Thursday, February 16, 2012

Its the Place to Be

Today is the 100th day of school so naturally Mischief and his classmates were invited to dress like 100 year olds to celebrate the day. As I spent a few quick minutes this morning hiking up his beige pants to show off his white tube socks, tying his tie, baby powdering his hair and zipping his cardigan to make him senior-home ready for the day. When we were done he looked in the mirror and declared, "Wow, time does fly! I am a pretty cool old dude!"

After he explained to me the Circle of Life ("We are born bald, with no teeth and can't walk and we die old, bald, with no teeth and can't walk. Its just life ... in a circle") we hustled him off to school. About an hour later I received an email from his teacher about an encounter another teacher had with him earlier in the morning ...

"So I just met Mischief in the hall walking VERY slowly for a 100 year old man!  I told him I would give you a call and tell you it might take him a while to get to the classroom.  He replied.  “Don’t bother. She’s pretty old.  She’ll likely be dead by the time I get there.”  ! ha!"

From an art project on Day 50
Along with that funny little anecdote was a picture of Mischief, some of his centenarian pals and his teacher ... dressed like an old man! I have a stack of pictures of Mischief with his classmates from the last year and a half. They dressed like they were from the 1950s for the 50th day of school, they celebrated Dr. Suess' birthday by wearing their clothes backwards, they built an igloo out of milk jugs for I love to Read Month and on Tuesday they had a heart shaped pancake breakfast for Valentine's Day. Mrs. Kyle's class is the place to be!

When you walk into her classroom there is a sense of excitement and comfort. There is a carpet in front of the smart board and there's a reading nook with comfy cushions and couches in the corner. The students are encouraged to work where they feel most comfortable and inspired ... as long as they work. The walls are covered with the usual educational tools but there's also posters about respect, kindness and friendship. Art work and words of encouragement cover every spare inch of wall space.

I have volunteered in this classroom a number of times (she does an exceptional job of inviting parents to participate at every opportunity) and I have never heard her loose her cool or raise her voice in anger. The kids aren't angels; they are a group of very energetic, quirky, funny seven and eight year olds but instead of being afraid of the chaos she embraces it, joins in and sets the tone for the classroom. She is funny, silly and creative with the kids and they love and respect her for it.

She celebrates each of her students as individuals in a million little ways every day as well as giving each of them the opportunity to be the classroom star for a week. She finds ways to encourage and esteem the kids for their talents and accomplishments and she empowers them to make better choices and make amends when they have made a bad decision. She honors the people they are and equips them to continue to grow as life long learners and respectful citizens of the world. She considers, not only who they are now but who they are becoming.

Every one moves to their own rhythm, especially teachers. They each have their own style and technique to running their classroom but I think schools would be the place to be if more teachers took a page from Mrs. Kyle's guide to classroom management. She finds a reason to celebrate everyday. She shows up excited to teach, inspiring her students to be excited to learn. I often joke that Mischief is being taught by the missing Disney Princess but its kind of true ... and I'm thankful for it!

Excitement and passion are contagious, we see it every day. Mischief struggles with reading a little and with following the rules ... alot. He often finds himself in hot water at recess and lunch time. School could easily be a downer for this kid, but its not. He loves learning, loves going to school. He can't wait to see what Mrs. Kyle has planned each day and he can't wait to show us what he's learned at the end of each day. He is excited about school because she is excited about school.

Mrs. Kyle has made school the place to be!

I hope his enthusiasm for school and for learning stays with him for the rest of his life. I hope these two years with this exceptional teacher will be just the beginning of his excitement for education. And I hope that Mrs. Kyle's creativity, charisma and compassion for her students never wanes. She is a treasure to our kids, our community ... we are so blessed to have her!

Thank you, Mrs. Kyle!

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. ~Carl Jung

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