Giving Grace

I love reading everyone’s perspectives about the pandemic. The good, the bad and the ugly. We all are concerned about our kids and miss them so much! This pandemic reminds me of a firework that is lit. We wait and wait for something to happen. Sometimes we see the affects instantly and other times we wait so long we think it’s ok to touch it but then it backfires. This is the way I feel when people decide NOT to wear masks or practice social distancing. This post is about me giving grace to teachers, my kiddos, parents, my daughter and even me.

As a mother and teacher it’s been extremely difficult! I try to balance my teaching time with my classroom family along with homeschooling my 13 year old daughter. Some of you may think, she’s 13 how hard can it be? Well for a child with Down Syndrome who loves to say the word, “NO” It’s a tug of war with me pressing pause constantly! LOL

Her work sometimes is modified and other times I recreate. For example she had an assignment which was Egyptian vocabulary. It was on Quizlet but it was all text. I knew there was no way I was going to have her do this. So I looked up all the key terms and found pictures for each. Then I added those pics to Piccollage along with the word. It was a picture dictionary. She was doing the work but it was at her level and it was something she could do and feel successful. I was annoyed at the Social Studies teacher for giving her that assignment but then I reflected: We are all in this together. She has a lot on her plate as well and we need to give grace!

I have a family member whose parent works midnights. She is a single parent and emailed me worried. She found out her daughter hasn’t done weeks and weeks of work. She asked what assignments she needed to do and she apologized. She expressed how hard it has been for her daughter as she works. I emailed and said, Don’t worry about any past assignments. If she can do x,y and z this week she will be caught up. This kiddo and mom are going thru more than I know. School work should be the least of her worries! I gave grace.

Back to my Abbs:):) Before this pandemic, I attended Abbs IEP meeting and everyone including me agreed to ESY for her. This was extended school year and I thought it was a great idea! Well, the pandemic hit and I recently found out they were still having ESY but it was digital. I have to be honest, I was horrified. My heart beat faster, I started to sweat and I felt nauseous. Yes, I am a teacher but NOT of my own kid – LOL I knew what I had to do. I gave myself grace and let them know that I respectfully decline the ESY. I knew this would be another tug of war where fireworks would occur daily. I want my summer with my girl to be a happy memorable one. We would definitely work on school but it would be at my own pace and would incorporate real world. I knew this was the best choice for me, Abbs and our family! I had to quit feeling guilty and give myself grace!

This is definitely a work in progress and I know I’m not alone but for me I am working on being more selfless, patient, and empathetic. I am also working on giving grace to others including myself. Hopefully the fireworks will end soon and we can all try to carry on with the new normal. Whatever that might be…..

You can follow me on Twitter: @MrsHayesfam

Unruly Splats

Are you a lover of coding? Do your kids LOVE to move? Do you love STEM? Well, look no further than Unruly Splats!

What is Unruly Splats? It’s a combination of app and the spat itself. The splat is a square durable object kids can jump, hop and exercise on! The code is a block based similar to Scratch. Kids use the app to code games , exercises and more! It’s so much more than just a coding tool! It brings exercise, coding and stem together in a unique package!

I was fortunate enough for them to send me a splat kit and once my kids tried it they were hooked! I admit I was too! I’m a big kid and firm believer that if kids aren’t having fun there isn’t much learning going on either!

Whether you’re face to face, hybrid or remote, Splats can be played in any domain. You just need to app and the actual splats:) Students can code, play and create games:) This coding product can be one or multiple players and already has a collection of games to choose from:) It’s durable and indestructible! It’s designed for kids to jump & smack. I love the blended learning! It combines SEL, coding, fitness, collaboration and stem! It’s the whole package and kids will absolutely LOVE! This is actively learning at it’s finest! This dynamic duo of fitness and coding opens a window for cross curricular connections as well as subject areas! The support gained thru this program is monumental! They offer live support, PD, lesson plans and more! This Project-based learning program is not only creatively innovative but promotes: computer programming, energetic physical activity, and social interaction & helps kids learn critical STEM / STEAM skills all while enjoying themselves. This program is very much actively stem play! This program not only engages kids physically but also socially and mentally! By the time my kids understood the ins and outs of Unruly Splats they were creating and coding games they invented! This program meets the coder where they are & are motivated

My 2nd grade family has so enjoyed coding, creating, gaming, exercise, stem, & so much more! Here are some of their responses:)

One child said, “WOW, this is so fun and I love that it has games already built in!”

