Teaching Kindergarten…Keep The Home Living Station!

I remember my first day of kindergarten. I was sort of indifferent about school…I didn’t know what I was getting into, so I just followed my mom into the building. However, once I realized she was leaving me there, I quickly decided I didn’t want to stay. There were some tears and anxiety…and then I saw the “play kitchen”. Seeing this familiar fixture brought me so much comfort, and even excitement, and then I was okay. Really, I was good to go. And the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been going to public school ever since!:)

kitchen one

When I was a five year old kindergarten student, K-5 was actually all about learning to come to school. We learned social skills like how to share, how to help others, how to be a friend. We learned the importance of keeping up with our belongings, taking care of school property, and working with our emotions. We learned how to get along. We learned how to be a student.

Now kindergarten is still a very important avenue for learning social skills, but we are also learning to read (pretty fluently), write stories–both realistic and fiction– and to add and subtract by the end of the year. I don’t know about  other kindergarten teachers, but I have found myself in a place before where I have forsaken the importance of teaching social skills in order to teach more reading, write more words, and add more numbers. I’ve spent more time blending and segmenting phonemes than I have teaching my kids what to do if they have to share a toy.

And I wonder why they bicker. I wonder why they tattle. I wonder why they have one crayon left in their pouch after just a week of school (Teacher, I don’t have a red…or a blue…or an orange…).

I know I’m not the only one wondering. In talking with teachers in many districts, I’ve discovered that there is some concern with the social skills of our older students in schools today. Bullying is becoming a presence that needs to be dealt with. Not only the bully-er, but the bully-ee (Did I just make up some words?). Older students don’t know how to treat each other anymore. They haven’t had lots of practice with sharing, speaking, listening, and working with one another in a non-academic setting. Some students are “being mean” to get attention, relationships (what they think is a relationship), and acceptance. Other students don’t know how to react to someone treating them in an unwanted way, and they are dealing with anxiety that comes from not knowing how to deal with different people.  I think one way to help this situation is to give students more time to have social interaction when they are young. Before they become self-conscious and create different stations and groups among themselves.

I was on a vertical Language Arts team for my school for two years and we worked very hard to align our curriculum with the new College and Career Ready Standards for English Language Arts. One of the main topics we discussed and worked on was vocabulary. We looked at the research about the importance of teaching our children Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary words. Tier 2 words are high-frequency vocabulary words that may or may not have multiple meanings, like savor or ability. Tier 3 words are lower-frequency words that are specific to a certain context (the words  you used to write down and define in biology class). As the discussion went on, I agreed that instruction on these words was so important. It’s needed. But I had a growing sense of urgency about another type of words that I realized many kindergarteners were lacking, Tier 1 words. I, along with other teachers in my school and other schools, was focusing on teaching these wonderful Tier 2 and 3 words when I had kids that didn’t know what friend, baby, and sorry meant. I had kids that didn’t understand the meaning of beside, below, above, and in front of.

So I really started thinking about my teaching of social skills and what I call “social words”(this is just a Paige Givens term, not fancy or official by any means). How could I teach my kids these words and skills in a natural, authentic way?

The answer was right in front of me, in a sunny corner of my room, begging not to be thrown out, as so many kindergarten teachers are being pressured to do. It was my kitchen!

You may call it the Home Living Station, or the Dramatic Play Area, or  Houseware Center. You may call it “Who has time for that?!? I got rid of that years ago! Too busy.”

But I am here to advocate for the Home Living Station! There is a place for it in your curriculum! Your kids need time to play and talk with each other. They need space to make believe and work together to make their imaginations come to life. They need opportunities to practice sharing and “working it out” when there are not enough supplies to go around. They need opportunities to disagree.

