Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pet Pevees

Kinderchat has their third question for the summer 2012 blogging challenge ready!
Tell us about your pet peeves. Do it however you want: write a list of 50 things that drive you crazy, or an essay about just one thing, or story combining several things, or write a song, or some limericks, or an epic poem. A photo essay! A slideshow! Video journalism! Stand up comedy! The sky is the limit, just tell us what grinds your teeth as a teacher (or an administrator, or a program director, or in whatever capacity you are joining this challenge.) (Yeah, parentheses again. I think I need an intervention.) Be careful: your blog is public, and you never know who is reading. Be positive and professional, but tell the truth. You can do it.
This is a post that you could have a lot of fun writing, and one that could go on forever!!! I have decided to stick to 3…3 is a good number I think….here goes! 

1)     The word “funner”. I HATE this word!!! Adults who use it sound uneducated and kids who use it need their grammar fixed! As an early primary teacher, I have the joy of trying to explain to kids why certain words don’t follow the rules. Happy – happier, sad – sadder, fun – funner - wrong! Then this is the conversation that follows: 
Me – “Not funner, but more fun. That game is more fun.”
Kid – “Why?”
Me – “English is a funny language and this is one of those words that doesn’t follow the rules.”
Kid – “But it’s more words”
Me – “I know it’s more words, but that is how you say it properly.”

When I lived in San Diego I had the joy of working for a gymnastics club who’s slogan was “The Funner Gym”. I had numerous conversations with the owner about the grammar and that if he is running a business where children are your main clientele, he should use proper grammar. Needless to say we didn’t see eye to eye on that and once I landed a teaching job… I quit! 

2)     This is something that drove me up the wall this year in my class and I am sure lots of you can relate! Nothing gets my blood boiling in a classroom then asking a kid to stop doing something (this year it was clicking noises with their tongues) and then having the kid right next to them start!! AHHHH!!!! My favourite part of this is when you ask that kid why they think they can do it when I asked the person next to them to stop, I always get that same I don’t know look! 

3)     People thinking that just because I am short and I look young that I am not capable. Sure, I am 5’2 and I don’t look my age, but when it comes to doing my job, I am plenty capable! When people actually take the time to talk to me, they find out that I have been working with children as a gymnastics coach for almost 23 years and that I have been teaching in the classroom for 11. And if that isn’t enough for them…I can show them my video of me dead lifting 300pounds and clearing a 36” hurdle!!! 

My home away from home

Kinderblog weekly challenge - week 2. Tell us about one (or two, or a few) of the classrooms you have had over the years. Not the kids, the ROOMS. What have you loved? What have you hated? How did you FEEL in the space? What did you DO with the space that, looking back, seems ridiculous? Or brilliant? We all spend so much time in our classrooms, we really do develop a relationship with the physical space. Tell us about that (those) relationship(s).

Although we are now in week 3 of the challenge, I have been thinking about this post for a week or so, and now is the time to sit and write it. As I have been reflecting, the one that that became glaringly obvious to me is that it doesn’t matter what the room looks like, it is what you as a teacher do with it. This hit home with me hard last week when I walked into the room that I was assigned for summer school. I walked in at 8:00 (the kids were arriving at 8:30 and there was staff meeting in there somewhere) and the room literally had nothing – tables, chairs and that was it! My first thought was – I have 18 kinders going into grade 1 coming in here in 30 minutes, I have NOTHING and it’s raining! A little creativity, some “kid” art, some toys borrowed from a neighbour and we were good to go! Having the blank canvas, even for a 9 day summer school session, was actually just what I needed!

I have had the privilege of working in several schools (both private and public) in both Canada and the United States. This has allowed me the opportunity to view MANY ways that a class can be set up. As a teacher on call, the one thing I loved was going into a room and seeing how that teacher had laid it out. Room layout is such a personal thing and everyone has their reasons as to why or why not to put things in a place. Your room is your home away from home, and as such it is very personal. And like the furniture in your house, every once in a while, it needs to be re-arranged! I typically re-arrange me furniture 3-5 times in a school year for various reasons (start of a new year, accommodate an activity/new furniture, need a change, try something new) and when I do it always feels like I am in a “new” room.

