Kinderblog Q5

Choose 5 objects from around your home (NOT your classroom!) that tell us something about you: as a teacher or as a person. Take pictures of the objects and post them with captions. The real challenge here: the captions should be no longer than a regular tweet– that is, 140 characters. 

Well, somehow this ended up being a whole tour of my house. I have to say I am really proud of my house bc everything is either found on the street, handed down to me through roommates or purchased at an extremely reasonable price.

I just got this today when I was shopping for antennas to make my TV work to watch the Olympics. (none worked btw but this did!) That’s right! A Record Player! Boo-YAH
my house
I love this photo. It’s my dining room table. I rainbowed my books 😀 There are also small unicorn hummel things on there that one of my friends keeps giving me.
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Radio! Rotary phone! Once all state of the art technology! I think this speaks to my long view, skepticism and awareness that todays “must have gadgets” are inevitably tomorrows flea market finds.
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Living Room! Took me forever to get it set! I love the simplicity, the lines, the curves, the shapes, the colors, the playfulness. Also- nothing is expensive. I got the cabinets and orange chair at second hand shops and the white table was garbage picked on the way to work.
Well, might as well show you my whole apartment! Is this like having everyone over to my house? In the back there are shells on the wall- I love nature and natural things. Brings me such peace! Well, that’s the whole apartment except for the laundry hallway and bathroom and the kitchen sink!

Kinderblog Challenge #4

Version 1: If you had not become a teacher, what other field or line of work would you have pursued?
Version 2: If you had to quit teaching tomorrow, what would you do instead?

When frustrated and exhausted with teaching I’ve always joked “I’d sure like to work at Macy’s at Christmastime”. I’ve always worked with kids, ever since I was 15 years old. In high school the fitness club I worked summer camp for tried to get me to cover the front desk. The slightly older than me teen “trained me” w a quick 20 minute tour of what I had to do, including a really fast tutorial of the cash register. A “Got it? Good” kind of thing. Let’s just say it didn’t go well. Next thing I knew, I was giving customers change from my own pocket, desperate to avoid that thing. That was my first and last experience working a cash register.

Another time, my BFF was working for the summer in her Dad’s office. He was a lawyer. She said “Come and work w me!” I said, ‘But I don’t know how to type on lines or answer phones w buttons!” She said it was fine, not to worry. Ok, so I went. Her Dad looked me over (he had known me since I was eleven) and asked me to go type up this form. (it had lots of lines) Sweating, I went over to the typewriter and tried to pigeon-peck my way through the form. I was doing it! Instantly sensing my inexperience about 45 seconds into my triumph, he came over and grumbled “ah, move, I’ll do it, go!” Yep. I lasted a whole 2 minutes in that job. My BFF and I still laugh about those few minutes as it was so characteristically both her father and me intersecting in a rare exchange of personality quirkiness.

As far as dream jobs, I’ve always wanted to be a waitress in a slightly bad restaurant. Maybe not bad but not fancy. Someplace I could call people “honey” and chit chat w old ladies and pour coffee and even maybe chew gum. Maybe “Alice” and Polly Holliday and the girls in Mel’s Diner made a bigger impression on me when I was young than I realized!

I’d also like to go on the open road. Like a trucker. Not on congested highways but cross country. I could take photographs and honk my horn at kids who know the signal. Do my part in the unspoken horn honking dance that occurs between truckers and kids. I could drive all day w the window open and work the CB. Maybe get a dog.

Either trucker or I’d bake poetry pies. I would bake and sell pies and you would get some poetry with your blueberry crumble.

If I had to quit teaching right now? I’d want to work full-time for #Kinderchat. I’m still obsessing over the idea of the #Kinderchat van and going cross-country to visit all the teachers and classrooms. Like a Scooby-doo Mystery Machine van. Whatever dream jobs I’d do, it’d need to involve connecting with people, creativity and lots of freedom to experiment, laugh, create and play. That’s what I have loved most about teaching ever since I was a kid myself.

Reflections of #EdcampKinder

So, if you know me, I will often try to wrap my head around something by laying out the entire history of education, the systematic change we are undergoing as a society in tandem with my three week journey of an Edu-Tri-athalon all in one mega blog post that just seems to go on and on! (Yes! Yikes! I’ve got one going right now waiting to be published! :D)

But the #Kinderchat, this I just can’t intellectualize. #EdcampKinder: when I even type the words, the tears start flowing. That’s telling me all I need to know. (No! I’m NOT A SAP!) 😀 It tells me my heart is right here. It tells me I have no choice. “You had me at hello.”

Two years of work. Two years of pouring my time, energy, giving it my all in every way I possibly could to foster this little community. To spark connections, create systems, not to mention be there EVERY WEEK! Of course I didn’t do any of this alone, my trusty compadre @happycampergirl there right alongside of me as well as the amazing group of educators we call #Kinderchat shaping me and my professional direction. For me, its always a questioning and then re-questioning of myself, my motives, my perspective, my direction. An endless cycle of reflection and action. 

