Red rover, red rover, send the ESL teacher right over.

We have two groups of children who leave the room each day for a some “extra” learning help. I have three students who attend ESL classes each day, and 3 that attend the ABC club, and then several that leave occasionally for speech.

I explained to the class why the children were leaving, and began by discussing the ESL class. “They are going to English as a Second Language class. They are just learning how to speak English.”

This discussion occurred several weeks ago, and we have settled into a nice routine.

Yesterday, while working in our Kid Writing journals, Francis shot up out of her seat and shouted, “Mrs. Smythe!!! Zak can speak ENGLISH! He can say my NAME!! Zak- what’s my name?”

Francis!” he shouted with a smile, clear as a bell.

Francis said enthusiastically, “Mrs. Smythe, he’s learned a second language! Sure, he can say my name and nothing else, but he can speak ENGLISH now!”

“Francis,” I explained carefully, “Zak has ALWAYS spoken English. He can speak ONLY English. He just has a little speech problem.”

(Reality TV? Just put a video camera in MY room, I've got your emmy right here.)


Some stories lift us up, and teach us a lesson at the same time. (As if we didn't know that.)

I am so very, very lucky to have great internet friends!! I can’t thank all of you enough for visiting, commenting, wrapping me in love, support, humor and friendship.

That being said, I want to also thank many of them for sending me links that make me laugh and make me think. This one, from my friend Chris, really touched a chord.

Please, if you have a minute, take the time to read this story from Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul. It's written by Diane Miller, and it’s worth it.

The Crayon Crisis

By Diane Miller

The telephone rang. It was my sister. She said, "Just thought I'd let you know I used your crayon story again." My sister is the media specialist in an elementary school. Every now and then, she will tell my story to the students who visit her library.

Forty-odd years ago, I sat in my first-grade classroom. The classroom's PA crackled to life, summoning me to the principal's office. The PRINCIPAL'S office! As I walked to the office, my six-year-old little life flashed before my eyes. What did I do?

I was a shy kid. I did my best to blend into the background. I hated to be noticed or singled out. For me, being called to the principal's office was my worst nightmare come to life. My black and white saddle shoes scuffed the floor as I walked ever so slowly to the office.

"Diane, the principal is not ready for you yet. Please have a seat," said the school secretary.

I climbed up onto the leather sofa and sunk as low as I could into the cushion. I was praying that the cushion would swallow me whole.

The intercom buzzed on the secretary's desk. "You can go in now," she smiled.

I pushed open the heavy oak door. It was worse than I thought. Seated in front of the principal's desk were my parents. The real reason why they were there, I wouldn't learn until years later.

My father walked straight over to me. He held a stack of my drawings. "Why do you only use a black crayon when you draw?" he asked.

I couldn't speak. All I could do was shrug my boney shoulders.

"Show me your desk," said my father.

We returned to my classroom. It was recess time so all my classmates were out on the playground. I nervously pointed to my wooden desk.

My father pulled out my crayon box. He dumped the contents into his hand. A single nub of a crayon rested in his palm -- it was black.

Puzzled, my father asked, "Where are the rest of your crayons?"

I quietly explained that I'd given all the other crayons to friends. I'd been sharing like my parents had taught me.

My father let out a deep controlled breath, "You were sharing."

I nodded my head. I looked at my father, then at the principal -- both their faces were red. The principal mumbled that I could join the rest of my classmates for recess. I waved goodbye to my parents. My mother waved back, but I couldn't get my father's attention; he was too busy glaring at the principal.

I learned years later that my father's face was red due to anger and the principal's was red due to embarrassment. The principal, on seeing all my artwork done in black crayon, assumed that I had deep emotional issues. To him my crayon choice reflected my "dark and depressed nature." He had called my parents in to discuss "my problem" and to suggest some type of psychological counseling.

I was too afraid to admit that I only had one crayon. I was too timid to ask for my "shared" crayons back. Because I didn't stand up for myself, others assumed the worst.

That night, my father talked to me about "sharing and giving," and how the two are different. He also gave me a brand new box of crayons. He tapped the box and said, "These crayons are for you and you alone. I don't want you sharing or giving these crayons to anyone else, understand?"

I clutched the new box and said, "Yes, Daddy."

Today my sister tells her students, "Don't be afraid to ask a question. Don't be afraid to speak up. If you don't -- I just might make the wrong assumption. And that's not a good thing. Let me tell a story about my sister, when she was around your age. It revolves around an assumption and a black crayon...."

