Coding and Robotics

I’m at a course this week learning to teaching Coding and Robotics to the Elementary and Middle Grades.  I’m LOVING it!  I’m so thankful to have a job I can immediately apply this new knowledge too as well.  We met Friday to learn a lot of stuff, then this week we are “teacher helpers” at a coding camp for kids.  It has been interesting learning with and from the kids, several who have coding experience already.

We have been focusing on code.org, and Lego WeDo 2.0, and touched a bit on Scratch as well.  Here is my first Scratch project.  :)

The WeDos are similar to the NXT and EV3 programs that Lex has and loves. It has been interesting and challenging learning this “simplified” program because Lego made it more cartoony, but less usable. These kids (and teachers!) are struggling with the lack of functionality, inconsistent outcomes, and vague icons. As someone who has studied usability in the past, I can honestly say there is no excuse for this, especially from Lego! That said, I will continue learning it and developing ways I can introduce it in my library without having 250 confused kids!

Big thanks to Alan and my parents who team up to take care of the homestead while I’m away for five days!

Halloween in preschool

Throw flies (marshmallows) onto the spider web (tape).  The kids loved it!

Throw flies (marshmallows) onto the spider web (tape). The kids loved it!

I survived my first Halloween as a preschool teacher! It was much less chaotic than I was expecting. The other two classrooms really outdid me in decorations and I felt a little lame in the morning when I saw that, but by the end of the day I thought my room was just perfect. We had five activities that the kids could rotate through as they desired. Everyone had fun and there were no major meltdowns or out of control scenes. Just kids having fun. I was quite pleased, and happy when the day was over!!

Make-a-monster

Make-a-monster

Pumpkin bowling.  It started with the "pins" like this, but the kids quickly came up with many other inventive pin configurations.

Pumpkin bowling. It started with the “pins” like this, but the kids quickly came up with many other inventive pin configurations.

New job!

I start a new job tomorrow.  I am feeling prepared, but nervous nonetheless.  I’ll be teaching pre-k at a beautiful little school nearby.  It is a long-term sub position while their regular teacher is off on maternity leave.  I’ll be the teacher until Christmas vacation.  I get to do all the fun holiday crafts.  :)

It was a long and emotionally tumultuous path to arrive at this position, but I’m glad I took the journey and ended up where I did.  The first week of school my kids went back to school and I got myself organized.  I wrote up a long to-do list and started checking things off.  I made healthy food to eat and exercised every day.  I was enjoying the at-home gig.  Then a friend told me about a preschool position that was open and a day later I applied for a full-time kindergarten co-teacher position.  Both had some amazing pros, but some serious cons as well, and I again began my internal deliberation about home versus work versus me.  I want to be home with the kids, I want to continue my career, and I want to take care of myself, both physically and emotionally.  Unfortunately there just isn’t any way to do it all.

I interviewed at the preschool and decided not to take the job.  Then I interviewed for the kindergarten position and, after a TON of internal debate and with apologies and gracious thanks to those who were around to listen and support my complex decision making process, I turned that down as well.  That was especially hard because the school is amazing and the job would have been great, professionally.  Unfortunately it was a full-time job at a different school district, which means after school care for my kids and mismatched vacation schedules.  There may come a time when that works, but this year is not that time.  This year my kids still need me at home in the afternoon and I still need to be there for them.  So I turned down the kindergarten job.

“You can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometimes, you just might find,
You get what you need.”  – The Rolling Stones

A day later I got a call from the director of the preschool at that same school.  She said she heard I turned down the K job and was wondering if maybe I would be interested in a part-time pre-k job instead.  Heck yeah!  I went back and interviewed with the pre-k team and it was a pretty easy decision.  It’s part time and just through Christmas, but I’ll still get the teacher experience (good for the resume!) and the afternoons at home (good for the family!)  Best of both worlds.

I start tomorrow and although I know it will go well and I know I made the right choice, I still have first day of school jitters!  Wish me luck.

 

Job hunting?

