Playmaker Spotlight – Carly McPartland

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As seen on Instagram:

We are just regular rubber chickens hanging out with our 5th grade friends. We’re kind of a big deal. #charliethechicken #reggietherecesschicken

To fully appreciate just HOW big a deal Charlie and Reggie (the rubber chickens) really are, you’d have to go back to Carly McPartland’s first year of teaching.

“I definitely could’ve been a statistic,” Carly admits.

Her teaching career started in a charter school in Pittsburgh, where she knew some of her students had witnessed shootings in their front yards and that many of the parents were equally as scared and traumatized as the kids they were raising.

The weight of her students’ adverse childhood experiences began to make her challenging job feel nearly impossible. Though teaching had been a lifelong goal, after two long years of prolonged exposure to toxic stress, Carly struggled with secondhand trauma and started contemplating backing away from the career she’d always considered her calling.

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“Then, I volunteered at a Life is Good event. I worked a VGP (Very Good People) tent and someone told me about The Life is Good Kids Foundation’s Playmaker Program. A series of workshops and retreats for teachers and child care professionals, like me, who – you know – could use a refresher on how to actually take care of ourselves.”

Through a series of communications with the Life is Good Kids Foundation (LiGKF) team, Carly found herself enrolled in an LiGKF Playmaker 101 workshop, then a 202 workshop, and then for a series of meet-ups and advance trainings.

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“What the Playmaker Movement has shown me – taught me – given me, is that in order to stay true to me and to the work I’ve ALWAYS felt compelled to do…to fully do what I love and love what I do, I need to be mindful of being WAY more joyful. It clicked that being a good teacher (and the best version of ME) would require leaning – hard – into my own joy and building my own resilience. That’s what I’ve found to actually be the key to helping my students discover their own joy and connect more fully with their resiliency.”

Carly (Ms. McPartland) returned to her classroom feeling and operating as a true Playmaker – as a safe, loving and joyful leader who could make essential plays for kids during critical times in their development – and that’s EXACTLY what she continues to do.

As a Life is Good Playmaker, Carly now leads her 5th grade classroom in Latrobe, PA, with a focus on building joy and fostering authentic connections. She has even extended the lessons of the Playmakers in facilitating workshops on healing trauma through writing, encouraging other educators to foster their own joy and healing to better serve their students.  Her tools for doing all of this include inclusive games she’s picked up at Playmaker workshops, classroom designs inspired by Life is Good optimistic graphics and insights from childcare professionals all over the country through the LiGKF Playmakers peer-to-peer community. Of course, she takes particular pride in two sidekicks, Charlie and Reggie – her rubber chickens and trusty 5th grade mascots.

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You (like many of Carly’s current and many, many more of her past students) can keep up with the adventures of Charlie & Reggie on Instagram @Chickenchuck. If you need more of a reason to follow these guys (and the positivity Carly’s putting out into our world in support of her students and kiddos everywhere) – consider this closing thought from Carly:

“I take Charlie and Reggie wherever I go. By land, boat or air, they come with. You should hear some of the conversations when my bags are scanned at the airport. Though, typically they end pretty quickly when I come back with, ‘I teach fifth grade.’ These funny, rubber little guys—they’ve become a symbol. Of every school year. Every student. Every trial. Every triumph. They’re a joyful representation of what we’re going through and what we’ve gone through, together. I travel with them so my past students can check-in and remember to laugh and be silly and let go a little. I travel with them so that my current students know that they’re always with me. I travel with them, because I want all of my students to know that doing so just makes me happy. Brings me joy. And knowing what makes you happy – finding your joy – that’s brave. That’s big. And doing the big, brave things, that’s what makes all of us enough.”

To leave a note reminding Carly that sharing her story (and chickens) is big and brave too, simply click the “Submit” button below.

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