Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My new school is a happenin' place

My new school, where I will begin teaching in just a few short weeks, just won a local human rights award for its outstanding efforts in parent outreach and inclusion. I am so excited to be a part of this!

You can read a short blurb about it here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Giving Thanks for my new JOB!

I have some good news to share with you. I interviewed for a position on Friday, and I was offered it over the weekend. I'm employed!

I will be a Pre-K teacher in Arlington Public Schools, part of what is known here as the Virginia Preschool Initiative, or VPI. This program, funded by the state lottery, offers a high-quality preschool experience to four-year-olds from low income families.

I start in January, just a couple of weeks after I graduate with a Masters in Early Childhood Education in mid-December. I'll teach in a public school just 3 1/2 miles from my home (it's the same school where I had the good fortune to do my internship). I already know and admire my new colleagues.

I'm just pinching myself. This is exactly the work I hoped to do. I am grateful down to the soles of my shoes that I get to have this opportunity, and that it starts so promptly after my graduation. No waiting! Step right up and start your new life!

So, this is how this story ends. I've been wondering for so long now....when I'm done with this degree, where will I teach? What will happen next? And now I know the answer. This story is ending, and another one, a really interesting one, is about to begin.

I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, even in addition to the great bounty of being with my family. Wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving full of blessings!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I think he was talking about classroom management

"What you do
speaks so loud
that I cannot hear what you say."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Serious Play

PLAY: the heart of an early childhood classroom. Vital to learning. Vital to childhood.

In a recent class project, I had the opportunity to defend play in a pre-K classroom to an adult who comes in the room and wants to know why the children are "just playing."

I'm glad you asked! My response:

When you describe the children as “just playing,” I feel you may be defining the word “play” as a time filler between sessions of “real learning” with a pencil and a worksheet. An alternate definition of play I offer is that play is a crucial process that contributes to learning throughout the life span, and motivates learning in addition to contributing to cognitive development (1). Simply put, play the most powerful and efficient way for children to learn and remember what they learned (2).
Serious benefits await children who engage in serious play. According to researchers Bodrova and Leong (3), play builds foundational skills and complex cognitive activities, such as memory, self-regulation, distancing and decontextualization, oral language abilities, symbolic generalization, successful school adjustment, and better social skills.
Children at play not only hone these cognitive abilities, but they also develop specific literacy, math, and social studies skills that connect directly with Virginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning: Comprehensive Standards for Four-Year-Olds (4). As these standards astutely note, four-year-olds have serious work to do. But it can be accomplished with joy, enthusiasm, and engagement; in short, through play.
I integrate play with standards through careful observation and documentation of the children’s self-directed play. When I observe recurring themes, I develop whole group and small group activities to deepen their base of knowledge, their understanding, and their mastery of skills. I organize my classroom so that every play activity builds literacy, number sense, social interaction, and information about the world around them. Their dramatic, constructive, and exploratory play is richly layered with the core standards. They are building the skills they need to excell in their school careers and in their lives.
Play is an even more important component of a young child’s school day than it was in the past, because the nature of children’s play at home has changed; that is, not all children come to my classroom knowing how to play, and I must teach them how. “Nowadays, young children spend less time playing with their peers and more time playing along, graduating from educational toys to video and computer games” (3). When I see children struggling to play cooperatively and constructively, I scaffold their abilities with well-placed play props, questions to get them thinking, and interventions when needed to help them develop these essential skills.

1. Myck-Wayne, J. (2010). “In Defense of Play: Beginning the Dialog About the Power of Play.” Journal of Young Exceptional Children, 2010, 13: 14.

2. Elkind, D. (2007). The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally. Da Capo Press: Cambridge, MA.

3. Bodrova, E., and Leong, D.J. (2004). “Do Play and Foundational Skills Need to Compete for the Teacher’s Attention in an Early Childhood Classroom?” Spotlight on Young Children and Play. National Association for the Education of Young Children, Washington, D.C.

4. Viriginia Department of Education (2007). "Virginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning: Comprehensive Standards for Four-Year-Olds." Retrieved on November 15, 2010 from www.earlychildhood.virginia.gov/documents/foundationblocks.pdf.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Ending and Many Beginnings

I just came to the end of my 11-week long internship. It was dreadfully hard to say goodbye to the children! I know how lucky I was to be part of their lives for a while. I learned so much! My mind and my heart are full. Now I buckle down to a few more weeks of intense course work, and then I graduate in December! Almost there!