be that teacher

What IF... children could DO what they wanted with whatever materials they chose?
What IF...children could THINK of an idea then try it out with whatever materials they chose?
What IF... children could INVENT anything they wanted with whatever materials they chose?

Mix mix mix all the colors on the palette...creating just the color she wants, needs, wants, needs.

What IF...teachers loved teaching BECAUSE the children invented and thought and created in their own ways? 
What IF?
Make it happen.
Be that teacher.
The joy is endless. The joy is endless. The joy is endless.

Bugs, bears, GEO boards upside-down, dominoes, 1-10 blocks, pattern rods designed exactly just so by 2 children.
KAPLA wood blocks in star shapes 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and working on #9...
Bears, red and yellow counters, rods, and geometric shaped pieces to work together to cover this flannel board!
Using a ruler and black pen to make lines over a large water colored art piece.
Magna tiles, cardboard tunnels, cube blocks, cones and one traffic orange-white striped cone on top!

THINK ABOUT the amazing creations that would not have been created if children needed (needed?) to do things like adults expect traditionally?
   What kind of learning environment is that?
   What kind of day is that for the child AND the teacher?

I have always wanted to have a joyful, surprising, wonderful day at school...just like children want.
Be that teacher. 
Make it happen for the children and for yourself.

This block structure is NO ACCIDENT - different sized rectangles and slanted ramp blocks to exactly create this.
Magnet balls inside of shells lined up in a lovely curvy line with one closed at the end.
Hat created with tape and specially cut papers, then curved and attached just so, with bits flaring out the side.
Using their marble ramp design skills to use variety of recycled wood balls to roll simultaneously.

"There is a big difference between
having many choices
and making a choice." 

  • sense of self as meaning maker
  • creativity
  • small motor
  • hand-eye coordination
  • opinions and knowledge about colors, sizes, quantities (qualities & attributes)
  • design ideas
  • self help skills
  • problem solving
  • determining what I do need or want vs. what I don't need or want
  • surprise and joy in the exploration


  1. Brilliant - just what I need at the end of the school year to keep me going!

  2. Jeanne, this post is all kinds of wonderful! You are obviously THAT teacher.

  3. Agree! Every child deserves THAT teacher. :)

  4. Love, love , LOVE it Jeanne .... Now THAT is irresistible! I agree with Scott and Jenny, every child deserves THAT teacher and you are IT!
    Donna :) :)

  5. And this is why I love creativity and self expression from a young age! Give them the tools and materials, and let THEM work their own magic! Thanks Jeanne xx

  6. Such is the joy of empowering children to negotiate their own curriculum, Their ideas are valued, listened to and supported. They have free access to sharing their thinking, are provided with assistence when necesaary to help them achieve their goal but the key to the success of this kind of teaching is giving the children the creative control. They lead and we follow helping them to scaffold their ideas.

  7. Thank you to Kierna, Jenny, Scott, Sherry & Donna, Jaz and Playing in Prep! I appreciate your comments and support - clearly you each are THAT teacher :)

  8. There is just too much fabulousity in this post for words!

  9. @Christie - you are too funny :) I appreciate the invention of a new word just for me - FABULOUSITY. It has an excellent ring to it!

  10. Agreed!! There is such value in this type of learning - no behavioural issues in this classroom I'm guessing.
    And some fantastic photos too!

  11. @youclevermonkey - Thanks for your comments. I agree with you, when children are self directed and interested in their own work, the "behavior" matches their intention. As well, though, usually teachers who are open to children being meaning makers also RELY on children not sitting still, making noises and having opinions :)

  12. Beautiful post and SO needed! I miss those scenes from my classroom so much and didn't realise it until I read this! Just the wonderful little oddities they out together, the amazing sculptural creations that would be built over the course of a week or more, the fascinating approach to materials that was always the opposite of what was intended! Perfect. Your kids are lucky to have you teaching them x

  13. I would have loved to have heard the chatter as each of these was constructed. Congratulations on being "THAT teacher" --- and thanks for reminding the rest of us to be mindful of the ways we direct children with materials (or not). What wonderful learning experiences are going on here! :)

  14. @anna and ayn - Thank you for the comments :) Yes, the directive from adults could never be as creative, expressive or deliberate as done by a child in their free exploration. The process and focus of childrens work often takes my breath away.

  15. @Jen, Meg and Prepare to Play: Thanks for reading! You each surely are THAT teacher :)

  16. Agreed! Just brilliant, and those pictures are really outstanding. The first one from the top, mixing paints is just so cool!

  17. This is beautiful, no wonder it's your favorite post of 2011. I will strive to be that homeschooler ;) Thanks for the inspiration. Your belief in children's potential is helping our world be a better place.

  18. Love this! I wish more teachers and caregivers thought like this. I also love the end where you listed essential skills the children are learning as you allow them the space to do this. I think that is where many teachers struggle and why parents tend say things like "but they're just playing." We need to find ways to articulate all that is happening when they "just play."

  19. @Alissa and @Shelley - thanks for your support and comments :) Happy New Year!

  20. The joy is endless. I love it!

    I'm not a teacher, just a mum, but that's the way materials are used at our place! Mostly, I think it's great. Sometimes I get irritated that there's play-dough plugging up the holes in my colander again or that I've found another row of sticky tape rolls dangling like bells from the kitchen table, or that another roll of toilet paper has been used to make an Antarctic landscape! But this post has given me fresh appreciation of the work and intention behind the chaos.

  21. @Sarah - So lovely and funny :) Experiments and materials always have the clean up or organization side, yet the surprise and freedom to explore is always worth more than the potential "mess". cheers.

  22. Thank you for always inspiring me Ms. Jeanne! -MM

    1. Ahhh, thanks my dear friend MM :) Can't wait to work with YOU again because you have always had that 'be that teacher' quality since the first day you stepped in the classroom. You are magical.

  23. Interesting that I saw this today. My 3.5 year old just started part time preschool this year. His teacher mentioned concerns to me around how he doesn’t follow directions well with step by step coloring worksheets, chose to color a picture black instead of using multiple colors (he makes art at home nearly every day and has made tons of colorful pictures), etc. This was frustrating to me. Starting to worry about my instinct that the teaching methods are too structured. He mentioned the teacher correcting him during projects at school. Thanks for sharing this...


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