August 29, 2012

Parent-Teacher Communication Through Facebook

I read this blog post today about a teacher not being allowed to communicate with parents through a Facebook group. There is so much wrong here, in my opinion. 

How many people out there have created an amazing classroom website, blog, etc. for your classroom? Okay, now how many people have had said classroom website, blog, etc. completely be ignored by 90% of parents of students in your class? (I'm visualizing many people with their hands raised). Most parents desperately want to be informed about what is going on in the classroom, and most teachers desperately want to inform them!

The reality is that many of the parents out there are stretched unbelievably thin. They work multiple jobs and can't find the time to check a blog or website to know what is going on in their child's class. I have had many a parent conference where the parent says, "I want to help __________ with her homework. How do I know what she needs to be working on?" In my head I would scream, "HAVE YOU NOT CHECKED OUR BLOG OR READ OUR NEWSLETTER?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!" Our loud, I would very calmly remind them about the blog and newsletter, and tell them to call or email me if they had any trouble finding it. As you can imagine, I would find myself with that same parent later in the year discussing the same issues. Most of my frustration came from the fact that I had spent so much time and energy creating said blog and newsletter.

Now, I could be wrong, but I would guess that most of the incredibly busy parents out there check Facebook at least once a day. Some probably check it at least every hour. This is not meant to be a criticism of anyone. I can't imagine how hard it is to work all day and then come home to a house full of kids who need help with homework, projects, etc. I doubt at the end of the day there is much time for classroom websites and newsletters. However, I think the situation might be different if classroom reminders and homework assignments came up in the parent's Facebook news feed.

Wouldn't it at least be worth a try? It is sad to me that the teacher who wrote this post made sure that the Facebook group he created was completely private and secure, but he still had to quit communicating with parents through Facebook. I feel like parents these days would love to streamline their lives. One great way to do that, in my opinion, would be to communicate with their children's teachers through Facebook (in a safe, private, and controlled way of course). I know that it is the job of administration to protect the best interests of everyone involved, but when will teachers be seen as competent professionals? It is sad to me that teachers are being discouraged from using technology to communicate with parents. What do you think?

August 25, 2012

It's Not Unfair, It's Just Different

Breastfeeding. Everyone's favorite topic (insert sarcasm here). We know that breastfeeding is best for babies, yet it skeeves many people out. Don't believe me? Mention breastfeeding around a man without children and see what kind of response you get. I did this once and saw a friend's husband's face turn green. Now I bring it up around him just for fun.

this is probably not an exaggeration


According to Elizabeth Gilbert, "Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit." Breastfeeding is also a commitment. Maybe it's like getting a tattoo on your ankle. 

When you breastfeed, you have the piece of mind you are doing what is best for your child. (Disclaimer: If you have great difficulty breastfeeding, cannot breastfeed for whatever reason, are suffering from postpartum depression and breastfeeding is making you feel worse, etc. -- formula feeding is totally better for you and your baby. This post is not meant to be judgmental in any way.) Nursing creates an incredible opportunity for bonding. Also, to be honest, the lazy side of me loves not having to sterilize and wash bottles. I cherish those sweet moments when baby boy looks up at me and smiles after nursing. I also love how nursing seems to be the only thing to calm him down when he's really upset. It is also an amazing feeling that I have given my chubby cheeked, 15ish pound, 3 month old all of the nutrition he's received since birth.

On the flip side, being an exclusively breastfeeding mom makes you feel like the primary caregiver. If your little one is like mine and has decided he doesn't really like bottles,  it's all you. It's all me at 2am. And sometimes at 3am, 4am, 5am, 6am, etc. If you are in a marriage that involved you doing everything all the time before you had a baby, then you will probably be fine with this schedule. My marriage was and still is not like this. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who doesn't mind doing housework. He even does his own laundry and has always packed his own suitcase without a second of help from me. If anything, he is the one who helps me pack my suitcase. 

Enter having a baby. It's all me. Of course my husband is still his wonderful self. He gives baby boy baths, plays with him, changes diapers, etc. Can he just give him a bottle in the middle of the night? Not really. Does this sometimes bug me? A little. Can I be away from baby boy for a few hours? Of course! I will go get a pedicure, go the the mall, whatever. Can I be away from him for more than a few hours? Not really. Can I be away from him for a day or a weekend? Not a chance. 

Sweet husband is going out of town in a few weeks to see some friends and go to a football game. I'm happy he's going. Tennessee football is his favorite thing, and he will get to hang out with some friends that he rarely sees. This feels like a weird shift in the order of things. As my friend Laura put it, "It's like we've traveled back in time to the 1950's." Is it unfair that he can still do things like that and I can't? Even though it feels like that at times, it's not unfair. Just different. Baby boy does not rely on my husband's body for food. My husband also misses out on all that precious bonding time that happens during those feedings. Someday I'll be able to leave my baby boy overnight or for a weekend. Right now I'm just going to enjoy the cuddles and appreciate knowing that he needs me so much.


