Monday, February 28, 2011

The Never-Ending To Do List

So that big "To Do" list that I had yesterday?

It still exists.

Like 95% of it. Oops.

But I got through today without feeling the pain of it all not being done. And I left at 4:30 (an hour and 20 minutes after dismissal) with none of it done but also nothing in my hands. I was working in that time but on copying and other crap that can't wait. [I swear I need a full-time secretary of my own!]

My truck was being fixed today so I had to pick up both The Husband and The Littles which put a serious crimp in getting some things done. But tonight I plan to turn in early so I can get up early, get to school early and hopefully put a big dent into the rest of my To Do  list. Tomorrow afternoon I also have a prep in the afternoon, right up to dismissal, so I will be able to get a lot done in that time as well.

I swear it is the copying and other stuff that just bogs me down so much. I feel like the second I get ahead something happens to put me 8 steps behind!!

But that's okay. If all goes according to plan tomorrow, I can be at work from 6:45 (ewww!) to about 4:30 and I should have (note how I said should have) about 3 and a half hours spread throughout the day to get caught up on things and hopefully a bit ahead for next week. That of course assumes that I get to work that early, get to utilize my full recess break and have my full prep plus after school time without interruptions. Probably not likely but even if I only have 2 1/2 hours, it should help me get caught up a lot. That morning time will be really important because I get SO MUCH DONE in the mornings if I can get there early since people tend to leave each other alone in the morning.

So it'll be on with the Never-Ending To Do List...because even when I cross all this stuff off, I'll have to add something else to it!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend = Work

As much as I try to not bring work home on the weekends, sometimes it's necessary. Especially after a week like this one that was just weird.

Having zero time to stay after school due to conferences and appointments put a real crimp in my ability to stay on top of things this week. Plus having Friday off and losing my favorite prep of the week (because of the time frame), I knew on Thursday when I was leaving that I had to pack up and take a bunch home to get caught up and a bit ahead.

I really don't mind as long as it isn't an every weekend thing. I've learned to really appreciate my "home life" and that I do need down time. Just to read for pleasure, just to be girly with my ladies, to just relax or more importantly, to get things done around the house.

This weekend, since last week was such a weird one, I have quite a To Do list. Grading, lesson plans and catching up on some paperwork that I've been putting off forever (over a month!). The good news is, that since I did have yesterday off (to take Middle Child to a couple of appointments), I got some good relaxation in and was able to take a nap to help stem off the cold I've been battling all week. So giving up 2-3 hours today for school work won't be that big of a deal. It'll still give me the rest of this evening and all of tomorrow to not think about school and just relax and finish getting better.

I'm convinced the cold has hung on as much as it has because I've been in a germ-infested school all week. I really noticed yesterday after not being there that I felt much better and have been getting much better with each hour (and a decongestant!).

So that means I can tease my class that they literally made me sick! ;) In all seriousness, however, sometimes it's actually kind of nice to do some work at home. I can take my time, I can leave it for a bit if I need to and then go back at my leisure. Again, it isn't a habit I like to fall into but once in a while, it isn't so bad.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My PSA

Usually I keep this blog as teaching-related as possible, but I have to say this because I feel like it is extremely important.

You need an emergency fund. No exceptions. I don't care if you are 23 or 53, you need one and you need to start one if you don't have one.

The Husband and I are big fans of Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover. We started on this process several years ago and have been following his baby steps. We sacrificed a lot in order to do this (no vacations for 7 years, living very frugally, refusing to use credit at all, etc). We paid off my $53,000 student loan in 23 months following this plan. We more or less lived off of The Husband's income (I realize not everyone can be that extreme with it but that's why they are called "baby steps"!).

Right after we paid off my student loan we started stock-piling our emergency fund. We decided on 3 months worth of living expenses for ours. Some people do more, some people do a bit less. The point of the emergency fund is so that when "life happens" (and it will), the issues are an inconvenience, not a catastrophe.

This week in my house is a perfect example. Tuesday the furnace quit. The Husband stayed home, called a repairman and was told that the furnace was so old (22 years!) that it would be much more cost effective to buy a new one rather than repair this one and have it go out again. When all was said and done, it was just over $2500. Would have been a major catastrophe had we not saved and planned for life to happen.

Then today, The Husband took one look at the tires on my truck and said "nope, not going to work for me" and got them replaced. During the replacement, however, they found that there were other issues going on and in total, it cost $1500 for the truck (tires plus the repairs). So about 4 grand in unexpected expenses in one week.  And in the past, this would have killed us. We wouldn't have had a way to come up with that money other than putting it on credit.

However, thanks to Dave and our emergency fund, it's all good. We now just have to set aside money in our budget each month to pay back to our emergency fund so it's back up to being fully funded. 


We've had this emergency fund for a year and a half and this is the first time we've ever had to use it (it's just sitting in a savings account, earning a bit of interest). I'm telling you -- you need to do this for yourself. I can only imagine how stressed out I would have been if we'd had to try to come up with that money in a quick fix and didn't have it. It's definitely been an eye-opener for The Oldest who has thought we were nuts to put that kind of money away and now realizes what a good idea it is.



