NEDA Week 2021

2 years ago I shared a story that is very close to my heart. I talked about my younger sister’s struggle with Anorexia Nervosa and how it has impacted her life and my life. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week so I thought it would be time to share again the battle my sister has gone through over the years in hopes that someone out there reads this and gets help for themselves or their loved ones.

To start things off, you probably should get to know my spunky baby sister. Her name is Lea and she is 22 years old. She graduated last May with a Bachelor’s in Pastoral Studies and is currently working in a church while writing a few books on the side. (She’s low key a genius.) Lea is my best friend and always has been. We are 3 years apart but that has never impacted our relationship. From the moment Lea was born she was mine. I was convinced at 3 years old that she was my baby and I had to protect her against everything in this world. I laugh because my mom will tell stories about us when we were little and how I always did what Lea wanted to do in order to make her happy. Apparently I was quite the push over big sister. If I was playing with a Barbie my sister wanted, I would give it to her. If I wanted to go to McDonalds and she wanted to go to Dairy Queen, we went to Dairy Queen. This was constant but it never phased me. I was happy to please her.

Lea 2011 as a spunky and beautiful 12 year old!

Lea was a spunky carefree child. I envied her because she wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything. She was bold and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. I remember one time when she was 5 and I was 8, we were at track practice with our mom while she was coaching. During practice, my job was to keep an eye on Lea. Somehow we ended up inside the school where the track was at and we spotted a fire alarm. Lea was attracted to it like a magnet. She kept telling me how she wanted to pull it and I was in hysterics telling her it was a terrible idea. I told her how much trouble we would get in but she didn’t care. After taunting me for a few minutes she decided to pull the trigger. She grabbed the alarm and pulled it down sending the whole building into evacuation. Obviously I was mortified and my mom was livid. I was sobbing constantly saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” while Lea couldn’t stop laughing at what she did. It cracks me up now just thinking about it because it was a classic “Lea” move. She just wanted to have a little fun and didn’t think about the consequences. This was the Lea I knew. What I didn’t know at the time was that, even at 5 years old, something troubling going on inside her brain.

Lea on the far right dressed up as Lilo for Halloween 2004

When she was in first grade, Lea started exhibiting some major OCD habits. She had thrown up at school one day and had convinced herself that she threw up because of school. She started to refuse to go to school because she was certain she would get sick. She started washing her hands excessively to “kill the germs.” And when I say excessively, I mean for 5 minutes straight under hot water. She refused to touch any surface that wasn’t sanitized first and she would never touch another person, let alone let them touch her. Her obsessiveness with being clean and healthy continued for years. It also slowly lead into what eventually would become her eating disorder.

My sister and I were close in many ways but one of the biggest things we shared growing up was our love for gymnastics. Gymnastics was our life. We had practices at least twice a week but even when we weren’t in the gym, we were doing something gymnastics related at home in the basement or outside on our trampoline. We had the same friends because our closest friends were the girls on our team. As much as I loved gymnastics, Lea loved it 10 times more. It was her passion for 8 years of her life. That’s why it became incredibly concerning when she stopped caring about gymnastics altogether.

When Lea was in 8th grade she made the varsity cross country team. Our mom was the assistant coach and is an avid runner. Both Lea and I HATED to run but we joined the team because we knew it would make our mom happy. When she joined the team, Lea started to realize how talented and fast she really was. She would win races without even trying that hard. Before she knew it, she was on varsity as a middle schooler.

After her 8th grade season she decided to continue running on the off season. At the time, we thought it was because she wanted to keep her varsity spot. We later found out, she kept running because she was losing weight and liked it. She became crazed with running. She started to run before and after school daily. When gymnastics started, she continued her crazy running schedule. She would run twice a day while also attending our daily 2.5 hour gymnastics practice. She would run in the morning before school and then every night after practice. It became so intense that I started to really worry about her health and her mental stability. Within a few months running slowly morphed into her new obsession. It became the most important thing in her life, more important than gymnastics.

Over the next year, Lea started running up to 10 miles every day while eating low calorie meals that were considered “healthy.” She stopped eating sugar and would find alternatives to anything considered “not good for you.” Within months she dropped so much weight that she was down to a mere 80 pounds. It took time for my family to fully see what was going on. At the time, my parents were so impressed with her choices and were so proud of her for working so hard that they didn’t see the major red flags right in front of them.

At the age of 13, the day of my 18th birthday, Lea ran her first marathon. Marathons usually have a minimum age requirement because it’s NOT SAFE for children to put their bodies through that. This particular race required you to be 18 years of age or older. Thanks to the day falling on my 18th birthday, my mom registered her as me. I was livid for many reasons. I was jealous because of the attention she was getting on the day I officially became an adult but I was also mad because my parents were letting her put her body through that . She was 13! I tried to express my major concerns but they just thought I was jealous she did something I could never do.

Lea on the far right after her first marathon: May 11th, 2013

From May to September of 2013 Lea dramatically lost weight and became more and more obsessed with not eating and over exercising. I was very worried about her and was not shy about my feelings. This caused some major tension in our house. My parents would get angry whenever I told them what Lea was doing was not okay. They were blinded by her new lifestyle. It wasn’t until her body started to show other side effects that my mom started to realize maybe something was wrong.

The left picture is May 2013 and the right is September 2013.

At the beginning of her freshman year of high school, Lea had her 14 year old physical. The doctor’s knew from her blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs that something was not right. They then heard about her dramatic weight loss and new work out regime. They referred her to see a therapist to talk about what was going on in her life. My mom figured it couldn’t hurt to have her talk to someone since she did have some OCD and depressive like tendencies. Within weeks of seeing this new therapist, the therapist requested that my mom take her to our state’s Children’s Hospital because she knew Lea needed much more help than she could offer her.

This was the start of our new normal. Over the next handful of years Lea spent days, weeks, even months at a time in in-patient facilities. She started off at the Children’s Hospital. She was at the hospital on and off for about a year. It was a constant cycle of the same thing. Lea would be admitted, stay a few weeks so her vitals would be safe enough to leave, come home, lose weight FAST, and end up right back at the hospital days later. Clearly, Children’s wasn’t working on the root of the problem. At Children’s, the sole purpose of sending someone with an eating disorder there is to get them to gain the weight back. Unfortunately, “just eating” is not the solution to this mental illness.

Because of the constant cycle between living in the hospital and coming home, the doctor’s realized she needed more. She then went to a few different places that focuses more on mental rehabilitation than physical. These programs did much more for her than anything she’d had before. It took a few years, and a few different places, but she finally found a place that worked for her. She found success in the Melrose Center for Eating Disorders in Minnesota. Not only did she receive medical help when her body was failing her, but also learned useful tools to help her overcome her mental illnesses.

