Flashback To Helicopter Mom

A year ago I wrote a post about me being a helicopter mom with my daughter while she attempted to climb up the ladder of our playset in our backyard. This summer I had flashbacks to this article I posted when my son attempted the same thing. However, he is a year younger than she was at the time! 

My son just turned a year old and isn’t walking yet, but climbs like it’s nobody’s business. He started reaching up high to grab rungs on the ladder, ready to scale it as fast as his little body would let him. As I rushed over and picked him up, the words from my past post rang in my head. 

““Be careful! Be careful!” I kept telling her. All while her feet never left the ground.”

His two feet were firmly planted on the ground as I picked him up in the worry of him falling and failing. I hadn’t even given him a chance to try

Realizing my mistake, I set him down and let him try again. He fumbled through the process of climbing, sometimes not knowing where his hands or feet would go. I would step in and guide him through this, then step back and watch him figure out the rest. Eventually, he did it! He made it to the top and beamed with pride over his accomplishment. (Cover photo of him satisfied with success.)

Almost to success! I was feeling comfortable enough in his ability to step back and take a picture.

A few takeaways I learned from this: 

  1. We may figure things out as a parent or as a teacher, but we continually need to learn and grow and be reminded of those things. Just because I had the helicopter moment with my daughter a year previously did not automatically help me to know how to handle the exact same situation with my son. I needed the reminder. 
  2. The same can apply to our kids- they need reminders and to be told again, and again, and again. And we need to give them grace for this. 

What is something with your students you have to relearn again every year? How do you let your kids fail to find success? 

#TeacherMom Struggles: What’s The Balance?

The other day I handed my 2.5-year-old scissors for the first time in her life. When handing them to her, I had a moment where I realized this was probably her first physical exposure with scissors herself instead of watching me use them, so I gave her a quick tutorial on how to hold them. 

Within minutes she was frustrated. She didn’t know how to cut the paper I had given her. I originally started her on this project so I could have a few minutes to cook dinner, so you can imagine my frustration when I had to go back over to show her, yet again!, how to hold and use the scissors. She worked diligently, and very, very slowly on cutting up a big sheet of construction paper into tiny pieces, struggling and asking for help the whole way. 

Once she had completed the construction paper, she moved on to the next task without consulting me first. The blanket. Luckily, we have some fairly dull kid scissors that won’t cut up the fabric so the blanket was saved, yet it still wasn’t okay. 

But it made me think that if I were teaching in a preschool, kinder, or first-grade classroom (maybe even older) and we pulled out scissors for the first time in a while, I would have an explicit lesson about what is okay to cut, scissor safety, and more. Yet with my daughter, I didn’t! A couple of thoughts I had about this situation-

  • Using scissors seems like such an every day, easy task to us who have used them for years and years. This is absolutely not the case with a toddler. 
  • Explicit instruction can do wonders. 
  • New activities such as using scissors aren’t for “from a distant” parenting. I should have chosen a safer activity I knew she could be successful and handle on her own. 
  • I try to turn off “teacher mode” often around her because while it’s valuable, I want to be play focused and not “coach” her too much throughout our day. But sometimes, teacher mode is okay and should come out. 

Mistakes were made! The first time a child picks up scissors they don’t need a quick tutorial, they need a sit-down, explicit lesson! I know that. I guess as a #teachermom, I expected myself to have a perfect balance of teacher mind and mom mind, and while it seems to work out some days, it doesn’t others. So here’s to me working hard at this balancing act of #teachermom life! 

You #teacherparents out there, do you struggle with finding a balance between being a parent and being a teacher to your kids? 

Feature Friday: Mary Kate Morley

Today’s Feature Friday is spotlighting a past colleague and great friend of mine. Mary Kate Morley was a 5th-grade teacher in Utah for three years before she became a stay-at-home mom. She and I both attended school at Utah State University in Logan, Utah where she received her degree in Elementary Education. One of her favorite parts of teaching 5th grade is the American History curriculum. She said, “I love seeing the students catch the patriotic spirit as they learn the history of their country.”

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“I wanted to work in an area where I could make the highest impact in the world.  My teachers have always been big game changers in my life. Children are with their teachers for such a large portion of each day making teachers huge influencers. I love education and schools. I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. Walking in schools just makes me happy…what could make more sense than to work in one!” 

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom? 

“Research for informational writing. I was always surprised at the excitement my students felt in researching topics that they got to choose (with a little guidance). Some of my student’s efforts really peaked during projects like this. Other than this, the obvious answer is KAHOOT to review!!” 

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. I love to use this book on the first day of school to teach that “people aren’t weird, people are different, and different is good.”  The artwork is great and this fun story teaches a great lesson!” 

