Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2020

Archive for the category “Teaching Young Children”

Guest Blog … Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

It is my pleasure to have a Guest Blogger today: Jennie Fitzkee – a Teacher who has helped make learning a joy for years of young children.

Thirty Years of Wonder

Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

My garden is a new venture every year.  We bought an older home with an established flower garden in 2002.  When summer arrived I couldn’t wait to see what  would bloom.  It was a joy to discover new flowers.  Since then, we have watched and learned, occasionally adding new flowers to the garden.  Yet, the changes every year are often drastic, thanks to nature.

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These daisies were never there.  And now they are prolific.  Yet, no two are alike.  Big, tall, just budding, small… they’re all different.  

Flowers are much like young children.  They grow at different rates, have their own agenda, fight for the sun, take a backseat to other flowers… some are strong, some are weak.  I have watched our flowers grow and change for many years, like I have watched children grow and change over decades.

What have I learned?  Give them plenty of care, but don’t force changes.  Accept their beauty.  Be ready to help.

What children need and what flowers need to grow hasn’t changed.  I keep that in crystal clear focus.  Times might change, but children and flowers have not.  Kindergarten means “garden of children.”  They are nourished with stories, music, nature, and dramatic play.  The Arts are the roots to grow children.  Providing opportunities for unbounded creativity is the fire to want to learn.  I know this firsthand.  I pay attention to every child, nourishing them like I do my flowers.  Some need hugs, some need academic challenges.

The point is, every child is different.  Friedrich Froebel understood children and what they needed.  He established the first kindergarten in Germany in 1837.  It was radical at the time.

A Brief History of Kindergarten
Published by Redleaf Press, 2010

Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, opened the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. During the 1830s and 1840s he developed his vision for kindergarten based on the ideas of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the later Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. These progressive education reformers introduced the concept that children were naturally good and active learners. At the time, this thinking was quite radical. The common belief until then had been that children were little creatures who needed stern handling to become good adults. Play was seen as a waste of time and proof that children should be tamed so they could be more productive.

Undaunted, Froebel argued that teachers should use music, nature study, stories, and dramatic play to teach children. He encouraged the use of crafts and manipulatives, such as small building blocks or puzzles. He also promoted the idea of circle time for children to learn in a group. Froebel proposed that children acquire cognitive and social skills by us- ing their natural curiosity and desire to learn. He believed women had the best sensitivity and qualities to work with young children in developing their emotional skills. Consequently, Froebel opened a training school just for women.

Froebel’s ideas were so new that the Prussian government closed all kindergartens in 1851, fearing a socialist revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, the concept spread quickly throughout the rest of the world, and by the end of the nineteenth century, many countries had started kindergartens for middle-class children. Then, between 1900 and the start of World War I, England and France began to establish free kindergartens for poor children. Kindergartens also reopened in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, and they still serve children who are three to six years old.

The word kindergarten means “garden of children,” a beautiful metaphor for what happens there—children growing like flowers and plants, nurtured by a positive environment with good soil, rain, and sun, as well as an attentive gardener.

Today, Froebel’s words and findings are still spot on.  Yet, schools are more concerned with academics; they forget (or don’t understand) that young children need to experience – touch, build, experiment – before real learning can happen.  Frank Lloyd Wright attributes his success in architecture to the blocks he had as a child.  Yes, building with blocks.

I will forever champion children, give them opportunities to explore and ask questions, challenge them to do more when they’re excited, and give them support and love along the way.  They’re my garden of children.

Jennie

Reblog From “A Teacher’s Reflection” – “Mason And The Rainbow Song”

It is a distinct pleasure to Reblog “Mason And The Rainbow Song” from “A Teacher’s Reflection.” by Jennie Fitzkee

 

Mason and the Rainbow Song

Mason and the Rainbow Song

by Jennie

Yesterday I filled-in at my school’s summer camp.  When I arrived at noon, children were at lunch.  After all the hugs and hollers, they begged for a ‘Jennie Story’, especially Mason. Interestingly, Mason has never been in my class. He was a kindergartner this past year. Like many children, he has heard my Jennie Stories through the school grapevine.

Later in the day, I was in the bathroom with Mason as he changed out of his wet bathing suit.  Bear in mind that the mind of a child is far more brilliant and fascinating than we realize.  The recall of a moment or a story or a song can be spontaneous.  And that’s exactly what happened in the bathroom with Mason.

The conversation went something like this:

“Jennie, I wish we could sing the rainbow song at camp.”

