Finding My Place

I started a new job today.  Well, kind of.  We haven’t met any of our kiddos yet, because it would be really overwhelming to start English Language Support on your first day.

I’ve transitioned from Grade 1 and 2 Science and Social Studies to Grade 1-8 English Language Support.  I couldn’t be more excited.

But with change always comes a bit of trepidation and fear.  As I wrote earlier this week, change kind of terrifies me.  I have to find my place in this new universe.  One where all of a sudden I don’t really know what I’m doing like I have in the last couple of years, but instead I don’t have a clue what I’m doing and I’m by far the youngest person on the team.

Have you ever been the newbie on a team, and found yourself in a position where you’re relying on everyone around you to help you through your new task?  That’s where I feel like I am.

I don’t know what to do in this space — find my place and fit in, I suppose.  I don’t have much of a choice.

But in other, exciting news, I get to meet all my kiddos next week, and while I don’t have any clue what I’m doing, I’m sure I’ll learn quickly!  I miss kids.  I found myself all day today (during the first day of school) being jealous of everyone in a classroom getting to hear all the hilarious things kids come up with!

On Mentorship

I’m not sure when I got old…. but somewhere along the way I guess I sort of did.

It doesn’t feel like it was THAT long ago that I was in teacher’s college, trying to get my feet underneath of me in a pretty challenging world.  I was trying to learn how to teach.  I was trying to learn how to take the stuff that I knew — mostly a compilation of useless random facts that have been filed and categorized into something somewhat mildly useful — and impart it to rooms full of young, mostly only semi-interested minds.

It doesn’t feel like it’s been THAT long since I sat down at my kitchen table in a small little farming community in the Niagara Region, poring over applications to teacher’s college and wondering where I was headed.  Would I be accepted to Western, and move to London?  It was what I wanted.  Would I be accepted to Nipissing, and move to North Bay?  Would I be accepted to Trent, and move to Peterborough?  Would I be accepted at all??  It became this kind of existential crisis where my entire future (or at least, what I thought I knew of it) started to hinge on the essays, the grades (which weren’t great, hence the existential crisis), and the shoddy list of volunteer experiences.  I was afraid I’d end up moving to New Zealand to get my education (because Christmas on a beach), and my Momma was afraid I’d leave and meet a guy at the beach, never to return.  Luckily (for my Momma I suppose), this was not the case, and to Peterborough I traipsed off… flung very quickly into placements where all of a sudden, I was responsible for the learning of teenagers.  Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to teach 14-18 year olds… my how times have changed — My most popular Facebook posts are quotes from my Kinders and my Grade 1s.

Because I went to teacher’s college in what’s called the Consecutive route, I just did one year of schooling focused solely on teaching.  There’s also this deal called concurrent education, where students take education courses interspersed through their undergraduate work, and do placements on Mondays until the end of their time in school, when they start to do multiple week blocks instead.

My first placement was a tutoring block where I spent 3 weeks working daily with a few different kids, pulled out of their classes, to focus on reading skills and help them with writing.  I was privileged enough to work under an amazing mentor.  She was my first associate teacher, and she and I developed a solid mentor/mentee relationship in just under a week.  It was Cindy who I felt was the only one I could go to to ask questions like “how do you be a Christian and work in public schools?” when all my professors were making it sound like it would be impossible.

My next was teaching Grade 9 Core French.  My associate teacher in that one helped me SO MUCH in understanding that there’s more to teaching French than being able to speak it.  She gave me the skills I needed in three short weeks to help translate more than the language — she showed me how to translate the passion I had for kids to learn it, both in how she taught and in the feedback she gave me.  I truly valued her mentorship.

Being in a consecutive program, we had “extended blocks.”  I had 10 weeks in one placement.  Over an hour from my house in Peterborough.  My associate teacher and I clashed in nearly everything we talked about.  Her ideas about how I should be teaching were not mine, but I assumed I just didn’t know better.  After all, my knowledge base in Grade 11 Anthropology and Travel & Tourism was non-existent, so I assumed I just didn’t know what I was doing.  I felt like I tried to be what I was being asked to be, and it wasn’t working.  I was miserable, and I almost dropped out of teacher’s college during that 10 week placement.  It took many, many tearful conversations with my Mom on the phone to convince me to just stick it out and if it wasn’t what I wanted after all, I’d at least have my expensive piece of paper.

