Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wowzers!

Do you remember the old Inspector Gadget cartoons from the 80s? Whenever anything really amazing (usually amazingly bad) happened, the Inspector would say "Wowzers!"

That's kind of how I was feeling earlier today. Even without changing grade levels, everyone feels overwhelmed because of the new reading program and how different it is for us. I just feel overwhelmed because things are SO different from what I've done in the past.

At one point we were meeting and our fabulous Lit Coaches asked for a minute with our team...and by the time they were done, I literally said "I am quitting tomorrow". Too much to process and too many things happening/changing at once. It's hard not to feel like you don't know what you're doing.

Fortunately, Mrs. M, whom I love dearly, realized I was feeling really overwhelmed and offered me her help. We talked for just a few minutes and I decided NOT to quit *wink* Seriously, she looked at my schedule, which was overwhelming me a bit and with only a couple of suggestions, she said it was great. She also told me that her and Mrs. H (the other literacy coach) know that I will be a-okay because [in her words], you are strong and you are stickler for routines. It made me feel a lot better. I try to remember my words of wisdom from Awakened....it's okay to feel overwhelmed but you gotta pick yourself up and move on because it isn't going to just go away. Being negative isn't going to help. 

At the end of the day, I was talking with Miss W, one of my teammates, and we all decided to try to plug our literacy time into the afternoon. First of all because there's a large enough uninterrupted chunk of time there but also because after our MAP testing is finished, we will be getting support from an interventionist. It just makes sense to be doing reading while our lowest kids are getting intervention support. Reading Street says you're supposed to do the Get Set to Read part, then the stations/groups, then the Comprehension piece. Depending on when my interventionist comes, I'm doing my groups while they have my intervention kids. It just makes sense!


I went on a wild shopping spree after work (which I am sure I will regret later!) and I feel much, much more prepared. Tomorrow we have a meeting (ugh!) for about an hour and then the rest of the day in our rooms. I am planning to hit the ground running: I have folders to finish, newsletters to copy, LESSON PLANS TO WRITE (that might be kind of important lol), copies to make and more. 

My mom, bless her heart, took my kids until Friday (her offer) so I am going to stay late tomorrow and get a bunch of stuff done at school. I do not plan to spend my last weekend of freedom working! I'll do a bit of stuff Friday from home but come Friday night when the kidlets come home, no school stuff allowed.


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woo Hoo!

Despite not physically bringing anything home with me last night, I feel like I got a lot accomplished. I *think* that I have figured out a way to incorporate my SSR block into my Reading Block so I can add in a 3rd small group each day.

Last year we started doing DDI Strategies to help students boost their efforts with the MAP testing. There are two tests: Primary (K-1) and Goals (2-5). Well, our district decided that 2nd grade should still take the primary. Which means all of the DDI stuff I have is not fully matched up for 2nd grade. Gross! I KNEW there had to be a way to work with the 2-5 DDI and still help the children to get used to what they will be seeing once they go to 3rd grade and do take the Goals test.

Last night I printed all of the cue cards (not that many pages) and aligned them. Then I downloaded all of the ROK vocabulary cards to my iPad so I could shuffle through them at my leisure...and sure enough there are TONS of vocab words and Quick Shots (which are quick little activities to reinforce a skill) that match the Primary stuff. I wouldn't use them with 1st graders but 2nd graders should be alright with a LOT of modeling. So I'm excited to share that with my team today.

Additionally, last year in 5th we did a ton with "Target Tabbing" which is where you find areas in your book that fit a strategy you've worked on previously and the children do a quick activity with them. It's hard to explain without a visual (which I can't upload because of copyright -- sorry!). I will try to complete one and show a picture. Target Tabbing is very easy and helped my kidlets stay focused last year.

Plus overall in our school we had 57% of our students meet or exceed their growth goal last year so I KNOW this stuff works. We kicked it in the butt last year and really pushed out with our goals. I had 77% of my students overall meet or exceed their goals last year! This stuff WORKS. I was determined to find a way to use it with 2nd grade to help them get the most help to process and understand what they need to know.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Getting there

I made the choice to NOT stay after school today as well as to leave everything at school. Sure I have tons to do but I need a little time to process. We got our tentative class lists today and I have 23 right now. I say "tentative" and "right now" because a) we have a super transient population and b) we have no idea if our split is going to go to a 1st grade classroom or not. If the split is dissolved and all of the children on our present lists show up, each 2nd grade would be at 27. Not great, not horrible. I had 34 kids last year until December so 27 would be cake even though smaller is obviously better. Our 1st grades are sitting at 29, 30 and 30 which is crazy. It's not ideal at 2nd but it is a crime at first.


We spent some more time today going through some Reading Street programming. Mrs. A, who is now my personal hero, created these wonderful signs for our Literacy Stations. I love them. She's so creative! I do believe that tomorrow we will be spending more time, as a grade level, looking at how we are going to best implement Reading Street from the get-go and talk about common times for our schedules if at all possible.

