Okay is … Okay

Oh man, you guys, I have been busy. I knew I would be when I started school full-time in September. Of course I knew. But it’s really only in the past few weeks that things have gotten real.

I’m about three quarters of the way through a month long practicum at the moment. I’m teaching in a local grade 4/5 class and I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m also finding it challenging. This is no surprise. I am learning new things, trying new things, planning and delivering lessons, gaining new skills and sometimes falling flat on my face. And through it all I am being observed and receiving feedback.

Truly, my practicum is great. Being in a classroom, teaching students, watching teachers and hearing their comments, helps me get better. There is no other way I could learn this stuff as well. But it also means I am “on” a lot of the time, both for my students and my advisors. I am not the busiest I have ever been, or the most tired. I have kids. But it’s busy and tiring and I’m feeling it.

A few weeks ago, when my practicum had just started, I attended a workshop with my fellow student teachers and practicing teachers from my district. Or, in teacher language, preservice and inservice teachers. We were talking about how we show care in schools – for our colleagues, for our students, for our communities and so on. I got a little bit overly sentimental and talked about how much care I was feeling from my advisors and my fellow student teachers who were helping me get better. How feedback, including constructive criticism, is just a way of showing caring and isn’t this lovely and yada yada yada.

okayAfter I finished, one of the practicing teachers spoke up. I can’t quote him word-for-word, but he spoke directly to the student teachers and said that we really needed to think about self care. We would have a lot coming at us, he said, and we needed to make sure that we didn’t overdo it. That our needs were getting met. That sort of thing. And then he added, “Sometimes okay is okay.”

For whatever reason, that last phrase stuck in my head. In the past two weeks when I’ve been feeling overwhelmed I’ve repeated it to myself. Okay is okay. Okay is okay. Of course I knew that already. I knew that sometimes you have to let things go. Sometimes you need to say good enough. Sometimes you need to ignore the sink full of dirty dishes and go to bed at a reasonable hour. But you know what? I needed a reminder. I didn’t know it at the time, but those were among the most important words I’ve heard since I started back at school full-time in September.

We’re heading into the holiday season, now. Luckily, I will have a decent break over Christmas so I will be able to focus more on my family and the joy of the season and all of that good stuff. But you know what? I also know from hard-fought experience that Christmas can be one more time when you have too much on your plate, and you’re overwhelmed, and busy, and putting yourself on the back burner. So, as I finish the semester and prepare to celebrate, I will repeat my new mantra. As my kids fight on the way back from picking out a Christmas tree, I will repeat my new mantra. As we rush hither and yon, from one family dinner to another, I will repeat my mantra. Okay is okay.

Because you know what? It really is.

Aspiring Talk Show Hosts

This is one of those posts that I start with a disclaimer. This means I was offered something cool and I took it, because life is short and cool things are not as plentiful as I would like. This time the cool thing I was offered was membership in the Netflix Stream Team. In exchange for writing about Netflix I received a free subscription for a year and an iPad Mini, and some other fun stuff. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the free gift part of it as you will.

netflixEarlier this month a box arrived on my doorstep announcing the debut of The New Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show on Netflix earlier this month. On the show Mr. Peabody and Sherman host a late-night talk show, with important historical figures as guests. My son, who is seven, loved-loved-loved the Mr. Peabody and Sherman movie, so he was excited for the show right away. The box also contained some talk show props, which definitely upped the ante. Because, you know, fun stuff.

The good news is that my son enjoyed The New Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show, and finished the first season within about a week or so. My daughter, who is 10, watched an episode and said it was good, but she prefers other shows. She says The New Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show would be really good for kids between the ages of four and eight. In the interest of honesty I will confess that I haven’t seen it myself so I can’t say, but my son is smack in the middle of that wheelhouse so I suspect my daughter is right.

One of the things that both of my kids really are into, though, is YouTube videos. Like a lot of kids their age they play Minecraft, and then watch YouTube videos of other people playing Minecraft. Although they are both too young to create their own YouTube channels, they have both decided what their usernames will be when they are old enough. It’s also pretty common for them to practice their sign-ons and sign-offs, and narrate the events as they play Minecraft. Apparently this is something lots of kids do now, according to my friends.

Although my kids are too young to have YouTube channels, I am not. So, we decided that we could make a video together. They used the talk show props we got from Netflix to create their own Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show. Do you want to know what Mozart’s favourite contemporary song is, or who Cleopatra would like to meet? You’ll have to watch the video.

Poem of the Month: The Night Before my Husband Leaves

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but I have written enough that are not as personal and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t necessarily my deepest poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, which I wrote while chatting with my husband the night before he left to cover the TED Conference.

W Vancouver poetry

The Night Before my Husband Leaves

I like w words –
For that matter:
I cannot say.

