Think before you stare…..

Being computer-less makes this whole blog thing a little harder so excuse my absence but this post has been well thought out and comptimplated at least. This is a post about this summer and an event that changed my mindset 

A little background for you: this summer I was back at the child care center as a summer camp teacher. I had refused to do this job last summer because of how miserable I was the summer before but I was convinced into retaking the position after a year hiatus. This year we had very young summer camp, which normally ranges in ages 6-12, most of the kids being 6-8. One of those students, we’ll call him student O, had some issues,those included getting overwhelmed and then having meltdowns. I got very good at de-escalating this child and noticing when he might be becoming overwhelmed and overstimulated but there were still those days where he’d come in upset and that would turn into a roller coaster of a day. All on top of having 25-30 students and 2 teachers in the room.

Now picture this student plus 25 others, at a public pool, on a hot summer Friday. It was crowed. It was a completely different pool then we usually went to on Fridays AND it was one of student O’s bad days. Bad enough that when he walked in I turned to my co-teacher and said I really hope he has his meltdown before we leave. Well, while at the pool I had noticed O seemed to be getting agitated. My co-teachers and I all made sure someone was within arms length, just incase, and it’s a good thing we did. O decided it was his turn on a facility provided pool toy and butted in front of a girl who was not with us and took his turn. The girl calmly waited as my co-teacher told O to get off. Finally the girl had enough and decided to hit O to try to get him off and that made an already agitated O more frustrated and he kicked her. My co-teacher immediately removed O and then the screaming started. It was at that point he got out of the teacher’s arms and went to the pool stairs. I followed but kept my distance. I calmly talked to O as he continued to scream  “get away from me” and ” leave me alone” but then he swatted at a random person walking into the pool and I decided it was time to completely remove him.

This is where thing get tricky…..O manages to sit on the edge near two women who were very obviously there with there kids and continued to yell. As I am picking him up I am also apologizing to them. I don’t know what I expected but the looks I got were not it. I didn’t expect anyone to know this child had a medical diagnosis to explain how he acted but I didn’t expect to get looks that basically said “would you shut him up” nor did I expect to hear wispers of ” what a spoiled brat. It took all my strength to control him enough to pick him up, still screaming and now kicking and hitting, and carry him away that I couldn’t even think to say anything. However here is what I would say.

I am sorry the child you see me with right now is ruining your perfectly good Friday. I am sorry I can not get him to stop yelling right this minute. I am sorry he is by you right now. I am not sorry if it seems like I am not doing enough to stop this “spoiled brat” because all I can do is put him at my feet and let him finish. I am not sorry that I took him to a public place knowing he may act like that. BUT I am definitely sorry you can not seem to understand that maybe this child has something going on nor do you get to see how awesome he really can be.

To the ladies who glared, I get it, I can’t say I necessarily blame you but imagine this was your child, what would you do? To the ladies who called him spoiled and a brat, he is actually the sweetest little boy when he isn’t having a meltdown. This isn’t his way of getting what he wants. To all of those parents who gave me looks of pity, please don’t, working with him has been a learning experience and I love it. To the people who gave me looks like I wasn’t doing enough. I’m strong, I can handle it like a pro, even if you don’t think I am. Sometimes a child just needs to cry it out. Finally to the lady who was sitting next to our chairs, where I removed O to to let him scream and cry it out, THANK YOU! Thank you for asking me politely if there was anything I needed, where we were from, and if he was ok. Your compassion meant a lot. Even your question about if the center was for “special children” showed your understanding. Your smile when O finally calmed down and just cuddled with me, meant a lot too. I know a lot of people there would have thought it was ridiculous I was coddling him after all that. Also, your comment to me about how I was a great teacher and I handled that well made my day. I truly love what I do, meltdowns and all, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So readers, what I hope you get from this is when you see that child screaming their head off in public, don’t immediately think the child is just unruly and acting poorly, for some kids it can’t be helped and though I am not a parent of one of these kids I learned just how those parents feel. It’s not fun, the looks, the whispers, all of it, is obvious and they know it’s happening and they know why. When something like that is out of your control yet you get all those things it can break you, make you second guess your actions, and that’s not fair.

We all judge, I know that, but now it’s time to really take into account that just because a child looks normal doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on.

SO readers, think before you stare…..

-ThatGirlWithATeachingDegree

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Words are a VERY Powerful Thing

Throughout my time working with children I’ve learned what you say makes a difference in a child in one way or another. Phrases said out loud can evoke any emotion you can think of.

