Library Redo

Remember last year when we worked on organizing our classroom library?  You might not, because I couldn’t find it on the blog….:(  Maybe the post I thought I wrote got lost in the “it-has-to-be-finished-and-perfect” list I told you about yesterday.  Well, since my pledge is to tell all the stories, not just the finished ones, I’ll share the parts of this story that we have finished (and that I have pictures of!).

We left at the end of 1st grade with a (mostly) organized library, which we had worked on together little-by-little last year.  We packed it away in that same way, which always helps when I put the classroom back together the next fall.  We figured out, though, that we had never gotten the boxes fully labeled, and so as we started using the books again this year, they got all mixed up.  We decided we should probably just start over; I was the only one who knew what most of the categories were supposed to be.

We started by pairing up, and first going through the boxes we already had established.  I gave each pair a box, and their job was 1) to figure out what their books had in common, 2) decide if they had any that didn’t match that category, 3) and then make a label that matched their newly decided-upon category.  All of the extras got piled up in the middle of the room for later.

The second year together has been a great learning process in many ways.  Of course, for many reasons, we’re doing many things differently, but there are also some things that are the same that they are doing differently.  This is a perfect example.  The understanding they have of genre and the difference between fiction/non-fiction, as well as the ability to see similarities and differences is deeper than when they did the library sort as first graders, so the same activity is even more meaningful than the first time.  Even the way they “get” why we did it, why we did it together (as opposed to just having ME take care of it), and why we should keep it organized is different than last year.


Do Parents Make Better Teachers? (Part 2)

Wow–I didn’t initially intend for this to be a two-parter, but I got to the end of #3 and figured it made more sense than continuing towards that 15-year-to-read post I mentioned.  Ok, here we go again.  And here’s Part 1 if you missed it.

4. In 2012, our family made another step in the stages of growth when my first baby went to kindergarten.  Um…in case you didn’t know, the first day of kindergarten (i.e. real school) is VERY different than the first days of preschool.  At least for me.  Oh, the tears!  Plus there was an added level of fun stress responsibility because I was sending him to my same school.  That meant I had to quickly dry the tears and get back to my big kids for our first day of school.  Needless to say, being a parent of a school-aged child was a learning experience.  I think I’d say the hardest (and more surprising) part was parent-teacher conferences.  As a mama of a kindergartener I learned that parent-teacher conferences are nerve-wracking from the other side of the table.  No matter what.  And wow–that was a big deal for me.  After over a decade of going through that routine as a teacher, I finally “got it” as a parent.  I knew that from then on I would do everything in my power to ease any nerves that came in with parents to my own conferences.  And even though I’ve now done 5 of my own conferences, I still cry.  I’ve learned to let Mr. Bearden be in charge in this realm. 🙂

5. As I mentioned before, I went back to primary last year, after 9 years with “big” kids.  At first I was super scared.  Ok, I was nervously excited.  I knew it would all come back, but here’s perhaps the biggest way in which I know I am a better teacher a parent.  I was not a mom the last time I taught 1st and 2nd grade, but now I have an 8 1/2 and a 5 YO.  That definitely has added to my arsenal of strategies and tricks that I can use in countless situations.  Remember how I mentioned that classroom management that first year was so hard to learn and how I thought I might die? Ok, I didn’t say that, but it’s funny to see the difference with managing things in a primary grade the second time around.  Yes, part of the ease is that I have now been teaching for so many more years; this has been an education in itself.  But being a mom has also given me another set of eyes in the back of my head.  I know better what to anticipate (and then hopefully prevent) with 7-8 YOs, because I have one at home.  I can speak to little ones in a better and more meaningful way since I’ve had so much more practice since the last time around.  I can better predict what will be the right words to motivate, the right words to encourage, or stop or which words might send a little one into tears (and yes, I try to avoid those!).  The extra treat that I didn’t anticipate was being able to understand the “culture” of this age; I totally understand their games, books, TV shows, etc., because they’re the same as what I have at home!!

Ok, so back to the initial question.  Do parents make better teachers?  For me, that’s definitely true. However, there are many ways to define “better,” and there are of course AMAZING teachers who are not parents.  I have, however, learned many lessons and can better understand many of the ins-and-outs since I am on both sides of the equation.  That education has been such a gift.

What I’ve known–and truly believed–all along though, is that regardless of their career, the job that parents do as their child’s first teachers is priceless.  It is therefore not my job to replace them as the teacher, but to work together on a new team of teachers and parents to help mold our students into the best versions of themselves they can be.  The work that mamas and daddies do before I even get their kiddos is so important to the work that I will then do with each student once they enter my classroom.  What fun to join the family of learners to work together towards a common goal!