Early Childhood Ed: Tykes, Testing, and (Future) Teachers

This post was first published in 2011.  At the time, I was a member of our district’s CTE Instructional Support team.  Since then, I returned to my own academic classroom, where I’ve spent the past three+ years.  Now, with a wish to return to CTE, I’m sharing an answer to the question I get from fellow academic teachers in my current high school:  What’s Career and Technical Education?  Isn’t that for at-risk kids?  My answer:  No way!  It’s definitely not your father’s shop class anymore.  🙂

-> -> -> ->   Remix debut:   November 2014


Rigor + Relevance + Relationships

 What do you get when all three are in balance?

Join me for a tour of a colorful, productive, high-energy, Career and Technical high school class ……..


Imagine taking a basic beige high school classroom and turning it into rainbow sherbetcolored walls, miniature chairs and desks, building blocks, comfy carpets, picture books galore, lunchboxes, blankets, pillows and the occasional puzzle.  Throw in tossed-about shoes that fit the tiniest of feet and cool craft supplies kept neatly on the tots’ little table.   Add toddlers with unending  energy, teenagers with lots of patience and creativity, and a teacher whose passion is evident in the gazillion details she lovingly addresses in her Early Childhood Education classroom.

During my time as a CTE Instructional Support Teacher, I’ve gotten to  visit CTE classrooms, talk with students, and experience all the amazing  things happening in Career and Technical Education programs in our district.  It’s definitely one of the best parts of my job, and on the days that I can escape the minutiae of paperwork, reports, and meetings ~ otherwise known as ‘a day in the office’ ~ I happily steer my car toward a school and spend a few hours visiting students and their teachers.

I recently enjoyed such a day.

Early Childhood Education teacher, Jennifer Houston,  invited me to visit her classroom to see her students in action and learn about all the things happening in their very busy world.  (Actually, she’s been inviting me for months; I was finally able to steal away for a few hours!)

Let’s take a peek …..

Colorful walls transform a high school classroom into an exciting learning environment for wee ones.

Tile walls suggested by Mr. Houston (Yes, Mrs. Teacher’s Hubs).  With the help of said husband and a few generous parent volunteers, Jennifer turned her basic beige wall into a work of art, carefully designed, and decorated with wonderful learning tools for the wee ones.  Can you say O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-E-D???


Little tykes in all shapes and sizes… definitely not shy.  Sweet. Curious.  Energetic. Very smart!  Los of fun, showing me around their classroom, asking if I was a student or a guest.

 Cubbies for personal belongings and daily reports, written by the high school students who work with the children.






High school students complete  program  requirements to be a licensed childcare employee or  credentialed teacher: multiple competencies,  a professional portfolio,  many hours working directly with children, and a myriad of tests, to name a few.

Students (and children) in Jennifer’s class use the latest technologies to enhance their learning, including laptops, funded by a grant, and an interactive whiteboard, a tool often underutilized by many educators.    In this class, the interactive whiteboard really is interactive as teacher and students use it during lectures and projects.

A simple purple line divides the high school classroom setting from the childcare lab school side ….  students who aren’t ready yet to work directly with the children are able to observe them from their side of the classroom.  It seems the wee ones will ‘visit’ the high school students and ‘help them’ with their learning, too.  🙂  Fantastic!  Would we call this ‘intergenerational’ learning??


To  prepare  to work with the children,  high school students must pass rigorous testing  first.  Jennifer reminds them daily with an easy-to-read board loaded with up-to-date, Need to Know information.  No guessing here!


When students  finish their assignments,  they can read a few pointers from former students…..

In a school year (2010 – 11) when CTE programs are being cut due to industry certification issues, and budget deficits are resulting in  massive teacher cuts, public protests, and union rebuttals,  I invite politicians,  administrators, parents, and community members to visit classrooms that reflect the roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic that prepares students to  enter the workforce with skills and credentials needed to be  successful, contributing members of society.

  Not all classrooms are alike and neither are the teachers who inhabit them.  

Some just seem to radiate success a little more than others, shining a little brighter, and often are a bit (lot!) noisier than those of colleagues, as the din of educational energy escapes under the door.  These classrooms have teachers who set high standards, and students who take pride in owning their learning.  These classrooms remind me of  colleagues who became friends over the years…. (you know who you are!).  Gems  indeed, and always worth the extra effort to seek out, visit, and learn something new.

 Jennifer Houston’s Early Childhood Education class is definitely one of those gems.  

Mrs. Houston, with one of her wee ones.
 Thank you Jennifer, for your classroom hospitality, and for *ALL* you do!


Classroom 411: An Interactive Training Session Leads to New Ideas

Recently, a dedicated group of twenty educators and industry experts from Valencia Community College, Orange County Public Schools (Career and Technical Education), and Osceola County Public Schools (Career & Technical Education) met on a Saturday to participate in a lively staff development training session that explored ways to build “classroom community” regardless of the environment: live, online, or hybrid, and more importantly, why to do so.

With coffee in hand and preworkshop self-assessments completed, participants arrived for the four-hour session that promised discussion, interaction, and exploring ways to learn about themselves and their students ~ all in an effort to build nurturing, successful, effective learning experiences.


Though seasoned in their industry experience, and for most, in their scholarly experience as well, we all agreed that the demographics of our classrooms, whether in person or online, are changing rapidly, and in order to accommodate those changes, we need to better understand who our students are as learners as well as who we are as instructors (and learners) ~ how core personality characteristics, preferred learning styles, and cultural/generational elements affect learning (and teaching).

Through the True Colors and Generational Profiles models, we also discussed how these characteristics affect our relationships with family, friends, and coworkers.  Awareness and understanding of the influences lead to more effective communication at home and in our offices and schools.

Purposeful  thinking and engaged discussion  assisted  participants  in developing  a clearer understanding of  how  innate personality traits, brain-based  learning styles, and generational influences affect the learning environment, which led to  action plans that included tools for getting to know our students better, supporting them in getting to know themselves and each other better, and ways to tweak the learning experience to increase student (and instructor) success.

 A big “thanks” to everyone for their active and enthusiastic participation!  I enjoyed your insight, creativity, and professional dedication on an early Saturday morning.