For instance:it’s a snow day” tends to evoke happiness in students and teachers alike (and may cause a certain TA to do a happy dance when receiving the automated call telling everyone that)

But then there are phrases that tend to cause not so happy feeling.

Those are phrases I very rarely use but sometimes they are necessary to get a point across. The other week I used a phrase with one of my 5th graders that I have used with students maybe one other time. That phrase was “I am so incredibly disappointed in your actions”. This phrase came after months worth of warning and weeks worth of rewards for good behavior to ingrain the correct behaviors into this specific student. However, the week I said this had been the best week I had with this student until lunch that fateful day. I was not the only one completely done with the students behavior, the fifth grade team was also at its wits end. I didn’t truly realize how much those words would impact him though.

As I said that phrase and we talked about what happened I watched tears well up in his eyes. It wasn’t until then that I realized how much my opinion really meant to him (I would like to note I started that conversation with a positive and ended with a positive). As the conversation went on I reminded him how much of an amazing student he was but how if he continued to follow certain friends’ actions it would reflect badly on him. AND I MEANT EVERY WORD I SAID. I think that made the difference. It was obvious that I wasn’t mad but was disappointed and VERY OBVIOUS that I truly thought he was an amazing kid but needed to get his act together. Since uttering this phrase his actions have shown me he really is trying to act correctly. All kids are going to slip up but knowing that he wants to change for the better puts one big smile on my face (and yes sometimes he still gets rewarded for having awesome days but that’s just the type of teacher I am)

What is said will always affect those it is said to. Things like telling a three-year old you’ll talk to mommy or daddy if they continue to not listen will tend to get the child to listen. Things like telling a student they did an amazing job and you are proud of them will help the student’s self-esteem and get them to work that much harder. Things like telling someone “I love you” will possibly make that person’s day.

Words will always be a powerful thing. They will always pull some type of emotion out of the person they are said to. We have to choose what we say carefully in all situations but as a teacher the way I phrase things is that much more important. I never know what is being said at home, I never know how a student is feeling, and I never know how much what I think completely means to a student. The same phrase can cause one student to cry and another to just roll their eyes. I am very careful in how I talk to my students, I am never mad at a student but I can be frustrated with a behavior. I am always proud of a student for doing their best, not just happy they did their work. The way things are said really affects how they continue to act and teachers and adults alike need to realize that.

The old phrase “sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt you” is honestly a big lie. Words can hurt and for a student words coming from a teacher can be that much more hurtful or helpful, depending on what is said. 

Now for some fifth grade words of wisdom:

I am mom (I’ve lost count of how many times I have been called mom during lunch)

I shouldn’t be living with my parents (oh if they only knew how little I made)

I should be married by now (once again I am only 23 for crying out loud)

I should have kids (see comment above)

and the best one yet….

I should have my own classroom because I’d be an awesome teacher 

My students really do put a smile on my face, even when they drive me up a wall and then some.

-That Girl With A Teaching Degree

Leave it ALL at the door

Since my first ever day in a classroom I’ve lived by the motto “Leave it ALL at the door”. What I mean by this is the moment you walk into the school and your classroom nothing else going on matters. The fights with family, break-ups, frustrations with anything in life all need to be dropped at the door (you can always pick them up on your way out though if you really want to).

Today was one of those days for me. I had to drop some major baggage of at the door of the school after an intense evening. It’s easy to take our frustration out on those around us, everyone is guilty of doing it now and again, BUT when you work with children you just can’t do that. Our frustrations are adult problems and the kids have enough going on behind closed doors and need you to be there for them 100%, no distractions (even if it’s not always realistic).  Plus as educators we have enough to worry about dealing with our students, parents, admin, that it actually becomes easy to just forget about those outside problems. Luckily, for me, I have some of the most wonderful students to help me get my mind off of the things going on in my daily life. The moment I walk into that building I get “Hi Ms.(my name here)”, hugs, and huge smiles. It’s almost impossible to worry about my non-teacher life. For me my leave it all at the door moment happened before I walked into those front doors. I ran into a parent in the parking lot (and let me tell you I was still super down from the night before). She said hello and I said hi back (though I was unsure which student’s parent it was….life of a TA, you rarely meet the parents but they KNOW who you are) As we continued to walk towards the front doors she turned to me and said “(insert her daughter’s name here) talks about you at home all the time. she just loves when she gets to work with you”. That right there changed my mood in an instant. As a TA you’re never really sure how big of an influence you have on your students and the reassurance is always welcome. I walked into school head high and in a great mood which continued for the entire day and guess what!?! It followed me home. Most of my students were surprisingly amazingly behaved (lunch duty was a bit of a struggle…my b***h side had to appear to get a point or two through). If I had gone in with a bad mood that would DEFINITELY not have been the case though, their moods and behaviors are influenced by ours.