Maybe the oddity
That double-u is really
Double-v (as in French)
Abounds in language
And life unfolds in strange
Fill me with so much

Got Ink?

tattooJust about two years ago exactly I got my nose pierced. I called it my not quite midlife crisis. At the time I had it done one of my Facebook friends said something along the lines of, “First it’s a nose ring, then it’s a butterfly tattoo, and before you know it you’re dancing on tables and drinking vodka with rock bands.” I’m paraphrasing, but I think you get the gist. The point was clear – I was taking a step away from my middle-class suburban soccer mom existence and dabbling in counter-cultural body art.

Fast forward to today. I spent the past week as a student teacher in an elementary school, and one thing I noticed was the number of teachers in the school who also have nose rings. And also the number of teachers that have visible tattoos. I can only assume that the total number of staff members who have ink is actually higher, since not everyone chooses to get tattoos in places visible to the casual observer. This follows a trend that pretty much anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock can see. Tattoos are no longer the domain of radical nonconformists. Lots of people get permanent body art, and it’s not the big deal it once was.

Back when I got my nose ring and my Facebook friend made his commitment I said that tattoos were way too much commitment for me. However, with my 40th birthday looming next year I feel the commitment is lessening. I’m not a 20-year-old whose preferences and life circumstances are constantly shifting. I’m pretty much officially middle-aged (oh, how I hated typing that). I am pretty solidly established. And I feel confident that I could choose something at this point that I wouldn’t tire of next year … or regret when my current boyfriend breaks up with me.

tattoo piercingWith more and more of my friends getting tattoos, and with my increasing desire to make a statement about who I am and what matters to me at this point in my life, I’m seriously considering getting some ink of my own. I like the idea of having a tree tattoo. To me, trees symbolize being grounded, and standing strong while the world around you changes. I’ve started looking at tree tattoos on Pinterest and I’ve seen some really great ink. But still, I have qualms.

While it’s clear to me that a teacher with a tattoo does not carry the shock value it once did, I do worry a little bit about the message it conveys. Would I be taken a little more seriously without it? Would parents – who may hold more traditional values than I do – feel more comfortable with a non-tattooed teacher? And when I’m seeking a permanent position or a promotion down the road would it be counted against me, either explicitly or implicitly?

Teachers hold a position of trust. Even now I’m often taken aback when I hear teachers letting off some steam. For instance, in my days as a student in the public school system it never occurred to me that my teachers were just as eager for the school day to be over as I was. And I certainly never could have envisioned my teachers drinking or letting loose at a bachelor party. These are pretty tame examples, but they go to show that we think of teachers as being different, somehow. They don’t swear. They always use correct grammar. They always behave appropriately. And I am just starting my career, so the stakes are even higher for me.

Of course, I could get a tattoo in someplace no one could see it. But then, why am I getting it? If I’m that worried about what my tattoo says about me, I might be better off to save my money and not get a tattoo.

I could also wait a few years to get a tattoo. Once I’m established in my career, and all that sort of thing. But enough of my student teacher colleagues have visible tattoos that I’m not sure it really matters. And I want a tattoo now, not in three years or five years or whenever.

As you can see, I’m uncertain, so I would love to hear your input. Would you look at a teacher with a tattoo differently than one without? And would it depend on where the tattoo was, what it represented, and how big it was? Please share your thoughts!

My Happiness List: October 2015 Edition

Sometimes, you just need to focus on the good things in life. I like to do that every so often, so I’m sharing another happiness list. I blogged my last personal happiness list back in January, so it’s clearly time for me to re-visit it. And as I wait to hear what school I’ll be placed in for my short practicum as a student teacher, I could use a little bit of positivity. The suspense is killing me!

Let’s get the joy party started, shall we?

happiness list

My Happy List

  1. All the cool things I’m learning as a student teacher.
  2. Mentors who inspire me.
  3. Watching my daughter in her tae kwon do class. She is seriously tough.
  4. Raisins. Not everyone is a raisin person, but I really am.
  5. Cozy blankets to curl up in on a chilly fall night.
  6. My son who has lost his two front teeth and is now sporting the most adorable gap-toothed grin.
  7. My shower. Getting clean is the best part of my day.
  8. The community that has formed with my fellow student teachers. It’s so good to spend your days with people you like and respect.
  9. Comfy boots to keep my feet warm and dry.
  10. Thanksgiving – it’s this coming weekend here in Canada!
  11. My new computer. It doesn’t crash every time I try to open more than two browser windows. So novel!
  12. My husband, who washes all my laundry and is picking up the slack now that I’m back at school.
  13. Fall leaves, that brighten up rainy days.
  14. Writing poetry.
  15. Chocolate. All the chocolate, all the time.

What about you – what’s on your happy list right now? I’d love to hear!

Netflix Newbie

This is one of those posts that I start with a disclaimer. This means that I was offered something cool and I took it, because life is short and cool things are not as plentiful as I would like. This time the cool thing I was offered was membership in the Netflix Stream Team. In exchange for writing about Netflix I received a free subscription for a year and an iPad Mini. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the free gift part of it as you will.

netflixThe truth is that when I got the email in my inbox offering this opportunity I jumped on it because I have wanted Netflix forever. And so have my children. I had seen it at other people’s houses and even in my dentist’s office, and I knew I wanted it for myself. Plus I’d heard good things about shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. So, whether I had been offered this or not I would likely have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon at some point. It was really only a matter of time.