[And now, I promise we'll go back to our regularly scheduled programming of talking about teaching! :)]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Next Year

This afternoon Miss New Teacher and I went to a training session with a bunch of other teachers from our school (and around the district). We got out really early which is awesome and I was talking to Mrs. Principal. I heard earlier today that every single principal in the district was pink-slipped. I'm not sure why the district does things this way because it seems counterproductive to me but I also don't pretend to have the slightest idea of how they do what they do either.

Usually this just means principals will get shifted around and blah blah. Earlier today, Mrs. RTI had said to me that she wondered if I would be laid off when the big budget cuts become effective. My ESL endorsement should save me. When Mrs. Principal and I were talking about it, she said I would get laid off but would end up at another building. I think she misspoke herself. If anything, I will get transferred. We're required to have one certified ESL teacher per grade level in our building and we have a lot (2 in kindergarten, 1 in 1st and one almost there, 1 in second, 2 in third and me in 5th -- 4th doesn't have one because two of those teachers are on permits which won't be enough when the budget shortfall happens). So in theory, they could just do some switching around and put the excess from K and 3rd into the 4th and 5th grades for next year, thus bumping me.

Am I worried about that? Nope. Because here's the thing....I got into my position easy as pie. My ESL is what allowed that. I refuse to worry. Last time they did a massive layoff, I got my exact position back. They also called back all of those teachers and hired a few extras. They have hired SO MANY PEOPLE since I got hired that I may not even get laid off at all (seriously, from K-12 there are over 100 below me on the seniority list which is crazy). 


What I am worried about is that with the budget cuts they're talking about, they may completely eliminate art, music and PE for next year. That will make me so sad. Firstly because when in the world would we prep and secondly because the children need a different environment sometimes and they NEED to be able to be creative. Mrs. Cooperating Teacher told me that about 12 years ago they didn't get prep time at all. So she created a cast of "characters" to provide the children with PE time, art time and music. If we don't get specials, I will be very upset for my students. That is SO wrong!

I think our new governor is a freaking idiot. He claims he's all about education and says he'll take a $1 salary for 2011 (which means jack because he's a multi-millionaire) yet he wants to slash so much money from schools who have sacrificed so much over the last 10 years. Thousands of people are going to lose their jobs and then we'll have our feet held to the fire with "normal" class sizes being 30-32 kids (in Title 1 schools!) and the children not achieving. Why don't politicians realize that they can't create jobs and turn a state's economy around if they continue to take from education first??

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Putting on a Show

It seems to me like every time I give an assessment, I have to stop and ask if these children really were in my class at all during the unit. I just don't get why this group of students do so poorly on tests when they know it cold when we review. I barely prompt them at all during review -- they give me everything. Yet on the tests, you'd think they'd just randomly walked in on test day and sat down for it. *sigh*

It is so frustrating and it makes me feel like I am not doing something right. I already feel like we're forced to put on so much "show" to keep the kids interested and entertained in today's world of video games and other stimulating extra-curricular things they do. I'm not sure how much more "Dog and Pony" I could get.

I think it is more because I can't figure out if these kids just have collective test anxiety or what. I know that they were like this last year too. One of the 4th grade teachers told me they were HORRENDOUS at taking tests. This year's 4th graders aren't as well behaved as this group but they are getting better grades than my kids (I often see tests with 95-100 posted in Mr. 4th Grade's room). I don't get to post those that often because they just don't happen.

One side of the fence is that too much emphasis on placed on assessment. We all know that some months it feels like all we do is assess. But the other side of that fence says if our curriculum really is strong...these kiddos would be able to transfer what they can tell me to a test. I can't sit with all 23 of them and give the test orally after all.

I just finished grading our science unit tests. I'm discouraged. Granted one of the questions was hard and I threw it out because it wasn't really fair to expect these kids to understand a concept that has five (5!)different equations to do before you can get the answer. I also let them use their notebooks. The highest score was an 81%. It's discouraging.

If I didn't give credit for keeping up on their science notebooks, no one in my class would get higher than a 75% in science after that test. It is very discouraging and it just makes me wonder why this group can't seem to retain what they've learned when it comes time to take a test.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Meaningful PD (does such a thing exist??)

We got clobbered with snow again last night. It was 50 degrees here last Thursday and now this. Sometimes I really do not like Mother Nature!

My kids all ended up with yet another snow day. Today was a PD day in our district which I knew they were not going to cancel. When I got up this morning, I could barely get out the front door there was so much snow drifted up there. I got to work relatively easy and that was good.

The PD actually wasn't too bad. I hate when the PD means nothing and you'd rather stick a fork in your eye than be there because it's so pointless. We even had a bonus 40 minutes where we got done with one thing and they told us to go do whatever we needed to do. You don't have to tell me twice!

I got my copying done for my subs this week and arranged everything for both of those days. I'm really glad that I had that extra time because I have absolutely zero time to do that stuff this week with meetings and appointments every day after school. Plus the PD was not boring or pointless -- it is stuff we have to use and do and everyone is really good about giving input and making it a collaborative thing which is so different from other schools I've been at.



