Finding out who I was as a teacher has been a journey that hasn’t quite stopped. My first few years were a mess as I found myself trying to fit into everyone’s box of who I was supposed to be. It seemed that all the stakeholders I encountered valued something different ranging from a quiet and compliant classroom and a basal that is strictly followed all the way to integrated arts standards into daily curriculum…and everything in between. The battle to please everyone could never be won and one day I found myself alone in my classroom well past dark with no clue who I even was, what I was doing, or what my overall purpose was. It seemed that early on in my teacher career, I was lost.
Luckily, I was intuitive enough to realize I was lost and I spent the rest of my teaching career finding myself. As sappy as that sounds, it really hasn’t been all sunshine and dandelions, there have been roadblocks, obstacles, and detours along the way. I have often changed the direction of my own boat and I know that the “end” won’t ever come while I am actively teaching. Things tend to ebb and flow in any world, especially the world of education.
All that said, I am much further along than I was before and in that time I have adopted a few “teacherisms” that are probably a bit unpopular. I am sure everyone has them. Here are my personal top ten:
- My kids can attend to their basic needs without permission. This means that if they have to go to the bathroom, they go. If they are hungry, they eat. If they are thirsty, they drink. Yes, inside the classroom. There is an overall expectation of “reasonableness” that is discussed and sometimes re-discussed and monitored with a select few, but overall it works. I actually view it as a level of respect that all people (big and little) deserve. Someone somewhere is side-eyeing that last sentence. I would have just a few years ago myself. it’s okay.
- My kids can chew gum in class. There’s even research to suggest some benefits of gum chewing. If it triggers my misophonia and gets obnoxious, however, it gets banned for a bit. If there is ever gum found on the floor or our fancy furniture it is banned forever. The former has happened on a few occasions, the latter never.
- I want my classroom to feel like a home away from home and not a standard “classroom.” I have just a handful of desks, a couch, saucer chairs, pillow topped benches, and a plethora of other flex seating options. I have just one “normal” chair. While flex seating has become popular in moderation, I have never seen one in real life that is 100%. Deskless classrooms seem far less common. I
- I love snow days. Like jump for joy and sing a song (badly) love snow days. I still love teaching too! I believe both things can be a thing! An unexpected break is nice, plus I have a 3 year old who loves to sled, build snowmen, and slush around in mush. Those moments with him are priceless.
- I also love summer breaks. I consider being able to spend quality time with my family during some of the nicest months of the year a huge blessing and one of the perks of teaching (other than the warm fuzzies). I don’t do much school work during this time and I don’t seek out a ton of extra PD. I may do a little of each, but it is definitely not the focus of my summer. I do think this time away helps me be a better teacher during the school year.
- I don’t assign homework, and it’s for all the wrong reasons. Recently, the research about elementary homework has been more widely known to the masses (yet the masses still assign the homework) but the moment I saw that research I put a screeching halt to the homework madness. Yes, madness: making copies, figuring out how to differentiate without losing my mind, grading, figuring out what to do about kids who wouldn’t or couldn’t do it, figuring out how to tackle issues of siblings doing it all, the list goes on. Teachers have 99 problems, now homework isn’t one.
- I wear some sort of heel nearly everyday. I have always been a heels girl. Be it stiletto, wedge, chunky heel, and anything between, I wear them. It’s been that way since my college years. Yeah, I was that girl…walking across campus in heels. It’s just me. Other than during my pregnancy and directly after, I have rocked heels in both the elementary schools I have taught. No, they don’t hurt. Yes I can teach just fine. No, I haven’t fallen yet. 😉
- I find “brain breaks” unneccesary and therefore I don’t schedule any in my class. Really, brains should be working all the time, the thought of my brain taking a break is actually scary. Now before I sound like a fuddy-dudd I will say that the kids in my room aren’t ever required to sit still for large amounts of time. We have loads of interactive activities and I plan as many “educational experiences” that kids wouldn’t want to take a break from as possible. We also have flexible seating that includes bounce and wobble options and the freedom to move at will throughout the room. If during a workshop time The Whip/NaeNae or Cupid Shuffle plays on our Pandora, by all means some of us will dance…but we don’t schedule that time as a whole class.
- I don’t put my kids on silent lunch, but occasionally I will put myself on it. I eat with my kids everyday. They are quite a lively group and they especially need the freedom to talk about whatever they want at lunch. They love to do it with and around me and most of the time I embrace it. There are a few days each year when I am not having the best of days. In the past, my tolerance for anything out of the ordinary on my worst days would have plummeted and my kids would have found themselves on silent lunch for being kids. These days, I know myself well enough to take a breather, let my kids know what’s up, and put myself on silent lunch for a reset. Then, if the issue is truly a kid issue, I can address it in a calmer fashion while still maintaining their right to be eight.
- I actually do care about my test scores. I don’t want to though. But I do. I wrote a whole blog about it here.