Miss Night's Marbles

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

I can do hard things: Some thoughts on learning

Update: This post was written when I still used Blogger for this blog. I thought about editing it so it would make more sense now that I have my own domain and work in WordPress, but the very fact that this post exists here without being re-written is a pretty good illustration of my underlying point: We can ALL do hard things when the motivation is there…

Last night, I sat down to start a semi-big project that I have been semi-dreading: migrating my blog from blogspot to wordpress. The reasons are many, but the short and sweet answer is that wordpress has more capabilities to do more things, and as my little blog community grows, it seems to make sense to move over there. I knew there were a lot of steps involved, things I have never done before, and don’t entirely understand.  I knew I was going to have to LEARN a bunch of new stuff, and make it make sense, and apply it. I knew there were certain risks involved.

What if I do this wrong? What if I screw it up? What if my blog disappears? Wait, I need to buy the domain name AND the hosting. Ok, so the domain is like the name of the restaurant. And the hosting is the physical space for the restaurant. And I need to pay for both. Ok, that makes sense. But how MUCH space do I need? I don’t want to pay for more than I will use. But what if it’s not enough? Can I make it bigger later if I want to?

Ok, deep breath. Why I am doing this again? Am I sure the easier way is not worth considering? No, the easier way really isn’t what I want. If I’m going to do this, I’m doing it all the way. Even if it’s hard.

Learning is hard, folks. You try, and you play, and you ask for help, and you struggle to UNDERSTAND the help that you get. And then you apply it, and you realise you didn’t even ask the right question, so of course you didn’t get the answer you needed… So you ask again, and the first answer isn’t quite enough, but it sends you to another answer that helps a lot. And just when you think you have it, your pencil breaks (or, in my case, Google wallet took an unannounced 10 minute vacation.)

To be clear: for the 2 hours I sat at my computer, trying to figure this all out, I was deeply engaged. It got dark outside, and the house got a bit of a chill, and even though I was sitting FACING OUT THE WINDOW, I was surprised to discover these facts when I finally looked up. I was engaged, the task was authentic. I was learning, asking, self-correcting, trying and error-ing, and trying again. Reading and squinting and doubting the double-taking and cursing the people who DON’T MAKE THIS CLEARER. But I was doing. Bit by bit, I was doing.

I think the lesson here is that: there is nothing that says learning shouldn’t be hard. It is and can be hard. But maybe, as learners, we are far more likely to persevere through the task if it is also meaningful, and tied to an outcome that matters to us. I WANT to make more of my blog. I WANT to own this space more than I currently do. I am committed to figuring this out. But that doesn’t make it easy. If I had been tackling this task for reasons I didn’t choose, or for reasons someone else decided where important… I probably would have given up.

I persevered through a difficult task because I was personally invested in the outcome. There’s a thought to chew on when we think about student motivation.

In 2 hours, I got exactly one step of this process completely figured out and squared away. I bought my domain: www.missnightmutters.com now belongs to me. (Go ahead, type it into your address bar – you’ll find yourself right back here. Isn’t that SO COOL?!). There is satisfaction in that, in having ONE STEP done. But there is also frustration that ONLY one step is done.

Later today, I will chip away at the next step: choosing and paying for a hosting service. Then installing WordPress on that host. Then taking a really deep breath and moving the blog over.

It has been hard. It might get hard again. But I can do hard things when the process and the outcome really matter to me. I can do hard things.

My students, even in kindergarten, can do hard things. Our students can and will do hard things, and do them willingly, but only if the process and the outcome really matter to them.

Furthermore, the belief that they are capable of doing hard things is probably more valuable than the actual DOING.

As my grandma, who, after a stroke,  taught herself to do left-handed needlepoint  at the age of 85 (talk about doing hard things!) would say: “put that in your pipe and smoke it.”



Ask Miss Night: Now Open for Business!

Not much of a post tonight,  — just a request that you check out my new page: Ask Miss Night!

The idea here is blog content by request – submit a question or request, and I just may answer. Questions might involve a particular challenge you are facing in your own classroom (or with your own kiddo), or something you would like me to write about, a question you have about my experience or background, or even just a request for tips and tricks.  If you’re feeling braver, you can submit a question to the readers, and I will post it for people to respond to in the comments.

I feel a little weird about doing this, because I have always been reluctant to portray myself as somehow more knowledgeable than any other teacher, BUT: I loved the comments and conversation over my behaviour chart post SO MUCH, and I like the idea of making this place a little more interactive. Is that crazy? I promise to focus on being helpful & supportive and not bossy or prescriptive.

At least two of you said you thought this would be a great idea, so please don’t prove me wrong! Check out the page, submit the form, and let’s have some fun! Spread the word and pin the page, too – let’s see if we can get something going!

Ok. 12 hours at school for me today. Bath, book, bed. (Did I tell you I’m reading a book so scary I can’t keep it in the bedroom at night? Yeah, for real. I haven’t had to put it in the freezer yet, but it could be headed that way.)

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10 hours at school today, folks, TEN. HOURS. This is the closest I have come to blowing off this whole NaBloPoMo thing and not posting. You all can thank my lovely friends @learningmurd and @mllekathleen for keeping me motivated (largely using flattery – it will get you everywhere, it seems.)

