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!