Thursday, December 31, 2015

My #OneWord for 2016: Mindfulness

In my mind it seems like a buzzword right now.

I've seen it on Twitter so often I am surprised I haven't yet seen it in the One Word universe.

  1. 1.
    the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    "their mindfulness of the chaos of the kindergarten classroom"
  2. 2.
    a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

I learned about it...can it really be 2 years ago now... (WOW)... from my therapist. Yep. I had one. And truth be told, many of you need one. Let's face is hard. Throw in a couple traumatic events, add all the fallout, mix in a toddler, don't forget to add in the broken relationship, and you need one. 

Having a therapist doesn't make you weak. In actuality, it shows you care enough about yourself to seek the advice of others. And even if you have a great mom like me, you know you need someone who is unbiased (who doesn't know just how great I really am :). 

So I went.

My mind is the one they made that meme for, you know...this one

It's true you know. Talk to me at any given time and the conversation goes from teaching, to archaeology, to family history, to the bird at the the bird feeder in a matter of nanoseconds. I can be hard to follow.

Mindfulness is taking hold of that process and shutting down the browser...literally. Mindfulness causes you to focus on the air, your body, your breathing, outside noises and then...letting things go.

I liked the analogy shared with me: It's like you have a puppy and the puppy is jumping here, and jumping there, and wants to do this and that...all at once, and you have to stop and redirect the puppy to what it needs to pay attention to: nothing but the very being of being. 

So why is it my One Word? It calms me. It reminds me to breath deeply and helps me to focus. So on the days when I wonder if I am meant to teach, if anyone likes me, and if my clothes even match, I need to remember to breathe. I am fantastic. I am perfect. Because I am me and I am alive and well.

That said mindfulness has a second meaning which is basically: being present. So when I go to the park with Sierra...I am at the park with Sierra. When I go to the movies...I enjoy the movie. I enjoy the little things before they are no longer there.

Which reminds me about talking to my grandma last week...she is 95 and lived life to the fullest. I was telling her how I wish she could come visit for Christmas (she still resides where I grew up in SoCal). She mentioned she hadn't been on any trips lately, but that she has a big one coming up. "Really?" I said. Dumbfounded. Then I realized what she was talking about...the trip after life. The one we all have to make. Good one, Grandma. I am sure I get my great sense of humor from you.

Be Mindful, my friends. 

The end comes too quickly.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Most Terrible Week of the Year

It's here...that week that goes on forever...the week before winter break.

If you are a teacher, you know why. It's not that we are eager to finally focusing on Christmas ourselves (I don't even recall the gifts I have already bought and hidden...(where? who knows. hopefully I left myself a note...somewhere)) but due to the kiddos excitement for the holiday themselves.

I typically describe the week before Christmas break to my student teachers as the week the kiddos act like they ate cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, even though we (A) know that is not true and (B) keep being told by "researchers" (real definition: people without children) that sugar does not impact behavior. Oh, Mr. or Mrs. Researcher, please come into my classroom after the doughnut day breakfast. Sugar impact is real.

So...It has seemed a little longer than normal...strange, and I have counted and it's still 5 (Kindergarten joke Image result for emoticon for laughing out loud)

but other than that, this week has been pretty fluid, pretty calm (not counting the chaos of loading donations into bags for the Community Food Bank), and pretty enjoyable....what's wrong with this picture?

I'm pretty sure it happened last week instead.

We had Christmas related theme all week. We wrote our letters to Santa. We made reindeer (at least I think we's all kind of a haze...) and we had our Christmas program. Last week also included the Creation Station teacher flip out and subsequent hiatus of said center.

It went something like this...see if you can relate...
Scene: All kids are thoroughly enjoying Creation Station (making cards for loved ones, making hats, making super hero bracelets. It's like a Makerspace for K including paper, tape, staplers, and stickers.)

Scene 2: T sings the, "Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Do Your Share" song.

Scene 3: All kids continue to make things.

Scene 4: Sing again, with added freezing to secure listening.

Scene 5: 1 girl starts cleaning, 10 continue working on what they want, 8 wander around the room because the mess they just made wasn't "MY mess."

Scene 6: T begins to threaten the lose of privileges of CS.

Scene 7: No one cares. Not one iota. They are seriously in an alternate universe where I am their maid and rules do not apply. (Note to kids--I know this scene because I personally dream about it daily--It ain't happenin.)

Scene 8: Me and Student Teacher clean up with about 5 kids who are now so riddled with guilt they have to help. The rest still oblivious. Highlight: S.T. telling kids, "We don't need to unroll the whole roll of stickers to get one since they are all the same sticker." Ya think?

Scene 9: Announcement is given in crabby teacher voice: Creation Station is on hiatus until we can remember what we do as respectful, responsible students.

Scene 10: Crabby teacher takes out class and eats peanut butter cups to feel better.

What was missing last week?
*regular routine
*regular curriculum lacking any real bells and whistles
added to:
*excitement for winter program, class party, and gifts for parents
 (Did you ever think math problems would become part of your vernacular while you were sitting in math class in high school? Me neither.)

Teaching is about reflecting, realizing, revamping. I was reminded during my National Board cohort meeting last night...and it all came together. I have never explored Christmas until the last week of break. Since we did it last week, and moved on to gingerbread stories and Venn diagrams, we are much calmer...and most importantly...I haven't had to replace my Reece's peanut butter cups.

Live Life. Love Life. Lead Life.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Square Dancing

It was second grade with Mrs. Chormicle. His name was Jeff and he had blond hair. We were partnered up for square dancing, which, in second grade, I thought was the absolute bomb. I'm pretty sure Jeff was my first crush. Unfortunately, the school I attended, Roy R. Marriott, was considered too old to be used any longer and the end of second grade signaled a new school for everyone there.

I thought of Jeff last night as I wrote a note for my daughter...
"Mom, write love, love, love Sierra, love, love, love, love, love love. I'm pretty sure someones mom is looking in a backpack at this time and wondering if my daughter is a stalker. The card also included a list of random words which made no sense whatsoever. My only thought: she wanted to see how they were spelled.

She then got an old boy toy, a pseudo spy watch from Carl's Jr, wrapped it in a paper sack, and attached the card to it.

When I asked why she wanted to do this she said, "My teacher says we are all family in here and I love my family."

"Ok, so do you want to make out any other cards for others?"
"No," she said, "just his."

Later today I asked if she gave him the card and gift. She said yes. When asked if he liked it, she said he thought it was, "awesome."

I don't think I need to worry about my daughter. She has more gumption in kindergarten than I even have to this day...:)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Best Break Ever

I am sitting on my chaise lounge, next to the fire, writing this blog. Drooly cat has just figured out my location via some advanced form of cat ESP, and my Christmas cards are done. Well, to clarify, they are being done somewhere, far away, but the point is I actually got the order done this year!

I wane between a Type A and a Type there a type C? Answer thanks to Google: There is indeed, and actually a D too, but neither are me. Since you asked, C's are detail oriented and not assertive. D's are plain depressed all the time. Seriously, it looks like whomever made up that personality scale was definitely going off a report card. Looking back, who made the A's? People stressed, competitive, and/or geeks who liked school (before you chastise me for that, know that was me). B's are less competitive, but still achievers. They can be major procrastinators. (That's me now. I no longer care about the A. I just want it done...typically at 11:58 pm PST.) Who was that in school? The kids bright AND social. A good mix., So mark me a B+.

