taking the night off

I’m ba-aaaccckk! Two weeks in a row of blogging – and I’m excited that, even after several years on this blog, this post will mark a new first: the first time writing a post from my phone rather than the computer.

Tonight, I spent the entire evening curled up in blankets on my couch. And it was glorious. Once I got home from cross country skiing, I ate supper and flopped on the couch, never to get up or be productive again. And I lived happily ever after. The end.

And that’s what I wanted to quickly chat about tonight: the ability to take a night off GUILT FREE. Because, believe me, I am fairly skilled at taking the night off when the situation calls for it, but being able to do it without feeling bad for not accomplishing something school related is still a struggle for me.

Being a planner/organizer type, I am in constant “get-ahead” mode. If I have a free moment, my brain is urging me to use it to plan for school. However, the tricky thing about teaching is that there is always something more to do. Which means I could spend every spare moment doing something school related and still have a to-do list.

Also, if I continued down the path of using every spare moment to accomplish school work, I would be burnt out in my first year of teaching.

Now that I have gotten a feel for the daily hustle and bustle of the profession, though, I can realize and appreciate that simply being able to take the night off is a planning/organizing success. There is nothing so dire or imminent that it needs doing today, because I already have a plan for tomorrow. (Of course, the planner/organizer in me also says, “Now that you have a plan for tomorrow, work on the plan for the next two weeks!” but that is something I am learning to let go and give myself some leeway with, as I am teaching everything for the first time, and much of it from scratch).

I have had times when I am planning a lesson the night before (or early morning of!) I have to teach it, and I have had (precious few) times where I don’t have to do any planning all week. I obviously prefer the times when I am further ahead, but I have also learned to let go of a lot of things for my own sanity and well being too. Also, I think these experiences are, in a way, the “badges of honor” of a first year teacher. It would be pretty sad if I could say I have mastered my profession of lifelong growing, changing, and learning in the first year.

That is truly an exciting part of being a teacher – constantly reinventing, tweaking, and transforming your practice as you (and pardon the shameless and cheesy self-advertising here) “learn to teach”. It has reached the point in the year where I am looking ahead to next year and already starting a list of goals that I would like to tackle in Year 2.

I may not have found that perfect balance or routine yet, but that is simply a goal for my next years of teaching. 🙂

Finally, I suppose the whole point of this post can be summed up in this haiku:

Please don’t feel guilty.

Go ahead, take the night off.

You deserve it, teach.

Until next time,

-KKF

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hanging head in shame

4 months!!!! That is how long (exactly to the day) it has been since I have written anything on my poor, neglected blog.

I feel like I am not the same teacher or person I was when I last wrote in November of 2016 (a different year, even!). The past four months have been bursting full of struggles and successes. In some aspects, I feel I have ‘figured things out’ and in others, I still feel lost in the rough. Teaching in a nutshell, my friends.

In order to attempt more frequent posting, I hope to give quick little updates such as this post will be – perhaps I can make it a weekly habit and just give the highlights. I know, I have made this goal before and failed miserably but teaching is an optimistic profession and I am, fittingly, optimistic that I can stick to this if I make it a priority! So here are a few brief highlights of the past FOUR MONTHS (from what I can remember with a fried teacher brain).

