Tag Archives: teaching

Winding Down

teacher quote

“Vacation” is winding down. We didn’t go anywhere, but the break from work ends tomorrow night. I have done bits of work nearly everyday to prepare for going back. I even went into school twice to get some work done but this always happens on the weekend – and I begin to feel overwhelmed about all I need to do to get ready for my 22 kiddos.

Most of us put in many more hours than the “cushy” 8am-3pm job so many people think we have. Many of us, myself included, work in the summer and have other jobs to help supplement our income.

I know that I moan and gripe about all the work I have to do outside of school, wondering how many other jobs require bringing home so much work in the evenings and on “vacations” but in the end, I  wouldn’t give it up for anything. Teaching is what I love to do. Seeing the awe and wonder in the eyes of these kids as they learn and absorb the world around them is magical. 

I have so many great ideas and things I want to try with them when we go back. I always feel rejuvenated after a break but even more this year after an incredible workshop I attended in December. Dr. Jean is an amazing educator who believes that children need to move and play and explore, at all ages, but especially in the younger grades. She also understands the constraints of common core and how much has to be done in the classroom and this workshop has inspired me to bring some of her ideas into my classroom and mesh them into the curriculum to keep Kindergarten fun and engaging!

Sometimes when we are feeling overwhelmed a coworker of mine likes to remind us, “Remember, these ‘babies’ were in diapers only a few years ago.  If they can’t write a paragraph right now, it is okay! Just like they were potty trained in their own time, they will get these skills their own time too!” She is right -and it takes someone like her to keep us grounded and on track!

A lot happens in 35 years!

great teacher

Thirty-five years ago I was entering fourth grade at Jefferson School.  My teacher was Miss Lampros and I was nervous about the new school year.  That wound up being one of the best years of school for me and it was then that I decided that I was going to be a teacher too.  She was my inspiration. 

I had tried various times to locate her to let her know what an influence she had been to me but didn’t have much success until June of this year.  I wrote about it after finally getting in touch with her.  We interacted via email for a few months this summer and finally planned a date to meet for lunch.  I wrote down the date.  Wednesday, August 19th.  The problem was, August 19th was a Tuesday – while we were still in Connecticut visiting colleges.  I had been so off schedule because of being off my foot, I lost track of the days and totally screwed up!  I got an extremely caring email from her later that day asking me if I was okay since I didn’t show up to lunch.  I was devastated.  I had just told to the boys about how excited I was for my lunch with her on Wednesday and how I couldn’t wait for it to happen.  Meanwhile, I had just unknowingly “ditched” her after all this time!

I apologized profusely and we agreed to meet again and we did.  Today.  As I drove to brunch, I was wondering what we’d talk about.  A lot had happened in the thirty-five years since I’d seen her!  Mainly, I grew up!  Apparently, she told me during our conversation, that she thought the same thing!  In all of our email conversations, I didn’t realize this, but I hadn’t ever told her my maiden name!  I couldn’t believe it.  She came to this brunch not even knowing exactly who she was coming to see.  Once she saw me and I told her I was Claire Gianni, it came back to her.  She remembered my sister and my mom and we reminisced about Jefferson School and other teachers that I had and students that she had taught. 

She is retired now and still living locally.  She travels all over the world and is an author of several books. We sat together for nearly an hour and a half and there was never a lull in the conversation.  As we left, we promised to keep in touch.  I am looking forward to that.  I learned so much about her today.  She has done so much more than “just teach.”  Ninety minutes isn’t nearly enough time to cover so many years of life. 


training humans

Two days of school are done.  178 to go!!  It has been a fun couple of days. It has been exciting.  It has been a whirlwind.  It has been exhausting!  Anyone who thinks teachers have it easy, “with their summers off” and “great hours,” hasn’t spent a day in the classroom!!
Especially in the first few weeks of school!!  I get to school an hour before the students arrive and I stay long after they leave.  I bring home work that needs to get done in order to be ready for the next day.  Half of my weekends are spent planning for the upcoming weeks.  Of course that is all work that gets done after taking care of my own family, who needs to have dinner made, get homework done, lunches made…

I am not alone.  I know this, and even though I am feeling as if I will never be able to get it all done, it will.  It always does.  I am lucky because I love my job.  I love teaching. I love getting up and going to work everyday.  There is nothing else I’d rather do for a living.  The rewards  far outnumber the exhaustion!

Yellow Butterflies


Today, I went to my mailbox at school and found a gift inside.  There was a card with the above quote, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly”.  With it, were two packages of cocktail napkins with butterflies and inspirational quotes on them.  A tiny little gift, from a friend at work, that meant so much to me.  Not just the quote itself, but that she knew how much butterflies meant to me and knew that it would bring a smile to my face and it did.

Butterflies have had a significant meaning to me for about 7 years now.  Back when my husband lost his job, our kids were still quite young and we knew that I would have to go back to work full time.  It was a difficult time in our lives, and the stress of looking for work, no salary coming in was terrifying.  I would walk DJ to school each morning and for several weeks, I kept noticing a yellow butterfly that “followed” me home…daily!!  I knew it was silly, but I saw it everywhere.   I had heard stories of “spirits” that came back in forms like that, but I had no one close to me that had died, so that meant nothing to me.