Interestingly enough, today at lunch someone brought up the teacher who got suspended for posting on her blog about her life as a teacher. One of my colleagues said that she thought it was utter BS that this teacher was suspended and could face charges. Another said that in this day and age, you should "know better" than to post those things online.

I am a firm believer in freedom of speech. Big time. We have just as much right to rant and complain about our jobs (and the people we work with, including students sometimes) as anyone else. I think what drew the line here for me was that she blogged as herself. I have never even thought about revealing my "real" identity on this blog. Ever. No way. Partly because I know that my district is the kind that would pull this sort of stunt if they knew a teacher blogged about anything going on there. Grantly I am very careful about what I do say in reference to my district (being vague at best)  but this bothers me.

As all teachers know, being a teacher nowadays is akin to putting a big ole target on your back. We're held accountable for everything, even things for which we can't control and sometimes even for things that don't have anything to do with us. But we roll with it because we're teachers and we want to make a difference. Being told that we should be silent in what's happening in our schools is not cool. At all. People need to shut up, wake up and really walk a week in the shoes of a teacher before they tell us when, where and how we can talk about our jobs. We're professionals. She didn't mention names. Really she shouldn't have to hide her identity either in order to write about her job.

But so many of us do. We hide behind a false identity because we know deep down that if someone misinterpreted one thing we said, or we slipped and referenced an incident that anyone in the district would be able to recognize, there would be sanctions.

When did being a teacher become a job where you got crapped on every day? Do people not remember being in a classroom and being taught? Or did all of these politicians and other teacher-haters wake up one day knowing it all? That must surely be it because I can't imagine anyone who spent 12+ years in classrooms with teachers could not have come across a single teacher who made a difference in their lives.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Awarded

Katie over at Miss Klohn's Classroom gave me this fabulous award. Thanks so much Katie! (BTW her blog is pretty fab too so check her out if you haven't!)

The Rules
1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 5 great recently discovered bloggers
4. Contact those bloggers and tell them about the award

 
Since I also just recently did the 7 Facts...the challenge now will be to share 7 other things about myself. Hmm.
 
1. I was really worried about this school year because last year was such a bad one (causing me to leave my school and everything). I have had such a great year that now I worry because I doubt I could get this lucky again next year!
 
2. I was the first granddaughter born in my family and my mother gave me a very masculine sounding name (girly spelling). When she told my grandparents what she'd named me, my grandpa said "the first girl and you give her a boy's name. Great."
 
3. I'm not much of a TV watcher. My colleagues will go on and on about all these shows they watch and I just sit there smiling idly and secretly asking myself how they have time to watch so much TV.
 
4. My very first memory is from a watering hole when we lived in Texas. There was a makeshift shoot that water built up behind you and then sort of shot you out the other side. I remember telling my dad not to drop me before we went in. I was 3.
 
5. My parents are convinced I'm slightly clairvoyant. My visions come to me as dreams and most of the time, they are scarily accurate. Usually if I'm really worried about how something will turn out, I have a dream about it and eventually I get an overwhelming sense of deja vu when that dream comes true. Most of the time I just find comfort in realizing that things won't stay bad forever.
 
6. I envy people who have amazing relationships with their moms because I don't.
 
7. Even though we're very much done, sometimes I wish I would get pregnant so we could have another bundle of joy. I love babies. (Although to be entirely honest, this feeling doesn't last long when I do get it...I'm usually content to hold and hug other people's babies and then give them back!)
 
Check out these blogs I've recently discovered:
Juice Boxes & Crayolas (personal favorite because we both teach 5th!)
 
That's really all I've got because I haven't discovered too many "new" blogs recently...these are more recent for me and I love em!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Oh Spring....

I think Mother Nature is playing a sick joke. Seriously.

It has been absolutely beautiful the last two days. Sunshine, temps in the 40s/50s. The other day I actually left school without my coat on because I was wearing a sweater and was plenty warm. I just know this is way too good to be true and this time next week we'll probably have another foot of snow!


What's been most annoying is that with the higher temps, the snow is melting and we have a nice little river in the playground. So we've had inside recess. I hate inside recess. The kids want to be outside and you know they are out in that stuff when we're not around (weekends, after school, etc). It's frustrating.

My good friend put it perfectly on her facebook page last week.

Indoor recess = hell on earth

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More on Literacy Stations

So my class and I made it through our first week using Literacy Stations. The first day was AMAZING and we've had a few bumps in the road since then but overall, I am pleased with the results and glad I pushed myself to try this.

I have 8 stations. It's a lot but it also keeps the crowding to a bare minimum and allows the kids to really spread out throughout the room.

I very carefully selected the stations we're using. I also kept things low-key and am using many resources already in place, but having the children work in more independent ways (which I think is VITAL for this group because, unfortunately, many of them suffer big time from learned helplessness) will get them even more ready for middle school.

