Heart Work

Wow, not only is this teaching full time thing HARD work, it is also heart work. I have been letting this post develop and write itself in my mind since Saturday around midnight and I'm happy that it's finally Wednesday so I can pour out my heart on this blog tonight. This past weekend I encountered some amazing experiences that really made me dig deep and open up to vulnerability. I'm an emotional person and I cry easily. I think I've cried every single day since Saturday - not because I'm sad, but because my spirit is currently on this epic roller coaster ride. I kind of like it...a lot. Are you ready for some deep, heartfelt sharing? If yes, brace yourself and if not, I'd sign off now if I were you. Consider yourself warned :)

Last year around this time I was completing my yoga teacher training certification. My Friday nights and weekends (for eight weeks) were spent sprawled out on the studio floor learning, practicing yoga, chanting in Sanskrit (crazy huh?) and connecting with 19 other beautiful souls. My heart and spirit went through an overhaul last year and it impacted my classroom teaching tremendously (in a good way, I think). At one point in my YTT I wrote down in my journal, "I will no longer be afraid of good things happening and I will choose to fully enjoy life". You see, up until a year ago I held close to the belief that when good things happened to me, and I celebrated those good things, bad things would follow and rob me of my joy. I didn't want to be too excited about the good things, so I didn't let myself immerse in the complete joy I should have been experiencing. Scary stuff. As soon as I promised myself I would fully engage and be joyful it felt as if a heavy cloak was removed from my body. My spirit and soul felt fully able to engage with life. As soon as I wrote that down my life started clicking into place in an amazing way...everything sort of just happened for me and my husband. We noticed it big time, and people in our lives noticed it too...over the past year several people have said to me, "Wow - life is just happening for you right now, isn't it?!" This isn't to say bad, scary things didn't happen last year, because they did. My grandma was really sick for two months and no doctor could solve her mysterious health issues. My mother in law suffers from post-brain surgery seizures and memory loss and those health struggles were happening throughout last year as well (and are still happening).

This past weekend this phrase came to me in a song: "Say no to fear and say yes to love". I was absolutely rocked to my core when I heard this line and I sat down and cried for about twenty minutes. I truly thought my spirit and soul were in a good place right now, but I clearly needed this confirmation, "say no to fear and say yes to love", to make the past year of my life come full circle. Since Saturday night I've done some deep thinking, praying, meditating, talking in my head...whatever you want to call it. And then I started applying this heart work to my teaching practice...

I made this little card and put it up on a cork board near my desk at school.
I made this little card and put it up on a cork board near my desk at school.

On Monday I was at Learning Initiatives and it was a hard day in my classroom (says my TOC). During LI I came to the realization that I am fearful my class will not learn anything this year because we are not functioning as a community right now. I am not proud to admit this, but some of my students currently yell at each other to shut up. They loudly tell each other that they're stupid. They tell me they're joking when they say these things, but my response to them is that there is a kinder way to say these things and language such as this brings us down a notch every time "shut up" or "stupid" is uttered. This issue with language has been on my radar since day one, and it is a constant battle (one I have chosen to take on). I shared my fearful realization with some close teacher friends and they helped me talk it over and through. FEAR also came up at LI on Monday. One teacher questioned how we can erase the fear from our lessons so that our students will engage and learn with an open mind. I hadn't really considered fear as an issue before, but as I thought more about my weekend experiences ("say no to fear, say yes to love") I realized...fear can freeze us in our steps if we don't feel safe. I realized fear was probably what was grasping and binding many of my students right now. Monday night saw Joel (bless this husband of mine, seriously) and I planning a classroom meeting for the next day.

Rough draft of the classroom meeting Joel and I planned together.
Rough draft of the classroom meeting Joel and I planned together.

Enter Tuesday. Tuesday morning I went in to school fully inspired and ready to set an amazing peaceful and love-filled tone in my classroom. I arrived at school around 7.30am and turned on my favourite song of the moment ("We Will Wait" by Amanda Falk) and sang my way through my classroom as I got prepared for our day. I felt we really needed to come together as a class and talk about community, so that's exactly what we did. I explained to my class my fear that we would not learn anything if we didn't start to build community in our space. The meeting didn't go as well as I had planned, but I ended it by stating these three points to my students:

1) I will not leave you this year (to which one student replied, "Yes you will", and I responded, "I will not leave you this year").

2) I will not let you go through this year alone.

3) I cannot create community on my own...I need your positive input when you walk through that door every morning. We will continue to talk about community every single day of this school year.

