It Only Takes One: The Girl Who is Still Changing Me

There is a little girl in my class this year who has changed my world. She visits the hospital every month, or more, depending on her lungs. Before she comes to school she has to do physiotherapy and when she gets home she has to do it again. She takes salt tablets and creon pills (her enzymes don’t work like ours do) before eating. Every time she eats. She needs to wear face masks frequently to protect herself from germs. A common cold to a healthy young child is a sickness that could hospitalize her for months. Or worse…

Every day she comes to school in pain. Every day.

Are you picturing a sad little girl in your mind? I think I would. But let me tell you, this small, redheaded, beautiful child, is anything but sad. She makes having Cystic Fibrosis seem like so much fun that half of her classmates want to have it too. I wish those students could see the times when the nurse visits during school to change her PICC line and painful cries fill the classroom while the rest of her friends are outside playing. Yet, she worries more about the boy who is gluten intolerant in our class than she does about herself.

Yes, there are times she arrives at my classroom door crying because her stomach or head hurts even more than usual, or her body aches. But within minutes of those tougher than usual days she is smiling, laughing and telling me about something her little brother did that morning. She recently spent five days in the hospital and showed up Monday morning with her physio bag and the biggest smile on her face, so excited to tell me about her time in the hospital. Even though the week before I received a picture from her mum of her after surgery, looking like she had been hit by a bus. She wanted to tell me about her hospital room and how she woke up in the morning super confused because she thought it looked so much like her own bedroom. Never once did she mention how much it hurt. 

Her smile brings me and her classmates so much joy. She is a rockstar on the monkey bars. She is a gifted artist. Even as I write these words, tears are in my eyes when I think about her. I was terrified at the beginning of the year when this precious child was placed in my care, in my class. I am still scared. But I am also grateful.

Grateful that a five year old has taught me so much about joy, love, and how to live.

Has anyone changed your view point lately?

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An Open Letter to Parents

Today, I was peed on while I held back a girl’s hair so that she could puke into a sink. This was an hour or two after I already cleaned up said girl’s puke from a table and the floor. No, I am not in college.  Never RSVPed to those kinds of parties anyway…

No, no party. Just a typical day in the life of a Kindergarten teacher.

Due to this experience, as well as a few others of sick children coming to school I have decided to write an open letter to any and all parents who have thought about or followed through with sending their child to school ill.

Dear Parents,

Teachers are not baby-sitters. When your child pukes three times before school that is a good indication that she/he should STAY HOME.  If your child wants to go to school, of course you should still send them to a classroom where kids regularly forget to wash their hands (no matter how many reminders they get), kiss each other in fake weddings (Kindergarten is where it happens), and rub their booger loving fingers over every and any surface. Because the child obviously knows what’s best, and the smaller ones actually like school. A lot. So yeah, send them please, especially when they have a slight fever and say that are a-okay. The child knows what’s best.

Earlier this year my grade-teaching partner missed two days of school after being sick all weekend because a student in his class came to school the Monday and Tuesday of the week before while he was sick (the boy missed the rest of the week of school). The same two days my grade teaching partner was out 8-11 kids out of the 27 Kindergartners from both classes were home sick. This helped me out since I had to teach both classes, actually. Throughout the next two weeks different kids were dropping like flies, not being able to come to school because they kept getting each other sick. THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS when you send a child to school with a virus. The sickness SPREADS.

This is a true story, a girl showed up to school and said, “I threw up twice this morning.” What? WHY ARE YOU HERE? This girl threw up again before lunch and was sent home. Sorry, that wasn’t really addressed to you, the parents, it was just an example.

Here’s another example. A parent actually told her daughter not to eat lunch at school because she knew she was sending her to school with a virus that the girl’s little brother was just getting over. After the girl puked twice, peed her pants, and was waiting in the nurse’s office to be picked up she told me through sniffles that her little brother had thrown up five times. She was implying that she was glad she had only thrown up twice. How do I know this? Because she said it and then smiled. This is before she told me her mom told her not to eat lunch.

I am not making this up.

Is there really anything I can write in this letter that you don’t already know, dear parents? Probably not. But maybe, just maybe…Could you think about the teachers who invest an obscene amount of time into trying to create the next generation of responsible, educated, adults? Teachers. Not baby-sitters (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with baby-sitters, I have done that job too.)

Teaching is so much more effective when we aren’t cleaning up puke and washing pee off of our pants.

Sincerely,

A teacher who really does love her job and will continue to clean up puke and poop (yes, that happens too).

Conversations in Kindergarten

At lunch time today.

“Ms. Welton I am going to marry K,” C says with a smile. “And St. is too.”

K looks at me with a boyish grin. Well, he IS boyish and has a baby face because he is still 5. So he is probably just doing his normal grin.

“K can only marry one person. K you know you only can choose one right?” I say as more and more girls hear what we are talking about at our end of the lunch table and exclaim they will marry K too.

K nods. Another grin.

“Well, I am going to marry D,” Si. tells me. “You know why? Because K won’t kiss me.”

