Be The Principal Who Says “No.”

Can I talk to you when you have a chance? No, you can talk to me right now because I value our conversations.

Do you think we could look into getting this for the school so I could use it with my students? No, I’ll look into right away so we can use it with all the students in the school.

Do you mind if I send you this funny email? No, I encourage you to send that funny email because I am also human and am capable of laughing.

Can we look into getting some updated technology in my classroom? No, because I’ve already looked into it and it’s on its way. I noticed how well you use technology already and thought it might be beneficial to have a teacher encouraging students to do the same. 
I’m applying for a new job and was hoping you could give me some guidance? No, I will personally make some phone calls for you because I believe in your strengths and abilities. 

Can you let me know when you’re going to be coming into my classroom? I don’t like the feeling of being spied on. No, I will come in at random and on a consistent basis because I believe in what you’re doing with your students is in their best interest and that you are always giving 100% effort towards your job. 

This conference is a bit expensive, but I was hoping to go if you think it’s OK. No, I think it’s more than OK. I think it’s wonderful you are wanting to further yourself in your professional development.

Do you want me to sign up for another intramural? No, I want you to sign up for another intramural if you’re passionate about wanting to teach the students what you have to offer out of choice not obligation. 
Do you think I should try this new activity with my students? No, I know you can try it and I know you will do it well while failing, succeeding, and picking yourself back up in between.

Oh, I see you’re sitting with me at lunch. Do you want to know what happened today in my classroom? No. Again, I’m a human being and am able to talk about subjects other than education.
I’m going to be away tomorrow afternoon. Can we switch supervision times? No, I’ll just do your supervision block for you.

I have a student causing me lots of problems in the classroom. There are a few people scheduled to come in and see this student in the coming weeks, but do you have any tips or tricks you think I should try? No, but let’s sit down and think of some together and then I can come to your classroom to help implement these strategies and observe the student. That way when the specialists arrive, I’ll have an idea of what’s happening in the classroom.
I’d really love to use that new tech tool with my students that you mentioned at the last staff meeting. Can you show me how to use it after school so I can best teach my students? No, let’s arrange a time where I can come and teach your class alongside you so we can both learn and teach simultaneously. 

Can I pop out of school on May 15th for a few hours? My son’s school is having their Mother’s Day Tea and I would really like to attend. I will arrange my own coverage with my colleagues. No, I’ll cover your class for you. Your family is important.

This parent has been questioning my every move since the first day of school. They requested a meeting with me and would like you to come, too. Do you want me to tell them we can all meet after school tomorrow? No. Let’s sit down and have a chat just you and I to talk about what will be discussed at the meeting, before we schedule anything. I will always have your back.
Be the principal who says “no.”

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The Back to School Blazer: Look No Further

I have found it.

“It” being a blazer. THE blazer. THE blazer to have for “Back To School”.

I know those last three little words are a bit painful after having a fantastic and restful summer break, but at least it’s time to shop for some new clothes.

If you’re looking for a new blazer, look no further. I have found it at a store called Lole. I love how the store has a mix of active wear that can take us ladies from the classroom to the gym and back again.

When I am shopping for any jacket or tailored sweater, I struggle to find one that is broad enough in the shoulders. A few of my jackets have succumbed to that one time I bent over to help a student with their shoes or reached down to grab my coffee cup or keys I placed on the floor. Therefore, I like to find pieces that are stretchy. And at my job, I move. Lots.

Pros to this blazer:

– stretchy

– super mega comfy fabric (it feels like wearing a hoodie but you look all posh and put together) with SPF 50 protection

– arms stretchy enough to wear full length or rolled up to a 3/4 length

– nicely tailored for a close fit

– a flattering length that hits just below the hip

– did I say it was stretchy? Yeah, it’s stretchy.

Cons to this blazer:

– nothing.

I bought this blazer in black and know that due to its fit and colour that it will be a staple in my work wardrobe, from bends to boogers.

You can buy The Suitable Blazer here in red, grey, blue, or black.

The best news of all is that the Lole Whyte Avenue location is offering teachers a 20% back to school discount on the new fall line when a teacher ID is presented at the checkout.

Looking to get fit this Fall? Allow our fitness community to provide the support and inspiration you need to achieve your goals. Come down to our 4000 square foot facility and discover our Fall specials, plus mention this blog and get $25 off your first month of fitness! Welcome to the BeFit Family beyoutifulyoufit.com

I am an ambassador for Lole Women’s Clothing. All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.

Back to School: It Doesn’t Matter

Teachers, it doesn’t matter. You can tell yourself it does, but it doesn’t. 

Stop wondering about what colour to dye clothes pins.

Stop questioning what theme you should decorate your classroom.

Stop obsessing over how you should organize every scrap of construction paper at your art station.

Stop contemplating buying a 100$ personalized school planner.

Stop making sure absolutely every pencil holder in your classroom matches every other little item.

