Monday, September 28, 2009

Ground Rules

The ground rules in any classroom are designed to set the parameters of acceptable behavior. With young kids, it's important to keep rules few and simple, and yet strong and clear. The general ground rules that I like to have in place in my classroom are as follows:

1. Be Kind
2. Be Safe
3. Be Respectful

Some will say, "But... shouldn't you be more specific?" I don't think so. Too many words can overwhelm and dilute a message for any learner, particularly the youngest child. And I use that language often... "Is this kind? Is this safe? Is this respectful?" If the answer is "no", you can bet it shouldn't be done.

To begin our ground rules list, my students and I brainstormed together. With their permission, and a bit of subtle insinuation, we evolved all the "don'ts" and "you shouldn'ts" into the positively phrased, concise list above. When we arrived at a final list of agreed upon rules, each student, and I, signed our names to the chart paper.

Each morning, now, we recite the rules, review the rules, and act out breaking the rules vs. following the rules, as part of the ground rules & grace and courtesy portion* of morning circle. (*more on that another time!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A New Year...

...and a new beginning.

After the rush of preparation, the anxiety and loss of sleep, the first day jitters, what it comes down to is a moment. Each smiling face to walk through that kindergarten door brings a story, a chance, the limitless hope and possibility of childhood.

So, it is up to you. How will you meet this challenge, how will you greet this opportunity?

I choose a smile, a handshake, " I'm so glad you're here!" "It's good to see you, again!"

We've all heard the teacher lore, the proverbs, handed down with unspoken certainty on the part of the teller:

"You're going to have your hands full with that one."
"Don't smile before Christmas break."
"They need to learn what school is all about."

The last rings particularly true, as it is up for interpretation.

What is school all about? That...that is up to you!
Is it about blackline masters or hands-on letter work? Following directions, or problem-solving skills? Rote memorization or concrete math experiences?

Clearly, there is some middle ground, some balance that you must strike for yourself as a teacher, as you work to best meet the needs of the children in your care, to help them grow in so many ways.

For me, this year is so much about intention. About starting strong, and staying strong- following the child, and challenging each and every learner to grow, to succeed.

The potential of each child, the uniqueness strikes you as they enter your care- be it in a brilliant smile, subtle compassion, tentative questions, or Great Big Bear Hugs like they've known you for years.

Kindergarten is life in motion, Life in Progress. *

*I must attribute this beautiful phrase to Linda Kallin, whose handmade sign at her home inspired me to post it in signage on my classroom door.