Thursday, February 23, 2012

Love, Beauty and Teaching...

This week has been full of "love and beauty" comments.  
"Ms. Eklund - you're beautiful and I love you to bits." 
"Ms. Eklund - I hope I am as pretty as you some day."
"Ms. Eklund - I sure love you.  You give the BEST hugs ever."
"Ms. Eklund - some day I want to teach us like you do."
"Ms. Eklund - I'm never leaving you...ever.  I love you too much to go to 2nd grade."
"Ms. Eklund - you are as pretty as a picture."

So, so sweet, truly.  My class has turned in to such a loving and caring class.  They constantly compliment each other - clapping for each other when they get an answer correct or get their cards flipped UP to Blue (for going above and beyond normal behavior expectations), AND they compliment others, such as the preschool students walking quietly in line.  It is the cutest, sweetest thing to see.  I would like to take credit for their tender hearts - and I perhaps can take a little bit of credit as I try to instill in them a supportive attitude.  However - I never taught them to clap or give pats on the back or any of that...THOSE things they've done themselves and it is wonderful to see.  To say they make me proud is an understatement.  

Each week I tutor three days after school for other schools in my district.  I work with 2 - 5th grade students and today I received the sweetest letter from a 5th grade ESL (English as a Second Language) student I am tutoring in math. Here is what she said:

"Dear Ms. Eklund,
I improve in math, because of you teaching me how to do math.  Math is getting easier thanks to you.  I'm done taking a math BenchMark test and I'm sure I am going to pass this test.  I thank you for helping me in Math."


How wonderful is that?  Talk about making my heart fill with joy and making my day.  I think any teacher can attest to the fact that we live for days like this - when we get to see the fruits of our labor...when we see our students finally grasp a concept.  So, so wonderful!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Death and teaching...

I returned yesterday from attending the funeral for the son of a former co-worker and found myself really struggling with my feelings.  I didn't know her son personally and only worked with her for one year, but wanted to be there to support her and her family and the plethora of teachers from my school who attended the funeral as well.

I sat there in the pew at the church as this everyone grieved and all I could think about was how I would feel if the young man we were honoring was one of my former students.  His mother spoke of the impact his teachers made in his life and I looked down the pew at the ladies sitting next to me and it was a virtual living history of his school life, from his kindergarten teacher to his 8th grade teacher.  All there remembering him.  His mother remarked how, as a teacher herself, she feels that her students are her children - how they become one's children over the course of the school year and how very attached she becomes to them.  I sat there, humbled and moved to be a part of a profession where parents trust us with their children, trust us to teach them, but to love and care for them as well.  My students definitely become my "kids" over the course of the school year and I couldn't stand the thought of losing one of them.

I don't think this is something one ever considers when they think about becoming a teacher.  In the five years I've been teaching, I've seen so much more than I ever even considered or expected, both good and bad.  Students who suffer child abuse, parents dying or being put in prison, getting deported, moving away, drugs, alcohol, etc.  The flip side is watching those same students somehow manage to put all of that behind them and excel academically and socially - learning to rise above all their challenges or meet those challenges head on and succeed.  I know that some day I'll see my students graduate from 8th grade and high school and college, then hopefully move on and get married.  I guess, if I think about it, while I don't want to ever seen one pass away, I hope that I can be there to support their families when it happens.  What a humbling thought!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hilarity and bliss rule first grade...

This week has been one of fun, love and hard work.  I am so proud of my students, in fact I am BEYOND proud of them.  On Tuesday (Valentine's Day of all days) I had my formal evaluation and observation, something I think that every teacher stresses about, and my students were brilliant - full on sparkling and BRILLIANT in their behavior and academic achievement.  I spent, no exaggeration, about 20 hours writing my lesson plans and creating materials for this observation.  My lessons were on reading comprehension questioning strategies; thick vs. thin questions.  While not initially seeming so, it was a challenging and ambitious lesson.  I ended up having to modify and adjust throughout teaching the lessons leading up to my formal observation day.  All of the adjustments and stress were worth it as my kids did wonderfully.  It was so fun to see my students raising their hands - stretching their arms as high as they could in the air so their hand was higher than their partner just so they would be called on.  Awww.  So eager to please and do well.  I love them!  I had my post-observation evaluation today and it went extremely well.  All the hard work paid students learned a TON, were challenged and engaged, and I passed my eval.  Sweet, sweet victory :)

This week was also Valentine's week - which meant love and adoration by 22 first graders.  So so fun!  The kiddos were so sweet and generous...I even received Valentine's from past students - which truly touched my heart.  One student from last year, who brought me a box of chocolates, said, "Ms. Eklund, you'll ALWAYS be my Valentine."  Awwww!!  So happy my past students still think of me fondly.