Start wondering how clothes pins can be added to your loose parts play area to promote creative thinking.

Start questioning the themes your students will be interested in during the upcoming school year, in order to plan meaningful learning opportunities.

Start obsessing over how you organize your materials best for your students’ needs.

Start writing down all your ideas in a coil notebook in perfect printing or chicken scratch – make it look unique.

Start making sure absolutely every tiny little detail about your teaching matches every tiny little student coming into your classroom.

Sit back. Relax. Clean your classroom. Make it organized. Make it you.

Stop thinking it matters.
Start thinking the pedagogy matters more.

  

Earth Day: Paperless Pleasure in Nature

I just did a mega successful Earth Day activity with my students. I’ve seen much too much paper and styrofoam Earth Day activities being shared on educational websites and that’s just not right. Try this one out for size!

To create this lesson, I was inspired by two activities:
1) the cloud frame you have all seen on Pinterest, where students make a frame that has different types of clouds around it and they can use outdoors to identify different types of clouds
2) yarn weaving

I thought long and hard to come up with a fun activity for my students to get closer to nature. My pal Mardelle is super outdoorsy and is always in the back of my mind as soon as I pick up a stick or a leaf. My idea of outdoorsy is hanging out on my deck with some snacks. So this was out of my comfort zone for sure.

My fabulous student teacher and my excellent Educational Assistant both helped tie and hot glue a stick frame for each student.

After we brainstormed about what we find in nature, each student helped me finish off the frames by wrapping some stretchy elastic cord all around the frame. We talked about how we have different sizes of items in nature and how we need something to help hold all our items in our frame.

Here is a photo of all the supplies we used.

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Is that stretchy elastic cord made out of gold? No? Well it cost just as much as gold at Michael’s. Ugh.

I helped the students knot as each end. While I did so, they wrote their name on half of a paint chip. I hole punched the paint chip and used a small amount of wire to wrap it onto the bottom of the frame.

Afterwards, we were ready to capture nature!

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The students did such a great job and found some items I never thought they would. They look beautiful hanging in the hallway. I can’t keep a plant alive, but these will be up for a while because I don’t have to water them.

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I’m not quite sure how the popsicle stick got in there, but oh well!

Edit: I was just looking around some sites for some new Mother’s Day gift ideas and came across another version of these Nature Frames at this site! It’s pretty cool they did it in a triangle shape rather than a square.

It’s Not You, It’s Me: Breaking Up With Perfection

One Friday, I was painting with my kindergarten students. I had saved my favourite activity for the end of the week – teaching the students to use watercolours.

Watercolours on a Friday. Peaceful. Calming. Sitting with the students and watching them ooh and ahh at the colours as they absorbed into the special watercolour paper I bought for them.

Then. This happened.

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I saw it coming. I knew not every single student was going to ooh and ahh about these delicate, pretty, vibrant paints I had supplied them with. But I knew others would. For some of my students, this activity was about drawing the best picture and then painting it the best they could, while learning how to use watercolours. For them, it was about using their skills to create a finished product they had planned out in their mind, along with the process of learning to use watercolours. For others, it was solely about the process and experiencing something new and exciting.

Did I give positive feedback to all my students while they did this activity? Yes.

Did I question my students while they painted? Yes.

Did I direct them to the model I had created and carefully placed within their line of sight? Yes.

Did I encourage creativity, precision, and pride in their work? Yes.

Did I check for understanding about what they knew about shapes? Yes.

Did I expect the same finished product of perfection for all my students? No.

And I never do.

This is the part people need to know about teachers: we accept students for who they are, the abilities they bring to the table, and we try our best to take a deep breath about it. We have a soft spot for each of them, just the same. We work so hard at making sure each student is successful in their own way. Baby steps leads up to these successes.

I was by no means loving the fact that the little one in my class basically obliterated the precious and beautiful watercolour paper. I was loving the fact that he was thrilled by mixing all the colours together on the paper (much to the horror of the student beside him!) with a smile on his face.

Now when these works of art go up in the hallway, obviously you’re going to start singing that song from Sesame Street. *One of these things is not like the other*. However, it’s OK that the students experienced this art exploration for different reasons.

Was it disappointing, as a teacher, to see a student paint with so many vigorous movements and with so much force that the paintbrush was shedding like a dog all over the page? YES!

I took a breath and reminded myself of where this student was, as a student in my class. The reason why one student is working on a task could be completely different for the student beside them.

It’s not OK to compare one student’s abilities to another.

It’s not OK to say that student is “worse” than another student.

It’s not OK to expect the same fine motor precision in all students.

It’s not OK to tell a teacher they won’t be getting paid as much this month because this student painted “poorly”.

It’s not OK to assess this student’s abilities by giving them a test about shapes. Or even about the watercolours.

It’s not OK to deny this student the chance to use watercolours because it’s time for reading, Daily 5, and worksheets.

