Friday, April 25, 2014

I'm an introvert and a teacher. (And that's ok.)

Hello all!

I've been doing some introspection this week and thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

I'm an introvert, through and through. Put me in front of a crowd and I love it. Organized notes, shiny pictures, sharing my experience: I love it. But put me in a one-on-one conversation or a party situation and I freeze up like a deer in headlights.

This has made being a teacher a challenge. I like quiet and order. I've come to terms with the fact that some areas of the classroom are just going to be messy (like my desk. And Dramatic Play center). I let the kids get messy in art and allow extra time to clean it up.  I've learned to ignore behaviors that don't hurt anyone else or interfere with learning, although there are days when everything seems to bother me and I need to take lots of deep breaths.
    My biggest challenge is working with my team. Don't get me wrong: I have a great team that's creative and loves the kids and works hard. My problem is that if they don't directly tell me something's wrong, I might miss it because I'm more focused on the activity in the classroom.
    I'm not great at talking to people on the best of days; in a one-on-one conversation, thoughts just fly from my head and I have trouble thinking of things to say. I love working one-on-one with kids; probably because I'm not worried about being judged by them.
        I've read some great articles online about being an introverted teacher and looked through my resources. My boss has been helpful, too, in helping me be more of a leader with my team and realizing what they need.

To get around this, I've found some strategies that might be useful to my fellow introverts:

1. Accept it. It's ok to be an introverted teacher. There are lots of us out there and it can be a really useful style, especially when it comes to working in small groups.

2. Use resources about parent relationships and child relationships to help you with your working relationships. It's a process. There's a ton of information out there about Active Listening, making sure you use praise, talk to each of them about something positive every day. The conversations with your coworkers don't need to be long; it's a matter of "faking it til you make it."

3. Interact with others in ways that make you feel comfortable. I prefer large groups, preferably around eating or gaming. That way, there's something else to focus on besides conversation, which I don't have to carry.

4. Recognize your other qualities and strengths. The world values extroversion, but introverts are awesome too! We get lost in good books, we can be good listeners, we can have inner strength. Focus on the great things about yourself and how you succeed at work.

5. Make time for yourself.  I need my lunch. I sit in the back and crochet and if I don't get it, I get cranky and exhausted. If you don't have a lunch, try taking a minute or two longer in the bathroom or work some time in at the end of the day. Every day, do something that makes you happy that's just for you.

6. Open up to your coworkers. Be honest and say, "I may have trouble communicating with you until I get to know you. Make sure to let me know what you need and I'll make sure to check in with you."

Are you an introvert? How do you cope at work?

Until next time!

--Amy Latta

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Come Fly with Me!

Hello all!

First, here's a midweek pick-me-up from Frank Sinatra:

I know I was quiet last week. I was recovering from vacation and finding my groove. I've also been crocheting a bit more lately as I've had some ideas from the beach! 

So I didn't take many pictures last week. We talked about wheels and how they make cars go. We looked at the differences between a truck and a racecar, then drew a fast car. The students had to tell us why their car was fast and we dictated it.

In art center, we set up mini cars and paint. We encouraged the children to run the cars through the paint and then on the paper. Quite a few of them had qualms about it, probably because we've had other students draw on cars before and they got in trouble. They had fun once they got into it and were crashing into each other in no time. In block center, students set up ramps and had lots of fun jumping cars off of them and seeing how far they could go. It was a great chance for experimentation and changing their environment to test hypotheses (one of the NC Foundations!)

This week, we're studying air and its effect on vehicles. We started to track the weather by letting one student draw the weather on a chart. Science and writing integration for the win! Yesterday, we looked at what the weather had been like the past couple of days and the students drew a picture of what they thought it would be today. Without prompting, we heard some great weather words: "Stormy," "Cloudy." I found a blanket with a map of the US on it, so I'll start filming the students talking about weather with a cardboard microphone. 

My favorite activity of the week was turning Dramatic Play into an airport. I found these great signs from the Sparklebox site and put them on some shelves in the center. I printed out boarding passes and put them in their own labeled container. Food was available near a restaurant sign and I had chairs set up nearby for an airplane. The kids loved handing food out to the passengers on the plane, packing their bags, and handing out tickets. I guided the pilots through what pilots would normally say on a flight and let others who wanted to fly be a copilot. The best part is, it took maybe 10 minutes to set up while using resources we already had (bookbags, a hat, and an old pair of headphones). 

We're exploring air, too. We blew paint through straws and talked about how the letter "P" makes a puff of air on our hands. Tomorrow, we're going to create boats from styrofoam and paper and set them afloat in the water table. 

We have a long weekend this week, so I'll update and share once I get the unit plan up on TpT and TeachersNotebook.  I should be able to have some great pictures for you then, too.

Reach for the stars!