Unfortunately, as most who work with kids know, leaving it all at the door when you leave school is not as easy. We take our worries, silly moments, stories, and work home with us, along with whatever mood we end the day in. I can’t tell you how often I come home wondering if one of my students is OK, if one of my students will have enough to eat over the weekend, or if the kids grasped the content we worked on. These things are impossible to leave behind at work because educators care so much. We take work home with us, sacrificing time with our families, all for our students. I’m not sure any passionate teacher would ever WANT to, let alone be able to, leave all those feelings at school. It’s why we come home and tell stories about our day or vent over events that happened. It consumes us and takes the place of that baggage we left at the door that morning. We reflect, reflect, reflect on our day, trying to better ourselves for our students. However, sometimes taking all that home can do more harm than good. As you grow as an educator you learn how to leave some of it behind, how not to worry that a lesson didn’t go perfectly, and that somethings just have to wait till your back at the work place. That is a lesson I have learned over the last year and a half. I still worry and care for my students but I’ve learned that sometimes I need to take a break and give myself some time.

Moral of the story: Leave your personal baggage at the door, start on a fresh slate each morning and remember sometimes you just gotta leave that work baggage at work too.

Now for a funny little quote: 

One of my students had to determine if a statement was fact or fiction.

The statement: Aliens built the pyramids.

So I read it out loud and asked him if it was fact or fiction. He immediately yelled out “fact” (which was funny enough) When I gave him a look he said “well if Morgan Freeman said it in this voice (proceeded to do a Morgan Freeman impression and read the statement) then people might believe its a fact”

So there you have it readers: If Morgan Freeman says aliens built the pyramids then aliens built the pyramids.

Remember to leave it ALL at the door!

-That Girl With A Teaching Degree

New Year….New Me?

As the holiday season winds down I finally am finding time to sit down and write. You would think that having two weeks off for winter break would allow for a little personal time but that’s not even close to true. Instead I’ve been working my butt off at the daycare and have only had one day off other than today and Christmas. I could not be happier with the fact that I have been able to go back and see the kids. The fact that my boss also did her best to give me as many hours as possible has also been a blessing. The reaction the kids have when they see me makes the working over my break so worth it. There is nothing better than 2 year olds calling out your name, four-year olds saying I love you constantly, or school-agers giving me an insane amount of hugs. The love I feel each time I walk in that door is amazing. It’s been an experience to watch those kids grow up, some of which I’ve seen grow up from the toddler room to the pre-school room.

This holiday season has made me realize how much I love what I’ve chosen to do with the rest of my life. Although I have no clue what age I would like to work with, I can honestly say that I don’t know what I’d do without my career. I mean I even chose to work over my break. watching kids grow and learn is an amazing experience and knowing I have been a part of that is a phenomenal feeling. I know I am making a difference as a TA and a daycare teacher but I can not wait till I have my own classroom to teach in. I want to be able to make this difference day in and day out, not that I’m not doing that already but in a more long-term way. I hope this new year can bring me exactly that opportunity. I am planning on working hard to achieve that goal and I know that I have quite a few people in my corner hoping that happens for me as well. Right before break I had one of the teachers I work with tell me she can just see how much I deserve my own classroom, how amazing I am with the kids and what a wonderful teacher I will make.  Statements like these make me realize how lucky I am to be in the school I currently work in and how much I will miss them when I do end up leaving. It also makes me want to reach that goal even more. I can’t wait really show what I can do and make those who have helped me get to this point proud!

Now here are some stories from the weeks before we left for break:

The same little girl I mentioned before that couldn’t believe that the other TA and I were not married yet (at 23 and 24) had the conversation with us once again. The conversation ended with one of her better lines: “if you don’t have a pet, a husband or a boyfriend you’re a goner. You don’t have any furry friends” apparently husbands/boyfriends are now furry friends ladies and gentlemen, (actually it is kind of fitting don’t ya think?)

couple days before break the TA I share a room with had her group and told them to spell “boots”, 2 of the three students left off the T so the TA told them that spells boos which wasn’t an actual word (mind you it sounds like booze) and right as she says this one of her students yells out “yes it is like let’s go get some boos”. (wonder where she heard that one from)

Now for a daycare story:

I had the fortune to work in the two-year old room, which is the room one of my favorites is in. She tends to have a hard time during drop off and this specific day was no different. So after mom left I asked her who I was (mind you this is the same little girl who yells my name across the playground) her response shows the attitude in this little girl. She put both hands on her hips and looked me dead in the eyes and said “I don’t know who you are”. So throughout the morning I continued to get the same response so I told her she was a sassy pants and to that comment she decided to say “im not sassy pants” and proceeded to tell me her full name. She truly is a bundle of sass in a little body!

