Two minute moments

I am a big fan of the Facebook page Humans of New York. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a page where a very talented photographer posts pictures of people in New York, along with a sentence or two, allowing you a glimpse into their life.

Last week, there was a picture of a little boy and his mother. The little boy said he wanted to make a card for his mom, but the teacher was too busy to help him spell, so he drew a picture. I thought this was a sweet moment. Then, I read the comments.

People were bashing the teacher, writing things like “she should be fired”, “bad teacher” and “a good teacher would have helped him in her spare time”. I had to stop reading, as I was turning purple.

I have a small class of 18 students, but sometimes, I am too busy to help someone. I have three grades in one class. I do what I can, but I am human. Teachers do not have angel wings or superpowers. We also don’t have “free time” while at work. That comment was obviously written by someone who doesn’t have a clue!

My life as a teacher is a series of two minute moments. Here are a few examples of things that take two minutes:

– Explaining what an adjective is.

– Having a discussion on why it’s not nice to kick our friends.

– Finding a lost pencil.

– Eating half an apple. (You have to eat fast, and you rarely get to eat the whole thing).

– Talking to the parent who interrupted story time by bringing their kid in late.

– Dealing with a bloody nose.

– Reading an e-mail.

– Reminding the third graders that they know what synonyms are.

– Looking for someone’s shoe. How do you lose a shoe?

– Putting a hand on a kid’s forehead to figure out if she’s sick or faking it.

– Asking “who’s is this?” about 47 times.

– Reminding some people that crayons are not meant to be thrown at other people’s heads.

– Helping a first grader read one sentence.

– Listening to kids teach each other.

– Sounding out words so kids can spell them themselves.

– Feeding the lizard.

– Holding up a finger to tell someone to wait while someone is asking a question and someone else is tapping you on the arm with their warm, sticky, little hand.

– Reading the story a second grader wrote for you. It’s about a pink giraffe.

– Suggesting that reading might be a good alternative to staring at the ceiling.

– Trying to teach division while the kids would rather talk about dinosaurs.

– Looking up dinosaur info on the Internet.

– Filling out the millionth form of the month.

– Taking attendance.

– Saying hello to every student.

– Not flinching when a box of beads is dropped on the floor.

– Drawing a star on someone’s hand, because everyone knows that will give you more energy to help you work.

– Answering a questions about prime numbers/pronouns/birds/snack time/planets.

– Going to the washroom (if you’re lucky).

– Hugging the child’s who’s crying because her parents have separated.

– Laughing. Kids are funny.

– Listening to a bad joke. They don’t always tell them right.

– Motivating the kid who thinks everything is boring.

– Replying to an e-mail.

– Singing a song.

To be honest, most teachers do several of these things simultaneously. There are 157 2-minute moments in a school day, including lunch time, which is considered “free time”.

If you witness the moment where I’m laughing and singing, you’ll think “what a fun, happy teacher.” But if you see the moment where I’m telling a child he has used up almost every drop of patience I have specifically for him, you will think I am mean and impatient. One moment does not give you the whole picture.

If you know a teacher, don’t say “lucky you” when her summer vacation starts. Try “I know how hard you worked all year, here is a margarita and a piece of pie”.

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Blue and green

When I was little, we used to always say “blue and green should never be seen, except in the washing machine”. We later added “and at camp” because at camp, anything goes! Funny how fashion rules change. Blue and green are great together.

Today, I wore an outfit inspired by Zooey Deschanel. Who else, right?

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I really like the way it turned out, and I think my students did too, because they kept commenting on it. Some of the girls will comment sometimes, but today, it was ongoing throughout the day. The kids’ comments are usually positive, and always brutally honest. For example, last week, one of my first graders said “Your hair looks nice when it’s all tangled.” Umm, thanks.

This is a sample of what I heard today:

You’re pretty.

Last time you wore that dress, you didn’t wear blue.

It’s like an outfit, because your shoes are blue, your belt is blue and you sweater is blue.

Your dress is green, but that’s ok.

I’ve seen those shoes before.

I like your small sweater.

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The little girls comment much more than the boys. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t notice, or they don’t particularly care. I think it’s a mix of both. Some things will always stay the same! To be fair, last week one six year old boy said “Wow! That’s a nice scarf!” He’s the same kid who once told me I looked like a ladybug, so I think he notices some stuff.

I had the dress, the shoes and the sweater for this outfit, I was just missing a belt, so I decided to make one. I made it while watching New Girl. I know, perfect, right?

