Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cyber Monday Sales!

I've been living under a rock these past few days and I've LOVED IT. I've spent a lot of time with my family, a lot of time writing and a whole lot of time not even THINKING about school. Ahh, vacation, how I will miss you so!

Anyway, when I dragged myself back to the land of the living (ie the Internet), I notice a million and two posts about Cyber Monday sales. Oh yes, I have to be in on this.

I have about 12 items already saved in my cart at TpT that I will be scrambling to purchase first thing tomorrow morning before heading to school (because some of them I literally can use tomorrow). I'm not going totally hog wild but these are items I know are going to benefit me and my kiddos for the long-haul. Especially my 5th graders who are soooo behind in math. (It's scary just how behind they are.)

I also had to join the party! I don't have a ton of items in my stores (because I have zero time to create the stuff running through my head) but anyone looking for multiplication groups practice may want to check out my Multiplication Groups pack.

All of my products at Teacher's Notebook at 25% off through tomorrow. Visit my shop here.
All of my products at TpT (a whopping 2! ha!) are 20% off tomorrow through Tuesday. Visit my store here

Happy shopping!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving my dear bloggers. I am so, so grateful for so much this year. 

  • My Savior who has given me the strength to overcome so many obstacles this year and given me the opportunity to become the person I was meant to be
  • My Husband, for being by my side, always, throughout all of the trials I've faced in 2012 and never once giving up on me. 
  • My girls who have given me the privilege of being called "Mom" and showing me what being a parent is really all about. They are the reason I have vowed to never follow in my parents' footsteps.
  • My passion for teaching and learning since it allows me to grow every day alongside my students and make myself the best teacher I can be


Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy (almost) break!

Tomorrow we have a full day of school and then we're off for the Thanksgiving break. I love Monday/Thursday Tuesday/Friday weeks! We've been on a weird schedule anyway because we had the 5th and 6th of November off for Records and Election Day so the 4th grade team decided to do a Wednesday-Tuesday schedule for these past two weeks. I keep teasing my kidlets that it's Wednesday/Monday, etc because of how our schedule has been with Day 1 being on Wednesday instead of Monday. They just laugh at me because I'm a goof about it but today they really thought I had lost it when I said it really WAS Monday/Thursday because we only have two days of school. No one had ever pointed that out to them before. How sad for them!
One day last week, we were getting ready to leave the classroom (I can't remember if it was lunch time or the end of the day) but the 4th graders were going on and on about how I just have to teach 5th next year so they can have me again. We were going to lunch one day last week and one of the kids said something goofy so I turned around, crossed my eyes and made a funny face. One of my students said they were lucky to have me because I'm funny AND smart.
I tend to take the bull by the horns. I'm unorthodox for sure. I don't "play by the rules" in teaching. I get on their level, get real and get HONEST with the kids. I never, ever want to teach somewhere that I can't make a face and be goofy with my class. Most teachers I have taught with are way too serious. Don't get me wrong...I'm not being besties with my 8-12 year old students (and yes they ARE that range across my two grades) but I do know how to have fun. I also know how to be serious when it is warranted. Too many people just don't. I could never be the kind of teacher I used to have. Bo-ring! 
But I also take it all in. Today after school we had a grade level PLC. I tend to sit with my 4th grade team because I have 17 4th graders compared to only 11 5th graders (soon to be only 10). It makes more sense. We were talking about possibly splitting our kiddos and doing rotations for interventions (ie one teacher takes high, one takes medium, etc). I don't need to look at my data to know where my students are. It is my JOB to know. While I haven't memorized all of their Lexile numbers, for the most part I can look at my kids' faces and say "You're a [whatever color and number], right?" and they are astounded that 99% of the time, I am right. I could separate my kids into high-medium-low in under 10 minutes without every consulting data that is on paper because I just know my kids.
It scares me how many of them don't know basic 3rd or 4th grade math, let alone the grade level they should be working at. With Common Core now, its even scarier because of where I need to take them by the end of this year. We're in a limbo state in that we're half in CC and half not (I say just jump in and get it over with).
Ultimately, because I am a split and my time is already stretched thin, I decided to hold my own and do my own thing. My kids need ME and I can't compromise that to take kids from another room. It would be SO different if I had only one grade level but I don't. I have kids all over the spectrum and I am constantly trying to juggle my time with them so they are learning as much as possible AND we're maximizing every second. It isn't always easy and I have tweaked it several times already this year...but that's what good teachers do. They try it, tweak it, try it again and keep going until they get what the results they are looking for. Then they still tweak it to make it even better!
I am not going to feel bad for going out on my own. I'm all by myself in that class with kids ranging from a K independent level to mid-5th grade.I have to do what is right and take care of them the only way I know how...and that is by teaching them myself and not worrying about helping everyone else under the sun.