A few years ago, I brought my Home Living Station up to speed with vigor and excitement. I decided to use it as a teaching tool during my Literacy Work Stations (YES, during Literacy Stations!), and started off the year with a few kitchen utensils, plastic foods, and baby dolls. I have found that if I use fewer props at the beginning, it’s easier to teach how to clean up and it leaves room for more language exchanges. I also use lots of modeling at the beginning of the year for  having nice hands, words, and feet at the Home Living Station. I have found that the Home Living Station is one of the greatest opportunities for the speech pathologist to work with students who are acquiring language skills. It’s a natural, authentic environment for students who need extra support in developing oral language skills.

I focused on three Kindergarten College and Career Ready Standards when designing my new Home Living Station a few years back. These are the ones I’ve been using:

 Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with prompting and support, provide additional detail. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.4)
 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.5)
 Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.6)

I divide up my Home Living Themes by the month most years. Here are my plans for Home Living each month of the school year. My wonderful kindergarten teacher partners at my school collaborate constantly to improve our stations. They’ve graciously included pictures of their Home Living Stations.

August

“My Home”- we are just learning to come to school, so this month is all about learning how to use the materials at home living. We do lots of modeling and practicing. The Home Living Station is usually everyone’s favorite station to choose (both boys and girls).

“School”- I bring in a “big kid” desk and set out books, pointers, pictures, and different items for the students to teach with. They love to decide who is the teacher and who are students. I hear my own words coming out of their mouths when they are playing school. 🙂

September

“Grocery Store”I have parents send in empty cereal boxes, snack food boxes, cleaned out milk cartons, etc. We label each item clearly and students work at the grocery store to make a grocery list by copying the labels onto their list paper. They use pretend buggies and cash registers to act out buying their grocery list.

“Apple Orchard”- My teacher friends Lori and Connie created an apple orchard in their classrooms this year with some plastic apples, pie tins, felt, and baskets. The kids LOVED it!

ao                              ao2

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Sincerely, Your Little One’s Teacher

It’s getting closer and closer. The back-to-school ads have started appearing. The school supply lists have exploded in the front of Walmart. The backpacks have gone on sale. Your friends are squeezing in one last quick trip to the beach and your teacher friends are starting to go and work in their rooms.

While the actual summertime season doesn’t come to a close until mid-September, in the South, summer activities are coming to an end.

For parents of kindergarten children, the end of summertime signals the end of something much deeper and more significant. While kindergarteners are often the “babies” of the school, this first year marks the end of a child’s “babyhood” at home. And for many children, school begins even earlier than kindergarten. Most schools are welcoming three and four-year-olds into new preschool programs in public schools these days. Even though this time is very exciting to parents and children alike, it brings out feelings in parents that were hiding under the surface all along. Believe me, I’ve been there–twice. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of memories, misgivings, and emotions that washed over me as I watched my little boys walk away from me and into the room that would be their home away from home for the next ten months.

Nothing–absolutely nothing–has changed my teaching more than becoming a parent did. Parents, I have been in your place twice. I have let go of my little boy’s hand and put it into the hands of another woman, trusting that she will love him the way I want her to. I have said a private goodbye to their preschool years, knowing that in some ways their time of “littleness” was going to be over forever. I have come to the realization that in the matter of a few steps, my children have stepped away from a world where Mommy knows best into a world where someone else was going to know best sometimes.  I have swallowed tears of wistfulness, wished for just another few weeks of “the way it was”, and had to physically make myself turn away from my boys as they cheerfully (or stoically, for one of them) waved good-bye to me.

I have been in your place, parents. Fortunately, my children have been blessed with absolutely wonderful teachers. Not only have my boys learned from these ladies; but I have learned too. I have learned things that have changed the way I teach and the way I think about teaching. I’ve learned things that change the way I think about the parents of my students.

There are some things I want you to know, parents.

