Friday, October 29, 2010

Second Grade!

I have made the transition to Second grade!  I do miss my little Kindergartners, but I'm already loving my Second graders.  It's crazy to see how independent children become in just two years. It has taken some adjustments to get used to how independent all of my students are and that they can work quietly (for the most part), but it does give me time to grade worksheets and gather materials for the next day.  This week was my first week with them and all week I have found that they enjoy telling me that they are "almost as tall as me".  I guess I do miss the fact that my Kindergartners did think that I was tall, but I guess second graders are just more aware of reality.  I'm starting to get the hang of the routine and just how much these kids can handle.  I'm looking forward to teaching lessons because I will be able to do so many different techniques and I will be able to use technology (such as clickers) for practice tests. We had our infamous Halloween party at school on Thursday, now I always remembered those parties were so much fun at school and this time I was excited to actually be on the "other" side of the party.  However, I quickly found out that when children eat sugar it has an IMMEDIATE effect on their little bodies.  My kids were bouncing off the walls! As I walked them outside to have their parents pick them up I turned around to check on them and all of their eyes were WIDE open and frantically looking around the hallways. Some were skipping , some were hopping and I was just waiting for the rest of their heads to start spinning.  Don't get me wrong the party was a lot of fun, but I now understand what my parents would hide my sisters and I's candy on top of the fridge as soon as we got home...our heads might have been spinning had we had access to all of that candy too.  Even though my students were going into a sugar coma as they walked out to their parents car, the party was a lot of fun and I had a wonderful time.  All in all...Second grade it going to be great!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The ending of one chapter and the beginning of another....

I know it has been awhile since I have posted anything, and I apologize for that. My life quickly picked up as I took over everything in my classroom as well as shuffling my little darlings from one place to another.  However, my placement for Kindergarten is quickly coming to a close, next week will be my final week with them :(. It is hard to believe that I am already halfway through my Student Teaching! I have been working toward this final test for three years and had always thought that once I reached it everything would slow down and I could enjoy every last bit of it.  Unfortunately, I feel as though time is quickly slipping through my fingers and if I could only just grab and hold on to it for a little longer....I still have so much to learn....I can't leave now!!!!!! 

In all reality I could probably spend a whole year with my Kindergarten teacher and my little ones and still feel as if I had not learned everything possible.  So since I must face reality I must come to terms with leaving my seventeen precious Kindergartners and move on to the Second grade.  I am excited and at the same time nervous for how my next class will accept me.  My Kindergartners accepted me from the beginning, because I was there from the beginning. This second grade class may not be so accepting in the beginning, which is understandable but I really hope that it isn't the case.  For me, this transition is similar to leaving home for the very first time and not knowing what to expect. Kindergarten is my home...where my roots are grounded and now I will have to leave my safe and cozy home to step into the unknown....second grade.  Now, I have been told that second graders are just like bigger Kindergartners that are somewhat independent.  I could see how this statement would become more appealing but I honestly LOVE Kindergarten ...I always have.  Here are a few reasons why I love Kindergarten:

Reason 1: They think I'm tall :)

Reason 2: They love to help you and please you in whatever they do.

Reason 3: We share the same attention span and enjoy sitting on the floor.

Reason 4: We find the same things intriguing

Reason 5: We love to color

Reason 6: We have LARGE imaginations

I could probably go on about all the things that I have in common with my Kindergartners but then you all will start thinking that I have issues so I will stop there. 

Don't get me wrong though....I am excited to go on to Second Grade and see what I can learn.  But when you have had such an amazing experience with wonderful students and a phenomenal cooperating teacher you find it a little bit harder to just pick up and move on.   I know my next placement will be absolutely amazing and there will be so many things that I will learn...and in the end I'm sure I will love them just as much.  I just don't want to miss all of the great things my little ones are going to experience and learn without me.  I want to see how much they have grown and listen to their stories as they tell me about what they are learning and all the little things they soak up.  There is no doubt that this is bittersweet, and in a perfect world I would be able to experience both. But that obviously isn't the I will watch my little one's from a distance as the blossom into First Graders. 

I can't help but  wonder if I will always have this much trouble with my students leaving me or if it will get easier as the years go on?  Knowing me I will always have some emotional attachment to each class that I have....but I must realize that that is why I love it, that is why I chose it.

