Monday, December 31, 2012

Teacher New Year

Fortunately, the Mayan calendar wasn't accurate and we're all going to be given more years and more calendars. Like many other cultures and times, in the teacher world, our years are marked differently than the customary January to December.  Our new year begins every September, on the first day of school and ends on that final day in June when school gets out for the summer.  The 2 1/2 months in between are kept secret from the outside world. 

Similar to the December New Year's Eve, the night before the first day of school is typically a late night for teachers; we're often up well past midnight.  All Some of us enjoy a glass of wine to celebrate the end of our summer.  We're excited and optimistic for the upcoming year.   We've purchased new clothes, bought some new things for our room, and decorated our classroom for the new students.   Everyone is so excited for the bell to ring on that very first day, very similar to the countdown and dropping of the ball in Times Square.   Read First Day School Blog

Every September (of the Teacher New Year) teachers are busy making resolutions for the year ahead.   To be a better listener.  To  not procrastinate.  To keep better records.  To be more organized.  To try to get to school earlier.  To try to stay after school later. To stay out of the teacher's lounge and quit eating all the treats so as not to gain five pounds the first week back to school.   

It just so happens that my New Year's resolution was made in late August at the start of the new school year, the Teacher New Year.   Now I'm normally not one to make resolutions of any kind.  I've found they put a lot of pressure on me and most don't end up sticking anyway. So why bother setting myself up for failure?   Go to the gym four days a week... right.  I wait and go in March because then the newbies will have cleared out and it won't be so crowded.  But this year, in August, I decided that I was going to work on staying more positive this year -  with the kids, with colleagues, and mostly, with myself.  It's not that I consider myself a negative person, but I would definitely call a glass 1/2 empty if asked.   With the educational world in such turmoil, and public education (and teachers) being bashed every way you look, I didn't want my year to be filled with negativity.  I told myself I would try and stay positive no matter what the circumstance.

I'm happy to report that I've actually stuck to my Teacher New Year resolution.  It has been one hundred and twenty-five days of positivity.  Sure, there have been days when I just haven't felt it. Luckily for me, my teacher friends always help me on those days.  I've tried to walk the talk and for the most part, it's been working.   I have one hundred and sixty-five more days to go, so the challenge is still to come. 

Our teacher year will wrap up in June.  Our calendar will reset for the first day of school in September, our Teacher New Year. 

The Mayans had their calendar.  And the teachers have theirs. 

And positively speaking, I don't see ours ending anytime soon.


Cheers!  Have a wonderful, happy 2013.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy Class

While perusing one of my favorite pastimes, Facebook, this morning, I came across this short, interesting video clip on the "Making Thinking Visible" page. 

 "An interesting study about building community and cultivating happiness in the classroom."

Shortly before the holiday break, I had my students participate and make "Smile Grams" and leave them secretly on the desks of students in another class.  (Smile Gram)
The students were very excited about making them and delivering them in an attempt to make others smile.  We had a discussion on ways to randomly make others happy and examples of being kind to others. 

In my class we have dubbed our random acts of kindness, CAKE, which means, Classroom Acts of Kindness Every month.   The students will be coming up with ideas and deciding on our next act in January -- watch for it on the blog! 

It's exciting to have six more months to practice positivity in the classroom and the school and watch for results. 

The full article mentioned in the clip can be found here: University of British Columbia 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shiny Paper & Pretty Bows

Often, the best gifts we receive don't arrive with beautiful shiny paper and elaborate, colorful bows.  For example, last Friday, several students left me little hand made cards on my desk.  Like usual, they proclaimed me "the best teacher ever", which is so sweet and never gets old.  Never mind the fact that last year's teacher and next year's teacher will also be "the best teacher ever"; I always feel special when receiving those cards.  If I can be that "best teacher ever"  to a child, for even a few months, I'll take it.  

A few years ago, I began saving the personalized notes & cards from students.  I keep them in a special place and whenever I'm feeling a little blue, I look at them and they give me a boost and make me smile.  They are gifts I open again and again.

Although under my tree, there were bright packages with pretty bows, the best present I received this Christmas was having my daughter home for a few days.  She lives in Chicago now and I don't get to see her as much as when she lived closer and was in college.   

Over the past few weeks, I've had time to spend with family and friends, always a gift and sometimes taken for granted.  

I've cooked and baked and celebrated and relaxed.   It's a gift to have the time to do what you like to do.

I've given myself the gift of being more positive this year.  No wrapping paper or ribbon could measure up to this gift.

After all, in the end, it's not the present from the store or the pretty package under the tree that makes us happy.  It's the many gifts that are around us every day, waiting to be opened.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm Still Standing

The few days before any school break can be very, very challenging for teachers.  Our amazing ability to control groups of 20+ kids is given the true test as we try to keep order, routines, and yes, even learning happening in our classrooms while the kids are simply just trying to sit still and make it all stop.  Today, I must have been asked over thirty times how much longer until our party.  They know when our party is because we have talked about it every morning this week.  In detail.  The questioning began at 9:12 a.m. this morning, which means we had only been in school for seven minutes.

