Friday, September 28, 2012

New Look

I was feeling so positive today that I decided to spice up the blog with some new colors and layout.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I have taken a few days away from the blog, because, quite honestly, I haven't been very positive lately.  Kind of a 'crash and burn' after the first three weeks of happy, smiling, days.  The higher you climb, the harder you fall kind of action in play.  And I did fall.  Suddenly, the classroom full of anxious, excited, mannerly eight year olds looked more like   an unruly crowd of hyperactive, talkative kids. All at once, getting up at 5:45 a.m. in the morning, picking out nice clothes, blow drying my hair, applying make-up (and all the other stuff you don't have to do so early in the morning in the summer) seemed painful.  In the blink of an eye, the paperwork seemed overwhelming.

Bottom line - I was becoming irritable and not very positive.  I knew something had to be done.  I had promised myself that this was going to be a year of mind over matter -  being and staying in a positive frame of mind.  How could I possibly be such a failure as to not be able to keep with this goal for more than three weeks?  Yikes.  

So first I tried to think of some little things that would make me feel more positive and happy.  Things like having no school on Wednesday.   It was almost October.  The weather was getting cooler and the leaves were changing.  That worked for a few minutes. 

Next, I put a poll on the blog to see if other teachers were still feeling positive this year.  Results showed that 66% of teachers that responded are feeling more positive every day.  And nobody answered "not so much".  That should help make me feel better, right?  And then I saw only nine people responded to the poll.  So then I started moping around the house thinking nobody reads this blog anyway.  It didn't help that my husband told me he responded to the poll.  He's not a teacher.  Then he told me that he's feeling more positive this school year because I'M more positive.

Finally, I decided to take it the kids.  Since they always seem so positive, I figure they must know something I don't.  Sure they don't have bills to pay, a job,  and the heavy weight of being an adult on their shoulders, but they deal with their own little kid things every day.  I'm sure some playground issues rival problems of some adults.  And they are usually smiling.  And so I asked them, "How many of you are feeling happy and positive today?"   As you might guess twenty-one out of twenty-two hands shot into the air.  Most had big smiles on their faces. 

I zeroed in on the insubordinate.  "Well," I asked.  "How about you?"   
He froze.  Clearly he had been paying no attention and was somewhere off in his happy place.  He had a 50/50 chance of responding the way he thought I wanted.  Thankfully, his little friend across the room was shaking his head quite vigorously up and down. 

"Yes!" he exclaimed, as he breathed a sigh of relief.

100% happy, positive feeling kids.
But this wasn't going to help. Simply asking little kids if they are feeling positive is like asking teachers if they like summer.  What to do?   So I continued.
"I'd like you to take some time and think about what makes you happy and positive about your day."

The responses were mostly what you'd expect from 3rd graders.  Honest.  And simple. They are happy and positive because they don't worry about the little things.  They do what they are supposed to do.  They try to be nice to everybody.    And it worked.  I grabbed onto the idea that I need to worry less and be happy more.   I'm gonna give it a try anyway and see if it sticks. 

 I think Bobby McFerrin said it best.              CLICK HERE

Friday, September 21, 2012


So, I've made it through three Fridays and I'm still feeling positive about the year ahead and my class.  Today, I was watching my twenty-two little 3rd graders playing chess  at the end of the day, with classical music playing from Pandora and I realized there is no other place I would like to be.  What a fantastic job I have!   In the course of seven hours  today, I got to go out to recess and be pushed on a swing (a beautiful fall day), help a student color in one of the Great Lakes (as he told me about fishing on Lake Michigan), listen to several students tell me about their weekend plans (soccer, football), question a student on just why yellow is a happy color, help three students tell time, guide students through an interactive Scholastic News magazine (where current events come alive), conference with several students about their writing, hear five students read to me, watch other students jump in to help a student, and get a hug from a shy student as she left for the weekend. I've been in the business world and worked with adults.  I think kids are way more fun. I left today knowing that the year ahead would be a good one.

