Arts and Crafts/Creativity

Designing My Classroom Door


For a preschool teacher, I  consider myself to be pretty terrible at art. I tend to shy away from wanting to design doors and big wall spaces, because I just don’t feel that I have the gift of visual creativity. This past week, however, I spent some time designing our classroom door for the Winter season and I was pretty impressed with myself and wanted to share!
One of our parents is an elementary school teacher and always brings in leftover things from her classroom that she thinks we can use. I am so grateful that her son is in our class because she has brought in so many useful toys, books, and craft materials. A few weeks ago, she brought in some perfectly cut snowflakes and I knew when I saw them that I would want to use them on our classroom door – I just wasn’t quite sure what type of design I would want, or how I would go about creating it.

As I was browsing Pinterest, I saw a really cute classroom door featuring owls, snow, and the words “Whoo baby, it’s cold outside !” I knew this idea would be perfect for our class, because we are the Owls.

I went around my school, looking for enough brown paper (to make the tree branches), and black paper to make it look like night-time.

We didn’t have any black board paper so I used a soft lilac color instead. I lined the door with purple paper, crinkled up the brown paper to make the tree look more realistic, and scattered the snowflakes and cotton balls around the door. We have about a million owl cut outs in our room, so I chose three to place in the tree branches.

One of the differences between our door and the pinterest door is that our door window is a lot wider. Instead of using letter stencils to write “Whoo baby, it’s cold outside,” I simply wrote it on our door with a glass marker.

Many times people joke about how their version of a pinterest creation pales drastically in comparison to the original, but I am  happy to be able to say that our door is just as good as the original on which it was modeled!

Here is a picture of the original that I found on Pinterest:


I don’t brag often, but this artistically challenged preschool teacher feels pretty good about our classroom door and all the compliments it has gotten!

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Education, Teacher Fitness

School Days!

A few months ago, I started working in a new school – about ten minutes away from where we live – teaching a new age group! It’s definitely been an adjustment on several levels, but I am enjoying my new job and having a lot of fun there.

First, I don’t think I can overstate how hard it is to be a working mom! Kudos to all of the single moms out there, because I don’t think I could run a household, take care of a baby, and work a full time job without a supportive partner. And, on top of the nonstop list of things to get done in both the home and professional arenas, there is quite a bit of sadness that surrounds dropping your child off to be with someone else all day, and there is a constant tinge of guilt for missing out on your child’s day to day development and interactions. I am so thankful that our son loves his teachers and his classmates – I definitely would not have been able to keep this job if I felt that my son was unhappy there – since he is there for eleven hours a day! I’m also grateful that I am able to take him to work with me every day. His class is in a different building, but I still get the chance to go and visit him, which is important. Finally, I’m grateful for the one day off that I have in the middle of the week. It’s been such a blessing to find a job that allows me to have schedule like this – it’s great to be a fake stay at home mom once a week!

Another huge adjustment that I am getting used to is the ratio of class sizes in my new state. In my old state, ratios for preschool children were much lower. The class sizes here are huge! Sometimes I feel that the ratios here have affected my teaching ability. With so many children running around, it is hard to get the one on one time with each of my students. I am often unsure of whether or not I am doing an effective job, because I don’t always get the chance to have quality time with each of them – though I try! One thing that has really helped with this is splitting our class into small groups for learning activities, which really gives me a better chance to focus on each individual child.

I wanted to share some of the activities we’ve been doing over the past month! My co-teacher and I switch off in terms of who is planning all of the lessons and activities. For two weeks, she will run the show by planning all of the lessons and preparing all of the materials, and I will support her by keeping the classroom clean and organized and keeping the kids busy when she is setting up activities. After her two weeks ends, it’s my turn to plan and execute all of the lessons for two weeks – and she helps me out by keeping up with all of the essential “background” tasks that help keep a classroom running. It’s a good system and I think it works really well for us.

I haven’t been there very long, but so far I have been in charge of the “Fall on the Farm” theme and the “Travel and Transportation” theme.