The first little hand waves in the air.  "What time is our party again?"
This is quickly followed by five to ten other little hands.
"Is our party before or after lunch?"
"Will we have good food at our party?"
"Can I eat as much as I want?"
"When's our party?"

After the fourth time of being asked what time the party was, exasperated, I reminded them they are in 3rd grade.  They know how to tell time.

"Please quit asking me how much longer until the party," I began.  "You are in 3rd grade and I know you can tell time.  Figure it out.  We have a lot to do today before the party, so let's get busy."

And then I secretly looked at the clock and calculated that I had six hours and forty-three minutes.

But, they did get busy and got to work.  We did some math, I videoed their Native American mural presentations, and they went to music.   As they were eating their snacks after music, one little girl approached me.  She looked at her feet.  She looked at me.  "Is our party after lunch?"

I sighed.  I looked at her cute little bow in her hair and her innocent expression.  She, like all the others was just so anxious and excited, she couldn't help herself.  For a split second, I remembered that little-kid feeling of excitement for parties, and Christmas, and no school.

"Yes, it is after lunch," I calmly said.   And then I turned on my microphone and said, "Just a reminder that our party is today, after lunch, after recess, after art, at 2:15 p.m.   That is exactly three hours and fifteen minutes away."  I smiled.  A big smile.  "Any other questions?"   They seemed satisfied, if only for a short while.

When in the hallways today, I passed other teachers and we shrugged our shoulders and rolled our eyes and made funny faces at each other as the kids jumped and sang and skipped behind us.  When lunch rolled around, I put on a movie to try and remove some of the loud talking, bouncing, and general chaos, and calm them down a bit.  It worked.

The kids were excited to get outside for recess as it was our first snow of the year.  They bundled up in snow pants, and zipped their heavy coats, and put on mittens and hats.   As they waddled down the hall in their full snow attire, I heard one little boy tell another one, "I can't wait until recess is over because it's our party!"

Not.  They still had one hour and fifteen minutes after recess.  Lucky for me we had art and then did some reading until it was finally TIME FOR THE PARTY.

It was a great success, the kids had a blast, the parents were very helpful, the food was good, and the kids were all well behaved, polite, and enjoyed the crafts.   So, teacher friends, we made it!  We got through this busy week before the break.  Now we can enjoy some well-deserved time with friends and family to relax and rest.

Because no matter how many times we are asked the same questions, or how many hours we have to wait until it's time for "The Party" or how many times we repeat ourselves in a day, or hear our own name repeated in one day, I'm still standing.

And besides that, I'm still smiling.   But that could be because I have the next eleven days off.

Listen to Elton John's "I'm Still Standing"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The "Usual"

For the past year or so, every other Friday or so, I meet a couple of my teacher friends before school for breakfast.  We are the early morning people of the school, the ones who are more productive in the morning than we are in the late afternoon.  I openly admit that I start fading fast after 3 p.m., losing steam and focus.   Even my new found positivity wanes a bit as the day wears on.

We usually coordinate our breakfast days with payday and jeans day, a wonderful way to end a week.  We meet at the same time, sit in the same booth, on the same side, and order the same food every time.  The waitresses know us.  The cooks know us.  They know which of us wants decaf and which wants regular.  They know we like straws for our water.  They know our order by heart and they know we want separate checks.  It's a nice comfortable feeling being a regular.  I half expect them to yell our names out like they did on the old TV show "Cheers" whenever Norm would walk in.  We are, admittedly, creatures of habit.  Our conversations run the gamut, and we don't always talk about "school stuff".   It's a positive way to begin the day.

Today we met for breakfast, a change in plans due to a pancake breakfast being prepared by our principal scheduled for tomorrow morning. The waitress was surprised to see us this morning and almost shocked when we told her we needed a "big" booth as we were expecting two others to join our usual party of three. Our "usual" was suddenly turning unusual.  

If it was the "usual" for breakfast today, it has been anything but that at school this week. Today was no exception.  Even my three cups of coffee were not enough to keep up with the excitement and energy of twenty-two eight and nine year olds two days before a holiday break.  Add to this a rainy day, which means indoor recess and I was pulling out every little ounce of positivity I could muster by day's end. Lucky for me, I've been practicing this whole positivity thing since late August.

Although I'm really looking forward to our break from school to re-energize and spend time with friends and family, I also will be ready when it's time to come back to return to my "usual."

We are, after all, all creatures of habit.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ant Eater

I'd be lying if I said this hasn't been a difficult week emotionally.  I am so happy to be back in my classroom and with my students.  Yesterday and today, seeing students smile or hearing them laugh has been so comforting and joyful to me.

