Have you ever tried to wash and wax your kitchen floor in 90-degree heat? Most logically-thinking people would say, “Of course not! The floor will never dry!” Most people wait for cooler temperatures to wash and wax floors, since high temperatures directly impact how easily and quickly the task can be done.
And yet, that’s what our faithful custodians in my school must do every summer. The teachers pack up as much of their classroom materials as possible in June, storing things in cabinets, closets and cubbies. The custodians then remove all the furniture and any supplies and materials that didn’t fit in the classroom storage areas to the hallway. The floors are then washed and waxed, then the room is reassembled according to a map left by the teacher. Once all the rooms are done in the wing, then the hallways are done. It’s an exhausting, heat-infused, time consuming job. One wing in our building has at minimum 10 rooms. Multiply that by 4 wings…it’s a lot of work.
This year, we had both summer school and a preschool program running in our building, which impacted when the custodians could do their yearly summer routine. Since our summer school and pre-k programs weren’t completed until August 12th, it left only two and a half weeks for the custodians to get their work done, as our new earlier start date this year is August 29th. The classrooms in the wing that was slated for summer school were washed and waxed prior to summer school starting, but that still left the hallway to be done as well many classrooms left untouched until the Pre-k program let out.
When I went in on the one day in August that the school was open to start working in my classroom, (Yes, teachers DO work in their classrooms over the summer to get ready for their new scholars!) the three custodians were busy all over the building. One was waxing the upper floor in my hallway, and the other two were in another section of the building, unloading classrooms and beginning to wash and wax those floors. It’s a thankless job made more stressful by the fact that school is set to open in two weeks.
This madness got me thinking of a few solutions to make their job a little more bearable in 90-degree temperatures with no air conditioning and possibly make the summer cleaning schedule a little more productive.
Start school after Labor Day if summer school and other programs must run through mid-August in school buildings. The extra few weeks will give the custodians ample time to do their work without having the pressure of school starting at the end of August.
Hold summer school in a different town building, like a Recreation Department or Community Center, freeing up the school buildings for custodians to use the months of June through August to work and get the schools ready for another school year.
Set up a schedule for all custodians to rotate through all the schools over the summer, helping to move all the furniture and clean the classrooms and hallways in each building, so there are more people to assist at each school and get the buildings ready sooner. A team of three custodians in each wing for a week could get more done than merely 3 per building. Many hands make light work, right?
I intend to send an email to our Superintendent about this issue once school starts. My hope is that those who make the school calendar for next year take into account the hard work of the custodians over the summer months, especially those who have to work around summer school and other educational programs. Without them and their efforts, we wouldn’t have the sparkling windows, doors, and floors that greet the children and staff every year.
What type of job do you have? Can you just leave your office at the end of the year, or do you have to pack up and set up each work year?
I wrote this letter back in 2014, and with a new school year approaching, I felt the urge to post it here on my blog. To all parents: we teachers support your children’s learning every day, even in the face of mandates that seem out of reach. And to all teachers: I salute you in the job that you do every day, in the face of seen and unseen hardships.
I wish every one a safe, fun, and positive school year!
March 8, 2014
Governor Dannel Malloy
210 Capitol Avenue
Hartford CT 06106
Dear Governor Malloy:
I could never be a true leader. True leaders have a very difficult job—balancing the needs of the masses while holding onto your own ideals and values. Listening to every side to make informed decisions that will propel people forward to greatness. Anticipating problems before they occur, so that final decisions don’t cause larger problems. And all the while addressing current issues with the understanding that future ones will undoubtedly occur and shift any number of outcomes.
I say I could never be a true leader, but in a sense, I guess I am. I am a teacher. I have been a Kindergarten teacher for 15 years now; over the years, I have learned the value of listening to the other side while using what I know as a teacher to bring out the best in my students and families. I try to engage my four, five, and six year old students as best I can, taking into account their needs and experiences while implementing state and national mandates that come from non-educators, which now tell me what I must do to be a “highly effective” teacher. I follow these mandates, while sometimes negating my own personal beliefs, values, and expertise on child development, because I enjoy these children. Sadly, if I want to keep my job, I must follow these mandates even when I can see daily in my classroom that they clearly do not represent the best learning for how a four, five or six year old mind works, feels, or explores their world.