Now, back to the focus of my blog -  positivity.  How am I managing to stay positive every day?   Of course, it goes without saying that staying 100% positive all day every day is not possible.  Just ask the teachers in my hallway. I still grumble on occasion.  I still get tired sometimes of the paperwork and the little details.  I still roll my eyes and shake my head at things. I still enjoy gossip.  But I am learning to stop myself and conjure up a positive thought when feeling negative.  I am trying to appreciate everything, no matter how small.  

Today, for example, I saw a teacher in the hallway and she said just seeing me reminds her to be more positive.   Teachers that read my blog are associating me with being positive and if that helps them even for a few minutes, I'll take it.  I'd much rather others see me as a positive influence than the alternative.  

I'm also excited that when I checked my blog stats (yep, I can see how many people are actually reading the blog, what time, and what day) I noticed that there have been over 1,000 views!   Wow!  Talk about feeling positive!   I started the blog for my own personal reasons, but it's very energizing to know that other people are reading the blog and enjoying it also!  There is even someone from Alaska reading!  (Yes, it tracks where people are reading from also!)     Thanks to all of you who continue to promote the blog to your friends and family. 

So, the challenge continues for all of us to stay positive.  I don't know about you, but I'm already having a great year.  And as long as you are reading, I'll be writing.   

Thursday, September 20, 2012

13 Days In

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” - Herm Albright

Please take a moment to respond to my poll.  (top of the blog page)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is it October Yet?

As mentioned in a previous post, September hits teachers like a lightning bolt.  One minute you are home relaxing with a book wearing flip-flips making sun tea and the next you're catapulted into the month of September.

 It looks/feels like this:


So, needless to say, it's been very challenging to remain positive every day with so much going on.  We're all just hanging on for October.  The big, bright smiles of the teachers I pass in the hallway have faded just a bit.  The bounces in our steps are less bouncy.  But we are still smiling, we are still helping keep each other positive.  We all know that this is the time we all need it the most. And that it will pass.  We all will hold on to the positive, even on the days when it's seems impossible because we all are in this together.

Just think -  you only have 7 more (school) days until October. 

And as we all know, that's a whole new can of worms.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Unexpected Gift

These first weeks of school are a whirlwind of activities.  Ice Cream Social, Curriculum Night, conferences.  All in addition to getting to know the students and establishing clear routines in the classroom.  Getting up early.  Standing on high heels all day.  Hearing your name on repeat 1,000 times a day.  But it's all good.  

Thursday, after a particularly exhausting day in the classroom (and quite honestly, not feeling very positive), I came home, and went to the mailbox as I walked the dog --  my daily routine.  The dog is so excited to see me when I get home and all I want to do is get home, change into my sweat pants and park myself on the couch.  But, the dog awaits.  She's been home for nine hours and deserves a walk outside and some petting.  Duty calls!  Out to the mailbox to retrieve the usual bills, flyers, and junk mail.   

Imagine my surprise when inside the mailbox is an 8 X 10 package addressed to me!  I didn't order anything from Amazon lately.  Or Really Good Stuff.  Or anywhere, for that matter.   As the dog tugs on the leash, I rip into the package excited and curious.   How wonderful to receive an unexpected gift.  

And here's what I discover when I open the package:

 No note.  No return address.  A plain unmarked manila envelope.  This makes my day!   Where I had been feeling a bit negative and down -- simply opening this package has me doubled over with laughter and delight!  The real meaning of LOL is suddenly clear as I laugh my way down the driveway and back to my house.  
Who sent this?  What an extraordinary gift!  Did they know I would get this on a day when I needed it most??   Did they know just by opening this package, I would instantaneously become happier and more positive?? To make the gift even more special is the fact that it is a hard to find book on Amazon.  This gift took some effort and time to send.  How fabulous!  

