Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Quiet.

I don't know about your school, but spring has SPRUNG in my students these days.  They are feeling the warmth and excitement of the upcoming spring break.  They are louder and sweatier and starting to lose a little of their common sense.   Good kids are slowing crossing to the dark side and a lot of teachers begin considering what grown-up life must be like outside of the classroom walls.

Here's my tip to all of my school friends battling the insanity: 

Whenever possible, invite quiet into your classroom.  

Not solitary confinement-type quiet--but reflective, purposeful, and meaningful pockets of quiet time in your classroom.  Your students need time to process the information you are throwing at them--and they cannot do that properly if you never give them time to think about your lesson.  They aren't used to silence or the lack of a gadget in their hands to occupy the 2.4 seconds of downtime.  They don't always need your guided questions.  They don't always need another worksheet.  They don't always need another passage, another computer game, or another time-filler.

Sometimes they just need to stop and work through the information.

Their bodies and brains also need time during the day to come down from the high-energy frenzy happening in your classrooms.  They don't need to operate full-throttle.  They don't need constant interruptions or chaos.  They need recovery time.  Think about how your kids act as soon as they come in from the playground.  Most kids need at least 5-10 minutes to get the adrenaline and excitement out of their systems and return to a state of rest.  Instead of screaming at them to listen and get quiet and threaten punishments that will last until the end of the year--why not give them something calm to work on independently?  Encourage them to read or write or even put their heads down.  You aren't wasting time--you are giving them recovery time.  Athletes in training must find time to rest--your students are in training and their minds and bodies need rest as well.

What can you do today to make your classroom quiet?  

How can you slow the pace of the day, and yet still accomplish all of your goals?   

How can you encourage calm moments? 

Have you tried changing the mood of your room recently?  Sometimes it only takes minimal changes such as lowering the lights, playing quiet music, and enforcing silence/reflective times. Maybe you have a white noise machine or a water fountain?  There are plenty of scenic images that can be used as screen savers on your class laptops or Smartboards.

Other times you may want to improve the physical atmosphere of your classroom.  Are there spaces that could use some organization?  Is there a way you could introduce pleasant smells--perhaps open a window or use a neutral-scented air freshener?  Do you have plants or aquariums?

What about you?  What are you personally doing to bring a level of quiet to the room?  Are you cool, calm, and collected or are you running on all cylinders all day, every day, all year and flying around your classroom (and up and down the halls) with a half-crazed look on your face?  Are you managing your time well or are you constantly rushing students to the next activity?

Slow.       Down. 

Your classroom should not always feel like an emergency situation.  You shouldn't be cramming the students with information or reminding them over and over and over and over about upcoming tests and grades and assignments.  You shouldn't be running behind the minute you step into the building. 

Give them (and yourself) time to breathe.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Eyeballs.

Today when you're dealing with your sweet babies--make sure you look them in the eyes.  

When you're giving whole class instruction--look them in the eye. 

When you are speaking to a child for his unfortunate behavior choices--make him look you in the eye when you're speaking to him. 

When you are giving encouragement to the child that has been bullied, look him in the eye.  

You know the expression "the eyes are windows to the souls"?  

It's true.  

Your kids' eyes will reveal a lot of secrets that their face, body language, and actions will keep from you.  

But be careful.  

When you look them in the eyes, they will be able to see your intentions, opinions, and heart.   They will know if you love and care for them.  They will also know if you are an impostor who honestly doesn't like them one bit.  

What do you think your kids will see when they look you in the eye today?     

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Accepting reality.

The reality of my life is that I need to work in order to accomplish some financial goals for my family.  Would I love to be a stay-at-home mom and let the well-being of our family become my primary task?  To cultivate a space that is welcoming and nurturing and full of creativity?

Absolutely--in a moment's notice.  

Unfortunately, that's not my life right this moment.  We have things like our girls' "extensive orthodontic future" and college and retirement and other things that we work towards taking care of right now.  We have smaller dreams and things we'd like to do as a family.

Photography by Caroline Collie @ Quiver Tree Photography
And because those things are important to us, I remain working to help make that happen.  

There are people who say things like, "If you really wanted to stay home, you could.  You just have to make sacrifices."  And they are probably right, but I also believe in making the right sacrifices for our family--not the selfish ones.  Do I want to stay home?  Do I want my child to have crazy teeth?  Do I want to spend my life chained to payments?  Do we need eye insurance?  Do we want to help pay for college?  Do we want to be able to travel and expose our girls to things outside of our eastern NC town?

My wants are often overshadowed by the needs.  I try to shirk off the feelings of judgement from those who seem to make it work in their families.  I remind myself that each family has its own issues and things they must work through.

Photography by Caroline Collie @ Quiver Tree Photography
And while I'm ok with this--it hasn't changed the desires of my heart.  There are ridiculous days at work full of ridiculous moments and it's all I can do sometimes to start the next day with a clean slate.  There are evenings when I eye the laundry piles (some folded and some not) and the dishes in the sink and the time with my kids that is so fleeting.  Most nights I fall asleep as soon as I lay my head on my pillow.  There are times when adding one more thing to my calendar makes me want to cry and comfort myself with coffee and pajamas and silence.  I want a life full of friends and family and fun, but I also recognize (in true highly-sensitive fashion) that if I don't find adequate rest and space, I will quickly shut down.

I don't want to spend my life in a state of panic, rush, guilt, and shame that my overachieverness is failing the faces and places I love the most.  I don't want to look back and think about all the missed opportunities because I was so focused on the daily minutia.  I don't want to find myself at my breaking point on a weekly basis.

So, I am learning to recognize my limits and putting them into practice.  I am realizing there are certain things and folks and activities that drain me dry, and I cannot continue to allow that to happen.  I am learning that there are boundaries of time and energy and with people that I must guard or I will find myself sinking quickly.  I want to cultivate life and love in my household.  I want to create a space that is beautiful physically and personally for my family.

And because my home is my current priority, there is fat that must be trimmed from my life.  There are things that I'm releasing because they cannot have control over me anymore.  There are relationships that must end because I simply can't handle the pressure.  There are decisions that must be made to guard my mental and emotional stability.  There is guilt that I must no longer place on myself.

I'm slowly taking a deep breath and inhaling all the things that are good in my life.  
I'm welcoming the creative and life-giving moments and souls into my schedule.  
And I'm putting down my crowns of achievements and picking up and putting on rest and contentment.        


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