When you cry, I cry. This may not be true for every teacher, but on that first day of school when you are dropping them off at the door and you start to tear up, I do too. Because I get it.  I know how you feel. I’ve  just come from dropping off my kids, too! 🙂  In the middle of the year, when you come to me  in tears because your home life is falling apart and the child that makes us have common ground is suffering for it, I cry too. Maybe not in front of you, but when I go home and pray for you, I shed tears for you all. When you leave a parent conference in tears of triumph because that child we thought wouldn’t make it to the next grade is progressing, know that I have cried tears of joy as well. And at the end of the year, when you want to say things that just won’t come out because you don’t know if you’re sad or happy, so you just cry…yeah, I do too. A lot. Sometimes embarrassingly so. My fellow teachers and I get together once the year is over and discuss which of us cried the most. We know how you feel, parents, and we feel it too, even when there are no words.

I’m going to be in your corner. I’m not here to work against you. I am for you. It’s not a cliché to me when I tell you that I want us to be partners in your child’s education. If I didn’t mean it, I wouldn’t say it. I want to work with you. Together, we will make your child’s year at school a wonderful success. If there is a behavior problem, I will tell you so that we can figure out together what we will do to help the child. If there is an academic problem, I will tell you early on  so that we can figure out together what we will do to help the child. I’m in your corner, parents. I am for you.

Unless you’re not in their corner. The only thing that will pull me from your corner is if you are not in your child’s corner. If that is the case, I will always choose your child. Always.

I will take care of your child. I promise. It is not a promise I take lightly. I’ve always done my best to take care of my school children’s physical and academic needs. But the one biggest change that came from having children of my own was that I felt very convicted about taking care of my school children’s emotional and social needs. Just covering “the basics” is not enough. If your child comes to me and tells me she can’t find anyone to play with, I will find someone for her to play with. I will also work with her on how to make friends on the playground (a hard task for some children). If your child tells me that some big kids were bullying him on the bus, I will get on that bus and go all  “teacher-ghetto” on some big kids if I need to (my husband will be so embarrassed that I said that:))! If your child can’t get her milk open, I will open it for her. I will work with your boy on how to get that chip bag open by himself, because that is my job. I will take care of your child.

I will make mistakes. I am very human. I am very far away from perfect. I will accidently send your child’s folder home with someone else. I may accidently lose an attendance note or forget to respond to your phone call.  Remind me again to call you. I will make mistakes, but when I do I will do my best to fix them instead of making excuses for them. All I ask is that you are patient with me! 🙂

I will not replace you. No matter how many times your child comes home starting sentences with, “Mrs. Givens said…”, know that they tell me just as much about you. I get called Mama, Nana, and even Daddy on occasion by mistake. 🙂 I know what you make for supper, I know your favorite colors, I know your approximate ages (because sometimes kids think I’m 12 or 89), and I know what songs you listen to on the radio. Know why? Because kids talk out loud about what they’re thinking about. And guess what they’re thinking about? You. Because you are the most important person in their lives. You are the parent and the champion, and I will never replace you. By the way, I won’t tell anyone the embarrassing stuff they pass on. And they do pass it on!

There are many other things I could tell you, but these are the most important to me. Meet the Teacher Night will come, and I will be nervous. I will want you and your kids to like me just as much as you want me to like you! The night is so overwhelming with talk about academics, money, schedules, procedures, and bus routes. There’s no time for me and my fellow teachers to tell you what’s really in our hearts, what made us become a teacher in the first place. So this year, I will just have to show you. It’s going to be a good one.

