Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Angel in the Classroom....and a small obsession

Each day our little ones come to us with smiles, hugs, burdens, and sometimes hurting hearts and hidden bruises. For many, we can tell right away what kind of morning they are having. Some are so excited to just be there. Some seem to be a little sleepy or grumpy. Some are hiding behind a facade.

To be honest, we may not always know what burdens each one of our kiddos carry with them to school. We often think that only our kiddos who are economically disadvantaged are the ones with broken homes and problems. Sadly, child abuse can touch any child or family...some families are just better at hiding it.

This may not be an appropriate topic for a blog post but it is too near and dear to my heart to not say anything or share my poem.

I never want to make excuses for a child's behavior but many times knowing what might be going on in their lives helps us to better understand them. Remember, our kiddos are either extending love or calling out for love. We might be the only one to really stop and listen to what their behavior is telling us.

I have taught kiddos that it was very obvious the abuse that was happening and some that left me shocked when I found out. I guess I think we just need to love each kiddo as if we are the only one who does.....and for some kiddos this is easy. Others, we will have a hard time doing so. I know God put each child in your life and my life for a reason.

You may not realize that each smile you give a child erases a frown someone else gave them. Each hug you give might erase the hands that caused bruises and hurt. Each I love you that you tell them might erase hurtful and ugly words. YOU are either seeing that child as a blessing to your life or a burden. Conscious Discipline shares how what children hear NOW becomes the inner speech for the rest of their lives.

I believe we all have the chance to be a guardian angel here on Earth and that through us, we can share of God's love. This is one of the very first poems I wrote because one of my teachers was an angel in the classroom to me.

You already are touching hearts in a way you may never fully understand.

Now, my obsession.....

I did not realize how bad it was until I pulled out my BOX of Easter eggs!

Aren't some of those the cutest Easter eggs ever?!!!???? The butterflies and flowers aren't eggs but are cute containers!

The fish ones I am going to use at the beginning of next year for all of the Lips the Fish activities we do. =)

The frogs and ladybugs are still waiting for me to have a brain pop on how to use them.

Most of the eggs came from Big Lots....we won't discuss how many I bought of each.

These eggs are not even including the small, regular or jumbo sized eggs I also have.

Since I have a small egg obsession, here is an egg *freebie*! =)

Now for a craft. We are going to have some sort of writing activity to go with these. The pictures do not capture how cute and amazing the effects look in person.

We traced an egg on tag. The kiddos then decorated their egg with squiggle lines or polka dots. They then painted the egg with corn syrup that I had dyed different colors with food coloring. They had green, yellow, blue, purple, and pink (a very, very light red). We painted these on Friday and they were dry by Monday. A few eggs that had a thick coat of corn syrup took until Tuesday to dry.

They are really cool looking in person. They are very shiny and swirly looking. =)

My kiddos are bonkers for them. They keep going by and stroking their egg! =)

I hope this post touches your heart and leaves you with something to bring to the classroom tomorrow.

Thank you for blessing me in so many ways! =)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fever, *Freebies*, and a Poem

I am sick...cough, cough-I might even have a fever.

Un momento while I go check...............................................................................................

Yeppers! I do!

Spring Fever!!!

It is gorgeous outside. The temperature is perfect. Dogwoods, azaleas, tulip trees, bluebonnets, and tons of other Spring flowers are blooming. Yes, we just had Spring Break but I am ready for one more! Sitting outside by my sister's pool with a book is the prescription.

The last time I had an actual sick day was 9 years ago. Rub your eyes but you read that correctly! If getting ready for a sub wasn't such a pain, I might be tempted. But then I think of all I still need to teach and I start to panic, stress, and worry! HOLY MOLY! HOLY MOLY!!!!

Then, I stopped myself today. I thought of  how God  uses the sparrow and the eagle in Bible.

Isaiah 40:31:
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Luke 12:7
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Because of grace, I can come before God and ask His forgiveness and through His love He finds beauty in me.

I think of my kiddos and how I can see all of the things they still need to learn and how much further some of them still need to go. Or I can look at them and see how far they have come. I can see the strength and resilience that many of them have. I can remember to have a Heart of Patience. I need to remind myself daily that I must touch their heart first and love them with all of my heart even when they may not deserve it or be acting in a manner where we want to freely give it.

