Saturday, August 20, 2016

Summer's End

Gosh, this summer FLEW! It was a busy one for sure. Fortunately despite how busy it was, it was also incredibly fun and productive too. Perhaps this is the first summer in a very long while (perhaps my entire career) where I had equal amounts of productivity and fun. I have not really thought about my classroom at all, which is so odd for me! Sure I've done a bit of professional reading here and there but with my travels and my grad class, I did not spend all summer thinking about the upcoming school year. This is not a bad fact, I think it will be very good. I feel rested and energized and ready to tackle the year (good thing too since I am headed in to set up my room on Monday!).

In July of course, I spent a week at Princeton University courtesy of Gilder Lehrman and it was awesome but highly academic. On August 6, we left Michigan to drive down to Orlando to Disney World. What a fun vacation! The Husband had been there at the end of high school but The Littles and I had never been. I could have done without the drive but we didn't want to spend the extra money on air fare. It all worked out and we managed to not get on each other's nerves so it's all good.

We spent an overnight in Atlanta, Georgia on the way down. Our first stop was Palm Coast, Florida. I had never seen the ocean in person (except when I flew over it which I do not think counts!).  Here is my hunny and me at Palm Coast :)

We pretty much perfected group selfies while on vacation :) Here are the four of us (The Oldest did not come due to the fact that she is now a momma and had other responsibilities of her own). The Youngest is on the far left, Middle Child is on the right. 

We spent Monday, August 8 at Sea World - Orlando. It was incredibly fun and I'm so glad we went. The Littles love animals so it was a good choice. (I wanted to go to Universal Studios but its so pricey!) I got splashed by a dolphin within about 5 minutes of being in the park LOL It was incredibly HOT in Florida the entire time we were there (seriously I will never gripe about 90 degrees and humid in Michigan ever again!) but we made the most of it and had a blast.

We stayed at a Disney Resort (All Star Movies) and on Tuesday, August 9 we headed to the Happiest Place on Earth :) 

You can't go to Disney without riding the Dumbo ride (despite the fact that all of us are 13 and up lol). The Youngest and I are in the front, The Husband and Middle Child managed to get in the picture and wave from the back :)

August 10 is my favorite day of the year? Why? Because it's my birthday :) This year I got to spend it at Hollywood Studios--pretty awesome way to spend your birthday, no? We had so much fun, even if it was H-O-T. We saw Beauty and the Beast live and an Indiana Jones stunt show. We met Kylo Ren and Chewbacca from Star Wars too and just had an awesome day. I got a little sun as you can see :)

On Thursday we went to Epcot and on Friday we went to Animal Kingdom. Both were amazing. We narrowly avoided rain all week (it rained during lunch while we were at Sea World but the other days it kept going around us--yay!). We didn't get as lucky at Animal Kingdom. Just as we finished the safari ride, it started POURING. Thank goodness we packed ponchos "just in case" :)

Saturday, the 13th, was our last day and we slept in and went back to Magic Kingdom to do all of the things we missed the first time! It was so much fun. We stayed for the electrical parade and fireworks. I have never seen anything so amazing in my entire life. It was so awesome. The Youngest snapped a pic of The Husband and I with the castle lit up behind us (not the best picture in the world but a 13 year old took it lol). 

 We made the super long trek home on Sunday, August 14. The trip home was so hard just because there wasn't much to look forward to when we were done! :) We stayed overnight in Chatanooga, Tennesee at an Embassy Suites hotel that was very nice. Then I drove 11.5 hours home on Monday (finally waving the white flag in defeat 30 minutes from home). Yuck! We needed Tuesday to recover from our trip! :)

I developed a slight (read: major) obsession with BB-8 while we were at Disney. So fun and much cuter than R2-D2! I like to think BB-8 is a girl even though its a droid and thus really genderless :D (I also got a case for my iPhone which is not pictured because I ordered it through the mail). 