And at the end of the day, no matter the grade level...I will always know that I have one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The word Mistake is defined by Websters Dictionary as: choose erroneously; regard (something) as other than it is; misunderstand or to be in error. 

It is very clear to see that by definition Mistakes are not viewed in a positive manner.  We all hate making mistakes...but do we know why? Is it because we have to fix the mistake?  Or because there is now "extra work" involved in finding a solution to your moment of ill-mindedness?  Or is it simply because making mistakes leaves us vulnerable?   These thoughts ran through my mind today as I slowly watch one of my students begin to tear up when I told her we needed to fix a mistake on her paper.  I wasn't angry with her at all, nor did I scold her for making a mistake I simply smiled and said " That is a beautiful looking six but I think we put the tail on the wrong side. Can we erase and fix our mistake?". My heart dropped as her bright blue eyes began to fill with tears and her little nose slowly started turning red.  My mind immediately began racing on how to fix the problem before it escalated....but I didn't know what the problem was.  I quietly knelt down beside her and took her small hands in mine she quickly began to relax but would not look me in the eye.  Then I asked " Why are you crying? It's OK to make mistakes ...I make them all the time." Her dark hair moved back in forth as she shook her head in disagreement and quietly mumbled in between sniffles " It's not a good thing to make mistakes. Mommy said that they aren't good and gets really mad when I make them.".   I was somewhat taken back by the child's response but I also understood exactly where she was coming from.  I, just like many of us I'm sure, have made mistakes that have left people disappointed with say the least.  As I watched this tears fall quietly from this five year old girls eyes I began to wonder...when were we 'taught' that mistakes weren't good? what kind of mistakes has this little girl made at home to develop such a dramatic reaction?!.....Then something clicked! Ah HA!!! I've got it...I smiled and whispered for the girl to look me in the eye and said " Your mommy may not like it...but I LOVE it when you make mistakes."  The girl almost immediately stopped crying and looked at me like I was insane. I continued " Yup! I sure do...would you like to know why?" she shook her head still looking at me like I was crazy ...."Well," I began " when you make mistakes it shows me that you are learning and that's why we are in school right? to learn?" ....she smiled and agreed       "Great! So when you make a mistake it isn't a bad thing at all, it actually helps me to know that you are learning and it makes me very happy to know that you are learning!!!"  Finally, she smiled and began to giggle in relief...I had done it!!!  

I was glad that the situation had been fixed before it got out of hand, but I was still amazed at the little girls response to making a mistake.  She is five years old....FIVE and she is deathly afraid of making mistakes Kindergarten!  Now, I remember at that age that my fears included: the dark, spiders and getting into trouble. It was not until later (after a math incident with a student teacher) that I too, developed a fear or making mistakes and asking questions.  Like many teachers, I sympathize with students who struggle or are experiencing similar problems that I did when I was their age.  And since I have the tools and the understanding I always try my best to help my students the way I wish someone would have helped me. 

As I drove home I found myself somewhat torn between what had occurred today. Part of me  was pleased with the fact that I had showed one of my students that making mistakes was a part of learning. The other half of me was disappointed with the fact that so many people, including myself, have been raised to view mistakes as a bad thing.  I wonder how our lives, education and relationships could have been altered had we been told that in life we learn and when we learn we make mistakes..... because no one is perfect!?? 

But to tell you the truth  ...I'm kinda glad no one told me, because then I wouldn't be able to understand or sympathize with my students who do have these struggles. Nor would I have had the opportunity to make the brilliant new view on mistakes. :)
Mistakes, they provide you with the opportunity to begin again...only this time more wisely!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"What Teachers Make" by Taylor Mali

I love it! It is so true!! We may not make a lot of money, but honestly thats not why we love our job nor is it why we do our job....

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

~*~ Through the Eyes of the Innocent~*~

I apologize for not posting sooner, but things are beginning to pick up at school and will eventually begin to snowball soon! :)

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” - Anon

This quote is my first week of school with Kindergartner's in a nut shell.  Yes, we have all heard the cute comments that children share with us about how think the world operates and their explanations of the unknown. And I'm sure we have all given the same look to that little know which one I'm talking about....One hand covers your heart, your head slightly tilts to one side and you just can't help but smile and lightly giggle at their "innocence" of the world around them and then we go and share it with other "adults" who will also find it utterly adorable ( and possibly make the same "oh...innocence" gesture).  I don't blame you....they are adorable and sometimes you just can't help but giggle at them, I do it all the time!  But this week my students so called "innocence" almost brought me to tears. Not tears of frustration, anger or these tears meant so much more.  These tears are the ones that you would feel flooding your eyes on your wedding day or on the day of your child's birth...they were heavy and meaningful. Let me start from the beginning....

