It’s almost the end of May, and every teacher knows what that feels like. It’s like my computer looks right now…I’ve got seven tabs open, and I’m bouncing back and forth between catching up on reading emails about field trip planning, the Social 7 curriculum, twitter, and trying to write this blog since I didn’t do one on the long weekend and felt guilty, and I’m going to be in Regina this next Sunday so the odds are against getting one written that day too.
Yep. Something like that.
There are so many things competing for our time and energy and attention. And that’s before we factor the kids in!
So when successes happen, you hang on to them.
Cling to them.
Today had a few of those moments, which is almost statistically impossible when you teach middle years. So bear with me for sharing!
The first was in my period 1 split class of grade 7 and 8. It was a beautiful morning and I haven’t done as much with the walking classroom philosophy recently as I’ve wanted. So we walked to downtown Delisle (yep, there is one!) to a lot with some benches, rocks, and old farm equipment, where the town sets up seasonal displays.
Before we left the classroom, I described our activity. I often explain how we differentiate activities between the two groups, as the 8s don’t like to do EXACTLY what the 7s are doing all the time. So I explained how the ELA 8 course asks us to work on describing a landscape whereas the ELA 7 one suggests describing a character, but that today we were all just going to go out and describe a scene. Surprisingly, it was one of the 7 boys that wasn’t happy with that arrangement and said, “But that’s not our curriculum!”
I lol’d a little bit to hear a student use the word ‘curriculum’ but it got even better when I explained that the 8’s were staying out for the second hour for Social Studies to take pictures of private and public businesses, and the 7s would come back to the classroom. The same boy piped up that they should get to stay out too, and I got to use his line: “But that’s not in your curriculum!” We did a quickwrite before we left, and despite his grumbling, this student called me over to say, "Mrs. Landry, this is the most I've written this year!" Small victories.
Our time outside was awesome. We worked on our descriptive writing out there with all the sights and sounds of a small town on a double lane highway. At one point, one of the students said, “We should be out here everyday.”
I couldn’t agree more.
The second success happened in the afternoon. My Arts Ed 7 students are working on small passion projects in their choice of music, art, drama, or dance that we plan to perform in a few weeks. One boy brought in his electric guitar that he wanted to learn how to play, but he didn’t know what to do, and it had never worked properly. So two days ago, a former student who now plays in his own band came by to look at it for him. He made some adjustments and fixed it right up.
That was a generous enough gesture for me to feel good about. But today it got even better. As I was helping my student find some youtube tutorials (I really suck at guitar!) I asked a grade 11 student to help out. I knew that this boy didn’t have a period 4 class, as he sometimes pops in to demonstrate something on the guitar or ukulele for the kids, and he gladly agreed. Knowing the two personalities, and their shared short attention spans, I wasn’t sure if it would last much more than a few minutes or a couple of riffs.
But when I introduced them, the older boy held out his hand for a handshake, and then they were off. At the end of the class, my student had already put his equipment away but stayed to grab a ukulele to show me what he had learned. He was proud and excited. When I asked if he’d be okay if the two of them kept working together, he said yes. (My inner voice? Yessss with a fist pump!) Small victories.
I also had a group of three girls who are working on a dance. They had come at the beginning of class wondering if it was possible to video their dance to present instead of doing it live. When I asked for more details, one of them said she didn’t want to perform. She’s a strong athlete, and not in dance like the other two. I broke out my usual Brene Brown pep talk about courage and vulnerability. But I also said that the feeling you get when you finally score a goal in hockey, happens every time when you finish a live performance. The rush of adrenaline, the faster heart rate, and the shaky hands all remind you that you’re alive and that you just did something really, really cool.
I also let them know that I would be performing too, but I just hadn’t decided how vulnerable I wanted to be yet! I can do music easily enough, drama with a little trepidation, but if I’m really going to practice what I preach, then I’m most vulnerable with dance. I said that it’s important for me to model what I’m asking them to do, so I’d be doing something for sure.
At that point, I got pulled into a half-hug.
People that know me….not a big hugger lol.
But it was when the student said, “That’s how a teacher should be!” that I think I got something in my eye. Small victories.
Like I said, it’s the end of May. You hang on to these moments.
You need them to balance the rest of the day out. Trust me. There’s a whole water-bottle story in there today too.
If I don’t manage to get back on here on Sunday, have a great weekend everyone. And with June around the corner, here’s a reminder that I totally stole from a friend’s timeline!
Remember, you are doing important work.
Heck, YOU are important,
simply being you.
On the days that life hits
you hard, remember this:
You are enough.
You are kind.
And you’ve got this.
Today is Mother’s Day, and our social media timelines are filled with tributes to moms, whether they are still with us or not. Yesterday, I was fortunate to be able to spend time with my own mom and younger sister, as well as being able to visit with two of my aunties. A day well spent!
As @cossOnEveryHook had posted on twitter, this is “Super Mother’s Day. Every other day is regular Mother’s Day.” And that’s not far off. From the amount of phone calls, texts, and snaps that I get from my own daughter every day, asking a question or just wanting to connect, I can vouch for that. And no matter how old we are, we always need our moms. Even if I haven’t called or messaged my mom to look for a recipe or access her amazing memory of my childhood, there’s not a day that goes by where I’m not heeding some advice that she’s given me.
