Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Talk Topic 1: Introduction

Here is where we can begin to share what resonated with us from the text's "Introduction:"

I've included the poem to help spark further discussion...

Straight Lines

All the kindergartners 
walk to recess and back
in a perfectly straight line
no words between them.
They must stifle their small voices,
their laughter, they must 
stop the little skip in their walk,
they must not dance or hop
or run or exclaim.
They must line up
at the water fountain
straight, and in perfect form,
like the brick wall behind them.
One of their own given the job
of informer--guard of quiet,
soldier of stillness.
If they talk
or make a sound
they will lose their stars.
Little soldiers marching to and from
their hair sweaty
from escaping dinosaurs
their hearts full of loving the world
and all they want to do
is shout it out
at the top of their lungs.
When they walk back to class
they must quietly
fold their pretends into pockets,
must dam the river of words,
one's they're just learning
new words that hold the power
to light the skies, and if they don't
a star is taken away.
One star
by one star
until night grows dark and heavy
while they learn to think carefully
before skipping, before making a wish.

(Heard & McDonough, 2009, p. 2-3).


  1. The poem is so true in many schools. As a staff member I find it very difficult to remind a child, who is happily skipping down the hall, to walk. The skipping isn't bothering anyone and the joy in their physical being should be celebrated. I'm touched that that child is happy to be at school. Why do we want to take that away?

    1. I think that this poem is so powerful. I've read it over a few times and each time a new section jumps out at me. So often we think of the day according to our adult agenda's and timetables. The children in front of us are so innocent, and have a very different agenda from ours. Their agenda's are about dinosaurs, pretend play, imagination, dancing, laughing, skipping, etc. To me this shouts JOY - FUN - LIFE and I want to embrace those interests and listen more. Each moment has the potential of becoming magical and memorable. We just have to slow down and let our students be children rather than "soldiers of stillness" as the poem states.

      However, this being said, there is a time and place for everything! If we're preparing for an assembly I want our students to respectfully walk in line and listen. I guess what I'm getting at is finding a balance...

      What are your thoughts about this poem?

      We would love to hear more voices share their reflections!


  2. This poem is profoundly sad to me. Yes, I understand how our voices carry on the way to library, and how that may disturb others, but the idea of a behaviour chart ("the stars go out, one by one") breaks my heart. I have been teaching for almost ten years, and have changed my program so much from the beginning I almost don't recognize what I was doing in those early years. But even then, without having heard the term "self-regulation", I knew I didn't want to shame students into behaving well. I wanted the motivation to be internal. So I made it fun, as best I could. Circle time was full of dancing, playing, and wiggling. Walking in the hall was an adventure, where the quietest bunnies would get past the garden dog (still my approach to lockdown). Tasks were done noisily, as long as it didn't disturb others at the table.

    I had much less choice in my classroom in the beginning, as I had "must do" tasks that required sitting at tables and finishing tasks (printing, drawing in journals, crafts) before choosing an activity. It was a while before I was able to see how I could meet all the expectations and more at the various centres in the room. Choice, though, was not a question. From the very first time I met Nancy Thomas (awesome Reggio-inspired teacher in our board, worked w/ a friend I now teach with) I heard this message: "if a child wants to go to trains every single day, there must be something valuable to his or her learning there". So it is that before I stopped daily tasks (work before play), before I stopped creating whole-group explorations, before I learned to extend the play skillfully, I started with choice.

    I wondered about those charts, seen in other grades and even other kindergartens (during my time supply teaching). I had a son in JK the year I got my own class, and I saw how difficult it was for him, a December-born boy, to cope with the need to sit, and listen. I remember hearing how disruptive he was during group circle times, and feeling bad. He really couldn't sit. I made him practice at home to see if we could do it. Sure, I made it a game, but it brings a lump to my throat even now to think about the message I was telling him about what was important. I now have a daughter in her second year of FDK. She loves school, loves her teachers, and feels ready to head to grade one. Excited, even. Isn't that the most important measure, after all?

    1. I totally agree this poem is extremely sad.

      Yes I do have some must do's for my students as I have learned to teach kindergarten through others good practice. However, now I am questioning this philosophy and trying to give my kiddos more and more choice throughout their day.

      I believe in inquiry, and am adjusting my program to include more and more.

      I still am still grappling with letting the students act as they wish in the hallways as many of the older students pass by our classroom door on their way to music and they are so loud we must stop mid sentence during sharing and reading time to let the noise pass.

      Perhaps it's a balance of joy all the time and respect for others learning that I'm trying to teach my kiddos.


  3. You've given us lots to think about Laurel!

    Thanks for joining the conversation!

    I'm so looking forward to reading more comments from our wonderful staff and growing online professional learning community!

    I predict that this book will really get us wondering!!!

  4. Thank you!
    I await the book, so until it arrives I will simply enjoy others' observations.

  5. This poem is so powerful! I plan to share it with my colleagues and type it up and post it to remind myself of what is truly important for children.

  6. This poem resonates with us all. We can relate from having experienced this "method" being used by our own teachers when we were young OR from schools that we may have worked in and been exposed to these stringent rules or expectations. We must think actively about what we do, say, and expect at all times and reflect on the impact this has on the children we are teaching. MG

  7. This quote resonates with me because like many others, I grew up in a school like this, and sadly even started to teach like this. When I first began teaching, I always heard how the Kindergarteners were so quiet in the hallways and that the other grades should take tips from them. But why is it that we expect our students to walk silently in lines while the teachers are always talking in groups in the middle of the hallway? As I began to develop my own teaching philosophies I soon began to question this expectation and change my practice. My students now have the understanding that there are other classes learning nearby, so when in the hallway we need to be respectful of other classes. No longer am I 'policing' my students for stepping out of the line, but rather am engaging in dialogue with small groups as we transition from one space to another. Our learning from home to school or outdoors to inside also continues as we collect artifacts to add to our classroom and ongoing inquiries.