What does this have to do with break?

I am happy...
               over the moon thrilled that I never made it in to my classroom over the last 4 days.

To be honest...I was there once...for 20 minutes to feed the fish...and then I left and I was joyful!

Only because I was mindful and gave all of the break to me....(and my daughter). I believe it's partially due to that Type B personality. I felt no need to run in and do things I am sure do not matter to the kiddos. They need good teaching and materials with fun thrown in. I own this.



Enjoyed an AWESOME Thanksgiving with my sister and parents. I love to laugh until I cry and it always happens when we gather for a family meal (Watch out for the cardboard, Christine! Megan, are you really staring at yourself in the mirror while talking to me? Mom, did you really say that? One more rendition of Jessie's girl please!)

Ate all the leftovers, twice, the next day. I would have eaten them 4 days in a row if I had more. I could live on Spinach Rice Casserole, rolls, and gravy.

Cleaned and organized Sierra's room removing one full bag of non-essentials (I told her it was trash). It made her, and I, both happier. She played in that room, actually finding things, for the next three days.

Took Si out for black Friday at noon (which in our town, means going to the store) followed up by her favorite place in the whole world, Carl's Jr. (Note to McDonalds: removing your playground was not a good idea. CJ gets all the kids now.)

Wrote 3 times on my blog, 3 times!! That's more than I've managed in the last 3 months.

Ordered online for black Friday, scoring things I really wanted, without leaving the couch.

Dressed Si up to see Santa and visited him, free of charge, leaving with a killer picture that adorns my Christmas card (no long line and saved $50 this year!)

I cleaned out Sierra's collection of clothes and shoes that rival Barbie's. Letting things go that we didn't need.

Hung up our own Christmas lights and brought in the tree.

And let's not leave out one of the best things this break....a daughter sleeping in her own bed! I'm excited to get real sleep, even if I am freezing as she took my electric blanket...I better get online. Maybe Cyber Monday has a sale on them...


Thursday, November 26, 2015

What Are You Thankful For?

In the past I did one of those challenges where I posted something I was thankful for each day in November. I didn't do it this year, feeling some pressure from those who think it is annoying. However, I cannot over emphasize the need for mindfulness...the ability to step back and think about what is happening.

On my wall hangs canvas art that states, "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful..."

And that is so true. If you wait for life to be perfect to be wonderful, I'm pretty sure you will be waiting a very, very long time.

Many times we can get focused on the negative so much so that we miss the obvious day to day joys in life like:

*the giggle when my daughter is having immense fun
*the purring cat who thinks I'm the bomb
*the niece who actually thinks I'm cool enough to be around
*the beauty of a star filled sky on a crisp night, a orange moon rising, a beautiful sunset
*the feeling of the sand under your feet at the beach
*the joy you feel when you haven't ran out of money mid-month
* a student telling you they love you
*talking to a friend and laughing uncontrollably
*the feeling of a warm fire
*helping others
*baby chickens

Cherish the little things...its better that way...

How Do You Know if You Make a Difference?

I write, A LOT, in my head...I just don't always have time to write it down, or in today's way, blog it.

I have had so many inspirational moments this last week that shout out, "Pick me! Pick me!" for which I truly plan to enact, only to be won over by sleep. Which, by the way, is not going well according to FitBit. I swore last night was a little better amount of sleep...than the night before but FitBit yet again proved me wrong, citing that I was only truly asleep for 4 hours with 17 restless cycles. Seriously?? Seriously??? I really need better sleep, but I digress...

I had a parent share a post to my Facebook that made my day. It showed, in a real, concrete way, that I do make a difference in my students lives.

We like to think we make a difference, we hope, sometimes we even pray, but we don't always know the end result. Feedback is not just for students, but imperative for teachers too. Although this example should have you chuckling...I do teach kindergarten. :)

Sorry for the sideways video...I attempted...many get it into an editing program to no avail. I seriously need a computer tutor. Apply within :)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

My principal is always talking about moving the cheese. Maybe you are familiar with the story? I'm more in the party of the "I moved your cheese."

It's all about change and the inability, or refusal, of some to accept it.

I'll admit, change is hard. I'd love to move somewhere warmer, but you don't see me packing my bag...yet.

Yet, I am more than willing to shuffle my cheese for the students. It's something we do (or should do) on a daily basis. Try X, reframe, change it, try again for a better result.

I was thinking of my upcoming K kiddos when I realized I was really missing last years class, you know, the ones already trained?

For those of you unfamiliar in the newly discovered dwarf planet, it's called kindergarten, and it indeed exists. It's the only place where you experience the inexperience of kiddos first hand as you attempt to teach them how to drink water from a fountain, how to use the bathroom with the door closed, and how to help them understand you truly do see them digging for gold even if their hand is in front of their nose.

Then it hit about a video for my students showing some major fundamentals in my class. A video that could be referred to over and over if need be.

It was hard, seeing my face on the video, getting past the, "I'm an utter dork" phase to see the point and purpose. It's not how I look that matters, it's getting across the important parts of classroom survival.

I uploaded the video Friday night and got many positive comments.

Even though half the folders were still missing from the cubbies, I didn't think about the video this morning. But later, when I asked if anyone saw it, about 50% of the class raised their hand.

As the day came to a close I stood there, feeling successful. After a hard first 3 days of wrangling kittens, during which I questioned my ability to manage, teach, or otherwise be in the same room as kinders, I felt calm...eerily calm for the 4th day of K.

I moved the cheese and it felt great.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

It happened...I'm in Love

I didn't plan it.

On the contrary, I was definitely against it.

I stood firmly on the edge and vowed not to falter.

It wasn't going to happen to me. Not this year. Not today.

See, I was already in love with summer, all things warm, all things beautiful, and happy, and unscheduled.

So when I showed up to my classroom today, after over a week of working from 10 am to 10 pm on class set up, to meet my first new student during our orientation conference, I was not expecting much.

In all honesty, my mind was racing with thoughts of what was to come...images of children running amok, short staffing, minimal help, and most likely a kid lost on a bus...(it happens).

And then in she came...short, very short...dark brown hair, a single pony tail, little almond shaped eyes, with a smile that spread from ear to ear. She was beyond excited to come in, and I, all serious and dedicated to my infinite love of summer, fell into a puddle at her feet.

She was why I became a teacher. She was the reason I come back each year after surviving the first 6 weeks of kids using the bathroom with the door open, eating their nasal discharge, and running amok, all the while speaking the constant threat of turning into a Starbucks barista.

She is the reason Starbucks is still hiring, because there is no better feeling than that of a student eager to learn, whose eyes are filled with wonder and promise, and whose lips carry nothing but kindness and sweetness.

Thank you, little C, for reminding me of what I forgot...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Making My Way in K: It's the LAST Day, Please Help My Fantastic Friend...

Making My Way in K: It's the LAST Day, Please Help My Fantastic Friend...: Hey all, I've never done Donors Choose before, but I jumped in! I am attempting to get 3 Nexus Tablets for my kiddos to use in our cla...

It's the LAST Day, Please Help My Fantastic Friends!!

Hey all,

I've never done Donors Choose before, but I jumped in! I am attempting to get 3 Nexus Tablets for my kiddos to use in our class.

When I signed up, I didn't know it, but it's DOUBLE DONATION week. That means if you give $10, the Gates Foundation gives $10, so it's like you get 50% off!! (But you get nothing but the good feeling of helping others.)

