Gradually Reclaiming My Joy in Teaching

I just finished the first round of parent-teacher conferences for this year.

They went really well. For the most part, families and children are happy at school and the children are excited about the activities I am inviting them to engage in.

An increased or new-found interest in reading and writing were high on the list, which always warms my heart as that is important to me as a teacher: we read and write all across the day as well as during workshop times.

The fact that all of the conferences were so positive has given me the energy I need to push ahead through, what has so far been, the most exhausting and challenging year I’ve ever experienced as an educator. Seeing my students’ happy faces, sans masks, was a treat in itself. It filled me with joy and reminded me why I do this job in the first place.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada. It’s a time to reflect on everything we’re grateful for and, for teachers, to rest and spend time with family. But it is also a time for me to re-energize, reflect and plan ahead.

Where a few weeks ago I was feeling defeated, I am now feeling hopeful as I gradually regain the joy I’ve been missing every time I step inside my classroom.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

Snippet #11

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This year I will be teaching grade 3 for the first time EVER! I may have already announced that in another blog post, but every time I say it I get a little anxious. Just a little bit because while I’ve taught every grade from grade 1 to grade 8, I’ve never taught grade 3. Also, there are only two grade 3 classes in my school this year; I haven’t been in a 2-person team in years.

So, this year will be different, but so was last year.

In fact, it has become a cliche to say that last year was a year for the books or some other similar sounding cliche. But it definitely was a year like no other. I’m anticipating it won’t be that much different this year. Fortunately, we are better prepared this year. At least, that is my secret hope.

But this year is the aftermath of last year. The tremor after the earthquake that turns into another tremor and so on.

If you’ve been in education as long as I have you know that every year poses a new set of challenges. Every year requires more of us.

So, like every year, I’m preparing by finding teachers to follow on social media, creating a list of compelling read aloud books to share with students and immersing myself in professional books that will help me be the best teacher I can be to my 27 students.

The big difference for me is that this year I am going to cut out everything that doesn’t add value to my life.

I will prioritize my students.

I will prioritize myself and my family.

That is definitely going to make this a very different year for me.

And. I am SO looking forward to it!

How about you? How will you approach this new school year? What will you prioritize? What will you keep? What will you discard?

Write Even When You Don’t Know What You’re Going to Say

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Tonight I’m having trouble finding words.

I write not knowing where I will end up. I just know I need to start somewhere.

So, I open up a blank page on my WordPress app and start writing.

I take a chance and let the words spill on the page because once I start writing something important will reveal itself to me.

I just have to show up and write.

Even if it’s not very good.

Even if it’s incomplete.

Even if it feels like it’s something better left unsaid.

Because writers need to write every day.

Even when they don’t feel like it. (Especially when they don’t feel like it.)

Still.

We write.

I write.

And I make my writing public.

I write because I must.

I write for my student writers.

I write for myself.

How about you?

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Ageism, Education and More

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of ageism. And even though I don’t feel comfortable revealing my age or how I’m currently feeling about the age I am, I need to start.

The irony of this is that I never thought I’d be one of those people who would avoid any talk of their age. I also never thought I’d be afraid to fly or that I would get cancer. But there you have it!

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, it took a long time before I could talk about my diagnosis with friends and family.

As if there was something to be ashamed about.

As if it was my fault that I’d gotten cancer or…gotten older.

Now, how silly is that? Definitely silly, but the feelings and the resulting effects are not silly.

This brings me to the classroom…

Teachers know that students learn at different rates and times. In fact, our students learn in spite of us and they don’t always learn what we’d hoped they would learn. Sometimes they learn a lot more.

And as much as we try to convey the sentiment that we are all unique and valuable, kids still manage to internalize the debilitating idea that they should be learning in the same way as their classmates. And, only those that learn the “average” way (think “young” here) are right or valued or smart.

Our society seems to think that once you reach a certain age you should have achieved certain things or be at a certain level in your chosen profession. For teachers, it’s all about being an administrator of some kind. But some of us either choose not to pursue that path or miss an opportunity somewhere along the way and don’t get “picked” for those roles. Or maybe we’re just not ready, until later, and that’s when societal biases may kick in.

You can probably read into this post that I am struggling, on a personal and professional level, with this issue. I feel like I still have a lot to offer, but that maybe it’s too late.

Intellectually, I know that is not true. Emotionally, I can’t shake the feeling that maybe I’m trying too hard. I don’t want to victimize myself either. Instead I am trying to be proactive by writing about it.

I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section below. I will be revisiting this topic in the future.