We don't have our computer/library schedule right now and Mrs. Principal talked about keeping computers the same as last year but that schedule would not work for me if I wanted to do literacy in the morning (which I do). So we'll see how that goes. I'm not sure why they don't just put up a schedule and allow people to sign up for the time they want. It would be easier, especially since schedules have changed and people are in different grades/spots.


Even though I did not bring anything home with me today, I think I am going to try to work a bit on my schedule again. One of our Lit Coaches gave us a great visual of how she used to move kids in groups when she was in the classroom. It's too busy for me visually but I like how the concept works so I may try to do something like that. Reading Street has 6 stations and she used 8 with her system (from something else). I am thinking that I could easily add SSR into that time frame which would give me an hour for groups a day. At my current numbers (if the split isn't dissolved), I would meet with 7-8 kids per group. Not ideal but probably nothing I can do to get around that.

I'm just glad I'm not the only person feeling like a chicken with my head cut off. In some ways I wish school would just start already so I'd have to jump in and figure it out....but then again, I know I also need a bit of processing time and then it'll all be fine. I have a good team who, so far, are supporting me and helping me to feel welcome and like I'm not a total moron, so that's good. I just hope if the district is going to make changes they do it sooner rather than later for the sake of the kids.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

And my head spins.....And a favor

You know the drill....you get to school for that first PD, you hear a million things and think "oh this isn't so bad"...but then you get home and it all starts to process and you panic.

My colleagues, bless their hearts, forget that Mrs. Sunny is not a lower elementary teacher normally. I've only done it once...and it has changed ten-fold since then. I'm a big kid teacher. Or at least I was. Part of today I was just sitting there with my head spinning because I had no idea what they were talking about! Fortunately when I confessed my ignorance, they backtracked and helped me to not feel like a 6 year old sitting in on a molecular biology class. 

We got our specials schedules at the end of the day today and I got super lucky -- I got almost the exact same schedule as last year. I have a special first thing in the morning and one at the end of the day, those are my two favorites! I don't know why but I feel like I get a TON more done when I have specials in that slot. I have my afternoon one on Tuesday, just like last year and my morning one is on Thursday rather than Friday this year because that's when our consultants are in our building. And since I teach lower el this year, my recess time is in the afternoon and thus on Tuesdays the kids will have recess from 1:45-2:05, then have about 10 minutes for bathroom and packing up before they go to PE. They'll be dismissed from PE because our PE teacher rules. It's a very good schedule. I'm glad I got it again, even if it is just a little different.


Also, recently someone shared the CUTEST homework cover sheet and I thought I downloaded it for myself but I can't find it. It's driving me insane! I'm a huge advocate, at least at the little grades, to send home homework in a packet with a short newsletter each week. My families liked that a lot when I taught 2nd before and I want to do it again. I'm just not creative enough to make my own cover sheet. If you have any idea who may have shared that uber cut sheet, please let me know! Thanks.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

And so it begins!

Tomorrow is the first official teacher day. Three days of meetings this week. My least favorite part of teaching (well that and all of the paperwork!). Although I have to give mad props to Mrs. Principal that she doesn't mess around when it comes to PD. Last year I felt like the information was useful and relevant. She already sent us the agenda for this week and again, I feel like the days are full of information I will actually benefit from. It's always nice to have a PD feeling like you didn't just waste your time (which sadly was SO true at my other schools).

We spent the weekend at our cabin and as we were packing it up to leave today, I turned to The Husband and said I didn't want to go home because that meant back to reality (read: work) and I'm just not ready yet! He always says stuff about having summers off and whatnot so even though he didn't say anything, I'm sure he was mentally telling me to stifle it since he's had to work all summer, OUTSIDE, in the blazing heat. Better him than me, that's for sure!

Tonight I am printing and laminating a few more things for school to get myself ready. Hopefully tomorrow or Tuesday we'll get our specials schedule so I can start plugging in things for the first week of school. I hesitate to do too much planning before I know our PBiS timeline (assemblies and stuff) because I don't want to have to push too much stuff around those first few days. Getting a routine set and ready to go first thing is SO important to me. 

My kidlets are spending a night at my mom's later this week since we'll be at the cabin all weekend. That will give me a day at home to finalize my plans and whatnot for the first week of school so I can enjoy the long weekend without thinking of school! :)

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Friday, August 26, 2011

What a week!!

Whew! I am EXHAUSTED. I spent more time in my classroom this week than I was originally planning to. I am tired and a bit overwhelmed. I do know, however, that come next week, when we're piled with TONS of new stuff during our 3 days of "professional development", I am going to be thankful my room is ready. I am not going to have to stay after school because my room is set. I have a few things still to do (there's ALWAYS something to do, isn't there?!) but those can easily be done during lunch. I do not plan to go out to lunch next week as Back to School is also going to include Back to Diet. I have been SO bad this summer, I gained at least 15 lbs. Eek! 

