Fascinating Learning

Hi everyone! I do exist! I honestly sat at my open computer for five whole minutes before I started typing this post – staring at my screen wondering if this piece was even worth documenting. Here we go.

Things are going well over here in maternity leave land.  Our baby girl is now 6.5 months old, we’ve been to Europe and back with her, and there is never a dull moment in any day.

I haven’t been posting here on Tale of Two Teachers very much because being “out of the field” (ie. realm of education) leaves me little to say or share on that topic.  I’ve only recently starting thinking about teaching again…why does maternity leave fly by so, so quickly?  I’m getting excited to be back in the classroom part-time, but I still have a handful of months before I become a working mama.  Interestingly, the opportunity to apply for jobs is just around the corner and I think it’s weird to be applying for contracts that I won’t even work in right away (my maternity leave ends in November). Moving on.

The thing about having a baby is that they change literally every. single. day.  This fascinates me to no end.  There is almost no space or time to celebrate a newly learned skill or discovery because the next day will find you marveling at something else.  Two days ago Charlee didn’t know she could roll off the rug to the bamboo floor, of course she had the rolling skills available to her, but she didn’t know how to access them, or what kind of fun was available beyond the rug.  Yesterday morning Charlee made her big escape to the hardwood floor…and today she figured out how to use her hands to push herself (like a seal, if you need a visual) to spin around on her tummy.

I'm so happy I captured the escapee in mid-roll!

I’m so happy I captured the escapee in mid-roll!

During all this exploration I just lounge on the floor with my coffee because it’s 8am and I’m still waking up (maternity leave, you guys). I usually don’t “help” Charlee out when she’s in full on discovery mode like she was this morning.  Of course if she’s going to bump her head or eat the cat’s toy I stop her, but for the most part it is all her…without me.  I love it.  The teacher in me just sits back and watches the tiny human figure out the world through trial and error, inquiry and sensory based learning.  It’s during these morning play times where I reflect the most on my teaching practice.  This morning’s particular thoughts involved the concept of enabling constraints.  Today Charlee didn’t have any toys on the floor with her – it was just her and the brightly coloured quilt.  In case you need a quick refresher on what exactly enabling constraints means, it has to do with limiting (or constraining) choice in order to open up the learning possibilities.  Not a lot of choice when it came to play things this morning, but opportunity for deep learning and exploration anyhow (because we can roll around on the floor! Yeah!)

The best part of all the learning Charlee has been doing is how she celebrates her successes.  I can praise my girl to the moon and back because she swallowed a mouthful of mashed peas, and while that is a big deal (you mamas know!), it’s the coolest when Charlee knows and feels the value of her newly learned skill and celebrates on her own with giggles, smiles, and an attempt to try again…and again…and again.  Some of you might think babies don’t know what they’re doing most of the time; therefore, making celebrations of their own learning impossible.  I (politely) disagree. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

Ohhh the things this teacher-mama is learning about learning while on maternity leave! My future students have no idea what’s coming their way when I jump back into teacher land!

And just because she is cute, I'll include a photo of Charlee learning how to plant carrots.

And just because she is cute, I’ll include a photo of Charlee learning how to plant carrots.

Karley

Meaningful Connections: iPads and Buddies

A few weeks ago, my friend Lindsay (her guest post is here) and I got our classes together for a buddy afternoon. We started talking about getting our classes together as soon as I got my job, since our schools are within walking distance. Before Spring Break we started planning what we would do together and since we both have been incorporating technology through iPads into our classrooms we decided to have our students use iMovie together to create a video.

I had a small group of my students create an example video on “How to be a middle school student” that we showed at the beginning of our afternoon together. Then, with a buddy they had to make a four shot iMovie under the “How to…” model. We gave them about 45 minutes to create their videos outside and then we came back inside and watched them.

Some video topics:

  • How to make a daisy chain
  • How to play tag
  • How to score a goal (soccer)

What went well?

IMG_3516I absolutely loved watching my students work with the younger students to create their videos. It is always so interesting to watch them in a leadership role and to see who takes charge or not. Leaving the instructions broad allowed for a lot of creativity and it became a good conversation starter between the students – “What do you like to do?” etc. Some of the videos turned out really well and the different experiences both classes have had with iMovie really allowed for some teachable moments to happen between the grades.

What would I change?

