I am a Teacher

Today was professional development.  So much information.  Don’t misunderstand, the issues presented, though challenging, were extremely important and relevant.  There were also moments of encouragement, celebrating what we are already doing successfully.  All in all, it was a productive work day and I enjoyed being with teacher friends.

So why did I have an emotional meltdown on my drive home?

Because even though it is necessary to focus on the hard things, that doesn’t mean it is easy. Topics such as kids facing trauma cast a shadow over the things we want our students to accomplish, the areas we would rather give our energy.  Yes, it is our responsibility as teachers to think about these things.  But unless we honestly share our thoughts, we run the risk of feeling defeated and overwhelmed.

Teacher friends-prop up your feet, take some time to relax.  Tomorrow is a new day and we will be ok.

 

ABC’s and 123’s

Stories, songs, rhymes

Learning to read and write

Learning to add and subtract

What I enjoy

 

Engage and interact

Activities, games, projects

Encouraging imagination

Encouraging creativity

What I hope to convey

 

Teach and learn

Information, plans, revisions

Desiring to do my best

Desiring to be successful

What I want to achieve

 

Trauma and abuse

Conflicts, behaviors, struggles

Learning how to recognize

Learning how to help

What I cannot avoid

 

React and respond

Panic, tears, laughter

Realizing I am not alone

Realizing I am enough

What I must accept

Pictures in the Clouds

This week I rediscovered the children’s book “It Looked Like Spilt Milk” by Charles G. Shaw.  I love this book!  If you’ve never read it, go look it up.  The author creatively takes his readers through a series of images in white on a dark blue background.  Childlike pictures are paired with simple, repetitive words, creating a beautiful backdrop for the imagination.

After reading this story to my students, I asked if they’d ever noticed pictures in the clouds.  Most excitedly raised their hands, eager to share.  We discussed the importance of using our imaginations, and I shared about finding pictures in the clouds when I was a kid.  Funny how that has become more difficult to do as an adult.

Creatively using our imaginations as a grownup often requires more intention than when we were kids.  Our adult minds are on information overload, concerned with family and job responsibilities.  Being imaginative gets put on the back burner, seen as a luxury instead of a necessity.  I wonder what would happen if that changed?  At the least, our stress levels would go down.

At the end of class I challenged my students to notice the clouds next time they go outside and report back to me what they see. Hopefully some of them remember.  Truthfully, I’m the one who needs to be challenged. Maybe my students responses will inspire me to take the time to go outside and look up.

The pictures in the clouds are always there, just waiting for us to imagine them. What do you see?

List the Positives

Yesterday I vowed to keep a list of positives throughout the day today in hopes of helping my mood and focus.  Well…I have a list.  It took me until lunch time to actually start writing anything down, but by the end of the day my list covered both sides of a post-it note.

  •  Cooler weather
  •  Students positive responses to having a choice between whiteboards and popsicle  sticks for writing or constructing their rhythmic patterns.
  •  Hearing, “I got it right!”
  •  Receiving three books from students off of my book fair list.
  •  Unplanned, improvised “singing” of one of those books.
  •  A student who has severe anxiety, always sits alone and doesn’t speak to me,  accepted a music stamp on his hand when leaving class today.

Was it a perfect day?  No-there’s no such thing.  But was it a good day?  Yes.  And even though I may not be able to use my mood as an indicator for the success of the day, I can look back on my list and be reminded of the things that were good.  Funny thing is, almost all the items are things over which I have little or no control.

So what do I have control over?  Continuing to look for the positive.  My responses to the people and situations I encounter.  Loving my family, friends, and students.

Any guesses which book I sang today?  It was super fun!

books

 

Popsicle Sticks & Clouds

Time for confession-I am struggling this week.  Low days, fighting back tears, just the general blahs.  It will pass, I’m sure.  When this happens, thankfully I’ve learned to recognize it and say it out loud.  If it lasts longer than a week, there’s a need to talk with a trusted friend or family member.

All that to say-I found myself searching for the positive on my drive home from school today.  The sun was shining, the sky a beautiful blue with perfect, fluffy, floating clouds. Besides blue being my favorite color, I’ve always been fascinated with the sky and its inhabitants.  Seeing one like this today most definitely helped my mood.

clouds2

Once my attitude began to change, I remembered kindergarten class from earlier today.  We’ve been learning about rhythmic patterns while going on our adventures with Freddie the Frog.  Today was review time and students were creating patterns on the Smart Board.  Their ability to not only create a pattern but also read it out loud was a pleasant surprise.

Each of them was eager to give it a try-all twenty of them-at the same time.  Suddenly I remembered the popsicle stick basket. First and second graders had used them the day before to create patterns on the carpet. I hadn’t planned on using them with kindergarten just yet.

Change of plans!  I asked the kiddos to move to our circle and gave each a hand full of popsicle sticks-rhythmic patterns began to appear everywhere!  Once we cleaned up, I asked students to brainstorm ways they could do this activity at home if they didn’t have popsicle sticks.  Crayons!  Pencils!  Markers!  Legos!  And on and on and on…one mentioned writing down their patterns.  Impressive!

Encouraged by the success of my kindergartners, I decided to attempt the activity I had asked them to try at home.  Here are my results.

Goal for tomorrow-begin my day looking for the positive.  Will I be successful?  I don’t know.  But hopefully I will remember that the simplest things can change my day for the better-even popsicle sticks and clouds.

