Soft Start

I log into zoom (at least) five minutes early, and there is always (at least) one kindergartner waiting at the virtual door. “Ms. Ellerman, can I tell you something?” or “Ms. Ellerman, I want to show you something.” They are poised for storytelling. As more kids pop in, they juggle for air time—with me and with each other. At this point they’re comfortable calling out to each other, sharing and checking in. 

Sometimes the cross talk becomes too much. “If you can hear my voice, touch your nose. . . If you can hear my voice, wiggle your ears. . .” We remind each other to take turns, to listen to each other. 

This head start on our day—head start on each lesson, really, because it happens each time we log in—this time matters. 

This is when we find out who has a wiggly tooth, who built the International Space Station out of Legos, and who is so excited for her birthday (in a month and a half) that she can’t sit still. Those first five minutes (that almost always turn into ten minutes) are when we learn who slammed her finger in the car door, who just found a treasure map, and who spent the morning designing a snack shop ready for customers on the kitchen floor of his home (during lockdown). 

Making space for these stories is a gift. 

This routine is part of my life as a remote kindergarten teacher this year. I look forward to that moment every live lesson every day, when expectant faces pop on screen, followed by the inevitable (and oh so welcome), “I have to tell you something!” 

On this Monday, the first day of the March Slice of Life Story Challenge for 2021, I am reminded of the power story has to connect us. I am reminded that carving out time to share and to listen is how we build community. And as hard as it is to commit to writing and posting every day for 31 days, I’m going to give it a go. 

Every day this month, I am participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge on Two Writing Teachers Blog.


  1. jcareyreads

    I’m teaching first grade distance learners and this daily ritual that you describe is one of my favorite parts of the day. You are wise to make time for these conversations because they matter!


  2. Writing to Learn, Learning to Write

    I also love those first 5 minutes. When I first started teaching DL I said that I wanted my kids to be eager to log on. I wanted them to start bothering their parents 20-30 minutes before class saying, “Where’s my computer? I need to log on!” I think when we make the “room”
    welcoming (as you clearly have), the kids arrive happy and ready to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mhjohnston94

    The before kids all arrive is the only time I feel really connected to one or two of the kids. Engagement comes and goes, but we have done this so little that I never felt a strong sense of control. I can’t wait to read more about how you made this work!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. karpenglish

    What a lovely story! I teach 8th graders, who are far too jaded to want to share daily, and just barely old enough to hold some space for adult worry in their hearts, but without adult understanding and adult skills to help them. I’ve often wondered how such tiny students as kinders are coping with the technology and the chaos. I am so glad to hear that in your room, they are excited and chatty and open and giving of their stories and their lives!

    Liked by 1 person

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