The reason play-dough makes me pause

ingredients for play doughAs a preschool teacher, one of the “Rights of Passage” is being able to make play dough. This gooey mixture of flour, salt, oil, water, food coloring, and cream of tartar is an art form all its own. No matter how perfect my measurements, it never comes out the same every time.

This tool is used to create all sorts of imaginary friends, foods, and creatures.

As I begin the undertaking of making play dough, I find it best to be prepared for each step. Making a plan for myself, I thoughtfully lay out my ingredients, careful to measure according to the recipe, knowing my outcome will be different from the last time, no matter what. Instead of being frustrated by this, I embrace it, regardless.messy play dough

The steps of this process are specific, and if one is missed, it can leave you totally exasperated with a big mess on your hands.

The same can be said of being a preschool teacher. Each child is a little different. They all have their basic needs which are the same: food, water, shelter, safety (thanks to  Abraham Maslow).maslow's heirarchy of needs Each comes from a different home, and a different background. No two will turn out the same. We need to take the time to look, read the history that parents provide us, and truly listen to student and parent when they talk.

It is easy to look at the play dough recipe and rush through the process, skipping integral steps along the way. Sometimes, this can be done, and the turn out is good play dough. Other times, this is done, and leaves you with a liquid or crumbly mess.  The same can be said of parents and teachers. Sometimes we want that next step to be here. We crave knowing when they will sleep through the night, roll over, walk, say mama, be potty trained, write their name, read a book, go to high school, go to college. It often feels like life is a series of next steps. When we look at the next step too much, we may be unable to see the simple steps being taken in the right now.

perfect play doughWhen play dough is made correctly it is soft but firm, is not sticky, has a smooth consistency, and can be used to teach little fingers how to pinch, roll, and make a mistake and then move on from it. It also can be used to create a masterpiece, left to dry and become concrete, and given as a present that will become a memory for a lifetime.

The same can be said about teaching. If it is done correctly, it is soft, but firm, not attached, but loving, and will teach little minds to think, be confident, Make connections, and move on from trials with grace. It also will create a pattern of memories that will become concrete in thinking, reading, and dealing with others that will last a lifetime.

Play dough and teaching go hand in hand.

creative play doughNow I am beginning to understand how this once bane of my existence as a preschool teacher is a tool that has helped me to become a better teacher.

love play doughWhen I work with a student, I am always looking for the right consistency to use with them. I have to stop, look at the recipe, and make sure I am not skipping any steps. This isn’t always easy.  It requires planning, reflection, and implementation. Reflection as a teacher is key to helping my students succeed, and learning about their family, home, and past helps me realize which ingredients have already been added so I can mix appropriately, kneed the dough of their beautiful young minds, and help them create those memories which become learned to shape their future.

It is not about the product but the process!
It is not about the product but the process!

What life lesson could you learn from a simple recipe?

Play dough – cookies – brownies – stew – lasagna -fudge

Share with me, so we can all learn from each others life lessons!

Lasting Impressions

one last time
one last time

This has been a journey. I am so glad we took this step because it brought us together  in a place that once tore us apart. I haven’t written in a few days because I was enjoying taking it all in. I am sitting in our living room on our last morning here and I am reflecting on the adventure.

all the guards and kids were so happy to see goofy!
all the guards and kids were so happy to see goofy!

We spent a lot of time at the pool. The pool here is the center of the resort. Lifeguards are also the activity directors.  They do a great job of engaging kids and adults alike. Activities range from water side races, to bingo, to trivia, to limbo, to nighttime mini golf with glow necklaces. There are also excursions you can  pay for and some that are free. You can always be busy here, or always just relax. These activities kept the boys engaged and gave the adults a chance to relax. There is so much to do that we did not even come close to doing it all.
This was wonderful, but there is something bigger here.

there is information everywhere about how to help the little dudes make it!
there is information everywhere about how to help the little dudes make it!