“What is the rainbow song?  Can you sing some of it for me?”

“Okay.”

Then Mason sang a few words, “Red and yellow and…”

“Mason, I know that song!  I love that song.  You sang it at your kindergarten graduation.  I remember.  Can you sing it again for me?”

“Yes!”

Mason puffed up his chest with pride.  Yet, he had a somewhat worried look.  I could tell he was missing kindergarten and this song, and he wanted to be able to sing it to me.

“Mason, can I sing along with you?”

He smiled and nodded at the same time.

Together we sang “I Can Sing a Rainbow.”  It was joyous.  Mason was terrible. I was worse. We barely remembered the words.  But, that didn’t matter at all. Mason needed to sing and remember, and I was lucky to tag along and be there for him.

After singing, we smiled and headed out to the playground.  Mason stopped.

“I love you, Jennie.”

“I love you, too, Mason.”

And that was that.  Five minutes in the bathroom can be the best teaching, and an even better giving.

Jennie

Reblogged from A Teacher’s Reflections: Best Job Ever!

A Teacher’s Reflections: Thirty Years of Wonder

 

Best Job Ever

Friday was a rainy day.  I played the autoharp, and children sang and danced their hearts out.  I love rainy days.  I love music.  More importantly, children love music.  A child came up to me in the middle of the songs and asked, “Jennie, can you play “I Want to Hold Your Hand?”

Did I hear that correctly?
“I Want to Hold Your Hand”, by the Beatles?
Yes, that was exactly the song he wanted to hear.

After I got over my initial shock and excitement, I said, “Better yet, I have the real song, a record album.  I’ll bring it in on Monday.  And I did.  You could have heard a pin drop as I pulled the record out of the album cover with fifteen saucer eyes staring at what was happening.  It was wonderful.

This is as good as it gets.  I’m giving a child a song he wants to hear.  I’m introducing music on a record player.  I’m playing some of the best music from my teenage years, and the children love it.

Jennie

https://jenniefitzkee.com/

 

 

Best Job Ever

Elementary, My Dear Barista

WHAT POSSESSES PEOPLE TO START A CONVERSATION about one topic over another? I mention this because this morning while I was trying to inhale my coffee one of the Usual Suspects started waxing nostalgic about her years in elementary school. After an unspecified number of decades why did this come to mind? I remember my years in elementary school, but I feel no need to bring it up for discussion.

I do admit that there are worse topics for discussion at that early hour. Honestly I also do not feel like listening to someone give me the details of their latest hospitalization for that nagging parasitic problem…At least not if I am eating at the time.

Read more…

Peace, The Real Peace

A Reblog from “A Teacher’s Reflection,” with the permission of the author.

I talk about peace often in my classroom.  Well, that’s partially true.  When children talk about peace, I jump right in. They have a lot to say. We adults should listen more.

Years ago, when I first had the the good sense to listen to children, it struck me to paint a peace dove in our parking lot, right in front of the entrance to school.  Janine, an artist and parent of Juliet (Starry Night post) and Audrey, was happy to do the job.  Since then, she has returned many times to repaint this simple, beautiful bird.  It has become a symbol to welcome all the families and visitors who come into our school.  Crossing the threshold of peace.

Peace is really very simple.  Children know.  When asked, “What is peace?”, they pause, and pull an answer from their soul.  I think the soul is a heart that has lived.  “My new baby sister, dancing, dinner with my family”… true peace.  That’s what children say.

It took me a while in my teaching to let go of the structure of teaching peace.  I remember interviewing children when we were sitting under a Peace Portal that we had made in the classroom.

I asked, “How does peace make you feel?”

Colin answered, “It makes me feel hearty.”

“Oh… it makes you feel strong?”

“No, Jennie.  It makes me feel heart-y.”  Then he patted his heart.

Oh my goodness!

Colin answered with a why-are-you-asking, and a don’t-you-already-know, mindset.  He was right; I did know.  I was teaching peace as part of my curriculum.  I realized that peace is learned by doing.  I had to set the stage, be a role model, stop and talk at all the little and big things that happened in the classroom, read plenty of books aloud that open the door for both goodness and evil- oh, the conversations we have are pretty intense; from fairy tales to the more subtle, like Templeton the rat in “Charlotte’s Web”.  I made sure children felt comfortable saying what they thought and asking questions.

I was right.  It made a difference.  Thereafter, peace became something  real.  Now, peace in my classroom is something children just understand.  Talking about it, or making a book, or designing a quilt happens as a reflection of what they already know and feel.

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

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