People might say that I am crazy, but my favourite room that I have worked in to date was actually a portable in Lakeside, California (just south of San Diego). When most people here portable, thoughts go to a small, stuffy space where you are confined on the outskirts of the school. The reason I LOVED this portable is because when I got it, it was literally a blank canvas. I was hired to pilot a new program in the district and as such, I was allowed to choose what shelving, tables, cubbies and of course manipulatives I wanted to have in the room. The space was a large (as far as portables go) and this only thing it didn’t have was a sink (the other portables at this school had them), which for Pre-Kinders was a bit tough, but we got creative. The physical space was a large rectangle, which allowed me to “break” the room up easily into different centers and when it was warm, we went right outside the door to use the sidewalk as extra space.  
I am going into my 3rd year in my current room and while it is a HUGE kindergarten classroom (fully equipped with a bathroom and shared kitchen), the actual usable space is awkward. In the 2 years I have had the room, it has undergone NUMEROUS configurations, all of which involved lengthy conversations with colleagues as to what they thought might help the room. The latest configuration has my teacher desk at the back near the exterior door in the hopes of allowing more play space. Some people have cautioned me against it there (proximity to parents at the door mostly), but I think it will be ok, and if it’s a problem, it will just mean another move. 

My friend Laura @lmurtsell and I have had many conversations about the “problem” in my room is how the carpet is laid. There is linoleum and carpet in the room and that “divide” seems to push us into placing furniture in certain spots, therefore adding to the “wasted” space in my room. IF I could have my way, I would switch the cubbies at the back of my room with the shelving by the hallway door. In my mind, that would make much more useable space in  both areas…but I have been told “there is no money in the budget for those renovations.” So I guess I will just be thankful that I have classroom I enjoy being in with lots of toys and manipulatives for the next group to come through in September.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Reflections on a year....

I have been thinking about this blog for a while, but having recently been called out by a great colleague, @lirenmanlearns for not responding right away, I have decided to finally sit down and put my thoughts on "paper".

Here is the challenge that was put out there: What did you learn this past (or, for our southern hemisphere friends, what ARE you learning this current) school year that you couldn’t have learned any other year, from any other students or colleagues or administrators or parents? What lessons did this particular year, this particular setting, these particular children bring into your life?
posted by @happycampergirl for #Kinderchat #Kinderblog2012 Challenge

For me the question is not what did I learn, the question is what didn't I learn this year? I will say that in my 11 years of teaching, this was the year that really changed me in many ways. Not only did my teaching practices change through the use of Ipads, twitter and the document camera/projector combo that I love, so  did my view on my teaching. 

More than any other year, this year challenged me. This year challenged me emotionally, physically and professionally. As I sit here and reflect on the year, I realize that I have grown more as an educator this year than in any of the previous 11. This class that I just wrapped up made me question everything! 

I have had NUMEROUS conversations this year with my colleagues and admin about my class and the challenges we have been through  the course of 10 months. It has not been an easy year, but the 19 kids that I have worked with this year have changed me in ways that they will never know! Here is just one example of how I have grown this year...

Working in an inner city school I have always known that school is the only stable part of life for many of the children we work with. This became clear to me this year when in May one of my students started having anxiety about and acting out in class. This caused her to act out in inappropriate ways towards myself and others. I was left there asking myself why is this happening? Why now? What is going on to cause this sudden change?

It wasn't until I took a step back and pulled her aside to talk with her that I realized the root of the problem...she didn't want to leave me and have a new teacher in September. As a K teacher, I have had this told to me a many times, and usually a big hug and telling them that I will always be here visit and telling them that they will love their grade 1 teacher just as much (or more than me) has been enough. In this case it wasn't. She wanted to know from me, that no matter what she was doing, that I still cared about her as a person.

She and I agreed that I would write a special letter just for her and give it to her on the last day of school to help her get through the summer. I didn't realize just how important that was to her, until every day for the 14 days prior to school ending she reminded me of the letter. This is when it hit me....I have been the stable force in her life for the past 10 months and through it all, I have always believed in her, even when she didn't believe in herself. That letter meant more to her than anything else because to her, it meant that someone (besides her family) cared about her unconditionally. She also needed to know that I was going to follow through on my promise, something I am sure many people in her life have not done. Asking me daily was not her way of annoying me, it was her way of letting me know just how important this was to her.

Writing that letter made me cry, but it also made me happy to remember why it is I teach Kindergarten. I teach kindergarten because the BIGGEST part of my job it take  these 4 and 5 years olds and get them off to a good start in school; make them LOVE learning and to let them know that people care. If these kids leave my room in June loving school, loving learning, knowing how to treat people well and ready to explore the world.....then I have done my job! This girl will never remember the math or reading lessons that we did, but she will ALWAYS remember that I cared about her and that is more valuable than any lesson I could even teach my class. I want to thank her for reminding why I LOVE my job!!!