Why It’s OK To Not Do End of Year Countdown

Hour Minute Timer Countdown Clock Time Watch

The final days of the school year are upon us. Some are just about to end the school year, while some have to wait until the end of June. Either way, you’re excited for summer break and ready to celebrate with your students. You’ve spent nights searching Pinterest and Instagram for fun and creative ideas. Let’s face it… it has been a long school year and you’re just ready to put away the lesson plans and hit the beach, or even take a road trip. You can barely contain you’re excitement and your ready to share that emotion!

But wait… not every student may share the same joy that you do.

You may be starting to notice behaviours that are popping up in your classroom. You may chalk it up to end of year exhaustion or excitement. But could there be another reason? Could your students have anxiety about summer break?

The answer is, yes.

Having worked with at-risk youth and inner-city schools, I have seen students “act up/out” as the last few weeks/days of school approach. This has happened before Christmas Break, too.

Two months of summer break can put the fear into these children.

Let’s be real – we have students that live in poverty (or close to it); students that do not live in the most ideal home environment, or are children in care. Some students fear the two month break because they may not have food every day to eat, they may have neglectful parents; or, parents  may not have the money to help students participate in summer activities. Your classroom provides a safe and caring environment with a daily routine that they have become comfortable with, and look forward (even if they don’t say it) to being with you, their peers, and within the walls of the classroom.

It is their safe space.

I will admit. In my first year of student teaching, I did a Christmas break downtown. Then I began to notice behaviours – acting out, not wanting to complete work, spacing out mentally. Why were my students acting this way? Christmas is right around the corner and that means sleeping in and relaxing!! How could they possibly not enjoy this. That is when it hit me and I felt completely terrible for not thinking of it before. I grew up in the same area and saw it all the time – my students that were acting out were terrified to go home because of their home environment and not having guaranteed meals every day. That is when I sat down with each student individually to ask that question, and I received the answer I was looking for – going home means instability and the unknown. “Your countdown is making me nervous,” one student said. “It’s only my mom, me, and my other siblings. My mom doesn’t work, we don’t eat every day, and there’s nothing for us to do.” It is enough to make you heart shatter into a million pieces. Mine sure did.

Students are worrying about adult things – no food and no money to have fun. Having a countdown can look like the doomsday clock to them. Uncertainty. Hunger. Crime. Loneliness. Shame.

I no longer countdown to school breaks.

Instead, conduct fun summer like activities such as:

  • Scavenger hunt (indoors or outdoors)
  • “Beach” movie day – students dress up in beach wear (shorts, tank tops, sandals [according to your dress code], and bring in beach towels [if they have]). You provide the snacks and beach like decor [from a dollar store of course! Students LOVE leis!], and a fun summer themed movie
  • Summer reading club in the last few weeks – choose a summer themed book for your students to read and have them complete reading comprehension and activities pertaining to the book
  • Classroom Camp Out – create a camp theme with a fake campfire to tell stories around the fire, and make “s’mores” with a solar oven!!! (according to allergies). Read camping themed books.
  • Organize a school wide summer fun day where students create game stations for everyone to try out. Some organizations will donate money to purchase games, or, companies will donate their fun games/bounce houses to the school
  • Hot dog cook out! Have a cookout in your classroom, or outside if the weather permits
  • Ice cream in a bag – a simple and fun activity that incorporates science and math
  • Create a list of FREE things to do during the summer (this will help ease anxiety for those students whose parents cannot afford summer activities) – this will involve researching local activities
  • Community Walk – promotes health/exercise and students can learn about the community that they live/go to school in!
  • Water Balloon Toss/War – be sure to ask parent permission before throwing water balloons at eat other
  • Diet Coke/Mentos experiment – must be completed outside, and includes science
  • Make homemade bird feeders
  • Take a virtual road trip using Google Maps
  • Make a little goody bag for each student that includes a summer activity – bubbles, sidewalk chalk, activity books (dollar store is great for this)
  • Nature walk (can be done with Community Walk) – have students find and identify the types of trees/birds found within the community; students can research their findings and then present to the class

As you can see, the ideas are endless. I understand. Your intentions are well and you truly do mean the best for your students. You want to share your excitement with your students and hope that they share the same feelings. I am not chiding you for your intentions. By no means. I am simply sharing the reasons why I do not conduct school break countdowns. If they work for you and for your students, continue doing what you do!

Do you conduct school break countdowns? If not, what summer-like activity/activities do you do to replace countdowns?

