I’m a hot mess teacher and that’s okay

I’ve been MIA on here for awhile, and I thought I’d get on here to explain a little bit of why.

First, the good. Life got crazy. I got engaged and then I got married. We took a trip to Disney World, and are creating our life together. Understandably, life got a bit busy and overwhelming…therefore, I haven’t been able to write on here like I was before.

Now the not so great.

Teaching is a stressful job. If you know my backstory into how I became a teacher, you know I never planned on teaching (and before I started teaching, I never wanted to teach).

I found teaching accidentally, and despite the fact that yes, it is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, I still love it.

I have been a perfectionist my entire life. I always feel I need to be perfect, or have things a certain way. What people also don’t realize, is that perfectionists often procrastinate a lot too from fear of failure or doing something wrong. Of course the fact that I am a teacher doesn’t always help my behavioral tendencies because of course things in a classroom cannot be perfect. I am extremely hard on myself. Harder when it seems I have 50,000 tasks to complete and not enough time to complete them.

Teacher anxiety is real. Especially if you already know you have tendencies towards anxiety.

I’m not writing this post for sympathy or anything like that. It’s simply because I think non teachers often look at teachers and do not understand how our job can be so stressful.

We do not just shape a child’s mind. We shape their lives. There is a lot that goes into it. Worrying, encouraging, disciplining, coaching, serving, listening, speaking, creating relationships, and then teaching. On the academic side, we worry about failing students, how to push our high learners, how to get all the content to fit into one school year, planning, making copies, testing, accommodations, modifications, differentiation, putting kids in groups, creating stations, and so on.

When a teacher leaves school, our brains don’t just shut off. We think and worry about our “kids” because we know not all of them go home to perfect houses with people who love them. We worry about the ones we know may not have food, or if they’ll get a good nights sleep. We wonder how we are going to get our never ending to-do list done. Teachers are faced with so many tasks, it’s almost actually impossible to get them done.

Teaching second grade, I do not teach a grade that’s tested by state tests (STAAR), but I know those teachers face another type of scrutiny as does their students because of a test. Testing season does a number on a teacher’s mental health.

I’ve learned this year that I do have anxiety (even though I’ve known it my whole life), but it got to an all time high. I’ve been extremely stressed, emotional, and not easy to be around sometimes because of it. I even tried anxiety medicine for a week (it gave me terrible side effects and therefore, I decided to stop taking it). I was willing to try anything to make my mental health feel better because I knew I did and do LOVE my job.

Considering I made the decision to not take medicine to help me feel better, I’ve had to try to figure out ways to take care of myself. I realized I rarely was taking anytime for me. Weekends were also taken up by a lot of teaching stuff (ask any teacher, it can consume you because we CARE SO MUCH). I had forgotten stuff I loved to do.

So I started focusing more on ME. I make sure I workout (which is like therapy to me), I do something for myself each week (paint my nails, watch my favorite movie, spend time reading, writing…just SOMETHING). I actually rest on the weekends, and if I absolutely have to do any sort of work I make sure I absolutely do nothing related to teaching at least on Saturdays.

My husband also deserves an award. I couldn’t take care of myself if it wasn’t for him. He makes me relax and do what’s best for me mentally and physically. He steps up and helps me always when needed. He’ll spoil me completely. If you ask him, I’m sure he’d tell you sometimes it’s not easy for me to even let him do things for me because yes the perfectionist in me. I feel like I need to do stuff. So I’ve learned thanks to him to allow someone else to do something for me for a change. He’s truly the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

So again, I say I don’t write this for sympathy. I write it because the next time you hear or see a teacher take a mental health day off, they deserve it. More teachers than you know deal with anxiety or depression. If you wonder if your child’s teacher is a superhero, they are. Teachers deal with so much more than the outside world sees. That was and still is my biggest eye opener when I became a teacher. There’s so much more to it than standing in front of kids teaching them stuff. Teachers need to learn to take care of themselves, but our society also needs to learn to respect teachers more. What a teacher does in a year helps shape our society.

Give them some respect. Stop trying to take things away from teachers like sick days and retirement. Maybe one day, teachers won’t be thrown so many responsibilities that the legislature keeps putting on us and then wonder why more and more teachers are leaving the field. Maybe one day the endless testing will stop and we teachers can do what we love to do…TEACH and not be so stressed doing it.

