Dear Teacher: Thank You For Your Service

Dear Teacher, 

How are you? No, really. Take a minute to close your eyes and really think. How are you doing? 

This school year is unlike any other. Instead of walking into your classroom, putting up creative borders and posters around your classroom, and setting up for students, you sat at your computer waiting for emails, calls, or anything that would indicate how you would be teaching this year. 

Virtual? 

Hybrid? 

In-person? 

Masks? No masks? How much plexiglass would be installed in your classroom? 

It’s natural and okay to feel overwhelmed by the state of this school year. So many of you were told one thing, only to be changed last minute. Those expecting to be all online had to curate a socially distant classroom experience in a matter of hours because districts and higher-ups changed the protocol in the 11th hour. Some who spent all summer working on their socially distant classrooms were changed to all online and had to revamp their whole curriculum overnight. 

You’re expected to teach our “lost generation”, those who won’t have the opportunity at the same education as others have. It can put a certain level of guilt on you as their main source of education! 

But you’re a good teacher. 

You’re trying your best. 

The students are the center of your work. 

How do I know? Because it takes a special heart to be an educator, especially in today’s political world. And I know you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t care about your students as much as you do. 

Think back to one year ago, did you know the term “socially distant”? Would you have ever imagined teaching with a mask on all day? Did you ever see yourself on Zoom teaching concepts that really need to be taught in a personal setting? Like…. How to write….? 

No. No one saw this coming, no one could have prepared us for today. 

Your students are the same way, they were blindsided one day in March when nearly every school shut down with very little notice for an undisclosed amount of time. 

Doctors and nurses on the front lines treating COVID are heroes and need recognition. But maybe our teachers are being somewhat forgotten about. Here you are, putting in as much time and effort as these doctors. You’re working long shifts and giving your whole heart and soul to bring the education back to your communities, putting your life and your family’s lives at risk while you do it. 

Instead of nursing COVID patients back to health, you’re nursing our lost generation back to education. You’re providing our society as a whole a brighter future through your efforts. 

You are seen. You are of immeasurable value. You are the heroes we need right now. 

Thank you for your service. 

I Can Do It If I Try!

Positive affirmations are such a great tool for kids and adults alike. I’ve been doing them with my daughter recently. At three years old she commonly found situations where she was stuck and not able to complete what she was hoping to do. Such as climb a ladder or go down a scary slide. 

I taught her to say “I can do it!” in hard situations and it seemed to help give her the confidence, but it also felt like something was missing. The affirmation was there, but the work behind it was absent.

I needed her to learn that yes, she can do it, but she needs to put in the work to get there. So I adapted her affirmation. 

“I can do it if I try.” 

We can get so caught up constantly telling our students, “You can do it! You know you can do it! I know you can do it!” But maybe what we are missing is reminding them of the work they must put into it in order to accomplish the goal. 

“You can do it if you try.” 

“You can do it if you practice.” because not everything comes right away. 

Try it out and tell me if you think it makes a difference. 

What positive affirmations do you practice with your students and children? How have they helped you as well?

Photos by Kayla Wright

You Can’t Count The Apples In A Seed

Hi! Just me again, saying one thing and doing another. I wrote about my blog schedule just last week and was ready to get right to work on it! But on Monday, I strayed right away from the schedule and wrote about schools opening in the Fall because it felt so relevant and something teachers needed to be reading right now. 

I had every intention to dedicate today to introducing Enneagram types and why it can be important in education, but again, another topic came up that I truly felt compelled to write about. I appreciate that I am not getting any hate emails because I’m not following the set schedule I just gave myself. Thanks for letting my intuition take the lead for now. 

Setting up fun, educational activities for my daughter has been a side job and hobby of mine for about two years now. She’s well trained in sensory bins and being responsible with paint, play dough, scissors, and more. I have also been well trained in when and where activities take place. When I’m making dinner it’s a perfect time for unsupervised activities she knows well and can do independently. When her little brother is napping it’s a great time to pull out something new when I can sit with her and walk her through, and help where needed. 