I didn’t realize it then… in fact, I didn’t realize it until last year… but our mentorship relationship was not well suited.  We didn’t fit.  While she was a fantastic teacher, she wasn’t the teacher that I saw myself being, or that I thought I even could be because our personalities were so different, and so I had a difficult time learning from her.  I had the feeling that she expected me to teach like her.  That may not have been her intention, but I felt intimidated.

Fast forward a few (*cough* 6) years, and now all of a sudden, somebody somewhere considers me old enough, experienced enough, and mature enough to mentor others.  I started last year with my first student teacher, and it took me a while to feel comfortable in that role.  Mentoring someone else… teaching someone how to teach…. when did I become responsible enough to pull this off?

At 3:30 this afternoon, I said goodbye to two more student teachers.  I took on a 3rd year student teacher in October, and then when the opportunity arose to take on a first year student who would be mentored by the third year (and by me), I signed up.  It was an incredible opportunity for me, and, judging by the difficult goodbye the three of us experienced this afternoon, I suspect it was meaningful for them as well.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the value of a solid mentor in the last few weeks, but particularly in the last week as they finished up a solid week block (instead of just being in on Mondays).  It just hadn’t occurred to me that I could be seen as a solid mentor.

I don’t feel old enough, responsible enough, mature enough, or experienced enough for this to have happened…. but somewhere along the line it seems to have.

What about you?  Have you ever found yourself in a spot where you were mentoring someone?  Have you been mentored?  How was that experience for you?

photo 3(5)I nearly wept…. couldn’t even handle it… I’m gonna miss those girls.



I like my milk tye-dyed

I felt like I had nothing to write tonight.  But… then I remembered that this past week in Grade 2 Science has been the most fun I’ve ever had teaching, and I think I’ll do a strictly teaching post today.

We’ve been learning about really great things — viscosity, transparency, absorption, dissolving, saturation…. it’s been great.

We started off mixing water and vegetable oil.  I coloured the water with food colouring so they’d get the full effect…

Then, for kicks, we made a lava lamp.  I love teaching grade 1 and 2 because every experiment just blows the lid off their world, because they didn’t know this stuff was possible before!  air bubbles in vegetable oil just makes them lose their minds.  All I hear around the classrooms some days are “whoa!”  and “oh my gosh!  look!”  It’s the most rewarding feeling EVER and I think I want to teach science for a really long time.

Yesterday, we dissolved different solids in water — sugar, salt, sugar cubes, sand (didn’t dissolve), flour, corn starch, a rock (didn’t dissolve), a nickel (didn’t dissolve), and my favourite — a jolly rancher lollipop.  That one took overnight to dissolve, and my kids talked me into trying to drink it…. I will never listen to them again.

My favourite part of yesterday was while we were learning what saturation is (adding solids to the point where no more solids will mix into the water), and we made a highly concentrated salt water mixture….. I let two of them taste it… one before it was fully saturated, and another as salt was settling on the bottom.  The looks on their faces were priiiiceless.  Priceless.  I don’t even have words.

But today was my absolute favourite.  We tye-dyed milk today.  I had those kids’ full attention for an hour straight.


Procedure (for those who want to try this.  It’s really cool!):

1.  Pour milk to the rim of a bowl (clearly I used an aluminum pie plate).
2.  Add several (I used 6-7) drops of food colouring of each colour.  Put them far enough away from each other that they don’t blend in together and change to secondary colours.
3.  Add 2-3 drops of dish soap.  The food colouring will flee to the edges of the dish as the surface tension of the milk breaks and the molecules can move more freely.
4.  I added about the same amount of food colouring again, again also keeping them separate.
5.  I added way more dish soap this time, swirling it in a circle as I went.  Because the surface tension of the milk is broken by the dish soap, the food colouring doesn’t mix together and you end up with tye-dyed swirls.

