Saturday, October 31, 2015

I Wonder If They Know...


     So I was setting my yearly professional goal back in August.  I was all ready school hadn't even started.  I thought about it all summer, what would I commit to? I filled out the google doc and overachiever that I am I even included a clever picture!  See below picture.  My goal for myself this year was simple really, I would commit to journal every Friday and reflect on something positive.  I had the paper ready to give to my principal, check.... and moving on.  


   Week one was easy, I survived the first few days with my new, untrained, eager firsties.   My positive was that I was still smiling.  The second week again Friday came and I sat there thinking, and thinking.  Then, I sat there, hmm I thought wow I am really tired, I need to get home and rest.  So the "reflective" writing became the "urrghh, this is the thing I need to do before I can go". But now it was my goal so I had to.  

     Much like my first graders I sat there unwilling, unwanting, uninterested and done for the day. "I don't want to"... I could hear the whining rising in my mind.  So I sat and wrote something down.  It wasn't "bad" writing but I could not call it a "reflective" writing.  Actually the "writing itself was messy and I had a hard time reading it back.  So I did this for a few weeks every Friday.  Looking back at my journal, there was something happening, and not positive.  I noticed that now each week the "reflection" was shorter, weaker and less legible.

     If I knew this was a positive thing and I knew it would make me a better teacher why could I not give 100% and pour my heart into this?  I am not saying it has to be lengthy to be reflective but I literally have a page with 2 sentences... REALLY? 

     I watched my class one day and I started to see a pattern.  My kids were so excited to read but writing is hard so it is not the thing they want to jump into and do for short spurts let alone long stamina writing.  I started on a mission to make my firsties readers and writers, knowing one discipline would strengthen the other and visa versa.  

     So how could I convince them... "Writing Journal?".  I told the kids it was Friday and they had been awesome all week, "I have a surprise for you. Today we are going to use a reflection journal.  In this journal you can chose any book or story we have read, listened to and you can reflect in your new response journal!"

  So I modeled and got mine out. I showed where we would write the title and the author and a good sentence or more if we wanted and were able about the story and why we chose it.  Then when writing was done they could get out their crayons and color a picture that matches the part they wrote about.  Oh my, they were so thrilled.

    #1 the paper was not our regular writing paper, it was small lines and in a spiral notebook so that was like the big kids, also there was a possibility to write a bout a cool book no one else had read yet.  they worked hard for about 17 minutes of no walk no talk.  I sat there in awe.  

How could they just write and have fun, what was different? I had a journal , but I did not want to write in it, how can I be excited like my students?  So... I kept thinking for a couple more weeks.  I knew in the back of my mind what I needed to do but I was afraid.  Yep afraid.  The 6 year olds in my room had so much courage to tackle the new, unknown, paper medium and freedom of topics, and I couldn't pick up my pencil.  

Sitting at lunch one day another educator was talking with me.  "I think you should try blogging", she said.
"hmm...hmm...yeah, no I don't think I can do that." I replied.
"You really should, it can be a great way to reflect and pushing that button to publish will add value to what you do,"  was her quick reply.
Now, the fact that she blogs and I have read her blog regularly made me think I could not do anything like that.  I was worried I would say something incorrectly, have spelling errors, sound like was not intelligent.  You think of the negative, panicked thought and that is what I was thinking. I had every excuse to not blog.  

The seed was planted though. That Friday I picked up my reflection journal and thought o.k, here we go, get it done.  At that moment the seed that was planted had a burst of growth. Maybe I should type today and I could maybe write a post to blog later. So I started typing.  Ideas and cool things were floating around my head. I typed. I reread. I typed some more. This went on for a while.  I looked at the clock and an hour was gone!  WHAT?  It was so easy.  

So I came home and read what I wrote to my husband and again positive words, "just post it" is what he said. so I did.  I wonder every time I write now if the people I work with every day have any clue how scared I was to try this new venture. I wonder if they know I am taking this leap and pushing myself quietly to be brave like my firsties.  I wonder if my firsties know that they teach me daily...Oh yeah, I know that answer, they know, because I tell them they teach me something awesome everyday because first graders really are they brightest people on the planet. (Yes, I really do tell them that, and they do not doubt it!)

My post tonight is not why I blog.  That was my first post. This post is my new professional goal for this year.  Yes, I am editing my original reflection idea.  I do not expect to force ideas out weekly but I would like to try to write weekly.  my commitment is to post at least twice monthly.  I have also realized the reason the journal worked for my kids but not for me was because I needed something new and fresh for myself.  I actually look forward to writing each week, it is a rush and I feel like even if no one reads it, I put myself out there.  But if one person reads it and has an "aha moment" or a "right on" then it mattered to someone that I shared and pushed the button. 

 Thank you to the positive people who write weekly and inspire me with "aha moments" and "right ons".  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Just Smile!

