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Ready or Not

I’ve been a mix of emotions lately, and they seem to be just mixing more, getting bigger and more unclear.  Some days I think things are all settled and I’m good.  I’m at peace.  She’s ready to move on, the teacher in me knows this.  I see her on the playground leading games, and cracking sarcastic jokes – clearly she’s moving… er has already moved into the next plane of development. She’s barely small enough for the little chairs, and hunches over every day to wash her hands.  I’m sure that little potty is really far down there too.  The little circles are all checked in Montessori Workspace, she’s keeping tabs on everyone and everything, reminding me that we need to get more paper towels, and she noticed two friends fighting on the playground  said, “I think maybe we need to have another Peace Flower lesson before we graduate.”

Graduate. That word hit me like a ton of bricks.  She’s going to be a graduate.  Just breathe that in for a moment.  It means she won’t be part of our class anymore, and that I won’t be her teacher anymore.  It means that her work, and mine (as her teacher) are done.  The mother in me is having a hard time accepting that.  I’m going to miss her smiles, and surprise hugs.  I’m going to miss hearing her belly laugh from far away on the playground.  I’m going to miss staring at her while she works, standing back in awe as she helps little ones like it’s in her genetic code.  I’m going to miss racing her to the front door in the early mornings, and listening to her talk about her day, knowing most of what happened already because I was there too.  But she is ready.  My head knows this, just not my heart yet.

I remember I couldn’t wait for her to start school – she was a spirited toddler, with an unquenchable thirst to learn and I was thrilled that a team of some of the greatest teachers I know were going to punch her in the face with some Montessori.  Not much has changed in four years – our teachers are still some of the greatest that I know, and she is still as spirited as ever.  And that unquenchable thirst for knowledge? It’s still there too.

 

In three short days, she will walk over our bridge, and I will shake her hand and whisper congratulations.  I’m sure there will be tears rolling down my eyes but hopefully they won’t show behind my sunglasses I’ll be wearing because I want her to know that while I feel sad for all the things I’m going to miss about her not being there, I’m extremely proud of her, and feel more lucky than ever to have had the honor of being her teacher.  Ready or not, here she comes.

photo credit: Mary Pantier Photography

Brave

I heard once that being brave doesn’t mean that you aren’t afraid; being brave means doing the very thing you are afraid of. I love this distinction because I think too often we let fear choose our path. We are good at avoiding the uncomfortable, so much so that it limits our growth. Isn’t it almost always the case that when we are in the midst of something hard we are growing in some capacity?  Maybe it’s emotional growth, maybe its social growth, it could even be academic growth. Regardless of what it is, it’s taking in experiences, and allowing yourself to be soft enough so that they mold you just a little bit.

A week ago my daughter wanted to get her ears pierced. This wasn’t a totally new idea, but one that has been coming and going for about a year. I’m not one of those mom’s that has big feelings about young girls having pierced ears – I personally think there are bigger things to fret about. What I do care about is honoring my daughter, while at the same time helping her to find understanding and ownership over this decision.

I could tell that this time when she asked it was different, she was committed. “When can I?” she asked us over and over. We set a date and made a chart – it would be 6 days until the big day. She was excited and giddy at the thought of being able to have earrings of her very own.

Over the course of the week we had conversations about the responsibility of having your ears pierced, making sure to clean her ears well every morning and night. We also talked about how ears get pierced.  I wanted to make sure she understood that there would actually be holes in her ears, and that it would hurt a little bit when they pierced them.  “I know!” she’d say with a smile.

As we filled in earrings on her chart each day and the big day grew closer we started to notice some behavior changes in Darby. She was a little more on edge, and a little more charged each day. It seemed like tiny events would send her into a tailspin. We saw lots of tears and her brain would get stuck.  Making decisions about something as simple as which shoes to wear for the day was nearly an impossible task. We kept asking ourselves, “What’s going on with Darby?” and then it hit us – she’s worried about getting her ears pierced.

This is the thing about young children – heck it’s even the thing with a lot of adults – they don’t often have the ability to put words to their feelings, let alone understand why they feel what they feel or even further know how to navigate them. Darby had been carrying this worry around all by herself and it was getting heavier and heavier each day. This worry was consuming her and we needed to help her work through it.