Seeing this gift and knowing that somebody spent time and money to send it to me has me reinvigorated and inspired!  I must continue my quest to be positive and help others stay positive!  Suddenly, I now feel that this whole positivity thing is bigger than me.  There are other people who want to stay positive and be a part of this.

So, as the busy days continue in the week ahead, I will remember this unexpected gift.  

I look forward to reading the book when the whirlwind subsides.   Sometime in October.  

And to the person who sent the book:  Thank you

Monday, September 10, 2012

Two Juice Box Minimum

My top ten reasons why I sometimes feel like a stand-up comedian:

10.  I have a captive audience, sitting politely in their seats waiting for a show.

  9.  There are strict time limits for my "act".

  8.  I'm wired for sound.

  7.  I have lots of material but usually perform improv.

  6.  There's always a heckler or two in the crowd.

  5.  If my jokes aren't popular, I get immediate feedback.

  4.  I get a little nervous every day before I go "on".

  3.  Using props helps improve my show and engage my audience.

  2.  Our pay scale is similar.

And the #1 reason I sometimes feel like a stand-up comedian is ...

   1.  Timing is positively everything.

{Don't worry folks, I'll be here all week year}

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The "Real" You

With week #1 coming to an end last Friday, it started to become obvious that the students were feeling more comfortable in my classroom.  I was starting to get to know the "real" student. The quiet, polite, obedient little darlings of day one were changing. 
Now, as all teachers know, this can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.   

I noticed my voice needed to be a tad bit louder at times to get their attention.  But on the positive side, it was 2 1/2 days of school before I had to utilize the well-known counting backwards:  "5-4-3-2-1"  to get the class to quiet down.  Heck, I only had to count down to 3 before I had complete and utter silence.

I watched them veer out of line as we walked the hallways.  Where on Tuesday and Wednesday, I hardly needed to turn around and check (for I knew we looked like a mother duck with her ducklings following behind in a perfect row), by Thursday, things had changed.  One little rebel even walked backwards.   But on the positive side, not one student jumped up to try and touch the top of the doorways, ran into the walls,  or fell down.

I heard them laugh a little too loudly at my silly jokes and talk more amongst themselves when they should have been listening or working.  On the positive side, I love watching them make new friends and getting to know each other.  I love that I can have fun with them and kid around.  Their little conversations are always amusing.

And, as I was getting to know the students, they were also getting to know the "real" teacher.  I told them I expected a lot from them this year.  I reminded them that we had lots to learn and sometimes it wasn't going to be easy.  I informed them that this year one of my goals was to keep us all in a positive frame of mind.  

"How are you going to do that?" challenged one little heckler.

"I'm not going to do that -  WE are going to do that," I explained.  

As expected, they all beamed.  Kids love when you feed them with confidence.

After all, let's face it.  Being positive is natural for kids.  Through their little eight year old eyes, most things look happy and bright.  School is fun.   I didn't tell them that they would be helping me stay positive every day by just being the "real" them. They are going to be the little sparks that keep the flame lit.

So, all in all, I'd say it was a sensational first week of school.

Let's just hope the little sparks don't engulf their teacher in flames.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Another Day

Positive... Positive... Positive......

How can I arrive at school 1 1/2 hours early and still be startled when the bell rings? I couldn't be more prepared, more organized, more "ready" and then...    RINGGGG....   So much to do... so little time.

I have special stacks on my desk for things to take home, things to ignore, things to file, and "things".  Today as I cleared my desk off, I noticed that the "things" pile was over 5" high.   Not so good.  Especially on day two.  I remembered my mentor teacher from years ago telling me that when the stacks became too high, or were becoming too stressful, to slowly move them over near the garbage can and *whoops* (in they went).   "You won't miss them," she assured me.   She even demonstrated with a few piles on her desk.
You know what?  That was some of the most valuable advice I ever received.  