Usually, I am great at seeing the cues of when she needs something besides TV or her regular toys to entertain her. She gets a certain kind of antsy when I am busy and her brain just needs to think and create. But the other day I was so hyper-focused on what I was doing, I didn’t take the time to give her what she needed. She ended up finding some playdough in her bin of activities I keep organized and brought it to the kitchen table asking if she could play with it. She’s an extremely responsible three-year-old, I know! Within minutes she was bored and asking for something new, while I continued to work and ignore her needs. 

My husband was cleaning the kitchen and watching the interactions unfold, seeing both of our needs. I needed to work and my daughter needed an enriching, fun activity, not just play dough. He walked over with a container full of food picks, food stamps, measuring spoons, and my rolling pin and showed my daughter how to roll the playdough, then stamp the shapes or make the food picks stand up, They scooped the dough with the measuring spoons and packed them in tight to make 3D shapes. Less than 5 minutes of instruction and she was on her way to independent play. 

It made me realize that the activities I’ve set up around my house are maybe teaching more than just my daughter. My husband has seen enough of these setups to know what she needed to succeed, and I’m sure my son is picking up on the rules I’ve set by watching his older sister carry out her painting and sensory bins. I also thought about this quote I’ve seen often as a teacher. 

One seed that we plant as teachers will have lasting effects for generations and generations to come. A positive influence on one child can have lasting impressions on everyone they come in contact with, you never know what great work you are doing. 

This apple quote printable was made for me by Kelsie Housley. If you would like to download the PDF to print and hang in your classroom, the link is below. Do me a favor and leave her a comment of thanks if you downloaded it! I would love to show her our appreciation!

Amidst The Negative, You’re Doing A Good Job

One month before my first-grade year started, I received a letter from my teacher welcoming me to class. To start off my full career as a student, this was a great way to begin. I beamed with pride reading the words my soon-to-be teacher left for me in my mailbox. I knew this year would be extraordinary. 

Our first library trip as a first-grade class was overwhelming for me. I loved reading and I loved books, but I had a hard time choosing with all of the options in front of me. When library time was over and I was about to leave the room empty-handed of something I loved so much, tears overcame my little 6-year-old body. My teacher ran to my aid and led me straight to the shelf I never knew I needed. Books by Ann M. Martin. The Babysitters Club. She told me I would really enjoy them and that it was perfect based on my reading level. This simple act gave me the confidence in her that I could trust her judgment and that she would always be in my corner when I needed her. 

Fast forward to the winter. I was out playing in the snow with friends, too far from the school to hear the recess bell. I walked into the classroom 20 minutes late (it felt like over an hour to me). I felt bad for not following protocol and not paying closer attention to the bell, I knew I would be in trouble. However, it got worse when the blue board came into play… 

The blue board was a public shame. It was a big board with two columns and everyone’s name running down the left, white side. When an individual did something wrong (like come in from recess 20 minutes late), their name was moved to the other side of the board, the blue side. No one wanted to be on the blue board. But walking into my own fate, my name was moved for the first, and only time that year, and my soul was CRUSHED. I felt like my whole relationship and trust with my beloved teacher had shattered in seconds because of one mistake I made. 

Slowly throughout the year, the trust was rebuilt and I truly loved my teacher and the relationship I had with her, but I always held the blue board moment in the back of my mind. I held it so close that at the end of the school year I said to myself, “Someday, I’m going to be a teacher, and I will never use a blue board. That’ll show her!” 

Fast forward even further to my experience as a pre-service teacher. Many college classes spoke of clip charts or “shame boards” and it solidified in me that what my teacher did in first-grade was wrong. I had a small run-in with a clip chart in a different classroom, you can read about the experience here.  During this very brief time of using a clip chart, I still held my resentment for my teacher’s use of the blue board in my heart. I knew how much it affected me, and I truly did not want that for any other student I taught. 

