When I Go Back to Work

Disclaimer: As always, this post is from the heart and based solely on my own experience and opportunity.

A few people have been asking me lately what I’ll do when I go back to work. I’m starting this post on my phone, with my baby snugged up in my arms as she tries to fall asleep for her first nap of the day and if I’m honest, it’s hard to think about work right now.

Before Charlee was born I interrogated talked with several teacher friends, whose opinion and knowledge I trust deeply.  We talked on the topic of babies for a long time. Part of me wasn’t sure if a baby was the “right thing” for the moment because my teaching career was (still is) so young and new. I was just getting my feet wet in our district and then BAM, I’d be off on maternity leave. Another part of me leaned into the fact that Joel and I had always wanted to be “young parents” (we are 27 and 29). I was scared that if I had a baby I wouldn’t love my job as much (who AM I?!?) and I knew for a fact that if I had a baby there would be no way I could work full time after maternity leave because I experienced full time teacher work last year and it literally used up every ounce of energy, heart and soul I had. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to be the mama I wanted to be and the teacher I wanted to be if I went back to work full time after having a baby.  This was a big dilemma for me, because I’ve always been the person who is going to go big or go home.

One dear friend said to me, “Please have children – you will do a wonderful job as a parent”. Flattering, right? Another dear friend told me that having her son made the true meaning of life clear to her. Both of these friends are teachers, mentors and leaders in our district…I figured if these phenomenal women could do it, I could do it.

Obviously we decided to follow our hearts and we had a baby.

15w3 (1024x731)Our girl is now in between three and four months old (don’t ask how many weeks…math is my weakest link and I’d have to look at a calendar to let you know). The other day Joel jokingly said to me,”Only nine more months of mat leave!” and you know what? I felt sad. Nine months to me sounds like nothing. I have no idea where the last four months have gone, so only nine more is like…what?! Note: Dear readers to the south, I know your maternity leave is basically non-existent and I feel for you.  I don’t know how people are expected to have and raise children on such a miniscule maternity leave plan.  And to our readers in Sweden, I want to move to your country.  Don’t get me wrong, I am entirely grateful for the maternity leave offered in Canada, especially because I am able to actually utilize all twelve months of it.

Confession: I am not in teacher-mode right now at all, as you can likely discern from my extreme lack of posts on this blog. If fact, when I even so much as think about teaching I can’t even draw up one fun, inspired lesson plan or idea. My brain is literally like, “Nope…you’ve got nothin'”. And I suppose that’s how it should be right now. This whole baby time IS my very own lesson; I am not the teacher, my daughter is. It’s like I’m in a year long inquiry project and it’s awesome.

Today my dentist asked me how I was enjoying maternity leave so far. She mentioned some people don’t enjoy it as much as they think they will. This has not been my experience. I adore maternity leave. Recently a friend explained to me how her life has become very simple since her son’s birth. I just think that is so beautiful. My life has also become much more simplistic since Charlee was born. For example, barely any of my days are planned right now, which is a new thing for me. We do what we want, when we want. Yesterday we went on two different hour long walks. Today we are having our nap an hour earlier than yesterday…on the couch instead of in the crib. My life has slowed wayyy down compared to last year’s full time teaching gig. I love it. My mind has space to wander and appreciate. My body has time to heal and rebuild. Somehow I can’t find time to cook dinner, but I’m not worried about it…I solved that problem and might touch on it in another post at a later time.

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She loves this game! (Most of the time).

For now I am fully immersed in the peaceful calm that is raising our baby girl during her first year of life. I’ve learned it is my attitude that makes this experience “the peaceful calm”, because trust me, there are times when it is neither peaceful nor calm.   I’m learning there is nothing a deep breath can’t solve (I started to learn this last year when I taught grade 8!)  It is my greatest honour to be here for Charlee right now.  And next December when I go back to work, I’ll only be doing so part-time. I don’t know what that looks like right now because part-time contracts vary greatly in our district. What I do know is that I am now first and foremost a mama. Teaching has become a tiny bit more of a job for me, whereas last year it was a lifestyle (and an unsustainable one at that!) This doesn’t mean I won’t teach with all my heart and soul ever again…I will, just only part of the time.

Teacher-mamas out there, how lucky are we that our profession allows us to work and still be there for our children? I’d love to hear from you about how you managed to juggle teaching (part time or full time) and being a mama when going back to the classroom after maternity leave. I have a lot of learning coming my way in the near future!

PS- Charlee is still asleep in my arms. I just wrote a whole post from my phone with one thumb. How skilled am I!

Karley

The Truth About Teaching New Things

So here is the truth about trying new things while teaching. Every time you try something new one of five things can happen:

1. It goes perfectly (or nearly) and you’ve struck gold! (This is so unbelievably rare so rejoice!)

2. You try it a few times before it works

3. You try it a few times and then give up

4. You do it over and over again until you make it work (this rarely happens but sometimes, if you’re stubborn like me, it works… eventually!)

