Fly Away Ceremony & The Story of Old Oak Tree

 

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When June comes around and with it the last day of school, my kindergarten class celebrates with a Fly Away Ceremony. I didn’t make this ceremony up. It was shared with me by a former colleague who went on to take a first grade class at a Waldorf School in Colorado. She shared the general outline and the song they used. I have since used it every year in my position at Sparrow Program.

We have the two kindergarten classes sit on sheets “nests” in the grass, each with their own teacher and assistant teacher. The parents sit in a big circle beginning and ending on either side of the two classes. In the middle is a lovely wooden bridge made by a parent a few years ago, and decorated with lovely flowers. At the other end of the bridge is a sheet awaiting the new first grade class. Sometimes we have the new teacher greet them, but if they are unable to attend, our administrator greets them.

IMG_4507We sing:
“What do little birdies say,
When they wake at break of day?
Mother, may I fly away
Father, may I fly away?
(2X)
___________ won’t wait any longer,
For (her) his wings have grown much stronger.
(S)he will leave (her) his nest today.
Spread your wings and fly away.”
(Repeat for each child going to 1st)

We give them a feather necklace symbolizing their wings. The administrator or new teacher takes them on a tour through their old kindergarten PlayGarden to see the first grade classroom.

We still have all of the Transitional Kindergarten children in our “nests” and so
we sing:
“You may stay a little longer,
‘Til your wings have grown much stronger.
In the Hummingbird nest you’ll stay.IMG_4579
In the Fairy-wren nest you’ll stay.”
(Say to the whole group still in the nest until all children have been acknowledged.)
*Our classrooms all have bird names, so Hummingbird and Fairy-Wren are our kindergarten classes.

We give each child a necklace with a nest with little felted eggs in it. This symbolizes their staying in the nest. It is so sweet when I see my Kindergarteners wear their nest to school at the end of their second year, right before they get their feather necklace. They’ve waited patiently and their excitement at “earning their wings” is palpable.

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Then we have the whole community circle up and we appreciate the ending of one leg of their (the parents) journey and the approaching next leg. We end the whole ceremony by gathering around a potluck feast and take time just enjoying everyone’s company. Our administrator, or the new
teacher, brings the new first grade class back to join us.

 



 

So, this year, I lay in bed and asked for just the right story to come to me to share with my class on our last day together. This is what came to me, and my students were so quiet and so sweet with big eyes and wide smiles as I told it.

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(Painting by Sue Burdick, my mom…if only the quality was better, the details are exquisite.)

Old Oak Tree
A story to use before a Fly Away Ceremony
By Helga Roe Conklin

Once there was, and still there is, a grand Old Oak Tree residing on the top of a grassy hill. She looked out over the valley covered in pine trees and younger oak trees, with a little creek winding its way through the bottom of the valley. Old Oak Tree loved her hill and her view. She spent her time enjoying the passing of the seasons. Basking in the radiating heat of the summer sun, seeing the grass turn a golden brown. Feeling the autumn winds come blowing in, pulling and pushing her brown leaves to the ground, carpeting her roots below. Waking up in winter to the frost covered grass, grateful the blanket of leaves kept her roots warm. Then spring would arrive, announced by the first yellow flowers peaking out between shoots of baby green grass.

Old Oak Tree thrilled in keeping an eye on her visitors, too as the seasons turned. Young Fawn would wander into her shade in the summer heat, napping in the comfort of her larger roots, safe under the canopy of her widespread branches. Frisky Squirrel would leap and twirl along her branches, chattering away as he collected acorns, stashing them in his cozy underg20160609_104056-1round burrow at her feet. How she laughed, shaking her branches gently, as his delicate feet tickled her bark. Then winter would bring few visitors, most sleeping in mounds of fur and feather, keeping warm and dry until spring arrived. One visitor in particular would come in early winter, scratching his thick bear hide against her rough bark coat before lumbering off to find his own safe space to sleep. Before she knew it, spring would come around again. Velvet furred bunnies would nibble new green shoots of grass, ears twitching, listening for the whoosh of hawk’s hunting wings. Old Oak Tree always called the bunnies to take cover under her branches.
Then the baby birds would arrive. Mother and Father bird had spent many long hours building just the right nest in Old Oak Tree’s branches, preparing for the arrival of their babies. Old Oak Tree loved to hear the tiny chirps of the newborns asking for food. Before she knew it, again the seasons had turned, summer was approaching once more, and the sounds of laughter from summer fun could be heard coming over the horizon. The birds that had grown ready would spread their wings and fly away and Old Oak Tree was sad for a moment. But only a moment, for she was so very proud of the baby birds growing big and strong, heading off on their own life’s adventure. There were always the little birds that needed more time, requiring more care, and so would stay in their nest a little longer. The seasons went on turning, Old Oak Tree’s visitors would come and go, and she was happy.

