A Peek Inside the Classroom: Mr. Maryanski’s Lone Pine Kindergarten Class
String lights and colorful clips hang from the ceiling. One wall is almost completely covered in beautiful hand drawn artwork masterfully created by tiny hands. The room is filled with movable tables, soft stools and wobble and exercise ball chairs. The mood in the room at 9:05 a.m. on a Friday is energized, yet, somehow subdued at the same time; a result of the leadership of the two teachers guiding the class.
“I’m proud of you," "you’re being a good community member," "thank you," "mistakes happen," "good problem-solving!”
These are a few of the phrases students hear several times a day in Mike Maryanski‘s kindergarten class at Lone Pine Elementary. Mr. Maryanski, along with student teacher Max Olsen, leads their classroom community with enthusiasm and a ton of encouragement.
Upon arrival, there are hugs and high-fives before students hang up their coats and backpacks and then complete the “check-in” question, “What will you have for lunch today?” Students choose from four options: hummus and pita, fruit and yogurt, cheesy bosco sticks, or lunch brought from home. Mr. Maryanski jokes, “Are you choosing the frog legs today? How about the squid?” There are giggles and a few questioning looks, followed by a student’s exclamation, “Squid is good!” The first morning activity is student driven as kindergartners have the freedom to choose from a variety of activities that they enjoy such as coloring, working with puzzles, reading, or zooming cars around on the floor.
Once the students are comfortable in their environment, free choice time ends and the students gather around the smartboard to begin the morning lesson. A colorful calendar appears on the board and a student is chosen to use a pointer to help determine the day of the week. In the hands of Mr. Maryanski and Mr. Olson, this standard looking calendar becomes a tool to teach math, language, vocabulary, 2-D and 3-D shape concepts, numbering, problem-solving, time concepts, and reasoning. The seemingly simple exercise of asking about the weather or which day comes next brilliantly transforms the playful students into inquisitive investigators. At the conclusion of this morning meeting, students find their seats and graph their observations.
Students learn more than academic concepts in Mr. Maryanski’s kindergarten classroom. Mr. Maryanski’s methods to encourage his students to take risks and build their confidence ensure each of them has a good day, every day. When asked how he thought the morning mood would be on an unusual Friday, the first day back after two snow/ice days, Mr. Maryanski tilts his head back, thinks for a moment, and says, “complete and utter happiness.“