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The Mount Carbon Kindies

The Mount Carbon Kindies
Posted on 12/12/2018
Two students enjoy some partner reading as part of their Mount Carbon Elementary School kindergarten class.Johnny Arnold was getting the morning started in this kindergarten classroom at Mount Carbon Elementary School. It was a gentle start, one this kindergarten teacher says helps his students ease into their day. He calls it their “soft landing.”

“Maybe he had a rough weekend; maybe Grandma left to go back to Kansas or whatever. So, you want to get a hold of that and make their day start off with that happiness. ‘I’m happy that you’re here. I know you’re having a rough day, but boy I’m happy that you’re here,’” said Arnold.

Right next door is Arnold’s teaching partner, Chris Stevens. Together, these two kindergarten instructors have nearly four decades of teaching experience in Jeffco, half of it at Mount Carbon.

“It’s not her kids, my kids, it’s our kids all together. That’s what we’ve strived for over the years,” explained Arnold. “Especially with Chris and I working together for so long. We’ve really grown into almost one teacher, working with them. Her kiddos know me as their teacher, and my kiddos know her as their teacher.”

“It’ very intentional. It’s very strategic,” added Stevens. “We meet daily to check in, make sure that we’re asking some of the same questions, teaching the same concepts, so that when they leave our kindergarten, they’ve left with all of the skills that Jeffco asks, but also some of those social skills that we feel are really important, as well.”

As part of those social skills, they make sure their Mount Carbon kindies have enough time to enjoy each other’s company or share reading discoveries, before moving on to the day’s learning tasks. It’s all done with the purpose of developing what they call a “growth mindset” in the children.

“They’re learning how to do addition and subtraction, but they’re also learning to be consistent with it, and persevere with it,” explained Stevens. “We want them to know that even when something is hard, we keep trying. We have that feeling that we can do it. We work on the strategies for accomplishing those more challenging tasks. We don’t give up.”

The other thing a visitor will notice, and many want to see these two in action, is how they never talk down to the students. The back and forth is always at a high level. There’s also a lot of out-loud or visible thinking.

“When we think out loud when we’re in front of somebody and, ‘Hmm, I wonder what Leonardo’s going to do in the book? I wonder why he’s sad?’ We model that self-talk so they understand that’s something they can do, so they can look at it and answer those questions,” said Arnold.

“They start thinking that way, too. ‘Oh, I heard Miss Stevens say this, oh I think that same way.’ They start adopting that thinking, as well,” added Stevens.

Another key: their ability to read the room.

“If you can feel the energy level up really high, you need to do something to bring it back down to what’s a workable environment for all of us,” explained Stevens. “You do a song on the carpet, or you do a stretch break. If they’re needing to get energized a bit more than you adjust to that and you bring in a song that is silly and goofy.”

“Just like us, if you’re sitting at your cubicle at work, you want to get up, and you want to stretch a little bit. You have a day where you’re like ‘I can’t sit here any longer, I’ve got to move a little bit,’” added Arnold.

These teachers, are students too. They’re always on the hunt for best practices and new ways of helping their students as they watch them learn and develop.

“It’s fun to see how much they grow between day one and day 176,” said Arnold. “All of a sudden those lights turn on. ‘I’ve unlocked the code, I’ve got it, I’ve got it!’”

“What children do in kindergarten is truly amazing every single day,” added Stevens.

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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