Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Gift of a Teacher

Merry Christmas sweet friends. I hope you are enjoying your holiday and are finding time to see the blessings that are all around us. I am blessed by the gift God gave us in His son because without the manger there would be no cross.

Last week as I was gathering the goodies for my gift to my kiddos I realized that what I really wanted to give them was not something I could wrap or buy. One of the gifts that would make a difference would be to give them the best teacher that I could be. Yes, I hope they remember the fun activities we do but I would rather them remember how I made them feel.

I want to give them a teacher who has A Heart of Patience because we all have so many things going on that make life stressful. I want my words to help them when things are going wrong and I want to lift them up with encouraging words that make them strong.

I want them to find magic in the books of a book and show them small miracles that others overlook. I want to remember that when I look at them I behold the future...even when that scares me!

Seeing our kiddos as the future seems to get more difficult and difficult each year because teaching becomes more and more stressful and the dynamics of our classrooms keeps changing...and not always as we see for the best. I want to give my kiddos the gift of taking these difficult and stressful situations as opportunities to help them become kind and caring individuals.

I want to give them a teacher that sees them with Eyes of the Heart. Eyes that see the good and eyes that see past the facade and the behaviors. Eyes that see everyone with love because God loved me first and I am a sinner that is not perfect too.

I want to give them the teacher in the mirror that is enough because we often forget that teacher when we become discouraged by all of the obstacles in our way. I want to remember I am teaching a child and not just a curriculum. I want to see my kiddos with growth glasses that see achievements both big and small that data on a paper does not show.

I want to give them the gift of giggles because our days need to be full of joy. The smiles and laughter of our kiddos will be remembered in our hearts long after memories of benchmark tests fade from our brains.

I want to give them the gift of a classroom that is a special place because when they walked into my classroom they walked into my heart.

I want to give them the gift of a childhood as much as I can in the 7 precious hours I have them at school.

To you, I want to give you the gift of knowing that Because of You a difference is being made.

As you celebrate Christmas and the holidays, know that you are giving your children something precious and are giving them the gift of a teacher.

From My Heart to Yours,

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Teacher in the Mirror

WOW! It has been forever since I wrote a blog post. I have thought of so many things I wanted to share with you but just can't get it together to share them. I find myself wondering how is December almost over??!!?? Where is this year going????

This is my 15th year of teaching...and I have been in 1st the whole time. Considering that piece of info, I wonder how in the world can I feel as if I am drowning at least 80% of the time??? Why am I creating and making new activities???? Why do I find myself feeling like a crummy teacher more days than not???

I realize I am teaching in a world that forgets that I am teaching a young child. I follow a curriculum that seems to expect kiddos to learn a new concept right away. My kiddos don't leave their burdens at the door and my kiddos still need time to explore, play, and laugh...We won't even talk about all they keep heaping on our plates...I do like to sleep and have yet to figure out how to get it all in!!!

I think many teachers of the little ones find us in a world where developmentally appropriate doesn't matter anymore. I realize the reason I might have a HUGE headache when I come home could be because we taught addition for 1 week and the next week we are introducing subtraction. Hmmmm, hello???? Where is time for us to be building neural pathways and the time for practice and reteaching???

When someone looks at your score and sees kiddos below benchmark, they may not see and understand that one of those kiddos knew 0 letters when the year started or one of those kiddos has a parent in jail or one of them is living in a shelter.

When I have kiddos struggling, I forget to look at these other factors...I just start feeling as if I am not a good enough teacher.

There have been times this year that I looked into the mirror and did not like the teacher and person I saw. It is so easy to look at others, our kiddos, and ourselves with critical eyes. Most of the time I do not see others or myself as God does. When I saw this video, I cried and knew that others needed to see it too. Click on the link to watch. :)

I pray that I remember when I see this teacher in the mirror that I see a teacher that will keep creating new activities because I want my kiddos to be engaged. I pray that I remember that scores are just numbers on a page that do not accurately show the learning that has taken place. I pray that I see the teacher that loves her kiddos and that tries to teach them to be kind to others because that will make a difference in the world. I pray that I see others as an inspiration because teachers are making a difference in countless ways every day.

Remember this when you see the teacher in the mirror....

You are an inspiration to your kiddos. You are making a difference. The teacher in the mirror is a blessing because that teacher in the mirror is YOU!!!

From My Heart to Yours,

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We Care Bag- Reaching the Heart of Your Class

I am so excited to share about this with everyone. If you have hopped over to my blog before you probably know how much I love Conscious Discipline. It is AMAZING! Keep reading to learn more about this Bright Idea.....a We Care Bag.

