Thursday, September 26, 2013

Noisy Children: What's a Teacher to Do?

I don't know how I ever ended up becoming a teacher and how I lasted these nearly 26 years because I have a serious problem with noise.  (And yes, I HAVE been that teacher who has given one warning too many and then had children sit in silence all the way home on the bus from the field trip.)

Speaking from some experience (but not necessarily from a high degree of success), here are my suggestions on the noise-front for those of you who feel my pain yet have no way to combat the rising tension as the noise level in the classroom escalates to new and unexpectedly shrill volumes as it inevitably does.  Every. Single. Day.

1. Practice deep breathing.  I can't stress this one enough.  Since I've started meditation (mediTation not mediCation), I am a much better teacher.  "Oh," I notice to myself, "the students are yelling again."  Then I smile and breathe some more.  Sometimes I breathe very deeply and very heavily.

2.  Buy one of those shop bells that a customer rings when there is no one at the front counter.  I have one on my desk and one at the front of my classroom.  When I need the class to freeze (or shut up), I ring the bell: my own shrill reminder of their own vociferousness.  It quiets things down.  For at least 30 seconds anyway.

3. I occasionally succumb to "feel sorry for me" moments (or even days) where I say, "Ms. Rempel has a really bad headache today so I'm going to ask you to be particularly kind and just whisper.  Then Ms. Rempel won't have to yell at you and then everyone will be happy."  Sometimes it works.  Don't overuse it, though, or it will completely lose its power.

4. Remind your students that you signed on to become a teacher, not a police officer.  Sometimes it's hard for them to tell the difference.  Sometimes it's hard for me to, as well.  If you play police officer for five or 10 minutes, they usually get the picture.  I don't have a uniform or anything, but that might help.

5. Keep a stash of Advil handy.  And earplugs.

6. Don't take it personally.  Unless you're a substitute teacher or particularly unlikable (which I most certainly am not), students aren't being noisy just to annoy you: it's just who they are.  It's their job to be noisy just like it's your job to get them to zip it up. It completes the circle.

7. Ask yourself, "Is it productive noise?"  Let's face it, noise is necessary.  If kids are going to investigate and inquire and learn, they need to talk.  If they're not talking about who they've got a crush on or about the Rudolph-like pimple on your nose, then you may just need to let it go. I find if I'm inquiring with them, I'm not nearly as bothered by the noise.  So get involved (it's your job, after all), and think of it as the sweet sound of learning instead of chaotic anarchy.

I've got nothing else, folks.  Teaching and learning is noisy and messy and completely unpredictable.  Just go with it.  Or get out of the business.  I'm sure there's a cubicle waiting for you somewhere, if you want to find one badly enough.  I think I've already made my decision.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Turning My Bathroom into a Gym

"The less energy it takes to kick-start a positive habit, the more likely that habit will stick."

I just finished reading a chapter in The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Accor that confirms my suspicions and my own at-home experimentation: following the path of least resistance can lead to the greatest success.

He gives the example of trying to create a new habit of playing his guitar every day.  He set up an elaborate record keeping system, kept his guitar in the closet not 20 seconds away from his couch where he usually succumbed to the lure of television, and decided to replace his TV watching habit with his previously joyful habit of playing guitar every day.

Guess what?  It was a rip roaring failure!  He played for four days out of the 21 tick boxes he had set up, and went right back to viewing old episodes of Seinfeld.  Now this is a social scientist who studies successful habits and happiness as his career.  What could have gone wrong?

If you haven't guessed it yet, it was the 20 seconds it took Shawn to go to the closet and retrieve his guitar.  In try number two, Shawn got a music stand and set it up in the middle of his living room with his guitar perched on it.  Success?  You bet!  In his words: "What I had done here, essentially, was put the desired behavior on the path of least resistance, so it actually took less energy and effort to pick up and practice the guitar than to avoid it."

Just to add fuel to the habit fire, he did one more thing: he took the batteries out of his remote control and put them in a drawer very close to the couch where he always watched TV.  The time it took him to put the batteries into the remote control (about 20 seconds), greatly reduced his TV watching habit as well.  He just couldn't be bothered.