So here we were. In Las Vegas, no less. Ten of us. Ten people who paid their own money- THEIR OWN MONEY. To come and meet each other. We had t-shirts, we had “Dessert in the Desert”. We met, we laughed, I cried.

I cried because here we were. An online community in real life. It felt remotely strange at first and yet all at the same time, completely normal. Was this real? What were we doing at the conference table in the middle of Las Vegas? How bossy should I be or not be? Had we already said everything in over two years of online conversation? 

We had agreed on meetings from 4-6 each day no matter what. So we were all finally there, sitting at a big circle table. Long pause. Looking at each other. Slightly uncomfortable. For about exactly what was probably one minute but seemed like five. Oh God, I’m sweating, will this work out? This trip was for me, to see, in short, were we as a group, something real? in it for the long haul? how authentic were the connections? was the passion and purpose there?

Then, just like that- the skype in session started. “Hey, let’s call so and so!” someone said. “Ok!” Suddenly a massively chaotic skype-in session started. People talking to rectangular picture frames in the corner. People holding up the picture frames so the picture frames could talk to one another. People passing the talking picture frames around in a circle. It was a wonderful, distracting successful disaster. Oh God, are we never going to get to talk I wondered? Yes, if I was not a pray-er before #Kinderchat I certainly am now 😀 Do I clap my hands and insist on meeting? We can’t lose this chance to talk! But I just let go. Wait. Listen. Listen.

Soon the skyping ended and Melisssa Sheldon from the I Teach K conference made her way over to the table. A very special Thanks to her and I Teach K btw for allowing us to use that space that day and to be a part of their conference. Suddenly we were filled with stories and the sharing of the projects that we have all been working on throughout the last year came pouring out onto the table. It flowed. The conversation that came out of that hour was more passionate, focused, diverse, innovative and respectful than I may have ever heard.

That tone stayed with us over almost four full days. I can’t quite explain what was there but there was a softness, an affinity, a level of authentic respect, necessary tension, suspense and genuine interest in one another that prevailed. In short, a friendship.

Stacey kept me laughing with her telling her husband, “Ok, honey, I’m going to Las Vegas for four days to meet up with some people I met over the internet, okay?” 😀 It still makes me laugh! Tasha had decided to come and make a holiday out of it, coming all the way from Japan to spend five days in conversation with people she had never met before. Mardelle and Marya brought their husbands and they were immediately welcomed and accepted as part of the group. Everyone took some degree of risk to come and see what this was all about. That’s engagement. That’s investment. That’s passion. 

I heard a for-profit person say “free isn’t sustainable” once. Maybe. Maybe we will die out one day. I know, I know, for-profits uniquely live on for an eternity. 😀 But for now, at least for now and for the last two years, #Kinderchat is lighting a fire. A big fire. One that burns brightly. One that has lots of wood cut and stacked for the winter. One with passion, purpose, and remarkable PEOPLE at the helm. One that has a community around it, cooking, talking, learning, laughing, sharing, throwing glitter at each other. No, the #Kinderchat not going anywhere for quite awhile. The #Kinderchat is here to stay.

#Kinderblog2012 Q#1 Attempt #2

What did you learn this past (or, for our southern hemisphere friends, what ARE you learning this current) school year that you couldn’t have learned any other year, from any other students or colleagues or administrators or parents? What lessons did this particular year, this particular setting, these particular children bring into your life?

posted by @happycampergirl for #Kinderchat #Kinderblog2012 Challenge

So here I had this all typed up yesterday. I was desperately trying to weave the story of a very messy year into some type of neat package and let’s just say, it wasn’t working. Yes, it was a rough year. Rough kids, rough parents, rough everything and even rougher to describe it and address it all publicly.

I knew it would be a tough one as the teacher the class had the last year was barely speaking in syllables by the end. She warned me, I knew what I was getting into. I was prepared.

I sat on the bed next to my coteacher the summer before school started. I told her about the class. We laughed and cried and remembered stories of difficult parents, difficult kids and yet memories of such fun years teaching together. She typed out and asked me what would I name them. Every class has a different and unique name. When I taught PreSchool it was always animals. Now in Kindergarten, since we planted the garden, its a vegetable or flower.

I told Mary I was thinking of dandelions because I love dandelions and have always had a thing with them. I was determined to see the good in this class.”Some see wishes, some see weeds” I’ve always said about dandelions. I love that. It’s all a matter of perspective, I said.

Just imagine if golfers hit them instead of balls….golf balls of wishes being launched into the air and everyone would make a wish instead of politely clap. Such beautiful white puffs of wonder.