Today I brought all of my kids in with me and we got my library books sorted and ready to go, put up my new bookshelf and even scored a big book stand and reading cart courtesy of my pal Mrs. A. Woo hoo! I made the executive decision to move my crate seats over to my whole group area (still just waiting on my rug to define that space). I would have had to have the custodian lower the U-shaped table all the way in order for my students to be able to sit on the seats and reach the table -- but then I would have been too tall for the table. So I moved them over. I think I like them better in the whole group area anyway. 6 kiddos can sit on the crates each day and we can rotate throughout the week.

I feel really good about how much I got done in my classroom. I also accidentally on purpose left my plan book and my TEs at school. Oops. I guess that means I have to take the weekend off. Darn. (You do get the sarcasm, don't you?) Monday is early enough to start worrying about lesson plans and all of that good stuff. 

I'm SO sad that summer is over! I would really just like 2-3 more weeks of relaxation. We are headed to our cabin tonight after The Oldest's game is done. We'll have to come home Sunday afternoon so I can do the grocery shopping thing and make sure we're all set for the week since I won't be on my own time anymore. How did summer go sooo quick??

Enjoy your weekend!

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three for Thursday

Once again, I'm hooking up with Blog Hoppin for Teacher Week. This time it's to share 3 favorites. Like most teachers it's sooooo hard to choose a favorite!!

Favorite Font:

I have lots of fonts that I really, really like. But I'd say my current favorite is 


Favorite Blog:
It's super hard to choose just ONE! There are so many that are super awesome and helpful. If you really twist my arm, I'd have to say Clutter-Free Classroom. How she does all she does on top of being a mom of 3 (including twins) never ceases to amaze me.

Clutter-Free Classroom

Favorite Online Resource:

Again, this was a super hard choice. I guess I would have to say Amazon.com because I spend SO much money there every year simply because if there is a teaching resource I want/need,  I can probably get it there.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Woo hoo!

After working all day in my classroom yesterday, I determined I needed to adjust my crate seats (needed more padding) and there is just too much "stuff" on the desks with the caddies. (I really think I AM going to keep their book boxes there.) So off I went on a search for a deal. I figured if I found anymore little caddies at Target, I would put the book boxes on the shelves like last year. If not, I'd figure something else out.

Of course, this late in the game, the caddies were all taken. I could buy others elsewhere but I like them to match. So I went into the back-to-school area to discover that Target had pencil boxes for .59 each. And were sold out. Grrrr.

Headed over to Walmart and without a printed flyer they price matched for me. Score! I was REALLY happy about that. I am NOT going to let the children keep them at the end of the year. We're going to have a big chat about borrowing other people's property and treating them nicely (and I have a prime example as one of my not-so-nice friends from last year wrote all over one of the new book boxes -- I'm sure it'll really impress this group that a big 5TH GRADER was naughty like that and THEY can surely do better).


Mrs. Cooperating Teacher mentioned to me Monday that she was hoping Mrs. Principal would move me back to 5th grade since Mrs. RTI took a medical leave (she was set to be in my old position). I guess she said something to Mrs. Principal and Mrs. P said "she isn't going to want to move all the way back upstairs". She's right! Then Mrs. CT came down to my new room yesterday to say hi and mentioned how together and settled I look in 2nd grade.....well yeah. I've had three entire months to wrap my mind around changing grade levels, getting familiar with the new Reading Street series for 2nd grade. I would NOT move back upstairs at this point given the chance. I am excited to give 2nd grade another shot and my teammate that I saw Monday seemed really glad to have me on the team. So it's good all around. I think Mrs. CT is just feeling a bit of stress because Mrs. Resource, who was SUCH a huge help to us last year (and even more of a support to Mrs. CT) got moved to another building. So without me and without Mrs. Resource, I just think Mrs. CT is feeling a bit of the crunch...especially considering as of last fall there were 39 kids on her docket which is insane.

At any rate, I am getting excited about back-to-school. Less than 2 weeks now until I meet my little friends. It's registration day at school today as well. I am not planning to help simply because I have so much I want to finish in my classroom. I am not planning to go in again after today until Monday when PD starts. I am already tired just thinking about the long day ahead of me. :)



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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 2

Well, slowly but surely, I'm getting there! Middle Child was my assistant today. We got to school just after 8 this morning, left at 10:30 to go to an appointment she had, pick up my frog picture from a friend and have lunch. We got back at 1 and left to go home at 3:30. We got SO much more done today having those couple extra hours. I really hope spending all day there tomorrow, on my own, I can kick the rest of this mess in the behind!

This is the entrance area. I plan to put my library here (it's the best open space for it).

The computer area -- the little table next to the two computers will house either a math or literacy center.

The back corner area -- I really debated what to do with this space (and you can tell its where I piled everything up!) but decided to use it as a writing/literacy center space. The pocket chart will have some sight words and vocab words and the orange part will have anchor papers for writing.

This area will be my whole group teaching area. Mrs. Literacy Coach is going to try to find me a rug to define the space. I'm sure there is a spare one somewhere in the building, we just have to find it!

My desk area in the corner, right behind the ELMO/tech stand. I like that my phone is right next to my desk this year. 

Clip chart for behavior -- on the bulletin board is an explanation of the system and how it corresponds to our "leveling" system that we use school-wide. You can't really see it but underneath (where those book boxes are stacked) is the listening center.

