Sunday, September 8, 2013


Here's to you my fellow teachers for surviving the first week of school!  Congrats!  You made it!

And if you experienced staggered entry this week, get ready for the real fun that's about to happen as of tomorrow morning (this is definitely me)! Everyone's all together now...!

I have to admit, staggered this year was very different than previous.  However, I also changed my tune in regards to some rules and expressed the necessity of them all in great detail at our parent orientation we had over a week ago.  So, that might have contributed.. Who am I kidding?  Of course it did!  Here's why:

Reason One:
Typically, I have allowed parents the opportunity to draw on the "goodbye" ritual if the student was having a difficult time.  Although I would stress the importance of a quick goodbye and go scenario, I very rarely had any takers as "they know their child best" and I apparently had no idea what I was talking about.  Well, due to that, in one of our classes we had a total of eight-three year olds crying for their parents and all of those parents lingering in the classroom till they stopped.  Needless to say, it was extremely crowded, extremely loud, and just overall a chaotic scene that no human being wants to be a part of however refusing to fix it at the same time.

Well, this year I promised myself that I may lose my hearing over such a large volume of crying but I was not going to be disrespected nor my classroom again. This year I stressed immensely the importance of "short, sweet, and simple" goodbye. 
Short: "It's time for you to go to preschool and time for me to say goodbye to you"
Sweet: "I love you very much"
Simple: "I will come back to get you when it's time to go home again.  Now, go inside and I will see you when you're done!"

The importance of this goodbye-time is simply showing the child that the parent is going to hold their ground in making sure they stay, even if everything is scary at first.  Providing reassurance to them in stating how much you love them, tells them that even though that child and parent are going to be separated, it doesn't mean the love is gone too.  By ending the goodbye through a simple matter-of-fact of the new experience eventually ending with a reunification does tell the child that they won't be there for long. 

I also stressed of making sure that parents stayed out of the classroom and keeping the goodbye at the doorway as we want to keep the classroom a positive environment where no traumatic goodbyes are taking place.  Students are calm, engaged in activities and conversation, and simply enjoying the moment. 

Don't get me wrong, I know it's easier said than done sometimes.  I may not be a parent but after working with children for 10 years now, I've observed enough to know what works, and what doesn't.  My job isn't to parent the child, it's to teach.  And if a child is entering my classroom, then my ultimate goal is teaching them how to be independent as we all need to eventually. In order for that life lesson to begin, you have to follow the instructions and gain the ability to succeed.

So, did it work?  You bet.  In fact, I had parents saying the exact same thing I just reference up above.  Did any kids cry?  Of course, but very few and it only lasted less than five minutes. 

Reason Two:
Aside from the transitioning portion, I also told parents not to feel guilty on the first day.  It's surprising how many parents start doubting themselves if they made the right decision.  That usually happen if the child gets upset about coming to preschool or doesn't interact with anyone.  I reassured our new parents this year that they placed them into preschool for a reason and that reason was for them to watch their preschooler grow in an academic (but playful!) environment. 

After I mentioned that, you saw a lot of mothers' nodding their head in agreement and the fathers' holding their hand. 

So, did any parents show doubt?  A couple.  But I told them if the transition is still a struggle after a month, let's talk because it's too early to make conclusions now.

Reason Three:
I lowered unrealistic expectations.  I already admitted that I can't get a three year old to read by June.  I already admitted that I can't get a four year old doing simple addition and subtraction.  And I admitted that I don't believe in stressing the early years out on the academics.  I did promise however that their child will grow over the next 10months and it'll be more than just physically.  And while that growth occurs, their preschooler will be having fun.

As long as we're having fun while learning, I think that's all that really matters.  Not how it was taught!

I felt these were valid, fair points to share with parents and remind them the point of preschool and I feel it was received the way it should have been.  It truly showed as I can't remember when was the last time I had a great staggered entry week and could honestly say "Parents weren't an issue."
Good on them!  It's a tough job and I commend them for keeping it together.

Now, let's see how this week goes.  Staggered entry is now over and all students (18 per class) meet and greet as a whole.

..Deep breath..deep breath..deep breath..

Forgot a special post..

Awhile back I had mentioned about being nominated for an award in the childcare industry.  Well, it turned out, I won!

