Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sugar & Spice and everything........nice

We're going on a bear hunt, (repeat) take pictures with my camera (repeat). Remember this song, where you slap your legs as you pretend to walk? Then you climb a tree, go over a bridge, row a boat and eventually come to a cave where the bear is. We're coming to a cave (repeat) It's dark inside, (repeat) I see tttttwoooo eyes, (repeat) and a big furrrrrry bbbbbbbody, (repeat) Lets tttttake a ppppicture (repeat) RUN!!!!!

The screaming fills the room as our 6 little girls shrill at the top of their lungs, "Aaaaaah!" We continue to slap our legs faster as we run back to the house after rowing the boat, running over the bridge, climb a tree, go through the wheat field and open up the door and slam it shut! Whew!

Listening to the girls scream and shrill, takes me back to a time where I was a leader for a group of teenage girls. They too loved to hear their voices, whether it was from all talking at the same time, using the word, "Oh my Gosh" in every sentence at least 500 times, or laughing and giggling at the slightest gesture. Yes, they are definitely their own unique breed of species. Very different than the boys I raised or their friends who came over.

Teenage boys don't talk. In fact, they have their own special way of communicating through grunts, head nods and the occasional touching of the knuckles. I remember one time when one of my sons received a call from a girl who not only was talking to him, but carrying on a conversation with another girl. He held the phone so I could hear them giggling and talking with each other, finally he whispered to me to tell him to get off the phone.

I see now that the girls uniqueness is not just a teenage thing but actually starts at a very young age. I've noticed belonging to a social group is very important to them, even as early as three years of age. They compete for each others affections by trying to be the center of attention, they notice what each other is wearing or what kind of backpack they have and, will compliment it if it's to their liking, "I like your princess backpack." They'll praise each others artwork and I've also noticed that if one is being a little bossy, nobody wants to play with them. "Teacher, she won't follow me, teacher, she won't do what I'm doing, teacher she won't go down the slide with me." Teacher, teacher, teacher, drama, drama, drama.

With a simple reminder people don't like to be bossed around, they learn they will have lasting friendships.

As for the little boys, they don't notice clothes, or who is playing with whom, nor do they care. They don't talk much amongst themselves, they just run, tumble and try to wrestle with each other. They make car sounds, dinosaur sounds and crashing sounds. It isn't until later, those sounds turn into grunts.

This year was the first year our preschool has had the same ratio of girls and boys in the same class. Usually the boys out number the girls. Since I didn't get the 'pleasure' of having girls of my own, I'm learning first hand what they are made of.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Miracle Day

"It's a miracle day!" We use this phrase when it seems that the stars have aligned, the full moon is gone and, the calm before the anticipated storm stays calm.

These days are far and few between but when they do, it's a miracle. It's a miracle when our non verbal boy says, "Bye, bye" while waving or when one of our autistic boys successfully uses his Picture Exchange Communication System as a way to communicate his needs. It's even a miracle when a little girl actually answers a question instead of repeating it, or talks appropriately rather than her usual jibber jabber, which consists of, "Hi, are you OK? Oh, I'm OK, Oh thank you, Your welcome," She takes 'talking to yourself ' to a whole new level.

But the miracles of all miracles happened, which actually makes me contemplate hanging up my denim shirt and retiring. As a matter of fact, it's right up there with the parting of the Red Sea.
Our class lion (see The Lion and the Lamb) had the best week of his preschool career. I missed the first day back after spring break, giving myself one more day to recover from a horrible cold. Upon my return, everyone was filling me in on our little lion and how he had the best day ever. I thought to myself, hmmmm, maybe it's me that sets him off. I push him hard in an attempt to make him comply with the class activities, I don't allow him the satisfaction of folding his arms and keeping his distance from what it is we are doing and I continually try to keep him actively engaged with the class routine. So maybe with me out of the picture, he felt more relaxed.

