Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy (almost) 2012!!

Just wanted to take a minute and wish all my fellow bloggers out there a very happy new year! 2012 will be an amazingly busy year for me.

National Board is going to consume me for the next few months but I have been smart and working a bit at a time so I don't get massively overwhelmed. Yesterday I joined an online forum focused on NB that I am already finding to be immensely helpful. I asked a bunch of friends on FB if they would be willing to read one entry for me, just so I have some outside opinions and found when I asked about this practice on the forum that they said they often ONLY read one entry for someone so that the writer's work remains their work and not too influenced by an outside party. So I feel good about my decision to go ahead and pay the fee and join. It's been immensely helpful so far.

I had a dream last night that I was told I will be teaching 5th grade again for 2012-2013. I have to say I would not turn the opportunity down if presented to me. If Mrs. CT retires this year like she has been talking about, it isn't impossible that I would be moved. Plus the current 4th graders are "that class" that everyone has struggled with. One of our coaches said last year that she was mad they didn't put me with the 4th grade because they needed someone "strong" for that group. Way too early to speculate on any of it.

No big plans here in "Sunnyville" for tonight. The Oldest is going to dinner with her boyfriend and his parents and we're more than likely going to hang out just watching TV. Well, the rest of my family will waste their time watching TV, I will more than likely spend it either a) reading or b) workingon Entry 2.

Speaking of reading, there is a fun new blog that was started and I am super excited about it because it's all about books. Oh books. It is called The Best Endings. I did not ask to be a contributor at this point simply because I know I am not going to have enough time with NB. It got me thinking though...currently, I am reading the following things:

-NB standards for EMC Literacy
-Run by Blake Crouch
-Shattered by Karen Robards
-Aspergirls by Rudy Simone *best book I've read so far about girls with Asperger's*
-The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome by Tony Attwood
-Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye
-Your Child's Writing Life by Pam Allyn


Yeah...all at the same time. Can you say ADD?? I am mostly focused on Run and Aspergirls even though I know I should be focused on studying and internalizing my standards!! ;) Run is a thriller along the lines of Stephen King -- it's gross and scary but you just can't stop reading it!! Aspergirls of course is on the top because every chapter provides more validation for what I've known for years about Middle Child. Knowledge is power, no?

So to that end friends, have a safe and book-filled 2012 :D

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Math Groups Revisited

I had a reader ask me if I could repost my Multiplication Group information that I talked about in 2010. Wow, that seems like SO long ago, doesn't it?! I moved some things around here on the blog last summer and apparently that page disappeared.

The Multiplication Groups are not cooperative groups. The students do not work together on these activities. I simply call them groups because the students are working on the same level at that time.

Here is the sheet that explains the 5 different group types. I posted this in my classroom next to the area where I posted the kiddos names under their groups. That way the kids always knew what type of multiplication problems they were working on and which ones came next.

Here is the procedures page that explains to the students (and any guest teachers) how the math groups work. I did this with 4th and 5th graders and they more or less monitored themselves with this. I kept track of where they were on a spreadsheet (and one year I used a big poster grid) but this reminded them that they had to do two sheets and show all work otherwise I would not accept the sheets.

Here are the actual multiplication sheets. There are 5 groups and each group has between 5 and 7 worksheets (most have 6) and there is a "test out" sheet for each group. Students have to pass the test out in order to move to the next group (when I did this, they had to get at least 13/15 in order to pass which is about an 86%).

How in the world do you organize all of this stuff??: I got a file crate, a bunch of file folders and a bunch of hanging folders. I kept everything together that way and it was super easy to manage. Three times per week during math the students could sign up for me to check their sheets and give them a new one if they had passed it or provide the test out sheet if they had completed two. Usually if they made a  lot of mistakes on one sheet, I would circle all of the ones that were wrong, use the backside to show them how to do one of the problems and then send them off to fix the rest. If they fixed the rest and got them right, I would give them one more sheet before letting them take the test out because they knew if they didn't pass the test out, they had to do ALL of the sheets in that group before I would like them take the test out again.

I used this last year until December also. The kids caught on so well that after that we didn't need to use it anymore! Some of them would still ask me about the math sheets sometimes so I would allow them to keep going during their individual group time if they wanted to do so.


Let me know if you have other questions about it and I'll try to answer them. It seems like a ton of work but really the only time that it is really time consuming is when you are first setting it up. Once you figure out a system that works for you, it's very easy to manage!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

National Board: Portfolio Progress & Scheduling

Today is my big fat 11th anniversary. Unreal. I can't believe it, although I guess I should be able to since our oldest together is 10! 

It's been an interesting day. The Husband almost always has to work on our anniversary so I am used to spending it at home with the kiddos since it also nicely coincides with my winter break! I took Middle Child to the doctor this morning and we had lunch out (which will end VERY soon with my 2012 goal to take care of myself which is going to mean eating out a lot less). 

I ordered myself this fabulous DayTimer planner on Amazon (seriously I buy almost everything there!). 

Tickle me super happy when it shipped yesterday and arrived today (turns out they have a distributor about 20 miles from me but I'll take it!)! Happy anniversary to me. Oh I LOVE this thing! It is H-U-G-E with a capital Gigantic but fortunately it does fit in my purse. Otherwise I'd just buy a new one of those!

What in the world does this have to do with National Board you might be asking yourself? The planner came with a full year of undated inserts (monthly spread and weekly pages). They were separated with all the monthly spreads together and then the weekly spreads together -- so not going to work for me. I am way too lazy to do that much flipping. I like my month and my week view together. So I rearranged them and then put in dates and information for the rest of the school year (holy potatoes!).

I also decided that I would give myself some deadlines for my National Board entries. I don't feel behind or stressed or anything (at least not yet!) but giving myself an ending time should help me. At least I hope it will. I think I was smart in doing my videotaping first. I read this book called WHAT WORKS!: Successful Strategies in Pursuing National Board Certification and it is super helpful. She says that a lot of people videotape blindly and "hope" they get something useful that they can use. I suppose you could say I did that. I did not plan my lessons out to be anything stellar -- they would see through a Dog-and-Pony Show, you know? So I taught the way I normally would except that there was a video camera in my classroom at the time. After losing my first set, I reread my directions so I knew what I needed to do in terms of the entries and I just went in, told the kiddos what happened and retaped. I taped two small group lessons and a social studies lesson and that was it. I did not tape over and over and over. 