I took a video of this to post.  I was going to post it on YouTube and then link it to here… but to do that, I told my kids that no names were allowed to be mentioned and I couldn’t show any of their faces…. Of course, though, one of them said my name, and then I said his in response… haha… so it’s staying on my phone.  But you’ll have to try it for yourselves!  It’s easy, and it’s super fun!

You’re Loved.

So for a little while, I’ve been following this fantastic blogger (and I now own a couple of her books) named Holley Gerth.  She’s another one of those who writes into my heart.

She’s started “Coffee For Your Heart,” which allows those what want to join in a chance to be encouraging (with prompts she sends out) every Wednesday, whether through their blog, their Facebook, or a Tweet.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150I was apprehensive about whether or not I’d join in on this… but I’ve decided that it’ll be good to be stretched beyond a random prompt and into one that is kind of serious.

So today’s prompt is simply “You’re Loved.”

I’ve decided to write a letter to all my students.  I understand that they won’t see it, but I find that when I really focus on the reason that I keep teaching, even on the hard days, it makes me better at what I do, and that helps me encourage my students by extension.

So here it goes.

Dear Kidlets:

I want you to know that the reason I drag my butt out of bed on weekday mornings is not just because I have to and because they pay me to.  I do it because you make me laugh with your antics, with the way you see things, and with the things you say.  It’s because I’m not succeeding unless you’re succeeding, and so neither of us can succeed if I’m not there.  It’s because when I see you finally get something that you’ve been struggling with, your persistence makes me beam with pride.  It’s because I’m watching you grow up before my very eyes, and I’m so proud of the people you’ll become some day.  You’ve all got potential to be someone amazing, and I truly hope that each one of you harnesses that potential and soars.

Some days it may not seem like I love you that much.  You see, sometimes love from a teacher looks tough.  Sometimes I say no to things you really want, or I make you do things you really don’t want to do.  Whether you’re 6, 10, or 14, I promise I’m doing my best to make decisions that are best for you, even if they seem like I’m out to make you miserable.

Sometimes you may think my rules are stupid, but they’re there to keep you safe.  Like this morning in gym when I said we’re going to do a relay where we have to hold hands, and so I said NO RUNNING because when we run holding hands, it’s really really dangerous and we can fall and hurt ourselves… I was doing it not because it’s less fun to walk, but because I didn’t want you to get hurt.  It nearly broke my heart when one of you wiped out and bumped your head, and that’s why I ran to you to help you up and scooped you up to get you some ice.

I want you to know that the reason I’m there every day is so I can teach you about more than just what’s in the books.  I want to teach you how to handle conflict.  I want to teach you how to get along with each other, even if you don’t like each other.  I want to teach you how to be kind to one another, show compassion, and to accept people’s differences so that we can all live together peacefully.  I know these are lofty goals, but if I can be an influence in even one of your precious lives, and make an impact that years from now makes you remember me and smile, I’ll know I’ve done my job.  I’ll know I’ve done it very well if you can remember me and smile, and then remember an important lesson that I taught you.  Hopefully it’ll have nothing to do with curriculum.

Kiddos, I know this has been sappy, but I have to tell you… that even when you’re challenging to teach, I still love you.  Without you guys, I wouldn’t have a job to do at all, but you certainly keep it interesting.  Keep it up.

Collecting Details

I like the idea of this prompt, because there’s a whole lot of truth there.  I spend a good chunk of my day wandering from task to task, collecting details in my brain about what I’ll write next.

This week’s challenge

To recap, here’s what to do for the challenge. As always, feel free to adapt the challenge as you see fit. The object is to get you writing:

  1. Pick three original details from encounters during your day or your week that you’ve observed.
  2. Once you’ve collected your details, your “glimmers of a beginning,” write at least one paragraph containing your original details.