The stations I am using (with a short description) are:
  1. Newsprint -- They are using DDI information sheets in this station while reading newspapers, magazines for kids and other interesting print materials. Eventually they will write mini newspaper articles here.
  2. Word Study -- They are also using DDI informational sheets here to practice with dictionary/thesaurus skills but they will also work on grammar puzzles and other things with words in this area.
  3. Vocabulary -- Currently they are working on making ROK cards (per DDI) for their target areas on the MAP test. Eventually there will be word activities and vocab exercises to help them practice vocabulary from all content areas (math, science, social studies and reading).
  4. Handwriting -- We are supposed to make our kiddos write in cursive. I don't because I don't like to force people to use cursive if they prefer print but we do at least practice it! This station allows me to incorporate it better without feeling like I'm sacrificing anything else for this time.
  5. Listening -- Pretty self-explanatory *wink* The kids get to use the CD players and choose a book on tape to listen to during this time.
  6. Buddy Reading -- I have many sets of books for lit circles and have never really been able to put them to the best use. This station takes care of that. I paired books up and put them into plastic gallon-size ziploc bags. The partners agree on a book and spend time reading with each other.
  7. Poetry -- Since we're doing a poetry unit right now, and kids generally like poetry, I decided to add this one. I put all of my poetry books in this station and the kiddos do various activities from copying poems to get the stanzas right to looking for poems with certain characteristics.
  8. Computer -- The students go to my classroom website at this station. From there I link them to "kid friendly" activities that reinforce math and reading skills.

What I am liking best about this is that while sometimes it does get a bit noisy, the kids are engaged in meaningful activities that aren't busywork. That is something I always hated about centers when I was working with little kids as a student teacher -- so much of it felt like stupid crap we gave them to keep them busy. I want them to be busy but I also want them to be LEARNING. The best $20 I've ever spent was on Practice with Purpose because it has allowed me to do what my district mandates (basal...*sigh*) but also do what I know is right for my kids and my teaching style.

I split my kids into 4 groups based on their RIT ranges on the most current MAP. It worked out great actually and I have 6 kids per group except my lowest which I have 3-5 kids (it varies because two are resource and some days they are with Mrs. Resource and not in my room during this time). It makes it almost perfect because my low three are getting super targeted instruction every single day Monday-Thursday and then will join us for the whole-class enrichment reading on Friday (usually a TFK or other supplemental reading activity).

We have reading from about 11:20-12:05 each day. So we have round one until about 11:40ish and then they have a few minutes to switch spots and at 11:45 we have round two. I have an interventionist for 40 minutes twice a week during this time so she takes my low group and I work with another group. Then I can take a second group that same day. It has worked out very well because all my kids get small group instruction at least twice a week and already, in this first week of doing this, I noticed that the kids were more engaged and eager to participate because they knew I could pay more attention to them.

Students are paired within their big group and they go with that partner to all of the stations. For example, Student A and B are paired. They might start in small group with me and then would go to Poetry together in the second round. They really are enjoying it and I purposely made pairings within each group that weren't necessarily "BFFs" because they have to learn to work with others in the real world.


Mrs. Principal hasn't seen this in action and frankly I haven't said anything either....because I'm not going to clue them in that I'm not technically doing what they want. I'm doing it but not necessarily how they say they want it. I figure if anyone says anything I can point out that with what I have, I am trying my best to provide differentiation for my kids and this was the best way I could come up with to do so.

I'm really pleased with the progress so far and really hope we can keep it going. I have figured out that I need a better way to monitor who ends up where for the rotations because as kiddos are taken off the chart for group, it can be hard to remember where they were before so they aren't repeating stations. I may just make a simple chart that I can check off each week to show where they have already been so I can guarantee no repeats in a week. I will wrap my brain around that and see what I come up with.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Literacy Stations

Yesterday was Day 1 of trying out our new Literacy Workstations (via "Practice with Purpose"). I kept it relatively low key and am using many resources that we use throughout the day anyway (things that go along with our NWEA/MAP testing, handwriting practice, etc).

I was stunned almost speechless at how well it went yesterday. Granted, my interventionist had a group for about 45 minutes and I had two groups during that time so it kept things pretty quiet. Today when it was just me, I did have to talk to the class a couple of times about noise but otherwise it has gone really, really well.

Many of my colleagues are flabbergasted when I was explaining it to them. Mrs. Cooperating Teacher said she was exhausted hearing me describe how I set it up. But really, if we're going to use our data to drive instruction....why wouldn't we use a rotation like this? And frankly, it was not as hard to set up as I thought it would be. Planning it all was harder than getting everything together for it (because again, I kept it low-key and am killing two birds with one stone in a lot of ways).

Someone mentioned to me that she thinks Mrs. CT said that because I've made her "look bad" since I am doing this on my own. Whatever. What it ultimately comes down to is that I am responsible for my kids and I'll be damned if anyone at Middle School is going to say "Oh Mrs. Sunny just passes these boneheads". Nope! So I will push them, fight them and badger them (nicely of course!) to reach their potential. That's what I'm paid to do, right?? And I love it. And with the exception of about 3 of my 23, they love it too. (The 3 probably do too and just don't know it yet!)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today was so busy and crazy and fun. We kept our Valentine's party VERY low-key. Being that it's Monday, I did not want some huge hullabaloo party that was going to get the kids crazy for the week. I was really surprised at the mound of gifts/chocolates the kiddos brought me. I will definitely have to spread it out over the next month or I'll end up in a diabetic coma or something. Holy sugar.