Helping adorable little kiddos like this:

Notice most kids not looking? This happens when you ask the janitor to take the picture. Ha Ha.

This kiddos come in eager to learn and are so deserving of the best. However, I'm not in a place where I can buy things I would like to give them.

So here is where I beg, plead, and offer friendship in exchange for money. Who said money can't buy admiration?

Can you help?

10 people at $100 would cover it, 20 people at $50 would too, but if they give TODAY, the LAST day, did I mention LAST?? 10 people giving $50 would cover it because you can tell Bill Gates to Pay the REST!! Wouldn't that feel good?

Here's the project:

Fantastic Friends Need Technology!

To have your donation matched, enter the promo code SPARK on the payment screen. This offer is good through August 30.

My students and I would be so grateful for your support!

The Fantastic Ms. Foley

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Honesty as the End of Summer Approaches...

I'm not ready...I'm not...I'm seeing kids all over my Facebook and Twitter and Instagram accounts heading back to school and I'm not the least bit excited. I'm being honest. At this point, from this place on my couch, in my jams, hair and makeup not done, I am not excited.

Can we be honest? I just got back from an amazing vacation in California with family and friends. I got to visit a friend I hadn't seen in 15 years and spend time at her home (at the beach, insert jealousy here). I got to see and spend time with my amazing grandma who is 94, although the time was interspersed by thoughts of how quickly life ends, and wishes I could be see her more often, it was still a wonderful time. The sights and smells of her home bring nothing but happy memories of a childhood passed, a childhood remembered, a childhood wished for. Yet time cannot be stopped.

We spent two nights and 3 days at Disneyland where time seems to move in fast forward and slow motion all at the same time. Time spent in the hotel pool and on the water slides is always one of the best parts of the trip. Nothing beats floating in the water while the sun shines from above. Twisting and turning in the spiral water slide, with no thoughts except to hold your breath before you hit the bottom. Reality, for a few days, ceases to exist. There are no deadlines, no bills, no problems. Life is sunshine and rainbows. My daughter asks me why we cannot live there permanently and I explain the complex topic of bills, work, and vacation time...even though I secretly wish the same.

And so I think coming back to reality was, in some ways, a let down. A bell ringing for the end of summer. A reminder of the cold weather to come and the long days working ahead. And so I sit, like a stubborn child, refusing to comply. The rest of summer is mine, I whisper, and I'm holding on to it.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Fate, Destiny, or Divine Intervention: A Little TMI About Me!

My life experiences are an open book...I guess you can say anyone connected to the internet has a pretty open book nowadays. Google search your name and all kinds of stuff (fun, not so fun) can come up. If you have read my other blog you know I have been through some very rough patches this last 5 years. That said, I have come out a better person for it.

The best thing that ever happened to me was when I had my daughter in 2010 after a successful IVF cycle. She (and her potential sibs) were created in a lab with the help of amazing science. You see, in layman's terms, my parts are not so good. They didn't want to work how they should.

I'd like to thank the Christianson's of Hendricks, Minnesota for that. Genealogy is my FAVORITE hobby and it gave me lots of interesting tidbits about where I came from. The Christianson's were immigrants from Norway arriving circa 1871, settling first in Iowa, then moving to Minnesota.
Christian (center front, and whose name I would have used if I had a boy) was a successful farmer and served as mayor for the town of Hendricks. He and his wife Agnetha (Nettie) had 8 children. Now I don't know whether to blame Christian or Nettie, but out of the 4 girls in the photo, only two were able to have children. Betsy (on the far left) my g-g- grandmother had 4 children, 3 of whom lived, and Christine (on the far right front) had 3. Neither Bertha nor Emma (back row) were able to have children. And poor Peter (center, back row) died at age 20 from Diabetes. In my mind, we're pretty lucky the line continued on.
Had I been born then I would have just not had any children (which is fine, when its a choice, not when its chosen for you). Thankfully, due to science, Sierra and some potential sibs were created in a dish in a lab. 2 were implanted and 1 very strong willed child put down her roots and grew.
I always planned for another child. Perhaps a Christian, maybe a Sienna. I always wanted Sierra to grow up with siblings, like I had--annoying in your youth, blessings as you age. However, her potential siblings were destroyed in May. The last control my ex could exert: no him, no further kids. It was a very emotional time for me...
For the last 2 years or so Sierra has repeatedly asked me to get her a brother or sister. She was pretty sure I just had to go to the doctor and pick one up. With the ever present prodding I started to think about other ways a child could become part of our family, given that the option of a 1-night stand was out of the question. I was lucky enough to meet several adoptive parents and talk to them about their varied experiences. By happenstance, our paths crossed (I like to call it fate).
I started to think about the possibility of becoming a foster parent. However, honestly, I was put off by the requirements. A long list of trainings and paperwork and home visits. Don't get me wrong: I understand they have children's' best interest in mind. But when you repeatedly see reports of abused kids, in the foster care system itself, you wonder how well the current system is working. One would think a kindergarten teacher, with expertise in early child development, already back ground checked, might make it to a, "fast track" or something. Maybe get credit for college classes already taken on positive behavioral support instead of 40 hours of classes??
So I didn't act. I just waited.
I'm not sure what you might call it: fate, destiny, divine intervention, or serendipity, but those happenstances kept on happening. Across my path people working for the system, people fostering, kids in care, would end up on my radar, mostly in my face. And each time I would think, "well isn't that quirky." And each time I would negate it.
Today we were at the Goodwill...looking for games for my summer school "kids." Sierra was, as always, perusing the shoe rack...trying on high heels, hoping I would too. We were looking at the kids section when she picked up an obviously too small pair of shoes.
"Aren't they cute mom?" she said. "These could be for my baby sister." At which point I agreed they were indeed adorable but obviously not going to be used any time soon. She gingerly looked at them for a few minutes. I took her picture with them, as I often do for the many things she'd like to buy, but doesn't need, and she put them back.

We started to make our way to the cash register when I ran into a former college acquaintance. She was walking with a little girl, about two, and was looking for a particular toy. We began talking and (what's the chances) she does foster care. The little, sweet, happy child was a foster kiddo. I looked at that sweet girl and decided, "Ok God. I think the 20th time is a charm."

And I jumped in...
Now it may not go anywhere...they might decide a single mom with an incredible past is not the right fit...but who knows. As Sierra's latest (and most incredible--you must read it!!) book says...

"...if you love each other, then you are a family." Families come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. My style just might work for someone.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Random Musings from the Couch: Sleep Deprivation, Allergies, Summer School & Teacher Competition

At 6 am, when squished between two of my loves, there is nowhere else to go but the couch. Rather than continue taking selfies of myself and my adorable, sleeping child, (sometimes your arm isn't quite long enough to hold the phone AND snap the picture without dropping said phone on your face) I decided to come out and clean the dust off my blog. It's been two weeks since my last post, yet it feels like an eternity--a result of participating in the #EdBlogADay challenge. My blog is now ever present and somewhere, looming, in my brain, waiting to resurface when the mood, and writing Gods, strike.

So what am I doing besides moaning the fact that I'm not still in bed, during summer mind you, at 730? For one, scratching my eyes out due to a mild winter which = increased pollen and allergies! Let's just say Benadryl is my best friend right long as I don't take it when I need to be awake...