We don’t have Netflix on our TV yet because we’re waiting for the new Apple TV to use as a streaming device. In the meantime, though, we’re all watching it on our iPads. And a not-so-small part of me is lamenting the fact that every member of my family has an iPad (the kids got our old ones after my husband and I upgraded). Remember when I was TV free for two years? The mighty have fallen, and we’re consoling ourselves with TV and movies. I’m looking forward to when we can actually sit together as a family and enjoy some flicks, because I think that will feel better. A family movie night is in order, with popcorn and candy and all that jazz. And when I say “candy” I mean “Twizzlers” because those are the best movie candy hands-down.

Anyways, now I have it and I love it and my kids love it and even my husband (the lone voice who was sort of meh on Netflix) has watched it and enjoyed it.

I like that I can set my kids up with their own user IDs, and configure those user IDs to reflect the fact that they’re kids. The shows that are suggested to them are appropriate for children under 12. I was worried that there wouldn’t be anything that would appeal to my daughter Hannah as a 10-year-old but there are plenty of shows and movies that she likes. She’s watched Ever After High and Anastasia and Dear Dumb Diary. My 7-year-old Jacob has also found some new favourites, mostly involving superheroes. He’s also very much into The Adventures of Puss in Boots, which is a Netflix series.

So far I have watched some movies (I am happy to say that I am now up-to-date on the Hunger Games) and I’ve started The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. As a Netflix newbie, though, what I really want is your recommendations. Help me out!

netflix question

I haven’t seen a single episode of Scandal, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black or The Walking Dead, and I’m considering starting all of them. I don’t want to have too many going at once, though. Which one do you think I should try first? My brain needs a break from school, and I’m counting on you to help out. Or if there’s another series that you think I really must see, I’m open to hearing about that, too. Just let me know!

Day Three

Back on Labour Day I shared some of my thoughts and concerns as I prepared to head back to school full-time. That was nine days ago. I am now mid-way through my first week as a student teacher, and I wanted to update you on how things are going so far.

The Kids

My kids had their first day of school on September 8, and I was fortunately able to be there for it. It was very short – less than 45 minutes – as they reported to their classes from last year and took attendance. That was all par for the course and went well.

The next day, one week ago, the kids had their first full day of school and their first day of daycare. My daughter Hannah was concerned. Would she know anyone? Would she have any friends? By day two of daycare she was good. My son Jacob was excited to go and settled in right off the bat. When I pick them up now they complain and ask to stay longer. I take that as a good sign, and I’m feeling really relieved. It’s so much better when you know your kids are having fun while you’re away from them.

The Interval

plate impulse purchase

Impulse purchase while waiting for my car to be serviced

Because my school didn’t start until this past Monday, September 14, I had a few days at home with not much to do while my kids were at school and settling into daycare. I vacillated between enjoying it immensely and feeling totally panicked. I didn’t know much about what would be happening when I started school myself. I had a time and place to be for orientation, but that was it. As a planner, this freaked me out. On top of that, I’m used to working from home so just sitting around twiddling my thumbs left me with an uneasy feeling that I was forgetting something.

I ended up making myself busy polishing off last-minute details. I got my car serviced. I got a haircut. I met with people. And I also enjoyed the free time a little by watching too much TV. In the end those three days of peace and quiet went by way too quickly.

Student Teacher

student teacher burnaby mountain park

View from where I was sitting yesterday

Finally, it was just before 9:00am on my first day of school. I joined the other new student teachers in the line-up outside the theatre where our orientation session was being held. A woman beside me struck up a conversation and we discovered that we were both in the same module (a module is like a class of 32 student teachers). It felt good to make a friend right away.

The orientation session lasted all morning, and it was great. I found it very helpful. Then we met the rest of our module briefly before lunch. After lunch we headed off with our modules and got to know each other a little. We’ll be meeting together throughout the semester, which lasts until December. Yesterday we went for a walk to a local park and did some reflecting and got to know each other a little more. Today we’re going to a film, culture and art festival that celebrates diversity – Project EveryBODY.

What I’ve discovered so far is that my fellow student teachers are amazing people. They are mostly (but not all) younger than me by at least a decade, but they’ve done some pretty cool things and we all share a love of working with children. Many of our hopes and fears are the same. We are going to be spending a lot of time together, and I feel privileged to be working with them. They knocked my socks off, quite honestly.

I’ve also discovered that this experience is going to be very hands-on and challenging in a totally different way than my other university experiences. It doesn’t appear that it will be very academically rigorous, in the sense that I won’t be spending a lot of time studying and writing research papers and sitting exams. Rather, it will be extremely challenging and stretching on a personal level, as I confront my biases, work hard, and transform myself into a teacher. And spend lots and lots of time with kids. I can’t wait.

For now, I know I’m right where I need to be. It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

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