If you did not already know, I have an inclusion classroom meaning that I have "Special Education" students in my classroom with the rest of my "average/normal" students. ( I do not like to call them inclusion students so from now on I will refer to them as "my girls" because they are two adorable girls).  I am ecstatic to have an inclusion classroom, but I did worry about how my other students were going to handle it.  I worried if they would make fun of them, if "my girls" would be included by other students and if any of my "average/normal" students would befriend my girls.  I usually am not a "softy", but my heart always goes out to those who struggle because I too have struggled and been made fun of by other kids ( my one soft spot...we all have to have one right?). We all remember when we saw people not being nice to the "slow kids" at recess, you may have actually been the person making fun of them, and the anxiety and humiliation that many of these children go through. With that in mind, I went in to this first week well prepared to have to defend and scold my students for making fun of others...I even had carefully mapped out what I would say to ensure the result of it never happening again. But...I didn't have to....instead I was abruptly slapped in the face by two of my students actions, both of them boys.  ( Since I cannot name their actual names I will call them "Ace" and "Chance"). Both Ace and Chance sit at a table with my girls, and have witnessed tantrums, button charts, being hit/kicked, and having their pencil boxes hijacked by my girls.  Now, many other boys at the age of Five or Six would respond with a squeal or simply hit back, but not Ace and Chance. I was amazed how these boys handled themselves at this chaotic table surrounded by Teachers assistants and noise.  My first tear-jerker was when one of my girls was having a rough day and had hit Chance multiple times....Chance looked at her and smiled and said  "You are doing such a great job of sitting! I know you've had a hard day but if it makes you feel better you can hold my hand."  And quietly my one little girl smiled mid-tantrum and took Chances hand and began to sit quietly. I was shocked! First because the Teachers Assistant and I had been attempting to reason with this little girl for fifteen minutes while she yelled and stomped her feet, and here sits a five year old boy who offers understanding and the simple comfort of her being able to hold his hand.  My heart melted and my eyes began to sting as the tears began to fill my eyes, Chance just taught me what I was doing wrong.  I wasn't listening to what she needed nor was I even beginning to understand what her day had been like.  I viewed her as a student with needs that was having issues with following directions and she needed to be "distracted" in order to sit quietly like the "normal" students.  When all that she needed was someone to tell her that they understood her!  So here I stand, watching children's so called "innocence" and "misunderstanding" take control of the situation. Later that day my other little girl was having issues sitting on the rainbow rug and keeping her hands and feet to herself.  She had stuck her tongue out multiple times and was refusing to participate in the upcoming station time.  Ace was in my girls station group of three, and as the Teacher Assistant tried to reason with my little one Ace quietly came over and crouched down in front of her and said "You're in my group! C'mon let's go color, it will be fun and I know your favorite colors are yellow and purple so I will let you have those!".  Again, my heart melted and my eyes began to sting with tears. Ace showed me exactly what I was doing wrong...I wasn't listening and again I was viewing her by her disability rather than just another student. I felt horrible! I felt like I was an awful teacher!  I went home and explained to my mother that I had done what I promised myself I would never do, and that was to look at a Student by their disability rather than just another student. She quickly reassured me that I was doing what any normal "adult" would do, and that is to do what you are told and what you are trained to do.  That's when I realized that this so called "innocence" that we all find so adorable was something that I no longer had.  I had been "taught" and "trained" and "told", I could not see the simplicity in my solution. Because I had been "taught" that children with "needs" have special ways of being handled, they need consistency  and are expected to behave like any other student in the classroom. But, I had forgotten what it is like to be a child to look at everyone as if they are the same as labels, no disabilities, no social status....just another kid to play with or talk to.  
Where did my "innocence" go? When did it disappear?  Will I ever be able to get it back?! 
  Ace and Chance had taught me a simple life lesson that I wished I had never forgotten....
that everyone, no matter the difference, just wants to have a hand to hold when they are scared.  The tears that fell from my eyes on the car ride home were heavy with disappointment because I had forgotten, but also with hope for Chance and Ace in that maybe I could help them to never lose their "innocence".