These pictures were taken over 3 years of her being in treatment centers. 2020 on the left, 2019 in the middle, and 2018 on the right. As you can see, she would struggle for awhile, be at a “healthy weight” for a few months, and then struggle once again. This is unfortunately the ups and downs of her ED.

It’s been almost 9 years since she was officially diagnosed. She has spent over half that time living away from home in treatment centers. She has found God and uses that to lift her up daily. She uses her past to help others overcome their ED. But she still struggles on a daily basis. She has good days and bad days. She has heart problems because of what she has put her body through. Her bones are so deteriorated that she has osteoporosis at 22. She knows that her life isn’t going to be easy because ED will always be there lingering in the background. As her sister, the one who always wanted to protect her from everything, it kills me to come to this realization. The only thing I can do, is be there for her on the good days and the bad days. She has come SO FAR in her journey that I could not be prouder. Her ultimate goal in life is to go around the country speaking to middle school and high school kids telling them her story. She doesn’t want a single person to go through what she has and will stop at nothing to share her story. She is the strongest bravest person I know.

This is Lea today. Happy and doing what she loves. Preaching the word!

This is where I stop sharing her story and start warning some of you reading this. My parents are 2 of the most loving people on the planet. They have always been so supportive of us and have wanted nothing more than for us to be happy. My mom, being the track and cross country coach in our town, has had many athletes over the years who have suffered from an eating disorder. She knows the signs and symptoms but couldn’t identify it in her own daughter. We didn’t know it at the time, but Lea started showing symptoms through her OCD patterns when she was only in elementary school. No matter how old or young someone is, they could be hurting and not even know it.

Anorexia has the highest death rate above all other mental health disorders. It is serious and needs more attention than it gets. As a society, we aren’t aware of how to spot someone with an eating disorder, let alone help them through their eating disorder. We continue to idolize fit and skinny people because we’re told that’s what a “healthy” person looks like. Ha. WRONG! Over exercising and dieting is not the way to live a healthy lifestyle. Life comes with checks and balances for a reason. Our bodies need sugar. They need rest. They need carbs. Restricting ourselves from things like that, is the opposite of healthy living.

Please, take some time to really think about your own self and how you are living your life right now. Are you happy? Are you taking care of not just your body, but your mind? Are the loved ones in your life okay? Do they need someone to check in on them just so they know someone cares? Take care of yourself and those in your life. Love yourself for who you are and love your friends and family for who they are no matter what. We are all meant to be different and should embrace our individualities. You are beautiful and amazing. Never forget that.

(BTW: If you are interested in her amazing book/devotional, here is the link to purchase Reflections in the Midst of the Storm on Amazon!)

Top 10 of 2020

One thing I enjoy the most about the end of the year is looking back and finding the best parts of the past 365 days. Obviously, we all know 2020 has been ROUGH. Like most people in the world, I lost a lot. I got dumped (twice), I lost my job, I wasn’t able to go on an international trip I had planned, and I got COVID. This year was easily one of the worst years of my life. That being said, because of all the bad it made me respect the good parts even more. I’m looking back at my top 10 of 2020! (I was going to do the top 20 of 2020 but I’m a realist!)

10. True Team Gymnastics

I love gymnastics. If you’ve been following me the past few years, you know that gymnastics rules my winters. I have been coaching high school gymnastics now for 3 years and love every second of it. Last January, our girls were ranked one of the top 10 teams in the state of Minnesota. Because of that, we got invited to compete in the Minnesota True Team tournament. The top 10 teams in the state are invited to compete. It’s a huge accomplishment for the girls. The girls ended up placing 7th that day. We were so proud of them!

9. State Gymnastics Tournament

In February, our team was able to advance 3 individuals to the state tournament. These 3 girls were able to represent our team with the best individual gymnasts in the state. We had a few falls, and it was a rough day, but they made it to the most important meet of the year which was huge! We stayed in a hotel the night before and had some serious bonding time together. I loved it!

8. Easter

Easter came around the time of lockdown. My family wanted to do something together that was special but also safe. For the first time ever, I “hosted” my family for Easter at my apartment. We ordered take out from Olive Garden (I don’t cook) and we spent the day playing cards together while spending some much needed quality time together. (Something that we hadn’t been able to do in a long time!)

7. Graduate

In May, my baby sister graduated from college! I was so proud of her. She graduated with a 4 year degree in 3 years. She gradated with a Bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Studies. She is an incredible young lady who was able to get a job before she officially graduated. (During this time she also wrote her own devotional book because, why not?)

6. Maid of Honor

My best friend was proposed to back in the spring. She is like a second sister to me. Growing up, we were a few years apart in school but only a year apart in age. Our personalities are 100% the same so we’ve been there for each other through everything! I was so happy for her when I finally got the picture of her ring with no caption. About a month later, she surprised me by asking me to be her maid of honor. I was so honored I started to cry. I’m so excited for October 2nd, 2021 when I can officially do my maid of honor duties.

5. New Job Alert

Thanks to COVID, I was let go from my previous school district last spring. They ended up cutting every nontenured teacher in the district because of budget issues that came along with COVID changes. It was a huge blow and one of the worst days of my life. I was fortunate enough to get hired in August back in the original district I taught in 3 years ago. I am so grateful for that. I love my “new” district. It’s the same district I grew up in and the same district I coach in so it was meant to be!

4. Best Friends Forever

This year has tested the relationships in my life. I have lost friendships and gained deeper friendships. I was dumped by two different guys but I became much closer to another guy in my life. My best friend (not the one who’s getting married) and I have had an interesting relationship these past 5 years. Anyone who knows us, knows how close we are. People are always assuming we’re dating because he’s a guy and I’m a girl and we know everything about the other one. We’ve had some major ups and downs in our friendship but this year made us even tighter than we were before. We have spent so much more time together and talk daily. He is family and I love him to death. Quarantine has shown the both of us how important we are to each other and how we will always be there no matter the circumstance. (He also is the one who gave me COVID so we share that unique experience!😂 )

3. My Students

I love my kids. Anyone who knows me knows how much my students mean to me. The spring was just awful, not being able to see them every day. It was also awful knowing that, because I was cut, I would never be able to see them in person again. Distance learning in the spring really showed me how much the students in my life mean to me. My class this year is just as special. I love each and every one of them so much. (Even the ones that test me on a daily basis!) I have been so impressed with the maturity and flexibility they have shown through this pandemic. My kids this year are so used to change that they can handle literally anything I throw at them. It has also been so refreshing to see how grateful they are for even the smallest of gestures. They’ve lost so much this year as well so they are thankful for things my classes in the past wouldn’t even bat an eye at. As much as distance learning has sucked for students, they have gained so much through this experience that will make them incredible people in the future!