Watch what you say, cause they hear every single word.

We spend so much time in the first months of kindergarten teaching the children how to be a good friend.

We read books about friendship. We perform skits about friendship. We watch videos about friendship. And we try our hardest to show by our actions how real friends treat each other. ( No, they don't kick each other, they don't pinch each other, they don't kiss on the carpet, and they don't rip toys out of the hands of their friends with the teacher watching.)

Yesterday I was working at my center with two animated and enthusiastic girls who have become fast and furious friends. Francis and Gloria were engaged in a heated discussion, and Gloria decided it was time to tattle.

“Mrs. Smythe, Gloria took my red crayon and I really need it. I told her I was using it and she…”

“But she wasn’t using it, and I wanted to use it, and I didn’t grab it out of her hand…”

I stopped the girls, “First, ladies, I think that there are at least a hundred red crayons right here in this basket. I’m pretty sure that there are enough for everyone. Second, I thought you two were best friends. Aren’t you best friends?” I asked.

“Well, yes, we are best friends, but…” Francis stopped.

And I added, “Best friends might not get along all the time, but best friends do talk to each other about problems they might be having. They use nice words, they use direct messages, and they listen to each other. Can you try that?”

“No.” said Francis with a pout. And the girls continued coloring with a hint of attitude seeping from both of them. I turned to work with two other students, and it wasn’t long before I heard them giggling.

“WAIT!” I said. “What is that I hear??? Are you friends again? Are you friends again?” I repeated, smiling.

“Yes!” they shouted in unison. I smiled, and kept an eye on them throughout the day.

It was during Free Play at the end of the day when I heard the voices at the Barbie house begin to escalate. I turned, and saw the co-conspirators playing there. I watched intently, ready to spring into action.

And then I heard it. Francis and Gloria…

“Wait, are we friends again? Are we friends again?” followed by an eruption of the giggles.

It's a start. It's definitely a start...


On another note, there is plenty of discussion these days over at The Motherhood. We are talking about some of the challenges that come along with raising Tweens these days. While parenting is always joyful buy never, ever easy- it’s incredible that we can share our triumphs and disasters with others who feel our pain.

I know many of you have “boys that stink”, and girls who spend endless hours preening and prancing in front of mirrors and over the bathroom sink.

Join many incredible people, including author Rosalind Wiseman over here today at noon, for a sharing of the Tween Academy- and today’s topic of Tweens and Personal Hygiene: Or lack thereof. (Wait - did I just use a colon? A COLON?)

Rosalind is the authors of several books, one in particular that I love- Queen Bees and Wannabees. Grab a coffee, and come on over.


If only I started with the letter G.

I am totally using this when we get to the letter G.

And I'm off to start another fun-filled week in K-land. May the force be with me...


I'm FIFTY........and proud of it.

I've been tumbling around on a sea of varying emotion as of late.

And I don't think I'm the only one.

But in these moments when I feel like I want to crawl in bed and stay there for days, I have friends who send me things like these.

And then LIFE is pumped back into my veins, and I smile.

My dear friend P - thank you.

And now the teacher says- watch this. And try not to laugh. (Come on, sit through the ads. It's worth it. )


I'm getting off my couch and heading to church. (and when I say church, i mean the mountains...)

The Outdoor Pledge is a challenge from the outdoor outfitters at REI to help people get outdoors with their family and friends. As part of their ongoing efforts to inspire, educate, and outfit people for a lifetime of outdoor adventure, REI invited 10 BlogHer reviewers to take the Outdoor Pledge. (I'm being compensated by BlogHer to help spread the word – but I’m doing it because I believe in it!)

Take The Outdoor Pledge, and leave a comment on each blog for the chance to win a $100 REI gift card to help your family get outside! You have 10 chances to win! Go here to enter!!!

Now, I am putting my money where my mouth is, and I am taking a hike up the mountain behind my house. If I don't come back, please feed the dog and the kitty.

and make the bed.

It's not always glitter and tissue paper flowers in kindergarten.

We've been in our new school for 7 years.

The kindergarten children have been climbing and playing on the still almost-new jungle gym in our playground every single day. They climb it, they hang from it, they swing on it, and they play various games underneath it with nary a mishap.

Until today.

And while our little fella is preparing for surgery on his broken leg, I am planning various centers so that his classmates can send him cards and letters. We will talk again about how to safe on the playground, and what to do in an emergency.

