Teacher Guilt

Teacher guilt is real. It is something that we and many of our colleagues have felt at one point or another in our careers. Many teachers find it challenging to balance a personal life and still be able to fulfill all the tasks required for teaching. In many cases it is the mental well being of our teachers that ends up suffering. Which isn’t healthy for the teachers or the students. 

People who become educators are always seen and praised for their selflessness. It is as if teachers have to give up so much to be a teacher, and society praises them for it. Perhaps it is because historically, the majority of teachers have been women, and in western society women and mothers often have to sacrifice for their families, that teachers now have this stigma of sacrifice. 

How many times have teachers had to take a day because we were sick, or had a family obligation, or something came up but they felt bad for leaving the students? We can tell you that it happens often. Many teachers feel guilty for taking care of themselves, taking a break during the work day, taking a day, or even switching schools or careers. This teacher guilt is real, and we want to shift this mindset. We want to help change the narrative around teaching. 

The fact is that education is a profession. We go to school for many years to be teachers, and we should not be sacrificed for the sake of the children. It starts with teachers setting boundaries and saying they will not sacrifice themselves for their job. Teachers should be compensated fairly, given the resources they need for their classrooms, and given time during the day to complete the tasks required. If teachers continue to put in extra hours for free, spend their own money on their classrooms, and forego their personal lives, society will continue to control the narrative. It’s time we make a major change.

To our fellow teachers, just know that the children will be ok if you take a day or a few days off to take care of yourself. Your students benefit from your well being. And if you are unable to balance your life in your job, your school will be ok if you decide to leave the school or the profession. Like architects, engineers, and doctors, they will find someone to replace you. If your school isn’t able to give you what you need to be successful, it’s time to look for something that will benefit you and the life you want. Teachers are not volunteers. Teachers should not be putting their health and well-being at risk for the sake of a job.

Teachers need to stop feeling guilty. And society needs to stop praising teachers for their sacrifice, and instead praise them for their excellence in professionalism, and compensate them fairly.

Early Intervention

When you become a parent your heart is all of a sudden living outside of your body. In your eyes and soul your child is absolutely perfect. That is why it can be a scary feeling to notice that your child might have a difference or a delay of some kind. It may feel easier in the moment to brush it off as no big deal. And maybe in the end, it really is no big deal. However, it’s better to be cautious when your child is young, rather than wait until something becomes a real challenge for them later on. It is better for you, and more importantly for your child to figure out if there is a difference and get them the help and support that they might need. 

We understand that sometimes parents feel shame around their child being different, and they feel like it might be their fault somehow. Please know that it is not your fault. We want to help shift the culture in a way that parents don’t have to feel this way. We want to help every parent understand that children need different things to help them grow and learn, and by giving them what they need, you are equipping them with the tools they will use for the rest of their life. You are setting them up for success because they are not going to stay young and little forever. They will grow up into adults, and they need the tools to be able to live happy healthy lives. 

We are big advocates for early intervention for children who need it. Certain differences can be noticed within the first years of life. Examples could be an infant that doesn’t make eye contact, low muscle tone, or a baby that isn’t meeting specific milestones. If you notice something is off, ask your pediatrician. If something is going on, there are many services and resources available to help support healthy development through programs. For example, in California the Department of Developmental Services works with many regional centers throughout the state. These regional centers offer testing and early intervention for children up to age 5 at no cost to the parents. If you are in another state, ask your pediatrician for help, they can help guide you in the process of finding early intervention resources for your child.

In the later years, when your child enters preschool, and later kindergarten and beyond, it is important to communicate with your child’s teachers anything that will help your child succeed in school. On the other hand, it is also important to listen to educators when they notice something about your child. Teachers spend years learning about development and what is and isn’t age appropriate. When they bring something to a family’s attention, it is not to shame or blame. It is so they can give the child the tools they need to succeed. A teacher wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t do what was best for the child.

There is a saying that we often hear in our field: “They will grow out of it,” and sometimes that is very true. There are many age appropriate things that kids grow out of like eating their boogers, chewing on their hair, or fighting with their siblings. However, there are many things that children will not grow out of on their own, and the support of professionals might be needed. An administrator once told a parent this analogy, and it has truly stuck with us: “Wouldn’t you want to know if your child has asthma? And if they did, wouldn’t you want to make sure they had an inhaler to help them breath?”  Early intervention is the inhaler for children with differences. 

As teachers we have seen many children in our classes who have had tremendous success because they had services and early intervention when they were young. We also have personal experience with family, and we will forever be grateful to the regional centers and teachers who helped our loved ones learn and grow. We want to send the message that early intervention makes a huge difference in a child’s life, and you are not to blame for things that come up, but as their parent, it is your responsibility to help give them the tools they need to succeed. 