Young children often have difficulty being able to verbalize what they are feeling or going through. The way we often know that something is wrong is through their behavior. The tools in the We Care bag can help kiddos learn ways to de-stress, calm down, problem solve, and learn about ways to handle different emotions.

The We Care bag can also be used to teach your kiddos empathy....and just brings out the sweet hearts ALL of our kiddos have. :)

Here are some of the helpful goodies inside. :)
You can put anything in there that you want and you can easily modify this for bigger kiddos.

One of the tools in the bag are the De-Stressing icons. These are 4 different breathing techniques that can help when a kiddo,,,and even the feeling mad or upset. Often when we are upset we have shallow breathing and our brains need more oxygen to move from the limbic system to the frontal lobe where problem solving takes place. Here is just a little about each one:

*S.T.A.R- Stop Take a deep breath And Relax- This is just deep belly breathing 3 times in and out

*Drain- Make 2 fists and hold your arms out straight in front of you. Tighten all muscles. Then, make a "Shhhhhhh" sound as you let out and release all of the stress and tension.

*Balloon- Interlace your fingers and put both hands on top of your head. Pretend that you are blowing up a balloon as you inhale through your nose and stretch your arms above your head like you are blowing up an imaginary balloon. Slowly exhale and deflate your balloon making a "pppbbbbbb" sound with your lips.

*Pretzel- This one still gets me all twisted up and the kiddos too! :)
You cross arms and legs. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and breathe.

You can grab this *freebie* from the Conscious Discipline website. They will give you a better explanation of each icon than what I did. :)

The other things in the picture above are some tools we use to help us relax.

The Star is a light the kiddos can tap it to turn it on 3 times as they practice their S.T.A.R. breathing using the breathing icon above.

The caterpillar is a squishy toy that the kiddos gently rock back and forth breathing while practicing being caterpillar calm. 

Conscious Discipline has a set of books about a character named Shubert. In the books, Shubert has to practice being caterpillar calm when he gets upset. The kiddos learn lots about breathing and de-stressing from those books. :)

The bottle is full of pom poms balls. The kiddos pull out the pom poms one by one. A lot of times this helps when they are really focused on a problem about something not going their way. With the bottle, they get busy on the task and they often forget how sad or angry they are. They calm down and then I can talk to them about what was wrong. :)

Be careful though....this will frustrate some kiddos and make them mad. Ruh-Roh....we don't want that. :)

The light bulb helps them think of other ways the problem they are having can be solved. 
They can get a bright idea too!

The stuffed frog helps comfort them when they are feeling sad or lonely.

The mirror helps them "see" how they are feeling. I usually have an emotions poster in the bag too.

The S.T.A.R. glasses can be worn so they "focus" on calming down and using their S.T.A.R. breathing.

The phone can be used so they can "call" somebody when they are sad or missing someone.
We use the phone A LOT because my sweet little ones at the beginning of the year miss their mom or I have kiddos who have a parent in jail that they sometimes call. :(

My kiddos love to help each other out with the goodies inside.
I usually have Cranky Cream, Boo Boo Lotion, and Dream Cream inside too. :)

The kiddos can ask me if they can get a tool out to help a friend or a kiddo can ask me to get something out to help themselves if something is wrong. I might tell a kiddo "I think we need to get something out of the We Care Bag to help you out right now. Let's go see what we can find."

This bag goes so well with Our School Family job of the Cheerleader because the kiddos want to celebrate each other when they have calmed down and are ready to get their brains working again. :)

Too stinkin' sweet! :)

Be sure and check out tons and tons of other Bright Ideas in the links below.

From My Heart to Yours,

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Kindness Recorder-A School Family Job

I cannot believe summer is almost over. A new school year always makes me nervous and excited. One of my favorite parts of going back to school is building our new School Family. One of the best ways to do that is through Our School Family jobs. So many of the jobs encourage and foster kindness.

The Kindness Recorder is one I adore!

We start by reading the story Mrs. Spritzers Garden.

We talk about how to take care of a garden and flowers and what Mrs. Spritzer did to take care of her garden of children. I tell the kiddos that to help others grow into something beautiful we need to treat them with kindness. We then brainstorm a list of ways we can show kindness to others.

We also listen to the song "Looking for Kindness" from this Conscious Discipline cd.

The job of the Kindness Recorder will be to add kind flowers for the helpful and kind acts that they notice others doing. I bought the flowers at the Target Dollar Spot.

When the Kindness Recorder adds a kind flower they tell that person:

I am going to add you a kind flower for __________.

The person it is being added for replies:

Thank you for noticing that.

