Saturday, February 13, 2016

Listening, Learning and Loving

Valentine's Day is the biggest day in the life of a six/seven year old.  There is something about those tiny pieces of paper with a miniature candy or tattoo attached to them that sends them into an absolute frenzy.  Combine that with a Friday before a week off and, well, you get my drift.

We celebrated Valentine's Day yesterday at school.  Since I have 6 English Language Learners in my classroom, explaining this "holiday" is a bit of a challenge.  Three of them arrived at school without Valentines to pass out.  Luckily, I always purchase several boxes after the holiday each year and store them for just such an occasion.  Problem solved, sort of (they were still confused).  One child arrived with a handknitted tissue box cover that his mom made for me.  It was obviously wrapped by him and his face shown with pride.  Another little boy brought me a rose.  Several wrote special notes and cards and brought chocolate.  One brought a half eaten sucker ("It's good," he told me, "I checked.)  It was so sweet my heart nearly broke.

We veered off script and had lunch in the room.  I ordered a sheet pizza from a local business (totally against Wellness Policy) and we had snacks and pizza and celebrated birthdays with ice cream and cookies.  We watched Charlie Brown's Valentine during lunch.  We made cute little gifts for our moms, we read stories, passed out valentines and then I let them play.  Just play.  One little girl had a toothache so she laid her head in my lap and we watched the kids play with legos, magnifying glasses, markers and pens, wooden blocks and puzzles.  I love watching these children play.  I love the sound of their giggles and the snippets of conversation:  "Look what I made.  It's a castle and it flies!","Let's make Valentines for our teacher", "Can you help me with this? You are a really great artist.", "Guys, we have to clean up one thing before we can do something else." "I love you too, you're my BFF".  At the end of the day, they left with hugs and waves to go home for a week of Mid-Winter Break.

There is something so special about children in Elementary School.  Most are so eager to please.  They have a bottomless capacity to love and be loved.  They are spongelike in their learning, always seeking knowledge, always questioning.  They have a natural capacity for play and for laughter.  It pains my heart to think that the system of Education that we are in is crushing these natural abilities in our children.  I sometimes feel like our veteran teachers are our last line of defense from keeping corporate interests and all the Kool-Aid drinkers (aka Ed Reformers) from stealing our children's childhood.

Our district has proposed a longer school day next year for our Elementary students.  Children would have an additional 40 minutes of class time.  How this will be used is yet unknown.  However, our proscribed minutes for ELA and math are already 40 minutes over our school day this year, so it is not a giant leap to figure this out.  This means that our children will have more academic time, less playtime, less family time and less time to be little children.  Will this raise test scores?  Will this be in the best interest of our youngest learners?  Is this what we want for our children: more Common Core and less common sense?  My answer is NO.  We need children who grow up to thrive.  We need parents who are engaged and teachers who are empowered.  Most of all, we need an educational environment that supports and listens to children, parents and teachers.

#SpeakupSpeakout #refuse #speaktruthtopower


  1. Thank you for giving your students a special day and for valuing the importance of play. I emailed the Superintendent and Board about this very thing. The response I received from the Supt. was canned with the basic message of change is inevitable, we're behind, and it's only 5-10 minutes so stop complaining. I'm hoping many parents are voicing their thoughts on this and that the BOE is listening. Elementary school kids (these are 4 to 9 year olds) do not need a longer school day.

  2. How wonderful for your students that you made school a fun and happy place. Sometimes kids just need to relax and have fun. Having been an educator for the past 34 years I remember when we had fun and learned at the same time. Now I feel like my classroom is supposed to be a sweatshop where I hammer in Common Core lessons.

  3. My question to you is why your purposely went against the wellness policy to order pizza from an outside source when a sheet pizza is available to order from the cafeteria? That is an option available to parents for birthday celebrations as you well know. And why assume the extended day will be detrimental to students? It possibly could be allocated to physical activity. The fact is,the board nor the superintendents nor directors have made any decisions about the use of additional time. Kudos for having the extra valentines on hand for your ELL students. I will gladly donate some to you for next year's celebration.

    For the record I am happy about the extended day and bus changes. My daughter will be entering middle school as a 5th grader and so many opportunities will be available to her that were not available in the elementary school setting. I know other districts have had longer days than Ken Ton for years, and the earlier start times that we are transitioning to. Grand Island, West Seneca, Orchard Park to name a few.

  4. Accounting Mom, have you ever had the cafeteria pizza? I would MUCH rather have outside pizza. And kudos to you Kate with a Keyboard for taking money out of your own pocket to give the kids a great Valentine's Day celebration. Also in regards to time changes next year, what about the elementary aged kids who have after school activities? They will not be able to go to them because they will not get off the bus until 4:00 maybe even 4:15. When do they have time to be kids? They don't! It will be home to do homework, eat dinner, shower and bed! I am furious with these changes. These are KIDS for gosh sakes! Let them be kids!

  5. Yes I have. One of the most popular school lunches is pizza. The reason the outside pizza is sooooo good is because of all the FAT. The wellness policy is mandated. Kate clearly feels the rules don't apply to her. If other districts can make the longer school day work, as well as those district's families, why can't Ken-Ton? This community suffers from the NIMBY syndrome and fears change. Guess what? This district is trying to make positive changes in light of reduced enrollment, reduced funding and regulatory changes in education. Perhaps instead of bitching and complaining, we work together within the assigned paramenters to make sure our kids get the best education possible. We are not pushing the kids out into the fields to work for 8 hours a day. Relax. They have time to be kids - perhaps less "scheduled" activities and more down time at home to "be kids" is something we should be revisiting.

  6. Kate - I ordered some valentines for your class next year from Oriental Trading. They should be delivered around 2/24 to the school, to your attention. Thanks for helping out the littles who did not have valentines this year.

  7. Just checking in to see if you received the valentines.

    1. Hello Ann! Yes, I received your valentines! Thank you very much. We will be sure that they will be put to good use next year for our students who need them. It was very kind of you to send them to me. I would like to respond to your question about the pizza. I am quite aware of the wellness policies and the option of the school pizza. It was my choice to purchase from outside the school for my students that day as a treat. It was a special day and I made the choice. I'm sorry you did not agree with that. Please know that the point was not the pizza but the fact that we did something special. As a teacher, I assume that I still have a few choices left. Regarding the longer school day, there are many different views out there. I am not in support of it as it decreases planning and preparation time, increases ELA and math instruction and probably will not increase physical education time. We are again laying off teachers so how could we possibly hire more for enrichment and PE? Also, it will decrease family time significantly. Whatever the issues are, we are all allowed a voice and to our opinion.
      Thank you again for your generosity.