Even Educators Ask For Help

When I first began to work with Paula four years ago, she surprised me on one of the first days of school. While I arrive at school early — usually by 6:45, if at all possible — Paula comes around 8:30. She always stays late, which is when we do most of our planning together, so we tend to just connect quickly in the morning. On this day, I had set-up our creative space, and I wanted to see what she thought. I went to go and chat with her, when one of the kids in the Before Care Program appeared. The child was excited to show Paula a new clothing item and talk to her about what she did at home the night before, and I realized that I was running out of time to ask for any feedback. At the time, I’ll admit that I was frustrated. This was our time. Talking was important. But then I saw things differently. I think it was at this moment that I realized, when it comes to education, Paula is ALWAYS about the kids first. It’s one of the things that I admire most about her. Paula’s changed me a lot over the years, but maybe most of all, she’s caused me to really appreciate these connections with kids, and take the time to hear their stories … even when it might interrupt my initial plans. For if we’re in teaching for the kids, what do we inadvertantly communicate to them when we put our own conversations ahead of theirs?

It’s with all of this in mind, that I had such a hard time on Wednesday afternoon. As my duty was coming to an end, I realized that Paula and I needed to connect about our plans for next week, as we were out on the picket line on Thursday and Friday. With a last period prep that always ends up getting away from me, and the need to be out of the school in 15 minutes, I knew that we needed to chat after lunch. This is all part of our new normal. As I thought about this, I also thought about what wasn’t working in the classroom.

  • The room felt noisier today.
  • Some children were not settling as they usually do.
  • A few spaces were used less.

There were all kinds of possible reasons for this.

  • Could this be because of Pizza Day, and an increased interest from almost everyone in eating earlier than usual?
  • Could this be due to some unexpected interruptions around the First Nutrition Break, which made it harder for play to settle as it usually does?
  • Could this be because a child left during the first part of play, and then found it harder to re-enter play when returning?
  • Could this be because of an additional adult in the room, which caught the attention of some of our younger students, and seemed to pull them away from what they were initially doing? Then they had to adjust again when the adult left.
  • Could this be due to a lack of sensory options in the afternoon, when sensory play seems to calm many of our kids? Could something as easy as opening the sandbox at this time have changed the play?
  • Could this be due to not enough changes in the classroom space throughout the day, which led to a less settled feeling as the day progressed?
  • Could this be due to some social dynamics in the classroom, and a need to explore how to help connect some different children? Possibly connecting them in different spaces in the room?
  • Could this be because of too many similarities in our play spaces throughout the week, and a need to make a few bigger changes?
  • Or could this be a combination of any of these things, or maybe something else entirely?

As you can see, my head was spinning with questions, and somehow I needed to talk briefly with Paula about them. We then had to make some decisions, which would impact how we cleaned up the space and reorganized the materials. I walked next door from duty then with a plan … a hope to figure out what would make things better.

Paula was sitting at the table with the Perler beads, and helping a child collect the beads that he wanted for his pattern. I went in behind her, and we quietly started to talk. It was just as we started chatting that children began to talk to Paula.

  • They were pointing out their Perler bead designs.
  • They were asking her for help.
  • A couple of children even wanted her to come and see what they made.

And as they started to talk, Paula did what she does best: she connected with each and every one of them. I love that she does this, and I love that the kids have this connection with her to make these discussions possible, but I also felt myself feeling conflicted: our Work-To-Rule hours means that I NEEDED to have this discussion with Paula now. Our room set-up depended on it. If we didn’t make the changes before the end of the day, there was no way that we would have time to make them in the 30 minutes before school starts on Monday morning. Ahhhh!!! I didn’t scream aloud, but I did in my head.

You see, as a kindergarten educator, classroom time is different than it might be in other grades. I’m not bringing home work to mark. While we have a comprehensive daybook plan, the plan is really about our environment, and the materials and provocations in each of these spaces. What possible expectations might be met in each of these areas? I can take a photograph or video of the classroom, and we can use this to help with planning when outside of the school, but any decisions we make are likely to require a reorganization of the room. That takes time in the room.

A Short Video Of Our Classroom Space

Right now, we’re trying to get kids even more involved in the set-up process, but to do this, it requires some talking time. And if that time means talking about kids, it’s a challenge, as we can’t do this with children in the room. So we make use of text messages in the evening, but if these conversations will impact on the plans for the next school day, then somehow they have to happen before the planning happens. Hence my conundrum. My frustration. My uncertainty. Paula and I spoke about this a lot on the picket line these past couple of days. How can we stay focused on kids, reflect on our observations, and integrate planning into this couplex mix? What are others doing? For the past four years, we’ve had a workflow, which includes looking back over documentation at the end of the school day, reflecting together, observing the environment, and making changes with all of these observations in mind. This workflow works for us, and allows us to be responsive to kids, but right now, we need to change it somehow to make this process work in 15 minutes. I know why this change has to happen, and we both fully support these reasons, but we’re trying to come up with a solution that still allows for responsive planning. Maybe part of this job action is showing how much educators do beyond the school day, and maybe this means a few changes for now. I think that a calm classroom and student success largely depend on our discussions (and the environmental changes that come from them), but maybe I need a reframe. Help us please. We need a way to see our time and planning differently.


8 thoughts on “Even Educators Ask For Help

  1. Hey Aviva,

    Appreciating the complex simplicity of your connundrum. I always go to ‘time’ first, realizing its precious commodification.

    Reframe: how do I use time more effectively during the day? What is the right balance and the right position of that boundry I build between maximizing the learning in ‘my’ classroom and maximizing ‘our’ learning, especially in such an important relationship as the one between you and your colleague.

    My gut tells me that each and every supportive encounter with any child far outwieghs anything me and my colleague can speak about. Too tertiary.