The last couple of days, The Littles have been visiting my mom, I got to see my super fabulous grandbaby on Thursday and Friday and The Husband is on a weekend bike I have been ALONE since 6 am today. It's been awesome to just have silence around me! (That is short lived since I have to pick the girls up today.) Being on vacation is loud! :) 

This was a perfect way to end my summer. Monday and Tuesday my student teacher and I are headed in to set up our room and then things get real. Middle Child is starting high school (*what?!*) and we are doing some transition work with her to curb her anxiety. Then I am taking Thursday and Friday to myself because the 29th the real work begins--the first PD days and my research phase for my doctorate all begin on the 29th. So the summer is officially over and its time to get thinking about how to tackle 3rd grade this year.

I am so, so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel as much as I did this summer because I really do feel relaxed and ready to head back to the full time task of teaching. I hope your summer was as epic as mine :)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Ahh, August

How is it August 1st?? Seriously.

This is the month when I let my mind wander back to thinking about school. I was quite surprised to learn some friends on Voxer are in school today. With kids. August is too hot to be in school! As much as we might sometimes grumble about being in school until mid-June, I do very much love that I have August to do my thing still. 

That said, I was at school today for a leadership meeting. We are doing a supplemental PD day for our staff before the official start date and we had a planning meeting for it. I am so excited about the meeting. It's all about data. I know some people hate data but I love it. And this system that we are going to try is going to help us to not only better track our data but also to hold ourselves, our students and each other accountable for success. What more could you want?

I don't know about you, but this summer has been incredibly busy. I have a ton of books on my To Read list that I know I won't get through before the 29th when I officially start back. I have two weeks left of my current grad class (which is on religion) and it's been quite an eye-opening class actually. My next course starts my research phase so that should be incredibly interesting as we move into the school year. 

I have not done a darn thing for teaching at all since I got out of school in June. I have been too busy working on other things. Now that it is August, I have to start thinking about it. We are heading down to Orlando, Florida on Saturday the 6th and won't be home until the 16th so a lot of my planning/work won't be happening until the 17th or later. I will officially head to work on the 22nd to get my room setup so much of my work will be done that week (when usually I spread it out over the summer). It should be chaotic at best :) 

Alas, I am quite glad I have had such a busy summer with other things because it has forced me to take some time off from my job and I've done some professional learning, taken some awesome trips and will be all the more fired up to go back to school and get some learning done with my new crop of 3rd graders.

My first official school day is August 31st although we have the special PD on the 29th. Students start on Sept 6. When is your first day?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thirteen Colonies Seminar Princeton University (July 24-30, 2016)

Sometime in early January, an acquaintance of mine on Voxer posted a link to the Teacher Seminars with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. I am hardly a history buff, but they sounded very interesting and I figured there was no harm in applying. I was pretty sure I would never be selected but I applied for my school to become an affiliate (which is free) and then filled out the application. I applied only for two sessions: Thirteen Colonies and the American Revolution. Both were restricted to K-8 teachers and that appealed to me because it was confined to grades I am able to teach. I promptly forgot all about it until March when a reminder I had set on my phone told me to check my application status and low and behold, I had been accepted! Travel arrangements and lots of anticipation later, the end of July came and it was time to go.

I had never been anywhere near Princeton and I never stayed in a dorm before because I always lived at home while I was in college.  I was pretty pleased with myself for figuring out the train situation from Newark to Princeton all by myself without having to ask for directions (to say I am directionally challenged is an understatement). I did end up going out of the station at Princeton the wrong way so I wandered around for 45 minutes before I finally figured out where I was supposed to be but otherwise, things were very smooth.

The first day we got checked in and settled and then met as a group and walked across campus to the building where our lectures were going to be. We had a catered dinner the first night and did some introductions. There were about 30 people in our group (maybe a bit more) and we were all from very different backgrounds and teaching situations. How lucky was I to learn with so many people who have such different perspectives? 