I hope this holiday season has been everything you have wanted and more Readers! and I hope 2015 brings you love, luck, and success. Make this year what you want it to be!

-That Girl With A Teaching Degree

Thankful

With it being Thanksgiving week (a 2 day week THANK GOD darn) this post is going to be a little sappy and sentimental. When I started this job I was thankful for the opportunity to work in a wonderful school in an amazing district but as I’ve worked for the past 3 months I have a whole lot more to be thankful for.

I am beyond thankful for my amazing boss at the daycare who is still willing to let me come work on breaks after I left in August to start this new endeavor. Who hired an 18-year-old with no experience other than babysitting as a summer camp teacher then fights to have that same girl back anytime possible. Who almost cried (or did as I’ve been told) when my current job called for a reference saying she didn’t want to lose me but knew this was a huge opportunity for me.  I am thankful for my coworkers there who show me all the support in the world even if I “left them for a big girl job”. Who still welcome me back time and again. I am thankful for the parents at the daycare who continue to support me and love every moment I am back. Who were so brokenhearted when I left but so excited for what it meant for me.

I am thankful for the admins at my new job for making the transition easy and for supporting me through it all. For giving me this amazing opportunity I have and for making sure I make it the best it can be. They have shown me what its like having admin there for you yet admin who give you the freedom to do what’s best for the students. They give constructive criticisms and make sure to always start and end on a high note in each conversation, something I feel I didn’t always get while student teaching.

I’m thankful for the staff I work with, classroom teachers and other TAs, for accepting me and being so welcoming. Going from a job where I had worked with the same people for 3+ years to one where I knew NO ONE was slightly terrifying but I got over that pretty quickly. Between spending my first weeks with the same kindergarten teacher all day and getting to know her to the point we still bounce ideas off each other, to the lunches I have spent with the amazing 1st grade team who took me in immediately and didn’t filter conversations because the “new girl” was there, to all the teachers trust me to cover their rooms when they have meetings or go home sick at the last-minute, I have not once felt unwelcome or unsure of where I stand. I am thankful I can be part of all of the different activities the school district does like staff basketball games with the staff and not feel like the odd man out. I am thankful for the ladies I do lunch and recess duty with, having them there makes it more fun and we work so well together.

I am  thankful for the kids I work with, both at the elementary school and the day care. I can’t describe how great it is to walk into a kindergarten classroom and have all of them get excited I’m there to help or how adorable it is when they all run to hug me. Hearing a kindergartner tell me they “love my hair” when all i did was throw it into a pony tail, having a third grader I don’t work with regularly say hi to me in the hall, having 1st graders get so excited when walking by me the entire class waves, having 2nd graders want me to play soccer with them at recess, having  4th graders joke with me, and having fifth graders actually tell me important things going on  all show me time and again why I do this job. I can tell you right now going into this I was a fan of the younger grades (daycare ruined me) but the older grades have shown me that I really am as good with them as I am with the younger ones (the younger ones are just a bit more loving). I also can’t describe the feeling I get going back to the daycare to visit (too often) and hearing the ones I’ve literally watched grow up tell me they love me, they miss me, and ask when I am coming back. They make it worth spending my breaks there each and every year. They solidified my decision do teach elementary school not high school all those years back and they are the reason I am the way I am with kids. Those kids hold a special place in my heart and I have been blessed to have one of those as a kindergartner where I work, he makes it a little easier to be away from the kids who I’ve been around for year. I get those “I love yous” and hugs at school each day, and even if the older kiddos think he’s my son (I’ve assured them he’s not 100 times but they still ask) I wouldn’t want anything else.

I am most thankful for those people in my life who have supported me and pushed me to be the best teacher I can be, intentionally or not. For my parents for their support each and every step of the way. For my grandparents who said they couldn’t see me in any other career and continue to support me. My siblings who keep me grounded. The boy who makes sure I don’t talk about work 24/7 (and I would if he didn’t stop me) but tries to put up with it when I do talk about work, a lot. My best friends who think I make an amazing teacher and make sure I have fun and remember I am still young. My host teacher last year who trusted me with her classroom and helped me learn and grow and all those people who were involved in my education. AND I am thankful for those who didn’t believe in me or thought I would crash and burn, they give me the motivation to push through when things get hard or I am having a rough day and prove them wrong.