A few years later after I had graduated with my teaching degree and did my long term sub job in a first-grade classroom, I unexpectedly ran into my past teacher while on vacation. I sat and spoke with her for an hour and told her about my experience subbing the same age of kids that she taught for years and years. I asked her advice on certain situations, how she would have handled some of the harder kids I had to teach, and ultimately thanked her for being such an influence on my life, especially for helping me keep my love of reading. I never mentioned the blue board, because even though it was still something that I thought about often, I held no resentment 20 years later. 

But in the conversation, she said something that really stuck out to me. She said:  

“I didn’t teach in a time of educational blogs and information readily at our fingertips, learning new teaching methods took a lot of searching and dedication. I made a lot of mistakes and I worry that I negatively affected the kids that I taught. But then I hear from you the successes you’ve had and it makes me feel better, so thank you for sharing.” 

I found this so interesting that she spoke these words to me since I had not brought up the negative interaction I had with her. I held these words close and silently forgave her for putting my name on the blue board years and years ago. It also made me think about my own interactions with children. 

How have I negatively affected students? 

What positive interactions have I had? 

Also, how many more of my past teachers and professors out there are beating themselves up because they weren’t the perfect teacher every day, and could use an encouraging message from past students? 

Teachers invest their whole heart and soul into educating human beings and often focus on the bad days and interactions. Let’s all take a minute to remember that even if you made a mistake, you’re still a great teacher, and your students still love you. 

You’re doing a good job. 

There’s A Lot Going On In The World. But We Can Do This.

I apologize for being somewhat distant from this blog for a few days. I try to post as regularly as I can, usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week. People like consistency!

Lately I’ve been processing so many different situations and emotions.

How I personally can change my home and my community to support Black lives matter. Here are a few books we added to our home that was a small step in the right direction.

My feelings on opening schools this fall considering the COVID-19 pandemic, and worrying about my kids’ colds they’ve been fighting. Something that didn’t cross my mind as worrisome until a pandemic brought added anxiety into everything.

Keeping all of my teacher and administrator friends in mind as new rules, regulations, processes, information, etc., come out regarding the next school year, and finding ways I can support them.

Considering whether or not it’s a good idea for me to go back to substitute teaching considering the risks.

How well positive reinforcement is working for my daughter’s behavior right now, and how much my own attitude, anxiety, and feelings rub off on my kids. An important thing to remember during such a roller coaster of a year.

Processing the information being shared on child trafficking and deciding how and where I have the ability to help.

It’s not secret that in the education world and our children’s lives are surrounded with uncertainty and scary situations. Teacher’s across the nation and the globe are up at night thinking, planning, worrying, and more. Parents are doing the same.

But deep breaths everyone, WE CAN DO THIS!

Where are your thoughts and feelings in all of this? What are your feelings on going back to work and sending your kids back to school? What are you doing to cope with the uncertain times?

It’s Summer, Take A Break Teachers!

Whew. 

Who is ready for a good, long summer break after that school year? Is anyone else filled with worries about your students after such a rough spring? Maybe miss them because you weren’t able to say your goodbye’s before you left? Scenarios of next year play out in your head about your past students and how they will do advancing to the next grade, as well as your future students and how you will handle the lapse in the curriculum. 

*deep breath* 

I know it’s worrisome, but we did it. We all made it through. Now, it’s time to relax. I know, it can be hard, but here’s some ideas of how you can (somewhat) take your mind off of school for a time and enjoy your summer break. 

Read a book! No, not your math curriculum book. A book of your choosing that is fun. If you want an easy, fast read with some juicy drama, try The Selection Series by Kiera Cass. It’ll give you a few days of distraction because you’ll be so sucked in it’ll be all you can think about! 

Visit the beach, the lake, the pool, and get in the water! Swim with your kids, your nieces, and nephews, your grandkids, whomever it may be! 

Go hiking, or go for walks around your neighborhood. 

Check-in on other teacher friends. Laugh about the fun times you had with your students, both in the classroom and on Zoom! 

Pick up some new (or old) hobbies like sewing, crafting, biking, sailing, or building. 