Here are some of the funny things said in my classroom this week:
This one was said during the middle of my formal evaluation, just as I finished complimenting the class on how "smart" they were.  "Ms. Eklund, we are so smart because you love us and you want us to be smart and you teach us to be smart.  We are all your babies - at least that's what you tell us!"  (awwwwe)

  • "Ms. Eklund - did you know I have two mommies?"  (You do?)  "Yes, my mommy and YOU - you're kind of like my mommy - you love me too!  Oh wait...I have THREE, my mommy and Ms. D (my student teacher) is my step-mommy!"  (this quickly turned into "I have three daddy's...Mr. Eklund, Ms. D's husband and MY daddy.")
  • "Ms. Eklund - this rose is pretty, but you are waaaaay prettier."
  • "Ms. Eklund - you and Ms. D are gorgeous...are you sisters?"

They are learning about the solar system in science...

  • "Is Jupiter Saturn's brother?"
  • "Saturn has a ring around it that looks like you could put it on your finger."
  • "I think the best planet to visit is Venus, because you can see things and you can see hot stuff, but you could even see the mountains.  I even could take pictures, even you can watch what happens."

Things I never thought I would have to say as a teacher...#4893, 4, 5, 6, and 7

  • "Friends, we do NOT lick someone's hair!"  (imagine a boy standing in line behind a girl with shoulder length hair flipped up at the ends...he's leaning forward sticking out his tongue and grabbing the ends of her hair and sucking them in his mouth.  Nope - not kidding on this one...)
  • "Sweetpea, please quit licking your fingers, touching your shoes, and licking your fingers again."
  • "Friend...that's NOT a stick...put it down and go wash your hands for 30 seconds with lots of soap."  
  • "We do NOT lick our desks...ever!"
  • "Friends, we do not put markers up our noses NO MATTER how good they smell!"

In addition to this wonderful week - my student teacher had what I consider to be her best week yet.  She had her best day ever...truth be told.  She was simply amazing to watch teach.  She was caring and kind, direct and honest, informative and fun.  She redirected students with ease and grace and compassion - allowing them to solve their own problems, giving them simple directions to do so and praised them for working it out in the end.  Oh so perfect and wonderful to watch!!  I LOVE being a mentor teacher.

To end this blissfully busy and perfect week, a former student brought me a green and yellow paper bracelet that she made for me.  It was one long, wide piece of paper - half colored green, half yellow and then taped together.  She presented it as an "Oregon bracelet, just for you!" along with a picture she drew of flowers and a heart that said "love you" in the middle.   Seriously - so darn sweet.  I wouldn't trade this job for anything. :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I forget...

...that I'm 38 years old.  I forget that I don't have the flexibility or the arm strength I had in my youth.  But when a first grader asks me to swing from the monkey bars or play on the swings, I don't say "no", I jump right in and turn back into a 6 year old.  On Friday I decided to swing my way up the "A" shape made by the braces on the know - grab the bars and swing side-to-side until you make your way up to the top of the swings.  So - with the prompting of some of my students, I did.  I was happy I could still do it (haven't tried in probably 15 years), but now am paying the price.  My arms, shoulders and upper back muscles are SO sore today!  Time to get back to the gym, I suppose...or remember that I'm 38.  (naaahhhh - I'll go to the gym instead)

Another boy...

Yep - got a new student on Thursday...another boy.  I'm now at 17 boys and 5 girls.  My newest student is a sweet boy, who has the potential to be a handful, I can already tell.  His mischievous grin gives him away.  He is smart and right on track with the rest of my first graders, which is a very pleasant surprise.  So - after reconfiguring my room a bit to make things look and flow better - I think I am ready for a new week.  This quarter is flying by.  We're already at mid-term.  Wow!  My babies are almost 2nd graders.

