Monthly Archives: January 2016

Celebrating Kindergarten

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This post is part of Ruth Ayres Celebrate Link up. Thanks, Ruth for this great opportunity to celebrate.

You are a new coach, trying to pop into as many classrooms as you can in between meetings and planning and other work. It’s amazing how much you learn popping into classrooms. You celebrate getting to work with so many amazing teachers every day.

You decide you need to pop into Kindergarten. You haven’t really been there yet, and it just seems like a good day to do a little pop in visit.

You walk into the first kindergarten with an open door.  Children play blocks and lincoln logs as they start their day.  (Every time kids get to play, you celebrate.)

You make plans with that teacher to stop by in a few minutes for reader’s workshop, and  walk across the hall to pop in to another kindergarten: Everyone is dancing! You didn’t want to intrude, so you hang back at the door until the teacher smiles and invites you in, “Ms. Thought, you can join our game!” So you celebrate and dance with the 6 year olds: you stop and start with the music, and  try to be as cool as these little dancers. You stay for a morning message, and calendar complete with a mystery shape game! And then  literacy workshop begins. You take in the beginning literacy signs all around, with words and letters, pictures and cues: all made with fun and creativity. You listen to energetic and clear directions (Kindergarten teachers know how explicit directions need to be!) Students will go on a hunt for animals around the room, and spell them on their recording sheet when they find them. But wait! Before they go, they have to make sure they won’t be cold. Their teacher shows them a bag “Reach in without looking, pull out a scarf!”

It’s hard, but you get up, thank the teacher and walk next door, telling yourself that you’ll just pop in there for a few minutes. Reading workshop is beginning and students are choosing their first work. You stroll around, check in on the iPads, listen in to the Words Their Way lesson, and then sit on the carpet to see what books the students are looking at from their new collection. A boy sidles up to you, and you ask if you can read with him. Looking through books together, you help him with some letters, read some pages, and notice when he starts to hold your hand.

When students gather between their workshop rounds again, he sits next to you, and a few other students do to. You decide to stay for one more round. Another boy comes up and asks you to come with him to the teacher station, so you ask the teacher. “Can I come hang out with you? This friend invited me…” and she smiles, nods and reminds you not to be fooled by those eyelashes! Too late. You sit and watch the kids excitedly spell pot, mud and map in “adult spelling.” with letter tiles. You tell them they are ‘spelling superstars!’ and that you are very impressed. Mr. Eyelashes says “Me? I’m a spelling superstar?” Oh yes. He is.

You celebrate these kindergarten superstars by staying for just a little longer. You read with kids, who flock to you: you’re fast friends now.  You read, you listen, you point out letters, and even try to pronounce all of the spanish words in one of the ABC books. The girl sitting with you finally says, “That’s okay- don’t worry about that one.” Your new friends sit next to you, put their arm around you, ask to sit in your lap, and ask for one more story. You partner read with one girl, and keep accidentally reading her pages. She reminds you to take her turn, and you both laugh.

You read about trains and teddy bears, dogs, coconut trees, fairy tale characters, and ABCs.  You celebrate the books and their kindness. As you get ready to finally say goodbye, you tell them, “Friends, thank you for making me feel so welcome in your classroom. I had such a great time reading some of your new books with you. You were so kind to me, and that meant a lot to me. Thank you. I can’t wait to come again.” You look around at all their genuine, sweet faces. Their teacher asks them, “How does that make you feel? Here?” and taps her heart. The kids look happy, some are tapping their heart and saying “It makes me feel happy!” So you celebrate with them and feel happy too. You start to get up and Mr. Eyelashes looks up at you, “I wish you were my mommy.”

You probably deserve a medal for not crying, and you go through the rest of your day with a smile, celebrating Kindergarten!

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A slice of anxiety

Slice of LIfe

This is part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life. Find out more, and join in here.

You may remember this story of my worry over a bat. Ugh. Read that to get into my head a bit.

Saturday: I’m taking it easy, trying to get over this stupid cold when I decide to do a little yoga. There I am practicing cat tuck when BAM!

A small, cylindrical, brown…dropping? And another one… And another one. I groan, I vacuum, and then quick as a whip I google —  all. the. kinds. of. poop. I determine that it’s mouse (not rat – phew.) and stop and read a bit about the deer mouse. Oh no. Don’t ever read about the deer mouse. I realize I shouldn’t have vacuumed it if it is a deer mouse. I ask my husband about 100 times if he thinks it was a deer mouse dropping. I find another one, I compare it. It isn’t pointy…so…it must be a house mouse. Still not good but better. Vacuuming house mouse poop is not as fatal… I ask my husband again if he thinks it could be deer mouse. We do, after all live near a lot of trees. (“No. It isn’t.” He says, again. He’s so patient with me, really. Then, “Stop googling.” Then, “Put your phone down.”) I start to feel anxious.