  1. Autograph books in Pre-K (I had heard of Pre-K teachers having a ‘sign in’ sheet for their students to write their names each day, and wanted to try my own spin on this; the autograph book was born!) Students sign their name every day when entering the classroom. This has been a helpful way for me to informally assess students’ knowledge of their own name and the letters in it, as well as fine motor skills.
  2. Puberty in Grade 5 Health. Yes, part of the curriculum in Grade 5 includes the dreaded topic of Puberty (which my students had been anxiously asking when we’d be covering since the beginning of the school year). I have to say, however, that it has been one of my favourite units to teach this year! Once they get past the initial awkwardness, students are genuinely interested in learning about the upcoming changes they will experience as they go through this ‘rite of passage.’ Knowledge is power!
  3. Classroom rearranging and creativity in Pre-K. Oh, how I love rearranging my classroom furniture and switching up the invitations in my Pre-K classroom! It is one of my favourite parts of the Pre-K position. I have tried several different configurations this year, and enjoy the freshness of changing things up periodically. I love that my classroom never looks exactly the same! It has definitely got me thinking about using invitations and hands-on, explorative learning in grades past Pre-K and K.  I have a new career goal of testing out this style of learning with these students. After all, there is so much research that backs students having free play learning until an older age than our education system grants them.
  4. Passion for early childhood education reaffirmed. I cannot gush enough about how I love the Pre-K program and its holistic style of addressing student learning! I feel that I have truly found my area of passion, my place, my niche. In the future, I would definitely love to teach early years full time, as that is where I find my true joy and affirmation of teaching.
  5. Being asked if I’m staying in Hudson Bay. As soon as January hit, I noticed that everyone started to ask me if I planned on staying at HBCS next year. I always answered with a confident, “Yes.” I truly do love the community, the school, the staff and students. I am excited to get the chance to continue learning as a professional education within the walls of HBCS.
  6. Change in education and what the future holds. It is definitely an interesting time to be starting a career in education with all of the uncertainty and worry that clouds the future of education in our province. At the end of the day, however, I know that the passion in teachers’ hearts will continue to fuel them no matter what the road ahead may look like. I suppose that is the other thing that I have learned in this first year of teaching: there is truly no way that I could have gotten through if I did not love teaching and children as much as I do. You can hear this over and over again in university, but it doesn’t ring as true until you are really in the thick of the profession, good and bad aspects both.

 

I suppose this post ended up being a bit longer than the “quick little update” that I intended, but I have never been known to be short winded in my blog posts and I did have a lot to catch you up on (this doesn’t begin to scratch the surface, of course).

Hopefully, next week will see me on this little slice of the internet again to share my teaching anecdotes. Until then,

-KKF

 

 

 

 

 

 

oopsie daisies…

Sorry everyone. I realized that I have now not posted for almost 2 months! When my goal was to post every 2 or 3 weeks maximum. I suppose this is a fitting portrayal of a first year teacher’s life – craziness and time warps. How is it already the second half of November?!

This will just be a quick post to update you on my life as of late, because I can’t possibly fill you in all of the things that I have missed telling you about in the past two months (at least not without intense research and backtracking, which would waste precious planning time). Besides, I’m sure you don’t want to be bored with the tedious little details. Here are the highlights:

I am still love love loving Pre-K (although October was a very hard month because I was away A LOT for conferences, workshops, and PD). In fact, October was a hard month for me in general, because for 6 weeks straight, I was on the road every single weekend going home to visit family and attend weddings, trekking across the province for professional development, and visiting friends. I am very happy to say that this weekend is the first in 6 weeks that I have spent in Hudson Bay and I was not leaving for anything! I will be staying here until Christmas break now, so am looking forward to having free weekends to plan and tidy my humble abode.

Two colleagues from the school and I attended ECEC (Early Childhood Education Council) conference in Edmonton, Alberta on November 3, 4, 5, which was AMAZING! I went to umpteen PD events this fall and that conference was, by far, the most beneficial, inspiring, applicable, and enjoyable of them all (probably due to the fact that it was all geared to ECE, which is where my true passion lies, and the fact that EVERY SINGLE SESSION I attended was so informative and useful in my everyday classroom life – although it also didn’t hurt that the conference was in West Ed Mall, so some shopping and relaxation also took place). It was  a wonderful experience (and thank goodness the conference was so good – it made the 8.5 hour drive worth it) all around – as I got to grow as a professional and build relationships with 2 of the colleagues who are also in the primary grades at HBCS. Treasured memories and learning, for sure!

I have been feeling VERY behind in my planning and am relieved (although not exactly happy) to have spent a large majority of my weekend at the school to prep for the coming week – as I have had a few days where I am planning extremely last minute for upcoming lessons (say, the night before – EEK! – prepared me’s nightmare). I was chatting with a close friend (and fellow first year teacher) last night though, and I told her that I am not ashamed to tell people how difficult being a first year teacher (or teacher in general, quite frankly) is, because sometimes we don’t hear that side of things. My friend was telling me how she struggles with comparing herself to others when she sees the amazing lesson they are posting about on social media. My thoughts on this were twofold:

  • Sharing our amazing lessons is GREAT! That is what teaching is all about – sharing our successes and cheering each other on for the wonderful things we are doing in our classrooms for our students.
  • However, I don’t think it is possible to have a stand-out, picture perfect, mind blowing lesson every single period, every single day. Nor should we have the impression that that is our job to create. Sometimes, things get interrupted, or sidetracked, or they just go completely horrible. And that is okay (and should be mandatory, I think) to share too! As teachers, we should support each other through the hard times even more than the good. That way, we will always have great teachers for our students, rather than burnt-out, jaded, exhausted, at-the-end-of-their-rope, teacher zombies.