We squeezed in the last MAP test today -- it's Language Usage and is an optional one in the district so we waited until all of the other tests had been done. Mrs. RTI who is our testing coordinator was commenting to me as we left the  lab how good my class is: they always come in quietly to the lab, they leave it clean and they are respectful when there. It was a great compliment to have. I've had kiddos tell me before I'm "mean" but other kids say "no, she's just strict". I am. I expect the kids to follow the rules because they are the rules -- not because they're going to get something or because they are being bribed. I really hold them to that too.

At any rate, as the kiddos filed out I whispered to her that I'm nervous because this great group means next year is probably going to be terrible. I've never had two awesome classes in a row. Never. And the 4th graders this year are wild and crazy. I'm going to enjoy this group while I can!



My Valentine surprised me with a bag of Lindor Truffles which I was not expecting at all. Definitely going to have to hide some of this chocolate! I'm not going to need to buy any for at least a month.

Happy Valentine's!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Difference a Year Makes

I have found myself being quite reflective this week. A year ago this upcoming week, during Former School's winter intersession (ie a week vacation), I went to my doctor and admitted that I just couldn't handle being at my school anymore and I needed to get out. It was the first step to admitting something was really not right in my world.

Last Wednesday when I was with my therapist, she mentioned how differently she sees me after a  year of being together. She said that sure, I still have job pressures and things but it is nothing like when I first started seeing her. It was a bit weird to realize it's already been a year. I've grown and changed so much and I am very lucky to have the group of kiddos I have this year. I couldn't have picked a better class to help me "heal". Last night, The Husband and I were talking about it and I said I really wanted to just relish every moment I have left with this group because it's so doubtful that I'll get this lucky again next year (I've NEVER had two totally amazing classes in a row). Plus I know some of the current 4th graders are kiddos who need extra love (ie don't always make the best choices).

Even though I'm tired and sort of wish that I had a vacation coming up this week....I'm glad to be where I am. I'm excited to spend my Valentine's Day with my class and have a little party to celebrate all of the hard work they've been putting in this year. The maturity I have seen in some of the kids recently is truly remarkable -- they really do come to us SO immature and leave with an almost "worldly" outlook on things. I love watching that transition in them. Every day they give me a reason to smile and help me to see that this IS my purpose in life. They are the reason I am where I am and I love them for that (even on the days I want to wring their little necks!).

I have had a really sore neck the last day or two. Last year, when it was so horrible in my class, I had neck aches all the time from the tension I carried around with me daily. I told The Husband that it concerns me just a bit that I've had these neck issues again...but I did just come off one of the busiest and most stressful weeks I've experienced this year. I'm sure that's the reason. I bought some Icy Hot patches which are the best invention ever. I can slap one on my neck and I'm good to go for a whole day. It helps me to relax by keeping the tension out of my neck and I'm hopeful that I won't need one at school tomorrow (the kids ALWAYS ask what happened if you have any type of bandage or anything) but I am bringing one just in case.

I definitely think that at our party tomorrow I need to be sure my class knows how much I appreciate them and how much they have really helped me to realize that teaching is what I was called to do. Despite some of the ups-and-downs (which of course are normal in any school), I really can't imagine not having this fabulous group. They make me glad to be part of their lives.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekend! & 7 Facts

Whew! I am so incredibly glad that it is Saturday! This was, by far, the longest week in teaching history I think! After 3 consecutive snowdays and a weekend, this week kicked my behind hardcore. Staff meeting and a therapy appointment for Middle Child on Monday, conferences from 3:30-7:30 Tuesday, my own therapy appointment on Wednesday and conferences from 3:30-7:30 Thursday. To top that off, Friday we had our rescheduled field trip to the local university for our derby car races.

It just made for a super busy week! Friday was really good even though the week was so busy. I was kind of cranky with the kids in the morning -- whenever I get really overwhelmed, my anxiety shoots through the roof and that was a big factor with it. I'm not afraid to admit I'm not perfect. It's hard sometimes when I realize how much it still affects me and my professional life even though my situation is a million times better than this time a year ago!

My students have PE first thing on Fridays which I absolutely love. We've been inside in the mornings the last few days because the windchill is cold with a side of freezing. This means that our PE teacher has to clean up the floor in the gym before we can have class. Usually if that happens we just go a few minutes later and he keeps them a few minutes later (he has a prep right after my class so it is perfect). Well Friday we went down at 8:45 and that means I'd pick them up at 9:30. He called me at quarter after 9 and said to pick them up at 9:40 instead, giving me about 10 extra minutes. I just love that man! I am going to make him a Valentine because he is SO giving to our class (and others) and I appreciate that he does little things like that to try to make our lives easier.

Then during the afternoon we had a field trip to my alma mater. Every year they come to our school and make derby cars with our students. The children get to design the cars (the kids draw the designs and the engineering students actually cut them), then they sand them, add wheels to them and paint them. The kids get to decide if they want their weight on the top or the bottom and then we go to the university's engineering lab and have races. It is so much fun and the kids get really excited about it.

