Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Unexpected Yes

Friday night my husband Mike walked into the room and said he had something to talk to me about. Our family had been thinking about doing a beach trip in a few weeks, but he had discovered that the weather would be rainy the week planned. He had just found a great deal for the beach, but it would mean we needed to leave early in the morning.

Now in the past hearing this news I would have thought of every single possible issue with leaving right away such as the doctor appointments, the activities planned, and things I was in charge of for that week at church, but my immediate response was, YES.

I knew this was an opportunity that came knocking and the door needed to be opened right away. So we quickly packed and got the car ready. At 5AM we put the girls in their car seats. We then took off to St. Simons beach and by 10:30 am we had our feet in the sand.

During this trip I witnessed our girls overcome their fear of water, jumping in and splashing with joy. I saw my husband’s playful spirit, making sandcastles with our little ones. I was overjoyed to be a part of many giggles which will remain in my heart for years to come.

What would have happened if I did not say, Yes.

I know. The experience would have been lost.

In the classroom we are taught to be planned for everything. We do lesson plans each week, we plan for ways to improve our students learning, and we plan and attend meetings. At times this becomes who we are, planned.

This year I discovered that saying Yes helped me not only become a better teacher, but a better person.

My students this year had many passions that they brought into the classroom. I had one student, Willow who loves kites. Each day we have a time called Team Build where students can build and play. Willow made a kite during Team Build and brought it outside with her to fly. As we were on the sidewalk together, one of the students, said “I wish we could make kites.”

I thought about it…why not? We were doing measurement. I thought couldn’t they make kites and add runners to learn the difference between short and long, couldn’t we make kites and measure our longest strand with different objects and rulers? Couldn’t we go fly the kites and see whose kite goes the highest?

So we did!

I scratched the measurement lesson I had previously planned. I had Willow share her kite and how she made it. I played a video clip from YouTube (Thank You YouTube for existing!), and the students made kites. This ended up being a two-day lesson because the kids were so motivated to make their kite their personal best. The kids loved learning about kites, making them, measuring them, and of course flying them! One fourth grade classroom even used the kite lesson to study about angles. It was my husband’s class, but hey it was a class.

Watching my students fly those kites made a Yes, stamp on my heart. I started thinking about other ways I could say Yes to my students. Then I came across a book, Instant Relevance by Denis Sheeran @MathDenisNJ. This book tells about how educators can make learning more relevant to their students and how we can bring student interest into our lessons. This book gave me the affirmation I needed to continue to look for ways to make learning come alive in my classroom.
In order to be the best version of ourselves we have to take those opportunities that come up in our classrooms and say, “Yes!” Even when they don’t fit the plan we made for that day. Those spur of the moment lessons can make the biggest impact on our students and sometimes the biggest impact on our own hearts.

In my life and in my classroom I am going to continue to look for ways to say Yes. I am going to continue to plan, but I am also going to be ready to scratch that plan at any time to go with something unexpected. I have found it is often in the unexpected that learning truly unfolds. It is where we receive so many gifts we would not have received if we spent too much time asking How.

Let’s look inside ourselves and see where we can say Yes, so we can create experiences for our students that will stay with them for many years to come. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Our Greatest Purpose

One of the most important things I have found as an educator is purpose. This year I wrote a mission statement and a vision for my classroom. I posted it clearly in the room, so each day I could review my true purpose.

Each morning when I wake up I think about my purpose for the day.
 I have this intentional feeling I cannot fully explain. It is the feeling that today I will make an impact in the world whether it be small or large.I know I'm here for a reason and that my purpose is greater than any challenges I may face.

My purpose is to be the most impactful teacher I can be, to show all students they matter, and to help my students shine. My goal is to be a school teacher, not just a class teacher (George Couros).
Knowing this purpose has helped me break through all the distractions that come in a school day, a week, or even a school year.

