Occupational Hazards

Being a parent and an Early Childhood Teacher is amazing.

That said, there are some “hazards” that come with the job:

1. Sand in my hair.

2. Everyone sharing their germs… cycling the illnesses around, and around, and around! (Hey, at least they’re sharing, right?)

3. Knees wearing out quickly on jeans or other pants from sitting on the floor and/or crawling around with the kids.

4. Paint, boogers, spit up, and other such stains on your clothes.

5. Becoming a human jungle gym on a daily basis.

6. On the really busy days, sheer exhaustion by 5:00!

Benefits:

1. A million hugs and kisses EVERY DAY! (My favorite perk)

2. Beautiful hairdo’s done up by very professional 2 year olds.

3. Great relationships with parents, some that turn into lifelong friendships.

4. You always have someone who wants to hear you sing.

5. You feel like a rock star every time you walk into the room.

6. The freedom for creative expression any time! (finger painting, making up words to songs, etc)

7. Watching children learn, grow, and get excited about everything new!

8. Being a cheerleader – ALL the time!

9. Kids don’t think silliness and immaturity is annoying, they think it’s fun!

There are so many reasons I love being a teacher and a parent! I won’t lie and say every day is easy… I won’t even pretend that there aren’t full weeks that I’m totally and completely worn out! The benefits and love I receive every day from the amazing kids in my life make it ALL worth it!!!

Dog Neurosis

It’s no secret, my dog is a bit of a spaz! Here is a list of some of his many neurosis:

1. Refusal to eat or drink while he’s in the laundry room during the day.

2. Refusal to eat until I bring his food/water dish out of the laundry room, back into the entry way where he usually eats.

3. Taking laundry (or his blanket) and covering up his water dish. This usually results in said items being soaked, and getting the floor wet! His new thing is to do the same with kleenex, toilet paper, or dryer lint. Weirdo!

4. Freaking out at dogs barking, cats meowing, or a doorbell ringing on TV.

5. Freaking out at squirrels on the deck.

6. Insisting on chewing on his bone on top of the clean clothes I am folding (or “hiding” his bone in the clean clothes folded in the laundry basket, and then having to “find” it to chew on it!

7. Related, but not quite, laying on freshly washed clothes that I am folding, and/or diving at stacks of clean towels stacked up. This often results in me having to re-wash clothes! Argh!

8. Often getting scared when he sees his tail out of the corner of his eye.

9. Sometimes, when he is cleaning himself, he tries to put on “lipstick” (and enjoys it WAY too much).

10. When he is at the patio door, waiting to come in, he can/will jump about 3 ft straight in the air

11. His incessant whining… all the time… in the car, when he’s outside, when he wants to go anywhere, when he sees something on TV, when there are people within sight or sound of him, when he goes in the laundry room so we can go anywhere… get the idea???

12. His running “laps” around the house at bedtime. We always laugh, because he’s such a spaz! If we even move, he will take off running another lap of the house.

13. His rubbing his nose on the carpet, and then rolling around on his back.

14. Chasing his tail in circles for 10 minutes at a time. Then, when he finally catches it, he’s determined to pull it… not really realizing it’s attached.

15. If someone is sitting on the couch, he’ll sit there and bump your hand over and over with his nose to try to get you to pet him. If you ignore him long enough, he’ll start to use his paw to try to get your attention.

16. He’s got to spend his first 5 minutes of seeing someone, sniffing them to determine where they’ve been, if they saw any other animals, etc.

Yeah… some of you think this may be typical dog behavior. Just like some people are just “special”… Duke is “special” in the same way!! At least he provides us with some good entertainment!!

The Bucket List

I finally watched The Bucket List a while back. I had no idea what it was about, but I had heard it was really good. I’d had the movie from Netflix for about a month (oops). I popped it in, and saw it had Jack Nicholas, and Morgan Freeman. Interesting combination – I can’t stand Jack, but love Morgan. I figured I’d watch it anyway, if it was terrible, it’d only be 2 hours out of my life… SO glad I did!

