Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kinda Quiet

So I've been a bit quiet lately....and that's okay. School's out, I have no schedule (and it RULES!) and I haven't done much except just hang out and enjoy my no-schedule life.

It's not a bad gig. 9 1/2 months of insanity (the good kind!) for a couple months of peace? I can definitely dig it. (Remind me of this during the school year when I am griping about how I don't have enough time for whatever it is....okay?)

We've been spending money like fiends the last week or so getting ready for our new home away from home. We close TOMORROW. I am beyond excited. We're going to head up there tomorrow for the closing and then go right to our cabin. I get more or less zero phone service there (barely enough to make a call or send a text) so it's quite peaceful. We're going to be loading up our trailer this evening with all of the stuff we're taking up with us. Probably by next summer, we'll even buy clothes to just keep there and then we just have to bring ourselves. It's going to be pretty sweet.



I have realized I am not nearly as creative as the many other teachers out there in bloggy-land. Over the last week or so I have really browsed a lot on Teachers Pay Teachers and I am in awe at all of the stuff people spend their hard time making and then put up there FOR FREE. I'm not creative in that sense and it doesn't really bother me. I can't be everything....although sometimes I wish I could be as cool as those folks to think up some of those cool activities. I have gotten a lot of really neat games and things for 2nd grade free there this week. We have center activities that go with our basal but I am thinking some of these would be great for take-home packs. What kid doesn't like playing games?? So we shall see.


I will be gone from bloggy-land all weekend and maybe when I return, I'll actually have something worth posting about! *wink* Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Holy Moly!!

Okay....so I very, VERY rarely EVER participate in blog contests because I'm not all about following someone in 40 different places and blah blah. I usually just watch the contest to see who wins because it's kind of fun. That said, a little while back, I posted about Jodi's Countdown to Summer Contest and how you should do yourself a favor and jump on that bandwagon because it's totally an amazing giveaway.

Um....guess who won?


ME! Shut.The.Front.Door. *insert picture of me with my jaw touching the floor here*


Wow. I can't say I NEVER win things but I rarely ever win anything that is really worth going ga-ga over. So imagine how amazed I was when I was reading through my blogroll and saw the little .jpeg with my comment on it. Like, whoa. 


Now comes the hard part....I have to decide what to get. There's lots of goodness (some of which I already have!). I guess I won't be so skeptical about jumping on the contest bandwagon in the future :D

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Content

Hard to believe that tomorrow starts the third week of summer vacation. So much has happened in the last couple of weeks in "Sunnyville" that it feels like we've actually been out much longer. It's always a pleasant surprise to realize time isn't flying as fast as you think it is.

As I've mentioned before, The Husband and I are purchasing a cabin up north of us, here in Michigan. I'm very excited that we will be closing on said cabin on Friday, July 1! The Husband was lucky enough to get the afternoon off and we'll be hauling all of our stuff up there, signing the papers, forking over a check and getting our keys. We plan to spend the weekend there for the 4th of July. I honestly can not wait. It's going to be a great spot to rest and relax. Plus there will be no internet or satellite up there (and barely phone service as I have to stand in certain spots in the cabin and yard even to get enough signal to call someone on my cell) so it will truly be a place to "get away from it all". 

We've done a lot of planning and shopping this weekend to get ready. The Oldest, being toward an age where she should be thinking about moving out (eventually...not any time soon!), was astonished at all of the stuff we had to buy for the cabin. While we purchased it complete with furnishings, of course we have to have dishes, bathroom items, etc. A couple of times I saw her eyes looking the size of saucers in surprise! 

The Husband volunteered to work today to get ahead on their overtime so that we wouldn't have to worry about it this coming weekend. After work he stopped and got more essential stuff for the cabin. We've kept a big list and are happily marking things off of it as we buy them. It's astonishing how much is still on the list despite everything we've already bought!


In other news, I finished up both of my online enrichment classes today. I'm quite glad to have them behind me. I was all gung-ho about them when I was still going to work and on a regular routine but since we've gotten out of school....my motivation has kind of gone bye-bye! I finished both classes with 94% so I'm quite pleased with myself there. Not bad either for cramming the last 4 lessons into a weekend, plus the final exams! I am ready to hang up my "student" hat for a bit.


I haven't really done a whole lot school-related and that's okay with me. After making my year-long plan, I feel really good about where I'm sitting. I'm not fretting school at all. It helps that I should have access to my room the entire week of August 22nd which is an entire week before we HAVE to report back and I am not someone who takes days (or weeks) to set up my room. I get it done in 1-2 days max and then spend the rest of my time on planning and that sort of thing. Some of my teacher friends marvel at my ability to do this (set up a room in a day) but it's because 99% of the time, I know what my room looks like before summer vacation starts so I spend a lot of time in the back of my mind mentally setting up my room and then it's just a matter of putting it all together. This year I think it'll only take me longer because I have to sort through everything that Mrs. Retiring Teacher left in the room that I will be inheriting. Otherwise, a day would be plenty.


Sunny is just enjoying her downtime....and loving every second! I've always wanted to be busy, busy, busy and have learned to relish NOT being overwhelmingly busy all the time. I'm sure in a week or so, when I've truly had some time to relax, I will be more than ready to dig into some school-related stuff. But for now, I am enjoying reading and just doing whatever I want with my time!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

More Writing Conferences

In addition to the student writing conference form I posted earlier, which I do fully intend to keep in the students' data binders (not my own), a form I have used on and off with success is a form that I adapted from Mandy Gregory who created it based on Carl Anderson's "How's it Going?".



I did not use this form last year with my 5th graders but I did use it the two years prior when I was teaching 4th grade. I had the grand idea of using something else last year and let's just say it did not work out that well. This form is way better!

