This post is my inaugural post for this year’s #kinderblog summer blogging challenge, which I host over at the #kinderchat site. The first assignment:
Write the post that has been in your head (or your drafts folder) for a while now. You know the one. The one you write while you drive to work, or while you are in the shower. What is the question, or issue, or opinion, or emotions, you have been chewing on for a while now? Alternatively, what is the post that you have started a million times, picked away at, edited and re-edited, and almost trashed? Did you read an article or a Facebook post that provoked a reaction, and that you can’t stop thinking about? THIS IS YOUR CHANCE.
Be Brave. Write it.
So. Here it is. The truth is, I have about 49 posts in my drafts folder, but this one has been there the longest. Almost exactly a year, in fact….
I started it last July, after returning from a conference:
I was recently in a situation where I was surrounded by teacher bloggers. Not teacher bloggers like me. Teacher bloggers with really cute sites with lots of clip art and custom site designs and handwriting fonts and polka dots. And owls. And chevrons (which, I have learned, is the correct word for what I have always called “zig-zag stripes). And blog buttons, and linkys (linkies? Will someone PLEASE tell me what a linky is? Seriously. I am NOT being snarky. I really don’t understand what a linky is. I know, my teacher blogger card is totally going to be revoked, isn’t it?)
They were, mostly, girly-girls like I have never been: a room full of VERY shiny hair and VERY white teeth, and manicures, and I’m pretty sure there were some pantyhose and some pearls. It felt a little like what I THINK a sorority would feel like. And I’m not exactly a sorority sort of girl. In fact, until I actually LIVED in a US college town, I sort of thought that sororities only happened in movies.
LORDY, was I a fish out of water. I was literally itchy-on-the-inside. All of my long-lost junior high girl angst was suddenly right there at the surface.
I am not that kind of teacher blogger, but I was in a room FULL of them.
These were NOT My People.
But, there was also: a warm welcome, openhearted generosity, big smiles. Encouragement. Laughter. Curiosity. A person I had never met handed me a gift card when she realized she had two.
There were cookies. Did I mention that? Cookies always help.
But: I squirmed and wriggled. I am not, I was not ever: that kind of girl. I was a HUGE bookgeek (to be clear: *I* was not huge, but my bookgeek-ness was), I was a bunhead (not a studio dancer with competitions and sequins. A Ballet Student, at a Ballet School. Bun and tights and pointe shoes and turnout and class EVERY day and bleeding toes and broken knees.) When other girls starting sneaking into bars, I was at the barre, or too tired from the barre to go to the bar. (Barre/bar puns NEVER STOP being funny, it seems…)
Some of it is cultural – between being a Canadian girl and a West Coast girl, I tend to be an altogether more casual kind of girl than they were.
Some of it is temperament: I am, down to my very toenails, an introvert. Friendly, socially capable, but still: an introvert. And I am TERRIBLE at getting-to-know-you small talk. (This may be why I am also terrible at dating, but that is another story…). These girls (and they were ALL girls, because the only two dudes in the room were my buddies, who were even more out of their element than me): clearly extroverted, most with that very specifically American, even more specifically Southern, gift of being able to strike up conversation with ANYBODY. Seriously – do your moms TEACH you that? Because: wow. It’s amazing. (Again, I’m not being snarky; I sincerely wish I was better at chit-chat, more like some of those girls.)
And then, a very short while after that event, I stumbled into a blog, written by a kindergarten teacher, about a product she had tried in her classroom. I had a question, about a dissonance between two points she made, and I asked that question, in the comments of her blog. Because that’s what I do, on the blogs I read, and that’s what you guys do, here. I ask questions. You ask questions. Sometimes, hard questions. But we ask. And we answer, and we all become better because of it.
But this time… my question hurt her feelings. Not just the content of the question, but the very act of questioning. She was hurt, felt attacked, by a member of her own profession. I…. was shocked, a little angry at first, and then oh-so-dismayed. I hadn’t intended to hurt, hadn’t wanted to hurt, hadn’t DREAMED that it might hurt.
To her credit, that blogger contacted me, in anger at first, but I responded, and we, slowly, found a place of acceptance, if not quite understanding.
And now, a year after that particular situation, I still find myself bumping into these spaces – virtual and “real” where I am surrounded by people who do what I do, and yet… we may as well be from different planets. It’s like there are 2 kinds of Teachers of Young Children who are active on social media, and we just can’t find a way to HEAR one another. And it is so easy: SO EASY, when we find ourselves butting heads, to throw our hands up and just walk away because “we are from two different worlds.” It is so much more comfortable, to go running back to Our People, who know us and get us and validate us and speak our language.
But that is not how we grow, is it?
And, after a year of reflecting on this, I truly believe: we have to find ways to bridge these gaps. We all go to the same conferences. We do the same job. We teach the same children, with the same love.We have to find ways to understand each other, to question ourselves, to dig deeper into the uncomfortable conversations, because the uncomfortable conversations make us all better, and US BEING BETTER is only going to help the children we reach and teach and love.
So. I’m going to go first. I’m gonna own some “stuff:”
Hi. My name is Amy, and I teach kindergarten. My classroom does not have a theme. I don’t know what a linky is. I don’t spend all summer re-decorating and re-organizing my classroom. I don’t hand-sew matching cushions for my reading corner every year. I don’t have a TPT account.
I don’t understand why you would blog if it was not to have great conversations; and great conversations include hard questions.
Maybe you don’t understand why I blog with so much… opinion.
I don’t understand why you would blog but not tweet.
Maybe you don’t understand how I have time to tweet SO MUCH.
I don’t understand why having a matchy-matchy colour-coordinated classroom matters SO MUCH.
Maybe you don’t understand how it DOESN’T matter to me.
I think that having a “theme” for your classroom setup and decor, before you even meet your students, is not such a good idea. What if they don’t LIKE owls? Or alpacas? Or baseball? Or cupcakes? (No, wait. EVERYBODY likes cupcakes, right?)
Maybe you have an awesome story about how having a classroom theme helps your kids.
I think that blogging about the many many many hours you spend decorating your classroom puts enormous pressure on new teachers.
Maybe you think that sharing your classroom set up process is your way of helping new teachers.
I don’t understand how you plan a year before the year even starts.
Maybe planning your year in advance is required by your district? Maybe it is what helps you have balance in your life as a teacher? (This is a tough one for me. Planning without knowing your kids seems so, so, questionable, but maybe we should talk about that…)
I think worksheets are ethically questionable, and behaviour charts hurt children.
Maybe you… Ok, I’m really not sure how we find common ground on this one. Maybe you can help. Or maybe we can just have a conversation that will make us both more articulate about our practice, and give us something to “chew on” for a while.
And I’m willing to chew, if you are.
Maybe we could start with some cookies…