Initially we had paired them in groups of two, many students joined together to make a bigger group. I think I would just pair them in groups of 4-5 students from the beginning because it really seemed to help them with the ideas and the filming as well. Another thing I would change is the example video that we showed didn’t really end up being a great example and I think it led students off in a bit of a different direction. Now that we have some good examples to show I think this part will work better next time.

Where to next?

After our buddy day, Lindsay let me know that her students were now doing “How to” videos for their Social Studies projects and I thought I would incorporate that as well. My class ended up making “How to be an Ancient Greek” videos for their final projects on our Ancient Greece unit. They turned out really well and it was interesting to see how they turned their research into videos in a similar format to what they had worked on with their buddies.

In the long run the iPad is just a tool and what we need to do is make meaningful, engaging experiences for our students with this tool. The communication skills and leadership that were needed with the buddies was a great experience for all of my students! And the skills to make the “How to” video helped them to summarize their knowledge in a content area later on.

Do you have buddy classes at your school?

How do you use technology to enhance your lessons?

Meaghan

A Little Spark

“Wow, I’m going to leave early today,” I say as I pack up at the end of a 9 hour day of work. Then I realize I am putting another 1-2 hours of work in my bag to do at home and that really is the only reason I’m leaving on time. But, hey, at least I actually took a 30 minute lunch break today!

How did this happen? Remember when I mentioned here my schedule of when to leave each day and how I don’t bring work home with me? Well I lost it… and I haven’t got it back. I think it got lost somewhere between that pile of marking, the resources from all the amazing pro d activities I’ve been doing, and the extracurricular volunteer work. Yup, that must be where the balance went!

And along with the balance I seemed to have lost some of my passion, enthusiasm and drive. Yes, yes, I know it is normal to get a bit tired and stressed at this time of year but the past few weeks I’ve been in a bit of a negativity rut that I just can’t seem to shake. It’s been frustrating because it just isn’t who I am as a teacher or a person.

A Little Spark

What did I need to snap out of this funk? A little spark of inspiration! I’m planning my next social studies unit (Ancient Rome) and was feeling stuck. So I asked around, and, as usual, I got lots of great ideas that started the ball rolling!

Finally getting to visit Pompeii after reading a book about it when I was 12 years old...

Finally getting to visit Pompeii after reading a book about it when I was 12 years old…

I’ve been to Italy and Rome twice and I was trying to remember all the things I would most want to share with my students – then I remembered the complete awe I felt wandering through Pompeii. And with a little research I’ve been able to come up with an exciting idea (I will blog about it later – promise!) that also requires some collaboration.

In the long run it didn’t really matter what the lesson was, I needed the reminder of my own passion and the opportunity to collaborate with someone new. That’s what I love about this teaching thing – You can’t do it on your own! It’s like a team sport, if you don’t receive a pass sometimes you aren’t really in the game…

I don’t know how long this spark will last but I really feel revitalized and excited again… Maybe even enough to tackle that stack of marking on my desk in the morning…

What is the “spark” that keeps you going when your feeling stressed or negative?

Meaghan

Teach it Tuesday: Quote and Note

The “Quote and Note” strategy is a very common one with read alouds, novel studies, and literature circles. We just finished a novel study in class and I felt for the first time that I really had a good system going for the quote and notes that we were doing. We did Quote and Notes about once a week for this novel study.

Note: A lot of these suggestions come from my friend Jess and Faye Brownlie’s Grand Conversations but I have also gathered lots of suggestions from other people and sources over the years, so thank you to everyone that has helped along the way!

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Quote and Note Day 1:

Together we brainstormed what makes for a good, strong quote to choose. With this list in mind I read aloud a chapter and they all chose one or two quotes to write down and then they did the same with one more chapter one their own (three quotes total). I gave the instruction that a note needed to give more than just a description of the quote but also needed to tell why it seems important (What does it allude to? What does it make you think of? What connections/predictions can you make?)

When they handed in their Q&N sheets that day I noticed some good quotes chosen but a lack of meaning and depth in their responses. When I marked them I wrote suggestions for how to elaborate their notes and I also highlighted any powerful writing I noticed in student’s work.