Why? Because you can simply stick it to a clipboard and carry it around with you. I like this because I have NEVER been able to stick to a "conference schedule" when I make one. Last year I had one and when I had 30 students, there was no way to get 5-6 conferences in every day so that all of the students were met weekly. Even when I went down to only 23 students, it was still hard to stick to a scheduled day because I might be gone one day, or at a meeting during writing or I was sick or whatever. I always felt immensely guilty because I was always behind and always trying to catch up and felt like the kiddos were being short changed.

Definitely reminded me of why this form is better! The best part about a form like this is that you can add all of your kiddos names and then get to conferences as you can. You'll know who you missed because their space will be empty. I found this form to be super helpful when I had a bigger class (25ish) because it is more difficult to get to everyone each week the more kiddos you have. So if you are determined to meet with each child at LEAST once every two weeks, this form helps you make sure you don't double dip the same kid and neglect someone else (although we all know there are times that you HAVE to meet with a certain kid or two more often than others). 

There are two pages to the file and I always fill in my students' names and then copy the form back-to-back. Slap the dates on and you are good to go. There will be 32 total spaces so if you do need to visit certain students more often, you'll have extra blank spaces to record those conferences in that time period as well.

As before, feel free to download and use this form. Just let me know if its useful for you or if you find other ways to adapt it.

Writing Conferences

As every teacher knows, keeping data on students is vital. I know for myself, however, that I am constantly striving to find the best way to keep data on my students so that it is organized, concise and most of all, useful.

Back when I first taught 2nd grade, my AP at the time had been a 2nd grade teacher previously. Once she shared with me this writing form she kept for each kiddo in their notebook so it was easy to review their progress (she had her own she kept as well, but this one stayed in the student notebook so there were two places anyone could check for notes on a child's progress).

I recently found the form as I was cleaning through things in my former to new office and I revamped it to better fit my needs. 

It's pretty self-explanatory -- you make the date and the piece the child is working on (and mini-lesson if it can be identified which I know isn't always easy to do). Then there is space to provide a compliment(s) on the piece and any suggestion(s) for improvement. The "WWW Spelled Correctly" column is what makes me love this form. We use that word wall, chanting, clapping and repeating words over and over...and the children still don't spell some of those words correctly. So this column provides the teacher with a way to see if the child is utilizing that resource. You can simply write "yes" or "no" or put a smilie or frown or whatever and you immediately know that in that piece the child had their word wall words spelled accurately. In the last column, depending on who the child conferred with, you could circle or highlight who it is. I added "other" in case there is a student teacher, special education teacher or other adult who works with the child that might also be doing conferences.

I'm a huge fan of giving compliments and suggestions. Even moreso when I have the children do peer conferences later in the year. I think it is a very important lesson for them to understand that we ALWAYS want to praise something their friend did well, even if it was just remembering to use capital letters to start a sentence. I also like using suggestions because then the writer him/herself is free to disregard it if they don't agree. With my older students we talked a lot about how real writers have many, many people read their work before it becomes published. If the editor or agent doesn't like a certain part but the author thinks it should stay, then often the writer has the right to keep it and take that risk if they feel it fits. It's actually quite a great mini-lesson and after a few trials (it's always fun to read their compliments and suggestions the first couple of times because they're trying to be nice and not hurt feelings) the students really get into it. 

You are welcome to download and use this form if you like. You can snag a copy here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Review: The Well Balanced Teacher

Recently, I went to The Cornerstone for Teachers website to purchase Angela Watson's new book, Awakened. In perusing her site, as I often do, I noticed a link to recommended further reading and I hit the jackpot.

I discovered this book:

The Well-Balanced Teacher by Mike Anderson

In reading the synopsis, I knew that I had to have this book. Balance is something I have continually strived for in the last 18 months of my teaching career. Balance (or rather UNbalance) is what really caused me to have so many issues at Former School and feel the need to leave.

Thanks to my Amazon Prime membership, I got this book in my hands speedy quick and I devoured the entire book yesterday afternoon and into the evening. In all honesty, I probably would have read it straight through if I didn't have young kids to feed and take care of. Yes, it is compelling enough that if you really wanted to, you could read it through in one sitting.

It is a short but quick and fantastic read. At 115 pages from the Acknowledgments to the Afterword, it is well worth your time.

Truth be told, Mike had me from the first sentence in the Acknowledgments:

For years, I have argued that writing prompts on standardized tests are a terrible way to assess good writing (Anderson, 2010, ix).

Who doesn't love someone who so boldly proclaims this from the word go?? While this book is not about teaching writing, he does bring you inside his classroom, his experience and his research to help make his point about balancing your teaching life and your "real life". I know that for myself this is something I have always struggled with. The teacher in me wants to be the best, the best, the best and so I have always pushed forward at 200 miles per hour to just get it done and hope it comes out well.

But Mike points out how fruitless this is. You can not be a great teacher if you are not taking care of yourself. This is so, so true. I know that when I reached that burnout point, I was not a good teacher. I was a mess and therefore my teaching was a mess, my students were a mess and I just had to get out. I couldn't do it anymore because I didn't deserve that and the students certainly did not deserve that.

From the importance of managing our stress levels; meeting our own basic needs (and yes, he asserts that we as teachers must no longer use "I'm tired after work" as an excuse to not exercise and take care of ourselves); making sure we belong in our school, even if that means just having one or two close colleagues, Mike brings you on a self-reflective, yet powerful look at how to balance your personal life with your passion for teaching so you don't become That Teacher who casually sips coffee and waits for retirement. From making sure we are teaching with purpose and purposefully teaching; finding our own self-efficacy (no Negative Nancy's allowed!) and finding time for positive engagement in our teaching, Mike provides his own experiences, as well as those of colleagues and other teachers to help you realize that you are not alone in your quest to do everything well without losing your mind.