I refuse to obsess (too much) about it. I am actually still debating which of the two videos I want to feature for my Entry 2 because there are good things and things I could improve on with both of them. One features of group of young ladies who are on grade level with their reading and one features a group of 3 boys and one girl who are above level. I honestly kind of want to use the  latter because I am tickled pink that most of my highest readers are BOYS! =D

That said, I have been working pretty diligently on my Entry 4. I have one accomplishment left to write about and one to finish which I can't do until the end of January when I get my MAP results (I am using last year's and this year's DDI strategy use has helped me to majorly boost my students' achievement on that test). I began working on my Entry 2 today. I have watched my videos several times since I still can't decide which I like best. I also did all of the "forms" work for both of those entries (that in and of itself is time consuming because of all of the labeling and putting into the right envelope, etc).

I will finish Entry 4, as much as I can of it anyway, by tomorrow afternoon. My goal is to have a rough draft of Entry 2 done preferably by Monday the 2nd but realistically by the 8th of January. Then I will have from January 8 - January 31 to work on Entry 3. I am only giving myself until the end of January so that I can't put it off too much. I ordered a keyboard case for my iPad so I can actually work on my entries from anywhere (school, while I'm waiting for Middle Child at therapy, etc). That should make it easier to get that one going. Plus I get MLK off and my kids don't so I will be home all day and can use that day as a work day for NB as well.

Once February hits, I plan to push forth with Entry 1. I have waited the longest on this one because I want to make sure that I have writing samples that show enough growth from point A to point B. I want to be finished with Entry 1's write up by Leap Day. 

Once March hits, it's proof-reading, editing and getting feedback from others. Once I have a draft of each entry, I actually plan to print it and pass it along to my readers but  I don't plan to necessarily look at their feedback until March. Portfolios have to be postmarked by March 31. I am shooting for a goal of packing mine up and sending it off on the 23rd so it's done and I can breathe a sigh of relief!

I am taking the entire month of April off. I will start preparing for the assessment center in May. Honestly I am way more paranoid about the portfolios than the assessment center exercises. When I took my ESL certification test I thought I was doing so horribly -- and a ton of the questions were procedural (what would you do if....) just like the NB prompts seem to be for this certificate. I will not study for the center over spring break or in the couple of weeks after that. No way. I plan to schedule my center appointment the week after we finish school for the year so I don't have it looming over me when I am trying to focus on my little friends. I believe the deadline for the tests is June 15 and our last day is the 8th so that will hopefully work out (assuming, of course, that they have appointments available when I want them). 


I find it mildly ironic that I, the most paranoid/anxious person in the world (okay so that's an exaggeration), am NOT freaking out over this process at this point. I doesn't mean I won't later...and I am already thinking of how I can strategically plan a personal day or two over the next couple of months so I can stay at home and work on my entries, but I feel good. Had I waited and done my videos after Christmas, I think I would be feeling the panic right now. At this point I just need to decide which writing samples to use for Entry 1 but otherwise all of my other materials and evidence are ready. I just have to write the papers. And for a lover of English like myself, it isn't going to be something that kills me. Will it be easy? No. I don't delusion myself to think that. But I do think that because of the work I have done in my short career, I know how to show student impact and that's what it is all about. 

Maybe I will do all of this and not pass -- or maybe I am totally on the right track and will do fabulous. I do not have a mentor or really a support group (aside from the Yahoo Group for my certificate area). I am more or less on my own. I don't mind. I am choosing my readers carefully and will just hope that putting my best foot forward is enough.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Taking Care

My super fabulous blogger friend Amy, over at Juice Boxes & Crayolas (is that not the best blog name ever?) wrote today about the Do's and Don'ts to have a Wonder Winter Break. I am all about winter break. Don't get me wrong. I love my little cherubs but we all need a break from seeing each other's faces every now and then. Everyone needs to recharge, revamp and take a breather now and then. I find this especially important for myself and therefore I know my small fry students definitely need it if I do!

I almost agree 100% with everything she has on her list. Really the only spots I don't agree with are because they don't apply to me (ie I am not a runner and she is). It made me think though...we all know that teachers sacrifice themselves many times over for the betterment of their students. At least the teachers who are still in it for the passion and calling that pulled them into the profession in the first place [I can sadly say in another forum I sometimes read there are MANY teachers who basically state outright that they are only still teaching because it's a steady job and it makes me sick]. How many UTIs have you had in your career from holding it? How many times have you eaten Oreos for dinner because you were too tired and busy grading/planning/conferencing, etc to actually cook something?

Yeah. Me too. But no more. I am not a huge fan of making resolutions because I think they are very easily broken and/or forgotten once February hits and life is hectic again. A super RL friend of mine and I are going to do WW together this year. I just ordered a new 2012 PointsPlus kit on eBay and am excited to get started. Mostly because when I look in the mirror, I want to hurl. Yeah. I didn't use to be this weight. Before I started teaching, I wasn't exactly skinny (no one would ever accuse Sunny of having been skinny at all in her life) but since I have been teaching full time the weight seems to attract to me like flies to honey.

And I know it makes me groggier, more tired and just downright not as healthy as I could and should be. So I'm going to make my resolution to be to Take Care Of Myself in 2012.

--I am going to exercise at least 3 days a week, even if I have to kick my own behind to do it.
--I am going to eat better and follow WW (and it should be a lot easier this time since my RL friend pointed me in the direction of this site which is filled with tons of yummy WW friendly recipes and provides a huge bang for your buck in terms of points -- and you know I am SOLD on this site when the first thing I see is Brownie Batter pancakes that are only 4 points!!!)
--I am going to FORCE myself to DRINK WATER. You know how much I ♥ Diet Coke...but I know I don't drink enough plain water. I want to work up to drinking a full glass of water for every Diet Coke I have every day. I shall be well hydrated.
--Take A Friggin Break already: At least one day on the weekend is mine, no computer, no school work, no anything that resembles "work" (not even on National Board). I have to give myself permission to relax and enjoy my life and I can't do that if I never, ever decompress.