The following day, I decided to keep my distance and observe our lion and to my surprise, the little stick of dynamo was very happy and compliant. He danced and sang, sat with us during snack without a fight, interacted with the other children and not once did he burst out in tears at the drop of a hat. I kept waiting for the bomb to drop but the explosion ever happened.

After preschool, we loaded the children on the bus and sang our 'Good bye children' song. Our little lion clapped along with his friends and even blew us a kiss as we exited the bus.

I was completely astonished and thought, this truly was a day of miracles. I can now hang up my shirt and retire.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hello Neighbor

Remember Mr. Rogers? Remember how he would walk into his pretend house singing a friendly song, take off his jacket and put on his cardigan sweater then change his dress shoes and slip his feet into something more comfortable? Yeah, good ol' Fred.

Well Mr. Rogers and I have something in common. It's not his pretend house or neighborhood, because the preschool room and the children are very real. You could guess its the comfy shoes we both wear, but I come with mine already on, where as he changes into his.

You see, every morning when I enter the classroom, the first thing I do is take off my coat, hang it up and put on a denim shirt. I can even hear Mr. Rogers whistling and singing his song, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood." Then I envision him zipping up his cardigan as I'm buttoning up my shirt. I never wear anything dressy or uncomfortable but more practical clothing for a busy day of constant movement and art projects. I refer to them as my preschool clothes and although the denim shirt protects them from spills, wet paint and glue, the main reason I wear it is for my role as the human Kleenex.

As an example, our new little guy who, was having a rough first week, just sobbed all during circle. I sat behind him to provide some comfort. Well he decided to snuggle in and took my arm, crossed it in front of him and buried his head. Then he swiped his runny nose along my sleeve, turned his head into my chest and dried his tears. He had moments where I thought he was done, but then he would burst into tears again and continued to use me as his personal Kleenex box.

Although the crying continued, we carried on and sung our Hello song. The third verse of the song requires the children to hold hands, while sitting in the circle, as we sing, "Turn to your neighbor and shake their hands" which we repeat three times.

So I ask you with an arm full of snot and wet tears, "Won't you be........ my neighbor?"

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Loud and obnoxious

Imagine a sound extremely loud, incredibly obnoxious and so ear piercing it would either create a migraine on the spot or enhance a brewing headache in the back of your head to the point of explosion.

Now imagine this sound in a room of preschoolers with issues. We have a couple of autistic boys, two little ones needing the aid of a wheel chair and various other children with their own special problems. We did not need a fire drill in the mist of our morning session.

Although I do appreciate the principal letting us know in advance that the school would be having a drill, he just didn't tell us when the drill would be happening. We stayed on schedule, had our dancing, circle and snack but behind the scenes we were also preparing for what lies ahead, the long walk to the fence on the other side of the playground. We lined up the wheelchairs, loaded the wagon with their backpacks and coats, and had the rope ready to go. The rope is a colorful line with rings that the kids hang on to so we can attempt to keep them all together.

Usually after snack we have free play, a time where they can choose a activity or simply explore the room. With only an hour and a half of class our transitions are chop, chop and sometimes I feel we rush them just a tad. After free play we clean up and spend the last 15 minutes outside.
With the fire drill interrupting our free play, we went to Plan B and decided to keep the kids outside so they can enjoy a longer time on the playground. Let me start off by saying, when the bell sounded it's alarm, the kids handled it like nobodies business. They lined up and walked the long walk. Our one little fella in the wheelchair got a big kick out of his bumpy ride and giggled all the way to the fence and our two little autistic boys had no reaction to the noise what so ever, it was absolutely unbelievable. After the drill, while the rest of the school children headed back to class, we on the other hand headed for the playground.

Our preschoolers thoroughly enjoyed their extra long recess and after we loaded them on the bus, we just stood there for a minute in awe on how smoothly the day went.

What do you think, should be bag the IEP objectives and let them just dance, eat and play outside? "Uh sorry parents, your child has not completed any of his goals and objectives but boy did we have a great time, see ya next year!"
It was truly one of the best days we ever had.