We did a short little tour of the campus that first night before heading to our dorms to settle in for the evening. Monday morning the fun began!

A typical day went something like this:
9-12 Content Lectures
12-1 Lunch
1-2ish Content Lecture
2ish-4 Activity and/or Gilder Lehrman presentation
Evenings varied with some evenings being free and other evenings having activities

The Lectures
The lectures all occurred in the same room and were given by historian John Fea. We had been assigned three readings for the seminar and asked to read them before we came as all of the lectures would be referencing and focusing upon the content of those books. I won't share what the lectures are about because I don't want to spoil it for future seminar attendees, but I will tell you that Dr. Fea is an amazing speaker. He is charismatic and so passionate about his subject that I seriously could have listened to him all day. The lectures were heavily content based so teachers in the program had background for developing the lesson plans required as a sort of "exit slip" as we completed the program. 

One of my favorite things about listening to Dr. Fea speak was how he challenged us to really consider the British Colonial Settlements as if the American Revolution never happened. Honestly, at first, some of us were like "but DID happen!" After awhile, however, through the lectures we realized very quickly how much deeper you can go into the Thirteen Colonies when you act as if the Revolution never happened. Let me again say I am the least historically inclined person (a fact that drives my history-buff husband insane) and I was absolutely drawn into these lectures. I easily took 40 pages of notes in the four days of lectures we had. So many ideas that challenged what I had been taught as well as what I will teach in the future.

Side note: As a third grade teacher, I do not teach currently teach Colonial American but the knowledge I gleaned can still be carried over into Michigan History which is what I teach in third grade. 

The Gilder Lehrman Sessions
The Gilder Lehrman sessions were run by the fabulous Nate, a master teacher with GLI. His task was to run the teachers in the group through how to set up the type of lessons we would be creating by the end of the week. They were really fun and informative and I'm glad to say I learned a couple of new teaching strategies as well. I loved seeing lessons that Nate had created for his own students and then learning how we could adapt even difficult primary sources down for the youngest of learners. I think sometimes our inclination is to say it will be too hard for kindergarten through second or third graders and these sessions really challenged that notion which I vastly appreciated (I am well known for pushing kids farther than they think they can go). 

Meal Times 
Seriously...despite all of the walking around I did, I'm sure I gained at least a few pounds (I didn't check when I got home because I didn't want to know!) from all of the yummy deliciousness offered in the cafeteria. All of our meals were provided and there were tons of choices every day. A lot of summer camps for elementary, middle and high school students were also ongoing so it wasn't uncommon to see kiddos sneaking ice cream at the end of breakfast too :) In all seriousness, however, the vast availability of choices was much appreciated. The best part of the meals was the opportunity to sit with different members of our group, including Dr. Fea and Nate, and learn about them and their teaching situations. We really became like a family during the six days we were together. 

Field Trips and Walking Tours
Of course I cannot speak for any other Gilder Lehrman session because this was my first one, but the field trips and other activities they included in our schedule were amazing. We had a guided tour of Princeton University, a side trip to the Princeton Cemetery (where we got rained on!), a rare books event at one of the libraries (which was so awesome!) and a day trip to Philadelphia to tour the historic areas that were around during colonial times. We walked around so much that one day I had over 20,000 steps on my vivoFit! 

The Verdict
This was such an amazing opportunity and I am so glad that I was not only selected but able to follow through and attend. It would be difficult to describe exactly how awesome it's the kind of thing you have to experience for yourself. Truly. If you have the opportunity to go to any of the sessions, I would highly recommend it.

What can you do now? Head on over to and search for the teacher seminars and you can sign up to be reminded of when applications are being accepted. It cost me $25 to register once I was accepted and I had to buy the books for the seminar but all travel expenses (up to $400) are reimbursed so essentially I had this incredible week long professional development for $75. By far the cheapest and most amazing PD I have ever attended. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016


If you are a teacher of history of any kind, head over to and get your school registered as an affiliate. Then sign up to be notified of when the applications for teacher seminars opens up and then when they are available, find one you like and APPLY.