Calendar/Daily Schedule board. I still have to add my alphabet above that board. Mailboxes on the little table and the recess games underneath.

Guided reading area. I'm still sorting through Reading Street stuff! There is SO MUCH! :) 
I had Middle Child sit on the crate seats and they need more batting so that's why the lids are gone. I am going to redo those tonight to make them cushier and higher. I may have to lower the table a little because 2nd graders are kind of short!

This is a wide view from the doorway. I am not sure that I am going to leave the book boxes on desks. While I love the idea of them having their books right there, always, I despise the clutter. Either that or I'll get rid of the caddies and do small pencil boxes or something.


So that's my work in progress. We got a bell and lunch schedule today. Still waiting on our art/music/pe schedules (things have to be changed because the lunches changed) but I can at least start thinking about how my day will look and then just work around it once I get my specials schedule.

Teacher Talk Tuesday

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' again (and you gotta know I ♥ the whole "hoppin" frog thing!) for Teacher Week. Today is all about advice for new teachers. Not so long ago, I offered this advice for new teachers.

The biggest thing I wish I knew before I started teaching is to BREATHE. Sounds silly, right? But honestly, I am NOT a new teacher anymore and it is so difficult not to get overwhelmed with all of the mandates, new programs, curriculum changes, blah blah. It's easy to want to stick your head in the sand and curse yourself for becoming a teacher in the first place.

But then that passes, you pull up your big girl (or boy) pants and get on with it. Balance is a HUGE part of being productive and avoiding burnout. I would highly recommend reading The Well Balanced Teacher to help you set goals, keep realistic expectations of yourself and have an amazing first year. 

Congratulations, good luck and remember every day is a new day. This is true for the children and for you!


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Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday

Tell us a little something about you

Well, my name is "Sunny" and I'm an ESL certified teacher in Michigan. I am a mom of three girls and often get tired of people asking me if we're going to try for that boy. (The answer is no.) I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in 2nd grade even though I didn't go into teaching when I first went to college. I LOVE to read and often read anywhere from 3-5 books at a time. My husband thinks I'm crazy but he loves me anyway.

How long have you been teaching?

This year will be my 6th year teaching. I move around a lot. I taught a 4/5 split my first year, then 5th grade and 2nd grade in the same year, then 4th for two years, 5th for a  year and now I'll be back in 2nd grade. Trust me when I say that not all of those moves have been voluntary. I hated 2nd grade when I taught it before due to many circumstances and I am very much looking forward to giving it another shot (and NOT having to prep for stupid state standardized tests!).

You might not know....

I am the ONLY person in my entire family, out to 2nd cousins, who graduated from college, three times at that. I have an associates degree in business, a bachelors in English-Language Arts and Elementary Education and a Master's degree in TESOL. I never liked orange until about a year ago and I would rather eat chocolate donuts than cereal on a daily basis.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?

I am looking forward to giving 2nd grade my best try, especially since I hated it so much last time. I'm also really looking forward to not losing 4 weeks of the year to test prep (we take our tests in October rather than May). I'm looking forward to learning and enjoying my students!

What do you need to improve?

I have really pushed myself to be a better math teacher over the last couple of years and of course I am all about the literacy....I would like to improve in my content area instruction. It is always the first to go when we have interruptions and such and I want to be better at making sure we get that in. I also want to be better at incorporating FUN activities that are also educational since our district cut our music/art classes to half year only.

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?

Post-its, sharpies, lots of pens, Ticonderoga pencils (the super fat ones) and labels.

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Thank goodness for awesome colleagues!

I was dreading going in and finding out what state my classroom was in due to everything needing to be moved and all of the stuff left by the former teacher. However, when I went in today, despite the stack of boxes of Reading Street materials, the shelves were bare! ALL of the stuff the former teacher left was gone (even the good stuff she promised me *sigh*).

Turns out, one of my colleagues, who is moving from 1st to 3rd grade, came in and took all of the stuff, sorted through it and got everything organized. I did ask her about some stuff the retiring teacher had specifically said she was leaving for ME (books on tape, etc) but I'm really pleased that I didn't have to go through all of that stuff! 

This is what I showed up too. All of those boxes are Reading Street materials!

Those shelves were STUFFED with things last spring so it was a relief to see them empty!

I started by putting the tables into groups of 6, although I might change it to groups of 4. I unpacked everything from my boxes and totes and spread them out on the desks as you can see. I HATED leaving this mess!

I moved my filing cabinet over and plan to use this back section as my reading group table. Those boxes are all Reading Street books! You can see notebooks and supply boxes in the foreground.

Those doors are the ultimate waste of space as they lead to the room next door and are NEVER used. So I am going to put my library area here next to the computers. 

I didn't take a picture of my whole group teaching area yet. I am not 100% sure that I like how I have this set up yet and I may actually end up moving it around. [I know, Debbie Diller says plan first THEN move but that's just not how I roll apparently!] I am very visual and seeing it set up is the only way I can really see if a space will work for me or not. The teacher who had my room last year had her reading table against that weird door but I don't want to be that close to the classroom entrance when I am working with groups. 

