There is a quote that I have heard throughout the years. “Teach every child the way you would want your own child to be taught.” Now that I have children of my own, this quote takes an even deeper meaning than it ever has before. Some of the most influential mentors in my life are the ones who have taken these words and applied it to their own teaching methods; in turn, guiding me to do the same within my own classroom As an educator, many people have influenced me throughout the years, including administrators, instructional coaches, colleagues, and paraprofessionals. One other mentor who isn’t physically present in my life but is a huge influence in my teaching is Kristine Mraz.
Kristine consults schools around the country while teaching kindergarten in New York Public Schools. She primarily supports teachers in inquiry based learning, play, and early literacy. Mraz recently co-authored a book with another talented educator; Christine Hertz titled Kids 1st From Day 1. This book is a guide that challenges classroom teachers to make our students the center of our classroom. One reader says this in her review, “Kids 1st From Day 1 by Christine Hertz and Kristine Mraz has everything you would expect from these authors – research; classroom application; funny anecdotes; reflective stories; great charts; authentic examples, and practical information. It truly is a hopeful and smart book. A book that melds your teaching heart and teaching mind. A book that puts kids first and honors the role of the teacher. A book you must have … now!” Kristine has also coauthored a best seller titled with Christine, titled A Mindset for Learning which provides strategies to foster optimism, flexibility, persistence, resilience, and empathy alongside traditional academic skills. She has also coauthored books with Marjorie Martinelli such as Smarter Charts and Smarter Charts for Math, Science, and Social Studies. Her book that she wrote with Alison Porceli and Cheryl Tyler titled Purposeful Play is an informative and inspirational resource about Play and has research to support how essential it is for our children. When I read Kristine Mraz’s blog called Kinderconfidential or read her Tweets @Mraz_Kristine, I think, “THIS classroom community is what I desire for my students and my own children.”
After reading Kristine’s resources my colleagues and I have been able to implement Choice Time into our students’ school day. During Choice Time, students have learned how to be caring individuals because they have learned empathy through play. When students play together, it teaches them to negotiate and collaborate. By teaching mini lessons and fostering a positive environment, we have also taught students the importance of having a growth mindset. Perhaps one of best things about allowing more play into the classroom is incorporating the state standards through play in classrooms. This allows students to move around and to meet standards rather than completing worksheet after worksheet.
Kristine has been to Summer Institute in the past and I am excited to have another opportunity to hear her speak again this summer. Those who attend her sessions will leave with practical ideas on how to create joyful classrooms. Kristine will push you to empathize with your students and share the research behind her work. Attendees will find her motivating and personable. Her humorous stories and connections with teachers will also keep you very entertained and you will leave her sessions feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready to start a brand new school year!
Hayley Whitaker is a Kindergarten teacher at Akron Elementary, Tippecanoe Valley Schools.