Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Tale of Two Mothers

I watched a young mother on the trolley with her 3 year old. She sat her son by the window but insisted that he sit down on the seat rather than look out the window. As soon as she sat down, she called someone on her cellphone and proceeded to chat with them for the next 15 minutes or so. Sitting across from the two of them and slightly behind, I had the perfect place for watching interactions. This mother sat with her back to the child!

After about 5 minutes, curiosity got the best of him and he knelt on the seat in order to be able to see out the window. "Look!" he exclaimed with glee, "A truck!"

Mom paid no attention as he patted her on the arm. He tried again. "Mommy! Mommy! A truck right there!"

"Shut up!" she replied, clearly irritated. "I can't hear."

He was quiet for a few more minutes until he spotted a fire engine. You could see his whole body react to the sight of the big red hook and ladder. He broke into a big grin, bouncing on his knees and patted the window. "Mommy! A fire engine! A big fire engine! Look! Look! Oh! a firemen waved ! Look Mommy! He waved at me!"

How could you resist that plea? The child was clearly overcome with joy at the response from the firefighter. "I told you to shut up!" she screamed as she smacked him, "Sit down! What do you think you are doing! I can't hear. I told you that. Sit down and shut up or I'm gonna smack you again!"

The little guy didn't even cry, as though he were accustomed to this reaction and sat down for a few minutes. As his mother had finished the call, instead of putting the phone away, she began to play a game at this point. The little guy eventually got up on his knees to look out the window but didn't talk to his mother again.

Same trolley, different day.

A trolley pulls up to the stop and a young mother gets on with her son, about 3 years old. She has obviously just picked him up from daycare - his fists are clenched around some colored pages upon which he has drawn some scenes.  She is also on her cell phone. "I'll call you back when we're home," she says, "We're on the trolley now. Can't talk."

She sat her son by the window but insisted that he sit so he could look out the window. As soon as she sat down, she took the papers her son was holding and proceeded to chat with him about them for the next 10 minutes or so After she was satisfied that he had told her everything about his day, she instructed hime to look out the window and find squares. "Look at that big box the man is carrying" That is a square!. Can you find a square?"

The young boy looked dutifully for squares as Mom helped him. "Look at the building. Do you see any squares? Where are they?"

He excitedly poinnted out the various geometric shapes his mother requested. She praised him each time he found one and gently corrected him when he didn't. "That looks like a circle, but see the shape? It's a little flat in the middle. We call that an oval."

The entire time they were on the trolley with me, they conversed. He asked her questions when she told him it was his turn to question her! I was delighted with the whole process. Not once did she glance away, hoping that he wouldn't say anything to her. She was totally focused on him, as it should be. They talked about what happened at school, where they should go on the weekend, who has more dogs - Mom-Mom or Aunty?, what color the cars were, how many cats sat on the step. It was amazing!

Can you guess which child will sail through school? Can you guess which one will know shapes and colors before he gets to Kindergarten? Can you guess which child will be willing to try new things or have a discussion? Can you guess which one will have a great vocabulary when he gets to school?

It's not hard to figure out the answer.

When my youngest daughter was four years old, she had to visit the doctor on a day she was under her grandmother's care. Mom-Mom was not sure where the doctor's office was, but her granddaughter was able to tell her where to turn and what was coming up next because we talked about it on the way to previous doctor visits. Mom-Mom was impressed that a child could give her such excellent directions. She was only able to do it because she was an observer as we traveled, something I encouraged.  Her first words read were the street signs on the way to kindergarten. Words like Locust, Spruce, Market, Chestnut, Walnut, Arch, Vine, Haverford and even Westminster. The only one that stumped her was Wyalusing!

Since the advent of cell phones and game boys, we have enabled a generation of kids to get by without having face-to-face conversations or observing their surroundings. This just doesn't happen on public transportation either. How many parents buy vans or SUVs with DVD players? Put the kids in their car seats and boosters, turn on the DVD and drive without having to talk to the kids. They don't have to look out the window to notice shapes, colors or the number of cats on the steps. All the entertainment is electronic.

How sad! What have we learned by depending on all these pieces of modern technology?

That discussion is dead?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"You must enjoy your summers off!" she said.

Still learning! I do, in fact, enjoy my summers, but not because I take a break from school. Every teacher I know thinks about school all through the summer. Right now I am taking an online course in Universal Design for Learning, a concept whose time has come. It makes you think about the problems kids in your room will have before you write your lesson plans and plan to present lessons in ways that will reach ALL the students in the classroom. Making sure you teach to multiple learning styles and assess using those styles is a daunting task, but one that will ensure all of your students will master the State Standards.

I usually teach to multiple learning styles, but am just discovering technology that will make my goals a reality. Text-to-speech, webquests, animation, powerpoint for kids, cooperative/collaborative projects are but a few of the resources I need to be taking advantage of more often. I am already formulating lessons for things I know students will have a hard time grasping in reading and math. I will probably continue to do this throughout the summer.

A ride on the Steamboat SPASH, out of Lambertville, New Jersey will place me in unfamiliar territory where teaching is concerned. Last year I taught a few sessions on macroinvertebrates and healthy streams. This year I have been asked to teach water quality to a group of high school kids - not my ususal or preferred age of student. I researched possible topics and have decided on monitoring the water quality (temperature, pH, turbidity and dissolved oxygen levels) in the Delaware River. We will take samples and do the testing right there on the boat! Should be hands-on enough and easy to do in the 20-minute lesson time alloted.

And that's not all! I have been invited to be an Ambassador for Little Kids Rock in the Philadelphia area. We go for training in Montclair, New Jersey for a week in July. I have been a teacher for Little Kids Rock in my school since 2008. A weekend workshop opened up a whole new world for me and my students then. I learned ways to teach guitar, keyboard and drums to my 5th graders in a way that gets them playing songs almost immediately. The class that just left me were the most advanced LKR class I have ever taught! Music means so much to kids, especially when there is no music program in the school anymore. So I am sure all the ideas I glean from that week will also be milling around in my head.

I am planning a visit to Buffalo this summer to see my friend Andi. It's been way too long since I last saw her and we have a lot of catching up to do. SHe has a lot of books and stuff for my class, so even this social visit is school related!

Hopefully Vic and I will go somewhere at some point this summer. It's so hard when I work 10 months and have off two, but those are his two busiest months for the boats. *sigh* We did get some together time at Chincoteague in the Spring before the season started. I think I'd like to do that again out-of-season. Too expensive in-season!

And then I am trying to so a little to fix up the house every weekday. I give myself weekends off! Also driving Karen back and forth to work. October can't come soon enough, when she can drive her own car. Of course, she has to buy one first...