This afternoon, my students were gathered around their Native American murals working and talking.  I circulated around the room and listened in on groups and monitored their progress.  I had set the timer on the Promethean board to keep them on task and try and get the murals finished up in time for our Friday celebration.

One group in particular was all hunched over their paper looking very intently at a spot on the mural.  I walked over to see what was up.   Five students were watching an ant crawling across the brown, decorated paper and arguing discussing what should be done.   Naturally, when they saw me approach they all began showing me the ant and asking me what they should do.  I gave my standard reply when there is any kind of bug in the room.

"Well, leave it alone.  It's a living thing.  Just let it go where it wants and keep working."

We watched as the ant slowly crawled across an intricately drawn wigwam.

"Well, we only have 18 minutes and 36 seconds left to finish this mural," said one student.  "If that ant doesn't get moving, we are not going to finish.  And if we don't finish it we will have to stay in and finish it at recess tomorrow.  And I always play with [insert student name] and she's gonna be mad if I'm not out at recess!"

The ant continued its leisurely path across the six feet of paper, oblivious to the great decision being made.  Time ticked away.

"I can eat it!" offered one little mural-maker.

All of our heads immediately turned to him. Then they looked at me to see what I would do/say.

"Did you say eat it?" I questioned.

"Yeah.  I can eat it.  I ate one in pre-school," he explained, proudly.  "So did my friend."

"Well, was it good?" one curious student asked.

"Yeah.  It was delicious," he explained.  No one argued, probably because they had never tasted ant.

Their little eyes watched the ant and they all collectively seemed to decide that eating it was not something any of them really wanted to do.   16 minutes left and counting.

Suddenly, one little nature-lover carefully let it crawl on his finger.  He asked if he could go put it out in the hallway.   I peeked out in the hall and watched as he gently placed it in the corner, away from the student shoes that would soon be invading, and back with (I'm sure) countless other ant friends.

When we went back inside the classroom, his friends were all back at work, diligently putting the finishing touches on their beautiful creation.

Today, more than ever, I am so glad that I get to spend my days with the nature lovers, and the artists, and the talkers, and the rule followers, and the thinkers, and the watchers, and the doers, and the bossy ones, and the curious ones, and the organized ones, and the free spirits, and the risk-takers, and the problem-solvers, and the leaders.

And of course, the ant eaters.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wear The Pink Dress

I wish I could turn it off.  But I'm somehow drawn to the stories and the people and the tragedy.  I'm thinking it's because no matter how many times I hear it or what new information I learn, I just can't make sense of it in my mind.  If it somehow made sense then I could rationalize it all.  But I can't.

This morning when I arrived in my classroom, I was so happy to be there.  I was anxious to see my students.  The teachers were prepared, as we are every day to teach, nurture and take care of each student.  We would get as much strength today from them as they got from us.  I noticed the teachers held their gaze a bit longer when greeting each other this morning.  Parents gave us hugs and pats and looks of confidence and trust.  Our principal was omnipresent, as was the feeling of unity and safety.  It made me very proud to be a teacher today.

One of the stories that resounds with me is the story of Charlotte Bacon, who would have turned 7 in February.  On the morning of the shooting, Charlotte had begged and pleaded with her mom to wear a new pink dress and white boots that had been bought for the holidays.  Her mother finally relented and Charlotte was probably on top of the world as she arrived at school in her new dress and boots.  I can picture the bright smile on her face, the proud look in her eyes.

Today, I thought of the many times I had not allowed my own daughter to wear that special outfit or get her ears pierced when I thought it wasn't time or she was too young.  I thought of special things even I have "saved" for a special occasion.  The special piece of jewelry or the favorite sweater or shirt.  The new pair of shoes or coat that I would wait to wear.   Silly things, like a new baking sheet that I have saved for a special time to bake.

I'm sure Charlotte's mother was so grateful that she allowed her daughter to wear the new dress and boots to school on Friday.  I think we can all learn an important lesson from her.  After all, what are we waiting for?

So let's go ahead and wear the new pink dress.  And the new boots.  That special tie or shirt.  Let's use the new bowl or carry that special purse.  Let's write with that special pen on that beautiful paper.

Tomorrow, I'm gonna wear the new coat I've been saving for a special occasion.   Because it is a special occasion.

It's Tuesday.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Horror Of It All

Today, while we were all tucked safely in our classrooms, a horrible tragedy was taking place in Newtown, Connecticut.  Today, while we were reciting the Pledge and taking attendance and lunch, and telling kids about the day ahead, teachers in Newtown, Connecticut were heroically trying to save lives.  Today, while our day went on as normal and we looked forward to the weekend, the people in Newtown, Connecticut's lives changed forever.  

