Starting to Think of the New Year

It’s around this time – mid July – that I get the first thought of the new school year. Sure, I’m enjoying the summer – the fireworks, chilling on a “beach-ish” sandy shoreline, and enjoying an amusement park.

Still, the thought of the new school year creeps in. After many, many years of living according to the academic calendar, these fledgling thoughts of the new year has been turned into a formula. For next year, I think about what I want to carry over from the previous year, what I want to improve upon, and what I want to try that’s new. If I were teaching this school year, this is how the formula would play out.

Carry Over

I bring over all of my lesson plans. When I was teaching, I always kept all of my previous lesson plans in a binder. By the end, the giant 2.5 inch binder was a couple of pounds. It was always fun to look though the lessons, with immediate memories of successes and failures flooding in.

I won’t copy the plans verbatim for the upcoming year. Still, I put a lot of thought into these plans. Why reinvent the wheel? Use the previous plans as guidance for the new year. This will save you a lot of time on planning so you can spend more time on preparing supplies and making resources.

Improve Upon

I think about the lessons that didn’t go well or the skills I need to improve upon.

Despite all of the planning in the world, lessons will go wrong. Either children will miss the intent of the lesson, I didn’t teach it well, or it ended up just not being interesting or fun. Just happens. Some of those lessons are just so bad that I won’t do them again. But there are some that I know will be great with a little change or tweek. Those I want to improve.

I also want to improve my skills. I was good at a lot of things, but equally bad at others. I was known for taking tangents on my lessons. Sometimes the resulting product was spectacular experiences. Sometimes, they would utterly confuse the children or I would lose track of why I went a different direction and forget what I was teaching. A lot of my lessons would just go so long because I bloated them with a lot of additional stories or information that was not part of my original plan.

Staying on task is something I want to improve. That and better discernment between when taking an tangent is advantageous or when it’s not worth it.

Try Something New

The first place where I would trying something new is when I would start supply shopping. It’s not blind shopping. When I started looking for new materials and resources for the classroom, I maintained the perspective of how the item would work within my system of teaching and classroom culture. I didn’t want to get a new toy or resources just because it was shiny and trendy. I bought supplies that fit my teaching pedagogy.

With that in mind, these are the classroom supplies I would incorporate in my classroom this year…

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STEM is big deal in education and I consider it tremendously important during the preschool years. This is a highly-rated resource I would try out – Teaching Stem in the Early Years by Sally Moomaw, EdD.

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I’m a big fan of classroom timers. But the ones that work best in preschool are the ones where children can see time counting down. This way, they can anticipate how soon an activity will end or how soon an activity will begin. This is a timer I would try out – Time Timer.

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There are supplies that just lend themselves open to creative application. This is one of those supplies – shape bean bags. Shapes should be in a preschool classroom… period. The shape names or on them. Plus, they are bean bags. There are many ways to ways to use bean bags in the classroom. Plus, the opportunity to cross cognitive knowledge with a physical activity. This would be one of my most anticipated supplies to get in August.

So, that’s the formula: carry over, improve, and new. It’s starting to feel like a new school year.

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End of the Year is Upon Us

May, the final month of the school year. Sure, there may be a couple of days in June. But now the end of the year feels real!

It’s the last opportunity to do all of that paperwork. Make sure you have all of those observations finished. Schedule the final parent-teacher conferences. Get the kiddo’s portfolios together.

Most of all, it’s time to start thinking seriously about the end of the year celebration. My schools tended to call it EOY (we educators like our abbreviations). After many years of May celebrations, there were some resources that I keep going back for my final celebration of the year.

Streamers

Streamers are a must. For a little money, they add a lot to the feeling that this is a special occasion. Yes, it will take work, lots of tape, and maybe a sturdy chair to step up on. However, the effort is well worth the reward.

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Balloons

Balloons also signify special occasions. Think about all of the times when you had a balloon. It wasn’t just because it was Tuesday. It’s always special when there are balloons. Of course, observe special safety requirements when necessary. If you’re truly concerned, you can hang balloons in the classroom that is out of the reach of little hands.