5. It fails. It fails miserably. Often in the middle of the activity and you wish you could pretend that you never even started. Sometimes you even try to awkwardly change what you are doing in the middle, usually only to fail even harder… Silent reading time?

So why do we never talk about this? We so often share our success (especially in the blogging world!) but what about those failures? They are equally important to our learning and growth as teachers. They are also important moments for our students to see us as human. I say we start sharing our failures as well as our strengths. Let’s laugh about them. Let’s learn from them together. Let’s be a little more human for each other.

This year I have tried a lot of new things and while some of them have been great, some have definitely failed miserably.

During my French centres, I had a lot of successes and I loved being able to spend time with small groups looking through books and practicing oral language. But then I had them hand in one of the assignments from a station. It was an “About Me” poster (but all in French), and I got a lot of nicely coloured posters. Unfortunately about half of them were lacking in the French part of the poster and a few more of them took weeks if not months to track down. Lesson learned! This was not an individual activity and required a LOT more scaffolding then they got.

I have a new math assessment that I will talk about in a later post, because in itself it is great! It involves four leveled questions and it is a great snapshot into what they are doing. So naturally after I had spent a good two hours creating these assessments with a coworker I was excited to see how the kids would do. I left it with my substitute teacher while at a workshop last week and collected them to mark at home. You know what helps with math word problems? If the pictures you need to solve the problem are on the sheet… Imagine that hey? I must say I got some very creative answers that I was impressed with! But overall it wasn’t anything I could mark, and the kids were less than happy when I made them redo it with the real questions the next day. Whoops!

And finally, my advisory activities… This has been one of my favourite things about middle school and I’ve tried new things with every class. I was most excited for my goal setting this January. I had the duotangs all ready to go, sticky notes for their weekly goals, the SMART Goals board made up, a lesson plan to introduce it… What could go wrong? Oh right! It’s middle school. I spent a whole block on the goals and what a SMART goal is and was feeling so proud of myself. And then I read the weekly goals… “My goal is to get my haircut,” “My goal is to make a better goal next week,” “My goal is to not set a goal”… Greeeaatttt… Well that’s what I get for thinking it was going to be an easy process! (In all honesty, our goal setting has got much better and this is worth doing!)

What are your lesson failures?

Meaghan

When Pigs Fly…

Speaking of where our inspiration comes from, I’m so excited for a new monthly activity I’m starting in our class that came to me while listening to one of my favourite radio stations (JRFM). They have this thing on Friday’s called “Pigs Fly Day” and they will play a song that they normally wouldn’t (like oldies or a different genre). So how does this relate to my classroom?

IMG_3434On the last Friday of the month we are going to have “Pigs Fly Day” in our class. This week I will put a box out with some slips (PigsFly) for suggestions and the class will have a week to enter suggestions for things we could do that would normally never happen… i.e. “When pigs fly…”

Here are some of the suggestions I have given to start them off (but I’m hoping they will be much more creative than me!)

  • Pajama Day
  • Movie afternoon
  • Cookie decorating
  • Games day
  • Indoor campout

So this is not exactly part of the curriculum or anything but my hope is that it will help build more community in the class and strike some creativity up as well. Plus, I really think having fun in the classroom is one of the most important parts of teaching!

What things do you do to bring a little more fun into your classroom?

Any great ideas for our “Pigs Fly Day”?

Meaghan

What Has Blogging Done for Me? – part 2

Following Meaghan’s most recent post, I decided to do my own post on what blogging has done for me.  I, too, have been thinking about our blog quite a bit lately, but, like Meaghan mentioned, you probably wouldn’t guess that based on my lack of posting.  I guess having a little baby at home shifts the pendulum a wee bit, but that’s not to say teaching and blogging haven’t been in the back of my mind!

When Meaghan and I started this blog a year and a half ago we didn’t really have an end point in sight and we weren’t even really sure what we would blog about.  Obviously teaching would be the main subject of discussion here on Tale of Two Teachers, but we didn’t really realize where this blog would take us.  As I sit here and ponder this thought, this is what’s surfacing…

Reflection: Meaghan mentioned self-reflection in her post.  As new teachers we both excel at self-reflection; I might say we’re even a little too reflective sometimes.  This blog has served as an incredible source for me to put my thoughts on teaching into words.  This blog has helped me sort out some of my greatest teaching struggles so far because of the things I’ve written and the constructive feedback I’ve received.  In some ways I think the only reason I survived teaching my grade 8s last year is because of Tale of Two Teachers – trust me, you have no idea how many times a day I’d think to myself (or tell my students out loud), “This is going to make a great blog post!” Which leads too…

Documentation: This blog is an archive of my past year and a half of teaching.  It’s a public journal of my highs and lows, my successes and fails and my trials and tribulations that occurred during my first full time contract.  I love that I can scan through our 200 some odd posts and learn about my teaching from my own writing.  I also love that much of the highlights of my year are in one easy access spot so when I need a quick reminder of how much I love my job (even though I’m off this year) all I have to do is find a post and give it a quick read.

