Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Let Your Students Know They Will Shine This Year

During my leave of absence I was able to feed my inner “teacher hoarder” by pinning all these amazing classroom ideas on Pinterest. I consider this a total win because I got to think a lot about teaching, pin lots of great ideas, and I didn’t actually have to write lesson plans.

Now that I am going back to teaching I get to actually do some of the things I meant to do or thought about doing but never had time. One of the things I have always wanted to do, but was usually in some kind of frenzied child rearing. lesson planning, classroom setting up activity, is to make something to welcome my students and make them feel special from the very first day of school. My friend made a carefully crafted bag and letter with things like a tissue to dry a classmates tears and an eraser, because we all make mistakes. While I absolutely loved the sentiment, I needed something a little easier to put together!

In the end I came up with this! I write the letter below and attached a glow stick from the Dollar store (they had 8 packs or 15 packs for $1). Very little assembly was required!

I liked it so much that I made it into a freebie in my TPT store, so if you would like to use this little gem it is yours for the taking, just click on the image above!

Friday, August 7, 2015

You Put Your Whole Self In: Why I Can't Quit Teaching

When I was little I hated the Hokey Pokey. Partly it is because I don’t have a “left/right” instinct and I never knew which side was correct to stick in the circle. Mostly though it was because I didn’t like to put my whole self in, then take my whole self out of the circle. 

However, I am preparing to do just that, to “put my whole self in”. After staying home for 2 years being a wife, mom, and teacher-author, I have decided to go back into the classroom.  

I absolutely loved being home with my youngest daughter and picking my daughters up at school when the bell rang, instead of several hours after. We explored parks, playgrounds, beaches, museums, and other fun things in our coastal Florida town. We read books, baked, tried lots of new things, and had many adventures. I also still was able to engage in my favorite part of teaching, planning and developing resources through my TPT store, Math Mojo.

It was a wonderful chapter in our lives, but then I started to feel strange pull towards something else. I started to feel a vague feeling, like I was missing an old friend. At first it was a little tug I felt when I was hanging out with the girls in my Girl Scout troop or teaching Sunday school. I found myself excitedly talking to my husband the about students in our Sunday school class, how the lessons went, and things I wanted to do the next time we taught. Then I found myself wanting to spend time in my daughters’ classrooms, volunteering for field trips and school events, and pausing longer than normal to check out bulletin boards and class displays as I walked through school. Then I was asked to do a demo lesson for a new teacher at school and I knew the source of the vague feeling that I was missing something. I missed teaching, my old friend. 

I thought that developing lessons and materials for the classroom would be enough to scratch my teaching itch, because that is the part of teaching that I am truly passionate about. However, there was just no denying that I missed working with kids. I missed the thrill of a great lesson, I missed that moment when a kid really “gets it”, I missed talking to other teachers about teaching and learning, I missed the hilarious things kids say, I missed the energy of the classroom, and I missed being a teacher. When I left teaching a wise friend said, “You can leave the classroom, but you will never be able to take ‘the teacher’ out of your heart!” I remember politely smiling at her and thinking I could fill my heart just fine, but two years later I know she was so right! In another blog post, I detailed how I decided to take a break from teaching when I thought an appendicitis sounded like a wonderful vacation from my life; I knew I needed a break. However, two years later I can not deny that I want to go back into the classroom. 

I was thrilled when my principal agreed to let me job share with another teacher. This teacher is a cornerstone of our school, she is legendary, a 30+ year veteran who is still excited to learn new things, nothing rattles her, she is a pillar of our school district, she gives selflessly in so many ways, a person I have learned so much about teaching (and life) from, and an all around terrific person. She is the person I want to be when I grow up and I am so excited to get to teach with her and learn from her. Of course that also means that I will actually have to teach in front of her (GULP)! To me that feels a little like having to play the guitar with Eric Clapton or sing in front of Pavarati (DOUBLE GULP). I am thrilled to have this great opportunity to get to teach, work as a teacher-author, and still fill all my other roles outside of school (mom, wife, friend, daughter, etc.).

So I am going to do it, I am going to put my whole self in and go back to teaching (and blog about it)!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why I Took A Break From Teaching

Recently I have read lots of blogs and have seen my share of You-Tube videos of teachers quitting the profession in a blaze of final glory where they (usually) profess their love for teaching, but feel they are forced to leave teaching because of real and valid struggles that the field of education is facing. This is not one of those blog posts. My story about taking some time off of teaching is more about everything than one thing. 

It all started when I had stabbing pains in my stomach. As in, doubled over, put me out of my misery, pain. After some frantic googling (in between fierce bouts of pain and labor style breathing, because that is the only medical thing I could think of) and some time with spent on “medical” websites, I diagnosed myself with appendicitis. I knew that was not good and it might require a hospital visit. As I was mentally planning what to do with my children, which substitute to try to finagle at the last minute, it dawned on me that this would be a break. All the things I do in a day would mostly be the responsibility of someone else for at least 1 - 3 weeks. I was in excruciating pain, but it sounded like a vacation, granted I would have stitches and bed rest, but I could also take a nap and get a full 8 hours of sleep (in a row). 

It turned out I just had a nasty strain of the flu, but I knew I had to make changes when an appendicitis and surgery was preferable to my actual life. 

Later when I was asked, I could not point the finger at one thing that was too much. I could handle parenting, I could handle lesson planning, I could handle getting my kids ready for school, I could handle communicating with parents, I could handle getting my kids to all their activities, I could handle data collection, I could handle making dinner, I could handle developing resources for my classroom, I could handle my husband working late almost every night, I could handle toddler meltdowns, I could handle professional development, I could handle reading bedtime stories, but the real problem was I just could not handle it all together. As in - All. In. One. Day. Everyday. I am not sure if that is a failure on my part or a the failure of a society where it is an expectation that a person could and should do all that (because people, I was tired). I am sure the cause lies somewhere in between.

So I tried lot of things. I tried making a schedule, but the fact that there are only 24 hour in a day and I need to sleep during some of those hours kept getting in the way. I tried organizational tips found on Pinterest. I tried making freezer meals. I tried not sweating the small stuff. I tried so many things that trying something new became the new “one more thing”. I finally had to come to terms with the fact that I am just not a “Pinterest Perfect” person! I had to admit that at that season of life, I just could not do it all. As a dug deeper I realized all the Pinterest perfect people I knew might not actually even have a perfect life (although many of them did an admirable job playing one on Facebook). 

Ultimately, I decided that I had to make changes that did not involve surgery and a major illness as the relief I was longing for.

The short story is that I decided to take a leave of absence from teaching to be home with my youngest daughter and a more present mom to my school aged children. It is true that having 3 children ages 8 and under was hard. They want to be fed 3 times a day (plus snacks). Every. Single. Day. Not to mention clean clothes, homework help, bedtime stories, bike rides, and endless games of Uno (we play lots of Uno). 

The longer answer is somewhat more complicated. I am blessed to teach at a wonderful school, with supportive administrators, lots of opportunities for growth and leadership, an awesome PTO, a fabulous staff, and a terrific group of students. I also really just love teaching. It all sounded wonderful, but somehow everyday I managed to come home so beyond exhausted that the thought of microwaving frozen peas for dinner with a screaming toddler hanging from my leg overwhelmed me. I knew I needed to slow down and live the life I had built instead of wishing for it to be Friday, the weekend, time to sleep, or anytime that was not in the moment that I was in. 

And just like that, like the Hokey Pokey says, I took my whole self out. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Welcome to Your Blog!

Just seeing what it's all going to look like :)