Friday, 21 September 2012

I lied...

Scratch the "not-as-exhausted" part of my last post.

I am truly, completely tired, and until today, had a pretty bleak outlook on how this year would turn out. I am still feeling more confident about asking questions, putting behaviour, speech and occupational therapy plans into place, and bombarding parents with calls, emails, etc. ANYTHING to keep communication going and for the kids to realize that parents/guardians and teachers are all on the same team.

Just the same, I almost cried on my fantastic vice-principal on Monday. Poor guy asks an innocent question like, "so, how was the day?" And gets a silly f'male (as Dad would say) blinking back, shaking her head and trying to keep down tears. This awesome fella asked me into his office and talked me through things (a runaway kid, high volume class, boundary testing and at-limits assistants and teachers) and brought up new perspectives that I was too selfish at that point to look at. It turns out he was right, and after a meeting this morning, I at least have a better understanding of one little guy's situation, and where it doesn't excuse certain behaviours, makes it much easier to realize that these are small outbursts compared to what this child is working through. I can't imagine being 4 or 5 years old and having some of the experiences that these children have had, and are 'thriving' in spite of.

The things that children in our world, country, provinces, communities and homes live through are incredible. Children have to be the most resilient human beings there are.

Many of these kids have no reason to understand emotions, or have any true reaction to care or love that they can understand or verbalize. Every child deserves to be cared for, respected and loved, and it makes me sick that there are SO many that aren't granted that basic necessity.

Sometimes the biggest thing we can do for these kids is offer consistency and and extra hug. This week I saw a vice-principal make a huge deal about a girl (grade 4 or 5) who showed up at school 4/5 days this week. She congratulated her, made sure she recognized that this was so tough for this little girl, gave her a hug and a promise that she would be right there at the door on Monday, expecting to see her face and hear about her weekend. The things that school employees do for kids consistently surprises me, and makes me so happy to be around people that truly care about kids and their lives. The lovely lady that works in my classroom was asked by the 2012-2013 graduating class to be their guest speaker, and couldn't get over that she was the one that they chose. I'm so glad that the students recognize how much certain people will give just to make sure of their success, as the people who work hardest often go unnoticed. This amazing person has been known to drive 1 1/2 hours just to buy an apple pie for a high school student who promised to show up at school for three weeks straight if there was a Costco apple pie waiting at the end for him. This might sound silly or that the student needs a swift kick and a talking-to in order to straighten up, but these are often the things that make the difference between that student putting in the time to graduate, and dropping out, and the stories that the public doesn't hear during labour/wage disputes (not that I am in any way willing to dispute a solid stance on either side at this point). In the end, totally worth the trip and cost, but can seem like a silly thing to endorse on the surface. There are some truly amazing people that work in the schools I am lucky enough to be in.

Now to switch the topic! Our senior girls had their first games of the season this past week, and while I am a very quiet, unconfident contributor to strategies during the game, I think I'm picky enough to make points on form, strength and motivations after the game, and so far, I feel I'm contributing a bit to the team and I'm not really getting in the way of the head coach of the team (he is much more vocal and focused on plays during games- which is a great balance). It has been very cool to see how body positions and efficiency can transfer from gymnastics to other sports, and also fun that I can keep having an active environment to look forward to. The girls have asked me if I would be interested in working out with them/running an extra workout on Monday nights after school, which will be a fun way to get more active myself (I get so unmotivated on the prairies, and miss mountains!) and get to know the girls. This, paired with the adult ballet class I'm taking, will at least guarantee a solid workout in addition to weekends. Tomorrow we have a home tournament that goes from about 8am-8pm (depending on how we do in games), so I'm hoping to get some paperwork done between games at least!

I think I'm typed-out for a Friday night, and my coyote friends are serenading me...I love living out here!

More about spaghetti squash, runaway kids and manners next time!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

2nd year, 2 classrooms, 2 classes, 2 times the fun!

Here we are again, except this time I'm feeling much more confident and much less exhausted than last year at this time. We have just finished our first week back to school with the kids (I've been back and setting up classrooms, meeting parents and kids and going to meetings for the past three weeks) and while I'm feeling a little tired, I'm also much more settled.

