Make That List & Check It Twice

  • Elementary
Jill Woodruff

This time of year is full of color, life, and social commitments.  It is characterized by bustling streets full of holiday shoppers, traditional music, and blinking lights.  And although I love this time of year more than anything, it also reminds me that I have a million things to do and almost zero time to do it.

Hi! I’m Jill.  I’m a list-making, detail-perfecting, laminated-and-bound-itinerary-creating lady.  In my classroom, I’m the leader of twenty-four well-oiled little people, who easily fall prey to the mob mentality of transitional carpet time songs, and who constantly mimic my catch phrases when they have the chance to play “teacher.”  I am very content with who I am as a person and as a teacher, but it’s in these moments that I catch myself doing more self-reflection about what I can change in my practice; these moments where I am the only witness to the innocence of childhood contrived in a classroom.


I would not say I am inflexible, but I would not say it only because it is such an undesirable word to use about a person.  It’s time for real talk— I can be quite inflexible at times.  Because I know what’s best! Because I am the only adult in the room! Because I have almost 25 years of wisdom over the babies who I teach! Because I have a LIST of things to do and no one can get in the way of me completing it!

The truth is, all of those interjections really don’t matter at the end of the day.  All of those things I tell myself to justify being the sole-ruler of my domain are words that exist to make me feel as though I have some semblance of control over a 7-hour part of my day.  Once that bell rings, I have to book it to the parking lot and start taking on my other life roles: a wife, an over-the-top pet owner, an only daughter, a blogger, a social-media/ClassDojo correspondent, and the only qualified laundry completion expert residing in my home (quite the honor I worked towards).   Sometimes it feels like a lot, especially this time of year, where it’s dark before I get home at five and the anxiety of not completing my list sinks in.

And then that anxiety goes to bed with me, and dreams with me, and wakes up with me, and before you know it, I am doing all the talking in my classroom.  I am doing all the teaching.  I am doing all the leading.  I am taking the glitter straight out of the hands of babes who need to learn that shaking the bottle too hard will make a mess they will need to clean up!

Student Working On Art Project

I breathe out.  I listen to Mila say, “Sit down.  I’m Mrs. Woodruff.  I told you to sit because I said sit.  Now sit.  My turn, your turn.  This is T, what is it? T says /t/.  Shhh, it’s my turn.  You don’t talk because I’m the teacher.”  I breathe in.  Yikes.  Watching them act it out makes me realize how little they’re allowed to talk.  Makes me think of ways I can quiet my brain enough to listen to them.  Makes me want to try that art project again and let them make a mess.

In this profession, we all wear many hats.  We all see different parts of ourselves imprinted on our students.  Let’s not lose ourselves in the busy-ness, in the to dos, or in the “my turn.”  Let’s leave our students with the hunger to speak out, to participate, and to feel as though say in their classroom matters.  I, for one, am looking my trusty list over twice.  What can I sacrifice from my daily goals to create space for my kids to take the lead? Do I love them enough to let them discomfort my itinerary for a few minutes? Can I rise to the challenge if I let them take me somewhere new and unexpected?


I think I can.

  • Teacher Leadership
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