Ch-Ch-Changes

So I’ve made a shift. From intermediate to primary education. I stepped into a great first grade team with three incredible teachers. Two have varying levels of special education “consultant teacher” rooms, the other is an ENL/ELL room. My room is general education, first grade. However, the vast majority (13 out of 18 students) are reading at a Fountas & Pinnell/Guided Reading Level “B.” Since my background and passion is literacy, I take this as a formidable, personal challenge.

If I was continuing in third grade this year, the wheels would have been in motion a lot more reflexively. However, I had to “dust off my first grade mojo” and jump back to primary with both feet.

Noto Bene: There were a lot of changes district-wide with how classrooms were structured, and many veteran teachers found themselves placed in entirely new grade levels they have never taught in before. I was originally supposed to change buildings AND grade levels, but in the end I was able to shift from the intermediate hallways of my building to the primary building. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a scramble to unpack with the amount of changes to my ultimate placement this year, but every day I feel a bit more settled in.

I did one of my student teaching placements in first grade, and always hung onto the materials that my cooperating teacher gave me. Thank goodness! It is like the Holy Grail! I was also fortunate to sit in on a presentation by a former colleague who teaches in a Montessori classroom, to refresh myself on some pedagogical techniques that I can translate to my gen-ed classroom. (More to come on the Montessori ideas later….stay tuned!)

So, I’ve done my running records, sight word assessments, primary spelling inventories, and I’m off to the races! I am slowly guiding my students toward independently accessing educational technology on our 1:1 iPads, and seeing how I can pair up tasks with our New York State first grade curricula.

So here are my “elite eight” thoughts for my first quarter back, which are going to be topics for further blog posts:

  1. First graders respond much more to positive behavior management systems. Negative reinforcement directly damages their self-esteem and self-worth.
  2. Walking down the hallway in one straight line can be really hard, especially in the advent of The Floss and The Shoot dances!
  3. I need a tattle monster to take up residence in my classroom.
  4. Flexible seating is really tricky to establish with super-wiggly kiddos.
  5. Parent communication in the primary grades is even more critical for students’ success. Finding the right streams of communication with each parent/family is equally as critical.
  6. STEM/STEAM/STREAM offers engagement that “sage on the stage” pedagogy can’t always offer.
  7. Primary education requires a modicum of cuteness that intermediate-level students don’t subscribe to.
  8. Teacher blogs, Pinterest, and Teachers Pay Teachers have become such fantastic resources for teachers – albeit most are not vetted and one should proceed with caution!

Thanks in advance for coming on this journey with me! Stay tuned for more fun… and as always, please share/follow this blog! Your comments, questions, and discussion ideas are welcome too.

Kirsten

Advertisements

Falling Back, to Reach the Present…

Finding balance and engaging in self-care are two tasks that should be on ALL our priority lists! Not just for teachers, but for everyone…

I hope everyone has settled into a great new school year. By now new routines and schedules have been established, new relationships and bonds are beginning to form, and students are beginning to grow under our tutelage.

Fall reminds me of the shedding of last school year, and the beginning of redefining ourselves once more. Not everyone loves autumn, but in Western New York State, we have some of the most beautiful foliage. The air has a crispness to it that seems to break the cycle of a not-so-spectacular summer weather cycle.

New things are seemingly always on the horizon, but lately I’ve really been trying to stop worrying about the past or feeling anxious towards the future. I really want to images-3focus on enjoying the present. Being in the moment is becoming so important to me. Call it “growing up,” but the concept of mindfulness is my unofficial theme for this year… and hopefully for life.

There is this beautiful Lao Tzu quote: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Don’t we all need more peace in our lives? The world outside of ourselves is one thing, but we have the ability to partake in self-care. Moreover, we have a responsibility to make self-care a priority. I always denied that I needed self-care. I convinced myself that being strong and capable meant proving you needed less time for it.download

But how wrong I was. Enjoying the little things, taking moments to breathe and refocus, and shedding the frenetic energy that envelopes us in our quest to “have it all” is more compulsory the “older and wiser” I get.