They have races by class and have a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner in each class, plus they do prizes for other things like best paint job, most unique design, etc. (One of my girls got a prize for "Most Peaceful Design" because she had put a huge peace sign on hers.) The 1st place winners from all 3 classes then race each other and the winner gets a little "derby dome" to display their car in. One of my students won that dome! I was more excited than she was! If nothing else, I know these kiddos will remember this trip from 5th grade.

I'm just glad to have reached the weekend...to sleep in, rejuvenate, catch up on my Spanish homework and most of all, take it slow for a couple of days!



And finally, I was tagged in a "7 Facts" award that's going around. I was tagged by ~A over at Ninety-Nine Lives. Basically you provide 7 random facts about yourself and then tag 15 other bloggers to play along. It's always fun to learn weird, random things about people :)

1) I twirl my hair when I am really anxious or if I'm really irriated. I cut my hair last weekend and have found myself annoyed that I can't twirl my hair when I'm irritated!

2) I have a scar on my left pointer finger that looks like a crooked T.

3) I actually would teach a classroom full of girls in a heartbeat. People think I'm nuts but I was a snotty, rebellious teenage brat and I understand what they're going through and feel like I can relate to them about a million times better than boys.

4) The Husband wanted The Youngest to be a boy, but I wasn't really that sad when I found out she was a girl!

5) I spent 9 years attending the same university between getting my undergrad teaching degree and my master's. I had exactly 3 semesters off in that entire time (including summers).

6) I have always preferred my caffeine through soda -- I think coffee is just gross. I think I started drinking soda pop with my breakfast when I was about 13 (at the time it was Cherry Coke but of course now it's Diet Coke all the way).

7) I'm the only person in my entire family (out to 1st cousins on both my mom and my dad's sides of the family!) to have graduated from college...not once, not twice but three times (associates in business, English-Language Arts teaching degree and a TESOL masters degree).


Who wants to play next?? Check out these fabulous blogs that I love to read:





Tuesday, February 8, 2011

That's just how I roll!

Today was day 1 of our spring conferences. (Yes, it's February...and no, it's not really spring!)

I've never had February conferences before. We always have them in March. While it's awesome to get them over with, it also concerns me because if something happens between now and May, parents are going to feel like they're out of the loop a bit. I got slick and attached a new business card to the folders I gave them at conferences and reiterated -- at least 20 times to each parent -- to PLEASE get ahold of me if they had questions/concerns later.

Last time we did conferences, I had 30 kids...and 32 time slots. It was hell. We got behind and I was there until 8 (they end at 7:30). With only 23 kids, it was awesome to have some empty spots in there! I got to use the bathroom! I got to walk around the floor and stretch my legs! Sad when that is a luxury, right?

Anyway at one point during a break I learned that Mrs. Cooperating Teacher had had 3 no shows (so far) and that Miss New Teacher had had 1 (so far). I didn't see Mrs. CT before I left because she was already gone but Miss New Teacher told me she had only 4 of 10 show up! FOUR of TEN!

I had only 1 no show out of 11. Miss New Teacher asked me if I bribed them and I said no (last time I did but this time I didn't). I just said that I make it a point to tell the kids you need to be there because it's about YOU so I can help YOU. It seems to get the point across. I have made such a concerted effort this year to make sure my classroom feels like a community, we're all in this together. I think that helps in these situations.

Plus, I know my kiddos know I am proud of them. I loved sharing their MAP scores with their families today. I loved being able to see the pride on their little faces when they saw me honestly praising them. Truthfully I didn't have a single conference that I dreaded because I didn't have anything really negative to say about any of my kiddos at all. We've all grown so much and made such good progress together.

Every single day I thank God for putting me on this path. I am so happy, even when I am overwhelmed. I was so energized on the way home today too. Sure I'm tired but there was just something about sharing GOOD news with families that made the late night worth it. And I have to admit it feels great being able to rub it in that I'm so freaking amazing that all but one of *my* kiddos showed up!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life Rocks!

So my 5 day weekend is catching up to me. It's 4:15 on Sunday and I realize I have things I probably really need to have done for tomorrow. Yet do you think I am doing them?


This was definitely a much needed and appreciated break. Sure I went to work on Friday for a spell but I also got a lot of relaxing in and was able to take things slow. Very important considering this next week will be crazy-insane. Staff meeting and appointment after school tomorrow, conferences Tuesday, appointment right after school Wednesday and conferences  Thursday. Friday will be the only relatively "normal" day of the week (in which you can bet I will be peeling out of that lot at like 3:30 on the dot!).


I had my nails done Tuesday night before the storm hit. Yesterday The Husband took me to the mall and surprised me by buying me a gorgeous anniversary band that just happens to fit right underneath my wedding set and today I had my hair cut into a short, cute style that will be SO MUCH EASIER to manage for work (ie I can just brush it and go). I feel like a very spoiled and pampered lady and I'm not complaining one bit!


