Up on the Roof

Today was finally sunny. Today was finally warm. Today the breeze was invigorating. Today, I could finally use my roof deck.

I moved into a new house with my boyfriend and some new roommates in September. Our house has a roof deck. And we got to use it about 1 1/2 times before it got cold.

But today as I bopped my way home, I  knew I was headed straight for the roof.

I went up, sat down, called my mom, and ate some Doritos.

Once I was off the phone with my mom, I put my phone down. And I just sat there. Disconnected. Just being.

I just sat there on a rooftop in the middle of Washington, DC.

The magic of an ear that’s lived the city life for five years is that it has a magical revisionist power.

I tuned out the helicopters and sirens.  I tuned out voice noise. I listened to the wind in the trees. And soon, I was at the beach. My brain converted the traffic hum to crashing waves. It interpreted all bird sounds as seagull calls.

I listened to the ebb and flow, took in the sun, drank the breeze.

And I was reset, rejuvenated, ready to take on all my evening responsibilities.

I look forward to establishing this escape as my daily wind down. I think it’s going to to great things for me.

……………………………………………..

On a separate note…

I did it! I started a blog 32 days ago and wrote once a day for 31 days. I am confident I cannot keep up a daily habit from here on out. But this has been thought-provoking, cathartic, energizing, and a helpful reflective tool. I would like to keep writing.

I would like to grow as a writer.

I would like to turn away from writing about my experience as a teacher and turn toward sharing my students’ thoughts and my reflections on them.

I would like to see where it goes.

Only time will tell!

 

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Feeling like a Princess

So today is my actual birthday. I was celebrated and showered by my class Friday. I got my hair cut and nails done yesterday and had a party with my friends last night. I spent today eating delicious food and watching Frozen and receiving phone calls, FaceTimes, text messages, and facebook notes, and doing NOTHING else.

I gave myself the gift of a work-free weekend. I spent Friday’s planning period planning ahead for the coming week. I think I need to try harder to make this a habit. It is nice to be firmly into Sunday night and not have any planning to think through. It was done for me before I even left school.

I am relaxed and joyful and feeling so full of love.

I feel like it’s been a week since I’ve been at school. And I think I needed that.

At the moment, I truthfully don’t feel ready to go back tomorrow. But I will save that worry for when the alarm clock goes off.

For now, I’m going to continue basking in the glow of the outrageously delicious and fancy dinner I had, courtesy of my boyfriend. And I’m going to put on the  DVR and watch the heck out of the season finale of The Walking Dead.

With that, I sigh a peaceful and joyful sigh and leave to finish savoring my day.

From the Mouths of Babes

My Birthday is this weekend. My students and their parents wanted to give me a little party.

And boy did they go to town.

Treats. Flowers. More treats. Homemade cards. A stuffed animal owl (both a favorite animal of mine and my personal symbol at school).

But the crowning thing, the thing that made my day and will make days to come, was this.

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The parents interviewed all the kids and asked them what they like about me. Then, one parent collected them and turned them into a Wordle in the shape of my symbol.

I don’t teach to get recognition. I don’t go into it expecting praise and gift and thanks. I do it because I love kids and I genuinely enjoy their company and take pride in watching them learn.

Still, words cannot describe how much this gift means to me.

I spend everyday watching the kids and observing what I think they’re getting out of their time with me. So I think I know.

But this beautiful piece of art not only makes a gorgeous decoration, it tells me in the kids’ own words what our days spent together mean to them. And it’s really nice to know that. It’s really nice to hear it from the horses’ mouths.

What a wonderful birthday gift.

A Good Start to Friday

Open up the drawer to get out my hair brush.

 

A surprise!

A note.

Support.

Love.

Encouragement.

Celebration.

 

Exhaustion: chased away.

Excitement to start the day: activated.

Sense of “I can do this”: restored.

 

It is immeasurably great to be surrounded by love.

Silence is Golden (Sometimes)

It is rare that I like solitude and quiet.