And I will sit under that jungle gym with a huge net for the rest of the year. My heart can't take another visit by the ambulance.


Rules, Smules. (aka Pete and Repeat)

Okay, real quick everybody, what’s the golden rule? No cheating, looking it up online and what not, what is it? Do you remember? It takes a minute, but it’s “Treat everyone the way you would want to be treated.” I think that sounds about right. I’m talking about rules today, because honestly that’s about all we do the first week of school. Rules for the playground, rules for the classroom, rules for the library, rules for the bathroom, rules for the hallway, rules, rules, rules. It’s enough to drive a person crazy. Don’t get me wrong, they are very important! They will help keep the children safe (always a priority) and will keep the year running smoothly. It’s just a lot of listening for these little people, and sometimes they get antsy. (As one boy said to another the other day, “I don’t think we’ll be using our brains today.)

Many of these rules that we learn at the beginning of school are ones that the kids will hopefully carry with them throughout their school careers, and their own lives. They are the basic ones: 1. Don’t hurt anyone on the inside or outside. (This covers almost everything.) 2. Follow the playground rules. 3. Listen to the teacher. 4. Use good manners. These are the rules we all try to end up with, but what we start out with is something else entirely.

To begin the rule making process, teachers try to find out if the kids know why we have rules at all! This is always an enlightening experience for any teacher, but in kindergarten, it is just plain fun. Here are some of the responses I received when I posed the question, “Why do we have rules?”

-cause people might tackle you if we didn’t have rules.

-so we won’t get hurt all the time, like when my brother hurts me every day.

-cause people just do bad stuff.

-if we didn’t have rules and people were running around school they would miss the bus and then they would be stuck here all night! (this particular reason was followed by a chanting of “Stay all night! Stay all night! Stay all night! I had a bit of a headache after that.)

After coming up with an extensive list of why we have rules (which I knew they couldn’t read anyway, but teachers like to write on the board.) we decided to brainstorm good rules. We thought about what rules would make our classroom a safe and happy place. This is what they suggested:

-Do not put paper towels in the toilet. They don’t flush.

-Don’t throw things at people.

-Don’t draw on yourself with permanent marker.

-Don’t use potty words.

-Do not show people your privates.

-Do not squeeze guinea pigs until their guts come out.

-Flush the toilet.

-No biting your friends.

-Do not walk up the slide.

-Always use a tissue. (okay, I added that one.)

After an exhausting and extensive discussion, we decided that the original 4 rules that I suggested pretty much covered all the other rules. As I think about these rules, and all the things the children will learn this year, I am reminded that yes, all they really need to know they learn in Kindergarten. (okay, Mr. Fulghum, you beat me to the punch, but we were all thinking this long before you became a gazillionaire writing about it….) Yes, gazillion is a word. I feel I really must go over these one time. It’s a nice reminder that even adults need to remember the rules: share everying; play fair; don’t hit people; put things back where you found them; clean up your own mess; don’t take things that aren’t yours; say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody; wash your hands before you eat; warm cookies and cold milk are good for you; live a balanced life - learn some, think some, draw and paint and sing and dance and play; take a nap; watch out for traffic and hold hands; be aware of wonder; Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that; goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup- they all die. So do we. Remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all - LOOK.

So, I’d like to end our little rule session with a shout out to the mother of a little fella in my classroom. He’s the one that told his mom that his new Kindergarten teacher was “hot!” That Teacher’s Pet t-shirt I ordered is on its way! (Oh, and the nurse will be in the check his eyes - although I’m sure they’re fine!)

(Yes, this is an oldie. But frankly, this time of year kicks my butt. What day is it, anyway?)


My hearing doesn't seem to work so well. (It's all the loud chanting in September.)

The teachers were shouting “Halleluiah” on Friday when the sun finally came out and we were able to have recess. If you haven’t been stuck inside a classroom in the second week of school with 20 five-year olds who NEED TO RUN, then you haven’t lived. For realz.

The four teachers were walking the perimeter of the playground as children ran and laughed and hooted and hollered. There are about 80 children this year and while some of them are siblings on ones we’ve had in class, many are new to our school. We love to spend time at recess getting to know the children in the other classrooms, and encouraging the children to befriend other children in the other kindergarten rooms. (We're one big happy family.)