Finding Your Teaching Tribe

The last two years of being an education student quickly came to an end last month, and I don’t know how it happened so fast. I entered the program with experience as an educational assistant and I was ready to learn how to make those skills better, and learn new ones as a teacher. While I feel comfortable in a classroom, I still have my moments – What if my students don’t like the content I’m teaching them? Are my students understanding the content? Am I reaching all learners in my classroom?, I can say that I was able to get through the crazy two years with the help and support from my education cohort.

During orientation for first year, we were told that by the end of our last year, we’d hate each other. We wouldn’t be friends because we are competing for the same thing. Guess what… that did not happen. We became an incredible group of friends that have supported each other, lifted each other up, and made sure that we were ok. It was, as we have said, a healthy cohort.

I can understand that this may not happen for every education student, but if it does happen, you are incredibly lucky. Being an education student is overwhelming – there’s so much to learn, in a short span of time, including completing your student teaching blocks. Learning about pedagogies, philosophies, behaviours, and strategies to help your students… is absolutely a lot to take in. Finding your tribe will help you get through those tough days.

Finding a healthy teacher tribe is extremely important, and it doesn’t have to be just within your university education experience. Finding a healthy teacher tribe is important for when you’re a teacher and you have your own classroom. You shouldn’t have to feel like you’re on a deserted island, and sinking fast. You should be supported, encouraged, and shown how to become a good teacher for your students – that’s the main objective… How can I become a good teacher for my students?

Here is how finding your healthy teacher tribe can help you:

1. You’re not alone. I’ve already alluded to it in the paragraph above, but it really does help. Having the ability to go through all the stressful teacher stuff with someone who understands is healthy! You can share and vent your frustrations, concerns, and inquires with like-minded people. This message is also for the long-service teachers who refuse to help us newbies out… we need you! We rely on your expertise and guidance to help us get through the scary first year. Remember when you were a new teacher and how scary it was? Well, we’re going through that too.

2. It keeps your mental health in check. Being thrown into the education waters as an education student, and then a first year teacher, can be insanely stressful. Throw in crazy assignments, tight deadlines, and filling out applications just to become certified, will make your head spin. The saying, “Teaching is stressful” is an understatement. Being an education student is stressful, and having a healthy cohort will help you get through it. Do what we did… create a Facebook page and get your cohort to join. You can vent, share teaching strategies, discuss your assignments, etc. Someone is listening. What was beautiful about our cohort is that when someone was not right, we all knew about it because we could sense it. Talking is a good thing! My personal life over the last few months was really, really stressful – like, physical reaction stressful. Lucky for me, my cohort was there helping me through it.

3. It helps you become a better teacher for your students. Think of your education cohort, or your new teacher cohort, as a PLC (Professional Learning Community). Everyone has come from a different walk of life, and everyone has something different to share. You will learn different strategies and gain new resources to help you become that better teacher for your students. I’m not a science person, but I am talking to the science teachers within my cohort to get ideas on how to teach science (yes, I’m teaching science this last student teaching block), and others are asking me questions about History and Social Studies. Seriously, there’s no I in team. Have a weekly meeting with your education cohort and share ideas; the same goes for your teacher tribe. Don’t be the person who says, “Well it’s my idea and I’m not sharing it!” COLLABORATE! COLLABORATE! COLLABORATE! We did and we loved it. We still do!

4. You’ll have BFFs for life! Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without my ladies. We talk over text messaging all the time and we meet for coffee to work on assignments and lesson plans. We’ve made a pact to meet at least every week, or two to three times a week, as teachers so we don’t go insane. We may come from different walks of life, but we are uniquely the same. We love what we do, we love our students, and we lift each other up. Side note: We also love going to Olive Garden once a month and stuffing our faces full of carbs. See… it’s things like that, that you need!

Finding that group to help you through one of the toughest moments in your life, will definitely help you get through them. You should support each other because it’s how you’re going to get through the education courses, and through your teaching career. Your mental health is extremely important. If you don’t have your mental health in check, you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself, but also to your students. Find your teacher tribe!

So fresh and so clean!

Well friends, I’ve sat on it for a couple of weeks and I have decided to change the name of my blog. I wanted it to accurately reflect where I am in my teaching career, and while it is only beginning, it is definitely an adventure. My Teacher’s Pay Teachers store will still be called Miss A’s Resource, as it is a page filled with teacher resources.

I hope that you will continue to follow along with me on this incredible journey. I am having a lot of fun learning how to be a great teacher for my students, and I love sharing those moments with you!

If there’s content that you would like to see on this blog, and keep in mind it is still under construction, please leave a note below!