Monday, August 23, 2010

"The Mondays"

"The Mondays"....there are multiple definitions, many of them personal explanations of the common feeling we all share when returning to that monotonous routine we call our job some might even refer to it as their "passion". Having a case of "the Mondays" is fairly common in the professional world (so i hear). Symptoms include: waking up late, getting stuck in traffic, moving at a glacial pace, the inability for your face to defy gravity so that you may smile, drinking more than one cup of coffee, forgetting important papers and tailgating dangerously close as well as many others (feel free to add more :) >. Today I got to share the road with many of these poor people that must have been dealing with awful cases of "the Mondays".  However, I am happy to say that I was not one of the many suffers on the road this morning. In fact I was the complete opposite, I was happy to be driving to school and actually arrived 15 minutes earlier than usual! ( I may or may not have sped but that is just a minor detail ) . I found myself anxiously awaiting my students bright little faces as they walked past me during my first duty as Walking Club Patrol and the hugs I received at 8:15 when I made it back to my classroom from my post. Honestly, I am beginning to realize that I have chosen the most rewarding profession in the world. Let's think about this for a how many other professions can you show up in one of your worst moods and have all the change just because two little arms were suddenly squeezed around your waist and a small voice says " I missed you! Guess what I did this weekend?!"...?  To feel wanted, to feel needed by someone so mean so much to them that the first thing they want to do is see you...nothing can be more rewarding than that.  I put my job against any other....because guess what....without teachers we wouldn't have doctors, dentists, presidents, artists, professors, principals, surgeons....teachers inspired them, directed them, helped them get to where they are today. And I'm sure, a long time ago they were the child that ran up to their teacher and wrapped their little arms tightly around their teachers waist and said " I missed you..."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

~First Day of School!~

The First Day of School is a milestone for everyone. No matter how old you are you will always have that anxious feeling and butterflies in your stomach.  Today was a milestone for me as well in many ways. First, it was my last "First Day of School" as a student. Second, it was a taste of what I will be doing for the rest of my life...I hope. And lastly, today nineteen fragile minds were placed in my hands for me to shape and mold (and hopefully not mess up too badly).   I found that I have a lot in common with my students. Beside the fact that I cannot sit for more than five minutes, I also realized that we all are facing new experiences everyday and learning as we go.

I have often wondered why so many children show up to school on the first day clinging to their parents, screaming and crying to not leave them. Granted, walking into the unknown is definitely not the easiest thing to do but Kindergarten is suppose to be fun. Ya know, cookies and rainbows and all you do everyday is nap, color, sing and learn your colors and letters.  I know this is what many of us think but I am sorry to inform you that Kindergarten is not just rainbows and lollipops.  Think about it from a child's perspective...
..........your parents have raised you on their own schedule of lunch and nap times. They have told you never to talk to strangers and to never leave with anyone that you or your parents to not know. Simply, follow mom and dads rules and stay close to your family. Then one day they decide you are going to this place called "School"....what do you do at school? what does it look like? do you get candy? do you get to color, run and play when you want? And who is this "Teacher" person? 
So many questions, and not many answers...that you can understand at this age. But the day arrives and you have a brand new back pack and school supplies as you pull up with your parents to this place..."School" where you will be with a "Teacher" all day that you are supposed to listen to, but you don't know this person which makes them a stranger according to mom and dad. But why are they leaving me with this stranger?.....

In all reality we teach our children to fear everything that school the beginning.  Which is why today I had three of my nineteen Kindergartners crying right as they arrived (and some parents as well). And it is also why many of them asked when their parents would be coming to get them fifteen minutes after being in the classroom.  It is a scary thing, to go to school, but eventually it becomes the "norm" and each year it becomes easier.  Today, I did not only understand that fear but I felt it myself. No I didn't cry, or wet myself as I stood and waited for my students to arrive. Instead, my hands shook, the butterflies in my stomach were on steroids and I would have happily sat in a small corner somewhere where no one could've found me. Although my nerves were getting the best of me and the longer I stood in front of people the more enticing that corner sounded ; I faced my students and their parents with a smile and happy "hellos". But hey,  I'm not going to sugar coat it, school is intimidating at any age. The only difference is that the older you get the more unacceptable it is to wet your pants, so you have to learn that you need to cope...quickly.