I was walking with Ms. Perky when one of her darlings ran up to us out of breath. He wanted to know how much recess time was left, and she told him. (Not enough) She called him Will, and I thought he looked vaguely familiar.

“Will, Wait!” I shouted, and he came running back with a smile. “You look just like someone I know! What’s your last name?”

“Yuhm!” he shouted, and ran away.

I watched him run, and turned to Ms. Perky. “Gee, that doesn’t sound familiar.”

She looked at me and laughed. “Seriously? Vodka. His name is Will. Yum. WILLIAM. And you call me a rookie.”

Well played, Ms. Perky. Well played.


Sometimes ya gotta one up 'em.

And today's shoes of the day....

were worn by the teacher.

Sha BAM!!!!!!!!

(They're covered in sequins. Can you tell?)

(holding Anna and her family in our hearts. Please send up a prayer tonight.)


Show and Tell. Part Two

Today was another opportunity for the children to participate in Show and Tell.

I took two Aleve and got the party started.

I smiled as Helen finally took her place in the chair, and after sharing her stuffed animal I reminded her to say "Are there any questions or comments?" And then I listened closely.

"Are there any kisses or commas?"

"What?" I asked her.

"I said, are there any keshup or comets?"

That's better.

(And I never thought I'd say this, but this year I think perhaps Show and Tell MIGHT become my favorite day of the week.)


The fine art of Show and Tell (aka this is gonna hurt.)

We do so very many things in kindergarten that prepare our children for various school routines that lie ahead in the older grades.

Show and Tell is one of them. (Although we might, on occasion, refer to it as Show and Hell, you know we say that in the nicest possible way.)

Show and Tell provides the children with a chance to speak to a group, share ideas in a concise manner (well, kind of) and affords them the chance to have exchanges with the other children. (Where did you get that; where did you get that; where did you get that; where did you get that. Obviously they don’t always listen to the speaker.)

Today I was outlining the finer points of Show and Hell. “Class, when you are done telling about your sharing, you always ask ‘Are there any questions or comments?’ Then you may call on three friends.”

After several children shared, it was Helen’s turn. Her family is originally from China, but they have been in the United States for at least four years. That totally makes her a local.

She shared a gorgeous white plastic purse, filled with what seemed like thousands of miniature items. Finally, she was ready for the question to the group.

“Are there any Christmas or commas?”

“Um, Helen, you might want to say, “Are they any questions or comments?”

She smiled, nodded and turned to the group.

“Are there any presents or promise?” And with that, a thousand hands flew up.

She's practically perfect.


A broken heart, and a prayer for the family.

I am reminded this morning about the fragility of life.

Oh, I know in my heart the stark reality about this fragile life. I know that each of us has a small clock ticking inside of us, and that there is no way around the watchman who comes to collect you when that clock stops.

I just wish he would leave the children alone.

Today I want to wrap my arms around Anna’s family. I want to tell her that there is no greater heartbreak, of this I know. I want to tell her that there are thousands of people who would like to hold her as she mourns the loss of her son. I want to do anything, something to make it better; but I know I can't.

Instead, I will take a walk in the woods, I will hold my own children with all my might and I will shed some tears for our lovely, darling Anna, and her family.

I know you will do the same.

UPDATED: Please visit the blog of our friend Kate, to see others who have been moved to write for or about Anna.

AND: If you would like to do something in the way of a donation, I have heard that the family has requested they be made to Samaritan's Purse.


Run, run as fast as you can; we can't stop looking for the gingerbread man.

We were working on a gingerbread man activity at my center this morning, excitedly chatting about where the children thought our own gingerbread man might be hiding.

He shocked us all yesterday when we discovered he had run away in the middle of being baked. The children can hardly contain their excitement. (As if the first week in kindergarten isn’t HECTIC enough-someone had the bright idea to shake up the soda bottle.)

As we worked on a picture about where we thought he might be hiding, Francis looked at me in pain and whined, “When is this going to be OVER?” She turned to Sam, “I am so sick of this school.”

I looked at her and smiled, “Don’t worry, Francis. Only one hundred and seventy-five more days to go!”

(It was 9:25 in the morning. Only the teacher is allowed to be tired at 9:25 in the morning.)


Can I get an AMEN? (A Frank by any other name...)

I lined the kids up as best I could on the second day of school. We were making a trip down the hall to the big-kids bathrooms so that the children could all take care of business in one fell swoop.

There is a water fountain on either side of the bathrooms, and the children swarmed them after they exited the bathrooms.