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It was pretty simple. Lots of tutorials I looked at mentioned sewing hooks or snaps to close the belt. You could do that, or you could do what I did, which is use safety pins. Much easier!

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I’m not usually a big fan of belts. I can’t remember the last time I wore a belt that actually had a purpose, they’re mostly just decorative. I’ll put one on in the morning, because it looks cute, but after I get to work, it feels like it starts to tighten around me like a boa constrictor. I then yank it off and throw it in my bag. By the end of the week, I have a collection in there. This belt, however, lasted the whole day.

I really like this dress. I’ve only worn it once before (without any blue, like one student pointed out). It has a nice detail in the back. Today, it wasn’t very warm, so I kept my sweater on and no one really saw the back. Well, there was an intense 15 minutes where I was trying to punch out a million butterflies out of scrapbook paper to make mother’s day cards in the class this afternoon, and my heart rate went up because the stupid punch wasn’t punching and I had to put a lot of effort into it and I got really hot and took my sweater off.

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I think blue and green work really well together, don’t you?

Yoga for the body and soul

The yoga class I went to today was absolutely perfect in every way. That doesn’t mean it was easy, but it was exactly what I needed.

I had a long day (dressed as a Viking) and received some sad family news over the weekend. I am tired, because it’s the end of the school year, and that’s not an easy time for a teacher.

I’m not complaining, these are just facts. Another fact is that I don’t remember what my life was like before yoga. How did I relax? How did I center myself? How did I quiet my mind?

I am so grateful for this practice that brings me what I need. Today, it was an hour of perfection. Not perfect poses, but a practice that was good for my soul, my heart, my brain, my body.

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And, because I can’t tease you by saying I dressed up as a Viking without giving you a picture, here it is. A Viking in a purple dress. And yes, I know they did not have horns on their helmets!

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Read me a story

A few months ago in class, I tried to get one of my student’s attention. He was reading and he didn’t hear me. I had to repeat his name several times, and when he finally looked at me, he had a dazed look on his face. I told him “I get it, you were reading and your mind is still in the story. I love books too, so I know how it feels.” This led to a discussion with a few students about how much we all love books and reading. I don’t remember if the idea came from me or a student, but we decided to have a reading day. A whole day of nothing but books and reading, no other school work. The kids were so excited!

This was in late winter, so we decided to wait until it was nice enough to read outside. That day was last Friday. The kids worked really hard all week so they could read on Friday. I thought of making them little reading passports, where they could put stickers or stamps, but I decided against it. They were happy to read for the sake of reading, they didn’t need anything else.

We started off with a game of pass-the-book. Each kid picked a book from the ones I had set out on the tables. They sat in a circle and passed the books around while music played. When the music stopped, they had a minute to flip through it and decide if it was a book they would like to read.

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Then we took a trip to the library, because no matter how much the kids thought they could sit still and read all day, I knew better. We needed some action.

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When everyone had picked out their books, we went to the park to read there for a little while.

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After lunch, we headed out on the lawn in front of the school with our books, beach towels, blankets and water bottles.

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At one point, there were a bunch of us reading a book about the toe fairy (like the tooth fairy, but with toes). We were all crowded around the book and one kid poked my foot with his finger and asked “Who’s foot is this?”

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Yes, that is a small child on my back. She’s like velcro. We were looking at a book about Vikings.

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It was a perfect day. I told the kids we could do it again next year.

Snow days

I love snow. It’s like magic. I’m serious. There’s something special about it. Of course, I’m not crazy, so I don’t love it when I have to shovel it. I always think I’m in great shape until I try to shovel the driveway.

I was on holidays for two weeks, and I went back to work on Monday. On Sunday, I was planning to run errands, go to a yoga class, maybe go shopping (I need new dress pants, it’s no coincidence Dressember was so easy for me. All I wear are dresses!) It was going to be a busy, productive day.

Then I woke up to this.

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Yes, it is a terrible picture, but that’s what you get when you open the back door, stick your arm out and take a picture. I was snowed in. It wasn’t a lot of snow, but I knew, from experience, that I would get stuck if I tried to drive through it.

So here I was, stuck at home on the last day of my holidays. It only took me a few minutes to realize how perfect this was. Who needs errands and a busy day, when you can curl up on the couch and read an amazing book about a little girl who wanders out of the forest, not talking, but growling at everyone who tries to get close to her. (Magic Hour, by Kristen Hannah. Read it.)

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The only thing I was a little disappointed in was missing my yoga class.

