Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Untangling the Leash...867-5309

One lazy Sunday I decided to get a head start on washing the bedding. I rolled up my jumbo comforter and shoved it in my, really not jumbo, washer. I hit start proud of my accomplishment to get laundry started so soon in the morning.

I headed outside and focused on morning chores: horses, chickens, cleaning and then walked back to the house. I wondered where I put my phone (which was not unusual at all) and then realized it was IN the comforter, IN the washer (very unusual).

The result was what Apple calls, "catastrophic damage." There wasn't enough rice in the world to fix this problem.

My phone, my best friend, my constant companion was MIA. I immediately was at a loss as to what I was doing. My personal assistant tracked that. I had no idea my sister's phone number either. My PA was in charge of that too. Life seemed to be at a standstill.

Thankfully, the repair tech reminded me of iCloud, who, seriously is now my #1 BFF because she saved me, more importantly my 2,000 photos, and my calendar. Although I have what seems like triple backups, this one fails (external hard drive), and that one somehow doesn't work (Google photo), and I'm left feeling like the main character in, "Just My Luck."

Photos safe, and a calendar in front of me, I went through a withdrawal of 8 days. I was surprised how much easier it was than I thought. Previously, accidentally leaving my phone at home was a disaster of epic proportions. Now: a mere blip on the screen. I liken the ease to my 80s childhood when, gasp, I had to stop somewhere if I wanted to use the phone. If I took pictures I had to wait 2 weeks for the prints. And if I wanted to know something I had to go to the library.

I had become ensnared by the very thing I thought was providing me more freedom, more time, and easier living. My leash had become tighter and tighter with each new model, twisting around me until I could no longer move without moving the leash too.

My catastrophic event brought me movement I didn't realize was missing: time to read, time to focus, time to play.

A blessing wrapped in camouflage.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Domino Affect: Negativity- The Thief that Steals Happiness

It's taken awhile to get happy again.

As a child I was overly jubilant, just ask my mom. She said I was so giggly I nearly drowned every time I swam: there was no way to keep the water out of mouth. Looking at childhood photos shows a happy child with a permagrin...typically wearing a bell on a string (I've always been a trendsetter, although my sister would disagree), ENJOYING life. I was good at it.

The permagrin left for a long time (that's a story in need of a book) but resurfaced when my daughter was a toddler. Her joy and interest in the minutiae helped me to relocate that lost inner child. The one that says, let's stop to smell the flowers now...before we die and can't.

Let's be real...time is fleeting. You can waste it enjoyably or unenjoyably, the choice is yours. Where would you prefer to spend your time? Around people who are laughing and joking through this thing called life or amongst a group of serious, joy killers?

This is not to say bad days don't happen. I am the poster child for it. My motto: if I didn't have bad luck I'd have no luck. But we need to realize the effect we have on others when we choose to have bad days (yes, choose). Everything is a choice. And in life the domino affect is ever present.

I went to a meeting yesterday with someone having a bad day. It wasn't meant to be shared, but unknowingly it was. I immediately felt the negativity creep over me. It continued to creep on during the day, rearing it's ugly head during class time. Exposure to negativity can lead to a case of the grumpies. And boy did I have it.

This person didn't realize what was happening, but by the end of the day I was in a foul mood and they had regained all their love for the world.

Remember to live in the now and come in with a happy heart. Problems can be left at the door. They'll still be waiting for you when you're done.

I'm in LOVE.....with Seesaw

It's only appropriate that I am in love with something as Single Awareness Day approaches. The day when people profess their love so much that single people fall ill in the fog of it.

I have been in LOVE with the Seesaw App ever since we met at the NCCE 2015 conference in Portland.

This was my first ever tech conference. I scoured the program for interesting titles. I had no background knowledge of Seesaw. My only construct was the name similarity to a Scholastic book club magazine, which I was sure had nothing to do with it.

Heather Marrs was our teacher and led us through activities a class could easily do: interview a partner, take a selfie, add text to a selfie, add a comment to a photo, solve simple math problems by using your finger as a stylus to show how you found your answer. Our "work" seemed more like "fun."

At the end of our workshop I was smitten. Heather mentioned how she was a Seesaw ambassador and I immediately scoured the web to find out how to become one.

What I saw was a digital online portfolio created by students and teachers. One that allowed students to be engaged in authentic audience interaction. Depending on the age of the student, they can provide positive comments on classmates work and see positive comments written by family members. No longer do you need to ask the dreaded, "What did you do at school today?" question. The one that is answered by a shoulder shrug, an, "I don't remember" or "nothing."

