Miss Night's Marbles

Musings, mumbles, marvels, and sometimes mockery, live from kindergarten.

Bless me friends, for I think I may have sinned.

on 13 July, 2013

This post is part of the #kinderchat summer blogging challenge. The first assignment: Confess.


Ok. Let’s get the big one out of the way first:

  • LIke many of you, I once had a behaviour chart in my classroom. It was only my second year of teaching, I had a challenging, LOUD, chaotic group of kids.I had little support from my admins. I was exhausted, and I needed SOMETHING. So, I made a chart, with coloured cards and “parent contact” as a consequence (and, to be fair, also as a reward if a child did something exceptionally wonderful). But the existence of the chart is not my REAL confession. The REAL part is this: there was a child in that class who, I learned, was subject to inappropriately harsh punishment at home if he lost a card. And when I learned that: I DIDN’T TAKE THE CHART DOWN. I moved it, so his parents couldn’t see it through the classroom doorway. I went a little easier on the child, so that he lost fewer cards. But I didn’t take it down.

Ouch, right? Yeah, I live with that ghost every day, especially since my post about why I DON’T do behaviour charts went nearly-viral. You’ll note that the post does not say I have NEVER used one. And, upon reflection, my shame over the one behaviour chart I DID use is probably part of why I am so adamant about them now… But still. I didn’t take that chart down. And I kick myself for it every single day.

Now, for the fluffier stuff – the things I do, or have done, that I am often cautious about admitting…

  • I like colouring pages, and I use them in my classroom. Not every day, not even most days, but I do put them out for the kids once in a while: to settle them after a rowdy assembly, to fill an unexpected transition, to soothe tired kids after an exhausting field trip. I prefer mandala style pages, so there is not RIGHT or WRONG colour choices, but sometimes we colour castles, flowers, rainbows, animals. There is something undeniably soothing about colouring, even for adults. Children are almost universally drawn to it, and I think that means there has to be something developmentally valuable in it, even if many many ECE experts rail against colouring books as “murderers of creativity.” 
  • I like my classroom quiet. Not silent, by any means, but quiet, with  a steady buzz (rather than a roar) of activity. This seems unpopular in many DAP ECE circles, but there it is. I think quiet is good for kids, good for all of us. Noise makes me start to feel anxious, and if it does that to me, surely it does that to some kids, too.
  • I let my kindergarten students use erasers. I don’t understand the (apparently VERY STRONGLY HELD) belief that they should not get erasers in kindergarten. Kids know when a letter or number does not look the way it is supposed to look. I feel like they need to be allowed to fix it. As an adult, I would HATE IT if someone told me I was not allowed to fix my mistakes or improve my work.
  • I do not read professional development books in the summer. I read FICTION. Plot-driven, interesting, not-trashy-but-not-too-dense, chewy, stay-up-late-to-see-what-happens-next, FICTION. I read it on my couch, on my patio, on the beach, at the pool, on the plane. When I do housework, I listen to FICTION. When I do a road trip, I listen to FICTION. Occasionally, I throw in a good biography or autobiography, or ethnography, but that’s it. I want STORIES.
  • I feel incompetent and inadequately dedicated to my profession when I hear and read about other teachers and all the PD reading they do over summer. Honest to God, for at least a few weeks every year, I need to NOT be Miss Night. I love being Miss Night. I am PROUD to be her. But for just a few weeks, I like to just be Amy. Amy who reads fiction and watches documentaries and lets a 10 min dog walk turn into a 2 hour ramble all over my neighbourhood. Amy who does ballet workouts in the living room. Amy who hangs out with friends and family DURING THE WEEK.

And, maybe, that is my biggest confession of all: I sometimes wonder if I am inadequately dedicated to this teaching business. I don’t read e-mail in the evenings, on weekends, or holidays. I make excellent use of my “out of office” message. I don’t spend hours combing pinterest for new ideas. I have never gone anywhere near Teachers Pay Teachers. My blog is not cute, and it has no polka dots. In the summer, I stay FAR AWAY from my classroom for several weeks and refuse to even think about it. Summer, for me, is not “time to do all the teacher projects I don’t have time for during the year.” Summer is time to BE ME in a way I don’t have time for during the year.