2. Lucy

My baby! ❤️ This year we celebrated her 4th “got ya day!” I love my kitty so much (and I’m not shy about it!) Thanks to COVID and quarantine, I’ve got to spend so much more time with her than I ever have been able to before. Pets are true happiness. I don’t know how I would have survived this year, being locked by myself in my apartment, without her. (I apologize for the Lucy collage I’m about to share!) She is my best friend and I’m not ashamed to say that!

1. Family Love

This year has been amazing for my family reconnecting. 2019 ended with my parents being separated. They had a bad end of the year and we weren’t sure what would happen between them. My sister and my dad had a very strained relationship as well. They could hardly be around each other without the toxicity starting. I was stuck in the middle of it all. We didn’t spend much time together for the longest time because of all the issues we were dealing with. Because of COVID and lockdown, we all really reexamined our relationships with each other. I think we all separately realized how important we were to each other and we wanted that back. It wasn’t easy, and it took months to work through, but we are back to being a strong and happy family of 4. If it wasn’t for the time we had to sit and think about what matters in life, we might not have worked through all of the issues we had going on. As much as COVID and quarantine sucked, this was the best thing that came out of it. I love my family and I love how we are stronger than we have ever been!

We all know 2020 was terrible and I’m so excited for that ball to drop in 6 hours, but I am thankful for the year we had. I’m grateful for the positives that occurred even with the tragedies going on around us. That being said 2021, I’M SO READY FOR YOU!

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NEDA Week 2021

2 years ago I shared a story that is very close to my heart. I talked about my younger sister’s struggle with Anorexia Nervosa and how it has impacted her life and my life. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week so I thought it would be time to share again the battle my … Continue reading NEDA Week 2021

My Experience With COVID-19

Well it happened, I got the COVID. I didn’t get it at school AND I wear a mask ALL THE TIME when I’m around people I don’t know and when I’m in public but I still was lucky enough to get it. I wanted to share my experience since it is such a weird virus. Everyone I’ve talked to who have had it have experienced different things. I kept going online looking for someone with similar symptoms as myself but I couldn’t find anything. I’m hoping that maybe someone reading this can relate to some of the things I talk about and it clicks with them that they might have it too and should get tested.

How did I get it? Most people have this question because you truly might not know. I know exactly how I got it and from whom. I’m not going to lie, I’m a very antisocial person! I have a very VERY small group of friends who I enjoy spending time with and see on a regular basis. My best friend, let’s call him Sam, is the only person I see weekly and I have done so for the past 4 years. I’ve also been super cautious these past 9 months about who I interact with and I know he has been the same way so I have felt safe spending time with him. Well, unfortunately one of Sam’s roommates was exposed and didn’t know. In turn, he gave it to Sam without knowing, and Sam gave it to me without knowing. It happens that fast.

I was exposed on a Saturday but didn’t have any symptoms until 4 days later. I’m on day 17 post exposure and I’m still feeling the effects of this thing. Here is my timeline (again, it is probably different than what you may have experienced or what you have heard from loved ones.)

Day 1: No symptoms

Day 2: No symptoms

Day 3: No symptoms

Day 4: The symptoms began without knowing they were symptoms. I had a sore throat and was super tired. (This is normal when I get overly tired at school. I had no idea these were symptoms.)

Day 5: Sore throat got worse and my tiredness began to turn into pure exhaustion.

Day 6: Sore throat felt the same as Day 5. I also developed a stuffed/runny nose and headache. (I truly thought this was a cold because these are my normal cold symptoms…) I also was so tired, I could barely think. This was the day that I found out Sam had been tested and his test came back positive. I then took a test myself.

Day 7: Throat felt much better but my nose was still stuffed. I was so tired and fatigued I could barely get off of the couch. I slept most of the day. I also noticed the “COVID fog” set in. I could hardly focus on anything.

Day 8: Very similar to Day 7. My nose was still stuffed and I slept the day away. This was the day I also noticed my taste and smell were gone. This was SUPER weird. I’m used to losing smell because my nose is so stuffed but I’ve never fully lost my taste before! It was so weird.

Day 9: Started to feel a little better. I could get up and walk around my apartment but only for a certain amount of time before I needed to lay down again. Nose still stuffed and still no taste or smell. This was the day my test results came back confirming I had Coronavirus.

Day 10: Very similar to Day 9. I was able to get up and move around. I started to notice, however that a deep breath was very challenging for me. This was also the day the insomnia set in.

Day 11: My taste returned but still no smell. My nose was still stuffed and taking a deep breath was still hard. I was able to do more around my apartment without feeling so fatigued. This was the day I started to feel super bored in quarantine because I didn’t feel the need to sleep all day. The insomnia continued at night.

Day 12: Very similar to Day 11. I had taste but no smell and my nose was stuffed up. Deep breaths were hard and I began to notice that the more active I was, the easier it was for me to become winded. I started to notice that I had to do things at a slow pace otherwise I would be out of breath. I also noticed that I was still pretty weak without feeling as sick.

Day 13: Similar to Day 12 but I began to notice my legs were achy. I thought it was from all the laying and sitting but I stretched them and made it a point to move around more but they felt weak.

Day 14: Similar to Day 13.

Day 15: Similar to Day 13 BUT I was able to do 20 minutes of yoga again!

Day 16: My symptoms were similar to how they had been but the major fatigue was back. I had a virtual staff meeting in the morning for 2 hours and by the end of it, I had to go and take a 2 hour nap. I spent most of the day on the couch again just exhausted. I also noticed that after working for a few hours, the COVID fog was back. I could hardly focus on anything.

Day 17: This is my first day back officially at work. The plus side is that we are fully distance learning so I can work from my desk all day without moving around so much. I also can go and work from home if I need to. Deep breaths are still challenging for me and I still get winded very quickly. I feel like I am extremely out of shape. I still have a stuffed nose and I still can’t smell. My legs still feel super weak and the COVID fog comes and goes.

It’s SO weird how this virus has changed over these past 2 weeks. I also want to note that I never had a fever or a major cough. (2 very common signs of COVID.) My aunt, uncle, and cousin all had it but they all experienced something completely different from me and each other. The one thing we all have in common though, is that we still are all slow moving and get tired too quickly. My uncle had it a month and a half ago and told me he still gets winded from the simplest of things and has to take it easy.

The one thing about quarantine that I did enjoy, was all the time and photo shoots I got to take with my cat….yes, I’m a crazy cat lady and I embrace it!

I have attached an interesting chart I saw on Facebook yesterday that compare COVID symptoms to the flu and the common cold. I found it interesting because a lot of my symptoms aligned with the common cold and not COVID. If you have ANY of these symptoms, go get yourself tested because it might just be the Coronavirus even if you’re convinced it’s not.

