Self-Development

Change

I’m one of those weirdos who thrives off of change. It stresses me out but it lights a fire in me every single time. I do NOT like to fail (who does, really?!?), so I will do whatever it takes to make the changes be successful. Does that mean I make changes without anxiety? Without fear? Ha!! I wish!

As this school year comes to a close, I find myself making a major change in my professional life. After 16 years in a classroom, I’m switching to become a reading teacher. As if that wasn’t stressful enough (and trust me, I’ve got ALL the stress there), I’m switching to a different school (eek) and taking my youngest two kids with me (double eek). On the outside, I look calm about it. On the inside, I am a disaster. I wish I had a crystal ball so I could stop pondering my decision-making skills.

I am super excited about the change, don’t get me wrong! I know that I’m going to grow, professionally from the change. I’ve taught kindergarten for the last eleven years. I LOVE it, which makes this move all the more stressful. I have an amazing team, which also makes me stress. I’ve got it pretty good where I’m at. But I’m feeling stagnant. It makes me wonder if I’m feeling ungrateful. I worry about that. But I just am in a rut. Guys, I’ve been leading calendar every single day for eleven years. If I have to say, “What month is it?!?” in a fake excited voice for more than the ten days that we have left, I’m going to poke my eyeballs out! I’ve done this thousands of times in the last eleven years. It’s become exhausting instead of exciting. That’s how I know that I have to change. My great position with great staff, students and families isn’t enough. It’s become too easy to overlook ALL of the good because I’m so used to it. It’s become way too easy to see the tiny little flaws because they’ve become a novelty. I hate that. I don’t want to be that person.

And so, even through the anxiety, the worries and the flat-out fears…SO many fears (Will I be good enough? I don’t want to let anyone down. Will my kids thrive in a new environment? Will they make friends? What if people don’t like me?), I change. I change because I know that’s what I need to benefit myself and everyone around me. And you know what? I’ll make it work. All of those fears will be a giggle to me down the road. This change will start a new chapter in my life that is yet to be titled. I have a feeling it’s going to be beautiful, earth-shattering and life-changing. Bring it on!!

Parenting

“Don’t Stare!” (Spoken By Moms In Stores Everywhere)

Do you ever go out in public and get embarrassed because your kids stare at somebody who looks or acts differently than them? It happens to ALL of us. It can get embarrassing, but really, kids are just curious and trying to figure this world out! It’s not that they’re judging or trying to be rude. Your first reaction may be to tell them not to stare because it’s rude. When we tell them not to stare or look though, it makes them think those differences are taboo or that they should just ignore the person.

Instead of telling them not to stare, tell them to say “Hello!” It teaches them that even though that person might act and look differently than them, they’re still a person and we treat them the same as we would everyone else. It teaches them to be accepting of differences and even teaches them to engage with people who are different than them. Our world needs more of both of those things! It’s a simple change in our daily interactions with our children, but it’s one that can cause a completely different mindset as they’re figuring out this big confusing world!

Parenting

Cut The Cord

Okay, not literally. I’m talking about the cord to our kids’ electronic devices…phones, iPads, tablets, etc. I don’t actually want to cut the cord completely. I love my phone and couldn’t live without it. I know my kids feel the same about their devices. Plus, the cord isn’t what actually makes it work, but you know what I mean! We need to pull away and realize the harm that they are doing to our kids. It might seem like it’s easiest to just let them play. It’s quiet, peaceful and you can get things done. I get it! I promise it’s having its impact though.

As a kindergarten teacher, I know my mom-view on use of electronics or technology has been greatly impacted by what I see in the classroom. It’s changed as I’ve seen kids come through that have had iPads or tablets in their homes since birth. People say that kids are kids and they haven’t changed, but they’re wrong. I’ve watched it happen before my very eyes and it has greatly changed the job description of a teacher. Don’t get me wrong, my kids have their fair share of screen time. On the weekends, it’s more than during the week. At Grandma’s house, it’s more (not my jurisdiction…I’m just thankful for the help!). I don’t hate technology and I know that my kids need exposure because most likely these skills will be necessary in their lives. However, screen time is something that I am fighting hard to control at home. I’ve even tightened the reins more in the past couple of months as we get to the toughest part of the school year. In the classroom, we are STRUGGLING, people. We are drowning in the results of too much time spent on electronic devices and not enough time spent socializing, learning to play, strengthening character traits…or really just kids figuring out who they are!