And I'm fighting some pesky message from blogger that says this c$#%
So, like most folks learning to waste time on a Monday morning (insert Sarcasm here), I'm attempting to get said message to leave without any hope at this point....Don't you love when you follow all their said directions and still it won't leave? I finally realized I could keep X'ing out of the box and do what I wanted anyway...however, like a stalker that just won't go away, it pops up every chance it gets. What's up with that #Google? I would write to someone but real people don't seem to exist in #blogger land.

So with that in mind, where will my whining take me next? Oh Yes, to the land of summer school. After almost a week off I'm headed back for a modified summer school experience. I actually am excited to work some mojo with the kiddos, just wishing I had a few more days off to hone my skills of being in a vegetative state before doing so.

Speaking of my vegetative state, I managed to miss 5 things this week, even with them being posted to my calendar: Sierra's first day of  Jazzerkamp, 2 PD's for Google w/my district, public library summer reading program kick off, and something else I've already forgotten because, forget baby brain, end of year school brain is real and it's deadly to any activity you thought you planned to go to.

Uh-oh, Benadryl is starting to kick

Have you heard of #mindfulness? It's about being cognizant, or living in the moment. When one gets preoccupied with unhelpful thoughts it's important to think of those thoughts as a misguided puppy and direct them back to the focus at hand. And no, I don't mean my random blog musings, but those things that drive you crazy and you say, "Why didn't I X?" or "Why didn't I say X?" or "Why does X do Y, Z?!?!?" And although you attempt to stop thinking about X, X just keeps popping up over, and over, and over...and, well you get the idea.

I've been thinking about competition in teaching. My favorite quote has always been:
This year I have really tried to embrace it, but in reality, it's a two-way street, right? We can be mindful all day long, but if others are not living by the same motto, that little puppy can easily walk back into the room.

It's natural to want to receive positive reinforcement for what you do in the classroom. Although people in admin positions know this, many times they don't do it enough due to time constraints. When you teach 26, 5 & 6 year olds, ALL DAY LONG, you do want someone to realize what a flippin super hero you really are, because if you can teach and manage 26 kinder kids at once, in between multiple tattle tailing, nose picking, and attempts at attention, you ARE a super hero. Yet tooting your own horn, i.e. bragging, is annoying and shouldn't need to be done.

As summer begins I hope admins the world over get a chance to realize that every teacher in their school has strengths. And that every teacher needs to be recognized. Each means each. Each one individually: not just the braggers, not just the cool kids, or the golden circle that reminds us of high school and let's us know we are not in the popular clique. Everyone. There are not merely 5 leaders in our schools, there are (insert # of teachers in your school here) leaders, all waiting for their chance to shine in their own way. Only when admin leads this way can we quiet the voice in our head that says, "You never get noticed, you never get called on, you never get true recognition, YOU must not be that good."

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Little Things That Mean A Lot

I had a day off today. I should say a day out of the class working elsewhere. I was instead working with other K teachers at my school to run a kindergarten roundup. We had 8-10 soon to be students coming in every half hour running through basic testing in a hopeful attempt to have equality in the classrooms this fall.

I had a sub I never had before. Turned out she had just finished her student teaching and THIS was her very first attempt at subbing. I apologized to her for what she was about to experience. We all know it as, "checking out for summer." The kids, as proven from the previous days this week, had reverted back to pre-cave behavior.

Since I was in the gym I was able to check in periodically on my class and was hopeful when I saw engaged, happy learners. The joy began to seep away when I got a message that X needed to go to the office. I didn't know why, it surely wasn't out of the norm, but really? Couldn't the day continue on the high it was? X, what are you doing out there???

With kids continually filling my chair I had no time to worry so I sat back and enjoyed the ride.

A few hours passed...

All of a sudden a thunderous rumble was heard. When I looked up, the music teacher was in front of me, center of the gym, basically holding back 24 kinders who now more closely resembled a group of rioters rather than my class. Her arms outstretched, her feet staggered, she looked like she was about to be ran over. She mouthed, "it was like this the WHOLE class."

Peeved beyond belief I apologized to the soon to be constituent I left at my station and requested my class join me outside. The majority, sans the few who never do anything, got an earful about respectful behavior and how it equates to the amount of recess one receives. I sounded upset and I meant it.

Respect doesn't end because the weather is warm. It doesn't end because school is almost out. It doesn't end when your teacher is not there. Respect should be ever present.

At the end of the day I went back to the "cave" hesitantly. Was it still standing? Was the note from the sub prefaced by, "I'll never come back?"

On my desk was the note from the substitute, but more importantly, several notes from my friends. Hearts, note cards, great art abound. Two immediately caught my eye.

One was thankful for the eye operation I performed on her Winnie the Pooh on one of my breaks. And the other could be called nothing other than a sign of love for his teacher. His initials and mine were the only written words. Both kids struggled all year with coloring and drawing for various reasons and yet these two samples stood out like original Monet's in my mind.

All of a sudden the mob mentality memories slipped away and in came happiness.

It truly is the little things that matter most. They ground us on the days we ponder our sanity. They remind us what is important. Even in the most utter chaotic time: We love one another.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Current State of Ed: Walking the Walk on Monday

We voted to walk out on Monday.

It's needed. Very much needed. But also a little scary.

When we voted I almost felt like I was part of the revolutionary period. Although they had much more at stake than a measly walk. Call me Silence Dogood.

Things hung on emotions. People were fired up. People were tired of the lack of movement toward total funding of education. Many, as I, were confused about what we could say and who we could say it too. No one wants to get, "in trouble."

But the state of education is in massive trouble. Like a coronary about to kill us all. On one side of me a teacher who scanned in, and referenced, 65 artifacts for her TPEP. On her own time. On her own dime. And yet it is required in order to continue teaching. On the other side is my student teacher who just accepted her first job. She had to fork out $300 to prove she could teach via a portfolio system ran by a stranger. Again, many hours, late nights, incredible amounts of stress and SHE had to pay for it. In addition to the tests she already paid for--to show her competence on entrance, and exit, of her chosen field of education.

I would ask her, "Are you sure? Are you really sure you want to teach?" Please don't think poorly of me. It's a field I love. I love setting the stage for my students educational experience as their kindergarten teacher, but I don't love how the hoops keep increasing, always a little harder to jump through, in the so called name of competence.

And so we are walking Monday to say, "Hey Washington state legislators: Enough is enough." We expect you to figure out your budget, as so many of us do, and fund your paramount duty to education. We are where it starts. We are the sole stable adult for so many students. We are the rock that they cling to. We are their mentor, their teacher, their friend, and, in reality, a quasi-parent. We have them 7 hours a day, 180 days a year. We have the ability to make a HUGE difference in their life. And you better believe it will impact them the rest of their days.

So fund it. Get on it. Stop making Washington a state on the bottom of every list, and start putting it at the top. Fund smaller class sizes because it's right and it works. And if you don't believe me, come to my class any day of the week and I will prove it to you. Provide equitable funding to all schools so that those in Bellevue AND those in Ellensburg all have 1-1 devices. Where you live shouldn't determine the quality of your education. And for the love of God return teacher pay back where it should be. Our OWN children shouldn't have to be on public assistance because the annual increase never returned, and because the amount given for healthcare is so diminutive that it will not cover a teacher, let alone a child.