 

Sharing Culture Through Story

metis-storytelling

I am Métis. I come from a long line of incredible Métis people; including being a cousin of Louis Riel. I have always been proud of my Métis heritage – even during the time when some would be afraid to align themselves with the Métis culture.

Being a Manitoban, I have always enjoyed learning about the culture and where I come from. Being a Manitoba teacher, I love educating students about the vibrant history of such an incredible, and strong-willed people. Manitoba is the birthplace of the Métis nation, and Winnipeg is situation on Treaty 1 land. You don’t have to go far to hear about the Métis history and stories, there are many storytellers within the city of Winnipeg that will gladly share them with you – including coming into your classroom to help your students learn.

February is I Love to Read Month – my favourite month as a teacher! I love books, and I cannot lie. Reading has always been my favourite… give me a good book, and I can get lost for hours! I have some grand ideas for reading once I have my own classroom… let me tell you – readers workshop, pair and share, write your own story… the list is endless!

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to read a wonderful Metis story to a group of incredible grade 4 students at Machray School. Whenever I can share my love of reading and share my culture, I am always up for it. For this mystery reader session, I chose “Little Metis and the Metis Sash” by Deborah L. Delaronde. Deborah is an incredible Métis author with a great line of Métis themed books. If you are a Manitoba teacher, I suggest you purchase her books for your classroom library. Little Metis and the Metis Sash tells the story of Little Metis and how bored he becomes one day while visiting his Kookum (Ojibway for Grandmother). Through his adventures, Little Metis (with the help of Noodin [the Wind]), creates something colourful, and learns about the importance of being Métis.

The Métis sash (pictured above) is an important feature of being a Métis person. The sash is typically gifted to a Métis person to wear during special occasions. Traditionally, the sash was worn by Métis men while out in the bush hunting for their family. Each colour within the sash holds significance:

  • Red – Red identifies the Scottish heritage within the Métis culture
  • Green signifies the land and how land provides sustenance and life for us
  • Gold signifies the prosperity of the Métis people
  • Blue and White identifies the French heritage within the Métis culture; blue and white are the colours of the most recognizable Métis flag in Canada

The sash had several useful purposes: back brace, to help carry canoes while portaging, to hold items such as hunting tools; the long hanging threads were used to help patch clothing while in the bush, uses as dog harnesses, or snares. Not only did wearing the sash signify your culture, but it came in handy when you were in the bush!

The students had an enjoyable time listening to the story of Little Metis and the history about the sash. It’s such an incredible feeling when you can share your heritage with others and have them learn something new! Also, I love it when students enjoy listening to a story. It’s always fun when a mystery reader can come into the classroom!

History and story telling have a purposeful place within your classroom. Story telling can help connect your students to curricular outcomes that they may have difficulty understanding otherwise, giving them a connection to the person and historical concept. Some students require a face to the information they are learning about. Remember, our students learn differently; providing them with a different way for teaching a concept will help them remember something incredibly valuable for years to come.

How do you use storytelling in your classroom?

Teaching Resolution # 1: What happens at school, stays at school

classroom1

The other day I was on Instagram and I came across Aly from Just a Primary Girl talking about her upcoming medical procedure and how it is making her change her teaching game. More specifically when it comes to bringing work home with you.

She said that her goal is to not do school things at home that she isn’t getting paid for – no more marking at home, or creating stuff for lessons at home. She left her school bags at school and is enjoying her Christmas break.

Then it hit me. I should be doing that too. We should all being doing that too!

I have two folders filled with work waiting to be marked, and I’ve neglected them so far. I will continue to neglect them. While I work part-time and did so during this break, I spent the majority of my break relaxing. I did laminate a few things, but that is about it. I’m also pretty lucky to have to spares during my teaching day to get things done and if I don’t work, I stay after school to get marking complete.

During the entire practicum block, I came home and worked on stuff. Yes, that’s what us student teachers do… but we shouldn’t have to! So now that I’ll be heading back to university and back to student teaching, I am going to make my first new years resolution – leave my teaching work at school. Although I don’t get paid for teaching at this moment, I shouldn’t be sacrificing my free time in order to get things done. I should be listening to my supervising teacher – even he doesn’t take stuff home to mark, he does it while he is at school.

So there you have it… no more classroom work is coming home. If I want to create stuff for TPT, that is a different story. If I think of something that needs to be done for teaching, I’ll write it down on a sticky note and stick it in my lesson planner. My evenings will be filled with me time and making sure that my mental health comes first.

Let’s start a new teacher movement!

Teacher friends, what are your teacher resolutions for this year?