 A few weeks ago, I started a habit of my own.  I have an old step box from aerobic videos that I used to indulge in and suffer from.  It's been sitting in our bedroom for years, occasionally used for bouts of exercise or for our daughters to have tea parties on.  I noticed how ugly and unused it was and resolved to throw it out, but then I had a better idea.  I put it on top of my scale (effectively hiding that guilt-inducing machine that I haven't stepped on in more than a year) in my bathroom, right beside the bathroom sink.  Since that step box has been living in our bathroom, I have been using it during all of my morning and evening ablutions:  while brushing my teeth, flossing, moisturizing and the like.  And it adds up!  At least twice a day, I step up and down maybe forty or fifty times, and sometimes longer since I'm now more inclined to polish and floss and exfoliate since I know I'm getting in my exercise at the same time!

How about a climbing wall in the bathroom?

I figure this easy, incidental exercise will pay big dividends: bigger than a daily weigh-in on the scale that's for sure.  In fact, I was so affirmed by "The 20-Second Rule" that I've just moved a set of eight pound weights beside the toilet.  This is perhaps an image you don't want to entertain, but you get the picture.  Essentially, the en suite bathroom is becoming my new gym!

My new start has already begun, but next I want to figure out how to translate it into success with my students at school.  I want to make it easier for them to reach their goals, and it seems a few little time-saving tweaks could help them maximize their efficiency and increase their output in so many areas.  Please send in your suggestions!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pajama Gal

I've been having a hard time getting dressed lately.  After my shower last night, I put my underwear on and it took a good half hour of tugging and wondering if I had experienced an unprecedented weight gain before I realized I had put my panties on backwards.

This morning it took me until recess time to realize that I was wearing my blouse inside out.  Somehow none of my colleagues or students recognized this fashion faux pas either, which just goes to show people really don't spend much time looking at me other than the occasional cursive glance to prove they are mildly interested in every 50th word I have to say.

In my last blog, I wrote about spending less time in front of the mirror, but I think I may actually need a little more inspection time.  I also might need to sew some little tags into my underwear so I know which is the back and which is the front.

Some days it just feels so challenging with all that buttoning and zipping and getting your bra on with the cups on the correct side of your body.  (It might be the Amish blood in me that is protesting all those adornments.) Sometimes I think I was meant to live in my pajamas.

My kids do it all in their pajamas.  Why can't I?

It's just so much easier, and, frankly, I'm kind of cute in my pajamas.  Plus, it makes stumbling out of bed and getting ready for work so much easier...slip on some undergarments, slash on a bit of make up, throw your hair up in a disheveled pony tail and away you go.  Honestly, no one at work seems to know the difference between Leah in her pajamas and Leah in her professional duds.

No guarantees about what I'm going to show up for work in tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure nobody is going to give me a second glance unless I decide to wear the footsie pajamas with the backflap on the bottom.

Yup, we prefer our pajamas!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Looking-in-the-Mirror Affirmations

Don't look at yourself too closely...that's my new start for today.  Those magnifying mirrors are DANGEROUS!  I've been battling a cauliflower nose of peri-menopausal cluster pimples for several months now, and my pores are like lunar craters.

My adorable sister and her adoring
niece (my daughter) applying
makeup together

There are many beauty products on the market these days to reduce spots, to give your skin a sheen of luminosity (hopefully not one of grease), and to make one appear as flawless as it is possible to be without photoshop or the witchcraftery of Kim Kardashian's private makeup artist.

My new start actually doesn't have anything to do with spackling on more makeup (though I am on the lookout for a good primer), nor do I plan on eschewing mirrors, other than the magnifying kind; rather, my resolution is to look in the mirror and respond with kindness and grace.  To be sure, people are not on the their mobile phones giddily discussing my pores or speculating on my hyper-pigmentation nor are they all atwitter over my summer weight gain.  Pretty much guaranteed, not a soul has given my appearance a second thought but me.  (And sadly, I've given it a whole lot more than just a second thought.)

I'm being gentler on myself these days, though.  My new M.O. is not to linger in front of the mirror but to give myself a quick glance to make sure nothing is askance, give myself a big ole smile, and tell myself how lovely I am, inside and out.

I'm good enough.  I'm cute enough.  And gosh darn it, people like me.