No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and now Common Core, all ideally look wonderful on paper, but when you are a classroom teacher and must implement them, these mandates do not take into account a student’s educational background, a school system’s economic difficulties, family dynamics, or past and future developmental milestones, which all clearly impact how and when a student learns best. I feel these initiatives at heart, may seem very logical, but in practice, are very foolhardy and do not adequately allow teachers to do their jobs using the years of expertise, knowledge, and maturity that they so readily and want to use on daily basis, but are hindered by laws like Common Core.
I would venture to guess that a child born in 1947 is not that biologically different than one that was born in 1970, or even 2014. Every infant, toddler, preschooler and Kindergartener still needs to pass through specific social, emotional, and physical developmental milestones in order for him/her to be able to access academics in a meaningful and appropriate way. When we try to speed up this natural process by teaching abstract topics like sight words or metacognitive skills, the end goal of engaged, inquisitive students doesn’t justify the means, and we are only asking for more frustrated teachers, students, and parents. I feel like these initiatives are akin to giving a 13-year-old child a set of car keys and saying, “Go drive on I-95 and then switch to I-91 in Hartford”. Any rational parent would never do such a thing, realizing that the outcome will be deadly. The child has certainly may have had a good deal experience in a car, but experience as a passenger is very different than experience behind the wheel, when coupled with maturity and solid age-appropriate teaching.
But my words are probably not what you want to hear. Let me share what one of my Kindergarteners wrote to illustrate my point. We use a Writer’s Workshop model, which teaches the fundamentals of writing—spaces, punctuation, capitalization, and formats of writing, within a child’s developmental level. Appropriate trade book texts are used as models for the students, and they truly enjoy writing because of the format and model of instruction.
Our past unit was about “How To” writing. I modeled “How To Be A Kindergartener”—use listening ears, use kind words, do your best, and clean up.
One of my students also decided to write on the same topic, but his slant was very different:
Step 1: Work! Work! Work! Work
Step 2. Learn! Learn! Learn! And Learn!
Step 3: Write! Write! Write! And Write!
Step 4: Don’t make silly faces.
I have enclosed a color copy for your review, and on the surface, this is a fabulous piece. He included all the facets of a how to piece, his illustrations were perfectly aligned with his text, and he used the conventions of writing that have been vigorously taught: capital letters, spaces, sight words, and punctuation marks. And yet, its underlying message is also very sad. The fun has been taken out of Kindergarten—highlighted by all four lines of his text. And step four says it all: no silliness for five year olds is allowed in school.
Kindergarten used to be just that: a garden for young children to grow and blossom. In the past, children learned how to socialize, solve problems, and respect both teachers and peers. Now, we are so focused on teaching academics, –racing to the top at the cost of the students’ emotional and social growth– that these natural developmental stages are being pushed further and further away from core curriculum. And the trickle up effect of all of this is that EVERY GRADE is not an appropriate grade level. Students from Kindergarten up to 12th grade are now expected to work well out of their grade level just to be “on grade level”.
In the future, I am sure we will see many more elementary children, teens and adults with social problems, anxiety, and increased stress levels because we as a educational society are not adequately addressing their needs at the right time in their education. Instead, we are force-feeding academics at the expense of their social and emotional well-being.
Please keep this student in mind the next time you meet to discuss education reform. He is one of many who are feeling the negative effects of the current legislation, but thankfully he will only be a Kindergarten student once in his lifetime.
I worked for kids. I was a vibrant Kindergarten teacher for 16 years. I loved creating my own puppets and lessons, and I had a loyal following every year! My students and colleagues loved a puppet that I created out of a wooden fork from the dollar store. I used him daily to teach sight words, and on Fridays, I’d invite the whole Kindergarten and special education classes to my classroom for a “show”. It was funny and silly and sometimes off the cuff, but none-the-less, it was a great way for my little scholars to learn abstract words like ‘here’ and ‘will’. They loved these lessons, and I would try to improve on my lessons each week with various props, songs, and little stickers to give to the children. Even the adults would get into the act. One of the paraprofessionals gave me different seasonal-themed bow ties to put on my puppet friend, which I still have and use each year. My principal wanted to create a theme song for him. And I loved every minute of it.