Saturday, November 17, 2012


National Board scores are out. My kids have been passing a stomach bug this week and overnight I began to feel icky. Woke up at 6:30 a.m. and checked my scores.

I did not certify this year. It's been a bummer of a week, my friend passed away Friday morning and then I miss certification by less than 10 points. I bombed Entry 3 which is the one I felt the least confident with. Entry one which I though was rock solid earned less than a 2.75 as well (that is like a B- and is the lowest possible "passing" score for any individual exercise). I rocked the assessment center but not a single entry earned a 4, even those that I thought were surely there.

It just goes to show that you can work so hard and still not have the evidence they look for. I only need 6 points to certify. It stinks because I have to wait until next November to know if I have made it in round 2 once I have decided what to retake.

I will post more on my National Board blog.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Oh life....

I'm just going to be honest from the get-go and say this really isn't going to be about teaching...

It's amazing to me how much I absolutely HATE 2012. Not a whole lot of good has happened to me this year. It's been a year of trials and tribulations to the nth degree. I am very ready for it to be over.

It's weird because super awesomely good things will happen...and then the bottom drops out and something crappy happens. This week is the perfect example of this. 

Allow me to illustrate:

I have contracted with a fabulous editor, based in New York City, to edit "The Phoenix" and will be resubmitting it. She skimmed it when I contacted her and told me my book was 'well written' and just needs some grammatical TLC. For someone with her credentials to say that to me made me feel amazing. This woman has over 30 years of editing experience and has absolutely phenomenal credits to her name. Plus she and I chatted a bunch through email and she is more than excited about taking on my OTHER projects that are currently in the works (including my young NaNo novel about my current students). So, I can say I have an editor. It sounds so sophisticated, no?

Amid that joy, I find out that someone very, very important to me is likely not to make it to Thanksgiving. He has been battling cancer for about two years. I saw him a month or so ago and he was looking well: virile, healthy. We were so sure he was going to beat the odds. He is like a father to me. When the crap in my life hit the fan last winter/spring and the truth came out, he never once judged me, turned on me or treated me differently. Instead, he held me up on the pedestal he always put me on and told me to keep on keeping on. He has been in the hospital recently and called me to tell me they were sending him home with hospice care because there is nothing more they can do. He was crying when he told me this. This amazing, solid man who has always been so strong was now weak. It broke my heart when he said "I'm telling you because I know that no one else would have"...and he is right. My stupid parents wouldn't have thought to tell me. I have known this man since I was 3 years old. He almost *was* my stepdad (and how very different my life would have been if he had been....). I cried all the way home last night when I talked to his wife and she said he is no longer allowed to have visitors except immediate family because he isn't strong enough to stand up anymore and is very agitated because he's starting to lose it and doesn't understand what is happening. His wife, Rae, knows how important he is to me and vice versa so she will bend the rule and let me come to say goodbye. It will be one of the hardest things I will ever do.

Then I have conferences tonight and have many parents tell me how wonderful I am, how much their child loves me and how they want me to teach 5th grade next year so they can have me again. 

Part of me feels like I shouldn't dare to feel happy when someone I love is suffering so much. I also know he would kick my butt for not taking pride in the hard work I have done. I should  not feel sad for looking forward to Saturday's score release because he is not doing well. He would not want that. Yet, I can't help but feel like this is so unfair. Why does Stepmonster get to walk this Earth, with his evil soul and wicked ways while someone like my dear friend's life is about to end, way way too soon? It isn't fair.

