The most recent piece of the pie was that while I was picketing, a health and safety inspector came to visit my teaching space. I received three violation notifications for infractions that I needed to deal with ASAP. This stressed me out, even though my caretaker reassured me that this was not catastrophic news. My principal even said that I could indirectly thank H&S for spurring me into action - because I spent the Parent-Teacher Interview day on February 14 consulting with various experts and completely re-configuring the school library layout. Visual-spatial skills are not my forte; I can't imagine new set-ups clearly unless I see them. Big thanks to Michael, Jessie, Renee and others for providing their suggestions and feedback. In order to address the concerns expressed in the health and safety report, we revamped the way the school library is organized. This was tough. (I actually didn't take a lot of photos during the process so far, because I needed to be totally present and documenting had to take a back seat.)
(These are the only two photos I took. The first image with the blank wall used to be where my graphic novel / comic collection shelves were located. Now it will be where my interactive white board goes. My comics area is elsewhere. I also stripped the bulletin boards. The second image withe the bare board has trim. More on that below.)
I need to remind irregular readers of this blog that I am not a tidy person. (See https://mondaymollymusings.blogspot.com/2018/08/i-got-n-on-my-report-card.html) My husband has famously said "Just because you buy organizational tools does not make you an organized person". So a day of cleaning and rearranging was not my idea of paradise, even though I will appreciate the end result.
Compounding this is the cognitive dissonance and conflict I feel as I'm learning things in my Kindergarten AQ course. I started the course on January 15, 2020 (as I mentioned in this blog post) and it's been fascinating. It's also been challenging a lot of my prior knowledge and ideas around play, resources, purchases, question prompts, and the class environment. I've been talking about my learning and the struggle I'm having with some of the ideas with other educators. They've been very supportive and cautioned me to not "throw the baby out with the bathwater". The biggest internal struggles have been around "clutter" and set-up. I read two articles that was part of our assigned readings for Invitations for Learning (they are https://www.childcareexchange.com/library/5015738.pdf and https://www.edonline.sk.ca/bbcswebdav/library/Curriculum%20Website/Kindergarten/Resources/Core/creating_invitations_for_learning.pdf) and both made a point about "orderly, beautiful arrangements". My inner devil's advocate keeps yelling things at me like "Who has time?" and "That feels too artificial and Pinteresty". However, these points about aesthetic considerations for displays have rationales and research behind them so I cannot dismiss them entirely and I know part of my internal debate stems from my concern with changing how I teach. (e.g. I know that big bins of stuff lead to dumping everything out, because I've seen that behaviour, but what if supplies are insufficient in these artful displays?) In a reading on the learning environment (especially http://ocw.umb.edu/early-education-development/echd-440-640-eec-language-and-literacy-course/learning-module-1/module-11/consider%20the%20walls.pdf), there were serious objections to clutter and to commercially prepared decorations. I agree, but I also sob inside when I consider how much money I've spent on posters and trims over the course of my career. This means that there are so many things I need to get rid of, including things I've collected (not hoarded) for school use over the years.
(These are two of the learning provocations that our instructors set up for us on February 12. I really struggled with the top one, because I didn't understand the question ["What is the rhythm in your skin?"] at all. Once I finally figured out it was more along the lines of "How might you make music?", I was slightly more ready to try but my initial attempts involved smashing everything in the display on its side and off the table. Sorry I hit you Emily, although it was just once and by accident.)
I can weed books. It's weeding toys that can be hard. Toys have faces and sentimental attachment. I still remember when my parents threw out Barley the Bison and a few other stuffed animals we played with as children. I understand points made about using loose parts instead of toys because toys can prescribe the play in certain ways, may limit creativity, and might indirectly reinforce stereotypes around gender and class. Yet, I also know how much fun students have with playing with the toys I have and that they can use toys in unpredictable ways. Which toys stay and which toys go?Inviting play is THE only way! Exploring play-based approaches to draw connections the inquiry process of initial engagement, exploration, investigation, and communication. @BedeauGail @YorkUedPL @YorkUeducation #kindergartenaq #aq pic.twitter.com/p9HJ2U81nN— Kenisha Bynoe (@booklamations) February 13, 2020
And this leads me to the second part of my blog post title. I looked it up and saw a quote that claims that the average classroom teacher will make more than 1 500 educational decisions every school day, which works out to 4 decisions per minute. (The source for this was https://www.teachervision.com/too-many-tasks-not-enough-day) Other articles say that average people make 35 000 decisions a day, and 226 of those are just about food. (The source for this information was https://raywilliams.ca/neuroscience-can-help-us-make-better-decisions/). Your "decision tank" gets empty after 75 decisions, according to this article. With the extra responsibility of being one of the three school union stewards, I find that it's tiring to make important decisions, especially when they impact several people and/or need to be made relatively quickly. Where do we picket? Where should we meet for the attendance sign-in and sign-out on province-wide strike days when there's a big crowd? How should we coordinate the selection of translators for interview day when certain activities constitute struck work under our work-to-rule guidelines? Which toys do I get rid of, and where do they go?
Thankfully, I've come up with one decision (as I lay in bed, thinking things over when I should have been sleeping) that will make me feel a bit better about the decision to purge some of the unnecessary clutter.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020 is #IReadCanadian Day. I've signed up our school for this event. It's simple: everyone read a Canadian book for just 15 minutes.
How Eric Walters plotted to create a day to push Canadian books https://t.co/TQksl2gUHe via @torontostar— Sharon Jennings (@AuthorSharonJ) February 14, 2020
My plan for my school is to announce that if a class reads a Canadian book/author/illustrator for 15 minutes on February 19, the students are allowed to choose a stuffed animal (with an "I Read Canadian" tag on it) for free. If you take a photo of you reading that Canadian book that your teacher-librarian can use on social media, then you can have two! I plan on sorting through the tons of stuffed animals at school and categorizing them into ones I want to keep for personal reasons, ones to keep for teaching purposes (limited to one bin) and ones to give away to my students for I Read Canadian Day. I hope that by consoling myself with knowing that the stuffed animals will be going to the homes of my students for a good cause that it won't feel like I am "throwing them out". It's a decent compromise decision and will hopefully reduce some of the clutter. Maybe I'll even get my new student-teacher to help. (New student-teacher? More on that probably in next week's blog post!)