Classroom Seating – Facelift planning

I have always given my students choice when it comes to the carpet or table spots to work. They have assigned table spots usually, but they can almost move to another spot on the floor if needed. I have had clipboards from the beginning (9 years ago) to offer to students when needing to work in space that is not a desk.

I have been watching and loving other options teachers are sharing. This fall our district’s physical therapists shared a slideshow on seating with every teacher via email. Some maybe didn’t open it, but I did. My mom is one of the physical therapists, so I had better:)

Their main objective was to share that students focus better when their feet are able to be flat on the floor when in a chair. They wanted teachers to check students desk chairs at the beginning of the year. Think about our seating as teachers. We know about ergonomics and comfort; why wouldn’t students want the same? So I went around during a work time and just checked how many students could touch their feet flat on the floor while doing desk work. Guess how many…

3!

Three of my students were sitting in chairs that were appropriate for them! I’ve been teaching third graders for 4 years already, and for 4 years I knew the chairs were a bit big for some, but I didn’t realize that so few of them had their physical needs met at their table. This put a fire in my belly. I immediately asked my principal if I could order new chairs. I got the go ahead. However, in my research I found so many options. Clearly I still needed to be economical, so I decided to figure out what my school already had. Lucky for me, a colleague used to teach 4th grade and used yoga balls with the legs. So I had access to about a class set of those. However, I contacted a special education teacher friend of mine, Stephanie, and she shared what alternative seating she had in her classroom. One was the Zuma Rocker Chair.

ZumaRockerChairs
Zuma Rocker Chair

I looked into it, and it was only $20 more than the standard chairs I would have bought. So I ordered six of those for a little over $400. Then I went to the storage room and found the yoga balls ready for the day I’d need them. I also read Kayla Delzer’s article Why the 21st Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks that showed her alternative set up also. One of the tables she showed is almost on the floor with just pillows to sit on. So I wanted to do one of those as well. I also planned to play with my tables’ heights to see if a standing desk would be an option.

In my classroom I have 8 trapezoid tables that typically arrange in 4 hexagons. I move it into a U shape for the spring semester too.

I decided to wait until my rocker chairs would arrive to introduce all types of seating. My plan is to have a week of experimenting with the seating “tool” options my students have. Now to just wait and transform!

November in the classroom

November has been awesome! It started with a Writer’s Workshop inservice, which really helped get everyone aligned with a vision of Writer’s Workshop. You kind of wish you could start the year over when quality PD happens.

I also did a series of mini lessons on Growth Mindset. Those were some of the best days we’ve had all year. Everyone, even my quietest and most reluctant participants, spoke up and shared. I used clips of videos and books to spark conversation, and it went better than I had hoped.

We finished the unit on Ancient Rome and started an Animal Classification unit. I have a student teacher that has been teaching the science exploration part, and then I’ve followed up with Close Reading on the lesson’s topic. It’s been a great thematic approach. The day we investigated mammals, we had 8 visitors! Hamsters! The students loved observing and then petting them. Seven left at the end of the day, but 1 stayed! We have a class pet! Meet Daisy! 

 We started our spelling tests as well. We reviewed rules of words, did a skills assessment, and introduced vocabulary routines in the first unit. In the Unit 2 we add in spelling. We start with 10 words, but for the test they also need be written with -ed and -ing endings, so by the end they have 30 words on their spelling test. We were focusing on words that end in CVC, which means the final consonant should doubled and then the ending. But there is a mix of words that follow the CVC pattern, and those that do not. For example: hop – hopped – hopping; submit – submitted – submitting; push – pushed – pushing

We ended the month with an all day Read n Feed! This is an epic day of reading! We move all desks and chairs to the side, stacked on top of one another. Students bring pillows, blankets, snacks, and a stack of books. The day is a mixture of independent reading, read aloud, and buddy reading. Below is the girl half of the room buddy reading with kindergarten students. 

 I’m looking forward to alternative seating in December! I have rocking chairs (school chairs with rockers on the bottom instead of standard legs) and yoga balls with legs for two of my tables ordered and on the way.

Look for the update on that soon!

I’m also hosting a Boot Camp for Parents of Third Graders the first week of December about Digital Citizenship and “new” math algorithms. A media teacher and I are partnering up to host two sessions for parents. I can’t wait!