August 23, 2012

The Teacher Mom

Going from teaching to being a full time mom has been an interesting transition, to say the least. Is one easier than the other? Not sure. I can tell you one thing - both are hard! Is there any bigger responsibility in life than being responsible for a child/children? Whether it is your own child or a classroom of children, teaching is a hard job that never ends.

I am starting to think of my new role at home in the same way that I thought of my role as a classroom teacher. Here are the things that I have found that motherhood has in common with teaching.

1) You must have coffee. This is the most essential step in the day.

2) You must get dressed to feel competent. I remember showing up to school a few times looking rough. Maybe I had greasy hair or I was wearing pants that were wrinkled or too tight. You have to have confidence to tackle the day, and looking presentable is an important step. I find now that the days I don't change out of my pajamas seem to be the most stressful, draining days.

3) You have to have some sort of routine. My students and I thrived on routine in the classroom. I currently have little to no routine at home and it's so hard. This "on demand" parenting is best for my baby, right??

4) You have to have some adults to talk to or you will go insane. Said adults must also be going through the same things you are going through at roughly the same time. I remember not being able to wait until lunchtime at school so I could tell my teacher friends about the shenanigans that had taken place in my classroom that morning. Now I call my friend who had a baby a few weeks after me. I called her this morning and said, "If you're looking for positivity or encouragement, you're not going to get it from me today!" I was able to go on and on about all the things that are frustrating to me right now, and it was okay because she understood. We share war stories until one of our babies becomes hysterical. Strangely, that baby always happens to be mine!

5) Fake it until you make it. I'm talking faking smiles when you're exhausted, faking that you're an adult, and faking that you know what to do in any given situation. I'm not sure if the "make it" part ever happens though!

6) You have to have hobbies.  I love blogging, and my newest obsession is blog design. I have been slowly teaching myself how to do things, and I'd eventually like to start designing blogs for other people. Anybody want to be my guinea pig? :)

7) You have to enjoy the small stuff. The smiles, the hugs, and the light bulb moments make it all worth it. If you're having trouble focusing on the positive at any time, repeat step 1.

I have to admit that I got a little sad when I saw all my teacher friends start back to school this week.
I try to remind myself that what I'm doing now is the same, just different. Except for the whole getting paid bit. All parents are teachers when it comes down to it. Just like with actual teaching, it is our job to pray, plan, and do the best we can with what we have.




August 22, 2012

Best Read Aloud Ever!

Let's face it, it is hard to choose which books to share with our kiddos since there are so many great options out there. With the popularity of books like the Wimpy Kid series, I sometimes worry that my students won't relate to the classic books that I enjoyed as a kid. Some books don't stand the test of time very well, or are written in a style that is too long-winded or dense for today's average fifth grader.

Enter Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. This is the sweetest story of a boy named Billy Colman and his two hound dogs. There is action and adventure, but mostly it is a beautiful story of love and faith. I had never read this book until about a month before I decided to read it aloud to my class. I listened to the audio version while driving from my parent's house in Georgia back to Alabama. Normally I get incredibly annoyed listening to audio books because the narration is usually either very overdone, or incredibly boring. Anthony Heald does, in my opinion, a fantastic job of capturing the conversational tone in this book.



I drove down the interstate at 8 months pregnant listening to this book. I became so emotional, it's a wonder I made it home alive! I couldn't even stop to get something to eat or drink because I was crying so uncontrollably. I can only think of a small handful of books that have moved me as much as this one. I started to worry that I shouldn't read this book with my class, because I didn't want to upset my students. (**spoiler alert**) Then I remembered that pretty much all the classic young adult books out there deal with death in some way.

Reading this book with my class was one of the best decisions I've made.  I think it awakened something in even my most reluctant readers. The biggest problem we faced was that everyone went home begging for their parents to get them some "good hounds"!

I found the movie based on the book to be awful, but then again, I can't think of a movie based on a book that I've really enjoyed. The students liked it though, and it gave us something "educational" to do on those last few days of school. Ha! We also watched Where the Red Fern Grows Part 2, which was truly horrifying. There is one part where Lisa Whelchel's (Blair from The Facts of Life) boyfriend kind of forces himself on her. Pretty inappropriate for this age group. Once again, I should preview things I show my class! While I'm on the subject, never, never show Bill Nye- Germs to your class. It goes into some pretty, ahem, detailed descriptions of how one can contract HIV. My students didn't know what hit them with that one!

To me, Where the Red Fern Grows is a great read aloud because 1) It is very well written. 2) It appeals to both boys and girls. 3) It has an excellent audio version. If you're like me and teach more than one section of reading, you get really tired reading aloud. Usually my students prefer for me to read, but they told me they definitely preferred the audio book in this case. 4) There is an awesome Literature Unit: A Guide for Where the Red Fern Grows that goes with it. I usually hate these premade things, but this was is excellent, in my opinion. Have I convinced you yet? What read alouds do you love doing with your class?


August 10, 2012

Second Day of School Morning Work

The first day of school is rapidly approaching! I uncovered a little gem this morning and I thought I would share with you guys.