And while you are at it, when it comes to teacher legislation and hoops, follow the golden rule: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto Yourself. I don't see any other government employee uploading 65 pieces of evidence. I don't see any other government employee staying at work until 10 at night writing substitute teacher plans when they have to be gone the next day. I don't see any other government employee paying, out of pocket, to prove their worth. I don't see any other government employee buying glue sticks and tissues (GLUESTICKS AND TISSUES!!!) because it's the end of the school year and we are all out. So why do it to teachers?

I'm all about accountability. I'm very much into purging the few teachers that need to be. I'm not into doing it on my own time that should be spent with my family and with my own money that is needed to live.

Thanks for listening.

Sign me,
Sadly Disillusioned

Friday, May 22, 2015

Day 19: Letting Go at the EOY

This time of year is bittersweet. I've "raised" 24 kiddos this year. Helped them grow from teeny tinies, many of whom didn't recognize their own name, to writers. Helped them grow from yelling, "I don't know how to read" to kiddos competent in knowing several ways to read a book. Helped them grow from leaving the bathroom door open while using it to actually closing the door. K we DO see it all.

Bittersweet because now, NOW that I have them trained, I pack them up and send them off to first grade. Why?  (insert heavy sighs here)

As I stand in my class this week I am well aware of the growth that has occurred and the amazingness of kindergarten. I look around at my kiddos with pride when I see them writing for the love of writing. Asking me if they can write more. Asking to share their writing. Asking to help others with their learning. Asking to read books to the class. They have come full circle from being scaffolded, to being the scaffolders.

It is very hard to watch them march off in June, but, in many ways they are not walking off alone...there will always be a piece of me with them. When they stop friends from killing insects, I'm there. When they pick up litter off the ground, I'm there. When they get that stare while reading aloud to the class and say, "I'm waiting" I know just what I sound like, but more importantly, I'm there. As their kindergarten teacher I will always hold a special place in their heart. They will come back to visit, they will shout my name with wild abandon in the cafeteria, they will hug me during summer camps and reading programs. And it will be like it never just continues.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Most Important Thing That Happened in My Class This Week: He Gave Me a Hug

It seems odd to say that the most important thing that happened this week was a hug. But it was. I have a little guy in my class who has struggled in many ways this year. He came in low academically: he had no knowledge of his letters or sounds. He struggled socially: he didn't seem to know how to make friends. He struggled with me: he didn't seem to grasp that working hard was mandatory, not optional.

The year went on and he grew in his academics. He grew in his knowledge of how to make friends (nope, you don't have to buy them!). Yet he still struggled with me. It was hard on me. I'm sure him too. I sounded like a broken record, "You can chose to do your work now or at recess. That is your choice." I had realized, as the year went on, that he was capable of much more than he was willing to show. I was committed to being his rock. Someone he would remember for the rest of his life that didn't give up.

As so many times before, and surely to come, this kiddo had a past filled with trauma. His current situation is great, but, just like with us, the past makes us who we are and escape is futile. All we can do is learn from it and move forward. A hard task.

It's mid May. The year is almost done. On Wednesday I was explaining to the students that we only had 20 days left of school... and how much I would miss them. Post morning meeting my little guy came up. "I'm really going to miss you Ms. Foley." And he proceeded to initiate a hug. He has never done that before. I stood in awe. He continued with two more unsolicited hugs that day.

My thought: I did it. I finally bonded to this guy. He knows I care for him and he cares for me. The week couldn't get any better.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

#EdBlogADay: 3 Important Things to Remember at the EOY

The end of the (school) year is upon us and I'm in shock. Some people call it result of age: that the years seem to fly by quicker each passing year. I'm in denial about that birthday is fast approaching and I'm pretty sure I'm turning 21 yet again this year. Regardless, we have only 21 days left of the year. A month, yet when counted in only days, it makes even the most experienced teacher much to still do, so little time... With that in mind here are three important things to remember about the End of the Year.

1) You are a great teacher and you have done enough.
     Not to say you won't still pack in plenty of learning in the last 21 days, we will, but don't feel like 
     the kids lives depend on it- you've spent a year teaching what was needed.

2) Relationships matter.
    What's most important is to continue letting the kids know that what matters most is them and the
    time left in class will continue to honor that.

3)  Have Fun!
     Life is meant to be lived. Experiences are the best teachers. Take that Field Trip or two. Enjoy a 
     day at the park, a day at the library, whatever gets you out of the class and makes memories with
     your kiddos.

Well that's it! Profound? No. True? Yes. When the craziness of the end of the year starts to freak you out, remember back to your own experience at school. What did your teachers do that you loved?
Whatever that was, do that.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week: The Dream and the Reality

So, every year as I'm perusing Instagram I see teachers posting photos of their haul for Teacher Appreciation week. First thought: LUCKY! Second thought: Wait, Do I Suck?

I can admit, and I'll admit for my teacher friends who won't, that we can get lost in thinking what we receive during Teacher Appreciation week is in some way tied to our worth. The fact that some teachers get boat loads of gifts can't be because the school sent out a reminder, but because they are somehow 50X better than we are.

But as we all know
So I brush myself off and instead realize hey, I forgot my OWN daughters teacher (you know the daughter of the mom who is a teacher) during Teacher Appreciation week and it wasn't because I don't think she is the bomb, because she is, but because the hamster wheel is spinning to fast and I can never seem to escape it.
If you are like me, you rush from the school day, to the preschool pickup, to the Tball game, to the dinner, to the bath, to the bedtime routine and then you pass out. If I'm lucky enough to remember to put info like Teacher Appreciation week on my calendar, it's later eschewed because I don't remember the reminder is there. Yes, folks, we are doing too much and paying attention to too little. Solution: Try to find a better balance. I know, I know, hard to do (you are talking to a single parent here) but having a goal of self preservation is important.
So now that you remember Teacher Appreciation week, even though it's now over,  give the most wonderful gift imaginable: a note to the principal stating what is great about your kiddos teacher and how much you appreciate him or her. Not to say my gift card to D&M and Burt's Bee chap stick isn't fantastic, because I'm jumping up and down ecstatic that I got them, but because I got an email sent to my principal this week and it rocked. It felt good to hear that I'm appreciated, and for my principal to hear it. We are not validated enough and we need to be.
Go out and fill a bucket today!

PS: No worries about my daughters preschool teacher. Since she doesn't have a principal she is getting treated to happy hour. And we all know THAT is a good thing.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#TeachingIs Not for the Faint at Heart

"You seem scattered," my principal stated during my post observation conference. My inability to form coherent sentences at 2 in the afternoon was not lost on him.

"It's been a hard day in K," I muttered.

Looking back, it was definitely the full moon, combined with spring fever, that led to one of the worst days for the last couple months. I had talked so much, and so often, attempting to mend friendships, disrupt violence, calm quarrels, answer questions--repeatedly the same question, over and over, that I had almost lost my senses.

Teaching Kindergarten is definitely not for the faint of heart. It takes love...a love of all things that tiny bodies and minds do and say, constantly, relentlessly, for 7 hours each day. It talks resolve to not leave the bathroom screaming when someone has peed over the entire toilet seat for the umpteenth time. It takes restraint to not bang your head against the wall when you have repeated yourself for the 26th time (and there are only 24 kids in the class). It takes resilience to not crumble into a ball when, for the 568th time, a kiddo walks up holding an empty glue stick saying, "Look at this Ms. Foley. What should I do with it?"

So why do I do it? Why don't I take that barista job at Starbucks that I have been threatening to do for the majority of the year?