Today I was reminded of why teaching is both mentally and physically exhausting.  My feet hurt, my voice was feeling strained, and I felt like I had just completed a two hour class at Lifetime focusing on squats.  [picture squatting down by 22 desks to talk to kids all day]. Although I truly appreciate the leg work-out, it's all I can do to make it through the day.  And mentally, let's face it, there's just too much to go into.

Alright.. I know what you're thinking.  This blog is supposed to be about POSITIVITY.  Quit whining because you wore the wrong shoes (for the 2nd day in a row) or your job requires you to continuously  interact with shorter people than you.  On to the positive parts of today.

Hmmmmm.... ok.. you're gonna have to give me a minute.

Thank you to the teacher in my hallway who "talked me down" from my negative thoughts today.   I actively sought out her help and it was very effective.  I know we can all help each other and instead of moping about in my room and perseverating on things, this year I will go find someone who can help.  She helped me -- it worked!  Thank you!  You made me see and feel more positive.

Thank you to the AMPS teacher who was smiling so brightly I could see her all the way down the hallway as I paraded my little ducklings in a row.  It helps me feel happy and positive to know you are reading, and even enjoying my daily blogs.   I must admit, it adds a little pressure to my day, but I am ready for the challenge.  If you are reading it -- I will write it!

Thank you to my principal who asked me to show him how to make comments on my blog.  Any time your principal asks you to show him something is positive in my book.

And finally, when the end of the day rolled around, and the kids were as anxious to get home as I was, and one jumped off his chair (really??), and one spun around in circles until he fell on the floor, and one asked me for the forty-sixth time if she could "GO NOW", I dug deep inside.  I told myself it was all good.  I pulled every aching positive muscle in my body and I looked at these twenty-two little, sweet, innocent, positive, fun-loving students.
And then, thank God, the bell rang.

Tomorrow is another day.  Another day to be positive.  To be caring. To be a leader.  To be a friend.  To be a helper.  To be happy.   To collaborate.  To help.  To share.  To learn.  After all, what's the alternative?  And besides, it is, after all, Friday.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Multitasker Extraordinaire

On days like today, the first full day of school, it's easy to lose focus of my goal for the year:  Stay positive.   Especially when the day begins with a gazillion parents and students in the hallway eager to get started.  Twenty minutes before school officially begins. So, today we teachers put on our biggest and brightest smiles and politely asked the parents/students to wait in the front of the school or Media Center until the bell rings.  We nicely explained that we are extremely busy in the last minutes before the bell rings making sure everything is ready, and appreciated their help. Now, we could have grumbled and complained or shut our doors, but we decided to be happy and firm and set the precedent for the year ahead.  Again, in a positive way. It worked!

Once the bell rings in the morning, you instantaneously become a "multitasker extraordinaire".  That means instead of being capable of doing two things at once, you must efficiently handle forty-five. 

Let's review.
Twenty-one students arrive.  Three students hand you notes, which causes one student to get upset because he forgot his note at home and needs to call his mommy. Two students give you lunch money, one in change that she dumps from her hand into yours.  Five students are trying to show you their homework to elicit a "Great Job!" comment  and two are shouting,  "What homework?"  Thankfully you see six darling little ones seated and following the directions on the board.  This leaves the two students at the pencil sharpener experimenting to see just how long you can leave a pencil in the sharpener without something going haywire and why, exactly, I told them you couldn't sharpen a colored pencil in the electric sharpener.  Just when you've done your attendance on the new computer, in walks the late student to hand you his note, give you lunch money, and sharpen a few pencils.  Deep breath, big smile, and a positive attitude and we're off to a good start.  And this is only the first fifteen minutes of the day!

A couple of things in particular made my day more positive.  One was a comment from a co-worker who stopped me in the hall to tell me she is really thinking this whole positivity vibe around the school is making a difference.  She told me that this morning when she was starting to have a negative thought about something, she stopped herself and thought about it in a more positive way!  

