Wednesday, 21 August 2013

New Year, New Position, New Blog Title?

It’s hard to believe that this is my third go-round already! This year I will be able to apply for my permanent certification in the province, and will get to have another Superintendent evaluation (there are always more hoops to jump aren’t there?).

Once again I didn’t meet my goal of more frequent updates, but I figure if my time is going to working with the kids and trying to balance my life out, it’s time well-spent away from the keyboard!

Last year was a tough one being at two schools and having two very diverse and sometimes difficult classes along with often very anxious parents. In May I was given a choice of remaining at one school only teaching Kindergarten full time, or a position in Jr. High at my original school that includes half time Grade 6 (Social Studies and Language Arts), Science 8, annnnnnnnd Health and Physical Education for Grades 6-9! 

I had about 12 hours to think about my choice (I had never even thought to teach Jr. High) and decided a challenge would be exciting. The kids seem pretty excited to try me out, and that has helped to make it feel like the right choice. I do love the little ones, but I’m sure the medium kiddos will be loads of fun too.

For the past week I’ve been in to the school, getting oriented with my new space(s) and curricula, and completely enjoying revisiting childhood literature at a new level. I hope the kids love stories as much as I do.

This summer was wonderful for taking a break and finally checking things off my list that has been accumulating items for years now. It has made a huge difference to have amazing people surrounding me, and joining in on adventures of running, hiking and enjoying life. The summer is ending with a list that is larger than ever, but I’m feeling truly happy, and while physically tired, mentally ready to try out a new challenge in teaching!

I will update as the year gets started and will include my ideas of incorporating Kindergarten activities into Jr. High, challenging Phys. Ed and health goals and hopefully, I won’t embarrass myself too much as the school year starts and the older turkeys and I get to know one another!

Thanks for reading my scrambly-thoughts!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

An Exciting Friday in Kindergarten!

I'm not sure who was more excited when these visitors dropped in yesterday- the teachers or the kids! I have to say, I wasn't very good at sharing time with the puppy...

With a classroom full of day-old chicks, 4-week old great pyrenees puppies, and cute 4 and 5 year olds...who wouldn't love their job?

Thursday, 28 March 2013

A Letter to Parents

Dear Parents,

I do not want to hear about your divorce, custody agreements, or complaints about your ex or current partner, although it often explains a lot, if not, everything about the way your child acts, treats others and understand the world around them. It is awkward, and even though I may agree with you, or the other parent, or both, please don’t expect that I can make my own beliefs clear as a teacher. I’m here for your child. Six to eight hours of the day, my mandate and belief as a professional dictates that I am essentially, a stand-in “parent” for your child, who promises to stand up, advocate for, and guide your child. I do not want to be caught up in custody battles, or a he-says, she-says discussion. I just want to spend time with your child, getting to know them and supporting them.

This year has been very parent-centered, rather than child-centered, and it bothers me to no end. I don’t have solutions, but please, have faith that your child is bright enough to say or show when something is wrong, and that I will do my best to support them, and you as a parent, as best I can.

Please, put your children first by giving them a chance to speak for themselves. Sometimes the best support you can give is by standing behind, rather than ploughing the way through, even when your child is 4 or 5 years old, with a limited vocabulary. They are fully capable of communicating, and I can hear them.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

My partner ATE my math project...another day in the life?

Seriously, my partner (a grown up, certified, educated...teacher) who I share a classroom with....ATE my math project. Thank goodness most of my kids had already done the activity, but the pre-K kiddos and any kids who were away got their chance eaten up. I'm not sure whether to be mad or laugh about it, so for now, I'll laugh and try to forget (after writing about it). I teach at two different schools, alternating days, and when I came back on a Thursday and was planning activities with the ladies for the afternoon, we went to do some Lucky Charms math. There was the box on the shelf where I left it, but totally empty. She even admitted it, just didn't feel the need to throw the box away or replace it. Yeesh.

It's 9 pm and I got home about half an hour ago after a busy day. On a typical day I'm up at 5 am and leaving the house by 7 to get to the school (10 or 20 mins away, depending on the day, and the crazy fog that sneaks up in pockets here!) and prepare for the day. School starts at 8:35 am and goes until just after 3pm. Then we have meetings, running club, or prep to do. Today I had to make sub plans and attend a literacy planning session for the morning, then rushed back to the classroom for the rest of the day. Parent-teacher interviews went from 3:30-7pm and then I needed to head back to town again (another 15mins in the opposite direction of my house) to pick up Easter supplies and seeds to plant with the kiddos for Mother's Day (I have a group of boys who love to garden- awesome!) By the time I got home, all I wanted was to change into comfortable clothes, have a glass of wine and write, so here I am!

I apologize for the rambly writing! I assure you it's exhaustion...

There have been some really funny moments over the last few weeks, and some really neat discussions with kids too. One day, with about 20 minutes left, a little boy came up behind me and said, "Ummmmm, Miss K--------? You haven't blown my mind today."

