Sunday, June 29, 2014

Goodbye Summer (and personal life)!

You can tell I've been excited about starting my doctorate by the fact that it is 6:51 AM on a SUNDAY and I am not only awake but actually coherent. Apparently, my brain was ready for some stimulation. (Brain and I will be having a discussion later about the whole "sleeping in on Sunday" thing -- meaning, I'm not supposed to wake up before 8:30! Ugh!)

Anywho, since I woke up so darn early and it IS the 29th...I figured I'd peek at the syllabi for my doctoral classes. Whoa. 

Goodbye summer! It was nice knowing ya! 

Seriously, it seems like a lot of work (okay, it IS a lot of work) because I just looked at everything today and my head is spinning a little. Alas, it will be okay. Those calendars/checklist makers I posted about yesterday are about to become overloaded. (So basically what I'm saying is, if Google Calendar dies today, it's my fault for overloading it haha!)

This is the number one reason why I wanted to start this program in the summer -- to be able to gauge how much time I am actually spending on the courses when I don't have to teach myself. This way once school begins and I'm really into the thick of things, I know how much time I need to devote to grad school as well because I'll have already done it. 

That said...it is a bit overwhelming to see it all typed out. I guess the beauty (and downfall) of an online program is that everything is posted at the same time and you just go in and do the week's assignments in that particular week. But to see it ALL there at once can make you want to curl up in a corner and cry a little. 

Cool thing is, we will do a book study in our course and two of the books were published right here where I live. That's kind of neat, I think. 

If I don't post for a week (or 8) it's because I'm drowning in doctoral studies. :) I'm sure I will be around but just in case, you'll know why!

I'm off to fill my calendars and hopefully not destroy the Internet :D




The Caffeinated Teacher

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Organizing your Busy Life

I will forever profess my love of checklists, especially as a way to get myself through any kind of schooling. I have long said that checklists are what saved my collective behind when I first started graduate school and then landed my first teaching job wherein I had a 4th/5th split (which had children who had been allowed to color for 3 months before I arrived) and kiddos who were 3, 4 and 10.

I love checklists. I also love calendars. They are definitely a busy lady's best friend. Since I will be busier than a beaver for the next 3-4 years with my online doctoral program, my only real breaks coming at Christmas, I decided it was high time to get myself back in gear and organize my calendar and whatnot for the busy months ahead.

Summer is, of course, supposed to be carefree and fun, right? This is a little less so for me this July. The beginning of July isn't too bad but from July 14-30, I am going to be crazy busy. The Littles have horse day camp for a week with a family night on Thursday; the day horse camp ends, I am doing a Thirty-One party for a lovely lady who works in our after school program (her daughter was in my class this year); the day after horse camp ends, The Hubby has his 25th year class reunion; the week after that, I'm headed to Columbus, Ohio for the fabulous Thirty-One Conference, it's also The Hubby's birthday that week; the following week after I get back, The Youngest is getting her tonsils and adenoids removed and has to spend a night in the hospital. Whew! On top of all of that, I have to find some time to do my course work. Is your head spinning yet?? :)

It sounds worse than it is. While the girls are at horse camp, I will have the days to do whatever I want, it's just the running around that will be rough (they have to be to the YMCA to get on the bus at 7:20 am -- ugh!). The hardest part is going to be the conference in Columbus. It's basically hailed as the biggest slumber party of the year. The events go late (until around 9:30). I am so glad I chose to room alone because, like it or not, I am going to have to log in and do some course work while I'm there. I can't just basically take a week off in the middle of the class. Not going to work.

So what does a girl do to keep herself from going crazy? She makes LOTS of calendars, that's what. 
Google Calendar and I might become Besties over the next 36-48 months!


One thing I love about calendar programs such as Google Calendar and iCal is that you can actually have multiple calendars but display them all on one calendar. I have had an iPhone for the past few years but was not digging it so recently I upgraded to a Galaxy S5 which I might just be in love with. Galaxy runs on an Android platform which of course is Google related (what isn't Google related these days unless it is Apple related?). I LOVE this calendar format because I can add a calendar for each aspect of my life and (hopefully) keep myself from going crazy with all of the various things going on.