Mary typed “Dandelions? No. It’s a weed. (we laughed at her finality on the subject) They need calm….maybe Chamomile” As soon as she typed it, bang, that was the name. You don’t have a woman type with the movements of her eyes and NOT name the class that name! Plus, I loved it, it was perfect. We became “The Cozy Chamomile Class” that very day.

The year, and Mary passed and now I’m nested in this little cottage filled with Teresa’s art (that’s the lady who rented it to me for the week) Teresa welcomed me so warmly and had two little vases of fresh flowers inside the cottage waiting for me. And a copy of “The Language of Flowers” beside my bed.

Well, I was determined to not read the book. I quit reading back in ’87 or was it ’95? I don’t know but I wasn’t going to read it. Fine? Fine. I opened the jacket yesterday morning just to prove myself right. I finished it bawling on the beach late today. And was up late last night obsessing about flowers and was there a pinterest directory of the meaning, etc etc. I googled the “Language of Flowers” and found the author had made a dictionary– not with the photographs that I could find yet, but the flowers and their meanings anyway.

So last night, after working and reworking and flailing about with this post, giving up and instead thinking about how much work it would take to make a pinterest or what-else-could-I-use dictionary of flower meanings and photographs, I suddenly came across “chamomile” Stunned, I read its meaning: “Energy in Adversity.”

I’ll have to reflect on all that a bit longer.

Delightfully Dizzy from Swingin’ Mamas, Dessert in the Desert and The Good Raffi

Why is it everytime I am motivated to blog, I suddenly clam up once I actually make it over here? Maybe because I know people MAY ACTUALLY READ what I am writing vs getting an occasional one hit visit from a lone spammer. Ah, those were the days. 😀

Ya. It’s been a series of openings for sure, this wild ride we call the #Kinderchat. And now suddenly 10 or so people will be uprooting themselves from their happy homesteads and coming to some kind of crazy #EdcampKinder meetup called “Dessert in the Desert” in Vegas, Baby, Vegas. 😀 I can’t quite wrap my head around it all, and perhaps thats for the best! Keep me busy with getting t-shirts and business cards and planning an itinerary and going to BlackBoard Collaborate virtual rooms to discuss whatever is next to discuss. So bizarre. I continuously ask, “how did I get here?”

Sometimes it’s like a day is a week and a week is a month! Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of visiting @ncingiser‘s school! I can’t tell you what a wonderful experience that was- I am still reeling and processing the visit and the wonderful people I met there. Nikki (@ncingiser) introduced to my new favorite band the Swingset Mamas! Nikki showed me such kindness and hospitality, I can’t quite say how grateful I am to her and her school for such a wonderful experience that day.

And then, I TALKED TO RAFFI. Me. Raffi. Yes, the famous nice Raffi who honoUrs children and the earth. We spoke. I still can’t believe this!

Even after almost 2 years of #Kinderchat, it feels as if I have walked into some alternate universe. An alternate universe I LOVE. An alternate universe where there is POSSIBILITY at every turn, INNOVATION around every corner, SURPRISES in invisible cardboard boxes and little golden TREATS somehow miraculously falling from the sky.

I still keep saying “I’m just a Kindergarten teacher.” To suddenly be visible and connected in a career thats invisible and isolated is, well, I can’t quite say all the way. It’s like you don’t know the freedom until you have it, I suppose. But thinking of being disconnected from my virtual world colleagues and friends is so not nice to think about!

I never could have expected the twists and turns this journey has taken. To be suddenly and continuously illuminated and surprised has been a gift to my mind and spirit. There are so many exciting things ahead! I am beyond excited to continue to work as hard as I can to help teachers, kids and people. I am excited to work as hard as I can to help foster friendships and work towards bringing more connectivity, real peace and understanding to both myself and others if I can.

I can never tell the #Kinderchat Thank You enough. Thank you for being curious, kind, willing, excited, fun, funny and full of love and happiness. You represent the best in teaching, learning and friendship.

In gratitude,

Heidi

PS Two days after I wrote this we were mentioned in FORBES. I am over-the-moon.

moonbeams, democracy and #kinderchat

So I am up late watching the tweets come in from Wisconsin. Up, down, hope, misery, glory, disappointment. All that as the numbers roll in. Down to the wire in one county. We shall probably know the outcome by the end of the writing of this post.

I’ve been thinking about democracy a lot lately. Why? #kinderchat of course. Everything is #kinderchat lately! One of my favorite favorite things about this whole adventure is how quickly it turns!  I think a-b-c and suddenly there is a firefly that needs chasing and we end up at p-q-r-s!  I know exactly where we are going and yet not at all. I love the certainty and the uncertainty. Staying open to possibility is hard work!

All that said, seeing many of the edchats style, I noticed most all vote on topics of discussion each week. Everyone votes and they discuss the topic winner on the appointed day. #Kinderchat is unique, as far as I know, in that we don’t vote on topics. So I started thinking “why do they vote”? Duh! I got there eventually, emulating and modeling the democratic process of course! So I started thinking, “hmmm, #kinderchat doesn’t vote, maybe we should vote?”