I do indeed, LOVE my job. I love my kids. I’d do absolutely anything for any of them.

I just wanted other teachers out there to know…you can be a hot mess and be a great teacher.

-Mrs. Kaldahl

 

 

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Praise for Rooted in Reading

When I first started teaching one thing bothered me a lot about when our reading block rolled around. The lack of engagement and that the kids were uninterested in the stories being taught frustrated me.

As someone who describes themselves as a reader and a book lover, of course reading would be the subject that would interest me the most to be teaching. However, the basal text and what was required of using that basal didn’t help me much. I honestly couldn’t even get as excited about our reading block as I wanted because I knew how the kids felt.

When I asked them about the textbook, they told me the stories were “too hard,” “not fun,” and “boring.” Now not every story WAS boring or too hard, but the use of the basal text as our main focus of reading instruction to me seemed very flawed.

I thought back on my own education. The reading instruction in my elementary education I remember had to do with read aloud, interesting and fun ones. It also included reading novels. I remember my Kindergarten teacher who used to make every picture book she read to us so exciting. She had a real purse like Lily in Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse and dressed up as Miss Viola Swamp from Miss Nelson is Missing and totally had us believe she was missing. I wanted that. I wanted to be that teacher that made reading EXCITING and ENGAGING. I wanted to read stories that the kids wanted to hear.

So I set out, after learning about Balanced Literacy and the importance of read alouds to find a program that allowed me to reach my goal.

I came across Rooted in Reading. Created by Amy Lemons and Katie King, the Rooted in Reading Units contained everything I needed and wanted. I bought the August unit immediately and poured through the resources! Each monthly unit contains lessons for four different read aloud books, has a variety of resources for each book including writing and grammar. Thrilled, I ran to show my principal and ask if I could give up the basal text the next year in order to exclusively use Rooted in Reading as my main ELAR curriculum in addition to doing Guided Reading.

Her response was yes, and I was overjoyed. I couldn’t wait to use the units the next school year.

Throughout this past school year, I read the majority of the books listed in the Rooted in Reading curriculum. I could tell the difference in the way my students this year responded to our reading time and those from last year. I could tell they actually enjoyed the stories and were engaged in them. The below photo was an activity from one of the questioning cards where the students curled up as if in a box for a minute to relate to Henry (one of their favorite activities) in Henry’s Freedom Box. My students this year loved when they heard the magic word to move to our reading area because they knew I was getting ready to read to them.

Rooted in Reading provides you with everything you need to make your reading block awesome. It gives you reading strategies, posters, questioning cards, weekly lesson plans (which I did change and tailor to fit me personally), anchor charts, writing practice for your kids, and a lot of activities that go with the books each week (think comprehension quiz, vocabulary, etc.). I used the extra activities that went along with each story for our reader’s notebook or for center activities during Guided Reading.

You’re probably wondering about grammar…right? I mentioned it I know, but YES, Rooted in Reading includes everything you need to teach grammar as well.

It gives you different ideas and strategies to teach whatever your grammar focus is that week. The units made teaching grammar fun, for me and the kids. You also get grammar anchor chart ideas, posters, and a variety of activities for each week.

If you’re wondering, yes each weekly unit contains the Common Core or TEKS standards so you know you’re covering everything throughout the year to meet your ELAR standards.

I follow Amy Lemons and Katie King on Instagram so I know the time and effort they put into these units. This is not me advertising at all, this is from my experience using these units.

I am a forever fan of Rooted in Reading because it put enjoyment back into my reading block for my students. By the end of the year, they had a list of their favorite book and the majority of them came from Rooted in Reading. Anyone looking to revamp or spice up their instruction while upping engagement should look into these monthly units (or the bundle).

My last note is that the books for each week are AMAZING! There was never a dull book. The books chosen for the units are all awesome to plainly put it. The books will definitely add something to your classroom library. There are even supplemental book recommendations in the RIR intro document that contains books worth investing in as well.

To Amy and Katie, thank you for your time and effort creating these units. They have made a difference in my classroom.

-Miss Layfield

 

Book Talk Tuesday: Kid Picks

Over the past school year, I read aloud a lot of books. I did my best to read a book to my class every single day if possible.

On the flip side, I allowed my students a lot of independent reading time to make connections with books of their choosing. The last week of school I had students vote on their favorite book I read to them. Throughout the year, I personally observed what book was a common favorite among all of my students to read on their own.

Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond

I am a huge fan of The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. You can find me every Saturday morning watching the newest episode of her show, shopping through her dish collection at Walmart, and obsessing over her recipes. So investing in her children’s books was an easy choice for me.

My students collectively voted that Charlie the Ranch Dog was their favorite book I read aloud to them throughout the year. They found Charlie to be quirky, humorous, and just plain cute. The illustrations by Diane DeGroat fit the book so well. They are realistic and cozy photos that make the storyline pop.

Another reason my kids decided this was one of their favorite books was due to my “Charlie voice.” Being from Texas, I naturally have a bit of a southern accent. Everyone mentions it when they notice it. Now, I felt when I read aloud this book, Charlie definitely needed one. I think I out “southerned” and “countryfied” myself when I turned into Charlie for the sake of engaging my readers. The kids would beg me to read it again and again, and I’d even hear them imitating my voice throughout the day. I love this book, I am VERY enthusiastic about my love for it, and I’m glad that enthusiasm translated over to my students in which they fell in love with the character Charlie as well. I think they ended up checking out and reading (I also was asked to read aloud) every Charlie book our school library had. It pays off to make a book exciting for kids!

 

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

This is the book that I personally observed as the book the majority of my student chose to independently read on their own. Dog Man comes from the mind of Dav Pilkey, creator of Captain Underpants. When I was in elementary school, I read through all of the Captain Underpants books and any other Dav Pilkey book I could find. Dav Pilkey seems to have a way to be popular with such a variety of readers with all his books, and Dog Man is no different.

I knew when I heard about this book I had to add it to my classroom library because I was a fan of Dav’s. I knew my students liked to read Captain Underpants and I felt they would take to this book well. WOW! I was shocked. The day I introduced the book to my class and let them know it would now be in my classroom library, they went wild. Students were taking turns reading and finishing this book immediately. They would even go back and reread it.

I have not seen a book that a vast variety of readers with so many differences have in common like this book.

Dog Man is written in a comic book fashion. It contains colorful and bold photos that are popular with the kids. The storyline is perfect and draws a reader in with a ton of humor. Kids were laughing their way through this book and coming back for more.

I didn’t add this book to my library until the last part of the school year, but by the end of the year about half of my students from both classes I taught had completed it.

Dog Man has found a permanent place in the heart of many readers, and my classroom library to which the rest of his books will be making an appearance soon.

Happy Reading!

-Miss Layfield

What to Remember at the End of the Year

There is no other month like the month of May for teachers. As summer approaches, student behavior begins to get a little…or a lot…out of control. Kids who never act up are restless, tired, and they’re just to plainly put it…DONE!

This wears on teachers. We go into survival mode. We stand in front of the room, trying to keep their attention. It seems like maybe three kids are listening. We end up using more time to correct behavior. Even if students have followed rules and procedures all year long, it seems that at the end of the school year they forget everything. Now this doesn’t go for every student at all. That’s not what I mean. I just mean what every other teacher knows. May is a challenging month.

It makes it hard for you not to be done too. Your effort is low because you actually are physically and mentally exhausted. More so than the rest of the year. Your energy to be ON every second of the day is lower than ever. But…does that mean we stop? No.

I know by the end of the school year a teacher is ready for summer. Probably more ready than the kids, because face it…we do deserve a break. However, it is this time that what we do is most important. It is our last little bit of time to make an impact on our kids. We have to remember that to some of these kids, summer means going home to a family and having fun. While to others, it means they may be losing the most consistent adult in their life…

You. Their teacher.

Through nine months of schooling, we as teachers become a bigger part of these kids lives than we give ourselves credit for. We are their counselor, coach, cheerleader, nurse, lawyer, disciplinarian, and oh yeah teacher. That’s not even all we do. These kids become “your kids.” You learn to care so much for them. Truth is, even if some of them don’t show it, you become that to them to…someone special.

The first time this year I put a countdown to summer on my board it got erased about 30 minutes later. Why? While to me I was celebrating the fact my second graders were becoming third graders soon, my kids saw it as the amount of days they had left with me as their teacher. They told me how sad it made them and they didn’t even want to think about leaving!