Taking Time to Create

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I have a little more than three weeks left of summer vacation before I go back to school.

Normally I would be spending most of my summer in a combination of paid and unpaid professional learning activities.

Although I had a few opportunities lined up that I was contemplating engaging in this summer, I quickly realized they weren’t going to happen.

I am too busy enjoying time with family and I’m not ready to dive into anything work-related.

I am realizing that nothing earth shattering will happen if I don’t attend the latest workshop or series of sessions that promise to make me a better _____________ (you can fill in the blank) teacher.

Instead, I’m learning that I’m better off using any down time I have this summer to read and write. To spend time creating rather than consuming. Not that consuming is a bad thing. I love to read what other people are creating, but it’s also important for me to create.

Yesterday I was inspired by a children’s author who recently published her first book. She is in her early ‘70’s. My hat’s off to her.

See here for Gloria Amescua’s heartwarming story. I mention this because I often feel like I’m too late to the party. Or too old. Or everybody has already said what I might want to say. And while I know that this is all related to a very well-heeled sense of imposter syndrome, it’s encouraging to see examples that can feed my soul.

So, this summer is just fine as it is.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Snippet #10

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Long time grade 3 teacher Erika McKearney Victor recently gave me some tips with regards to grade 3 reading.

I will be teaching grade 3 in September and I’ve never taught grade 3.

I’m feeling a bit nervous about what books to read aloud that will get students thinking about social justice issues, such as identity, diversity, inclusion and anti racism. These are just a few of the topics I regularly explore with my grade 4’s and 5’s.

I plan to follow Erika’s advice and start with a funny book, like Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst. After that, it’s wide open except for the #GlobalReadAloud21 pick Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott.

Some other titles I am considering are: A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park and The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson.

What are some books you would recommend for this grade level? Thank you in advance. I look forward to reading your comments below.

A Celebration

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This evening we celebrated my husband’s birthday.

We were all there.

My oldest daughter, her husband and their two children.

My youngest daughter and her husband.

My son.

And me.

In Chicago to celebrate another year around the sun for my husband.

Tapas.

Paella.

Sangria.

Yummy desserts.

It was lovely.

Now we’re back home.

For a nightcap on the porch.

But first I’m going to finish Book One of the Misewa Saga, The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson.

Perfect night.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Snippet – #9

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Today would have been my parents’ 68th wedding anniversary. A milestone!

This got me thinking about other kinds of celebrations, such as birthdays, particularly my students’ birthdays.

First, I have a confession to make: I am not the kind of teacher who makes a big deal about birthdays. Over the years, we usually sing happy birthday in class and no more. I have teacher friends who have birthday hats that the birthday child wears during the day and may even entertain or plan for celebratory parties.

That’s not my style.

But lately I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s time to change some of that.

Birthdays are a big deal in my family. So, why not make them a big deal in the classroom? It doesn’t have to disrupt the learning. In fact, it could be an opportunity for a different kind of learning.

And the wheels in my head are turning.

Some ideas I’m thinking about: a birthday hat; singing the birthday song; making time for the birthday child to research the origin of their name; allowing the child to design their schedule for part of the day with the option if inviting a friend to participate with them.

What are your thoughts? How can we honor children’s natural propensity to celebrate their birthday, and each other, in the classroom without the attending elaborate birthday parties of the past? Yes, I’ve been teaching long enough to remember the parties parents would plan for their children, and I want those to remain in the past. However, I do want to commemorate birthdays; it makes kids feel cared for and important.

I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Snippet #8

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This snippet is not about writing, but about how I will protect my time to do what truly matters to me.

This year I’m going to set firm boundaries between home and school.

I know I say that every year, but this time I’m actually going to do it.

I plan to leave twenty minutes after my contractual time, except for two days a week. That way I don’t take work home.

There will be exceptions, of course, like P-T conferences or report cards or BTS night when I will need to extend my work hours, but those times will be the exceptions rather than the norm.

The weekends will be mostly reserved for me and my family with one morning or afternoon dedicated to schoolwork, if necessary.

I will make sure that the have to’s of teaching mostly take place at school.

This means that I will say no to many things that I normally say yes to.

This means that I will be zealous about protecting my time. To write. To read. To spend time with my family. To focus on those things that matter to me and that I’ve neglected for most of my professional life.

Although this plan is still percolating in my head; it will become clearer once I’m in the school building.

How are you planing to create a work-life balance? How will you protect your precious time?

I hope you will leave a comment below. Maybe we can support each other throughout this year as we reclaim our personal time.