Last night, I stood outside walking my dog for the last time before bed, and I was struck by something I’m not usually struck by — the snow is beautiful.  (Back story — worst Canadian ever.  I hate winter and all that comes with it… the cold, the snow, the ice, the slippery-ness, the shoveling, the scraping… it’s not my favourite.)  It was crisp bitterly cold outside, and the moon was full, shining enough light through the complete lack of clouds in the night sky that my front porch light was completely unnecessary.  Over the weekend, we were dumped on by about 15cm of snow.  I know that for some, 15cm is really not a lot of snow.  For where I live in Ontario though, we tend to get avoided by pretty much all weather, and so to have it snow for 24 hours straight…. I freak out a little bit.


The sheer amount of snow that piled up, combined with the chilly temperatures means that while I’m teaching Kindergarten in the morning, I have to have them back in time to have 10-15 minutes to bundle up before eating lunch so they can be warm going outside (or going home at home time).  Today, I had Kindergarten right before first recess as well as last period at the end of the day.  One of them comes to me as she’s finally finished bundling up (all but one mitten), and asks me to help her with the last mitten.  She says “I’m a big girl, now!  I can do up my own coat!  But… the other mitten is hard.”  I agreed with her, and asked how old she was.  She holds up one mitten covered hand and announces proudly, “I’m THIS MANY!”  Helpful, haha.

The prompt asks for three details, so I guess… I dunno… I’ll share my favourite Christmas song right now, because when it’s on in the car I belt it at the top of my lungs.  I love everything Sugarland has ever done, so it’s not a stretch that I love this, but the incredible voice on Jennifer Nettles just adds to the beauty of this song.

Oh, and while I’m here, here’s the song that’s been in my head for two days, because Charlie Worsham might be the most talented artist I’ve seen in a looong time (check out his youtube channel and watch his covers — he lets his fans pick one song on his Facebook page each week, then he learns every single part on various instruments/implements, and plays/sings every part, recording it in just 24 hours for our listening pleasure.  Amazing.  Anyway, here’s Could It Be.

The 10 Greatest Things About Being a Kid

I have not been a kid in 20ish years, but I teach them every day.  I think, if I could give up my independence and go back to being a kid for a day, these would be the 10 reasons I’d do so.  Probably the only 10 reasons though… cuz most days I just don’t think I could deal with the drama that accompanies being a kid.  (Inspired by my two kindergarten classes and the prompt found at Mama Kat’s Losin It)

Anyway, here’s the list — Letterman style — last to greatest.

10.  You don’t have to do up your own coat or tie your own shoes (until you prove once that you’re capable, then you always have to do it).

9.  Your lunch is packed for you, and an adult will open the hard-to-open wrappers and containers for you.

8.  When someone’s reading you a story, it’s expected that you’ll call out in surprise at the idea of things like alligators living in the sewers.

7.  When you miss your Mom, it’s ok to cry.  People will even hug you for it.

6.  You get invited to everyone’s birthday party, and celebrate pretty much every holiday during school time with parades and wicked fun crafts.

5.  Everything you’re learning is new, so pretty much everything’s exciting and mind-blowing.

4.  Along with # 5, the adults in your life are very quick to praise you to no end for every simple discovery.

3.  Your laughter is intoxicating and makes others laugh with you.

2.  You can say and do really cheeky things and get away with it because you’re unbelievably precious.  (e.g. kids saying things like “point taken,” “my listening ears are broken,” and “my thinking cap fell off,” and when you win a game and do the biggest gun-show ever)

1.  It doesn’t matter how ridiculous you look in your class picture, the picture is still absolutely adorable.

Also, while I’m here, PLEASE read this post by Angelina at The Road to Roma called “An Open Letter To God (re:  online dating).  It pretty much sums up my feelings about online dating right now.  Angelina… it’s like I could have written it myself.

Placebo Effect: Daily Post.

Yesterday’s WordPress Post-a-day challenge was about Conflict.  I wrote mine from the point of view of an elementary school teacher who happens to teach pretty young kids.  It’s hard not to use my kidlets as a filter to think and write about things, so today’s post will be similar.

The Placebo Effect.  I see it in full force DAILY.  You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.

If you have young kids, you’ll know quite well how much a band-aid and an ice pack can cure.  This was my first thought when I read the word ‘placebo’ in my prompt email this morning.  The number of times I’m asked daily for a band-aid for a week old scrape, just because it hurts… or for an ice pack for a scrape….