The final chapter in this book really brought it all back together for me. It's about the importance of actually PLANNING your time and energy. It might sound silly but he suggests actually making yourself a daily schedule, much like you probably do in your classroom. Then you HAVE to make time for yourself and all of your other work/life commitments. I found this chapter to be the most compelling because this has been the biggest thing I have struggled with in my 5 years as a teacher: How do I give as much as I can to my students when I am with them but also give myself the downtime, reflection time, peace and family time that I need to feel like I can really and truly function.

So I am definitely going to take some of his advice. It isn't just some guy who thinks he knows it all telling you what to do -- he has done his homework and can back up what he asserts with research. He also has many, many examples and excerpts from other teachers who have "been there, done that" and it makes his arguments and his message that much more powerful.


Whether you've been in the classroom 5 minutes or 50 years, this book is definitely a must read.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunny is BAAAAACCCCCKKKK!

Oh, I feel so much more like myself today! This is very, very good. I was laid up most of the weekend in achy soreness from my surgery. I could show you a picture of my sutures but since I don't want you to run away and never visit my blog again, I will spare you! The Oldest came downstairs yesterday when I had the bandage off and saw the wounds for the first time and went "gahlkwehroia!" or some other word to let me know she thought it was really gross. The Husband has been keeping it pretty bandaged up but the tape was pulling on my skin like crazy and making it way more painful than it needed to be. So today while at the grocery store, we bought some super size bandages and slapped those suckers on....I am almost entirely pain free now. I have a lot more range of motion in my movements too now that I'm not worrying about pulling the tape. It feels good to feel almost 100% normal again!


It also helps that yesterday the carpet for my new and improved office was installed. yay! Due to various projects in and around the upstairs half of our house, I haven't really been able to use my desk/office area much for about the last year. So saying I'm thrilled to have this space back is quite an understatement! Not that I'll be using it a ton this summer but once school resumes, this will be my 2nd home I'm quite sure!


 I ♥ having all of my books together again!!

This was last night...I was dying to get this room set up and ready to go so I was tinkering in here until about 10 p.m.! Not bad for a gal who was laid up for 3 days prior to this!

My mess -- what it looked like last night...but I knew this would drive me crazy so being a non-fan of clutter, I cleaned it off before I called it quits for the night!

The finished product! Clearly, this is only my side of the office (and let's face it, I have HALF the office while The Husband and The Children share the other half hahaha!). I love how everything is right within reach. I need a new desk chair though because currently I am using a folding chair and it just isn't going to cut it!


Do you know how much STUFF you can hide in a desk like that?? I had to clean out the drawers so that we could move it from the other room and I found stuff in there I forgot I even had. Seriously, I found "Handwriting without Teachers" teacher manuals from 2002 when I took my writing class in college. Have I ever used them in my professional life? Nope. They were just stuffed in a drawer and left there. Oops.

But I did find some gems. Things that have already got my creative wheels spinning. I will be working on some of them over the next while and if I like what I create, I will share. Otherwise, no harm, no foul.


And finally, I plan to do a TON of reading this summer. Personal and professional....I just ordered two new books from Amazon that I recently discovered. I have a stack of books here I want to read and I am planning to order Angela Watson's new book Awakened. I have Angela's first book The Cornerstone and it has truly helped me find my way as a teacher. I can not WAIT to read and review her new book as well. I have no doubt whatsoever that this book is going to give me a lot of "uh huh" moments from the year I left my classroom. She seems to just GET IT and that's the message teachers need to hear nowadays when we're the target for all of American educational problems. 

I may just hate reading by the end of the summer :D



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Giveaway!

Normally, I do not jump on the bandwagon of giveaways....it's not really why I have a blog or follow other blogs. I usually leave the freebies up to others.

However, today, I am making a big exception. Why? Because Jodi, of Clutter-Free Classroom Fame, is having a fabulous contest where the winner gets ANY 7 items from her Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Now that is a contest to lure even the most skeptical person (self, I'm pointing at you!!) to hop on the proverbial bandwagon. If you're interested in this fabulous contest (and you should be), head on over to the post here and follow her instructions to get yourself a few fantastic chances of winning a lot of loot!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Downtime

First, I'd like to welcome my new readers! Seriously, I am always astounded that anyone reads my blog but at the same time, it makes me giddy to feel like I can connect with so many fabulous teachers out there in bloggy-land. So welcome to my newest readers, I look forward to our journey together!


I'm going to be a bit out of commission the next few days....yesterday I had surgery on my back to remove a sabaceous cyst and a small lesion that cropped up. I had the cyst removed in my doctor's office years ago but it came back and it came back bigger. So he sent me to a surgeon to ensure that the whole thing was taken out this time to hopefully prevent it from coming back.

It was outpatient surgery and went well but the recovery sucks. It was like this last time too. My back hurts really bad and it's hard to move around. I'm very stiff and The Oldest has had to help me get dressed because I can't lift my arms over my head very well. I do not like being a pain-in-the-behind and feeling helpless. I woke up this morning at 4 because I was in pain and had to use the restroom. I had a super hard time falling back to sleep and woke up The Husband on accident. He said I was NOT a pain-in-the-behind but I feel like I am.

As such, I am very tired and will be resting a lot. In perfect timing, my parents are taking the girls to their house through tomorrow night so I can at least rest without feeling like I am neglecting my kids! I'm taking pain meds and just trying to rest as much as I can. Fortunately, within a few days, I should be back to my old self, just minus a big ole cyst on my back.

So there won't be much coming from Sunnyville (I like the sound of that) for the next few days as I try to get past the worst of the recovery period.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Planning

Um, remember when I adamantly said I was not going to do ANY darn planning AT ALL until August??

I lied. Big time.

My dear friend, Kristen, I'm blaming it all on you!! See, yesterday this fabulous 1st grade teacher posted her year-long plan. And I just had to look at it...and holy bananas. I had to make one. And since today was the ONLY day this week that I haven't had anything on my agenda....I did just that. Spent way too much of my day on it but oh well.