I painted a barn and tried to turn our dramatic play area into a farm. By the end of the two weeks, we’d filled it with crafts of corn, pumpkins, and various animals. We planted pinto beans in cotton balls and watched them sprout, we took our toy farm animals outside and traced their shadows, we painted and made prints with vegetables, weighed pumpkin seeds and corn kernels, and much more. It was fun to see the kids get excited about the fall season.

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In the middle of all this, our school held its pumpkin patch event and the kids got to go out and pick pumpkins. We spent some time dissecting a pumpkin and learning more about what was inside of a pumpkin and what types of things could be done with pumpkin seeds.

For our Travel and Transportation week, I attempted to turn our dramatic play area into an airport. I didn’t do as great of a job with that as I had hoped to do, but the kids still loved it and played in it. I even got some compliments on my airplane (which, if you ask me, wasn’t all that great). We made paper airplanes and flew them around our school gym, we inspected globes, maps, license plates, and fighter pilot attire that one of our parents brought in, we talked about boats and predicted which items in our classroom would sink or float, and we enjoyed creating a school-bus from a huge box that all of the kids could get inside of and play in. I really believe in the power of learning through play and I hope that I’ve given my kids some fun and engaging activities to help enhance their abilities in each of the domains of early childhood development.

Education, Emotional Fitness, Infertility, Mental Fitness, Teacher Fitness

Working With Children. Coping With Infertility.

Below is an updated version of a blog entry I wrote last year for National Infertility Awareness week. I’d taken the entry off-line and stopped blogging under that name, but since it is NIAW again, I decided to re-post! I hope it will serve as an encouragement to those who work with children while struggling with infertility! 

As a child-care provider, I know how hard it is to go to work every day with children that you absolutely adore, and return home every night with the empty feeling of not being able to have your own. It sucks, frankly. It sucks to get attached to children whose lives you will only be in for a short period of time. It sucks to be around mothers who talk excitedly with one another about their child’s development and the fun things they do with their kids during the weekend. It sucks when you see families that aren’t so great, and you wonder why they are lucky enough to have children they don’t want and you are unlucky enough to want children you don’t have. I get it. And yet, no matter how you’re feeling, you still have to show up to work with a professional and cheerful attitude. You still have to be around and discuss infants, toddlers, and children all.of.the.time. You still have to keep up with all the latest parenting trends and child-development developments. You still have to bring your A-game and make life wonderful for these kids while they’re with you.

So, how do you cope?

Take it minute by minute.

Your infertility is something about which you can feel hopeful, indifferent, and totally depressed within just a few minutes! I have certainly experienced times at work where I have felt blessed and content just to be around my wonderful kids, knowing that at the right time I will get pregnant and have my own. Less than two minutes later, I’m trying to hold it all together as my kids pile up in my lap and ask me to read them a story. You have to deal responsibly with each emotion as it arises. Acknowledge and validate each emotion, but remember that you still have a job to do and the kids you’re with right now are counting on you right now. Don’t let them down.

Remember that many of the children we work with did not come as easily as we think.

Sometimes we look at our daycare kids and think that their moms are so lucky to just be able to pop out babies so easily! I once babysat for one of my students, and his mom revealed to me that they had tried to get pregnant for three years before he was born! Another of my kids’ parents suffered four miscarriages before finally having her son. Hearing these stories really was a great reminder that alot of the parents I am serving have had their own lengthy struggles with infertility as well! It is encouraging to know that after all their struggle, they were finally able to concieve!

Remain grateful for the things you can do, while you can do them.

As professionals who work with children, we have the advantage of not romanticizing motherhood! I have heard some say that a profession in child-care is a form of birth control, because we know the nitty gritty details of what children are really like and we have a pretty good idea of the all-consuming effort it takes to keep a child happy and healthy! Whenever I am hanging out with my husband, I feel grateful that we have the kind of strong and loving relationship that children should be brought into. It’s nice when we can randomly decide to do things together. And I love my lazy Saturdays. Of course, the “inconveniences” of losing free time and sleep won’t bother me as much when I become a mother – because I have waited years for the chance to sit up all night with a fussy baby – but since I currently do not have that responsibility, I try to enjoy the lazy Saturdays and the impromptu Netflix nights with my husband.