Start or work on your Twitter or Instagram, or any other social media! 

Read teacher memes to keep you laughing. 

Take a stroll on a local scooter or bike share, but bring the Clorox wipes!! 

Summer can make or break teachers. We can think and plan, never giving ourselves a break, hoping to make next year less stressful, but it can also do the opposite by not giving us the time we need to check out. This summer especially, given the current circumstances. 

Take a breather. Take some time. Enjoy your summer! Stay safe and wash your hands! 

My Review On Playing Preschool

A few months back I purchased Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool book to do preschool with my daughter and a little neighbor friend. I wrote a little about the experience here. After a few months of working through the book, I want to write a review to help you decide if it’s the right decision for you. Before I begin, read more about what Playing Preschool entails here.

Pros: 

Lessons are easy to read and organized. Whether you’re an educator or not, there is plenty of information and resources to give you the most success possible. 

We had to take a few weeks off while I worked from home, but it was easy to pick back up again and get started. The lessons are evergreen and can be done at any time of the year. 

Most of the materials were found at home, but mostly because we’ve been doing toddler based activities for a year now. Even if you don’t have all of the materials at home, it’s a worthwhile investment because they are cheap and useful! I don’t know about you, but we go through a pack of construction paper really fast over here! 

Some weeks required more materials such as the cooking unit because we needed a lot of food, but again, nothing crazy expensive and worth the money for the outcome. I went through the supply list of every unit before we got started and made an Amazon Wishlist and shared it with our family members that often like to buy my kid’s gifts so that they would know the books and tools that would be extra useful to us right now! 

The activities do not take a lot of time to set up. I don’t think I ever spent more than two minutes gathering supplies and setting up an activity for the lessons. They are quick and practical! 

The lessons truly are playing. There are no worksheets to print out! It’s all activities to set up for your preschool to explore numbers and letters. There’s a lot of paint and a lot of play! A method I can get behind! 

Cons: 

I loved that each unit had a great book list that really worked hand in hand with each day, but we started Playing Preschool the same time quarantine began, meaning our library was closed! Without the resource of the library, it was so hard to find the specific books she recommended. I did my best to find substitutes (although her suggestions truly are the best books to use). I also tried the free trial of Vooks, but not a single book on the list was found there! You can read my Vooks review here. 

Another solution I found was to buy a few books on thirftbooks.com, they had great prices and free shipping after a certain amount spent! I couldn’t pass up an opportunity at buying new books! We also searched Kindle on Amazon for any free or cheap purchases. Those books obviously aren’t the same as holding a real book, but it did the job! 

The rest I put on my Amazon wishlist for our family members and we received many that way. I also called upon good friends and neighbors to borrow their books. With all efforts combined, I was able to get together all of our books! With access to a public library, this process would not be as difficult as it was for me, but I wanted to share my ideas for others who also may not have access to a library as well. 

The final downside is more on me than on the curriculum itself. I would feel like the entire unit was a failure if we skipped a day or even a single activity. I wanted to get everything in to make sure she understood the concepts being taught. In the introduction of Playing Preschool, Susie the creator of the curriculum explicitly says you do not have to do every activity and it does not have to all be done in one sitting. She suggestions spreading it out throughout the day or splitting it up into two sections if accomplishing everything in one sitting is too much for your preschooler. My type-A personality shone through a lot when I saw each activity as a checklist feeling like I needed to mark everything off. You do not need to do this to have success in the program. 

Overall, I truly have loved Playing Preschool and use it often with my daughter. Even if we are on a break from doing preschool, I can still pull it out and find one or two activities for her to do while I cook dinner or clean the house. It’s great exposure to letters and numbers. My 2.5-year-old has very little interest in her letters and even after a few weeks of playing preschool she can’t name a single letter or letter sound, but she’s still gaining that exposure and teaching her to have a love for learning and reading. Playing Preschool for the win! 

Have you done the Playing Preschool curriculum? Leave your pros and cons in the comments for others to see! 

Cover photo from busytoddler.com