I have not written in literally years... I actually forgot I had a blog. I want to get back to writing, mainly because I have a lot more time on my hands these days. This school year obviously did not pan out the way any of us expected. Even as I write this, I still can't believe we are in this situation... in the United States... in 2020! I feel like I am living in a real life Hunger Games. I should probably start braiding my hair and carrying my bow. Anyway, I wanted to write this specific post because the end of the school year is nearing and my heart feels like it is breaking. I was talking to my friend and colleague tonight about packing up our rooms and distributing student belongings. Which really means going back into our classrooms and looking around at everything that is still exactly as our kids left it almost two months ago. When we left, I had no idea it would be the last time I saw them for the year. I had no idea that I would have to go through closets and bins and pack up their belongings. Their well-loved books, their journals with too many blank pages left, their left behind coats and jackets- just put in a box to be picked up. I had no idea that those hugs I got would be the last ones of the year. The thought of this hurts my heart, but the hardest pill for me to swallow has really been the lost memories. I always feel like this time of the school year is magical. The students are literally crazy, but everyone knows the end is near and the excitement is palpable. Right now our days are typically filled with field trips, field days, fundraisers, outdoor activities, sunny recesses, and so many smiles. I feel like this time of year is when things come full circle. Students who barely knew each other at the beginning of the year are now best friends, students who were nervous or shy have come out of their shell and feel confident in the safe space of our classroom, students have made growth, students have made memories, students have completed another year of school. But honestly, I feel robbed this year. I feel robbed of these memories I hold so close to my heart. I want those times with my kids. I want to finish the Magic Treehouse book that is still sitting on my rocking chair. I want to have one more morning meeting. I want to have the end of the year assembly. I want to give my kids their end of year presents and hug them one last time. I am really ugly crying at this point, so I should probably wrap this up. There really are no words to describe the sadness I feel about going to school and cleaning out my classroom. I really just wanted to share and let others know that you're not in this alone. I just can't wait for brighter days ahead filled with big smiles and lots of memories.
Over the last few years STEM has become increasingly popular. I was always curious about STEM, but also saw that it frequently consisted of students building with blocks and legos with little direction. I felt like giving my students a box of blocks labeled "STEM" was not any different (or more instructionally beneficial) than using those materials to play. This past summer I was fortunate enough to attend the KTI Summit and participate in several sessions that focused on STEM. One of my favorites discussed the idea of integrating STEM into literacy instruction, which I loved! These sessions also talked about the importance of purposeful planning with STEM so it targets more than just one area of the acronym and is more than just building for the sake of building. These sessions started to lay the groundwork for my journey with STEM this school year.
This week was rough. I started the week with a stomach bug and a substitute and returned yesterday to a few negative reports and a lot of chaos. In this moment I thought back to Abbie Will's blogpost about our students just doing "the best they can" (if you haven't read it, you should) and I thought about how inconsistent their week had been. I absolutely think my students should behave and I think they need to follow rules and expectations, but they also likely feel insecure and uncertain about school in those moments. But honestly, this post is not about my kids, it is about their families. Because of these reports and incidents I had to make a couple phone calls home, and truthfully, I hate them. I don't hate them because it is extra work or because they are occasionally awkward; I hate them because I am telling a parent negative news about their child and I can hear the disappointment in their voice. I want parents to know that while in that moment their child misbehaved, I do not think their child is a "bad kid." I think their child made a bad choice and that they are "doing the best they can." Which brings me to my next point- the importance of relationships and positivity. This school year our administrative team and staff have been working hard to foster great relationships with students and families. I think this is imperative!!! I am setting a goal to work harder to make positive phone calls and send positive letters home so when I have to make the occasional negative call home, those families know that their child is amazing and they just had a rough day!
As all teachers know, the first few weeks back to school can be overwhelming and seem daunting. Here are some tips that I have found helpful to help you get back into the swing of things this school year:
1) Find Your Tribe
I can't stress this enough! Finding a group of educators that support you and push you both professionally and personally is imperative. Those first few days are exhausting and everyone needs someone to lean on. Reach out to a friend or colleague and start creating your network.
2) Reflect & Set Goals
Use your drive home, shower time, or walk with the dog to reflect on your day and set goals for the coming week! Thinking of every new day as a fresh start for both me and my students keeps me feeling motivated and driven.
3) Think About the Kids
This one may seem obvious, but I think we frequently get so stressed and bogged down with the new schedules, curriculum, and procedures that we sometimes forget why we are here in the first place! As anxious as I am feeling, I am sure that my students are even more nervous and excited! Even on the most chaotic days I try to take time to just talk to my kids and laugh together.
4) Make Time to Relax
Set aside time at some point in each day to take time for yourself! Meeting the needs to twenty-some tiny humans can leave us feeling drained; take time to watch your favorite show, go for a run, cuddle your pup, or go get ice cream!
Remember, we are all in this together! Have a great year, friends!
We just wrapped up our second PBL project of the year. Since my last project, I took time to reflect and decided some changes needed to be made; the biggest one being more student driven instruction. In my last post I mentioned that I felt like I had too large of a role in the first PBL unit and wanted my students to have more autonomy throughout the process. While this may seem like an easy change to make, giving a room full of 7 and 8 year olds control over the learning and instruction can be a bit unnerving.
This year one of my goals was to incorporate more authentic project based learning opportunities into my instruction. I tried in years past to facilitate some of these learning experiences for my students, but I was always left feeling overwhelmed and intimidated.
This year, for the first time, I decided to try flexible seating in my classroom. It is something I considered trying over the last couple years, but was always a little apprehensive about the reality of getting rid of my tables and letting my students pick their own seats. I am a control freak at heart so this was a big jump for me! I had all of the typical concerns and worries about my students staying on task and getting their work done.