This resort is on the Atlantic Ocean. On this coast of Florida there are sea turtle nests everywhere. There are several sea turtle biologists who head out to the beach in the early morning hours. They ride their ATV’s and are equipped with an iPad (filled with information about each nest) and a few tools necessary for their job. They document any activity from a sea turtle nest. Sometimes they find a new nest or a recently hatched nest. They excavate nests, and often find a little turtle or two who didn’t make it out of the nest.

these scientists are dedicated to their work
these scientists are dedicated to their work

As guests here, at 7AM every morning we can trek to the beach and watch their work. For the last two mornings we have been down there and have had the privilege of seeing four babies being sent out to the sea! It is so exciting. The best part though is my boys seeing someone who loves their job. The employees at this resort love what they do.

three of the turtles we were able to see released
three of the turtles we were able to see released

If you really think about the challenge of saving sea turtles it is incredible that there are any alive. Out of the possible 115 eggs laid in one nest, 90% will hatch, and 1% will survive into adulthood. Those are astounding statistics. Nearly impossible. But yet, the species is being saved through the hard work and dedication of the scientists who have a passion for sea turtles.

the boys taking in one more sunrise
the boys taking in one more sunrise

This is important because we woke the boys up early every morning and headed to the beach to see what had developed while we slept. They grunted and groaned, but once there, they enjoyed it. I am hoping that when they see these scientists dedicated to saving these little guys/gals that they will see more than turtles. I want them to see that even the little things are worth fighting for. Even when it seems impossible, it is worth it. Those dreams they have, they can achieve them. Protecting those that can’t do it themselves, they can do that too. Nothing is impossible. I hope they see the hard work put in to make the impossible possible. I also hope they see it isn’t all work. Everything they want to achieve is worth it. Every friendship and relationship: worth it. Every belief they hold dear to their hearts are worth every effort to protect.
I hope they have lasting impressions…

our family left a momentary impression in the sand, I pray the sand left a lasting on eon us
our family left a momentary impression in the sand, I pray the sand left a lasting on eon us

For more information check out this website to see how you can help!

beautiful art on the building
beautiful art on the building

Barrier Island Center

the pause button

the top is a hidden mickey in our resort, the bottom is water drops by the pool, it is not a hidden mickey.
the top is a hidden mickey in our resort, the bottom is water drops by the pool, it is not a hidden mickey.

Here in Disney there is a thing called Hidden Mickeys. This is a “secret” mission to find all of the Mickeys hidden around the theme parks and the resorts. These were purposely put in place by “imagineers” for guests to find.  The rules are very clear, it has to be intentional, it has to be hidden (not a Mickey face on your cupcake), and it has to be proportionate. Easy? No, not at all. Some can be. Some I know exist, and I have looked and looked for them and have never found it.

It takes patience to look. Stopping in one place for a few moments and searching. While searching it is nice to breathe in the atmosphere that was so carefully assembled for you.
Much like searching for those little gems, searching for peace in your family can take time, patience, and stepping back to breathe.

a snail and a very tiny lizard we saw on a walk at our resort
a snail and a very tiny lizard we saw on a walk at our resort

The boys have discovered many little creatures and a few big ones while here. From a tiny lizard to an alligator, we have seen a lot of things. We also have seen each other. I watched my oldest pick up my youngest so that he could return his towel. I watched my middle put his last three quarters into a video game for his brother, I have watched the youngest find independence in the pool.

all my boys gaming.
all my boys gaming.

I have enjoyed a trip where we did not have to be anywhere at any given time. I find that there are moments when I want to rush, I want them to just go, and I forget that they need to stop and pause and take it in.

As adults we rush. We have deadlines and responsibilities. We feel a sense of urgency about everything. Often we impose those senses of urgency on our children. Often I forget that there is no reason to rush when we are away from home. I want to pause. I want to stop and take a moment to see what they see.

watching the water raise and the sorcerer light up at mini golf
watching the water raise and the sorcerer light up at mini golf

In pausing, I am finding moments I never saw. The way they play, the way they fight, what they worry about, and what they need. I am seeing the communication breakdown between them, and I am able to step in and give advice when needed. I am able to lift them up when they are unsure. I am able to ask them to step back when they overstep (mostly the pre-teen). I am grateful for a pause in our lives to see these things.

All three boys sat on the sidewalk to watch the fireworks. I have never seen them just sit. It was also nice because my parents are here as well.
All three boys sat on the sidewalk to watch the fireworks. I have never seen them just sit. It was also nice because my parents are here as well.

I am also grateful for the ability to see these while in our favorite place. Today we leave this place and head to a resort on the ocean. A resort where our options are beach or pool. A resort where all we will do is pause, and I am so excited to stop, breathe in, and find the details.