How about you? How do you rebalance your energy?

Namaste,

Kirsten

Angry or Sad?

Anyone suddenly experiencing particularly bad behavior in your classroom???

e056ccd28de3079e1c0b64d71ef689ddThe school psychologist and I had an interesting conversation the other day:

  1. The end of the year is coming.
  2. For some kids in our population, school is the only structure in their lives.
  3. It is also where they are fed, loved, etc.
  4. A lot of kids are anticipating the summer recess as a loss of that structure.
  5. The instability creates a feeling of being upset.
  6. Instead of becoming emotional, students become angry.

The gist: It is easier to be mad than upset.

Here is an article from Psychology Today that outlines these phenomena. As for the classroom, I found the most applicable part to be:

“…just behind the anger that is so evident, and often encouraged, in our lives, are two emotions that are much harder to express: fear and sadness. Both of these very common feelings are seen as weaknesses and are hard to tolerate for long. One way to escape them is to get mad and allocate blame. If we can find a target, we can indulge our outrage and assign responsibility for our misery to someone else. Now we are a victim.”

My belief is that several kids are using this coping mechanism at this point in the school year. However, that does NOT make it okay to be rude, nasty, or mistreat others. My heart hurts when I hear mean things. I take it just as seriously as a lapse in academic performance.

I want my students to take much more away from my classroom than academic knowledge. I want them to be better people because they were in my room.

So how do we, as educators, tackle this? I feel as though addressing this issue is important, beyond classroom management and counting down to the last day of school. Not addressing this specific behavioral phenomena would be a lost opportunity to a monumental “teachable moment.” After all, this is one that a person will experience throughout their lives, right?!

My mom will be the first one to tell you that I was a textbook case of this phenomena. Precisely the week before I would head 330 miles back to my small, liberal arts college in Ohio, I would become easily agitated and incite arguments over the most ridiculous things. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was an undergrad that I had it pointed out to me, and was then able to recognize when I was doing it. 

The Solution

IMHO, the solution should involve explicitly teaching students about vulnerability. (Yes, I am a raging Brene Brown fan. If you don’t know her, please take a few moments to acquaint yourself. Here is her first amazing TED talkHere is the follow up TED talk.)

I tell my students that I have been observing an uptick in anger. I tell them that I have been through a lot in my own life, and use the going-back-to-college example.

download

 

Anger and sadness are basic feelings. Kids get that. Even younger kids can discuss the differences between being mad and sad.  Giving students permission and opportunities to express their sadness, and vulnerability is another part of it. Whether it be in their writing journals, during reading/writing conferences, during transition times, class discussions, etc.

Do you see this in your classroom? In your life?

How do you handle it? What is your approach?

Thanks for reading all the way to this point. And please feel free to create a dialogue below. 😉

 

Namaste,

Kirsten

 

Short and Sweet

back-to-school-heroHopefully the school year is in full swing, and you are settling into a nice group of new students. I have 129 new students this year, including two international students from Hungary. They offered me a very interesting perspective on the Syrian refugee crisis, from families once dominated by Communist rule.

After teaching my 9/11 curriculum, and being reminded how we are all connected, I then braved another “Back to School Night.” I met numerous parents. Many parents have a neighbor, friend, relative, or otherwise know me in one IMG_3271capacity or another.

As the 9th graders stay the same age, I get older. For once, it feels refreshing to “catch up” in age with the parental cohort. I feel more confident in my own instructional capacity, as well as my ability to relate to a parent of a school-aged child.

I feel very fortunate to be a teacher, and to affect young women’s lives everyday. I hope I can be a good role model, and empower them to confidently stand on their own two feet as I have learned to do. I hope I can show them that being a compassionate person does not mean one is weak, but instead is courageous to show heart and vulnerability.

We really are all connected, literally and figuratively. Life is very short, and each day counts.

Need a little inspiration today?  I encourage you to watch this. We are all bred for connection, and in choosing it, are daring greatly.

Peace,

KBS