Cheers to a Year of Blogging

We cannot believe that it has already been a year since we began Dreaming Teachers and that this is our 50th post. When we first began this project, we wanted to help parents and teachers. After more than a decade in the classroom we noticed a disconnect between teachers and classroom expectations and parent and home expectations for children. We have also seen a big change in children’s social behaviors. We wanted to be the link between parents and teachers so that together we can raise healthy, balanced children. 

We have touched on issues that pertain to raising children from a perspective that parents might not have thought about: the teacher’s perspective. Many of the topics we write about are based on our experiences in the classroom combined with what research shows is best for children. 

In the coming year we hope to continue to write blog posts to help parents and teachers with the incredibly important job of raising children and giving them the tools they need to navigate our ever changing world. 

Cheers to a happy and healthy New Year and to finding balance in 2020!


Holiday Traditions for Families

Creating traditions with your children is an important part of growing up. Traditions can bring families together and provide a sense of comfort and belonging. They can also be a wonderful avenue to create long lasting memories that nurture the family connection. It is great to have different traditions throughout the entire year but the holidays is the perfect place to start if you are looking to add some tradition to your family!

Here are some ideas that we love. Some are more Christmas related, but others are traditions you can start with your child, no matter your beliefs.

Christmas Tree: Plan special traditions around getting your Christmas tree. We love the idea of picking a day to get your tree. Some people like to wait until December 1st. We think any day after thanksgiving is fair game. Get it from the same place every year, or get a special hot chocolate on your way to get the tree. Adding in a yearly tradition will make the experience so memorable. Let your children help in decorating the tree. There work decorating might not be the most “aesthetically pleasing,” with ornaments toward the bottom of the tree all grouped together, but they will be so proud of their work and so happy to be part of your family traditions.

Advent Calendars: There are so many different types of advent calendars that start the holiday season off on the first day of December. You can go for a store bought version with the little candies, or the wooden ones where you get to put in items of your choice. You can also make your own. There are countless ideas on how to make one floating around the internet, including this free printable advent calendar that includes different activities for each day. We really like the idea of a kindness advent calendar where instead of receiving a treat, children can do an act of kindness everyday.

Baking: Pick out your favorite holiday treats and have a baking day. Baking is fun for children and can be a great learning experience. And of course eating the treats is equally fun. This one is very special because you can pass on your favorite recipes to your children to create a tradition that lasts generations. You can also decorate tins with your child, even add pictures, and hand them out as presents to family and friends.

Movie Night: Pick a night to watch some of your favorite holiday movies. Some of our favorites are Elf, Home Alone, The Polar Express, The Santa Clause, A Christmas Story, The Grinch, and Klaus.  But there are countless wonderful family movies for the holidays. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the holidays can be stressful, don’t forget to balance that out with what really matters. Spending time with loved ones.

Meals: There is something so special about creating traditions with the food we eat during the holidays. Having certain dishes and recipes that you only make during the holidays will make it even more memorable. Many children love cooking and helping in the kitchen. We understand that they can make more work, but just think of how proud they will be when they ae complimented for their yummy food.  Not to mention that allowing them in the kitchen will help children become more independent as they grow up.

Books: Pick your favorite holiday book that fits your family values, beliefs, and traditions and read it together every year. We love the books like The Night Before Christmas, The Little Drummer Boy, The Magic of Friendship Snow, What Do You Celebrate, and Dasher. Our classes also love hearing stories related to holidays and traditions.

Family traditions are the thread that binds a family together. When you have strong traditions, it keeps you connected even when your children grow up. And they will have something to carry on with their own children. We want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season!

What are some of your favorite family traditions for the holidays?

Balancing Presents During the Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing and before you start fulfilling everything on your children’s lists, we think it is a great idea to consider the types and quantity of gifts that you give. It is no coincidence that there has been a huge following for Marie Kondo’s KonMari method and reconsidering the material things that take up so much space in our lives. There is an abundance of research to back up this method and many others that support the idea that “less is more.” 

We understand that it is really challenging to balance the amount of material things our children accumulate. It’s hard not to give them everything they want. It is also a challenge when we don’t have control over what other people buy our children. But it is our duty to do what is BEST for children. Research shows that having fewer toys can lead children to focus and engage in more creative and imaginative play. When we oversaturate our children, they end up moving from one activity to the other more frequently which does not allow them to develop focus, or appreciation for their things. When children have less, they learn to appreciate and care for what they have. 

Joshua Becker is the author of Clutterfree with Kids and he offers some great tips to manage your child’s materials all year long. In his book, he addresses the 10 most common clutter problems for parents. 

For now, we wanted to give some tips to consider during the holiday season:

The 4-Gift Rule

A wonderful trend we have seen going around is parents following the 4-gift rule: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. 

Donate Used Toys

The holidays are a great time of year for children to go through their toys and donate toys they no longer play with. Doing this will make room for new toys that are gifted during the holiday season and teaches children the joy of giving to others.  Some families even place crates of toys under their Christmas for Santa to pick up on Christmas Eve. 

