Summer Down Time, Maybe?

 

Apparently this will be my 200th post!  A relatively new comer to this blogging world; but a place I am becoming more and more confident in holding my own!

In a busy summer with my family, enjoying time with my daughter and grandkids, who live in another state, I am still drawn to reading blogs and learning with my incredible PLN. I continue to participate in chats (though limited) and I joined a FB Kindergarten group (a first for me) to share questions, concerns and ideas these educators mull over even on summer break!

As I read blogs and posts related to education. I sit back and realize that although I am now retired (but I sub), I am still so interested in what’s happening in a field that filled my life for so many years. I reflect about how I did this  or I wish I knew more about this .

I have lived vicariously through some great vacations my friends have posted on FB, serving as great reminders of places I’ve been and those on my bucket list. I have listened to the angst and concerns of both sides on the divided aisle of our government, and to the turmoil in many places in our world. I have made comments, asked questions and wonder;  not for me, but for my grandkids, “What is it that we want for them and how do we get there?” I’m not sure, but silence leads to acquiescence and I come back to this quote from

Eli Wiesel. 

I recently read this post from @donalynbooks education/politics and it brings the challenge to share the broader picture of what we do as educators. We look at voice/choice for our students and we need to embrace that too, for us!

My musings today. Hope that summer re-energizes. Think we’re in for a bumpy ride. Wondering about your summer as we’re half way done?

Outside my front door, twilight skies remind me to absorb the goodness around me. 

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That Road

I often come back to this theme as I reflect back (to where I’ve been) and look forward (to yet unknowns  Robert Frost )


  

For a long time

That known road

That safe road

That familiar road

Taken.

Childhood roads unknown,

Cautious travel.

Adulthood roads become familiar ones,

Stay on course.

When and who challenges me,

To find that road not taken, yet?

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Milestones and Right Of Passage

Dallas Clayton Poem 

Driving home from doing an errand (beginning to see a pattern here, a place where my posts take form) I thought of the connections of milestones and right of passage (Wikipedia). I’ve written about traditions and milestones before, although in a different context. Not every milestone is a right of passage, but I wonder how they influence who we are as we find our way in this world!  And so I began to think about bar/bat mitzvahs, quinceaneras, first communions, graduations, marriage, births; the cycle of life. Many religious practices have important rituals that are bestowed on their members as an entry-way to becoming a part of that community. As members their commitment may vary, but how and why is their decision. These milestones can then become rights of passage, the road, so to speak, that leads to membership.

So I look at the first five years of life, the tremendous milestones from infancy to the school age child (kindergarten). For many children these trajectories follow a pattern and soon that sweet baby goes off to school, tearful, maybe, but ready. (Parents’ tears last longer.) Somewhere along the way certain school milestones do become a right of passage; the reader has the world opened to her/him and the writer let’s us know their thoughts.  (I only look at these two milestones, not diminishing math, science and other curriculum in any way.) These two milestones carry a heavy weight in our school culture and look like a right of passage, from heavy reliance on the teacher (their crutch) to growing independence in traversing school life. And then there are those children who need more time to become readers and writers often looking around, seeing peers chatter away, discussing the books they’ve read! They see the writers, with amazing ideas, quickly put pencil to paper, eagerly sit with their buddies, sharing their prose. For those students who are not there yet, how do we as teachers find ways to include them? That has to be in our “toolbox!” We build relationships, make connections, share some of our own travails and explore other outlets to help them find their voice. We find their strengths, better still we help them embrace their strength and together we work from there. I reflect about this (even as a substitute teacher) as I look at the students I may teach; not just the accelerated learners, but the students who need more scaffolding to get there. I have found in my many years in the classroom, that these are the students that have so much to teach us: from patience, to resilience, to compassion we get there together.

How do you see milestones shape the life of your students? Have you looked at these as rights of passage? What happens to the student who is not there yet?

 

 

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Outlier Mindset

 

 

I was driving home from an errand and had one of those “Oh I have a thought and I might develop it into a quick blog.”

So… thinking that one of our teacher mindsets has been to follow rules. We ask kids to follow the rules, because that’s what we as teachers do. We might not like to admit that some of what we do is part of the recipe of schools; schedules, routines, classroom design, classroom rules, administrative directives and so on and so forth. Think about how we implement our curriculum. We read those teacher guidelines and follow verbatim, using the language provided, step by step, teaching our students. Now not an absoulute, not all the time and not everyone, but some of us and sometimes, especially when we start teaching new academic programs. Look back at how we approached teaching the math, reading and writing curriculum so we could do it correctly. So much depended on “getting it right” or how will our students succeed. The pressure on us and the kids was palpable. I saw it; did you? And then there are so many incredible “thinkers” writing about the foibles of these expectations for ourselves and our students. Differentiate they say, think out of the box, include student choice and voice (they’re the true classroom experts); each child learns at a different pace with different skills, teach to their strengths; and we understand that there are also many outside variables in a child’s life, that influences learning.

Most of us have moved away from cookie cutter projects, isn’t it time to rethink what we as teachers need to do? Thinking that it’s time for the outlier mindset. Time to do what feels right for our students. Time to challenge conventional thought and actions. Build that relationship with your students (and their parents) that shows you care and they matter! Encourage all school members to look at their mindset and maybe, just maybe, develop that outlier mindset as well!