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Mystery Science for the WIN

Oh. My. Goodness. This COVID teaching life is no joke. I am EXHAUSTED. I mean, we all know that teaching is exhausting but adding on all of the new rules AND the constant changes, is extra rough.

I’ve learned this year that I have to be okay with not being the best teacher in some areas and accepting that things are going to be hard and different. I will admit that this week was a hard week in many ways. Our school has gone from dropping the bomb that we would be moving to hybrid learning in the elementary schools on Monday, to being told we wouldn’t be given prep time for that transition on Tuesday, to then being told we would not be going to hybrid on Thursday. There is no other way to explain it than to say it was a total mind f**k. On top of that huge confusion, I had parent and student issues going on as well. I honestly can say I know I taught something this week but I don’t really know what.

The thing that got me through this week was my amazing team. This is the first time I feel like I’m on a team where everyone understands each other and is always there for you no matter what. I’m also finally on a team where everyone is a real person. There are no words to explain how helpful that makes everything.

There has been one resource that has truly been a lifesaver for me. If there is one subject I am not good at teaching, it’s science. I have really struggled with that in the past and was really stressing about how I would do it this year since I’m struggling just teaching reading and math.

This year our district is piloting Mystery Science as our science curriculum. For years I have been showing Mystery Doug videos weekly to my classes just for fun. If you’ve never watched these videos, do it! They are usually about 5-10 minutes long and touch on anything and everything kids want to know about. A video might be on how pencils are made, but the videos go way deeper than just that answer. I’ve told my students that every time I watch a video, I learn something new even if I know the answer to the title of the video.

Mystery Doug than evolved into a full fledged science curriculum website known as Mystery Science. (To be honest, I’m not sure what came first Mystery Doug or Mystery Science but I personally heard of Mystery Doug first.) Mystery Science’s website is super easy to follow and teach that literally anyone can do it! Even someone like me who really struggles understanding parts of science in the first place.

All you do is find your grade level standards and there are videos ready to go to show your students. The video goes through a lesson and always has a hands on exploration at the end. My students are starting the year off by learning about energy and electricity. They just completed an activity where they built their own chain reaction machine. It was so cool because they got to learn about energy transfer while also being their own engineers.

The site is so friendly to use that it is PERFECT for a distance learning teacher. My students all have their own Chromebooks so we’ve been practicing on doing lessons completely independently just in case we have to go distance in the future.

I send out a link on Seesaw to the week’s lesson, show them the materials they will need for the exploration, and then set them loose. The lesson videos are 10-30 minutes long and the hands on activities are around 30 minutes long. I’ve really enjoyed watching my kids be totally independent in their learning while navigating the videos and making their projects.

We do every other lesson together as a class so we can have class discussions and I can keep track of their learning. The weeks that they go through the videos on their own, I have a print out of questions they have to answer throughout so I can see later they followed along. (This has prevented my slackers from just clicking through the videos just to get done.)

The other super nice thing about this site is they are always updating it and posting new projects and videos weekly for any grade level. An example this week was that they posted a video on creepy crawly bugs. I sent this video link out to my class today during WIN time as an optional “Friday Fun” activity. They watched a short video and then got to make their own symmetrical centipedes. They LOVED it! It was so fun watching them laugh at the videos and get super into making their own bugs. The best part was that, to them, it was a Friday Fun activity but they were actually doing a science lesson at the same time without even realizing it.

Moral of the story, even if your school has a set science curriculum, go check out Mystery Science’s site. If you subscribe to Mystery Doug’s weekly videos, you get a new free video sent to your email every week followed by extra activities they will randomly post throughout the week. (Like the bug activity from today.) Kids love it and I promise you will to because it is no extra work. It’s actually a nice relaxing time of the week because for a few minutes you can take a breath while they are captivated by the video being shown.

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Back in Work Mode

Oh man, I don’t know about the rest of you but I feel like everyday has been a marathon and a sprint at the same time. I don’t know if it’s because of our shortened schedule mixed with our new COVID rules and procedures but I am exhausted at the end of every day. I also feel like I never get everything done that I need to.

We are now officially one month into school and I have finally come to the conclusion of what kind of class I have. I have a group of really sweet kids but they are also a group of kids who cannot be unsupervised or unstructured for more than a few minutes. They are the type of class that can get really loud and excited fast but then cannot come back down. I’ve had a couple of classes like this before so I sadly know what we will and won’t be able to do.

I’ve also come to the conclusion on who my students are as people. I know who my class clowns are, who my shy insecure kids are, and who my overachievers are.

My students (at least I think) have realized who I am as a teacher as well. I have high expectations for them and they know it. (Some of them hate it.) I do not tolerate certain behaviors that they have been able to get away with in the past. For some, this year has been a rude awakening and I’ve been called the mean teacher many times. In our district, 5th grade is the last year of elementary school. We tell our kids on day 1 that we are going to treat them like middle schoolers so there isn’t such a culture shock next year when they enter 6th grade. It’s been crazy for me to see how many of them don’t even act like a 10 year old.

It’s been rough trying to get everyone back into school life again. I’ve been told by my teammates that the 5th grade teachers are known as the “mean teachers in the school” because of the high expectations. What has made this year even harder than normal is that some of these kids haven’t had any structure in over 6 months. (Some even longer than that because their 4th grade teacher had no expectations what so ever.) The first few weeks I caught them doing things that I couldn’t even believe I was seeing. During a test I had students getting up to talk/share answers with another student in a different spot of the room. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had students who constantly tried to “sneak” on their hats in the classroom even though it’s a school policy to not wear hats. I’ve also had students who have flat out refused to do what I’ve asked of them. When I’ve asked them if they have gotten away with refusing what a teacher has asked before they said yes. It’s been wild and has definitely been an eye opener.

Besides the weird behaviors and adjusting to being back at school, we’ve had some pretty good moments including these amazing Daily 5 moments and this amazing writing my student wrote for me during write to self. (For anyone who doesn’t know, Max Kepler is an outfielder for the MN Twins and I love him!)

This year (thanks to the threat of going distance again) our school has provided Chromebooks for everyone in the district. Before this year, only kids in grades 6-12 had them. Being 5th graders, our students were the first to get their Chromebooks in the school. It’s been fun incorporating different sites and apps into our lessons. I am used to teaching with 1:1 devices, so it’s been fun for me to teach my students how to use different platforms like Seesaw, IXL, and Epic. I’ve also learned that “free Chromebook time” is the perfect Friday afternoon reward for positive behavior since the novelty of having them hasn’t worn off yet.

