Finding My Why

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Do you ever have a moment when you leave school thinking, “What am I even doing? Why do I keep coming back here?” I’ve had a few of those lately. This work is hard, friends. I know you know this.

Last night I dreamed that I had an office job, and that I loved every little bit of it. I’ve had office jobs, and I know I’m using rose-colored glasses when I look back on them, but the idea of closing my door and checking off my to-do list like a champ is appealing. Leaving work not consumed by the defeat and brokenness that often comes with little humans sounds downright Heavenly. In my dream, it was. I woke up shaking my head at why I (or anyone) would return to this work that is so hard on the mind and hard on the heart.

And then I checked my email. I don’t know Sue from Warrawong, Australia (and I hope she won’t mind my sharing this). What I do know is that she gave me my why today.



Under Construction

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Hi friends!

I hope you had fabulous holidays full of lots of little moments that turn into big memories. If you started back to work this week like I did, well, I’m sure you’ll catch up on your sleep very soon. ;)

I wanted to let you know that I have FINALLY found an website-building program that I like as much as iWeb, so I will be rebuilding my site from scratch over the next couple of weeks. You may see blank pages and “under construction” text during that time, but I hope you’ll be patient with me. My biggest hope in this move (and the only reason I’m willing to start over) is that I will update more often since I can use this program on my laptop, and not just on my desktop. I promise to put all of your favorite content back up as soon as I possibly can. Thank you so much for you patience!



I Love Legos!

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You guys, I think I’ve mentioned a few (or a hundred) times that I’m not so good at the consistent blogging thing. I’ll get in a good swing where I’m posting every few weeks, and that usually lasts oh, I don’t know….a few weeks, maybe?

My inconsistent posting is not for lack of wanting to share great stuff with y’all, nor is it due to a lack of great stuff to share. It’s just that this blog isn’t staring me in the face quite like the pile of books I’ve been dying to read or my almost-full DVR or my never-ending list of silly errands. (Cross one off. Write two more. Story of my life.)

But today, after WAY too long, I’m finally making time to tell you about some totally fabulous products that Lego Education sent me last year. (Yes. An actual year ago. Those errands are never ending, man!)

I have to first brag about the great staff at the Lego Education offices. (I don’t know if they sit in cubicles made of Duplo bricks or if their desks are grown-up Lego tables just waiting for creations, but I kind of hope it’s both.) They reached out to me so long ago and have been nothing but kind and patient as I’ve spent a year trying out the products they sent me with various groups of children (and more than a few adults) for a solid year. Thank you for all of your help, Lego Education friends!

Also, I feel like now is a good time to mention a few disclaimers:

1. I’ve been approached about a few product plugs in the last couple of years, but none of them has made me as excited as an opportunity to partner with Lego. I grew up with mountains of Lego bricks at my disposal, the bulk of which are still seeing playtime at my mom’s house.

2. I’m kind of an old-school Lego fan. These teeny tiny things that come with specific directions for building the Death Star are cool in their own right, but I’m a purist who doesn’t like to be told what to do. Classic Lego bricks are my jam. No directions necessary. You want a tower? You got it. A corral for all of your Lego farm animals? Coming right up!

All of that being said, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the products that I received. Lego Education sent me two sets designed for preschool students. (By the way, I’ve seen these sets fully engage students as old as third grade.)

The Playground Set

This set is designed for a small group or partners in centers. This is to encourage collaboration and language skills as they build, and boy do they collaborate! There are pictures to guide them, but there are tons of ways to set the playground up, and the majority of kiddos I worked with didn’t consult the pictures at all.
There are so many opportunities for cross-curricular discussion here. The hopscotch pieces support number recognition and counting. The mini-figures brought out so many discussions of who might go to a playground and whether any of them were grown-ups. (They are all the same size.) This set also encourages some hands-on problem solving. How will you build your dream playground? Why did you put those structures together? The possibilities are truly endless!
The Creative Builder Set:

Remember how I said I’m a Lego purist who doesn’t like to be bound by directions? Well, this set proved me wrong. It comes with two-sided picture cards that snap into a special tray with building mats on either side. Students can work on either side of the tray to try to recreate the picture before them. I can’t even tell you what a favorite this was with the kids! Just a few learning opportunities I noticed were number and counting skills, pattern identification/repetition, and use of position words (on top of, next to, etc.) in conversation. You could even have older students use the picture cards to guide each other to build a design blind – you know they’d love that!

I just absolutely love these products, friends, and so do the kids that have learned with them this year. But don’t take my word for it – check out the Lego Education site for yourself. They are constantly coming up with new ideas (probably because those cubicles made from Duplo bricks inspire them so much). You won’t regret it!

Hope you’re having the most wonderful summer!



Why I Can’t Just Be Fired

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Earlier today, in the throes of spelling-induced temper tantrum, a student asked me, “Why can’t you just be fired?!?”

(Allow me to take a brief sidebar here to thank God for giving me a pretty stellar filter. It sometimes takes a long time for words to make it from my brain to my mouth, and today, that was a good thing. Today, that quite possibly saved my job.)

I responded with something along the lines of “Because I do my work, and people who do their work do not get fired.” (Don’t let the punctuation fool you. Those were my words, but I was not that calm.) I was, for a moment, annoyed at the tantrum. I’d had enough of the whining. Then I pulled some empathy out of my back pocket (I always keep a little there for emergencies) and put myself in this little guy’s shoes. I get it, dude. I know that frustrated feeling. And honestly, I see your point. Firing me would have, in that moment, given me just as much relief as it would’ve given you. Thanks for thinking of me.

And now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the day (and the week, and the longest February in recorded history), I have a few thoughts about why I can’t “just be fired” – and why you can’t either.

Teaching is hard, y’all. We all know it. I’ve written about it before. It’s brutal, butt-kicking work, and it’s not the teaching part. It’s the other stuff. The stuff we can’t fix but really, really want to anyway. The stuff we think about when sleep eludes us at 3am. It. is. hard. So why do we do it? Why does anyone with an ounce of love for themselves sign up for this job? And why do we stay? Why can’t we just be fired?

Because we’re needed. I’m needed. You are SO needed. Great teachers are leaving the field at an alarming rate. 40 to 50 percent of teachers will leave teaching in their first five years. (9.5% of those are gone before they even make it through the first one.) Studies have confirmed this, but none that I’ve found have really put a finger on why. It’s definitely not due to a lack of talent or ambition, and it’s not always a lack of training or support. I think maybe it’s because you don’t know how very needed you are. And THAT, my friends, keeps me up at night. Because if not you, who? Who will do this extremely important work of training up future generations to carry on a functioning society?

I was filling half-empty water bottles with glitter glue earlier this week and thought, “I have two college degrees, and this is what I’m doing with them?” I have friends who’ve told me about similar feelings when they cut out piles and piles of laminated items or staple blank booklets together for writing workshop. Certainly, anyone can do this. Why does it need to be me? How about I go do something that lets me sleep at night and leave my laminated stack for someone else? I pass a billboard every day that says, “Want to teach? When can you start?” Let that guy come staple these booklets together. Can he start tomorrow?

The minutia is what wears us down, what sends us running for the hills, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not enough for you to just be fired. It’s not enough for you to throw in the towel. It’s enough to make you crazy, but please, please, don’t let it be enough to make you leave. As February comes to a close, take a minute to remind yourself of the reasons why you came here, and for the love, please remind yourself of all of the reasons to stay.

Seconds after today’s temper tantrum ended, that same student FINALLY finished his work and said, “Hmm. I thought I was bad at this, but I guess I’m not.”

Ditto, buddy. Ditto.