Welcome to the jungle

I knew it was coming, but a surprise principal observation still sends extra charges to my heart and sets off the saliva in my mouth. This afternoon, my students began their wood and paper sculptures as a culminating construction project at the end of a science unit.  I hauled in five boxes of wood scraps I have been collecting throughout the last year (which my honey will be happy to finally see gone from our shed and garage!). Students only had glue and wood so I explained that they will likely have some problems to resolve when we return again to test them out after a few days of drying.

The buzz of invention set in as students tried balancing 2x1s vertically and horizontally on top of each other.  Glue was being applied prudently, without major messes. As students began changing their designs or going back for more wood, the hum grew and the space was filled with the zig zag of bodies and pointy pieces of wood.  Then the principal showed up with her smile and her laptop.  I said, “Welcome to controlled chaos! We are building sculptures today.”

I immediately thought of the list she sent out on Monday of “things I expect to see when I come into your classrooms.” The language objective!  Ugh.  I have been getting better about writing them on the board along with my learning target, but today there was no evidence of it.  The part that we did do had already happened before she arrived. She talked to students and then sat down to write her observations.

I watched the clock as we ticked closer to the end of the period before we would have to clean up and get to gym. I knew that transferring the delicately unstable designs to a table to dry would be dramatic and full of collapsed houses, skate parks and castles.  I warned kids they may need to reconstruct them slightly in their new spot.  Right in front of the principal, I picked up a larger piece and it fell all over the floor.  One student shouted, “That’s your fault, teacher!”  It was kind of hilarious that he felt the need to say that, and we all laughed it off.  Another student reprimanded him, saying he wasn’t being very nice to the teacher, which I told him I appreciated ;). Then another student jumped off of a chair. I asked students to wash down the tables with sponges, and they thought it was exciting to wash the (already clean) chairs, too. I gave up on getting all the sculptures moved at that point, and hustled them all into line. When it was time to be in the hallway walking to gym, another student started yelling over by the sink.  He had gotten his foot stuck in the IKEA stepstool we use and was stomping it around the room like a clown shoe.

At that point, I just relaxed.  I think she already knows what Kindergarten classrooms are like.  It’s whether they’re learning that counts, and they were definitely engaged in their projects today. I repeat my mantra to myself: I am a student of life and give myself permission to keep learning.  Now for tackling our “problem solving” on Monday!



6 thoughts on “Welcome to the jungle

  1. What a vivid description of your classroom! I feel like I’m in your room with your, trying to balance sculptures and get everything cleaned up. I love the image of your student stomping around with the step stool like a clown shoe! You’re absolutely right, learning and engagement are what matters.


  2. I had no idea until the end that this was happening in a kindergarten classroom! I got a kick out of the scene you developed, and (gulp!), I know that feeing when those drop-ins occur. The part when your student got his foot caught in the stool was hilarious! My favorite phrases: “The buzz of invention set in…” and “was stomping it around the room like a clown shoe.” Thanks for sharing!


  3. I love that only revealed at the end that this was a kindergarten classroom. I was totally picturing middle school for some reason!
    Unannounced admin visits always give your heart a little zing, but I’m sure she saw the hard work and effort that you put into this wonderful activity for your students!


  4. Oh! What a perfect description of that feeling you get when an administrator arrives, even when you know you are a model teacher! I agree with Shawnda…I feel like I’m right there in your class thanks to your descriptions.


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