Caps and Gowns

My classroom had caps and gowns every year. Usually, gold. Not because gold was our school color, but our staff felt the color most represented celebration in our school. There are a couple of places where you can get caps and gowns. Here is a cap and gown set on Amazon.

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Now, before you go out and buy these, make sure you take the measurements of the children. Yes, the caps and gowns come in sizes. The last thing you want to do is get an X-large for your petite kiddos. You can make the measurement process part of your end of year celebration routine.

Certificates

Document the moment with a certificate. Just know that the certificate is more for the parents than for the kiddos. Yes, the kiddos will be excited to keep that piece of paper, but you know that the certificate will quickly transfer to the parent’s hands (you’ve seen your kiddos handle paper before). The parents are the ones who will keep and cherish this document, reminding them of this precious moment in their child’s life.

Food

This is going to be controversial, but allow the kids to have some of their favorite foods – even if they are not healthy, but still adhere to allergy restrictions.

I know, I know. We promote healthy eating and practices. However, here’s my thinking. We are preparing them to be life-long learners and independent adults. And, in real life, when we celebrate major life events – weddings, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. – we all tend to throw our diets out the window. Not just because we don’t care, but because of family and cultural traditions – the memories we all have around a meal.

Healthy eating is meant to leave a lasting impact on the children’s overall eating patterns, but not restrict them from celebrations and special occasions. That’s just my point of view.

The end is near! Summer is coming! You’re almost there!

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Top 5 at Dollar Tree

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There are some things that you should spend money on because it’s quality and durable and better. And then there are some things you should only spend $1 on. So, here’s my list of Top 5 items at Dollar Tree.

School Supplies

During August, it’s incredibly easy to fill up your cart with 20 packs of crayons, composition books, and bundles of filler paper. Then you have the toy sections where you’re thinking “That would look good in the dramatic play area”. The whole store is just one big impulse buy. By the time you get to the cash register, I have a fully-packed shopping cart… and it’s only gonna cost $30 something dollars. Win!

Caffeine

I don’t like spending more than $1 for a 20 oz. bottle of Diet Coke, Mountain Dew, or Dr. Pepper. All of these can be found for $1. The only times I don’t buy caffeine here is when I want something stronger. If Dollar Tree got Monster, Red Bull, and NOS, watch out! I’ll be like a child who just ate a pack of Oreos.

Candy

Speaking of sugar, kids like candy and, on special days, I’d let the kids have it. The best bang for buck in candy would be Dollar Tree. The only other good times for candy would be Halloween and Valentine’s day. However, I tend not to pass out candy during those times because I knew kids were already getting enough of it.

Gift Bags

There are a lot of special occasions during the school year, so gift bags are essential. You have birthdays for the kiddos, but there are also staff birthdays, gift exchanges, and a bunch of others events. The only cheaper gift bags is to re-gift the bags you receive… which I do all… the… time.

Party Material

Pretty much every holiday you can find decorations at Dollar Tree. And there is enough variety to cover your classroom in a variety of ways. There is only one other place where I would get party material – Party Works. However, given all of the other stuff I would get at Dollar Tree, I’d rather just get all my shopping done in one go.

Any suggestions for this Dollar Tree list? Leave them in the comments!

Dealing with Difficult People

The first time I was put in direct supervision of another adult, I was eighteen years old.  It was a difficult time because 1) many of the employees I was supervising were older than me and 2) I was a complete introvert.  Not only did I have to overcome my feelings about supervising adults, but I had to muster the courage to talk.

Over the years, I’ve purchased and read many books on leadership and I’ve held on to them.  One book that has helped me a lot is this one:

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Ever have to deal with a difficult boss, co-worker, assistant, teacher, staff member or parent?  Of course not!  Preschool world is nothing but smiles, rainbows and gaudy sunshine!

Barf!