Parents, aunts, uncles, long distance grandparents can all check in on their smart phone or computer and see at a glance what and how their loved one is doing. They can see the joy in their heart during science centers, they can see them goofing off in the back, sometimes, but they see it! Like a porthole on a steamer Seesaw brings that authentic learning to life.

This time of the year I teach a few friends to start doing the seesaw documenting for me. It's a little bit of a learning curve...blurry photos with heads cut off don't quite equal quality examples (it is Kindergarten! but everyone is a beginning and soon everyone is an expert.)

Thank you Seesaw for such a great portfolio system!!

Top 10 Reasons to Try Seesaw
1. Its FREE  and parents can access it on their smart phone or computer.
2. The kids are excited to share what they learned.
3. The kids can no longer claim you teach nothing during the day.
4. You've got documentation for parents, TPEP, or any other hoop thrown at you. ❤
5. Students can document learning while you are teaching. They can capture what you miss.
6. Students not only document but they interact with assignments posted via teachers.
7. Students can work towards mastery: they can reevaluate work and edit it as their knowledge base expands.
8. Using it for reading fluency peaks student interest on attaining personal goals. They hear themselves read!
9. It translates posts into 55 languages!! There is no language barrier!
10. It can be used to connect with other classes (the blog feature) or to share information (like class newsletters) via notes!

If you try Seesaw I bet you will love it too. Feel free to text me with any questions.

Happy Seesawing!!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

I'm OK with Second Place

Image Source: USNewsHealth

If you are around primary kids at all, you know it's all about being first, primarily to the dot outside the classroom. No amount of discussion can dismiss this idea. So with unyielding energy they bound toward the door, irregardless of the amount of ice on the pavement outside said door.

We all know winning (in all types of forms) feels fantastic. Case in point: the #1 reason for teaching kindergarten is the rock star status you achieve (hence the winning feeling). I feel like Taylor Swift, maybe an older Taylor, but Taylor none the less, as I walk the hallways, cafeteria and playground. Shouts of, "Ms. Foley!! Ms. Foley!!" pepper the air in high pitched shrieks. Running kids with arms outstretched and smiles etched ear to ear hug me with true, altruistic, love.

And I'm not talking just current students, but many of my students from all grades (K-5). Granted they get to 3rd and hugging is no longer cool, but I have a few die hard fans that still visit my room with great enthusiasm...marveling at the midget furniture that was once too big for them, smiles envelope their face as they talk of fun times in the kitchen area, sparkling eyes look at me with true happiness and say, "I miss you, Ms. Foley!"

It's the reason I have an open door policy. "Come back any time," I say then realizing it's typically recess time. But I sincerely mean it. Those kiddos get me through my toughest days as a teacher. They pick up the slack since there is only 1 me. They empty the recycle bin, they clean the tables, they hand out snack, they sharpen the pencils, for the pure joy of it.

So it was no surprise when one of my kiddos, now a fifth grader stopped by, clutching a Christmas card. "You are just the sweetest!" I said as a smile made it's way across my face. A quick hug and she was on her way.

I tucked my prize aside, saving it for later.  As evening approached I opened the handwritten card which started softly..."Dear Mrs. Foley, I hope you have a splendid Christmas" I beamed ear to ear. "Honestly," it continued, "you are the reason kindergarten is my second favorite grade (fifth/this year is my fav)! Merry Christmas."

I chuckled, out loud, several times (If you know me, it's what I do, sometimes at totally inappropriate moments. Luckily, I was alone.). I thought to myself my letter had a certain Dear John-esque feel to it. All those years in first place, only now to be ousted by fifth.

And then it hit me...why had I not been ousted years ago? Of course your kinder teacher holds a special place in your heart, but your heart is big, there is room for more. And my happiness turned a little gloomy as I thought about it. No, not every kid is going to click with every teacher, but my own education was littered with such great memories of connections teachers made with me.

I had Mrs. Chormicle, who I adored, for K and 2nd. I enjoyed Mrs. Skinner in 1st (although I was afraid of her daughter, the class para). I loved Mrs. Locke in 3rd who gave me her copy of, "Island of the Blue Dolphins." In 4th, Ms. Smith was divorced, with red hair, glasses, and an outgoing personality and I loved her. She was followed by Mrs. Dassler in 5th. She was a brand new teacher and I adored her. I even went as far as to solicit funds from classmates to buy cake mix and frosting for an end of the year cake I made for her.

I am guessing that's why it surprises me when students do not have a long list of favorite teachers. Since I had a good experience in elementary I think other students will as well.