That’s all for now. Sorry this post was all words and no pictures! Hopefully I will be back here much sooner for a more visual update.

Until then,

Cheers!

–KKF, Ms. F, Ms. Fidelack, teacher, Mrs. Fidelack…

***P.S. I am choosing not to read over and edit this post, in my rush to get it posted and return to planning, so please enjoy this slice of human-ness and non-perfection (as I am sure there is some typos in here somewhere…)

i am getting paid to do this?!

I think I can say that school is now in full swing – although due to Labor Day holiday and PD days, I have yet to spend five full days in a row with students!

I am happy to announce that I now know all of my 90 students’ names! I teach half of the students in the elementary division of the school, which was a lot to get to know at first, but is definitely a wonderful way to get to know as many students as possible, since I am new to town. You can definitely see connections between siblings this way as well!

I am absolutely LOVING Pre-Kindergarten! I feel like I have truly found my place in the world; a precious gift has truly been dropped into my lap by fate and I am so grateful. My EA is also fantastic and I feel so lucky to have her! She is new to Pre-K as well, but I think we make a great team, and we are learning together (she attended an Intro to Pre-K PD Conference with me last week even!).

I am getting to know all of my (currently) 15 students a lot better, but they continue to surprise me! I don’t expect these surprises to ever stop coming, either!

Here are just a few pictures of what we have been up to lately…

You can see:

-a teddy bear picnic

-a student showing her pre-writing skills (she made pages and pages of her ‘writing’)

-fine motor practice using large beads and shoelaces

-construction and building skills

-making the letter S out of homemade smelly play dough (cinnamon and vanilla – yum!)

-a young artist creating one of her many, many masterpieces

-outdoor block play and cooperation

All through PLAY! 🙂

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I just took this one (above) today to document our first time in the gymnasium. I think this picture is absolutely priceless. It’s definitely worth several thousand words, so I will let it speak for itself.

It’s crazy to reflect how my ideal grade level has changed since I began my university degree. I started out thinking I would like to teach Grade 1 in my first years of university. In my third year, I did my pre-internship in Grade 3 and loved it! Then I was placed out of my comfort zone in Kindergarten for my internship, which I also fell in love with and still adore today (I get to teach K Art at the end of every day, which is a great way to end the day). Now, here I am teaching Pre-Kindergarten and I honestly feel like this is what I was meant to do. I would not trade these littles for anything!

Not to mention, I am also teaching Grade 5 and 6, higher than I ever pictured myself teaching, and DEFINITELY out of my comfort zone and area of expertise. I can’t lie, these older grades have definitely taken some getting used to, and are still my biggest struggle and steepest learning curve. But I will admit that I enjoy these students too, although they are VERY different from what I am used to and what I feel my personality is most suited to.

Plus, being the prep teacher who just comes in for a small portion of the day can be a struggle at times because you don’t know the ins and outs of the classroom like their regular teacher. All I can hope for is to make a small difference in these students’ lives! I don’t think I’m totally failing, as there are certain ones in each grade that at least seem excited to see me every day – haha!

In closing, it’s still sinking in that I am going to ‘work’ every day, and for the first few weeks of school, I couldn’t really believe that this was my job I was getting paid for (although this first long-awaited pay cheque sure helped to give a dose of reality – haha!). All I can say is that I am blessed to do the job I do because today I read books, watered plants, made cookies out of play dough, danced with scarves, played with hula hoops, sang and danced, laughed and smiled, ate popcorn, and used puppets to become a chef, astronaut, lizard, and monkey, and THIS IS MY CAREER! Pinch me!

More updates soon! Keep calm and teach on!

-Ms. F. (or as one of my K’s calls me – Miss Penelope! Don’t know where that one came from, but we are rolling with it!)

pre-k FINALLY started!!!

Well, my friends, after the first two days of Pre-K, I can finally say that I feel the school year (and my career) has begun!

Was it messy? Yes.