Having had 2 friends die of cancer within a month of each other (several years back), and two more friends battling it now, parts of it were hard to watch. What a story of friendship born in an unlikely place! I thought it was great how the two men decided to do things they had always wanted to do, but never had the chance.

After watching the movie, I started thinking about my own personal “bucket list.” I’m not sure I even know what would be on it…

*Visit Australia
*Tour Europe – twice (once just to see it, once poignantly visiting historical sites)
*Go to Hawaii
*Be a counselor at a summer camp
*Go on an African Safari
*visit every state, and “see the sights”

I can’t really think of anything else right now… I’ve had this saved in drafts for a couple weeks now… I’ve come back to it several times, trying to think of what else to add… just can’t think of anything right now… I’m definitely going to make my Bucket List something I will be adding to…

Out of curiosity – what would be on your list?

Additions:

After reading some other lists, I was inspired to add a few:

*Work at Disney World – even if only for a day!
*Enter a fishing tournament
*Take a photography class

Thank you for the mentions:

**Bob Pusateri

**Gabriel Villa

Children’s Museum

Tonight, I took my kids to the Eau Claire Children’s Museum. We have been going there since Grace was 5 or 6, and Michael was about 2. I have a great time watching how they play, learn, and grow!

The EC Children’s Museum is downtown Eau Claire, about 2 blocks from dance class. Since we had a little extra time today, I took both kids there. After we brought Grace to dance, Michael and I went back. I’m so glad I got a family membership again this year, especially now that I know the one night they are open late is Thursdays, when Grace has dance! If you live in the area, and have never been there, it’s a lot of fun! If you are from the Cities, and have been to the Children’s Museum in St. Paul, you will be disappointed by this one – it’s about 1/3 of the size. Knowing that going in though, you will enjoy it – or at least, your child will!

The main floor rarely changes. There is a “fenced in” toddler area for children under 4. It looks like a wilderness, with lots of fun activities. Since it is only for younger children, you don’t have to worry about new walkers getting trampled by big kids. On the main floor, there is also a “Bitty City”. The town has an orthodontist office, post office, grocery store, diner, bank, construction area, and a movie theater/ stage. New this year, was an addition to the construction area. There were hard hats for the children to wear, with tool sets to help them build the city. The main floor also offers a giant Digestive System for kids to crawl through. Many are intimidated crawling into the mouth for the first time. Usually after a few times crawling through the intestines, and getting pooped out the end, the kids love it! Another cool feature of the main floor, is that all the areas have working telephones in them. Children can dial a simple 2 digit number and call one of the other phones. I happened to answer a phone ringing nearby to find a girl named Gracie on the other end. It was not my Gracie. Later, I found out she also has a brother named Michael. How weird is that???

The lower level of the Children’s Museum changes every week. There is a large water area that was added about a year or two ago. That part doesn’t change, but never stops being fun for kids! There are several smaller rooms downstairs that offer different activities. In one room, there is always an art activity or two, along with some puzzles. Other rooms have different learning (read: fun) activities such as legos, patterning games, Magnablocks, other art activities, sand table with spiders… all of these activities change weekly, so it continues to be fun! Michael and I spent a long time constructing with the magnetic blocks. Who knew so many shapes could be created out of 3-D triangles!?! For some reason, the Darth Vader theme song popped in my head, and I started singing it while we played. A 5 year old girl said, “Hey, I know that song, it’s the Darth Vader song! I own all the movies, and Indiana Jones!” As if that didn’t perk Michael’s attention enough, she told him his structure looked like the Millenium Falcon!! I think it was love at first… well, you get the idea!

