There have been some difficult moments for me in the last year, as there have been for many teachers. The increased focus on academics and performance at the kindergarten level can make you forget why you became a teacher. The regulations, standards, assessments, and push for children to learn at our pace rather than their own have made me question my place in the classroom and where I see myself in ten years.
Then, there are those moments that bring you back. Mostly, its' when a child is having a great day and you feel you have been a part of that experience. For me, the moments that bring about those feelings of success are often based in inquiry and project based learning. The combination of allowing children to manage their own learning, drive the lessons, and be enthusiastic about learning something new help me remember why I chose to become a teacher. Thank goodness for these moments!
One project in particular was a recent project based learning experience. The children created their own stores in our classroom. The learning goal was to give the children an introduction to money (along with several other small goals). The learners created a proposal as to what kind of store they would like to open, created products to sell (we used paper), filmed a commercial, researched the different coins and practiced using them, priced their items and then opened up for business. The children were so enthused, they kept the stores open for a longer period of time than I planned. There were sales when shopping was slow, an increase in inventory when things were flying off the shelves, and even a small monopoly taking place when children wanted to band together and corner the market. The learning taking place was authentic, meaningful, and just plain old fun!
A second project we have worked on recently was animal inquiry projects. The children have been researching various animals and driving the activities and lessons. I prepared several resources from websites, checked out books from our library, and downloaded new iPad applications. The children chose animals, wrote down their inquiry questions, and started researching. The lessons that developed were created by the students and thus meaningful. This is what made them successful. All the while, we integrated our kindergarten reading and math skills to help us be better researchers and find answers to our questions. The children blogged their responses, shared them with families, and wrote books and poems. The enthusiasm from a kindergartener that feels success from finding an answer to their question is a wonderful thing to see.
So, I will continue to drive the inquiry and PBL projects. Partly for the sake of my students who now have a love of learning. Secondly, for myself. I sometimes need a reminder of why I become an educator.