I've never done a year-long plan before and I have to say...this is awesome. Because even though I know it probably will get changed/moved around/modified, at least I can glance at this and know where I want to be. And I love the internet....because I do not have my hands on our new Reading Street program but the district literacy coordinator sent everyone the demo account access so I can at least preview (and I found out I can actually DOWNLOAD the lesson plans--already made ones....hello!). Additionally, I do not have my hands on a Social Studies set for my new grade....but I found everything I needed online to at least allow me to get an outline of my year done. And since I taught it at 5th, I at least know the routine and setup of the lessons so I could determine about how long each unit would take when I only teach science and social studies twice a week each. 

So yeah. I spent a couple hours working my year-long plan and I am very pleased. The coolest part is, in just a few hours, I have my whole year out in front of me which is going to make daily planning a million times easier as I ease back into teaching 2nd grade. There are LOTS of gaps in the writing space because I only filled in what we HAVE to do based on last year's curriculum guide. That means I am going to have lots of time to do some fun writing projects with my students. Imagine that! Plus I don't know what my new team usually does in those "down" weeks. I am going to take this with me when we plan together the first time this year (probably August) and see if it matches anything like what they usually do. If not, well, we'll deal with that if and when we have to!

I also didn't fill in my read alouds yet because I know there are some good ones associated with our new reading program and I want to balance those along with some novels that I want to read with the kiddos. So excited!


And in the vain of being uber positive....I got all this done the first week of vacation and if I never look at it again before August 20th, it won't hurt me one bit because I'm already well ahead. yay!


Color me a HUGE geek!

I was looking through our assessment calendar for next year (sad that we have to have a calendar JUST to keep all of the assessments straight!) and realized there is no way in the world I would even CONSIDER doing anything but a froggy theme for 2011-2012.

Why? 

Because 2012 is LEAP YEAR. Funny thing, last time I taught 2nd grade, it was leap year too....and we had SO MUCH FUN doing frog-related "leap day" stuff. 

The smallest things make me giggle like I'm 12.

Love it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Busy bees!

It's Wednesday of week 1 and I feel like I've been running around like a crazy woman! All in good ways, fortunately.

Now that I don't have a full busy day of school to get in the way of the other things I need/want to do, I have been able to throw myself full-throttle into the mortgage process. I forgot how time-consuming it is. Statements, appraisals, inspections, and don't forget the fact that you sign your name about 2,000 times throughout the process too! (Good thing I like my signature, eh?) Yesterday I secured the final financing we need and we're just waiting on the appraisal to be done, hopefully this week. We have insurance quotes and all of that good stuff coming as well. So much paper! Thankfully, most of this the lender is willing to take through email so I can save some trees.


Aside from that, I haven't done much except clean up around the house, do laundry and read a lot. We've been spending some time outside on the deck and porch swing and just being together. It's very relaxing and nice (even with all the running around I seem to be doing). Middle Child, who I am determined to teach to read this summer despite her dyslexia, keeps asking me when we're going to start "my book". [The program I am going to use to help her read requires the student use a diction book to keep track of their work and progress.] It's amusing to me that only a few days into vacation, she is vying to get into this program.


I also found out the other day that my really good friend, who was displaced from her school, is teaching 2nd grade next year also. I'm really excited about that because even though we're on complete opposite sides of town, we'll be able to trade notes about the new reading program and maybe even do some fun activities between our classes (as I am on one side of town and she will be on the other). Very cool stuff. She's nervous because her school is in 'the ghetto' BUT it is a specialty school with a fabulous principal and I think she will be just fine. 


So far I have been really good about not doing anything really school-related. It feels nice to just set that stuff aside for a little while. Although I am reading this book:

So far, I am really digging it. Simple yet profound. My kind of stuff. I actually bought the 3-5 version and then a week later, Mrs. Principal dropped the bomb that I was teaching 2nd. While I'm sure I could've adapted the activities myself if I really wanted to, I'm glad I went ahead and bought the K-2 version because it has a brain song and other activities really geared for the small fries. I read through the first three lessons yesterday and I am actually already thinking of where I can put up the poster and other reference materials for this in my new classroom.




Monday, June 13, 2011

Productivity

I'm not sure productivity should be allowed in the first couple of weeks of summer break! 

I had to, at least, however, update my classroom website to reflect my grade change. I didn't spend a ton of time on it and it isn't nearly done...but I'm glad with what I have (just the front page and the student pages were done today). I actually found this picnic/ant set at ThistleGirl Designs in the 'archives' section. It's cute even if it is one of her first works. I'm pretty pleased with it.

Front page

Student Page



Oh Summer, I love you!

I really love summer! A former colleague of mine, from another school, sent me a FaceBook and asked me if I was going to work summer school. Big fat NOPE! 

Yesterday was wonderful! We went back up to our cabin to have the inspection done and spent some time there. I discovered that I can make calls on my cell but I can't get on Facebook, can only get or receive email if I  stand in a certain spot in the yard, etc. This is not upsetting actually. Part of the purpose of a cabin in the woods, is to "get away from it all", right??

The Oldest, The Littles and I walked down to the beach area. It's about a 5 minute trot. Not too bad at all. It is very quiet there and absolutely gorgeous.


There is a small playground area and it appears that they are putting up a small pavilion. We get to enjoy all of this as part of the association (and it is very cheap to be part of the association -- I spend more on diet coke per year than I will on the HOA fees here!). It was so quiet and relaxing and I can't wait to really get up there and spend some quality time together as a family (made easier by the fact that no one can run off to their phones or internet because we won't have it!).