Like other teachers in my building, I knew nothing of what had taken place.  During the day, we live in a kind of "bubble" in our own little world.  At the end of the day, we escorted our students to the buses and cars, like we do every day, and wished them a great weekend.  Not until I got into my car and turned on the radio did I know anything about what had happened today.  I am horrified.  Twenty students.  Teachers and adults.  Gunned down in a school classroom.  I almost had to pull over to the side of the road as the radio spewed horrific details of the shooting.  I felt sick to my stomach.  I had an overwhelming urge to hear my daughter's voice. 

My first instinct was to empathize with the families, students, and staff at the school.  How would you ever be able to grasp such horror?  Secondly, I began to visualize my school, and more specifically, my classroom and what I would do if anything like that ever happened in my school.  Would I be able to stop it, or save them?  I pictured the hallways, the window in my room, and the desks.  I could see the room key I have hanging by the emergency procedures book by my door.  I vowed to really look over every inch of my classroom on Monday morning.

As a teacher, our first responsibility is to keep our students safe.  They are our 'family', our kids, we care about them.  What would I do if I couldn't protect them?  If the evil that came could not be stopped?  Schools are supposed to be happy places, filled with the laughter of kids.  They are not supposed to be places with guns and shootings and death.  But not today.

There was no way I could post today about amusing student stories or silly little anecdotes.    I think we all are shocked and saddened by this latest school shooting.  I think we all are feeling a little less safe and protected.   But time will pass and Newtown, Connecticut will no longer be in the news.  People will pick up and move on, like they always do.  Because life goes on.  

When I got home and checked my email it was comforting to see an email from our superintendent reminding us that he knew this would be difficult for all of us.   And there also was an email from my daughter.  She had heard of the shootings earlier in the day and was making sure I was okay and reminding me to be safe.  

So, let's remember to keep each other safe.  Let's watch out for each other and help each other in any way we can. Let's hug our kids a little tighter, and if they aren't nearby, let's call and tell them how much we love them.   You can't prepare for a tragedy like today because the thought of something that awful can not even be imagined.  But in the world we live in today, we can't take our safety for granted. 

Because sadly, you just never know.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Smile Gram

Today my class and I began our first school positivity project for the year a.k.a. "C.A.K.E."  Anyone in the education field knows you must have an acronym for everything you do, so I'm following suit.  So, I introduced the acronym to my class this morning and asked them if they could guess what it might represent.  We had already talked about trying to make our classroom and school more positive/happier this year by performing random acts of kindness (R.A.K.)   After a lengthy discussion on what the word random means (that's tougher than you might think)  as well as ways to show kindness, we were ready.  

Students were anxious to guess. As expected student guesses ranged from cool to California (yes, really) for the C, which in fact stands for "Classroom".   Most of the additional letter guesses were either misspelled or way off target, so I began writing it on the board.  

C.A.K.E.  =  Classroom Acts of Kindness Every Month.  

"But shouldn't that be C.A.K.E.M.?" one bright student corrected.  And then everyone in the room practiced saying that out loud until I interjected. 

"Well, technically you're right, of course," I said.  "But doesn't CAKE sound more fun than CAKEM?"

Our first C.A.K.E. was making little "Smile Grams" for a classroom of students.  Naturally, I chose my BFF's classroom for our first little positivity attempt. Besides her being my BFF, it's a class of little first graders and I was sure they would be quite happy with our little paper gifts. 

I showed the students an index card cut in half and displayed my sample.   The white side of the card declared in bright marker:  SMILE GRAM.  On the back I printed:  Have a wonderful day!  How could you be more positive than that?  I instructed the students to think of short, fun, positive words to write on their Smile Gram.  They were anxious and eager to get started.  "Any questions?" I asked.  Nope.  They were excited to start and that combined with the very limited amount of time they were given kick-started them into action.  

After several minutes I heard a student ask another student, "Who's this Gram anyway?"
(insert chuckle)
In a teacher's world, this is commonly referred to as a miscue.  Although I thought I had covered every part of the activity, I never even thought to explain 'gram' as being like a telegram. And then I thought to myself, they wouldn't even know what I was talking about if I said telegram.  

"Does anyone know what a telegram is?" I questioned.  Twenty-two perplexed little faces looked at me.  They were stumped. Hmmmmm.....   "Well, it's kind of like a message or a short letter.. but sent with electronic signals.. that.. " I continued.  Now, I'm old, but even I don't really know much about the telegraph machine.  

"Oh! So you mean it's an email!" screeched one excited little one.

"No! She means it's like a text!" corrected another tech savvy student.

"Well, not really.  It's more like a FAX, maybe," I explained. 

"A what??" asked three or four students.  

"A FAX.  You know.  It stands for facsimile, which means making a copy of something and you send it through a special machine/copier and it converts it to a special code and then it travels through the telephone wire.. and..."  a couple of beads of sweat popped onto my forehead.   By now a good percentage of the class had tuned out and were coloring their paper projects and probably figured I was just rambling.  And I was.
I ended with, "If anyone wants to talk more about the telegraph or FAX machine come and see me and we can find some information to answer your questions."

