Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Robbing Peter to pay Paul....

I have a confession.... I cannot fit everything I want to do into first grade into my day/week/month.  There.  I said it.  I think I said it for all of us.  I was at a professional development meeting on play today (one that I, personally, did not feel I needed because I have an early childhood endorsement and taught kindergarten).  So, trying to make the best out of it- I got a great book (sidebar!)- I went in with an open mind. 

I listened to my co-workers in the district discuss how they wanted to incorporate play into their day (all first grade teachers).  They were stuck.  Many said that they could get it in a few times a week, but that was all they had time for it.  My 6 year-old heart hurt for them.  The 6 year-old inside of me wanted to scream, "Let me run and be joyful!  Let me be creative and make a mess!  Let me experiment with new materials, toys and ideas!  I want to talk loudly with my friends about our play!"  The teacher in me said, "I totally get it- there is a lot of curriculum to cover.  I have assessments that are required (some twice- long story) and academic interventions to do with them.  Sometimes, I feel we have a target on our backs... we can't let anything slide or do any subject at a shallow level.  The expectation is so high at times for our little ones."

Then, my own voice came out, "I serve the WHOLE child, not just the cognitive portion.  I have a duty to do what is best for them.  This is my charge and what parents trust me to do."  This can be a scary thing.  I even found myself admitting it to my peers out loud.  I do not do all of the science or social studies that I could be doing (according to the curriculum- I focus on the state benchmarks for the necessities).  The room was pretty silent.  The presenter called it the "elephant in the room".  How do we do it all?  It's simple... we don't.  I've come to realize in the last few months that the academic portion of my focus is reading, writing and math foundations.  The rest is integrated into the other areas.  The rest of the child MUST be looked at and honored.  I thought I spoke too soon, when my principal stood up and reinforced my commitment and focus.  (Phew!  I'm not in trouble when I go in to school tomorrow!  She is very much aware and supportive of how I teach and run my room.)

In early childhood/ kindergarten rooms, it is very obvious that the teachers are trying to take in account the whole child when creating the learning experience (social, cognitive, physical, and emotional).  This cannot end once they get to first grade (and beyond for that matter!).  I am not perfect- I freely admit it.  I am trying my best to learn everything I can about my little people and what they need.  

So yes, I take them outside every day for another 20 minutes (on top of the lunchtime recess).  I make it work.  When the weather gets too ugly, I'll switch to 2 days inside play and only 3 days outside.  I also have integrated a sense of playfulness into our learning stations for math and literacy.  They are playing games related to our content and learning cooperatively (think self-regulation and social skills).  Is it my ideal?  No.  I wish I had more.  Maybe once I am more experienced at this level, I will find a way.  In the meantime.  I'm not sacrificing the little bit that I have to make a canned holiday craft or an extra science unit (said with respect towards my teaching partner who is an awesome science teacher!).  Here is a sample schedule for a typical week.  I tend to alternate science and social studies (or blend it into something else- like reading non-fiction during a read aloud time).  I will also post it on my TeachersPayTeachers account (free), so it can be downloaded if you like the format. (Please ignore the thumbnail pictures- I did something weird, but the file looks like below).

Anyway, I've spent enough time on my soapbox for one night.  I'm off to bed to rest for another day in First Grade :)


  1. I thought this was a very honest post that all teachers around the world can relate to.

    We can't do it all... but do what is best!

    On another note... as a U.K. teacher, I am curious about your 'recess' (we call it playtime) Our time here is utterly set in stone at 10.30 - 11.00 for all children and then they also get their lunch playtime (for an hour). Class starts at 9 and finishes at 3.15. After reading a few blogs, am I right in thinking you choose when and if the children go out? That must cause extra stress for you all if that is the case!


  2. Schedules around the U.S. differ (even within the same area!). We start at 8:15am and end at 3:10pm. The total lunch time (eating & play) is 45 minutes. In my district, my kiddos have 25 minutes of outside play during lunch (I'm not with them). After that, it is largely up to the teacher. In kindergarten, an additional recess outside is recommended along with inside play every day (about 45-60 minutes total). For 1st grade, it's about 20-30 minutes inside or outside a day. If it is not during lunch, the teacher is responsible for monitoring the play. We all have different schedules, so it can be very stressful trying to get it all in.

    I'm so excited to hear from the other side of the world today :)