We determined it's really only about a 90 minute trip. Perfect. On Sunday nights, we can load everyone up, hop in the car and drive home. The Littles can put PJs on before we leave and just go right to bed when we get home. Especially for the summer when they don't have to get up early for school, it'll be fantastic. Even on the few weekends when we do have school the following day, they can shower at the cabin, put on PJs and even sleep in the car on the way home if they want to.

This is what we get to see on our way home....beautiful!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The First Day

I spent my first day of Summer vacation sleeping in. Waaaay later than I have in a very long time. Do I dare even admit how late??

10:15!!

Don't hate me. In my defense, I was actually up much earlier because somehow, I set my alarm last night. What.The.Heck?! I will just blame it on habit! I vaguely remember waking to the alarm and saying out loud "what the hell?" and shutting it off before rolling over to go back to sleep. 

After sleeping in gloriously late, which I'm sure will not happy too many more times this summer, I actually had a pretty productive day. I helped The Husband install a new window on the 2nd floor. That was not so fun as I am terribly afraid of heights!

I returned nearly $35 in bottles and cans (why, yes we DO drink a bit too much Diet Coke in this house -- but hey it was over two months' worth!) and then went grocery shopping.

I got some sorting and organizing done upstairs in preparation forr my soon-to-be more-fabulous-than-before office area. [The Husband has been remodeling the den area to make it into a bigger office than our old one. I have been doing work and such from the dining room table for about a year because of other construction projects taking place upstairs as well. I am very excited to finally move into my new office on the 20th when the carpet is installed.]

We also attended a grad party today. Quite a bit for the first day of relaxation, no? Ha! And it is currently 10:23 p.m. as I type this and what am I doing? Homework for my enrichment courses! It's not as hard as the homework I had when working on my master's but it is homework nonetheless. The last two weeks I have really slacked on these classes as I finished up the school year. Thus, it is catch up time.

I don't mind really. Two more weeks and these classes will wrap up as well. Since they are enrichment, they aren't super hard or anything. It just takes some time to go through the lessons and apply what I am getting from them. I would rather spend part of my Saturday night working on it than spend the rest of my week on it!

Yesterday was The Oldest's first day of summer. She had the nerve to tell me that she was BORED. How can you be bored with 24 hours of freedom when it's your first day?? Silly girl. I am not bored and I'm sure I won't get bored this summer. I have so much I want to do, in and amongst my plan to relax and rejuvenate, that I'm sure I won't have TIME to feel bored.

How're you spending YOUR Saturday night??

Friday, June 10, 2011

We made it!!

Today was the last day of school. I had 16 of 22 kiddos show up, which I thought was actually pretty good. On half days like that, the students eat in the classroom since dismissal is so early (they feed the children before they go home because so many are on free/reduced lunch).

At any rate, I let them watch Home Alone since clearly we weren't going to get any academics done after yesterday's graduation!! I was moving a few things and sorting out my cabinet as they watched. The little sneaks got together and made this and then set it on my desk when I wasn't looking:

Thank you for everything you teach us and get in our case we now you care of us and you care that we don't get in trouble in 6th grade. Sincely, Your Class.

Clearly I need to help this child with his grammar still (*wink*) but it was totally unexpected and so heartfelt. I love it. One of my students kept asking me if he could get something from his locker. All I was thinking was "what could you possibly need from there?!" Finally I said yes because I knew that he would just keep asking me.

Imagine my surprise when his "something" was a box of chocolate and a card for me! This was from my student who made a 3 year gain in his reading while in my class. On the inside of the card, he wrote "Thank you Mrs. Sunny for all the help that you give me. I will never forget you because you are the best teacher ever". Awww.


Let me tell you it was SO hard to work on my CA-60s this afternoon. With very few exceptions I will miss this class so much. They truly have no idea how much they helped heal me after last year. They gave me so much hope, joy and faith in myself as a teacher again and there is just no way I could really thank them for that. I am not going to disappear from their lives. I will visit them next year at Middle School and see how they are doing and if they need help. These children need to realize that just because they leave a school doesn't mean they leave the resources behind. I actually got teary eyed a couple of times as I completed my files this afternoon thinking about how much some of these kids have changed. The little boy who penned the letter that the class signed hated school when he came to me. I could tell. He had a terrible attitude about learning. But I gave him a purpose and helped him realize why it is hard for him to learn (he's an ELL with some language barrier issues still). Once he really understood what he needed to do to help himself, he changed. It is so awesome to have been part of that journey for him.

This is what teaching is supposed to be like. Knowing that no matter what the morons in politics say/think/do, that you are in the classroom busting your behind every day to make a difference for these kids. Two boys, on their way out today, stepped back into the room and said, "Thank you for everything, Mrs. Sunny". So cute and sweet. It  made every bump in the road totally worth it!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Um, where did the week go?!

Time does fly when you're having fun, right?

I can NOT believe it is already Thursday! After tomorrow, I am home free! At least 70 days to do whatever I darn well please (minus the 5 days this summer that I am involved in either training or learning institute work).

It seems like 2 weeks ago that I visited 2nd grade. It was only Monday. 4 days ago! This week has FLOWN much faster than I thought it would. I really have kept my kids focused on academics too. A lot of other teachers have gone to movies and other busywork type of things. My kiddos did a full day's worth of stuff through yesterday. Today we finished up a summary activity and then I let them watch a movie. I figured they kind of deserve it! They were astounded. One child even said "but Mrs. Sunny, you never let us watch movies during the middle of the day!" (And I don't!)

Today we had our 5th grade graduation ceremony. The kids did such a great job. I am a huge stickler on being proud of who you are and showing your best self, especially when others are watching. I kept telling them I didn't care if every other 5th grader in the school was talking, we weren't going to. And they were fabulous! Some of the other 5th graders were embarrassing. I was glad they weren't in my class. Every one of my students did an amazing job. After the ceremony was over, one of my WORST students gave me a bouquet of flowers! I could not believe it. I even said "aww, [student name], I knew you loved me after all!" and gave him a huge hug. I also made him promise me that he'd go to 6th grade and give it the effort I KNOW he is capable of. I had SO many pictures of me taken with kiddos today. It feels so awesome to end this year on such a positive note. I told all of my kids that regardless of the fact that they are no longer going to be students at our school that if they need anything next year, they know where to find me! 