Was it completely chaotic at times? YES.

Did I almost lose my voice after the first morning? Yes.

Did we have a few tears? Yes (but way fewer than I mentally prepared myself for).

Did I have to run after a wandering student several times? Yes.

Did I tie shoes, zip zippers, and pull sweaters over heads? Yes. About 100 times. And we are going to start working on independence with these tasks ASAP – haha.

Did I absolutely love it? Yes!

 

Having my mornings filled with Pre-K now makes my day go a lot faster! The time really flies when you spend your time with 15 three and four year olds. And boy, do they keep you on your toes! Never a dull moment.

I would say that the first two days were a major success! We are working on learning basic routines and procedures at school, and I think this next full week coming up will help solidify these expectations.

I even got all of my students sitting in small groups doing table work on the SECOND DAY!!! Sure, it may have only lasted a few minutes, but I call that a victory!

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I think this picture perfectly sums up Pre-K. It looks chaotic and messy. But all of the students are engaged and learning in their own way. That is what I think our entire education system should strive towards. 

As I looked back through pictures of the two morning we spent together, my heart soared. I was overwhelmed with pride and love for these amazing little people I get to call my students. It truly is amazing that I am getting paid to spend my day with these lovely, blossoming little learners and be a part of their lives. I promise I won’t take it for granted.

-Ms. F

 

classroom tour + first days of school

School (and my career) has officially begun! I can hardly believe it; I think it is still sinking in.

Quick recap of my life as of late:

-the last couple days of August were spent in PD (2 days for new teachers, 2 days in the school as a staff, and 1 day of teacher convention with the whole division – who all came to our school to see the new building)

-the first two days of September marked the beginning of the 2016-17 school year and, boy, were they a whirlwind!

-in the Pre-K program, we do home visits with all of the students and their families before they actually start school, so I have met just over half of my Pre-K students; their first official day of school all together as a class is this Thursday (September 8th). I can hardly wait to have them all in my class!

-the first days of school for everyone else didn’t quite feel like that for me, as my main group of students (Pre-K) have not been at school yet. In a way, I kind of get 2 first days of school (as if 1 isn’t exciting enough!): the first first day we had on September 1st (and with my afternoon students in Grades 6, 5, and Kindergarten) and the first day of Pre-K coming up this week

-all of my Pre-K students are so sweet (and obviously adorable)! I am so excited to get to know them all and grow and learn with them this year. Send me good vibes for the first few days when they come to school – I am just hoping for minimal tears and separation anxiety!

-I have met and taught my Grade 6 Social Studies, my Grade 5 Music, and my Kindergarten Art, and I have to say, as a new teacher, I have really hit the jackpot. All of these classes are good groups of kids and I look forward to spending my afternoons with my mixed bunch of learners. I think that being in Grade 5 and 6 will be my biggest area of adjustment and growth this year; having never taught students higher than Grade 3, it feels like a whole new world. Luckily, I get to start and end my days with my little ones, where I definitely feel more at home.

Now… The moment you’ve all been waiting for (haha)… My classroom!

First, I have to preface the pictures by saying that I am unbelievable lucky and spoiled to have been placed in this program; NESD has been putting a lot of effort and resources into their early learning programs in previous years, and it definitely shows! All of my numerous cupboards are bursting with toys, manipulatives, and activities (in fact, I didn’t really have much room to put my own things that I brought). Also, all of the furniture was supplied and it is beautiful! The Reggio approach is very evidently displayed.

I will admit, when I first heart about this neutral and natural colours thing (back in university), I thought it was a load of hooey (also, I was reluctant to give up my vision of primary colours for my primary classroom). Every time I walk into my room, though, I can see the difference that it makes. It is so calming and warm. Having pops of colour here and there keeps things interesting and aesthetically pleasing, but the base of natural colours prevents things from becoming too overwhelming and visually distracting. In short, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my room and feel blessed to call it my learning space.

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This is my Morning Meeting/carpet area. To the left is the VIP (Very Important Pre-K of the Day) chair. I also have a SMART whiteboard, which was new to me and very cool!

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This is my lovely little bookshelf. It is at the right side of my carpet. The back side of it doubles as display space for invitations and storage (see picture below).

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Here is the back view of the bookshelf. This area will be primarily used as a centre focusing on pre-reading, writing, and mathematics skills. Right now I’ve got it set up as numbers and patterns with the rocks. 