Because #TeachingIs also amazingly addicting. When you get a preschooler in the fall with no concept of what his or her name looks like and they leave in spring a writer. That's why I teach K. When my previous kids scream and frantically wave at me in the cafeteria I know I have impacted their lives. That's why I teach K. When a group of kids is surrounding a kid yelling, "No, don't kill the spider" I know that my lessons on kindness remain. That's why I teach K. When I take my kiddos to the transfer station to learn about recycling and they claim it's the best day ever. That's why I teach K.

So, sorry Starbucks, I can't work for you. I'm busy changing the kindergartener at a time.

The first kid isn't happy, but I have a crown, a beautiful dress, and I'm smiling.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I Have Plenty to Celebrate Today

Hello May! I can't believe you are here already! Where has the year gone? 28 days left of school!

This afternoon, I'll be honest, I had a little bit of the Sunday blues.

The unspeakable (wind) didn't blow here, which during Spring, is like a miracle in itself. The sun was warm, the shorts were out, the kids were playing, and I was in heaven. Then time starts to run out and I'm like

But I then realized I have plenty to celebrate today. I have enough food in my pantry and many do not. I do not have to work on the weekends and many do. I have 3 acres to call my own and many do not even have a yard.  I don't have to work the night shift...that in itself is a killer. I may not have the greatest house, the greatest car, the greatest income, but I have the greatest gift

My daughter. And every day alive and with her gives me plenty to celebrate.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Day 30: How the #BlogADay Challenge has Impacted Me

Well, that month is shot.

I gotta admit, I felt crummy missing the last 8 days of the blog challenge.

Everyday I would get the text reminders and totally expect to have time. And everyday my time ran out. Between Tball, losing my voice (the kids are hoping I "find" it), and going to a conference (which as teachers we know is code for spending 2 hours writing sub plans) I failed.

Or have I?

The #BlogADay challenge brought my blog to the front and center. It made me conscience of it and made me want to write. It also got me focusing on the great things about education, rather than staying mired in the educational despair that envelopes many of us this time of year.

It also helped grow my PLN on Twitter and gave me the confidence I needed to continue.

I am thankful for Chris Crouch's idea to start a #BlogADay challenge and look forward to failing at our next adventure in May.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 22: 5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending in Education

1. That we are Mary Poppins.
I like the quote, "Not every day is good, but there is something good in every day." Because, let's get real...when I have to ask my students to put their heads down, when no one appears to be listening to me, when I feel I need a bullhorn to get my students attention, it's not a good day and that is OK. We are human. We can have days when we'd like to park ourselves at happy hour.

2. That we need to look like teachers on Pinterest or Instagram.
I LOVE both Pinterest and Instagram. I love the ideas and inspiration. I love that I can think about getting crafty, at the last minute, on Earth Day, and can find something just right for my students. However, when it steps beyond that, when we start to compare ourselves to others and end up feeling like "losers" because our wall doesn't look like a scene out of Frozen, we need to back away. Great pictures don't equal great teaching.

3. That we will be provided the training we need.
It seems most teachers have the nice gene like me. We sit and quietly wait because SOMEONE will surely offer us the training we need. SOMEONE will make sure we grow in our profession. SOMEONE will tell us what we need to do. Note to Self: That SOMEONE IS YOU. You are your biggest advocate. Realize where you need to grow and ask for training in that area. Otherwise you'll be sad.

4. That we will be treated fairly in all things.
I like to believe in the inherent good in people, but not everyone out there is kind. Realize your boundaries and stick to them. Just because a veteran teacher asks you to do something doesn't mean you have to. Just because its a veteran teacher who is being rude, doesn't mean its OK. Be kind but assertive. Look after yourself and your family time.

5. That we can ignore technology.
Technology is here and it isn't going away! So don't hide from it, embrace it! Realize you need to learn how to check your email if you don't know how. And that it is a good idea to learn things that will better your students in the long run. We can't hide out in a cave because we feel Facebook is the devil. Become informed so that you can be a beacon for others.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Day 20: The Year of Training Dangerously

Today's blog topic (What are You Working on NOW?) came at an appropriate time. Today I was away from class again, this time to train on a math program called Origo.

Each time I am gone I feel guilty about being absent from class...I really do. I want to be there changing my students lives for the better. I worry what the parents will think. I worry the kids will forget what I look like. But then, after stewing about it, for long periods of time, because that's what introverts do, I came to the conclusion that I am not going to become a better teacher if I let guilt hold me back.

I'm going on my 7th full year with my district and although I've had trainings in the past, nothing as frequent, and worthwhile, as this year. This year I broadened my mindset by attending GLAD training, the NCCE (Tech) conference, and Origo. And, although the year has only 37 days left (yikes!) I have a 1 day Dr. Jean workshop I'm attending (thanks to Lincoln Parent Council!), Handwriting without Tears, and a week long pre-school GLAD program.

When I think about training I am reminded of the Maya Angelou quote:

Because, although I am bright, I am the first to admit I do not know it all. As I tell my kiddos, I learn something new every day...and its not just a Foleyism, but a truth. Hence, if I stay in my fortress, guarded by my constituents, and continue to plot along the best I know...I won't be able to become a better teacher and thus impact students with more efficient and best practices.
And yet 2 years ago, I was embarrassed to ask to attend the national, "I Teach K!" conference (the first MAJOR conference I had EVER been to) because every time I told someone it was being held in Las Vegas they looked at me with a stare of disbelief. As if learning cannot occur in Vegas, the convention capital of the world mind you, because its Vegas. And yet to be there for 4 days with only KINDERGARTEN teachers was so empowering. To talk to people who understand that kindergarten is an undiscovered planet in our solar system, a place where glue eating is commonplace and sainthood should be granted was powerful. And yes, to Zipline across Fremont street provided me with the strength to start another year. Yet it also provided me with 100s of new ideas, ways to improve, ways to "be better."
So where does that leave me? With a new mantra. I believe every year should be, for every teacher, a year of training dangerously. To get so much outstanding, effective, passion filled training that we, as teachers, are ignited to come back and to do so with gusto. In my mind an ounce of prevention (by providing quality training) is worth a pound of cure (trying to figure out how to "fix" low performing schools).
So I implore those in charge, those making the decisions, those teetering on the edge of whether to send teachers to professional development to JUST DO IT. Because the kids are worth it.
As for Vegas...there is always next year :)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Day 10: What Haven't I Tried that I Wish I Could?

So it's Friday night and I just got paid...scratch that...I'm a teacher...I only get paid once a month.

However, it is Friday night and it's time to catch up my past due posts.

What haven't I tried that I wish I could: Coding. Yes, geeky, wannabe techy me wants to teach coding to my kinders.

I just attended the NCCE in Portland, Oregon, (completely AWESOME BTW) where I attended seminars and workshops on coding with programs like Scratch, Tynker, and Alice. I wish so badly to implement this in my class but I don't know that I want to attempt it in a computer lab setting. I am wishing I had more technology for the classroom besides the 2 working Kindles and 1 working tablet. I want so much to take kids to the next level and yet I feel so stuck in implementation. So much to do, so little time.

Dear Bill Gates,

Please send me 6 iPads for my totally awesome kindergarteners to use so we can learn coding. They deserve it. Living in the country should not be a detriment to learning.