I watched closely as they took turns trying to position themselves in such a way that allowed them to get a drink. One of my little clients seemed to be waiting a long time, and finally grabbed the boy at the fountain by the shoulders and shoved him away from it.

I quickly made my way over the children, tried to diffuse the situation and took them all back to the room to turn this into a teachable moment. (I couldn’t have scripted it any better.)

We gathered on the carpet and I outlined proper water fountain etiquette. I motioned the two children involved in the “incident” up to the front of the class, and intended to have them role play the proper way to resolve this situation. I said, “When someone is in front of you at the fountain, you say one-two-three, that’s enough for me. Then they should know that their drinking time is up. You need to use your words!”

“But I DID!” the grabber shouted. “When I grabbed Sam and threw him outta the way, I was saying that’s enough water!” And then Francis smiled.

Bingo. I believe I just hit the jackpot.


The girl who cried wolf. (Unfortunately, she's someone ELSE'S daughter.)

My darling Bitchy,

Ahem. Well.... First, let me just say that's I'm pretty sure it's been confirmed that having children destroys most of your brain cells.

(This is your brain on children.)

I know you've been complaining to me for at least five months now that you're EXHAUSTED all the time and can barely function. And yes, I told you it was probably because you were working THREE jobs since last spring and running 4.5 miles a day all the while determined to maintain an active social life. I reminded you to eat REAL food (and no, coffee and fiber one bars don't count) get some sleep and take your vitamins.

I finally relented last week and made a doctors appointment in order to prove to you that you needed more iron. (I was also hoping the daily "complaining" phone calls and texts might end.) They had you come in and do some blood work, and I was hoping they would give you tiny iron pills and send you on your way.

Apparently I was wrong.

When you called me last night to tell me the doctor's office called and said you had something wrong with your thyroid, and that we needed to come in asap to talk about it - you rendered me speechless.

I'd like to add this to the ever growing list of "Things I've @)#($&# up since becoming a mother."

I applaud you for listening to your BODY and not your MOTHER.

Now, can I get you some ice cream? Some filet mignon? A billion dollar necklace????


Okay, I'll just sit here eating some humble pie and google all thing thyroidical.

(You're never too old to learn a lesson....)


It's a part of the job we don't talk about. (Pass the courage pills.)

I’ve been teaching for 22 years. I know, I know, I look like I’m twelve, but I’m not kidding.

During those years I’ve had the pleasure to work with many amazing teachers, on many different teams- many of them were incredible in their own ways. And while I’ve admired them all, I can’t say that they were each easy to work with. I’m sure this is true of all professions, and it reminds me that we all have our challenges. It’s how we meet these challenges that can make the difference between loving your job and simply doing your job.

I've been in kindergarten for about 9 years, and can honestly say that I have loved the members of my team each of those nine years. We’ve had a change or two, and I am totally in awe of the k-teachers I work with right now. One of them you might know, we call her Ms. Perky.

We were thrilled that our numbers allowed our principal to keep her on the team, and she inspires us every single day. Sure, we’d love to hate her cause she A-DOR-able, vivacious, skinny, energetic, brilliant and to DIE for, but we don’t. Dang it – we love her in spite of all that.

On the first day of school in our building the kindergarten students don’t come until 11:00, and they bring along their parents for an hour long “orientation.” Their REAL first day is the next day. This allows a “soft landing” if you will, and as a bonus we get to help our previous “clients” find their to their new classrooms down the long primary hallway.

We were all were stationed at the front of the building, along with a bazillion other people, in order to ensure that all little folks made it to where they needed to go.

Ms. Perky and I kept bumping into each other as we crisscrossed the primary hallway, holding the hands of our darlings from last year. At the end of a hectic twenty minutes, we found ourselves at the very end of the hallway as the last of the students entered their rooms. We smiled at each other, clasped hands and made our way to the front of the building.

“You know, vodka, I don’t like this,” she said softly. “My heart is breaking watching them go into another teacher’s classroom. I miss them!” And I knew she was speaking from her heart.

I smiled and nodded knowingly.

“But you know what?” I said. “In about an hour you’ll have 18 new children in your room who will help that broken heart of yours heal quite nicely. Now, buckle up. We’re about to start this roller coaster ALL over again."

(And today? She's so tired she doesn't even remember their NAMES! Yep. I'm afraid she might have won the lottery this year. And you know what I mean.)