Breathe.

Not something I usually have to remind myself of. I do it… I get stressed, but I do remind myself on occasion when things get tough. However, recently, I find myself saying it quite frequently.

Breathe.

Breathe and take one day at a time. One step at a time. One hour at a time.

Breathe and know that all will be ok.

Breathe as I listen to six 13 year olds (at 1:00 AM) celebrate my son’s birthday.

Breathe as you try to fall back asleep.

Breathe as you count down the days to the surgery.

Breathe and trust in the process.

Breathe and know that my students will thrive while I am away.

Breathe and know that your colleagues will be ok and I am not leaving them high and dry.

Breathe as you consider all that can go wrong… and remember all that will go right.

Breathe. Just breathe.

 

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Teaching the whole child

One of my goals this year for my professional growth plan was looking at the social/emotional well being of my students. Over the course of the past few years, I have noticed a real need to work with students on behaviors, anxiety, getting along, and more. In an effort to understand our students more fully, I started with a plan.

First… I surveyed my students. We had two surveys… one a sociogram, which a colleague shared with me years ago. Then another survey I created to get at some specifics I wanted to look into.

The sociogram focused on six questions…

Name three kids from our class you would like to eat lunch with.

Name three kids form our class you would like to work on a school project with.

Name three kids from our class you would like to play with at recess.

After those three questions, they answered the same questions but in the negative.

Name three kids from our class you would not like to eat lunch with.

Name three kids form our class you would not like to work on a school project with.

Name three kids from our class you would not like to play with at recess.

These three questions allow students to think of the kids in our class they would like to spend time with in different situations. It is remarkable to me that they don’t just select three kids and say the same three across all areas. They really know who they would like to be with in these situations.

Once the data is compiled… I do this in Google Forms and it makes it SO much easier! I am able to come up with a total point value.

One positive point per positive mention, add the total positive points. Then subtract the total number of negative points to achieve a total score.

I did this three times this year… in the fall, midyear, and spring.

SO it’s lots of data… but what it has done for me as a teacher is has allowed me to see the kids who score 0 points… this means that they are neither sought after or disliked. While one may think this is a good thing, it actually can lead to a child being ignored in a classroom.

I have used Responsive Classroom throughout the year and have for years, but the thing that these surveys have done for me is to keep a close eye on my kids. Watching to make sure everyone is included. Watching to make sure kids aren’t left out.

As I write my reflections today, I saw some amazing things. The majority of students fell in the positive category. This is wonderful. Some of them did not start there, but ended there. And that is a victory.

The thing that still has me thinking, wondering, pondering, and planning is the number of children who started in the negative and remained in the negative.

What more could I have done to change the perspective of the students to be more accepting of these kids?

How might I have worked with the kids with negative scores on the behaviors that pushed others away?

While I don’t have all the answers, I do feel like this work has definitely led me to a better understanding of my students and the way they are seen by their peers.

 

Whatever you do… don’t get sick!

My son is 15… a sophomore in high school. He works hard. He is also a procrastinator at times, but aren’t we all a little bit.

He went away for an amazing trip to Disney with his high school band. He had the time of his life! He returned on Monday evening, late. Jumped right back into school for 7:15 Tuesday morning. He was exhausted. Completely wiped out… but he said “I can’t possibly miss a day.”

He got home Tuesday with an enormous pile of work as they had missed school on Monday. He stayed up until after 10 doing homework so he could get ‘caught up’. Wednesday was much of the same.

Thursday morning he woke up and looked awful. I tried to convince him to stay home. Rest. You are going to get sick. The response, “I can’t. I have too much to do. I have a lab and a test today. I need to go in.”

At 11:45, I sat in the high school parking lot because he couldn’t get through the day. Returned home with a fever of 101. BAM! Fast forward through the evening to which he continued to insist that he was going to go to school on Friday. I sat across for him and forcefully said, “No, I will send an email. I will call in. I will do whatever it takes. You are not going to school tomorrow.” He finally relented.

Saturday morning… we were at the walk in. The diagnosis: Flu B

The first thing out of his mouth was, “I need to get some of my work done. I can’t get this far behind.” I pulled my momma bear once again and said, “No, you will not.”

It is now Sunday afternoon… and he is sitting at the kitchen table attempting to do some work. His fever finally broke this morning. I have him on a timer so that he does not work for more than one hour without resting.

