Welcome to my Blog!

Greetings and welcome to my page. My name is Rebbecca, I am a mom of two and a preschool teacher in southwestern Virginia. I have had the blessing of working in a Reggio Emilia inspired center for nearly 10 years, with the Greenies (my students) for 7 of the last 10 years. Our emergent curriculum and play based learning approach has changed the way I think about working with children. I am looking forward to sharing my inspirations, reflections and stories with you. So glad you're here!

“If you are a dreamer,come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!” Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Super Parents? I Think Not....

I remember when I first started working in childcare, freshly married, not in the profession for long, and generally appalled at how the parents treated their kids. I remember thinking to myself, "How could those parents take a day off and leave their kids here? How could she yell at her child like that after not seeing him ALL day? How hard can it be to take a moment to blah blah blah blah"..... and then I had kids of my own.

Let's face it, if you work in child care and do not have a child of your own it's hard to understand the intricate emotions of parents. Having children is amazing, I would not trade my kids in for anything. However, parenting is a world of pain, shame, and lots of tears. There is a lot bearing on your soul as a parent, doing right by your kids, giving them your all and praying you don't make the same mistakes your parents made (that's my case anyway.) If you don't have kids it's an abstract world you could not come even close to comprehending. Now don't get me wrong, there are tons of excellent teachers that do not have children and I know a few who have inspired me and loved my children as their own and I could not have asked for bigger blessings.

All I'm saying is, go easy on those parents. They're doing the best they can and when the day is over and that cute face gives a quick "I wuv you," the parent is instantaneously recharged. And then he crawls in your bed at 2am....

Check out this AMAZING NPR article from Alan Greenblatt posted today for more.

"Parenting Got You Down? You're Not Alone."

Monday, August 29, 2011

From Scratch

I am very excited for a friend of mine who is getting the rare opportunity to build her classroom from scratch. From scratch I mean from the wall paint colors to furniture placement. I will be helping her out tomorrow as she prepares for opening day- I can only imagine what's running through her head! She will be documenting the process as the room comes together and I hope to use her example as I prepare a new workshop on classroom environment for VAECE 2012. Whenever I think of environment (and by this I mean indoor, outdoor is another passion of mine but that's for another blog) I always think of TriBeCa Community School in NYC and their amazing indoor spaces. I have been very inspired by them, especially the cozy welcoming space in every classroom (the spaces with the couch and portfolios.) Check out their pictures and see if you get inspired as well!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Language Chart

One of my favorite group time activities is what we call Language Charts (LC.) Language charts are a great way to capture the thoughts of the group and get their opinion on any given topic. The LC topic posed is almost always in an open ended format and does not ask for a correct answer. All answers are recorded as the children give them (though I have had to cut a few short, or ask the children to re-frame their answer.) I use LC’s for many reasons; however this week I used one to establish a baseline of knowledge before we delved into a topic of study: manners and responsibility.  


Tell me about “Manners.”

BA: Don’t say bad words.
RL: Listen to the teacher's words.
EF: When the teacher is talking you need to be quiet. 
SM: When I talking to CE and someone else was talking at the same time that be annoying. 
OM: Have good manners because when mommy and daddy are talking at me at the same time that be annoying. 
JH: You say sometimes please and don't say bad words.
KW: You don't say bad words to our friends. 
SS: Can't hurt somebody, you can hug 'em or kiss 'em. 
EP: When somebody gives you something you say please and thank you. 
RB: Manners, you gotta say, when you say a bad word someone won't like that.
CE: You say please and thank you and you're welcome. 

From this conversation we were able to pull many threads to help us plan for the next step: How do words make us and others feel? When can we use our manners? Why do we use our manners? 

It's been a great week full of great discussions so far. Our discussions have turned toward the responsibility side of manners and today I gave the children "homework." I asked them to come back tomorrow and share with the group one way they helped someone else. I am looking forward to the results!

Monday, August 22, 2011


Once in a while you come across a song that embodies all that is awesome and good in the Universe. When I originally heard this tune I was in love, the meaning for me at that time represented the bond between my first born son and I. Over the years I have also thought of this song as I watch the exciting events of super-hero play in my classroom. Most recently it made me think of my good friend and co-worker as we traverse the rocky road of new beginnings in our classrooms. Take a listen for yourself, I hope it touches your spirit as a teacher, parent and friend like it has mine.


"I am so impressed with you and
every little thing you do is incredible,
but you must get awful lonely.
Fighting crime is too much for just one-
Seem the work is never done and every hero
Needs a Sidekick, I could be it......"

Friday, August 19, 2011

More Tools For Your Tool Box

I often find discipline and handling it in just the right way to be a bit of a puzzle sometimes. What works for one child won't necessarily work for another. No matter how many kids you have worked with you can always use a few more tools for your tool box, or a good reminder. Thanks Teacher Tom for this fantastic find!

What about those days when he's hell-bent on misbehaving?