I created this activity to be placed on students' desks on the second day of school when they come in in the morning. It is an easy, non-threatening way to get the day started. Also, it gives you some insight into how the kiddos feel the first day went! Enjoy!

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August 5, 2012

Music Suggestions and Advice for New Teachers Linky Party!

I wanted to share some more music suggestions for those of you who like to play music in the classroom. I don't know about you, but I am always terrified to play something inappropriate. Remember the first grader who got suspended for singing "I'm sexy and I know it"? 

I love listening to Pandora, and I have found two awesome stations that are fantastic for kids. One is "Elizabeth Mitchell" radio. Have you heard of Elizabeth Mitchell? She has a soothing voice, and she manages to sing kids' music that isn't grating and annoying like most kids' music is. This station may be better suited for younger grades, but I think fifth graders would go for it as well. They always love when you play music no matter how "lame" they think it is, right?




The other station I love is "Disney". This is not the Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber Disney station. This station plays songs from the classic Disney movies such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Robin Hood, etc. Love! I listened to it with the baby this morning as we got ready for church, and he loved it. Don't people of all ages love this music? Check out this post for more music suggestions. What music are you planning on listening to in your classroom this year? 

Finally, don't forget to join the Advice for New Teachers Linky Party! I can't wait to hear what everyone has to say!

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August 3, 2012

Advice for New Teachers - Linky Party!!

I know school is starting up soon (especially here in the South), and I know many of you out there are brand new teachers going into the classroom on your own for the first time. When I was a new teacher, I remember trying to get all the advice I could from veteran teachers about what and what not to do during those critical first few weeks. 

Link up with me to help all those first year teachers out there! Feel free to add the button below to your post and link it back to this page. Don't forget to link up at the bottom!



Here are a few things I wish I would have known my first year teaching:

1) Have the first week of school planned out to the last little detail. You will change these plans roughly one million times before the first day of school, but if you get some plans down on paper now it will relieve much of your anxiety.

2) Get together with the teachers in your grade level as soon as possible. Reach out to them and ask them as many questions as you can think of. What I'm about to say is really important. Listen to every word they have to say. They have been teaching a lot longer than you, and they have good ideas. Even if you think they have horrible ideas, LISTEN TO THEM AND DO NOT INTERRUPT THEM WHEN THEY'RE TALKING. This is a mistake I think a lot of people make. It is easy to feel like you know it all when you are fresh out of school. It is a humbling experience when you realize how tough teaching is during those first few weeks. I'm not saying it's tough to scare anyone. I just want you to know that you will be glad you made friends with the veteran teachers at your school. If you make yourself an island, you probably won't make it until Christmas.

3) Go along with the established way of doing things in your grade level. I know this may be controversial, but in my opinion will serve you well your first year. If everyone uses the "turn the card" system of discipline, but you want to have your kids "move the clip", don't. Go along with "turn the card" and see how it goes that first year. If you absolutely hate it, that's fine. Go with "move the clip" your second year. Most of the time there is a reason why all the teachers in a grade level do the same thing. For one, they have probably tried many different systems and have stuck with the one that worked. On my team we used a clipboard system where students would get checks by their name. I thought this was the most outdated, terrible system there was when I first started. I came to find out that this was the system that had been used in fifth grade at our school for as long as anyone could remember. It was clear to the admin and the parents what we were doing and why we were doing it. Also, it can be a life saver to be able to say "this is how we do things as a grade level" when you are questioned by admin or parents for a decision you made. Again, you don't want to make yourself an island.

4) When you have a questionable discipline problem, excuse yourself from the situation to go ask a veteran teacher how to handle it. Don't just act on instinct. You will probably end up handling the situation either too lightly or too harshly. This happened to me more times than I can count my first year. You will also help the relationship you have with that other teacher because you are telling him/her that you value their opinion.

5) Before you do any grand unit or activity with your class, run it by your grade level friends first. Say, "I'm thinking about trying _________________ with my class. What do you think? Have you ever tried anything like that before? Am I crazy for trying to do _____________________?" One of two things will happen. They will say "That is a great idea! I think I'll try that too!" Or they will say "That sounds crazy. You're on your own with that one!" Either way, you have told them you're doing it, and you won't look like you're trying to "one up" everyone when they see your elaborate display in the hallway, or hear from the principal about that awesome lesson you did. You do not want to be the one upper. The one upper becomes the island if they weren't already.

Once you get established and show everyone what a fabulous, caring, and dedicated teacher you are, go out on your own and do what you know is best for you and your kiddos. The first year (for me anyway) was all about survival. You will make mistakes, but you will learn from them and you will become a better teacher as a result.

I can't wait to hear everyone else's advice!


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August 2, 2012

Growth Chart

Remember the giveaway I won over at the fabulous Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy? I think I have found the perfect thing to order from Erin Condren! She makes a canvas growth chart that I think will be perfect in baby boy's room. On one side it lists the heights of famous people, such as Shaquille O'Neal and Abraham Lincoln. At the rate he's growing, he may be that tall someday!

from erincondren.com

What do you think? Isn't it the cutest thing? I love that we can take it with us to any house we move to.

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