On top of the sites I’ve used before, I’ve also learned about more platforms our school is rolling out district wide this year. It’s been exciting incorporating different typing and music sites that they’ve been learning how to use in their media and music classes. As crazy as this year is, using the Chromebooks has been a nice constant in our day that will be able to stay constant when and if we have to go back to distance learning.

I’m also trying to adjust to trying to teach outside as much as possible. I’ve kind of been slacking on this. The only time I’ve really been outside with my class is to eat snack and lunch. That’s been it. (And that has been interesting itself.)

This is one of my students using the tinfoil from his lunch to “heat up” his friends peas….

I felt bad this week when I was hearing from other teachers about how they’ve been out to teach reading and to do math homework. Today I finally decided it was time to try going out. We were in the middle of taking our super long unit reading test so I had them finish it outside. It was wonderful and went much better than I had expected. (It helped that one of my harder students wasn’t in my room at the time.)

It’s been a weird month and it’s only going to get weirder. With our county’s COVID numbers, we are more than likely heading to a hybrid model soon which will be a whole new definition of weird. BUT I am thankful to have a job and to be able to see and teach my students in person. I’m really hoping things start to turn around soon so we won’t have to go back to what last year was like. Fingers crossed.

The mask eyes you have to make in order for your students to know
you mean business.

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Outside Cafeterias and Masking Up – COVID Classroom 2020

Our first full week is complete and I’m shockingly not as tired as I have been in the past. It was a good week full of lots of housekeeping and FINALLY starting some curriculum lessons!

This week started off with a pretty normal couple of days but then the bomb came. We found out Monday that on Wednesday our entire school building’s schedule was going to change! Because of specialist schedules and bathroom schedules, the schedule had to be rewritten so our classes wouldn’t mix in the hallways. Luckily for us, the only thing that switched in our schedule was lunch being a whole half an hour sooner than it had been. That was wonderful news for me because I was STARVING by the time we finally got to eat. It’s crazy how much of a difference 30 minutes can make.

My students loved the change in schedule as well so it didn’t bother me too much. The only problem came when one of my students (who needs to know what’s going on at all times otherwise he has a mini melt down) couldn’t understand why our schedule changed and why we were going to lunch sooner when the clock didn’t read our “normal” time. I felt bad for the poor kid. He handled it much better however than I thought. He was able to adjust quickly by the next day.

Lunch has been one thing that has been really strange this year. For one thing, because we can’t mix with other classes, we can’t each lunch in the lunchroom with the whole grade level like normal. Because of that, we have to eat in our classrooms (gross) or outside! If there is one thing I hate, it’s the smell of a cafeteria in an elementary school. I LOVE my job but I hate lunch supervision duty. (Even if the smell wasn’t so bad, just watching some kids eat is disgusting!) When I heard that my students would be eating in the classroom, I was not too thrilled.

The first few days I tried eating inside but it was too chaotic and the smell was too much. This week, I took my students outside to eat and it was a little easier. It was a challenge to get my students to eat the first few days rather than go crazy because they were outside. I think it was hard for them to understand that we were outside to eat lunch, not play. Yesterday and today, however finally got better. They found a spot in the grass and ate their lunches like normal human beings which was a small but exciting win for me.

I did have to laugh though, because a group of my boys were yelling and pointing at something in the grass. When I asked what it was they informed me it was a dead bird…..I asked them why they didn’t move and they looked at me like I was the crazy one. I guess eating next to dead birds is the cool thing to do now…? 5th grade boys are weird.

Another small success came this week with one of my students. Last week I hinted at a story about one of my anti mask wearing students. In our district, parents were offered many options for their child this school year. They could opt in for 100% distance learning classrooms or 100% outdoor/nature based learning classrooms if they didn’t want their child to have to wear a mask. It was then stated that any family who chose to send their student back into the classroom would understand and agree to having their child wear a mask all day everyday. No exceptions.

One of my boys had a really hard time with this.

Side note: He is a really sweet boy who has ASD and ODD. He receives behavioral support services in a normal year so I had a feeling, with this crazy strange year, he would need some extra support to help him get through these first few weeks.

When I first met this student at our Welcome Back Days, he flat out refused to wear a mask. He then informed me his thoughts on mask wearing and let’s just say, they weren’t positive thoughts. During our first 30 minutes together, I didn’t get anything out of him other than his negativity towards coming back to school and having to wear a mask. I think I heard the word hate come out of his mouth at least 5 times every minute.

Because of our non-negotiable rule that if a student comes to school they must wear a mask, I knew the first day (plus) would be hard. Sure enough, day 1 started with him flat out refusing to take his mask out of his backpack. I didn’t know yet how to work with him in a way that would be productive so I had to call for some backup. Sadly, he was in my room for maybe 1/2 of the first day. I was able to have a conversation with him at lunch that day. I tried to get him to talk about anything other than masks but he was stuck on that subject all day. At one point, I asked if he’d like to wear a face shield instead. His response, “People who wear face shields look like terrorists.” Yep, so no face shield.

He was so angry and stubborn about wearing his mask on day 2 that I only had him in my classroom for 1 hour that day. I hate that! I never want a student out of my room for a long period of time even if they are having a rough behavior day. I wanted to regroup and go into this week with a fresh attitude and mindset on how to get him to be more relaxed so he could stay in our room all day.

This week, he walked in Monday morning with his mask on and that was that. It was like I was finally getting to see the real him instead of the angry irregulated boy I met last week. Granted, he still complained up and down about how much he hated masks but he kept it on. He would take it off every so often but as soon as I would ask him to put it back on, he did it no questions asked. That’s a success in my book! The best part was that by the end of this week, I finally got him to smile and laugh with me. I think we finally made a breakthrough where he feels he can trust me and knows that I’m in his court. I know we will have rough days this year but I think we’re building a relationship to help offset those rough days.

I know I’ve said this before but I have a soft spot for kids like him. It’s my more challenging students that I think about all the time even after I have them. I know that, because of past behaviors, sometimes these types of kids get a bad rap and some teachers immediately are prejudiced towards them because of that. I hate that. These kiddos need extra love, support, and understanding. They’re different, they need different things than most students in the classroom and I’m not afraid to give them what they need even if it makes my job harder. If you can build that connection and trust with those students, your “bad” days won’t be so bad. That kid will know it’s okay to have those hard moments and it won’t change how you feel about them or how you treat them.

Overall, our first official full week went pretty well. I love my class and can tell it’s going to be a great and fun year! There are a few yahoos in my room, however that might need to see the “mean Ms. Nygaard” come out if some of their choices don’t change for the better. They’re not bad kids by any means but I can tell it’s been 6 months since some of them have had any structure and discipline in their lives, thanks COVID! I’m hoping next week is just as great.

