classroom, live in the now, racial justice, teaching

Anti-Racism: Reflecting on 15 Years of Being a Public Educator

The murder of George Floyd and the beginning of another historical life changing world event, a racial justice movement, occurred within the last 9 teaching days of the 2019-2020 school year.

The students in my third grade class and their parents may or may not have been expecting acknowledgement or a comment from their teacher about this turning point in our country. We were days away from the “celebration” of the end of an exhausting and traumatic year that was interrupted by the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Thoughts and words were shared within the classroom and the school communities during the last days of an unprecedented school year. Final goodbyes were said. Virtual hugs were given. Life went on into the transition to summer vacation.

Words.

The words that we share, read and hear, the ones that we choose to say or not to say make an impact. It may last for as long as a topic is trending. The impact of words might have the power and potential to resonate with us for however long we individually “survive” through this time in history.

The following are collections of some words that may have impacted and influenced educators in different ways over the last decade or so.

The last list, along with so many other words and names not mentioned yet, hold the power to change the narrative for educators and students.

What if these words and topics were addressed and used more frequently in structured and respectful conversations in the school setting, even at the elementary level?

What impact could these words and ideas have during weekly lesson planning, staff meetings, parent communication, and data analysis?

Would the conversations be uncomfortable?

How would students benefit from the use of these words and topics in their learning spaces?

Some teachers may agree that the topics from the first 3 word lists have always held a higher priority than the last one prior to May 25th, 2020. How important are they now, given the current state of the world?

Summer vacation during the time of Covid-19 invited many educators to get comfortably uncomfortable and take the journey of digging deep into the truths of racism.

What is one of the biggest and most important truths?

Having the choice to learn about racism is a privilege.

After the choice is made, words can either be used to try to keep things as “normal” as possible, or they can dramatically change the narrative.

Actions do speak louder, but the words are the place to start.

balance, classroom, health and wellness, mindful

The Questions You May Not Ask

Teaching 4th grade will always hold a special place in my heart. California history, particularly the Gold Rush Era, was one of my favorite units to teach. During the first 5 or so years of my career, my grade level colleagues and I would devote endless hours of coordination, fundraising,  and planning to send our students to a 3 night camp in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Gold Camp. It’s what you did when you got to 4th grade. History was learned. Forever memories were made.

The journey to get there however, was EXHAUSTING. Every year, through tireless fundraising efforts, we scraped together enough money to finance transportation for the 2 hour drive up to Sonora, California. What was the mode of transportation? The big blue school bus that could. It wasn’t the most updated vehicle. I remember feeling the engine straining as we traveled up the winding mountain roads (with million dollar views, mind you), while the kiddos with motion sick tummies expelled their queasiness into gallon Ziploc bags. I remember feeling so “done” with the trip even before we got off the bus.

All of the stress and exhaustion always took a dramatic turn for the better when we unloaded the bus, stood on solid ground, and inhaled the crisp mountain air. Things continued to improve when the camp staff and parent chaperones took charge of the program and activities. The teachers could get back to their regularly scheduled breathing.

gold camp
Teacher BFFs 9 years ago. Stuck on the big blue bus.

The ground rules were set, including the most important one. Our fearless camp leader made it known right away.  

“There will be NO What are we gonna…? or When are we gonna?… questions. Ever. Don’t even try to re-frame your questions to not sound like those kinds of questions.”

Best educational rule ever. I sometimes forget how powerful and simple the concept is. Let people (and little ones) enjoy their time as it happens. A schedule is set in place as a guide, but it is not meant to be a spoiler.

I too, followed the advice over the duration of camp and I was able to enjoy it so much more. I learned something new along with the kids every year. The scenery kept my calm levels in check even though I was in the midst of the most stressful field trip of the year. I will never forget the amazing sights and sounds, even during the muddy and rainy years. Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen? YES. Keep in mind though, another ground rule was to not buy the baseball sized jawbreakers as your Gold Camp souvenir. The vistas and feeling of accomplishment after the ditch hike will be a forever memory in mental teacher file. Columbia State Park Cemetery walk? My favorite.

Maintaining the delicate balance of anticipation of what’s to come, and suffering over what you can’t control is a hard thing to do. I struggle with it all the time, through milestones and small moments. Then I remember Gold Country. I remember living in the now, even back then, because that was all I could do in the moment. 

I’ll remember this happy place as a fun, yet stressful memory in my career. I’ll also remember that sometimes I can’t allow myself to ask, “What are we gonna?….” or “When are we gonna?”.

I’ll find out. Everyone will.

Until then…

Maybe I’ll plan a family trip up to The Queen of The Southern Mines sometime soon.


 

http://www.sonoraca.com/

 

https://www.columbiacandykitchen.com/

 

https://www.visitcalifornia.com/attraction/columbia-state-historic-park

 

https://www.gocalaveras.com/location/california/gold-country/murphys-california/

 

classroom, mindful, working mom

That’s The Real Question

The excitement of Back-to-School is making a slow transition back to reality.The reality is that I’m a working mom again. I like to think that I’m a “pretend” stay at home mommy for about 3 months out of the year. I have two kids of my own, but this week I met 25 new ones who will also be under my care until June. Oh yes, I have to teach them a whole lot of things by then too. I think we’re in good shape so far. It was a good week.

Oh the exhaustion. My almost 8-year old and I were enjoying a chill moment on the couch after the first day of school.

“We did it. The first day of school is done”, I said, offering her a high-five.

“I can’t believe it! I can’t believe I’m in second grade! And good job today, Mommy.”

“So how are we going to do this everyday for the rest of the school year?” I was really asking her for some insight on this one. I was tired, and the day was catching up with me.

“Now that’s the real question, isn’t it?”, she responded. Her tone was so even, so calm, and so composed.

Good answer. Really good answer. I’ll take it.

I asked my daughter a silly question at a moment of stress and exhaustion, but her response was real. It was Mommy-like. It was teacher-like. And yes, she may have heard my husband say that a time or two. I have no idea how the year will go, but it started off well. There’s no way of knowing what is to come, and I only have control over what’s happening to me in the moment when it happens. Reflecting back is helpful to some degree. However, I know it’s not healthy to dwell. For now, my brain sees a couple of lists. 


My 14th  First Week of School

Motivations:

  • The custodian told me again that I have the cleanest and best smelling classroom in the school. He thanked me.
  • I implemented meditation in my classroom. 5 minutes of being mindful after recess is powerful. 
  • I heard some healthy gossip at work. A couple of people want to clone me. I do to. I can get more housework done that way.

Meh:

  • I had McDonald’s once this week for dinner. Exhaustion won that round.
  • At Target, I wiped my toddler’s nose with his own sweater in front of someone I ran into. I hadn’t seen her since high school. It was an awkward reunion. Meanwhile, there are 60 boxes of tissue living in my classroom.

Motivation and Mehs are the driving force of life. Compliments and affirmations can really make someone’s day too. I plan on stopping more often to enjoy the moments, even if they’re “meh”.


Until then,

I will tuck a few tissues away somewhere, just in case.