When Brains Need A Break

It's been a long week (and it is only Wednesday).  

On Monday I attended and presented at the ICTM Math Conference.  The sessions I attended were full of great information, and I learned a lot.  Everywhere I turned, REALLY smart people were discussing REALLY deep topics.  In one session I was asked to read an educational article and  discuss my ideas with the people seated around me at every star the presenters  had strategically placed  throughout the reading.  In another session, I was asked to act out leading a Number Talk (with people I didn't  know!) while writing what I heard them say about their strategies for solving a problem on chart paper hanging on the wall.

After attending those sessions, while getting ready to present that day, I worried a lot that my format for presenting and the information I was bringing wasn't "good enough" for the conference I was presenting at.  What if they walked out or told me I didn't know what I was talking about?

On Tuesday, I again woke up early to get in another school van to attend ITECH, a technology conference. 

I should back up, I somehow agreed to be the "Tech Innovator" in my building this year.  Among other things, that means I will present several after school "Tech Cafe" sessions about technology that I believe beneficial to our elementary staff. 

I'm so honored they asked me to do this, but to be honest, I'm not sure I was meant to do this job.  I don't say that to gain sympathy or to have others say "No!  You'll be great!".  Anything "techie" I do, it takes me a LONG time to master.  I can usually figure things out, but my way of doing things is probably not the most efficient way most times.

That being said, I am joining a team of other "Tech Innovators" that are ROCK STARS.  We have one teacher from the intermediate, middle , and high school on the team.  The rest of them have been a team for several years, and in the meetings we've had so far, I understand about half of what they are saying (and that's probably being generous).

Fast forward to Tuesday.  I attended the tech conference, where there are HUNDREDS of people talking about things that I only understand about half of.   I learned about Finchbots, Hummingbird Kits, Spheros, and Cubelets.  I listened to a pair of 1st grade teachers who have their students tweeting, blogging, and using Flipgrid daily.  I saw teachers using Google Slides in a way that made my head spin.

Today is Wednesday.  The plan today was for the Tech Innovator Team was to meet this morning, talk about what they learned at the conference, and map out their plans for the year.

I didn't sleep well last night.  I kept thinking about a comment my friend Randy said to me one August afternoon several yeas ago as we were busy setting up our classrooms.  He said:

"I'm always terrified that this is the year everyone is going to figure out that I'm not a good teacher...that I really have no clue what I'm doing most days." 

By the way, Randy is an AMAZING teacher, and no one would EVER think that about him, but I knew exactly what he meant that day.  I feel that way a lot, and I felt it even more than usual this week.

Anyway,  I was lying in bed last night, picturing myself sitting in today's meeting with my "Tech Team", and having them figure out that anytime I touch the kindergarten team's data "google doc" I screw it up.  I worried that I wouldn't remember a thing I learned at the conference, and I would sound ridiculous trying to explain my thinking to these incredible people.  I really want them to like me, or at least tolerate me.

This afternoon, we had district professional development.  More time sitting in groups with people I don't know very well, talking about things I'm not 100% certain I have a good grasp of.   Hoping I don't sound ridiculous. 

Towards the end of the meeting, my friend Katie (who is a fellow teacher and a parent of a child in my class this year) walked up to remind me she will be the Mystery Reader in my class tomorrow.  I told her how excited I know her munchkin will be, and said I was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow...

And then she said:

"Is it ok if I blah blah blah?"

Only instead of "blah blah blah" she said actual words. Actual words that for whatever reason did not sink into my brain.  However, without pause, I smiled and said "Sure!",  then finished packing up  my bag.

Two minutes later, as I'm getting ready to head back to my classroom to get things ready after 3 days of subs, it occurs to me, I have no idea what I just agreed to.  Katie could have asked me

"Is it ok if I bring pixie sticks and a bottle of Mountain Dew for each child?" 


"Can I bring Brody's pet snake to show after the story?" 

Probably not...she's a teacher...(and not known to be a pet lover) but the point is, I said SURE! without even comprehending what she asked me?  I walked back to her table, and asked for some clarification (it was about the book she wanted to read and she is a good enough friend that she didn't even question my sanity), then once more headed back to my classroom.

As I got things organized and set up for tomorrow, I was thinking a lot about the past few days.  I thought a lot about how I've come home completely exhausted every night this week.  Even more so than I usually am (and there is no tired like kindergarten teacher tired).

I thought about how tiring it is to learn so many new things at once, and to be put into situations where I'm uncomfortable,  anxious about how I am perceived by others.  I thought  a lot about how my brain "shut down" after 3 full days of that.

Then I started thinking about my beautiful, amazing, kindergartners.  I thought about how every thing I've experienced the past few days, is something they experience every single day.  I ask them to do things all day long that are hard, and require lots of higher level thinking skills.  I ask them to keep their brains engaged for long periods of time.  I often ask them to do things that are uncomfortable, or to work with partners who are further along in their learning journey than they are.  I use unfamiliar vocabulary, and assume they are still following along.

Today my brain was "full" and by the end of my day, I couldn't even comprehend a simple question.

I'm going to try really hard to remember that the next time I spend 5 minutes giving directions, only to have one of my little people immediately say to me "What am I supposed to do?", or when one of my munchkins asks me "Where do I put my paper when I'm done?" when we've been putting it in the same exact spot every day for the last 50 days of school.

Learning is hard work.  

I can't wait to see the munchkins tomorrow!  We are going to do some hard work...but we are also going to sing some songs, read some silly stories, giggle, and even paint some pumpkins. 

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