Guest post by Jeremy Macdonald.
Jeremy is a teacher and technology coach in Klamath Falls, Oregon, USA. While managing the chaos of a growing family, Jeremy is always trying to find more innovative ways to make learning meaningful for his 5th graders. Read what he’s learned from his kids, then see my companion post at Jeremy’s blog MrMacnology, for what I learned from mine!
I still consider myself a ‘new’ parent (despite having a kindergartner already), and an even ‘newer’ teacher. When Edna presented this idea for a guest companion-post for each of our blogs I felt a little unprepared. As a newer teacher and a young father, many of my experiences at home and in the classroom seem to blur together, as I often struggle remembering what I fed the kids for dinner last night or what math lesson I presented the day before. I enjoy staying busy and there is no doubt that my growing family of three and my ever so dynamic classroom will make sure there is never an idle moment.
My daughter was born in the Spring of 2005. I was quite confident that I was ready for Brynlie and for being a parent. We had the room all ready, a dresser full of diapers, and plenty of burp-rags strategically placed around the house. Needless to say, we grossly underestimated the newly undertaken adventure. Many late nights and (what seemed like) thousands of poopie diapers followed. It was an eye opening experience and I learned to accept that I’ll never be completely prepared for what life brings me. I try to plan as much as I can for my class; for each day; for each week; and when I want to be an overachiever, for each month. But it is the same result every time–I grossly underestimate the task before me.
In addition to my daughter, I also have two extremely active boys. Kelson is 3 and Dane is 18 months old. The three of them combined form the fiercest tag-team trio known to man. The most common request from my kids is, “Daddy, come wrestle.” This often comes while I’m on the computer for too long, or they think they are done cleaning their room. Either way, it is a good distraction. Not all distractions are bad. Often the rigors of a school day wear on kids. Focused instruction and focused learning can take its toll on even the brightest. Irregular distractions help all of us unwind and often motivate us to get back to “work”.
When I come home from work, the house can often be quite chaotic despite the efforts of my wife to keep things in order. Three kids running around, yelling at one another, and trying to find something to hold their attention for another 30 seconds. The noise and commotion isn’t usually convenient nor does it allow for much else to get done, but is a time that the kids need; at time to just be kids. As teachers, we often expect kids to be on task and focused during the day. It may even seem like herding cats sometimes, but that’s because kids aren’t hardwired to sit still. They need time to be kids. I’ve quit taking away recesses and sending home homework every night. They are asked to sit and ‘focus’ all day; give them time be kids.
After dinner has been cleaned up, kids are bathed and ready for bed, it always seems like my three catch some intense second-wind that sends them on a rampage just prior to bedtime. The end of the day is always a difficult time for us (and if it seems like the last three paragraphs have been about chaos, it’s because most my life at home and at work is managing controlled chaos). After experiencing this in the classroom first actually, I was able to gain a better understanding of the ‘end of the day frenzy’. Even if my class struggles to stay upbeat during the latter part of the day, the last few minutes of class almost always seem chaotic. It’s helped me learn more about my students and how to pace the day. If we can be more productive during the day, I don’t mind the frenzy so much.
Just the other day I watch Dane move his fingers across the TV. He would slide them quickly from one side to another; almost like a swipe. To further feed my own curiosity, I put the cable guide up to see what he would do next. Dane then began to touch various options as if to select them with his finger. Then it donned on me. He was trying to use the TV like he uses his mom’s iPod Touch. His own understanding of manipulating the screen on the iPod was transferred to a much larger screen (though to him, both served the same purpose). I would have never thought in a million years that my 18 month old would ever make such a connection. This reminded me that we are always learning, even if “learning” isn’t presented to us directly. Many of my students make connections and ask questions that truly surprise me. Their minds are absorbing information and ideas all the time. I need to remember that many of them want to learn and are naturally inquisitive. I don’t need to always be the one providing the learning.
Often if I just sit back and observe, I might learn something myself.