Another learner said, “I love coding and this package lets us create our own game! I can practice my creativity!”

And another kiddo said, “This would be great in Gym or music, I think they would love it!”

Now you see, it’s not just me that enjoys the program but my 2nd grade family does too! They are teaching each other and creatively coding their own games which promote exercise, creativity and problem solving. All things needed in the work force today!

Unruly Splats have amazing support and if you have any trouble they will do their best to resolve the problem ASAP! What are you waiting for? Try Unruly splats, here’s the link:) 

Your kids will thank you!!!

Power of Connecting

I have been using Twitter for almost 6 years now! I have had my share of remarks like: “Oh Melisa are you going to tweet that?” Or “Melisa is so addicted to Twitter!” I have laughed it off & thought to myself the joke is on them! These connections are sooo real! I have followed not only amazing educators but amazing people! They have made me think, changed my outlook on education & made me think about life in general!

I remember meeting LaVonna Roth last year when she visited my class! Kids and I were on cloud 9. She definitely ignited my classroom with her positivity & Grace! Her personality is so infectious. She made me think of how to ignite others spark & how to continue to have my spark! I hope for her to visit more often! 

Another amazing visit was from my Flipgrid Fam! They were visiting my school & I could not sleep at all the night before! Adam, George, Ann, & Jess I have followed on Twitter & loved their personality, love for our kids, respect for educators and willingness to reach out & assist anyway they can to help OUR kids succeed💚Their visit was magical 🦄 and the staff, kids, & me couldn’t stop reflecting on how this one little contact & how it changed our day! Teachers were starting to use Flipgrid, kids asked when they were coming back & excited to use Flipgrid if haven’t used before. For me it was the magical feeling of seeing my twitter friends come to life & be everything I imagined! Only hope they come back to visit often!

Michael Drezek was someone I followed and knew from moderating our #OGC site ❤️. He is such a wealth of knowledge & would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need! He is that kind of person. To my excitement, he was in Ohio for spring break & I was so Enthusiastic to think we could meet up one day that week-he took it to another level when he visited my class where he taught my kiddos all about micro;bit 💥. Another perfect example of the power of connections! My kiddos LOVED & I was so appreciative❤️This man is so passionate about our kids but more than that, him reaching out to educators who need that extra support or just giving them that extra love & to know they are not alone! I have seen this daily on Twitter & heard stories from friends❤️ Alas, if I wasn’t on Twitter this connection NEVER would have been made! He is like my 3rd brother & can’t wait to see him again

My last connection just happened recently with the amazingly sweet & hilarious Alicia Ray❤️ My kiddos & I were fortunate to Skype with Alicia during the school year last year & fell in ❤️with her & her precious daughters! She loved Dave Burgess books & blogged about every single one so I just checked out her blog for the latest!

I left for a trip with my kids & parents to Mt. Airy on Tuesday & tweeted about the day we had on Wednesday & Alicia responded. She only lived 10 minutes away and was coming to our hotel. It was like Christmas. I was so excited I headed outside to meet her. As I spotted her in the parking lot I ran to her giggling & gave her the biggest hug! No, we never met in real life but the connection we had was undeniable! We chatted about school, life, her book- YES, she is writing a book & I can’t wait to read!!! We knew each other’s events like her daughter’s diabetes & my friends passing. As we were talking a 15 year old came up to her, gave her the biggest hug & chatted! It was undeniable the impact Alicia had on her & so many others! She is that kind of educator! Putting our kids first, relationships first & connecting outside the classroom & keeping those relationships ❤️. I was in awe & loved her even more❤️ It was another memorable moment that would have never happened without Twitter!

