Friday, May 29, 2015

While updating the calendar this week, I realized we have just about 3 weeks until summer break begins.
3 weeks to evaluate what the pre-k group has learned.
3 weeks to begin to transition my next group of leaders.
3 weeks to reinforce all that my youngest group has learned.
Despite my heart telling my brain to trust "the system",  I always begin to feel anxious.
I hope I have not failed them.
My passing or failing grade is yet to be determined, but as the week progressed the children showed me what they have learned, and who they are becoming.
Amelia: We are building traps.
Clara: They climb in here and they get trapped!
Clara: I need to add another one.
Natan: Surprise!
Clara: Now we have 2 traps,
Amelia: Where is Ari.
Ari: I am here.
Amelia: It's a volcano and a storm is coming but the children are down below. Do you see the raindrops?
Morah Katie: I do.
Evan: I am going to need more oranges squares. This one is white though.
Morah Katie: That shape is called a rhombus.
Evan: Ha, a rhombus looks totally like a diamond.
Evan: Hey! The blue is a rhombus too! I only need one more green triangle then I'm done.
Olivia: I'd really like to plant a garden but I'm pretty busy building my house.
Isaac: I can help you.
Sroli: Your garden is really big.
Olivia: We are planting them and working hard together.
 Isaac: I am drawing me. This is my head and my brain and the bump I have. These are my eyes.
I drew my teeth and I need my nose.
And my hair, the yellow is my brain.
 Judah: I need a dry erase marker.
Olivia: I need a marker also.
Judah: Well what will I use?
Olivia: I will give you mine, and then we can take turns so we can both draw.
Judah: That is a good idea.

Abigail: We made lots of plums.
Anton: I didn't realize how many plums I had. I did a lot of mitzvahs.
Clara: The tree may be empty.
Amelia: Yeah, we filled it and now we are taking it down.

There were many more moments I had the good fortune to witness.  At the end of the week, my heart is full of joy and my brain is not as anxious.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Being thoughtful

Morah Tzivie: What is happening to Mt. Sinai?
Natan: It has flowers on it because it behaved well.
Eliana: It was kind so Hashem gave it the Torah.
Amelia: It thought that it wasn't nice to brag, so it didn't, because bragging isn't nice.
Abigail: It is covered in flowers because Hashem gave it the Torah and mad it beautiful. It behaved well and made good choices.
Morah Tzivie: That's right. Mt. Sinai wasn't a mountain with flowers. 
Hashem covered it in flowers because it was kind and thoughtful.  
Hashem gave the Jewish people the Torah on Mt. Sinai. What is in the Torah?
Natan: The story of Mt. Sinai.
Morah Tzivie: Yes, that story and the story of the other holidays.
Amelia M: Aleph.
Morah Tzivie: Yes the Torah has Hebrew letters in it.
Judah: A mitzvah.
Morah Tzivie: Yes, the Torah has lots of mitzvahs in it to help us live good lives.
It has the mitzvah of  being kind, visiting people who are not feeling well. It has the mitzvah of putting a mezuzah on the door.
Judah: It has how Hashem made us.
Morah Tzivie: Yes, it has how the world was created. It contains the stories, the holidays and all the mitzvahs we do.
We read Yoko by Rosemary Wells.
We paid close attention to characters who were thoughtful, and those who were not.
Morah Katie: How was Yoko's mom thoughtful?
Amelia: She asked what Yoko wanted in her lunch box.
Morah Katie: How was Yoko thoughtful?
Natan: She said please.
As the story progresses, we discover that many of Yoko's classmates think her lunch is "yuck-o-rama', "ewwww" "it's GREEN" "ick". We notice that Yoko's delighted face has become sad.
Morah Katie: How would you feel if your friends said that about your lunch?
Kids: Bad, Sad, not good.
Natan: The Franks are so mean.
Sroli: They are not nice.
Morah Katie: Do you think they are thinking about Yoko's feelings? Are they looking at her face?
Kids: No!
My Gan friends had very concerned faces during this portion of the story. 
Amelia L: Why are they being like that?
Amelia M: They are not being thoughtful of Yoko.
Judah: It wasn't nice when they said red bean ice cream was for weirdos. I think it sounds like it would be good.
Mid-way through the story, the teacher creates an "international food day, and everyone needs to try everything".
Morah Katie: Does everyone in Yoko's class try everything?
Kids: No!
Amelia L: No one tried her food.
Anton: It was thoughtful when the teacher made that thing, International Food day to try to help everyone be nicer.
Natan: Timothy decided to be nice and try it.
Judah: Well  yeah, Timothy decides to be nice.
Evan: He liked it. He had one (coconut crisp) left over  and shared it with her. He was nice.
Amelia: The others weren't thoughtful. Yoko helped Timothy with the chopsticks when he was trying her sushi. 
Sroli: It's not nice to say yuck-o-rama.
Evan: I don't like the Franks, they are not nice.
Natan: I don't like bullies. You should just be nice.
Judah: Timothy and Yoko were the thoughtful ones and now they are friends and they are BOTH smiling.
We decided it would have been kinder to let Yoko know they were not fans of sushi, or they could have not said anything.  
This book has helped express the idea of thoughtfulness. 
We were able to explore Yoko's facial expression as the story progressed. 
My friends really empathized with her and understood why she was sad, and what had caused it.
As a result, it has expanded my friends vocabulary when they are feeling sad and uncared for.  