Sincerely,

Your Little One’s Teacher

school-sign

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If You Give A Teacher A Class List

If you give a teacher her class list, she’s going to want some mailing addresses to go with it. So she’ll dig through mounds of registration forms to find “her kids” and write each address. Seeing all those addresses will remind her that she needs envelopes. She’ll go to the store to get some. At the store, she’ll see the discounts on sunscreen and flip flops and she’ll realize summer is ending. She’ll get sad. So she’ll go over to the shoes to cheer herself up. The cute, strappy heels will give her hope, but then she’ll think about standing in them all day at school. She’ll choose Dr. Scholl’s  instead. On her way to pay for the envelopes and shoes, she’ll pass the Back-to-School quagmire. She’ll get sucked in by the fifty-cent Post-It notes. The Post-It notes will remind her that she wanted to buy 40 of the seventeen-cent notebooks. Just in case. When she’s loading the notebooks into her buggy, she sees the pencils, crayons, pouches, pens, highlighters, and sharpies. She can’t help herself, and in they go. The last thing to go in the buggy is a book of stickers, which makes her think of stamps. When she thinks of stamps, she’ll remember those envelopes and the mailing addresses she needs for “her kids”. And chances are, if you give her mailing addresses, she’ll want a class list to go with it!
If you’re a teacher, you’ve probably read them, but even if you’re not, you’d like these books! 😊


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Everyone Falls

“You haven’t ridden your bike in weeks.”

“I’m no good at riding my bike. I keep falling off.”

My son’s big brown eyes asked me to let it go, to not make him try again.

“But everybody falls. You’re not the only one. Everyone in the world has fallen off their bike before. It doesn’t mean you’re not good at it. It just means you’re like everybody else.”

This wisdom from my boy with the big blue eyes.

Everyone falls.

I heard the whisper in my heart as they walked outside to play.

It just means you’re like everybody else.

And I thought to myself, how many of us are still reeling from our most recent fall? How many of us are stunned, laying on the ground, with dirt, rocks, and debris stuck in our knees? With scratched up palms stinging and burning?

A friend said to me one day, “I just don’t think I’m forgivable. The things I’ve said and done–I try really hard to stop doing them, but I can’t control my thoughts. I still think about saying and doing things I shouldn’t do, and sometimes, I just can’t help it and I do the same bad things as before. I keep failing.”

Everyone falls, friends. Me. You. Your parents. Your preachers. We all fall at some point.

I fall daily. My words are too sharp, too judgemental. My actions selfish and–at times–cowardly. I am a sinner, fallen on the ground, aching from many falls.

But there is a Father.

When I was a little girl, I asked my Father to enter my life and clean up my sin. I acknowledged Who He was and is and invited Him to stay. He never left.

When you have the Father, He comes running to you as you fall.

He picks you up, dusts you off, and tenderly ministers to your wounds. He wraps them up in His grace, and when you ask forgiveness, He never brings your wounds back up again.

In Christ, there is freedom from sin. We have all fallen, and being a Christian doesn’t make us immune to falling short of God’s glory.

But we will never fall short of His grace.

And as I thanked my Father for His forgiveness, His grace, and His love, I heard the soft whir of  bicycle wheels as a brown-eyed boy rode by in his newfound freedom.

everyone falls.jpg

 

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Take a listen to the song In Spite of Me by Paige Givens: 

 

 

 

 

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Our Classroom Door

I am not a decorator. I repeat, I am not a decorator!

Any good-looking thing in my house is credited to my sisters, who tell me where to put things and how to arrange.

Because I am not a decorator.

This carries over into my classroom, where,  for a kindergarten teacher, I am not a decorator.

However, I AM an organizer. I tend to ponder better ways of managing my materials and space in my room each year, and last year I turned my attention towards my classroom door.

The door whose surface had held no management or organizational purpose for the past 12 years. In a primary classroom, every space matters.

It was time to make the door matter.

My classroom door idea actually started out as a non-idea. While I’m not a decorator, I do claim to be a creative type in other ways. Especially ways that involve a technique called “flying by the seat of your pants”.

A year ago I was covering my classroom door with paper and border (I will admit that this is a chore I detest), and I simply did not know what to do with it. I usually don’t have a decorative theme for my room, but I do like to have an underlying theme of community, friendship, and love in everything we do.