Blessings this Thanksgiving

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I feel I should update you on my journey this fall. The beginning of October didn’t start well. I was swamped and struggling to see the God-given gifts around me as blessings.My husband rallied around me and offered a ton of support.  And, over MEA (MN fall break), God really did some heart work in me.

I realized that I was holding back from God. I was hanging on to some secrets that I didn’t think I had to give to God. I had done the bandaid fixes for years. When feeling down or drained, I would change my diet, go to bed earlier, workout, go for regular runs, update my calendar, split chores with my husband, etc. But for those were temporary fixes. It will pick me up for a season, but ultimately fail.

God said, no…stop with the distraction and desire to control. What’s keeping you from me?

So I peeled back. I confessed sins, my “go to-s”,  and He responded, “Keep going.” What? Huh…so at the root of judging others and desire to control, what’s there?

I peeled back some more. Prayed more. And God revealed to me that at the base of all of that is fear. Fear of worthlessness and ineffectiveness. Professionally and as a parent I fear being ineffective. And personally I fear being viewed as worthless by anyone. God let me rest there then, and just held me. There was little talking, but a lot of peace and healing. Being honest with myself and Him about these fears was the first time I felt light in a long time. Now I personally have been in the depths of depression when I was in high school, but through counseling and a short time with medication, I have built coping skills. However, these coping skills have distracted me from truly getting to the root of these fears that have just kept building. Life experiences distracted me too. There have been enough changes in my life the last 10-12 years that kept being the cause or reason for frustrated or stress.

So resting in my identify in God first, is where I’m at. I’m studying the word and reading “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown. I bought the book back in June, but I’m glad I’m reading it after this process with God. However, it is totally walking me through some of my thoughts and identifying insecurities. I am grateful to read it with my faith lens.

So it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, and I’m so grateful. I see the gifts around me: my beautiful children, loving husband, energetic learners in the classroom, warm home, and so much more!

I am grateful…and I feel my blessings again! Cheers!

  
 

Blessings feeling like burdens

Having it all image

I joined a small group at our church for the first time in the four years we’ve been attending. The group is studying Timothy and members are all women in their 20s and 30s. Some are single, others married, and others have 1 or more children. The first small group most of us were able to meet, and I knew three of the 10 women. I was excited to meet some new women from church. I found out at the first meeting that we would take turns hosting, and the next meeting would be in the neighboring town at M’s home. M is a sweet woman. She is a first grade teacher, so I immediately felt connected since we are both teachers. She’s single and I believe under 30.

The night of the 2nd meeting came and I arrived with having taken only one wrong turn. M buzzed me and another member of the group in to her apartment building and waved us down to her door. I walked through her door and was struck by the warm lighting, fall decor, candles with autumn scents, and tidiness. Everything had a place, and everything was in its place. Her towel hanging from the oven was fall themed, her entertainment center had leaves, pumpkins, and brown tone plaques. Hanging over her fireplace was an autumn blessings banner on burlap. She had fresh pumpkin muffins with optional whipped topping, trail mix, and apple juice in mason jars. Seriously! So adorable! I walked over to her empty kitchen counter, gently laid my hand upon the edge and thought to myself with a sigh, “I remember living alone.”

In that moment,  I longed to rewind to those “simpler” times. I was totally overwhelmed by my current status, and couldn’t see and feel the joy that was present in my household. On paper I have no reason to complain, which perpetuated the guilt I was feeling. Here’s me on paper:

  • Teaching elementary since 2006, my 10th year in the same school district.
  • I’m married to Josh since 2008, supportive and loving husband.
  • 4 year old son, Caleb.
  • 19 month old b/g twins, Mollie and William.
  • Fabulous home daycare provider who is like a member of the family.
  • Live in a great neighborhood.
  • Own our home.
  • Most recently 1 of 11 nominees nominated for Teacher of the Year in our school district of 650+ teachers.

What do I have to complain about?! However, the state of my heart has been such that I look at these blessings and only see them as burdens/responsibilities. To be honest, I have it all, and want none of it. 