Silence, but for the sounds of pencils coloring. 

"Let's finish up," I instructed.  "Remember, we are just writing little notes to surprise students and help make their day brighter!"   Geez.  I could have saved myself a lot of time and explaining had I just said all that in the first place.   

At recess time, when the little first graders were away from their room, some students and I delivered the Smile Grams to the desks of our unsuspecting targets.  No word yet on the reaction of the students.  We were only hoping for some smiles, so hopefully it worked.   

Two things struck me today as I reflected on the day.

A: I'm getting really old and now remember things that nobody under the age of 40 knows.

B: Technology is moving at lightning speed and changes so quickly that things from even ten years ago are already replaced and out of date.

I think I'll look on the positive side and go with B.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Positivity Pays

Mondays are always hectic.  It's the start of a week and there's always so much organizing, copying, planning, and preparing for the week ahead.  That's in addition to the couple of hours (minimum) put in over the weekend. So, I headed in to school today arriving a bit ahead of my usual schedule to complete my Post-it note of "to do" items always in my planner.  Unlike many Mondays in the past, this year I haven't been as gloomy due to my positive attitude.  I am a true believer in this whole attitude thing since I'm living it first hand this year.  It works!

Check! Check and Check!  I quickly finished up the things I needed to complete to make for a smooth day.  I even had some extra time to chat with a few teacher friends about their weekend.  And then I spent the last twenty minutes before the bell rang looking for a sample animal report from last year to show to my students.  If you are a teacher, you can empathize.  Some days I feel like I look for missing/misplaced things for at least an hour a day.   After becoming frustrated and not being able to locate above mentioned item, I gave up.  Instead of becoming irritated at myself for not being able to find it, I decided to not let it get to me.  It would show up. It always does.  The fact that I spent at least twenty hours over the summer organizing and re-organizing my classroom cabinets and files was disappointing.  And, I am one of the organized teachers.

The bell rang and students poured in, happily sharing stories about their weekends and getting started on their day.   Not long afterward, a colleague came into my classroom and placed something on my desk.  She smiled brightly. 

 Here is what I discovered:
It read:  You spend so much time blogging.... we haven't seen a cupcake!!

For a time (last year) my daughter and I were baking cupcakes and trying new recipes.  The staff lounge was where many of our samples ended up.   It make me laugh and smile to receive the note.  It also made me want to bake some cupcakes and try the recipe she had attached.    But, as you can see, nowadays blogging takes priority.  It does take more time to blog, but it is fat-free!  

Later that same morning another teacher friend arrived and placed something on my desk.  Yes, you are correct.  Those are homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Two of them.

I anxiously awaited other teachers to arrive later today since this seemed to be my lucky day, but I guess I shouldn't be greedy.    I saved my cookies for the end of the day.  I gave one to a student and kept one for myself to eat on the way home.  As you might guess, they were absolutely delicious.  

I'm finding that being positive pays off in many ways.  Not in dollars, of course, but with cookies and friendly notes. It pays off with smiles and good attitudes and good old fashioned fun. It pays off with friendship and support and working together.  It pays off with more laughter, in my classroom and the school.

And it doesn't get much better than that.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Sound of Silence

It's rather an eerie feeling, almost, to walk into a classroom at the end of the day when the students are gone.  Today, for some reason, I was particularly struck by the complete and utter silence of my classroom.  The talking and laughing that had been there just minutes before was entirely gone.  Eerie, I tell you.   To add to this feeling, my hallway teacher friends had been in a meeting today and their subs had left with the kids. Silence.  

I took a moment to look at the vacant desks and the filled walls of my classroom. I see them every day, but my room is like a second home to me; sometimes I don't stop and really look.  I glanced at the desks.  Each desk tells a story of the student that occupies it.  A desk with crumpled papers shoved inside.  A desk with each item stacked neatly.  A desk bursting with colored pencils and markers.  A desk with, not one, but two name tags.  A desk with a pack of antibacterial wipes. A desk with the smallest pencil I've ever seen sitting on top.  A desk with so many things teetering that the slightest movement would dump it all onto the floor.   I smiled.  

Suddenly, I didn't want to be there any more.  It was too quiet for me.  I grabbed my coat and bag and headed for the door.

Once in my car I started for home.   On the radio was "Call Me Maybe", which if I hear one more time, I think I'm going to lose it, so I switched the channel.  On came Simon & Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence".  Really?   Am I in some freaky sort of time warp fourth dimension?  I abhor Simon & Garfunkel, which oddly is one of my husband's favorite groups.  [side note]  I took him to their concert years ago when we were dating and held on until "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" began.  What an utterly ridiculous song. If you don't believe me, listen to that one again.   After almost two excrutiating hours of two men and guitars, I told my husband I couldn't take it and I'd wait for him in the lobby.  He stayed for every single minute of every single encore (they played 6).   So my first reaction when I heard their song on the radio was to change the station.   But I didn't.  Don't ask me how, but I knew and sang every word to the song.  I instantly felt buoyed and saddened by the music at the same time.  