I thought I would share this poem. This just reminds me that God is our teacher who loved us first.

Now to some *freebies*! =)

My kiddos love dice games and went nuts over Race to the Rainbow. So, here is an Easter dice game-Hop to the Top!

This is a measurement activity using the small plastic Easter eggs and the big, jumbo ones.

I hope your kiddos have fun with these *freebies*! =)

I would love for you to leave me a heart note if you grab them or the poem.

Thank you for touching my heart each day and blessing me in some many ways. =)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Buttons and Bunnies

I love my bunny. He is one of the sweetest and most treasured gifts I have ever received.

I love that little bunny nose! =)

Bunnies, Easter, and Spring are all things I love so I try to get as much of them in as possible.

I have several Mr. Potato Heads. You may not realize this but there are LOTS of different ones. Here is the Easter version:

How stinkin' cute are they??!!??

We play a game called Build a Potato that my kiddos are crazy about. Since Easter is near, we are going to Build a Potato Bunny Style!

I'll give you a peek at what you do but you'll have to go here to read more about it!

This game is played kind of like hangman (but you WANT to earn parts) or Read My Mind. Each kiddo has his/her own board and a marker. We play as a team. For each letter that is guessed correctly, the team gets to add a piece of the Potato Bunny. The team continues solving the mystery word and earning parts. Once the bunny is built we take him apart and start over! =)

I really cannot begin to tell you how much my kiddos adore this game. They are going to be so happy when I bring Mr. Bunny Potato Head to school! =)

And for another fun Spring activity my kiddos love, hop on over to my TpT store and check it out! =)

I have some bunny ears they wear when working at this literacy activity and that really engages them!

Thank you for all of the sweet heart notes you leave me. I hope you were able to read A Heart of Patience and take a minute to reflect on what you can do differently in your classroom. I know I try to be very patient but there are times where I am going craaaaazzzzzyyyyyyy on the inside and wanting to do some head bopping! This reflection from Conscious Discipline always reminds me that I MUST start with ME when there is a problem:
*Whomever you have placed in charge of your feelings, you have placed in control of you! p. 28

We often start feeling upset and having trigger thoughts when we look at a child's behavior for 3 different reasons:
*We think the child is misbehaving on purpose to upset us, the classroom, or another child. assumed intent
*We think the situation is WAAAYYYY worse than it really is. magnification
*We find ourselves using negative words to describe the child or their behavior labeling

When we lose our patience, we are allowing our buttons to be pushed. A behavior we see is causing us to have trouble with the feelings that it brings up in us.

For example, we often see Carla pinching Sarah on the learning rug. This triggers our feelings of anger and fear. Our trigger thoughts then turn to Why is Carla so mean? Carla knows better because we talked about this yesterday. I am worried that Sarah is going to get hurt and go home and tell her mom that someone is being mean to her.

While we are upset, we start wanting to punish Carla, make Carla feel bad by removing her from the rug, and start blaming the parents for not teaching her to not pinch at school.

Here is where Conscious Discipline comes in:

We must now tell ourselves to let go of those trigger feelings of anger and fear. We need to take a deep breath, hold onto that moment of patience and focus on what we want to happen. We are often upset because we don't know how to handle the situation...especially if it keeps happening over and over.

When we realize that this child is calling for help and doesn't know any other way to connect and interact with others, we must connect with love to that child. In the end, we can actually thank that child for teaching us to be more patient and understanding.

*This doesn't mean that there should not be consequences. Conscious Discipline does discuss consequences but not until the last chapter of the book.

Conscious Discipline is built on making commitments. There are several exercises in the book to help you remove your buttons and help you take ownership of your feelings. My kiddos know about not letting someone be the boss of your feelings. Take time to think about the behaviors that push your buttons and how you are feeling when you see that behavior. Ask yourself what do you want to see.

Somewhere in your room write on a sentence strip a commitment you are going to make when you see a certain behavior. Talk to the children about this and let them know the commitment you are making to yourself and them.