I don't blame the teachers, but I do blame a system that says, "do more with less time, and hurry it up." A system that, due to class sizes and other constraints, depletes any time to learn, really learn about the students we teach and to connect to them.

I sometimes do it myself. I have so much to focus on, academic wise, I simply must move kids along, I don't have the time to hear what happened this weekend, or at home, or with their dog. But when I do allow enough time to listen I realize how much the students yearn to connect with their teachers. How needy they are to let me know that mom bought them a toy, that grandma is in town, or that their little brother is really mean. And so this last week I took extra time to let students blather on, uninterrupted, about life's moments and it made me smile, ear to ear.

Academics are important, but not without an emotional connection first.

So to the fifth grade teacher who took over first place I say, "Bravo! Way to make an impact!" I hope to be ousted more often. Second place is a great place to be.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Making My Way in K: Dear President Elect: It's time to clean it up.

Making My Way in K: Dear President Elect: It's time to clean it up.: You don't know me. Call me stranger 10 million. Oddly, a high school friend of mine met you at a friend's birthday party and recentl...

Dear President Elect: It's time to clean it up.

You don't know me. Call me stranger 10 million. Oddly, a high school friend of mine met you at a friend's birthday party and recently posted the pic she had taken. So it's kind like 8 degrees of Donald Trump, but not really.

I've amassed an extensive collection of family history and there's one quote that has always stuck with me over the years. Extended family in Utah remarked, "Don't throw a rock, you might hit a relative." It's partially funny, because it's based on the small town nature of Utah, and the constant intermarriage of many a neighbor. You could, literally, hit a relative. However, it's premise rings true: we should treat others as if they are our brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins. You get the picture.

My friend commented how nice you are in person. That the presumed apocalypse to come is highly unlikely. I hope she's right, I'm not as worried about the apocalypse, I know who is my King, but I am worried for my kids. And that's why I want to say it's time to raise the bar and clean it up.

You see I teach...kindergarten. I am the beginning of their adventure in learning and each year I gain 20 or so kids, not students, because once they cross that threshold we have relationships akin to families. I am their part time mom, in addition to their teacher, and for some I can be the only stability in their lives. So when someone hurts my kids, I don't take it lightly.

I had several kids show up the day after the election worried they would be deported. DEPORTED for God's sake. These are kids from mixed families who ARE citizens and should have absolutely no reason to have this on their mind. They should be enthralled with our unit on spiders. They should be overly excited about what game will be played at recess. They should be naive, carefree, and enjoying a youth that goes much too fast in our society. They should not be coming to me with huge, soulful eyes that speak volumes of their worry. They shouldn't have to worry about what will happen to them because of an election. They shouldn't have to fear their heritage.

I wish you could have been there the day they approached me...full of fear and fright...not comprehending that it was an election, not a death sentence.

I canceled the rest of my lessons on voting. I will not bring up a subject likely to bring emotional turmoil to 5  year olds. FIVE YEAR OLDS. So I say step forward boldly, own your words, repent, and make it right. Let them know that draining the swamp doesn't mean shipping them somewhere. because we were all immigrants at one point. My Irish ancestors faced with starvation left Ireland. My Danish ancestors, converted in their country, came as LDS members. My German great grandfather resided in a Baltimore orphanage before being raised by an uncle. When WWII hit, all 5 of his sons went to battle the country he was from, because it was the right thing to do, HUMANITY was at stake.

Funny thing: I am still worried about humanity.

Today, while working 10 unpaid hours in my classroom, on a legal holiday, because my job entails far more work than 1 can get done in a work day (I invite you to stop by any time if you are up to the challenge, it's not for the faint of heart) I asked my 6 year old daughter what she had heard about the new president.

She said, "I heard he says it's OK to grab girls by the vagina." Oh, HELL no.

Let that marinate a bit with you. Imagine your daughter coming home and saying that to you. Would you be livid? You should be. People say things to be funny or to fit in that later bite them back. And some just say how they feel without caring how it impacts others because those "others" aren't important to them. Irregardless, you cannot be any of those people anymore. You have stepped up to a place where those traits should not be. You need to tell the masses that being hurtful to others, based on skin color, lifestyle, or gender is not OK.   Making "America Great Again" needs to start with KINDNESS. Set the example, tow the line, because no one gets out of the swamp without it.

Sincerely, a flabbergasted mom

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Making My Way in K: A Box and a Dream: Thank you Kevin Honeycutt!

Making My Way in K: A Box and a Dream: Thank you Kevin Honeycutt!: This week, for STREAMing into Learning (my summer learning camp), my daughter wanted to learn about TVs. As I pondered how we could make a...