In addition to this, I have been thinking. I need to lose some weight. Seriously. My mom is way overweight and she's only 56 and so unhealthy. I do not want to end up like that at her age (she hobbles around like an 80 year old woman and in reality, she is YOUNG). I'm thinking about starting my own version of a couch-to-5k program. Not that I'm super into running or anything but a really good friend of mine started running about 2 years ago and now has completed a bunch of little races and two half-marathons. I'm so proud of her and she LOVES the runs -- says it makes her feel free, even when she has to do them on her treadmill. I'm not sure if this will be the route I'm going to go in, but I do know that I feel so good after taking care of myself in these little ways the past few days. I can only imagine how incredible I will feel if I REALLY take care of myself and get these extra pounds off too.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Productivity!

Today, I took total advantage of our 3rd consecutive snow day and went in to work. I took my sweet time getting around and everything so I got to school around 9:30. I was greeted by a sign that said the building was closing at 2:30. Boo! But I trudged in anyway figuring a deadline would force me to work faster!

I didn't get any planning done but I got a lot of work done -- cleaning/rearranging and starting to get things set up for my Literacy Workstations. I'm really pleased with the progress I made even though it meant bringing home some lessons to finish up over the weekend.

Sink area (not much has changed here -- just a new pencil sharpener!)

Shelving. I rearranged my math manipulatives, toolkits (with markers, etc) because we don't use those as often, moved our social studies texts and added my "Daily Objectives" pocket chart.

The word wall is the same -- but I added that table when I lost 7 kiddos to the new class. I do my conferences at it (love it!). Also today I made that Poetry focus wall, put up the new job chart  and under that board you can see my "Newsprint" and "Wordstudy" stations for our new Literacy Stations.



This is where I spent most of my effort (besides that shelving area). I rearranged EVERYTHING here. My math focus wall and listening stations are now over here. Plus I put the buddy reading bags over here since its where the pillows are for SSR time. I figure either my interventionist (who I only get for 60 minutes a week) or myself can do our small reading groups in the front of the room and the rest of the space back here will be open for kiddos.
I took another small table from the hall area when I lost my 7 kiddos to the new room and put it in the back here. I LOVE these little tables (honestly I think I would almost prefer these little tables to the desks we have). Anyway I decied to put my Poetry Station back here and up to two groups can work here at a time (2 people per group). Plus they'll be able to move things around the room too. You can also see our Read Around the World chart and my infamous frog curtain that separates the bump out from Mrs. Cooperating Teacher's room (we put our class libraries in there).


 Finally, here's my computer station and the new mailboxes my Literacy Coach bought me. I put my little easel here and decided I will put a welcome message up for my kiddos each day as they come in and turn in homework and notes. The bulletin board behind houses fabulous work.




Kids Say the Darndest Things

My girls are used to me being up and practically out of the house in the morning before their eyes are really even open to "awake" mode. I tend to leave for work early so I don't have to stay super late at work to get everything done and don't have to bring my entire classroom home with me every night to get things accomplished.


Since I'm, unbelievably, on my 3rd snowday in a row, I got up early anyway, determined to get into school and be productive today (because to be perfectly honest, all I did yesterday that can count as productive was laundry -- I didn't do anything and it was awesome!). Middle Child realized something was up when it was 7 a.m. and I was still in my pajamas and taking my sweet time helping her and The Youngest get around for school.

Middle Child: Momma, do you have a snow day again?
Mrs. Sunny: Yes, MC, I do.
MC: Do we? (hopeful look)
Mrs. Sunny: Nope, sweetie, you girls all have school today.
MC: How come you don't?
Mrs. Sunny: Well...because some people were not very nice and didn't clear their sidewalks. A lot of the city kids walk to school and it wouldn't be very safe for them to walk through those big piles of snow. So they cancelled school to keep the kids safe.
MC: Why don't those people clear their sidewalks?! Are they lazy or something?!


You just have to know Middle Child to really get why this amuses me so much. She's a very simple kind of girl -- things are black or white to her, not much shades of gray really. She tends to speak her mind and is often startingly accurate in her assessment of things (like the time we went to Walmart and it was soooo crowded and as usual they had 5 lanes open and people were backed up into the aisles. She says, in a very LOUD voice, "don't they know how to run a business??" causing a man in front of us to turn around because he couldn't believe a child of her age could be so astute in her assessment of the situation).



My Really Good Stuff package came yesterday so I'm going to take all of it to school with me today. I'm also going to stop at Walmart this morning and buy some dish tubs and large ziploc bags to get started on my Literacy Stations area. I'm really glad to have a whole day (or as much of a day as I want to take) to get some things changed around in my classroom. It's a gift I'm not willing to waste on this 3rd day off!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

And that makes 3....

Whoa. We are closed AGAIN tomorrow because so many sidewalks aren't cleared. For once, my district appears to be using common sense that kids + unshoveled sidewalks = not a good plan.


I'm 99% sure my kids will have school tomorrow since it's pretty well cleared up here. So I'm going to take advantage of this and go to school anyway and have a "work day" of my own since it'll be nice and quiet there. Since the principals are required to report, the buildings are open on snow days for staff which is kind of nice.


Hope my students are enjoying this because it's probably the only snowdays we're going to get the rest of the year! :)

Really people??

So far today, I have done nada. Not a thing. Lazy, much? Two snow days in a row is so unheard of for my district that I think I'm almost in shock. Although I did actually get dressed today which is more than I did yesterday. I'm thinking that in about 20 minutes or so I will finally do something (or maybe I won't....).