I won’t deny the fact that when I saw this happening, it worried me. I want the student to do well. I want him to use the paintbrush properly. I want him to produce something that is a bit realistic looking. I want him to notice the different colours that are available. I want him to create art that his family will hang proudly in their home because they love it so much. However, at this point in this little guy’s life, this watercolour painting is frame worthy.

All students arrive at our classroom doors having experienced different life events.

Teachers care about these life events and try to provide the best education they can for their students.

I think, just maybe, policy makers, curriculum designers, and even those parents, need to sit down next to a group of kindergarten students and teach them how to use watercolours.

My Squirrel Students: Picking a Spot to Play

My squirrel students are the ones who just cannot choose a place to play. They are the students who can go to 40 different places in the classroom within the first 7 minutes of playing in the classroom. It was exhausting my energy saying “Please choose a spot to play in the classroom or I will choose a spot for you.” The squirrel students were also bothering other students who had already established a chosen play place appropriately.

I thought long and hard about what to do for my worst offender, E. E displays immature behaviour on a regular basis in the classroom and needed lots of help picking a place to play. Here is what I developed for him.

I printed off a four square and slid it into a page protector. I placed it at eye level in the classroom so E could see it. I brought E over and told him that this four square was only for him and that it was to plan where he played in the classroom. We read the numbers together as well as the title. Afterwards, I explained to him that we would set my cell phone timer for five minutes. If he stayed at the first area of play for five minutes, he would be able to move on to the second square. After all four squares were complete, he was free to go where he wanted.
We then took a dry erase marker and drew the areas of play. Excuse my awful drawings – I was making it happen quickly. I chose the first square, E chose the second and third, and I chose the 4th.

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This worked great the first day. He went to where he needed to go without complaints and felt totally empowered about the situation.

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One problem: he couldn’t hear my cell phone timer because of loudness of the classroom. Claaaaaaaasic. I made a joke to my student teacher: “Well what should I do, tape my phone to his sweater?!” And she then smartly suggested a stop watch. The only stop watch I found in the school didn’t count down. Back to the drawing board. I didn’t want to use the online visual timers because we frequently use the smart board for visual directions. It’s tied up most of the time.
I remembered about a timer I use to have that worked great for literacy stations in previous years. I was cheap, loud, and portable. All things we K teachers love. Minus the loud, sometimes.

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I laced it through a lanyard with some wire and had E wear it from play spot to play spot. I taught him how to set it, how it stop it, and how to restart it so he could move from area to area independently.

HE LOVED IT.

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It is now hanging proudly on the board next to his four square, ready to wear for the following day. E was so proud to show his mom how this worked when they came for interviews.

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Independence for the win.

Today, I Cried At School

I was sitting at my computer desk, back turned to my students playing in the room. My eyes started getting a wee bit wet, and my nose and collar bones felt hot.
Then I heard my name 6 times in rapid succession from a tiny voice behind me.

Me: “Yes? What is it? I’m a bit busy right now.”

Student: “Can I go get my snack? …Are you crying?”

WOW. Well I just got your peer to practice saying the /f/ sound for the last 20 minutes without success but YOU realize I’m CRYING.

Me: “I’m just feeling a bit sad now. Wash your hands and go get your snack.”

Student: “OK.”

It was 1:47 PM and I just had to let it all out. There at my desktop, I cried. Speaking of snacks, I thought to myself, I need some cookies right now. TIME TO STRESS EAT.
I had just had two very unsuccessful speech group practice activities. One group was working on expressive language. The next group was working on the /f/ sound. It went awful. Terrible. That’s ACTUALLY what I wrote on the small group work sheet that tracks the dates and times they come to see me. It ACTUALLY says “terrible” on the page.

I cried for the students I couldn’t help say the /f/ sound clearly.
I cried for the student who came to me begging to play the expressive language game, even though her expressive language skills were just fine.
I cried for the same student who asked me if she could leave after two turns because the pace of the game was too slow
I cried for her again when I saw her wandering around the room aimlessly, bored at having nothing challenging enough to do.
I cried for her once more when I just wanted her to choose something to play with that would make her happy. Because she is a kid.
I cried for the student who I had to make a play schedule for because he is too immature to pick a spot in the room to play for more than 1.5 minutes.
I cried later on in the day when I had a social worker visit me asking if a certain student had confided anything in me lately. Any teacher who has ever had a social worker visit them knows what that means.
I cried thinking of how fortunate I am to have a great student teacher and then cried some more thinking of how I am possibly going to continue the rest of the year by myself when she is gone.
I cried at the fact I didn’t pack cookies for a snack today. Because I really needed those friggin cookies.

I pouted a bit to my #kinderchat and #wtdk friends on Twitter. Then I picked myself up, and moved on with the day.

I cried for the weak. I cried for the strong. Today was a day where I worried about every single one of my students and it became too much. I worry about each of them every single day, but today was just one of those days. Tomorrow is a new day.

Then I came home and ate some cookies. And some squares. Because they were right next to the cookies.

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