I’m Getting a Divorce (#kinderblog14, week 4)

Classic me, doing the #kinderblog14 challenge the first week and then petering out. I have a bit of a break at the moment. It’s been tough being a lady of leisure for the summer.

I sadly announce that I am getting a divorce from a very complicated relationship. One of the most challenging relationships I have experienced recently has been the one I have with a very important aspect in each and every school in our country. Some might say it has been put on the back burner due to all our technological advancements in society. Some might say we don’t even NEED this kind of relationship in schools anymore.

Yes, people. I am talking about the school paper supply room.

The paper supply room has caused me small to large amounts of rage on any given day since I’ve started teaching. We change it’s location, we buy new shelving, we throw in a stapler, a cutting tool, a glue stick here and there. But ALL IS LOST unless everyone respects some very important rules regarding the precious paper.

In no order of importance (they are all an 11 on the scale of 1 to 10) here are a few rules that coworkers need to obey:

THE LAST PIECE OF PAPER
When you take the last piece of white construction paper from the paper room, tell someone. There’s not a magic ordering fairy that will do that for you. And no, just because my students are “just in kindergarten” doesn’t mean we want your scraps to draw and paint on. Bring on the full size 8.5×14 people! The same thing goes for the photocopier. That red flashing light means it’s hungry. Feed it with some paper. It’s not difficult.

THE FIRST PIECE OF PAPER
Much like taking the last piece of paper from the paper room, when you take the first piece, don’t throw the clear wrapping onto the ground. The recycle is right there. You don’t even need to walk to get it in there. Maybe just a gentle lunge and a slight flick of the wrist will suffice. Gravity. Science. That kind of thing.

THE SCRAP PIECE OF PAPER
There are time when you find yourself in that in between situation from the previous two examples. You have finished cutting all your pieces and you are left with one, last, lonely piece of purple construction paper, resembling a triangle. Well coworkers, I have news for you. No one wants that purple triangle. No one. There will never be anyone who walks into the paper supply room and says, “OH PERFECT! A mangled kind of triangle sort of looking piece of construction paper! That’s exactly what that one student in my classroom needs.” That purple triangle needs to set up camp and find a home in the recycle bin. The sheer amount of energy it takes to find a use for that triangle, store that triangle, and keep it in its designated colour spot, is too much. It’s just too much output of energy for what you get back. It’s going into the recycle! Feel good about that! So help me God if I’m the one who walks into that paper room, and my 5’3 frame reaches waaaaaaaaay up to the top shelf to grab some fresh new purple construction paper, only to have a pointy, dangerous, eye stabbing triangle fall from its great height and directly into my eyeball.

Depending on my mood and how much coffee I’ve been able to consume that morning, any one of the above situations can throw me into a fit of rage for roughly 17 seconds. I’m really good at self regulating and getting over it, and I will promptly clean the paper supply room each time I have a few minutes. However, since I voluntarily clean and tidy the room during each visit, people become accustomed to this. Then it becomes EXPECTED! Therefore, I am getting a divorce. I am divorcing the paper room.

“Change Is Good” (#kinderblog14, week 1)

Aca-scuse me? Change is NOT good. If I had even a nickel for every time someone has told me that this past school year, I’d be floating on my private yacht on the Mediterranean Sea. And I live in The Canada, people.

Next year, I am moving to a new school. This. Frightens. The CHEESE RITZ CRACKERS out of me. I am a creature of habit through and through. I am ok with SOME change, but I would say I am even a creature of habit when it comes to the things I change in my life. For example, I can change what kind of cereal I eat in the morning, but when changing to a different kind of cereal, you better believe I’m going to eat it every single morning until that box is empty, without fail. Consistency, people. Consistency. And routine.

The best way I can describe this past school year is by using the word “turbulent”. I wasn’t myself. My friends and family noticed and ultimately got the eye of the storm for most of my “turbulent” school situations. As the school year continued on, it was clear these situations were isolated to my job. My #kinderchat friends were there to support me. My family was there to support me. Food was there to support me. Not going in to school to work on the weekends was there to support me. I loved my students, loved my grade, loved my families, loved everything that had to do with anything I had control over in my classroom, but it was the cloud up above that was affecting me. You all know the cloud. It’s the one that holds all the “outside the classroom” storms.

I am moving to a new school by choice. Why would a creature of habit CHOOSE to change their life so drastically, you might ask? (Ahem, YES this is a drastic change and you can’t convince me otherwise). I am making this change for MY HEART and not for my head. It has taken a year of tears and reflection for me to ultimately realize that my heart is the most important aspect to my job as a teacher. (Oh my goodness, cue the corny I KNOW). When it came down to a choice between two job options, one was clearly for the heart and one was clearly for the head. The weight that was lifted off my chest and shoulders after I had made the right decision was so great, I felt like a new person.

