The City of Austin’s Safe Routes to School Program is leading a planning effort to identify and prioritize walking and biking infrastructure improvements for elementary and middle schools. These investments are made possible by the 2016 Mobility Bond and will improve the routes school children take to walk or cycle to school. With our increased traffic issues in the mornings, non-automotive options for getting our Roadrunners to school are more important than ever. If possible, please walk, bike or arrive to campus before 7:35 am. We are experiencing a rise in tardies due to traffic issues and are always working on ways to prioritize on-time arrival to school, so please assist us in any way you can with these efforts.
Next week is a busy one for everyone at Lee. On Tuesday we will have our monthly Campus Advisory Council meeting and hear about the latest updates on the renovations taking place this summer. That evening, please join us at Julio’s Restaurant for Julio’s Night in support of our Spanish program at Lee. Please remember that Julio’s is cash only.
On Friday I will host this year’s Principal for the Day, Carlos Price. Then on Saturday we will host our seasonal Roadie Work Day from 9:00-12:00. We will be preparing the campus for Lee Olympics, improving our track and field spaces, working on our student gardens and a mural project for our portable under the guidance of Lee parent, Andy Sharp. We hope you will be able to join us as we work together to improve our school campus.
Please mark your calendars for some important upcoming events. Our 2018 Lee Olympics will take place on Friday, April 27th. Then on May 18th we will hold our spring carnival, Noche Latina. Our last day of school and 6th Grade Graduation is on Wednesday, May 30th.
Lastly, our recent Kindergarten Round Up gave us an opportunity to reflect on how lucky we are to have our three phenomenal kindergarten teachers and all they bring to Lee. Clayton Maxwell sat down with Ms. Gonzales, Ms. Stanfield and Ms. Manning for the latest episode of We Are Lee. Read on for the first of three installments we will be sharing over the coming weeks.
At Lee in 1990, the stars aligned to bring together our super trio of Kinder teachers, then in their early twenties. Over the past 28 years, they’ve witnessed many changes, educated their own kids (who now range in age from 17 to 27) at Lee, and seen principals and colleagues (like fellow Kinder teacher Bettie Mann) come and go. They also finish each other’s sentences, as you will see from the interview below when I cornered them in Ms. Stanfield’s classroom the day of Kinder Round-Up. Read on to discover what they’d like us parents to know, how kinder has changed over the years, and the importance of learning to keep going even when a kid projectile vomits in the middle of the Dinosaur Program.
We Are Lee: What’s it like to have been teaching together for 28 years?
Ms. Stanfield: It’s like we watched each other get married, get divorced, have children. I mean, it’s the whole thing.
Ms. Gonzales: We’re like sisters. We really are. We’re like family.
We Are Lee: Y’all were just in your early 20’s.
Ms. Gonzales: Yeah, we were. You look back at pictures, and you think, “Wow. They let them out of school, wow.”
Ms. Gonzales: We fight like sisters, we love like sisters, and we …
Ms. Manning: I don’t think there’s anything we haven’t been through.
We Are Lee: That’s the thing. When you’re 20-ish, starting off, you have no idea what lies ahead…
Ms. Stanfield: Well, we thought we did. We thought we knew everything.
Ms. Stanfield: Well, and things have changed so drastically.
Ms. Gonzales: So much. Kindergarten’s not even the same animal.
We Are Lee: How so?
Ms. Gonzales: Way more rigorous. When I first started teaching, teachers who did worksheets or sight words, or anything like that, well, that was not good teaching. You should be playing with play-doh and painting.
Ms. Gonzales: Now the rigor’s been amped up. The expectations are really different.
We Are Lee: I appreciate all the new teaching strategies you guys have adapted, even since my kids had you. Like morning meeting.
Ms. Stanfield: To me, that is amazing, to get these kids into a place where they can sit and meditate or they can be mindful … that’s exciting to me.
Ms. Gonzales: The thing is, what kindergarten used to be, that’s all it was, social and emotional learning. We didn’t call it that, but it was how to take turns, how to get along with other people, how to resolve conflicts, how to listen when someone’s talking. That’s what kindergarten was, and they did it through play.
Then, when they took all the play away, and they put in all this more advanced curriculum what everybody found was that they didn’t know how to get along, they didn’t know how to wait, they didn’t have enough time to practice those skills.
Now we’ve added this back in, to really focus on those. And they’re calling it Social and Emotional Learning, and that is what it is, but in my opinion, it’s what kindergarten always used to be. It was how to be part of a group, how to make friends, how to resolve conflicts. PTA has funded us to go to some really great training. We just got back from Arlington, where we saw this lady, Dede Wells who we love, and we got to hear her talk about writing with kindergartners, and reading and math, and different things like that.
I think teachers always are lifelong learners. We like to learn, that’s why you go into education. So that part, to me, has been really exciting. Some of the new experts we’ve found … Yeah, we’ve been doing this a long time, but you never know it all. There’s always something new, or a new way to try to reach a kid that you didn’t know before, because they certainly are all different. It’s hard to squeeze it all in, but we manage.
Ms. Manning: But that’s when I think you make the choices of what is developmentally appropriate. And we are really fortunate, because John allows us to make those choices and those decisions. Whereas in years past, we really weren’t given that choice. He says, “You know you’re the expert. You know what a five-year-old is like. You understand what it is they need to know and how to get them there, and I trust you to do it.”
A couple of years ago, we said, “Look, if we’re going to be doing all this rigorous curriculum, then we get to have two recesses all year.” They need two play times. And actually, they’re significantly easier to teach if they’ve had two play times.
So, John says, “Of course, that’s awesome. Do everything outside.” He loves to be outside. That’s where he wants to be. So we’re really lucky. In some schools, even here in Austin, that is not the way.
Ms. Manning: We definitely feel respected, that we are the experts in our classroom, and those kind of judgment decisions, he leaves to us. That’s something we really appreciate.
Ms. Stanfield: And even individually, within each class. My class needs something completely different than her class does, than her class does.
Ms. Gonzales: That’s why we have to all be together because we are-
Ms. Gonzales: Like we’re married people. We finish sentences and stuff.
We Are Lee: Oh, and you could never leave each other now.
Ms. Gonzales: When we go, we will all go together.
Ms. Stanfield: We have people that are asking us, “So, when are y’all going to retire?” Other teachers, “When are y’all going to retire?”
Ms. Manning: I think they want our jobs. They’re just looking over our shoulders, like, “You guys are getting old. Are y’all ready to get out?”
Ms. Gonzales: Or somebody with a younger sibling will be like, “Okay, they’ll be here in two years, will you still be here?”
Ms. Stanfield: Like somebody with a baby, “Are you?” “I can give you five years.” “Okay, thank you!”
Next week we will share the next installment of our We Are Lee conversation with our Kindergarten Team. Thank you again to Clayton for her work on this series.
Have a wonderful weekend,
Russell Lee Elementary School