In the education field things can get hard and sometimes those bad days you forget why you are doing what you are doing or what you are thankful for but this has to be the most rewarding job.

Now for a little story:

I share a room with another TA and one day a 2nd grader in her group was talking and asked if she was married and she responded “no” (she also just graduated). Then this little girl asked if she had any pets and she once again said no, so this little girl’s only response was “you poor, poor woman no husband and no pets, that’s so sad”.

Later this 2nd grader asked me and I said No to the married question but yes to the pet one (considering I have a dog) and she responded “not as bad as (the other teacher) but no husband? you better find one soon”.

Apparently the new consensus is because I am out of college (I turned 23 right before I started this job) I need to find a husband ( I even had a student tell me I’m not getting any younger and guys may not want me any more if I don’t hurry up). Kids say the darnedest things, that’s for sure.

Have a great Thanksgiving Readers (wherever you are)!

-That Girl With A Teaching Degree

Why oh why am I writing a blog?

Dear Whomever finds them self reading this blog;

I’ve been debating starting a blog for a long time and when I say a long time I mean it. As someone who works with kids day in and day out I have countless stories and I think I am beginning to drive my friends and family crazy with them so I figured why not put them out there for others to read, if anyone does that is. Hopefully those of you who find your way to this blog accidental or otherwise (most likely accidentally let’s be real here) enjoy the crazy stories and maybe you can connect with them. I live my life for my students and they are a constant source of entertainment in my life. My passion for teaching runs deep seeing as I come from a background full of teachers and I pretty much have wanted to do it my entire life. Currently I am a recent graduate with a teaching degree but no classroom to call my own, so I did the next best thing…I became a TA (teachers assistant for those of you wondering what that stands for). I love my job because I am working with kids in an educational setting.

Do I wish I had my own classroom? YES. Do I regret or wish I wasn’t in the position I am in? NO. It allows me to do what I want AND I still get to go back to the child care center I worked at previously on breaks.

I have worked with kids since I was 11 years old (who lets an 11-year-old babysit now a days). I have done everything from babysitting to tutoring to working in a daycare. Each one has its own stories, some funny and some ridiculous, and each one has been rewarding and a learning experience. Here you will find some old stories from those days and some new stories from my everyday life as a TA  and fill in daycare teacher.

My real reason for writing these though is to remind me of the good times, the bad times, and all those times in between. To have a pick me up on a really tough day as well as remind myself not everyday will be a perfect one. I once was told by the principal where I student taught I “just wasn’t a natural at teaching” and yes that is a quote from her. Those words have stuck with me for a year now and were defeating when she said them. Now I want to prove those words wrong, so yeah I maybe using this as a reminder to myself those words aren’t true a little bit as well and that I really can do this.

So now after that boring drabble here’s a story for you:

When I first started my new job I was assigned to do lunch duty for 2nd grade and 5th grade. Now let me tell you those 5th graders are something else. They are loud, obnoxious at times, but my lord are they hilarious. I immediately realized there was a group of 6 or 7 boys all in one class I would have to really stay on to make sure they were behaving (and man was I right). Between the yelling across the lunch room, getting up constantly during lunch, and everything else I found myself going over to their table to check in and every now and then reprimand them. That was August, now in November not much has changed except now I could tell you all about those boys, the sports they play, how many siblings they have, favorite subjects and least favorite subjects.They are my source of entertainment even if they drive me bonkers (as I tell them).

One of the boys specifically took it upon himself to challenge me to the ice bucket challenge right before they announced that as a staff we were going to do it in front of the entire school. Well this kid could not have been more excited because the student that challenged the staff member got to pour the bucket of ice water on the staff member. Fast forward to the day (we raised over $2000 in this process as well!) and this kiddo chooses the LARGEST bucket with the MOST ice to pour on me, I am one lucky teacher. It really hit me that day though that this boy who I had spent lunches constantly having to talk to was already that comfortable with me after only about a month. To this day that student and I have a fantastic relationship and he just can’t wait to laugh at me during the staff bragging rights game (I’m pretty sure I’m a source of entertainment for him as well).

It’s those little things that put a smile on my face and make each day worth it all.

I live to teach, not the other way around.

-That Girl With A Teaching Degree