(I know the statements I made begin with "I will not..." or "I cannot" and they aren't the most positively worded phrases, but by this point in our meeting I was off of my "script" and just talking with my class - this is just how the points I wanted to make came out).

This brings us to today, Wednesday. We had an up and down kind of day again today. I know my students and I are still getting to know each another and I know this is going to a loooong haul (probably an entire year's worth of hauling, actually). However, after all my personal heart work I did on the weekend (and am still continuing to work through and probably will be working through for quiet some time) I feel more spiritually and soulfully grounded and ready to take on the challenge of helping my students to let go of their fear, say yes to love and, in turn, create community with one another. One teacher pointed out to me today that I "looked very tired". Yes, I am very tired right now. My mind, body and soul are literally on overdrive, but during my drive to work today I saw the sunrise and I thought...it is a new day.

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Karley


Teach it Tuesday: C'est l'Halloween

Hi everyone! I apologize for the extra late post tonight...I've had quite the busy day today (like you've ever heard that excuse before, hey?) and I'm just getting to this week's Teach it Tuesday now.

In case you are like me and forgot...Hallowe'en is coming up this Thursday.  Over the past few days a fun little song has been making the Facebook rounds among my people and I thought it appropriate to share with you all on here as well.  Check it out:

You can also read the history of the song, written by Matt Maxwell, here.

Now, I must admit, I am a newbie to this song (remember, the only French experience I really have is from La Maison Francaise this past summer) so tonight I spent a few minutes whipping up some vocab with corresponding drawings (don't judge) to cut out and mix n' match with my grade 8s tomorrow (Hallowe'en dance is taking place of our French blocks on Thursday, hence this lesson happening tomorrow).  I will cut out the strips of words and drawings and give one to each student.  I hope to have the students match the word with the proper drawing by getting up and moving around to find their "partner".  After we figure out the vocab for the song, we are going to listen to the song and then I will read them the history that goes along with the song.  A simple lesson, but interactive and hopefully fun!

That one in the bottom left is supposed to be a "wicked mind"...I know, I know.
That one in the bottom left is supposed to be a "wicked mind"...I know, I know.

Feel welcome to share your uses of this song in your classroom, or any other Hallowe'en ideas/activities/lessons you have planned!  Also, please do share any superhero or villain costume ideas I can create in one day.  Yep, that's right, my school's doing a theme costume thing this year and just like every year, I've left my costume choice to the bitter end.


Balance: How Do You Do It?

Lately, when I've been talking to other teachers about the blog, I have heard over and over again the question "How do you do it?!" Meaning everything from how do you find the time/have the energy/come up with ideas to how do you work full time as well as have an outside life? Now in no way am I an expert time manager, and in no way am I stress free (just ask pretty much anyone in my life), but I have been finding some tips and tricks that have worked in finding balance in my life.

Prioritizing

So this is probably something you have heard your whole life whenever you have felt overwhelmed, and it is probably pretty annoying that I have just said it again. But when I say prioritize I don't mean every task that you do or the order you do things in, I just mean to make time for the things that keep you sane. For me, this means making time for workouts/running and packing a healthy lunch. Organization is also something that helps me stay sane so I make sure that I spend a bit of time at school and home every day keeping my desk and schedule organized. I also make sure I have organized time with friends, time with my boyfriend, and some time to just be by myself (something I discovered I needed during this period of my life) each week.

Teaching

Now as you could probably guess teaching is the number one thing on my brain at almost every point in the day and it takes a decent amount of effort to turn that part of my brain off. So how do I do this to keep some balance in my life? I have some "strict rules" with myself when it comes to balance. I spend recess in my classroom prepping, getting ready, and sometimes chatting with students but at lunch I always make sure I leave the classroom and have a break (whether it's the staff room, a walk, or going out to grab food or tea). Thanks to Rebecca, I also have a good system to follow when it comes to my hours that I work each day. I get to school between 7:45 and 8:00 every morning and classes start at 8:40 (students are allowed in starting at 8:20 though so I don't get too much done after that). After school I have made it my goal to leave by 4:30 (okay in all honesty this is 4:45 most days but I feel like that's okay because without the 4:30 goal I would probably stay all night) - this gives me an hour and a half for rearranging things in the classroom and getting ready and prepped for the next day. One day a week I allow myself to stay later in order to get a large amount of prep and/or marking done because this gives me the satisfaction of being on top of things and reduces my stress - I usually don't stay past 5:30 or 6:00 though! And this late day allows me to have one day where I get out of there as early as possible: usually on Fridays I make sure I'm prepped for Monday and then get out by 3:30-4:00. I also never take marking home with me and rarely take planning home unless I need to use some of my supplies that I keep at home - this means home time is home time.