I have 5 calendars. Ridiculous, right? I have one for The Oldest (to keep track of her appointments and work schedule so I know when she is around to babysit her sisters if I need her to); one for Work (which is joyously blank for July); one for Family (to keep track of all of the crazy things we have going on such as the horse camp, therapy and other doctor visits); one for Thirty-One (so I can keep track of my parties, events and deadlines for that); and finally one for Concordia (which currently doesn't have much listed because the class doesn't start until tomorrow). I love that I can input everything onto my computer and then it will sync with my phone so I can glance at my calendar on my phone each morning, see what I have going on and go from there.

I also found a really cool app for my phone called Lists Alarmed! and I love it! You can make as many categories as you like and then create lists inside of them. 

The top two are blurry because they list names, FYI.

There are actually four categories, I just forgot to add one before I took the screenshot. I love that I can make my checklists on my phone and then check them off as I go. It a) saves paper and b) I can add or subtract from my lists anywhere because very, very rarely do I ever go anywhere without my cell. 

I'm really excited to see how these two programs keep me organized, especially once school starts again and I have meetings, IEPs and other things also competing for my time. I do know that no matter what, once the school year begins in September, I will be scheduling one day per week that is completely off limits for anything school related (both work and grad school). I have to do this to a) maintain my sanity and b) make sure that my kids don't feel neglected because I always am working on school of some kind. 

We'll see how that goes ;) 

The Caffeinated Teacher

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Crazy

People think I am insane. Crazy. Loco. They think this because I voluntarily pursued National Board. (Sadly, there are many, many naysayers that I know who are willing to bash it because they don't have the nerve to try the best professional development there is.) They also think this because I voluntarily signed myself up for this doctoral program. 

Honestly, I giggle about it. Many of my supporters tell me that people are just jealous of me. I learned that at work this year. People are petty, jealous and think that *I* think I am better than them. Please. I am a little west side white girl. I'm not better than anyone. I have never thought I was. I just choose to bust my tail and achieve my dreams. They could all do it, but they choose not to. It is a choice.

I have learned that people are afraid of me. They see me as "powerful", whatever that means. (All of these months later, after this conversation at work, I still just shake my head and go "what?!" because it makes absolutely no sense to me.) The only thing I can think of is that people don't like that I say I'm going to do something and then I actually go about doing it. I don't sit on my can and complain about what I don't like about education -- I'm actively trying to learn as much as I can so I can do something about it. If that makes people afraid of me...well I think that's on them.

After this conversation at school, I posted something on my FaceBook page and one of my colleagues (who, incidentally is also getting her doctorate) said that people only have power if it is assigned to them by others. I never really thought of it that way but realized how right she is. I don't think I'm better than anyone. I have a lot of passion for what I do and it may make me sound arrogant but it's not intended to be that way...and I don't think I'm better than anyone. If they think that's how I feel...well, they don't know me very well.

It came to  a point that I even said at work (to the person who told me that people are afraid of me), "so I can't be proud of earning National Board status or that I'm going to be working on my doctorate because other people might think I'm boasting? That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard." (Yes, I really do say it like it is, even at work.)

Alas, I have decided that the people who really matter in my life (my husband, my kids, my real and true supporters) would never call me demoralizing (I was described this way at work by someone who barely knows me), would never think that I'm boasting to make them feel bad, would never in a million years think that *I* think I'm better than anyone else. They see the real me. They know everything I do is for one reason and it sure as hell isn't to make myself look good. 

So I will be crazy and pursue this degree as I want to. I will be proud when I have a professor tell me that I have a brilliant mind (which incidentally just happened today). I will strive to learn as much as I can and truly learn how to make the biggest impact I can in the field of education. I will be 36 this summer (yikes! - how can I be almost 36 when I still feel like I'm about 22?) and figure I only have about 40 more years to make the impact I want to make in education. I'm not about to let any naysayers get in the way of that.



The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blog Reader

Back when everyone panicked that Google Reader was going away, there were so many blog posts about how people were going to read their long list of beloved blogs. Bloglovin.com seemed to be everyone's go to choice.

I didn't use Google Reader as I always read my blogs with Google Friend Connect since they all show up on my dashboard. I didn't know if I really believed the hype on Bloglovin' or not. I tried it and didn't find it to be the answers to all of my prayers. Not even close. In fact, I think the site stinks. It is not clean and user-friendly enough for me. I used it long enough to claim my blog and move over about 20 or so blogs. I hated it and figured my reliable GFC was going to be just fine.

