Monthly Archives: June 2015

Sometimes being Uncomfortable is Not Such a Bad Thing

I have been very lucky so far in my teaching career. I somehow have always faced the challenges, found my niche, landed on my feet….all those cliches. The bottom line is almost every time I came out standing. In many of my schools, don’t get me wrong, I worked hard and did my best for my students, but I was lucky enough to have a strong network of colleagues and administration that supported me.  They knew me, they knew I was passionate about my students and helping them be successful in their learning journey. They got me I guess you could say and I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have that.

Last year my admin was changing and the school itself was going through a change, and I felt it was time for a change for myself. I had been at this school for four years, the longest I had been at a school for awhile, it felt like the right time for a move. I was lucky enough to find a position at a school very close to home. This would be a huge thing for me because I had gotten used to the long drive to work that always added to my day. On a good day, the drive was a way for me to reflect and decompress but on a bad day, it added to the stress of my day. So being 10 minutes from home was something, I won’t lie, I was greatly looking forward to it. I would have more time for my peanut, her and I would get more time together plus I would actually get to have more family mealtimes which was important to me. What I did not realize was the journey I would now take because of this change. 

The first moment I got an inkling that this transition might not be as easy as I thought it was going to be was during the first few weeks at my new school. My district had asked me to help do some different PD sessions with in the district sharing the ways I connected. I was a big proponent of blogging with students and connecting via Skype which was something very new to our district. It was because of this that I was called to lead sessions for different schools within our district. For me, honestly this was something very new, exciting and scary at the same time. I had never stepped in front of colleagues so being asked to do this was a new experience for me. When I was asked by my new colleagues what I was doing and I explained, their response came across as while this seemed intriguing, no thank you on their part. My grade partners and I also had a hard time connecting because they had a routine set that they were comfortable with and when I came in with different ideas, they were not ready to change what they knew worked for them. Collaboration times between us was something I learned would be a bit of a tap dance. This was hard for me because with my previous grade partner collaboration just came so easy.

The other challenge was I had a class of younger students, to say the learning curve was tough would be an understatement. I had to deal with this challenging class of students who came with a variety of needs plus deal with a new provincial assessment that was being piloted the first two months of school. The last challenge was parents who didn’t know me and were unsure about all these new things I was doing with their children. There was a lot of time with off the cuff after school meetings with parents who just had a few questions if I had a moment. There were phone calls at night because a note in an agenda needed to be addressed. I honestly spent a lot of time explaining why I was doing things the way I was doing, trying to share why I thought this was going to help their child. 

I won’t lie it was hard. I would have a tough day where I was trying to guide my littles and help them understand this new way of sharing their learning while dealing with colleagues who didn’t get where I was coming from and parents who were watching what I was doing closely. There were a lot of nights I went home and cried, saying to my husband I should have stayed where I was at. The parents knew me, the staff got where I was coming from and it was just…..easy. I didn’t have to explain or justify myself, I could just do what I did and it was great. And this was how things were for me for many months, me disconnecting myself from those in my new school, hiding out in my room and just doing my own thing. It didn’t help that I went to gatherings with my old staff and they would tell me how they missed the crazy things I did, that the kids missed me. Again it made me miss what I once had. 

Then something happened….in the first few months of the new year I brought forth an idea to my grade colleagues. There were some back and forth discussions about the project, compromises made on both sides but in the end, they agreed to give it a try. And in the end, it was a great project, enjoyed by all the kids and my colleagues saw the validity of this type of teaching. Then I brought forth the idea of using Minecraft in all our classes and this time, they really listened and again great things happened. All of us had our different skills we bought, while I was a great idea person, the organizational end was not my strength. But it was my grade partners so we actually found a way to work together and make the learning engaging for our kids. Then I brought forth the idea of Global Play Day to my staff, sure I would be shot down and they agreed to give it a try. Again they did try with open minds and all the kids really enjoyed it. 