When I got home I googled the song and found it was written by Paul Simon in 1964 in the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.  I read all the lyrics for the first time and found it very moving.  I dare say I even liked the song.  And even felt a bit differently about Simon & Garfunkel.  Now I certainly won't be attending another one of their concerts, but today did change my perspective a bit.

I know when Monday morning arrives, the students will once again fill my classroom with talking and laughter (and sometimes arguing) because that's what a classroom is. 

A classroom is alive with noise and empty with silence.

Listen to Sound of Silence

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Positive Peeps

I want to dedicate this blog to all my teacher friends (and non-teacher friends) who help remind me every day to look for the positive.  They do this with their attitude.  They do this with their smiles in the hallway when we pass one another.  They do this with a wave of the hand across the Media Center or a shout into my classroom as they arrive in the morning and pass by.  They do it when they remind me it's almost Friday.  They do it when they send a student over to my room with a little gift or note.  They do it when they ask if I'm feeling better when I've been sick.  They do it when they offer help and support.  And one special teacher friend even makes a point to stop in each day with a big smile and a cheerful "hello"!  [read between the lines: my BFF]  

Without all of you, I wouldn't be able to maintain this self-imposed year of positivity! I would have probably thrown in the towel around day twenty (remember conferences, Ice Cream Social, Curriculum Night, new kids, new parents, new school year?). For  128 days I have tried to purge every negative or not so nice comment or thought from my mind and replace it with something positive.  Has it always worked?  Sadly, no.  But what matters is I am so conscious of it that I no longer allow myself to continue down the path of negativity. It may not work every time, but it's pretty close.  Now, I'm smiling more and when I smile I mean it!

I find when I am in conversations with other teachers, as soon as the dialogue takes a more negative turn, one of us will say, "That's not being very positive!"  or "Let's be positive!" and before you know it we have switched the course of the conversation.  Some teachers see me and say, "Oh, here comes Miss Positivity!"  or they tell me when they see me it reminds them to be positive I'm like a giant, flashing neon billboard screaming out:  ** P - O - S - I - T - I - V - E ** .

In addition to being happier and more positive, I've also learned a heck of a lot about blogs.  I know how to add videos and links and pictures.  I can change the layout and put gadgets on my blog.  I've done countless hours of writing and researching and looking at other blogs and articles about the power of positivity.   I've learned that I really enjoy writing, and although I'm certainly not going to write the "Great American Novel", I will at the end of this year make a hardcover version of my blog (yep, I've already figured out how to do this).  I'll put it on my shelf and pat myself on the back.

So, with many more days yet to go, I'm thanking you all in advance for your continued help in my quest to stay positive

Without all of you, this would not be possible.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Feedback Needed

Please help me out.  On the poll (top of blog and to the right) I'd like you to select which type of post you prefer reading.   I've listed one of the posts for each category in case you need to take a look before voting.   

I'd really love some feedback and I am interested in your comments!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sick Day

Every job is more difficult when you are not feeling well, but as a person who has had several careers, I have to say that teaching is by far the most difficult job to do when you are not up to par.  When I had jobs in computer systems support or corporate training and I wasn't quite at 100%, I would just have to sit at my desk and do the very minimum.  I could do "easier", less intense work.   I could get up at any time and get a drink of water or use the bathroom.  I could go home and not have to worry about writing sub plans and gathering everything together so the day could go on as normal for the kids.   As a teacher we are very time constrained.  When that bell rings at 9:05 a.m. we teachers are standing in the doorway greeting students and keeping order in the hallways as students arrive.  For the next seven hours, we are in constant motion as we teach, escort, monitor, advise, help, and supervise twenty-something little ones. 

Last Friday and today, I wasn't feeling very well.  I've had some kind of virus, which apparently was contracted from one of the four students I had out sick today.  Two students went home sick on Friday and I took extra precautions to clean their desks with an antibacterial wipe.  It didn't help.  I managed to make it through Friday by repeating to myself that it was Friday and watching the clock trying to hang on. Several students noticed and asked me if I was OK.  I told them I wasn't really feeling too well.

"Me either," groaned one little girl as she patted her stomach. "My stomach feels really, really weird."  [Note:  she was out today]

 I flip-flopped between freezing cold and so hot I felt like I was under a burning sun.  So, naturally, last Friday I had car duty, which meant I had to help assist students into cars and keep the wildness to a minimum near the car lane.  And let me tell you, that's no easy task on a Friday afternoon.  Hang on, I kept reminding myself.  Stay positive!  You'll have two whole days to relax and get better.   