(There are talks about moving to a hybrid model soon so we’ll see what happens. If it comes sooner than not, be ready for some major teaching fails as I try to navigate teaching 2 rooms of students at the same time! Fingers crossed!)

Extra little surprise this week, one of the teachers at my old school sent me this awesome message over Facebook. One of my old students wrote about me in their weekly morning work. It’s the little things like this that make it all worth it!

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The First 2 Days of the 2020-2021 School Year

Well as most of you are aware, this year is going to be a hot mess. After 2 official days with my class, I know that will be a true fact but I am so lucky to have the class I do! They are amazing and so sweet.

Our first day was yesterday (Thursday, September 10th) and it was a crazy day but it felt SO GOOD to be teaching in front of a group of kids again. I forgot how much I love working with them but I also forgot how much I love just getting to know them. It was a weird first day though because most of my “get to know you” activities we couldn’t do because of social distancing and masks.

Instead of having a full lesson plan on the whole day, I just made a list of what needed to get done and I worked from there. Our mornings are insane because school officially starts at 9:15 and we have to be at our specialist classes (art, phy ed, music, or media) by 9:20! Pretty much my students arrive and we’re out the door. That isn’t exactly the way I would like to start my day (especially our first day) but I’ll just have to get used to it.

Once I picked them up from their music class we had to take our first bathroom break of the year. I never thought I would have to have a “bathroom break schedule” for my 5th graders but that’s what this year entails. We can’t mix our class with anyone else so we can’t go to the bathrooms when other students are there. Because of that, we have certain times of the day our class can go to a certain bathroom when no one else is there. Needless to say, the poor 5th graders were so confused that this was happening but listened pretty well and didn’t complain. We have a few more scheduled throughout the day and they were awesome at handling that new change.

I was able to throw in some traditional first day activities like reading First Day Jitters and We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. I love reading those stories on the first day of school because they spark great conversations on how everyone is nervous for the first day of school (even teachers.) They’re also just fun silly books that the kids get into. Before we created our class rules I also read a fun new book called The World Needs More Purple People. It’s a fun new book written by Kristin Bell and Benjamin Hart. It talks about how the world needs more kind hard working people who are themselves and who accept others. It was the perfect book to read considering all of the things that have been happening in the world. We decided that our class motto was that we’ll all be Purple People this year.

Once we finished that story we created our class rules together. I do this every first day and every first day after Christmas break. I love it because the students are involved in our rules and take more ownership in following those rules.

The day was crazy and seemed to fly by. On top of all the normal first day things like organizing materials and getting to know each other activities, we had to go through new rules and procedures like wearing our masks, taking mask breaks outside, eating lunch in the classroom, and cleaning ALL THE TIME. Before I knew it (and before my list was complete), the day was over.

When I finally got to check my email at the end of the day, I saw I had a “delivery” waiting for me in the office. My mom had this beautiful flower display sent to celebrate my first day back.

Today was day 2 and it also flew by and was full of challenges but my kids were awesome and flexible about it. Today was centered around Chromebooks and the internet……yeahhhhhhh yikes.

This year, our district is finally rolling out 1:1 devices for all students k-12. Before this year, 6-12 had Chromebooks so the elementary students were not used to sites like Seesaw and IXL. Last spring during distance learning, they had a really hard time implementing those sites because no one had used them before. This year they wanted to be more prepared.

Today we decided to distribute their new Chromebooks and log into some of their online accounts. It was a crazy mess! Some of my kids could get into certain sites and others could get into different ones. For some wild reason, I couldn’t get all of my students into every account we have to start using on Monday. Hello headache!!!

Luckily, they were super patient and understood the struggles of the internet not working. Once we attempted all log ins, we played a Kahoot game to just have some fun. They all were able to get into that and it was so much fun! I made a 20 question Kahoot all about me and they loved it. Over the past 2 days I had shared tidbits here and there about who I am so the Kahoot was my way to see if they could figure out how to use Kahoot but also to see who in my class listens well and who doesn’t.

After our Chromebook mess, I had them pick out their first read to self book from our class library. We had a nice calm 15 minutes of reading before lunch. It was a nice way to practice stamina while also calming down after the crazy Kahoot game.

Today we also had to finish up our rules and consequences for our class. Day 1 we created our rules so today, day 2, we created our consequences. Before we brainstormed a list, I read The Bad Seed and The Cool Bean to remind them of what we want our class to look like and what we don’t want our class to look like. I was so impressed because their consequence ideas were so mature and realistic. Out of my 4 classes, I can already tell this group is the most level headed group I have had.

I’m so excited to actually start a real schedule next week. I think this will be a great year no matter what it looks like. Right now, our numbers look like we may be headed to a hybrid model soon which would mean 1/2 of my class would be in one room while the other 1/2 would be in my “second room” next door. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that doesn’t happen but if it does it does. Be ready for some interesting stories if that happens! I also have a student who is anti-mask so I’m hoping next week he finally gets over the fact that we all have to wear them. Because of his defiance, he hasn’t spent much time in my room so I’m hoping that changes!! Fingers crossed!!! That’ll be a story for next week and you definitely don’t want to miss it!

Year 4, let’s go!

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Back to School COVID Style

Well here we are everyone, we made it to September. It has been a wild and stressful summer because I didn’t know if I would have a job for this school year and, even if I got a job, no one knew what it was going to look like.

I know I wasn’t alone in that boat and I know I’m still not alone.

I wanted to start by giving a little update on my crazy long wait these past few months. As I’ve said before in a previous post, I found out the last week of April my job was being cut at the end of the school year. This was completely devastating to me because I did not see this coming. I found out later that my principal didn’t even know about it until after I got the call from the superintendent. It was a mess. I was given hope, however that they would be hiring back later in the summer once the fall school year plans were finalized.

I waited and waited and waited ALL summer for them to repost my job but it never happened. In Minnesota, we were told that the governor would make an official announcement on fall plans the last week of July. Districts were going to wait to hear his plan before they finalized theirs. A week after the governor announced Minnesota’s county by county plan, I heard from my principal that they would not be hiring anyone back. I felt sick to my stomach.

While I was waiting to see if I would get a call back, I was looking for other jobs around the area but no one was hiring. I truly thought there was no hope.

I felt like there was no hope until my home district (the one I grew up in and the one I taught at my first year out of college) was planning on hiring a handful of new teachers because of new programs they were going to roll out.

Side note: This district came out with very different and creative school choices for families in order to keep enrollment high and to make sure everyone felt safe in whatever environment they would be in. Families had the choice to enroll their student in a full distance learning class, a regular in the school class, or a nature based class that is entirely outside. Because of these options, many students stayed in the district and many students enrolled in the district.

