What Are Some Things That You’re Not Good At?

We all have things that we’re not good at. My list is long. Here’s just a sampling of some of these things.

  • Coordinating and organizing anything involving paper. This includes forms, brochures, advertisements, and the little sticky notes that people love to pass on to educators. The other day, our principal John, came into the classroom as I was working with some children. He was holding a sticky note. I asked him, “Are you going to give me that?!” I could already feel my blood pressure rising. No worries! He was just letting me look at it. He knows that paper is not my strength. 🙂 
  • Holding onto pens. Today, our principal gave us a brand new pen. In the middle of the staff meeting — and thanks to some help from Chris Cluff — I found out that it was a stylus. I was so excited about this news, and told my teaching partner, Paula, that I already had all kinds of ways that we could use this stylus next year with kids. Her response was, “Do you really think you’re going to be able to hold onto this pen until next year?!” She knows me so well! 🙂 

  • Collecting library books and tracking those students that still have books out.
  • Handing out pizza, delivering milk, and coordinating popcorn orders. I guess that I could do these things, but I don’t want to spend my time in the classroom doing so. Being stuck behind a pizza box when I could be watching, working with, or talking to kids, is not my thing. 

Now I know that these might be considered small things, and for some junior, intermediate, and senior teachers, they might even be questioning why I’m concerned about the items listed here. For primary educators though, it’s often these other little things which can consume our time, and require organization, a systems approach, and effort. 

I remember when I started teaching, and I tried so hard to master the organizational systems that I saw others using.

  • I colour-coordinated and labelled everything.
  • I spent my lunch hours and recess times collecting items from agendas and home bags, and sorting more materials to send home.

I used to almost break down in tears when I found out that I was getting a new student. Did the principal or secretary know how many items I needed to label for just this one child? Or if a name was misspelled, I went through the same process correcting it. This almost became a full-time job, and it was not part of the job that I loved or truly believed was most valuable.

Then these past couple of years, I found my teaching partner, Paula — or really, thanks to John, the two of us found each other. She helped me realize that it’s okay to have these areas of weakness.

  • Kids can collect and organize many of their own papers. With just a photograph, I can create a digital copy of any paper, and it’s easy to add this picture to our Twitter page, Instagram page, or classroom blog for parents to see.
  • By never having a pen, I also show children that there are different ways to write things down. Grab a Sharpie. Use a crayon or a pencil. Or even send yourself an email or text message with the details. There’s not just a single way to stay organized, and it’s great for even young children to see this. 
  • Students can develop responsibility, even at a young age. Let children take ownership over their own library books. Show them where the box is and how to bring the book back to the library. Have children remind each other about library day. And if notices need to go out, have students get them, give them to their parents, and search for the missing book at home. In the end, almost all books tend to make it back to the library … despite my questionable library book collection skills. 🙂
  • Even our youngest learners can do a lot on their own. Do we hand out pizza, collect milk, and coordinate popcorn because we need to or because we’re scared to give up control? This year, we had our kids do all of these things on their own. They self-served pizza. They wrote notes to get the milk, and went down to do so. One student even helped organize the kids that got popcorn, and cross off the bag numbers on the popcorn cards.

Sometimes these student-controlled systems are a little messier, a little more time-consuming, and not quite as predictable, but the problem solving skills, independence, social skills, literacy and math skills, and organizational skills that students learn along the way, make these systems worth it. I’m almost a little happy now that I’m not good at these things. If I were, what might the students lose out on, and how might our classroom change? Yesterday, one of our SK children brought in birthday invitations for his summer birthday party. I was panicking on how I was going to remember to hand them all out. I shouldn’t have worried though. He didn’t even give the invitations to me. He found each child’s name — he had one for every student in the class — handed the invitation directly to the parent or helped the child put the invitation in his/her backpack. He knows me well, and he proved that I’m not necessarily the one that needs to be organized with the paper … at least not all the time. What do you think? As the summertime begins, I can’t help but have a little light-hearted reflection (and acceptance about) some of my weaknesses.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *