Miss Night's Marbles

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

Homework for the “off season”

The other day, I noticed a new hashtag on the Twitterz: #eduoffseason. It seems to be about all the things we should all do in the “off season” so we can be better teachers come September. Ok. I’ll play. Here’s your off-season training plan, friends. This is the plan I intend to follow, to make myself a better, stronger, kinder, smarter, teacher and administrator in September. It’s pretty rigorous, and it is important that you fully commit to the program. If you cannot complete any of the assignments, I expect that you will substitute them with alternates that are of equal quality, quantity, and rigor. Items may be completed alone, or in collaboration with others. Collaboration with peers outside of the educational community is strongly encouraged. Your friends and family are permitted to help you with any of the assignments, as long as their participation will enhance (and not hinder) your own participation. After the first item, other tasks may be completed in the order of your choosing.

  • On the first day that teachers are off but the rest of the world isn’t, go for breakfast/brunch with as many teacher friends as you can. Sit in the restaurant for as long as you want, talking and laughing. Have appetizers AND dessert AND coffee AND wine.
  • Go to a zoo or wildlife park.
  • Go to a matinée movie during the week when hardly anyone else is there, and eat a big bag of popcorn.
  • Take a nap. Take  several naps. Take several naps a day if you want.
  • Go on a road trip, even if it is just a one-day jaunt to the next town over.
  • Give yourself a quest to find the best SOMETHING in your area. Vanilla latte, chocolate milkshake, hamburger, crab cakes, whatever. Use this quest as a way to go places in your town that you have never been before.
  • Stay in your pyjamas as long as you want. Do this as often as you want.
  • Take a walk every day. Unless it is a pyjama day, then you don’t have to.
  • Eat meals outside as often as you can.
  • Plant something and watch it grow.
  • Take at least a 3 day break from screen-based technology.
  • Go to a parade.
  • Go to a country/county/state/local fair/carnival/festival type event.
  • Stay up all night because you can’t put down your book.
  • Go out for a nice dinner on a weeknight.
  • Watch fireworks at every opportunity.
  • Go swimming outside, preferably NOT in a swimming pool. Let your hair dry in the sun.
  • Buy lunch for a friend who has to work all summer, especially if that work involves wearing business wear when it’s 847 degrees.
  • Pack an adventure bag with a water bottle, a snack, some band aids, a book, sunscreen, bug spray, and flip-flops, so you are always prepared to have an adventure, given the opportunity. Keep a towel and a hoodie in the car, for the same reason.
  • If  your school has a teacher dress code, put your work clothes away in the back of your closet and do not look at them.
  • Spend an entire day with just ONE child, of the age group of your choice, and do whatever that child chooses, with no learning outcomes or objectives or assessments or checklists (Who wants to loan me a toddler?).
  • On a rainy day, binge watch a TV show that you have been meaning to check out. (Mad Men.  Or maybe Lost, all over again from the beginning…)
  • Read exactly whatever catches your fancy. Read trash if you want because it is all your brain can handle (Hello, James Patterson, how nice to see you again…) . Read heavy literary fiction because your brain can’t handle it during school (Working my way through the Giller prize nominees). Read non-fiction about some obscure (this means NOT ABOUT EDUCATION) interest (Tudor England! Primate rescue! The social construction of childhood throughout history!).

There. You have 8 weeks to complete all the tasks. Or not. Document your progress, your process, and your product. Or don’t. Tweet, Facebook, Pin, and Instagram your results. Or keep them all to yourself.


It’s YOUR summer. Do what it takes to be a happier, healthier, kinder, stronger, smarter,  HUMAN BEING by September, and I PROMISE that you will also be a better teacher.

Now, go find your pyjamas and get started.

(This post was inspired by a homework assignment I gave to a student a few years ago, so: go find a heart-shaped rock.)