For example, tell your kiddos that you are going to make a commitment to stay calm with you see and hear friends saying hurtful things. Tell the children you are going to help them find a better way to solve the problem and to do that you need to be calm.

It really makes a difference when you allow yourself to not get upset and irritated...and there are times I still do (even with a few adults!!!) 

There are times that the kiddo who has a radar detector to my button's location is the child I need to write on the palm of my hand for that child will also need to be on my heart.

Remember this from The Heart of Patience poem:

I know I won’t be perfect but you need my best to help you learn and grow-
So, I pray for God to help me have a heart of patience that always shows.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Heart of Patience

You are tired.
You are stressed.
You are behind in the curriculum.
The weather hasn't let you have recess in a week.
There is a full moon.

They are messing with their shoelaces, wiping boogers on the floor, drawing pictures on their marker board instead of writing word wall words, asking if it time for lunch, asking if we have already been to lunch, raising their hand to not ask you a question but to tell you they got new shoes....that aren't staying tied, and they are asking if it is time for lunch.

It is only 10:00 in the morning.

There are so many things that happen in our lives that we have no control over. There are situations everyday that we go through that are stressful, sad, boring, draining, exciting, frustrating, irritating, happy, and so many more that put us on an emotional roller coaster.

And I think for us, this can be very hard because some teachers can be a wee bit of a control might know one or two, right? =)

As I began learning about Conscious Discipline around 5 years ago, this book gave me hives and an upset tummy.

And I'll be honest with you, I cried because this book shook my world up and basically said that so many things I was doing and had been taught in college to do and say were wrong. WRONG and actually the reason WHY many behaviors were happening.

I would say before I read this book that I had very good classroom management skills. When I had observations and appraisals, my ratings were always excellent...ugh, that is hard for me to even type! I have never used any of the color changing or clip moving type of systems. I have never been one for yelling or really even raising my voice. I really didn't even use bribery or threats about losing recess or other things (but there are times when those are discussed as consequences). So, I really didn't except this book to turn my world upside down, earthquake split my brain apart, and tornado twirl my heart around where I was not sure where to stand anymore.

Conscious Discipline is not about here are some ways the kiddos can behave with more kindness. The journey starts with yourself and really examining YOU and how YOU need to be the person you want others to become. These are just a few of the aha's from the book:

*No one can make you angry without your permission-page 23
*Children are either extending love or calling for love(help)-page 163
*How you respond to your child's upset teaches her how to respond to the upset of others- page 193
*What we say to children becomes their inner speech for the rest of their lives- page 177

All of those aha's for me reflect the need for me to have patience. Daily. Moment by Moment.

I cannot control the child or sometimes even the situation. What I can control is how I handle it. If I am to be the example that I want others to become, I need to be loving and patient.

I know I won't be perfect. I will make mistakes, raise my voice, or react too quickly out of frustrations or anger that I allow myself to feel and react to. When this happens, I always try to apologize to my kiddos. I tell them I am sorry for speaking harshly when I was feeling frustrated. I ask for forgiveness from my kiddos. This is something I have done even before Conscious Discipline.

This poem popped into my heart and onto the paper in about 5 minutes. Seriously. God puts the words on my heart.

I am going to post this in my classroom to remind myself to have a Heart of Patience.

I am joining a linky party and thought that this would be a great post to share on the link.

Here is the poem that I would love for you to read.

I pray for my heart to be a heart of patience.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Booger Monkey, Purple Cow Head and *Freebies* Oh My!

Booger Monkey and Purple Cow Head are names that sent 2 of my kiddos into a snotty, crying puddle at the beginning of the year. It does not matter how illogical and silly it seems to us that anyone would get upset over this but they did and other little kiddos do too. Before Conscious Discipline, I would have said something about not being a monkey with boogers so it was okay and you just need to ignore that friend. Or I would have told them to go use their words and tell that person that you didn't like what they said.

Part of CD is helping children find their BIG VOICE. There is even a Shubert book that goes along with teaching children about their big voice.

(The Shubert books are a great place to start if you are wanting to do more CD in your classroom.)

