Wednesday, July 31, 2019

New (School) Year's Resolutions

I'm a teacher, so each time I start another school year, I think through what I want my life to look like during the next 12 months. This is when I write and draw my goals. I do this with a mind map to ensure that my life is balanced. Each year's mind map look a lot like the previous year's because I find my categories have been working for me and I want to maintain the traction I've gained.  There's nothing wrong with wanting to continue regular exercise and scripture study. It takes some effort to keep up good habits and I write some of these things down to remind myself that they are important to me. Some goals I want to make sure I get worked into the year, for example, I do a mile swim every summer to be sure that I can still do it. If it weren't for it being written down, it would be too easy to get out of doing it.

Other things, I still haven't gotten around to accomplishing, but I have to keep believing that this is the year that I am really going to make a will, lose ten pounds, and make that trip to Italy. I thought that this is the summer we'd be making a big road trip to the west, until the location for our family reunion was moved to the east coast.  Rather than trying to paint white over that big part of my mind map, I just use it as a reminder to be flexible. Because I check off the things that I do accomplish,  I can see that not getting around to everything isn't the end of the world. It's like they say: if you reach for the moon and miss, you're still among the stars.  Okay, I know the stars are much, much further than the moon, but you get the idea. Dream BIG, do your best, and don't beat yourself up.
It feels great to look back and see how far you've come.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Myth of the Three Month Summer

My young summer camp students illustrate a song
As a kid, summer vacation lasted from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Since my parents were teachers, we could take a month to drive from Pennsylvania to grandparents in California every 4 years and still have a couple months to make thousands of mud pies and hone our tree climbing techniques. Now that I'm a teacher, with children of my own, however, I can barely find the summer hours for a single mud pie. Here's why.

My students graduate at the end of May and school usually starts about August 1st, which makes it sound like two solid months off, until you realize that the first week of June is post planning and the last week of July is pre-planning.  That gives us a month and a half, unless you teach the week-long summer program at the school, which I always do.

 High School Wesleyan fine arts campers on a gallery walk
And this summer I started working Wesleyan College's summer Fine Arts program which is also a week long.

Then there's the Masters of Education program and I love to help teach the Creativity in the Classroom class every summer.

My graduate students learn how to teach math through art
Toss in my friend's grandma-camp art lesson for two of her cuties and I find myself teaching most of the summer.

I hope I can keep coming back to teach these two each summer
I'm not complaining, there's not a single summer teaching gig that I want to give up. If anything I'd give up the 20 plus appointments to doctors, dentists, orthodontists and orthopedics, but then again, I'd rather concentrate all the family check-ups and minor procedures than have to take off work once the school year starts. And I don't want to give up the home-improvement and scrapbooking projects. I need to make sure my daughter gets to her camps, and my boys get enough hours in for their summer jobs, but everyone needs a break to keep from going crazy.

My family in Pennsylvania Dutch Country last week

That's why I strongly believe in getting out of town and away from endless to-do lists at some point during the summer. My week in Pennsylvania this summer did the trick with lots of chances to visit with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. I tried to balance rest (conversations, board games, naps, reading) with day trips to National parks, historic sites and museums.  All of the activities either help me recharge for the school year or they will feed into my curriculum at some point.

Teaching isn't like a job that I can clock out for the day or the summer because for those of us, who have heard the calling to become teachers, it is not only about what we is who we are.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Kid Weaving Project 101

You know you're on the right track when the school's occupational therapist walks into your classroom and says, "I love this project!" The little fingers of my elementary students are not used to performing the small motor skills needed to weave, so it was a struggle to get them started. But after about 45 minutes of struggling, some were able to figure it out and work independently. It takes practice and practice takes time, but that's about all it took since we already had the materials handy.

 A paper or styrofoam plate with an odd number of half inch slits around the edge is how we got started. I made 13 slits. I had to do the prep work for most of my students by wrapping yarn across the plate and up the next slit to go across the front again. Because we needed an odd number of slits, I poked a hole in the center of the plate and pushed the yarn through the hole after the final slit, before tying the ends together.  Then we threaded yarn in a big plastic needle, although the fat yarn didn't need a needle, and started in the center and tying the two ends together on the back. "Under, over, under over" little voices said quietly as they tried to push the yarn under a cross thread and pull it out the other side.

Students with multiple complex needs obviously weren't ready for weaving, but they could manage to wrap the yarn around the plates and with some help, pull them into the slits. It's important to differentiate by ability levels so that children don't become overwhelmed, while maintaining high standards and expecting them to keep trying.