There. It’s out.

May we all Go Forth and Sin No More.

15 Responses to “Bless me friends, for I think I may have sinned.”

  1. Lisa Marshall says:

    I am also guilty of using a behavior chart, and continuing to use it even after I knew that not just one, but many students, were most likely being unduly punished at home. Part of this came from pressure from the school to use the same “system” as everyone else, but to me, it is still unforgiveable. I think at this beginning of the year, I will find a quiet moment to tell these students I was wrong and that I am very sorry. Because I am, and I always will be.

  2. Michelle Q says:

    Great post – I struggle with unplugging from the classroom in the summer and going to that SDE conference (and taking your sessions) has made it even harder! 🙂 Luckily I have a wonderful husband who reminds me to step away from the PD. You’re so right though, it’s just nice being Michelle and not Mrs. Q.

    I don’t use behaviour charts either – I use responsive classroom. I love colouring sheets and always feel guilty bring them out too. Some kids love colouring though. And I’m one of them!

    Very glad I found your blog,

  3. AmyB says:

    I am spending the summer being Amy, and not Mrs. B, too! Well done, us!

  4. Scott says:

    I appreciate all of your confessions. I especially identify with the summer PD one. I am looking at a stack of books I got from the library for summer reading…a stack of books about teaching literacy. I haven’t read one of them yet. Or done any of the teacher projects I had planned. And I’m (sort of) okay with that. I have rested and thought and at least mentally prepared myself for the coming year. I’ll at least be ready for day 1!

  5. […] This post is part of the #kinderchat summer blogging challenge. The first assignment: Confess. Ok. Let's get the big one out of the way first: LIke many of you, I once had a behaviour chart …  […]

  6. poulingail says:

    This has been a great read. Now I can’t wait to see your “brag” post!

  7. Oh how I love this post! I go in phases…either constantly moving forward, or completely dormant. My confession? My dormant phases include marathon runs of General Hospital and The Vampire Diaries… I have summer PD reading, but I tend to skim-and-scan so I can get to the book club books I never finish. Take your time off; you deserve it. We all do. Nice to meet the Amy inside Miss Night (and for the record you are one of the MOST competent and BEYOND adequately dedicated colleagues I’ve had the chance to learn with. As for our mistakes (and exceptions)…most of us have done all the same things you speak to. Your awareness of when and how they are appropriate speaks volumes (I can’t imagine a life without erasers!). Going forth… 😉

  8. I am so with you when it comes to being Kimarie rather than Ms. Tacke!!!! I believe it is so needed to bring balance back to one’s life! To me that is rejuvenation, not confession! 😉
    Thumbs up to every other confession you made. Birds of a feather!
    p.s. The look of your blog has mine beat by a mile!

  9. Anneka says:

    Wow I enjoyed reading your post. We teacher are human after all!

  10. Faige says:

    Think not being perfect makes room for growth. Terrific post that you shared.

  11. janicecomrie says:

    Thanks for your candid and honest confessions Amy. Even though I haven’t met you in person, I get the sense that you are a very authentic person and I really like that!!!

    When I started my master’s study, I was in an Early Learning Cohort and it was a very interesting experience for me. Half of the group consisted of teachers in Kindergarten or Early Education, mostly in public schools. The other half of the group was from the pre-school world – administrators of day home organizations, instructors in early childhood development programs. It was a very interesting summer as we spent two full weeks together taking two different courses. I had moments of terror as we “deconstructed” everything we were in our own teaching practices and moments where it was evident that there were two separate camps or philosophies. Our early learning colleagues were convinced that as teachers in the school system we were stifling all creativity in children and the mention of the word “crafts” sent them into hysteria. The teacher group felt the squeeze of curriculum and assessment which is so evident if you are working in the school system. Some of your comments speak to this struggle – colouring pages, erasers, the need for some quiet and orderly behaviour. It was a very upsetting summer for me in some ways, but I have grown in my understanding of many things because of it. I do think that as early childhood educators – both preschool and up to grade 3 (or so – differing opinions of what early childhood is defined as), we need to find ways to band together to support all ages. I do also think that we need to be more accepting of different ways of being with children. What works for you, might not work for me, and we need to embrace our different ways of being (and doing). We also need to accept that there are different expectations put on us as educators at different ages. Even though we might not believe that report cards are the most effective way to communicate learning to parents, that is not always a choice we have – assessment is the reality of the school system.