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No work on the weekend leaves lots of time for the fun things... Check out my lucky pumpkin!

Marking

This has been one of my biggest struggles since practicum, planning trumps marking every time! But it is necessary to keep up on my marking so I've found a few ways to keep it under control. First off, I don't mark everything! Sometimes I just read through assignments to see where students are at and what we need to work on and sometimes I give a check mark if they are on the right track and circle or write notes about things that they need a little reminder of. Projects I mark with rubrics or checklists so they don't take as long (plus I try to only give projects that I'm interested in marking). The new trick I've figured out this year is making sure that I schedule time to do my marking - by project or division I write down exactly what I will be marking in the morning, my prep or after school.

Blogging

Karley and I have a pretty good system going this year with how much we blog. We each do one post a week that we write about whatever we want and then we each do a second post that is either a "Teach it Tuesday" (we alternate who does these) or we choose from a book review, travel post, find a guest post, or organize a joint post for both of us to respond too. Personally, I have become relatively comfortable writing since my work on the research project and I don't find it that difficult of time consuming to do the actual writing. Plus I usually do my blog posts on Sunday afternoons when Ryan is at soccer and I've already finished my long run for the week - relaxing on the couch with my computer feels great then! As far as finding ideas and energy for blogging? Blogging has become one of the very best things I have done for my teaching practice because I am now constantly reflecting on lessons and my feelings/mood in different situations. I find blogging energizing in itself and I really enjoy doing it so I rarely struggle with ideas or finding the time. My life is pretty consumed in teaching right now anyways so I think it makes the ideas part way easier!

Other Work

I've cut down on the amount of "second job" work I'm doing this year. I usually tutor/babysit about twice a week and I only do it because I really love it! The kids I spend time with are very special to me and it's not something that I want to give up (nor do I feel the need to give it up). If I'm really stressed out or tired than the families I work for are very understanding about that. I'm not doing research this year as I'm really focusing on my teaching and I miss it like crazy but I know that it was the best choice for my stress level - even just making it across town in time for a meeting was difficult last year.

And when all of that doesn't work...

Sometimes this system doesn't work. Sometimes I forget about a blog post, sometimes I get sick, sometimes I skip a workout. I have had cereal for dinner a few nights in a row because we forgot to grocery shop when we had time. I have to buy my lunch usually once a week because I forgot to pack something or there is no food left in the fridge. Sometimes I stay later than I mean to and sometimes I just need to leave early for sanity's sake even though I have lots to do and sometimes the marking piles up... Does any of it really matter? I have become excellent at letting things go and not getting mad at myself. I pick up that stack of marking and head to a coffee shop to burn through it before going home or I work extra hard at my next workout to make up for the missed one. Maybe I get home and do absolutely nothing productive for the whole evening except talk with Ryan or a friend? That's okay! Forgiving myself for being late on a blog post or missing whatever it was I thought was so important is just as crucial to me as having the balance in the first place. As long as I'm generally on top of things I feel that I'm doing okay and sometimes okay is all that matters.

Meaghan


Guest Post: Classroom Environment

We are so excited to have another new teacher do our guest post this week! Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt is a grade 1/2 French Immersion teacher in our school district who graduated with us. She is so inspiring with her continuous strive to create the best classroom environment she can for her students and we are so excited that she was able to share the set up of her classroom here...

Environment. The one word that was on my mind since I received the BEYOND exciting phone call asking me if I would take a French Immersion Grade 1/2 position for the year at a lovely school in the Victoria School District. Yes, I thought about the children, the school setting, the curriculum… but the one thing I could not get off my mind was the learning environment in my new classroom.

I was non-stop daydreaming about my classroom.
How I was going to set it up?
What kind of environment I wanted to create?
What kind of objects for playing and learning with I would like to have?
…So many thoughts it became overwhelming. I then decided I needed to start tracking my ideas, so I bought a journal. I also registered for the Uvic Primary weeklong institute that focused on play and environment in the primary classroom. The course was an amazing start to my planning, preparations, and inspiring me to create my environment. For the rest of the summer I researched Reggio-Emilia (An Italian, play-based, approach to education) based environments, classrooms, preschool settings and of course, I ‘PINTERESTED’ non-stop for ideas.

