Monday, February 20, 2012


I saw a familiar face while I was bagging my groceries at the market today. She looked to be close to my age and had two girls with her that looked to be about my boys' ages. We started chatting and thought the connection was that we had both worked out in Yacolt but it turns out we were there at different times. Finally, she asked me what my name was and and it clicked, for one of us anyway.  One of the girls said, "You were my kindergarten teacher." My mind was blank.  I didn't recognize her at ALL!  Embarrassingly, I had to ask her what her name was. "Destinee," she said and as soon as she said it, it all came flooding back to me. She was in my very first kindergarten class. I remember how intelligent Destinee was. I remember that she was one of my most capable students. I remember the day she figured out that between her first, middle, and last names there were 26 letters.  I can still see the twinkle in her eye when she ran up to me with her full name printed out with each letter counted.  The smallest things bring so much happiness to 5 year olds.  I remember that in March of her kindergarten school year, her dad had his long-awaited kidney transplant and I remember that the next year, when her brother was in my class her dad had to go to rehab to fight an addiction to the painkillers that had sustained him for so long.  She was tall and gangly when she was in my class but now she is just stunning. I felt embarrassed that I didn't immediately recognize her and I covered my eyes when I learned that she is now a 7th grader.  Wasn't it just the other day...

As I walked to my car, I felt the embarrassment of not recognizing such an important figure in my life.  I wanted to push my cart back into the store and tell that little girl what a difference she had made in my career, in my life. I had been so afraid to switch grades and begin teaching kindergarten but when I got there and witnessed the amazing growth my little charges could make in one school year all of my doubts were erased.  It was your curious mind, willing heart, and excitement for life and learning that hooked me as a kindergarten teacher.  It was then, in my 12th year of teaching, that I had found my true calling.  That is when I had met Destinee and my life was changed forever.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Love is Love

 Valentine's Day in Mrs. Ortner's room is an exciting time. We started by reading Valentine Bears by the amazing Jan Brett. We cut out hearts and wrote I love sentences both simple and complex (a 1st grade standard). We learned a sign language song called L-O-V-E Spells Love.  For math, we used the candy hearts with messages written on them to sort by color, create a graph and then use the information from the graph to tell about our candies.  You must hold off on eating any of the candy hearts because it will skew your data, a concept mostly lost on my little charges.  But if they can hold off they will be able to eat all of the candy once their graph is complete.  Not an easy feat! Finally the day ends with a party complete with the passing out of valentines, eating treats both sweet and healthy, parent volunteers, and most importantly, squeals and giggles.  It is such a fun day to celebrate love.  The kind of love that is pure in the 6 year old heart that will hold the hand of their classmate just because they have a plan to play together at recess.  The kind of love for yourself that comes from being able to read your own valentines for the first time ever.  The kind of love that as a teacher I hold for my precious charges whose faces light up as they read each valentine. The kind of love that every childhood should be filled with because that is how they were designed, how we are all designed, to give and receive pure love freely.  It is never so abundant as it is on February 14th in room 105.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Gem

I've been experiencing technical difficulties and a lack of patience to figure them out.  I'm ready to try again so here goes...
We started the snowman project yesterday.  I remember doing this when I was a kid.  It was the only kind of art I was ever good at; wrap tissue paper around the end of a pencil, dip it into glue, stick it on the paper.  I'm not sure it even qualifies as art. But I brought the project to my students and they enjoyed it. Some students took great time and care in creating a pattern or plan for their art.  Others just wrinkled tissue paper, dipped it in glue, and stuck it on their template.  Once everyone was finished, I called my little charges to the carpet area.  I had them write a description of the snowman they created with enough detail that someone could find theirs in a crowd of snowmen. A first grade writing standard is to write more than one sentence about the same topic.  Another standard is to use descriptive words to explain ideas.  I thought I could knock out 2 birds with one stone. Some students came back with sentences about the colors of tissue paper they used and where it was placed on their template. Some came back with sentences about what they like to do with their snowman. Hmmmm...After talking with several such writers, I determined that their lack of detail was not with the words they chose but within the eye that was looking at their art. They came back from recess to find their snowmen in the center of the floor and someone else's writing at their table spot.  As we sat in a circle around our grand creations the goal was to pick out the snowman that was described in the writing. Most were able to do it. As the writing and the snowmen were linked together I noticed that the randomly decorated snowmen were the same that the writers had trouble describing.  I think it is so interesting that the same students who haphazardly threw together their snowman also struggled to find precise words to describe it.  How do I teach a 6 year old to have a discerning eye?  Better yet, how do I teach a 6 year old to have a discerning mind? Come to think of it, it's not unlike blogging. How do I sift through the details of my ideas and find the gem to polish on this page?