I tried to use voting at first, deciding between a wordpress blog and a eblogger blog very early on before we even had a blog! Guess what happened? 1 person voted. They won! Blogger it was! Passion won out in the end. 😀

I say this not to be funny, but to point out that voting as we all know of course first requires participation. As do lots of things, but the point is voting results in win/lose which doesn’t really create the best conditions for 1. fostering collaboration 2. solving actual problems.

Now, it may result in people collaborating on how to get A to win and B to lose. Or pouring money into A and finding some unflattering dirt on B. Immediately, that version of collaboration is skewed towards simply defeating the competition and getting your own way.

The second point is where my wheels really started turning, however, and that is about the ease of creating and growing an ongoing system of sustained collaboration.

To offer choices A-B-C and D as topics and then we all vote on one and discuss it, the choices are limited right off the bat. There’s a name for that, I can’t remember! So what about P? Q? R? fireflies? moonbeams? rainbows? If the group is into moonbeams and the choices that are offered are A or B, does that give voice to a group passionately into moonbeams? Am I listening to what the group wants and fostering outcomes from there or am I already gaming the system to MY desired outcomes?

A system that continously offers extraneous and irrelevant choices and voting on them often simply yields fatigue and disenchantment. The more removed you become from listening and interacting with people, the more your choices become automatically gamed to support your own interests or the special interests interested in collaborating to further the win-lose mindset. In this process, you lose the people. Good points and applications for the larger spheres of government and management.

This all becomes very clear when trying to model the democratic process in Kindergarten. Voting on “crackers” or “cookies” for snack. Is this representative of their passion? Is this modeling listening to the people? What happens to the class culture when one side loses? Yes, there is pouting and a lesson learned in losing, but is that the lesson you want democracy to teach?  And for a real good time, try replicating capitalism in Kindergarten for an hour.

Feelings are important. Teach us why you love moonbeams. A good listener can hear they are talking about astronomy and rays and light and love and further ecourage and foster that conversation. Maybe what the town needs is a telescope. That is listening to “the people”- to our students and to each other.

No, #kinderchat does not vote, at least not yet. We structured a system that allows us to grow, line up experts ahead of time, have time to prepare for the discussion and have others take turns moderating topics. We pull our topics from listening to each other. When we need to vote, we will, but until then it is certainly a more dynamic process to involve ourselves in the doing vs the voting.

This is what democracy has come to mean to me. I hope our little project continues to grow in fun, in work, in all the ways it wants to grow. I have enjoyed every single minute and I am so excited and honored to work with my #kinderchat colleagues.

Yes, I must say it 😀

Everything I Ever Needed to Know I learned in #kinderchat

Love to all,

Heidi

summer story for #kinderblog

So I’m sitting here by an open window in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  My view is of  an empty parking lot but I have the sweet sounds of  a cheery baseball game and some birds chirp chirp chirping their heads off before tucking in for the evening.

I’ve been in a conference room in Manchester, NH for four days full of buzzy activity and this bit of peace feels unbelievably good. I just spontaneously popped over here and I’m so glad I did.

The room actually reminded me of my Mom first, but also one of my teaching mentors, a fine, elegant woman born from a New England coastal town similar in feel to this. I couldn’t believe it when I walked in. And I thought of Amy’s blog challenge question and how good it would feel to sit by the open window after a long hot bath and just write about those early days of teaching.

Tell us about the teacher preparation you attended. (You don’t have to name the school if you don’t want to.) Did you love it at the time? Did it prepare you adequately for teaching? How did you feel about it as you were in it? Does it look different now, looking back? Would you change it if you could? What did get out of it? What did you not get that you needed?

I will tell you upon re reading the question I’m thinking,” I can’t answer this question!” 😀 While I had some great teachers in my college experience, it wasn’t there that I learned to work with children or how to teach. Yes, I am a full-on trenches teacher. First being thrown in, similar to Amy’s story (but oh, if only I could tell it half as eloquently!) Thrown into teaching gymnastics to 3 year olds at 14 years old, thrown into full time summer day camp counseling at 15, babysitting tons of overnight weekends, nannying at the shore, after school worker, yes, all that experience by the time I was 17.

The last thing I wanted to be was a teacher.

Well, this wasn’t supposed to get into all of that, but here I am. I think it’s time to slip off into the sunset and sit by the water and eat seafood and hear music and sip a little sumpin’ sumpin’. I will tell the rest when I get back.

Afterward: (apologies it took me two weeks to post this and I never did tell “the rest of the story” 😀 I’ve made my peace with that and am moving forward to the next challenge anyway! :D)

Lots of Love to everyone-Cheers!

H