#1After I started using the journal for brainstorming and lists, how I envisioned my classroom environment started to become clear. I knew I wanted a large carpet area for learning, moving, sharing, playing and inquiring. I hoped to create a quiet area, which had books, pillows, a cozy carpet, and family photo frames. I knew we needed an art inquiry nature based table, with art supplies and an art easel. And I imagined a writing center, with all different types of paper, stamps, pens, pencils, a word wall, a mailbox, etc. I also was insistent on having tables instead of desks. I like to encourage my students to do group work, share and inquire together. I also like that tables give us more space for moving and playing.

pizap.com13826697139921I also wanted to incorporate found and fallen nature objects, loose parts and natural toys in to my playing and inquiring areas. I created alphabet, people, and fruit rocks, painted sticks, I have fallen giant pinecones, and natural hand crafted wooden puzzles. I bought the wooden puzzles from the Moss Street and Sidney Summer Markets from Tidal Toys; a local Victoria company that specializes in hand crafted natural play items.  The children love using all of the natural, colourful and inspiring materials.
Through my research on Reggio-Emilia based classrooms, I was noticing more and more ideas on making the classroom the children’s. Professionals who had focused on having the children create the posters, alphabet, calendar, and word wall in their rooms. I learned that it helped create a warm community environment, and helped foster ownership in our classroom. Again, I returned to my journal and started brainstorming objects I was planning to have my students make. Together, we have created an alphabet word wall, numbers, calendar, months of the year, schedule items for the board, bathroom magnet board. I noticed the children love creating parts of their classroom, and are continuously proud of their work.

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The end of August was when my imagining, planning, and creating FINALLY came together. Along with the help of my wonderful friend, I spent my last week of summer at school creating the beginnings of ‘Our Environment’. Here are some snap shots of what my room looked prior to all my new 6 and 7 year old friends started exploring, creating, building and enjoying the space.

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pizap.com13826713339031I also wanted to share a close up of my favourite spot in the classroom –our Nature Art Inquiry table. I change it about every week or so by bringing in beautiful and inspiring natural items. I’ve brought in: colourful flowers, leaves, rocks, sunflowers, gourds, pumpkins, and daffodil bulbs. Each week I also try to switch the art medium we use. We have experimented with markers, pencil crayons, pastels, different types of paint, sharpies, and the list goes on.

The word Environment is a very powerful part of my everyday teaching. I’ve read many articles and blogs that refer to Environment as the ‘Third Teacher.’ I am continuously looking for new ideas, photographs for inspiration and ways to improve the environment that we have been creating. I am a new teacher who is trying out different methods, experimenting with a variety of strategies, tools and materials. Some ideas have been extremely successful, while others have needed a quick adjustment or needed to be let go of. I would love to hear, see and learn about things other professionals are doing in their classrooms revolving around the idea of Environment.

I would like to thank my friends, Meaghan and Karley, for asking me to be part of their AMAZING blog. They help keep me inspired, energetic and always make me smile with the incredible work they are doing and sharing through this method of communication and reflection. Merci les filles! <3

Happy Creating!

Rebecca


Being Mindful with a Full Mind

Fewf - what a full and busy week. I've been practicing mindfulness in my teaching and let me tell you...my mind is very FULL! I'm officially moved in to my new grade 8 classroom and am continuing to settle a bit more, day by day. Several people have sent me text or Facebook messages asking how things have been going, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to write down my "very-own-classroom/grade-8-teaching" experiences thus far. My "personal posts" (my Wednesday posts) have been rather choppy, fragmented notes lately and today's is no exception, but that's just how my brain is functioning right now.

Meeting parents/families: I'm currently writing this post in between parent-teacher interviews, and I've been involved in several other meetings with families over the past week, so all this energy and information is very fresh! Let me be open and honest here...I absolutely adore meeting my students' parents and families. Love, love, love this part of my job! Some of you might be thinking, "For real?" and I say, "Yes, for real". I enjoy meeting new people and I am a talker and a schmoozer; parent teacher interviews and meetings give me the opportunity to meet new people, talk and schmooze. What's not to love!? On a more serious note, I deeply care about who my students are as people. I find (in most situations) meeting students' families tends to shed a little light on the student as a person. Having the opportunity to meet with families and discuss how we can work together to best support the child has grown to be one of the most cherished parts of my teaching practice. Thank you parents and families for being incredible this past week!