So that's my plan. You might have to remind me that I promised to take care of myself....because sometimes we all forget. Even with the best of intentions. I don't want to forget. I want to be Fabulous, Healthy and Wise. And I have to take care of myself to get there.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

How much is too much?

Good morning bloggers! Wait, I know what you're thinking...it's not a work day and Sunny is not only awake but posting before 9 am, she must have a HUGE diet coke beside her. Alas, I do not...at least not yet! This is the life of having a new baby (or baby puppy in my case) in the house! Baby wants to play at 4 am when Momma wants to sleep and Baby hasn't quite figured out that getting up before 9 on an off day is just wrong ;) 

I had a point in posting though...last night, a friend of mine who lives in New York and I were chatting. She is also teaching 2nd grade now. When we both started teaching, we were teaching 4th and now we're both at 2nd (she taught it last year too while I had 5th). At any rate we were talking about Christmas in our classes and my jaw nearly fell off from hanging open when she rattled off what she'd received. 

$100 spa finder gift card, gift cards to Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Macy's, CVS, Kohl's and another store local to her, candles, a scarf, some ornaments AND a box of Godiva chocolate. 

Maybe it's because I teach in the inner city and always have...but I would feel really weird accepting all of that. It is a LOT of stuff. She didn't think it was weird at all. She lives just outside of NYC so I get that the cost of living is more...but wow. I never expect anything, ever, and usually am flattered when I get anything. Perhaps because I grew up on the very streets my students are and went to the same school...but a mom this year who I know is struggling financially bought me a candle and a tin of popcorn and I nearly cried in gratitude. Because I know exactly where this family is yet the mom thought of me anyway. The thought is worth waaaay more than the collection of stuff my friend got. So weigh in here bloggers, what do you think?


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas All!

Just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone out in bloggy-land a very Merry Christmas! Mine will be filled with chocolate chip pancakes, a few extra Diet Cokes and my fabulous family! I'm so excited to see my kids' faces when they open their gifts tomorrow...especially The Oldest because she's been pestering us for an iPod forever and we've always said no, it's way too much, yada yada and this year, we did it.

As I get older, while it is nice to get presents too, it is more about seeing how my girls react to their gifts.

I hope your day is filled with love, laughter and maybe an adult beverage or two!

Merry Christmas!

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Mrs. Fix-It

Alternate Title: Why I Ended up in Therapy

So two years ago I had the worst class of my life. I mean, they were downright naughty children. They didn't like each other, they didn't care about school and they didn't care about pleasing anyone (not even their parents). They are 6th graders now and I feel sad for those teachers every day, but also glad they only have those special friends for an hour each day.

I learned a lot that year. First of all, that I am not Super Woman. I can't do or fix everything, even though I often want to. See, my childhood...in a word...sucked. Yeah. It sucked. Not that I really thought that when I was living it but looking back, I realize how messed up my family was (and still is) and I shudder to think about it. I also praise the Lord that I got myself out of that cycle. One of the things I learned with that class from Hell is that it is not my job to fix everything that is wrong with the world. This is still a battle for me sometimes, especially when it comes to something I feel passionate about. 

See, in my childhood, there wasn't a lot of praise. There was manipulation. There were conditions to affection. If you didn't do A just so, you were going to hear about it for weeks, months, possibly even years after it should have been over with. Again, didn't think much of it as a child because it was just the way it was. When I had The Oldest, I was in 10th grade. Suddenly I was thrust into adulthood because while I lived with my parents and they supported us financially, we were more or less on our own. No support from her father and over the years I have realized that was for the best. [You can disagree with me there but I don't want to hear it if you do.] 

Once I had her, everything changed. First of all, I developed a huge chip on my shoulder -- the world was my enemy. I had a hard time being around other people. Looking back, I think this was the beginning of my road to being where I am today. I knew something was messed up about my life, but was not old enough or mature enough to pinpoint what it was. The chip was my defense mechanism. I kept a lot of people at bay by being rude and snotty. And it worked for me at that time. A lot of people who know me in real life today can't believe that I was like that. Yeah, I still have an attitude sometimes but only when it is really warranted and 99% of the time it is because I am advocating for someone who can't advocate for themselves.

But along that road somewhere, I picked up some coping skills in the form of ambition, motivation and drive. I'm not sure where they came from. I do know that they changed everything for me. Despite my attitude problem, I somehow knew that I had to push out of the cycle my family was in. I was not going to treat my own child the way my parents had treated me my entire life. No way. So I finished high school, on time, despite having The Oldest when I did. I went right to college. I got an associates degree in business before realizing that this was not really where my passion was. I had wanted to be a teacher since I was 8 years old but went the business route thinking it was "more practical". Once I met The Husband, he encouraged me to do what I really wanted to do and thus I went back to school to get my teaching license.

The problem with the ambition is that I want to do it all. When I learn something new, I want to know everything about it and suddenly I want to "fix it". For example, last spring when I was told that Middle Child IS, in fact, dyslexic, my first reaction was "oh, I need to go get a Learning Disabilities endorsement so I can really understand her". It isn't so much that I wanted to fix her but that I wanted to know as much about her disability as possible in order to make sure she is successful. With her new diagnosis of Asperger's, even though I have known in my heart for years that is what is going on with her, I bought a bunch of books on Amazon because now I just HAVE TO know everything I can possibly know to help her. And you earned yourself a cookie if you thought for a second that I just might have looked up a special education endorsement in Autism Spectrum Disorders because I did. Not that I really would pursue it but that feels like I'm doing something, being proactive and trying to give her the best life possible.

These traits carry over into so much of my life now. When I am especially passionate about something, I just want to fix it if I feel like anything isn't exactly how I would have it be.

Example: I ♥ DDI Teacher Consulting. I do. [You may recall my brazenness in telling Kathleen to just hire me already!] But because I am passionate about their products and the results they provide me, my head spins with ways to "make it better" or "fix it" (and let me add this disclaimer because I know at least one of the sisters reads my blog -- which is just unreal to me! -- I don't think anything is wrong with DDI the way it is. I would just tweak stuff because it's in my fix it nature!). I plan to order materials from them for myself, not through my school because I want my own if/when I move on and there is no easy "online ordering" system. I am all about online ordering. I would totally add that. I would add instant shipping calculators too and ordering by debit/credit card and on and on.

