Soul: Striving for Simplicity

18 Jul

It is a blessing to have. To have shelter. To have the things needed for day-to-day life. To have the stuff that makes up life.  Sometimes I envy the carefree and simple life of creatures.


They don’t have anything to carry around. They come and go as they please, picking up what they need as they go on. No stuff  to worry about. Just the usual grind of survival and fending off bully grackles.

I am carrying on with my task of organizing classroom materials. It is a little disconcerting today because when I look out into my living room, there is very little walking space. Just a small path between the boxes that create a maze from the walls to the middle of the room, or at least close. I keep telling myself there is reason to the piles. I have even finished the science materials. I am half way through the math. There is just so much.

Stuff Stuff2

To add insult to injury, throughout the school year not only have I allowed my classroom materials to get into disarray, but my home has suffered the same if not a worse fate. I just spent half a day looking for a medical report I knew I had but couldn’t find. In the end I prevailed, and now as a result I have “purged” the stacks of papers on my desk and moved them into the file cabinet. Something that has been needed for quite some time.

I think that is the key as I read pins on Pinterest and books, blogs and articles on organization. We need to purge. Not only physically purge, but internally as well. As we discard the old remnants of previous projects, bills, even lives in a sense, we remove them from our minds as well. I can not help but think of the “scandisk” function it seemed to be necessary to perform on computers from time to time to optimize performance. I am realizing how it translates into stuff both internal and external.

So I will carry on with the purging and reconfiguring in the hopes that soon I will have an efficient, attractive, accessible end product that will make all this drudgery worth it. I hope that this will be the year I am organized and can keep it that way and next year will be the year to play and enjoy life!

Like the little bird, adventures await, even if it means fending off a grackle or too.

by  Dinkum

by Dinkum


Mind: The storm after the storm

11 Jul

The Sun by User:Lykaestria

The Sun by User:Lykaestria

The end of the school year is always a hectic, emotional, and rushed time of year. Always trying to get in those last learning opportunities, complete projects, send home everything…. And then pack up the classroom quickly so you can hurry and relax before it is time to return to a new class of sparkling minds.

by Ropable

by Ropable

This year has been more hectic than most. I decided to bring home my mess so I could sort it out over the summer. And my mind is having a hard time knowing what to do. Although I am keeping a similar schedule, I fight off sleep all day only to lie awake with my head spinning at night. Is this normal?

My saving grace has been Pinterest therapy. Every few moments, I take a break from whatever I am doing at my lap top, and I gaze at Pinterest. There lie all of the answers, just waiting to be viewed. And there are many answers, not just a few. I tuck them away in neat organized categories, much more organized than anything else I own. It gives me pieces of mind to know that all these fantastic ideas are filed away just waiting to be opened, read and used.

I have begun a few attempts at harnessing the chaotic void left by the school year ending and my life suddenly stepping out into the brightness of summer. First, I go on walks most days. This is healthy for the mind as well as the body. Secondly, I have time to eat and drink. I can drink as much water as I want, any time I want. This is healthy for the mind and the body as well. Next, I have begun breaking down my piles of boxes into neat piles of attempts at organization. Even though these piles are scattered all over 2 rooms, it makes me feel good to know that I am consolidating and applying a system to all that junk. Last, I am taking classes. I am trying to come up with a plan. I am not sure what that plan is yet, but I am trying new things. I am helping myself instead of wracking my brain trying to think of the millionth way to try to help those kids enjoy learning. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what I am doing and thinking about is still connected to finding a better way to learn, but this is in my way, in my time, in my space.

Will the spiral in my mind unwind and dissipate into a serene flow before it is time to go back to the classroom in no time at all? That is the question. Time will tell.


Body: Got wheels?

29 Nov

After lugging rocks for the Earth Science Unit, reams of paper for foldables, Teaching Editions for lesson planning, and much, much more on a daily basis, my little foldable crate collapsed before I made it to my classroom one day.

Office Depot® Brand Mobile

I had gotten my collapsible crate on special during the summer thinking it was sturdy enough to handle the job. Before we made it to lugging the pumpkin for pumpkin studies in October, the little plastic pin supporting the bottom flap of the collapsible carte broke. After trying unsuccessfully to find a way to rig the crate so I could still use it as a lightweight carrier, I laid it to rest with my recycling.

I’ve been in search for a replacement. After years of sporting back packs,  teacher bags (sometimes 3 per shoulder),  and at one time even one of those collapsible metallic grocery carts (untill the joints gave out and it would no longer keep its shape when loaded with objects) I started having back trouble last year. It became clear to me that I needed to be smarter about how I transported the “peripherals” for my lessons. Hence the search begins for the new best set of wheels to cart materials to the classroom.

I observed one of my peers has graduated to an actual cart. Taking into consideration that most crates on wheels will probably have a similar construction as the one pictured above, the platform cart actually makes a lot of sense. The small platform makes it possible to arrange boxes and bags of materials, and there is no crate to wear out. A small dolly such as this is made to handle more weight. While the durability is a big plus, the portability and the comfort of a box construction to keep things from rolling away is lost. Were it not for the hefty price, the durability and possibility of sustaining heavier cargo with less slippage would make this my first choice.

Rubbermaid Convertible Utility CartPlatform Truck BlackRed

Another one of the options I considered was the following cart:

Smart Cart Expandable Wheeled Carrying Case

I like the fabric because then there would not be the issue with the plastic supporting pins. In addition, the cart looks collapsible. The problem here is that the cart does not seem sturdy enough to allow stacking given that the size is not generous.