Lessons Learned

Returned from a long weekend workshop to a not-so-great report from one of my classes…a fifth grade class.  You know, the ones who are supposed to be my leaders.  If there was any class to be concerned about, this would not have been the one I’d pick.  I was disappointed to say the least.  So the first day back started with a heart to heart chat.

While expressing my sadness over their actions and some missing candy, I knew the tears were going to start-mine, not theirs.  A few of them did join in after a few minutes.  My purpose in confronting the students was not to make them feel bad.  It was about giving them a chance to make a good choice and be honest about what happened while I was gone.

We all make poor choices sometimes.  All of us-no exceptions.  And even though it’s difficult, admitting those mistakes brings growth and freedom.  My students had the chance to make things right, and I’m proud to say almost all of them rose to the challenge.

Reading their apology notes later in the day, I once again found myself getting choked up.  There were sweet assurances of their love and appreciation-covered in hearts and music notes, of course.  For some, the realization and acknowledgement they had not fulfilled leadership roles.  But the one that touched me the most-“I’m so sorry that I made you feel sad.”  Wow.

Just as with my own children, I work hard to get my students to think about how their behaviors affect other people.  Or how they would feel being on the receiving end of an unkind word or action.  Today I learned that I must keep teaching those lessons.  They really do listen!  And when given the chance-make the right choice.  A choice with the power to encourage this teacher to keep teaching.

Fast forward…the next morning at school (day after our little chat) one sweet student said, “My brother and I have something for you.”  An entire bag of candy to replace what had “disappeared” while I was away.  The amazing thing is their mom would have had no way of knowing what happened unless they went home and shared.  It may seem like a small gesture to some, but for me…the best gift I could have possibly received.

Here’s to teaching! The lessons we impart, but more importantly the ones we learn along the way.

Contagious

Morning car duty, the day after our first elementary choir rehearsal, one of my favorite fourth graders hopped out of his car with a big smile. Running over he gave me a big hug and chimed, “Choir was so much fun yesterday! I told my mom and dad that you almost cried when we sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” A tad embarrassing but he was right-I did get a little teary.

Same day-first hour-fifth grade. I showed students one of the new puppets I had ordered for my younger classes. Just delivered and so cute! The students smiled and I heard some awwws-that’s all it took. I began telling them how much the little kids love the puppets and how I wished I’d had puppets when they were in kindergarten and first grade.

A fifth grade boy spoke up, “Mrs. Morris, I’ve never seen an adult so excited about puppets before!” Well, guess what? I soon had twenty-something fifth graders asking to play with puppets. Of course I said yes.

What a sight! The biggest kiddos in the school using the cutest animal hand puppets, singing along to Carrie Underwood’s The Champion. Priceless!

Then it hit me! The enthusiasm of a fourth grade boy had been contagious.

There was a positive attitude domino effect at work. This cycle continued for most of the day, the most encouraged I’ve felt about my teaching so far this year. Don’t misunderstand, not all days work this way. I’m not attempting to paint a “perfect harmony little cherubs singing” portrait. Nor am I anywhere close to being Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.

Truthfully, it took the excitement of a student to adjust my attitude. And if this one student has the power to do that for me, how many students and colleagues should I be able to influence?

Attitudes are contagious. And I can either spread one that is positive and encouraging or one that is negative and frustrating. Here’s to having an attitude others want to catch, not one they try to avoid.

When My Opinion Doesn’t Matter

Music has the ability to both unify and separate.  Think about it-how many times has one single song been used to represent and bring unity to a social movement?  “We Shall Overcome” & “We are the World” immediately come to mind. The opposite is also true.  History tells us of music such as Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” causing rioting in the streets of Paris during its debut.

What causes these polar opposite occurrences? Opinions!  We all have plenty of those.  What we like and don’t like.  What we think sounds good or sounds bad.  Oh, how we love to share, myself included. The problems occur when respect is absent from the sharing of said opinions.

At the beginning of the school year, I have discussions with my students concerning music and respect.  After listing many different styles of music, students have the opportunity to share their favorite.  I remind them that we always show respect for our friends opinions. We also talk about how boring it would be to hear the same music all the time, and the importance of giving something new a chance.

As I considered this respectful sharing of opinions, my thoughts moved from the classroom to the church.  There is definitely a wide variety of styles and opinions concerning music in this realm. Having played piano in church since I was a little girl, I have experienced these styles and opinions on many occasions.

Hymns such as “Amazing Grace” and “What a Friend We have in Jesus” immediately take me back to my childhood.  They provided a strong foundation for expressing my faith.  As a teen I remember playing and singing the chorus “Pass it On” and listening to Keith Green’s “Songs for the Shepherd.” There was truth and power in this new style of song.  Although different from the hymns, their meanings were the same.  As an adult, songs such as “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me and “Praise You in this Storm” by Casting Crowns provided comfort and reassurance during difficult times of grief when I questioned my faith.

Sadly, I have also witnessed the polarizing effect music can have in the church.  As some choose to dig their heels in for tradition, unwilling to consider anything new, the result is often a weakened message.  On the opposite side, others become so engulfed with constantly seeking something new, the message doesn’t have time to sink in or provide the intended encouragement.

So what’s my conclusion?  Personally, I find security and strength in the old, while experiencing comfort and renewed energy in the new.  I believe there’s room for both.  But those are my opinions.  If I lose focus, forgetting the reason for the music, then my opinions really don’t matter.  Truthfully, in this situation I’m not sure they really matter anyway.

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”  Psalm 96:1

“…speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God…”  Ephesians 5:19-20