Getting to know my students: I've been in my class for one week now and my students and I are getting to know each other better by the day. So far we haven't focused a whole lot on the academic side of things. This is not to say we haven't done any work, because we have, but I'm the kind of teacher who would rather form a relationship with my students before administering a test or assigning homework. My students probably think this is great right now because it's 80% fun (at least, I think it's fun) and 20% work. I've learned funny things, serious things, saddening things and uplifting things about my 75 students (I teach three divisions) in five school days...I'm very intrigued to get to know these amazing kids even more!

Our pretty looking interactive science notebooks.
Our pretty looking interactive science notebooks.

Best and worst moment so far: I try to keep things positive and smiley on our blog, but to be this way all the time would not be truthful or realistic. Let's start with this past Monday...which was terrible. I've subbed at this school before and I know that coming in off the weekend high (or low, in many of my students' cases) can be beyond challenging. This past Monday proved to be one of those Mondays where nothing could or would go right. To keep things short, my science lesson ended with a lecture about respect and proper behaviour from the principal to my entire class. Fewf. I went home Monday entirely exhausted and deflated, but, because I have experience working at this school, prepared for a MUCH better Tuesday. Shout out to Karen for talking me through my day later that night and offering wise insight, as per usual.

Yes, I DID take a selfie as soon as my first "very hard day" ended.  Don't I look amazing...ly exhausted?
Yes, I DID take a selfie as soon as my first "very hard day" ended. Don't I look amazing...ly exhausted?

Moving on to today, which I think was one of many best moments so far. In science this morning we were talking and reading about the three scientists who were recently awarded the Nobel medicine prize for their studies in "cell communication". We read a short article from Reuters and I had my students respond to the article in their interactive science journals (more on those coming in future blog posts). Most of my students were actually totally engaged in their task and got straight to work. We didn't finish the journal entries yet because we ran out of time, but from what I've read so far, this lesson was the first truly successful learning my students have done with me. One student in particular tugged at my heartstrings today during science because last week she "hated science" and today she wrote her response/journal entry in letter form and addressed it to these three scientists who won the Nobel medicine prize. She wrote lines and lines of congratulations, asked questions about their research and even challenged some of their thinking (as described in the article we read). After she moved on to another class, I read her letter to the scientists and beamed with pure joy for this student's success today in class. Knowing that today's lesson helped this girl to engage with the scientific world, even just for one block of time, makes my little teacher heart swell!

I wrote the first Feel Good Friday messages for my class to really set the tone for an awesome year together.
I wrote the first Feel Good Friday messages for my class to really set the tone for an awesome year together.

Parent-teacher interviews are over for the day and my voice is tired and I think I'm getting a fever. Bedtime and snuggles, here I come!

Karley


Teach it Tuesdays: Transitions

I'm taking a little bit of a different spin on Teach it Tuesdays tonight. Instead of doing a lesson or activity I thought I would share some of my favourite games that I use for transitions - particularly when I'm subbing. I would love to hear what some of your favourite transition games/activities are as well so please leave us a comment if you have a "go to" game!

Do This, Do That

I always introduce this game by saying that it's like Simon Says but faster and harder to keep up. I play it with grade 2 to grade 8 (I'm sure it would work for K/1's too). Basically if I say "Do This" and touch my shoulders everyone has to touch their shoulders but if I say "Do That" they can't do whatever I'm doing. It works wonders with a noisy classroom because they listen so intently to hear the instructions. I always do a few practice rounds and then elimination where they have to sit down when they are caught but they always get to keep playing from a sitting position.Variation - I've also used this as a line game while walking outside (two noisy for indoors) and if they get caught they go to the back of the line.

Ghost, Ghost

This is a middle school game for me with a class that you can trust to maintain a bit of control. Two people head out of the classroom (they will be blindfolded or back wards hoodie) to be "it" and everyone else finds a safe hiding place. In this hiding place they aren't allowed to move from where they are, but they can duck/pivot/dodge the tag. I turn off the lights but leave a window uncovered so it has a good, quiet atmosphere. The blindfolded "it" students come in and have to feel their way around the classroom (my job is to make sure they don't run into anything). If anyone gets tagged they head to the door (or carpet, blackboard, etc. where they can be "out" of the game but still watch). I usually set a time limit and see how many people can get tagged in that time. This is always a class favourite!

