Dancing in September

September was SO busy, but we loved it! The last three months since we moved to Arkansas have kind of dragged on because we didn’t have a whole lot going on (well, Ryan did, but the kids and I didn’t). Ryan was on his Trauma rotation, which was rough. 12-14 hour shifts with maybe one day a week off. Luckily, the kids and I stayed busy which helped us deal with it. Kinsie started school, we had soccer practices and games, we had a visit from some family, and we visited our home in Indiana for 2 weeks…it was a great month!

Kinsie Starts School

We’ve been anxiously awaiting for this for a while now. As soon as we found out where we were moving, I started researching preschools. I wanted Kinsie to have a great experience like she did in Indy. I loved the Christian environment she was in there, and how much the teachers loved on her and really got to know her. After lots of research and referrals, we found the school for her. It is very similar to her last school, and we absolutely love it. Before school started, we went to an open house where she could meet her teacher and see her classroom, the kids loved running around the room and rolling on the beanbags! Kinsie has done wonderful there! Every day she tells me EVERYTHING about her day, and she is always excited to go back the next day. I also love how the school has a private Facebook group where they post pictures throughout the day so the parents can see what they are doing. This has been such a positive experience and has really helped Kinsie adjust and meet kids her age!

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Kinsie goes to school 3 days a week, so that leaves Brax and I for some special time together. He definitely misses Kinsie, but he enjoys just having some mommy time too!

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Labor Day Weekend

For Labor Day weekend, Ryan’s sister Megan and her husband came to visit. This was crucial for my sanity, as I was missing home SO much at this point. I really really needed to see some family. Ryan had one day of the weekend off, so he got to help us show them around our area. We went to the Farmer’s Market, the rock park, and ate lunch at the River Market. We also visited the Old Mill, a really neat little park that was featured in Gone with the Wind. The next day, Ryan had to work but I took Megan, Tim and the kids to the zoo. It was a hot, but fun day! We LOVED their visit. It was so nice to be around familiar faces again and be around other people we love.

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Petit Jean State Park

Whenever Ryan has a day off, we always try to take advantage of it and do something fun. There are so many amazing parks in Arkansas and we are slowly getting to explore them. One park that some friends told us about was about an hour away, but was incredible! There were tons of hiking trails, camping areas, a waterfall, and lots of beautiful scenery. We went on a 2 mile hike to see the waterfall. Kinsie was an absolute CHAMP and walked almost the whole time. On the way back, she tripped and fell and needed a little break, so Ryan carried her for about 5 minutes, but other than that, she hiked by herself…and it was no easy hike! Brax wanted to be big time like his sis and he wanted to hike by himself too…but that wasn’t really possible with how strenuous the hike was. Ryan helped him walk some of the way, but eventually we just made him suck it up and ride in the backpack. Once we got to the waterfall, we climbed up behind it and just hung out for a while behind the waterfall. It was amazing! It was a great experience that we definitely want to do again.

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Soccer

On my last post, I was a bit disappointed in the soccer program that Kinsie is in. Well, its still unorganized, but it’s gotten better! It turns out her coach is her teacher’s husband, so that helped make a connection and the coach really took more of an interest in her. She is really having fun too, which is the most important part! Ryan sometimes can make it to practice, and usually can come to the games. Brax loves watching and cheering on his sis…and giving Daddy kisses!

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Gymnastics Day

We joined a “Mommy and Me” group when we moved here, and try to attend the events whenever we can. Our favorite has been the Gymnastics day. As I’m sure you remember, Kinsie LOVED the gymnastics classes she took in Indy. She was in HEAVEN at this place. She was sprinting around the place as fast as she could doing every activity possible. Brax of course tried to keep up, and he had a great time too!

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Visit to Indiana

This was definitely the highlight of our month. This was a MUCH needed trip. I was craving my family and it was so good to spend time with them again. We had an amazing 2 weeks and did SO much. We did so much in fact, that our trip to Indiana will be its own blog post…so stay tuned! The kids loved seeing their grandparents and all their cousins. They were sad to leave them, but ready to be home and back to our routine. Luckily we’ll get to see them again in the next few weeks.