Gift Experiences Rather than Toys

Experiences with loved ones are often something that children will remember when they grow up. Gifting a play, musical production, lessons, or activity to children are a few ideas for larger gifts. For family members you can suggest they opt for an activity with your child instead. Movies, ice cream dates, or a museum are all fun activities that children will remember way more than a toy. 

Set Boundaries with Family Members

It’s okay to set limits with family members or friends that tend to buy your children a lot of material gifts. You get to set the rules for your child, and after you express your wishes and reasons for it, most people are going to understand and accept your boundaries. 

The holidays should be more about making memories and traditions with your family and less about so many material things. Of course we aren’t suggesting no gifts whatsoever, we don’t want our children to feel deprived. We just suggest that gifts are not the focus of the season. It is also important to understand the research behind development and being oversaturated with material items. Be mindful with your gift giving practice and model for your children the happiness that comes simply by spending time with loved ones and giving to others. 

Podcasts for Kids

Podcasts have grown exponentially in the last few years. Including the amount of shows made for children. Podcasts are a great way to engage children in conversation and learning. They can spark new interests and curiosities. Many are interactive and children can write in to ask questions or even submit their own stories. They are great for road trips, long flights, or even just driving around town on short errands. Some are great right before bedtime. Many podcasts are created to be enjoyed by the whole family!

Here are a few to check out with your children:

But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids Great for all ages. You can even record your child asking a question and send it into the show!

Ear Snacks A show about music, science, art, and culture that is made for kids and enjoyed by the entire family. 

The Past & the Curious Little known stories from history. Each episode has a silly song that goes with it!

Story Time Great for bedtime, these stories are short and comforting stories. 

Be Calm on Ashway Island This one is great for teaching mindfulness and breathing techniques.

What if World This takes listeners “what if” questions and turns them into wacky stories. 

Wow in the World NPR discusses the latest news in technology and science in a way that makes it enjoyable for kids!

Brains On  This series takes kid submitted science questions and answers them with experts.

Tumble Another science podcast that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Story Pirates All the episodes in this series have been written by real kids!

Little Stories for Tiny People Stories and poems written for toddlers and preschool children.

Six Minutes Each episode is six minutes long, hence the title It tells the story of a girl named Holiday who was pulled out the ocean and does not have a memory.

Young Ben Franklin This podcast tells the escapades of a boy named Ben, who will one day become Benjamin Franklin.

The Alien Adventure of Finn Caspien This podcast tells about the adventure of Finn Caspien in outer space as he and others try to discover a place for humans to live.

We love podcasts for ourselves and our students too. There are many other podcasts for children, these are some of our favorites. Listening to podcasts with your child is a great opportunity for spending quality time together. They will also allow for discussions and conversations after listening.

How to Help your Child with Multiplication

Students usually begin learning the concept of multiplication at the tail end of second grade. They begin looking at multiplication strategies with equal groups, arrays, repeated addition and on number lines. These concepts are reviewed again in third, fourth, and fifth grade, when students continue working with multiplication. The concept of multiplication plays a big part of the other math units of division, long division, and fractions.

Because in upper elementary math concepts rely heavily on multiplication, being fluent in multiplication is very important and helpful for students. If they do not have to figure out what 56 divided by eight is or 9 x 6 is, then they can focus their energy on completing the more difficult algorithms that they encounter. That is why teachers, including Jen, often recommend memorizing multiplication facts in 3rd grade.

The question that many parents ask us is how to help their child learn their multiplication facts. There are many ways to become fluent in multiplication tables. Below are some of our recommendations.

1) Flash Cards: You can make these at home or pick some up from the store. These are great because students can work independently with them or with someone quizing them. There are also some online like Fact Monster, where children can practice their multiplication facts.

2) Math Games: There are a lot a multiplication games online that are fun and help students learn their facts. Some of our favorites are iXL, Multiplication Games, and Splash Math

3) Worksheets: These are not the funnest way to practice, but if you print out worksheets from Math Drills, and practice taking a fact quiz with your child at home a couple of times a week, you can see what multiplication facts they need to work on.

4) Apps: There are a lot of apps available for tablets where students can practice their multiplication facts. Some of our favorites are Ardy’s Multiplication Fun, Factor Samurai, Math vs. Zombies, and Times Table Multiplication. However, there are many more apps that are available to help your child practice multiplication tables. 

5) Songs: Some kids are more musical, and learn better through songs. One of Jen’s favorite things to do is play School House Rock Multiplication Rock for her students. They sing the songs in the morning and at pack up to help them learn their multiplication.

At the end of the day, it is good to remember that memorizing multiplication facts, while helpful, is not the end all in math. Students can use all the strategies that they have learned to help them while they become more fluent in their facts. This time is a great time to spend with your children. Talk about how you use multiplication in your life and when you use it, talk it out with them. Tell them the strategies you use, and quiz them on facts as you shop in stores. By showing children how multiplication is all around them, it makes it real for them, and you will see them flourish. Practicing multiplication facts with your child is another way to spend quality time with them while helping them master a skill.