This week was really busy and emotional.  Fighting to do what's right for ones students has always been a passion of mine and when I feel that is threatened, I am like a lioness when it comes to protecting them.  I will always stand on the side of what's best for them.  I am not a teacher for me, I am a teacher for them and I will always do what I think is right even if it means making an unpopular decision or two.  It's one of those things where I would rather take the heat for a decision I've made than put my students in a position of failing or falling short of what I know they are capable of achieving.  Sometimes the politics of teaching cloud the reasons we teach.  There are days even I need to check attitude and my thought process, but trust and believe me when I say - I never lose sight of what's best for them.

It's now the weekend...the glorious weekend.  A time to recharge, renew and reflect.  Some of my favorite things about teaching are the hilarious things my students say and the sweet things they do.  I wish I could just audio tape a day and edit together a string of funnies for you all.  Out of the blue, someone will say something that is hilarious or made funnier by its context.  "Ms. Eklund - D's a vampire."  Imagine D sitting at his desk, lips pulled back showing his teeth.  Ok - he looked more like a rabid dog, but....I'll give him 'vampire' instead.  Stuff like that....funny!  Also, this week I had a student bring me a present.  It was wrapped in a piece of spiral notebook paper...and inside was a nice, brand new pencil.  It was so sweet!  "Ms. Eklund - I brought this for you." he said with a big grin.  It was absolutely adorable and he was so honored when I sharpened it and began to use it.  Such a sweet, sweet boy!

Do I miss making money?  Yes - because as a teacher - financial security will never happen.  BUT - in no other profession will I get 'vampires' and presents wrapped in spiral notebook paper. ;)  or gently used LOVE erasers wrapped in silver thread...and Oregon teddy bears....or hand drawn pictures....or first grade hugs.  Nope, I wouldn't trade this for anything.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My favorite comments from the past three days...

I have been working on a pretty intensive reading unit on questioning strategies for my formal observation, so my free time has been limited. Just to make sure I get something up here, I've saved some gems from the past three days. I love my job, there's no hiding that...if for no other reason than hearing things like the following...

" out, D's a vampire!"

"Ms. Eklund, you and Ms. D (my student teacher) are the QUEENS of the classroom."

"Ms. Eklund, Jose H. just called you "hhhhhhhotttttt"...and he wasn't kidding around." (this one specifically elicited a tremendous amount of giggles from the classroom)

"I'm pretty sure I'm never going to 2nd grade. (why?) Because first grade is a blast!"

"Ummm...Ms. Eklund? I lost my tooth." (as he walks up literally spitting his front tooth into his hand. Suddenly, three other kiddos had loose teeth. Ahh the power of suggestion.)

"Ms. Eklund? What does 'sexy' mean?" (hahahahaha - NOT touching that one. I told the student to ask his parent. "That's a great question for mommy or daddy," was my exact reply.)

"Ms. Eklund - watch!" (picture a kid taking his empty milk carton and smashing it on his head like a can.)" - seriously - that kid has watched too many Keith Stone commercials.

I'm trying to write things down...but it's been a pretty busy week. I am humbled by my students and their grace. They make me laugh every day.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In what other profession...

I received this article from my mother-in-law and found it to be quite thought-provoking. Please read and respond.

I will respond to all comments, so keep them coming!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Heaviness... a word to describe how this week feels to me. I'm not trying to get all "old school" on you - just merely trying to explain how this week has been. It has felt heavy with emotion, drama, expectations, learning, growth, compassion, understanding, love, and intensity. It has been a busy week with lots of classroom visitors, potential parents and observations; of emotional highs and lows. These are all good things, but coupled with academics and social / emotional issues - it has left my class, my student teacher and I feeling tired and spent and emotional. I'm glad we have the weekend to rest and recharge our batteries, for both students AND teachers need this mental rest.

