, and until Val gets tutorials on her Facebook page, Renditions in Rags Hooked and Braided Rugs (and she says she is going to),  Sunshine's Creations has a braided rug tutorial. 

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

book report: The Most Magnificent Thing

For anyone who has ever tried to build, bake, sculpt, paint, to create ... something  ...  and the reality did not work as well as the plan ...

For anyone who has become angry when a project does not go as planned ...

For anyone who has wanted to give up when a project does not work ...

For anyone who has needed a fresh perspective on a project .... 

For anyone who has plans to create a magnificent thing ...

The Most Magnificent Thing
written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
published by Kids Can Press (2014)
picture book
ages 4 - 8

Sunday, August 10, 2014

10 quirky books for children

A list of 10 picture books.

They said it would be hard.

I didn't believe them.

It was hard.

So, after many half done lists, many beginnings of draft posts  ...

10 quirky picture books for children

something that is strange/not normal but cool  

[kwur-kee]  Show Iadjective, quirk·i·er, quirk·i·est.
having or full of quirks.
quirk  (kwɜːk) 
— n individual peculiarity of character; mannerism or foible unexpected twist or turn: a quirk of fate

Thursday, August 7, 2014

elephant activities for children

My daughter has loved elephants since she was wee and called them "phants".

Now she is not-so-wee and spent a few glorious days at an elephant conservation centre while backpacking in SE Asia this Spring.

This post is for my elephant loving, vintage bike riding, Thai food cooking,  wonderful daughter.  Happy Birthday Anna.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

book report: None the Number

Oliver Jeffers, with the help of the Hueys, is answering the question, "is none a number?"

None the Number: A Hueys Book
author/illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
published by Harper Collins Children's Books (2014)
 thought provoking for children age 4 - 7 
picture book
numbers, counting, math

Monday, July 28, 2014

Very Hungry Caterpillar sensory bin

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a fabulous book for retelling.  

It has progression of numbers, the days of the week, it's all about food, and it has a miraculous ending.  Every syllable of every word is right where it belongs.  It just invites retelling. 

How about we retell the story with a sensory bin.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

our classroom - a home away from home

My classroom is my home away from home.  

And not just for me.

The kids are there for 6 hours a day for about 190 school days a year.  That's a lot of hours. 

Our space needs to be somewhere that we can all feel at home.

I am not allowed in my classroom right now. 
I'm writing about what I want to see in my classroom 
and using photos from my home and garden.  
Let's just look at it as a home-school connection.  

In our classroom we need ...

somewhere to put our "stuff"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

book report: The Art of Clean Up

Last year's kindergarten kids were an amazing group of human beings.

They had delightful quirks, loved words and language, made me laugh, were kind to each other, were Pokemon mad, needed visual intrigue ... so many qualities that made us a community that loved each other.

Cleaning up was not one of those qualities.

So when I saw this book at an early childhood workshop, I figured it would be great for our class. 

We could finally get on the same page about clean up - find some motivation - it would be great. 

I bought the book without really looking at it.

It wasn't about cleaning up at all.  It was not going to help our classroom be neat and tidy - whatever the subtitle.

I'm still glad I bought it. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

children - an investment in the future

#kinderblog14  challenge:  week 1

Write the post that has been in your head (or your drafts folder) for a while now. You know the one. The one you write while you drive to work, or while you are in the shower. What is the question, or issue, or opinion, or emotions, you have been chewing on for a while now?

Well, here goes.  This post was born on the picket line, walking for the rights of wee goslings to have their learning needs met. 


One of the first pieces of art that I bought was a beautiful  Benjamin Chee Chee print titled Learning.

As wee goslings enters the world, they need the care and love of bigger geese in order to learn and survive.  

When my goslings joined our family they needed me (and their dad) to keep them safe, fed, warm, clean and loved.  

But what if parents are not  able to be responsible for a life other than their own....

As goslings get bigger, they need to experience more of the world.  They need to move, explore, question, and figure things out, while their basic needs of safety, food, health, clothing, housing and love are still being met.  

As their "range" gets bigger, goslings need a community of adults.

This is where, as a kindergarten teacher, I become part of a community of  adults who contributes to the well being of children.  

I do my best to provide them with a safe environment where they can explore who they are and grow their abilities.  

But what if I cannot meet all their learning needs....

Some of my goslings need Speech and Language Therapy.  Some have specific sensory needs.  Some have been through more trauma in their 5 years than should be allowed in a life time.  Some experience the world through a different framework than is typical. Some have health issues.  Some do not understand danger. 

Their needs require a bigger community of care. Beyond the resources of a classroom ... to the resources of a  school, to a school district.

I guess that it is called "allocation of resources".  Some of my goslings need resources allocated to them. 

But what if the school/school district does not have resources available ....

And that's where I get political.  Doesn't it depend on how we look at it:  expense or investment?

We all have a responsibility to invest in children's learning.  (Just looking at the education system here -  there are many other communities responsible for a child's well being.)

Invest - as in - look forward. Contribute now, dividends later. 
We all have a responsibility to be part of a caring community for every child - irregardless of the child's gender, religion, sexual orientation, special need, or their parent(s)' ability or inability provide for their needs.  

It is our responsibility as citizens to invest in our children.

Through our time, energy and our tax dollars. 

All of us.  For all of them.

ps  I think my Benjamin Chee Chee print is going to find a place in my classroom. 

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

sandcastles: books and activities

When we were having our annual end of the school year family day at a local beach, I visited with a couple of kids who were building sand castles.

The moat was dug.  Water was being transported to fill the moat.  Seaweed and shells were decorating castle walls.

I was reminded of a beautiful book all about Kate, a girl who built a sand castle.

Kate's Castle
author: Julie Lawson
illustrator: Frances Tyrell
Oxford University Press, 1992 
 Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005
age range: 5 - 7
sadly out of print

Sunday, June 22, 2014

how to make a pizza

with 20 mini chef helpers

On Thursday we made pizza.

There are some important steps to be followed.

Step 1:  chef hat
make sure official portrait is taken

Step 2:  dough
we pre-made in the bread maker

Step 3: sauce
very important that each mini chef has a turn to spread the sauce

Step 4:  cheese
a turn for everyone is important here too

Step 5: bake in the oven

Step 6:  eat
don't expect any left overs

We did have clean hands while making the pizza 
- the hand sanitizer proof is in Step 3.

There are some great free pizza printables out in blogland.

Our Little Monkeys has a Pizza Tot Pack.  

Living Life Intentionally has a 40 page pizza pack based on the book Pete's a Pizza.   

Feel hungry now?

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

book report: The Little Red Hen Make a Pizza

The Little Red Hen is an industrious member of the poultry family.

First she made bread.  With no assistance whatsoever.  (She consumed the entire loaf herself.)  

Not content to sit and digest, the Little Red Hen heads to her cupboards to decide what to make next.  

A can of tomatoes inspires the next culinary project - pizza.

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