Now, I work for Lyme. I took a leave of absence from my teaching job this past January, becoming my own Lyme doctor, working towards better health. I read books and articles written about Lyme by doctors, researchers, and victims. I search blogs and websites, trying to find any new information that can assist me. I cross-check any healing therapy that seems to be too easy or too good to be true with a friend who has been a Lyme warrior for many, many years. I create my own recipes because my system is so fragile and can’t digest even the smallest amount of carbohydrates without feeling like I’ve gotten stung by bees. I limit going out to eat since I don’t have access to the foods I can eat or the 40 oz. or more of liquid I need to drink. I record and track my food, water and supplement intake each day, as well as check my blood sugar to ward off diabetes. I listen to advice from all sorts of people who are either suffering themselves or know of Lyme victims and have information to share.
I have numerous appointments with my primary doctor, naturopaths, and up until recently, my dietician. I am always on the look out for other avenues to help me, obscure or ‘out there’ as they may be. Lyme is a smart body terrorist, so I need to be smarter to beat it. It morphs and changes and knows when you are on antibiotics, hiding in your joints and muscles, waiting for you to show your weakness so it can attack with pain, fatigue, and loss of concentration and focus. It causes multiple levels of damage to your body and brain. Everyone’s chemistry is different, so everyone’s reaction to Lyme also differs. I have to work to be sure that I keep my stamina up and reactions under control while fighting Lyme every day.
I write about my experiences as a therapy but also as a way to help others. I ‘post’ and ‘follow’ on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress. I seek out ways to help the Lyme community by sharing my own experiences to educate and inform those who are misinformed, misdiagnosed, or both.
Working for Lyme has led me down very different paths to wellness. My most recent experience has informed me about Ellie Lobel and Bee Venom therapy (BVT), which is pretty ironic, considering that is how I describe how I feel when anyone asks what my inflammation feels like! She was a scientist before being bit by a tick when she was 27. A chronic Lyme sufferer for 15 years, she was in complete organ failure and was on the road to her death. She had moved out to California, and had unexpectedly been stung repeatedly by a swarm of bees, which turned her whole immune system around. You can read more about her story here:
She now travels around the country, educating people on using bee venom from live bees to combat Lyme disease.
This seems like a ‘too good to be true’ type of solution, and yet, if it worked for Ellie after 15 years of living with the ravages of Lyme disease, could it work for me? And what would my results be after having only been dealing with Lyme for almost a year versus her 15 years? Would my results be quicker, or would I have an adverse reaction to the venom?
According to Ellie, you need to start a detox process prior to starting actual stinging, which outlines on her Facebook page. Additionally, you need to have an EPI pen and Benadryl available at each stinging session, just in case. Her method is very controlled and specific, which is in an effort to both kill the Lyme as well as limit the herxing reaction that will come afterwards as the venom works its way into your system. If you are unsure how you will react to the bee stings, you do a test sting first. After the initial test sting, you add one more, and then you increase the stinging by two’s, slowly adding two additional bee stings over time, so you are up to ten stings in one sitting. OUCH! Depending on your herx, you may stay at only two stings for several weeks. You only add more stings as you feel you are ready. And you continue to use your detox protocol in addition to the stinging routine. Since this is a controlled method for killing bacteria, you sting 3x a week, which allows you the weekend to also detox and recoup. Stinging is also very specific on your body: one inch on each side of your spinal column, spaced out up and down, to allow the venom to travel through the nerves to your extremities.
Many people across the country and the globe have experienced success with BVT for centuries, and for a variety of illnesses. And yet, I am torn with trying this method, because I know that with every plus, there is a minus. On the one wing, if I can contract an illness by an insect, why can’t I utilize another insect’s natural body chemistry to combat it? Makes sense, right? But then I on the other wing: what if BVT doesn’t work for me? I want to know about any anomalies in BVT and Lyme disease before I get involved with the whole process. With my luck, I’d be the one person who doesn’t take well to BVT and have an adverse reaction that won’t let me live to tell about it.
I am still working for Lyme, and I have found that my work with my diet and whole food supplements have started to change my immune system. I have more energy, my brain fog is slowly lifting, and my nails are no longer thin and brittle. Perhaps a little more work with the bee venom will set my immune system completely straight. Or perhaps it’ll set me back another six months! I still want to research it a bit more before I buzz into the BVT hive.
Have you utilized BVT to treat a chronic illness? What have you experienced?
Do you feel like a tourist, making many stops along the way, but not getting anywhere?