See what I mean? I can't help it. If it means something to me, or is something that makes my job easier, or that I really find passion with, I want to make it as awesome and user friendly as possible.

This is part of why I spent a bit more than a year in therapy -- to learn that I can't fix it all, I don't need to fix it all and I shouldn't try to fix it all. But it's something I still struggle with every day. Probably because of my emotionally abusive childhood. I have to make it the best it can possibly be because otherwise, I won't get praised. It just won't be good enough unless it is THE BEST. 

And I will work hard every single day of the rest of my life to make sure that my 3 girls never, ever feel like they have to be the best at everything in order for me to be proud of them or appreciate their strengths. I never had unconditional love. I will make sure they do. 

It also translates into my classroom. It kills me when my students try so hard and still don't do well because no one in K or 1st bothered to put the child up before our Child Study team to get the child some help (or worse, they did and the resource staff let the child fall through the cracks). I won't give up. I will give every one of those kids a reason to feel like they are worth something. I have to. No one deserves to grow up feeling inferior and insecure like I did (and often still do). It's why when I really want to be a part of something, I just go after it, often without really thinking about how it might come across to someone else. I just want to help, especially if it means helping a child to have a good life and to make gains when someone told them they would never amount to anything.


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Asperger's Syndrome

Just curious if anyone in the blogosphere has any book recommendations for kiddos with Asperger's? 

I have suspected that Middle Child is an Aspie since she was in 1st grade (she's in 4th). Her school psychologist did some testing in 1st grade and told me a) she wasn't dyslexic [guess what, yes she is!] and b) she wasn't on the Autistic Spectrum. Over the last month or so we have been to two specialists who deal with children with Asperger's and both told me that I am not crazy, this child IS on the ASD spectrum.

I love validation! We had our consult with the last specialist yesterday. I kind of chuckled because she was like "well I want to caution  you that this diagnosis isn't going to CHANGE who she is and it isn't BAD". I told her, flat out, that I am not out to change Middle Child at all! I love her the way she is! The only reason I am persistent in getting this done is because of the services she will be able to receive in school if her diagnosis is correct. (Currently it is Emotional Impairment because they had to label her "something" to open the doors for resource service since I knew damn well their psychiatrist was off her rocker when she told me that Middle Child isn't dyslexic.)

So I have done what any other awesome parent would do -- scoured amazon.com for some books that will help ME better understand Asperger's now that I really know that is what we're dealing with as well as books that will help HER to better relate to others and certain situations. I found some that I think I am going to order (great reviews) but was curious if any of my readers have books they would recommend.


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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Disaster!

There may be one less person in my house by the end of today.

Because someone drank my LAST Diet Coke and didn't tell me we were out!! That is akin to a felony in this house. Ooooh, heads might roll for this one!

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Love! (Totally Off Topic of Teaching)

Can I just gush for a minute about something completely unrelated to teaching?? Indulge me, okay?

I am 33 years old. I had The Oldest when I was in high school and despite that, I have achieved much greatness (and will achieve even more). I married The Husband when I was 22 and had The Youngest when I was 24. I knew at that time that I was done having kiddos.

But recently many of my friends, who are also my age, are having babies. First babies. My youngest turns 9 tomorrow. So lately I have kind of had some baby fever. While I know I don't really want another baby, they are SO cute and it's hard not to want one when all of my close friends are having them.

So Friday night we brought home our new puppy. And I am in love with him. Today, very insightfully, The Oldest asked me, while we were out holiday shopping, if New Puppy has kind of filled that Baby Fever void. He totally has (reminds me why I don't really WANT a baby -- 4:30 wakeups are SO not for me). But I am having fun spoiling New Puppy and getting my baby fix a bit from him, which is good. Best news is that I won't be cleaning up accidents for the next year, just the next few weeks as he learns to go potty outside all of the time. Even Older Dog is learning to like New Puppy.

I couldn't help myself while we were out shopping for The Husband to buy them both new tags (with their FULL names on them -- they both have a "title" before their name) and a stocking for them both. And I could not resist this cute little jumper:

Tell me this is not the cutest thing you have ever seen!

The Husband says I made New Puppy (who is male) look 'gay' but I think he looks cute! Sadly that little jumper is smaller than I thought so it won't fit him for long. Oh well, it will give me an excuse to buy another one! 

The only bad thing about New Puppy (well, aside from the multiple midnight wakeups) is that he is distracting me from my National Board work because he's so blasted cute!

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hello, my name is Humble...

Wow. I am kind of speechless. Which never happens to me. (Seriously, I could talk about anything. For hours.)

About a week ago, I got an email from some lady in the MDE about a National Board grant. I had not applied previously because they said not to unless you really had financial need. Well this gal emailed and said they had on record that I was a first time candidate and there was still federal monies available to cover part of the fee. She sent me the application which was originally due December 1 (and it was after that). So I filled it out, did the work I needed to do (write a page about what NBC meant to me and had a colleague verify that I do, in fact, work at my school and would benefit from the grant).

I got word today that the grant was funded and I will get a refund from NB in a week or so. Cue me with my mouth hanging open in disbelief.

Wow. Just wow.

I am truly humbled that this woman sought me out and told me to apply despite financial non-need because they had the money available and it's a "use it or lose it" thing from the fed government. I am giving it all to our cabin fund since The Husband took money from our cabin repay fund to pay the balance of the fee. When I get my stipend from the district, I am going to keep some for myself (kind of a huge nest egg) and I am going to use some to "pay it forward" since I got money that I really did not need, simply because others did not claim it.

Very awesome.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Vacation is Here & National Board Stuff

Oh glorious vacation....I ♥ you!

We got our new puppy last night, who is just adorable. See? 


We have been having a lot of fun with him today. We bought Wee Wee puppy pads for him since we know once we go back to school, he'll be home all day with our big dog. So far, he's only gone on them once. Every other time he has gone, he's either gone outside (yay!) or on the floor (boo!). He's just a baby though so we're not getting on his case too much. I'm not sure he was ever outside before we took him home last night. He was shivering the whole ride home, poor guy! Our 7 year old dog isn't sure what to make of this little guy quite yet. The Littles and The Oldest are in love and so am I. Sooo cute, fluffy and fun!

