Miss Night's Marbles

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

Because you asked: Ways to help THAT kid

Oh, my friends. I don’t think anything has ever been more daunting than writing a follow-up post to THAT kid. I never, ever, in a million years, dreamed of the response to that piece, and I’m still trying to figure out how I go back to writing about my dog

This is not the kind of post I would ever usually write, but I’ve had many comments and e-mails in the last few weeks, asking how you can help me, help THAT kid, help kids in general. I am speechless at your generosity and sincere desire to make a difference for children. So, folks, here are some options: the causes that are closest to my heart, and that, to me, make a real difference in children’s lives, every day.

THAT kid: How you can help

THAT kid: How you can help

Charitable Donations

Coppercreek Camp Memorial Scholarship Fund

Click the logo to visit the donation page.

Many of you know that for many years, I worked at Coppercreek Camp, a family-owned sleepaway camp in northeastern California. While it is not a camp specific to THAT kid, it is a place where THOSE kids typically do very well; many of our most “rockstar” campers and teen leaders were in fact THAT kid when they were home and at school. Camp is where I first fell in love with working with THOSE kids. Coppercreek offers a scholarship fund, designated for local children who would benefit from the camp experience.  I would be so honoured if you would consider donating to that fund. You can find more information here.

Kids Help Phone Walk So Kids Can Talk

Ever since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, I have participated in the annual  BMO Walk So Kids Can Talk: a 5km walk to raise funds for Kids Help Phone. Kids Help Phone is a 24-hour crisis phone line, available to children and youth who need help coping with everything from friendship issues to sexual abuse. It is staffed entirely by trained volunteers, and relies heavily on donations to maintain its services. My fundraising page is here. (Note that, while this is the page for last spring’s walk, you can still make donations. I will update the link as soon as the 2015 event is finalized.)

 

Amazon Affiliate Links

Some of you have also asked how you can help ME, and contribute to my ongoing professional growth and development, as well as to the continuation of THAT kid’s message. Let me first say that your generosity leaves me nearly speechless. How do I possibly respond appropriately? To that end, I have created an Amazon Affiliate account for both Canadian and US Amazon shoppers. It’s really easy: just use one of the links below (or any of the Amazon links on my site) to click through to Amazon, and a small percentage of ANY purchase you make will be added to my account. The funds I raise through Amazon Affiliates will be evenly split between donations to the two charities described above, and my own professional growth endeavours, and I will provide regular updates about the disbursement of the funds.

To shop at Amazon.com, click the banner blow:

To shop at Amazon Canada, click the banner below:

My friends, from the bottom of my overflowing heart: thank you. I am so nervous about posting this, because truly, I am not expecting ANYTHING from you. But, if one of the results of going viral is that more of you might help more kids get programs and support they need, I’m willing to take the risk of you thinking me a sell-out.

I’ll take the risk for THOSE kids, for THESE kids, for OUR kids.

So much love;

Amy

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

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 Comments »

Sneak Preview

Ok friends.

Take a minute, and think about your classroom.

Think about how much you love that space, with all its quirks.

Think about all of the STUFF that is in there.

All the STUFF you use to make the magic happen, day in and day out.

All the THINGS you have carefully curated over your career, to make your life easier and your students’ days brighter.

Think about the happy hours you have spent at bookstores, discount stores, garage sales, Goodwill, finding treasures to stock your room.

Think about the dollars you have spent, out of your own pocket, to equip that room.

Think about how much you CARE, about that space. How proud you are of it. Even though we all know that stuff is just STUFF, and things are just THINGS, and a room is just A ROOM, the spaces, the stuff… are precious to us. They are to me.

Now imagine that a river rose and came through that room, and that all your stuff – all your toys and tools and treasures – gone. Wet and moldy and disintegrating. Unsafe and unsanitary for you and your students.

Take a minute and think about that. Think about the water coming in, through the doors and windows. Think about the chore of cleaning up, and starting over…

Think about that, for a little while. Share this post with all the teachers you know, and ask them to think about it, too. Because I have a project up my sleeve, and I’m going to need your help…

More, soon, I promise.

xo

Amy

 

4 Comments »

Everything you ever wanted to know about kindergarten life…

Note: this post has been reblogged in it’s entirety from The Kinderchat Blog, where I posted it just a few short minutes ago. Posting it here, too, to help spread the word, because this project is only as good as the quantity of people who participate… So, read, click, complete the survey, and spread the word! I have a feeling this is going to be pretty fun…

Admit it. You do it, too.

You wonder:

  • Do other teachers have to teach this?
  • How much prep do other districts get?
  • Have other kindergarten children had their recess time stolen away?
  • Is anyone else teaching their own PE every week?
  • Does ANYONE get art from an art specialist anymore?
  • What is kindergarten like in other countries?
My friends, WE WONDER, TOO!
So, we did something about it. Our mission: to collect data points, about everything from class size to prep time to reading instruction, from as many teachers-of-five-year-olds as we can find, all over the world.
The survey is intended only for classroom teachers (not administrators, instructional aides, specialists, parents, or consultants) of children who are 5 (or very close to 5) years old at the beginning of the school year. If you are NOT a classroom teacher of children this age, you can still help by skipping directly to step 2, below.
Your job:
1: Click the link below, and answer the survey. We estimate it will take about 10-20 minutes, and there are NO essay questions! You may want a calculator, because we do ask things like: “How many minutes a week do you teach?”
HERE IS THE LINK TO THE ULTIMATE #KINDERCHAT SURVEY
2: Spread the word. Please tweet, facebook, pin, blog, e-mail, fax, snail-mail, skywrite, crayon, the link to EVERY SINGLE TEACHER YOU KNOW who teaches 5 year olds. They do not need to be on Twitter to participate. They do not need to share any information more specific than their country. They just need to spend 10 minutes answering the questions, and then continue to spread the word.
When you complete the form, you will get a link to see the results. Bookmark that page, because we have a feeling the results are going to get pretty darn interesting as we get more and more responses.
You need the link again? OK, HERE IT IS.
From the bottom of our geeky, curious, nosy little hearts: Thank you.
Oh, wait, if we want this to be Pinterest-friendly, we need an image, don’t we?
Okay, here you go, It’s like data, done with crayons. Perfect.
What’s that, you need the link again? Ok, CLICK HERE.
With so much love;
Amy & Heidi
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