As the year ended, I had some choices to make. There were some schools that were interested in the things I was doing and offered me positions. I was at the crossroads – I could go somewhere where I might fit in better, where things might be easier for me. The question was what did I want to do. I ended up turning down their offers, mostly because I felt the timing was wrong. And I can honestly say I’m glad I did turn it down and decide to stay. 

Now that I have sat back and taken some time and reflected, I realize how much I grew this year. And the reason I did was because it wasn’t easy for me, I had to fight for everything I did. I had to explain myself, justify what I was doing and really ask myself why was I doing what I was doing. While my class of littles may have learned something from me, I learned just as much from them about perseverance, not giving up. I learned to speak up about things I felt were important. 

I also realized that I need to watch how I come across to others.  Maybe what I see as passion and excitement about something may come across as overwhelming to others. When I say “hey, guess what, my kids skyped and talked to an author today” did it come as across as a “hey, look at how great I am” moment. I realized I need to be patient and give people time to digest and reflect whether this is something they could see themselves trying vs getting defensive and getting my back up because they do question it. As someone much wiser than me put in a blog post I read recently, I don’t know their story and why they may see things the way they do. But most importantly I learned to toughen up because sometimes people aren’t going to agree but if there can be some middle ground found, if we can agree at the end of the day that it’s the kids that are important, then it will be alright. 

  

Just Let Her Read

One of our weekend routines my peanut and I have is that each Saturday we go to the library to get new books.  We both love the library and here in #yeg I cannot speak enough about the amazing libraries we do have.  Quite often peanut and I will actually drive around to check out new libraries that are not even in our neighborhood just to see what they are like. Most times we will go to the library and both of us will go and find new books that we are going to look at over the week.  I keep an eye on her from my section as she goes about picking her books.  However, it would be today that I would change that routine and got a shock that really hit me hard.  Peanut went straight to a section and started methodically going through the books.  Whether this was something new because I had not been watching her recently when she did pick her books I did not know, so I stopped and asked her what she was doing.  She looked at me and said, “I am looking for books at my level, Mommy.” Honestly this statement almost made me cry.  For those that know me, I am passionate about making reading accessible and interesting to all my students.  I have a multitude of book bins in my room, I have my kids speed date books, we do 1 min recommendations, I do book talks, read alouds.  I constantly am going to the book store, garage sales, online to find books that I hope my students will find interesting and pick up and read.  Something I have never done is level my books because I don’t believe in it, I will say that I have a serious dislike for leveling books, so hearing my daughter share that she was looking for books this way broke my heart. Being the “mom of the year” that I am I decided it was important right then and there to push my agenda on her.  My poor little 6 year old peanut had to listen to me go on and on about wouldn’t it be better if she picked a book that interested her or that she wanted to know more about.  I tried to explain to her that reading level I books was great, but I would like her to find books that she wanted to read. Basically I tried to get her to read the way I thought she should be reading.  The response was my poor peanut didn’t know what to do.  At school, the teachers she loved and admired gave her books that came in bins, this was what she was used to and comfortable with.  Now her mommy that she wanted her to do something totally different.  So then she looked and me and said, “I don’t want to get any books today mommy.”  When I asked her why not, she told me she didn’t know how to pick a book now.  Should she get a book her level like she always did (and I had never noticed) or should she get a book like the way her mommy wanted her to. It was just easiest to not get a book at all in her eyes. I will not lie, I felt about a foot tall. Who was I to push my agenda on her?  The bottom line was up to this point she loved to read, every time we went to the library she picked out her books and read them.  At the end of the day, wasn’t that the point. She was reading and growing in her reading, so who was I to tell her how to pick her books out. I ended up telling her mommy wanted her to get whatever books she wanted, whatever way she wanted, what would make me happy would be to see her reading any books she wanted.  So she did pick out her 3 books and when we got outside, she asked if we could sit in the sunshine so she could read her new book. And that was the part I needed to realize was the most important, she loves reading and loves books, so I should be happy with that and just let her read.

Enjoying her book in the sunshine

Enjoying her book in the sunshine