And it has been until this weekend when the Java kept messing up and I could only see the most recent post. (Not everyone's most recent--that's how it's supposed to be. I mean literally the last blogger to post is the one and only one that was showing up.)

Well that wasn't going to work. So I decided to give Bloglovin' another shot and nope. With the 4th time the site crashed as I was trying to access it, I said a few choice words and went in search of something better.

I came across feedly. It's a slick little app that allows you to browse by topic (and will pull up anything relevant) or to add your own blogs and sites you want to read. As I was adding blogs to feedly,  I noticed something. According to GFC,  I follow 207 blogs. I think perhaps 2 dozen of those are actually active. There are some that are active that just don't interest me anymore (one of the most popular blogs I followed when I first started blogging is one I no longer read because it is SO negative--bonus point for you if you can guess which one it is).

I'm sure people follow this blog and pass on by when it shows up in their feeds.  Tastes change, time goes on. I don't feel the need to impress anyone. I have had people email me and tell me what a jerk I am when I tell it how it is on the blog and my first question is always "Why are you reading my blog if you don't like it?!" That just makes no sense to me.

So this long winded post has a point (who knew? )...if you follow blogs just to follow them,  you probably aren't getting what you really need or want from that blogger. Read what you can connect with and helps give you hope for what you want to do and where you want to go. Don't just be a follower. I know I will no longer be.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Bucket List - Reading Edition

Ah, summer! Time to relax, sleep in, frolic at the beach, be lazy and just not give much of a care about anything. Love it!

I read a lot anyway but especially love to read in the summer when I don't have to worry about lesson plans, grading and preparing materials for my classroom. This summer, I will be reading like a fiend. I found a bunch of awesome teachery books I wanted to read and have those on my list, plus the books I'll be reading for my grad class, plus any books I read for pleasure. I might just get lost with a few books for awhile :) Sounds good to me! 

I decided to put together a Summer Bucket List for the summer, Reading Edition. I don't have any books on the horizon for my "Pleasure Reading" list because I browse kindle all the time and select freebies. Plus I have about 200 books on my Kindle I haven't read yet. (I download them when they are free to read later.)


My Summer Bucket List - Reading Edition

Graduate School

The following four books are for my Ethical Educator Class.







This book is for my Nine Lives of Scholarly Writing Class (great name, no?)
This is an ebook and I started to read a little of it to play with the ebook program I can access my ebooks through and I'm such a nerd, I'm beyond exited to read this book.


Teaching 




I already started reading this one a little and I know it is going to be one of my favorite teacher resource books ever. It's awesome.


 
 
 
What will YOU be reading this summer?



The Caffeinated Teacher

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Celebrations

Last night we celebrated 25 awesome students at my school who had perfect attendance. We had over 110 students in our school (of about 450) who had 98% or better attendance! That is amazing!

We had a dinner for the kids put on by a local business partner of ours. It was amazing what they did to celebrate these kids and make them realize how very, very important the path they are on is. Two of my students were there with perfect attendance. One is a twin. I had his brother in 2nd grade :) Their entire family is absolutely awesome. No joke...those kids will all be amazing leaders and citizens because of their parents. They are Vietnamese and the dad is one of my favorite people ever. They are so, so nice and just truly amazing people. They have 3 students at our school this year and every single one of them had perfect attendance this year! That is absolutely amazing!

I had another friend who earned the award but wasn't going to come to the dinner. Mr. S who is definitely a servant of God (he is our community-school coordinator...basically he helps coordinate parents, teachers and businesses to work together on a variety of things to benefit our school) told me that he had tried to call his family multiple times but go no answer. Well....that is not how Raye rolls. I WAS going to get an answer. This was too big of a deal for them to miss. 

So yesterday after school I made the kiddo wait with me and we walked out together to find his family. His oldest sister and cousin picked him up. I told them the situation. They said mom and dad both had to work so they didn't have anyone to get this friend and his 2nd grade sister there and home. I said, "If it's okay with you all and with their parents, I would like to come pick them up and take them to this dinner and then bring them home." They were so startled that I would do that...but they said yes. So at 5:15 I picked them up and off we went.