They come to kindergarten without really even an identity. They don’t know what they enjoy or what they dislike. The only thing they can tell us that they like to do is play video games, play on their tablet, watch TV, or something similar. These options aren’t available at school when it’s recess or play time and they don’t know what to do. They almost don’t really even know how to play with toys anymore. Often times, I see kids resorting to acting out video games when it’s play time because that’s all they know. They need somebody to teach them how to play because they’re about five years behind where some of the more well-rounded students are. Sadly, our play time during the school day has dwindled to almost nothing (this is NOT a teacher’s choice, so please don’t blame us!), so there’s not time to make up for that five year deficit.

That means that not only is the little bit of play time during the day a struggle, but their learning is majorly impacted. They are used to only paying attention to something that is continuously flashing, moving and grabbing their attention. They aren’t even used to commercials anymore, so they don’t know how to sit through and watch something they consider “boring”. When it comes time for learning, teachers make it as interesting as we can. Though even that can be difficult depending on the instructional techniques that may be mandated by their district. No matter what though, we can’t compete with the graphics and fast-pace of the video games. This is real-life, not a digital world. The kids don’t know how to learn. They don’t know how to wait for something because their electronics are brought out the second they don’t have something to do. They don’t know how to make themselves pay attention to something that isn’t immediately interesting to them. They don’t know how to keep their thoughts to themselves because they’re so used to people narrating their video game playing, thanks to YouTube. I’m positive they narrate while they play video games themselves. We struggle to even watch a PBS Kids show in the classroom without kids trying to narrate what’s happening or letting every thought pop right out of their mouths. On top of that, curriculum and more rigorous standards are being piled and piled and piled on our plates. There’s more and more each year. We. Are. Drowning.

So fix it, right?? I know that’s what you’re thinking. “Well, it’s your job now to teach them not to do all of those things, You’re the teacher!” Here’s the problem: we take five steps forward during the week and then they take two steps back on the weekend. Christmas break?? Fourteen steps backward. Summer break? Ninety steps backward. We can never get ahead. Every day that we spend re-training their little brains and habits is one step forward. Every day that parents let their kids play endless amount of video games, tablet time, watching YouTube…that’s a step backward. They’re out of school more days than they’re in school. We need help and support of parents.

I have many parents who think their child is just fine in the classroom and their teacher has no idea their kids spends so much time on Xbox, Minecraft, YouTube, etc. They’re wrong. I can tell in their social skills, their processing speed, their vocabulary, their fine motor skills, their gross motor skills…we know. Nobody’s kid is immune to this. Not yours, not mine! Electronics aren’t a bad thing. There is actually a lot of learning that can be done with them. However, my kids have to give me a plan before they can hop on. They need to tell me what they’re planning on doing and how long they think it will take. We set a timer for that long (if I’ve agreed that it’s an appropriate amount and an acceptable task!) and they do what they planned. Then when the timer goes off, they know they need to go do something else. But endless amounts of time? It’s not happening here. I love my kids too much for that!

I’ve watched amazing teachers walk away because it’s more than they can do. They go to a different school or district, hopeful that it will be different. Or they retire as early as possible because they feel like they can’t fight the battle anymore. We’re talking master, phenomenal teachers. A huge loss to the field of education. We just aren’t equipped to deal with kids coming in the masses without social skills. We don’t even have the time to do it, even if we had the training or resources because the curriculum is more rigorous than ever! I see education changing right in front of my eyes. The teachers that care enough to do a good job are struggling because they know they’re not getting the job done. The ones that don’t care whether they’re doing a good job will stay. So what does that do for our kids? Leaves them with huge social problems, harder things to learn than ever expected before AND teachers that are only there for a paycheck. I’m scared, you guys. Something has got to change. I’m begging you. Unplug your kids’ devices, at least a little.