My purpose has also given me the courage to be different. In the past it bothered me greatly to break the status quo. I wanted to be comfortable in every setting, but especially with the staff around me. It was important to me what others thought of me and it was very important to not stand out. I didn’t want others to think I was too far out of the box or trying to outshine them.

I had witnessed firsthand teachers who went against the grain. Teachers who were fully in for students. These teachers had an air of confidence that I had deep respect for, but they also seemed to walk down a narrow road that most would not dare take.

The road that leads to great change over time.

I now realize through the push of my purpose that no matter what anyone thinks of me, my main focus HAS to be on what is best for my students. This year I have truly learned that in order to be the best version of myself and help my students reach their highest potential I have to let go of the feelings of self-doubt, fear, and self-consciousness.

My purpose will always be to be an impactful educator who makes a difference every day in the lives of students.

I am ready to face this new year letting go of what others think, letting go of any distractions that may come my way, and facing each day with a hope that I will show a child that they matter. That they matter to our classroom, that they matter to this world, and that they matter to me.

I know there will be days that I am challenged and many days I have to reset my focus, but I will continue to review my purpose each morning, letting go of what does not matter, but holding on to what matters most, My students. 

Always…my students.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Thank You To My Students

    On the last day of school I held my student's hands as we walked out together to the buses. One little girl kissed my hand as I walked her to her bus. Before I could first tell her, she beat me to it and said, "I love you Mrs. Stanton." I told her I loved her and gave her a kiss on the top of her head. I gave all my students one last hug and told them I would see them very soon. Along with the other teachers including my husband we walked out to the road to wave goodbye to all the students as they left for the year. As the last bus drove past I could feel my heart sink. My husband and I walked back into the school together both holding the same feeling. We knew that the summer would bring much fun and love with our own family, but we both struggled to let go of THIS family. A family that was created at school with a beautiful team behind them.

    This year was an unbelievable year of growth, love, and learning. The last week of school was bitter sweet as my class and I enjoyed each other through many games, songs, and quality time. There are so many people I am thankful for this year for helping me make it such a memorable one, but one group I must not forget to thank is my students. 

    Our students work so hard each year to strive to be the best version of themselves. I have been given a gift of watching them grow in just 180 schools days. All my students have come out of this year being more empathetic, curious, joyful, confident, and more uniquely themselves. They know in our class we embrace the treasure of each person's true personality.

    Each year I write a personal letter to my class to thank them for being who they are....the best students I could ever ask for. Here is my letter to my class this year. This class will always hold a special place in my heart. 

To My Kindergarten Class,                                                       May 24, 2017

I first want to thank all of you for giving me such a wonderful year in kindergarten. I loved every minute of teaching you and learning from you. You are the kindest and most empathetic class I have EVER had in my 12 years of teaching.

I just wanted to thank you all for being such an outstanding group of students! You filled this year with so much joy and every day felt like the best day of the year. You’ve made each day fun and it was always exciting to come to work to see you. In fact, you made this year feel like it wasn’t even a job.

I appreciate how caring and kind you always were especially to the other kindergarten students, the cafeteria staff, Dorina our custodian, Mr. Day and his family, and Charlie. You truly have hearts of gold. 

Each day you have made me want to be a better person. You have made me reflect daily on how I can have big hearts just like you. You make everyone feel that they matter. You make everyone around you smile. And you make Mulberry a better place just by being you.

Please stay in touch with me over the years and let me know if there is ever anything you need. I will ALWAYS be there to listen, I will ALWAYS be there for a hug, and I will ALWAYS be one of your champions.

I will miss each and every one of you over the summer, but I know that I will get to see your smiling faces at Pizza in the Park, registration day, and the first day of school. Oh, how proud I will be to see you as a first grader. You are all ready for first grade and you will do wonderful! Remember to be YOU and shine out that light for all to see! It is that light inside you that brings so much joy to others. 

You will ALWAYS be the class that has a special place in my heart. I love you dearly and it has been an honor to be called your teacher.

Love You Forever,
Mrs. Stanton