Yesterday was a very different kind of snow day.

It was the kid’s first day back at school and Tuesday is my recess-duty day. It was the perfect day. It wasn’t cold or windy, the snow was sticky and there was a lot of it, and the kids were still happy enough to be with their friends after the holidays that they didn’t fight.

Some of the little girls in my class asked me to make a snowman with them. This is a lot harder than I remember! It took about four of us to put him together. How do kids do this? There were snowmen all over the school yard.

The girls named him Jack.

I love the very centered photo of Jack and I taken by a second grader.

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Added bonus? Building a snowman was number 53 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days! Awesome.

What do you love about snow?

Are you a grown up?

Working with kids means you get asked a lot of questions. “Are you a grown-up?” is one of them. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few funny conversations with my students. I teach six to nine year olds, so I laugh a lot!

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G and C are talking about how many teeth they’ve lost.

G: (Asks me) How many teeth have you lost?

Me: I’ve lost all my baby teeth.

C: Well yes, but that’s because you’re almost an adult.

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Me: E, what are you going to be when you grow up?

E: A veterinarian. What are you going to be when you grow up?

Me: I’m already grown up.

E: Well, what’s your job?

Me: I’m a teacher.

E: I know you’re a teacher, but what’s your job?!

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I’m giving a lesson on animals when K’s hand goes up.

Me: K, it’s not time for questions yet.

K: But it’s not a question, it’s an answer!

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M: What do you want for Christmas?

Me: A giraffe.

M: You could probably find one on kijiji.

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I’m having a latte while the kids are in gym class. I knock it over and I’m wiping the floor when a student walks in and says “This is what you do when we’re not here? You wash the floor?”

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S: Do you live with your mom and dad?

Me: No.

S: Do you live with your kids?

Me: I don’t have kids.

S: Well if you’re not a kid and you’re not a mom, what are you?

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I sneeze.

C: You’re like my dog.

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After a 4-day weekend.

C: Let’s see each other tomorrow, because I don’t like long breaks when I don’t see you.

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A. was saying hello to everyone as they came through the door. I told her she was like the greeter at Walmart. She started saying “Hello, welcome to Walmart.”

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Me: C, I hope you work this hard at home when you do your homework.

C: No, at home I yell and throw my papers on the floor.

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Me: This movie is great. I used to watch it when I was little.

P: But I thought old movies were silent?

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Me: Once I lost my voice and had to write notes to my students all day.

S: Oh cool, I hope you get sick and it happens again.

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Me: Do you need help figuring out the problem?

M: No, I need the answer.

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I’m wearing jeans and my hair is up in a ponytail.

L: What’s wrong with you? This is not your style!

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Teachers hate tests

I am a teacher and I love it. Most of the time. That time when I finally get everyone to settle down after eating a chocolate cupcake (bad idea, by the way, thanks so much to that “thoughtful” parent) and then one kid decides to teach the others some karate moves? Yeah, that’s not my favourite time. But when a kid says “oh I get it!” or is so into a book he can’t hear me call his name, then that’s a good time.

I’m a Montessori teacher. I believe in the philosophy and teaching methods completely, although I will admit that some lessons need updating, as they were created a century ago. I could go on and on about the Montessori method, but that would be a whole post unto itself!

What I really don’t like are tests. If I were a true Montessorian, I would not have to quiz my students or grade them. Alas, the province requires grades and report cards and a lot of my time. How awful is it to have to give a first grader a 72% in reading or even a 95% in math? Let me tell you. It’s terrible! Six year olds should not even know what grades are. Learning is fun and this just sucks the joy right out of it. Who cares if a kid gets 88% in writing, when the important thing is that she spent all morning writing a story called “The pink giraffe and her friends” (True story)

This is what I aim for, only I have to do it with tests. Ick.

 

There are other reasons why I hate report cards. They take endless hours to complete and I could be doing so many other things with my time. Here is a list of what I would rather be doing (if you’re a teacher, please feel free to add to the list).

– Finding my stapler

– Taking the September calendar down (in November)

– Cleaning the dried applesauce off the wall

– Taping books back together

– Organizing my storage closet

– Cleaning the lizard’s cage (and I hate doing this)

– Putting away those last 2 Halloween decorations I forgot

– Dusting off my “to do” pile

– Fixing my globe

– Getting the wobbly table fixed

Now you might think these are all “2 minute” tasks, and you’re right. My work life is a series of 2-minute moments. I have to choose wisely. I choose storytime over test time. Making the work stuff into fun stuff.