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This space is right beside the previous station. This will house rotating invitations. Right now, I have it set up as colours (left) and puzzles (right). I love the pop of colour this centre gives to the room. 

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This, right here, is the money shot! This is my amazing loft/fort area. Underneath, I have a calming/cozy area. Up top, I have puppets, beanbag chairs, and cushions. 

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A peek under the loft. I have set up comfy furniture, a beanbag chair, cushions, sensory bottles, noisemaking tubes, and books about feelings/self regulation. I hope this area will be used by students who need a break from the busyness of the room or quiet time to themselves. 

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Top of the loft

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Block centre

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There is a large stretch of rug to build on. You can also catch a glimpse at our family tree (soon to be filled up with students’ family pictures). 

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This is what I have in my sensory bin/sand table at the moment. 

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This is the far wall of my classroom. It features a full span of windows that look out onto our Pre-K only playground (and means that we get tons of natural light). This picture also shows the art studio. 

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Bird’s eye view 🙂

 

new beginnings

Hello, blogging world! In the past 8 months, I have been grossly absent from this little slice of the internet, but I am happy to announce that, with the new school year (my FIRST as a teacher!) approaching, I am setting a goal to get back into it with gusto! Ideally, I would like to post once a week about my journey, but I also want to be realistic and give my first-year-teacher self a bit of leeway, so I am hoping to post every 2 weeks (or twice a month). Who knows, maybe I will pleasantly surprise myself and use blogging as a welcome break from planning – haha.

Just a little refresher and catch-up on my life…

I moved to Hudson Bay and into my adorable little house this past Sunday (July 31). I am absolutely LOVING it! I feel right at home here; having grown up in a small town, it feels familiar and comforting. I know that small town teaching is definitely my niche.

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Home sweet home 🙂

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I’ve been spending a lot of time in this room – the couch and chairs make a great spot to sit and plan.

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My little slice of home – all my friends and family.

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Of course, as soon as I got keys to the school, I was in my classroom and rearranging furniture (thank goodness most of it is on wheels!). I loved how the previous teacher had the room set up (everything in there is so ECE friendly, calming, and beautiful), but I decided to change it up completely to give the room a fresh feel and to put my own spin on it. That definitely helped to make the room feel like mine, and hopefully it will signal a fresh start to students as well!

I decided to have areas in the room that served a specific purpose. I have a quiet/calming/comfy area for students to curl up in if they need a break from the hustle and bustle of the other things going on (it’s complete with a leather sofa and recliner – both miniature, of course!). Then I have a block/construction area and a house (complete with baby dolls, another child-sized couch, and a kitchen and table) area. I have a numeracy/literacy centre where targeted letter/number/fine motor work will be set up. My story corner/morning meeting area is carpeted and features a “VIP/Leader” leather chair, the SMART board, and a book display/shelf. There are 2 large tables in the open space of the classroom for eating snack/doing activities. At the back of my room, I have an art and exploration theme going on – there is a shelf with art supplies and a two-sided easel, as well as the sand and water tables. Finally, near my desk in the back corner is a natural items/small parts/FNMI area (pictured below).

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See the circular basket divided into four quadrants?  I am going to use that as a Medicine Wheel!

 

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This is the visual schedule that is displayed at the morning meeting area. I made it myself – can you tell I’m pretty proud?

Once I have everything set up and picture perfect, I will post pictures of all of the areas of my classroom. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

For now, I am spending most of my days planning and prepping. I made an interactive SMART notebook file at the school today, which students will use to check in each morning for ‘attendance.’ Can’t wait to share more of my adventure with everyone!

Stay tuned!

-KKF

P.S. Did I mention I went on a two-week cruise/land tour to ALASKA with my lovely mom?! We were celebrating being finished our respective educational endeavours – me my degree, and my mom the Educational Assistant course through Sask Polytech. Here are just a couple of the 1000 snapshots I took! It was an awesome getaway and bonding experience that we both adored!

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Our first port of call – Ketchikan, AK

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Checking out historic totem poles

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Whale watching in Juneau – highlight of the trip!

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Dog sledding in Skagway

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Hanging out with some sled dogs 🙂

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I just think this photo is about the cutest thing ever. Sled dog puppies ❤