Thursday, August 25, 2016

Checking out

Each morning our class family "checks in" letting us know where they are today.  Holding up one finger means you're having a rough morning, for whatever reason, and we as a family need to respect that.  Holding up your whole hand means you are all in!   You're excited, ready to go, positive, and are there for others who might need picked up.  We range from 1-5 each owning our feelings and being okay with it.  This helps me to know that some kids need extra attention from me.

At the end of each day we "check out" and do the same routine, hoping that everyone's day has improved!

If there is one area I feel like I'm good at it would be building a classroom community.  My goal is to have our classroom feel like family.  I even taught two sessions about this during our back to school days.  This is what I'm passionate about.

I have been with this class for 7 days ... we are not a class family, and it makes me sad.  

Today, that changed.  During check out some students were still at a 1 at the end of the day.  We had 10 minutes to go and this bothered me a lot.  I asked if anyone wanted to share why.  Their worries and situations they were going to have to deal with when they left our safe classroom broke my heart.  A student starts crying after hearing another student share.  Two girls go over to comfort her, a boy moves out of the way so the girls can hug, another student brings over tissues.  The boy says he is praying for her right now.  More quiet sobs from around our circle.  Empathy ... friendship ... compassion ... hugs ... pats on backs ... community.

So tonight I pray for our class family and look forward to seeing them in our safe learning environment in the morning.  We are family.

Friday, July 8, 2016

It just doesn't make sense

I have started this over and over again, just can't seem to find the words. For the past three days I was in a professional development class with other educators from my school district, surrounded by people who were choosing to spend three full days of their time "off" to grow and learn to be better at our profession. It was really hard for me to focus today. I wanted to learn, yet my mind was on the tragedies happening around our country. What will I say if the kids bring up this violence when we are back in school? Sadly, I don't think things are going to get better. Kids should not have to think or worry about the violence that is so prevalent in our country. How can I be positive, encouraging, loving, caring, and a safe haven for them? That what was on my mind today, and still is as I prepare for sleep. I can't even grasp or wrap my brain around what we talked about today because all I can think about are my students from last year and the ones I will get in a few short weeks. I want them to be able to be kids as long as they can because adulthood can be tough at times.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Focus on the positive

Elephants are said to have great memories.  I’m like an elephant, but sometimes that great memory becomes like a record album that skips, repeating that one moment over and over … the one you wish you could take back. 

Elephants have thick skin.  I’m not like an elephant.  I’m actually super sensitive – but I’ve learned to put up a front that I’m strong.  I need to work on that thick skin.

Words – they replay over and over in my head.  They consume me.  My one “word” for 2017 will possibly be WORDS.    

I remember when I was 25 years old taking care of my dying mother.  My favorite Aunt told me, “You’re so strong, Dawn!”  Right then and there I had to be strong because I didn’t want to disappoint my Aunt, my Dad, my older sisters and brother.  I was the strong one, she said it.  Little did she know that I felt like a small child and just wanted my Mom.  Those words were powerful and I believed her … so I became strong, whether I wanted to or not.

Most of the time I tire of being the strong one, it wears me out.  I think that is why I become an introvert during summer; it is safe inside my house … except for the memories.  After a couple of weeks of sleeping in, lounging around in PJ’s and non-stop reading, I long for the routine of school again.  I miss being around kids.  My husband can tell when I need a “kid-fix.” 

As a teacher you are always “ON” … that is why summer break is important, so we can have down time to recharge.  It is hard to do that though when you are thinking about what you could have done better, what worked, what didn’t, remember failed lessons, or words.  Reflecting …. It is a great practice, but I need to learn to focus more on the positives.

Last night, scenarios from this last year were replaying over and over in my head.  It was 2 a.m. and I still had not closed my eyes because of that record album skipping over and over on that one part.  Would I ever get past this?  I have to if I’m going to move on.  Why do people (I’m including myself) find it so easy to focus on the bad/negative and not the positive?  It is a problem in our society, the negative always gets more attention and I for one am tired of it.  It is exhausting!  Out of my whole year with this class a parent might choose to focus on ONE day … ONE hour of that day … when I messed up.  NOT the other 177 days that things went pretty good and I checked on her student when she was absent, not the other days when I stood up for her student, hugged her, had lunch with her just because I wanted to, praised her, helped her … all of the positives, but yet … I said or did something that did not sit well with them … they will remember that.

Words … I remember my Aunt’s words to me.  What words do my students remember from me?  Would it make me smile or cringe?  I’m hoping my positive words are what they replay in their minds.  That would make both of us smile. 