Now I would love to meet my #4OCFPLN fam IRL which most have met at ISTE or my #OGC fam in Australia next year. I stay connected with them thru Twitter & Voxer- So many connections I have made thru Twitter but continued the close relationship thru Voxer- I am a better person & educator thru these connections ❤️

I can’t wait to meet more of my family IRL❤️

Life is too short to stay in your bubble. How will you get connected & stay connected?

The Calm Before the Storm

This is first time I am reflecting on the events that occurred on June 2017. I remember like it was yesterday. I went in for my regularly scheduled mammogram. It was nothing special, very uneventful & went home. About a week later, I remember traveling to my daughters softball practice when I got the phone call. I answered and a voice on the phone greeted me and said my mammogram showed something suspicious. I needed to come back for another mammogram. I remember saying “What?” They repeated and asked me to come middle of next week. I said, “Sure!” and carried on with my day as if nothing happened. I didn’t tell anyone about this but always had it in the back of my mind!

The next week, I went in for the 2nd mammogram and the results confirmed something suspicious. They asked if I could come back later that day for biopsy. In my mind, I kept thinking it’s probably nothing! Stay positive.

Later that day, I had a neighbor watch my kids as I went back to the facility. I am by myself during all of this and feeling very anxious! Just some background info: My parents and brother live about 2 hours away. My other brother lives about 20 hours away. Husbands family is 1 hour and 1/2 away. I didn’t want to worry my kids or husband since I don’t have all the facts! My mom had been thru ovarian cancer 9 years ago- stage 4 and she was in remission. She is such a worrier and did not want to worry my mom or dad!

So, as I am waiting to be called back for my biopsy, I am shaking with anxiety. It seemed like forever but they finally called me back. They used the ultrasound to assist in the biopsy. I remember hating the sound of the biopsy. It was such a loud clicking sound that made me jump. Just when I thought it was all over, they found another spot. That too was biopsied. Once finished they said it would be about a week.

A week passed and no word. I was trying not to think about it but it was weighing heavily on my mind. I remember it was 4th of July week so I knew I wouldn’t hear anything during holiday.

The phone finally rang and I knew it was them. I remember my stomach in knots and heart was racing. The lady on the phone said something to the affect of my results were in and the one spot is not cancerous but the other area is breast cancer. She told me it was tubular carcinoma. I stopped in my tracks and was a little dazed. I don’t think I responded. My only thought was my kids! They needed their mom and I was NOT going down without a fight! Cancer messed with the wrong chick!

Fast forward to a few days later and my OBGYN referred me to see a surgeon in her practice. I said ok. In the meantime, I told my husband who was very supportive and I also told my mom. She was concerned because I was going to see a surgeon which was NOT an oncology surgeon. Needless to say, I cancelled the appointment and made an appointment with an oncology breast cancer surgeon she found at the James at OSU.

It was July 18th and my mom came with me to the appointment. It was an all day affair! I had more mammograms, blood work and then the exam. I remember the surgeon asking me, “Do you want a lumpectomy or Mastectomy?” In my head I was saying, “Huh?” I was floored! I looked at him and said, “I want my breasts, just take out the cancer! I remember him looking at his calendar and he had openings in August. I told him I wanted to do it late September because I am a teacher and I want to get to know my kids before I have to leave them! My mom had a cow but he said ok.

I told my husband I wanted to go to the beach and relax before school started & before my surgery. It was such a relaxing vacation, love spending time with my 2 girls and my husband! It was just what the dr. ordered! Before vacation I emailed my principal who came to my house. He was very supportive! We worked together to get a long term sub.