Read on to learn how to have a successful Lyme adventure!
Foods To Help You Heal
Each person’s Lyme adventure is different, since Lyme affects body chemistry differently. HOWEVER, one constant with Lyme is that it LOVES SUGAR! Who doesn’t, right?So, your number one job is to eliminate as much sugar from your diet as you can. The sooner you do this, the better for your body and cells to heal!
Below are some foods that may help you feel better and will help your cells to rejuvenate:
Organic proteins like chicken, pork, and turkey (5 oz or more per large meal to help maintain energy levels)
Organic liver and organ meats
Leafy greens like kale and spinach
Green Tea (brewed at home, not purchased with artificial sweeteners)
Green vegetables like cucumbers, asparagus, and broccoli
FOODS THAT MAY EXACERBATE SYMPTOMS:
Carbohydrates (bread, crackers, desserts, cereal)
Fruits (Lemon is a fruit! Be careful adding this to your water to detox–it may not help you feel better!)
Nightshade vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers
Nuts and seeds (and their “cousins”, like nut flours)
Eggs (organic eggs may also cause a problem, so watch how you react after consuming)
Artificial sweeteners like those found in Gatorade, Vitamin Water and Seltzers
An important note about Gluten:
Many people are advised to eat ‘gluten-free’ when they are diagnosed with Lyme. But I caution you. Instead, become a label reader and compare the carbohydrates in gluten-free products like bread, chips, and crackers to wheat made ones. What do you notice? Exactly. They are pretty much the same in terms of carbohydrate content. So skip the gluten-free processed products because it will only make the Lyme bugs happy to have sugar in your system, and your inflammation worse.
What’s Your Pain Index Today?
Each day is a new adventure in pain! Realize that your pain levels can be directly linked to the food you eat, so document what you eat and drink each day. Document how you feel on a 1 -10 pain scale. After a few days, you should start to see patterns emerge as to what foods your body likes or doesn’t like.
Make sure the supplements you are taking are ‘whole food’ supplements and not synthetically made ones. Your body needs all the whole food it can get, and if you are adding toxic chemicals to your already compromised system, you can be wasting valuable healing time.
A tip about taking all those supplements: Use a Sharpie to label the bottle cap with the number of pills and how many times you need to take it each day. It will make refilling your weekly pill-box that much easier!
Fluids are Good!
Be sure to keep all those whole food supplements flowing through your body. Get yourself a 20 oz container to refill throughout the day. You should be drinking up to 90 oz or more a day! It seems like a lot, but if you keep that water bottle with you, you will find that you can easily drink between 32-40 oz per meal….that gets you very close to or even over 100 oz just on meals alone! Drinking in between meals only adds to your daily totals. So get yourself some 20 oz refillable bottles and starting drinking!
The Lyme Bible
Having Lyme is truly an adventure! Below are the steps to help you create your own Lyme Bible that grows along with you as you trek along the winding roads of Lyme disease.
Get yourself a 3 inch binder in the color of your choice—green perhaps?
Put in pocket sleeves, at least 6 to start. Different colors for each practitioner can help you stay organized.
Put a post-it note on the front of each pocket with the name, address, phone number and fax number of the doctor or practitioner.
Each time you go to a doctor, take a notebook and write down all pertinent information. Date and label the page and be sure to note the follow-up appointment in your notes as well. Add your notes to the corresponding pocket at home. (You may want to invest in a large, fashionable tote bag instead of a purse so you can carry your Bible and notebook more easily to appointments.)
Add pockets as needed for blood work results, MRI scans, food charts, or whatever information you feel will be important to remember on your journey through Lyme.
Create a working document that lists your medical history prior to and including Lyme. Note any physical, mental, and emotional changes as you go through your healing process. Update this chart monthly so you can see positive or negative changes along the way. Share information with your practitioners so adjustments can be made if needed.
ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!
Your best way to confront Lyme is by thinking like Watty Piper’s Little Engine …I think I can…I think I can…I think I can….
Being positive, even angry some days, will get you farther in your treatment then sitting back and ‘waiting’ for things to change.
Look for new ways to heal. Read, research, and revise your thinking. If a method of healing sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so double-check any quick heal claims with reputable clinicians and practitioners. The only way you will get better is by putting in the effort to learn and find what works for you!