Steal the Keys

I always thought this was a primary game but my grade 8's this year absolutely love it! One person sits on a chair/stool at the front of the room with a set of keys in front of them - they have to be good, jingling keys for it to work well. Students quietly raise their hands and I point to one person to be the key stealer. The person who's it is blindfolded and has 3 "shots" (I pretend to give them a watergun and say they only have 3 squirts of water to avoid the gun noises) to try to catch the person who is stealing the keys. The key stealer has to try to sneak from their desk up to the front and grab the keys without getting shot directly at.

Board Scrabble

I use this game for French vocabulary usually but you can also use it with topics like "what I did this summer" and have kids put their hand up to come fill in words off the letters on the board. I usually say that everyone needs to write at least one word to make sure everyone is participating.

Trivia

Using points or prizes I just ask random questions throughout the day and give out points/prizes. Favourite topics are facts about me (what's my favourite colour, etc), basic facts, geography (capital cities, etc.)

And just for fun...

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Source

Meaghan


Coming Undone

I've been thinking lately of how much I've grown in the past few years, I think looking at how well I handled the last couple of weeks really opened my eyes to the person I am growing into. I've always heard that in your 20s you have the opportunity to become the person you want to be, and I'm noticing how true that is every day.

During my final year of university I dealt with a lot of stuff that hit me very hard emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, you name it! Teachers out there know that your final practicum experience can be everything from exhilarating to terrifying, sometimes at the same time. It was during this final two month practicum that I was dealing with the regular practicum workload, a part-time job that normally required my attention during school hours, an awful apartment situation that led to living with my parents and friends until we found a new place to live, the stress of moving, a close friend dealing with a very difficult time, another good friend getting diagnosed with cancer, the upcoming loss of a grandparent, and it felt like the list went on and on. Life doesn't stop when you are on practicum just as it doesn't stop any other time.

And then practicum and my university days were over. I was left with the unknown's of this "real life" thing that people had talked about. I felt lost, hopeless, sad, confused, and anxious - very, very anxious. I ended up with anxiety that was uncontrollable and it was starting to take control of my day to day. A breaking point was one night when I started non-stop crying because the idea of going to bed was too much, because the idea of waking up in the morning was too much, because the idea of going to work was too much. At this point I decided to make some changes - I stopped drinking caffeine, started running again, quit one of my part time jobs, went to my doctor, and started talking about what I was going through.

*My anxiety was manageable once I started to make some changes and I did not need to access further professional help but please remember that this is my story and what worked for me. I am in no way suggesting that these solutions will work for anyone else. They are not meant to replace professional advice.

A good friend sent me this and it has stuck with me
A good friend sent me this and it has stuck with me

The more people I talked to, the more I realized I was not alone in my struggles. I was a perfectionist. I was overworking myself. I was putting an insane amount of pressure on myself to be someone that I wasn't yet. I didn't want to improve, I wanted myself to already be somewhere I didn't need improving. I had grown into this role of "doing it all" and I didn't know how to break out of that.

Many people supported me through this tough time but it also took a lot of internal strength and commitment to making my life better. I needed to make choices that would lead to happiness and I needed to spend time reflecting on who I am and what I need.

And here I am today...

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I am no longer afraid of saying no because I would rather do less and do it better. I am no longer afraid of making mistakes because I give myself permission to be in a state of growing and changing. I am no longer afraid of reaching out and asking for help because, just as I want to support my loved ones, they want to support me back. I am not as hard on myself and I make balance in my life a priority. I have allowed myself to return to being a learner as well as a teacher. I am grateful by choice, I am happy by choice.

So when I have hard times, like the loss of a close friend or losing out on my "dream job" or whatever challenge that may be out there next for me, I know that I can come through stronger in the end than when I started.

Coming undone made me grow, learn and change.

Coming undone gave me permission to be imperfect.

Coming undone taught me to show compassion to myself.

Meaghan


Don't Make Me Use My Teacher Voice!

So many things have changed for us now that we are "officially teachers." Most of them are amazing, some of them are difficult, and some of them fall into that category of pretty comical. Today we've decided to put together a list of things that have changed since we've started using those teacher voices everyday...

Hey Girl

Meaghan's List
1. I wake up and get up before 6:30 am. Now this may be normal for some of you but this is far from my normal. I used to have a rule about waking up before 7:00 and it was don't do it unless there was a plane to catch or an emergency. I would prefer to show up in sweatpants with my hair piled on top of my head than see that number 6 on the clock. And now it's my normal morning... I've even seen the 5 on occasion!