Not only was this an honour to be recognized for the work that I do as the nomination itself was enough, but winning the title took my seriousness for the position so much higher.  Anyways, below is the link to watch the 30 second commercial CTV2 put together in honour of it.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 19, 2013

My back-to-school list

As I sit here in my backyard on a gorgeous afternoon in which I should be enjoying, all I can think about is starting my planning.  A week from now, maybe two, I will probably be wishing I was sitting in my backyard again on a gorgeous afternoon NOT thinking about work.  I can almost guarantee that's exactly what will happen.  Enjoying the remaining time off seems so secondary right now.

So while I sit here contemplating either finishing laundry or cleaning the house, looking through a Scholar' Choice catalogue and making my list seems higher priority. Which leads to the point of my post: MY required teacher items list for the start of the new school years.  I've got five favourites, let's see if they match with yours.

  1. Mr. Sketch scented markers: regardless if I have some remaining ones from the previous year, I will go out and buy a new set for the new  year.  I love the idea of new, sharp-tipped markers.  I love how they each individually smell like heaven.  I love how they feel when I write with them.
  2. Weekly + Monthly Planner book:  I blame this on when I was going to elementary and highschool because they make you write in your agenda everyday on what homework you have for the night, tests coming up, etc. and literally isn't a habit you can break out of too quick.  Which is the reason why I end up buying a grown-up version every year still.  Usually about half way through the year though, I actually stop using this and end up resorting to my cellphone's calendar instead.  But for some real reason, every September, I feel like I need one of these.  I always feel like this big agenda book will keep everything organized in my life and I will always have it on hand.  However, the schedule gets full of meetings and events, it starts to get left behind either at work or at home.  Then I'll try to remind myself to bring it.  Then I'll try to remind myself to "add to it" when I get home.  Then I just forget about it. 
  3. Reloaded Starbuck's card:  As much as I'm excited to be getting back to work and into a routine, getting up in the morning during the first couple of weeks isn't an issue.  However, that's only temporary because I know eventually it will be.  When it does, I like to be prepared.  I like to have a safety net for my morning fuel.  So in case I'm running late or just lazy, I'm headed to the 'bucks.. prepared.
  4. New hand cream, new lip gloss:  I like to have new hand cream, simply just because.  As teachers and caregivers, we all know how much we wash our hands and how dry they can get.  Now luckily for me, they definitely don't get as dry as others, but I still like having some cream around.  Lip gloss?  Well that's for my afternoon classes.  By lunch, I definitely don't look the way I did for my morning groups.  So I feel like having a new tube of lip gloss makes me seem like I still care about how I look to my pm-ers.
  5. A new pack of stickers: Especially on the first day, the best way to win to a preschooler's heart is through stickers.  You give them a sticker, it's hook, line, and sinker.  Every year I have my standard stickers that I give out on a weekly basis, but I also like to keep my sticker box diverse.  Scholar's Choice always has a good variety to choose from so every year I go pick out some new "cool" ones.  Last year I was all about cartoon owls.  This year, I think it's going to be the coloured monsters from TREND. 
So far, I only have two of the five ready.  By the end of this week, I'll be fully stocked and ready to go.

Guilt is now starting to set in as I think about the laundry again.  I guess I know what I'm doing after this post.  Enjoy your first day back teachers! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Must be nice to have two months off!"

This is my third summer off as a preschool teacher and every summer I get the same question about half a dozen times: "So what do you do with two months off?" or "Must be nice to have two months off, huh?".  And my response just like a lot of other teachers out there is "there's always something to keep me busy".

Since I've started having summers off, I have yet to get away with one where absolutely nothing was happening in my life.  My first involved when my husband and I were getting married and then took off to Europe for our honeymoon for a few weeks.  My second summer involved me working extremely hard on my degree and training our new dog.  With the wedding done and school finished, by spring my cousin pointed out that really, nothing major would be keeping me busy this summer.  However, my sister and now brother-in-law got married last weekend so to be fair, I was helping out where and when I could with everything leading up to it.  Now that it's over, in a week's time, my husband and I are taking a break and heading off for our own vacation.  When we get back, I'll be back to work.  Meaning, summer is officially over. 

Personally, I feel these two months go incredibly fast as like I mentioned there's always something going on.  Really, it's a time for teachers to catch up on things they don't get to do like everyone else during the year.  Whether it's going to that doctor's appointment you should have went to back in March or visiting friends you haven't seen since report card season!  Some of us may be working on renos we've been putting off with the house and now, we finally have the time to DO IT.   