Quote and Note Day 2:

I started the class by handing back the first Q&N’s and had any students with highlighted (powerful writing) examples who were comfortable sharing to read theirs aloud. I then did an example Q&N with the class based on one powerful quote from the novel but instead of just doing the one note I did three notes on the same quote: Good, Better, Wow! For the “Good” level I wrote something very similar to what most have them had done – I answered with an “I think this quote is important because…” For the “Better” note we brainstormed things we could add, like predictions or connections. And then for the “Wow!” level we talked about meaning and referred to our “What powerful writers do…” anchor chart. After the class example they had to choose one quote and do their own “Good, Better, Wow!” examples of notes.

The responses were much better this time and I did the same thing – marking, adding suggestions, and highlighting powerful writing.

Quote and Note Day 3:

We started the class with the same process of handing back the last Q&N’s and having students who were comfortable read out their examples of powerful writing. This time students were expected to do three quotes on their own (back like on day 1 except a lot more prepared).

I originally felt like I had failed with the Day 1 flop of not good writing but looking back I realize how much more powerful it was for them to revise their work from their own writing. Also, reading the students’ examples of powerful writing aloud before we moved onto the next Q&N was a great way to solidify their learning. It was also a great way for me to highlight different students – I tried to find powerful writing examples in my less confident students and I could see the surge of confidence they got with reading their work aloud.

Do you do Quote and Notes with your class?

How do you help students become stronger readers/responders during novel study?

Meaghan

Get Outside

It has been ridiculously beautiful in Victoria the past while so I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about how to get your class outside – and not just for a run around or free play!

Math

On Friday we started our review at the beginning of our integers unit so I was trying to think of ways to keep the review fun, engaging, and meaningful. We were going to start with number lines so I thought we would grab some sidewalk chalk and take our number lines outside.

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After they drew out their number lines (-10 to +10), in groups they walked    he lines to answer some mental math questions. It was a great way for me to see their confidence with integers – some kids were taking the lead, some were following, and some were asking questions. We had a lot of fun with this one and it was great to get outside and be active for some math.

Language Arts

Here are some of the times I have taken classes out in the past for Language Arts:

  • Silent Reading
  • Discussion groups
  • Readers’ Theatre practice
  • Writing poetry (especially Haiku’s)

Social Studies

For our most recent Social Studies project we were making videos (I will post more about this soon) and that meant that we were outside for a whole double block while they were filming “How to be an Ancient Greek” video. I love to see how kids use the environment around them to set the stage for the projects they are working on. It’s amazing how the slightly rolling hills become a battlefield and the trees become the perfect stage for their performance.

French

I haven’t done this one in a long time but it was a lot of fun the first time (original post here).

French Corners: For this game, I use four different verbs that they know how to conjugate (usually avoir, être, faire, aller) and put each verb in a different corner. With everyone in the middle I yell out a conjugated form of one of the verbs and they have to run to the corner with that name (e.g. “Je suis” and they run to être). If we are outside, after a couple of rounds for practice I have it become a race and the last one to the corner has to shout out the next conjugated verb from the middle (with help if needed).

Daily Physical Activity (DPA)

On the day we don’t have a PE block in our schedule we always do have a DPA time. Sometimes we do the weight room or yoga but lately with the great weather we have been getting outside for some games!

One of my favourite (originally from summer camp) games to play with them is called “Aces.” For this game you need 2-3 decks of cards shuffled and mixed together. Each team gets half the deck and each player gets a card. Your team’s goal is to have the most cards at the end of the game. You need to run and tag the other team and then you show your card to them, like the card game “War” the higher number keeps both cards and takes them back to their group leader. If you run lose your card or have two cards from winning you must head back to your leader to get a new card. The trick is if you get an ace (the lowest card) then you will lose to anyone BUT if you make it all the way to the other leader without getting tagged then you get half of their deck of cards to take back with you. This game usually lasts about 30-45 minutes in middle school I find and most kids are running the whole time!

What ways have you been getting your class outside lately?

Meaghan

Teach it Tuesday: Drawing Circles

A main part of the new curriculum in BC are the core competencies: communication, thinking, and personal/social. I have been trying to be a little more deliberate to incorporate these into my planning. Here is one activity that I tried the day before Spring Break, and considering the timing it went really well!

Materials:

Each group needs:

  • Large paper
  • String
  • Pencil
  • Compass or geotool
  • Meter stick
  • Instruction sheet

Instructions: I took some of the bonus questions from a different resource that I can’t seem to find again. If anyone knows the source please let me know and I will update to include the link.

