Miss Night's Marbles

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

Miss Night Mutters. Literally.

First: WOW.

My last post, from just a few days ago —  Dear Parent: About THAT Kid… — has gone viral. 1.3 million hits and counting. It has been featured on the Washington Post education blog, and will soon appear on a few other sites, as well. I’m sharing this, not to blow my own horn, but rather, to THANK all of you, who helped that happen. For a blizzard of reasons, that post has hit a nerve. I am so honoured and touched by the stories that have been shared in the comments, and by the personal e-mails so many of you have sent me. Thank you so much for sharing your stories, for connecting with me and one another, and for spreading that post the full length and breadth of social media in all its forms. Wow. You guys are amazing. A million readers, and all through “organic spread” (which means, I have learned, that there was no paid promotion of the piece). Just you all, spreading it via digital word of mouth. Do you know how awesome that is?

Part of the attention that the post has drawn came in the form of a radio interview that I did today, and while it makes me feel a little bit naked-on-the-internet to share my full real name and school here (where I have always been semi-anonymous), I wanted to share it with you. The host asks some questions that have come up in many of the comments on the blog, and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to answer them.

 

Miss Night Mutters. Literally.

So, there you have it: my ACTUAL voice, amplifying our collective voice, about being kind, fair, respectful, and compassionate to ALL the children and families in our care.

Thank you guys.  SO MUCH.

And, coming soon, by your request: a follow-up Dear Parent letter, about how teachers are looking after YOUR child in the classroom, when YOUR child is not THAT child.

Love and so many blessings, friends. You amaze me.

xo

Miss Night

 

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Chewing on the fish out of water…

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?)

Polka Dot Owl

Polka Dot Owl. Alas, no chevron available.

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…

 

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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.

VegasPool

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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2013 in pictures…

So, if I’m going to CREATE the #kinderchat post-a-day blogging challenge, I guess I better participate, too, right?!

2013 in pictures… Here you go.

(All photos property of MissNightMutters.com, all rights reserved.)

 

 

 

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The stars in the bright sky…

I love Christmas.

More precisely, I love the Christmas story.

A story about a baby, laying in a manger, surrounded by animals, visited by shepherds and kings.

I love the story, and I love all the side-stories that have sprung up around it. The animals talking at midnight. The Little Drummer Boy.

 

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I do not consider myself a religious person, but I love that story.

I’ve always loved the nativity stories better than the Santa stories. A few years ago, I realized that I had inadvertently started collecting books telling different versions of the story. I own no less than 4 nativity sets. The opening words of the second chapter of the Book of Luke: “And it came to pass…” give me goosebumps.  Even as a little girl, I preferred Away in a Manger to Jingle Bells.

To me, the story of a baby, born in a barn/a stable/a cave, lain in a manger, kept warm by the breath of the animals, bathed in the light of a star, was/is/has always been as magical as any story about flying reindeer or elves on shelves.

I don’t know if it’s true, if it’s based in truth, if it’s a parable, a fable, or simply… a story.

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It honestly doesn’t matter to me. I’m not sure it matters AT ALL.

The thing is this: it is a story, about a baby. A BABY. And, whatever you believe, that story — fact or fiction, myth or metaphor — changed the world.

A STORY ABOUT A BABY CHANGED THE WHOLE WORLD.

And so, my dear friends, no matter how you celebrate or ignore that story; whether you have Baby Jesus or Santa or Rudolph or Dominic the Christmas Donkey; whether you do midnight mass or sleep till noon; whether it is turkey or prime rib, or Chinese food on your table; whether you surround yourself with loved ones or hide out by yourself; whether you have the week off or you volunteer to work; whether you drop thousands of dollars or don’t spend a cent; whether you go to your mom’s or go to the movies…

May it be silent, whatever silent means to you.

May it be holy, whatever holy means to you.

May it be calm, may it be bright.

May it be happy.

May it be merry.

 

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