Changin’ It Up

Change. It happens. Sometimes it happens unexpectedly, while other times it knowingly comes your way.

Every Sunday morning, I open up my Burn Boot Camp app and book my camps for the week. During the school year, it was 5:30am Monday to Friday. On Sunday June 19, I booked 5:30 Monday to Wednesday and I paused on Thursday. I glanced at the camp times, stared out the window, wondered what time I should go to camp. This was a “big” decision. If I went to 6:30, I’d be getting up in the 5:00 hour. If I went to 7:30, the rising time would be much more reasonable, but would I eat before I went? Then, I pondered 8:30 and thought rising at reasonable time, eating, maybe even making breakfast for Megan or Hannah, throwing in a load of laundry, writing, reading. Getting a few things done before camp. I watched a bird land on the fence, looked back at my phone and booked 8:30 camp for Thursday and Friday.

On Sunday June 26, my first whole week of summer off, and the “success” I had with 8:30 camp the previous week, I went ahead and booked 8:30 Monday through Friday. I made the change. I made the switch from the Rooster Crew to the Woohoot Crew.

So here I am, almost two weeks into summer vaca and I find myself embracing summer and all the opportunities to change it up.

look back, look ahead, learn, repeat

“The top teachers, I’ve found, whether in the center of the city, or a rural school, have an insatiable appetite for learning. When teachers learn, the children learn.” Donald Graves, Writing: Teachers and Children at Work (1983)

I toed the line. I heard the gun. I watched as Julie ran the first leg. Butterflies were building. I watched Julie reach her arm up, the shiny baton held tight in her hand. I watched as she reached up and over, the baton landing right in Lori’s hand. Gripping the baton fiercely, Lori took off towards me. As she approached, I envisioned the baton seamlessly landing in my hand, the feel of the cold metal signaling me to go full steam ahead.

This morning, our first grade team visited a kindergarten Writer’s Workshop. They went to watch kindergarten writers at work. They went to watch and learn a bit about the children that would soon be “their” first graders.

Kelly and B – she grew a kindergartener, a learner, a writer

Kelly had the kids on the floor when we walked in. We watched them listening as she called them off the rug and into the workshop. “B’s table you can go get a writing booklet and get to work.” “M’s table.” “C’s table.” We all watched as they independently chose their booklets and independently settled right into writing. Lynn, a first grade teacher observed and whispered to me, “They are writing a lot. No one is asking what to write. The kids know the routines, the structure. They are all sketching, writing.”

There was a hum in the room. It was children touching and telling their stories. It was children asking children questions. It was teachers talking to children. It was teachers engaged in research. It was teachers and children working alongside each other.

It’s Monday of our last week of school. We’ve got a day and half left. We could have kept our eyes on Wednesday, the end, but we didn’t. We took an hour to go back, to look, and to learn. The first grade teachers got an up close and personal look at what the soon to be first graders writers at work in their workshop. This simple act of looking back at children at work helps to create the vision for how to move forward.

Much like awaiting the baton hand off in a relay, we have to look back to see what’s coming towards us. When we have first hand knowledge and experience with what came before, we can use it to create visions for workshops that don’t just repeat, but grow with clear expectations, routines and structures from grade to grade. The time spent looking back to move forward is essential to teaching and learning across the grades.

Play

A voice with an accent echos through the house. “Rrrrrrammoooon wants to know if you’d like Raspberry Spray in your hair?” A giggled yes is the answer I hear. I walk down the hall to see wet headed Grace in the chair with Billy behind her. He’s got a brush in one hand and he’s reaching for the Raspberry Spray. Hannah and Megan are on the floor laughing. They are playing hairdresser.

This moment came to me in a flashback last Friday when I came home from school. I walked in to a quiet house at 4:30. I put my bags down and listened for signs of family. I heard Billy tapping away on his keyboard at work. I made my way to the kitchen, let out a “Hello!??” Grace answered with a “Heyyy!” I made my way upstairs and followed the laughs and chatter. At the top of the stairs, I turned right into Grace’s room. There was Hannah, fresh out the shower wrapped in her towel watching Megan and Grace. Megan clips in her hair, long legs folded criss cross sat on the floor in front of the mirror. While Grace, flat iron in hand, made her way around Megan’s head. “You’re so good at this, Grace!” Megan said, admiring her hair compliments of Grace.

At church Sunday morning, Father Peter proclaimed the power of play. He talked passionately about the joy on parent’s faces as they watch their children play. He talked about the super smiles of children as they play! “There’s hope and creativity and joy in play.” he said. Back in the day, it was Billy who engaged in the play with the girls playing hair dresser, and last Friday, although they weren’t intentionally playing hair, there was a playfulness in the air. It was written on their faces.

Here’s to creating moments to play wherever you go. Here’s to seeing playfulness and soaking it in.

What Do I Need…

Today I was asked the question, “What do I need for my own well being?” I was slightly distracted when I was asked to answer the question, so I found myself roaming the room, listening to others, reading their ideas. On the way home, the question lingered in my mind.

Personally, I know what works for me to keep me feeling good and ready for each day. Getting up early, starting my day slowly often sets me on the right path. Physical exercise is an essential part of my day. When my kids were little, I started running in the wee hours of the morning before they got up. Years later, greeting the morning with physical exercise remains part of my practice. Having homemade healthy food, chocolate, a few skittles and dinner around the table all add to my general well being. Practicing my faith and living each day with a dose of thankfulness all feed my well being. Now, as I read that over, it sounds like it’s all perfect, but the truth is, it’s not. But when it comes down to it, I know what I need to fuel my well being and I do the work to get pieces of it every day.

Professionally, I also know what works for me to keep me feeling good and ready. I’ve been at this work called teaching for almost three decades. It’s the people that I spend my days with that fuel my well being. It’s the kids who come to school ready, or not, to learn. It’s those kids who expect us to be there for them, who expect us to know them, support them, find the right ways to teach them. Reaching and learning for them fuels me. It’s the adults, teachers, paraprofessionals, admins, parents that also can fuel my well being (they can zap it, too). It’s being creative and innovative and silly with these people that make our work real and alive. It’s the relationships that I work to have with all these people that make know I am connected and ready to not only continue teaching, but learning for another decade.

One of my all time favorite books (professionally) is The Teacher You Want to Be, Essays about Children, Learning and Teaching. Heidi Mills and Tim O’Keefe, in their essay, Why Beliefs Matter, write “If we are deliberately growing and changing as professionals, our cutting edge beliefs are often ahead of our practices. We grow new beliefs and then strive to live into them.”

So professionally, I think what fuels my well being is continued opportunities to keep outgrowing my own beliefs. I’m willing to put in the work alongside the kids, my colleagues, parents, all in the name of not just teaching, but learning and growing together always.