Right now, I’m leaning towards the following option:

I like the flexibility this upright dolly offers. There is still the possibility of objects sliding out. At the same time, this dolly is versatile enough to allow stacking and moving plastic tubs back into the classroom after summer; carrying textbooks at the beginning of the school year when it is time to check out materials; and lugging miscellaneous objects in between. If there is only a heavy book bag or two, they could probably be strapped on with bungee cords. The protection from the rain that the collapsible cart offers is lost. What is not lost is the foldability as well as the affordability of the dolly.
Until classroom materials such as rocks, pumpkins and reams of paper fit nicely onto a flash drive or some other such device of the future, being proactive about protecting the back and shoulders will remain a priority. And as long as we use realia and hands-on lessons to help our students learn, we will be in dire need of an efficient, durable, reasonably priced, and preferably pretty means of packing and transporting all that stuff.

Heart: How to give your students that extra boost when parents can’t

27 Nov

For the first time in my teaching career, I sat down with a parent to conference about his below-level son who was experiencing his first year in school in kindergarten, and dad told me flat-out, sorry, I can’t help. I had never had a parent tell me they could not help their child. Dad stated the facts. He and his wife work until 8:00 pm and when they get home, the kids are asleep. Hence, unable to help with academics.

My first instinct was to consider the older sister to serve as my student’s tutor. Kids like to play school at home, right? But I had anguish over the idea because in a sense I would be imposing a responsibility on the sister that maybe was unfair. Should I encourage the sister to take over some parenting responsibilities while giving the practice sanction? How much did the parents already lean on her?

We try to provide extra help during school hours. I see my colleagues pull a quick small group in the last 10 minutes before class officially starts. I see another colleague masque an extra small group as “inside recess” to provide additional support. I hear about colleagues assigning peer tutors. But how do they get the student to want to take advantage of the extra support being afforded them? How are teachers able to do enough of this to get a student not making sufficient progress where he needs to be? And what if half the class needs this much support?

In contrast, it is interesting to read in Time magazine about student zeal in Korea in the article entitled “Teacher, Leave Those Kids Alone.”


Apparently, students  there want extra tutoring and sacrifice sleep and socializing in order to attain it. Schooling is so competitive that without extra support their life could literally be ruined.

Our situation is a little different because parents do not have the means or possibly the inclination to provide such support for their student even if they are not able to provide it themselves. How would a family struggling to make ends meet find the time or the resources to make it happen?

Teacher Mind….

26 Nov

What are some fun ways to help kindergarten students learn letter names and letter sounds in small group?

Ways we practice include matching letters (cards or magnetic) to their name or a friend’s name; fishing for magnetic letters; letter name or sound bingo; contests to see who can find a letter first on a chart, in a pile of letters, or in a text; or sounding out how to write the words in a sentence.

When these methods do not result in a dramatic increase in letter name/sound knowledge, it must be time to find some new  ideas. Any suggestions?

Teacher Body….

25 Nov

Teaching can be a sedimentary profession. Not because of the desk that is no longer present in many classrooms, but because a lot of time is spent planning lessons, creating material, cutting, reading, organizing, etc. What are some ways to get around being figuratively glued to our seats?

I try to start the day by doing some stretches. I lay prone and push up on my hands with my hips to the floor. I think this is called “cobra” in some yoga classes. I was taught by a physical therapist to push up, exhale (which allows your spine to further adjust) and then lay prone again. I repeat this about 10 times. I follow this up with 20 push ups. Then I lay supine. I raise my legs one at a time straight up. Then I clasp my leg behind my hamstrings and bring my leg as close to my body as possible, holding the stretch for about 20 seconds. While I do this I rotate my foot outward for a while, then inward for a while (about 10 counts each way). I follow this by doing “bridge” hip raises. This means while stay laying supine, I bend my legs and bring them in close to my glutes. Then I raise up and squeeze my glutes, and release. I squeeze and release about 20 times. Then I raise one leg and squeeze and release about 20 times. I repeat with the other leg. Then I repeat with both legs on the floor. Now a finish by doing a downward dog which looks like forming a triangle with my body by bending down with my hands on the floor. This take about 10 minutes. That is how much time I can take in the morning for exercise.

During the day, I make periodic trips to do anything. When numbness begins to set in at home, I make it a point to get up and throw in a load of laundry. Or get up and have a glass of water. A really great fitness instructor I had used to promote doing “glute clenches” when driving or sitting. If the sitting is being done in a meeting or training, it is possible to stand up and do stretches near the chair. Take a restroom break. I try to fit in things like jumping jacks, hopping, skipping, and stretching throughout the day with the students. If we are counting, or practicing a “number of the day” it is easy to pair that with exercise. I was surprised at how sore I was after playing “chase” with my students one day at recess. I have seen some teachers walk the halls after school as a break between dismissal and whatever needs to be done next. This can be a way to hold an informal meeting, if only a few people are meeting. I carry my gym clothes in my car to motivate me to stop at the gym on my way home.  Finally, it would be great to get in the habit of going for a walk after work or after dinner. This is not only relaxing, but helps to get in that minimum of 30 minutes of exercise we should be getting daily in order to be healthy.

It would be great to hear how others fit in activity as much as possible throughout the day.