I decided not to return to my job as assistant teacher at the Montessori school this year, because I really wanted to find a full-time teaching position. I want to be the boss of my own classroom! I had a frustrating summer of very few interviews and no job offers, but really that was ok and I have been ok with the idea of subbing all along. I decided this was the year to hold out for what I really want, not settle for just anything. Of course, those who have been around know that my confidence with this decision changes daily. :)

It is really hard to balance what’s best for me (exercise, mental health), my family (home for the kids, home maintenance), and my career (teaching!). I want to work on all three “pillars” but unfortunately that’s very hard to do at the same time! When I work on the career it’s a pretty full-time commitment, leaving little time for the family/home and even less time for me! When I don’t work on the career I have more time for the other two, but end up feeling guilty about the amount of time and money I’ve invested so far into teaching, only to not continue the path.

So this year I’m not working. Yet. The first week the kids were back in school was excellent! I organized all my thoughts and scraps of notes into one big, long to-do list and started checking things off! I exercised every day and even lost two pounds that first week. It was great. The only uncomfortable times were when I had to explain to acquaintances why I wasn’t working and that really I was ok with things. I would get varying levels of pity and envy in response.

The second week I applied for a kindergarten position in a neighboring district and got an email from a close acquaintance about a preschool position in my district. My brain immediately started spinning! I lost focus on my to-do list, spent hours cycling through the pros and cons of taking (or not taking) either job, and basically started falling apart. I interviewed at both places. There were a lot of pros to the preschool job (teaching, short hours, in district), but a few big cons as well. So I said no. There were a lot of pros to the kindergarten position as well (nice school, nice teaching team) but a few big cons as well. I thought really hard and eventually emailed the principal and asked him to remove me from the candidate pool. I don’t know if I would have gotten an offer, but I think it was likely. It was a really hard choice for me. It would have meant an after school nanny for the kids, something I can’t even imagine, plus me back to my UVEI days of constant work morning, noon, and night. NO time for exercise, house up-keep, or family. Also, it was a different district with a somewhat different vacation schedule. I was a mental mess trying to decide what was the best thing to do. I finally came to a decision Saturday night, emailed the principal Sunday morning, and felt calm wash over me. Back to my stay-at-home, getting stuff done, probably subbing in the future plan. All was right in my head again.

Monday afternoon I get a voicemail (my phone never rings, something else I have to figure out and take care of!) from the preschool director at the school I had just turned down. She said she heard I hadn’t taken the kindergarten job (I didn’t even have an offer yet, but we won’t be picky) and wondered if I would please consider a long-term sub position in preschool. October to December to cover a maternity leave. Brain spin commence! At the moment it seems like it will be all the pros of the preschool position above, plus many of the pros of the kindergarten position…. but none of the cons. Perhaps. I’m going tomorrow to meet the director and see the school. An interview, I suppose, disguised as a visit. This woman has a kid who plays field hockey with Eve, so we have chatted as moms on the sidelines a few times. She seems nice. The school is lovely. We shall see.

For now I have to go get some exercise while I still can. Once again my future is up in the air.

Montessori Day 2

Happy sunny Thursday afternoon. I have a few minutes and thought I’d check in. There is no “Montessori Day 1” post, so don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything. Now that the kids are in school and Montessori has started, I find myself with a little over an hour at home, no kids, each afternoon. So far (day two) I have been revelling in it! I have grand ambitions of getting projects done, or cleaning, or something… but so far it has been tea and my laptop and a gentle breeze through the window.

Montessori school is fun and interesting. After two weeks of prep, in-service days, and home visits, I was eager to just get the school year started. Yesterday we had 22 little ones in this lovely classroom and guess what — they are just kids! Nothing magical about Montessori. They still roll around on the floor, pick their noses, run in the classroom (and get told not to), poke their friends, talk too loud, fall off chairs, and trip over their own feet. At each school visit when we had a new student come in to see the classroom, the teacher would give that student a lesson and the student would be still and quiet and focused and do very well on the work she offered. I was dying to see how that held up with there was a ton of them all together. Yep, just kids! :) Of course this is just day two, so perhaps after a few weeks when everyone has settled into the routine, then I’ll see the Montessori magic. Parents swear by it.