Your big voice is not a yell or mean tone of voice but a very firm and confident way of letting someone know you do not like what is is your I mean business voice. You will need to help the children practice using this voice and making eye contact with whoever they are talking to. 

We read the book and then think of things that have happened in our room and we model what we would say. Just telling a child to go and talk to that person and use their words is really not helping to solve that problem for many reasons. One reason is that if the name caller was being mean or hurtful the child might be scared to go talk to them. Another reason is they have no clue what to say or the words they do know may not be very nice.

At the beginning of the year when a child came to tattle tell me someone called them a name, my first response was "Did you like it?". They looked at me like I had lost my mind and said no. I then told them to go to that person and say "I don't like it when you call me Booger Monkey. Please stop. My name is Heather." The child saying the hurtful thing then needs to answer that child with an okey dokey or I'm sorry or I can do that.....while making eye contact. 

This will take lots of you modeling and maybe even going with them at first to talk to that person. They will get it though and this eliminates a HUGE amount of tattling because they learn to stand up for themselves.

After talking and helping the injured booger monkey child, you then need to go talk to the child that was being hurtful. Most of the time there is something that happened that set this child off...and I am NOT saying that there is an excuse for hurtful, mean behavior because there is not. This involves mirroring back to the child what you noticed. For example, your arms are folded like this and your face looks like this. Your body is telling me that you are mad or frustrated . What happened? After you get to the root of the problem (like the booger monkey child took the pencil from the naming calling friend without asking), you help that child find a better way to solve the problem. For example, help the child practice saying "I don't like it when you take my pencil without asking. Please give it back to me."

I hope this gives you an idea of what you can do if you have a little one in your classroom who might be hurtful with his or her words at times. If you have any questions, just email me or ask in your heart note and I will try my best to help you out! =)

On to the *freebie*! And for those of you who asked, I create my activities in PowerPoint. I don't know if there is something easier but it works for me. When I finish, I save it as a pdf and then upload it to Google Docs. =)

My kiddos love dice games. This is a fun activity they can do after finishing other activities. All they do is roll 2 dice, add the numbers, and trace the sum. We play until all numbers reach the top...and it helps some who still have chicken scratch handwriting. I really think some of them like to try and do messy handwriting so I can bawk, bawk like a chicken and hand them back their work. =)

Here is a missing addends game. We are going to use some leprechaun gold to help us solve the problems. =)

My kiddos love sorting. We have worked on several addition sorts focusing on less than, equal to, and greater than. Here is a sort focusing on that with subtraction.

This little activity is putting leprechaun words in ABC order. I put 2 of the sorting words on 1 page to save paper. After they put the words in order, they are going to write as many words as they can in a sentence. I usually have my kiddos color those words with a crayon.

I hope you can use these with your kiddos. If you have any requests for things you might be wanting, please let me know and I'll see what I can do! =)

Thank you for always leaving such sweet and encouraging heart notes. Keep stopping by...I have the beginning of an inspirational poem rolling around in my head. =)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Feet You Meet...and You Take My Breath Away

I am not a big fan of feet. In fact, I have serious issues with feet. I have NEVER had a pedicure. Everyone tells me I am missing out but I have not been brave enough to let anyone touch my feet. My feet are very happy here:

I am not sure about you but I missed the class in college "Curriculum Clothes" that taught me the mystical and powerful clothes I must wear to be an effective teacher. When I was hired, they forgot to issue my "ruby red slippers" that would give me magical teaching powers.

I have learned the What Not to Wear cardinal rules of the 4 B's: No b**bs, back, belly or crack. No problema with the first (when I say I am small I mean everywhere!). I haven't shown the belly since I was about 4 years old and supporting a tummy in a bikini was still cute. Crack happens with eggs only because thongs don't happen with me (more on that in a minute!). My back won't make a HUGE appearance often because it is 60 degrees in my classroom and we want to waste money on turning Firsties into popsicles.