So I was staring at my door, thinking of my classroom of kindergarteners who would be returning to me as first graders (we were a looping classroom, read about it here). We loved school and we loved each other so much. I wanted everyone who came through the door to know how much we cared for one another, and I decided to convey it on my door. I didn’t quite have a concrete plan, but the kids implemented their own plan as the year progressed.

I began the year with a door covered in black paper with a border. On the door, I put the words “We love school. We love each other.” Then, I glued 20 half-sheets of 8.5 by 11 inch paper. I wrote each student’s name at the top of a sheet. Since I’d had them the previous school year, I glued their kindergarten picture in the top left corner of the sheet and l left the top right corner for their first grade picture.

For the first few weeks of school, we spent the last minutes of the school day “speaking life” about each friend. On our first experience, I began by announcing that we were going to tell the school what we loved about each other, so that when visitors walked into the room, they’d see all the good things about us right away. I wondered if I’d need to model a few nice words to get us started.

No modeling was needed. We started with one friend at a time, and the kids called out all kinds of authentic accolades. We were whole group, and I was writing what they called out. I had the warm fuzzies for days hearing the sweet things my students said about one another.

She says nice words to me!

He’s hilarious.

She means the world to me.

He saved my life in kindergarten!  (Say what?!?)

She’s my friend when I don’t have any.

He’s great at math.

Day after day, the children looked forward to this time of day, when we would add compliments to our classroom door about each other. While they were very flattered and excited to hear what their friends said about them, I think the kids were more excited to add compliments to other kids’ pages.

classroom door 4

As the hot summer days faded into fall, the students’ writing became more proficient (they had a writing explosion around October) and it was obvious to me that they should start writing their own kind notes to each other.

I passed out sticky notes one day and had the kids write kind notes to a friend. I was worried about kids getting left out, so I assigned students a friend to write to. Everyone in our classroom was family…everyone could say a nice word to anybody in the room. That’s how it should always be. So I started out assigning people a friend to write to, and would also take occasions to let friends choose who they would write to. Once the sticky notes were finished, the kids stuck them to the friends’ names on the classroom door. I was very viligant to make sure that each child had the same amount of sticky notes on his or her page.

classroom door

After Christmas, we had a talk about how we were all writing sweet things to one another, but we all seemed to be saying the same things, like “He’s good at reading. She’s a good friend. He’s a good runner.” So we made a classroom list of words to use instead of good. We really focused on the person we were writing to, and we wanted to make our compliments real and authentic.

classroom door 2

Our door became a beautiful representation of the friendship and love between the four walls of our little room.

At the beginning of the year, my classroom door idea/non-idea did not consist of classrooom management opportunities, but as the year went on, I sort of naturally started referring to it during individual conferences with students were having a bad day.

While pulling cards and moving clips and other similar systems work beautifully for other teachers, I chose to use a system of practice-making-progress about five years back. This system has worked so very well for me, but there are always students who seem to have a bad day now and then. Or a bad week. Or longer.

I found myself referring those students to their names on the door. On occasion, I walked that student to the door and read his or her compliments out loud. Sometimes I sent the student to read it alone and quietly contemplate all the good things that we said about him or her.

It always helped. It was so much sweeter, so much calmer, and so much more helpful than if I would bark out something like, “Just come and sit over here by me until you are calm!”

And you know those days where it feels like NO ONE is getting along in your room? Everyone’s going bananas? We had a few of those, of course! I found that I loved going to the door at the end of the day and reading a sweet word or two about each child as he or she lined up to leave for the day. We ended on such a better note than we would have with me giving an ultimatum about how, “Tomorrow better not be like today!”

It’s just a door.

It opens our room up to the world outside of our four walls, and it invites others in.

But this last year, our door space was not wasted. It became a management tool, a writing display, and a pep talk for whoever needed it.

Most of all, our classroom door became a beacon for the students of our class, a favorite reminder to each one that they were unique, they were special, and they were loved.

classroom door 3

Reading the door was a treasured activity for students as they came in from PE, recess, or the restroom.