Finally home, I practically went straight to bed with the hopes that Saturday I would wake up rested and 100% healthy.  Not the case.  I ended up feeling pretty sick the entire weekend.  I missed the staff holiday party.  I didn't get to decorate my house like I had intended.  For the first time this year, I didn't even look at my school bag of "stuff".  

So, today I went into school and prepared my plans for the day.  I got to listen to all the fun stories about the staff party I missed.  Some people even told me they missed me and  was sorry I was sick.  My stomach felt pretty much back to normal.   Business as usual.

I don't think many people truly appreciate the little things us teachers do each and every day.  We stand on our feet for hours.  We bend and squat down to little kid levels to talk and help.  We listen intently to stories that don't really interest us.  We spend our recess time helping  that student who always needs extra help.  We zip coats and find lost mittens.  We open water bottles and help with band-aids.  We help find just the right book.  We get them to the office when they are sick.  We compliment students on their accomplishments.  We listen and we care.  

Even when we're sick. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Private Parts

There were two times today when I found myself laughing out loud due to funny student remarks.  And I mean the true, LOL, where I really, truly laughed.  Not just a chuckle.  What's even better were the looks on the kids' faces when they heard me laugh at something. They first looked to see if I was really laughing, and once that was confirmed, they joined in whole-heartedly.  It was a little laugh-fest in my classroom a couple of times today.  Positive vibes were everywhere. 

Now I know I can't just throw this out there and not tell you what it was that was so hilarious, so here goes.  

Laugh #1
One of my boys was showing pictures from his recent trip to the Bahamas on the document camera at lunch.  He had done a spectacular job of printing out some pictures and including wonderful captions.  After we had all finished "oohing" and "ahing" over the gorgeous beaches and animal photos, the student interjected a little fun fact.  And he prefaced it by telling us all he now had a "fun fact" for us. [smile]   The class and I held our breath waiting for this exciting tidbit of knowledge. 

"I'll bet you didn't know that the Bahamas used to be called Hog Island, did you?"

Hmmmm.... well... no I didn't know that.  Neither did twenty-one other little ones who suddenly wanted to understand why in the world anyone would name anything Hog.  And so it started. 

"Why was it called Hog Island?"   (repeat this about twelve times with different stresses on different words in the sentence.) 

Numerous ideas were thrown out and were rejected or agreed with by others.  Suddenly one student jumped out of her seat.  

"I know why it was called that!!" she exclaimed.  "Because the guy that first found the island hogged it!" 

Now, I'm not sure why this was as funny as it was to me at that moment.  When I type it, it doesn't appear nearly as funny as it was in person.  Maybe you had to be there. 

Laugh #2
On to the afternoon of fun 3rd grade curriculum.  We have been learning about the Native Americans and had just read together some information on how much Native Americans respect the land and animals.  We were talking about how Native Americans only killed animals when they needed food and they would use all parts of the animal; nothing went to waste.  We talked about how they used the hides for clothing and the meat for food and the bones for tools, etc.   Now, remember, I told them they used every part of the animal.    Up goes a hand.  Two hands, three hands, and four.   One is waving frantically and soon this student is sitting up on their knees in their seat trying to call even more attention to himself so I would call on him. 

Hmmmmmmm.... I have been a teacher long enough to know that the frantically waving hand usually has one of two things behind it.  Number one:  a completely off topic story about last summer's vacation or number two: an inappropriate remark.   Should I risk it?  And so I did.

"You said they used every part of the animal, right??"  checked the student.
"Yes.  They didn't let things go to waste," I confirmed.
"Well, what did they do with the animal's... you know... the.... animal's... private parts?"  
[Student motions and looks down pointing at his private parts]

After a moment of frozen silence and twenty-two students watching for my reaction, I shrugged my shoulders, rolled my eyes a bit, and LOLed.  They joined in. 

"Good question!" I congratulated him.  And then I moved on to Native American wigwams at lightning speed.  

Now as a teacher there are certainly many times during the day when I hear funny comments or remarks.  I usually smile and even chuckle a little.  But today, I found it was easy, and even fun to just laugh out loud.  Could it be the more positive atmosphere in my classroom?? Could it be that I'm just open to having more fun and enjoying the moment?  

And on a side note, I did google it.  I read that Native Americans ate brains, intestines, and organs of animals (as people do today), but I didn't see anything about private parts.  Just in case you wanted to know.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Numbers Game

If you Google the word "positivity" you'll find in the neighborhood of 23,000,000 hits.  That's a lot of positivity, if you ask me.   As you can probably guess, the most hits were for dictionary type sites and Wikipedia.  I spotted a couple positivity blogs and eagerly clicked on them to see what they might have that my blog does not have (yet).  Not impressed with what I found there and naturally curious, I googled "positivity blogs" and found there are over 13,000,000!  Much to my dismay, after clicking through several pages looking for my blog, I realized that I'm not quite in that higher level of blogging to be in the top sites.  (sigh)

But, keeping on the positive side, I did read a couple of interesting articles about positivity, including one on the Psychology Today site which is worth the read.  You can find it here:

What Good Is Positivity?