On challenging days, remember how important you are to them. Yes some days will be downright crazy and hectic. There’s no other way to put it, but try to find some little joy in the chaos. There’s always something good in every day, even if you have to look harder to find it. Try to have fun with them. Laugh, let them see you be silly (even though if you’re me, they see that all year). Try to be patient and kind. Even though you may have to try a little harder. Forgive kids when they make mistakes or when they disappoint you. We still have time to make a difference and show them we care. We still have time to teach them something else. Take time to take care of yourself so you can deal with the stresses of the end of the year. You won’t have these kids much longer and then you’ll get a new group of kids to watch grow. Face it, you’ll grow to love them too. That’s the joy of being a teacher. We have to remember that what we do matters. Even on days it seems like no child cares. They do. You make a difference. Don’t forget it.

I know for sure that this May has been a challenge for me, but I also know with certainty that on the last day of school it will break my heart a little to see them go.

Just some thoughts.

 

-Miss Layfield

How to use DonorsChoose.org

One of my favorite discoveries as a teacher is DonorsChoose.org. It’s a free site to teachers in order to raise donations for supplies or materials you need for your classroom. There is even the option for you to raise funds to attend professional development conferences if you choose.

I have successfully had two projects funded over the past year. The first one I asked for about $400 worth of new books. I received those donations very quickly. New books were important to me being a new teacher building her classroom library up.

My second project that was just completed and we just received our materials this past Friday was for six hokki stools to add to my flexible seating classroom. That project totaled over $800.

So how easy is DonorsChoose to use? That’s what I’m always asked.

The answer is VERY EASY! You simply sign up for free. Add your teaching information, a photo, a photo of your classroom. You will need parents to sign photo permission slips if they are in any photos for your page or for the thank you package upon a completed project. Your page will look like the photo below. This is a screenshot of my last project.

The essay can be intimidating at first to type for each project. However, just be honest. DonorsChoose is also good about guiding you step by step on writing your essay and what to include. It’s broken up into sections to make it simpler for you.  As teachers we know why we need these materials and how we are going to use them. So pour your heart out. Tell them about your students, what you need, why you need it, how important it is, and how it will benefit your classroom. Let your donors know why this project means so much to you. If you are invested in it, nobody will invest in it.

Watch out for matching offers too. I believe any project under $400 is eligible for a matching offer that your donors can use to have DonorsChoose donate the same amount they do. There are also several promotional offers through certain companies you will be notified of if your project meets their requirements.

Another thing I always do…I am the firs to donate to my project. Even if it’s $20 or $25. I make sure I donate. Some people may say that defeats the purpose, but I want my donors to know that the project means something to me.

Once you’ve typed your essay and find your materials you need, you submit your project. DonorsChoose will review it and let you know if it’s approved or if you need to fix anything first. Which is no big deal. It’s happened to me before.

Once your project is live….SHARE, SHARE, SHARE! I post it on my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even e-mail it to people. I ask others to share it. Get the word out as much and as often as you can. That’s the quickest way to get donations. Let everyone know how much it means to you. Share each time someone donates and thank your donors on your page.

Once your project is funded you will receive an e-mail with instructions as to what to do next. You have to approve your materials again and then they’ll be shipped to you! You will type a thank you letter to your donors that will also be posted on  your project’s page.

A thank you package is required for every project. Once you receive your materials you have a certain date to complete this by. The packages always includes an impact letter as to how the materials have impacted your classroom and how you’re using them. You also need to upload six photos of the materials in action (make sure if you have student faces to have permission slips signed). Some thank you packages require your students to make thank you letters to mail to your donors. This is not hard either if you are required to do so. They give you the names of the donors that chose to receive them, you put them in one large envelope and mail them to DonorsChoose. They do the rest to get them to your donors.

It honestly is a simple process that a lot of teachers avoid thinking it is more work than worth it. DonorsChoose is definitely worth using and using often if needed. It’s one of the most valuable resources to teachers because it allows you to give other people an opportunity to help your classroom. I know how much us teachers spend out of pocket on our classroom each year…it’s a ridiculous amount! So take the opportunity to allow others to help you when needed.

Below is a few photos from our hokki stool project the day we received our materials.

As you can see…so much joy! My heart is overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness. Your students deserve the materials they need, and believe me there are other people out there willing to donate who believe the same thing. So take a chance, make a project, and get it funded!

-Miss Layfield