So, yes. I am going to do it again for my new sweet kindergarten babies this year.

I cannot wait to decorate our classroom door.

All pictures used with permission. 

 

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In the Midst of the Storm, a Song: Connie’s Story

This was written by my wonderful, beautiful friend, Connie Sullivan, who felt the presence of our Father in the midst of her storm. 

connie

By Connie Sullivan…

For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.  Isaiah 25:4

Okay, this is going to be the third of his new treatments.  We have the schedule figured out.

We get there at ten.  Finished around one.  Then, yeah, we are going somewhere to eat. 

We’re still just eating in the car because he can’t get from sitting to standing easily.

But…… today she said his blood work didn’t look right.  So they test again.

How far away do you live? 

About 45 minutes. 

Ok, let’s just take care of this today.  I’m sending you to the hospital for blood after his treatment.

I try to read but I’m restless.  I can’t concentrate.  So I walk.  We’ve been here so many times now I have the path down pat, walking from the professional building through the hospital, down the ramp to the out-patient entrance and back, stopping to ramble through the new gift shop.  Chastising myself for not bringing my new Magnolia magazine to read…

It’s after one when the wheelchair arrives and we head to admitting.

Well that was a breeze for a change.  No waiting, the doctors’ orders are in place and just confirmed that the room is ready.

It’s still just after one.  We’re good.  Should be out of here in a couple of hours.  Chances for going out to eat are possible?

First they take blood to verify type, again.  Every.  Time.  We wait.  They come back to take blood again–not sure what happened with the first tubes.  Our couple of hours is sneaking up on us and we haven’t even started.  We are past tired, hungry, and starting to get curt with one another.  I go get Sneaky Pete’s from the professional building to tide us over.  Maybe that will help us play nice.

Ok, we have O positive

Yep, it hasn’t changed.

Now we wait for the blood to arrive.  And wait.  And wait.   And now we have shift change.  God bless the nurse,  she broke the news that we’re not just getting one but two units AND we have to wait another hour after it is complete to make sure there are no reactions.  Each unit will take approximately two hours.

….but that’s five – FIVE MORE HOURS….  NO. NO. NO…. Chances for eating out just vanished– poof!

Ok we’re looking at nine, most likely ten p.m.  I. AM. TOO. TIRED. FOR. THIS. 

He tells me I need to move the car.  Walking that far in the dark would not be safe.  I make the long trek through the hospital to the professional building.  I want to be as close as I can to the car before having to go outside.  Guess what, every door in the professional building is locked.  I can’t get out.  Sooooo I walk all the way back to the hospital, out the front door.  It’s kind of creepy.  I walk up the middle of the road – no traffic – no people.

It feels like one of those Sci-fy movies…just waiting for some monster to overpower me. 

I hug my arms tightly.  There are eight, yes eight (I counted them four times) vehicles left in that normally over crowded parking lot.  And I got really smart this morning, parking so the pink Crepe Myrtle would be “shade” on the car when we left – at the very end of the parking lot.  UGH!

When I return his hospital supper is served and the blood….

Where is the blood????

Peanut M&M’s – yum, the ones in those little machines – a handful at a time.  Yes, I admit it– I do that twice – but give me a break, at least it was at different times!

The first unit of blood finally gets here.  They start the verification process.

At the end he says, “Lift off!”.  We laugh.  It does sound like a NASA protocol–all those numbers back and forth.  They get it started.  We know it will be two hours.  Our sweet nurse promises she will have the second unit ordered and ready to go just as soon as the first one is completing.  We listen to the steady rhythm of the IV dispenser.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh…

We lay back and watch TV.  I try to get comfortable in a chair that was clearly made so the one sitting would not wish to stay–hard, rigid.  I get a pillow.  I get a cover.  I try to cover my eyes and lay on my side.  Everything aches, my legs, my side, my head.  About the time I settle down to hopefully just rest so I can drive home, he needs to go to the restroom. Seriously!

