Sunday, August 18, 2013

The First of Many Firsts

       Well I survived! All I can say is that I'm so thankful we began school on a Thursday and not a Monday. I'm going to have to build some stamina, because I was absolutely exhausted by the end of this week! No major crisis, no missing children. Just sore feet and a coarse voice.

       I was definitely not prepared for the challenge my kindergarten friends would present. In attempts to lasso the potential chaos, we spent most of our time together on the floor in a very confined space. We learned about a serious medical diagnosis called the Tattle Tongue. I was surprised at how quickly this became relevant. We walked through how we would handle situations like when our friends didn't want to share their markers, and yet we still struggled when the boxes were opened. Mrs. Byrd forgot what time their class was done and lined them up 10 minutes early. A few friends even shed some tears. But all that being said, I am still so excited. I am mostly excited to watch the crazy amount of growth that will take place between now and May. I remembered that we really had more in common than I thought. It was their very first time in my art class, too. I realized, too, that I get to have these children for many years to come. So, there is no rush to start whipping out earth-shattering art work. It may mean that we practice taking our seats quietly, follow simple directions, clean up in an orderly fashion, and line up without pushing and shoving every week until Christmas. And that's okay, because once we get that right, we are going to be in excellent shape from then until they leave for middle school.

       I have absolutely loved getting to know all these kids and their quirky personalities. They really do say the funniest things. I was sharing my artwork with a second grade class. A drawing I had done depicted me with antlers. A kid raised his hand and asked why I had antlers. I told him it was always a dream of mine, and I thought they would be really handy. One of the girls chimed in "Yea! That makes sense! You could hang your lunch box on them." She said it in a matter-of-fact sort of way, too. I got a good laugh out of that!

       Being a specials teacher presents the issue of discipline and who is responsible. It's tempting to just dump a class and their behavior back on their teacher when they come to pick them up. But I definitely don't want to be that teacher who refuses to fight her own battles. I, too, have been trained in classroom and behavior management, so while they are in my room- their behavior is my responsibility. I appreciate that my school runs on positive reinforcement. I love how I can say "Friends I am looking for the table that can follow my directions that fastest," and immediately a competition of positive behavior breaks out. What's funny is there was never even a reward promised. They just did it! Any time a kindergartner raises their hand to speak, I acknowledge them and my appreciation for them raising their hand, and suddenly the others want that acknowledgement, too.

       Being around such an awesome group of teachers has really challenged me over the past two weeks. We have an awesome base of teachers that are so professional, mature, and positive. It can be tempting to join in when those few people mention "problem kids" or how something is unfair, but I'm resisting that as much as possible. It blows my mind that people would complain when we could be on the outside willing to do anything to be able to teach, especially in our district. I'm finding out quickly those negative conversations are toxic to our environment, and I can't be a part of them if I am going to be a successful teacher. I'm really learning that about in all facets of life right now. Victimizing yourself accomplishes nothing. We have to be willing to admit when we don't know the best way of doing something and someone else might. There is never any bad that comes from learning something new.


Monday, August 12, 2013

All Worth It

     It's been a long time coming, but I'm finally about to embark on my first day of school. This time, not as a student, though, but a teacher. And not just any kind of teacher... THE ART TEACHER. Ever since I was a little lady, I've marveled at my art teachers- fascinated by them. Fascinated by the fact that they got paid to hang out with me and make stuff. Even now, I look around at my room, which is awaiting the arrival of children on Thursday, and think "I get paid to make art with kids??!"

       My last few semesters of college were the most challenging thing I've ever encountered. A heavy, and I mean HEAVY, workload was complicated by the expectations of student teaching, planning a wedding, purchasing a home, and dealing with the expected transition from college to adulthood. I heard many times that this would "All be worth it when you have your own classroom." At times I even felt discouraged wondering if I'd even get a job, or worse, if I even wanted to be a teacher and if I could be a good one.

       Luckily, though, my God was so good to me. I had gone through some rough interviews before stumbling upon an elementary opening in what I believe to be the best district in the area with my principal from elementary school. Just two days after my interview, I received an email saying "Welcome to Voy Spears!" In an instant, it really did become "all worth it." As someone who ran on the fumes of anxiety for four years, I've never felt more relaxed and excited about life. Every night I ramble on and on to my husband about the ideas running through my head or the cool projects I found on Pinterest or the awesome conversation I had with another teacher.

       I am so inspired and encouraged by my coworkers in my building, in our district, and those I graduated with that are in their own district. There is a contagious passion for education and knowledge. My desire is that I would be that art teacher we all marveled at as kids. I teach art because it challenges me and my kids to use a completely different side of the brain, while building essential problem-solving skills. I remember when it clicked with me that we see an ellipse on the top of a glass, not a circle. That absolutely changed the way my eyes work. When every fifth grader leaves my room in May each year- I want them to have had that moment where they "see an ellipse."

       I can't wait to meet all my new little friends on Thursday and start questioning them and prompting opportunities for them to think like artists and really shine. I'm sure there is a time and place to draw snowmen in January and pumpkins in October (I'm sure I'll do this too :)), but if my coworkers down the hall are challenging these kids to think like readers, writers, mathematicians, historians, and scientists... they will think like artists during their window of time with me.

       So pray for me this week. Pray for the little eyes, ears, and hearts that will enter my room. Pray that I have an excitement and passion this great in May :)

       I'm beginning this blog as a way to reflect on my experiences and share them with my friends and family and as a resource for other teachers or people who want to be teachers. I have learned so much from blogs I have run across, and I believe collaboration is one of the most important pieces in education. I don't know it all, you don't know it all, and she doesn't know it all, but surely WE can know it all. "Beg, borrow, and steal" as Dr. Cuff always taught us.