As many meetings as we have at the beginning of the year, the discussion of flip flops and shoes always shimmies its way into our agendas....because everyone knows, that if you are wearing flip flops you just became an ineffective teacher who left your brain in the pair of tennis shoes or grandma shoes on your closet floor...and I am not saying this cruelly. =)

No one seems to agree on the definition of a "flip flop". One principal we had began a faculty meeting discussing why we could NOT wear thongs to school. Being Southern gals, we thought she was a little cuckoo for thinking we WOULD be sporting our thongs....being from up North(or maybe it was just her!), she called flip flops thongs. All of us being good ol' Southern chicks thought she was talking about something Captain Underpants might want to give his girlfriend!

Since I love shoes, I thought I would share with you some of the legal and illegal shoes I love to sport.

Mother Nature in Texas is always in need of her hormone medicine because one day it might be in the 40's and the next day in the 80's. I have been loving this warmer weather we are having. My little piggies have come out of hiding the past 2 weeks! =)

How many of these do YOU consider to be a flip flop(and there are more than 2)?
Ewwww, gross foot imprint! =P

Thinking about flip flops made me think about feet and animal feet that I want my kiddos to meet....because last week one wee little one tried to tell my dogs have 6 legs!

To have some feet fun, we are going to read The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss (again!). The children will then solve how many feet would there be if 3 kiddos came to school one day. How many feet would there by if there were a cat, a bird, and a fish? We are going to work on the animal feet cards in a small group and then I'll put them in a math bucket. I have included 2 different recording sheets for you to choose from.
If you grab this *freebie*, I would love for you to please consider following me! =)

Now we are stepping into the next my cute giraffe shoes! =)

I thought I would try and share little Conscious Discipline tips in my posts(when I remember!). CD is so powerful and I really am amazed at the skills my kiddos learn to solve problems. CD educates and helps teachers first by developing an understanding of why behaviors happen and why the tactics we use often don't work. One way to understand our kiddos who may be having behavior problems is to understand where they are functioning in their brain. When kiddos are angry, sad, and frustrated, they are functioning in their brain stem. This is the fight or flight survival mode. We want to move kiddos to the frontal lobe because this is where problem solving occurs and optimal learning.

When a kiddo is throwing a fit, steaming mad or crying, THEY ARE NOT HEARING ONE SINGLE THING YOU SAY!!!!! They cannot reason or clearly process what you are saying or trying to explain to them. What they are needing you to do is understand and help them calm down. One of the best was to do this is by breathing. Teaching the kiddos that getting oxygen to their brains not only helps them learn better but will help their brain calm down. One of the components of CD is the Safe Place. This is where a child (or YOU!) can go to calm down before addressing the issue/problem...the Safe Place is not time out. I will share more about the Safe Place in another post.

CD teaches the children and adults that there are 4 ways to calm down and practice breathing: THE BALLOON, THE DRAIN, STAR, and doing the PRETZEL. The explanation for each icon is included in the printable. This is from the CD website. Click on the picture to grab you own copy.

Having the child take deep breaths really does help. I still struggle at times to help certain children do this because it seems I always have one or two kiddos that pitches a fit when they don't get their way. I recognize that is one of my "buttons" (although I am usually VERY patient). I am not for spending LOTS of time with a kiddo that needs to get over it and just obey me is struggling with their independence. I tell them I understand what they are going through and how that must feel very frustrating/scary/sad etc. I help them start to breathe and then leave them to calm themselves down. This can also be when you use the We Care Bag and the School Family job of the Encourager can help. Once a child starts the deep, belly breathing they move out of the brain stem and can begin to talk to you about the problem.

My kiddos even recognize when I start to S.T.A.R. I'll hear them say, "Ms. Price your face looks like this (and mirror my face). Your body is telling me you are feeling very frustrated. You need to STAR." They will then come and rub my back (like I rub their backs) and tell me I can handle whatever the problem is.

I know this might leave you a little confused and it can be. CD is like a puzzle. Each piece is necessary but you don't really get a true picture until you put it all together. A good way to start is by introducing one icon at a time. Spend 2 or 3 days or even a week practicing each breathing for 1 or 2 minutes a day. Have your kiddos help find times when the class needs to help a friend calm down and use one of the breathing strategies. We have a star wand that we pull out when we need to help a friend.

The most important tip you need to learn is THEY CANNOT LISTEN, RATIONALIZE, or PROBLEM SOLVE when they are in the brain stem and an emotional mess. We must help them calm down and breathe.