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Kinsie’s Birthday

I’ll cover this more in my next post, but my girl had a GREAT 4th birthday in Indiana. She had a very special day, and was so happy to spend it with our families. We also had a small party for her at her favorite place, the lake. We were sad that Daddy couldn’t be with us on her birthday, but he still found a way to be with us in a different way!

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September definitely kept us busy, but we needed it. So many positive things happened, which is helping keep our spirits up even on tough days. Arkansas is starting to feel more and more like home, and even though we miss everyone, we are finding ways to deal with that (Facetime is essential!) I know that the next few months will be busy, but I am really looking forward to it. October is always one of my favorite months, and we are excited to do our usual fall traditions in a new place. Stay tuned for our Indiana post coming soon!

Why Parents Should Appreciate Teachers

Let me preface this by saying that I am not concluding that all parents don’t appreciate teachers. I teach in a small community and I know from experience that most parents are very appreciative and supportive of us. We have some awesome parents who are constantly telling us and showing us how much they appreciate what we do for their children. Our PTO makes lunches for us, buys us gifts, and even reimburses us for classroom supplies. Supportive parents reassure us that we’re doing a good job, and we need that every once in a while. However, I have only been teaching for 4 years and I have witnessed a disturbing amount of parent encounters and interactions that were lacking any kind of appreciation, and even being downright disrespectful to their child’s teacher. I’ve seen parents yelling at their child’s teacher in front of all the students for making one small mistake. I’ve seen parents bashing their child’s teacher on social media because they didn’t agree with a minor disciplinary action. I’ve seen parents blame teachers for their child’s poor grades, and also for their unruly behavior. I’ve seen parents allow their own children to be completely disrespectful to their teacher because they claimed they had a “personality conflict,” when really, their child was just a defiant troublemaker. Those are just a handful of examples that I’ve witnessed…and those all happened this past school year! I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, I didn’t like every teacher I had, and I’m sure my parents didn’t agree with every move they made, but we respected the teachers and we made the best out of it and took lessons from each year. I still behaved, did my homework, tried my best, and if something didn’t go well, my parents would ask ME what happened, and help ME resolve the issue, not blame the teacher. Let me also say that I know not all teachers are outstanding educators. Not all teachers love and accept all of their students and not all teachers do everything in their power to help their students succeed. Some teachers are good teachers, but are having a really challenging year whether it be due to difficult students, or even troubles at home that affects their teaching. It is definitely no easy task to be going through a tragedy or some kind of internal struggle, and having to smile and pretend that everything is wonderful and go on with your daily lesson plans. Whatever the case or circumstance, I feel that I need to set the record straight or simply remind parents why they need to appreciate their child’s teachers.

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Reason #1: This job is harder than you think!

I think that some people are under the impression that teaching is an easy career. I mean, we already learned all that stuff when we went through school, right? Well, just because you have knowledge of something doesn’t mean you can teach it. Just ask my husband, the med student. There are some brilliant doctors who teach his classes, who are clearly extremely knowledgeable about their field, but they can’t teach worth a darn. Most classroom teachers these days are trying to teach at least 25 kids with different learning styles and a ridiculously wide range of reading levels (I think my record range is reading levels of 1st grade to 10th grade…and keep in mind I teach 5th grade). Each student practically has their own individualized education plan because every kid needs something different. And not only does each kid learn differently, but each kid also responds to different behavior plans. A classroom is a constant  revolving door with kids coming in and leaving for speech classes, resource rooms, remediation classes, literacy groups, etc. On top of the actual teaching part, teachers have a lot of other responsibilities, paperwork, grading, student data, and much more to keep up with during our “spare time.” My desk is constantly cluttered with papers, piles, and post-it notes reminding me of all the things I need to do that day before I leave, what can wait until tomorrow or even next week. My point of all of this is not for you to feel sorry for how chaotic our job is, but for you to realize that we do whatever we need to do to help your child succeed! If each kid needs a different plan, a different lesson, a different behavior system, you name it…we’ll do it because that’s what we do. If your child doesn’t meet their potential, we don’t feel that we’ve done our jobs.  We don’t give up on your kids because our job is to help them succeed!