I just spent a week at Princeton University, for free, learning from and studying with a Master Teacher and a celebrated historian. Oh my word. The experience was incredible and I have come away from it so inspired and ready to truly help my students learn to think like historians. It was an amazing opportunity and I am so grateful and blessed to have been able to go.

Stay tuned to the blog for more details on the experience.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer Learning

Happy July! I've been quiet here on the blog for awhile just taking some much needed time to unplug a bit and put my focus where I need it to be. I anticipate that everyone is enjoying their summer break and also finding some time to rest and relax. :) 

Having said that, I did want to pop in and share some learning I've engaged in thus far in the summer. As is true since I started this blog six years ago (!!), I am always fully honest about where I am in my journey as a teacher, whether that is bad or good. The further I get into my doctoral program, the harder it becomes for me to unplug during the summer (I suspect that will be even more true summer 2017 as I will be elbows deep in the dissertation by that point). Part of this is because my program is year-round and there is no such thing as a "summer break" for me from this learning (to be fair I do get a week off in August--which coincides with my return to work so... doesn't really count). 

This summer, I am taking my required religion course and we are studying the Parables of Jesus. The reading is extremely dense and I have developed a new appreciation for what it must be like for my struggling readers. I learned to read in kindergarten. I remember begging my mom (who is also a voracious reader) to help me learn how to pronounce words I practiced stringing together. Once I learned that words actually held meaning, I was off and haven't looked back. I have never struggled to read...and now I am because the readings and interpretations are dense and can be conflicting and overwhelming. As a true lifelong learner however, I am secretly relishing the challenge because a) it truly is giving me a new appreciation for what it must be like for some of my students and b) the more I push my brain, the hungrier it is for more knowledge. (Yes, I am a nerd. Sorry if you didn't know before and are just figuring it out.)

In addition to the required summer class, I participated in the second installment of EdCampVoxer July 5-9. I even led a session this time on Student-Centered Assessment. I am writing a chapter for a collaborative ebook on Student Assessment and running that group and getting new ideas was so incredibly beneficial. My wheels were turning and spinning out of control, in a good way, not only for ideas for my chapter but also for how I'd like to change things up this next school year. 

I also joined a session on Growth Mindset and holy cow. What an amazing and dynamic group that was (and continues to be). I've learned a lot, had my mind expanded and am jotting notes and keeping track of different files so when I have time I can go back and pick things to read and/or implement in the future. Some of it will also be good for the upcoming dissertation, which is always a bonus.

I also learned about SeeSaw. We do not have a ton of technology in our school (hopefully that will change this fall) so I am not well versed in much of the EdTech out there. I do know, however, that my intention was to go to a portfolio assessment tracking system this year, I just had planned to do it on paper (and some parts still will be this way). However, now that I know about SeeSaw, I can utilize the iPods I have for my class and have the students upload and note things they are working on and we can share them with families in real time, which is exciting. 

Lastly, of course, my summer would not be my summer if I wasn't doing tons of reading! It's been more difficult to get in the reading at a rate I normally would as I have had to read some pretty dense books on history for my Princeton Seminar and of course, for class.

Below are listed books (click on any picture to go to the book info on Amazon) that I have either already purchased and plan to read or will be purchasing. Doubtful I'll get through them all this summer with the vast amounts of reading I am required to do for class and my seminar but I shall try!

I own this one. I have only barely scratched the surface of this one but it's quite good. The research is fascinating and I am always interested in knowing more about how our brains do their thing.

I own this one. This one was a very quick and enjoyable read about how to set up a classroom utilizing Restorative Practices rather than incentives and punishments. I picked this one up because we have been using Restorative Practices in my school.