It was August and I started getting my room ready and was excited to meet my kids. I was eager to get my mind off of the cancer! School started and I was sooo happy! I was loving my kids and my mind was occupied!!! During that month I didn’t share anything with my fellow colleagues at my school until a couple weeks before my surgery. My surgery was scheduled for September 21st. I remember emailing both the staff and my kids parents on a weekend. I guess I was chicken but I didn’t want to discuss anything just yet…

I received such amazing support from my school family, my 24 classroom kiddos and their parents, my friends and family! My school Staff wore pink the day before my surgery. My parents got me a basket of goodies: robe, magazines, chapstick, & gift cards. Staff made bracelets that said #Hayestough. I was speechless and felt so blessed and loved!!!

My kiddos have my heart ❤️

My kiddos the day before surgery.

It’s surgery day and I didn’t sleep at all! I remember getting ready and my parents came up to watch kids. I had to be there at 6:00AM & I was just about to leave when I grabbed my purse and didn’t have my wallet! OMG! I couldn’t believe this was happening of all days! I texted the custodian who let my mom in the school to see if it was in my room. Sure enough I get a text it was in my desk drawer. I did a Huge sigh of relief and then realized I was about to have surgery. The last time I had surgery was about 5 years ago when my appendix was taking out. Even then it was laparoscopic. I have never had a major surgery like this so my mind is racing!

We are at the hospital & I remember waiting in the waiting room with my husband, Danny who was trying to make small talk and tell me jokes;) The nurse called me back and the fun began;). I remember the dr’s standing over me and my chest being completely exposed while they were putting the guide wire inside my chest. Next was the nuclear breast/lymph gland which stung but wasn’t bad. It was finally time for them to wheel me back. My husband kissed me and said he loved me and with a blink of an eye I was back in surgery. I remember counting back and then I was out!

I woke up groggy and exhausted. I saw my family and balloons;). The balloons were from my classroom kiddos💓 As I got more alert I noticed my chest was bandaged and realized I had a surgical drain. I remember Abby, my youngest was so scared. She has not seen Mommy like that before. My oldest was so amazing she comforted Abbs and looked so relieved that I was ok!

My lumpectomy was a huge success! I had stage 2 tubular carcinoma & no cancer in lymph nodes! I had a drain in for 3 weeks. I was active with my classroom kiddos and used an app called Flipgrid to talk to them daily during my medical leave. My husband was such a rock during this whole ordeal! He Drained & cleaned my drain, cooked meals, chauffeured kids and me around, did laundry, cleaned house, but most of all was there for me with a shoulder to cry on, a laugh to give me or a hug I desperately needed! He is amazing! My oldest daughter Madison helped with my youngest and around the house. I even went to Abby’s (who is my youngest) Buddy Walk which promotes individuals with Down Syndrome. I had to wear a sling for my arm so I wouldn’t extend it. The sling was also a nice place to hide my drain too. I always kept my sense of humor and ❤️ life!

Now was the discussion of treatment, radiation or chemotherapy. I was relieved when I realized No CHEMO! What a relief! I did have 28 rounds of radiation and am taking the pill Tamoxifen for 5 years. The Rads didn’t hurt but after the last treatment I was pretty burnt. But I was not complaining! I remember going in for radiation treatment and meeting survivors who had metastatic cancer and were in the best spirits! I had no reason to complain!!! I enjoyed meeting new survivors and sharing stories. I was beyond elated on the last day of radiation and the sweet sound of me ringing the bell!

I have to say that I am very lucky! I have the ❤️ and support of my family, friends, 24 kiddos & parents, school family & community. I also have my faith. I did participate in my 1st Komen Race for the Cure with my friend and oldest daughter 💕

My daughter’s softball team even raised money for breast cancer research in my name and I threw out the 1st pitch! The support I have received has been incredible and I am BEYOND blessed and grateful 💕

I am now cancer FREE💓💓💓I thank GOD everyday for my amazing life! The whole breast cancer experience has made me stronger! Don’t get me wrong, I had my low moments! I put on a brave face before my medical leave, before/after surgery, and every year when I go for my check up & mammogram. No one knows the battle I have with myself. I get depressed some days and then feel guilty for feeling this way due to others having worse! Each day is better than the last. I am thankful, lucky, & beyond blessed to have such a support system!