Everyone is super friendly and I’m enjoying getting to know people. Some are names I’ve known from around, or friends of friends, and now I’m putting faces to them. Others are completely new to the area and I’ve been happy to be able to recommend playgrounds and other kid-friendly places in the area.

Overall it has been a very nice week, and you can’t beat the hours! :) My own kids are happy that they get to be home each afternoon. Well, at least they come home each afternoon, sometimes I drag them right back out again to karate or something else. Tomorrow we are going apple picking! I hope it’s not 85° and humid like it is today!

I watched a neat video on the importance of connections and relationships in the classroom this afternoon. TED talks are just amazing! Check it out if you have eight minutes. She is a passionate and humorous speaker, like most TED presenters.

An emotional start to the school year

I’m feeling a little emotional today, and since I haven’t had a good emotional post here in awhile I figured it was about time.

The teachers in our district go back to school today. This is their in-service week and next Monday the kiddos start school too. This morning I was talking to the kids about school shopping and I mentioned that the teachers had to start school today. They of course asked why I’m not in school, since I’m a teacher too. My first thought was, “welll…..” but instead I explained that teachers in our district start today, but I will be in a different district and the teachers in that district start next week. Which, really, is super convenient for me since I can be home with the kids this week and I’ll start my “in-service” time the same week they go back to school.

On the surface everything is perfect. I have a steady job, with nice people, in a beautiful school, following a philosophy that makes so much sense to me. It will be calm and peaceful at school, and at home since I’ll be home in the afternoons with my kids and we don’t have to deal with long bus rides and daycare this year. Everyone will be happy.

Yet, I can’t help this little part of me that feels totally disappointed in myself and this outcome. After working so hard last year to become a teacher, learning how to write lessons and differentiate and set up a classroom and so much more… then ending up as an assistant and being trained on how to color coordinate the sponges and refill the polishing cream feels depressingly anti-climactic. I was eager for a job in June and feeling stressed because the job listings were drying up, I took this one. It is a good job, but in hindsight maybe I should have held out a bit longer.

Since I took the job several classroom teacher positions have opened up, in schools I’d like to be in. I’ve been encouraged by friends and peers to back out of my Montessori contract and go for the classroom jobs. Apparently “teachers do it all the time!” Unfortunately I have higher standards for myself and backing out of a perfectly good contract just didn’t feel right. Especially since there is nothing wrong with the job, in fact there are many very right things about it… it’s just not what I was hoping to be doing this year. My logical mind says I did the right thing and this is a good step for my work-life balance, but the evil voice inside says maybe I’m just being lazy, if I was really serious I’d go for the prize, whatever it takes. Often I’m good at staying logical and suppressing that voice, but sometimes it pipes up.

I saw a woman from UVEI at Panera Bread this afternoon. She was having a working lunch with her new teacher friends. I also just texted a friend of mine about getting together tomorrow, then remembered that she got hired in the middle school this year and is at work this week. These things should make me feel happy to not be working, but instead they make me feel sad. :/

Often when I feel my craziest it’s when my logic and emotions collide, leaving me with internal debates that can have no winner. So today I am trying to stay positive, relax into the fact that I am home with the kids, not at work, and ignore the fact that it would be super cool (and totally stressful!) to be at work right now, setting up a new classroom and preparing for my first teaching job. Exactly where I wanted to be at this point in the year! Alas, that will have to wait for next year (I hope!) and this will be a calm, quiet year in someone else’s classroom.

In the meantime, who doesn’t love fresh school supplies!?!

image

Employed

We are home now, back from two trips in a row.  I have a list of blog posts I want to write, and the kids are at camp next week so hopefully I’ll get them written. :)  I have a few minutes right now though, so I thought I’d start off with a quick one.

