This next post is quite different than my normal fun kid-friendly blog posts from my favorite little guys. The past month, I was given a challenge by my NCS colleagues. I finally got some time over spring break to dive into writing! It was refreshing. I've been asked to write a “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 challenge”. In this blog, I definitely have to move out of my comfort zone and talk about my amazing students (which is not hard) but also talk about myself as an educator (which isn’t as easy). I’ve finally completed this challenge so here’s my version of the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 challenge.
1. What has been your ONE biggest struggles during this school year?
I think finding my place in my career has been my biggest struggle for me this year. It sounds crazy being in my 12th year of teaching, but I have really been thinking about myself as an educator this entire year. For the past 2 school years I’ve had a student teacher. This current year is my first year that I’m alone in the classroom and there definitely was an adjustment period. I LOVED being a mentor teacher. I felt needed, appreciated, and I learned a tremendous amount about my teaching from my student teachers. It was so awesome to be apart of such a unique experience.
But this year, without a student teacher, I at first found it refreshing to have my classroom back. I was getting work done quicker because I didn’t have stop to explain my thinking or reasoning behind what I doing. But soon I realized that reflection time I had been spending with my student teacher on each planned week, lesson, and unit...was not happening. I was just going through the weeks and I soon found myself thinking about my teaching.
Early this fall, I got an opportunity to co-present at the Fall CUE conference in Napa. My goodness, that love for teaching about my teaching was reignited. I was pretty nervous at first, but I soon realized where my passion is. I LOVE talking. I LOVE teaching. What’s better??? Talking about teaching! I’ve always said my favorite part of the year is back to school night because I’m talking to parents about teaching! We are told here at Star, “find your passion,” and I think I finally did. So, off to my next struggle…, how am I going to foster that passion? How do I share my love of teaching?
2. Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this school year.
One of the biggest accomplishments from this year is probably checking out the feedback from my parent survey. It is always unnerving to send out questions in the middle of the year to parents wanting their honest feedback. Every year, I do it during conference time and at the end of the year. Generally, it is good news always but this year, the comments were amazing. It really took me back to why I do what I do every single day. It made me realize that the parents do see things, appreciate things, and actually acknowledge how hard teachers work on a daily basis. So many times I go through my day wondering if anybody is even listening, send out emails and wonder if any body even reads them, etc. But reading the comments that parents left me just recently has been mind blowing. Sending out feedback is hard for everyone, but it only makes you stronger!
Another accomplishment this year has been the hours at home that I have been able to spend with my family this school year versus the past four years being a teacher here at Star Academy. I always like to say my “actual work” starts at 3 o'clock and ends when I go to bed. Every teacher knows they can't get any of their “work” done during the school day. After all, my job is to teach the students every minute I have with them and save the grading, emails, lesson planning. etc. to after school hours. Unfortunately, this lifestyle really plays havoc on family life and makes our personal life very difficult at times. But having the partnership that I do with my teammate, and the support I have from my colleagues at Star Academy, help fill in the gaps. This year, for the first time since I moved to California, I've spent less time working at home than I ever have; but it is still a daily struggle. Now, that doesn't mean that I never work, but normally on a nightly basis it's either less than an hour, or when it's a good day, I don't even open my laptop and just send a few emails from my phone and be done...that is a gigantic accomplishment for me!