“Baby girl, I can see you have some big feelings, I notice that you have tears, and your eyebrows are furrowed, and your brain is kinda stuck. Is it sadness your feeling?”

“I don’t know.”

“I have a guess about what may be happening could I share it with you?”

She just nodded her head yes.

“My guess is that you are worried about getting your ears pierced.  I think that it is something you really want but you are afraid of how it will hurt.”

Immediately she burst into tears. I wanted to take all the worry away.  I wanted to just say something that would make it all better, in fact I think that is the natural reaction for most people.  The truth is there wasn’t anything I could say or do that would take it all away.  So I just held her for awhile and we sat in those feelings together.

I reminded her that getting her ears pierced wasn’t something she had to do, that at any moment she could change her mind.  I also realized that she was committed to the idea.  Yes, she was scared, but she wasn’t going to let that feeling get in the way of what she wanted.

“Do you wanna hear about a time when I wanted something so bad but I was also afraid?”

Again, she just nodded her head.

“It was the day you were born.  You were still in my belly and we were at the hospital because you were ready to be come out. Dado was there, and I just started crying. I wanted to hold you in my arms so badly, but I was so afraid that I wasn’t going to know how to be a good mom.”

She looked up at me with her blue teary eyes and giggled, “What?” she asked as if that was the most absurd thing I had ever said. “You were afraid?”

I looked at her, now my eyes filled with tears and said, “Very afraid, but I decided to be brave. Did you know you can be afraid and brave at the same time?”

We hugged for a long while and then she said, “I am scared of getting my ears pierced but I still wanna do it.”

We had to revisit this conversation a few more times until the big day arrived. When it was time she walked into the store like a boss.  She sat in the chair, they marked her ears and when the lady ran to the back to grab her earrings she quickly asked me “But can you hold my hand while they do it?”. My heart skipped a beat. “Absolutely” I said.

 

Thirty seconds later she was holding a mirror admiring her new crystal studs. “It didn’t even hurt!” she whispered.  We walked out of the store holding hands and it was everything I could do not to cry.  I was so proud of her, but not because she didn’t cry, because she didn’t let fear get in the way of something she really wanted. She was brave.

 

Teacher Work Days

We know how it goes, you see “No School – Teacher Work Day” on the calendar and you think, “Aaaack!  Gotta find care for my kids!”  It can be stressful, and they can make for long days for your family and us as well.  So what really goes on during teacher work days?  We thought we’d give you a behind the scenes look and what we do and why.

Every year we are required by the State of Colorado to complete 15 hours of professional development (PD) training.  This is something our licensing inspectors check every year during our inspections, and they are getting pickier and picker about it.  15 hours is not a small chunk of extra time to squeeze in the school year, and finding meaningful PD opportunities can be challenging.   We could meet this requirement though a variety of trainings such as online courses, early childhood conventions, evening continuing ed classes or talks, or outside specialists.  We could complete these hours during our free time, after hours, or on weekends – and some schools require this of their staff.

For a number of reasons we choose to hold three Teacher Work Days a year to fulfill our PD requirement.  Our staff is the heart of our school – and we feel that in order to be able to teach and guide as a team it is imperative that we learn and grow as a team.  Working at school without the children affords us the time to connect as a staff, slow down, reflect, and grow.  This is the time where new ideas are born, and old ways are challenged, and new insights about the children and their learning are uncovered.  And just as everything we do for the children in our classroom has purpose and meaning behind it, the same holds true for our own learning.  We feel it is important to bring in relevant, meaningful and inspiring specialists to help us grow.  It most certainly aids our development as professionals.

In  past years we have refined and re-ignited our Montessori craft with the help of P. Donohue Shortridge.  We learned how to better support the needs of children who are struggling with sensory, speech, focus, or physical development issues.  This year we decided to focus on learning about Brain Gym – how moving with intention leads optimal learning.  We’ve implemented this in our classroom and are seeing some amazing things happen!  Ask your children about brain buttons, or belly breathing!

During teacher work days we also have time to make some new materials for our classroom.  Here are a few we made that the children are already enjoying!

These are some simple addition cards and manipulatives.

This is fraction cutting.

These are emotion cards.

For us Teacher work days are busy and long.  And for you they may cause stress or break the routine.  Our hope is that in the end, all we are learning and doing is trickling down to all the little ones we care for, and if that is happening then we think it is a win for everyone.