I am one of 6 kids. My mom is one of 5 kids. Her mom was one of 5. They all had kids. Their kids had kids. My family is huge. My family is hands on (we kiss “nice to meet you). My family is loud.

I’m confident that growing up in this environment informs my ability to stay calm in the maelstrom of a PreK room.

I’m confident that growing up in this environment is responsible for my ability to get up in the morning and be immediately social and ready to chat with people (my boyfriend and roommates are less than enthused about this skill).

I also know that that growing up in this environment is responsible for my love of community and my fear of loneliness. I don’t relish an empty house. I never longed for a single room when I was in college.

 

But every once in a while, every once in a blue moon… a moment of peace and isolation is just what I need.

Usually I look to take this time after school. Sometimes, I get home before the rest of my housemates are home. I roam around in my empty house and usually start a cooking project, zenning out while I chop and think about a lot of nothing.

 

Today, I had a peaceful moment without meaning to. I went upstairs for my regular lunch time and no one was there. I sat for a few minutes, no one came. Then I realized- all of my usual lunch buddy suspects were on a field trip together. I was alone.

 

I had gone to lunch raw, frustrated, tired, and ready to vent, process, and maybe even cry.

But there was no one there.

For a moment, I felt sad. Who would I talk to now?

 

But then I realized that I was feeling calm. I was feeling relaxed. And I wasn’t thinking about school. I was perusing facebook on my phone. I was staring at my carrots and contemplating weekend plans. I was thinking about what I’d have for dinner.

Lunchtime so often turns to an hour long forum on how to handle this that and the other student or this that and the other responsibility. It’s always supportive and therapeutic. But today, there was something therapeutic about not talking about school at all, not thinking about school at all. I was able to get fed, get rested, and get an escape from the very trials that were plaguing me.

I’m confident that as I go along in life, I will continue to place more value in conversation, in talking it out and getting support. But, I think that today I learned an important lesson about the value in time spent alone, not talking at all.

The Joy in Surprise

Today, we started a Mystery Reader Tradition in my room. I’ve never done one before, but I heard tell of it going on in Kindergarten at the school I was in last year and I love the idea of it.

My sister and niece are coming to check out my room on their spring break trip in a few weeks and I realized I wanted them to do a read aloud. And that’s when I remembered the idea of Mystery Reader and thus, the idea was born.

I put feelers out in my class to ask what folks thought about it, and I received lots of warm reception from parents.

Add to that, it provides a wonderful, calm, relaxing, yet intriguing and exciting activity with which to start paring down naptime. Since all of my wiggly 4 and 5 year olds seem to be slowly kicking the habit, finding something for them to do in lieu of the last 20 minutes of our rest time is key.

 

I have a great repertoire of Mystery Readers lined up: older siblings, an aunt, parents, the second grade teacher, and my sister with the help of my 4 ½ year old niece.

Today was our first day and our reader was my student’s big brother, who came down from second grade.

I spent all day, playing guessing games and building suspense. I slowly released clues all day. 9:30 AM: The Mystery Reader is from our school. The Mystery Reader is a family member to someone in this class. 10:30: The Mystery Reader is a boy. 11:30: The Mystery Reader is related to a boy in our room.

It was wonderful watching the kids try to piece things together:

 

“They’re from the school and related. It must be someone’s mom!” guessed one student.

“But wait. Don’t forget the Mystery Reader is in our school. Only one mom works here it must be her,” reminded another.

“I think it’s Ms. S (our classroom assistant). Because she’s in this school and she’s part of our classroom family,’ said another.

 

Later, as more clues came out, they began to narrow things down:

 

“It must be a big brother!” deduced one .

“What about R’s brother?”

“No wait! The Mystery Reader is related to a boy not a girl.”

 

They became detectives, narrowing down suspects and using deductive reasoning.

 

Finally, the big moment came. In walked the big brother. And his little brother—typically a tough-guy, class clown kind of character— suddenly beamed, smiling wildly and blushing slightly with the unique humbled look of someone who was just surprised by a loved one. I love catching looks like this one, looks where the person making the expression is so thrilled, so overcome with love that he/she forgets any social norms of dignity and instead lets out an uninhibited emotion. It’s the look that the partner waiting at the altar has as their soon-to-be-spouse begins to walk down the aisle at a wedding. It’s the look I used to get when my much older brothers would unexpectedly be home from the Navy or from school in Ireland and surprise me by picking me up at school. And it was the look that my little buddy had today.