The 101's of Positive Discipline

Welcome to day three of the new school year! It's been a very exciting beginning, welcoming new friends and working with a new co-teacher. One of the first things I introduce to a new teacher are the 101's. This list, developed by Dr. Katherine Kersey, is a wonderful resource of many different and effective ways to tackle those day to day classroom issues (or even at home!) In my classroom we have the complete 101 principles cut up and in a jar. We pull out a strip each day and try to incorporate that principle into our teaching. We've gotten so good that we call each other out, "Hey, that was the Frog Suit Principal, nice one!" Here is a list from their website of the top 10:

The Top Ten 101’s

  1. Demonstrate Respect Principle – Treat the child the same way you do other important people in your life - the way you want him to treat you - and others. "How would I want her to say that to me?"

  2. Modeling - Model the behavior you want.  Show the child, by example, how to behave.  A child is always watching and will grow up to be like you - whether you want him to or not.

  3. Make a Big Deal principle – Make a big deal over responsible, considerate, appropriate behavior - with attention (your eyeballs), thanks, praise, thumbs-up, recognition, hugs, special privileges, incentives (NOT food).

  4. Incompatible Alternative Principle – Give the child something to do that is incompatible with the inappropriate behavior. "Help me pick out 6 oranges" (instead of running around the grocery store).

  5. Choice Principle – Give the child two choices, both of which are positive and acceptable to you. "Would you rather tiptoe or hop upstairs to bed? You choose or I'll choose.” "We need to clear off our desks.  Do you need one minute or two?" - Then set the timer.  This can also be used with spouses. " The garage needs to be cleaned out. Would you rather do it tonight or Saturday?”

  6. When/Then Abuse it/Lose it Principle –  Positive discipline involves team work and cooperation.  When the child chooses to behave in the way you have requested, then he will be given the privilege he wants.  However, if he chooses not to comply, the privilege is lost.  For example, "When you have finished your homework, then you may watch TV. No homework, no TV."

  7. Connect Before You Correct Principle – Be sure to "connect" with a child - get to know him and show him that you care about him - before you begin to try to correct his behavior. This works well with parents too. Share positive thoughts with them about their child before you attack the problems!

  8. Validation Principle – Validate his wants and feelings by acknowledging them. "I know you feel angry with your teacher and want to stay home from school. I don't blame you. The bus will be here in 45 minutes."

  9. Good Head on Your Shoulders Principle – Tell your child, especially as he reaches the teen years, "You have a good head on your shoulders. You decide. I trust your judgment." This brings out the best in the child and shows him that eventually he will be in charge of his own life and responsible for his own decisions.

  10. Belonging and Significance Principle – Remember that everyone needs to feel that he belongs and is significant. Help your child to feel important by giving him important jobs to do and reminding him that if he doesn't do them, they don't get done! Help him feel important by being responsible. 

My personal favorite? #6- The When/Then/Lose It Principle. Using when you/then you is part of my vocabulary and is extremely effective! I like it because it is respectful and clear cut. Every action will result in a consequence, good or bad. When you/then you gives the kids a chance to see the bigger picture and make the appropriate choice.

The 101's are magical! Make your own "101 du jour" and watch your classroom transform from crazy to cool.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another Take on Tradition: Teacher Tom: Rules 2010-11

As much as I am not a fan of all the No's, I do love Teacher Tom's take on how to work with your students to make up their class rules. Enjoy!

Teacher Tom: Rules 2010-11


The start of a new preschool season is upon us today. We have sent off a handful of ripe Kindergartners and welcomed some new bright faces. Any teacher knows the first day of any new school year sets the tone for the rest of the year. In our classroom we have adopted some traditions, little rituals we use at the beginning of each year to set a tone of community and respect in our classroom.

The first thing we do is set up a Buddy System. We pair our Greenie Ambassadors with a new friend. This gives our older students a sense of responsibility to the new friends; you should see them beam with pride as they show their younger Buddy around the room, take their little hands and show them the ins and outs of being a Greenie.

An older Greenie helps a new friend put his blanket away. 

During our circle time we talk about our classroom rules. The classroom rules are kept simple in our room.

1) We will take care of ourselves.
2) We will take care of each other.
3) We will take care of our classroom.

This pretty much covers all bases as we talk about the nuances of each rule. It would be easy to make a lists of 'no's' and 'don'ts' but I have come to find that for the most part kids are good at knowing what they can't do, rarely do we get a chance to celebrate what they can do and how their choices positively affect themselves, each other, and their environment.

We are looking forward to also having home visits and a class social in the coming month, which are great at building our family community.

Here's to a great new year! Cheers!

Monday, August 15, 2011

let the children play: portfolios - making children's learning visible in...

One of my favorite things I do as a teacher is create these great portfolios called Me Books. I have always known how much the kids love them but I dare not let them be a regular 'choice' in the classroom for fear of what would happen to them. Hmmm, how can I do this in a way so the kids can have access to a portfolio about them daily that they can be responsible for? I think I found my answer!

let the children play: portfolios - making children's learning visible in...: "Many moons ago when I first started teaching. records of children's learning were kept in the office for teacher's eyes only. Today our chi..."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In The Garden With Deepak

This was originally posted on my classroom door in late May and is one of my favorite narratives. Enjoy!