I choose to remember the positive days from this year and will strive to do better next year.  I will be strong when I need to be.  Now I’m off to work on that thick skin.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Why I teach

I was the youngest of four children in my family.  The first to graduate high school.  Yes, the first.  The only one in my family who went to college (at the age of 39) graduating with honors and cherishing every second of walking across that stage with my diploma.  It took me years to figure out what I wanted to be when I "grew up."  My parents did not talk about college, and it hurts to admit that I don't recall them talking about school with us, they were not involved in our education.  Pondering that now, why would they talk about college?  They didn't finish school themselves and what did they know about going to school?  So really that should not be so surprising that college was never considered an option for us.

My passion is to teach young children and I consider it my true calling.  I think waiting so late in life to decide what I wanted to do makes it even more special to me that I get (NOT have) to spend my days with these precious kids.  The reason I teach is to make a difference in children's lives.  I want kids to know that they are special, they are loved, they can learn, they matter, that they have someone in their corner cheering them on.  Not until I just typed that last sentence did I realize that deep down inside I want them to have what I didn't have growing up.  

How have I made a difference in my four years as a teacher?  I believe that children know I love them, no matter what.  By listening, giving of my time, hugs, smiles, tears, and just being present for them.  I would rather eat lunch in my room with a few of my students than sit in the lounge during lunch, so that's what I do.  It's not just the kids in my class, I try to make a difference with students throughout the school.  

At times it can become overwhelming when I think about kids who do not have a cheerleader in their corner.  Kids deserve a champion in their lives who will believe in them, mentor them, and lift them up no matter what their background is like.  That is why I teach ... it's a big responsibility, but kids deserve it and I'm blessed to be involved.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

One Word 2016

I tend to ramble.  I find it challenging, to say the least, to only be allowed 140 characters for Twitter.  I have to start out with the hashtag and who I am tagging before I even think about typing my thoughts because if you don’t use the # then it is just out there … no one may ever see it.  Sad to think about worrying over what words to use and forget the # - those 140 characters cause me stress!  So of course it is very hard to narrow down ONE word for the year.  ONE word as a reminder when I lose my focus or when I’m having a difficult day.  ONE word to challenge and motivate me for an entire year.  Talk about stress!  No, my one word is not stress, thank goodness!

How do you spend most of your time?  It didn’t take me long to ponder that thought and realize that whoever or whatever gets my time is my priority. I have chosen to give them the gift of my time.  At different stages in my life that answer would definitely vary.  Numerous time I have said, “I wish I could have those two hours of my life back,” after sitting through an awful movie.  Sadly I cannot have that time back; I chose to spend it that way.  Right now I spend a lot of time reading, learning, sleeping, eating, planning, reading, learning, sleeping, eating … you get the picture.  Many nights I go to bed, (remember, I like to sleep) with so many thoughts and ideas in my head that I cannot turn my brain off.  I feel like if I don’t do something RIGHT THEN that I am going to miss out, forget what I learned, or not have time to do it later.  How can I get everything crossed off my TO DO list?  How can I teach these kids that life is tough but they are going to make it?  Have I encouraged them enough?  Have I spent enough time with them?  Have I said the right words?  Did I take the time to show them I care?

Time.  Such a beautiful gift when we give of our time.  We can never get it back.  It is truly a gift.  Five minutes of time spent with a kid who just needs to know someone loves them.  You may not have to say nor do anything at all, just give them your time.  When I think about all of the time I have wasted in my life it makes me sick to my stomach.  It grieves my soul to know that there have been times in my life when I said, “I don’t have time for ……” (Fill in the blank).  It is time for a change, time to be more conscience of how I spend my time, who I spend it with, and what I spend it doing.  This precious gift of time – we all get the same amount of hours a day – what are you doing with your 24 hours?  I want to make a difference with mine.  I want to grow, learn, encourage, listen, and give of my time to someone who needs it and not expect anything in return from them.

Last night before bed I decided to check Twitter one more time and I’m so glad that I did.  One of my favorite blogs to read is by Jon Harper.  There was a post titled 16 ½ hours – check it out here!  Jon Harper 16 1/2 hours  I was grinning from ear to ear by the time I got to the section Be Available and read the quote, "It's not about having enough time. It's about making enough time."  Rachael Bermingham.  YES!  I was looking for confirmation about my one word and there it was, on Twitter, a tool I use to learn and grow!  So, thank you, @JonHarper70bd for taking the time to write and encourage.  Your gift of writing has always encouraged and uplifted me, and for that I thank you.

Time.  My alarm just went off telling me it is time to get ready for a breakfast date with three fabulous ladies with whom I get the pleasure of teaching with every day.  They are Edu heroes in my book!  I’m glad they make time for me!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Leave a Legacy

It has been so long since I posted, yet it's not for lack of reflecting, quite possibly the opposite.

We have finished 12 weeks of school, 1/3 of our time together this year is over.  Why can't time slow down?  I feel like there is so much more I need to teach, to learn, to share, to really listen to my students and prepare them for middle school.  I worry about them when they leave me, I mean truly worry about if they can handle moving to middle school with hundreds of new students from three other schools all coming together to try and figure out where they belong and how they fit in.  Coming from first grade I knew that I would be able to see my kids the following year, after all they would still be in my hallway.  I could check on them, hug them, give them "that look" if they were in trouble, and share in their successes.  I will not have that next year and that bothers me.  Will they remember me?  I must make sure they all know I will be there for them ... always!