Document: Drawing Circles Challenge

Front – On one side of your groups paper you need to draw the following circles:
A. Circle with a diameter of 80 cm.

B. Circle with a radius of 10 cm.

C. Circle with a diameter of 5 cm.

D. Circle with a radius of 0.5 cm.

Back – Try as many of these challenges as you can:
A. How big does a circle need to be to fit two smaller circles with 4 cm diameter inside? Draw it!

B. Draw a quadrilateral (rectangle, square, parallelogram) and see if you can draw a circle inside that touches all four sides of the quadrilateral.

C. Using only circles, can you create a familiar shape (star, heart, etc.)?

How it worked for us:

Hard at work

Hard at work

For my class I gave very minimal instructions for this assignment. We reviewed briefly how to use the geotool to draw circles (slightly more complicated then a compass for some) and then I gave them the materials and sent them on there way. I really wanted this to be a collaborative problem solving activity and it became just that! It was very interesting to see how students worked together and came up with solutions.

Drawing the large circle with the string took longer than I expected but I absolutely LOVED the conversations about radius and diameter that came from the activity. Communication and creative thinking came out in full force for this activity! I also loved that the creative part of it allowed for different students to take leadership roles than normally occurs with math group work.

We used almost a full double block to complete this (two 43 minutes periods) but keep in mind that it was the Friday before Spring Break so focus was not the easiest… If I were to do it again I would definitely keep it in a double block and I would follow up with some meaningful reflection/discussion.

How do you bring the core competencies into the math classroom?

If you use this activity, I would LOVE to hear how it goes!

Meaghan

Let’s Make Reading Irresistible

As a follow up to Karley’s post on raising a reader, I thought I would follow up with some of the things I have been trying this year to help my students stumble into the can’t put the book down frame of mind.

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Choose Books That Matter

This one is a given but I think it’s still worth mentioning… When you pick a book for novel study, lit circles, or read aloud make sure that its a book that is irresistible! One of my favourite books from when I was in grade 7 is “The Giver” and even though its a bit old and a very common choice, I was so excited to share this one with my students this year. It was a great choice! Plus one of the best moments was after showing the movie in class and having the whole class say, “Whoa! The book was so much better than the movie!”

Some other favourite books: “The One and Only Ivan,” “Uglies” and a new favourite, “Rain Reign” (this one will make your heart melt). Our own enthusiasm for books definitely shines through to our students.

The Book Draw

I’ve already talked about this one and there are definitely some drawbacks to this (namely the cost of buying books) but it has inspired a lot of excitement around new books. So far I have used a gift certificate for some majorly on sale books and a free gift from Scholastic orders. A favourite comment I overheard from a book draw winner was, “Hey I think I’ll actually read this book! It looks cool!” And that’s a win in my books!

Book Bins

This is an idea from one of my courses in university that I thought I would try out this year. We haven’t started yet but they are all set to go and I’m so excited! Through Scholastic orders this year I managed to get a bunch of novels with my bonus dollars. I am very fortunate to be in a classroom with a huge classroom library this year so that gave me the opportunity to plan out this Book Bin idea. I put together two boxes of 25 books that are all labeled with a sign out sheet. One box will stay in my classroom and one will go to my partner teacher’s room for a month. These books will be used for silent reading time, take home books, kids who are finished early – Whichever! After about 5 weeks we will switch bins so the class gets a new set of books. I am really excited to add the new books into the class mix and I think that my students will be really excited. I think the mix of the timeline and knowing the books will be shared with another class in the same grade will help to make reading irresistible for my students! We have also talked about turning it into a friendly competition between classes and writing book recommendations before we switch. I think there are so many possibilities with these bins.

Since I already have lots of books saved up from over the years I’ve made it so that these two book bins are reusable as is, and each year I can bring them in at some point.

Meaghan

How To Raise a Reader?

If you thought this post was going to answer all your questions about how to get your child (or students) really into reading, well, I’m sorry for the misleading title, but I don’t think I really know the answer. This post is more my wandering thoughts about reading that I pondered today while driving all around this city accomplishing a myriad of tasks.

I’ve been checking the mail every day for a week in anticipation of the arrival of a glorious Amazon box containing my latest read.  Today it arrived and after ripping it open I promptly placed my child in her rocking chair to pose with the latest and greatest.