Surprise! Medical Doctors Don’t Have All The Answers
In your Lyme adventure, realize that you will be making many stops along the way to wellness to take in the sights and scenery, mostly found in doctors’ offices. And yet, once there, you may slam into bumps that slow you down. You may decide to make appointments with various medical doctors, only to discover that they listen to only one symptom, and in turn, misdiagnose you. You may receive a diagnosis like “eat right and exercise”, that won’t give you the guidance you need to heal. And you may find that those with an MD after their name aren’t the ones who can really help.
LLMD’s are very good at their treatments, but they can be costly and not very timely for you in scheduling appointments. This author heard of an LLMD about an hour away from her home, but needed to wait 6 months in order to see him! Not wanting to wait that long for her symptoms to become even more debilitating than they already were, she researched a naturopath, a dietician, and a later on in her healing, a holistic practitioner. While this is not the conventional route to healing, she found that those without an MD after their names actually were willing to take the time to work with her and help her begin the healing process. Instead of being laid up in bed or in a hospital, six months later, she is working in her garden, reading for a half an hour or more at a time, and genuinely being able to get through her summer days without requiring to rest every few hours. Every person has their own path to follow, but be assured that it may not be the one you have been taught to follow all of your life! Be willing to try new treatments and protocols. Your body will thank you!
BRAIN FOG SLOWING YOU DOWN?
TRY THESE 5 TRICKS TO KEEP YOUR SANITY WHILE YOU HEAL!
STAY IN ONE PLACE AND COMPLETE THE TASK AT HAND. Zipping around the house like a squirrel running up a tree leaves too many little jobs to finish!
USE POST IT NOTES to remind you to do simple jobs like switch the laundry. Put these in high-traffic areas that you will see.
TAPE INVITATIONS RIGHT ON THE CALENDAR after you write the information down.
ORDER GROCERIES ONLINE. Many stores save your lists, so review your last week’s order before adding new items.
EAT LOTS OF LEAFY GREENS!Kale has many nutrients in it that help rejuvenate cells, especially those foggy brain cells! Create your own ways to eat kale in salads, eggs, and meat dishes. (I don’t recommend Kale brownies, however…)
I hope you enjoyed this guide to Lyme and tricks to healing.
Remember: your attitude is everything and will determine how quickly you heal!
As a Kindergarten teacher, my job and my students’ interests really made me aware of gender roles, biases, and stereotypes that children are blatantly and inadvertently exposed to from the minute they are born. I had boy scholars who liked pink and dressing up in a Dorothy/ Wizard of Oz dress in the house corner. And girl scholars who liked building with blocks and zooming cars in the car center.
We all fall victim to the pink/blue stereotype at one point or another in our lives. When we hear of an expectant mother, we get all giddy and bubbly, rushing out to buy pink clothes for girls, blue ones for boys. We decorate our kids’ rooms in sex-delineated colors or other gender conforming details like flowers or race cars or Disney princesses. It’s a big marketing scheme by Babies R Us and every other American family friendly company, because babies are naturally cuddly and lovely. Why wouldn’t we want all pastels and police cars to subliminally point out the ‘correct’ way to be a girtl or a boy, while our children are sleeping, living, and growing up in that bedroom? But the question I pose is: why do we?
When I became pregnant, I purposely found out we were having a girl for several reasons. One, I really wanted to know right away. Two, we had a large extended family on both sides, and I just thought it would be easier for people to know what sex to buy for when making purchases. And three: it made it easier to decorate her bedroom. Which, by the way, we painted YELLOW… and did a farm theme. Not very girly, I know.
I am not a fancy Crate and Barrel “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” type of Mom. I’m more like a “pink and blue is for everyone” type of Mom. I’m the mom who tried early on to expose my daughter to all kinds of great things for both “boys” and “girls”. I didn’t want my daughter to be pegged as a “girl”, but rather as a person who accepts and enjoys all things, regardless if our society labels things for “boys” or “girls”. As far as I can see, it’s working. And I’m proud of that fact.
I sang Carole King and patriotic songs to my daughter as a baby. Her first book that she ever really loved on her own before she was even a year old was a Blues Clues book. She still loves the color blue to this day. We read books and sand songs every day. Stories like Big Blue Truck, Goodnight Moon, Peter Rabbit, and George and Martha were commonplace and enjoyed multiple times. As she got older, she loved the Greek Myths, and more recently, she enjoys Nancy Drew, Heidi Hecklebeck, and Judy Moody, and this summer, we are reading Harry Potter together.