I wasn't planning to go in tomorrow because of a lunch date with a friend but it got cancelled so I might go in for a couple of hours and try to get as much stuff organized as possible. I have several things to bring to the classroom also. I am still planning a full day Wednesday so that I can get my whole room finished and then take Thursday and Friday off before staff officially reports back next Monday.


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Back to School

This has been the first year I can remember as a teacher that I haven't been SUPER excited about my first day in my classroom. I'm not dreading it but that uber excitement hasn't been there. Yet this morning I woke up 90 minutes before my alarm went off. Boom! Wide awake. Considering I am the farthest from a morning person, this is kind of interesting to me. Perhaps underneath it all I am actually more excited than I think.

I am taking The Youngest in with me today since she has an appointment at noon. If I just take her, I can still spend at least 3 hours at school before we have to leave for that. I told her last night that she has to WORK and that if she did, I would give her a dollar. It's funny how excited you are over a measly dollar when you are 8 years old.

I am going to take pictures of my room today, not only as "befores" but also to assess how I am going to set things up. I have a pretty good idea of what I want but I need to kind of analyze it. I'm 99% sure I won't go in tomorrow due to an 11 o'clock appointment and a lunch date with a friend who made me this for my classroom:


I am already tired thinking about everything I need to do! But I'm remaining optimistic that The Youngest and I can put a big dent in the work today, I can get a ton more done on Wednesday and then spend, at most, a half day there Thursday and call it good. I'm sure the state of things today will let me know how much more time I will need to spend there this week.

Happy Monday!

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm Baaaaaack!

We came home a day early from a glorious week at our cabin due to a forecast of rain alllllll day. As much as I love being there in the peace and serenity, I missed my own bed and all of my things. Sadly of course this means that it's time to start winding down the summer (noooo!!!) and getting myself in gear to head back to school.

It was so great being away from thoughts of back-to-school and all of the work that comes with it, although I did do quite a bit of reading while on vacation (The Husband couldn't believe it when I told him I finished 3 whole books and am more than halfway through a 4th as of the ride home today). I will post more about the books in a future post.

For whatever reason my work email password expired and it won't let me change it. I thought it was just because I was trying to update it from my phone but when I tried after we got home, still no luck. The only reason I care is because Mrs. Principal said she would email us when we had clearance to be in our building. I'm sure we'll have it for this week but I want to make sure before I truck myself down there.

I realized I had scheduled doctor appointments for The Littles on Monday and Tuesday at 12:15 and 11 a.m. respectively. D'oh! So I won't be getting much done at work those days. I was planning to do a Daily 5 training on Wednesday but after realizing I just wasn't feeling confident enough to try it this year on top of National Board and a new reading program, I cancelled it. If all goes well, I will go in Monday morning, make sure my things are moved to my new classroom and start the arduous task of sorting through the stuff that is in my new room. I plan to spend all day Wednesday and Thursday at school so I can feel like my room is DONE. The following week is our meetings/planning week and we only get Thursday in our classroom so I'd really like to have that time to get plans finalized for the first week and be ready to go.

I'm so sad that summer is almost over. This has truly been the best summer I've had in YEARS and I'm sad to see it go.



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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hello!

Just a quick post while I have enough service on my phone! I am LOVING vacation and kind of never want to go home to reality! :)

Hope all is well bloggy friends. I'll be home Sunday and back to regular posting as I get ready to conquer 2nd grade! For my fellow bloggers who're already back, I wish you the best school year ever!


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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Success!

Today was the last day of my Service Learning Academy. Although when we first got the email back in the spring I was a bit hesitant about giving up almost a week of my summer, I am so glad that I did. I would not have gotten to work with and learn from the amazing teachers in my area as well as the youth grant counsel who worked with us yesterday and offered us some perspective in "youth voice".

I am excited to say that every grant was approved (we knew they would be but still) and all of the teachers in attendance will receive the grants to their schools by mid-September. In addition, our stipend payments should arrive by then as well. I am really excited about the project that I developed. I even contacted a community partner already and heard back from them saying they would LOVE my students to come and work with them. In all, this was the most inspiring and awesome week I have spent in a very long time. Plus, yesterday was my birthday and the amazing facilitators brought me a cupcake, a card (that they had everyone sign -- they were sneaky because I had no idea!) and some chocolates. It was very special and wonderful.

There has been a lot of personal crap in my life recently and someone who is supposed to be a big advocate for me and accept me as I am told me that I was selfish and looked down my nose on people. I know that is not true and anyone who really knows me also knows that that is not true. To be with these wonderful ladies and have them see the real me, in only 3 1/2 days, made it more clear to me that I have made the right decision by taking out the trash in my life. I feel WONDERFUL and so energized and ready for this school year to begin.