I got a job!  Yay!  I interviewed at a local Montessori school last Friday, then got an offer on the phone, while standing in the grocery store parking lot in Oneonta, and accepted.  I signed the papers when we got back in town.  I am super excited to be employed and no longer worrying about what my fall will bring.  However, I’ve had mixed emotions about the whole thing as well.  (Because that seems to be how I live my life, debating, second-guessing, and wondering.)

The position is an assistant teacher job, not a full teacher.  This is awesome because it means next year will be so much easier than this year was.  I’ll be home when the kids get home from school each day, no more daycare and long bus rides for them, and I won’t have any extra work to do in the evenings and weekends.  Teachers do a lot after school hours!  However, I’m also a little sad that so much of what I learned and prepared for this year will be irrelevant next year.  All the lesson planning, differentiation, classroom management, etc… maybe.  I don’t know a ton about the Montessori methodology so there may be more of that than I realize.  I will also be in someone else’s classroom, so again I’ll be following someone else’s expectations.  That was fine last year for my internships, but I was definitely having a lot of “in my classroom…” thoughts by the end of the year.  I guess I’ll have to put them on hold for awhile.  The pay is paltry and if I max out my retirement account (of which I have none at the moment) I will pretty much be bringing home nothing.  Sigh.  Good thing Alan is solidly employed!

I had this vision in my head of what it would feel like when I got a job.  I would start planning my classroom, going through the kids’ things here to see what I can bring in, studying up on the CCSS for that grade, learning the curriculum, etc.  Basically work, work, work – but everything I’ve been preparing for this past year.  Instead it will be none of that, but I’ll have a quiet summer and I’ll be home with the kids after school in the fall, which will be great based on the year we just had, and I’ll be in a beautiful classroom with super friendly colleagues.  And working with kids, which is why I started this whole thing!  When I focus on the positive I am super excited about this job!  They are sending me to a Montessori conference so I can learn the Montessori curriculum and methodology, and they lent me a few Montessori books, so I have some reading to do… just as soon as I finish the Divergent series, probably totally anti-Montessori!  :)

So that’s that. New job.  Known future.  Beautiful school.  Friendly people.  Awesome hours.  Happy family.  Life is good.

Last day of school

Today was the last day of school, for all of us!  We successfully completed 1st, 3rd, and kindergarten!  We may have gone a little overboard with the treats this year.

We made cookies for the classes.  I had in mind bright, sunshiny, lemony cookies, but time and ingredients dictated and we ended up with spice cookies in flower shapes.  Yellow, at least.  Not exactly perfect, but no one complained!  The kids wanted them for classmates and I wanted them as a thank you for the teachers at my school, so we divied them up three ways and there were plenty to go around.

IMG_1726We also made goody bags for the students in all three classes.  The bags had a jump rope, bubbles, and Starburst inside, then a cute note and ribbons on the outside.  They were pretty awesome, if I do say so myself, and the kids loved them!IMG_1731 IMG_1732 IMG_1733 IMG_1735

We also made gifts for the teachers.  All eight of them!  The gifts were Pinterest-inspired and I loved them.  I got freezable tumblers with straws, put Lindt chocolate balls and a gift certificate to the local ice cream stand inside, along with thank you notes written by me or the kids (depending on who’s teacher it was!), then wrapped a Real Simple magazine around the outside and tied it all up with a ribbon.  A little obsessive, but super cute!

IMG_1737 IMG_1739Alan is away this week so I brought the kids to school.  Probably a good thing because he would have scoffed at the ridiculousness of my last-day-of-school goodies.
imageI made the poor kids carry a ton, then asked them to stop for a photo directly in the sunshine. Lex protested and moved over to the wall, out of the direct sun. The background isn’t lovely, but the kids are smiling so that’s enough for me.

I dropped the kids and all their stuff off at school (and helped them carry everything in and deliver to the appropriate classrooms), then headed down to my school where I precariously carted in all of my end-of-year goodies.  I left a tray of cookies in the teachers’ lounge and sent out a lovely thank you note to the teachers and staff (via email), thanking them for their support this term and telling them about the cookies.