I own this one. This one is brand new from ASCD. I participated in a free webinar from ASCD about this book and I'm super excited to dig into it. It is basically teaching teachers how to teach their students metacognitive strategies so that the students can really drive their brains (there is even an activity where the kiddos get to have a picture of them driving their brains as a visual reminder).

I own this one. This one I started to read and it's very good thus far. I am really hoping to have time to finish this one before school starts just as a way to self-monitor my own growth as a teacher.

I do not own this one but it is wish-listed. I have heard nothing but good things about this book and will be buying it at some point. It focuses on some growth mindset type of things and that is an area I am quickly become very passionate about. There is nothing more frustrating to me than having a 7 or 8 year old child who is already so checked out because they think they are dumb.

I do not own this one either, but it is also wishlisted. I was very lucky to participate in a chat with the author of this book last week and I learned a ton and am excited to read this book and learn how to help my students push themselves forward. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

JumpStart Training

Gosh, it is hard to believe it has been a whole week since I left the JumpStart training in Maryland as a new CSP (Candidate Support Provider)! Time flies, huh?

It was a wonderful experience although a very long one.We began Thursday evening from 5-9 pm (!!!), went all day Friday (9-5 pm) and all day Saturday (9-5 pm). It was a ton of information to cram into our brains but it was amazing and I can definitely see how I would have benefited from being able to participate in a JumpStart as a candidate. 

We unpacked each of the academies that new candidates can attend as they go through the process. We networked, we planned and we sketched out some ideas of what we'd like to do here in Michigan. It's only a process for us because our network is emerging and because those of us involved in this are spread all over the state (thus communication is pretty important but not always timely).

I'm so glad I was able to go though. I learned a lot and I definitely know how to support someone else who is going through the process--one of the biggest takeaways I had was to make sure the candidate owns their own journey. I think this is a lesson we sometimes need to remind ourselves of with our students too; it can be so easy to just give the answer but when we require the person to find the answer on their own with minimal help (such as suggesting where they might find the answer), it is going to mean so much more to them in the long run.

It was a bit weird since I am not on the "executive committee" of our network and thus there are things they know that I do not in terms of what is coming down the line. Alas, I think that once the plan for our JumpStart is put into place, things will be better and there will be more open communication. 

Since I got back, I went in to finish my CA-60s and have enjoyed some down time the rest of the week. Can't tell you how nice that has been :) 

Finishing up my current grad class tonight and then a week of freedom. I have so much to do between now and July 24th but I am going to give myself this next week to just relax and enjoy since The Husband is on vacation and I have the week off doctor school as well.

I shall update when I return from Princeton at the end of July. Have a fabulous summer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The End (almost)

It's unbelievable to me that tomorrow is my last day of school with my students for this year (their last day is Friday). This year was incredibly weird, challenging, exhilarating and fun all rolled into one. I had a super huge class this year and was on my own from mid-December to now with 30 kiddos. That's a ton of kids with no additional support!

We also had a ton of transition this year from a no-show teaching partner in August to a new colleague passing away to some transition within the last six weeks of school. Definitely one for the record books!

Alas, I am heading out a bit early this year to attend JumpStart training in Maryland Thursday evening through Saturday evening. I have so much to do before I say goodbye to my small fries tomorrow at 11:55 am! 

I'm happy to say I'm staying in 3rd grade for next year (unless something wild happens over the summer) and my former student teacher will be teaching with me next year. :) We will have a new partner in our 2/3 split but that person is not yet determined. 

I have an incredibly busy summer coming up along with many things I want and need to do for my own personal well-being too. I'm excited for what's to come but also very ready to kick back and just take things one day at a time as well.

It's very likely this blog will sit and gather some dust this summer (with some updates on this weekend's training and my Princeton trip in July) until I get back into the swing of things for the fall. I have a million ideas running around in my head of what I want and need to do differently next year but some time off to recoup and gather myself together is necessary first.

Until we meet again have a beautiful and safe summer!