The students are allowed to go home with their parents after the ceremony if they want to and I ended up with 4 kiddos for the last half hour of the day. Such a hard life I have, huh? I felt bad that one of my kids had NO ONE come to the ceremony. Very sad. My very worst student didn't even come. He was absent yesterday too. Is it mean to admit that I was kind of glad he wasn't there?? It meant he couldn't ruin the ceremony for everyone else who has worked so hard this year. I am hopeful maybe he won't come tomorrow either since it's only a half day.


Yesterday after school one of the 3rd grade teachers asked me if I was willing to change my classroom assignment for next year. One of our displaced teachers was notified yesterday that the teacher who is retiring had her paperwork finally go through and thus, she got the right to that job. So she is moving from 1st to 3rd grade. The other 3rd grade teacher asked me if I was willing to trade classrooms to take the room that is currently the third grade retiree's room so that the new 3rd grade teacher would be next door to her. I said it made zero difference to me what room I am in since I am changing floors anyway.

The good news about being so darn flexible is, I was asking Mrs. Retiree about her room and after school she kind of showed me around. She is leaving me an ENTIRE CABINET of books on CD complete with a listening station inside AND a small bookshelf full of books that someone gave her years ago and she said I could just have! There are lots of other things she is just planning to leave and told me to do as I will with them! She's my new best friend! She's leaving her mailboxes which are WAY better than the brand new ones that the school bought me this year and a bunch of other stuff. I am so happy that I decided to agree to change rooms. I don't think that the recalled teacher realizes the treasure she just gave up!!

The only downside is that it means I am going to have to spend 2-3 days in my new room sorting, organizing and figuring out what I need to keep and what needs to go. Some of the stuff will go to the new 3rd grade room down the hall because it is 3rd grade specific but otherwise everything in that room is mine. Very, very cool. Being flexible does have it's benefits!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Countdown to 2nd!

Only 2.5 days of school left with kidlets. This is made worse by the fact that it was 85 degrees yesterday and 93 degrees today! It's JUNE. I can only imagine how freaking HOT it will be in July/August! It isn't really the heat that's so bad, it's the humidity. I hate it when I walk outside and instantly feel sticky and gross.


Yesterday I had a full-day sub so I could do a "visitation". We are allowed 2 per year and Mrs. Principal actually really encourages us to use those days, especially since it counts even if we do it within our own building. Bonus! Even better is that she encourages us to take this time and do a "visitation" but also to *winkwink* get some things done that need to be done. She especially encouraged me to do this because I am making the jump back to 2nd grade but also because I have to pack up my whole room to change floors.

One of our intervention teachers, who is no longer doing intervention being that it's the end of the year, subbed for me. It was great! The kiddos know her and she knows them and she doesn't put up with ANYTHING. At least once a day when she's around me I have to marvel at the fact that this girl doesn't have a classroom of her own. She is freaking amazing.

I spent the first hour of my day actually observing in 2nd grade. I forgot how much fun 2nd graders can be. While I don't even delusion myself that 2nd grade will be all peaches and roses, it was so cute to see how innocent they are. Even moreso when I saw they are doing stuff that MY kids have to do in 5th grade (and I keep telling them, you guys, this is 2nd grade stuff!!). While they were working on some math stuff, I sat with a few kiddos just to see what they were working on. They had those rule boxes that give you an IN and an OUT and you have to apply (and sometimes figure out) the rule. The rule was x10 and they were stumped. So two little girls I sat with, who are the cutest kids, were AMAZED when I showed them the "trick" that when you multiply by ten, you just take the first number and add a zero. They thought I was a certifiable genius! They even pinky swore me that when they went to 3rd grade and already knew that trick, they would tell everyone it was because Mrs. Sunny taught them. Haha! It was absolutely adorable.

Then I went down to Mrs. 2/3 Split's class, even though we are all 99.9% convinced she'll be 1st grade next year. I'm SO glad I popped in there. She is phenomenal. I copied a lot of stuff from her walls and behavior chart onto a piece of paper. She has an amazingly well behaved class -- they clearly knew all of the routines because she was working with a small group and everyone else was at their seats working and except for her group, it was dead silent in that room. I can't get my 5th graders to be that quiet! It was really quite amazing and even though I hadn't originally planned to observe in her class, I'm glad I did because even in a 30 minute observation, I learned a TON.

I spent the rest of the morning on paperwork. Catching up on stuff that needed to go home sooner rather than later. It was great having that time during the day because then I didn't have to take it all home! After lunch, I actually worked in my room, packing up and getting some other sorting and organizing things done. Ms. Interventionist was fabulous about keeping the kids on track with her instead of paying a lick of attention to me. I got so much done and I am really glad that I took advantage of Mrs. Principal's offer to take that visitation day. 



This morning we took the 5th graders up to Middle School for their tour. A bunch of my kids are really scared to go there because Middle School does not have a good reputation at all (they have 6 security guards for 500 kids -- it's ridiculous). I was kind of curious though because as we walked through in small groups, there were a lot of classroom doors open and we didn't see anyone completely out of control or being crazy. So I'm not sure if its hype that gives the school it's reputation or if it really is that bad. 