Natan: Anton it was my turn and you just took the it (ball) from me. You didn't think of me.
Anton: Ok, but I don't like it when you just grab stuff from me. You can ask me for it and I will give it to you, just please don't grab it.
Natan: May I have it?
Anton: Yes, it can be your turn.
Abigail: Judah I brought that chair over for me.
Judah: Well I really want to sit in this chair.
Abigail: You can ask Sroli if he can let you use his, or you can wait til I'm done.
Judah: Ok. Walks to Sroli. Sroli can I give you this chair and can I have that one?
Sroli: I'm done you can have it.
I feel very fortunate to witness these moments, and am proud to see these moments initiated by the children themselves.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Making our way to Mt. Sinai

We are making our way to Mt. Sinai.
Morah Tzivie showed us a Torah, we looked at all the Hebrew words.
The Torahis the special gift Hashem gave to the Jewish people. 
It has all the mitzvahs we do and stories we tell. 
Hashem gave us the Torah to help us be thoughtful, loving people.
Morah Tzivie shared a story about mountains.
Morah Tzivie: Hashem wanted to give the Jewish people his special gift, the Torah, on a mountain.
A mountain is strong, Hashem wants his people to be strong.  
The mountains heard this and began to argue. They became boastful and braggy. 
What does that mean?
Isaac: You say things in a mean style.
Abigail: Stuff like: I'M SO PRETTY, I'M THE BEST.
Morah Tzivie: Bragging and being boastful is not very nice to hear.  
Which mountain did Hashem give the Torah on?
Kids: Mt. Sinai!
Morah Tzivie: Why did he choose Mt. Sinai?
Sroli: It wasn't bragging.
Morah Tzivie:  Mt. Sinai thought to himself, "I am happy with who I am because Hashem made me. I am special because Hashem made me. I don't want to say hurtful things to my friends, I only want to say kind, thoughtful things".
Hashem wants us to be strong like a mountain, to be proud of who we are, BUT also kind and thoughtful.

For a couple of weeks, I have noticed an increase in this exact behavior.  
At times during the day my friends have become braggy, and thoughtless of others.
Why would this be occurring?  

In September, the children came to school eager to learn and create friendships. 
As the year progressed,  their skills and capabilities, as well as friendships strengthened.
With increased competency comes increased independence, confidence and self assurance.
The children should be proud of what they have accomplished.  
As with all new phases, this greater sense of pride may need some polishing.  
What may be "super easy" for one child now, may still be a challenge for another.  
It is now our job as teachers to acknowledge the accomplishment, and help that child maintain humility. 
We can guide the child's attention to their friend's face. 
What do we see? Is their friend feeling sad? Is their friend excited that their buddy is an excellent counter?  
If the friend is feeling sad,  we offer phrases such as: 
Another way to say writing is super easy for you could be to say, I have been working on my writing and I am better now.  
When I hear my friends being bossy: no you can't play with us, I wonder what caused such a declaration and encourage conversation. 
 I overheard the following this week:
Abigail: Natan why do you and Sroli never play with me anymore?
Natan: Well I don't like it when you boss me.  
Abigail:  So you are not my friend? You don't like me? 
Natan: I like to play with you but you tell what to do. I don't like that.
Abigail: Well I do that because when my friends don't play with me I get sad. I'll not boss you today. will you play with me today?
Natan: Yes, I  like playing ghost zombie with you, just don't boss me.
I told my friends that Shavout is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate with them. 
I love listening to the story of the bragging mountains and thoughtful Mt Sinai.  
Morah Katie: Do we behave like Mt. Sinai just while we get ready for Shavuot?
Kids: NO!
Morah Katie: Should we try to be like Mt. Sinai everyday?
Kids: Yes.
Morah Katie: Is it easy to be thoughtful and kind all the time? 
      (silence)   Sometimes it can be hard if we are tired, or hungry, maybe our feelings have been hurt. Should we just give up and be unkind?  Should we keep trying?
Kids: Yes!
Morah Katie: How can you be like Mt. Sinai today?
Abigail: I can invite a friend to play with me.
Anton: I can use nice words.
Isaac: I can help.
Natan: I can share.
We began creating our own Mt. Sinai's.
We transformed a simple, sturdy "mountain" 
 into beautiful, but humble Mt. Sinai.
Our thursday dismissal went as follows:
Morah Katie: I mistook many of you for Mt. Sinai today. Remind me, why I was mistaking you?
Abigail: I made a door so everyone could come on the pirate ship.
Natan: I helped put the wood blocks away.
Isaac: I wrote ה  for Abigail. I made her art.
Judah: I shared my tzedakah with Olivia.
Olivia: I played with Judah.
Sroli: I helped clean up.
Anton: I helped clean up the blocks even though I played hockey at play time.
Morah Katie: YES! Now I remember, so many kind and thoughtful things happened today.