I'm so excited to share the next installment of my interview series! Today I'm speaking with my wonderful friend Alexis from @harlowandava. Alexis is a teacher at a Junior High and is sharing a glimpse into a typical day in her life, and how she organizes it! Welcome Alexis!
Tell us a little bit about yourself! Did you always want to be a teacher? Where did you go to school? Did you have any strong role models in your life that encouraged you go to into teaching?
Hello everyone, my name is Alexis and I run Harlow and Ava. I am a mom to one and spend most of my days not spent at the school with my little family of three, working on restoring our vintage home. I actually graduated high school early, and having a degree in Education was not on my radar. I attended St. Ambrose University immediately following high school and was originally dead set on becoming a forensic scientist (forensic microscopist to be specific). It wasn't until I had my daughter that I considered a career in Education, to not only learn more about her development but also have a job with an awesome schedule...hellooo summers off. My mother had also been a substitute teacher while I was in high school, and I loved the connection she had with her students. I count my lucky stars everyday that I decided to pursue a career in Education because I absolutely love the students, my fellow coworkers, and the school environment. It is definitely my calling and fortunately gives me lots of flexibility to spend time with family and of course my organizing obsession.
I can imagine your days are incredibly busy! Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you?
It's taken a while but I've finally got my daily routine down to a science. I am a big planner and as any mom knows it can get a little hectic juggling kids activities, work and family obligations, and the rare moments when we get a little ME time. The Junior High where I currently work is 25 minutes from my home and in another state ha! so I've got to get up pretty early and get moving. This is where my planning comes in handy. I usually make sure my mornings are seamless before heading out the door by pre packing lunch, laying out my work clothes, showering, and grabbing any decorations or accessories I'm bringing in the night before. Since school hours are a little different than your typical 9-5, I am at the school by 7 am and heading out the door by 1:45. Due to this flexibility I'm able to pick up my daughter from her school (which gets out at a later time), help with homework, tidy up the house and begin dinner preparations. After dinner we all spend time together as a family and after my daughter heads off to bed for the night, this momma takes about an hour of ME time before heading off to bed myself. My current obsessions are reading my fav Murder She Wrote books before bed and watching Youtube cleaning videos. It's the perfect way to unwind after a long day and get ready to do it all over again the next day.
What tools do you use to organize your day? Are you a paper planner person or a digital planner?
To keep myself on track and and our schedules aligned I have a few tools I use on a daily basis. I have a "Happy Planner" that I keep in my work bag and update it throughout the day. I write down any errands, appointments, meals, or things I need to remember to tell a student or staff member that day. I also need to keep my family on track with our schedule too so I have purchased a large Post IT! calendar that attaches to our fridge. I write down our daily meals, any activities/appointments, and reminders. This has made a world of difference in keeping every member of our family on the same page. I am definitely a paper planner kind of girl, I aspire to digitally plan to reduce waste but there's just something special about checking to do's off of a list with my highlighter.
What are the main issues you may be facing right in your profession?
I am really thankful to have a job that I love and enjoy going to everyday. I wouldn't say that I have any problems with this field as a whole, but I'm sure many individuals as well as parents who spend their days with children always wonder if they've done "enough". I think its hard not to become attached and deeply care for the children that are in your care, so of course we always want to do the best for them and watch them succeed. I would definitely consider myself a perfectionist so I spend a lot of my time between classes wondering if there's something I could do differently or change for the better for the next day.
What is one thing you wish parents would understand about their child’s education?
One thing I wish parent's understood about their child's education ( and most of them do) is that it truly takes a village. A child is learning throughout their entire day, it doesn't magically start at 8 am and turn off at 3 pm. Taking the time to work with your child outside of school, and utilizing life experiences as learning experiences can make a world of difference. The teachers and para educators that work with children throughout the day are doing their absolute best during the time they are together to make every moment count. It may not seem like non structured experiences at home are great learning opportunities but they truly are and teachers and para educators are able to tell and truly appreciate those who have those additional learning experiences outside of the classroom.
When a child is moving to a new school or city, what is the best way to acclimate them to their new school environment? How can a parent help with that transition?
Moving to a new school can be very scary for a child and is definitely a big transitional period in their life. In my own household we will be dealing with this situation as my daughter transitions from her elementary school to the junior high in the upcoming year. One of the best ways to get over the new school jitters is to dive right into the school functions. Every child has a niche and thankfully many schools offer a variety of activities. Not every child is an athlete or an over the top school spirit enthusiast so finding activities that they enjoy can really help bring them out of their shell. As a parent, volunteering or attending school functions can be a great way to get involved, learn more about the school, and meet your children's peers and their families. Research what the school has to offer and take advantage of these programs. School clubs can range from video game clubs to cooking clubs and its a great way to meet new friends and show their unique personalities. If your child is overly shy and you worry about them opening up to new peers, ask a school counselor if they could assign your child a "buddy" to make the transition easier and show them the ropes.
What tools do you feel are most important for children when they attend school? What is completely unnecessary for the grade and age you are currently teaching?
I am definitely old fashioned so I like to stick to pencils and paper when it comes to must have school supplies. I know there are many benefits to having the new tech items to make things run faster, but sometimes batteries die, files get lost, and the internet connection goes down. Thankfully, with a notebook, planner, and writing tool its pretty hard to lose any of your work. I can see the benefits to both high tech and minimalist school supplies but I am definitely team old fashioned supplies when it comes to less distractions and hassle in the classroom.
How should a parent contact their teacher if they have a concern about their child’s education?
Whenever a parent has any issues or concerns the staff definitely wants to know about it so it can be resolved asap. If the parent has their children's teachers email accounts that's a great way to send a message and get a quick response throughout the school day, whereas calls may need to be placed during free periods or after school. If the parent doesn't have this information, it should be available on their schools website or any of the office staff would be happy to provide that information.
Im sure you see many different styles of parenting in your profession. What can a parent do to ensure a positive learning environment for both their teacher and their child?
Parents are such an important part in their child's education, more so than they may even realize. Showing your child that you are invested in their education, happiness, and success can make a world of difference in their attitude and educational ambitions. Since we live in a high tech world, it is so easy as a parent to keep track of your child's school progress even before the end of the quarter (aka report card times). Most school districts have a portal where parent's can check their lunch accounts, individual class grades, and lists of any missing assignments. Staying on top of these things and letting your child know you are aware of any issues and willing to help can definitely help right things before it starts to affect grades or participation.
And lastly, my new favorite question! What does an organized life look like to you!
I absolutely love this question, and as a perfectionist I think I'm still striving for my perfect "organized life". In my daily life I really strive to eliminate any excess distractions or disruptions and focus on what matters most. Pre-planning your day by laying out your wardrobe, meals, or any other things you need to have a successful day really can make or break the outcome and mood of your day. Ideally, my organized life would consist of less time spent on mundane tasks and more time spent with my family and embracing new adventures. I've jumped on the minimalist bandwagon this year and it really has been eye opening, and I would recommend anyone who ever feels overwhelmed by their to do's or "stuff" in general to really consider what they truly need and don't need and focus on what really matters.
Thank you so much Lauren for the opportunity to tell a little bit about myself to your readers and encourage them to message me if they have any questions or comments!