Do we sleep-in?  Totally.  Well, I do but not crazily (I'm averaging between 7:30am and 8am as I like to keep a decent routine with my husband's schedule).  And of course, we do all of our vacationing in the summer too as again, it's pretty much our only solid time off.  And yes, we know it's hot no matter we go at that time of year, more expensive, and more busy (my in-laws remind me all the time in case I haven't noticed yet - bless their souls).  But, we don't care.  We're going to go regardless. A lot of folks forget us teachers cannot vacation in the middle of September for three weeks or the end of February for a cruise and always appear to be dumbfounded when you tell them this. 

Summer vacations for teachers is also a mental break as well.  For ten months, every part of our mental stability ends up getting maxed out by June.  Not only is it just the teaching, but it's the prep of our lessons, the supervision, the communication, the behaviours, the altercations, the coworkers, the parents, the emails, the phone calls, the meetings, the overall environment, the leadership, etc. after etc. after etc.  See why we need two months to recuperate?  For myself, I had 64 students to care for and next year, I have 72.  Just think about it for a minute.

Despite needing a break from our students, we all seem to manage to come back every September.  Everyone has their own reasons, and I think it's fair to say the general agreement is that we love what we do.  For me personally, I start missing them!  Oh man, do I ever.  It usually kicks in about the first week of August and it then leads to me casually beginning my planning for the year.  Before you know it, I'm getting excited about setting up the room and going in earlier than scheduled, buy myself a new set of Mr. Sketch scented markers, and hit up Scholar's Choice for cartooned notepads and bulletin board sets.  That's when I know I'm refueled and ready to go again.


Now after reading all of that, you may say "I get it" but some will still have the attitude of "it must be nice to have summers off".  Well, I have one thing to say to you then: you didn't want to become a teacher and you don't like working with kids. 

I did and I do.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dealing with death and preschoolers

The subject itself is pretty self-explanatory and time and time again, I am faced with it in my classroom.  When it comes to dealing with it, as a teacher, I take on the personal approach.  At this point I feel like  my teacher hat comes off, and the friend hat goes on.  Currently, I have two students undergoing this life experience and both situations are incredibly saddening.  One is witnessing a family member slowly passing on and the other recently had a family member killed in a car accident.  Let's start with the first scenario.

When it comes to children witnessing and experiencing an upcoming death, I tell parents to keep the kids in the "know".  Although there will be times that you need to shield them, it is highly important that kids know what's going on so at the end of it all, they've gotten their closure.  Simply explain that the person is ill, they will not be getting better, and because they won't get better - they will die.  Even the word "die" may need to be defined.  There will be lots of confusion, maybe emotional resistance into accepting the inevitable.  But, they need to know.  Why?  Because when the time comes, they will have better acceptance and more importantly, it's a life lesson we all have to go through at some point. 

Depending on age, kids will have questions because if they are over the age of four years and up, their memory starts to become more reliable.  And depending on how traumatic the experience is, they may still remember 20 years later.  Therefore, how the parent decides to handle it, will result into those memories. So, those questions need to be answered.  And truthfully.  As much as many believe sugar-coating is the best alternative because they are so young, it only does further damage later on.  I have known families to do as such, and years later, the children claiming they do not recall any memory of it because they were not involved or, had closure. 

Children need to experience death and they need to see the process in order to gain their own personal closure.

Now, I'm referring to human beings in this but I guess the same information can be helpful if it's the family dog too.

With student number two, his family is experiencing the sudden death of a family member.  I won't go into details but it's a very sad situation.  The child knows fully on what happened and now it's a matter of how he deals with it.  He told me that he felt sad and didn't know what to say or do.  I told him that it was perfectly normal to feel that way as no one does when such news is delivered.  With such a situation, all one can do for someone so young in handling such news, is listen.  The more we listen, the more we can acknowledge and reassure.  As adults, if we can do that, then we are being the support system those kids are looking for.  This will also enforce the importance of involvement - conversation, respect for the child and their feelings, and being a listener. 

I am not an expert.  I am not a grieving counsellor.  I am just a preschool teacher.  This is all about how my approach is and it could be completely off.  Or not at all.  But if I know kids for as long as I have been working with them (10 years and counting), like everything else, they need to be involved in all experiences.  Even ones involving loss.   

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The importance of professional development

As any professional knows, regardless of the industry, being able to have the opportunity to take on some professional development in some shape, way or form, is always a bonus to one's job.  Luckily, my preschool has a set budget each year for both myself and my T.A to use for our own professional development.  And as we all know, the way budget cuts are happening currently, I will take what I can get... privately.