I wonder why our cats haven’t alerted us to this mouse problem. I wonder if the previous owners of our house had mice. I wonder if it is possibly something that the kids dragged in on the bottom of their shoes that I am constantly telling them not to wear in the house. I call my mom. She tells me to relax, that I’m going to make myself insane. I try to forget about it, but realize we are going to have to figure this out soon…I try to tell the cats to go find the mice!

Waking up Sunday morning, I decide that we need to search the house for more droppings. Mr. Thought has the idea that if it isn’t under the couch, it is probably just some sort of oddly shaped dirt from shoes. I hope it isn’t under the couch. We lift the couch to search.

There they are: 2 pieces.  We find 2 or 3 more in the kitchen. We take a picture. I google. I am surprisingly relieved at first thought when I realize it more closely matches the cockroach poop. (“Stop googling horrible gross things on your phone!” Mr. Thought is not so patient any more. Who could blame him?) I google cockroaches, and we search cabinets, and corners and floors. Nothing. We search for the name of the pest company that did our old house’s pest inspection. I email the picture and a brief note to the tune of “Hi – We are settling into our new house, yada yada yada. Help! I think we have cockroaches! Please look at this crazy picture and come to our house asap!” 

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I start to search the dining room. I can’t believe this is my Sunday. I want to read my book. I want to not be thinking about how horrible it will be if we all get a disease from a sick mouse, or how I’m never going to be able to turn off the light for fear of cockroaches.

The pest guy emails back, “It looks like a mouse – in this weather they like to come in. I can come Tuesday to take a look.”

I continue to search the dining room. I find another one. This one is a little bigger. That’s when it dawns on me.

A week ago.

A birthday party.

Ten 6 year olds, and

a tray of cookies…with

sprinkles.

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I’ll wait for you to finish laughing at me.

I’ll let you imagine how I still need to be convinced. You can picture us, on our search for more sprinkles, the whole family on our hands and knees…how my 9 year old uses the scientific method to convince me. You should know that I still vacuum everything, and wash down all the floors. I still look around the next few days just to make sure. And of course, I have to email the pest guy back… “So, this is embarrassing because I’m pretty sure it was actually chocolate sprinkles from my 6 year old’s birthday party. I’ll let you know if anything changes…” 

Moral of the story? Vacuum the whole house after a party — don’t wait for the next weekend. (Duh.) And maybe listen to your mom when she tells you to stop freaking yourself out. (Double Duh.)

Mr. Thought took pictures of the cookies at the grocery story for further proof. No more “droppings” have been found in the house. The case of the deadly sprinkle poop is over.

Knock on wood.

I believe I have homework.

My coaching team gave me homework. It’s due tomorrow: What do I believe about coaching? What do I wonder about coaching?

I’m thinking that it won’t quite get the big-thinking job done if I say, “I wonder what I believe.”  (Maybe an A+ for creative effort?)

I believe I have a lot to learn.
I believe listening is powerful.
I believe I need to 
shut myself up more
I believe that silence can be scary,
that not knowing what someone is thinking is hard
but that listening to understand matters

I believe I will need a daily reminder:
"It's not about you, Mrs. Thought"
so that I won't take things personally
and I will lose the ego,
be open to everyone's positive intentions
relationships matter

I believe I will learn much
from many 
amazing
people
1 day in classrooms, and I have a list started: "Fabulous ideas to take back to myclassroom!"
I believe teachers matter 

I believe I will love my time with kids too
Today I laughed with primary students,
and later hugged almost 50 of my 6th graders (yes, they will always be mine!)
I believe kids matter 
(plus they're fun...Scene:classroom mini lesson on surveying text. Teacher asks, "what does 'survey' mean?" Student responds, "It's a type of non-dairy ice cream." ...pause, questioning glances... Teacher asks,"Really, is it?" Student thinks and then says, "Oh. That's sorbet.")
Smiling matters, laughter matters, fun matters.

I wonder
Will I help?
Will I be able to focus in?
Will I mess up my google calendar?
How long will I be living outside of my comfort zone?
Since wondering matters, learning matters, and stepping outside of your comfort zone matters... I believe I'll keep wondering. 

 

A Slice out of the Comfort Zone

Slice of LIfe

This is part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life. Find out more, and join in here.

Yesterday was my first day “on the job” as an instructional coach. After a meeting, a few emails, and a stop at one of my schools, I headed over to the PIIC conference and spent the rest of the day with over 100 Instructional Coaches. Talk about a first day! Surrounded by people who actually know what they are doing was wonderful of course — and I also found myself going “meta.” I kept thinking about what I was thinking — what it felt like to be new. Honestly before this year I had never even heard of PIIC. Walking into the conference I had no idea what to expect, and I paid attention as my brain took it all in. When is the last time you were in a totally new situation with all new people? It doesn’t happen to me very often. If I’m in a new situation, I usually try to bring a friend. Or, I research it a lot so I know what to expect. But if I think about it – the last totally new situation I was in was when I started taking yoga last year.  I just don’t do it very often… because it’s scary! When you are new, you walk in and you think everyone else knows… knows each other, knows the content, knows better.  Sometimes one or all of those assumptions are correct, and sometimes none of them are.

