Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Early Childhood Education is a Sacred and Responsible Undertaking

It is with great appreciation that I had the opportunity to attend the 50th anniversary of the ECEC in Edmonton last week and I thank Clearview School Division’s ECE Coordinator for generously offering each Kindergarten teacher the opportunity to do so.

Thursday evening’s keynote speaker, author Todd Parr, introduced us to a few new projects that he is working on as well as a few beloved favourites. He entertained us with his simple message surrounding being present with little ones and giving back, reminding us of how important our words are. The rest of the evening was made up of little art project workshops and a time to just sit and connect with other teachers.

Friday morning brought us breakfast and more connecting through conversations, followed by the dynamic, engaging, albeit very real, Dr. Jean Clinton, who offered us her present view on early childhood today with yet again, a reminder of connection and relationships being the key. Much of what Dr. Jean spoke to, was about remembering that Kindergarten should be play-based driven. Of course it should.

It has been many years since I worked through the Reggio movement in Education and I am grateful to have studied the 100 Languages of Children. I decided it was important to me, at this point in my career, to revisit the value of documentation specifically tied to pedagogy and so I attended a presentation on just that. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with many teachers who are using online methods to document children’s learning and have begun to use Seesaw®.

Friday evening we gathered as a group of KinderTeachers from our district, and enjoyed a meal together and I feel fortunate to have been gifted this opportunity to just be… together.

The topic of Saturday morning’s keynote address, by Dr. Phil McRae, was packed full of information on growing up in a digital age and what we, as educators, can do to support parents who are being bombarded with “shoulds” and “must haves”. His topic, “The Internet of Me: Connecting in an Age of Hyper-Connectivity”, offered me more hope than I had originally thought.

I ended the conference with 3 Cups of Tea in Community and enjoyed yet another look at how a group of people honour early childhood. This particular session was about ECE in New Zealand.

“The responsibility of community to raise our children well is a sacred one.” Serena Chouinard. So sacred, so responsible that at times it is quite frightening. And yet, just when I question how huge an undertaking it is, someone comes along and reaffirms why I do what I do. On the Monday after the conference a former KinderKid of mine, now in grade 10, joined my current Kindies for a block of time to work through a project. At the end of the day she said to me, “Mrs. Schaffner, I’ve known you, like forever, and we’ve all changed, but you? You’re still the same Kindergarten teacher as always.” Pretty cool eh?

~ Ellyn

Friday, September 16, 2016

What I Want in Kindergarten

When my KinderKids came for their initial school intake, I asked each one, “What do you want Kindergarten to be like?” or “What do you want to learn in Kindergarten?” or “What are your hopes for Kindergarten?”

Here are some thoughts that the KinderKids shared with me:

I want to learn reading and people’s names.

I hope we play outside and in, my favourite place to play is at the kitchen [centre].

I already know about Mt. Everest and Transformers. I’d like to know about lightning.

I like playing at trains and in the workshop. I hope everyone is friendly.

I want Kindergarten to be just like this!

I just want to play with other kids.

I really need to learn about animals because I’m going to be a vet.

I’m a smart girl, here.

I want to learn my ABC’s.

I want to paint and do work.

And so here I sit, creating my year plans making certain that we paint and play, learn about animals, lightning and letters, plan name games and reading activities and remember to act friendly as I work with these amazing 5-year-olds.

~ Ellyn

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The how of teaching comes readily when you know the why. Why do you teach? 

I teach because it is wonderful and joyous and it helps me step into being my most authentic self. 

Like Elizabeth Gilbert, "I believe that we are all repositories of buried treasure." Teaching 5-year olds has always gifted me the opportunity to experience those jewels that sometimes become hidden over time. 

Once again, this year, I have been gifted the opportunity to teach 5-year olds. Yay!

~ Ellyn


Friday, August 26, 2016

What I want for my students this year


This year and inspired by Crawling out of the Classroom, I want my students to know that they belong not only in this room and this school, but that they belong with me as well.

I want my students to feel comfortable demonstrating their wonder and know that this is going to be a rich wonder-filled year.

I want to approach everything with a warm smile and to listen closely to my students, maintaining eye contact.

I want my students to know that they can share their world and their thoughts with each other and with me.

I want my students to know that I have great faith in who they are and that they are here on purpose, as am I.

I want my students to know that they can trust me.

I want my students to know that I believe in the value of play and that play is important work and how they make sense of their world.