I almost fell out of my chair, and that comment made me pull out my best youtube videos I had been saving to show the kids... Look up "mimic octopus" on youtube one day...our world is a very cool place. After school I saw the little guy and asked him if I had impressed him, "Ohhhhhhh yea!" was his response. That week we also did mini-experiments by putting Peeps in the microwave (their eyes kind of floated around and I was glad to have a bunch of farm kids around), and by putting drops of food coloring into a pan of milk, then adding a drop of soap and watching the 'storm' of color that occurs. We tried to make our own chalk out of cornstarch, water and food coloring, then used it as paint when it got too crumbly, made green pudding in bags for St. Patrick's Day, and made 'fluffy stuff' out of shaving cream and cornstarch. It's supposed to end up feeling like snow- packable, but essentially 'explodes' when you throw it. It didn't work so well for us as we had the measurements wrong, but we had some very happy, shaving cream covered boys. I would have loved to have seen our little german boy come off the bus smelling like a man, grinning from ear to ear and trying to explain to his Mom what he got into at school.

Thank goodness for all of the funny, heart-warming things we have to balance the frustrations! Who wouldn't smile at a little boy pulling out a pencil crayon and saying in a very high-pitched voice, "now this is just the color of my zinnias?"

Come on spring! I can't wait to take these kiddos outside to learn!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Video Conferencing is part of my job too?

This year has brought a realization of just how many things fall under my job description, and one that I wasn't expecting was attending and speaking during video conferences to diagnose or gather information from various paraprofessionals on certain kids. These regularly include speech therapists, occupational therapists, program coordinators, behaviour consultants, specialists, pediatricians, parents and teachers.

I have been to three this year so far, and it has been nerve-wracking but interesting. We are expected to speak on behalf of the school, and to present what we see in the classroom. Each time, I hope to goodness I've been looking for and taking notes on the right things! They could be looking for social interactions, sensory seeking behaviours, anxiety, seizure indicators, etc.

Today was a little different of one, as the parents knew and even hoped for a diagnosis for their little guy, and were trying to make sure that all pieces of information fit together for the doctor to see, as the diagnosis was the difference between getting further funding for him or not (which he desperately needs). Because he doesn't fit in the regular boxes of Autism (ASD), parents were worried that this would be passed over in favour of just a sensory processing disorder, which would mean his coding would remain as 'speech' only, which is a difference of no assistant aid, and no occupational therapy support.

The pediatrician was able to make a diagnosis for this little one, but it hit me hard to see the parents' faces as they heard. The mix of relief and sadness was very apparent, and I can only imagine how hard it is to hear something like that about your own child. So today I'm thinking hard about how incredible a parent's job is. My plate may be full, but I still send these kiddos home at 3:00 pm, and though I may lose sleep over worrying about them once in a while, a parent must feel that a million times over. Thank goodness for amazing parents and their equally incredible kids!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Staying Sane as a New Teacher...(on the Prairies)

*Alberta can be pretty, I'll admit it!*

This post doesn't have much to do with teaching, but something that goes hand in hand and is just as important to me. Finding your own measure of sanity, or coping mechanism for crazy days goes a long way in any job!

I was never a student who could go to school all day, come home and study until dinner, then again until bedtime. I would fall asleep at the desk. This trend of falling asleep during academics continued throughout university (sorry Mom and Dad!) and even resulted in an embarrassing episode of falling asleep during a seminar class with a round-table seating plan. Oops. That said, my brain tends to completely shut off when it's full or had enough, and I've always needed something else going on to balance it out. (A few days ago, I fell asleep mid-text message, and apparently fell asleep so hard that I didn't hear the response that came just one minute later.)

I was very lucky and found that I loved gymnastics at age 8, and continued training until I was 18. I had the opportunity to begin coaching at 13, and spent 11 years having a steady job because of it. It filled a lot of time for me, and kept me awake much longer than I would have if I hadn't had a sport or hobby. When I moved to Calgary for post-secondary, doing competitive gymnastics was no longer a possibility, so I had started following my sister's lead in running throughout my grade 12 year. (I still love to go to the gym club and play though!)

It took me a full year to enjoy running. (I still have a hard time realizing that you can get a good, efficient workout done in less than 4 hours, but I'll cope!) My sister and I had a few road trips together for races, and running became a rejuvenating, mind clearing activity, just as much as a necessary workout. That doesn't mean that it's always easy to make yourself go though.

Over the past ten years, I've mostly stopped doing road races (I get bored on the flat pavement) and have started to really enjoy trail running. I figure my short legs have to be good for something! Yay hills! Going for a run has become my favourite way to explore new places and always makes me feel like I've accomplished something. I also feel much more ready to take on work afterwards.