So here’s my question…

What on Earth are we doing to our children?

I am an educator. I get it. I have curriculum to teach. I have work that needs to get done. But when my son won’t even let himself recover from the flu… what are we doing?!

I know that this is systematic. I know that this is all over the country.

But why? Do you really think writing a chapter outline is teaching my son anything? If anything, he is learning that he needs to work through illness. He is not to rest and take care of his body when he is sick. Is that really what we want our kids to learn?  Don’t get me wrong… three teachers emailed me back and said, “Do not worry, we will get him caught up when he returns.” But the fear he has comes from somewhere.

I get work ethic. He has it!

I get wanting kids to be accountable. He emailed every one of his teachers to tell them he was sick. And he insisted I email to. And he asked the doctor for the note. And he just asked me (for the 10th time today!) if I emailed it yet.

I suppose my greatest struggle is that this flies in the face of what we, as educators, should be doing. We should be teaching the whole child. Ensuring the education of our children’s mind, body, and spirit.

In an ADHD world…

3rd grade… sitting across the table from his teacher. Listening. Nodding. Hearing, but not really hearing.

Lack of attention. Lack of focus. Lots of energy. Unable to sit still. All phrases I had heard since 1st grade. But this was different.

She looked across the table and said, “So now I’m going to talk to you as a mother and a teacher, not as your child’s teacher. You need to do the screenings. He is a poster child for ADHD.” After the shock dissipated, I looked at her and simply answered, “OK.”

She was old enough to be my mother. She was retiring that year. She had nothing to lose.

We did the screenings, saw the pediatrician, consulted with the school psychologist, and the diagnosis came… he had ADHD. I was not surprised. I had been teaching for over 15 years at that point. I knew his struggles, but all the typical responses remained.

What if he is ‘just’ a boy?

What if it’s the teaching, not his learning?

But he is doing so well, what is the missing piece?

Then the conversation of medicating vs. not medicating. I struggled with this. How can I give my nine year old medication? What about the long term impacts? Two statements resounded with me as we made this difficult decision.

The first from the doctor who said, “If he had asthma, would you hold the inhaler and tell him to go ahead and breath on his own? He could do it… just try harder.”

The second was from my husband who said, “So we try it, if we don’t like the effect or we don’t want him to continue, we stop. We can take it one day at a time.”

So we tried it… the results were amazing. It was clear that this was the right choice for him.

Fast forward… seven years later… he is a sophomore in high school. He still takes his meds during the week, but not on vacation and not on weekends. He struggles daily with attention. He works so hard, and his successes are hard fought.

While many believe this condition is made up, or simply unruly children… I do not.

I have watched my son struggle without his meds.

I have watched him work so hard to achieve.

I look forward to watching him find his path and make his way in the world.

 

 

 

Spring Vacation in numbers

0 trips to the beach or Florida or a southern location.

1 child at Disney… without us… making memories that will last a lifetime!

1 book read… just so-so.

1 shopping day visiting at least 20+ stores… lots of successes.

1 breakfast with a dear friend… happy she called.

1 dinner with family friends who we hold dear.

3 trips to the bookstore… because one just isn’t enough.

4 hours spent in doctors’ offices… for two appointments… you do the math!

5 Amazon purchases… because it’s that easy!

6 gifts purchased… birthdays, Mother’s Day… all coming up fast.

10 bags of items including shoes, clothes, various items donated.

13 DVR’d tv shows watched… nothing better than a cleared DVR. Only two movies remain!

1 extremely rested, happy teacher who is ready for tomorrow.

 

 

 

Dr. Spello

2nd grade… Montfort School… a quaint little white schoolhouse with just 7 classrooms one for each grade.

Following two amazing years… one with ‘TO’ in Kindergarten and 1st grade with Mrs. Bouchard… came 2nd grade.

We sat in rows in our 2nd grade classroom. Facing the chalkboard. We were told not to speak. A definite challenge for me on a daily basis. We were given lots and lots of workbook pages and those pages were quickly finished. So what was a child to do? I turned and chatted with my neighbors. Did not matter who my neighbor was? Boy. Girl. Best friend. Or quite honestly, my greatest foe. I talked to them. I was a distraction.

We were asked to hand in our Dr. Spello books, the epitome of a workbook. Page after page of phonics tasks. Long vowels. Short vowels. Compound words. Antonyms. Synonyms. Fill in the blanks. Multiple choice. No thinking… just get it done. Every Friday we turned them in… and they were returned on Monday with red marks showing our errors.