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Reason #2: We have our own lives…but we’re still always thinking about your kids!

Please remember that teachers are people too. We have families to love and care for, houses to clean, chores to complete, errands to run, bills to pay, etc. Teaching is just our job, not our whole lives. However, while many people leave work at 5pm, go home, cook dinner and don’t think about their job again until 7am the next day, teachers always bring their work home with them. I don’t just mean grading papers or preparing crafts. Every night, I think about my students. I think about if they have a parent to greet them when they get off the bus. I think about if they are getting a meal that night. I think about if they are getting tucked in at night or if they are basically fending for themselves each night (it happens more than you think). Many teachers do bring papers home to grade and other schoolwork home to work on that evening or over the weekend. I know of a lot of parents who expect grades to be posted first thing every day…but they must forget that we have families too, and we are trying really hard to balance our home lives with our job. Since I became a mom almost 2 years ago, I have struggled daily with this balance. I feel like I can’t be a great mom/wife AND a great teacher. I feel like I have to pick one to be great at, and the other I will just settle for mediocracy. I know of SO many teachers who struggle with this as well. What works best for me to accommodate both is to compartmentalize each one. When I’m at school, I’m all in…100% teacher. I hardly think about things I have to do at home. I try to focus on my students and what they need from me that day. When I get home, I’m all in…100% wife and mom. I don’t work on school stuff at home (most of the time) and I cherish that time with my family. I may always feeling behind on grading and other school work, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay because my family deserves all of me. If you want us to be at our best when we are with your kids, then we need time with our families to relax and rejuvenate, just like you do when you get home from your job. And keep in mind…even when we are at home “relaxing”, we are still thinking about your kids. We never stop.

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Reason #3: We genuinely love your kids!

Let’s face it…nobody goes into this profession for the money. And you really can’t say that people go into teaching for the summers off anymore considering most school districts are on a balanced calendar and our summers are painfully shorter than they used to be. So why did we choose this profession? Because we genuinely love children! We want to make a difference in the lives of children! I can’t speak for every teacher, but I know that most of us spend a considerable amount of time trying to get to know and connect with each and every one of our students. I try to relate with them, whether it’s through books, sports, video games, or even fishing. I do this because I want them to know that they are accepted, worthy and loved. Most of you are aware that a large portion of our teacher evaluations is based on standardized test scores. We do everything we can to teach all the standards proficiently, and even if we teach until we’re blue in the face, little Johnny could come in on test day in a bad mood, click through his test indifferently and completely screw up my evaluation. To be honest, I could care less about my kids’ test scores. I spend every day with them and I can tell if they are where they need to be academically and what kind of growth they’ve made throughout the year. The bottom line is that at the end of the year, if I could make a difference in one kid’s life, then I feel that I have done my job. As teachers, yes we care about their academics, but we care MORE about developing their character and helping them succeed in life…not because we are paid to do so, but because we genuinely care about them. Need I say more?

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In August (or July for balanced calendar schools like mine), when you are buying school supplies for your child’s upcoming school year, or when you are taking pictures of your kids before they get on the bus before the first day of school, please keep these friendly reminders in mind. Teachers aren’t perfect and you may not agree with everything they do or say, but before you run to the school to cause a big scene, or before you type a nasty email or leave an angry message with them, please take a deep breath, count to 10 and think about the things I discussed. Unless the teacher has done something that puts your child in physical danger, or has done something illegal, just give them a little bit of grace and let it go. If you don’t get along with your child’s teacher or don’t agree with everything they do, a school year only lasts 180 days…just deal with it the best you can for that amount of time and grow from it. It is good for everyone to encounter people that you don’t necessarily see eye to eye on everything. It helps us grow. Be a good example for your kids and teach them how to handle those kinds of situations the right way. I am a parent myself, so I know the strong internal instincts we possess to protect our children, but remember they are in good hands. They are spending 180 days with someone who will love them, accept them, protect them, and do anything to help them succeed. I hope nobody sees this post in a negative way. This was not meant to bash or complain about parents. Like I said, most parents are wonderful to us. I just wanted to set the record straight that at the end of the day, we are on the same team. You love your kids, and we love your kids. We want them to succeed just as much as you do!