Every Tuesday I blog and share it at the twowritingteachers.org
Here are the directions:
WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE a link to your post in the comments section. GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.
I thought about what to write my slice of life about for today and pondered how it is not that different than last week.
There is more stress this week than last. The COVID bubble keeps getting closer to me. For the bulk of this pandemic, I feel like the virus was a couple arms length away. I make sure to distance, not go anywhere, wear my mask, wash my hands, blah, blah, blah. We all know the drill. Despite my efforts, more and more people I actually know are either getting COVID or know more people who are.
My county is back in phase one so I feel like we are back to March again. It should mean that restaurants go back to just take away and no dine in. As far as I have heard, no one is following this guideline.
My school is still doing virtual learning. We have not teetered back and forth. I am thankful for this fact. We have not gone to in person, to hybrid, to virtual and back again like the many of the corporations around me and the ones I still have friends in.
Again, I am thankful.
My kindergarteners do well with virtual because I am live teaching. We write every day. We are using The True Story of the Three Little Pigs which is fun and a great book to dig into. We practice sight words, letters, and sounds. The academics are similar to what we would be doing in person. There are no centers or playing. There is still lots of conversation.
In some ways, I feel like I know my students better individually. I have scheduled time with kids one on one and I don’t have to keep scanning the room to make sure the rest of the kids are on task when I am working with them.
But this week I hear the rumbles about the three buildings being closed because there were too many COVID cases – among the adults working there. Again, there are NO CHILDREN in the buildings. There are rumors of the buildings being shut down to quarantine everyone after the holiday.
I just keep showing up and teaching. It is more than going through the motions but I am struggling. There are rules that don’t make sense and rules that do make sense that people are choosing not to follow. I cannot find the logical path.
I also continue to write. It is what keeps me sane.
I have my coffee in the morning.
I go to school.
I walk when I get home.
I eat dinner.
I use some time to read, write, take classes, etc.
It is my normal routine, but it stills feel off.
We are all waiting for something that I am not sure will ever come.
We all look ahead. We look ahead to lunchtime, the weekend, the end of the month, the full moon. Much forward thinking occurs.
We make plans and hope they are realized. Sometimes we hope they are canceled. We always make plans far ahead. People say not that we don’t know when the pandemic will end and it gives more uncertainty.
In a way I agree but also feel like the certainty we had before was an illusion anyway.
Looking ahead I will write everyday. I was challenged to write a million words a year several weeks ago. This is 2750 words a day written. Years ago I imposed the 2000 word rule of Stephen King to my writing. It was a soft count but became a habit. After counting words this week I noticed that I do that anyway so there is no challenge there. Tuesday after all the words I wrote 5,000.
Looking ahead I have been planning events and workshops for my community. I am excited to offer “Choosing your one word” workshops in December and also a Bradbury challenge. The Bradbury will start as a 5 day and then stretch to a longer challenge. But NANO is hard for people and the burnout in December in real.
Looking ahead I wonder if I will do 30 day challenges or 100 day challenges for myself in the future. I seem to have leveled up.
Looking ahead I wonder if we truly wll go back to school in person at the end of January. There was a school in my district this week that was quarantined for 2 weeks. The whole school and it is just the teachers and staff there. Apparently someone didn’t wear their masks.
Looking ahead, I don’t know what is coming but I plan to enjoy the ride.
If you had to think through the teachers in your school what are the adjectives you would use to describe each person’s style?
What would people use to describe you in the classroom?
There are many discussions about what teachers “should” be. There used to be a defined set of rules of the do’s and don’ts for teachers that was ridiculous for today’s standards.
Teachers still have a story attached to them from the outside world of what they should or should not be. I do not believe it is as strict as the list above but it is in the subtext of conversation.
Some characteristics are more accepted than others.
I have tattoos. They are in places I can cover them if necessary which I thought about because I am an educator. They are not offensive in nature, but there have been cases where it has been expressed as a surprise when people find out what I do for a living. I once had a man at a training become obsessed with my tattoos and kept making jokes. He finally said to me, “What you look like and what your resume reads doesn’t match to me.” In his mind, an award winning teacher couldn’t have tattoos.
I have covered my tattoos for every interview except the last one. I finally decided that if they weren’t going to hire me just for that reason I wouldn’t want to work there anyway. (They hired me.)