I also bring in 2 different flowering plants. One we take really good care of and the other I will pull petals and leaves off of when I see or hear something mean. I won't say who it was and I never do it right at that moment. I might say "When we were down at the restrooms, I saw someone snatch the paper towel someone had just rolled and they didn't roll that person more. Was that kind and helpful?" As the week goes on, we look at the two different plants and we talk about the difference between caring for one with kindness and being hurtful to the other. This makes a HUGE impact on the kiddos.

The Kindness Recorder brings a smile to my heart daily. It amazes me how quickly the kiddos start to notice kind acts from others...even me. At the beginning of the year, I do a lot of modeling of this job before I turn it over to the kiddos. I also will help the Kindness Recorder "notice" these kind acts if they might be having a little trouble noticing those acts themselves....but the other kiddos are good at pointing them out too!

There might be times when one of my "toughies" is showing kindness that I really want to celebrate and notice....or I might want to celebrate the kiddos who are always putting others before themselves. So, I made some little notes that you can send home with any of your kiddos to celebrate those sweet kind hearts.

Conscious Discipline says that what you focus on you get more of and what you strengthen in others you strengthen in yourself. So, think about adding some kindness to your classroom this year with the job of the Kindness Recorder. :)

It is easy to forget how just a little kindness can bring a huge smile to someone's heart. :)

From My Heart to Yours,

Friday, July 25, 2014

Yo' Momma

Until I became a teacher, I never really understood how the words Yo' Momma or My Momma said starting a sentence would give me a headache. In High School, I had guy friends that would tell Yo' Momma jokes to each other. I heard jokes like Yo' Momma's so fat that when she walks in front of the TV I miss 3 episodes or Yo' Momma's so fat that she left the house in high heels and came back wearing flip flops. We might giggle when we hear and see some momma jokes but in truth, they are really hurtful.

 I don't remember anybody saying any jokes insulting my momma but I know I probably would be upset over a momma joke too!

My first year of teaching I tried....and explain the logic to a six year old that this person does not even KNOW your momma so try and not worry too much about what they are saying. We talked about kind words and treating others with respect but I never realized how their momma's presence would ALWAYS be in the classroom with them....and ALL of their mommas are there regardless of race.

I also quickly learned that my little ones were often skeptical of what I told them to do because of what their momma said. The momma card trumped ANYTHING I had to say!

 I then read Ruby Payne's book A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I was also blessed to see her present. WOW!

Working at a Title 1 school where usually ALL of my students are already identified as at-risk coming into my 1st grade classroom this book is an amazing tool and guide for understanding.

This video is also awesome for helping understand the difference between home and school rules that our kiddos and parents often struggle with....and also the hidden rules.

Even before seeing this video, this is something I tried after attending my workshop with Ruby Payne. Many of our kiddos come into our classroom carrying with them a completely different set of rules. We expect them to start following "our" set of rules right away.

We often aren't as patient helping these students adjust to this new set of rules as we might be when they are struggling with a new concept academically. We also don't want to make a mistake by telling our kiddos that their set of home rules are wrong either....even if we disagree.

Part of our job will be helping them to see that those rules are not ones you can usually follow at school or at work. I always talk to my kiddos about how my principal makes me do things I don't want to or that there might be a time I get mad over something that happened with another teacher. I ask the kiddos if it would be okay for me to drop to the ground and throw a fit or run next door and hit Mrs. Carla??!!!??? I have even acted really mad and started walking around the room kicking things and saying "My momma said if anyone makes me mad I should just hit them!!! I'm going to go next door and HIT Mrs. Carla!!!"

The kiddos always laugh and think this is funny...and I have to bit my lip to keep from laughing at the look on their faces sometimes. :)

I talk to my kiddos about the difference between home rules and school rules. We talk about my job as The Safe Keeper and how it is their job to help me keep everyone safe. We talk about other ways to handle problems here at school such as walking away, going to a spot to calm down, standing up for yourself while staying calm and in control, or going to get an adult to help you solve the problem. We brainstorm other strategies too. We try and learn ways to be problem solvers while still helping them know that they can save face because at school they are just following a different set of rules. 

By showing them that we are going to help them learn how to be successful following school rules, we are going to be showing them respect and how much we care. As we handle different situations and share the self talk in our heads, we will be modeling to them other ways to handle problems and the problem solving we go through, By doing this, we will be the champions by their side and the mirrors that reflect kindness and patience to them and others.

One day someone might say Yo' Momma must be pretty amazing to have raised a child like you!

Our kiddos are coming to use holding on to rocks that we might see as burdens or stumbling blocks. If we stand by them as they learn and pave the way with respect and love, those rocks can be stepping stones bridging the way from heart to heart.