I learned a lot this past school year. I didn’t learn how to blog with my students, how a robotics program works, or how to teach my students how to code. I didn’t learn new science experiments, new ways to teach measurement in math, or how to best empty a water table full of smooshed up jelly-like water beads (you really gotta just go full force rubber gloves on that one). I learned how to be me as a teacher, while letting others find their way.
I learned that change for the heart is good.

Day 2: A Resolution

I know this is late. I don’t even have a good excuse. “Hi, this is late because I had a super mega lazy ‘no I don’t have kids of my own’ weekend.” But the truth is, I couldn’t write this post until I had my first day back at school after Christmas break. My “resolution” hit me.

I am never one to make resolutions. My resolution is just to rock at life each and every day. When I’m feeling bummed, my husband always pulls out this Barney Stinson quote on me: “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead.”
It makes me feel better because I laugh, but in all honesty, it doesn’t fix ANY problems when it comes to my whoas at school. I always seems to think that every other job BESIDES teaching can’t even compare to what teachers deal with on a daily basis. Today for instance, it wasn’t just that we started back at school at 8:30 on January 6th, it was that I had to be READY FOR THE ENTIRE DAY AT 8:30 on January 6th. Not show up at work at 8:30, chat to my coworkers around the coffee pot and water cooler for a while about how break was and then start to think about what’s happening during the day. Be ready. at 8:30. For the rest of the day. Non stop.

My resolution is going to sound ridiculous. My resolution is to care less at school.

The change I noticed in my mental health before Christmas break, during Christmas break, and how I feel when I got home from school today is astounding.  It’s the first year I can feel it physically. It is physically exhausting having the job that I have. There have been factors that have made this school year the toughest I’ve had to date. Like an athlete preparing to be at their peak of physical performance during the Olympics, I prepared to be at my peak of mental awesomeness during Christmas break. The week before Christmas break, I made some career decisions that made deciding which paths to take a lot easier. I had a plan, and I liked it.

I have always had Christmas break, but this was the first break that I took that I really didn’t do anything school related. No pinning educational stuff on Pinterest. Barely checking twitter, and only conversing with my friends if it was not related to school. Not checking my school email. Not planning in my plan book. Not shopping for Christmas things on sale for my students that I could use next year. (Ok, that last sentence was a tiny little itty bitty lie because I found these amazing little frames for my students to paint next year and they were 59 cents each at Michael’s. 59 CENTS PEOPLE!)

And yenno what? I went to school today. My students showed up. We had fun together. They felt loved. And we all survived, despite the fact I didn’t do any of that ridiculous stuff that was mentioned above. I feel like in previous years, I could talk the talk, but not walk the walk. My name IS NOT Mrs. Silky “Just Wing It” Cactus. That goes against every fiber of my being. I know how many carrots and how many cups of chicken broth I will need for the week based on my meal planning, people.

For this year, I need to be OK with change. I need to care less about every single little detail that goes on in my school life. I need to care less about anticipating what’s going to happen.

I need to “wing it”. Even if it’s just sometimes.

Change: Preach It

Sheryl Crow sang about it. And it’s a very catchy song. The chorus basically goes like this: “A change will do you good.”

Everyone who knows me knows I am a creature of habit. I can’t even get ready in the morning without doing everything in the exact same order. Last year, I moved out of a bungalow into a two story home and having to go up and down stairs throughout the  course of a normal day almost killed me. Not because of the extra calorie burn (don’t put me down for cardio) but because it took a while to establish my most comfortable routine. I like everything a certain way but if I NEEEEEEEEEEED to, I can fly by the seat of my pants. That doesn’t mean you will see my Tupperware containers haphazardly thrown into the cupboard, my lunch unpreppared for school the next day immediately after supper, or my meticulous grocery list and meal planning board thrown to the wind. All these things will be done or I might break.

Wow. After reading over that sentence, I am a LITTLE crazy regarding anything to do with food. Oh well. That’s me!

