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!

The Graduation Situation

graduation ornamentYou may have noticed that there are very often several days or weeks between my posts recently.

I am sorry for that , but I have to be honest with you.

I have been having an affair on my blog.

With my studies. (insert horrible fake laughter here)

All kidding aside, this semester was the hardest semester for me yet. I am at the local community (or Junior) college completing my associates in Special Education and a certificate in Early Childhood. This means that next year I will move on to big kid school and work towards obtaining my bachelors in Early Childhood Education.

This semester found me taking three very difficult courses that truly should be taken at separate times. There was a lot of writing, editing, planning, demonstrating, and reading that went into this semester. I believe that this is the first time that I have actually read whole text books for classes.

curriculum classEarly Childhood Curriculum – aka a crash course in what your classroom/daycare center should look like and be doing. This course gave me so much insight on how to make my classroom a better place for my students and how to teach to them in a way that was engaging.

literacy class

Emergent Literacy – aka how children learn to speak and read and how you can teach them. This class was one I was intimidated by. The other students had so much more knowledge than me. I had to really focus and work hard to succeed in this class.

parent relations classParent & Child Relations – aka a class about how parents and children interact – aka how you are messing up your children in one long book.  This class was hard. The professor was very into allowing us to learn our own way, but I am a “Give me a rubric so I know what you want from me!” type of student. There was a learning curve.

 

I managed to obtain an A in all three classes. All of this while being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a coach. I also am in four musical groups, and teaching preschool. It is full around here. Our boys are doing well in school. We have even had meetings with all the teachers about our boys various difficulties. We have spent time with each other. My students have fun and educational things to do every week. Track has been successful (thanks to many other coaches- we have a great team). I mostly had all of my music learned for our Christmas performances in early December. I made time to help my friend move out of state (don’t worry, I live in Rhode Island, out of state is 20 minutes away!). I have even maintained a level of fitness that is changing my whole lifestyle. But I have missed my blog. I have missed pouring my soul out into this writing thing I do for you.

More importantly, I do not do this alone.

I find it hard sometimes to balance the school work for me, the school work for my students, the school work for my children, and the day to day tasks that need to be accomplished. I am grateful to have a husband who has stepped up to the plate. He does homework with the boys, the grocery shopping, the meal planning even, so that I can work, and study. He never once complains, and even goes as far as to being sure I am happy and have everything I need to do my work.  He is at his computer until late in the night being sure his work duties are accomplished, and has had to put time with friends on the back burner because my night classes interfere with his time to be with them. He has dedicated the last few years to being super dad while I am being a student.

I often remind him that he was lucky, he did college right out of high school, and moved right into a career. Not everyone finds their passion that early. My passion for educating children came later, and here I am trying to make everything work for  the good of our family. That reminder is a reminder to me. I need to work hard for this because I cannot afford to miss this opportunity this time.

graduation is almost hereI am doing this for me, but also for them. On May 20, 2016 I will graduate from Community college, a graduation that has been in the making since I started college the first time in 1998, and I will finally complete. Let’s hope the next degree does not take as long!

 

What are you doing for you? What did you start and never finish that you wish you could? What are you waiting for?

Mama is a Student

I may be mama, but I am also teacher and student. Right now in this season I am beginning my classes for fall semester. 
Starting back to school means that I am learning class room numbers, making sure my text books are correct, and assessing my syllabi to determine if I can manage the course work. 
Sometimes this process means that I decide to drop a class. This semester I am doing that. I had registered for an “online” course however the exams needed to be taken in person during the day, while I am teaching Kindergarten. Well, that doesn’t work. I thought long and hard and decided that the psychology minor is not nearly as important as being a dedicated teacher, and student. 
In life we need to determine what is healthy for us. How much is too much? What can we handle? Where is the line? 
I have decided that the line is here… My children need me, my students need me, and my husband needs me. Not in any particular order. I hate that I am not able to take a full load his semester, however, I know that it is for the best. 
The part that worries me is the instructors who say “wow, you have your hands full!” Why? Because I am finishing my degree and teaching and a mom? Because I admit that I am working hard to finish and keep working? Why do we feel the need to compare each other’s journeys?
We are all individuals. We all work as hard as we can. Why is anyone more driven than anyone else? Let’s face it. Every student in an evening class is there because they work all day. Who chooses to take a class at 7 pm? Someone who has to. Someone who needs to take a class and has to balance work and family and school. 
So professor, I appreciate your sympathy, but we all are driven, we all are working, and we all know how hard this work is! 

Something Isn’t Right

Anxiety.

It boils over in a moment. It happens when you least expect it. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been to the hospital with an anxiety attack. I manage my anxiety with planning. I probably should manage my anxiety with medication. but I just am not there.

Change.

Change is the catalyst for an attack. A new schedule, a new teacher, a detour on the road. All of these can lead to anxiety. How do you manage? How do you crawl  out of the hole that you dig for yourself when you see the change coming? For me, I meet change with more change. New clothes, shoes, bags. I drive the detour long after the road is repaired. I spend a Sunday cleaning bedrooms and downloading college syllabi because I know I cant avoid the change.

My son, he doesn’t know that the anger that boils out of him during a time of change is anxiety. He doesn’t know that mama prepping him with what is going to happen weeks before is mama’s way of avoiding the boiling over. He doesn’t know that mama understands the boil over  way too well. She feels it every time an outfit doesn’t fit. She feels it every time she cannot find her car keys in her purse. She feels it every time the tag on her dress scratches her neck. She knows the boil over all too well. She wishes he didn’t have to.

He doesn’t know that tonight I told his teacher that change in routine makes him anxious. He doesn’t know that mama spends her days putting out fires before they are set so that he doesn’t get set off. If only he could.

Someday he will know. Someday I will teach him to manage change. How it makes him feel. How it makes his blood boil over. How he needs to control that feeling. but for now, I try to prevent that feeling for him.

Change is scary no matter who you are. anxiety, or not. Change in and of itself is the root of the anxiety and anger I feel on an almost daily basis.

Many around you may be suffering with anxiety. Help them. Be consistent, be considerate, be present. For me, knowing that when I finally work through my boiling over my family is there for me makes the boiling over easier to deal with.