2. When I get mistaken for a 14 year old I'm no longer frustrated by it... Yes this happens a lot! Especially on the phone because I sound like I'm about 6 years old on the phone. It used to make me so annoyed but now I don't really care. On our field trip today I was told to go ask my teacher to call the kids in. But now I'm actually a teacher (not a student teacher) so I don't really care. I know I have a job, I know I have respect, so I laugh and take it because it also means that I get compliments at how responsible and mature I am.

3. My teacher voice comes out more than I would ever care to admit. Whether its giving directions while in the car or trying to get my friends attention at a party... It's pretty much constant! I even gave my boyfriend a 3 second countdown yesterday when he was annoying me... It just came out and I didn't even realize I was saying it! (But hey it worked so that might become more frequent...)

Karley's List

1. My ego has undergone a reform, and I like it. Back in my pre-teaching days I used to think I was right all the time (this sounds so terrible to admit, but I'll honestly say that my nickname when I was little was "Constable Karley"...just let that sink in for a few minutes). Maybe this quality didn't come across in an outward expression all that often, but in my mind I was often thinking that I "was right" and that someone else "was wrong". In the past few years I've come to seek advice and ideas all the time from other people (educators) I admire. These days I'm constantly thinking, "What would ___________ do in this situation?" or "How have I seen ___________ deal with this?" I don't think this is a bad thing; I think this shows that my character has changed because of some excellent modeling and coaching in the realm of education. Thank you, educational mentors - I love you!

2. Joel says my hyperboles and exaggerations have increased tenfold since my teaching career officially began. The man has known me since I was 17, so I think it's safe to say...he's spot on.

3. My ability to: tune in and out of conversations, focus on one specific thing and/or 47 different things (at the same time), and my tolerance level in general have all improved since day one in the classroom. I know these skills will, like fine wine, get better with age, but I feel pretty good about where I am at right now with my multitasking, multi-conversation having, multi-tolerating even the most ridiculous things abilities. Note: One fine example of my increased tolerance levels is the fact that today I tolerated the student who referred to me as "Carly Rae Jepsen"...all day long. I'm currently in "choose your battles" mode in my new classroom. Being referred to as Carly Rae isn't all that bad...I mean, with Meaghan sounding like Demi Lovato and me as Carly Rae, I think we'd pull off a sweet concert?! Call me, maybe!


We Are Not Alone

This post was written directly after I got home from my first experience in the Learning Initiatives program. I decided to let this reflective post sit and settle for a week for a few reasons, but primarily because it was Meaghan's turn to update our blog and I didn't want to infringe on her posts!

We are not alone in this teaching thing...this is one of the main messages I took away from the first Learning Initiatives session today.

What is Learning Initiatives? Learning Initiatives (LI) is a program that supports literacy and numeracy and is available to teachers grades K-12. Teachers must register for the yearlong program and choose either literacy or numeracy as a focus. The workshops and "think tank" sessions are hosted by a dedicated team of educators (former teachers, or teachers who are currently not working in classroom). LI focuses specifically on job-embedded professional development through collaborative and inquiry based planning, learning and teaching. You can read more about Learning Initiatives in school district 61 here.

A good friend of mine (also a firecracker of a teacher!) was involved in LI last year and works on the LI team this year. Last year this friend and I happened to work at the same school and when she'd go out for her "learning rounds" (team teaching with other teachers in the program) I would sub in her class. I've learned a lot about LI over the past year because of my friend's involvement with the program and, being the keener I am, I've been waiting for my opportunity to join LI! As soon as I was offered my full time grade 8 job I registered for the literacy based LI program (I'd love to do the math program, but I am not teaching math this year). This morning was our first time meeting together as a LI literacy group; the following notes are some thoughts and reflections I have from today's session. *note: remember, I'm pretty fresh out of Uni, where my friends and I would joke that we actually got our degree in reflecting rather than teaching :) Please disregard my ramblings...this post is literally my writing in a stream of consciousness kind of way.

