My Daily Thoughts About Teaching
One of the things I’ve been struggling with as a blogger is finding meaningful things to write about. I love creating resources and offering helpful tips and tricks for educators, but it’s hard to know what to focus on…
I’m trying to find that crossroads of what teachers want to read about + what I have knowledge and experience in.
At any given time, I’ve got hundreds of ideas floating around…I just don’t often know where to start or how to pluck one of those babies out of my brain and turn it into something real.
So I started looking for tips to help sort out these ideas and turn them into blog posts. I stumbled onto the idea of daily “free writing,” where you simply set a timer for 10 minutes and start writing. No editing, no worrying about grammar, just getting your thoughts out. I love the whole idea of it, so I’m going to give it a try.
Free writing isn’t meant to be published, but I decided I would publish them for two reasons: first, so that these thoughts and ideas are easily accessible as I write my official blog posts. And second, so that people (if they’re so inclined) can get a glimpse into my teaching philosophy, my life story, and who I really am.
Maybe nobody will read them, and that’s okay.
But maybe somebody will and they’ll be able to identify with my thoughts. Maybe they’ll be inspired themselves. And if that’s the case, that would be awesome!
If that happens to be you, I’d love to hear your thoughts too! You can comment below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just a disclaimer though: These daily writings won’t be very polished. There won’t be any fancy images. They’re not necessarily written with the reader in mind (as in, they might be a little too honest). And there won’t be any rhyme or reason to the topics. I’ll probably add links where I think it’s appropriate, but otherwise, they’re just going to be 10 minutes worth of my thoughts as they come to me. If you’re ok with all that, then read on, my friend.
Feb. 17th, 2021: Why I’m Not Currently Teaching
Two or three years ago, I left my teaching job in a school I loved…with people I loved and administrators who valued developmentally appropriate practice. I left because it was a 50-minute commute each way and I got a job 7 minutes from my house in a district I *thought* I’d always wanted to work for.
It turned out I hated working there. I loved the other K teachers. I loved being so close to home. I loved the nice, new building. But their ideas about discipline were way different than mine. And their expectations of kindergartners was WAY too high. And I was belittled by someone in a position of authority and that still stings today – two years later.
Anyways, all that led me to feeling a little burnt out. And all those things I kind of glossed over became magnified – all the negatives that I didn’t pay much attention to before.
The next year, I went back to the place I loved. And in ways, I still loved it, but it just wasn’t the same. I was exhausted by things that used to energize me, like dealing with difficult students. I had one little guy last year that just about broke me. I would have loved to hang out with him one-on-one because he was such a cool kid, but it was really hard being his teacher. Really hard.
And I found myself wanting to just keep driving past the school when I pulled up in the morning. Not having the energy. And wanting to crawl into my bed when I got home at night. Not having the energy for my own family.
I realized that, while there are so many things I love about teaching, it’s an all or nothing job. It takes a LOT of energy to be a great teacher. And I wasn’t able to give my students, or my family, the level of attention they deserved. So I decided to stop teaching.
There are definitely times that I miss it, but I’m not yet at the point where I feel like I need to go back. Will it happen someday? Who knows. What I do know is that yesterday, I was able to take my daughter to her orthodontist appointment at noon, pick my son up from school at 3 and take him for a haircut, pick my daughter up from play practice at 4:45, take them both to Tae Kwon Do at 6:00, and go home to make dinner for them all. The thought of being able to do all that kind of makes me teary-eyed. Because when I was teaching, it would NEVER have been that way.
I think back to my son’s kindergarten year, when I was just a few doors down from him and I couldn’t attend his special events because I had my own class to teach.
Or my daughter’s first day of 1st grade in a new school, which was also my very first day of teaching…and I couldn’t even walk her into her classroom because I had to get to my own classroom in another building. I bawled the whole way, and *she* was the one who was comforting *me*.
I think about the day BOTH my kids won the district spelling bee for their grade levels and I couldn’t be there. Because I had my own class to teach.
Because teaching is an all-in job. And it took me 7 years to realize what I was sacrificing, and that I couldn’t do both. And gosh, I wish I could, like so many people seem to be able to! But it came to the point where I had to choose my family and my own well-being. So here I am.
Feb. 18th, 2021: What I Hope to Accomplish With Little Playful Learners
What I really am passionate about is making learning more fun and playful. My experiences have shown me that play and hands-on learning get kids excited. And when they’re excited, they’re gonna wanna do all the things. And when they do all the the things, they learn from it.
So with Little Playful Learners, my goal is to create fun and meaningful learning activities with the understanding that most schools don’t actually allow kids that much time to just play. They should…but that’s a topic for another time. What I want to do is provide ideas for activities and tips and tricks that make learning more playful. And I also want to advocate for real, true, free play in the classroom.
I have found that I love creating digital resources, so I want to make lots and lots of them. I dream of one day creating learning games like the ones you find on ABCya, but I have no idea where I would even begin to do that. Someday!
I also want to help teachers out. Yeah, I create and sell resources and with the intent to earn money. But that’s mostly because a) it costs money to have the software, clip art, fonts, and everything else it takes to create and b)I need to help support my family. But I’ve actually researched things like “How to make money by giving away free stuff.” I wish I knew how I could get my stuff into the hands of teachers without them paying for it, but still making the money I need to be able to continue doing it? Something to ponder.