And to paraphrase Stuart McLean, I promise to follow a path of peace and walk softly on this earth and to read lots and sing songs and hold hands, and to work with all of the other subjects school has to offer. In order for this to unfold in this manner, I will ensure that our first day of school reflects these wants and evaluate my teaching each day after that.

What do you want for your students this year?

~ Ellyn

Monday, August 22, 2016

Pledge of Allegiance

I love The Vinyl Cafe and the captivating storytelling that is, Stuart McLean. A few years ago, Stuart was inspired to write this pledge while visiting with a young American friend who was soon heading off to school. His pledge struck a chord in me and has meandered through my being for a few years. As the new school year approaches, I decided to post Stuart's Pledge of Allegiance here and am in the process of writing mine. How about you? What do you pledge?



Pledge of Allegiance – Stuart McLean

I pledge my allegiance to truth, under whatever flag it flies, for I know no one holds all truth. And I pledge my allegiance to kindness wherever I see it and understanding whenever it comes. I pledge my allegiance to sharing and hopefulness, and to speaking softly, and to love when I feel it, and to hope when I don’t. I pledge my allegiance to the children of the world. Boys and girls like me who are in this classroom, and who are far from here. Who are rich and who are poor and to all the schools here and not here and to the knowledge in the school libraries, and I pledge to follow the path of knowledge to the best of my abilities because with knowledge comes wisdom and with wisdom comes grace. I also pledge my allegiance to laughter because laughing makes people feel better. Finally I pledge my indivisible allegiance to recess. I pledge to play with a joyful and kind heart and I pledge to use my voice and not to hit because I know how I play is how I will live my life and I want to follow the path of peace and understanding and live softly on this good Earth.

Thank you Stuart.

~ Ellyn

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Teaching is a Cooperative Endeavour

I hold this statement to be very true, right down to my core and I am so grateful that I stumbled in to this noble profession.


I have been teaching 5 & 6 year olds in Kindergarten, since January 6th. I had no idea that at 54 years of age, I would be back teaching these amazing beings. I think that in my 30’s I was a good Kindergarten teacher but in my 50’s, I’m even better. I know what is not important, and have been gifted the opportunity to belong to this little group of people.


Their teacher needed to step into another position for a time and she has trusted me with her class. She has actually encouraged me to make it my own, for the time being. She misses these little people and occasionally shares with me something that she has loved to do with them, with the hope, that I too might love it.  These propositions are never mandated, only suggested. Last week, I started her Box Centre activity. She told me how she was nervous to start the centre, but once she began, immediately noted its value.


Teaching is a cooperative endeavour.


I too was nervous to let the Kindies just go wild with all sorts of small boxes, tape, string, rubber bands, scissors, glue, pens - and just create. There was absolutely no order and the classroom looked like a tornado had hit it, but the creativity that weaved its way through the kiddies allowing them to just create, made my heart soar and my tummy fill up with bubbles. You see, for the most part, “grown-ups tend to create things and then hand them down to children”. (Buffy St. Marie)


The Box Centre, is all kid! And I love it! Thank you Wendy, for sharing this entire experience with me.


Teaching is a cooperative endeavour.


~ Ellyn
Evan and his box creation. He could tell me great details about what this machine was and how it worked.




Thursday, November 26, 2009

On Assessment...

When I was offered the position of Kindergarten teacher, I was also asked to set my two orientation dates so that these dates could be given to the prospective families of four and five year olds. I asked my Board why two orientation days were imposed, with their response being a need to test for readiness. I was astonished and initially, did not react outwardly. I did, however, start to consider what would be the purpose of testing five year olds…

Why does a teacher test?

Teachers test for a variety of reasons, I have come to realize. Sometimes we feel that we are mandated to test and that we are ordered to use certain testing tools, guidelines and/or ways of communicating the results of those tests. At other times, we feel the need to move from one step with a child to the next and we know no other way of conducting this then using a form of testing.

Or do we?

Even though I did not answer my Board immediately, I did make an instant decision, that although I would happily run two days of Kindergarten Orientation, I would not be complying with formal testing. The only kind of assessing I would be conducting would surround prominent learning styles and emotional needs. I would be opening up a place for children to feel welcome, safe, engaged and in control of their own learning and hopefully they would feel as if they belonged not only in that place called Kindergarten but also with me.

…Ellyn

Many interesting changes are occurring with regard to assessment. Be it authentic or otherwise. Thanks to Dean Shareski, the following is a link to Prairie South School Division in Saskatchewan and their current assessment directive - http://www.prairiesouth.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=245&Itemid=335