“No one should be kissing.” The practical teacher in me explains.

“You’re right. I should marry K and we can kiss at the wedding!” Si sighs loudly.

I don’t have dramatic students. At. All.

One hour after lunch. “Ms. Welton! Si. kissed D ON THE LIPS.” (Guess she changed her mind about marrying K and waiting to kiss until her wedding.)

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My girls just waiting for their prince… (Halloween 2013)

Imagination Station

“Think of the art that we haven’t seen, the jobs that haven’t been created, and the productivity that hasn’t been imagined because generations have been persuaded not to dream big.”

This is the most recent line I read from Seth Godin’s manifesto “Stop Stealing Dreams”. I blog about the book briefly on my educational blog, Two Apples A Day.

Today I gave my students ten minutes to ask me ANY question they could think of. They asked a lot of questions about North Korea, they asked me how old I was (I didn’t say I would answer all the questions!), and they asked about God. At the end of the day I ransacked my room and put a bunch of random stuff in the middle of our big classroom table (coffee filters, popsicle sticks, bingo stampers, straws, markers, crayons, glue sticks, tape, colored fuzz balls, etc). I told my children to make whatever they wanted. It was so cute, and a little sad, at how long it took them to really get into the assignment. They were excited, but also full of questions. “What do I make?” “Can I make more than one thing?” “What should I use?”

One of my students made a beautiful flower, another student made a metal detector (‘To find treasure!”), another student made a face, there was a ‘spy glass’,  fry pan (that was also a phone), and other things that I forgot! I can’t wait to do this more in the future. I want my students to create things that don’t exist yet, and to use their imagination!

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I love my students.

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Overwhelmed, and completely blessed.

Lately, I have been much more motivated and interested in writing on my personal blog, than on my educational one (twoapplesaday.org), that I co-author with my friend Jee Young (who is living it up in Singapore and CRAZY busy at her new school!). I think the reason is because I am so overwhelmed with my new job. When we started the blog last year, I was into the groove of second grade, and happy to blog about all the ideas I had and professional development I have been too. Now I am the one searching my heart out on the web for some great supplemental material and cool activities.

But my pastor this past Sunday gave an AWESOME word about how, every time we are overwhelmed, it is usually because God gives us something that we want (and it is NOT because He isn’t with us!), and it is usually because we have been promoted. In my mind, I was totally promoted to teach kindergarten AND first grade this year. The experience I am gaining is game-changing in the visions and goals I have for my future. I could not foresee this for myself at all— but God did. He closed the door and kicked me out of my last school to bring me here, to a place where I worship and dig into the word every single morning with my co-workers, before I even start teaching! I may be overwhelmed, but man— what a blessing it is.

I have a half eaten krispy kreme donut on my desk, I got it at lunch— I can’t even finish a donut? What is going on!

I had a conversation with my one kindergarten girl last week that melted my heart:

“So do you like school?” I asked her during snack time.

“Yes, I like school!” She replied with a huge smile on her face.

“What do you like about school?”

“I like Ms. Welton. I REALLY like Ms. Welton.”

In case you didn’t know, I am Ms. Welton, and I just about hugged her to bits. I am falling head over heals for these little ones, who cares if they can’t read? That is what I am here for!

 

I never thought I would teach Kindergarten.

Ever.

But… Here I am. My third year teaching (fourth if you count teaching English in Korean public schools, but I don’t–exactly— count that), and I find myself leading a group of kinders and first graders.

The start of the week was TOUGH. But the more I prayed, and the more prayer I received… well it’s the end of day four, and I still have energy! The past three days even thinking about composing a blog post was… impossible.

You can’t leave kindergarteners alone… did you know that?! Like… ever.

I have one girl who never wants school to end. “Awwww, I wish we could stay longer!” Just about the cutest freaking thing EVER.

Yesterday we had elementary chapel for the first time (well, duh— this is week one), and the vice principal was teaching the three omnis. He was on the word omnipresent when he asked all of the students, “Where is God?”

Without any hesitation one of my first grade girl’s points to her chest and calls out, “In our hearts!”

Just about the cutest thing EVER. I mean I have said that twice now… but man oh man, little kids are CUTE. And my class students are the stars of the school, everyone loves them, everyone says hi to them in the halls. I am tempted to let other teachers just have them for a little while, but no one has gone for that yet… What? They think they are so cute, why not hang out with them for seven hours (okay, I still think they are cute).

—- I wrote that blog post yesterday, and today I was able to take my camera with me on my walk home and capture my new neighborhood. The walk home from work is surprisingly green. I love it, especially the big garbage/trash dump area.—-

 I was taking a very non creepy back shot of two of my new co-workers, when the new roommie wanted in on the picture taking action. Hence, the two above photos… and then we ran into the adorbs newly engaged couple pictured below!

Nothing beats a walk home full of flowers, tires, trees, and trash. Aaaaah, Korea. 

 

I am not the biggest pet fan (we all know this), but this leeeeetle dog was pretty cute.

How is your walk home?