An oldie but a goodie, from my younger years.

This post dates all the way back to the start of my teaching profession.  I debated posting this one but in the end it is real funny.  This truly reflects the phrase that hindsight is 20/20. And once I again I was enlightened at the end of my day.

As you may already know, music plays a large role in my daily teaching practice.  It can rowdy a mild crowd and sooth a rowdy crowd.  It supports all areas of learning and no one can resist an impromptu dance party.  Put on a dance tune in my room and a joyful chaos erupts.

Have you seen Grease? Do you remember the Hand Jive?  I thought it would be fun to teach the class the Hand Jive.  I had the right music playing and eventually the kids loved it.  We had a blast for a little bit and then it was back to the books.  It was a great break in the day.  I went to school the next morning and was quickly greeted by a parent.  She asked me if I had time to meet with her after school.  Anyone that has had this interaction understands that this is what I thought about all day.  What could it be? What happened? I hope everything is okay.  It was an uneventful day as far as the classroom goes and then it was meeting time.

(Keep in mind that at the time of this conversation I was a new teacher, just getting started.)

Parent- “Ummm,(silence,throat clear) yesterday my daughter came home from school and said that she learned how to do the hand job.”   AWKWARD SILENCE,  I quickly saw my career, degree, EMT license flash before my eyes. My heart skipped three beats.  In my head I just kept thinking that I am going to jail, I am going to jail, I am going to jail. 

“WWWHHHHAAATTTT?”  I quickly and confidently and nervously said “No, it was the Hand Jive, you know from Grease.  Do the crazy hand jive.”  I am sure I stuttered a bit as I chose my words. And yes, I proceeded to go through the motions of the hand jive.  Slowly she began to smile and I was thankful that she was a fan of Grease.  Again I was enlightened.

Now I stick to Kidz Bop and playing my guitar for freeze dance.

Alex or Huck?

I am trying to save all of my original posts–here is an older post from 2012.

The topic and post is still very relevant to my classroom today, 2017-2018.

Throughout the school year I try to read books that will help me out with my approach regarding children and their unique behaviors.  I noticed a long time ago that it is easy to get stuck in a rut, it is easy to expect the best behavior from everyone and then I realized that this is just laziness.  I believe that every child is 100% unique in all areas of development and to expect them all to live up to the same expectations regarding  behavior is just ridiculous mixed with two parts lazy.  For me reading books, articles, chapters, sentences and even quotes reminds me that every child requires a different approach concerning behavior and academics. It also helps that I was one of those kids that was a bit challenging to work with.  Currently I am reading the book, In Defense of Childhood by Chris Mercogliano.  In the introduction he references an older book, Huck’s Raft, A History of American Childhood by Stephen Mintz, this introduces the idea of the “Huck Finn” child and the fact that we are trying to tame that type of “inner wildness” that embodies Huck.

As I was reading this book and watching my one month old son I started to think about this idea of “inner wildness” in different terms.  I think the polar opposite of Huck Finn is Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties.  Do I want a classroom of Huck’s or a classroom of Alex P. Keatons?  For one thing, I am sure that Huck could kick Alex’s ass but Alex has the money and planning to hire a body guard.  I think for me, balance is the answer.  I love seeing kids getting muddy and covered in dirt.  I take the class outside every chance I get.  There is endless value in the process of exploration and discovery.  I encourage the children in my class to ask questions- I appreciate it when children make adults explain themselves.  One thing you will never hear from me is “because I said so”. When it pours, we always go down to the stream hoping there is enough water rushing over the rocks so that we can take out the kayak. Huck would approve.  On the other hand, the Alex P. Keaton hand, children live in a very different world than Huck.  Huck would not able to Google without an Alex showing him the basics.

So my goal is to create an atmosphere where Huck and Alex would both thrive.  To create an atmosphere where children can learn, explore and discover like Huck then write a presentation and make a graph like Alex. A classroom that fosters independent thought like Huck and can articulate their thoughts like Alex. A place where children learn all the names of local plants and trees like Alex and knows the practical uses for them like Huck. And most important, I would like to create an atmosphere where Huck and Alex both realize they can help each other. It is good to know how to play along the river banks on the weekend and dress for the office afterwards. A place where Huck can teach Alex P. Keaton how to run a river and Alex P. Keaton can teach Huck how to most effectively pack for the upcoming adventure.

Wilderness Education as a part of school?

Read any article about child development and one of the most popular themes is that children need to spend time outdoors and yet children across the nation are deprived from time outside, exercise and the reward that comes from discovery and exploring our natural world.  My theory is that children need to spend MORE TIME outside.  Education and learning  does not have to take place surrounded by the walls of a classroom.

Have you ever just gone into the woods to do nothing but sit? Once a human enters the woods it takes at least 30 minutes for the woods to get back to normal. Although you don’t realize it once you enter the woods you have disrupted the flow of the minute aspects of nature. A human enters the woods and the bird calls change, the messengers have sent the call. Once the birds are alerted all other creatures great and small are on alert. It takes practice to master the art of entering the woods and walking in the woods without alerting or disturbing everything around you.

A significant aspect of the Lower School Program at Riley is dedicated to learning about our natural world and our place in it. We venture out to the woods many times during the week but Tuesday’s are dedicated to Outdoor Education. Over the course of the year the children will be introduced to track identification, learning about the four directions, using a compass, cartography, basic primitive skills and learning how to be a part of nature, not simply walking or playing in the woods that surround our beautiful campus. The children will be begin to see the woods come alive around them. This past Tuesday was our first Outdoor Day of the school year. Here is a short clip of the children sitting in their quiet spots. Since it was the first time, the spots were close together but as time goes on the children will spread out so that they can’t see each other. After sitting in silence for 10 minutes we meet back as a group to discuss what children may or may not have observed in that time. I am delightfully surprised by their ability to sit quietly and their observations. Next week we will begin making entries in our Wilderness Journals.