Friday, July 27, 2018

Kid Sized EDU Lessons (The Life of a Teacher Mom)

These summers months have been filled with sunny days, outdoor fun, some relaxation, and a LOT of time with my two kiddos. I have a 5 year old and a soon to be 3 year old, so to say some of my days have been hectic is a bit of an understatement. (I seriously wish I could bottle up just a bit of their energy... just a little bit. I think I would be set for a couple days!) In the ups and downs that family time can bring, I have learned not only more about my children, I have also learned more about education from the two little beings that have my heart!
The two little ones that stole my heart! (D'Arcy and Hunter)

Lesson 1: Repetition is Key
When I was pregnant with my daughter and going through the name selecting process, some of my friends told me to take the names on my list and repeat them over and over again. I laughed this statement off, but looking back at it now, I had no idea how much of my life would be in repeat mode. Not only do I have to repeat  what I say for my children to understand, THEY feel that repetition is the only way I will understand.( The number of times I hear "Mom" in a day is unreal!..haha)
I do think that there are times as educators that we undervalue the need for repetition in our practice. We sometimes hang true to the statement "They should know that by now!" or  "I taught them that last week."  While it does have the power to get under our skin, repetition is definitely needed to assist in true growth.

Lesson 2: A Little Compassion Goes a Long Way
A couple of days ago, in a game of tag, my son turned the corner too tight and fell down. I was in the kitchen making dinner, yet came running when I heard his cries. Through the mumbling, I tried to get him to tell me where it hurt. Eventually I figured out that it was his knee, so I leaned over and gently kissed his kneecap. He popped up so fast, smiled and exclaimed "All better... I fine"
I sat there stunned for a moment for I was sure by the amount of crying that was occurring that he was pretty badly hurt. All it took was a little kiss, a little compassion to turn the pain around.
I have seen this time and time again with the students I get the opportunity to work with. Many are broken down and are just screaming on the inside.  Sometimes, we get so caught up in our struggles with these students to see what their actions truly are. They are crying just as loud as my son was, simply in a different way.The sad truth is, you can't always piece back together their broken world, but with a little compassion, you can take that step to show them that they matter and this world is capable of some kindness.

Lesson 3: Everyone Needs Their Time
There were a few moments over the summer when I was able to leave the house and get some time that was not dedicated to my motherly duties. On one particular night, my daughter was very upset, so my husband tried to explain to her that Mommy needs her "me time" sometimes. He also tried to compare it to the moments that she just wanted to play by herself instead of with her little brother. About a week later, I heard crying and arguing coming from the kitchen. I rushed in to my son, Hunter who is in tears, wanting an immediate hug. "What happened?" was my instant reaction.
My daughter's reply was " Mom, I just told him that I needed my time!... Like you did!"
As teachers, the concept of "me time" slips away from us, especially when we are trying to balance the stresses and responsibilities of home and school. However difficult it may be, it is needed for us to be in our best working order. Even if it is only 15- 20 minutes, we need to be purposeful and  schedule ourselves some "me time"

Lesson 4:  Letting Go is Not Just for Elsa
Ok... Sorry for the Frozen reference there. I just had to do it! The truth is that my daughter and that princess were very similar this summer in that they both struggled with fear. Unlike Elsa's parents, I was not going to let my daughter D'Arcy hide from it. Whether it was going down hills on her bicycle or cannonballing into the pool, I encouraged her and pushed her to face it head on. I will never forget the moment after an afternoon of swimming when she walked up to me and said "Mom, you remember when I was scared of doing a cannonball?"  I tried not to laugh because in my head I was thinking "Yeah.. It was like an hour ago!"
Then she said "Thank you for making me do it!... I was scared but now I love it"
How many times as educators do we stop at something new and let fear take over. We need people in our lives that can gently tell us to get up and keep going. This summer I faced some of my own fears as well, as I started a podcast, made some YouTube videos, and even presented out of my state at USM Summer Spark in Wisconsin. There were moments that I felt like turning around and not diving into this new adventure, yet I have an amazing support group around me on Twitter and especially my #4ocfpln group on Voxer. These amazing people, help me to take my fear and just "Let it go!"