The Oldest and I went out earlier this afternoon for pedicures. Oh the joy of having someone else rub my feet! She was tickling me though and I almost accidentally kicked her in the face. Oops! I got the same color on my nails as on my feet and I feel decadently relaxed. Perfect way to start a vacation! And I will get my nails done again the day before we return to school, along with my hair done. I am going to pamper myself while I can!


Currently I am gearing up to working on National Board (finally!). I am going to do Entry 4 first since I have everything I need already for that one. Then I will do Entry 2. I am hopeful to have at least a first draft of both of those done by the time we return to school. That way I can really look hard at my video for Entry 3 and determine if it is what I want to use or if I want to retape it. If I can at least get Entry 2 and 4 done this break, I will feel a lot better. I have everything I need for both of them, I just have to start writing the entries themselves. I know I am going to drive myself crazy with it all because it isn't "normal" writing that you would do for a college paper at all and that is probably going to be hard for me to deal with at first. I already made The Husband promise to be a reader for me -- since he is totally not a teacher, I figure if the entries make sense to him based on the rubric, then I should be good to go. In some ways this kind of makes me miss academia a bit. I'm sad that I haven't heard anything from the community college I had a workshop for awhile ago about teaching a writing class there. I know I have a lot going on anyway but man it would be worth it to add this to my plate. I just figure that if they don't call me this time around, it just isn't my time yet. I am sure in a couple of weeks I won't even have time to worry about the fact that I haven't heard from them!

Happy weekend!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

A Whirlwind Last Day!

Whew! We made it :)

Today was quite crazy, as expected. I did manage to get the kiddos to read for a bit this morning (not quietly but they weren't too loud so I let it go) and I finished my December running records and conferences. Yay! I did not work with my newest kiddo because there is just no point when we're DIBELing the 2nd week we're back and I can just do all of my assessments on him then. Our half time resource came and took one of my kiddos and did some testing for her. She is definitely going to pull her for some Tier 3 intervention. I am so, so glad! This child is cute as a button and so sweet but she is clueless. I can't believe that she was never tested before. I told her mom at conferences that I would gladly lose my job over this child because I am not just going to move her onto 3rd grade (and the MEAP test!) if she can't do 2nd grade work and they WILL test her darnitall. Looks like my pushing is at least getting us somewhere!!

My colleagues did their gingerbread houses THIS MORNING, those crazy brave souls. Wow. No way Jose! We did reading and free writing while I finished my RR, then we prepped for the afternoon. I had planned to do our houses after computer lab and before last recess (and it worked out great!). We got out the plates and whatnot and put the houses on them with frosting on the bottom to stick. I spent my ENTIRE lunch break getting plates out for the candy decorations and dividing up allllll of the candy that they had brought. Both of my colleagues told me that their rooms were IN-SANE during the decorating. I had never done gingerbread houses before in my own classroom but I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of parents helping so I made it as easy for ME as possible. My kids sit at 2 person tables so there was an extra plate per 2 kiddos and I piled their available toppings onto those, trying my best to make sure that everyone got some of everything. Then when it was time to do the houses, I just had to come around with the frosting. It got a bit loud but we had no huge messes or anything on the floor so that was good. One of the moms who helped said that she had helped in the other 2nd grades this morning and couldn't believe how  much calmer it was in my room. I don't know how they set up their treats and whatnot but I know that having MY class share their goodies on those plates was the best idea I ever had!

A few of my kiddos brought me gifts which I was NOT expecting (I never expect anything so it's always fun when I do get something from them). One of my boys gave me this wrapped box...I totally played it up and pulled off part so there was still wrapping covering it and said, very excited, "Wow, [student name]! I have ALWAYS wanted paper for Christmas!" The kids giggled and laughed and thought I was very silly. So I unwrapped it all and did the same thing with the box ("wow I always wanted a BOX!"). He gave me these super soft socks and some chocolate. Never been given socks before! *wink* He blushed soooo bad. Very cute. I love them actually. Another kiddo gave me a Santa statue that is all glittery and a Santa lollipop made of those jelly type candies. One of my naughtier girls gave me a picture frame that she made with her mom. I also got the usual cards and pictures that the kids hand draw. I work in a VERY low-income area (over 97% free and reduced) so I don't ever expect anything at all and I am always more than humbled when they think of me in that way. One of the moms who helped brought me a 6-pack of Diet Coke (woo hoo! lol), a beautiful candle and a tin of popcorn for my kids. I know this family is struggling financially so for them to extend that generosity to me is very sweet. 

I gave all of my kids a new book (I always do SOMETHING educational), a pop-a-point pencil and a "seed notebook". You'd have thought I gave those 2nd graders the key to the world. They were SO excited! So sweet. I got them something else but they hadn't arrived in time so I promised that I would give those to them when we return to school in January (it's sticky tabs that I am going to use to teach them how to "code" their reading for the DDI stuff). I think they told me at least 12 times today how awesome and fabulous I am. They're so much fun, even when they make me want to rip out my hair! :)

I am super glad for a break though. I love them, I do. But I think we're all a bit worn down. I know I will miss them come the end of our break because 99% of the time they just warm my heart daily and I love it. I just hope the break doesn't fly by...some years it seems like Christmas is over in a blink. We also have The Youngest's birthday Tuesday, then Christmas, then our anniversary on the 28th and then New Year's. So it's always a busy time of parties and whatnot anyway. I am hoping to relax and enjoy it.

I was OUT OF THERE by 3:30 today (kids leave at 3:10). I literally dropped the kids off, went upstairs, packed up my holiday decorations to bring home and left. I don't care that some things weren't put away or taken care of. I was out like a light! They told us the building will be open on Tuesday if we want to go in and I kind of chuckled to myself. No thanks! I need a break, not to work! :)


Going to pick up my new puppy in a bit and I'm so excited! I can't wait to get that sweet little guy home! Have an awesome weekend!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Almost there....