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One month in Admin: 10 things I have learned since joining the Dark Side

Ok, it has been just over a month since I started this admin gig, and moved from my classroom to my office.  I’ve learned some things, some of them serious, some of them snarky. For whatever it is worth, my advice to date:

  1. Do whatever it takes to be in a really good mood BEFORE you check your e-mail for the first time each day. For me, this means a big vanilla latte, country music in the car, and greeting our grade one and two students as they come in from the playground.
  2. Greet students by name every time you see them. Not only does this delight them, it impresses the bejebus out of parents.
  3. While you’re at it, greet parents by name, too. Ask about their weekend, their trip, the new baby.
  4. Visit the classrooms as often as possible, but visit the gym, the music room, the library, the art room, too. Specialist teachers do amazing things with hundreds of children, every day.
  5. Even if they went to kindergarten at your school, grade one students will get lost in the hallways.  Kindergarten students are constantly supervised, grade twos know their way around, but grade ones get lost. Learn to recognize a child who is lost but doesn’t want to admit it.
  6. Go outside. Go outside with big kids and little kids and in-between kids, with teachers and aides and volunteers. Learn what recess looks like, which playground equipment is the source of the most injuries, which areas of the yard can’t be seen from the benches where supervisors tend to sit. Move the benches.
  7. No meeting is so important that a child who needs a hug can’t interrupt you. Even the Head of School/the Superintendant/the Board Chairperson will NOT get mad if you pause to accept a hug.
  8. Keep crayons, paper, playdough, some stuffed animals, and a puzzle or two in your office.
  9. Aim for inbox zero once a week, and for inbox twenty before you go home at the end of the day.
  10. Go HOME at the end of the day. Everything and everyone will still be there tomorrow. You are not on-call 24/7. Go home, sit in a chair, watch the clouds go by.

You deserve it.



Why lead? (On joining the Dark Side…)


I started out to tell you that I am not a teacher this year, but that felt all kinds of wrong. A teacher is something you ARE, not something you do.

So, I’m still a teacher.

But I’m not in a classroom this year. I’ve moved up, joined the dark side (I heard there were cookies… I love cookies).

I’m an administrator. I have an office and a title: Director of Early Childhood Education. The closest parallel in a public school setting is a Vice-Principal or Assistant Principal. I oversee our Preschool, Junior Kindergarten, and Kindergarten programs. Camryn, my amazing boss, is still my boss  (and still amazing, by the way), but a lot closer to being my sidekick. Or maybe I am her sidekick? Anyway, she is The Principal, and I am the AP. Sort of. Some days I am sure that the ENTIRE point of the rocky path that led me to This School was so that I would get to meet and work with Camryn. She’s THAT awesome. But I digress.

I’ve been quiet about this change here, cautious about sharing it. I’m worried that it will somehow discredit me. It’s weird to think of “how I do things in my classroom” as “how I used to do things in my classroom, when I had one.”

God bless my teaching partner from last year, who has said to me, more than once: “You taught me SO MUCH. My classroom will ALWAYS be your classroom.” She is teaching kindergarten on her own, now, in the room that we shared. She is amazing, and when I hear my words coming out of her mouth, I smile and cry at the same time.

In the 3.5 months since I was offered, and accepted, this position (it is newly-created, but I still had to apply, and interview against other candidates), I cannot begin to count the number of people who have questioned my decision to NOT be in a classroom. I know that these questions come from a well-intentioned place – a place of “you are such an amazing teacher, how can you leave that?” but they always feel vaguely judgmental, like I’m selling out of the REAL work.


This isn’t about “quitting” the classroom. This is about choosing to step out so I can lead.

So, if your REAL question is “Why do you want to lead?” there are a million answers:

Because I am a textbook firstborn.

Because I’m bossy.

Because I have a voice and I want it to be heard.

Because I have worked HARD to develop the skills, knowledge, attitudes, of a leader.

Because throughout my life,  I have ended up in leadership positions without seeking them out.

Because when I notice a problem, my immediate response is to start figuring out a solution.

Because I am a great teacher.


Because I care about people, think they are interesting, want to hear their stories.

Because it has been ingrained in me that if I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem.

Because I am an expert at what I do.

Because I can be relied upon to produce an opinion any time one is called for, and that opinion is usually informed, thoughtful, well-researched.

Because the other option – of staying within the four walls of my classroom, quietly doing my thing, is not who I am, has never been who I am.

Because when you are offered an opportunity that allows you to be MORE of who you are, YOU TAKE IT.

There. It’s out. Will you all still read me here, follow me on the Twitterz, like me on the Facebooks?

I promise to share the cookies.