From My Heart to Yours,

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Change for Next Year...and Now

It is time to brush off the cobwebs and dead crickets that have no longer been chirping on this blog because they died a looooonnnnngggg time ago!

I cannot even begin to tell you about all of the blog posts I have written in my head, But when it came time to sit down and actually write them, I felt lost. I have kind of felt lost ALL year long with things going on at school and at home. But I have realized how much blogging helps me reflect on my attitude and where my heart is sometimes the compass that helps me point my heart back towards God and the reasons why I love teaching despite how challenging and draining it can be.

Every May, I find myself making a list of all of the things I will do better next year. I tell myself I will be more purposeful in my guided reading lesson plans and Writing Workshop mini-lessons. I tell myself I will stay on top of grading papers so I am not entering grades on the day they are due at 11:58 pm! I also realize how there are so many things I could have done better if I had looked at changing myself first.

Do you ever find yourself wanting to change others....both little people and big people?

And it is often the BIG people we want to change the most because we think they should know better! :)

I have to remind myself daily....and sometimes minute by minute...that the only person I can change is myself and how I respond to that person and that situation.

I know I have found times when I make excuses for myself  and have found it easy to place the blame on others or something else. Have you heard these excuses before?

I have a tough class this year.
I don't like this curriculum.
Admin has no clue what it is like in the classroom.
Their parents don't care about their grades.
They never listen.
They NEVER hush!
You don't understand what my team is like!
I have NO help or support from home!
It does no good to send the children to the office.
This child (or grown-up) drives me CRAZY!!!

These excuses do nothing to SOLVE the problem. In fact, we often use them to justify the things we do. I know I have been guilty of that before. :(

So when that starts to happen, I realize I need to pray and find the things that help me point my mind and heart back on a better path.

Some of my favorite thoughts from Conscious Discipline always help ground me and remind me how I don't need to change others only myself.

How you respond to a child's upset teaches them how to respond to others when they are upset.p. 192
What you focus on, you get more of. What we offer others we strengthen in ourselves. p. 160
Love see the best in people, even children. p.162
Whomever you have placed in charge of your feelings, you have placed in control of you. p.28

This song always helps to remind me of how God will change us so it is not up to me to try and change others.

So instead of thinking of all of the things I need and will do better next year, I remind myself about reaching and touching their hearts first. I remind myself that through the tough times I will face with my kiddos to encourage them and love them.

 I will remind myself to be kind, patient, and encouraging even when those around me are not.

 I will remind myself to show love through the toughest times because we are ALL still learning and changing.

But most of all, I will remind myself that we are ALL broken but God is sculpting each of us into something beautiful!

From My Heart to Yours,

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Label Love: Interactive Learning Fun

Are you ready to discover some awesome Bright Ideas? 

Here is just one of them. :)

I am so excited to share with y'all some fun ways to use labels for Word Study, Math, Science, and more. I love labels and we have been using them to get us up and moving around. PLUS they can often give us the opportunity for some great discussions...OR they give us a chance to practice skills without talking. :)

Here are a few examples of the different ways we have recently used labels. I buy the address ones that are 30 to a page.

For Word Study, I typed (You can also just write them) one part of a compound word on each label. They kiddos had to get up and get moving to find the other half to their compound word.

For Math, I typed random numbers from 1-120. I called on about 8-10 kiddos to come to the front of the room. My other kiddos had their marker boards. They had to write the numbers in order from least to greatest. I then had the kiddos with the labels put their number and themselves in order from least to greatest by making a human number line. We were then able to check our answers.

We then sorted ours numbers and ourselves by numbers greater than 25 but less than 75.

I also called out number clues to help each child identify the Mystery Number I was talking about. For example, I am 10 more than 42 and I am the same as 5 dimes and 2 pennies. I also let the kiddos make up the clues about another person's number.

For Science, we sorted ourselves by living and non-living. To extend that activity, we then used some of our inferring skills to determine what object I was talking about using riddle clues. I forgot to take the picture of this.

Here are some others ways you can use labels:

*short and long vowels
*even and odd numbers
*needs and wants
*solids, liquids, or gases
*shapes- by 2d or 3d, vertices, edges, etc.
*digraphs or blends
*true or false math equations
*balanced or not balanced number sentences
*animal coverings
*beginning or ending sounds
*rhyming pairs
*characteristics of different genres
*characteristics of fiction and non-fiction
*nouns, verbs, and adjectives

You can even have students create the labels for another group to sort and solve. :)

For more bright ideas from 150 different bloggers, please browse through the link up below and choose a topic that interests you. Thank you so much for stopping by Heather's Heart.

An InLinkz Link-up

Hop over to my TPT store or my Pinterest boards if you get the chance. :)

From My Heart to Yours,