My advice to you: Please get a mammogram yearly! Don’t skip a visit. If there is a lesson to be learned in all this it’s not take life for granted! We all have challenges in life and some are far more difficult than others. We need to be there for each other thru the good times and bad! Keep the faith & stay positive! Love and Humor are the best medicine or at least they were for me! I am just months away from my yearly mammogram & the emotions and fear will set in again. The only time of year my heart skips a beat, stomach is knotted, palms are sweating and I literally want to barf! So I will be brave & positive on that day each year! I am not thankful for my breast cancer but I am thankful for what my breast cancer has taught me!

Long Distant Angels💕

I’m sure you’ve had people in your life who have consistently checked in on you, motivated you & cheered you on thru tough times. This could be parents, siblings, husband, friends, boyfriend, etc. But what about those silent angels who push you, challenge you, & believe in you? What if I told you that I have never met these long distant angels face to face! I continue to reflect on a tweet @Science4UsSays (who I adore) created.

I too can concur that I ❤️ my virtual friends too! These virtual friends are my silent mentors. They are my BFF’s!!! I have accomplished so much since opening this Twitter portal 6 years ago.

It all started when my former principal & good friend, Tara Grove introduced this platform to our school a few years ago. I was pretty scared but she’s such a positive force that whatever she was selling I was buying🤣🤣. Tara is a true risk taker & promotes this culture! She is an Amazing educator who radiates positivity, love, & compassion. I miss her😢

So, I started small. I was posting various updates in my classroom, slowly following incredible educators. It was amazing to hear the feedback from my kiddos parents. They could see into the window of our classroom everyday on Twitter. They absolutely LOVE!

Tara also introduced me to Flipagram which is renowned so I use the Quik app. After every week I select pics and create a weekly video. This showcases our amazing learning for that week. Here’s an example:

I also made a year end over holiday break❤️

This is where I saw certain apps and sites which I said My kids would so benefit and ❤️. These sites included: Flipgrid & Night Zookeeper . These 2 apps/sites are not only amazing but it’s what they stand for: OUR KIDS! They promote voice, creativity, originality, confidence, & kids are sooo motivated! And that’s just the product, the people- OMG! They are the most sincere, helpful, caring, relatable listeners who I consider my family! They are my friends who challenge me, believe in me, care about me, & push me outside my comfort zone.

Not only did I come across amazing software thru Twitter but the friendships I have formed are just as priceless! Being a breast cancer survivor & having some hiccups along the way I have learned not take one day for granted! Life is too short and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring!

I think this is why I have taken so many leaps within the past couple of years: I have taught a Flipgrid PD session in my district not once but twice, moderated not one but 2 Twitter chats: #champforkids & #AIMSnetwork which is a middle school chat and I teach 2nd😳. I have joined a Voxer book study group & also started blogging my journey (which is even more scary- educators reading your journey and critiquing.) and just recently I will be videoing a Flipgrid Gridguide Genius Hour Feature with this amazing duo: @MrCoachK15 , @kathrina_mendez . I will also be on a podcast show!

I am petrified & my heart skips a beat as the deadline gets closer but I also LOVE this feeling of accomplishment when it’s all over! I don’t want you to think I am bragging but I am proud of myself. A person who wasn’t a fan of writing, an introvert when it came to risk taking, fearful of speaking in front of people & lacked confidence to even take the jump. I have my Twitter family to thank💕. I don’t have any sisters in my family but I consider each of these rockstars my sisters💗 These are just a few you’ll want to follow including the educators I previously recognized 🎉who has made an impact on me as an educator & a person!

@Hachen2nd was one I LOVED watching when I started Twitter. Her creativity & love for her kids was contagious & I have learned & continue to learn so much from her.

