Category Archives: educating for the future

Waiting

For years I have enjoyed the books written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, even the volumes that have not been chosen as award winners. His newest picture book, Waiting, is delightful and fun. The waiting theme made me think of the years I was a kindergarten teacher.

waiting.jpg

Prior to coming to kindergarten, many children experience a strong build-up by family members. Everyone exclaims, “You get to go to kindergarten in the fall. You must be so excited!” The anticipation for a five-year-old must be enormous. More than once, I had a child express concerns after the first few days of kindergarten. “Is this it?” they would say. It always kept me on my toes to make sure that my classroom was an engaging and exciting experience. I knew I had to live up to the big build-up kindergarten had received, because I wanted them to feel, “WOW! This IS it!”

 

Waiting also made me think about the number of times I have been in classrooms and watched children waiting…Waiting for other children, waiting for the teacher, waiting for their turn, waiting for their snack, etc. We know that when children are not engaged, the chance of them displaying negative behavior goes up dramatically. A smart teacher will be organized enough to minimize any waiting time for their students, especially early childhood age children. Here are a few things that worked in my classroom to help children avoid waiting:

  • There was always something to do. Whenever the children were engaged in a project, there were always more activities to do when they finished the planned activity. I often posted picture of each activity on the board so that the children could look up and know what to do next. This way, they never waited for other students to finish.
  • There was a procedure for everything. The children knew the procedures for going to the bathroom, getting a drink, getting a sharpened pencil, getting paper, staying put when the teacher was giving directions, etc. I reminded the children often about the procedures and used those reminders as teaching tools.
  • “I’m Next” nametags. I created (thanks to a suggestion from my friend, Sharon MacDonald) some nametags that said, “I’m Next.” Whenever taking a turn was the procedure (using the computer, iPad, sand table, play dough table, etc.), I had the child(ren) who would be next wear the necklace. That way they knew they were next and didn’t keep asking me about it. ALSO, the other children in the classroom didn’t waste time waiting, because they knew they were not next.
  • A daily visual schedule. I found it important to have a daily schedule posted so the children knew what was coming next. I was always surprised at the number of children who waited for the next activity. I always told the children that we would move to the next scheduled part of the day when we finished the one we were working on. I would give them a signal when we were ready. I do think that this visual reminder gave them a sense of security and a strong feeling that they didn’t need to wait.

 

There were many other things I did that helped, but these were the main strategies that helped children avoid waiting. I always strived to make my classroom an engaging, joyous environment, where the children were never waiting and the activities met their high expectations for kindergarten.

 

Possible posting themes:

“waiting”

Classroom Management

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The Hummingbird Knows

I have always been able to attract hummingbirds wherever I have lived. For many years, whether in the country, the suburbs or in the middle of downtown, I have always had at least one hummingbird feeder. While some acquaintances have struggled to attract the little creatures, I have always been able to coax them to my feeders. Those adaptable birds have even found me in the middle of the city.

Currently, during the summer months, I sit on my front porch most mornings reading the paper. With the hummingbird feeder nearby, I get to witness their early morning visits for food, their rituals for attracting the opposite sex and the fierceness they exhibit when defending their territory. These birds seem to adapt to any situation that provides them with food.
Hummingbirds are such busy creatures, rarely stopping for longer than a few seconds. Our lives have become much like that busy bird. With the advent of so much time-saving technology, multi-tasking is a common practice and is becoming an essential skill. I often think about the young children we are teaching now. We have no clue what it will be like in the future when they are adults. Yet, we are supposed to be educating them for that future. Think how in the last 5 years our cell phones have changed from being a convenient phone connection to housing our entire schedule and life information. How can we educate our children for the changes that will occur during the next 5, 10 or 20 years?
I think the answer is teaching children thinking skills and allowing them to take charge of their learning. I don’t think filling out worksheets will prepare a child for the year 2025. However, encouraging a child to discover the answer to a problem on their own just may be the best preparation for an unpredictable future.

I suppose, just like the hummingbird, we will all adjust to changes in the environment. However, the best thing we can do for children is to prepare them to think through problems and be willing and able to tackle new information. I hope our children will have the skills to find the feeder in the middle of the city whatever future form that may take.