So I will keep on keeping on, as always. I will write. I will publish. I will remember my dear friend, my dear students and everyone who has seen the good inside of me and thank them for never giving up on me when the easiest thing for me to do is give up on myself.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Today was day one of two conferences. I love them in that I get to meet families and get to know how we can work together to help their child be as successful as possible. I hate them because it makes for a 12-14 hour work day.

I did awesome tonight though. All but my last one showed up :) And one from Thursday came because she thought hers was today (and I slipped her in!).

I had a conference first: three kiddos in tears. Not because I'm super mean but because we got honest and down to the point--I can't help you if YOU don't help you. It was a powerful night and I think a lot of my kiddos are really going to do better this next quarter. So that is a very good thing.

I am getting a new kiddo tomorrow so I'll be back to 28 in a split which is crazy! Fortunately I am enjoying my class this year so it shouldn't be too much of an issue.

Four more days till D-day!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, November 9, 2012

Down to the wire

Got my email from National Board. Scores come out next Saturday. In 8 days I will either be beyond overjoyed or a bit deflated and making a plan to try again. One of my colleagues said there is "no way" I didn't pass....but this process is so tough that I doubt myself.

It is going to be a LONG 8 days!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Creating writers

I don't know about you but most of my students over the years have been non-writers. They just don't dig it. I am convinced that in the last few years much of this is because of some of the writing units that we have. The idea of a writing curriculum is FABULOUS. Every child in the district learning the same writing units/lessons at the same time? Sign.Me.Up. However, it wasn't put into practice well and teachers being creative beings, things get adapted and changed to suit the teacher's style as well as the needs of that particular class of children. (We all know what worked for one group may well be a disaster for another group.)

The concept, as I said, is fabulous. I embraced it whole-heartedly when it was first announced. In fact, those were the years I served as an in-house professional developer, piloting the units, teaching them to my students and allowing my colleagues to watch and learn from some of the strategies I employed. That was my first real taste at teaching adults and I loved it--not because I was in the spotlight but because I loved feeling like I could share my craft with others, help them grow in their craft and in turn, better develop my craft.

That said, however, the more units pushed out in the concept of having a standard curriculum, the more we realized it was theorists, not teachers, developing these units. They were well above our students' heads, boring and often not aligned or relevant to anything. The children were unengaged and in the subsequent years, their views on writing have gone from indifferent to downright uncaring about writing. In years past, I have often had entire classrooms of children groan when it is time to begin writing. 

For someone who loves to write, this is very disheartening and sad. I never remember being "taught" writing in elementary school. Not in the way that we teach it today. We just wrote and we learned about grammar, sentence structure and more along the way through context rather than because they were isolated lessons. The workshop model has reintroduced a lot of this to students these days and that is more to my style of teaching and learning but I have always hated that my students hate writing.

This year, with embarking upon NaNoWriMo with my class, this is so not the case. I have been lucky this year with the split: most of my students are relatively balanced learners. In other words, with only a couple of exceptions, my students are pretty close to the same range. Collectively my kids are about a year behind their grade but this isn't true for them all (I have several who are well above grade level). I have a few children who, bless their hearts, should not have been put into a split. They are very far behind and it's challenging enough to work with children at that level in a non-split class. It can be impossible to give them the support they need when you are balancing two classes.

I wanted to try NaNo with my class and this group, fortunately, were totally game. When I wrote for them in class the other day, it was kind of on a whim. I hadn't really planned it, it just happened. Friday they were begging me to write more for them. So last night when I got home, I decided to take them up on their offer. I totally scrapped the original writing I had planned to do for them and began to write a story in the style of Louis Sachar's Wayside School books. Each of my students will be featured as the main character in their own chapter and all sorts of silly and crazy things will be happening in Room 311 over the next month. 

I think this will also make it easier for me to maintain my daily word count goal because I can write roughly a chapter a day (of anywhere from 1200-1500 words) and that will more than satisfy the requirement I need to make my 30k word count goal by the end of the month. I definitely plan to edit this novel with the kids and publish it so that they can have a copy. How fun will that be?