Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Starting from the beginning

Yesterday was the first day of my internship AND my first day of this semester of evening classes at George Mason University. Last night I slept like a stone dropped to the bottom of a blue sea.

Most students in my program do their internships in the Spring--a few of us are doing them now, and I think we're lucky. Yesterday, for example, I was there when my cooperating professional, E., opened her classroom door with the key. We surveyed the piled furniture in a corner, the supplies stashed willy-nilly along a wall by others who had used the room over the summer. We sniffed the air. Then we dug in. E. described where and how she needed things, and A., the assistant teacher and I, set up. It was a very good lesson for me to see the state of a classroom when a teacher begins her year. An enormous shelf that she'd relied upon for storage had also disappeared over the summer, so the set-up had to be different from last year. We discussed and schlepped and labeled, and it was a very good day. It's a privilege to be there from the very beginning.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ready, Set, GO.

Tomorrow I begin my internship. I've been both eagerly anticipating it and fretting about it for so long, that it's a great relief that it's finally here. It's going to be hectic--no doubt about it--with my classes and my own two children and lots of logistical gymnastics, but I welcome it. It's not a sustainable schedule for the long term, but doable for one semester. My husband is extremely supportive of all this, and we'll manage it together.
I can't wait to meet my new people. Teachers, assistant teachers, administrators, parents, and most of all, twenty-something five- and six-year-olds who are about to start their first ever day of Kindergarten. I'm honored that I get to be a part.
I should mention before this internship begins that I intend to share the inspiring aspects of my school and classroom, the good stuff that I learn from and that make me a better teacher. These will be ample to keep me a very busy blogger. If there are moments that frustrate me, as there are in any human endeavor, I'm going to keep those to myself. This approach means that I run a risk of a Mary Sunshine Cheesecake kind of a blog, I suppose. But this isn't one of those anonymous education blogs. I'm Launa, a real person at a real school with real colleagues and families, and I'm interested in sharing the best. All indications are that there will be tons of that. Thanks for coming along!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Aditi Shankardass: A second opinion on learning disorders | Video on TED.com

This TED talk struck me as one we early childhood educators should know about.

Aditi Shankardass, a brain researcher, says that it's a funny thing that we typically only evaluate symptoms when we diagnose brain disorders--we don't look at the brain itself. She points out that if someone makes a diagnosis regarding another part of the body--say, heart or bones or blood, we take a look at it first before we proceed. So, she invented a new means to LOOK at brain waves and what they are telling us, with fascinating results. This one's just 7 minutes.

Aditi Shankardass: A second opinion on learning disorders Video on TED.com

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pigeon Post

This is a continuation of my last post....

We just finished Coot Club, the fourth in the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome, and we've begun Pigeon Post. I've been eagerly waiting for this book; this is the one I read when I was a kid. It's delicious it is to revisit a book that I loved so long ago, and share it with my two children, who love it, too.

When I was 8 years old in the mid-seventies, my family lived in what was then West Germany, near Frankfurt. My father was stationed at a now-defunct American Air Base. It was July, and my family was on a summer vacation in our bright red, 1965 VW camper. We were trying to hit as many countries as we could in my father's three weeks of leave, and one afternoon found us in a bookstore on Trafalgar Square in London. I had begged to go in. I had blazed through the books I'd brought along for the many hours on the road, and I was intrigued by this place--with its dense walls of shelves to the ceiling, it felt like a bookstore I'd seen in Frankfurt, yet these books I could read. My parents said I could choose a book to keep me company as we journeyed to Scotland, and I chose Pigeon Post. I had no idea it was #5 in a series, and I didn't learn this until a couple of years ago, when a British friend and I were chatting about beloved books from our childhoods, and she filled me in on what I'd missed.

I decided to start the series from the proper beginning with my own children. Finally, instead of checking out the next book from our library, we are reading the musty, yellowed Penguin Paperback that's been sitting on my shelf all these years.

It's better than I remembered. It's wonderful. And I keep having these marvelous moments of short-term clairvoyance: like when Rodger gets a surprise package on the train, and I realize that I know what's inside of it. Or when Nancy comes back from the High Topps full of news, and I know what she's going to report. Thirty-two-year-old memories that I didn't know I had. It's a tale of brave, funny, daring children (eight of them!) and their summer at the lake, doing their best to avoid adults and scare up some proper adventure.

What a great way to end our summer together.

Monday, August 16, 2010

We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea

That's one of the titles in a series of novels for children by Arthur Randsome. The series starts with Swallows and Amazons, where we meet four British schoolchildren on their summer holidays in the Lake District, circa 1920. They learn to sail, camp entirely alone on their own little island, and all around have the most fabulous adventures you could hope for. Yet the characters never for a moment stop being believable--you're sure that if you knew your nautical knots just a little better, were just a little handier with a pocket knife and a campfire, and had your courage bolstered by your brothers and sisters around you, that you, too, could do and dare. They are wonderful tales, and my kids and I are sailing through them as read-alouds. Highly recommended.

Also, We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea describes exactly how I feel about this blog. I meant to take a little time away to get into the house we just bought and paint a few walls. But oh my goodness, I didn't mean to sail off for the entire summer. How did that happen? It feels great to be back, and if you're here reading, then hey, thanks! I appreciate it. I look forward to sharing my adventures as a student teacher. My internship begins in two short weeks in a Kindergarten classroom right here in Arlington, Virginia, right outside Washington D.C. It's just what I hoped for. It's a terrific assignment, and it's bound to be an epic voyage of learning for me. Thanks for sailing along.