Constantly Poor Kindergarten Teacher

That should do it ;)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day 19: Tech in the Classroom--Should We? Or as I call it, "Are You Kidding Me?"

I have always be fascinated by all things techie. I may never work for Microsoft, but send me to a tech conference and I get as geeky as they come.

So, it's hard for me to understand the reasons teachers fail to embrace technology.

I teach in a small district and so technology has been one of those things looming on the edge, never attainable. My first year I was excited to have an antiquated computer for student use. I was given a projector to use, you know, with was 2008. To me, that was bizarre.

Did I know the latest inventions I was missing? No. But I knew there had to be better out there and I wanted it for the students. I knew that if I found it interesting, they would too, and it would be part of the world they grew up into.

Fast forward to 2015. Thank the Lord the old, roll the cart out, get out your transparencies from 1992, projector went away. I now have a doc cam/projector. I gave up the student computers (even though I had a whole 2 now) because they reminded me to much of dial up Internet (Wait, wait, wait some more, no, I'm sure it's going to load soon...).

Some K teachers at another school had attained some Kindles from parent group funds and my motivation was lit. We ended up with 6 for my class and the students were beyond excited. The Kindle center was one of our regular D5 rotations and they couldn't wait each day. They were beyond excited to do math with Team Umizoomi, and phonics skills with Dora the Explorer to name a few. It was engaging, it was fun, it was a game in their mind. This wasn't boring, "learning" they were, "playing."

I understand the complexities of screen time usage and kids...I understand the fears some teachers have that the kiddos will be exposed too soon. However, it's already happening. Computer programming, in all its capacities, is the wave that will take us into the future. By sheltering our students from it, thinking we are doing them a favor, we are instead putting them at a disadvantage.

Signed, Mom of incoming Kindergartner

Day 17: TGIF--mindfulness

I'm beginning to think I need to join an, "Every 3rd Day Post to Your Blog" challenge. As that is about how often I am getting time to write. However, I truly am enjoying posting for a reason and having an incentive, a little knock-knock via virtual friends, to keep me mindful. It keeps my blog in  the forefront of my mind and not the attic.

Friday's topic was, "What are You Thankful for?" Gosh, more like what am I not as there are so many things I am thankful for.

When I entered therapy I learned about mindfulness--the ability to live in the now, be present, be aware, how to change thoughts and body to enjoy life more. It has been such a great skill to have. The ability to realize when things are amiss, when I'm overly stressed, and knowing how to rectify the situation and think clearly has been such a blessing.

I have always believed in the mantra: life is short...don't put off until tomorrow what can bring you great joy today. But it seems to become more imperative as I age. After my brother in law was killed, I realized you truly can be here today and gone tomorrow. After my brother was diagnosed with ALS I truly no longer cared how long the car ride was, or how tired I would be, it was important to see him, be with him, let him know how much he would be missed. After he passed away last year, we lost a family friend, who was like a brother, to kidney failure. The sad list, at my age, seems to grow longer with each passing day.

And so, I am thankful, for the sun on my face, a bird singing, a flower blooming, nature in all its boring (to some) glory. Thankful for the family I have still with me, the ones that truly stand behind you, walk the walk, talk the talk. Thankful for my grandmother Della who means the world to me. Thankful for the daughter I never thought I would have due to my struggle with infertility. Friends and strangers who helped me get from the dark of 4 years ago back to the light.

And I break into song like my brother in law used to do, "I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down."

Happy Friday.

Tubthumping (I get Knocked Down)


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Day 14: Why I Teach

Today was one of those days when the only quiet time I got was in the bathroom. Seriously, I was wondering if there was a full moon? Early donut day? Give every kinder coffee day?

It didn't help that my para was TESL practicum didn't show...and the light bulb broke out of the socket of the chicken lamp...(early chick death, anyone?)

Whatever it was, the class was on fire. There was no inside voice to be found. I mulled about all morning with an, I don't want to be here mindset. Why am I here? and Is Starbucks still hiring? was bouncing about my brain. It didn't help when several kiddos asked if it was lunch time...and it was 1030.

During math, I went to use my doc cam and knocked over my Pepsi across my plan book. So much for the inspiration to make my desk smaller (mid day it resembles tornado alley).

And then it was rest time...the glorious time when, hopefully, kiddos are resting and writing books. When the 15 minutes was up a little guy wandered up, "I have something for you, Ms. Foley."

A little guy who struggled the first few weeks adjusting to life in a new class, who used to melt if he didn't finish in time, and look at him...beaming with pride.

This is why I teach friends, this is why... not for the pay, or lack thereof, or the summers off, but the impact I make on precious lives...even on the days I cannot hear myself think :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

April Blog-a-Day Challenge, Day 12: My Passion, Saving Fred, and Anyone Else That Needs Saving

The other day my sister mentioned how some of her students were crushed when another student killed a spider in class.( Score: Ms. Foley 1) My friend followed that comment with, "Yeah, I was pretty sure our relationship was over when I killed a spider and mentioned it to her." (Score: Friend -1)

Each year I put my passion of kindness into my lesson plans on spiders. I try to instill an understanding of how the earth, and all its residents, are interconnected. And how we don't need to fear things out of misunderstanding. How we should be kind to all living things.

It goes without saying that the unit starts with many friends telling me how they routinely crush spiders, bugs or insects. What's the big deal, you might ask, "it's just a bug." I find it a very big deal. I see that a lack of caring, for life in general, leads to less empathetic kiddos. Kiddos that are less empathetic don't see the big deal when the line is crossed into animal abuse (overt or merely rough handling). They are not concerned when a stray kitten is injured in the trailer park because, "it's just an animal." Yet, it is well known that animal abuse can be a pre-cursor to abuse in general.

Big step? Why take the chance. Teaching kids to be KIND is a virtue that should be embraced and appreciated.  Curiosity in the world around them is great. As long as said curiosity doesn't include destruction. Our kids need to learn that being respectful, in essence being kind, is what we should strive for. Respect for the Earth involves being kind to plants (living), insects (living), animals (living), and humans (living). Do you see the connection here? How we act on one group or specie transcends to the next, and the example we set for our kids is likely to become their basis for all further interactions.

I even take it a step further in the classroom. Beating up stuffed animals, or toy babies, is not allowed. The kids will routinely say, "but it's not real, why can't I smack it against the floor?" When we get our kids to think about why it's not ok, and talk about why it's not ok, that is when they begin to understand the connection themselves. Meanness, whether through actions or thoughts, is not ok. It leads to the assumption that meanness is a quality that we approve of, when we should not.

My ultimate goal is to teach about spiders for opinion writing, lifecycle knowledge, knowledge of scientific facts and future occupations. It is also my goal to quell fears and anxiety young children have about spiders in general. Yet in the end the most important lesson comes from the conversations we have about, "Fred." Fred is whatever spider takes up residence in our classroom. Always small and innocuous Fred gives a name, and therefore meaning, to the life of the object--in this case, an arachnid. Fred is living his life, minding his business, as we are. My kiddos go from freaking out about Fred/wanting to kill Fred, to ignoring Fred/saying "hi" and leaving Fred alone. Parents thank me when their over anxious kiddos no longer freak out, but instead explain facts about spiders.

So each time I hear one of my former, or current, students speaking up for not killing a bug or spider I give myself a point. It's my passion, it's important, and I'm changing the kindergartener at a time...