Don’t lose yourself in your infertility!

I think that this is probably the most important item on the list. It is incredibly easy to become obsessive with all the charting, doctor visits, symptom spotting, and online comiserating that goes on while you’re in the cycle of two week waits. You can lose yourself. You can forget that you are not your infertility. I will admit that I desperately want to become a mother. If you follow my blog, you know that I feel motherhood is more than a desire – but a calling that God has placed on my life. But I have other interests, too. I have other goals. I have hobbies that don’t relate to childcare and childhood development, and I will not allow my infertility to consume my life. Get back in touch with who you were and what you loved before you started trying for children. Take the opportunity to soak yourself in those things, because hopefully all your free time will soon be zapped away by your precious little bundle of hard work!

Obviously, these things are more easily said (or written) than done. I know that. It’s very hard to keep a good attitude about your infertility, since there is never really an ‘end in sight.’ But if infertility is something you struggle with – and especially if you’re struggling with this while working with children – you should be proud of your ability to bravely and optimistically face what is likely one of the hardest and loneliest times of your life. Approached with the right attitude, you can learn amazing things during this time and your future children (and the world around you) will be better off on account of the things that you have learned how to endure.

Education, Teacher Fitness

The Award For Most Improved

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I am a preschool teacher.
I absolutely love watching children grow and reach milestones in their development. As an infertile, teaching preschool is tough. But as an educator, teaching preschool can be so fulfilling at times.

I have actually  worked with all ages between three months and ten years, but I am currently  working with toddlers and twos. I am a lead teacher in a two’s classroom, and a substitute  teacher for infant and toddler classes when their teachers are out.

In my class, we have ten children, and one of them – we’ll call him “Max” – seemed to have some serious developmental issues. My kids stay with me for a full calendar year, and from the time Max joined our class almost a year ago until just a few months ago (June or July), I really had not seen much development.

My superiors at work were constantly asking if I thought he needed to be placed in special education, while my coworkers shook their heads at him and made comments to me like, “I don’t know how you do it!”  And I have to admit that there were a lot of times where I felt exhausted and truly challenged by this child. But deep inside I knew that Max was/is a typically developing child with no need for special  education  – just a need for more discipline, more boundaries, and higher expectations.

The first  time that I tried talking to his parents, I felt that they were uninterested  in anything I had to say. They seemed annoyed that I would find any sort of fault with their child and they seemed offended by my “implications” of their bad parenting. Perhaps I misread them, but this was the impression that they gave me.

For a long time, the mother barely spoke to me and I have no idea if this  was purposeful  or if she was truly  in a rush. But I felt that she didn’t like me at all! Meanwhile,  Max’s behavior and delayed development  seemed to be getting  worse and worse.

I’m  not sure what changed his parents’ mind, but I think it was when Max hurt another child and we warned them that our director has a three-strikes-you’re-out policy. They seemed to start disciplining more and mom even started talking  to me again!

She informed me that she was going to have him tested for any developmental delays and have him put in speech therapy.  Music to my ears. Of course, I told her my thoughts – which were that I encouraged the testing but honestly did not believe Max was incapable of being (developmentally) where he should  be, but that he was just not doing more than the bare minimum  because it was not required of him.

A specialist came to visit and observe Max during class, and I had a nice, long chat with her. It felt so good to know that she agreed with me and that she would do what she could to help Max’s parents and I get on the same page.

Max is now only a couple of days away from leaving  my class and graduating to the next age group, and thankfully  he is doing much better! I adore this little boy and am so proud of all the progress he has made in these short months. He is talking more, is doing more for himself, is less aggressive, is able to follow directions  and pay attention,  is making  choices (good ones!), and is just an absolutely  adorable  bundle of affection.
I’m so proud of him.

Preschool teachers often feel undervalued  and overworked – even more so than teachers who teach within a school system. We are often seen as little more than glorified babysitters, and we are not often taken seriously  by parents or professionals in other fields.

But seeing improvements in kids like Max and watching these kids gain confidence and independence makes it so worth it.

And I will be so happy if, one day, I can experience this type of pride in a child from a mother’s point of view.