HNJHey Natalie Jean is a (very popular) blog I’ve been reading daily for over a year now.  Natalie Holbrook is the writer and she tells stories of her every day life, including musings about home decor, fashion, marriage, motherhood…I love her blog.  So, imagine my excitement when she announced last fall that she was writing a book and it would be available in March 2015.  I pre-ordered as fast as I could and sat and waited…waited…waited.  This whole waiting for eight months thing made the arrival of Hey Natalie Jean so much more…special? I don’t know, but in this world of insta-gratification, purchasing with the click of a finger and having the item arrive the next day (for a fee!), I really relished in the wait for this book.

As I was driving around here and there today I got to thinking about reading, and how excited I was to crack the spine of my new book.  I gently reminded myself to read it slowly, to savour every photograph and sentence.  And then I thought, “Why the heck am I so excited to read this book?  Karley – you are jetsetting to Europe next week for goodness sake, and you are more pumped to read a book than to pack your suitcase! What is wrong with you?!”

Wouldn’t it be grande if all parents had a child who loved to read? I think I have the authority to say that all teachers would do backflips to have a classroom full of avid readers.  How did I become such an avid reader? I thought while waiting at a red light.  It comes down to this: I know myself well enough to know what genres I enjoy most.  I have a thing for people and their unique stories (hence my daily blog reading).  I have a thing for Second World War history.  I also have a thing for rustic homemaking and gardening.  I have known these things about myself since I was approximately eight years old; therefore, titles such as Little Women, Little House on the Prairie and Jane Eyre have graced my bookshelves for as long as I can remember.  I think my parents, who aren’t actually super into reading, did a pretty good job of letting me read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  I had access to any books I wanted.  I used to sit in the bath for hours and read.  I used to go to bed early and read.  Now, when there is an extra bit of time in the evening I excitedly tell Joel, “Babe, there is time to read tonight!”  Confession: One of my biggest fears upon Charlee’s birth is that I wouldn’t have time to read anymore.

The arrival of my new book today was such a celebration for me.  I texted the above photo of Charlee and the book to friends and my husband.  I brought the book with me to the chiropractor and actually hoped he was running late today so I could sit in silence and get through a few pages (he was right on time). I started planning this post in my head.  I just think there is something so sacred about books; this is the reason I will never, ever own an eReader or purchase iBooks.

As a teacher I have struggled to help get some of my lackluster readers really into reading.  I’m not quite sure how to navigate that issue yet because I truly think a person needs to know their preferred writing style and their favourite genres pretty well before reading will become their most favourite activity of choice.  And asking a student, “Well, what do you like to read?” does not help the situation because some people really don’t know what they like.  I admit, it is frustrating to open book after book and be let down because the content is not appealing.  I think my husband is the only person I know who will continue to read a book even if he hates it (he complains the whole read, and I tell him to just give it up, yet he persists!) I hope, as a parent, to be able to convey my love of reading to my daughter.  I had a book themed baby shower back in September where we were gifted so many beautiful books for Charlee’s library.  The child is four months old and she already has a decent enough library that I’ve not yet had to reread a story to her.

Teachers and parents, what is your personal experience with reading? How have you managed to convince your students and children that reading is equal parts exciting and fascinating?  Feel welcome to share with us in the comments.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious reading to do.

Karley

How I Teach Math (for now…)

Along with this post is a new math activity on our Teachers Pay Teachers site – Take a look here.

As you probably know, teaching is one of those things you do which is ever changing. Even if you are doing the exact same lesson in the exact same unit with the exact same grade at the same school… something WILL be different! That’s because our students are always different. And it is one of the things I like most about teaching because I find it new and exciting all the time. So with that in mind, this is how I’ve been teaching math as of right now, the moment I’m writing this… Ask me tomorrow and it might have changed – ha!

Goals

One of my goals this year was to really work on how I teach math effectively. My learning (or Pro D I guess) started with the opportunity to test out the Educating Now website and continued through the For the Love of Math conference. Along with both of those resources have been MANY long conversations with colleagues, friends, family… Really anyone who would listen and answer my questions! About a month ago I realized that I was starting to teach math in a way that really worked for me.