In college I was told it was not a good idea to wear red dresses or red nails to school. People may get the “wrong idea.”
There is a “good girl” persona attached to teachers. If you have ever spent time in a teacher’s lounge you will hear stories about dating, drinking, and corruption of various degrees told. People have been fired for pictures on social media and their behavior. In some cases I believe this may be warranted, but public perception can be a bitch.
It can be a hard line to walk. People can only pretend for so long.
Each person has their own passions and talents they bring to the classroom. Some are thriving in this new normal we have and some are not, depending on experience and gifts.
I have been thinking a lot over the past week about my “paycheck” work and my creative work. These two categories do overlap but I tend to think of them separately. After a conversation with a friend I am beginning to see they overlap more than I think.
I teach intuitively. I usually think of this as “student centered” or “child centered” but those terms do not describe the scope of what I achieve in my classroom. It was freeing to discover a word to describe my style.
There is no step by step because my process is organic. Certain things must be in place like culture and routine and a belief system. And I have found it incredibly difficult to explain to people.
There is an element of letting go in my teaching that many people cannot handle. They feel they must be “in control” in the room. Letting go does not mean I do not plan. I do. Quite extensively. I also know that those plans may go out the window depending on how my students react to the objective of the lesson.
Last week I read David Shannon’s Too Many Toys to my students. I do live teaching in the morning and in the afternoon. My students have the choice to attend the AM or the PM session so essentially I am teaching 1/2 day kindergarten.
The plan I had was for the students to write a group story together about what we had too much of in the classroom. One session did this wonderfully and they had a great time creating details all together. The other session; it didn’t work. I changed it to individual sentences and choices. I still taught phonics in both sessions. I taught about capitals and details and controlling the reader with punctuation. It was tailored to the needs of the make up of each of these sessions. I didn’t know I was going to do this ahead of time – I just shifted in the moment to what my students needed.
I had a teacher ask me one time how I knew what to ask kids while they were writing. I have always been able to get kids to produce writing more sophisticated than other people thought they “should” be able to write. I told her I didn’t know, I just asked what made sense at the time. She literally followed me around for a writing session and wrote down what I asked kids in the moment. Being a writer myself, I know what the process feels like which makes it easier.
Thinking about how you learn often helps when pivoting in the classroom. There is nothing wrong with think alouds or admitting when you don’t know something. I have to untrain some of my students at five years old that just because I ask a question doesn’t mean they are wrong. They find it hard to believe I am really just asking for more information because I want to know. I have to establish a culture of risk and experimentation. I want their imaginations to thrive.
I literally told my students the other day when we were writing a chart story that the crazier the details the better. We were writing a story about a bear. He went to have pizza. You should have seen all the things that bear ate by the end!
Storytelling is part of the culture I have established intentionally. We start every day with a priming exercise with breathing and talking about what makes us thankful or a story connected to something we are learning.
Over the last week they have shared stories of taking cats to daycare, trees that grow bubblegum, and Venus fly traps. What stories have you heard in your classroom?
You have to be open to hear these stories and listen to what the students are saying.
I don’t have all the answers and I , for sure, am not perfect.
I do believe my students are all readers, writers, problem solvers and artists and they believe they are too.
That defines success every day in my classroom. What defines it in yours?
Happy Saturday! It has been Fall for several days now. One of the actions I wanted to take this season was to FALL-IZE my notebooks. I ordered brown ink pens. They arrived yesterday and it is blissful.
During the pandemic, one of the tasks I gave myself was to transcribe the stories and ideas into the computer. I can search the content then. With daily writing for years I have a lot of words. Some of them are brilliant and some of them need to just go away.
Several of my writing friends use 3 ring binders for their writing. One friend admitted to me when she doesn’t like it she can rip it out and throw it away. She said she should probably stop that so she can see her progress.
One of the ways I love to get rid of writing pages is to burn them. Literally. We had a fireplace in one house we loved and there is satisfaction in throwing the pages into flames and watching them turn into ash and smoke.
Another way is I crumble the page up into a ball and throw it away. Not as satisfying but it works when you have no fire. Crumbling it up also discourages someone from picking it out of the garbage and read it. There would be effort to flatten it out!