Here's my positivity for today.... Tomorrow is Friday and thus the weirdest week of my career will be over! [and trust me when I say there is a story there!] We get to bring home our new puppy tomorrow, three days early! I am 100% prepped for the week after break so I can leave at 4 tomorrow and be a-okay! I can FINALLY focus myself on NBPTS for two full weeks with no other school work interfering :) Happy almost Friday! Photobucket

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cranky Pants

I think my reign of optimism is waning. I've had a really hard time this week sticking with my uber positive outlook. I did not bring up the new kid issue to my colleagues because I really don't care that I got him (and he seems sweet), I just don't like the games. Just be upfront and say "hey Sunny, didn't you just say you lost Kid A? Would you mind if I asked them to switch Kid B to you so we'll all stay at 27?" I wouldn't have cared. To go behind people's backs and then piss off the secretary is just not cool.

But Mrs. Secretary who I adore, sent the people involved an email that basically said she put this child in the other room because when they enrolled, we all had 27 (my other kiddo hadn't been officially dropped yet) and it wasn't my turn to get a new kid since I got the last one. Then the other teacher involved backtracked and sent an email apologizing and whatnot. I don't know. Maybe I'm a bitch. I just don't like playing these kind of games. I don't have time for it. And Mrs. Secretary was offended because she felt like the others thought she didn't know how to do her job. Rule #1 of working in a school, do not piss off the secretary.


Yesterday and today were crazy! I don't think the kids ever recovered from the big field trip. Teaching is such a solitary thing and I often question if *I* have lost my touch that day....then I talk to  my colleagues and realize it is definitely not just me or my class. Today my colleague right next door and I were chatting after school and she put it best -- they were just downright naughty today. And they were. I get that they're excited and I know having a rainy day in December (what the heck Mother Nature?!) doesn't help but man! I have been trying really hard to stay on track with my SSR conferences since I know they are going to be hounding us about them come January. The kids think if I am sitting at the circle table with a child it means they can talk instead of work and it is soooo frustrating! Today was our 68th day of school. It isn't like they don't know what I expect. *head desk* I feel like I'm being a jerk but they know how to do it correctly because they've done it! 

It's the Christmas crazies! It has just made me feel cranky and that stinks. I don't like being cranky. Plus I am upset that I am, yet again, without any real help and the same people get the help. It's so wrong and unfair. Bah humbug! 


That said, I will try to be positive tomorrow. It's a new day, a fresh start and I have a prep first thing which is nice. I stayed after a bit today and did a bunch of filing and sorting that I have been putting off forever. It feels nice to know that is out of the way and one less thing I need to do later. I feel ready to go in early tomorrow, get copying and whatnot all set for the week after break and then get through these last two crazy days! 

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Observation...what observation?

I achieved tenure earlier this year even though I wasn't sure if I would or not based on my leave of absence two years ago. Fortunately for me, they count my first hire date (March 2007) as opposed to my official full-time hire date (November 2007) so I became tenured this year after all. Whew! What that means is that I am no longer on the "long process" evaluation system. This year, since the evaluation systems have changed, it means full out lesson plans (like the ITIPs we had to do in college -- ick), a formal meeting, blah blah. When I found out that is what the new process was, I was thanking my stars I did not have to do that!

Observations were due today. So naturally Mrs. Principal waits until TODAY (ie the day of the biggest field trip of our lives) to observe me. Nice. She also came in DURING RECESS. ?! The only reason we were even still in the room is because the kids were being little stinkers and I said we were NOT having recess until I was done with my conferring! How could it count as an actual observation if the kids hadn't been in the room? I guess since it is "informal" it doesn't matter as much.

She checked my walls and whatnot (there are about a million things that we're supposed to have up--and we wonder why the kids *and teachers!* are ADHD!), wrote up a quick blurb and left. They're using a new online evaluation system so I got an email immediately that it was released for my review. The only suggestion was to make sure that I got writing exemplars put up. Well since I haven't taught 2nd grade in years and have had no level 8 papers to display....but whatever. That's easy enough to fix. If that's all she could find to say, I'm not doing too bad!

I bet a million dollars she didn't give suggestions to my teammates, neither of whom have any DDI stuff up (which is also a district expectation). Whatever. They're major behind kissers so I have no doubt she would never give them hell about not doing what they are expected to do. Not to mention that I was told today that while both of them acted shocked to learn I was getting a new kid right before a two week break, the pair of them, in fact, orchestrated this child being put into MY room. I was not impressed. I got the last new kid too. Not that I really care but to act all innocent about it is just bull. I don't have time for fake people in my life, not even colleagues.

I am just sorely annoyed by the whole thing. Add to the fact that The Husband apparently has massive PMS (he's been super cranky all day which makes ME cranky) and a super huge all morning field trip and thus a crazy afternoon....I'm tired and not in the mood for anyone's crap. Just shut up, let me do my job and leave me alone. I don't care that I got the new kid. I knew it would happen because I just lost a kid too. But their game is what is ticking me off -- don't act like you had no idea I was getting a new kid when you orchestrated it. AND they had the nerve to ask one of the lit coaches to complain to the secretary about it like she doesn't know how to do her job. Vacation can not come fast enough!


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Monday, December 12, 2011

Holy Potatoes!

So apparently I am a 2nd grade teacher because I throw around phrases like "holy potatoes" as naturally as   I breathe these days (although I almost swore in class completely accidentally today -- good thing I caught myself since I have trained my class to think saying "shut up" is akin to saying "f--- you" and they would have been scarred for life if their favorite person cursed).

I can't believe it's been so long since I last wrote. Time flies and all of that good stuff. I took a big break this weekend and it was soooo needed! I'm glad I [finally] forced myself to chill out and step back. This week's plan is to a) survive and b) get a bit ahead by Friday so I am out that door by 4 with not a care in the world! I am going to spend a majority of my winter break working on National Board. I also want to get back into the habit of daily writing as I did in November for NaNoWriMo. Not to say my writing was anything stellar but it was therapeutic and I miss it!

Tomorrow we have a big whole school field trip. I'm excited about it. Today we made notes for inside of our reindeer that we made Friday. They are cute. I have to take a picture so I can post them. I am SO not crafty but Mrs. E is teaching me well *wink*

This morning I set this up in my room:

One of my favorite things about teaching 2nd grade this year is that they still believe in Santa and whatnot. I've never really done a tree in my room before (lights yes, tree no). But one of my colleagues had a small tree up so I figured what the heck. The kids were SO excited about it. I had to threaten to take the presents back if they didn't stay away from our little tree! :)


I found out last week that both of my teammates are getting student teachers for winter semester and thus far, I am still on my own. I am trying not to be too bitter but they think because they do "so much" for the school that they deserve the help. Um, I am not chopped liver over here. I sent an email to Mrs. CT who coordinates all of the interns and asked her if she could check back with the college and that I would take a student teacher if one is free. I wanted a TA (half day) but would take a student teacher over nothing. TAs are harder to come by because a lot of people like the half-time help. We'll see. I am consoling myself that my data is amazing WITHOUT help. So there.



