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Uncategorized   |   Oct 19, 2008


By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer


By Angela Watson

So I was in the teacher’s lounge the other day and there’s this table where staff can put things we don’t want in our classrooms any more. There’s usually a heaping pile of random base ten blocks, magazines, raggedy stuffed animals, posters from the eighties, etc. Another staff member wandered in and noticed a box full of cassette tapes. “Ooh, these are cool! Kindergarten read-aloud stories and songs! Wait. Do people have cassette players in their classrooms?”

I shrugged. “I still do. But I mean, I had a record player until I moved to Florida in 2004.”

She looked at me like I said I’d used scraps of slate for a chalkboard.


I struggled to redeem myself through a rambling stream of consciousness. “Well, yeah. When I started teaching in ’99, no classrooms that I knew of had CD players yet, and I LOATHE having to fast forward and rewind through cassettes to get to the song or story I want. Um. Not that they gave us any cassettes. But the record player was like the perfect classroom tool! I used to play the Hap Palmer songs about colors and shapes… man, that guys’ voice was soothing. it was almost miraculous to watch…you could take the most out of control street-wise kid and a 1969 Hap Palmer song would totally captivate him…Um. You know Hap Palmer, right?”

This staff member, several years my senior, stared at me blankly.

Oh, okay.

And that’s when the thought occurred to me… Is my familiarity with nineteen-seventies classroom technology less of a reflection on my age and more a reflection on how behind the times my school district was?


I had a Strawberry Shortcake record which I begged my mom to play incessantly for me when I was too young to work the machine myself. By the time I was in elementary school, I had a collection of cassettes which I played in an oversized boom box (“Cherish” by Kool and the Gang, and later the same song title by Madonna). CDs soon followed. So theoretically I could have gone my entire life without having learned to use a record player.

Then I entered the world of education and encountered a record player as a student teacher. My wonderful mentor, Mrs. Jacobs, showed me how you could drop the needle on a specific line on the record, and voila! You’ve skipped right to the song you want. I thought it was genius. But now looking back, that whole student teaching experience was a monstrosity of outmoded education. And it was in an entirely different school district, one in rural Maryland about forty-five minutes from my future urban employer along the state’s Washington, D.C. border.

This is only ten years ago, right? Get this…they still had half day kindergarten (2 hours and fifteen minutes). 20 minutes of that was dedicated to snack time, and another 30 to recess. Centers were strictly non-academic, like blocks and housekeeping. No small group reading instruction. Ever. No textbooks. For any subject. That includes teaching manuals. And we only taught math three. times. A WEEK.

Ouch. Have things changed THAT much in ten years? Was I the only one teaching like that in the frickin’ NINETIES?

Were other teachers cueing up the, um, record player, in 1999? Or did a two-minute song about numbers count as a math lesson only in the most pathetically underfunded schools?

And perhaps more importantly, could the past ten years’ steep national increase in curricular and student expectations actually be a GOOD thing?

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. Well its 2008 and both of my younger daughters have gone to 1/2 day kindergarten. It goes from 8 to 11:15 daily. About 30 minutes of that are non-academic. They push a LOT into those 3 hours and 15 minutes. I could argue that because of the type of school it is, that 1/2 day is more academic than the full day kindergarten offered in the school district where I work.

  2. so favoriting your blog right now.

    I’m a child of the 80’s.. though most of my early childhood was late 80’s early 90’s I had this “cabbage patch kids” record i begged my dad to play over and over and over.

    Oh and i had to youtube hap palmer. I sooooo remember these songs!!!!!!!!!! I used to dance to these as a kid!…. omggg…

  3. LOL, our district in CT STILL has 1/2 day K, 2.5 hrs/day. It’s due mostly to the fact that we are a small, 1 school district (Pre-K – 6; students attend regional schools for 7-12) in a rural-ish town that doesn’t have much of a tax base besides town residents, plus an active seniors group that turns out to vote down the budget each year. Until the state mandates full day K for each district, we’re not going there due to $$ issues. BUT, they have curriculum (geared toward full-day K) for reading and math that is the same as the rest of the school, centers are academic AND play-based, they get outside when weather permits, field trips are common, parent volunteers are high, and they are prepared for 1st grade.

  4. I love Hap Palmer’s work….I used them with my daughter and she uses them with her children…I am looking for a song that a person recorded for the Children’s Record Guild in 50’s who sounded like Hap Palmer and may have been a protege of his…”Children Go I Will Send Thee” or “Little Bitty Baby” is a Christmas Song my family used to play and play at Christmas time especially…I’m looking for the name of the album it was on. I found a source who has all the Children’s Record Guild recordings but needs the album name to find the song…apparently there were many Children’s Record Guild records…my mom subscribed to it so that we children received a monthly selection from them (Capitol Records produces). Anyway, just wanted to see if you could help me find the album name…thanks, Kay Spence

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