Note: Most of these ideas are from other people that I have adapted to suit my needs. I apologize if I have not been able to give proper credit to sources but I had so many conversations that I can’t necessarily remember who said what. Please know that I am beyond grateful to everyone and anyone who has helped me on my (math) teaching journey.

Interactive Math Notebooks

IMG_3460I started this in January and I absolutely love how well they are working in our class! Most of my information I have on them is from Runde’s Room (she has an AMAZING resource on her Teachers Pay Teachers site that is worth every penny!) and then I have adapted my own activities from there. Basically every time we start a new section for math we have some sort of interactive notes that will become an entry in the notebook. Some helpful tips:

  • Keep a table of contents current on your board somewhere so kids can check that they are up to date.
  • Make your own notebook as a demonstration that can also be given to students who were absent to catch up
  • Have each student glue an envelope in the front cover of their notebook to keep spare pieces
  • Make sure you have lots of scissors and glue!

Small Groups

I started doing some small group lessons in the fall but hadn’t found an effective way to incorporate them into my practice. This is the one area that will definitely change as I continue to teach math because it really depends on class dynamics. Right now I am using a practice one of my administrators told me about: after each whole class lesson I assign some practice questions and then I ask students who are not quite understanding to meet me at the back table. There are a few students who by myself or their parents, have been told to come each time, there are quite a few who make the choice to come each time and then there are a few who come to the back as necessary. Together we work through a couple questions and using the small whiteboards I can quickly check to see who is understanding or not. This has been a great support for some of my students and I have noticed a big difference in their understanding.

Math Stations

This is another time I use small group teaching too. On Fridays we have a double block of math in which we usually do math stations. Although with Pro D Days and early dismissal we haven’t done this quite as often as I would like! For the math stations I have 5 or 6 stations set up that we rotate through in the double block. Usually the stations look like this:

1. Basic Facts Practice (a routine we have set up in our classroom)

2. Problem Solving (whiteboard markers and window space make this a fun one!)

3. Small group teaching (I go over a new lesson or extra practice similar to the above small groups)

4. Unit Specific Game (This is where I love TPT resources – Especially the free ones)

5. Basic Facts Game (The dice game Pig is a favourite)

6. BuzzMath (Sometimes we do this one on the iPads)

Assessment

This is one of my favourite new practices I have learned from a colleague! For our assessments we are now using a 4 question assessment for each Prescribed Learning Outcome (PLO) from the curriculum. Basically, my teaching team and I have sat down and created these assessments that have four leveled questions relating to the topic. The first question will show a basic understanding of the topic, usually something covered in a previous grade. The second question will be a very basic, practical application of the concept. The third question will show the application of the concept in context and the fourth shows higher level thinking either through problem solving or combining multiple concepts. This is such an easy way to get a snapshot of a students understanding and it takes away the pressure of the big math test.

Unit Plan and Assignments

When I go to plan a unit I usually look back at the curriculum from grade 6 to remind myself the basics that they should have. We always start our units with a good review of previous topics (I love using Math Aids for this, although not super interactive it is a lifesaver when it comes to prep time!) One of my biggest obstacles this year was trying to figure out what to mark myself, what to record, and how to help kids take responsibility for their own learning. What I have been doing for any assignments/homework that I give from the textbook is that the expectation is now that a completed assignment is finished, marked, AND corrected. The day the assignment is due I walk around with a clipboard and check students off for their assignments. Yes having students mark their own work is a bit of a risk, however you can usually tell who is doing the work properly and it really has put the learning back on them! It has also helped my student to make sure they let me know if they have had trouble or questions about their assignments.

Where Am I Going From Here?

I am going to continue with most of these practices for the rest of the year. My main efforts are going to be trying more project-based learning in math for our last few units. I am not quite sure how this will go but I will keep you posted! As far as plans for future teaching? The only thing I would like to change is to really increase my use of small group teaching. I’ve struggled a bit with the classroom management aspect of this with my current class but I think in the future I will have a better idea of how to lay out expectations and practice appropriate behaviour as we begin meaningful math practices.

I would love to hear your feedback!

What do you do in your math class?

When I Go Back to Work

Disclaimer: As always, this post is from the heart and based solely on my own experience and opportunity.

A few people have been asking me lately what I’ll do when I go back to work. I’m starting this post on my phone, with my baby snugged up in my arms as she tries to fall asleep for her first nap of the day and if I’m honest, it’s hard to think about work right now.

