As every administrator in every school regularly does, I pulled our students together to talk about our Code of Conduct. We decided to divide primary and intermediate students into two smaller groups so I could tailor the conversation about RISE (Respect / Improve / Safe / Encourage ) to each age group. The primaries gathered for the discussion about expectations for behaviour. The big culminating question: So what does RISE look like for a Tecumseh student? Hands shoot up and I pick one from Cole Johnson’s K/1 class. The response: “Be kind everywhere you go.” Done. The wisdom of the 5 year old rules the day! The work to practice and reinforce the message continues.
In Mr. Johnson’s class, that message took on a life of its own. Mr. Johnson clearly understood that the words of his student came with a special power to catalize his students. It became the class motto. When he immortalized the words on a button, they became even more valued. Then he handed them out to each staff member at the year-end breakfast. As I stared at the button, the familiarity was there but not the exact context. Cole Johnson looked at me and said “You remember!” Cole breathed life into the moment. He had accomplished what every great teacher does on a daily basis – tapped the teachable moment.
As a previous Kindergarten teacher, I have a huge appreciation for those who walk that path. Mr. Johnson’s students will be able to say “All I Really Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” and perhaps publish their own rendition😃
Robert Fulghum (1988). All I Really Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten
Caroline Adderson welcomed student representatives from all of the elementary schools in the VSB to a celebration of literacy along with their librarians and principals or vice-principals. “Norman Speaks” was the book selected by the Vancouver Elementary Principals Vice Principals Association (VEPVPA). Each year the VEPVPA “Celebrating Literacy Committee ” selects a book. The Association invites the author to share the story with students and then puts the autographed book into the one hundred VSB elementary school libraries in Vancouver. “Norman Speak” was selected for the storytelling and the illustrations in the picture book, as well as the story itself. Caroline Adderson fascinated both groups with the story of the dog who inspired the story, a real dog that really only understood Chinese. The book explores the assumptions that young and old people make when someone does not speak the language. Something wise to be talking about in a city like Vancouver, where so many people speak English as a second or third or fourth language. Caroline was an amazing presenter – a prolific author with teaching experience! She had us all engaged in grappling with the task of trying to speak another language. She also shared a video clip with the illustrator, Qin Leng, discussing how she approached doing the illustrations. The students were amazed to learn that the authors and illustrators don’t usually meet until after the drawings are done, if ever.
Ben reports that the highlight of the event was having books and pieces of paper signed by the author. More than one students reported that the dog shaped chocolate was the best part. The was truly a wonderful illustration of how books can help us to adopt another perspective and delight in the experience.
“Fostering self-regulation and emotional control” have become as much a part of instruction as reading and writing. Kids that are not able to understand and manage their emotions are not able to learn and frequently make it difficult for others to learn. Before this book was published, I used the graphic of a stop light to teach kids about how to define and consider their feelings and discuss strategies to keep from getting overwhelmed and making choices that created a whole new layer of problems for the classroom community. The Zones of Regulation: A Curriculum Designed To Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control (2011) by Leah M. Kuypers develops a solid approach to exploring these topics in a far more comprehensive way. Adding a blue zone to talk about when you are sad or sick or tired or bored or moving slowly helps kids to understand their feelings with far more depth. I was introduced to this book by a behaviour intervention support worker and have it reintroduced by ever other STIBS worker who I have crossed paths with in Vancouver. It is generally proposed for use with a student struggling to manage their behaviour in the classroom and readily embraced by classroom teachers for use with the whole class. The support poster is pricey at $12.00 but worth it because you can use dry erase markers and help students create personalized toolkits to manage the emotions listed in the four zones. The reproducibles included in the book are well thought out and included on a CD. I have just bought another copy of this book for my current staff because it has been wholeheartedly embraced by two of my teachers. It isn’t a book to borrow, it’s a book to have on hand for your own reference.