At lunch I went back to my first school and spent an hour with my fifth graders from the fall.  I watched a memories slide show my mentor teacher had put together and chatted a bit with the kids. They’ve all grown so much this fall!  It amazes me to go back and see them.  I got lots of hugs and it was nice to get to say goodbye to them.

Then back to kindergarten for the rest of the day.  Some kids were thrilled to leave for summer vacation and others were in tears.  It was an interesting experience.  I’m going to miss them all, 5th and kindergarten!

After school my kids came back happy with their new classes and teachers.  I now have 2nd and 4th graders!  Eek!  They are growing up way too fast!!  This afternoon we did karate, then home for the dinner and bedtime routine.  Then we snuggled in and read three chapters of the Lightening Thief book we’re reading!  Super fun way to start vacation.  Then, even more fun for me, once the kids were in bed my friend from UVEI came over and we celebrated our last day of school together with wine on the front porch!  She just left and now it’s almost midnight so I really should go to bed!  I’m terrible at putting myself to bed when Alan isn’t around.  I’m going to be tired tomorrow, but guess what, no alarm for me!  Whoo hoo!  We have one of Lex’s friends coming over to play, and one of my friends!  I haven’t seen Elizabeth in ages because our schedules just haven’t lined up this spring, so I’m excited to have her and Alistair come over to visit tomorrow as well.

Summer vacation is here!

NH

I got my teaching license from NH in the mail today!  My first inclination was to take a picture and post it on Facebook, but I restrained myself.  :)  Now I have to get one final paper notarized, then I can send the whole packet (NH license included) to VT and get my VT license.  Then we’re really in business!  :)  I was going to get the paper notarized after school today, but it was raining and I couldn’t find parking, so I didn’t.  I’ll do it Monday instead.  How’s that for dedication!  :)

It’s official – I’m a teacher!

Today was a beautiful example of the saying, “The days are long, but the years are short.”  It has been a long, tough at times year and suddenly it’s over.  Well, almost.  Tonight I graduated from UVEI and officially have my Elementary Teaching certification.  I’m certified to teacher K-8 in the great state of New Hampshire.  In the next week or so I’ll receive my license in the mail, then I’ll turn it around and get my VT license.  Then, maybe, I’ll get a job!

Seriously though, the year has flown by.  Fall in fifth, spring in kindergarten.  Both had their pros and cons, and both were great.  I miss my fifth grade buddies and I know I will miss the kindergarteners as well.  They gave me a sweet book today in which each kiddo had drawn a picture of me and them and written a sentence about what they like to do with me or how they will miss me.  It was very sweet and made me feel very happy and loved.  I have two more days with them and then we’re out for the summer.

This evening was the UVEI graduation ceremony.  Alan and the kids came along to continue their steady support of this effort.  They even put on nice cloths and washed their faces.  Hard work for some of them! :)  I put Alan and the kids in charge of photos and they did a great job.

wine

Everything is better with a glass of wine! :)

bff

My UVEI BFF! This is what we look like to the little ones we teach. :)

bitty

Eve and Bitty Baby, sharing a plate of veggies before the ceremony began.

ceremony

This is my faculty coach speaking and my coaching group. It was a great group and I really enjoyed working and learning with them this year.

aspirations

We put together a statement about what our aspirations for our students were, then had to read it at the graduation ceremony.

eve

This is what Eve thought of things.

family

I got my teaching certificate and a family photo. It was a good evening!

tag

Alan entertained the kids with a game of tag while I stood around in high heels and chatted with my friends. He’s a good hubby and daddy!

eve p2

Eve at her finest. :)

Back to school tomorrow for field day… most likely an indoor field day as the weather calls for rain, rain, and more rain.  Lex and Eve had their field day indoors today.

I feel like I should have some eloquent wrap-up for this post, but I don’t.  The culmination to my huge year and I’m off to drink a glass of wine and fold laundry.  Some things don’t change. :)