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.