“If nothing has changed, it’s still the same.”

(I’m not actually telling the story at the ceremony like this picture seems to imply,

but I suppose a teacher could if they wanted to.)

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Respecting Children is how we are a Kinder Classroom

The title of my blog is a play on words. We are indeed a Kinder Classroom, as in Kindergarten. However, we are also a Kinder Classroom, as in being Kind to each other. In my classroom, and in my school, we utilize the teachings of Jane Nelson in her book Positive Discipline. In Positive Discipline, we learn how to speak to the children respectfully and teach the children to also talk to each other respectfully. By doing so, we are able to work on the true issues at hand verses creating new issues such as hurt feelings for feeling misunderstood. For instance, if a child is crying, we might say (without Positive Discipline) “Stop crying! You are disrupting our classroom!”  With Positive Discipline, we first reflect to the child “You are really sad.” Most children will respond with “Yes, I am.” Then they are better able to listen to our helping to problem solve their situation because they have been heard. This is my favorite suggested strategy “Connection before Correction.” It works!  This summer, my ECE team will be preparing for a Fall book study with the parents in our classroom using the book Positive Discipline in for Preschoolers. Since strategies with children under 7 need to be different than for children in the grades, we want to be sure parents know which strategies to use with their youngest children.

In case you would like to learn more, here are a few links:

http://www.positivediscipline.org

http://store.positivediscipline.com/positive-discipline-for-preschoolers.html Positive Discipline for Preschoolers

I will be attending the upcoming conference in San Diego. 🙂

http://positivediscipline.org/San-Diego-Conference

Clearing my Credential in a Waldorf Kindergarten

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My name is Helga Conklin and I teach Kindergarten in a public charter school utilizing Waldorf methods. I am just finishing up clearing my credential.

The experience of clearing my credential has been a good one. I was concerned about the extra workload on top of being a full time teacher, so I initially put it off for 2 years. However, once I dove in, it wasn’t that bad. I was also worried about how I was going to cover the induction assignments in my Waldorf methods kindergarten program. Luckily, I have been able to incorporate my required assignments for induction into my regular Waldorf methods classroom assignments and activities, so it has enhanced rather than hindered my teaching. No overload of work, and the methods proved compatible.

Through the induction program, I’ve grown the most in Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Experiences (CTSP 4) and in Developing as a Professional Educator (CTSP 6). This is probably because I am trying to work within the confines of two styles of teaching that I used to believe were very different, mainstream education and Waldorf education. I am happy to say that I was primarily wrong, because within both educational models there are some core similarities. Since I had to find the similarities in planning my lessons, I am now much more aware of them and feel better equipped to design learning opportunities that are true to both models. Also, in seeing and utilizing the similarities, I am growing professionally.

For instance, story telling is deemed highly important in both educational models, as is memorizing and retelling a story. I realized that in my classroom, I have plenty of time for working with individuals and small groups of children in having them retell the stories they hear me tell. In my classroom, we eat snack and lunch together at a table. I sit with half of my class and my assistant sits at the other table with the other half. I now use this time together to have small group discussions about our stories. Mostly it is me prompting them with a reminder about the story, and they launch into discussing the story. I listen and make notes later.

One example of a student success in my classroom due to my realizing I have ample time, if used wisely, to have small group discussions, is that I’ve seen a particular child who struggles with following and remembering the stories begin to learn them quicker. She now listens to others discussing the stories at mealtimes, and I believe this helps her learn them better. Also, due to these discussions, her friends have started bringing the stories into their play more, both in dramatic play and in using toys to give puppet shows telling the stories. She is included in these play experiences and I have seen an increase in her ability to learn the stories.

100_2210Retelling Little Red Riding Hood as a puppet show with children’s toys.

I’d like to continue to exploring the compatibility of mainstream education and Waldorf education through various programs. I would like to finish the Waldorf training for grades (I am currently focusing on the Early Childhood program.)  Also, I hope to get my MA in Ed in Reading from SDSU. There are also classes I can take specifically focusing on Waldorf methods in public school settings. Continuing to pursue both avenues will keep me aware of the many diverse ways I can teach my students.

Welcome!

100_2158Hi! I am Ms. Helga and I teach Kindergarten in a public Charter School utilizing Waldorf Methods. This is my journey of learning to combine the Common Core standards with the Waldorf Methods of teaching, as well as utilizing the suggestions of Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson. The most underlying goal in my kindergarten classroom is to simply be a kinder classroom in which children spend their days while learning as they play, as well as a place parents feel welcome to participate in their children’s journey through their education.