I could not figure out what the meaning behind this yellow butterfly was.  I told everyone about it trying to figure it out but it was really just something fun to talk about.  Dave just laughed and brushed it off as a coincidence. Then, one morning, I was on my way to the gym when I stepped inside and saw a yellow butterfly lying right outside the door.   Of course, by now, it was becoming a little peculiar.  I got on the treadmill at the gym, opened a magazine and the page it fell open to, had a two page spread with the word, “Butterflies” in huge letters written across both pages.  Yellow butterflies were all over those pages.  I took the magazine home, put it right in Dave’s face and said, “still think it is just a coincidence?”  Even he had to admit it was a bit bizarre.

About a week later, I had an interview at a school in town.  I walked into the building and a big sign in the lobby read, “Our butterflies hatched today”.  Of course I thought that could only mean it would be a positive interview and I’d get the job!!  Nope.  Great interview, but did not get it.  Discouraged and still so confused about these yellow butterflies I went home.  A few days later, I had another interview at another school in town.  I walked DJ to school that morning and sure enough, there was “ole yellow” following me home.  I talked to it, (like a crazy person), asking it what it was trying to tell me!!!!

I got to my interview and sat on the bench outside of the principal’s office.  Waiting patiently for my turn.  I was looking around the office, taking it all in, when I looked up over the door where the interview would be taking place.  There, over the door, bigger than I could span my arms, was an enormous yellow cellophane butterfly hanging. I could not help but smile, lose all nervousness and walk into that office filled with confidence.  It was the best interview I had ever had – and sure enough, I got the job!  Now almost seven years later, I have never been happier in a teaching job.  I still see yellow butterflies around.  Not as often, but they are around, and now they just fill me with joy, knowing how that yellow butterfly led me on a journey that has brought me to a place where I love to work, love the staff and love the community.  When one flutters by me now, I just smile.



One of the benefits of being a teacher and living in the town that I teach in, is that I get to bump into my students and their families quite often around town.  My own family laughs because we can rarely go anywhere without seeing someone I know.  Being a Kindergarten teacher is a blessing in itself.  The joy that these 5 and 6 year olds find in the simplest things, brings a smile to my face on a daily basis.  Children teach us how care for the small things, love unconditionally and to simply laugh.

In the weekly journal writing class that I have been taking we have been focusing on vulnerability. The definition of vulnerable is “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally”  Many people might think that children are vulnerable, but perhaps the people who really are vulnerable are adults.   Children laugh, care and love unconditionally.  They are giving, compassionate and empathetic.  They are tolerant and unbiased.  They want to love and they want to be loved.  Simple.  Maybe this is why being a Kindergarten Teacher is “my calling”.  They all just want to be friends!

Being vulnerable is not a bad thing.  After talking and journal writing about it for a few days now, I think it is part of a growing process.  Vulnerability is necessary to grow and move on.  It is a process of change and learning to accept that you can move forward.  I am secure in the way my life is right now….but now that my mom has passed, that life is going to be different.  I am vulnerable.  I have to learn to live without her.  I can’t just call her like I want to tonight, to ask her for her corned beef and cabbage recipe that I will be preparing for 20 people tomorrow. I have to rely on other ways and open myself to new possibilities and opportunities.  It will taste just fine.  It may not be her recipe, but it will be as close to it as I can get it to be, and perhaps be a new tradition for our family.

That brings me back to teaching in town…

Today, while I was at Target, buying all of the ingredients I needed for tomorrow’s meal,  at the exact same time, three of my students and their parents and I all wound up in the same part of the store.  I got hugs and enormous smiles and in return, I was able to give them one of the biggest, most genuine smiles I have been able to give all week.  When one of them told me, “I missed you!  Where were you”?  I told them, “My mom was sick”.  One of them just smiled and said, “She needed you to take care of her right?”  My eyes filled with tears and I was able to reply, “Yes.  That is exactly what I was doing”.  Perhaps I am breaking through my vulnerability and it is my Kindergarteners who will help me to get there.


They Understood!!

magic johnson

Today’s blog builds upon yesterday’s and the book that we read in class, “How to Lose All of Your Friends”, by Nancy Carlson. I did not realize the impact it had on the kids until this morning.

This morning, two of the boys in my class came into school with a version of the book they wrote themselves!  It was called, “How to Make Your Mom Mad”.  It was fantastic and funny and a perfect way to continue our conversation.   The boys and I read it to the class and everyone related it back to the book from yesterday.  Some of their suggestions, (in their own Kindergarten style of writing) were, “write all over her papers” and “eat all her groceries”. We laughed along with the book, all along knowing that they really got the idea!!

Every morning, I start the day with a morning greeting.  Sometimes we just go around the circle and say good morning to the person sitting beside us.  Other days we give a high five to our neighbor or roll a ball to each other, always saying good morning.   The students are encouraged to look at each other in the eyes and be respectful as we go around the circle.  Today for our morning greeting, we went around the circle and I told everyone that they had to give a compliment to the person next to them.  Their compliments and words of kindness were so endearing.  A few of my favorites were, “I really like your green eyes”, “you have a nice smile”  and “I love the way you stay in the lines when you color”.  I cannot even put into words how emotionally moved I was by their sentiment today.  I told them that my heart was so filled with joy, that it was spilling out from my eyes!  They laughed and agreed that people cry when they are happy.

We mentioned how we don’t give compliments to get compliments.  I told them that their job today is to give out two compliments to people outside of our classroom and if you see something nice, then say it.  Watching them go throughout school today, complimenting other teachers and friends was really heartwarming.   Best of all, was that most of them said that they did not want to stop at only two compliments and asked if they could do more!!