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August 16, 2010

All Stories End

If you have ever read my bio you know that I have a passion for stories. It has been the reason behind my becoming a teacher, an influence on how I interpret my profession, and the way I think about the world. That is one of the ideas that drew me to Inside Pre-K, first as a reader and then as a blogger. For the last four years the tag line for this blog has remained: “These are our stories about teaching pre-kindergarten – the lessons we teach our students and the lessons they and their families teach us.”   
I hope my last post brings to life some of the comings and goings of the authors and characters you have met, loved, got to know and said goodbye to over the life of this blog.

There weren’t that many pre-k bloggers back in 2006. One of the very few was Sophia Pappas. How she described her classroom was an inspiration. We forged a professional relationship through this blog that is sustained today. I still consider her writing some of the best “teacher thinking” I have ever read.

Sophia Pappas had a real talent for capturing the moral questions and practical decision making involved with being a pre-k teacher. She also paid particular attention to her readers’ comments. I remember when she responded to one of mine. She had written a thoughtful post on the use of praise and I remember being moved to share my own experiences in the classroom. In this way I felt a part of something bigger and her encouragement led me to later seek out the opportunity to write for Inside Pre-K.

Technology is a real strength for Vanessa Levin. Since her time with Inside Pre-K, Vanessa has built on her success as a trainer and workshop presenter on preschool practices and technology integration. In a post about the evolution of hand washing in her classroom, Vanessa showed how she used digital storytelling in her classroom to communicate the process of washing hands. Her hand washing post is an excellent example of applied teacher thinking and the use of video as a form of instructional material. We still get more hits on Vanessa’s Digital Storytelling post than any other posts in the Inside Pre-K archives.

In Minnesota, where Karissa Ouren taught while writing for Inside Pre-K, public pre-k has been in a state of continual transformation. It was really interesting to read about her experiences of state pre-k policy changes. In a post on state standards for early childhood math, she illustrated the difficulty teachers face in the context of their specific systematic and cultural contexts. Her love for pre-k lit-up her posts with passion and humor.

I always appreciated how effective Jennifer Rosenbaum was at incorporating her children’s voices into her writing. The post I remember best from Jennifer was published on the day after the 2009 presidential inauguration. The detail and insight in her students descriptions of their drawings showed us an important truth we all need to remember about pre-k, teaching and education policy: Many 4-year-olds are smarter than they let on and if we listen closely, we may just learn something from them.

When I asked myself, what do I remember writing during my Inside Pre-K tenure, these are the ones that stuck:

I was so stoked to write for Pre-K Now I spent two hours writing my first post while I was on vacation with my family. It was in the middle of the 2008 Olympics when I learned of Michael Phelps’ struggle with ADD in early childhood. It seemed like the perfect topic for my first post and when I hit publish I knew I had been right.

One of the benefits of writing this blog was that I got the opportunity to read and review some great books. When I took Peg Tyre’s book, The Trouble With Boys, out of my mailbox at school I knew it would be important. Because Peg is both a writer and a researcher, she was able to weave great stories, important details and solid findings into a readable and thought-provoking book. It inspired me to contact Peg for an interview and led me to my dissertation topic. So, thanks, Peg Tyre and Pre-K Now for helping me to find my direction.

The episode of the 20/20 piece from John Stossel painting pre-k in a negative light demanded a rebuttal. As I banged away at the keys, I felt like a boxer in a ring. My heart was beating fast. I would write, then email, then call my editor. She revised then called me. I felt like a part of a great team, but I knew I was the one who was going to be throwing the punches. It was exhilarating. My Pre-K Now editor encouraged me to speak my mind. So that is what I did. And I will keep doing this on my new blog as well.

When I began blogging, I did it because I wanted to reflect on my practice and because I felt I had something to add to arguments about teacher leadership, pre-k and the teaching profession. I wanted to contribute to the field. Along the way, I found a community of passionate pre-k advocates.

I want to encourage any teacher with even the faintest hint of an interest in writing about their classroom, pre-k policy, or education to start a blog. You will come to find that when you’re writing you’re learning, and that blogging provides a space for being introspective and sharing practice.

I really struggled this year getting comfortable in my new role as a Child Development Specialist. It was a learning curve that was especially difficult because I couldn’t tell if I was actually making progress. Now that I have a year under my belt, I feel a lot better about my decision. I still get that uncomfortable feeling when I walk into another teacher’s learning studio, but it’s easier. I especially enjoy videotaping the teachers who I work with while they’re on the job. It is so rewarding to watch as they discover new strengths and weaknesses about their practice. I will hang on to that feeling as I move on from the wonderful opportunity I had to write for Inside Pre-K.

Sometimes, we fall in love with the characters in a story and watch the bookshelves for a sequel. Other times we can’t help but think that the story has ended the way it should. If you would like keep reading about the characters you have met here: the pre-k teacher, the parent, the researcher, the policymaker, and most importantly, the young child, please come visit my blog
EmergentLearner.com. It will be a new story, with many of the same characters you have grown to love.


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