The Early Childhood Teacher in me was watching how Michael played differently this time, compared to the last time we were there. The biggest growth has been in his pretend play. Not that he’s ever struggled there, but he was on a different level tonight. He was “making me dinner.” First, he had all the ingredients in a frying pan and a sauce pan. He put the frying pan on the stove, and put the sauce pan in the oven. He was tinkering around with some other things, then saw a cake pan. He said, “Oh, wait”, put on hot pads, took the sauce pan out of the oven, and poured the items into the cake pan. Then, he carefully put the cake pan in the oven for it to cook. While that was cooking, he poured the ingredients from the sauce pan onto a plate. Then, he started counting the money that was in the cash register. To him, this whole experience seemed more real. He seemed to want to do everything right.

It was fun for me to watch Michael do other things too. His favorite thing to do there has always been delivering the mail. Instead of just running around grabbing random “letters” and putting them in random mailboxes, he was actually looking at the picture clues, trying to put them in the right area. Then, he was asking me about the words on the front. This shows a lot for reading readiness! Every time I turned around, his play just seemed more purposeful – it was fun for me to watch (both as a Teacher and a Mom)!

Grace has always enjoyed all the activities there. Her favorite is usually the dentist/orthodontist office and the theater (surprise, surprise)!

Once again, the Sjolanders had a great night together!!!

Side note: There are green flyers on the side of the welcome desk. The flyers are called, “Making the Most of Your Visit – a Guide for Grown-Ups.” I would recommend parents pick this up upon entry. It is not only educational for you, but has some tips on extra ways to enjoy the museum with your kids!

Fall Fun!

This past weekend, Jason and I took my kids to Pleasant Valley Tree Farm in Elk Mound, WI. Going to the pumpkin patch has been a tradition with the kids and I since Grace was about 2. We’ve been to several different ones over the years, but Pleasant Valley ranks in the top 2 of all the ones we’ve been to (Pinehaven Farm in Wyoming, MN would be tied with this one on the fun factor if not slightly better).

We started our day on the hayride. Luckily for Grace and her allergies to everything under the sun, we got a wagon that didn’t have hay bails, but rather, was a wooden wagon with LOTS of bench seats. I always love the wagon ride portion of going to the pumpkin patch, because it’s always a great way to see the Fall Colors! This year, the colors are spectacular (though they were even more so about a week ago). Beside the colors, we also got to see a Turkey Vulture and a Northern Harrier flying overhead! Very cool…

After the ride, we went through the “spooky trail”. The kids were finally not scared this year (though there were a couple parts they weren’t sure of – tunnels to walk and crawl through). The trail through the woods was a lot of fun. Every year, they add a bit to the spooky characters in the woods. We made a game of trying to count how many Darth Maul masks there were. We counted 5, though I’m sure there were more!

As the day went on, we let the kids get lost in the corn maze for a while. We also watched the pumpkin cannon (2-3 pumpkins at a time), fed some animals in the petting zoo, and held some kittens and puppies, went down the 80 ft slide (3 times – Jason and the kids each went solo once, then Michael went solo, while Grace and I went together, then the kids and I all went down together)… Grace and Jason went to shoot some corn cobs, while Michael wanted to play on the playground (one of his buddies from Monkey Business was there, and he wanted to play with him). It was awesome being able to split up for that short time. Everyone got to do what they wanted without anyone being upset.

As we wrapped up our time at the pumpkin patch, Jason and the kids crawled around in the hay bail fort. It’s always been a favorite activity of mine there. This year, I didn’t go in, instead watched Jason crawl around in there! He said it was a bit claustrophobic in there, but he still seemed to have fun (especially as he was throwing hay at me from inside)! The kids also jumped in the bounce house. Then, we went to pick out our pumpkins. Since Gordy’s had pumpkins on sale – $1.88 for any size pumpkin, I wasn’t going to spend $5/pumpkin for as many as we usually get. I let each of the kids pick out one, then we went to Gordy’s to get some more.

The next day, we carved a couple of the pumpkins. Grace made hers a Justin Bieber fan, while Michael made his a Ninja. The kids don’t always enjoy digging in the pumpkin guts, but they LOVE when I bake the seeds! Good thing the sensory experience of digging in the guts is one of MY favorite parts! With the kids’ two big pumpkins, and the one I cut up to bake for making pumpkin bars, we had LOTS of seeds to bake and eat! The kids eat them like popcorn!! My house smelled awesome, the kids had fun (the grown-ups did too)… It was a great weekend!