I noticed my brain as I sat at my assigned table with all new people. I was trying to take it all in, frame my brain to this culture and its norms and inside jokes. I held my breath and hoped not to be “voluntold” to answer a question because my brain was still working to catch up with the “new.” After the introduction, I stayed for “Coaching 101,” while the rest of my district colleagues went off to their choice sessions. I was at a table full of people who were at their first PIIC conference too, but they had much experience as instructional coaches.  On each table was a picture of a vehicle, and we were asked what it represented in terms of instructional coaching. I laughed at what was sure to be the first of many conversations where my voice would be quiet and non-essential! When my turn came  to share, I simply said “Well, that car looks new! I’m new too. This is my first day.”

I said a variation of that many times over the course of the day. The response was generally astonished delight. “How lucky to start at this conference!” and “Nothing like throwing you into the fire!” were common answers. (Also, “Don’t expect snacks like this every day on the job!”)

This morning it occurred to me that this has happened before! Soon after getting my first job and finding out I would be teaching second grade, I was sent to a conference with a 2 other second grade teachers – a conference all about second grade! I had no idea what I was getting into then… and that was a great year. So, there’s hope!

When I walked into the conference today the quote on the screen was appropriate:

 

“Your comfort zone is a place where you keep yourself in a self-illusion; nothing can grow there. Your potentiality can grow only when you can think and grow out of that zone.” – Rashedur Ryan Rahman. 

Well, nobody could say I’m in my comfort zone this week!

Celebrate Endings

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This post is part of Ruth Ayres Celebrate Link up. Thanks, Ruth for this great opportunity to celebrate.

Years ago, it was the last day of school and my intern started a compliment circle with our class. Each person would choose one other person to gift a compliment. I crossed my fingers that nobody would feel left out. A boy, I’ll call him Dave, raised his hand to go first. Dave had seemed to not care about school much all year. He sometimes gave a little attitude, and he struggled with getting his work done. I tried to hold him accountable, and I definitely felt that I wasn’t one of his favorite people. Dave looked over and said, “I choose Mrs. Thought.” and proceeded to tell me how I was his favorite teacher, and how much he appreciated me.

I believe I celebrated that by crying. Ends of school years have always been emotional for me. I am pretty sure I scared my second graders at the end of my first year of teaching. I sobbed as they left the classroom for their summer. I couldn’t believe the year was over, the kids were leaving — and I didn’t have a job lined up for the next year yet! The year before last I watched as more than half of my students started crying and hugging each other before the final bell rang. That time had very little to do with me — they were just that close. I’ll never forget the 6th grade girls and boys just breaking down because 6th grade was over! When things end, I think it’s easier to appreciate what you had. I often think of it as the summer camp phenomenon, and I see it play out in June each year: This ride we’ve been on together is over, we will never be able to replicate it, and man that was a fun and crazy time!

This year, I got my June day in January. Friday was my last day with my students as their teacher. (Monday I start as an instructional coach for the rest of the year.)

After telling my classes and their parents about the upcoming change, we had a mini June at school. Everyone suddenly loved me! And, the feeling was definitely mutual. I have loved my classes all year – that’s no lie. But looking at them through the eyes of someone about to leave. . . I should have just played dramatic movie soundtracks in the background for the last few weeks; everything they said was so important and meaningful. As they shared the books they were reading I had to hush an inner voice shouting at me, “Stay! Abort mission! Don’t leave these amazing people!” But, as one of the parents told me in an email: Opportunity knocks at complicated times. I’m so excited about my new opportunity, much to celebrate in that as well! But this week was about saying goodbye.

 

I’m trying to live in the present — never have been one for filming things instead of just living them. However, I wish I had a camera rolling  Friday during 8th period. If you’ve never had a 6th grade boy tell you with all his heart that what you’ve done means so much, if you’ve never had one hug you and tell you he loves you and that things won’t be the same without you… If you have never had a gaggle of 11 year old girls tell you that they will miss you, that the new teacher will “always be number 2, Mrs. Thought!…” I don’t know if you can understand. If you haven’t had a student play some sort of sad classical piece on his chromebook and march it towards your desk, if you haven’t had a kid run to the bathroom crying because you’re leaving… I’m not sure I can explain it to you.

Of course, I’m not celebrating that these kids are sad — I know their emotions are true right now. I also know that they will be okay. Their new teacher is passionate, excited and ready for the challenge that is 6th grade. They will love her, and I will still be around in the building. It’s all good.