Definitely have to do laundry at least though unless I want my family going about in their undies, which I don't.

At any rate, I was reading the news online and saw that my district is really pushing the residents in the city to clear the sidewalks and things so that children can get to school. The district always sends us copies of their press releases in email and at the bottom it said "the district will be closely monitoring the roadway/sidewalk conditions to determine if it is safe to open schools for Friday or be closed for an unprecedented 3 days in a row".

I almost fell off my chair. I talked to The Husband earlier and told him about it and he said "well I guess you won't have school". Because we can go ALL WINTER without people clearing their walks for these kids. It makes me so mad and then the kids are walking in the roads and obviously that isn't very safe. What's more, it becomes the school's fault (according to the community) if the sidewalks aren't taken care of and kids are in the road. Um, no. As a resident it is YOUR job to clear your own sidewalk, period. The school's aren't responsible for shoveling/clearing every walk in the city.

And colleagues who do live in the city are still telling me they haven't even had their roads plowed yet. Oy. What a mess. Up here where I live (about 20 minutes from the city), we're clear as a bell. I was surprised that my kids actually got a snow day today too because it's relatively normal up here (we get the job done here I guess!). I'm thinking the more "country roads" are probably the issue so the buses aren't possibly out on roads that aren't in the best shape.

At any rate, it will be appalling to me if we're closed tomorrow because residents don't clear their sidewalks. While I certainly won't complain about a 5 day weekend and am glad the district is thinking about these kiddos' safety, it's absurd that anyone wouldn't be out shoveling their walk (or paying someone to do it) so that children can be safe and in school.

It's just mind boggling.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No way!!

I just got a text message that school is CLOSED for tomorrow!!

Sure enough the website confirmed:

School Closed


_____ is CLOSED Thursday February 3rd, 2011.

You have no idea what a miracle this is. My district rarely ever closes. We had a big, big storm in December 2009 and they stayed open. It was ridiculous.

However, the city where I work got about 16 inches of snow, not to mention snowdrifts that are upwards of 21-23" high. Many of my colleagues who live down there said their roads haven't even been touched by plows yet. (One said it is thigh high at her house without the drifts!)

What's even more interesting is that so far my kids all have school (we don't live in the city). The Oldest just sent me a text and asked me if she was cancelled yet and I said nope...and wouldn't it be a first for ME to have a snowday and not THEM.

I'm loving it, especially since Friday will be an easy/peasy day! PE in the morning and a field trip in the afternoon!

Color me a happy teacher!

My colleagues often tease me for being a big dork. In other words they think I'm lame because I read the board minutes they post online. I personally think this is quite brilliant of me actually.

a) I don't have to sit through the stupid meetings but can just read/skim the important stuff
b) I know what's happening in the district most of the time
c) I often have info my colleagues don't at first because I read the minutes

Well it certainly paid off tonight. I decided to read through the committee and board meeting minutes I haven't read for the last part of January. I'm glad that I did!

Our district currently uses Houghton Mifflin for reading. It's 10 years old and honestly....quite L-A-M-E. I'm sure in its day it was fine. I'm not a basal fan anyway but really, this crap is just bad. I will give it credit that for new teachers, it's probably helpful since they can get as much help/support as they need from it. But it's old and outdated and not good for our ELL kiddos and kids who are a million grade levels behind in reading.

This year they've been piloting two series: Treasures and Reading Street. A colleague of mine has been part of the pilot and was using Reading Street. She said she LOVES it because it has a lot of interactive pieces (online games and assessments) and differentiation is built in. I was able to get a free preview of it online and was also IN LOVE. A million times better than Houghton Mifflin for sure.

Well reading those committee meeting minutes tonight let me know that the committee recommends Reading Street as our new series. The cost, including professional development and whatnot, is almost a million dollars which is insane....but I'm glad they didn't go with the cheaper of the two. I'm glad -- for once -- they seem to be thinking about what is best for the kids.

How do YOU spell happiness?

I spell it S-N-O-W-D-A-Y!

I know, I know. A lot of you bloggers out there are sick of the S word because you've had a lot of the S word lately. For me, however, this is the very first one of this school year (and knowing my district, probably the only). My district was actually the LAST one to close in the county because the district is sadly run by complete imbeciles (to put it nicely).


Alas, I was very happy to NOT get up and get dressed and try to fight my way down to work. The Husband has to work regardless (good ole AT&T!) and he called a bit ago and said that the roads down where I work are practically deserted. Many businesses closed down too because they wanted to discourage people from going out into the blizzard. He also told me that he had to fire up the snowblower this morning just to get the van out of the driveway because the snow was so deep (he had to clear himself a path to drive through). A former colleague measured the snow on her deck, 21 inches. Crazy!


I'm not going to labor under the delusion that we'll have tomorrow off (it would be awesome but it won't happen). Instead today I'm going to shower, put on fresh, comfy pajamas and settle down to knock out some school stuff I brought home "just in case". I really want to try to get through enough of Practice with Purpose" to at least start some literacy stations next week. The sooner I can start with it, the better, I think.