3. What are THREE things you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?
- Now that school is over in two months, that is an important question. I got an email just recently from one of my old parents from a few years ago that really hit home. I haven't spoken to the mother in quite some time, but she sent me the most amazing message. She spoke about her son being in fifth grade and loving it. But, like all fifth-graders, they grow up and have a mind of their own. She said one day he was helping her out with laundry, chores, etc. and she was wondering what was happening (with him being so helpful). He made a reference to a comment that I said to him on the last day of school way back in 2nd grade. It was something to the effect of~that even if the kids didn't learn a single thing about curriculum; if students leave 2nd grade being a more compassionate person and caring about others, if students leave my room more patient with people than they were when they came into 2nd grade...I’ve done my job! I have always told my students I understand they are not going to remember many of the math lessons, science lessons, or things like that; I just wanted them to learn to be a good person and do good things in their life. That is all I ever ask of my kids; be a good people and learn how to be kind, giving, and I want them to learn how to be truly happy. When the parent told me that he still remembered that comment from three years ago and brought it up any normal conversation, that's when I knew I was doing the right thing and I chose the right career. I want to continue to reiterate these ideas to my kids every day and I know I don't do it enough. There is so much curriculum going on that often times I need to stop and forget about what's in the Common Core for a moment, and really focus on what's important in life; “soft skills” like communication, teamwork, collaboration, adaptability...just to name a few. These are the skills of the future so we need to foster them as much as possible. This is my big thing I want to accomplish this year (and this was a really long one)!
- The second thing I want to accomplish is finalizing our 2nd grade year long plan. Our team has amazing lessons, units, and unit planners, but now we have to take all of those individual pieces and merge it all together into one year long plan.
- The last thing I’d like to accomplish is strengthening my GLAD lessons and units. I was trained in GLAD almost 13 years ago but I recently got re-trained back in the beginning of the school year. I’ve been working hard at integrating at least one or two GLAD strategies each day because they are amazing and it is the best part of my day...and the students LOVE every strategy we create together!
Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today's rough culture.
- My kids...I mean my students-During every conversation I have outside of school, they are “my kids”. People tend to look at me when I say this and even stranger when I say “my parents,” I am so used to calling my students this that often, I have to take a step back and tell the group of people that I’m talking to that I really mean, “my students”. My husband normally steps in the conversation and explains this before I even remember that they don’t know I’m a teacher. I love every student and I really feel like I treat them as they are my own my children. Having my own “real” children now has truly changed my teaching. I used to say, “I have 26 kids every day; why do I need more?” And I also would say that having kids of my own wouldn’t change my teaching…, but it did! Every interaction and conversation I have with my students, I’m constantly thinking, “How would I want my own children to be treated, spoken to, and of course, taught?”
- My drive to succeed in everything keeps me reaching for new lessons, units and inspirations each day. I always say this is the best job ever but also the HARDEST job ever in the same sentence. I get so defensive when people say things about teachers having the summers off, 2 week breaks, etc. because working 11 hour days definitely make up for that time “off.” And funny that we speak of time “off” as I sit here on my couch during my “spring break” and what am I doing? Working! But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because a wise person once said, “ Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same.” Which is how I feel about teaching. It’s so easy after 12 years to continue doing what I’ve been doing but that would be taking the easy way out. Thank goodness I work with the most amazing and inspiring staff @ncsstaracademy which leads me to #3…
- My NCS colleagues. What an amazing group of educators. I have always been blessed with great colleagues but this group has pushed me to be better than I’ve ever been before. The very first day I was challenged to create a curriculum from scratch. Wow. If that wasn’t a challenge enough. Add no textbooks, new Common Core standards and new GLAD strategies; it was my first year of teaching all over again. But it’s been the best 4 years of my career and I am so excited what the next few bring.
- My family. I saved the best for last. Without my husband and babies, I wouldn’t be where I am today (I know, such a cliche) :) But honestly, I have the most patient husband in the WORLD. For the first 3 years here in California, I completely (well almost completely), ignored my husband sitting 2 feet away from me on the couch every night after the kiddos when to bed, because I was in a trance~doing what? WORKING. Until 10:00, 11:00, sometimes even midnight just trying to get “one more thing done” (as my hubby always says I do). It was exhausting, and not fair to my family. This year I finally learned how to draw the line between work and home and I began to prioritize my life. Those lessons will always be waiting to be discovered, the papers will always there for me to grade, but I’ll never get that time back with my family; and that’s what is most important in life.
5. Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge by answering these questions?