My first couple of years teaching, I spent an inordinate amount of time arguing that band-aids aren’t necessary when there isn’t blood, and that ice isn’t necessary when there isn’t swelling…. well, I folded this year when I switched to primary.  I now hand out ice when they ask, because, you know what?  Placebos work.  When the kids feel better, we all feel better, so they can have their ice and band-aids if it makes them stop crying.  By the time they’re a little older, I start to explain the purpose of band-aids and ice, but not when they’re super little.  The littles don’t get it.

So, if I could create a painless, inexpensive cure that would take care of a single ailment… hmmm… what would I ‘cure?’

My first thought is stupidity.  Can we please come up with a cure for stupidity?  I’m not sure if that qualifies as an ailment, but I’d love to cure it.  That, or bad driving?

I don’t know.

The obvious answers are things like cancer, ALS, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, MS, Cerebral Palsy …. and the list goes on and on and on…

But that’s not very creative, now is it?

Unfortunately… I googled “cure for stupidity”…… and I have some bad, terrible news.

I found more of the following adages than I did cures:

  • Duct tape can’t cure stupid.
  • Your diagnosis is stupid; I’m afraid there is no cure.
  • **Breaking News:  Common Sense is now an endangered species.  Stupidity has taken over the world, and unfortunately there is no known cure.**


We all experience conflict at some point or another in our lives.  Sometimes it’s disastrous conflict, sometimes it’s little and to others, it seems completely insignificant…. but it means a lot to us, no?

I teach elementary school kids, young ones — kindergarten to grade 3, and I see this exemplified every single day.  I’ve tried countless times to explain the difference between tattling and reporting, but I still hear the tattles every day, after each recess.

Tattling — your purpose is to get someone else in trouble.  The end.

Reporting — You’re concerned for the safety of the person you’re telling about, or the safety of someone else, or you think there’s bullying going on.  You’re sure someone’s going to hurt or they already have.  Maybe the other person is bullying you or someone else.  And lastly, maybe someone made you feel icky, and you don’t like that icky feeling.  If any of these are true, go get an adult you trust right away.  If they’re not, you’re probably tattling.

The other day, I was outside on yard duty.  My outside duty is all with Junior/Intermediate kids (grade 4-8).  Four of them came running at me, determined to tell me what the problem was.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of intervening for kids where intervention is necessary — especially in cases like I mentioned describing reporting… but when I’m not actually needed and the kids just want a quick solution, I tend to refuse to help.  Like I mentioned, the other day four kids came running to me determined that I was going to fix their four square drama for them.

“Jimmy took the ball and he’s out!  He said he’s not, but he is!!”

“What exactly would you like me to do for you?”

“Tell him he’s OUUUUUUT!!!!!”  (whiny grade 6s are NOT my favourite thing)

“How bout this?  I don’t do four square drama.  Figure this out, or my solution is going to be to take the ball, and then no one can play.

“But… BUT!”

“Nope, figure it out, or I’ll take the ball.  Don’t tattle.”

It may seem harsh, but it’s been working for years.  It normally works itself out.  Either they quit caring that the kid refused to get out, or they tried fifteen times harder to make it undeniable that he was out to get him REALLY out… but whatever happens, they usually solve their own issue when it comes to the giant ball four square game.

I could have talked about my own conflict skills/lack thereof sometimes (I like to flee from conflict), but since I deal with conflict and helping resolve it on a daily basis, I thought I’d talk about that side of it for WordPress’s Daily Prompt.  Haven’t we all been given those skills in some way or another, from someone or multiple people in our lives that cared about us?  The adults in our lives knew when we were kids that as we grew up, we were going to need to learn how to deal with our own conflict, and you can’t just teach that.  I can’t just tell a kid how to resolve a conflict.  I can guide, I can give suggestions, and I can supervise, but no amount of my instruction will equal half of the skills they’ll gain from the experience of figuring it out on their own.

What were some of your experiences with learning how to deal with conflict as a kid?

Also, please check me out on BlogHer!