This year I am lucky enough to be renting a farmhouse outside of town, and is it ever nice to feel like I have a home again! As I mentioned in my last post, I am teaching at two different schools this year (about 10 km apart), half time at each. So far, so good. I can't say enough about having amazing people to work with in the room- at one school I have one lovely lady working in the room (so far) and am so happy to have her there again. We were together last year as well, and she is honestly the school superwoman, and regularly saves me from making huge mistakes, jumps in to clean up messes (usually made by me) and is always there to give a kiddo a hug or soothe a nervous parent. She has also become one of my closest friends here, and we look forward to the laughs that happen every day in Kindergarten.

This is a picture I colored and hung in our room for those Charlie Brown Days, remember?
In our class (at this point) we have 12 boys and 1 girl. I have replaced our carpet with wrestling mats, and it looks awesome. On our first day together we had some fun with some movement activities, a visit to the library (I wish I could put up pictures of these little guys in the cool 'reading glasses' that our awesome librarian has for the kids- hilarious!), and snack-making (fruit shish-kebabs). We also have some pretty polite little guys, as one little boy said, "excuse me Miss Kotlarz, may I get a kleenex so I don't pick it?"

I can't wait for the Miss Clark show to start on Monday...

In the other school I am sharing a classroom with another teacher, as this community is a little bigger and there are enough Kindo-gah-tens (as our VP says it) for two classes. I decided that as I have a classroom to myself at the other school, I would step back from decorating this one and let the other teacher make it her 'home base.' So far we have pretty different ways of doing things, but are working together just fine. I was really worried about the two ladies that work in the room with us, as they are there full time, and switch from my way of teaching to the other teacher's each day. That can be exhausting. We're trying really hard to get to know each other well enough that everyone feels comfortable enough to say when something isn't working out, or has a suggestion to make things run smoother. Again, I'm feeling so lucky to have these ladies to work with. They truly run the room and could do a fantastic job of it if I wasn't there. They have also worked with the lady that has done Kindergarten for the past 8 years in this school (who had everything worked out down to a science) and have been so helpful in reminding me if I'm missing something or needs attention. They're miracle workers!

This class is almost opposite my mostly-boys class, as we currently have 17 (soon to be 18+) kids, and consists of 12 girls and 5 boys. So far there are some big, lively personalities in this room, and a few that just need an extra hug once in a while. I was a little worried the first day as there were kids everywhere, asking when recess was, when home-time was, when we were having snack, gym and lunch...the entire day. I had chosen to forget that the fun part about starting Kindergarten is that often kids haven't been exposed to an environment where they are expected to listen quietly, sit still and raise their hand to speak...not that we can make it longer than 5 minutes by mid-year. It's our project for the month of September to learn these expected routines, get to know each other, and what we need to do when we are in the classroom. Our second day was much smoother and manageable already, so I think we'll get along fine.

I did discover this class' love for 'Jillian Jiggs, Maker of Wonderful, Marvelous Pigs' (Phoebe Gilman). On the inside back cover of this book there are instructions for how to make a stuffed pig out of nylons (I remember making these with my Mom and sister when we were younger), which the kids quickly picked up on and insisted we make sometime...SOON. There are some smart kiddos in this bunch. So, if anyone has a brilliant idea of how to make a Jillian Jiggs pig without sewing (I would like the kids to do as much of it themselves as possible), please pass it on to me! So far I'm thinking of knotting the end to close it up and make a tail, and using elastic bands for its' feet...

We had an eventful first week that ended with us having to cancel class for our boys on their second day to go to an 'Autism Speaks' workshop that should have been amazing. Unfortunately, it didn't include anything on Autism, and while we did get some interesting points from the regional OT on sensory children in the ten minutes she sat down with us, we felt that we had wasted the day, and would have much rather had Kindergarten. We will be back with the Miss Clark show on Monday to make up for it!

I am going to go enjoy my morning coffee in my sun-filled living room and do some reading and paperwork...have a great weekend and thanks for reading!