I hope I didn’t say anything out loud.  I sling off the cover and slam the chair down.

Did I really just act like that? Ugh!  In the midst of all that craziness, nurses helping him off the toilet, adjusting the bed, turning lights off/down…

A Quiet Voice says, “You did good today.”   My eyes well up with tears.  I bury my head in my pillow.

Thank you Father!  I so needed that. 

I can’t let him see me cry.  He knows what a toll this is taking on me and it bothers him deeply.

Finally the first unit of blood is finished and just as she promised, the second is pretty much ready to go….

Verification….lift off!

We have two hours.  It’s eight-ish.  That means it will be eleven or after before we leave.  We really need to rest just so we can see to drive home.  He says we will never make this mistake again…not in the same day.

Yeah, right.  We never seem to remember the next time or something looks a little different and we fall for it. 

He turns off the TV and we turn the lights off.  The only soft light is on the dispenser.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh… 

I toss and turn.

He says, Why don’t you just get in bed with me?  You really need to at least try to take a little nap.

I hesitate.

What will the nurses say?

But exhaustion wins.  He scoots over and I climb into to the hospital bed–my head tucked under his arm on his chest.  So close. So very close. So warm.  So safe.   It’s been so long since we’ve been able to cuddle this close.  He’s either sleeping in his chair or on a wedge at home.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh…

Here we are in the middle of a storm, the likes of which we had never seen.  I can feel something.  There is a pressure on my heart, a shortness in my responses, a tension in the air that is not going away.

And oh how the storm has hit, one round of waves crashing on top of us right after the other.

Broken foot, bone infection, amputation, home-health, chronic blisters, heart attack, cancer, back infection, surgery, home-health, therapy, infection, infection, infection…eight long years…

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh…

About this time last year I was standing in my kitchen screaming at the devil to get O.U.T.  There was so much confusion trying to just get his Chemo meds – it had to be the devil.  God is good all the time.  All the time God is good.

The nodules in his lungs are gone and the groin lymph nodes are status quo – not going away BUT not growing.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh… 

I used to keep a straight house. LOL! Not clean, but straight.  Right now two of the bedrooms would make any tornado proud of the destruction, dishes are piled in the sink, and every inch of that sweet house needs attention.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh… 

There are no flowers this year in my garden.  Only the sweet volunteers – a basket of violet Petunias and three Marigolds – weeds and all.  Ah, but the baby birds that nest right beside the front door–the high pitched chirping of four when Mama came to feed-so calming.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh…

I’ve gained weight – hard not to do when the only thing he wants to eat right now is McDonald’s.  But he’s gained weight.  That is good–a miracle!  The weight he lost was frightening and for a while we were afraid he never would gain.  I tell him if I didn’t have this weight on me, there is no way I could pick him up out of a chair, or car, or toilet or yank the sheet to pull him on his side.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh… 

I used to remember everything.  A planner, anticipating exactly what was needed next, what was due when, who was supposed to be where…  If I wrote it down on my grocery list, I didn’t even need to take it with me.  But now–well, the other day I almost cried when I realized I didn’t have my grocery list— it’s at home.  We’ll just have to do this another day.  There are so many people barking out things they need – things I forgot. I can’t even think.  I can’t breathe.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh…

If only I could sleep… I wish I woke up gentle and sweet but I don’t know the person that is waked during the night.  She is not nice.  She is not patient.  She is NOT kind – waking up to turn him over, waking up to cover him up, take the covers off, take meds, and our latest adventure – itching.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh… 

But I am thankful, the throwing up has stopped and so have the chills and the fever – chills that were frightening.  I have put every cover we have on him and laid on top of him to try to warm him.  But I think when one is chilled to the bone–nothing can help.

Swoosh…Swoosh…Swoosh… 

And then the steady rhythm of the IV Dispenser begins to sing to me. Tears come and go.