Speaking of school -- our principal emailed us and said our Reading Street stuff was in and we could go get our kits. But when I asked, we aren't allowed in our classrooms. I'm not taking all of that stuff home with me (or even a little bit of it). No way. So I'll wait. We're heading up to our cabin Saturday morning for a week so if they decide to let us in next week....too bad so sad for me. Hopefully whomever replaces our 5th grade teacher who took a leave isn't too ticked if all of my stuff is still in their classroom. Technically I don't have to show up until August 29. Who knows if the custodians will have moved anything this summer or not. Craziness.

A couple of other teachers from my district who were at my training were floored that we aren't allowed in our rooms yet. I only know what I was told. Unless I hear differently by tonight I am not planning to be there until the 22nd. We should be allowed in by then (in theory anyway!) and then I can at least move my stuff to my new room and start the arduous task of sorting and purging everything left from the last teacher.


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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Service Learning

I feel like I fell off the face of the planet even though I've only been out of the house for 2 days. Having The Husband back has been A-MAZ-ING and we've been busy settling back into family life. He was able to come home a week early (thank goodness!) and I am so glad. It has been great being a family again!

This week I am attending a service learning academy that was offered to us this past May. It is sponsored by Meijer and The League Michigan. It has been awe-inspiring, frustrating, enlightening and amazing all wrapped in one. The point of the academy is to help us to develop and plan a service learning project. They pay a stipend to attend AND they give us a mini-grant to put our project in place in our classroom/school. I am SO GLAD that I decided to do this.

Yesterday we did an impromptu service learning activity at a senior citizen center. Many of us thought this meant "nursing home" but it was a beautiful facility with many amazing people who just happen to be senior citizens. It really made all of us teachers look at our own personal assumptions about things. Then we were told that we had $600 to spend and had to plan a lunch menu and purchase food to feed 150 people at a ministry in the city We had a big brainstorm, planning our menu and off we went to Meijer to spend our money.

We decided to do a lunch of wraps, salad, corn on the cob, watermelon or apple and tea/lemonade. We had to work together and at times it was frustrating and other times it was amazing. Seeing the patrons at that ministry, who usually have to pay a little money (or use a voucher) to eat there be so grateful that our lunch was offered for free and to talk and laugh with them was amazing. I was the "pickle girl" and had so much fun begging some of the patrons to take a pickle if they first said no. I even had one guy say he would try the pickle just for me! We were supposed to feed ourselves in that 150 but we saw hungry people and every single lady (no men signed up for this workshop) in our group gave up her own wrap to feed the patrons who were there. AND we had enough corn and watermelon left over for the ministry to use for the dinner service tonight. It was absolutely amazing, humbling and wonderful to do this work.

When I was in high school, I was part of a volunteer corp and we worked a soup kitchen twice a month. I loved doing that. I am not sure why I ever stopped. Life gets busy and you just don't think about it I guess. But this experience meant a lot to me. I have had a lot of personal crap happening in my little world recently and I have cut a lot of crap out of my life, even certain people who are supposed to be uplifters to me and aren't. I have let them go because I just can't let them bring me down anymore.

This experience today brought that to the forefront for me. I am cleaning out my life and "taking out the trash" if you will and God is rewarding me. He is showing me that I am doing the right thing. I felt so good after helping at the ministry and it makes me want to do more. I am seriously thinking of having my project focus on my young friends working with the wonderful people at this ministry for our service project because I think it will teach them so much.

In addition to this being an absolutely amazing reflection period and learning period for all of us teachers, yesterday I was very lucky and I won an iPad and case! I couldn't believe it!! The Husband thinks it is perfect timing because my birthday is tomorrow. I am so in love with this thing! I'm still figuring it all out (and obviously haven't had much time to do so yet) but I am already thinking about how I can utilize it in my classroom with my students this year as well. Very exciting stuff.

 Seriously, is that case not the bee's knees???


Tomorrow we will head back to Service Learning School and work on our mini-grants. Then we have some students coming in to read and review our grants and provide feedback. Very awesome. I can't wait, even though I'll be spending my birthday in a classroom. I am SO glad I decided to do this academy because I am working with some amazing ladies and getting so much to bring back to my classroom.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

To Do Lists

Sometime last year, Jodi over at The Clutter-Free Classroom shared a printable to do list. I am way too lazy to go look for it because I honestly can't remember if it was a free printable or part of a kit. Anyway it looked something like this:


There was a printable routines list for each day of the week plus a bonus list for daily routines that you know you do every day, for before school, during planning and lunch time, after school and into the evening. It is a list-lovers dream come true.

As I mentioned in my last post about Advice for New Teachers, I am a huge fan of to do lists. I swear they are what got my through college. They mean even more to me now that I understand I have ADHD. I learned to cope by utilizing list after list and forcing myself to get uber organized. Plus, I really don't think there is anything more refreshing than crossing things OFF that huge to do list! I have TONS of crossed-off to do lists in my journal from my days in undergrad and grad schools. They are life savers!

There are tons of to-do lists out there. I have many in my google docs that I found online or other bloggers have shared, etc. I made one for myself that is simple and functional. I am NOT a fan of taking things home. I do sometimes of course, but it's so different to do school work at home during the summer than it is after teaching all day. My kiddos are old enough now that when I get home, I want to do things with them, not grade papers or write lesson plans. So my list includes before school, during planning and after school. I also included a "Miscellaneous" to do list page because a) I wanted to fill up the third page and b) sometimes you have things that you think about that need to be done but don't have to be done immediately and therefore you can add them to this other list.