So this week the song that came rushing to my mind was a Nat King Cole song Smile, that I remember hearing in the movie Savannah Smiles.  One of my favorite movies from the 80's for many reasons, but the biggest reason was that song. 
" Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by"
This was the song that rushed to the front of my mind in class today.  We are implementing 1:1 technology in our district this year so every app, project, use of our iPads brings new challenges.  Normally I can keep ahold of the reins by scouting an app or site prior to kids so I can troubleshoot and prepare my firsties for unexpected issues.  However, there are things we can not control.  The new assessment we will be using this year is on iPad instead of 1:1 with the teacher.  Keeping things fun and positive is the only way to keep firsties from stressing out. 

So on a side note, you know how animals can smell fear?  Well so can 6 year olds!  My students will follow me with a smile and no fear... Unless they see me stressed.  Well watching my firsties enter a 9 digit student number and then a password with letters and numbers combined, they could hear the stress in my voice.  I did not know what the screen would look like next, how it would respond, if my kids could maneuver, etc.  My principal, an aid and myself were in the room floating around to assist.  After the test was done I felt drained!  I felt awful like my kids were super stressed.  When they came back from recess they were bounding with energy and giggling...What?  I thought they would be wiped out, over stressed, overloaded!

Yes, it took longer than planned, it was hard work, but we rose to the challenge.  Another day that my plans would be a mess because things took longer than planned, were not as smooth as I pictured in my mind.  We had to adjust and do a few things differently in the afternoon so we could finish our day on a high note.  Smiles and high fives as my bus students left the building made me stop and reflect on the day.  They were amazing, I was amazed by their ability to shine in a moment that could have been scary.  I walked back to my classroom and I heard the song pumping through my brain once again...
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying? 
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.

So much power!  If we remember that positive energy and something as simple as a smile can redirect many issues we first view as impossible or frightening.  Someone once told me it's impossible to be sad if you are able to smile and get someone to smile back at you. So when it gets crazy, I'm gonna stop, take a breathe and smile at one of my firsties so they know I believe in them!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jumping in Without a Plan

For years I have been a lurcher in the shadow of the open internet.  I have been able to agree with a blogger with smile or exit a page in disgust basically unnoticed. I never imagined I would attempt to put myself out there, bare, unguarded, completely vulnerable.

         Well today I step out of the shadows and jump in trembling with excitement or possible severe fear!  So this is my very first attempt to blog so please be kind.  I have been sitting here thinking about all the possible things I can write about.  I have several avenues to reflect on.  Ideas and thoughts of concern, excitement, disbelief, motivation, realization and hope.  So which is the direction?  Well, indecisive as I am I will just start writing and see where it takes me.

I guess I should start with who I am... I am a teacher of first graders. I am a mother of a son, a daughter, and a dog who believes he is a cat that I accept as a child.  If you followed that you must suffer from the same creative thinking I do.  Last but not least, I am the wife of the smartest man I have ever known and I really mean that.  

My week started the normal Monday, busy and crazy, but also had some high points.  As I often do, I had lesson plans nice and tidy ready to go. There were objectives posted and the room was clean, desks were wiped down.  Every Monday is a new start for me.  I was a weight watcher for years and I would weigh in on Monday, that was always like my reset point.  So I guess the thing I think about is the need for the reset is vital.  If you don't reset your habits you will continue to get the same product.  I guess if your product is perfect then you don't need to worry, I have yet to reach anything close to perfection.

Monday was Columbus Day.  So we started by reading about Christopher Columbus.  As I got started with my real aloud I looked around to see 25 pairs of eyeball looking uninterested and disconnected.  At this point there was a choice: continue reading and push through, or close the book and insert a real life application.  So I jumped in and started with an application lesson.  We looked around the room. " Imagine that you are locked in and not able to leave.” I told them.  Even better, “ We started school on August 19, and today is October 12. That means if you were Christopher Columbus you would have been on your boat sailing that whole time. or in our classroom the whole time .  What are we missing in here?"
Well the conversation got pretty silly from then on.  First they decided we would starve to death, then they realized there was no refrigerator. After that the restroom situation and lack of shower facilities.  It was a powerful conversation, they were engaged, smiling, being silly for a second... Well they are 6.  I was having fun and they were having fun and they will remember not that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, but that a long sea travel 600 years ago would have been unpleasant, hard, gross, and most importantly if you got hungry there was no McDonald's to go to.  Had I just stuck with the perfectly fine, perfectly factual, perfectly normal read aloud, I would have missed the opportunity to share a real world connection with history.  After we had our crazy chat we went back to the book.  This time as we read facts they were attentive, excited and wide eyed!  That is how I love my little firsties to look.
Had I stuck to the tidy lesson plan I would have robbed my students of a truly authentic learning moment.  The lesson learned! Teach where you can connect and be real.  Days like this happen often, I do not go back to my lesson plan book and rewrite my plans, mostly because I can not get 2 seconds at this point in the year.  There may be another reason though; maybe I would look ineffective or unorganized to anyone looking at my plans.
I didn’t really have an idea where I was going with this.  Perhaps I just needed to write this so I could see for myself how much more important it is to be flexible, gauge my audience, and look for active engagement.  
Do you have these moments?  I am so afraid I will look like I don’t know what I am doing.  Do I dwell alone in the world of "am I good enough?"  At the end of each day I just want to know I did all I could to make a difference.  Sometimes to make that difference I may need to allow my teaching to be interrupted.