We get out for Spring Break tomorrow and I am so excited! I love Spring! I am going to spend time with my 3 Chickadees (my nieces) and by my sister's pool with a book (if Mother Nature is on her hormone meds). =)

Thank you to all of the sweet friends who have given me an award. I appreciate it and will be by to pick it up. I am humbled you would give one to me.

I would love for you to take a minute to leave me a heart bless me with a smile each time you leave one.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Your Head or Your Heart

Has it really been a week since my last post??? I have missed so much happening out there on all of the wonderful blogs I stalk and I apologize to all of my sweet and amazing bloggy friends for not stopping by and leaving you any comments. This week was filled with panic and stress because what some of you might call the Curriculum Cops were paying my school a visit.

I HATE people coming in my classroom and it worries my beyond words. I still get nervous when my principal comes in my room. I know what I need to work on and was ready to make a list of those things, tape them on my door, and then shut and lock my door. I was really worrying about if they would ask my kiddos any questions. Holy Moly....that is a ticking time bomb because who knows what will come out of a Firsties mouth.

I was also worrying because I know some of the things we are asked to do may not be developmentally appropriate for my kiddos AND there is also NO WAY on God's green Earth that you can get it all in. I am not a magician but feel like that is what we are asked to do daily trying to get it ALL in. The stress of doing all of that then turns me into a warden at times. I found myself at times this week having less patience than I usually do because I was trying to do things the way they think we should. And who cares that it was the week before Spring Break, Dr. Seuss' birthday, AND time to start our DRA assessments PLUS individual math assessments.

Many times it seems it comes down to following your head or your heart.

I want to do what is best for my kiddos. I know the Curriculum Cops who visited us want what is best for ALL of our kiddos too. But they also have people telling them what they need to be doing and what the children in my classroom need to be doing. No one seems to care about the number of ESL kiddos we might have in our rooms or the number of children who have been identified as at-risk or the fact we might have 7 children who might be dealing with burdens such as abuse, parents in jail, homelessness, poverty, or the fact they only meals they eat are the ones they get when they come to school. ALL children regardless of their circumstances are expected to make the same achievements and academic gains, right??!!????

My head knows what the expectations are and what my curriculum tells me I need to be teaching. Then I look out at the 17 little faces who look up to me and trust me. I think at times if I were to die tomorrow would I want people to say that I did a good job teaching my curriculum or that I loved my kiddos with all of my heart and tried my best to help each child reach their fullest potential AND feel successful.

It is so easy to forget and lose focus that we aren't teaching just a curriculum or standards. I am also not saying that you cannot teach the curriculum and make it fun and engaging because you can! I had to remind myself of this poem I shared a few months ago.

I will try my best to teach my curriculum but I will also remember that God put that child in my classroom. My job is to teach them reading, math, and more...but I also need to give that child my unconditional love, patience and understanding, and help that child know they can touch the lives of others by being kind and helpful.

Now for a fun *freebie*! =)

Hop on over to my TpT store and grab this fun March *freebie*! While you are there, I would love for you to follow my store. If you think you already follow it, please try again because I once had a link that didn't work! =) Click on the picture to go grab it from my TpT store.

While you are blog stalking this week, you need to go visit a few blogs that might be new to you.

First, you need to go visit Stacy at 2nd Grade Paradise. Stacy is a sweetheart and an awesome 2nd grade teacher. I would love for any of my Firsties to have her as their teacher. Stacy has just started creating *freebies* and they are so cute! =) Stop by and grab this game.

Next, you need to go visit Cheryl at Crayons and Curls. I LOVE Cheryl! She has followed me when I first started blogging and didn't know what I was doing....wait, I still don't know what I am doing! =) Cheryl is also a Texas teacher...WAHOO! She teaches Kinder and is so awesome. She is a great follower who will always help you if you are having a giveaway or just needing some encouragement.

These 2 ladies would love for you to go visit them and I promise that you will be glad you did! Tell them that Heather sent you! =)

I hope you have a fun and relaxing weekend. I would love for you to leave me a heart note. I also want to let each of you know how much I treasure each note that you leave me...thank you for blessing me. =)