1) Being surrounded by a room full of inspiring, dedicated and driven educators fuels my fire in a great way.
2) As a new teacher about to start her first full time job I am feeling extremely self-conscious and anxious about what the heck I am even doing?! The very first day I set foot in a classroom I remember thinking, "I have no idea what I am doing here...seriously, I should not be allowed to teach these impressionable youth!" This thought has reappeared numerous times over the past few years and I am feeling that way right now, even more so because now I have my own class. Let's just say my self-confidence (usually SO aligned and in tact - ha!) is currently wavering.
3) Reading academic/pedagogically sound articles brought me back to my UVic days where I actually had to understand exactly what it was I was reading (sounds weird, but once you are out of practice, even for a short while, your brain tends to forget how to derive meaning from text). Don't get me wrong, I am a reader...I LOVE to read. I just haven't read an academic article in a while and I totally tensed up when given a section of an article to read today.
4) Moving on from the article reading experience...once we were done reading our assigned piece of article we had to share with our small group of three the main ideas of what we just read. I knew both teachers in my group and having them there to support, question and confirm my thoughts really helped boost my confidence in sharing the facts and opinions I generated from my reading (I realize that we were essentially practicing exactly what we want our students to practice in this reading/sharing exercise...I also realize that the best teaching tends to come from those who have at least had a tiny bit of experience with the material itself - light bulbs going off even as I type this rambling reflection)LI1.

5) This year I was very concerned that I would get stuck in the mindset of being "just a dance teacher". I know the word "just" is a dangerous word to use; I do not intend to offend exploratory and specialty teachers when I say "just a dance teacher". I've been there and I know that we are much, much more than "just" exploratory teachers. This being said, as much as I loved and enjoyed my dance/music job last year, I knew there was more for me to come this year. For those of you who don't know, I was offered my dance job back at the start of this year and I turned it down because of the firm belief that I knew I could escape my comfort zone and push myself more this year. I stuck to my vision board's main statement: GROW...and look where that decision brought me. (Woah...this is getting to be really deep). Needless to say, this morning's session pulled me right out of the "just a dance teacher" mindset and threw me into "you have a lot to learn this year, girlfriend" mindset. My reaction to this realization? Bring it on.
6) Final, underlying thought: My goodness, there are some amazing people in our district!! How lucky am I that I get to reconnect with these individuals over the course of the entire year, while working with our specific inquiry questions and case study learnings. Plus, we get to drink coffee and eat snacks together while engaging in all this juicy, educational awesomeness. LI, for me, is a win-win-still winning situation because I drink coffee with teacher friends and talk about education and teaching literally ALL THE TIME anyhow. Some people go to movies or concerts or on road trips with friends for entertainment. I just drink copious amounts of coffee and talk to teacher friends about school for entertainment. (Kidding...I also enjoy concerts and road trips...but only if we get to talk about how I'll weave my experiences into my teaching when I get back to my classroom!)

I don't always wear cute dresses and gaze out over the harbour in Nice, but when I do, you better believe it's when I'm on a road trip through the French Riviera while thinking about stories to tell my students back at home.
I don't always wear cute dresses and gaze out over the harbour in Nice, but when I do, you better believe it's when I'm on a road trip through the French Riviera while thinking about stories to tell my students back at home.

Hello, extension of my life in the form of Learning Initiatives. It is GREAT to finally meet you.


Teach it Tuesday: Review Games

For this Teach It Tuesday I thought I would talk about some of my favourite activities for reviewing material. These can be used for a variety of different scenarios but I especially find them useful when I'm subbing and I'm unfamiliar with the material (think high school physics for this elementary/middle school teacher!)

Stand Up, Sit Down

This is a simple true or false activity I learned at a workshop that I've just adapted to fit my teaching. If the students think the answer is true they stand up and false they sit down. I do a few examples with "get to know you" type questions when I'm subbing ("My favourite colour is blue"). I either come up with my own questions ahead of time or I have students work in partners to come up with their own 10 questions to do for the class. I explain to students ahead of time that they may be called upon to justify their answers and then I call on one or two students to explain their choice each round.

Jeopardy

My spin on this classic review game just gives the students some extra review. I assign a different category to each group and have them come up with 5 questions ranging from easy to hard for their section. They are usually pretty good about choosing the difficulty because they want fair questions when it's their turn to answer. This activity works best when you have a double block so that it's for sure the same kids in each group.

Math Board Game

game-board

This is an activity that I learned on my practicum. I only use this activity for math but I'm sure you could adapt it to another subject. First you draw a simple board game outline on the board and add a couple move ahead a square, move back a square type things (with younger students you can add things like "do 5 jumping jacks"). Then I give out a review sheet or a mad minute type sheet. For every 6-10 questions (decide based on problem difficulty) they answer they can come get it marked and if they have them all right they get to roll a dice and move along the game board. If you have student name magnets they work great for this, otherwise I just have them put their initials up beside the square that they are on.

What do you do for review activities with your students?

Any ways of making Jeopardy review games less work for the teacher?

Meaghan