    We need to forgive ourselves and others for the shortcomings that we perceive about our own practice and the practice of others. And, I think we need to find ways to be together in our PL so that we can engage in dialogue about working with young children.

    One of the ways that we are thinking about doing this is by combining a conference of Early Childhood teachers with an Early Years educators – perhaps in 2016. This may be the start of our conversation about how we can support children and each other throughout the critical years of early childhood.

    I admire you for taking time for yourself and actually reading fiction in the summer!!! I need to do more of that. I think you will go back in the fall more rested than some colleagues that continue to engage in “school stuff” all summer. i think we all need to find time to be our true selves – which is sometimes difficult as teaching is such a way of being. I really admire your ability to set limits in terms of time – this is essential in our profession if we don’t want to completely burn out. Your ability to set limits allows you to recharge by engaging in other aspects and interests in your life. If we never explore anything outside of our teaching passion, it can be quite a shock at retirement. Who am i if I am not a classroom teacher? Perhaps a long way off for some of our #Kinderblog13 group but still something to think about as we put so much of our time and passion in to our jobs. Balance is best!!

  12. Wayne Jackson says:

    I like your vibe Miss Night! (Always have) I don’t enjoy fiction as much as you, I really enjoy non-fiction reading for pleasure. Behavior charts in my class depend on the class. It’s hard to keep kids engaged when their home life is based on getting yelled/screamed at or having unreasonable consequences for behavior. It sounds like we teach in a very similar way, that makes me feel less alone.

  13. I so appreciate the honesty in this post! I can confess to many of the same things. I’m very vocal now in not using reward charts, but I did in the past. For some students with special needs (e.g., autism), I still do, but in a highly modified way and with a focus on the positive behaviours. I also try to build intrinsic motivation, but sometimes with the use of the visuals that some of these students need. I’m okay with this. It’s a choice I make only when absolutely necessary.

    I also like the quiet classroom (not silent, but with a whisper buzz), and I agree with you that students benefit from this kind of environment as well. I’ve always let my students use erasers (even when I taught Kindergarten), and I see nothing wrong with this either. If a student is obsessing over perfection, then I may relook at this option, but that would be only in a few situations.

    I love fiction as well, and read it a lot over the summer. Sometimes I’ll read some books for PD, but often not. I’m okay with this. I enjoy the time to read books I don’t usually get to read during the year. I think about school during the summer, and since I’ve flipped grades and teaching assignments numerous times, I can’t help but do some planning and read curriculum documents. What about teachers that get angry when others say how lucky they are to have two months off? If we’re taking the two months for ourselves, should we agree that we are lucky? I’ve always wondered about this. I do feel fortunate for this time (even if I spend some of it on school work.)

    As for colouring sheets, I’m personally not a fan (but I respect why & how you use them). To me, they’re in the word search category, and I can’t do those either. Drawing and painting can be therapeutic though, and even older students respond well to this Art time. We used crayons, markers, paint, plasticine, & playdough all the time — even in Grade 6 — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Sorry for such a long comment, but thanks for giving me a chance to confess too! 🙂

  14. I bet you don’t have a classroom theme either. Or have covered your filing cabinet with duct tape to make it match your theme. Oh well.

  15. moyermama says:

    I think you and I would get along just fine as teaching partners. Loved your confessions. Enjoy your novels (as am I). PD? What’s that?

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