As a toddler, she played with dinosaurs (given to us by her aunt who raised two boys) and blocks as well as baby dolls and all of their accessories. She still has a bazillion stuffed animals that she sleeps with at night, including her Layla and her taggy blanket , which she received in the early months of her life.
When she was in preschool, a co-worker of mine was getting rid of an old McDonald’s play stand, complete with an apron, a pretend headset, and food. She LOVED to dress up and take our orders, writing things down and fixing the trays of food. She played that game for years, and especially when family members came over! It was a joy to see her take control and transform into Diana or Melissa. Her best friend at the time was a boy, and yet, she still enjoyed painting at the easel and dressing up in the house corner at school, which we typically think as “girl” activities. And her favorite television show at the time? Caillou, the one about the whiney bald boy who had to learn life lessons like sharing and being kind to friends. Yep. We sat through hours of that annoying show.
My husband would teach her “boy” things, like soccer and football. When she turned 8, we got her a basketball hoop that we put together after 4 hours of frustration. Her favorite outfits continue to be yoga pants and sneakers with a little sweat jacket for the winter and lined sport shorts and tank tops for the summer. She does like to get dolled up and have her nails done for special occasions or holidays, but she often sides with comfort instead of “looking pretty” for every day activities. I try to encourage wearing leggings and a cute skirt to school, or make requests to do her hair, longing for the days when she was younger and I could put her in cute little dresses and a hair clip, making her curls cascade on either side of her face. She refuses to be prettied up by me, adamant that a quick pony tail with not all the hair neatly combed in place is just fine. She is independent and confident in herself that she doesn’t need to showcase herself as ‘pretty’ every day to be happy. A clear defiant message both to me and the media, who finger point the way for women and girls to dress and make them selves up to look like Barbie dolls and not be comfortable in their own skin.
Her best friends are now girls, but even within the circle of her friends, she’s exposed to both ‘”boy” and “girl” themes. She takes dance and piano, but she also decided to play the saxophone at school this year, and she is the only girl in her grade level to do so. While many of her friends and even cousins were exposed to Star Wars years ago, she now LOVES it, and we are in the middle of planning an intergalactic 10th birthday party for her. It took a long time for my husband to convince her to watch it, since her favorite shows were and continue to be My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop, which are definitely geared towards a more feminine audience. To me, Star Wars seems like such a “boy” story, and yet, it has such universal themes for everyone. My own viewpoint about this classic story just shows how my own stereotypes have shaped my thinking, even though I try not to be stereotypical in what I expose my daughter to. And I am glad that both my husband and I are giving her the best of both sexes in her development.
When we paint the stark canvas of “boy” and “girl” in front of our children to study and model from, they develop a very static mindset that closes them off to avenues of learning and enjoyment. One of her cousins was asking me the other day about birthday gift ideas my daughter. I told her Barbie furniture for the doll house she created out of a bookshelf in her room and Pokémon cards. “Wow! Such a variety!” she texted.
Yes, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
How do you teach your children to be a part of both sexes?
As a Kindergarten teacher, we are told to give our students a ‘purpose‘ for reading, or writing, or math. The feeling is that children need to learn not just the content, but ‘why’ a particular task is important to the topic and how it relates to the topic, or its purpose.
In the ‘olden days’ of Kindergarten, our purpose as teachers was to help children function on a social level. Kindergarten children had ample time to play and explore all kinds of materials and mediums for learning. Academic learning was secondary to social growth. Block play, dramatic play, thematic art projects, singing songs and participating in whole and small group activities were the hallmark of a strong educational program. If you were really lucky, your child’s teacher actually PLAYED A PIANO in class and sang along with the children! And Kindergarten was a half-day program.
Now, the purpose of Kindergarten is not social development, but rather academic prowess.
Even with tragic events like Columbine, Aurora, and most recently Newtown, social goals are not at the helm. Yes, we are instructed to collect data on our student’s behaviors if they are negatively impacted learning, but it is in addition to all the mounds of academic assessments that we complete on our youngest learners each week. And the social workers are working twice as hard to address so many social issues that impact a child’s classroom experience. They are presenting curriculum in classrooms, holding Lunch Bunch social groups, and assisting teachers in implementing behavior charts and collecting data points. They attend PPTs to help monitor and address student behaviors and work with children, teachers, and parents to address social issues and concerns.
