This year the CushKins have a passion for animals and paleontology. We are very lucky to have a special visitor to our class for the next few months to fuel that wonder and excitement.
You guessed it! T-Rex has come to visit!!! This is a cast of the first completeT-Rex skull ever found in 1908. It was made by the American Museum of Natural History...they made only a handful of them. It was purchased by the current owner, our favorite fossil expert Curtis, from a non-profit that was going out of business. It will be on display in our classroom for the next few months. Lucky, lucky CushKins!
Every spring the sight of fields of daffodils warms my heart as the blanket of snow recedes back into winter. Those daffodils, remind me of my CushKins. I can get daffodils to bloom on my kitchen counter months ahead of time by "forcing" them. I can put them in a bowl with a little bit of gravel beneath it...hardly any soil it all really. I can begin watering them and put them in a warm house and then something magical happens. They bloom! Before their natural time...they bloom. Even though winter is cold and snowy outside. Even though they have no rich soil. They bloom! It's very exciting. What happens next however is not so thrilling. They wither. They die. With an awful lot of effort I may be able to get them to bloom again someday but most likely the bulbs are now spent. So… I don't force bulbs. Instead, I like to plant them outside. If I wait, not only do they bloom the first year, but they naturalize. Each year they bloom again, and in time I have a field of hearty, happy flowers.
Like the daffodils, I can get the CushKins to produce results ahead of their natural time. I can create conditions which yield thrilling looking results. I can prop them up so they pass AIMSweb benchmarking tasks. I could teach strategies so that they do better on our reading benchmark...but to what end? I've seen teachers so focused on test results that they narrow their focus to such an extreme focus that their students become like those forced daffodils. Real learning is put on hold and it can take years to recover from the forced blooming. Many educators feel so pressured to get results on a certain timeline that they put the rich, messy, and sometimes unpredictable work of real learning on hold. I challenge educators to focus on real and experiential learning for a purpose. I challenge parents to trust their child's own timeline of development. I challenge administrators to look past metrics and into the eyes of learners in their schools. We all have a part to play to help our learners thrive for a lifetime.
A few students, take that ongoing contact a bit further. One in particular is on my mind. She recently told me, "I consider you to be like a member of my family. Is that OK?" To say this child has lived through trauma and adversity is an understatement. When tragedy struck in kindergarten, I dropped off learning materials at her home and set up tutoring. When tragedy struck in fourth grade, she came to me with the tragic truth and we figured out the next steps. When tragedy struck in sixth grade...we connected again and in collaboration with her teachers, new school, and community outreach we tried to patch things together. Time passed and we are in another tragedy...but this time I see a huge silver lining and I'm pretty sure she's going to be OK. I feel honored that she knows I am a trusted adult. She knows I'll love her forever. Once a CushKin, always a CushKin.
Back to school time is crunch time! Teachers never have enough time to implement all the great ideas and new initiatives that creep into our back to school dreams. So why, you might wonder, do I volunteer my time to schedule and conduct home visits with my incoming CushKins?
So, even if I have to get one less unit pre planned or leave a shelf un-labeld for another week, my home visits are absolutely worth every second and more!
I like to joke that I am the VERY best kindergarten teacher in our whole town. I'm also the worst...the oldest...the youngest...the tallest...the shortest and so on. While I am the ONLY kindergarten teacher in our school, I am not the only choice you have. You could select a private school, or homeschool, or move to another town, but you are trusting ME to start your children off right. Thank you for your trust.
I've had the privilege of teaching kindergarten at our lovely little school for the past 22 years. In that time I've been continually striving to be the best kindergarten teacher I can be. To that end, I'm committed to continual professional development and ongoing self evaluation. Each summer I reflect on what I can do to improve the experience I provide for my students and their families. Each winter I work to identify the unique passions, talents, and needs of my students to craft unique project based learning experiences. Every season finds me focused on being present and responsive to my students.
This approach has earned me some critical acclaim. I was awarded an National Semi-conductor Innovative Educator award in 2000 for creating an interactive, on-line talking alphabet book. That began my interest in meaningfully integrating technology into instruction. I achieved my National Board Certification in 2012. That process required me to submit four portfolios along with videos of my teaching to a review panel and subject it to rigorous scrutiny. I received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science teaching (2013) and traveled to Washing DC (2014) for the awards ceremony and professional development at the National Science Foundation. I served on an panel for a commission on education for children aged 0-8 years advising members from the National Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Science. I'm one of about 30 Skype Master Teachers working collaboratively to help students and teachers improve global citizenship and use communication technology to open classrooms to the world. I have a world wide network of outstanding experts as part of my professional learning community that inspires me to keep on learning.
All of the credentials in the world, however, would be meaningless if not for the most important ingredient in our classroom: love. I do my best to connect our learning to what my students love. That may be engineering, technology, connecting with others, art, nature, legos...I'll use those passions to make learning meaningful. It's not just love of content or learning that matters, however. I must admit it. I fall in love with my students year after year. I take the time to really know them. When I know a child's favorite color...their family structure...their pets...and ultimately their passions, I can connect to them in a very meaningful way. A personal and caring connection makes all the difference in the world. I hope you take comfort in the fact that when I interact with your child I may be funny or compassionate or even strict...but it is always with their best interest at heart and ALWAYS from a place of love.
A passionate educator and lifelong learner with a love of play and glitter!