Okay. So here are some things that have happened over the past several weeks. Has it really been several weeks? Yes, Brynhildr. Yes it has.
This Saturday, I finally took the hike I’ve been promising myself since pretty much forever. Hiking is something I claim to love, even though I only go once or twice a year. That really ought to change, don’t you think? I had a great climb up Wildcat Peak in Tilden Park in the early morning, and then spent the late morning winding my way down through the park and avoiding my students, several of whom were out with their families, enjoying the day.
I’m something like six months into this blogging experiment now, and I’m beginning to feel a little ambivalent. When I got started, I had a purpose: keeping a loving long-distance community abreast of our struggle, and giving myself a place to vent, rant, and try to make sense of things.
It’s progress report season! Did you know that even preschoolers get progress reports?
This year at my work, it was decided that the early childhood teachers would collaboratively re-work the way progress reports have been written. I gather that, through the school’s history, they’ve gone back and forth between developmental checklists and a more narrative style. While I’ve been writing narrative reports for the past several years, I fully supported the decision to begin using a checklist. There’s 22 of the little buggers, after all, and with very few exceptions, everyone’s developing exactly how they’re supposed to.
Sometimes I even write concise, pithy titles for my blog posts. Not this time, suckas! Oh Lord, I’m tired.
- Back to work this week. The children were delightful and angelic the first day, and then a mess the rest of the week, which pretty much sums up my behavior as well. Things should be more normal next week. It was damn hard getting back into the routine of waking up early and working all day. My re-adjustment was compounded by the fact that everybody asks “How was your break?” as a casual conversation starter, and I have to decide each time if this is a person who needs to hear about how my break really was.
- I worked Saturday morning at my school’s open house for prospective parents, earning me many points in the eyes of my boss and the chance to get a fresh look around campus. It is becoming clearer to me that it’s not the school that’s diametrically opposed to everything I believe about education and classroom management, it’s just my co-teacher.* This is frustrating and encouraging at the same time.
I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll begin with my resolutions.
1. Blog more.
I really do want to work on this project. I like how it feels when I write regularly, and I think I could be good at it. And hey, look! I’m accomplishing this resolution right now.
2. Keep the house cleaner.
I was really good at this while Faramir was in the hospital, mostly because a) I wasn’t doing anything else, and b) I was terrified that being in a dirty home would make him sick. I even wrote to an advice columnist at one of my favorite websites. She emailed me back within hours, with helpful and compassionate advice, but the question got published this week. Being reminded of my former concern for cleanliness and sanitation has helped me realize that at this point, as things in our lives have normalized, keeping the house clean has become less of a priority. Admittedly, part of this resolution stems from how difficult this Christmas was, for reasons I’ll explain below, and my own slightly insane belief that I can control all situations if I just! Work! Hard enough! But it couldn’t hurt to be a little more conscientious in my response to clutter, mess, and the catbox.
3. Spend more money on beauty products.
This one may seem a little silly. Here’s the thing. Almost all the makeup I currently own was bought at a CVS or a Duane Reade in preparation for a friend’s wedding. In 2008. Some of it, I’m ashamed to admit, is even older. It has only recently come to my attention that higher-quality makeup looks better and lasts longer. I’m an adult, I have a well-paying job, I’m gonna lay down some cash at Sephora or somewhere in order to feel special on special occasions.
So that’s it. That’s how I’m going to live a little better in 2012.
I apologize if the title brings on any Ed. students’ PDSD (that’s Post-Dewey Stress Disorder, for those of you not in the field).
This weekend I went through a bunch of my old grad school materials, looking for curriculum ideas. And I found one! This is the beginning of a relief map of North America, which we’re doing in my classroom as a culminating project for our North America study. It should be noted that on Friday, when I asked my co-teacher if we were going to do any kind of culminating project, she said, “What?”
I said, “How do you usually end one unit and move on to the next one?”
She said, “We take the old materials off the shelves and put new ones on.”
But, since the school is trying to be some kind of Montessori/Reggio Emilia hybrid, she’s open to suggestions. This morning, several students and I made (gluten-free!) clay out of cornstarch and salt, colored it, and then pored over an atlas to figure out where the mountains in North America are, and how we could represent them. There was math, there was science, there was geography, there was literacy, there was collaboration, there was learning.
Though I was ready to be finished with grad school, I didn’t expect to need much of a break from my books, notes, and resources. It was comforting to look back into the Bank Street bubble, at those idealized classrooms, at the curricula that I got to write for an imaginary group of children. One major philosophical difference between what I learned in grad school and what I’m doing now is who makes meaning in the classroom. In my current classroom culture (and yes, we’re nominally co-teachers, but she’s been there for fifteen years, is older than me, and knows where everything is, so…you know how that goes), the teachers set out materials with very specific uses and meanings, and the children gradually discover those meanings during their time in the classroom. I can’t say how characteristic this is of Montessori classrooms, but from my limited experience and the reading I’ve done, I’d say it’s pretty typical. In the kind of classroom where I want to teach, children are provided with foundational materials, out of which they can make their own meaning. Paper, markers, paint, blocks, clay, pieces of fabric…in the classroom I want to build, these things are what the children decide they are. They learn about maps by observing places and drawing pictures. Learning doesn’t have to be abstract when it can be real.
Well, I’ve known for a while that a straight-up progressive education rant was coming. There you have it! I’m not going to be changing jobs anytime soon, in part because I’ve spent the last two years on what’s felt like a continuous job search and in part because, all my ranting aside, this is a really good job I’ve got here. I can save these experiences, I can learn what I can, I can be a tremendous asset to my classroom and the school…and then, when it’s time, I can move on with a better idea of what I want and how to build it.
Today was one of those wonderful days that happens every few weeks in which Faramir and I try to cram as many errands into as short a time as possible. Yes, it was a Zipcar day!
First we went to our storage space to retrieve several boxes of Christmas decorations. Storage spaces being what they are, this necessitated removing the chairs, childhood toys, end tables, and stacks of flattened cardboard boxes that were in front of the Christmas decorations, and then trying to stack everything back inside when we’d gotten what we wanted. We then hit Target (ugh, pre-holiday Target…we got there around 9:30 a.m., so it wasn’t so bad) and a hardware store. By then we were starving, so we stuffed ourselves full of delicious eggs and pancakes before heading to Safeway. (We saw one of the oncology nurses at the restaurant, but felt too awkward to say hi). Despite all this incredible efficiency, when the dust had settled and the car was returned, we realized that we still hadn’t bought a compost bin, a big sack of rice, or a mat with rubber spikes to stop Tabbouleh from hurling her body against the bedroom door when she decides it’s time for us to get up.
As we unpacked the Christmas boxes, I was surrounded by the ornaments and Nativity scenes of his childhood. It was lovely and intimate, but a little lopsided at the same time. The ornaments that I loved as a child are still at my parents’ house. I realize that this is because I’m lucky enough that they’re both still living and still married to each other, and I’m not complaining exactly. But this isn’t the first time I’ve felt somewhat overshadowed by his family’s story, to the neglect of my own. Our little two-person family needs a few more Christmases before it really feels like ours.
Unrelatedly, this article made me simultaneously happy to be a teacher and disappointed in my current job. That’s just not how my school thinks. It’s increasingly important to me that I clarify my views on play and education, now that I’m no longer being indoctrinated. Speaking of indoctrination, yesterday I actually went back through some of my Bank Street stuff for curriculum ideas. Who’d have thunk? All that grad school stuff might just turn out useful.