I don’t think there is a female educator out there that hasn’t mistakenly been called ‘mom.’ I even got called grandma once! When I was younger, I was equally as embarrassed as the student who accidentally said it, but now I see it’s the highest compliment.
Because when you have a question or need something, that tends to be the first word that bursts forth.
And we are there.
Working in a school for thousands of hours each year, as teachers and EAs, we are school moms for so many kids. We literally and figuratively bandage up hurts. We help negotiate fails and falls and friendships. We listen. Rough mornings and bad weekends. On dead pets and bothersome brothers. Whispered questions on sensitive topics. Period problems. Patient and honest answers.
High fives. Hugs. How are you doing?
The flip side of that, is that when we are so invested in our school kids, it’s sometimes to the detriment of our own families. The weekend tournaments, band tours, morning practices, planning and marking, and the dozens of other ways that we bring our work into our homes…sometimes in being there for other people’s kids, we aren’t there for our own. It’s a difficult balance and different from other occupations. When you are dealing with small humans, how can you say no? It’s something I bear some guilt about, particularly from when my kids were small.
I might have been thinking that as three of us were spending our Mother’s Day afternoon preparing the track for the local meet coming up this week.
But it also speaks to how important our school families and kids are to us too. The Education Act speaks to that relationship as in loco parentis, or that we are acting in place of the parents while the kids are with us. The latin seems so clinical. It’s so much more…a sacred trust. Parents give their children over to us for hours of each day, for years of their lives. Kids need us to listen, to care, and to love them. Just like a mom would.
Heartbreakingly, we know that throughout time, school has not been that for so many children. And for too long.
The women I work with are so unbelievably dedicated to doing what is best for our kids. I used facebook to say thanks to my own mom, and I’ll use my blog to say thanks to the amazing women that I have the privilege of working with each day. Especially for sacrificing the greatest gifts of time and love from your spouses and families, to give to our other kids each and every day.
Hyvää koulun äitienpäivää…happy school moms day!
This is the fourth do-over for this blog tonight. Four ideas that only got so far before they fizzled. Before I got frustrated. Before I almost quit.
It probably didn’t help that my evening was broken up by a phone call from my daughter in Calgary. She made it back yesterday after having two weeks at home between semesters, but could only move into residence today. Even though she was already living in residence, for spring session they downsize all the students into one area, so everything had to be packed up, driven across campus, and unpacked again. Not fun.
Plus, starting over is hard.
Even if you have been there before, there is always the stress of the unknown. New classes. New roommates. New room. And no matter how old you are, taking on something new isn’t easy.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand that when I’m convincing my daughter to embrace, not fear, change. I love change. I love working through the problem-solving aspect of a new situation or sport or instrument. It’s exciting. It’s not that I get bored easily, but every once in a while I need to feel the challenge of a new experience, which is why teaching is such a perfect fit. Every year we have new students, new colleagues, new courses, new strategies, new, new, new. We are in the change business, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
But for someone who, as a little girl, stressed over the countdown to Christmas, the scary-mystery of wrapped presents, the fear that Santa might not come, and a myriad of other holiday anxieties, it’s not easy for her. So we talked about growth mindset. Again. Because that takes practice…to know that you will learn something new in that stats class….to know it’s okay to ask for help early and often…to know that new friends will be made…to know that challenges make us stronger and more resilient…to look for that silver lining in every one of these new experiences.
Point by point.
And the fear dissipates.
It’s easy to forget that if we haven’t pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones for a while. It’s a good feeling to remember, especially when we work with students, because that is their lived experience. Actually, they don’t have much experience, which is why everything we ask of them can feel new. And uncomfortable. And scary.
We are often trying something new to the kids in the classroom. This past week, it was playing a lot with poetry forms, like blackout poetry and book spine poetry. These are hard for my rule-followers and perfectionists as there isn’t one hard and fast way of creating them. It requires creativity and experimenting and letting go. For some kids, the fact that there isn’t a right/wrong answer here, or a single way of doing it, is hard…the paradox of choice paralyzing. I do a fair amount of talking kids up there too. Modelling and sharing.
But they all did it. Most exciting for me was seeing their pride as we shared pictures of our book spine poems in class, and seeing other students stop and check out the blackout poems on the bulletin boards in the hallways. (Kids. Stopping to read poetry. Yah it happened.) It’s when you get past the fear, that something awesome can happen.
We all need these reminders. I almost quit on this tonight. I thought I’d given all my positivity away in my phone conversation. I wasn’t sure I could find anything to write, yet here we are, and it’s not even midnight! Silver lining lol.
As we go into a new week, no 'almosts' allowed: embrace whatever comes your way, with the best mindset you can give it.
Perpetual amateur. Lifelong learner. Vice-Principal. Teacher. Musician. Mom. Annnnd if you're reading this, then I'm still a blogger.