Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wondering, pondering, and reflecting...

So, it's Christmas Break, right? We have a few days this week when the school is open and I know I should go in and organize and do some work, but can I be honest? I don't really want to. I have been down and out sick for several days and I have to say that I'm not all that thrilled thinking about how this break was supposed to get me on track with planning and teaching for the next several weeks. I'm tired. Just plain tired.

Does anyone else out there wish we could take a sabbatical from teaching and still have a job to come back to? I know that the blog world is generally a very positive one, but I know there are others out there who must be feeling as worn out as I am. I have actually been taking a big break from reading blogs because they can make me feel stressed about all the amazing things I should be pulling off in my classroom.

I was thinking back to when I taught this grade ten years ago in another place. Yeah, I know it was another time too. But I was thinking about how the stress was so different. I was in a much smaller, rural school and the focus was on doing the best we could for our kids. I know times have changed in a decade and I am teaching in a very competitive suburban school, but I can't help but reflect on how the stress I am feeling is just not good stress for me. I know that I was sick the last week of school, but kept pushing until the break and of course I'm really sick now. Fun vacation, right? I think the stress level and my packed four hour mornings have not helped my illness level this year. Yes that's 4 hours before sight of a time without students. That means, as all teachers know, you better have your morning routine down pat if you want to make it through to lunch.

I'm beginning to think the balance is tipping for me. I love education, but lately I'm not feeling all that great about what I'm doing. I love my class this year and I am enjoying my grade level. But the classes get more and more challenging every year. So much so that I don't feel like my job is really to teach anymore. It's to manage and parent and run meetings and administer tests. Oh, apparently I am the attendance police this year too. The teaching part is coming second and I can't help but feel that it's second rate.

The politics is a factor too, due to time and place. I have several wonderful colleagues who I work with. It's just so hard to try fitting into a new building again. The fact that I am from another building makes this a little challenging. It shouldn't, but sadly it does. When did teaching become so competitive and some times just plain mean? I think it may also have something to do with the fact that most people think I am in my mid-twenties and started my career in this district 5 years ago. A few have expressed surprise when age or experience comes up. I'm not a newbie!

So, here I sit thinking of all the things that need to get done, the organizing I need to do, and the curriculum I need to pour through, and how I just don't want to do any of it. I want to be able to come home and not think about the piles of papers to correct and copies to make and management things to change. I keep wondering how other teachers can manage everything and still have a life when the day is over. Because, I sure know that all I think about after school is school. I love teaching, but I want my job to be a job and to not feel like my life is defined by my job. Maybe the teaching of tens years ago just isn't teaching anymore. Maybe thing have "progressed" too much.

I know this was a Debbie Downer post, but I have been doing a great deal of reflecting the past few weeks and wondering where my place is. I feel a bit like I am going through my teenage years 20 years too late - wondering what I want to do with my life and if I'm not a teacher, who am I?

Does anyone else wonder about their place in education?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Tips

I thought I would post a few tips that have made my holiday life easier at school.  It seems that I needed to remind myself of some of these things I used to do this year.

1. Party Supplies – I used to have a copy paper box that I stored in my cupboards with party materials in it.  It saved on those days when a parent forgot to send plates or cups in.  I also buy juice when it is on sale and have a couple containers on hand – pretzels are handy too. I buy a couple table clothes to have on hand for parties.  Usually an orange one works for fall and spring, and a white or red for the other holidays.

2. Party Decorations – I had another copy box with holiday decorations. We don’t do much with holidays any more, but hearts for Valentine’s and snowmen for winter are still nice to display.

3. I usually keep an apple cutter, a knife, and tongs in the room.  They come in handy for cutting and handling food.  I also like to keep a couple trays from the Dollar Store and a couple baskets to put food in.

4. Notecards – last year I bought a set of 100 generic notecards at TJ Max.  They are so handy fir jotting a quick note or a thank you note.  I try to get my thank yous done as soon as a I get the gifts.  I am not fond of writing thank you notes and the extra time it takes on break to write and mail them is something I try to avoid.

5. Anchor Packet – I always have a packet of activities copied and ready to go.  On party days, I always feel like we have odd pockets of time and it is nice to always have a back up – especially if parents are in.  It makes things a little more controlled.

What do you do to prepare for parties?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December Craftiness!

 

We have been hard at work on a few special crafts for my students to take home on Friday.  It is always such a challenge to find easy, quick, and cheap crafts that still turn out really nice. I had resolved to not spend my own money on my classroom for this year and, for the most part, I have done well with that.  I have bought a few things here or there, but have thought carefully about re-purposing and creating things on my own. Here are my two projects:

1. Puzzle Snowflake

I had a few puzzle left over from when I taught first grade.  I used 100 piece puzzles for the 100th Day celebrations.  I think I will ask parents for puzzles they no longer want next year.  Although most puzzle crafts look like...well...puzzles, this one looks really cute and we'll add some glitter. Click for the link.

2. Snowman Plates

These are SOOOO cute and the always turn out adorable!  I did spend $1 a piece at the Dollar Tree, but in the long run, I know I would have spent a lot more if I bought supplies for another project.  Oh, I bought the clear spray too.  The picture below is from the First Grade Parade - the project was totally inspired by Cara's post - click on the photo to check it out!