I was fortunate enough to get an interview and a job offer back at the first school I taught at 3 years ago in the town I grew up in. I will officially be teaching 5th grade this year and, as of now, I am 100% in the classroom.

Just because we get to be back in the classroom, doesn’t mean things are back to normal however. I am usually a teacher who loves grouping students and hates desks. I love having tables in my room so students can collaborate throughout the day. That is not an option this year. I have 26 students and 26 desks that are spaced strategically around my small classroom to create as much distance between students as possible. It’s crazy how much room that takes up.

Another strange thing about this year is I don’t just have 1 classroom, I have 2. If our school has to go to a hybrid model of learning, 1/2 of my class will be in 1 room while the other 1/2 of my class will be in the other. Luckily the rooms are next to each other and has a door that connects them but it will definitely be an interesting experience.

My room this year isn’t as exciting as I normally like it to be but I’ve accepted the fact that having a perfectly decorated classroom is the least of my worries. I still wanted to share some pictures of my room just in case anyone is wondering what a COVID classroom looks like in Minnesota as school begins.

We had our teacher workshop week this week and it was a very different workshop week than I’m used to. All of our staff and team meetings were centered around questions and brainstorming sessions on keeping our students safe and distanced. The weirdest thing I think we discussed this week was the idea of having scheduled bathroom breaks throughout the day so our classes don’t mix with each other. Being an intermediate teacher the past 3 years, I’m not used to taking a class bathroom break especially at certain times so that is going to be a challenge for me to get used to.

Our last day of workshop was also our first day of Welcome Back/Assessment Days. I’m used to having 2 full days of this but this year we have 3 in order to keep our families separated as much as possible. We get 30 minute time slots per family with 10 minutes built in between to clean. As nervous as I was to meet my new families and students it was easily the best thing that I’ve gotten to do since school ended last spring. I am so excited to get to work with kids in person again and meeting 8 of my new students just increased that excitement even more. It was also so refreshing to meet all of the families who were so thankful for all of the work we’ve been putting in. They were so appreciative over our efforts and were so understanding when I kept telling them that what I told them yesterday might change in a matter of days because things are changing every hour. That was definitely a highlight of my week.

It’s going to be a mess but I’ve realized that’s where everyone is at and it’s okay. We are all just doing our best and making the most of what we can. I’m just so thankful to have a job and to be able to finally teach kids in person again! I’ll be back next week to cover the first 2 days of school and all of the new challenges that will come with it including trying to talk in a mask all day.

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Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Myself During Distance Learning

10 – I Would Not Be Good At a Desk Job

I have learned I can NOT sit in one spot all day on my computer. I love teaching for many reasons but one of the reasons (that I never realized until now) is because I am constantly moving around the room multitasking and working with multiple students at the same time. I love how no day is the same and I drink 2 water bottles of water a day because I’m so active. I used to be excited to lounge out on my couch binging the newest Netflix show but now I would give anything to run around with my head cut off in the classroom.

9 – My Patience Has Its Limits

I think I’m a very patient person but I have learned that between the internet failing, Seesaw crashing, and students only doing assignments they want to do I have lost it a few times. It’s hard to keep your cool when your students are all freaking out because they can’t check assignments on Seesaw because it’s down or they’re constantly messaging you because you’re not responding to their posts because your internet is down. It’s hard to stay calm when things, completely out of your control, are preventing you from doing your job.

8 – I Actually Don’t Hate Google Classroom

Before distance learning I was not a fan of Google Classroom….(sorry). My teammates are huge fans but every time I tried to use it in my class, something went wrong. With distance learning, I didn’t really have a choice but to become familiar with it. I have to say, after 8 LONG weeks, I’ve actually come to enjoy it. It has become an easy way to stay connected with my students and to share fun videos and read alouds with them.

7 – I’m Even More Awkward During PLC’s Now That They’re Online

I’m a super awkward person in general. During PLC’s at school, I would be one to just sit there and not say anything because I was so scared to say something stupid. Now, having Google Meets PLC’s, I’m even more awkward than ever. Actually, the PLC’s in general are more awkward than ever! Maybe it’s just our grade level, but no one talks AT ALL. It is silent for a good 2 minutes before someone finally takes charge and says something. Of course, I still don’t say anything (because I’m awkward) so I just sit there, staring at myself in the camera. It’s great….

6 – I Miss My Team

In my school there are 10 of us who teach 4th grade. Because there are so many of us, we are split into 2 teams of 5. My team of 5 is amazing. We have become so close during this past year. They also were there for me when I had to transition from 3rd to 4th in less than a week without really even knowing who I was. We would always have the best talks about teaching and life during prep and lunch. I miss those talks so much. They would always keep me sane during those crazy tense days. They are amazing ladies and I hate not seeing them everyday.

5 – Wine Understands

I hate to admit it, but I feel like I’ve been drinking WAY more than normal. Even though I’m teaching from home, I seem to be having more bad days than I do teaching in the classroom. Because of that, wine has become my best friend. Enough said.

4 – I Don’t Find The End of the Year Fun Anymore

As teachers, we all know how fun the end of the year can be! There are so many fun activities and projects to do that keeps May moving. We all know that the month of May is crazy because everyone is checked out (students and teachers.) Because of that, we try to make May fun. Between field trips, track and field day, and themed dress up days, May stays busy and exciting. I miss that.

3 – I Miss Read Alouds

Reading to my students is the BEST part of my day. I LOVE watching their reactions to the stories and I LOVE the conversations we have about what we read. Not having that these past few months, has been hard on me. I’ve tried to have live read alouds daily but it’s still not the same. I would give anything to have one more day to read to them out loud.

2 – I’m Having a Hard Time Staying Positive

I usually try to be a very positive person but it’s been hard. This whole situation has been hard. It’s crazy how much we take for granted. Life has been weird for all of us but my life has totally changed. Teaching has always been my life, and now, I don’t have that. Sure, I’m teaching online but it is not the same. That’s been hard. Also, because of COVID, the district’s budget for next year has been cut significantly. Because of that and because I’m not tenured yet, my position has been cut. I’m not going to lie, knowing that I don’t have a job at this point, is killing me. It’s hard to stay positive when the one thing you love is taken from you. It’s also hard to stay positive when there is a very real possibility I won’t see my students in person again. I’ve had my moments more these past few months, than I’ve had in the past few years. I just want things to go back to normal and I want my students back.

1 – I MISS MY STUDENTS

I think that explains it all. I miss them so much. They are amazing kids and seeing them on a Google Meets is not even close to seeing them at school. I am with my students more than anyone else in my life and I don’t get that right now. They mean the world to me and it breaks my heart they have to go through this as well. The worst part is we never got a proper goodbye. Friday, March 13th was our last day at school but we assumed we’d be back on Monday. We had no idea things would change so fast. If I knew then that I wouldn’t see my students (possibly) again, I would have made that Friday the best day ever. I would have given them the closure we all need. I miss them so much. I went into teaching because I love kids and I wanted to make a difference in their lives. Right now, that’s all on pause.