Now you might be thinking, “Geez! She’s depressed.” And I would agree with you, except that I have hope. I am in the process of talking to God about all of this, and He is showing me some amazing insights and offering healing. My husband and parents are supportive in thought, word, and deed. I’m working on simplifying the outer stressors while God is working on healing my heart. We’re working out some insecurities and sins I have buried deep and hidden for a long time. This will be tough work for awhile, but I am relieved that my God is faithful and loving.

Have you felt God’s blessings turning to burdens? Have you prayed about it?

Getting Through It

Getting through had been my mantra most of September and October, until the stress got to be too much. I had a physical reaction to my inability to find my wallet, knowing it was in the house and near, just couldn’t locate it. I had a mini panic attack. I’ve been frustrated by stress, but never felt it physically like that before. My heart felt squeezed and my chest felt tight. I was able to calm myself within 5 minutes, but I was shocked I’d let myself get so lost.

That night I spoke openly with my husband about my swirl of thoughts and feelings, my concern that I was in over my head, and how I was thankful for his support. He offered to “fix” in anyway he could. I wasn’t sure what would “fix” anything though.

The next few days I knew it wasn’t going to be a workout, a list app, a program, or book that was going to “fix” anything. I knew I had to go, no run, to God. I had done all the things listed above for short term solutions many times before. God was calling me to some deeper work. I needed to get to the seed of my sin and guilt, confess it to God, and only then could God “fix” and heal me.

I’m not through it yet. I even put it off for a day or two. I’m not on the other side of this chapter, but in the thick of it I have hope. God has shown me that a seed of sin in me is my fear of incompetence. It is a totally irrational fear, as most fears are. I like to show my effectiveness and competence as a wife, mother, teacher, and woman. It’s pride. So much of my stress is wanting to run all these things at mastery level at all times, and disappointment with myself when I don’t. The judgement I give myself is what I perceive from others if they knew. Again, ridiculous! I have totally loving and supportive parents, so this is something that over time I have created and built up. God’s showing me some past misconceptions, but mostly showing me how this is something I need to confess and ask forgiveness for with Him in the present, and for the future. His healing is working in me. I am gaining new life.

God has also shared with me that I am not the only one. Working parents, especially those with small children, are frantic to do right by their boss, their spouse, their kids, their community, their church; and it is exhausting. We go to our friends and mentors, and we hear encouraging words, sympathy, or excuses we should use. We get recommendations for books, podcasts, websites, and all sorts of advice. God has told me to now respond first with, “Have you prayed about it?” Doesn’t matter where I am, who I am with, I have the strong charge to ask that question before all others. Because really, isn’t that what we should do first? “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” A favorite hymn, and melody I am now humming in my mind. I KNOW this in my head, but my faith is now begging me to turn my knowledge into practice.

This may not be where you are, and maybe it is. Maybe you remember this phase of three small children, diapers and baths, toys and naps, laundry and dog hair that needs to be vacuumed. Either way, I hope you will consider putting your faith in action by taking these concerns, fears, and tears of frustration to God FIRST. He longs for us to come to Him.

Psalm 55:22a “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you.”

This teacher’s prayer

I pray that I am present with my students. That I listen attentively, and they see how much I care.

I pray I give my students’ parents reasons to trust me, and in turn they do.

I pray that each student shares their goals, fears, and wisdom with me and others.

I pray each student feels community and care when they enter my classroom, and better yet, the school.

I pray my students take risks, learn to celebrate mistakes, and take pride in their work. 

I pray that I notice the small things. The silent tear, the fearful glance, the bruise, the taunting whisper, the sheepish smile, the rumble of a hungry tummy, a helping hand, the shy child hoping to be picked. 

I pray that every child leaves my class having learned to be a better human. 

I pray to be humble enough, patient enough, confident enough, grace-filled enough, and loving enough to meet each student’s needs, no matter how it is presented. 

I pray I say what a student needs to hear at the right time. 

Dear God, 

Please be my teacher and guide this year, that the year may be a success in ways that matter for each child! 

Amen

  

The Great Minnesota Get Together

So it is only fitting, that I walk the same streets and buildings with my grandma’s memory while pushing a stroller with my children. It’s a tradition. A family occasion that could easily go to the wayside due to the ages of my children, or weather, or schedule. But it is with conviction and love that I brave the crowds to walk among old memories and create new ones. That and my cheese curd cravings. Source: The Great Minnesota Get Together