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I worked really hard to plan projects ahead this year and order as much as I could with my budget.  I always end up deciding on and buying materials for my projects the week before.  In the past, so teacher I have worked with have either requested materials from the families who were willing to donate them or wrote a letter at Christmas time about giving gift certificates for the classroom in lieu of a teacher gift. I also noticed that gift cards can be ordered for Target through Scholastic with bonus points.  Just some thoughts on ways to save our own personal money.

I hope that everyone is having a fun and crafty week! 

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Computers and Clothes!

My computer is having issues! It starts, but says it has to run setup and it will take time. It never stops though. The good thing (I hope) is that it tells me my files will not be changed. I need to take it to my computer guys - or buy my 5th laptop in 10 years...Until then, I am going to try and post from my iPad. That should be interesting!

I finished my last paper for my first doc course, so I am officially done! And strangely bored. Yeah, I could be cleaning or baking or working on plans, but alas, I am cleaning my closet! Crazy, right?

I LOVE clothes and have waaaay too many. I counted sixty, yes sixty skirts. Who in their right mind has sixty skirts? Seriously! To prove my obsession, I have an eight foot closet and the rod has broken twice! I'm trying to weed out. I am vowing to weed out. I'm thinking I may put some things on ebay or take them to consignment shops to make a bit of change for college. My darling hubby has also agreed to work on laying down a new floor and redoing the closet over the break! So, I will be working on putting together a budget friendly closet makeover.

I know there are many teacher fashionistas out there. Anyone interested in doing a linkup once a week, posting our favorite teacher outfit after the holidays? It would be fun to get some ideas!

Have a wonderful Monday and remember that the children we teach are the most important part of what we do!



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Friday

What can you say at a time like this? Thoughts and prayers for those poor children, families, staff, and community members in Connecticut.

I watched the news reports on and off yesterday and finally decided to not hold back the tears. I had taken a personal day, so I watched the news as it unfolded. I could not view yesterday's events with any sense of detachment. 9/11occurred the second week of my teaching career. I realized very quickly that we, as teachers of young children, bear a huge responsibility. When children are in school we are, in a way, their parents. We assume the role of ensuring their well being and putting them before ourselves.

I could not help but think of a lockdown we had exactly a week ago. An issue in the community caused us to lock our doors and not leave our rooms, but we continued our day as usually. I have an outside door in my room and I cannot convey the sense of panic I felt when the door rattled. Fortunately, it was a staff member checking to make sure it was secure.

This event brings new meaning to that lockdown. I listened to the first grade teacher whose classroom was the first after the office at that school and cried with her. Can we not all sense her fear and protectiveness as if it were our own? Have you ever tried to fit your entire class in a bathroom? I know I have because my room for three years was in full view of the doorway window and the outside windows. The blinds were set into the windows and each had to be turned repeatedly to get them to close - not practical in a lockdown situation. So, we would fit in the bathroom.

Now, as I spend my Saturday trying not to think about recent events, I keep finding myself thinking about what I would do. I will be rearranging my room on Monday. I was planning to get rid of some shelving units, but think I will keep them and place them in my room so that I can move them quickly if necessary.

I know that I will return to work with a renewed sense of purpose and of caution. So, while the politicians continue to blame teachers and dump more data collection and evaluations on us, we must remember our true purpose. Hopefully, those not in education, will see it too.

Bless the community in Connecticut, our thoughts are with you during this tragic time.

Friday, December 14, 2012

12 in ‘12 Linky Party

 

I’m linking up with Miss Kindergarten to join in the12 in 12 button[1]

12 favorite things!

12. Favorite movie you watched: The Hunger Games!!! Loved the books!

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11. Favorite TV series: The Big Bang Theory

10. Favorite restaurant:Unfortunately, I haven’t been eating out, but I love little home-style diners

9. Favorite new thing you tried: College – well at the doc level!

8. Favorite gift you got: I honestly can’t remember.  My birthday is in February, so it has been a long year!  I did have a little guy in my class bring in a little gift certificate for Starbucks after parent-teacher conferences were done.  It was such a nice surprise and made me feel like someone appreciated all the time and effort I put into my teaching!

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7. Favorite thing you pinned: One thing?!? Umm – I pin so many that I can’t even begin to choose, but I guess I loved all the images I pinned that inspired my room d├ęcor.  I used the Dots on Turquoise and my room makes me smile every time I walk in.

6. Favorite blog post: I haven’t been blogging too much this year, but I guess it would have to be my post about my teacher story.  It’s a five parter! I know the linky party did not ask for us to tell our story up to this point, but I felt compelled to put my experience into words. I received many positive emails about how the posts gave teachers hope and helped them to realize they were not alone in this tough profession.

5. Best accomplishment: I finished my first doctorate course!!! I hear it is the weed-out course and if you can make it through it, the rest are no where near as crazy hard.

4. Favorite picture: The picture my brother sent me when my niece was just born.  She is such a sweetie!

3. Favorite memory: It’s a tie – my niece being born and holding her for the first time and my in-laws 50th anniversary party that I organized.  Oh, I also had the great opportunity to host a few of my high school friends and their families for a small reunion.  It was so nice to get everyone together after all these years!

2. Goal for 2013: To continue to find balance in my life. (And to start blogging more!)

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1. One Little Word: Family