I reiterated to my class, however, that if they have kicked butt all year to get where they are and they struggle in 6th grade, I am always here. I had to be kind of a bitch to the 3 Stooges who on June 7 still behave as it if was September 7 and say, if you haven't put effort in this year, I am washing my hands of you come Friday at 11:20. Maybe that makes me mean but honestly, I would go to the end of the earth for 19 of my 22 students because even though some are irritating sometimes, those 19 children have busted their butts all year and I don't want to see them do poorly next year. That transition from 1 teacher to 6 is hard (I remember it well *shudder*). I will be there for them, even if it is just as an ear. I refuse to do that for kids who've had me at their discretion all year and decided to act like jackasses instead.


This afternoon, the students had their last music class of the year and I got a bunch more things set in my classroom. With the exception of a very few things on one side of my room and the area around my desk, I'm actually almost done. I couldn't stay late today and can't stay late tomorrow due to appointments after school but I plan to say Thursday after school until everything is pretty much done. If any kiddos show up on Friday for the half day, we're just going to watch a movie! There is no point in trying to make them do anything else (especially since their graduation is the day before).

Tomorrow afternoon, I am rewarding my June/July birthday kiddos with a treat and letting my fabulous friends relax and just play games and have some downtime tomorrow to end the day. The naughties don't get to participate. Sorry but if you can't straighten up at this point in the game, you just don't deserve the rewards the other kids get.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Uh oh!

My vow to not touch school-related anything until August just went out the window.

Because the literacy coordinator in our district just emailed us all the demo password for the new Reading Street program. This means I instantly have access to EVERYTHING in our reading curriculum online, at my convenience whenever I want to log in.

I very much doubt I am going to be able to refrain from checking it out in my soon-to-be found spare time!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Not-So-Lazy Sunday

Oh, bloggy friends, I wish I could tell you that I am sitting here with a margarita, my feet in the sand and basking in the sun....but then I'd be a huge liar.

What I am actually doing is much less exciting. Report Cards. Gross!

I do not like our report card program very much. It is supposedly based on standards but for science and social studies, it really isn't. There isn't really a way to track any progress as a traditional grade book does not mean much with the way our report cards are done so it's really frustrating to do report cards. You have to stop and think about what you know about each kiddo and it can be a pain. Fortunately, I am almost finished!!


I have a HUGE to do list that I need to do today. I brought home some of my 5th grade teaching materials. I am a huge believer in NOT hoarding stuff away in my classroom. It'd drive me bananas. I think I am just a bit too OCD to be able to handle the clutter. The only issue with this is, of course, that I have to go through everything, make sure the totes and tubs are labeled and put up into the storage loft in my barn otherwise I'll fret about it (hello OCD!). Plus I have totally slacked on homework for my enrichment classes with all of the goings-on at work recently. So I have to do that too.

I would much rather be on the above mentioned beach with my toes in the sand and a margarita in my hand. Only 5 more days until summer vacation!!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Score!

I love to shop. It boggles my mind whenever anyone tells me they DON'T like shopping. First of all, my fabulous Really Good Stuff order came today. I really love their stuff. It's cute, colorful and really supplement what I am trying to accomplish. I can't wait to use the games with my kiddos next year. I am already thinking how fun they will be to include in my "Word Work" section of the Daily 5 that I definitely want to implement in my 2nd grade classroom.

Today, The Husband, The Youngest and myself went to do some shopping. The Husband has been remodeling our upstairs a room at a time. First the former "bonus room" was made into a TV room, then he redid The Oldest bedroom (new carpet, paint, window), then he gutted and remodeled the bathroom which was so minuscule it was almost a crime to call it a full bath. Most recently he gutted the den area to make it into a formal office/computer room area. We picked up the window today and are just waiting on our special order carpet to arrive and then we can [finally] move everything in. [I am dying to get my office area back!! It has been downstairs for awhile during the remodels and I want all of my stuff together in one spot again!]

After we picked up the window, we went to the new Salvation Army store that opened up across from the store we bought the window at. I am a huge thrift store fan and wanted to see what they had. First of all, the store is ginormous with a huge selection and a lot of great stuff. I bought 11 VHS tapes for my new classroom! I haven't had much of a movie selection for those rainy days or super cold days when the kidlets aren't let outside. 

I got the following videos for $27 out the door!
  • An American Tale: Fievel goes West
  • Madeline (animated)
  • Madeline (live action)
  • Home Alone (original)
  • Aladdin
  • The Lion King
  • Free Willy
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Melody Time
  • Pinocchio
  • The Sword in the Stone
I was quite impressed with that. I don't always let the kids watch movies if we stay inside and I do have a nice collection of recess games so this will be a good balance so that if we are inside at lunch they can do a movie and at the other recess, they can play games. 


I am not going to let my misguided principal make me feel like I didn't kick ass this year. I know I did and my students know I did. My whole district is full of incompetent idiots who just don't get it. I always say, "Those who can, teach. Those who can't, go into administration!"

Friday, June 3, 2011

What.Ever.

I'm so glad yesterday was awesome because today was not. 

It started with my evaluation feedback meeting with Mrs. Principal. I have been observed, evaluated, performed demo lessons and more in my 5 years in the classroom. While I have certainly had lessons that have flopped, I have NEVER had an administrator completely rip apart an observation lesson.

Mrs. Principal did not like my writing lesson (letters to younger students providing advice) and she thought my reflection was weak. I was immediately offended by those comments because a) it was the day after a 3-day weekend and b) she's had since Spring Break to do a final observation and she waited until 2 weeks before school is out and then expected to see the most stellar lesson ever. The lesson was not horrible. It wasn't the greatest lesson I have ever taught but the kids were engaged and they had great ideas. She said too many kids sat and did nothing. DUH. Welcome to my life honey. Try dealing with that apathy all year long! 

Then she told me that my class had the worst MAP scores in the grade in terms of the number of children who made benchmark. She said Mrs. CT and Miss New Teacher both had better score. First of all, don't compare us. It is not a contest. Secondly, I am not them, they are not me and we don't have the same kids. Comparisons in this regard are like comparing apples and oranges. Thirdly, we have been told all year long that the district is measuring growth on that test. How far did they go from where they started. She told me that no, they are looking at the final benchmark number. So the fact that I got kiddos up to a 4th grade level who came to me at a 1st grade level doesn't matter. Is that not the most asinine thing you have ever heard? 