One of my favorite things about our classroom is the garden. It’s transitioned and changed so many times over the past 5 years I can’t hardly remember what it first looked like. Once in a while I will look out at the tangle of plants and weeds, discouraged at my lack of a green thumb, no matter how hard I try to have one. And then something magical will happen… I look out to see a mom pausing on the side walk, her toddler wandering though the garden, smiling and swirling the water in the bird bath. This garden is not a burden; it’s a wonderful place, a magical place, a spiritual place.

Deepak Chopra wrote and amazing book called “The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents.” It’s a book that I keep in my classroom and I flip through once in a while when I need some inspiration for keeping myself on a path of intentionality and mindfulness as a teacher and parent. This book and the garden/nature education have been separate focuses but after some reflection, the Green Room Garden is Chopra’s book, blooming before my eyes.  

1) The Law of Pure Potentiality. “Everything is possible.” In the winter the garden is a bleak place, cold and barren. But we know that there is magic underground. The garden is still there, just sleeping; waiting for the right moment to wake up, full of possibilities.

2) The Law of Giving. “If you want to get something, give it.” Several years ago we decided we want a garden to attract birds and butterflies. We looked up what plants and habitats would support our winged friends. With love and care we built a bird house, planed flowers for the butterflies to obtain nectar and sunflowers to feed the birds. We put a lot of work into the perfect home and were rewarded as butterflies descended later that summer and we watched a chickadee build a nest in a birdhouse the children built.  

3) The law of Karma. “When you make a choice you change the future.” I also translate Karma as the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others… Worms and Stink Bugs have inundated our lives in the Green Room. Worm hunting in the garden and stink bug removal are nearly official sports.
The Greenies have come a long way in caring for these creatures and learning to return them to their homes. We took the time to learn how to remove a stink bug from our classroom with a tissue and the importance of returning the worms to their homes and now we see the older students passing along the wisdom of caring for living things, no matter how small, or stinky, to the younger students- changing the future. 


4) The law of Least Effort. “Don’t say no, just go with the flow.” Weeds. Strawberry vines. Ugh. At the beginning of this semester the children helped plant several bulbs, I was determined to not let the strawberry vines take over what was sure to become the perfect children’s garden. The other day we took a stroll through the garden and a voice spoke up, “Can I eat it?” I came over to look and, behold, a perfect strawberry was turning a deep orange, nearing red, and creating a frenzy of excited four year olds. I think I will let the strawberries stay.    

5) The law of Intention and Desire. “Every time you wish or want you plant a seed.” That is pretty much self explanatory though in our case it is the opposite, but then still retains the meaning. Groovy.  

6) The Law of Detachment. “Enjoy the journey.” Each year we keep ourselves open to the possibility that anything can happen in the garden. This is especially true for the sunflowers, which seem to eagerly volunteer their gifts of beauty every year. We don’t plant them, they just seem to appear as Mother Nature sees fit. We let go our plans for what the garden should be and embrace the beauty that it will be. And we are rarely disappointed.

7) The Law of Dharma. “You are here for a reason.” So what is the dharma of the garden? The garden is a teacher, a place of beauty, discovery, and enjoyment. It’s a pit stop on the way to our classrooms. It’s a home to worms, a cafeteria for birds and butterflies, and a wonderland for children.

Stop by the garden, be enlightened.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What is A Greenie?

So glad you asked and what an appropriate first post to make. During the first year of my teaching experience in the Green Room I had a wonderful co-teacher. She was a super gal whom I miss very much. She was the first one to address the children as the Greenies. The term of endearment stuck and continues to live on. The name is so synonymous with our classroom that we can often hear other students of other rooms telling the teachers about "those Greenies over there." My favorite is when I hear parents embrace the term before they even join our classroom community, "Jill, you're going to be a big Greenie soon!!!"

As our spring program comes to an end we prepare for our Family and Graduation Night by designing class shirts. Usually the shirt matches our song and this year we had chosen to do "Workin' In The Garden" by Gary Lapow, a WolfTrap musician. The front of the shirt was composed of many flower pots with plants the children drew growing out of them. On the back of the shirt my co-teacher and I came up with a list, a set of instructions if you will, of "How To Grow A Greenie." It goes like this:

How to Grow a Greenie:

Celebrate the wonder of everyday things.
Smile and be silly… a lot!
Learn new things together.
Ask your Greenie, “Show me...”
Hunt for worms.
Give everything a name.
Tell your Greenie anything is possible!
Celebrate Un-Birthdays.
Inspire them to see how we are all connected.
Believe in magic.
When in doubt, go with the flow…
Take time to care for others.
Make wishes.
Show them that everyone has a gift- and celebrate it.
Get dirty on a regular basis.
Love and be loved.

It's of course a very incomplete list but I am pretty sure it holds all the essential ingredients to a happy preschool-hood. Rereading this list I can envision pictures of the children on the front of seed packets, the list on the back. This coming week I will be welcoming a new batch of seeds while a handful of ripe Greenies go off to Kindergarten. Even though fall is creeping upon us, I cannot wait to get this last planting of the year in and watch them grow...