Kindergarten is a pivotal year when it comes to social learning and development. Some of my students still come to Kindergarten as their first school experience. No preschool, no daycare, and no other ‘academic’ setting but my classroom. For these students, I worry. I worry that their sole memory of Kindergarten is going to reading, writing, and math, and not what friendships they made or how they learned fun songs or played with friends in the blocks or kitchen area.
I was hired at the turning point when the district I work for went from half day to full day. With those extra hours came more academic learning for the children, not more social learning. In the past 16 years, children as young as 4 years old are learning sight words, reading strategies, and how to write sentences and illustrate with corresponding pictures. Gone is rest time, gone is hours of creative play. I still put time in every day for recess and free choice centers, but an hour a day total is not enough for young children to thrive socially.
Mental health, or what I believe to be social health, is clearly on the back burner when it comes to education in the United States. We want our children to be top of the class academically at the expense of their social and emotional well-being. We see this over and over in the news. Children are in pain and act out against people with violence. It is only when these acts are displayed across the media that we stop, shake our heads, demand action, and then grow silent again. Dismantling a broken educational system is more difficult than making necessary positive social changes for students, I guess. And the changes I’m talking about aren’t major. We can still do reading, writing and math in Kindergarten. But not hours of it as the backbone of our youngest learners day. We need to infuse age appropriate concepts in these areas through play activities, literature rich experiences, and time outside exploring nature and the community. Mr. Rogers said it best, “Play is the work of children.” I truly believe that play and social growth should be the main purpose of Kindergarten. When children can handle social cues and experiences as second nature, academic learning is much easier, more fulfilling, and everlasting.
Think about when you tried to learn a new skill when you were a kid. Did you do it when someone told you to do it, or when you were interested in it? How lasting was the learning? What memories do you have of your teachers? And why do you have those particular memories, either good or bad?
We teachers have had to implement No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core over the years. Each of programs put forth by our national government profess to help students reach their full potential. But it’s not their social potential that is addressed in these laws, but their academic potential.
We set high academic standards for students to reach, but what about setting high social and emotional standards and letting academic teaching come at an age appropriate time across all grade levels? With the academic bar raised in Kindergarten, the trickle up effect forces children at all successive grade levels to perform well above their grade level as well. And think about what these goals do to the ESOL and Special Education population!
What is the purpose of a 4-year-old Kindergarten student being able to independently read and retell a book for an assessment if that child can’t sit engaged for a literature-rich story experience?
What is the purpose of completing a math activity if a young child doesn’t understand the basics of taking turns when working in groups?
What is the purpose of writing a story with letters and sounds if the child isn’t ready to understand how letters and sounds work?
What is the purpose of education if we are focusing on one area at the expense of another?
This winter and spring have been full of learning about myself when I was expecting to keep on living my life as usual.
Hit with a chronic illness, I had to learn to let things go from time to time, like housekeeping and yard work, as truly, they tasks will always get done. The only “house police officer” that is checking in on the status of my laundry, or if my windows have been cleaned, is the one inside my head. And he or she needs to learn to take a break!
The Western medicine medical community has given me very little to rely on to get well, so I’ve reached out to friends and family, even strangers, for advice and guidance. I’ve tried some unconventional methods that don’t align with what I’ve come to learn as mainstream medical treatment over the years and yet, these ways are small, important steps to healing my sickly cells.
I’ve learned how to advocate for myself, and I still have messages to share with the various doctors who have misdiagnosed me through their narrow lenses.
I’m out of work right now, so I’m learning how to fill my days with reading and writing. My colleagues and principal have been so supportive and caring. It’s made my transition to being home more tolerable and less guilt-ridden.
I’m learning about my body and what it needs to function in a tolerable way. I’ve changed my diet, and I’m learning to eat different foods that I’d never eaten before being afflicted with a chronic illness.
I’m still learning how much activity is too much. I need to learn to say no and how to gauge my energy levels against upcoming events.
I’m learning about Lyme and symptoms and supplements and nutrition.