@JoyceBronwyn Geezzz, where do I start? This super hero is changing the face of education in Australia, U.S. & globally! A huge advocate for ALL kids & changing what used to be! She founded #Ourglobalclassroom which is my family💕

@RaeHughart I remember interacting with her for the 1st time on #masterychat & then my curiosity started & I connected with her thru FaceTime. I frantically took notes & absorbed all of her ideas! She has taught me & continues to teach me so much about bringing the real world into my classroom & being purposeful! She has also believed in me & challenged me to twitter chats & even a podcast. 😱

@jchandlerteach invited me to join the #stoprightnow39 Voxer group- She is an amazing friend who checks in on me & motivates me- She has an extraordinary ❤️ & the love & knowledge she gives to both her kids & the Twitter verse is magical!!!

@khoggardGRT allowed me to moderate #champforkids which was the 1st time moderating a chat💕 She is a wonderful personality & always puts others first!

@TaraMartinEDU is such a positive person who has taught me to be true to yourself & to cannonball thru life with no regrets! She even spoke of me in her book: Be Real!😱😱😱 Still in shock about that! Both my kids and I have loved creating booksnaps which she created. We loved them so much that we created the cousin to booksnaps which is Skypesnaps. After my kids are finished with a Mystery Skype, two of them create a Skypsnap which showcases the state we Skyped with & what we learned about the state. Here is an example. We also put all the Skypesnaps on a padlet. This is a great way for kids to showcase what they learned about that state!

Sometimes we Mystery Skype with special people & still do a Skypesnap. We not only focus on the state but the special guest as well;) Here are examples.

Both @Tamaraletter & @ LaVonnaRoth exude kindness & positivity!!! They can make anyone who is having a bad day see the rainbow at the end of the tunnel.

There are soooo many more unsung heroes who continue to impact my life and make me a better educator & person! I can’t thank them enough! They are my Family💚 (#PLF) I so love them and hope to meet them one day! It’s so cool to say I have family all over the 🌎. So if you are on the fence about Twitter or diving deeper, Take the plunge! You won’t regret it! My heart continues to grow every passing day I’m on Twitter 💕

More Unsung Heroes: @berngill , @LindaEdwardsi , @ChristineBemis2 , @robin_schuh , @bhopteacher , @MrsAdamsPOFF , @ilueducating , @sbentonteach , @BarbaraGruener , @giftedgem , @WallerALPHApack , & so many more❤️🤗

Have you laughed today?

With the hussle and bustle of life it’s hard to take a moment & reflect on the day. But I have a question for you:

Have YOU laughed today?

You might be thinking, this is the stupidest question, but I feel that a good laugh 😆 can boost a person’s attitude, reduce stress, clear ones mind, boost creativity, & simply make one feel good!

I laughed at my youngest daughter yesterday on the way to school. She was singing the Adele song, Hello. After singing the iconic, Hello, she said, “Your mom!” This is a joke my oldest taught her! If you have kids you probably know the joke. My youngest daughter, Abby, also happens to have Down Syndrome but you would never know. She has such a witty sarcastic sense of humor which I LOVE! She is not limited by the extra chromosome she possesses. Both of my daughters ALWAYS make me laugh!

My 24 2nd grade kiddos also make me laugh daily! I remember we were getting ready to play a math game and I asked the kids what is the goal? One of my kids said “To win!” We all laughed! Another time, we were setting up our town for our social studies unit and was talking about businesses – The town was set in the older days so we discussed businesses such as market, blacksmith, etc. One of my kiddos said we need a Saloon! We had another good laugh!!!

I know life can be stressful with finances, having enough time, stress of job: assessments, observations, etc. but one good laugh a day is contagious & spreads like seeds of kindness! I have been there many times! I have been stressed: snapped at people, been negative, and realized that my attitude spreads. I no longer want to be that person spreading negativity! Being a breast cancer survivor has given me a new perspective on life! I don’t take a single day for granted & know that everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about! Each person can use a laugh & positive energy.

Let’s spread laughter❤️🤣❤️🤣

So I ask you: Have you laughed today?