    Maybe fostering individual and small group leadership and think of the students as colleagues and people that can help ‘take the load off’.

    Maybe I would then reference Hattie and look at the top ten things that can accelerate learning in my class. Number one of which is a students capacity to ‘self-author’ and thus ‘self-assess’ the daily transformations in their understandings of the world.

    I have been encouraging classroom feeds and other forms of documentation, whether its Twitter or SeeSaw, as avenues to encourage student ‘self-selection’ in creating portfolios and, really, any archival remnants of learning they choose. What a great way of objectifying learning so that we can observe and chronicle it.

    Many of these documentation tools provide entry-points for our ‘learners’ at home. The ones who we collaborate with on this journey. I would love an opportunity to share what my kids and I are learning about at home and feel it could really be instrumental in my child’s thriving.

    If there is anything here that provokes even the smallest of impulses, I will conclude with Einstien in saying that ‘God doesn’t roll the dice’.

    Chi miigwetch for your sharing!

    • Thanks for your comment, Marc! Paula and I try to use our class blog, Twitter, and Instagram together to document the learning throughout the day and reflect with our kids. In fact, it’s this documentation that guides our morning meeting time. Often the documentation is a combination of our reflections and theirs. I can certainly see the value that comes from using this documentation to inspire future learning, but I wonder if there’s also a degree of educator reflection that comes from reconsidering materials and space based on our daily observations. It’s not that kids can’t be involved in this, but are there elements of this that rest with the educators? If not, how does this co-planning work in the classroom? What does it look like? I know that we have elements of this when we set-up some spaces in the room with the kids (as we did on Wednesday), but I don’t think we’re 100% there yet. Is it even possible to be? I’m really not sure.


      Would love to hear more from you.

      • Good questions!

        Do we need to be sure? Is that even a relevant consideration for an innovator? Is it enough to be sure there is a solution and that I will find it? Breaking down the problem into its constituent parts and identifying factors of influence.

        In many ways we are writing the book! Piaget, Dewey, Montressori, etc., in my researches, seem scant on practical and varied activities that can sustain one for a whole year. They do however provide signposts and interesting directions to follow.

        I’ve gotten right into this since reading ‘The Evolving Self’, by Robert Kegan. He picks up where Piaget and Vygotsky left off to investigate how adults develop their meaning making or world view throughout their life. I have since ripped through his entire library of books!

        An interesting thought I’ve taken away is that you can’t help a person move from one developmental stage to the next through logic alone or by speaking to them from a higher level. You have to get down to their level and speak their language. In my minds eye, I remember laying down on the floor to build lego constructions with a group of JK’s a few weeks back. I had to get down and interact on their level, literally on my belly, even in my talk and jokes and solutions to problems that came up.

        Anyhow, my awareness of this in my life is regularly blowing my mind. Especially when it comes to my colleagues where I now have a greater sensitivity to the journey we all take in moving from one developmental stage to the next. I ask myself questions that would have never dawned on me before, like ‘How can I help my 20 something new teacher colleague? How does the evidence of their behavior determine their stage? How can I get down to their level and challenge them within their proximal zone of learning and provide the safety, support and love they will need as they struggle towards the next evolutionary leap!?

        Thanks for the impulse! Keep up the awesome work!

        • Thanks for your reply, Marc! I think that through your stories and ideas you capture the very reason that Paula and I are struggling. In order to reflect and plan for each child at his/her developmental level, we need time. Fifteen minutes is our current challenge. But reflecting with kids in the room is also a challenge. Some of these conversations become evening ones and ones through text messages. But if our next provocation or a change in our room environment is going to be reflective of these conversations, we somehow need to have them before the day is through. Not sure exactly how to do this, but your comments have me thinking more.


  2. Lately my partner and I have beeen sharing planning ideas through texts a lot since we have less time before and after school to chat. Not ideal, but better than not connecting. And we are trying to give ourselves a break when things are less set up and ready to go on a Monday. We ease into it.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jen! Are you finding an impact on your students? I’m worried about being less organized on Monday, when I know that the transition from the weekend to the classroom can be harder for some of our kids. This is when I find that organization matters most of all. Is this as important as I think it is though? Hmmm …


  3. Like you, Aviva, I’m struggling to get it all done! To top it off, I am the building steward and find that my time is stretched just a little bit thinner because I often have small little tasks to do related to this. Small tasks add up though! I’m secretly grateful I can’t run the choir right now. I love it with all my heart, but I just don’t have time.

    I’ve found myself pulling back on some of my plans because I need to lower our cognitive stress. Instead of trying to work on both a science and a social studies unit, a math unit and some reading and writing this week, I am going to have everyone writing about science, integrating math and science, reading our social studies read alouds during our reading time, and I will make sure I make time for us to get outside a bit more. We’ll be doing a lot of math consolidation this week instead of moving on to a new concept as I had originally planned for this week.

    I do feel like I need to say that this is part of every day teaching. It seems harder now, but we are doing it all the time. I had 24 children in my class last year. I have 20 this year. My daughter has 29 in her grade 3/4 class, and there are 25 in my son’s 1/2 class.The difference between 20 and 24 is huge. The spec ed support is as good as it can be considering we don’t have enough staff to provide this. These are issues worth striking for!

    • Thanks for sharing what you’re doing, Lisa! It’s a good reminder that so many of us are trying to figure out how to make it all work. Maybe our problem is that we’re trying to do everything we were doing before, but with far less time to reflect and plan together. I’m not sure that I want to change the routine that benefits our students so much, but do we need to consider a few changes for the time being? Hmmm …

      I will echo your thoughts that the reason why we’re doing this is so important, and it’s what we continue to think about as we do some problem solving. It’s always good to remember the why.


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