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!

When Mama Needs to Write a Paper.

writing can be cathartic until I am writing to be graded
writing can be cathartic until I am writing to be graded

As I sit here in my living room writing this post I have just completed a seven page midterm essay about early childhood literacy. When I finish I will return to writing an essay exam for a class on early childhood curriculum, and then I will spend the next two weeks researching for a paper and exam on parent and child relations.

I have also cleaned a few rooms of my house, prepped lunch for the boys. Reworked our budget to be certain we are being good stewards of our income, and planned Christmas presents and researched things we are looking into for our home. I also am casually watching Harry Potter while all of this is happening.

I find that I need to balance school work, mom work, and self-care, I need to never do just one thing. I set a stopping point and then get up and do something else and then get back to my paper writing.

a bowl of apple slices, sliced cheese, and peanuts protein and crunch to keep me strong
a bowl of apple slices, sliced cheese, and peanuts protein and crunch to keep me strong
2 of these bottles of water a day means I am well hydrated
2 of these bottles of water a day means I am well hydrated

So I thought I would list some of the things I do to help me focus on my school work and stay sane. Everyone has a brain that works differently so please, use what you can, and ignore the rest!

  1. Entertainment: I am the type of person who needs background sound on while I work. Very often I plug my headphones into my phone and play a television series on Netflix while typing or reading. I sometimes listen to an upbeat playlist, sometimes the radio, and sometimes home improvement shows. No matter what it is, I make sure that it is something which is not too distracting.
  2. Water: I make sure to stay hydrated by always setting a large bottle of water by my laptop. I make myself sip between paragraphs or thoughts. This way I stay hydrated when I spend Saturdays writing all day.
  3. Movement: I make sure to get up every 30 minutes or so and move. Go put a load of laundry in, clean a room, step outside to smell the air, but some form of movement. This refreshes my mind, gives my feet a chance to stretch, and keeps me from getting stiff.
  4. Food: it seems almost as common sense as water, but often when I am in a deep study session I forget to eat. It will be six hours and all of a sudden, I am ravenous. I make sure with my water to grab some nuts or fruit, and stop to eat meals. It really helps to write when you are fed.
  5. a warm soul means I can focus
    a warm soul means I can focus

    A warm mug: When the cooler days of fall and winter chime in a hot cup of tea helps relax and soothe while I write. I always make sure to drink while editing because I seem to catch my mistakes and be able to focus when I am warm.

  6. The kids: I have to remember that even though my studies are important, my children are the most important. I need to be able to pause where I am, and help then, care for them and even have some fun!
  7. Knowing when to stop: While I have many assignments and preparations to complete, in taking care of me, I need to know how much time is too much time to spend on the grind.
  8. A proofreader: when writing many papers it is very important to have someone who will be willing to read them, be honest in their critique of them, and be available to help at very odd hours. Luckily I have a few people I can trust, which means no one person is helping all the time.
  9. toys and costumes filled my boys afternoon, and made writing much easier.
    toys and costumes  made writing much easier.

    An overly supportive husband: without Stephen I wouldn’t be able to accomplish half of this. He is home for the boys daily after school, takes them to piano and cross country/track, and has stepped up in the parenting department by being here all the time for them.

  10. A purpose: I am in this to become a better teacher, and in the process, I am becoming a better person. My organizational skills, time management skills, and communication are increased because I am needing to be certain that everything is finished, and everyone is where they need to be.

Choosing to be a student while being a mom and a teacher was not a choice I took lightly. Being present for my children and my students is a priority to me, and there are times I feel selfish going to school and spending my Saturdays and nights learning, writing, and studying. But then I remember that I am learning for them, my children, my students, and for me. Being a teacher means making a difference and in order to make a difference I need to know how.

knowing that a student feels the energy I pour into my work can make stressful or just busy day much better
knowing that a student feels the energy I pour into my work can make stressful or just busy day much better

How do you get it all done? Leave a comment and let me know how you accomplish your goals!

Back to Life

a part of my classroom
a part of my classroom
the essential teacher bag
the essential teacher bag

I am definitely still feeling the relaxation coming off of our vacation.  Today we were back to the real world. As a teacher my job doesn’t end when school ends, and it certainly does not begin when school begins. This summer, I have been working since May to prepare for this school year. I have been doing paperwork, cleaning toys, and many other tasks to be certain the school I work at has a smooth start to the year.  I also have been writing lesson plans, and preparing my classroom. I work with children ages 4 and 5. My classroom has to be fun and interesting. This is quite a challenge but I enjoy it!

i love my new school bag
i love my new school bag

I  am a full time student. I am preparing my text books, my notebooks, and my laptop to be ready for being a student again. I am almost finished with one degree, and then onto another. As A teacher, I know that my education is important. If I want to be an effective teacher, I need to be on top of the latest research. I also know the example I am setting for my own children.They see me reading my text books, writing papers, and finishing projects for my honors program.

just a small sample of the boys school supplies
just a small sample of the boys school supplies

I also am a mom to 3 wonderful boys. All three will be at the same school this year for the last time.  My oldest in 6th grade, my middle in 4th, and my youngest in 1st. Getting them ready for school was my first priority. I purchased school supplies and lunch boxes. We prepared them for the bus ride and our new routine. I also have prepared them for how busy mama will be. I think it is important for them to know that when they have my attention they have my attention.

seriously love this bag
seriously love this bag

In order for mama to stay organized in our busy schedule I need several bags. Sounds crazy, but I find having a bag for each event works best. I have a bag for teaching that holds markers, stickers, lesson plans, curriculum, and anything else I may need (water and lunch). I have a laptop bag for school for mama. This has my notebooks, a folder, my laptop, and a section for pencils, pens, highlighters, and my flash drive.  I also have a wonderfully large purse that goes with me to church or out with my husband. How do I keep it all together?  I have a few small zippered bags that hold all of the essentials. This way I can  just grab the small bags, change them to the other bag, and go!

the moving pieces
the moving pieces

I love that I can organize myself in a way that I always have what I need. Sometimes I have more than I need, and that works for me in situations like teaching or learning because I would never want to be unprepared for the opportunity to learn.  I am currently enjoying the last bits of summer I have with the boys before we all begin school again next week. I hope that I have prepared them for school in a way that will leave them having everything they need, and knowing that the woman that prepared it for them loves them more than they will ever know.

I find this to be very inspiring...
I find this to be very inspiring…

Being a mom

a wife

a student

and a teacher

means my heart and mind are always full

and I am pointed in a direction that means so much!