Something good did happen last week though. I got an email from someone in the Michigan Department of Education saying that according to their records I was pursuing National Board certification and there are still federal grant monies available for Michigan teachers who are pursuing the certificate. Monies have to be allocated by 12/31 so to apply ASAP. So during my mental health day last Thursday, I did all of the paperwork for that and faxed it in. Today I got an email saying my application was received and a request sent to NBPTS to ask them to allocate funds to my account! So that sounds like of like a definite to me. If so, it will be a super Merry Christmas and Happy Anniversary in my house!


Gotta hit the hay for a loooong field trip tomorrow. Only 4 more wakeups! If this week goes anywhere near as fast as today did, I will blink and it'll be Friday!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mental Health

I am taking the day off from school tomorrow. Notice how I said school, not work. I had to take a day off in order to get caught up on paperwork which is just insane! There is always way too much to do. I plan to make myself a list in order of priority and go right down my list. If I can, I am also going to plan for the week after break so I can get all of my copies for next week and the week after break all set and hopefully be "ahead" for 5 minutes :p I am not going to be able to get behind again because I need to bust behind on my National Board entries come January.


I heard two things today that made my heart hurt. First that a K teacher got a new kiddo who transferred from a Young 5s class which isn't really appropriate...and the K teacher told me that the parent was told it was okay because OUR STUDENTS ARE SO BEHIND ANYWAY. What the heck?! Whomever that was is an ass. I have a ton of respect for our K teachers...I know I couldn't do it! And to me that was a slap in the face for someone to say that. Secondly, another K teacher, whom I adore, told me that she was asked not to voice her opinion at staff meetings anymore. Why? Because she pushes back and has the balls to say what the rest of us are thinking and she was told her questions weren't welcome. That is WRONG (and Mrs. A if you read this, don't repeat it, k?). I feel sad because this teacher is awesome and a huge advocate for our kids. No one should feel like their voice is being silenced :( We get enough of that from the top, we don't need to try to censor each other!

I am glad we are winding down to a break. My heart aches and I hate it. It isn't the kids at all....and I am afraid for their future and my sanity. I swear if I ever win the lottery, I am opening my own darn school!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wow

Days like today make me wonder why I am a teacher and why anyone would ever want to enter the profession. Don't get me wrong, my kids are great. I love them and they are so much fun.

I am sick of the administrative crap my district does. I know Mrs. Principal feels the same way but to protect her job she just goes with it. It's so lame. I pray every day that when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Name (ie superintendent) finally gets the boot this summer that they get someone at our helm who a) respects teachers and b) puts the children's needs FIRST. We will never be able to compete with our suburban counterparts with these yahoos running things.

It makes my heart hurt. And it is why when my 8 year old tells me she wants to be a teacher, I have to bite my tongue to refrain from saying "Oh Hell No, you are NOT going to be a teacher." :(



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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Bliss

I was really horrible last week. If my blog wasn't titled "Caffeinated Teacher" it would be "Procrastinating Teacher". Seriously I procrastinate SO.MUCH. It's kind of ridiculous since I know I do it and I continue to do it anyway! It has always served me well though so I guess that is why I continue to do it (although I will not allow myself to procrastinate with National Board -- that is stuff that you can't just write up on a whim and expect to do well with).

That said, yesterday I planned to get all of my school junk done that I kept putting off all week. It's the only downside to super long weekends--you come back and don't want to do anything school-related! Thus I came home Friday with a HUGE stack of grading to do, plus some MAP stuff I needed/wanted to do so I can be better prepared to present the DDI stuff from Thursday to my team (my nerd flag is flying here people!). 

As a perfect sidetracker, The Husband called me and said they had the cutest little puppies for sale at the local pet store. They usually don't have dogs, just cats. A rescue center was there with pit bull/lab mix puppies that a hunter found abandoned in the woods (which is just soooo cruel -- God bless that hunter for bringing them in). At any rate, I have been hounding The Husband forever to let us get a new puppy to keep our 7 year old dog company while we're at school/work (and puppies are SO cute!). So when he called, we hightailed it over there and I made the mistake of picking up the friendliest one and he cuddled up right on my chest and went to sleep. I fell in love. He must have slept in my arms for about 30 minutes. Absolutely adorable. I wanted to just take him home....but the rescue shelter requires a vet reference and since the vets are all closed on Saturdays, it wasn't going to happen. We filled out the application and they said they would hold this one until they heard from the vet Monday. We have been planning to change vets so we're closer to home so I don't know if our old vet will give us a reference or not. I am going to be so sad if we can't pick up this puppy tomorrow. He is adorable!! I told The Husband when we left that I should not have picked up that pup and held him because I really feel like we bonded and I am probably going to cry if they tell us that the vet did not give us a good reference (and let me just point out there is a REASON we are changing vets so I don't know what she will say).

With all of that, I found it very hard to get back into work mode when I got home. I had hoped to bring the little guy home with us. So I shall blame that cutie pie puppy for the fact that I am working on my Sunday morning *wink* 

Grading isn't that hard when you teach 2nd graders, it's just time consuming which is the problem! But my team was super behind this week too and I didn't get our team copy of our lesson plans for next week until Friday at 4 (usually have them Wednesday) so I have to make sure I have those updated and ready to go as well. Then I have a bunch of little things I need to print so I will be ready to copy them tomorrow and start my week on the right foot. Fortunately this week is not crazy with after school stuff. Just a staff meeting tomorrow and planning Wednesday. 

I need to be better about planning my time so I can either get to school early and leave at 3:30 or get to school later and stay a bit longer. This whole living at school and still bringing work home is not going to cut it much longer! I know it is just because we've been overwhelmed with our new reading series and other directives we've been getting from the district. It's hard to stay on top of all of that and then try to have a life outside of it too. I've got to tighten up how I am balancing my work and personal stuff. I think I am better than I have been....but I need to like PLAN exactly what I will work on each day so I can get it done. Maybe that will help. Then I won't have to worry about puppy distractions because I won't have to bring all of that stuff home and I'll be free to spend my weekends doing whatever I want! :)

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Confession

Um, hi. I have a confession. (You won't be that surprised, I'm sure.)