Before Charlee was born I interrogated talked with several teacher friends, whose opinion and knowledge I trust deeply.  We talked on the topic of babies for a long time. Part of me wasn’t sure if a baby was the “right thing” for the moment because my teaching career was (still is) so young and new. I was just getting my feet wet in our district and then BAM, I’d be off on maternity leave. Another part of me leaned into the fact that Joel and I had always wanted to be “young parents” (we are 27 and 29). I was scared that if I had a baby I wouldn’t love my job as much (who AM I?!?) and I knew for a fact that if I had a baby there would be no way I could work full time after maternity leave because I experienced full time teacher work last year and it literally used up every ounce of energy, heart and soul I had. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to be the mama I wanted to be and the teacher I wanted to be if I went back to work full time after having a baby.  This was a big dilemma for me, because I’ve always been the person who is going to go big or go home.

One dear friend said to me, “Please have children – you will do a wonderful job as a parent”. Flattering, right? Another dear friend told me that having her son made the true meaning of life clear to her. Both of these friends are teachers, mentors and leaders in our district…I figured if these phenomenal women could do it, I could do it.

Obviously we decided to follow our hearts and we had a baby.

15w3 (1024x731)Our girl is now in between three and four months old (don’t ask how many weeks…math is my weakest link and I’d have to look at a calendar to let you know). The other day Joel jokingly said to me,”Only nine more months of mat leave!” and you know what? I felt sad. Nine months to me sounds like nothing. I have no idea where the last four months have gone, so only nine more is like…what?! Note: Dear readers to the south, I know your maternity leave is basically non-existent and I feel for you.  I don’t know how people are expected to have and raise children on such a miniscule maternity leave plan.  And to our readers in Sweden, I want to move to your country.  Don’t get me wrong, I am entirely grateful for the maternity leave offered in Canada, especially because I am able to actually utilize all twelve months of it.

Confession: I am not in teacher-mode right now at all, as you can likely discern from my extreme lack of posts on this blog. If fact, when I even so much as think about teaching I can’t even draw up one fun, inspired lesson plan or idea. My brain is literally like, “Nope…you’ve got nothin'”. And I suppose that’s how it should be right now. This whole baby time IS my very own lesson; I am not the teacher, my daughter is. It’s like I’m in a year long inquiry project and it’s awesome.

Today my dentist asked me how I was enjoying maternity leave so far. She mentioned some people don’t enjoy it as much as they think they will. This has not been my experience. I adore maternity leave. Recently a friend explained to me how her life has become very simple since her son’s birth. I just think that is so beautiful. My life has also become much more simplistic since Charlee was born. For example, barely any of my days are planned right now, which is a new thing for me. We do what we want, when we want. Yesterday we went on two different hour long walks. Today we are having our nap an hour earlier than yesterday…on the couch instead of in the crib. My life has slowed wayyy down compared to last year’s full time teaching gig. I love it. My mind has space to wander and appreciate. My body has time to heal and rebuild. Somehow I can’t find time to cook dinner, but I’m not worried about it…I solved that problem and might touch on it in another post at a later time.

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She loves this game! (Most of the time).

For now I am fully immersed in the peaceful calm that is raising our baby girl during her first year of life. I’ve learned it is my attitude that makes this experience “the peaceful calm”, because trust me, there are times when it is neither peaceful nor calm.   I’m learning there is nothing a deep breath can’t solve (I started to learn this last year when I taught grade 8!)  It is my greatest honour to be here for Charlee right now.  And next December when I go back to work, I’ll only be doing so part-time. I don’t know what that looks like right now because part-time contracts vary greatly in our district. What I do know is that I am now first and foremost a mama. Teaching has become a tiny bit more of a job for me, whereas last year it was a lifestyle (and an unsustainable one at that!) This doesn’t mean I won’t teach with all my heart and soul ever again…I will, just only part of the time.

Teacher-mamas out there, how lucky are we that our profession allows us to work and still be there for our children? I’d love to hear from you about how you managed to juggle teaching (part time or full time) and being a mama when going back to the classroom after maternity leave. I have a lot of learning coming my way in the near future!

PS- Charlee is still asleep in my arms. I just wrote a whole post from my phone with one thumb. How skilled am I!

Karley