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Summer Has Arrived

I said good bye to “my kids” this week. Teary-eyed (me) I knew that next year will be a big step for them. My school (I say that even though I have retired and subbing has fulfilled my need to continue teaching) is under construction and when they come back in September there will be many changes. But they are resilient and the faculty, staff and administration are more then capable to welcome them back to an environment that has always been exemplary in knowing how to take care of kids; physical, social, emotional and academic well being. Toddler hugs, 3s’ smiles, 4s’ good wishes, kinders’ thanks, 1sts’and 2nds’ joyful waves, greeted me this past week. And then the parents sharing with me my impact on the lives of their children now moving on. It has been a very good week. Yesterday the school said good bye to retirees and teachers moving on. (I was so grateful that I could be there for this special event.) The love and memories shared left no dry eye in the room. This is a community that has opened its door and hearts to so many. Looking back at last summer, I reflect on the changes in me as I start this summer. I have found a rhythm to my life that suits me; as I balanced subbing and time with my family. My daughter and grandkids are on their way. My son will also enjoy spending time with them, and, I, well I’m adjusting to my new normal. Life as a widow has been eased because of the support of family and friends. I am lucky, I am resilient.

So good byes though hard reminds us that nothing stays the same. But knowing that tomorrow brings new wonder, different adventures and time to take stock of what we have.

For some summer is PD, coursework, workshops and reading books (professional and joyful escapism), or vacations that are long awaited!  So I hope summer rejuvenates, reenergizes and gives us time to enjoy what’s on our bucket list.

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EOY (A Sub’s Reflections: Past and Present)

It’s almost done.

It’s almost over.

The time has flown and the children have grown.

The year began with questions and tears.

The end is near, again questions and tears.

They came in the room new to me, and me to them.

So much to do, so much to learn.

They came in wondering, how will I succeed if I don’t know?

And me, I too wondered, will I succeed, I have so much to learn. Who are you and what should I know?  What do you like; at school and at home? How do I help you say good bye to the mom or dad or special friend who leads by the hand into the room? Do you love to build sand castles that reach to the sky or climb the structure and cry, “Look how high I can be?” Is reading fun, or is it a chore? When you write, are you excited to learn and do so more? Are those numbers confusing, or do those symbols give you a clue? Whether in books, on the iPad or TV shows what do you want to know about the world to explore?

And when I see you I’m ready to share about me what you might want to know. And together we learned and the time flew by, some days sad, but mostly glad.

And now you want to know, about what’s next? How will it be for me and my friends? Will the teacher like me, know who I am? Know that I’m a runner, an artist a clown? Will the work overwhelm and make me worry or am I ready to move on, as you’ve told me I am?

It’s almost done, the good-byes are hard. You taught me so much about who I am and I thank you for that! It’s almost over, it’s time to move on, but I’ll remember the year we had.

         

A year of subbing (or as a #kinderchat friend shared that substitute teachers are called “guest teacher” in her district) is almost over. It’s been a wonderous year of working with incredible educators and students who continue to inspire and awe. This post is written as a tribute to them as I share my memories and reflections of the beginnings and endings of the year as a classroom teacher. And for me similar feelings I have as their “guest teacher” in the Toddler, 3 and 4 year old programs, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.

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Books, Bibliotherapy and Patience

From the time I put a book in my hands and read about someone else’s life I knew this would be transformative for me! And it has. Instead of wallowing in self pity (many opportunities for that) I read about another’s dilemma, conundrum or challenge in their lives. Old classics just reaffirmed that “we all go through trying times.” And this belief helped me get through the challenges in my life. But so much for that, for now. (A previous post to help you understand.)

I steered my kids to books as outlets for their “drama” and now my grandkids read voraciously, understanding that books can help them as well.

From the day I entered the classroom I knew books held a key and the backbone to my teaching. Whether sharing joyous, humorous stories, informational text, traveling to distant countries, looking at hardships characters endured or deleving into self-help books my go to reservoir was always plentiful! When classroom situations seemed daunting there was always a huge number of books available in our school or classroom library. And what an incredible resource we have in our librarian! I think about this as I reflect on my years of teaching and how often that book, that said it so well, was close at hand. For the child who was bullied, the one with few friends, the one facing the death of a parent or close family member, the one who faced illness, or one who was moving or the daily “goodbyes” when it was time for school; books that looked at empathy, kindness, and the choices we make. There was a book there and a caring adult to read to the class (or one on one to that child), to address their concerns. (To read about Bibliotherapy )

As with all the “tools” in our trade, books are not a panacea but another resource that supports our students to let them know we care. And now I sub and continue to reach out to students with the power of stories and books. I subbed with the 4s this week and read We’re All Wonders by R.J Palacio. Sitting wide eyed they asked incredible questions and tried to make sense of being “not nice.” Now the wait to see how they transfer that story into their own behavior. It will take time and many other stories, but it’s a start.

Does that “perfect” book change a behavior? Do the children get it right away? Is there an immediate transfer to actual circumstances? I’m not naive, just hopeful that discussions and questions when books are shared might  help children reflect before they act. And here is where patience comes into play: change takes time, but it happens.

  

 

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