Lesson 5: Adventure is Everywhere... and So is Learning
There were many days that I would take the kids to a park in the morning for a run, yet there were other days that I would simply say "Let's go outside!" We would just explore. We would look under rocks, around trees, and even dig in the dirt. I instantly became amazed with the questions that started flowing in my direction, from both of my children. I felt as though they learned more from those moments than anything else that I structured for them this summer.
Because they were in the driver's seat of their learning. They were in control and constantly curious.
I feel that sometimes we are so worried about fitting everything in and covering it all, that we miss this magic with our students. This right here is what draws me to the magic of genius hour. I am also planning time for my students to take on a #Five4Five challenge. This is a personal challenge created by Michael Matera to try something new for 5 days and document your journey. My hope is that by unleashing their personal passions, I will again see that spark. The one I saw in the backyard with my kiddos.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Teaching for Him

My grandfather, my gilt Thunder, and I my first year showing pigs. 
On July 2nd, I had the chance to do one of my favorite things with my family.... the Pulaski County 4-H Fair Swine Show. My grandfather lives for the thrill of knowing how our pigs will measure up to others in the county. In 2000 I had the fantastic honor of having the grand champion barrow, with a pig that almost escaped during a thunderstorm (but that's a story for another day!)

In the years since, my family has yearned for another chance to hold that honor. My youngest cousin AJ recently finished his junior year of high school and therefore has 2 more showing years. The pressure was definitely on to have a winning year. Yet there was another layer of the experience this year. Each of the 3 pigs that AJ had to show were named after someone very special in our family.

In October of 2015, the death of my uncle truly rocked my family. My Uncle Jeff was one of the strongest men I will ever know. As the sudden sickness began to take him, he stressed to his boys to "Stay strong." He stressed to his wife and parents to "Stay strong."  That is just who my uncle was. He was a strong and very successful man, who to be quite honest had the ability to scare me as a child if I stepped out of line.

When AJ was showing his first pig, a Duroc barrow named J.R. (our uncle's initials), I felt the usual excitement that I get at the 4-H swine show. I intently watched the judge as he made his decision and narrowed down the barrows in the ring until only the top two remained. It was AJ and one other showman. What I saw my cousin do after being named the winner, brought my entire family to tears. I didn't realize that he had a bracelet made that said "Showing for him." When J.R. was named the champion in his class, he kissed that bracelet and pointed up to the sky.

It was clear that day that we had one more family member watching from up high. That day, the crossbred barrow they called "The Big Walle" (one of my uncle's nicknames) took away the honor that my family has been waiting on for 18 years, "Grand Champion Barrow." And with every win, AJ made sure to send the kiss upwards as a sign to Uncle Jeff. 

The passing of my uncle created positive and negative waves throughout my world. The positive waves were through my family for we became closer and that togetherness could be clearly felt despite missing an important component of our family unit.
The frightening waves of negativity rose up in myself, for I did not have the relationship with my uncle that I wish I had had. Therefore, after he passed, I was filled with so much regret.

I hoped he knew how much I loved him.

I hoped he was proud of me.

My Uncle Jeff
In thinking on this deeply the days after his pacing, I realized that one thing that Jeff talked  to me about at family gatherings was education and the importance of education.
It usually started with:  "How's your class going GeeGee?"

I realized after the pig show that day that when I walk into that classroom and make my impact, I am carrying a strong piece of my uncle with me. I thank my Uncle Jeff for all he had done for me in his life. His strength and resilience were something to be marveled. I knew that when I needed something, he was there... Every time. When I hugged my aunt at Jeff's funeral, I managed to say "I hope he knew how much I loved him!" through the tears. Her voice was calm and without falter as she said "Without a doubt!"

Yet, I also thank him for what he has done for me since he has left this world. I am much more cautious of relationships both in and out of the classroom. You really never know when someone is going to have their last moment.... Every second you share with someone is valuable. I also hear Jeff's voice in my ear as I prepare my lessons or when I chose to embark on this master's degree. Learning was something that we both valued so much.

As I go into this next school year, I want to make my own bracelet as a physical connection to our family's angel. This year and all the years to follow, I will be "Teaching for Him"