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it? 

“Handling difficult student behavior is probably the greatest challenge of teaching. It can feel like one misbehaved and disrespectful student can ruin your perfectly planned lesson for you and all the other students! My experience with misbehaved students like these is that if you are truly and honestly ON THEIR TEAM they will be good for you. It sounds simple but it will work. Be their friend. Care about them. Teach them how large of an influence they have on other students. Go to their sporting or music events. Praise them for every good thing they do. Call their parents to praise them.  If they are acting out instead of getting mad pull them aside and ask if anything is wrong because they aren’t acting like their normal selves. You want your tough students on your side. Never let it become you vs. them. That is a lose-lose situation.”

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching? 

“You don’t have to do it all! You don’t have to grade every paper. Just enjoy the kids and do your best. There is a lot of “fake it till you make it” that happens. The students won’t remember a perfect bulletin board you spend so much time making. They will remember your relationship and how you made them feel.” 

Who influenced you most to choose a career education? 

“My fifth-grade teacher was a rock star. She made me feel like I could do anything. I knew we had a real relationship and that she cared about me. She let us battle out the revolutionary war battle with paper balls. She made me want to be a teacher, and that fact that I ended up getting to teach the very grade she did is a bonus.” 

My Favorite Positive Reinforcement Strategies In The Classroom

You can read countless research studies on a positive environment and how using these positive reinforcement strategies can help you see better behavior in kids, spouses, pets, co-workers and more. When it comes down to it, those who are properly praised for a task will statistically try harder and do better the next time it is expected of them. 

Creating a positive classroom culture starts with a simple positive comment toward your students. Here are a few of my favorite positive reinforcement ideas I came up with while teaching. 

A cheerio or other cereal placed on the desks of students who are following directions. 

Tally points on the board for groups that were working together or following directions, that ended up amounting to no reward other than “winning” against other groups. 

Little stickers for students showing correct behaviors. 

High-fives to those following directions. Oprah style worked best for us- “Johnny gets a high-five, Amelia gets a high-five, Andrew gets a high-five! Awesome job on following directions!” It’s amazing what kids will do for a simple high-five and a little public praise. 

Simple and subtle compliments to students working hard. 

We put a money economy system in place with coins. It’s fun to see the hard work first graders will put into cleaning up the floor at the end of the day when a plastic nickel is on the line. 

My favorite way by far was telling the class every single day what an amazing group of students they are. They become what you tell them they are- So tell them they are great and eventually they are going to believe you. I have more thoughts on this later, stayed tuned for another blog post regarding this. 

Praising positive behaviors yields productive results. It has been researched, it’s science. And on top of that, I’ve witnessed first-hand how well it works, not only with my students, but my children, and even, MY DOG. 

How have you made your classroom a positive place? 

The Worst Phone Call I’ve Made to a Parent

My hands were shaking as I picked up the phone. I was about to make a phone call to a parent of one of my best first-grade students, a call that I never thought I would have to make during my time teaching, especially during my very first teaching experience.

“Hi, Mrs. Johnson, it’s Mrs. Ross, your daughter’s teacher right now while her regular teacher is on maternity leave. I’m calling about your daughter, we had an incident today that I need to let you know about. While we were doing an activity with scissors, a boy in the class took a pair to your daughter’s braid and cut off the end of it. It was about an inch of hair and she is devastated. Do you mind talking to her for a little bit?” 

When the phone was handed back to me a few minutes later, I apologized over and over to her. I couldn’t believe that something like that happened in my classroom. All of the reminders of procedures and the rules we had in place for using scissors, it all went out the door the second the little boy put the scissors up to her hair. I felt like a failure as a teacher. 

Her mom came to pick her up from school early, she was too upset to make it through the school day. Proper action was taken on the situation with both students, and at the end of the day when all of them filed out of my classroom, I finally let my emotions show. I sat with other teachers in the copy room while we prepped for the next day and I told them how awful I felt about the situation. All of them helped me feel better by swapping their own stories of situations they have been in with students throughout their years of teaching, it helped me realize I wasn’t alone, others had been in this boat before too. 

What really helped most was my conversation with this little girl’s mom the next day. She dropped her off at school in the morning with a fresh new haircut and I continued to apologize to each of them again. Her mom responded by letting me know that she wasn’t upset in the slightest, either at me or the other student. These kids are seven years old, they are unpredictable and emotional human beings and it would be impossible for me to keep my eyes on each of them at all times, it wasn’t my fault. She even ended the conversation by asking if she could volunteer for anything, even if it was just cutting up things for me (since we had a new classroom rule of NO SCISSORS ALLOWED until I could get over what had happened). 