I have so many posts in the works to share with you all, and am so grateful you are sticking with me until I get to the good stuff. Tonight, for you, a list of Miss Night’s Coming Attractions:

  • By popular request, in response to my post about behaviour charts: a description of how I manage behaviour in my room, and how I build a climate where kids understand the difference between “fair” and “equal.”
  • A “clasroom hacks” post, where I share the tips and tricks that make my life infinitely easier within the 4 walls of my classroom. I remain unsure whether these things are proof of brilliance or clinical laziness…
  • The scoop on my calendar wall (as seen in the pic from yesterday’s post) and why I did away with the traditional “calendar routine.” You know the one. You’ve done it, too. In the meantime, check out my friend Mardelle’s (aka @learningmurd) post about HER changes to how she “does” calendar in her room.
  • The story of the one and only year I used a behaviour chart in my room. This is a tough one for me, friends. I am not proud of the decisions I made. Please help me remember what my friend Diana always says: “when you know better, you do better.”
  • Another story (you know I love stories, right?) about me, as a first grader, and how I responded to a classroom management system that my teacher had painstakingly devised. (Hint: that look on my face in my profile pic? Pretty sure that look was involved.)
  • A letter to parents of my students — past, present, and future – who may stumble across this blog and be sure what to feel about their child’s teacher airing her dirty laundry for all the world to see.

So you see? I do have so many wonderful things planned for you, so please stick around. If you have particular requests for which of these posts you would like to read first, hit me in the comments!

One more question, just to see if you are still listening: if I were to do an “ask Miss Night” and/or an “Ask Miss Night’s Readers” deal once in a while, where I asked you to submit questions, and then answered them and/or asked you all to share your thoughts in the comments, would you like that? Would you DO it, and ASK QUESTIONS, and COMMENT, and SHARE?

Because I think that would be super-fun.

That is all. It is time for chocolate milk and Chopped, with the chihuahua.


Cash to fill my tank*: choosing the awesome instead of the awful

(Disclaimer, because I know I am blessed with many friends and readers who may be prone to worrying about me needlessly: I am fine. Everyone I love (including my ridiculous dog) is fine. There are no true emergencies involved in anything I am about to say. I am fine, and after writing this I am going to make some iced tea and watch some Big Bang Theory and laugh. EVERYTHING IS OKAY, I PROMISE.)

Hmmm… I don’t know if I have much in me today. It has been an overwhelmingly strange 24 hours in my world. Some amazingly wonderful things have happened (including things that involve this blog!). I have shed tears over something precious that I have lost (it is literally a THING, and I will get over it, but I am still VERY sad right now.) I have rolled my eyes in frustration at busybodies. I went back to school today, and am mired in all the ambivalence that goes with the end of summer. And then, today, a coincidence so goose-bumpy that it puts a lump in my throat. I’m sorry to be cryptic. I promise I will share if and when I can.

If someone were to ask me right now: how was your day? I’m not sure if my answer would be “it was AWESOME,” or “it was AWFUL.” Both would be true. I would rather it be awesome. So, a list of random thoughts and small miracles that may help tip the scales more clearly to the awesome side of things:

  • The cherry tomatoes on my tomato plants are starting to turn red! I grew these plants from seed. I have never grown tomatoes before. This was one big experiment, and I am sort of amazed that I will actually get to eat something that I grew.
  • #Kinderchat resumes tonight, in about 3 hours (7pm MST, 9pm EST). If you don’t know about #kinderchat, check out our Newbies Livebinder, and please come join us. We are the best PLN around.
  • Seeing my boss today made me remember how very much I love working with her. I wish every educator had a boss so committed to children as she is. And everyone in EVERY field should get to have at least one job where their boss is truly a kindred spirit. It changes everything.
  • In my classroom, I have a deep counter than runs the full length of a wall of windows. That counter gets enough sun that I really think I could grow a mini garden there. Problem: it would be too high for the kids to see and enjoy. Readers, do you have any thoughts on how to set it up so kids can “hang out” on the counter safely?
  • I got my class list today. 20 kids, 10 girls, 10 boys. As I wrote about here, almost exactly 2 years ago, having a list of names changes everything. I wish parents knew this: how I fall in love with their children while they are still just names on a piece of paper. With that list, classroom setup goes from “doing a chore” to “preparing a gift.”

I can choose for today to be “strange but awesome” rather than “strange and terrible.” So, I’m choosing. Today was an awesome day. Here’s hoping that tomorrow is equally awesome.

But hopefully less strange.

See you at #Kinderchat!

*Ladies’ Choice, from the Hairspray soundtrack. Because a good showtune helps turn any day around.




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In this classroom…

Over on Pinterest (feel free to follow me there, just click that little red button up at the top of the page!), I’ve seen a lot of beautiful plaques and wall hangings titled “In this family” or “In this house,” You know the ones I mean, like this. Those plaques, combined with some recent twitter conversations, have made me think a lot about what is true for my classroom. What do we DO in there? What do we NOT do?…

This list isn’t as pretty as the ones you find on Pinterest. In fact, if anyone out there wanted to make it pretty and colourful and print-worthy, so I could hang it on my door, I would be more than willing to share it with the world. (Seriously. Hit me in the comments if this is a skill you have at all…). But here it is. THIS is what we DO, in my room.

In this classroom:.

  • We do hugs.

  • We do apologies.

  • We do silly.

  • We do laughter.

  • We do fair, which is not the same as equal.

  • We do “try again.”

  • We do fresh starts.

  • We do second chances.

  • We do recognition and acknowledgment,

  • but we don’t do rewards.

  • We do consequences

  • but not punishment.

  • We do art more than crafts.

  • We do different and unique and individual,

  • so we don’t do worksheets.

  • We do good questions more than right answers.

  • We do glitter.

  • We do recess.

  • We do singing.

  • We do voices when we read books.

  • We do messes.

  • We do cleanup.

  • We do together.

  • We do kindness.

  • We do independence.

  • We do cooperation.

  • We do asking for help.

  • We do self-regulation,

  • so we don’t do behaviour charts.

  • We do hand-holding.

  • We do deep breathing.

  • We do safe.

  • We do brave.

  • We. Do. Love.