Monday morning. Waiting for my book. And I didn’t get one.

“Peggy, you did not turn in your book on Friday. Take it out of your desk and turn it in now,” Mrs M said to me.

I quickly bent down to search my desk. I knew I had turned it in. I was nothing if not dutiful! It was not there. I sheepishly raised my hand.

“Yes?!” she questioned with a tone that would make any 2nd grader cower.

“It’s not in my desk,” I responded.

“Then you must have left it home. You will stay in for recess every day until you find it,” she replied without looking up from her papers.

I watched as everyone entered the coat room to grab their jackets, gloves, and hats and headed out for recess. The afternoon was incredibly long as I waited to run home to search for my book.

As I rushed into the front door, tossed my backpack on the ground, and ran towards my bedroom, I gave my mother a quick wave of hello.

I searched. Under my bed. On my dresser. Under my chair. Under my dresser. Between the bed and the wall. Nothing.

I returned to the kitchen and asked my mother if she had seen it. No, she had not. We had a system for doing homework. Things were just not left laying around. I went into the closed in porch in the back of the house. I sometimes did homework in there. Rarely. But there was a chance. Again, I lifted things. Tossed things. Searched above and below all things. Nothing.

What on Earth would I do? I could not miss recess again! I returned to the kitchen and scanned once more. Then I attempted searching the family room. I knew it wasn’t there. I never did homework in the family room. I knew I didn’t have it. I knew it had to be at school somewhere. But where?!

After much fruitless searching, my mother called us to dinner and I shared my horrible day. My parents both told me that the book was my responsibility and if I went to the teacher to explain they were certain she would understand. Here’s the again… I knew different. She would not understand. But I prepared myself for the inevitable.

In the morning, I began searching the classroom. I searched the coatroom. Maybe I had dropped it. I searched the bookshelves along the windows. Nothing there either. My desperation was growing. Where could it possibly be? I started to go to my friends’ desks asking them to search to see if perhaps they had two books! Nothing.

As recess approached, my dread just increased. The book was gone. How many recesses would I lose? After all the children had exited the room, I quietly walked up to the teacher’s desk.

“Excuse me, Mrs. M? I have searched everywhere. And I can’t find my book anywhere. I really do think I handed it in on Friday,” I said with as much courage as I could muster.

“So, you think I have it?” she replied staring into my frightened blue eyes.

“No, not really,” I replied without hesitation, “it’s just that I can’t find it anywhere and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“What you are going to do is stay in for recess until you find it. That should be motivating for you.”

The dread filled me. Tears began to threaten to fall. I was going to be in for recess for all of 2nd grade. This was definitely going to be the worse year ever.

When I returned home, I shared my story with my mom. I needed help. She reassured me and told me she would send a note in with me in the morning explaining that the book was not home and perhaps we could buy another.

I walked in the next morning with a new found hope. She couldn’t say no to my mother. We could buy a new book. My social life would be restored. I would be back playing hopscotch or marbles today!

As I approached my desk, I saw something on it. It was purple. Could it be? I wondered if my mother called her. She already had the new book for me?

I walked quickly towards my seat and saw the bent edges of the cover. Oh no, this was not a new book. This was my book. How could it be? Where had it been?

I looked up at Mrs. M for an indication of how this miracle had occurred. Without meeting my eyes, she glanced up and said, “You can go to recess today. Your book was found.”

Before my eight year old brain could tell my eight year old mouth NOT to speak, I said, “But where? Who had it? Where was it? I searched everywhere!”

“I found it,” she said turning her back to me and my classmates and returning to the blackboard.

The class began as I sat stunned. The guilt. The sadness. The worry. The fear. For days. Had she had it all along? Where had she found it? I looked down at the purple cover and realized I would never know.

Storytelling

If you ask my students, they will tell you that I will often tell stories in class.

I never really realized that I did this until one day recently a student said, ‘Tell us that story…’

You see, I think telling my students stories of my life… from my childhood and today… makes me real to them.

It makes them realize that I was a kid once too.

It makes them realize that my life is not perfect and I have made mistakes and I understand when they do.

It makes me real. And as a teacher, there is nothing more important than being real with your students to allow them to connect to you.

So think about sharing your stories. Your childhood. Your family. Your life. You will be surprised by what will happen.