Stress relief: Believe it or not, blogging is a huge stress reliever for me.  I remember last year some days I’d come home with 70 science projects to mark, 26 communication calendars to respond to, report card comments looming and a bomb of a kitchen and I’d drop everything to blog.  Recently, a non-teacher friend of mine (yes, they exist!) said to me, “Writing stuff down really helps you process, hey?” We were talking about my somewhat traumatic pregnancy/birth experience.  Even in the part of my life that has nothing to do with teaching, I’m finding increased peace through writing.  So yes, I keep blogging even when I’m on maternity leave because it relieves stress.

And with that, I likely won’t write another teaching related post for at least a month – ha! I’ll try not to wait that long, but no guarantees.  Meaghan and I have some fun posts planned coming up after spring break. Stay tuned!

Here's the sweet little love that takes up most of my time these days :)

Here’s the sweet little love that takes up most of my time these days 🙂

Karley

What Has Blogging Done for Me?

I have been thinking about our blog a lot lately, although you probably wouldn’t have guessed that based on my lack of posting! There are a couple of reasons that it has been on my mind more than usual but a big one being that I have really missed posting regularily. Blogging has been an important part of my teaching practice and although I am crazy busy right now with full time teaching, coursework, coaching and trying to have something that resembles a social life, I really do miss the blogging piece!

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1. Self Reflection
A friend reminded me the other day about how much self reflection I’ve done because of this blog. It has truly helped me to become a better teacher and better learner so much faster. The lessons and ideas that I write about here are so much more rooted in my mind that I find it easier to remember what I was doing or teaching about last year and comparing it to where I am at. Like this lesson last year, I was able to do it again this year but added a few more very effective tools to make it even better.
2. Connecting
It’s funny re-reading your own words- sometimes it feels like reading someone else’s words and sometimes it feels like I’m just talking to myself HA! This post on being a shy teacher has been popping up on our “most viewed” list more frequently lately and I was wondering why. I went back and read it and remembered the state of mind I was in at the time. A lot has changed since then but I am still so grateful to be in a profession where connecting with new people is the most powerful thing I can do, there are so many amazing people in this teaching world! And to be able to connect with other bloggers and teachers from other parts of the world is an amazing feeling.
3. Inspiration
Karley and I were talking about a teaching plan we had the other day and we both thought “this will make an excellent blog post!” It’s funny where inspiration can come from. Usually our posts are inspired from something we have done at school but sometimes it’s the other way around – we want to write an awesome post so we do something in class. This might seem a bit self-serving but you know what? I think in a job where you have to be “on” all day, everyday it’s a good thing to get inspiration anyway that you can! And obviously collaborating with Karley is a big source of inspiration as well!

So on that note… Blogging is good for me and I am making a commitment to start blogging again more regularily. But we would also love some help! If you have any ideas for topics we would love to hear them, if you want to guest blog for us please shoot us an email, and if you enjoy a certain post let us know in the comments!

Meaghan

Teach it Tuesday: Advisory Activities

Long time no chat! Things have been a bit crazy in our lives so blogging seemed to come to a grinding halt. We still have lots of ideas and intend to get back on the blogging train as soon as we can.

IMG_3385Our middle schools have a period called advisory every morning which allows us to handle any messages, attendance, etc. but is also a time to do things like Feel Good Fridays and other class/team building activities. In my class I’ve tried a few things out in the past month, most of them involving little or no prep so that things can get going while I’m dealing with attendance, newsletters, etc. So here are my new “go to” activities for Advisory…

Goal Setting

Every Monday, students write up a new goal on a sticky note and post it on the board. They also do a reflection one their last weeks goal that we keep in folders altogether.

Partner Talks

As mentioned in this post, I have been trying to incorporate more AB Partner talks into my lessons. For advisory, I write a few sentence starters on the board and they are to sit with their AB partner and chat until announcements come on. It is a nice easy way to incorporate some additional time for other subjects as well, e.g. “Tell your partner about your creative writing assignment.”

Math Investigations

I received a book of these at the math conference I went to and then I added a few of my own games as well. These short little math activities make for a great, interactive start to the day.

Thought Block

This one I’ve already talked about back here, it still remains one of my favourites. It really gives more opportunities to explore those pieces that I love about teaching but sometimes get lost in the curriculum. Most recently one of my friends gave me a lesson based on the Pixar short film “For the Birds” that addresses bullying behaviours.

Other Activities

And the self explanatory ones: math facts, silent reading, student choice… these all still have their place! My class really enjoys silent reading and it really does make for a nice start to the day.

What are your favourite lessons these days?

Meaghan