Partners in Education

I think one key to a successful Early Childhood Classroom is to have great partnership. There are two kinds of partners that are key to any teacher…

The Parents
The parents are the most important partners. It’s important to work side by side with parents in order to best serve their children. The way to successfully make this team work is through open communication. When parents communicate struggles they are having at home, we can understand behaviors we may be seeing at school. If something is working at school, we can communicate that to parents, and vice versa. It’s important for both parties to know what’s going on with a child to best meet his/her needs.

Parents: I want to hear from you ways that you’d like to see teachers partnering with you for your child’s success!

The teachers
It is important for a teacher to have a strong team that he/she works with. In a child care center, this usually means 2 or more teachers, and the Center Director(s). In a School District, it might be 2 or more teachers, Supervisors, and an Early Childhood Team, that supports teachers with behavior concerns, learning needs of specific children, ordering supplies, etc.. Staff meetings in both cases are an opportunities for teachers to share ideas and concerns.

At the Center I work at, most classrooms have a team of 2 teachers that work together, with at least one “floating” Assistant Teacher that gives the teachers their days off. The co-teachers decide how they want their classroom to run, and plan lessons/activities together. Our Directors are there to support us, as well as take care of all the “behind the scenes” stuff. My journey there has been interesting… I started as a float, then took over the 4-5 year old room. I didn’t have a partner for a while. Even when I did, I usually did most of the lesson planning. I feel like I am pretty good at planning lessons, writing newsletters, and creating environments, so I didn’t mind doing that. My partners were great at supporting me with classroom management, carrying out activities, etc. I taught in that class for about a year and a half, and then decided to “try” doing an in-home daycare. After a year, I realized I belong in the more structured environment of a school setting. I came back to the Center as a float again. I worked in the 2 1/2 -3 year old classroom (that I am currently teaching in) while another teacher was on maternity leave. Then, I had a class from Jan – June of mixed ages 3-5. That was an interesting experiment. It was lots of fun, but had its difficulties. Again, I had no partner. In June, I went back to floating, but stayed in the 2-3 year old rooms most of the time. I am now Lead Teacher in a classroom, with no official co-teacher. I do have a consistent “Float” in my room though. My goal is for the two of us to work together as a team, which we do pretty well.

Like parents, it’s important for teaching partners to have open communication with each other. When one teacher needs something from the other, they need to be able to let each other know. Teachers should have a similar philosophy on how their class should be run, goals for the children in the classroom, etc. If both teachers are on the same page, the classroom will run most effectively. Children learn best in a classroom that is set up with plenty of age appropriate activities (with some challenging ones as well), clear expectations, and teachers who work as a team. We are there to facilitate their learning, offer lesson plans that excite children to want to learn more about new topics. We are there to keep them safe while they explore, and offer plenty of opportunities for said exploration.

Another important partnership in some classrooms is that of Mentoring Teacher – Student Teacher. When I get to take on the role of Mentoring Teacher, I am in heaven! I love mentoring students and other teachers. When I know someone is watching my every move, I am a better teacher! It’s good to have to force myself to be completely aware of how I am handling a behavior problem, misuse of classroom materials, or even delivering lessons. Would I want other teachers to act like me? Would I want MY child treated that way? Most of the time, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, being human, I make mistakes on occasion. The great thing about mentoring (or having a great relationship with your co-teacher), is there is someone to talk mistakes over with. You can bounce ideas off each other of how to handle the situation differently next time.

Side note:
I read a review on a Documentary that I would like to see. It’s called Waiting for Superman. It sounds like an interesting documentary on changing the education system. The article/review makes some good points that follow my philosophy… some of the points made seem to fit with what I wrote in this blog! How validating!

Cheese curds

For no particular reason, other than I am curious… please take this poll: