Today is the day. Today is the day I gain the courage to write another blog. For some reason I have been finding reasons not to write. Well, I was preoccupied with a full time job for the past year. From October until June I worked as a preschool teacher at a private school in Danville. It was a very exciting job. I worked alongside 2 other very talented and patient women who taught me how to take care of twenty-two 2-3 year olds five days a week. Some of them stayed all day from 7AM until 6PM and others only came half days from 8-12noon.
I taught music by singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “The Wheels on the Bus” to keep them entertained. We read books about outer space, transportation, Cat in The Hat books, books about summer vacations, books about a new baby brother or sister, and several others depending on the theme of the month.
I was challenged to come up with art ideas that looked cute on the wall for the parents to see and that also taught the kids how to paint, color, glue things, matching work sheets, and others. This was the hardest part of my job coming up with various ways to help the children learn art. I would search Pinterest for cute project ideas and spend hours preparing lessons. The trick was to get all 22 kids to do the project and we only had between 15 to 20 minutes to finish it. Try to get a 2 ½ year old interested in leaving the train table to sit and color something. Some could barely hold a crayon and a few of them would refuse and start to cry if we made them.
I loved watching these kids interact with their friends. There was always one or two that would interfere with circle time by yelling out something, laughing out loud, laying down, or taking off their shoes. These were usually boys and we had to sit them at a different table until they were ready to participate with the group. Two of them would work together to giggle across from one another (we could never allow them to sit together. That equaled TROUBLE). And during nap time these two boys couldn’t wait to wake up and make noises at each other so the others would wake up. It was constant chaos. They would try my patience day after day and yet they were only little guys so you couldn’t blame them. It was their job to make our lives miserable.
I would catch myself laughing out loud because it was hilarious trying to keep the class under control. Each student had their own personality. Some were extra smart and questions came easily to them. Others were delayed in their language and couldn’t speak. Some kids had strong accents and you could barely understand what they were saying. One girl would cry every morning when her mom dropped her off. And she didn’t just cry softly, she screamed. For 30 minutes! There was nothing anyone could do to keep her from screaming. She would stand at the window with her blankey and special stuffed animal and scream for her mom. It was horrible for everyone. It wasn’t until circle time would start when she would finally begin to settle in. But of course, she HAD to sit on the rainbow carpet square. You see each carpet square had a letter and a picture of something that began with that letter. Well this girl only liked that particular R rainbow carpet square and if she didn’t sit on it first and some other kid got it, she would start screaming again. And if I made another kid get off that rainbow so the girl would stop screaming, the other teachers would scold me and tell me she had to learn. She wasn’t allowed to get her way all the time. Oh boy, did that tork me in a big way. So what? Let the poor girl have the rainbow carpet. Big deal? It wasn’t easy to get along with how the other teachers wanted to run their classroom, but we did. We had to in order to keep the peace in front of the kids.
After circle time came snack time. We had things for them like apple juice, orange juice, milk or water to drink. We provided popcorn, graham crackers, French Toast sticks, Chex Mix, Cheerios, and other snack items like string cheese and yogurt. The kids were also offered orange slices, apple slices, bananas, apple sauce, canned peaches and canned pineapple. It was hard for some to stay in their chairs. One set of twins had to have their own gluten free snacks brought in, not because of a food allergy, but because the parents preferred it. These two didn’t sit for long and would run into the play room to play. We had to guide them back into their seats only to have to chase them around the tables after they got up again. One boy with special needs was never interested in eating snack. He would pour his juice or milk onto the table and then want more. The only time he was interested in food was when I brought in soup one day. I showed the kids how to make “Stone Soup” at circle time giving them opportunities to show their friends what celery, or what a carrot was. This boy sat at the table for over 30 minutes and ate the soup with a spoon. I was amazed, told his mother and she was happy about it.
After snack time, the kids lined up to go outside. Just getting these kids lined up was a chore in itself. The two trouble makers would climb into the playhouse, or onto a stack of chairs, or pull on the blinds. Others would push and shove or try to sneak out the door. We were only allowed to watch 12 children at a time by ourselves. One of us would be cleaning up snack and the other would be changing diapers and taking the kids to the bathroom. It was a hard to manage these youngsters and keep them safe. They couldn’t climb onto the changing table unless we were right there to catch them if they fell. We had to make sure they didn’t try to escape out the front door where they could easily run into the street parking lot. Many times I chased kids up the stairs into the library area because that was their favorite place to run away to. They would run up there during clean up time so they didn’t have to put away their toys.
I loved taking the kids outside. They wanted to ride their tricycles and police cars and fire engines. They wanted to climb the play structure and slip down the slide. The girls would hold hands with each other and play make believe with the toy dolls. Some would watch out the gate for their mommies and daddies and be sad. I was on a constant look out for keeping them safe from each other. Many would not watch where they were riding and almost hurt someone else. They would run at full speed not minding that there was a pole up ahead or a wall they could run into. Of course the mud puddles and wet grass were their favorite, but the parents never wanted them wet. One boy would love to play with chalk on the pavement, but would be covered with it by the end of the play period. He ruined his clothes by putting holes in the knees of his pants and tearing at them more when there was any site of a rip.
I remember having to help the kids pull up their pants after potty time cause the pants were one size too small. Many couldn’t button or snap either and would ask for help getting dressed. While outside we would search for lady bugs, or roly poly bugs, or airplanes flying high in the sky. We sang and danced “Mr Clown, Mr Clown, Who’s the funniest clown in town?” We had Easter egg hunts and collected the plastic eggs with paper bags that they personally decorated during art.
One of my students and his Mom
I could go on for days about my experiences teaching at Tassajara Learning Center, but I must get on with my day. It’s Halloween after all and I must prepare for the trick or treaters and get the dessert ready for our Octoberfest party tonight. I making a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting to bring and share. The recipe is originally used to make carrot cake, but substituting pumpkin works well too.
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2 C granulated Sugar
1 Cup Canola Oil
2 ½ C fresh and roasted (Place huge chunks of cut pumpkin skin side up onto a sheet pan lined w parchment or foil and bake for @ 1 hour at 400 degrees and cool) or canned pumpkin
2 ½ C All Purpose Flour
2 t Baking Powder
1 t Cinnamon
1 t Ginger
½ t Cloves
2 t Baking Soda
½ t Maldon Salt
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz pkg room temp cream cheese
1 stick or ½ C room temp butter
2 C. Confectioners Sugar
1 t Vanilla
Blend cream cheese and butter in a mixer on med high until combined. Add sugar while mixer is on low until combined. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix in.
Combine oil and sugar in mixer until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed for @ 5 minutes.
Sift together flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt. If salt doesn’t fit through sifter, add to dry ingredients.
Alternately starting with the 1/3 flour mixture, add to oil, sugar and egg mixture, then adding 1/3 pureed pumpkin, then 1/3 more flour, and repeating with flour until mixture is combined.
Pour into a greased and floured bunt pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for @ 45-55 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.
Remove cake from pan onto a platter. When cool, frost with cream cheese frosting. Slice and serve. Serves @10.
My youngest son Andrew cane to Grace Cathedral
And in case you want to bake a pie. Try this one.
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