I expected her to be more upset with me, blaming everything on me, so to have her be understanding and in my corner was refreshing and uplifting. It really made me realize how much we as teachers need parents. They can be your advocate in bad situations. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve dealt with my fair share of difficult parents too, but that doesn’t mean they are all that way. Even though I was only in a long-term substitute teaching job, I wish I could have gone back and utilized parents more from the beginning. They really can be your best tool, if you let them in. 

I truly am curious, what is one of your worst teaching memories that you can hopefully look back on and laugh now? 

Using The Montessori Method In Everyday Life

The Montessori method is a common practice in schools today, mainly the places that focus on early childhood education. There are also entire schools based around this method Maria Montessori created in 1897. Maria has revolutionized the way we foster learning in children with her research and educational practices. 

The basic idea of the Montessori method is children take charge of their learning. The adult provides the material, the child makes the decision on where and when to spend their time. Everything is eye level with the child, making it easy access. Wood is the preferred material for toys, not plastic, being aesthetically pleasing, as well as durable and practical. It’s a method that can be adopted in homes, daycares, preschools, elementary schools, even up to high schools. 

“Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the highly trained teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.”

Montessori Northwest

I had the intention to use the Montessori method in our home when my daughter was born, putting toys on a shelf at her eye level and practicing other Montessori ways. However, soon I began to feel inadequate about my implementing based on research I was doing and others I was comparing to, especially with my limited funds. Here’s how I brought the Montessori ways into my house without breaking the bank. 

We found a kid-sized card table we bought second hand. 
Toys were organized on a cube shelf, all at my daughter’s level. 
I was more mindful of the toys we bought for her, trying to stick with materials that promote imaginative play and learning, not limited, one-time-use toys.
We incorporated more play into our day. 
I let her prepare and be more involved in her meals. 
She took the reigns on her own learning, I stopped pushing her to learn letters and numbers and instead accepted that she would pick it up by herself eventually. She did. 

The Montessori method doesn’t have to be complicated or perfect. Certain aspects did not fit into our daily lives, but others worked great. Placing her dishes at her level to claim responsibility worked wonders, but setting up a functioning child-sized kitchen set for dishwashing and food prep wasn’t practical for us. I stopped comparing my small acts to those who had more resources. My main takeaway, in the end, was that just because I couldn’t orchestrate a perfect Montessori household for my two-year-old doesn’t mean that my efforts went to waste. This can be the case in any classroom. 

Move art supplies to kid-level. 

Give students access to imaginative play materials. 

Allow younger kids to use messy things such as markers and paints. They won’t understand the responsibility of playing with messy items until you give them the opportunity to. 

Place learning and classroom functions in the hands of the students. 

Be an advocate for responsible, independent kids, who will turn into responsible, independent adults. 

How do you implement Montessori ways into your classroom? How can this elicit deeper learning in other areas?    


 

Do You Have An ENTJ Student? Here Are A Few Tips

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

E- extroverted
N- I(n)tuition 
T- Thinking 
J- Judgement

Do you have a student who is driven to lead and succeed? One that may come off as overbearing to peers, or can easily push others too far in projects? This student may be an ENTJ personality type. 

These students are big advocates for well-executed plans and thrive in structure. If you ever notice that they are having a hard time focusing or learning, look around at their environment. Do they need more structure? Do they have a plan? Is future thinking in their minds? 

Group work is where they shine, especially with their extroverted tendencies. However, it is important to note that they will not thrive unless they take the lead. These students do not lead quietly, taking charge and managing people is their strong suit. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that their future careers usually end up in higher management, top executives, and CEOs. 

ENTJ students need a driving force in their learning. They need to know how and why this will benefit their future, and the more it logically makes sense, the more likely they are to dive deep into the subject. When they ask the common question, “When am I ever going to use this in my life?” if you can give them a solid, realistic answer, there is a good chance they will accept it and move forward with more appreciation for the topic. 

I personally interviewed a few ENFJ students to ask how best they learn and what they wish their teachers knew. A common answer among all of them was that any information given too fast or brushed over cannot and will not be learned. They need time to process information and many different ways to take it in, such as hearing it, reading it, then writing it.  

If you know of an ENTJ student who is struggling with understanding a concept on a deeper level, a great solution for them could be to make a focus group to discuss it further amongst peers. This can give them multiple perspectives to ponder and bring their comprehension to a greater level. 

Do you teach an ENTJ student? What personality traits do you see in them? How does knowing their personality type help you in your teaching? 

Featured Photo: https://www.mbtionline.com/