The change I have experienced throughout my career has been *insert smart word here to mean “A WHOLE HECK OF A LOT”*. I have grown as a person, as a teacher, and as a friend. I have stayed at the same school for 5 years, but the school hasn’t been the same for 5 years. I have taught the same grade for 5 years, but it really hasn’t been the same grae for 5 years. I have had some of the same coworkers for 5 years, but they haven’t stayed the same people for 5 years. During those 5 years, I have taught 152 unique kindergarten students, worked with 3 different principals, rotated through 4 different grade partners, moved classrooms 3 times, and worked with DOZENS of new staff members. A comment that makes my blood BOIL is when a friend (usually the ones with absoltely know teaching experience, or experience with children at all) says “Well, you’ve been doing this for 5 years now, you must have it down pat and waltz outta that place at 3:20!”. Since I like to THINK I’ve matured in the last few years of my life, I find some comment neutral enough to keep conversation going but with just enough stab to let them know they are totally WRONG.

After my first year of teaching was over and I was done sheerly trying to survive, my eyes were able to see further and my brain was able to think deeper. I didn’t have to worry about silly things like how to work the photocopier, but was rather able to focus more on my students’ learning. What REALLY did it for me was Twitter. I actually connected with like minded people who shared the same thoughts and feelings as me. It was all thanks to a great principal and leader I had at my school for only a few short years.

All that change for me was really difficult to digest. I believe it’s rare that a person will choose change even though it’s what’s best for us the majority of the time. People say that the best change is the kind that are the most difficult. However, I think the best change is the kind you get the most excited about. Sometimes it’s easier and sometimes it’s more difficult. Even creatures of habit can change. 

#Kinderblog challenge: The Start Of The Day

Yes, I have switched blogging platforms three times now. Slow clap for me.

I think I’m finally content with this one, but don’t be surprised if I change it again.

OK, the challenge question is: How do your students start their day in your room? What is the routine they follow once they walk in the door? More importantly, WHY is this your routine? How did you choose it, develop it, refine it? What is the goal and purpose behind why your students do what they do? What do YOU do as the day begins?

I moved classrooms at the beginning of the school year. AGAIN. And, as luck would have it, my students enter the school from the door at the very other end of our hallway. Can you see it now? Tiny little kinders working their way through the hallway in their snowsuits at everyone’s knee level trying to make it to their locker. Yep. But that’s life so we’re going with it. We have shelves the students put their outside shoes on, they walk down the hallway to their locker, put their coat and backpack inside, and put their inside shoes on. They take their agenda book out of their bag and go inside the classroom.

On the floor there is a pink box. Their agenda gets placed in the box when they come inside.

They make their way to the Smart board, where this is waiting for them:

Sorry for the small picture. There’s a bath tub with their names inside bubbles on the Smart board. They drag their bubble into the bathtub, step off the box, and take a seat on the carpet to wait for our morning prayer and announcements.

Why is this the students’ routine? I like to make the morning as simple as possible for them. I have many students this year, and I find only having a few things to do helps us get organized a little quicker. You never know who’d having a rough morning and who’s going to be bouncing with energy. Also, when I go to an inservice with other teachers, I want to have a simple morning to! I like to sit, sign in, chat with my friends, and sip my coffee while waiting for our day to begin. Why wouldn’t students feel the same way?

How did I choose this routine? 1) My first year teaching kindergarten, I had little clothespin people the students would move on the whiteboard. It was a pain to change the name on them at the beginning and end of the year, the magnets would break off, the clothespins would break, someone would lose one by having it fall behind a basket or a shelf, and the students would forget to move it back at the end of the day, leaving me with that ONE EXTRA THING TO DO. It drove me CRAZY, so once we got Smart boards in the school four years ago, I jumped for joy and abandoned those frustrating clothespin people. 2)  I like having the students waiting and ready for me in the morning so we can start to discuss right away. Or do our “morning meeting” as most of my tweeps seem to call it.

What is the goal and prupose behind the students’ morning routine? To get everyone ready as quick as possible in order to get our fun and learning started right away! My morning students only come to school from 8:30 – 11:00 so time is precious. We don’t have time to start our morning off by everyone reading a book or playing in an area of the classroom. Depending on the group in the afternoon, they might start off their day by playing or reading, and then we can regroup after 15-20 minutes. If we had Full Day Kindergarten, that’s definitely how I would do it.

My day begins by plopping by bags down by my computer, then going around the room and turning on the 14 lamps I have in the classroom. I also open the drapes of our 2 windows, all while my computer is booting up. I hang my coat up, take my lunch out of my bag, lock up my purse, authenticate to the wireless network on my iPad and then sign in to my computer. I walk my lunch down to our staff room fridge, say hi to everyone on the way there and back, and then primp the classroom for the day (what extra supplies should be out? What needs to be cleaned quickly? etc.) I check my email before school, turn the projector on, and then before I know it, the students have arrived. On Wednesdays, I have supervision outside from 8:15-8:30, so I need to be ON TIME and READY those mornings.