I have learned so much from my kids.  Watching them has brought back many memories for me from my childhood.  Middle school was an emotional roller coaster for me to say the least.  I remember the school was huge which caused many stressful days wondering if I would be late walking from class to class.  There were mean girls ... I can still tell you their names and it has been 35 years since I've seen them.  I often wonder if they ever grew up and changed, or are they still mean to others.  What kind of role models did they have (or not have) in their lives.  What I do know is that when I see my kids preparing for that huge change in their lives that it makes me sad for them.  They will be expected to become little adults and conform to certain expectations that are not necessarily fair or appropriate.  Why can't we keep them young and innocent just a little while longer?

What can I do?  I can continue to love them.  Listen to them.  Encourage them.  Build them up.  Be a positive role model.  Not make fun of people or belittle them.  Accept differences and model that in my classroom.  Help others and set the example to pay it forward.  I only have a short time left with them and I must make an impact, I must leave a legacy.  That is my number one goal in my classroom this year.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chapter 4

I pondered over what to name this post since I have many thoughts in my head as to what I want to share.  Chapter 4 seemed fitting since I am starting a new chapter in my life in my fourth year of teaching.  I'm going to a different school this year and will be teaching 4th grade for the first time.  

Blank slate was another title I considered.  This year is like a fresh start, a new beginning, a blank slate for me as well as my students.  I have no preconceived ideas about them, no history on them, no negative comments about behavior or academics.  A blank slate coming to me so I can have my own first impression while they do the same when they meet me, the new teacher on the block for the first time.   It is a wonderful feeling to think that students can come into my class without a label.  We all know it happens, but it doesn't make it right.  Sure, I need to be privy to certain health concerns, special needs, or information the parent needs me to know so their child can be successful in the classroom but that doesn't mean I need opinions from others about what they assume about this child.  Let me learn ... all by myself, and if I need help I will seek it.  Personality clashes with students or parents can make for a miserable year if we already have in our head that there is going to a problem in my class  because someone wanted to share about their awful experiences with them last year.  I want my students and parents to have a new beginning this year ... a new chapter to open like I am.

I will be meeting new team members, staff, parents, volunteers, and teachers for the first time.  I want my first impression to be a good one.  I only "knew" a couple of them via social media through our district's Facebook or Twitter posts.  What I did know is that I wanted to be on their team!  You know how you run across someone who really inspires you, motivates you, or you just would love to sit and listen to them share their passion or stories?  After reading some blog posts by their lead learner (a.k.a. Principal ... but doesn't lead learner just sound like a team member!?!?) I thought to myself, I really want to learn from her and the team she is surrounded by.  Now it was time to make a decision.  Stay where I was comfortable and could probably continue to teach first grade for as long as I wanted....or....step out of my comfort zone, ask for a transfer to that school and see what happened.  My husband and I prayed about it, he knew how excited I was about the possibility of learning and working alongside this team because I would read anything and everything aloud to him! We had no idea if there were any openings, we just trusted that God would place me where He needed me, and I was totally fine with that.

If you are still enough, observant, and open, you can see God's fingerprints in your life.  He has been involved in this since the beginning and has surrounded me with people who are truly blessings to me.  I hope to be a blessing to them in return.  Through this transition my prayer life has gotten stronger, I have learned to sit and wait ... and be okay with waiting.  I have made dear friends with teachers from my last school, spending more time talking, sharing, and visiting more now then when we saw each other daily.  I am being encouraged to think outside the box, do what's best for the KIDS!  

I will have up to 28 blank slates coming to me on August 17 to start their new chapter in 4th grade.  Their last year in elementary school, with a new teacher, many leaning opportunities ahead, and hopefully leave prepared for middle school knowing they were loved, and will always be part of my family.  I have a yearbook from last year to look at their sweet faces so when I get my class list I can see who I will have.  Just pictures.  No horror stories from last year's teacher.  No preconceived ideas.  No labels.  Just smiling faces, and that makes me smile.

I encourage those of you reading to make a point to start out this year of teaching with an open mind and heart.  You be the one to inspire others, you have many eyes watching you and a lot of them need a good role model to look up to.  Smile.  Hug.  High five.  Laugh.  Remember what it was like to be a kid.  This can be the greatest chapter of your life - choose daily to be positive.  In the grand scheme of things we have these little ones in our classrooms for such a short time, let's make a difference - a positive difference.  Start your year with blank slates and I would guess that you will be surprised how different your year can be.  

I tend to ramble so I worry about my first impression with my new school family.  :)  Hopefully they see me as a blank slate starting a new chapter.