Saturday, January 22, 2011

In the days of Judy Instructo

This is an example of some of the teaching materials I found in my new classroom. This tagboard matching game was in a tattered, taped box from the Judy Instructo company, copyright 1966.

I'm trying to keep some of these, the ones in good shape with all their pieces intact, because a little bit of times past seems like a valuable thing. Besides, that car! That sink! Number 3, here! They crack me up.

But at the same time, I can't keep too much. There are so many other materials to have on hand. And people of color, or artifacts outside of main stream 60s Americana, are not represented in these materials.

It's a balancing act.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bust out the good crayons

I am starting my position mid-year because the teacher I'm replacing retired after many, many years of teaching. There was a lot of stuff in the classroom. A LOT of stuff. She didn't throw or give anything away, as far as I can tell. I have found instructional materials from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s. I know how incredibly lucky I am--I have heard stories of teachers walking into absolutely bare classrooms.

We all have our own styles, and I am finding that I need a little less stuff and a little more space to function well in this classroom, so I'm moving on a few things to new homes. This is a long process, to look at each item and evaluate it. So many things have value in an early childhood classroom, but a balance must be struck between storage for lots of good resources, and lots of good space for the children to explore those resources.

Something I am noticing in this process is that a lot of excellent, barely used or never used supplies were in the cupboards. Some were still in the shrink wrap. But, a lot of the things out for the children were well past their life span, like puzzles so frayed on the edges that they really couldn't be put together anymore.

I understand this impulse. It's easy to keep a new set of paints perfect on the shelf, and hard to put them out, to their inevitable fate in small hands. But, of course, who are the paints for? What is their purpose?

What is the lesson I'm taking from this? It's to bust out the good crayons. If you, too, have a lovely set of high quality oil pastels hidden away, let's do it together. Let's both offer the good stuff to these children, this year. Maybe even tomorrow.

I. Love. My. Job.

I am now one week into my new job as a VPI (Virginia Preschool Initiative) teacher, teacher pre-Kindergarten to 4 year-olds from low income families at a public elementary school in Arlington, VA. Even if you have never met me in person, you would recognize me: I'm the one with glitter all over my sweater, paint on my skirt, and a big grin on my face. I am a very lucky person to get to do this work. Yeah, I'm overwhelmed, too, with everything I need to learn and figure out and simple FIND in my new classroom, but I'll get there, with 16 children and a truly wonderful instructional assistant to accompany me on my journey. Life is good.