When…peace…like…a…river…at…tend…eth…my…way…When…sor…rows…like…sea…bil…lows…roll…What…ev…er…my…lot…Thou…has…taught…me…to…say…it…is…well…it…is…well…with…my…soul…It…is…well……with…my…soul……it…is…well…it…is…well…with……my…soul. 

Slumber comes and goes.

It…is…well…it…is… well…..with…my…soul… It…is…well…it…is…well……with…my…soul…

This turned out to be the last time we were able to cuddle.  He went “Home” before the year’s end…without me.

 

 

 

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7 More Weeks

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The hallway is quiet. The teacher unlocks her classroom door and thinks to herself…

7 more weeks. I can do this. I can! There is so much left to get to. I’m going to have to make every minute count. No days “off”. I’m going to have to use every second to make sure those kids are ready for the next grade. I don’t want them going on with holes in their understanding, with gaps in their comprehension. Wow…I’ve got so much to do in only 7 weeks, and some of that will be interrupted by faculty meetings, PD, testing, and a mountain of end-of-year paperwork. Can I really do this and do it right? I can do this. Okay. 7 more weeks…

Down the hall, another teacher sits at her desk and gazes around her classroom. She thinks to herself…

7 more weeks. 30 years of being an educator, and now it all comes down to 7 more weeks. This room has held my career within its walls. It’s seen the tears, the frustration, the laughter, the wonder, and the joy that comes with teaching and learning. It’s held open the window of knowledge for so many children. Bobby–wow–I thought he’d never start reading, and then, boom! One day, the light came on and he was reading everything he could get his hands on! And then, I taught his boy, and Jenny’s boy, too. I wonder if those kids remember me? I wonder if they know how much I loved teaching them? How they helped me, REALLY helped me,  through those three years that I had cancer? I’m tired. I’m ready for new adventures in retirement, but–goodness–I will miss this room. These kids. I will miss standing at my door and getting hugs and good morning smiles each day. I’ve done it for 30 years, and now I have 7 more weeks…

Next door, another teacher turns on her computers and fumes to herself…

7 more weeks. If I can just get through the next 7 weeks, I will be free of this place, at least for the summer. Free of the pressure. Free of the frustration of giving, giving, giving and seeing nothing gained. I wonder if Sally had her medicine before she got on the bus this morning? Because there is no way I can fight through 7 more weeks of her all day long. I need some help. I’m so burnt-out. Let’s see…I’ve “covered” all of my standards, so I’m going to coast through these next weeks and make them go as fast as I can…

Across the hall, a teacher hums to herself as she posts the day’s assignment…

7 more weeks. I’m going to miss these kiddos. All of them. Yes…all of them! I hope I’ve done what they need every day. I hope I’ve shown them how much I love them! I hope that Ben ate dinner last night, or he’s going to be starving this morning. I’ll need to make sure he eats breakfast either way. I hope that Missie got some shoes that fit her since she is growing so much. Shoot! I should have gotten her some while we were on break…why didn’t I remember that? Well, I still have 7 weeks to take care of these kids. I can do a lot in 7 weeks…

And on the bus, a child solemnly stares out the window and thinks…

7 more weeks. That’s all I get. Only 7 more weeks to call that teacher mine. I only get 7 more weeks to see her smiling at me, to tell her about my days at home, to smell her perfume. I only get 7 more weeks to get some good food for lunch and breakfast, for her to give me a snack. I’m glad she doesn’t fuss at me for not having a snack. I only get 7 more weeks to listen to her read stories. I like her voice. It’s never too loud or too mean. I only get to listen to her for 7 more weeks. I wish we could come to school every day, even on the weekends. Even in the summer. And I wish she could be my teacher all the time. But that’s not how it works. I get 7 more weeks. That’s not very long…

There’s a lot of ways to look at 7 more weeks. How can we make it count?

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