This week I spent a large part being a confidante to other teachers and students. Holding class discussions with former classrooms regarding behavior and expectations; mentoring students and helping them to make better choices; generally just stepping in to offer assistance wherever needed. There were lots of needs. Emotionally charged students making poor decisions because their home lives are in turmoil. "Daddy's in prison, again, I'm so disappointed in him. I don't get to see him anymore. I just want to bike riding with him with our shirts off like we did last time." - "Grandma promised she's quit smoking and she didn't, now she's dead." - "I just miss my mommy so so much!" - "I don't want to be here at school, because I hate it here...Mom and Dad got divorced and I have to come here. I want to go home. My brother doesn't like me, but I want to be home. I don't know what to do." Add to this the normal tender first grade feelings like "she hurt my feelings when she didn't play with me" and "he looked at me funny" and "he said it was MY turn to play on the swing, but he didn't let me" and it makes for a very delicate, soft-hearted, long week.

While this post is heavy - there were bright, light moments as well. The proposal, the paper smelling, licking dirt off our shoes, Oregon BCS bears and gently used LOVE erasers, third graders stopping by on their lunch time to say HI and brag about how their behavior has changed since my visit to their room...all of which are amazingly light and bright moments that soften the edges of heavy.

Weeks such as this - these self-reflective, positive, busy, heart-wrenching weeks only help to reaffirm the importance of my job. The reality (and reminder) that teaching is much more than academics alone - it is social and emotional and so very, very full of love and compassion. These weeks illustrate in great detail the responsibility that falls upon the shoulders of those who choose it...this profession...this sometimes utterly exhausting, amazing, life-changing, fulfilling profession.

Quotes that matter to me...that guide me, humble and remind me....

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi


"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before
starting to improve the world." - Anne Frank.

I think I wish for everyone to have heavy weeks such as this. They are excellent reminders of ones place and importance in this world.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The power of suggestion...

is strong in this class. If someone hurts their arm, there are two or three students whose arms automatically begin to ache. If someone falls out of their chair, someone else will fall out of theirs. If someone's feelings get hurt - yep - you guessed goes around and around. Today was no different...this time it revolved around losing teeth. One student's tooth popped out...quite naturally - "Ms. Eklund - I lost my tooth!!" as he holds up a nice clean, white tooth. I sent him off to the nurse and he comes back with his tooth in a baggy knowing he's getting a visit from the tooth fairy. Within 2 minutes I hear, "Ms. Eklund! I lost my tooth too!" as she holds up a very bloody stump of a tooth with her mouth filling with blood. Oh my. Suddenly three more students are complaining of their loose teeth and fingers are jiggling teeth everywhere! So - I had to have "the tooth talk"...the talk that goes something like this, "Friends, we do not pull our teeth out until they're ready. Which means - no pulling or tugging on a tooth just to make it loose enough to pull out." You could actually hear the kiddos groan and slowly slide their wiggly fingers out of their mouths...guilty as charged. ;o)

The power of is strong in these wee ones. I spend lots of time suggesting things like how fun it is to learn new things, positive self-talk, wrong from right, ....and how to be a good friend. :) Trust me, it's all about how you word things. My class isn't perfect, but slowly we're getting there. Every day we make progress towards becoming the best firsties we can be. Did you know I have the best.job.EVER? ;)

Paper, rough play, a proposal, and licking dirt off our fingers...

Today was an interesting day. It started out with one of my students, I shall call him "J", informing me that he can smell through paper. "Ms. Eklund, did you know I can smell through paper?" (you can??) "Yep, I just put the paper up to my nose and smell right through it." haha

Then there came the "rough play" at recess. Four boys decided to play rough with five 2nd grade girls, which involved all five girls going to the nurse for various injuries. Hugging and pushing and shoving. The boys' reactions to getting in trouble? One was mortified, truly repentant - crying hysterically - knowing that he had disappointed not only me, but his parents as well. He even asked for his apology letter back so he could add more detail to it, explaining he knew how upset and disappointed his parents would be in him. (awwwe) One was sort of repentant - knowing it wasn't right, but gave me the "eh, whatever" look. One turned himself in - wasn't implicated at all, but he knew the right thing to do was to admit fault. The last one laughed at my face...and smiled the whole time, even writing his apology letter in the 3rd person. (This was the boy who pushed a girl down and then stomped on her stomach.) Hmmmm....All four boys received the appropriate discipline for their actions.

(Something to ponder? I hope to know these students in 20 years...I really want to know they grow up to become. ;)

Then came the romantic proposal on the playground. Imagine a boy wearing his CTR (Choose the Right) ring, pulling it off his finger, getting down on one knee and proposing to a girl in our class - offering his ring to her. She replied with a polite, "No."