*The notorious runners that won't die. They get brighter when they're wet too. Charming.*

This year of teaching has taken a lot of patience and work, and I'm happy to have my own way of motivating and challenging myself. I also find that as much as I love the idea of working out with others, my favourite runs have been by myself. Maybe I am a little bit of a hermit after all, but I find that after a day surrounded by people at work (and those 5-year olds need every bit of attention you can spare!) the last thing I crave is to be surrounded by more people. That said, we do have a "Tuesday Tradish" running club going at one school (at the moment it consists of three-including me- new teachers who take an hour to run on the canals through farmer's fields). It has been a really nice way of getting to know new friends, and a huge challenge after a long day in Kindergarten! I'm thankful to have running and a basic foundation of exercising to keep me sane- especially when you consider my other stress-relief hobby.....

Teachers at both schools know when I'm overwhelmed because I walk in with a batch of cupcakes, cinnamon buns, pies, etc. The response last week from one teacher was, "Gosh, I love when you're stressed."

*Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Ganache*

I still think a big reason I got hired in the first place was that I mentioned I liked to bake. The principal's eyes lit up and I'm willing to bet that's when I had his vote.

Anyways- whether it's a walk, run, baking or writing session, having something to 'keep me awake' and motivated has been incredible in changing my perspective and giving me an attitude adjustment when I need it most, and I'm thankful for it!

*Mid-snow-conditioning on a sunny Sunday field run!*

*One little story from last week so I don't forget:
A little guy was standing on the carpet mumbling to himself (mouth completely closed). He saw that I was watching him and volunteered, "Hey Teacher, I was just talking to my teeth!"

Isn't that a great way to describe mumbling? What a turkey.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Happy New Year! Things continue to be crazy...

This school year has been exhausting and often frustrating, but I am learning.
Every day.
And that's pretty lucky.

A late Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to those who haven't given up on my postings, or haven't seen me for a while! After Christmas brunches (in both schools), parties and concerts, it was definitely time to head home for a break. Once again, I spent the entire Christmas coughing, and am still getting over it a month later. Yeesh. Much of our first day(s) back at school included re-learning and practicing hand-washing. I've never seen so many kids whose hands are always migrating to mouths, noses, eyes, etc. than this year.

My mind is drawing a blank right now so far as writing, but I know that I've many stories, frustrations and laughs to share. I wish that I could put videos up of the kiddos- we've got some pretty great ones of new achievements, dance parties and gym classes. Just before Christmas we had one little guy move away on very short notice. He has had a very tough life, and as it was, we were his longest, most consistent relationship. I know Kathy and I both lost a huge amount of sleep and hydration that week and those following- we sure miss our little guy. We planned a last day for him filled with his favorite activities, and celebrated our friendship! * When this little guy came to us last January, he was in a foster home, had a total of three words, hoarded food, had been taking care of his 1-year old sister, threw massive screaming fits, and had no idea how to play. It is heartbreaking to see a three year old stand and stare (for hours if we had let him) at the children around them and have no idea what was happening.

By the time we had to say goodbye, this little guy could have a full conversation, laughed, danced, could eat without choking, shoving food in or worrying whether there would be any for next time, talked his problems out (for the most part) and was celebrating his successes daily. It's incredible how resilient kids are, and how much we came to care for our buddy over our 10 months together.

As his hugs were something that Kathy and I looked forward to every morning, we decided to make him his own "Book of Hugs" that he could take to his next school/home. We went on a photo mission, taking pictures of anyone who knew him in the school and felt like sharing a hug. We read stories together, played with toys and spent time with one another. I also took some video of him reading, and was shocked at the things I noticed (speech-wise) from a video. Since then, Kathy and I have been video-ing daily, and have really been able to work more specifically with many of our kiddos on speech sounds, behaviours, etc.

Some highlights:

- Our quietest kiddo (ELL) coming to our desk, tying a shoe, and how proud he was to share his success with us- without a word! This guy has been tying his own shoes every day since. Hurray!

- Our Christmas concert was a lot of fun. The Kindergarten kids, Grade 1's and Grade 2's told/sang the story of "Pete the Cat Saves Christmas," by Eric Litwin. I almost had to kick myself off the stage after one of our boys busted out in his own solo, half a step behind everyone else.

- Overheard conversations: Two boys were sharing a puzzle on the carpet, when one said, "You know, you need a girlfriend and that's that."

The second little boy looked up solemnly and responded, "Yea...I need a girlfriend."

- Kathy asked a little guy what he was up to, and he (coloring a picture) says, "Ohhhhh you know, just shakin' my booty. That's all, just shakin' my booty."

- Dance parties to Happy Feet (Michael Jackson style)

I'm going to keep it short today as this coming week will be another challenge (we're getting another little one again, and half of my week has been taken already with planning, meetings, etc. to prepare for him coming). I just want to spend time with the kids - I'm getting tired of sharing them with (amazing) substitute teachers! I'm just always shocked at how much classroom time is taken away in rural Kindergarten classrooms for pre-K and K meetings, appointments, etc. I'm wishing these things were somehow built into our year ahead of will all work out!

Thanks for reading!