With Little Playful Learners, I want to inspire people. I want to build relationships with people and have conversations and I want people to tell me what they want ME to create or how I can help them. I’m still trying to find the best way to make this more of a two-way thing…Facebook group? Something else? I’m not sure…all I know is I am NOT good at Facebook and Instagram. I really don’t know what to post that’s meaningful there and barely ever get interaction and I always feel like an imposter because it’s just not my style. Finding something that fosters two-way communication would be huge.
February 19th, 2021: What Excites Me About Education
Although I’m not currently teaching, there are still things that really excite me about education, like the doors that have been opened up with distance learning. Yes, it was really hard at first – and probably still is in ways – but I think it also made teachers come up with new ways of teaching that they maybe wouldn’t have tried before. And those new ways can be used when school goes back to “normal.”
I myself never would have known how amazing Seesaw is for actually assigning activities. Before covid hit, I only used it for taking pictures of students and sharing them with families. But then we *had* to start using it for assigning work and I was surprised at how much it could do! So I love, love, love creating Seesaw activities now and am excited for it to become a more powerful part of in-person classrooms too.
I’m also excited about the research that’s out there on play and the people that are advocating for bringing it back into schools. I don’t know what happened to developmentally appropriate practice, but it makes me so sad how many schools don’t allow for play or rest time in kindergarten. It wasn’t long ago, at least in MN, that kindergarten was still half day. Anyways, I’m excited that I can spend time researching and advocating for play for little learners…I just have to figure out where to start!
I’m excited about Teachers Pay Teachers and how it has given educators instant access to any kind of resource they could possibly need. Yes, it’s been around for awhile, and yes, there are plenty of low-quality resources there…but the idea that you don’t have to create from scratch is so awesome.
That goes for other types of technology too. Like with Seesaw, there are so many other apps & websites that have made access to learning materials so much easier. Epic Books, YouTube, Pinterest, Scholastic Let’s Find Out, Learning A-Z, ABCya, teacher blogs…I could go on and on….
And it’s all exciting because it continues to grow and morph and it’s hard to even imagine what’s next. It’s wasn’t that long ago that I was in college (8 years or so) and none of this stuff existed…or if it did, I hadn’t heard of it. I used Pinterest a lot, but also relied heavily on lesson plan books to find what I needed. It’s crazy now to imagine having to find and dig through books to find the perfect lesson plan (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE books…they’re just not the most effective way of finding information anymore…).
So while teaching is getting harder in a lot of ways in terms of expectations and the social/emotional needs of students, there are other things that have really revolutionized teaching. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Feb. 20th, 2021: Distance Learning Ideas
All of my most popular blog posts have to do with distance learning or Seesaw, which tells me that’s what I should be focusing on….and now I need to find some more ideas.
One thing I can write about is how to get kids learning AWAY from their computers at home. I think that’s one of the biggest complaints from families – at least from what I see on social media – that their kids spend all this time sitting in front of the computer, getting bored and/or frustrated.
So now I need to brainstorm some ideas for getting them up and moving, but still learning…especially now that spring is just around the corner.
One great way to get kids away from their computers is to get them doing their learning outside. They can go on scavenger hunts, nature walks, use natural materials as manipulatives, like rocks or sticks. So they could do a math activity outside using those items. They could use sidewalk chalk for TONS of things…I bet I could write a blog post on that topic alone. They could write words or sentences in mud or sand (or, in MN, snow still). Or build them with sticks or rocks.
Another way to get them learning away from their computers is to use household items as manipulatives. Silverware, clothing, toys, etc, like in the Home Learning Hands-On math.
Or to play games – make them educational like sight word Jenga. I could write a whole blog post on using a deck of cards for learning – both math or literacy. I could do the same for dice games. I’ve already written one about sight word cards – I could write one about number card games.
There are tons of ways to foster their writing skills around the house – writing grocery lists, making signs, labeling objects with sticky notes, creating a menu, journaling, keeping a journal between themselves & a parent or sibling.
Project based learning would be a great idea too…posing some parameters for a project and letting kids & families come up with their own project. Though that might be difficult for some families – but you could make it simple enough for the students to do independently.
I think this will be my focus for the next several weeks. And the cool part is, they can still use Seesaw to show their learning…they don’t necessarily have to complete a whole activity in Seesaw…but they can easily take pictures of their work or record themselves talking about what they did.
Feb. 21st, 2021: Things I Miss About Teaching
What I miss most of course is the kids. Being a kindergarten teacher brings so much joy because the kids are so eager and so easily impressed. Well, most of them anyways…
One time, I was doing a turkey art project with my class and I was showing them how to take a little orange square and fold it in half corner to corner to make a beak. And this little guy just shouts, “I LOVE YOU, MRS. GLADE!” like he had never seen anything to magical in all his life.
That story for me perfectly sums up the joy of teaching kindergarten. That and reading The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak – oh my lanta.
It’s such a powerful thing to be able to spend your days with all these kiddos and give them experiences they’ve never had. To laugh with them. To teach them new things. To show them what they’re capable of.
I always loved, on the last day of school, going back to their very first emergent reader and reading it as a class…with the 3 word sentences and rebus pictures. Then reading the last emergent reader with a couple sentences per page and words they have to decode. That tangible evidence blows them away…being able to say, “This is what you accomplished this year” and having them be so shocked to see the difference because the learning happens so gradually.
And it’s all those in-between moments…when a student reads their first CVC word or writes a word phonetically that actually has the correct beginning sound or ending sound, or both.
It’s the times you get to laugh together and do silly things. It’s the affection you get. Those are the things I miss.
My 10 minutes is up now, but I was just thinking about one of the most impactful moments I had as a teacher…I think that’s what I’ll write about tomorrow.