All in all, my first day was fun! I have a fantastic group of students that are eagerly waiting for me to teach them anything and everything. After the brief period of "nerves" had vanished I felt as if I were dreaming because right in front of me was everything that I had worked for. It was front of me....and yes once again everything slowed down, the angles sang (only this time I think they were singing the ABC's), there were bright lights and rainbows. I hoped that my whole day would remain that way, but good ol' reality showed up to knock my back down to earth. But honestly, I didn't mind the reality this time...because I got to enjoy the innocent comments of my students, and engage their curiosity with my intelligence (just go with it).  Each day is an adventure, and I can't wait to see what mine will be tomorrow! :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Real Teacher Stuff"

I have found that each day I drive into Elkhorn and walk up to the doors of Manchester Elementary, I am greeted with reality. The exciting reality of becoming a teacher, a new teacher, each day I am presented with an opportunity for a fresh start. Today, part of my reality check was to attend Elkhorns District meeting at the new Elkhorn South High School (which is beautiful by the way!). Despite some traffic issues, over 174 employees filed into the new Auditorium to take their seats for motivational videos and awards for being apart of the district for five plus years.  I was happily sitting in my seat much like you would see a child at the circus for the first time, wide-eyed staring and trying to take everything in all at once. I sat and listened to important members of the school board make small "Welcome back" speeches and then, all the lights dimmed and a video began on the projection screen at the front of the room.  It was filled with inspirational quotes and pictures of students, crayons, pencils and books. There were many great quotes that I wish I could remember and many that were simply humorous. However, there was one that I saw flash across the screen that really hit home for me. It goes like this :

"Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted."

Garrison Keillor

This was reality slapping me in the face,big time.  As you know, I have talked about a thought that sits quietly in the back of my mind as I go through this experience. " Am I really ready for all of this? Can I do this?", these questions run through the back of my mind everyday. They linger like a dark rain cloud waiting patiently to drop it and rain on my parade. But this quote was my eraser today, as soon as I saw it my little black rain cloud vanished from the back of my mind! It was one of those moments that you would see in a movie, where everything is still and these angelic voices sing somewhere off in the distance...and then you are quickly snapped back to reality. Yes, it was one of those moments. I heard the angles, I saw the bright light and I was then yanked abruptly back to reality by the applause that followed the video.  My day from then on went very well. I headed back to Manchester with the rest of my Kindergarten clan, and we proceeded to print agendas, hang posters, assign seats, etc. Ya know, the "real teacher stuff" that I have waited anxiously for three years to be a part of. All in all, it was my best day thus far in being a teacher. And it can only get better from here....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kindergarten Parents Night

Last night I had the opportunity to attend "Kindergarten Curriculum Night" at Manchester Elementary where the parents of my future Kindergartners were able to meet with their child's teacher and get a feel for how the school year was going to go. Many of the parents were very nervous to be sending their child to school and looked for reassurance that everything was going to be alright. What they didn't know was that I was just as nervous and was looking for the same reassurance throughout the night.   As I walked through the long hallway back to my classroom there was a moment between the nervousness and excitement that I began to realize this was my future. This is what I have been working towards for three and a half years. All the lesson plans, thematic units, research papers and tests came down to this very moment of calm realization that I was home. My short revelation was broken by introductions to the other four kindergarten teachers and then we walked down to the gym to meet and greet our parents. As the six of us took our seats I saw parents taking out cell phones to take pictures of us to send home to their children.  I felt like a celebrity and a caged animal all at the same time, parents staring and taking pictures, pointing and whispering as they glance at you out of the corner of their eye. All in all it was quite intimidating and somewhat humorous. After the brief explanations of lunch, drop-off, and the infamous "rest time" aka nap time to many, we lead the crowd of anxious parents down to our classrooms where we would discuss classroom procedures and the expectations of their child. 

I learned a lot on how to handle questions and how to be supportive of a Kindergarten parent (and parents are very protective of their little angels). I am very fortunate to have a very experienced teacher that will be guiding me through my Student Teaching and the best part is that her classroom is an inclusion classroom! Which means we will have both special needs students as well as high ability students all in the same classroom.  The closer school gets the more anxious and nervous I get, and for some reason the same question always seems to be running through the back of my mind... " Am I really ready for all of this?".  I guess we will find out won't we. :)