I thought that the Mystery Reader plan was about fun read alouds. I thought that it was about learning deductive reasoning and the fun of guessing. And it is about those things. But I think in the end, Mystery Reader will be about seeing students make that face.

All the Classroom is a Stage

I truly think that my comfort in the classroom comes from my childhood spent doing community musical theater. So much of acting gets used in teaching.

  • You need to sing.
  • You need to dance.
  • You need to project your voice and make sure to speak with clarity and resonance.
  • You need to put emotion behind what you’re saying.
  • You need to be vulnerable.
  • You need to be willing to be silly.

You need to try on masks all day. Sometimes you need to put on your calm and serene face when your insides feel like a raging storm. Sometimes you need to put on your stern face when your preferred setting is “Kind and Approachable.” Sometimes you need to put on your “this is totally fun and I’m having a blast” face when really you’re nearly catatonic and you’re so desperately hungry that at least one part of your brain has considered eating the plastic food in dramatic play.

You need to improv. Or at least, you need to be able to trust your gut, follow the leads you’re given, and say “yes” to prompts that take you in a new direction.

All day long, the classroom feels like your stage.

Today, I tapped into one of my favorite acting/teaching connections. It’s that the audience (or the class) buys in as deeply as you give out. What I mean is this- the amount of  energy you put into your body, amount of  conviction you give your words, the more thrilling you make performance  invites  equal  investment from your audience. In other words, the more you show you care about and enjoy a lesson, the more the kids will engage.

Today we did another movement story. This one was about a group of wily elves who get into a painter’s paints and cover their whole bodies in paint. They the run all over the room using different movements to get the paint off their bodies and onto the walls and floor. (Using imaginary paint, of course), we acted this story out. I invited the kids to explore movement and line. “Make a wiggly line with your bottom scooting along the floor. Make straight lines ice skating with your feet. Make polka dots on the walls with your elbows.”  I cast the students as the elves and cast myself as the exasperated painter whose paints got misused.

At first, the kids resisted the activity. “I want to go outsiiide,” they protested. But it was snowing. Outside wasn’t a choice. “I don’t want to do thiiiiiis.”

I powered through their protests and began their story. I told them that I needed some elves to hide from the painter. 20 kids popped up and hid in the corner. I dramatically narrated the unfolding of events and prompted them to scatter around the room and pick an imaginary paint can. Then I let them know just which kind of painting we’d be doing. I teased out the big reveal of painting with your bottom and once I announced that that was I wanted them to do,  they were hooked. By the time I put on my “Exasperated Painter” voice and gave them a melodramatic speech scolding, “You naughty elves!” we were all carried away. Each child saw himself as an elf bent on mischief. I could see in their eyes that they really saw the paint and saw the room as their canvas. They began to chat to each other as elves, making a plan for painting the room and even running to hide unprompted when the story announced that the Painter was returning.

The story ends with the Painter trapping the elves in glue and, once she feels they’ve learned their lesson, liberating them from the glue one by one (which means going to give each child a gentle lift and saying “PLUNK!”). We returned to our seats on the rug, coming out of character and laughing together like we are all in on the same inside joke.

After this joyful activity, I had no trouble keeping their attention while I transitioned us to journaling. I gave each child a paper with a different kind of line and asked him or her to draw that line into his/her journal and use it to inspire a drawing or story. It was one of our most productive and focused journaling periods in a long time and I credit a lot of that focus to the fun we had together for the length of the Movement Story.

If I’m honest, I think that a lot of why the kids had so much fun was because I had so much fun because this activity is right in my wheelhouse. I can bring the actor in me out wherever I want. I think now that the key is to discover how to tap into my most convincing and engaging energy, regardless of how comfortable with/excited about the lesson/material I am.