I am a Gigantic nerd. Why?

Because it is Saturday night and I am digging into DeCarte (ie MAP test stuff). And I'm not bored. And there isn't really anything else I'd rather be doing.

That makes me either a) said gigantic nerd or b) really friggin lame.

I think I would rather be choice A. Just sayin'.

Happy Saturday :)


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Friday, December 2, 2011

Oh Friday, how I have missed you so.....

I got a new kiddo yesterday. When I wasn't at school. Gross.

I hate when that happens. To me, there is nothing worse than having a new student when the regular teacher is not there. Not that it is the child's fault or anything, they don't know my schedule! It's just unfortunate timing. I feel bad for the student because they aren't going to get the walk-through and procedures they would get if the regular classroom teacher was there.

Fortunately, I was notified Wednesday afternoon that the new child was coming so I had some time to prepare. I had to move my classroom around a bit to accommodate another table so I had somewhere to put him. I also made sure I had out a name plate, his books, a pencil box, crayons and all of the other goodies I make sure the other students have. My sub even commented on how well I prepared for him with such short notice, knowing that I wasn't going to be there. Whew!

My class is pretty darn sweet this year so they were awesome in helping my new little guy feel welcomed yesterday. I got a chance to meet him before school yesterday since I was there doing last-minute things for the sub before I went to DDI. He's a cutie pie and very shy but sweet. His mom seemed really nice too and excited to have him at our school. They came from Indiana. It's always a crap-shoot getting a new kiddo this time of year because they might be super low, super naughty or possibly both!

I had a chance to sit with my new kiddo today and squeeze in some testing so I know where to place him when I start my new groups on Monday. He scored above benchmark on DIBELs (almost to the end of 2nd grade benchmark) and when I did running records with him, he scored a 90% on level Q!! So this kiddo will be joining my high group. Holy potatoes. That is SEVEN kids in my high group...I don't think I've ever had that many high kiddos EVER, let alone in one class. Plus the fact that six of those kids are BOYS is really awesome to me. 


It was a crazy/busy day today. We got a lot done but not nearly as much as I would have liked. I completely flaked on our weekly reading test and I don't even care!! I'm so tired. I have a million things to do this weekend for work, for National Board and I'm supposed to help a friend edit her paper for a college class. I'm tired thinking about it. Truthfully I would like to crawl into bed right now and it's only 7:30 on a Friday night. Lame! But it is what it is. I am going to go to bed early tonight, sleep in and hit the ground running tomorrow. If I really put the pedal to the medal, I can get everything for work done tomorrow in a few hours and then have Saturday night to relax and catch my breath. Helping my girlfriend won't be hard at all (it'll be fun for a nerd like me!) and she promised me dinner for helping her so how could I say no to that when there is the lure of a cocktail or two in there?? 

Hope your weekend is as relaxing as I wish mine could be!

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

But I really DO want you to hire me!!

Every once in awhile, something happens that just makes me think the fates have aligned and I am just lucky enough to be there to be part of it.

Earlier this year, I posted about DDI strategies. It's a program after my own heart because Kathleen, the founder, actually started coming up with these ideas to help her son who was a struggling reader. It touched my heart hardcore when I first heard that last year because Middle Child so fits that profile and I figured if this could work so well for one struggling reader, it could work for mine. Well last year our district implemented DDI and I jumped right in. LOVED it. My district doesn't interpret it necessarily the way they should but that happens a lot everywhere.

In October, I got a blog comment when I posted about how I reworked and arranged DDI to make sense to me for 2nd grade. It was from Kathleen's sister! Ooooh, I'd been HAD! But fortunately, my identity has been safe and life has carried on well. I am slowly but surely bringing DDI into my fellow 2nd grade teachers' classrooms and really hoping to help them rock and roll with it starting in January.

Today I had a PD again for DDI. Very excited was I. I'm not joking. My nerd flag flies VERY proudly at these sorts of things. I get them. They make sense. So during one part I sort of whisper to Kathleen that her sister left a comment on my blog and imagine my shock when she knew exactly who I was. I did not want to reveal my blog identity publicly so we went into the hall a moment and she shocked me by saying that she FRAMED my post about how fabulous DDI is. ♥ Then I told her that I just want her to hire me.

And I wasn't being a behind smoocher either. Seriously people....this stuff just MAKES SENSE for good teaching. And it's easy. In fact, I mentioned it to Middle Child's teachers last year and they wanted to know more. I just let myself fantasize for a moment about how friggin awesome it would be to be the Michigan-based consultant. I have it all planned out in my head because I'm a freak (and I'm not afraid to dream a little). Kathleen even gave me a hug and it was like kindred spirits. Seriously. I gave her my "real" identity information and that's that.

I talked to The Husband after I left and was headed back to school and he said he couldn't remember the last time I sounded so excited. I think that ultimately....my district isn't going to be able to keep me in the long run. I have a TON of ambition and I am afraid that with how they do some things that I will end up way jaded and I am too young for that. I don't think I am jaded right now...but I HAVE BEEN and I had to dig myself out of that. Changing schools helped a ton. But really, I worry about that. If the administration don't start respecting us and treating us like professionals...I am not going to be able to stick around. It's about the KIDS. And really, consulting is the best of both worlds, I think. You still get to be a teacher and work with kids (AND their teachers which is a bonus) but you don't have the data and the other pressures. I keep telling The Husband that some day I am going to just start my own school where teachers can, oh I don't know, teach maybe?! 

Seriously. I can't tell you how overjoyed I have been all day to just know that someone like Kathleen has read my lil ole blog and gets that *I* get it. I'm just kind of mad that I didn't think up all of this fabulous stuff myself! Really though, my job is to help children and this work helps children. I know it does because I saw the proof myself last year.

If nothing else, I got my ego stroked just a little bit today and it's always nice to have someone else see the real you and appreciate where you are and what you're trying to do. It's pretty humbling and awesome all at the same time.



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