I told a few of my colleagues about that and they were pissed. If the district is going to measure only by benchmarks, we'll all be fired by the end of next year. There is NO WAY that you can expect every kid to benchmark. It is unrealistic. You also can't blame ME if they get to 5th grade at a 1st grade level and only end up at a 4th grade level. THREE YEARS of growth is a LOT!

It ruined my whole day. I felt like crap about myself as a teacher all day. It's why I hate comparisons so much. We are not the same! My kids have busted their asses all year and now you are going to say that progress doesn't matter??? This will be the number one reason that teachers will leave the profession. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fun Day

This morning we took the 5th graders on our end-of-year field trip. We just went bowling at a local alley about 4 blocks from our school. It is actually a 2 story bowling alley which is kind of fun.

All three of the 5th grade teachers left our naughties behind. We all agreed that this was a trip to celebrate the HARD WORK and perseverance many of these children have displayed this year. I had three students from my class who could not come. One ended up suspended for today anyway and that left only two who had to stay behind with work in another classroom. One of my girls, who doesn't like to do anything fun (field day, etc), went home sick. I know she just wanted to avoid going. I think she might be allergic to fun. Very sad.

At any rate, my other 18 kiddos and I went and had a great time. Because the young lady mentioned above pulled out so late, I bowled in her place. It was so fun. The 4 students on my lane with me were hilarious. They cheered each other on and patted each other on the back. It was really nice to see how encouraging they can be toward each other. It was a fairly cheap trip and we told the children they could bring extra money to buy snacks if they wanted to. Many of my students asked me if I wanted a diet coke. ♥ They know me so well! I did not want them to spend their money on me so I politely declined each time. Then one little stinker bought one anyway and brought it over. My boys were so offended because they had all asked me and I said no thank you, then this young lady did and they thought I said yes to her because she's a girl. I made her tell them she did it all on her own! 

We had so much fun. Unfortunately it was really hard to get them to come off their sugar high for the rest of the day and try to focus on anything, but we did the best we could. I am so glad I got to just spend some fun time with my students. They deserve it after working so hard. The team and I also decided to organize and impromptu game of Kick-Ball between our three classes next Wednesday after lunch. I think they will love it and they deserve to have some fun!



Mrs. Principal gave us our room assignments for next year. I will be on the 2nd floor because of the grade level switch, but what is interesting is that she assigned Mrs. 2/3 Split to be on the first floor...which is only for K-1. So that means there must be some discussions about not having that split. With our current numbers, if we had a split, the 2nd and 3rd grade classes would have about 23-24 students each. Considering they have been telling us to expect at least 30, I can't believe they're going to let that fly. I've always thought that Mrs. 2/3 Split would end up in 1st grade (and with the current floor plan she will be in a 1st grade room). Without that split, all of the 2nd and 3rd grades would be at about 27-28. Not ideal but it is the numbers they have right now and they've made it work. So I'm willing to bet that's what is going to happen.

I am going to be in Mrs. 2/3 Split's current room. I feel kind of bad, like I"m just invading her turf but I have to remind myself I didn't request a change! I'm glad to at least know where my room will be. My bump out space will be shared with a 3rd grade teacher who also has a fascination for frogs so it should be interesting. She has a ton of stuff in her room (90 boxes of stuff were moved over to our school at the start of the year that were just hers!) so I am not even betting on moving anything to my new room until the new school year gets ready to begin. I am taking many things home with me that I won't be using next year and the rest will be stored in tubs or crates on the shelves in my current room so they are easily moved in August when I come back to school.


I wish tomorrow could be as fun as today was....but I have my final observation feedback session (oh joy!) and I will probably stay at school an hour or so trying to pack, clean and sort through some of my stuff so I can start hauling some of it home. I am super busy next week (staff meeting Monday, and appointments right after school Tuesday and Wednesday) so I will probably stay until about 5 or so tomorrow, then stay late next Thursday so I can get everything set and done. I plan to be DONE next Friday. I do not want to be showing up again the week after school gets out to finish packing or moving anything. If I'm really lucky, if I get my stuff labeled ahead of time, and since we are not hosting summer school this year, I might be able to get the custodians to move my totes for me and then I just have to show up in August!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Paperwork at 10 p.m. is WRONG

Fortunately, it is good paperwork. Paperwork that will let me get into my cabin sooner rather than later!

Today was a very good day at school. We had field day in the morning and my students were field day helpers this afternoon. Our PE teacher graced ME with that extra time because we had 3 PE classes taken away due to no school on Fridays and things of that nature. I am ever so grateful to that wonderful man for giving me those two glorious hours. And the students had a blast which makes it all worth it!

Today is also The Oldest's big 1-6. Oh.Em.Gee. How did that happen? That means I might just be getting....old. There. I said it. Although, as I am super fond of telling The Husband, I am younger than he is!! (Still on the early side of the 30s thankyouverymuch.) 

Due to partying it up for her (and embarrassing her like crazy at dinner when the waitress made her stand up in front of everyone and then announced it was her Sweet 16 ♥) and all of that....I am putting together my paperwork to push through with my loan now. At 10 p.m. When I should totally be showered, pj'd up and quite honestly, snoozing!

I actually have quite a bit of energy right now which will probably not be so good when I do crawl into bed! Hopefully all of this fabulous energy will follow me tomorrow as we go bowling for our end-of-year trip. I'm excited to just spend a morning with my lovelies (my 3 naughties who can't get it together are not going) and have some fun with them.

Six and a half days left. It seems like SO far away...yet the days are flying by!