You can click on this link to get a copy of this for yourself if you like. If you use it, let me know how you like it. 

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Advice for New Teachers Linky Party!

Normally I don't like to do two posts back-to-back but then I read my blog roll and had to jump on the bandwagon for this one. 


Cindy over at Fun in Fourth Grade is having a linky party about giving advice to new teachers just about to enter the profession. I couldn't resist joining!!


1. Go with your gut. Usually you will find that your gut instinct is the right choice to make.
2. Be firm but fair. You CAN (and should!) smile before December but the students have to know you are TEACHER, not FRIEND.
3. Set a schedule for yourself -- plan out every moment of your day at school (including your planning time) so you can maximize your productivity. It is so easy to get behind and so hard to get caught up.
4. Use daily lists -- for things that you know have to be done weekly, set a time schedule (ie. on Mondays, plan word work lessons for the following week, copy homework, write two positive notes home, etc). I find that using a list helps me to not forget anything but then I can spread out my gigantic "to do" list throughout the week and it is easier to get everything done.
5. DON'T TAKE WORK HOME ON FRIDAY! You need the weekend to relax and recharge (and let's be honest, how much of that big bag you lugged home Friday night is going to come back to school Monday completely untouched?).
6. Enjoy your kids and write down every idea you get from others teachers. You can't possibly use them all the first year but it's great to have them for reference later.



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More Organization & a small freebie

I got the best news ever today! The Husband is coming home tomorrow which is a whole week early. I can't wait to see him! I miss him SO much (seriously how military wives do this all the time for months/years is beyond me).

Despite a million things to do for his arrival, I did get a bit of work done today for school. As I mentioned yesterday, I sometimes find myself amidst a cluttered mess despite trying to be super organized. I had a lot of little projects going and thus my desktop was a big mess (even though I cleaned it yesterday during my organizing fest). I got many of those projects either done or at least sorted into a container/envelope so they are within reach but not cluttering up my space when I am not working on them. 

One of the main reasons I love my big secretary desks is because not only does it have lots of fabulous little drawers and things, it also has two pull out writing surfaces. This is really nice next to my laptop desk because I can seriously multitask between the computer and anything I need to write down. In addition, there is a ginormous space underneath it between the drawers. Usually in August this becomes another storage space for the stuff I plan to cart back-to-school [and as an aside, I totally realized my seat crates are going to make it SO EASY for me to haul all of this stuff to school because 99% of it will fit inside the crates]. Currently my dish tubs and desk caddies are housed under there, along with the 90 folders I bought at Target (sounds like so much when you add it all together and just put the number out there!).

Here are three of the desk caddies. I made little color coded labels. I've always let my students give their groups crazy names but decided it would just be easier for me to do 1-6 with these caddies. The labels will be on both sides and alternate so group 4 is also green, etc.

This isn't the best picture (and you can see my bag of folders peeking out at the bottom!) but here are two of my dish tubs that I bought to hold station activities with Reading Street. I am trying hard not to notice they are crooked because I'll want to fix them *wink*

So, not a lot of progress but some. I am trying to do as much as I can from home so once I am in my classroom, I can spend the majority of my time cleaning, purging and setting up rather than laminating, cutting out and gluing!


If you use Reading Street and use the stations included with the program, here's a copy of the station signs I made. Nothing fancy but you're welcome to use them if you'd like!


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Organizing at home to Organize at School

I don't know about you...but sometimes, despite my organizational craziness, things do get a little cluttered or out of control. Not so much at school because I tend to be very good at "hiding" things (ie using lots and lots of baskets, tubs and crates to keep things organized!). At home is another story though. With 3 kids and limited space, when August hits, my world tends to get a little crazy and it feels like my teaching supplies and materials have thrown up all over my house.

It's only August 3rd and I was already feeling that pinch. As I've said before, we aren't allowed into our buildings this early since the students' first day isn't until the day after Labor Day. I left 90% of my stuff at school but as usual I have accumulated things that need to go to my classroom with me later this month. 

At the end of June, my fabulous hubby finished my our office remodel. I love it. It is great having a space to get things accomplished. However, it started not working for me. The corner between my big desk and my laptop desk was accumulating WAY too much junk for my taste. So this afternoon I did some rearranging and sorting and purging. Now both of my desks are side by side, I have access to both of my printers, my file cabinet is tucked in the back but still reachable and one of the crates I plan to take to work is tucked behind my laptop table and therefore, out of the way until I need to drag it out.

It never ceases to amaze me how much more productive I am and how much happier I feel when I am in an organized space. I got so much done in the last 20 minutes since finishing my reorganization task. That feels good.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Terrific Tuesday

I can not believe how fast today got away from me! It's nearly 5 p.m.! How in the world did that happen? I guess time flies when you're having fun, huh? *wink*

I had to take Middle Child to an appointment so we did that and while I waited in the lobby for her, I cut out some of my scrabble tiles. Might as well do something productive while I wait, right?? After the appointment we went to lunch and then shopping.