Perfect Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People by Susan F. Benjamin has been a lifesaver.  For someone who spent most of teenage life observing people, but couldn’t verbalize his thoughts, this book is major a plus.

Heres an example.

Employees who Spread Rumors

Contending with gossipy employees may not seem like a management issue, but it is. Gossip can create an environment of insecurity, sever professional relationships, and foster negativity. It can even create confusion over work issues. So you need to address gossip at the source. Here are some ways to do it.

Set a Precedent

Take a moment in a meeting, write a group email, or do both in which you outline the negative effects of gossip mongering:

  • You may have heard rumors about changes in the organization.  Unless you hear something directly from me, please ignore them.  Otherwise, you may be seriously misled.
  • Spreading rumors about people is destructive and lacks integrity.  So don’t do it.
  • If you hear rumors about people, ignore them.  If you hear someone insulting someone else, insist that the person stop.
  • Beware of rumors about promotions.  Unless you hear directly from me, they’re pure conjecture.
  • Remember the old saying “Loose lips sink ships”? Well, that applies to rumors too.

I don’t know if I’d use the last one, but the first one I would definitely use.  Pick and choose which one fits your personality and leadership style.

And this is not the only area the book touches upon.  Negative coworkers, bully bosses, micromanagers, complainers, angry customers (parents), disruptive participants in presentations, and more are mentioned throughout the book.

This is a great book for any preschool professional to have.  Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.  Enjoy.

P.S. I looked at the Amazon reviews for this book: 3 out of 5 stars.  Meh.  I read what other people wrote.  However, I personally would recommend this book (taking into consideration that I can switch between leadership styles and have a mind of tactful speech).  That’s why people have opinions about books… and this one is mine 🙂

Theories of Attachment

Infant and Toddlers have become my life.  I/T knowledge is important in my personal life and became important in my professional.  I’ve been searching the Internet, collected some books, and asked my wife and other professionals about what I should do to learn more about these littlest of little people.  Out of all the resources I’ve acquired, this is the one I’m starting with.

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Theories of Attachment: An Introduction to Bowlby, Ainsworth, Gerber, Brazelton, Kennell & Klaus by Carol Garhart Mooney

Every early childhood educator knows that the emotional attitude of a parent toward a child has life-shaping effects. But did you know that at one point, it was once considered a brand new idea?  Well, we can thank Bowlby for that brain buster.

Although these theories focus on infants and toddlers, I’m making a lot of connections to preschool aged children.  It’s kind of like how preschool teachers see a 3-5 year old and then makes connections to how the child will be in K-12.  Yeh, this book is helping me make those kind of connections.  I’m still reading through this, but this a book I can easily recommend.  If you want the foundational theories of human attachment, you need to know these names.  Check out the book here on Amazon.

Giant Encyclopedia of Activities for 3 Year Olds

Great teachers should also be great students.  I don’t care how old you are.  I don’t care if you claim you’ve “seen it all”.  To remain good at your practice, you should always be learning; always be sharpening your skills; always be looking out for other best practices.

Teachers sharing resources with one another seems like a rarity.  We’re so busy that we don’t get time to talk or share.  Anytime we do get together and brainstorm, we leave with three or four great new ideas that can be immediately implemented into our curriculum and schedule.  The feeling is a good one, but it’s a shame this doesn’t happen more often (at least in my experience).

Let’s get our ideas out there.  Let’s share.  Here’s a resource I enjoy using:

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An encyclopedia.  Literally.  Size and weight.  It’s all good.

The Giant Encyclopedia of Activities for 3 Year Olds is a book by teachers, for teachers. Activities and ideas from this book are classroom tested and teacher approved. This book has been one of my go to resources. I have yet to go through the entire book. That’s because, after a few page turns, my mind is racing with ideas and I’m good to go.

There are other books in the series, such as the 4-year old encyclopedia, kindergarten, and math activities. Look for them online.  They’re an excellent teacher resource!  You can check out the book here.