But that's not what this post is about.  It's about the importance of continuing our education from a career standpoint in the early childhood education field.  Quite frankly, it's more than just sitting for a day, transitioning from workshop to workshop, writing notes that you will never read the day after, taking free stuff, and spending money on things for your classroom that you might use but, a year later, it's still sitting in the plasticProfessional development in the E.C.E field is about observation and reflection.  And here's why.

First and foremost, when you go to these events, the first thing you do is observe.  And when you're observing, it's EVERYTHING - every person that you cross paths with, the environment, the materials, the system in how the conference or workshop is being carried out.. even the clock on the wall.  While you're observing, you may even become judgemental and realize there are people sitting beside you who shouldn't be because they're opinions do not match their profession.  I'm not ashamed to say it because it's true and I've done it.  You also observe the benfits and drawbacks to government spending with initatives and projects.  That can also make you judgemental for obvious reasons.  But most importantly, as you're observing what you see and hear (and possibly smell...), you start reflecting.  You begin reflecting on your observations in both positive and negative forms.

"I would never show up in sweats for a conference", "Oh!  That's a great idea to promote language development through such-and-such rhyme!", "Who the hell runs that daycare and is ACCREDITED!?", "What a great presenter on brain development.. I wish I was with them all day".  At some point or another, thoughts like these ones occur because you are reflecting and deciding on what you're going to take from it.  You're going to think about how your teachings may be altered, how your approach to your profession is professional enough, if you're giving your 100% each and every day you are with those kids.  All these things and more, contribute to your profession and how you plan to develop within it.  Yes, these events are great for new ideas and/or strategies that haven't been tested before.  It's even great for networking as you never know who knows who.  However, I feel the real benefit to it, it allowing yourself the opportunity to submerge in the whole concept as it demonstrates the thought process of "I can always do more".  When you allow yourself to become involved in such opportunities, then it speaks to others of how much you truly care about the professional-you.  And the ripple effect continues.

And this is all because you decided to take on some professional development.  It's more than just sitting with a bunch of strangers listening to other strangers preach about various aspects of our jobs.  It's about developing into something more because YOU can and you believe it.  That's why professional development is key.

On a side note, I know the posts of have been scarce and there have been requests as to an explanation.  I do have a secret to share, but not quite yet.  It'll come in due time.

And no, I'm not pregnant.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

And the nominees are..

Coincedently with the Oscars happening this weekend, I have my own nomination to report as well.  Not for an Oscar (obviously) but in the Alberta Child Care Professional Excellence Awards. 

Crazy, right?!  I'm still in shock myself and feel so honoured!

The families of the preschool are nominating me for an award on behalf of the province of Alberta.

As the humbling person I am, I really don't think I deserve the award as really, I just love what I do and always feel I can do better for my preschoolers.  But.. as I was told this past week, "people need to know about you and the differences you make". 

This afternoon, I did an interview with one the parents who is organizing the nomination and I do have to say, reflecting on the seven years (offically, unoffically nine) I have been in the field.. it was tough answering some of the questions.  Areas that are judged include how the nominee supports learning in children, involvement with parents, and of course, involvement in the professional world as well.  It wasn't till this morning when I annouced the news to my ELAA group, that we went through a list of things that should be mentioned in the letter and realized, "Holy crap - I've done alot in seven years!". 

With this reflection underway, I realize more of it should be done on life itself.  Seven years ago, I never imagined myself as a preschool teacher in Calgary, Alberta.. being nominated for a provincal award of excellence.  Instead, I envisioned myself working in a private-run daycare in Ontario, barely making ends meet and considering another profession altogether.  I also didn't envision that at the age of 27, I would be gaining a degree in Bachelor of Professional Arts. 

With that said, I am offically done my program this Thursday, February 28th. 

Yep.. lots of reflection needed at this point in life! 

Now that my educational career is finally coming to an end, where should I see myself in another six years?  Where do you see yourself?  Are you happy with the choices you've made, for the most part anyway?  Because we all make choices that were bad.  And somehow, we made it through those bad choices.  But what are you doing now with your life and are you happy with it?  Do you want to do something different?  These are the questions I'm asking myself at this very moment.

I think I do know what I want to do next.

I've always been interested in some form of consultation in the childcare field.  Obviously, licensing is the dream goal but we all know those jobs come only when someone retires.  I've also wanted to open my preschool.  Will that happen?  Not sure.  But its worth exploring..

And so is everything else.