PS--I tell my students, as well as their parents, that by no means am I abdicating for taking a spider as a pet. Or petting a spider, or otherwise engaging in dangerous activities. My goal is one of understanding and respect.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Day 11: What Have I Been Reading? 5 Books Everyone Should Read

 I read 3 books to my 4 year old each night. So you might say my current reading includes, Is There a Dog in This Book? The Baby Trap and Pete the Cat Saves Easter. As a kindergarten teacher I realize daily reading is SO important for kiddos to understand speech, vocabulary, and literacy skills in general. READ! READ! READ! (at least to kids if no one else).

Personally, my last read was, If I Can't Have you: The Susan Powell Story. So sad and tragic. I felt kinship in that I believe my ex is a sociopath, unable to take responsibility or empathize. And in the end, that is truly what Susan Powell had: a sociopathic spouse. We, as women, need to recognize the signs of a unhealthy relationship.

I speak from experience...After what happened to me, and to my family, I felt the need to understand why. And that is what has led me to read several great books including Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.
And Psychopath Free by Peace. Yes a pseudonym. As what we go through is embarrassing and we don't want everyone to know. (I started an anonymous blog to help me at the time-AnonyMrs)
And then The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize and How to Respond by Patricia Evans. Remember: VAR's are not just with partners, but anyone we deal with in life--family members, co-workers, friends. It's a real and prevalent problem.

These 3 books were the most helpful to me (and actually a great read for anyone). Understanding what is verbal abuse and how to respond is monumental. For our own health and well being, as a population we need to recognize and identify these toxic behaviors.

After reading these I felt so much better. Things made sense. I understood so much more. And yet I found myself in a dilemma of being, "a good girl." In a sense of, "I can't say THAT, because that wouldn't be NICE." It is something women can get stuck in...if we are assertive, we are a witch, and if not, we are nice. Not good. And so I recommend Civilized Assertiveness for Women: Communication with Backbone not Bite by Judith Selee McClure.
It's OK to be assertive. It doesn't mean you are a witch, it means what is happening is not OK with you.

Well, there you go friends. I started this blog post a few nights ago without knowing where to take it. And then it hit me: I have a lot of good information to share, just like someone shared with me one time. And it's my turn to Pay it Forward.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 9: Is It Bad to Tell My Beginning Teacher-Self to Run?

I can't be alone, can I? In thinking I would have told my teacher-self to chose another profession?

Don't get me wrong...I love teaching. I LOVE the moments when the light bulb comes on. When my students scream my name across the cafeteria like I am Katy Perry. When someone comes into my room at the beginning of the year not knowing their name and leaves reading. I love those moments.

What I don't love is the constantly changing hoops teachers jump through that I don't see other occupations doing. The holding back of much needed wage increases. The every decreasing amount of health care coverage. The anchoring of worth to student test scores.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Day 8: Throwing it Back to Day 4, iMatter

It was one of those know the type.

I went to bed to late the night before...trying to keep up with this Blog-a-Day challenge. I then had a nightmare and tossed and turned the rest of the night.

I told my kiddos what a horrible night I had, and asked if anyone else had trouble sleeping, when 95% of the class raised their hand, I knew it would be a stellar day...and it was. One of those when you are wondering if anyone is listening...if any attention getter will ever work...if you will make it through to the end of the day and then it happened...

I was spray painting flower pots during the peace of recess time. I was down on the library rug, which the kids had picked at so relentlessly that it now looked horrendous. I figured I'd use it to catch the paint and then toss was then I heard a knock on the door, then another, then another. Ugh! I thought to myself, I can't even get 15 minutes! I need alone time. The knocking continued, with periodic breaks. I decided to just wait it out...unwillingly to crawl off the floor into a standing position. Theoretically I could be in the office or the bathroom...I thought...

The bell rang and I assumed the position. As I opened the classroom was then that I saw it...the reason for the knocking. Scrawled across the asphalt in front of my portable was this:

My former student, now a first grader, had written it during recess.

The stress, the exhaustion, the ruined rug all faded into the no longer mattered. iMattered.

I had made such an impact on this kiddo that she chose to spend her recess time to let me know.

I was speechless.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Day 5 of Blog-A-Day: What Needs to End for Education to Begin: Over-testing

So I got an was pertaining to our legislature and how they planned to tie our evaluation to student performance on tests.

It may sound familiar, it's happening all over, but my state, Washington, had actually declined to do it...because it wasn't RIGHT.

But since they lost the ability to use 40 million dollars the way they want to, due to losing the NCLB waiver, and thus propelling themselves into AYP, they have now backtracked citing it was "hard" on officials.

Let's talk about what really is, "hard." Hard is hearing your evaluation will be tied to state testing that you have no control over. It becomes "hard" to understand how legislators, who don't teach by the way, came up with tying student performance on a state test with teacher ability.

What is not hard is figuring out why this is a bad idea. In my day I had one test: the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. I was an anxious introvert and had no qualms whatsoever about taking it. It was one didn't last long...and no one made a fuss over it (from a student standpoint).

Enter in today's world of testing: anxious students, anxious parents, anxious teachers trying to figure out what hoop has to be jumped through in the continuous, ongoing, weeks of assessments. Which now include, get this, third graders typing essays on computers!! Third graders with no keyboarding skills, mind you, are being asked to read, comprehend, analyze, and then produce an essay...on the computer. I can see no stress for them. They are still figuring out how to get along socially and emotionally with others, they are worried over who doesn't like them, they are nine, and we are asking them to perform well in situations that even some adults would fail at. And when they cannot "show what they know" not from a lack of trying, but due to anxiety, lack of keyboarding skills, lack of ability at age 9, etc. we will say, it was that teacher! Let's ding her on her evaluation, that will surely help. Really?

This is so wrong on so many levels. A student is successful when he or she shows growth. Period.

Want to know what will really impact Teacher performance? Pay that is sufficient and equivalent to the true time spent preparing. Training and advancement that is pertinent and paid for. Technology that is up to date and provided without request. Being respected as a professional for the years of education earned. Less testing. More teaching.

Day 7: You Really Don't Deserve this Top 10 Student Teacher Award...

OMG. I am behind by 5 days on this April, blog a day challenge, but who's counting...oh that's right. It's me. That person who cannot just jump forward but just spent 2 hours composing the day 5 post. Note to self: it's a blog, not a college class.

Moving something that doesn't throw me into flashbacks of coursework and editing dilemma's.

And yet its about college. Oh the irony.

I was finishing student teaching when I found out I was receiving an award for being a, "Top 10 Student Teacher."

I was thrilled...

My field supervisor was not...

She said, "Well...even though I had others that were stronger have the teaching AND the you get it."

I felt so...worthy. I still can't believe the field supervisor just had to share that info. Apparently it peeved her that someone else didn't get it, and I did.

I was mentioning this story to another field supervisor, just out of happenstance, and she said, "you really should be proud of that. It wasn't just the GPA. That was only a small portion. It was truly your teaching too and what your mentor teacher saw and had to say."

It's been 10 years since I graduated college (late bloomer), the memory far from my mind, yet hearing that made my week. I was deserving. I did earn it. It is something to be proud of.

Thank you, Mrs. Saxton, for seeing a student teacher that deserved recognition...for championing for me at a time when I had doubt. And thank you field supervisor for taking the time to let me know that I was deserving of the award and earned it. You didn't have to, but by taking the time, and connecting with me, you made a world of difference.

And with that...I plan to see how I can pay it forward...