I had to return something I bought The Oldest at Target (because while the tag said 'capri' they were down PAST her ankles!). Of course I never pass up a chance to check out the dollar spot while I'm there. I got some cute little caddies for my classroom. I was hoping to get 6 different colors but they didn't have enough variety so I bought 2 purple, 2 green and 2 red. I've never been a huge fan of shared supplies at desks because someone ALWAYS plays with the stuff but I'm hopeful with a lot of modeling my 2nd grade friends will be able to handle it.

I almost bought these cute little paper holders that I thought would be nice to hold materials for the Practice Stations that go with Reading Street. They were $2.50 each. However, I found 6 matching dish tubs (in white) for under $2 each so I went with those instead. They'll be easy to stack up and put on a shelf when not in use. Plus with the big tubs, it'll be easier to put a label on the side showing what each tub is for since I'm 99% sure that I won't have all 6 stations going at once.

In the back-to-school section, I went crazy with folders. We are pretty darn lucky at my school because a local church donates a TON of supplies for us but I like my folders to be color-coded. It's just so much easier to say "friends, put this in your PURPLE math folder" instead of them trying to remember it is their Spiderman folder and not their Superman folder that they have their math stuff in. I bought 30 because while I don't think my class will be that big, you just never know. It's always good to have a few extras anyway. I bought purple and red in the regular paper folders that we'll keep at school and the nice plastic ones (for $0.50 each! NEVER gotten them that cheap) in green for their Homework Folders. I needed something more durable for those since they'll go home Monday-Thursday.

After that it was a stop at the bookstore and the pet store so the girls could pet the cats. Finally got home, put away my things, sorted out mail and blah blah and then nearly died when I checked the time. Seriously. Where did my day go?? I guess I must've "browsed" school stuff longer than I thought. Oops. hehe

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Reality Check

Wow. Sometimes I amaze even myself....in how I have come SO far and yet I haven't gone far at all. The good news is, I caught myself this time before I drive myself insane again.

Back when I started this blog, I explained some things about why I created the blog (which you can read about here and here, in my first two posts--what's really interesting is in post 2 I talked about wanting to try 2nd grade again and while that didn't happen last year, it will this year. Weird!). Additionally, just about a year ago, I wrote about how different I was from six months previously (read it, it explains a LOT).

One of the biggest things I learned after leaving my classroom in the 2010 school year was that I had no boundaries. I had not established that these things fit into this category and other things weren't going to be a cause for concern or whatever. I took on way too many things at the same time and that is one of the major reasons I ended up where I ended up (depressed, anxious and hating my job). 


Over the weekend, while we were at our cabin, I had set about on a mission to conquer the notion of implementing Daily 5 and Reading Street. I worked on it a total of about 3 hours I think and finally came to what I thought would be a workable situation depending on what my schedule ends up looking like at school.

But when I got home yesterday, I got a HUGE reality check. After we'd settled back in at home and had some lunch, my fabulous neighbor brought over a package that had been delivered for me on Friday. She said she had worried it would rain and she didn't want it to get wet while we were gone. (Yes, I do have the best neighbors ever, they even mow the side of our yard that touches their driveway because they rule!) I was wondering what the box was because I hadn't ordered anything.

It was my portfolio box from National Board. And the world came to a screeching halt. I mentally slapped myself and said a few choice curse words to myself in my head. [Namely along the lines of uh...Sunny? What the #$%@$ do you think you're doing to yourself here?!]

I'm putting myself right back in the same position I was in before. I want to try all of these things and make them awesome and be the best teacher ever. But I am one person. And I am pursuing National Board. I.Will.Not. put myself in a position again where I have too much on my plate and can't handle it. No way. I NEVER want to repeat the feelings I had when I was going through that. My therapist would be super proud of me....because I realized, before I got myself neck-deep in the good ole "way too much on my plate" snafu, that this is not going to work. 

I AM going to do National Board this year and I AM going to kick it's ass. Of that, I have no doubt.

I need to stop and think about whether or not I am going to be able to successfully handle National Board on top of trying to implement Reading Street (which is entirely new to me) AND integrating it with Daily 5. I'm not saying it isn't possible. And I know that I will love Daily 5 once I get it going. However...I am not going to put myself in a position where I feel overwhelmed needlessly. I have to think about the big picture. I may well find that it is just smarter to stick with Reading Street this year and then next year, when I am more comfortable with it, integrate Daily 5. I may well find that by November, I'm feeling a-okay with my curriculum and routines and want to institute Daily 5 then.

I don't know. I am still going to look at how I can integrate both but I am giving myself an out. Unless you've been in that depressive/anxious situation, it's hard to explain how it makes you feel. I already have massive insecurity issues (thanks mom and dad!) and it's high time I take care of me and what's good for me. I'm glad that I had something stop me and at least make me THINK about what I am trying to do here. Maybe it won't curb my desire to do both....but it will at least make me think about it and that in and of itself is priceless.

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