 

 

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Distance Learning – Please Be Kind.

Hi friends! I hope quarantine and social distancing is treating you well (as well as it possibly can.) I’ve had a lot of time to sit back and think about certain topics during this period that I may not have spent much time thinking about before. I’m sure we’re all in the same boat. I wanted to share my thoughts about what it’s like being a teacher during this time. I am now ending my 3rd official week of teaching distantly and there have been some things that have worked well but a few things that have also bothered me, especially when it comes to working with parents in a new way.

I have been fortunate enough to have an amazing class this year. If you’ve been following along my 3rd year journey, you know how incredible my students are. I’ve also been blessed with amazing parents. I’ve had my fair share of interesting parents during my first 2 years teaching so this year, I have been incredibly grateful to work with supportive and cooperative ones instead.

During this period of distance learning I have been shown so much support from this group of parents. I’m constantly getting thank you emails from appreciative parents and words of encouragement on platforms like Facebook. I’ve also been amused in seeing parents around the country thanking teachers all over for what we do everyday. Teaching isn’t an easy job and it’s been so humbling to see others share their gratitude towards us during this difficult time. It’s funny though how so many positive and kind comments can be extinguished by one negative comment from someone who has a strong opinion over choices you make as an educator.

Like I’ve stated, today wraps up week 3 of distance learning here in Minnesota. I have had an incredible turn out when it comes to my students completing all of their work and showing up for class Google Meets meetings. One problem I have had is that some of my students are choosing not to log on to their IXL accounts for math. Most of our weekly math assignments are done on IXL because:

  1. Our school has spent a lot of money on subscriptions to the program.
  2. The assignments are directed exactly to the topic/lesson we want students to learn about that day/week.
  3. I can go onto my teacher account and see who has completed what assignments and what scores they have received on them. I also can see how long a student has spent on the site per day and per week.

It’s an incredible teaching tool that I utilize every day in my normal classroom. Some of my students however, have either forgotten to log on or have chosen not to do the assignments because they don’t think I have access to see what they have done.

Like I would at school, I have reminded my students DAILY about these assignments and have told them how I do have access to see what has been done and I know for a fact a handful of students haven’t logged on to the site in over 30 days. I have warned my students multiple times in the past 2 weeks that if they do not complete these activities/assignments I would be calling them out to check to see why this was not being done. All of my students have internet access and all of them have iPads that they usually use at school but are now with them at home. They also know how to access IXL because, like I said, I used this EVERY DAY in my regular class. In my opinion, there really isn’t an excuse as to why some of my students have not logged on in over a month. Also, the students who have not logged on are students who I know are more than capable of doing the work on their own. My students are 4th graders (almost 5th graders) at this point in their school career, they should be independent enough to do work without having someone else constantly tell them what to do.

Yesterday, during our morning meeting, I pulled up my IXL teacher screen to show my class how I can see who has and hasn’t done the work. I asked a few of my students why they haven’t been on the site in over 30 days. We talked about how this is their job and they need to be mature enough to take responsibility in getting their work done. I also told them that if they haven’t been on for technical difficulty reasons, to let me know and I’ll be okay with that, I just need to know.

Well apparently that wasn’t the right thing to do during our meeting because a few hours later I got one of those emails that make all of the nice and kind ones nonexistent.

I had a parent reach out to me telling me how inappropriate it was for me to humiliate my students like that. She began sharing statistics with me about the crisis we’re in and how I shouldn’t be shaming kids for not having things done. She also proceeded to inform me about how this leads to mental illness and how I don’t know anything about mental illness in children. It was pretty much an 8 paragraph rant about how I have scarred my students for life and how I have no idea about what my class is going through….

Needless to say, after reading this, I wanted to throw up. I immediately forwarded the message to my principal asking for advice on how to respond. Once I did that, I went and cried under a blanket on my couch for an hour until I fell asleep.

I know there are so many theories and philosophies on best teaching practices and how to motivate children but those are all just theories and philosophies. Unless you have been a teacher and have spent 8 hours a day with the same group of kids for almost 8 months, you have no idea what actually goes on. I have known my class since September (some, I’ve known for almost 2 years now because I taught this group back when they were in 3rd grade.) I know my students. I know who works well and who needs constant reminders from me. I know who has supportive families and who may not. I know that my highest kid may also lack the most motivation so I need to push him more than others to get his best work out of him. I know them better than almost anyone else. Any teacher can understand that. I don’t think it’s right to have an outsider criticize a teacher without being in their shoes and knowing what the teacher knows about their kids. Granted, if it’s a concern about their own child, it is extremely valid. But if the criticism doesn’t even involve their child, there is no reason for them to get involved without the facts. That was the case with this parent. The concern wasn’t even about their own student, it was about my class as a whole.

I take things way too personally sometimes but to have someone tell you you’re failing at the one thing you thought you succeeded at, is heartbreaking.

I also caution some of you to not tell someone they know nothing about mental illness. I think that was the part of the message that hurt me the most. Just because I don’t come out and tell someone I’m struggling with a mental illness, doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about the topic.

I grew up with a schizophrenic father and a depressed anorexic sister. I have struggled with anxiety my entire life and have also been on antidepressants for my own depression for almost 5 years now. For this parent to tell me I’ve scarred my students and have been a trigger to metal illness, is an insult to me. Mental illness is a HUGE part of my life and I am not afraid to talk about it. I know that, right now in our country, we need to take care of ourselves but we also need to try to keep things normal. If I let my students get away with doing absolutely nothing during this time, I’m hurting them more than when I encourage them to complete their work. By telling me I was hurting my own students, she attacked my self esteem and put me in a downward spiral hurting my mental health. Never try to tell someone they know nothing about this topic when you don’t know what the person your talking to is dealing with.

As teachers, parents, students, people, etc. we’re all trying to do our best right now. We’re all doing things completely new to all of us. Instead of shaming each other for our mistakes and thinking we know better than them, why don’t we help each other and support each other. Like I said, I have gotten an incredible amount of encouraging and kind messages through this time. The problem is though, it only takes one negative message to make the others meaningless. Don’t be the sender of those kinds of messages. Think about how you would feel if something like that was sent to you when all you’re trying to do is help.

Hang in there everyone. I know we’re all tired and frustrated over this mess but we will get through it. We just have to take a nice deep calming breath and go one day at a time. That has become my new personal mantra.

 

For more day to day action, go follow my teacher Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

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