I've added the book from above article to my "To Read" list, which admittedly, often doesn't occur until the summer months.  Something to look forward to.

Next I clicked over to Facebook, one of my personal top ten time wasting sites and where I've lately been sucked in by the popular "Words With Friends" game.  It's hard to tell how many sites have the word "positive" in them or related to them, because, well, because it's Facebook.  I checked a couple of what I thought were the more interesting ones out and even 'liked' one or two.  Most seemed to be more of the "Rah Rah" everything is wonderful kind of blog, which isn't something that interests me.  Although I've committed to the positive perspective, I certainly have no plans to go overboard with the whole thing.

Of course, I next went over to Twitter, which I am still trying to figure out how/why to use.  I searched for "positive" and when I saw the first result was one of Justin Bieber's tweets, I couldn't click out of the page fast enough!

Back for some numbers at my own blog and here's what I saw:

Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers

United States      2239
Russia                   18
Germany                11
France                   10
Sweden                 10
United Kingdom       7
Canada                   1
Dominican Republic 1
Spain                     1
Croatia                   1

OK, so maybe I'm not in the top Google searches for positivity, or blogging.   But, hey, I think getting hits from nine other countries is pretty cool.  And, Croatia?  I love that.

In other numbers news,  I have 40 posts (and that's a lot of time writing, let me tell you) and 98 comments, which are all positive.   I've been blogging roughly 98 days (well, o.k. not blogging all those days but the blog has been "alive" for about 98 days).

In case you didn't notice, I used the word positive eleven times in this blog -- a new blog record for me!

So, happy Monday!  Here's to many more blogs to come and many more visitors and comments!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pumpkin or Apple?

It's been so wonderful the past four days being on a break from school.  It's not that I don't like school; quite the contrary.  However, I do enjoy a longer break than a weekend every now and then.  It helps reenergize me.  I can take a few steps back and not have school, teaching, and planning on my mind constantly.  

This Thanksgiving, for the fifth year, we hosted my husband's children and their families for the weekend.  It's great to have a houseful of young children to share in the holiday.  This Thanksgiving, for the first year, my daughter flew home from Chicago and her first real job, started in September.  It's great to have her around for a few days as I don't get to see her regularly anymore.  This Thanksgiving, I applied my positivity and really worried less and enjoyed more.  It's great.   My daughter and I actually braved "Black Friday" and had fun, even when waiting in line to just get inside a store.  In years past, if I even ventured out to shop the day after Thanksgiving, I would be grumbling and complaining and highly annoyed.  This year, I actually could feel the difference.  Of course I might just be feeling a bit more positive because my daughter bought me two early Christmas presents and I treated myself to a new coat! 

So, as the hours seem to fly by and Monday morning is just around the corner, I'm going to take advantage of this precious time and enjoy it fully.  As we say our good-byes to family and I drop off my daughter at the airport to fly back to her new 'home' I'm going to remind myself how lucky I am.  

And for now, I'm going to especially relish in the fact that the most difficult decision I have to make for now is do I want pumpkin pie or apple?  Hmmmm.... I'm thinking I want a piece of them both.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pass the Mashed Potatoes

My Poem of Thanks

I'm thankful for colored pencils, and crayons, and such,
Not markers cuz I don't let the kids use them much.

I'm thankful for pencils freshly sharpened and new,
But not tooth marks on pencils that some students chew.

I'm thankful for Spanish, and music, and art,
But not when Senora has to come teach on her cart.

I'm thankful for gym and computer lab days,
But not all the recent hours of test filled haze.

I'm thankful for quiet and I'm thankful for noise,
But I don't like kids playing in their desk with toys.

I'm thankful for thinking and sharing and such,
But "shouter-outers" I don't care for much.

I'm thankful for hand made notes from a child,
But not when before vacations, they get a bit wild.

I'm thankful for field trips and being outside,
But I really don't enjoy those noisy  bus rides.

I'm thankful for support to let my creativity flow,
But I've had more 'bombs' than most will ever know.

I'm thankful for PTO and parents and others,
But I sometimes feel like I'm less teacher, more mother.

I'm thankful for snow days, they're always a treat,
But hate not being able to get down my street.

I'm thankful for clean desks and keeping things neat,
But I'm not a big fan when my room overheats.

I'm thankful for teacher friends I have in the hall,
But don't like getting interrupted by a student's call.

I'm thankful for positivity and my new "improved" mood,
But I'm worried that I still might get an attitude.

I'm thankful for recess and fire drills for a break,
But the paperwork is sometimes just too much to take.

I'm thankful for my job and the joy that it brings,
For it makes me so happy and lets my heart sing.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Remember to stay positive and enjoy the moment.  

And pass the mashed potatoes please.