We teachers use data to track all kinds of information related to our students’ academic, social or behavioral needs. We also have to keep track of our own growth data based on the goal(s) that we develop each year. The digital age has created numerous platforms to post and track this information over time, which are both a help and a hindrance because of the simple fact that before you can even put data on the computer, you first have to collect it! And that typically requires a few major things: the student, time, a pencil or pen (several actually, because pencils break and pens run out of ink at the most crucial data collection point), a timer, paper, any testing materials needed, space to do your data collection, peace and quiet, and lots of healthy brain cells. Once you collect your data, you need like a bazillion hours to put it into the computer….which always freezes or crashes, or you forget to save each time you enter new information, causing you to lose precious hours. Data collection is not easy, and it’s not fun.
Two big mantras now in education are “Data Drives Instruction” and “Research-based Instruction”…in a few years, it will change to other slogans, but the premises will still be the same. We also have all kinds of acronyms in our profession and each year, it seems like there are more acronyms added that we need to keep track of and remember. Here are just a few: IEP, GRE, SLO, PPT, ABA, IDEA, ADD, PTA, ELL, SST, GED, SAT, CAPT, WISC…..you get the picture. All of these acronyms simply point to more data collection.
When I began this Lyme adventure, I started to keep track of my symptoms on my computer. I knew it would be a long haul, and with my memory slowly becoming more foggy, I needed to be able to share information with doctors in the future as best as I could. As with any data tracking system, you need to be able to first think how to best organize it all in a format that is easy for you to both input as well as read and understand. And then need to actually put the data into whatever system you create. And that’s where it can be tricky.
I like to say that I am type Z…there are type A people, and then there’s me. I start off like a type A person whenever I see someone who is truly organized. (I work with some really wonderful people who are truly exemplary in their type A-ness!) But then my type Z side slowly trickles in, and while I desire their A-ness from afar, I secretly relish in my Z-ness. ‘It’ll get done’ is my mantra. So what if my books aren’t alphabetized and sorted by size, color, and genre? What difference does it make if my reading bins aren’t all the same color? Who cares if my writing tools on my desk aren’t separated by type and in matching containers? And does it really matter if my assessment information for my whole class is in one manila folder, instead of categorized, in a binder, by student, and test, and marking period? As long as I have access to my stuff, I’m good. I am proud that I have figured out a great way to do my report card comments, though. I create one large grid for each student for the three marking periods and save it in a folder on my computer. Once my marking period 1 comments are complete, I just review it each term prior to doing my report cards. I typically do my comments first (type A-ness? I don’t know…) and then work on the report card data. It’s been truly a time saver for me, and I feel like a type A-ness spark shined on me when I figured this system out for myself.
With Lyme disease at the pinnacle of my data collection routine right now, I have several systems. One is my Lyme Bible; it has yet to be decorated with a big, green lime photo with smaller tick on the lime (my type A and Z at work here!)–but, it will get done. In it, I have separate pocket files for each doctor that I have seen- my primary doctor, my rheumatologist, my neurologist, my endocrinologist, my naturopath, and my dietician. Each section has my notes from visits, business cards, treatment plans, and a sticky note on the front of each section with each doctor’s phone number and address. I also have a section for copies of my blood work and personal data that I have and continue to collect. Now, while I have each of these sections, they are not really type A neat! I know some of my type A friends would probably have color photos of each of the doctors as the start of each section- possibly selfies with their doctors, and each section would be further color coordinated and tabbed off with cute pictures or icons announcing each part : bills, blood work, notes, upcoming appointments, etc. But that’s too much work for me.
So you see, type A and type Z are always at work with me.
I also have a medical/food data grid that I started on my computer and I complete daily. (I admit, sometimes I forget what I had for lunch, or I forget to take my blood sugar at night..but generally speaking, the information is pretty accurate.) I share this information with any doctor as needed. Each grid is specific for each day and it lists a pain scale, symptoms, my blood sugar results for both morning and night, supplement names and amounts for that date, food I ate (measured and weighed), how much water I drank (in ounces), and exercise information. If there are any other symptoms or things that seem pertinent, I include that on my chart as well. The digital age has definitely helped as far as tracking goes; my type Z side knows I’d never do all this if I had to hand write all of this stuff out every day!
While I lament about having to keep all this data, it does help me see what triggers I have and what helps. Today, I took an Epsom salt bath because I read in my Top 10 Lyme Treatments book by Bryan Rosner that can be helpful. My skin got quite red in the tub, and I still feel like a stingray after the bath, but that’s more data for my chart!