And how did the day end you might ask? Me having to tell a student to quit licking the dirt off his fingers. Seriously. Not joking.

Which leads me into a non-comprehensive list of things I never thought I would have to say in first grade...
1) Please quit chewing on your clothes.
2) Please quit sucking on your shirt.
3) Please quit cutting your pants, shirt, hair, or anything else non paper related.
4) Our hands do NOT go there.
5) Friends, we do NOT eat crayons, glue or lick our desks.
6) It is not ok to stab our friends with pencils.
7) It is not ok to tell your friend you want to have sex with them.
8) It is not ok to hump our chairs and make fake orgasm sounds.
9) You are NOT a werewolf. (yes, I am). No - I promise you, you really aren't.

This last list did NOT happen all today...but it's all happened so far this year :) These are just more reasons I love being a teacher. ;) And how was YOUR day?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The love continues...

Here are a couple of gifts I've received this week. Two Oregon BCS bears (one new and one gently loved) and one slightly used "LOVE" eraser with a piece of sparkly thread wrapped around it (pulled out of her own scarf, I might add), because "I just loooooove you Ms. Eklund. I can't explain it - I just love you! You make my heart sing!"

Awwwwww - come on...adorable, right? and the fact that the eraser is used...and the thread is from her own scarf...geez...she totally gets an "A".

Just a couple more reasons I love being a teacher. :)

A total disservice...

I just read through my entire blog - from start to finish - and I have to admit there are some seriously funny stories here and some very, very serious ones as well. I have been doing a huge disservice by not blogging more about daily teaching life. This has to change! So here are some of my favorite things from the past two weeks.

Our class projector stopped working last week and I put in a help desk ticket to have it fixed. The update said it would be fixed by this Friday, so I informed my students that we would need to be patient. They have been very excited to watch a Martin Luther King, Jr. video and see his picture, so every day they ask if the projector is fixed. So - it just so happened that today a gentleman came while the students were at lunch to fix the projector (the lamp was blown out apparently). When my students returned from lunch, I had them sit down and I turned on the projector...they sat at their desks with their fingers, toes, feet, EVERYTHING crossed just willing the projector to work. As it turns on, the class starts clapping and jumping up and down and one of my students blurts out, "Mrs. Eklund - you fixed it! It's like teacher magic or something!" hahahahaha I then faced the very obvious dilemma of letting them believe in "teacher magic" or confessing the truth to them. Hmmm....what to do?? Don't worry - I told them the truth. As for "teacher magic" they still don't know how white out works, so I still have that going for me ;)

"Ms. Eklund - I just can't go to second grade." (Why honey?) "Because you won't be my teacher anymore." (It's ok, sweety, I'll still see you every day. You'll be too smart to stay in first grade by the end of the year!) "That's it! I'm not learning ANYTHING else." Awwww... :) how cute is that!

"Ms. Eklund - my dad can't come to see me anymore." (Why honey?) "Because he doesn't have any papers." Hmmm...try explaining immigration to a 6 year old. It's a tough, tough thing. He got extra hugs from me today.

From January 13th:
I had one of those "this is why I teach" moments today - you know, the kind that reaches into your chest and grabs your heart and shakes it. I was teaching about MLK, Jr. - I was absolutely "on fire" about him, downright "preaching" about his "dream" and what segregation was/is, about how and why he was killed, how he fought for peace using his words, and etc, when one of my students raises his hand and says, "Ms., did his dream come true?" As my eyes filled with tears, I asked him to look around the classroom, then asked him, "Look around - what do you see? Do YOU think his dream came true?" He looked around at his room full of racially diverse classmates and said, "Yep - I think it did."

Wow. It was a powerful moment. My student teacher and I had tears in our eyes and were consoled by young sweet ones telling us, "it's need to cry" while they handed us Kleenex. :)

Yea - today was a good, good day. My love/teaching cup runneth over.

Call it a New Year's Resolution - but in February...

So - this is it...I need to get back to blogging. I have a friend who blogs every I'm inspired now to get back to sharing my feelings and thoughts about teaching and life...OUTSIDE of Facebook. Let's see how this goes, shall we? Today is day 1...I hope I'm still blogging on day 2. ;)