The second thing that stands out to me from today came from a student.
She walked in this morning, bright smile on her face and pronounced to me (and the students flocked around me), "This is gonna be the best school year ever!"
I replied, "Really?  How do you know that already? It's only the 2nd day of school."
Student:  "I just have this happy feeling about this year!"  (even bigger smile)

If you ever need to get a positive boost in your day, chat with an eight year old.  
So, what did I do?  I hugged her.  And I told her wholeheartedly that she was right.  This will positively be the best school year ever.   And how do I know that already?  Because I just do. 

Many jobs require multitasking, but I doubt many are quite as fulfilling and fun as mine.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lights.... Camera... Action!

If you're not a teacher, or have never worked in an elementary school, there is nothing that even comes close to the first day back to school every September.  It's better than getting candy on Halloween.  It makes you feel special, like your birthday.   And there's more anticipation, excitement, and optimism than New Year's Eve.   Today, our first day back, was no exception.  In the fourteen years I've been a teacher, today was the smoothest, happiest, most positive first day back ever!   I'm liking this feeling around our school already!  

Now, this doesn't mean to say the teachers are sitting back emailing, blogging, or checking Facebook all day.  They have been preparing for the first day of school since they left in June.  There's something to be said for soaking up sun on the beach thinking about your plans for the year ahead, or catching up on some reading and visiting with old friends to revitalize yourself for the upcoming year.  Just because you don't see teachers in their rooms all summer doesn't mean they are not thinking, planning, and preparing.  If you don't believe me, just ask my husband.  He gets tired of me always saying no matter where we are or what we're doing, "I could use that [fill in the blank] with my kids next year!"  I also never tire of  the wild expression on a clerk's face when I tell her I'm buying these for "my kids" as she scans 24 mini super balls for my treasure box.  

As is typical for the first day back, I was wide awake at 5:00 a.m. this morning, excited and feeling very positive about the year ahead.   I couldn't wait to meet the 22 little 3rd graders who would arrive at my door. Really.  New faces.  New little personalities.  How fantastic!  I'd spent some time the night before memorizing their 2nd grade pictures from the yearbook, so I could greet each student by name as they arrived.  And just like many of the kids, I pondered my outfit for the first day and triple-checked my hair.   First impressions are so important.  I really wanted my students to like me and our classroom.   I wondered how many of my students were thinking the same thing.

So, let's recap the more positive parts of the first day back.

As I rounded the corner into my classroom this morning, all the chairs were unstacked and at each desk!  What a positive start to the day!  It was one less thing I had to do before the students arrived.  What a wonderful custodian to think of all us teachers and help us out.  When I thanked him after school, he told me he knew we had so much to do, he thought he'd try to help us out.  Fabulous!

As I breezed into the office, I received not one, but two hugs from our secretaries.  They were positively thrilled (or at least amused) with my shout out to them in my previous blog.   Awwwwww....  Now, as many of you know, I'm not a "hugger" but I'm beginning to think there's something to it.   

When the scheduled school recess was rained out, I didn't even hear the usual collective groan that comes from each classroom (and I don't mean just the teachers).   It was a positive, fun recess in every classroom as students played, talked, and got to know one another.  I also noticed that many teachers hung out in their rooms to spend the time talking to students and making sure things were running smoothly.

Standing in the hallway, it was a great feeling to have students from last year stop by, smile, give me a hug and catch up for a minute.  They beamed as they told me how excited they were about 4th grade.  Such a positive attitude as they begin a new year of learning. 

I cleared my desk off.  (That's a positive any day in my book).

And the most positive thing of all is that people just seem a bit happier around the building.  Now I'm not saying we all need to be skipping around with flowers in our hair, and bluebirds tweeting around our head (to quote a fellow teacher).  Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I think this can really last.  Maybe it's because it's just the first day back. But I challenge us all to keep it up.  Let's make this the best year ever.  

P.S.  Halloween costumes??