I'm SO glad I talked them into coming...it was so much fun and they really celebrated those kiddos. A fancy catered dinner, pictures, celebrations in front of the crowd. It was truly amazing and nothing short of awesome for these kids. They deserve it. It is SO hard to overcome illnesses and things and they never missed a single day for any reason. 

Everyone was so amazed that I would pick those kids up and bring them. Are you kidding me? This is EPIC. They deserve to be there just like everyone else. The little girl, who has the cutest dimples ever, was so sweet. When I introduced the two of them to our superintendent, I called the girl "Sissy" as is, she's his little sister. During dinner, she leaned over and said, "Mrs. Wood, you can call me sissy any time you want." So cute!

I made some great connections at that dinner too...and it just makes me realize that I need to veer off my path a little. Yes I absolutely AM still going to reach my goals...but I have to spread my wings a little to make the sorts of connections I made last night...because those connections are going to be what helps me get to where I want to go professionally. It can be done...it just will take hard work...and last night just solidified for me that it's all about the kids. The kids and nothing more.




The Caffeinated Teacher

Sunday, June 8, 2014

T-Minus 4 Days and Counting....

It's the last week of school! Woo hoo! I can't wait to walk out of my school on Thursday knowing for sure that I'm set for the fall and just enjoy my summer. (Thank goodness it will be NOTHING like last year's crazy grade-level shuffle!)

I finished up my report cards tonight. They aren't due until Friday but everything major was already done so I could grade them and finish my grades. No easy feat since we had a grad party Friday and our staff party yesterday! I just knew that I was not going to want to work on them during the week this week...I really want to just finish cleaning and purging in my room, setting up my organizational system for next year and not worry about grades.

I have to figure out what I'm going to do with my lil dumplins this week. For the past two years, I have done a video DVD of my kids, compiling all of the pictures I've taken over the year. Alas, I found out from four different students that a lot of the kids don't even keep them. They take me forever to make and cost about $50 total so I decided not to do them this year if they aren't going to be kept as a keepsake.

I have to decide what else I'm going to do instead of the DVD. At this point, I am all about just making it through these last four days with as little drama as possible :)


The Caffeinated Teacher

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Wrapping Up

Four more wakeups and this year will officially be put to bed. I'm really looking forward to this summer...especially because, as I've mentioned, I don't have to move rooms or change grades for the first time in 5 years so I really will have a much more relaxing summer than I did last year :) 

Originally, Mr. Principal was going to ask me to move over one classroom, to switch with Mrs. Resource. This would be so that Mr. 4th Grade and I would be next door and it'd be easier to do some team-teaching since we would be right next door to each other and share the back bump out space. Alas, once he learned that I have been moved like whoa, even within my own building, he changed his mind and said I could keep my room. :)

The lower elementary resource teacher will be next door to me next year. That will be absolutely fine because she will be doing a lot more push-in teaching next year so basically, that room next door will be empty a lot of the day. That means I get to hog the 6 laptops in our back bump out next year  for my kids. Yay! 

I have been purging and organizing this week. My plan is to be done by the time my kids leave on Thursday (12:14). I think my official check out time is not until 1:30 but the staff member who has checked me out of my room the last couple of years, usually come through and checks me out early. Last year my room wasn't even done and she said "yep, it looks good" lol (she knows I'm way too anal to just leave a mess so it was fine).

I have realized as I've been cleaning and organizing, I have a ton of stuff in my room that is old curriculum that we aren't using but they won't let us toss. Lame :( So I neatly packed it up and stored it into one of the cabinets I didn't use all year. So it's all off my shelves and now my shelves are there just for MY stuff. My desk is an absolute mess right now but I'm purging files and things and by end of the day on Tuesday, I think my room will be almost completely done. 

I can't tell you how freaking glad I am to be almost done this year. For whatever reason, our district has 4 more days than the surrounding ones (not due to snow day makeups) so my own kids are done but I'm not yet :( A couple of long crazy days will be had Monday and Tuesday but Wednesday and Thursday are half days and we will basically watch movies. On Thursday I will present my class with their end of year DVD. I have made one each year for the last 2, this will be my 3rd one. It's a fun way to remember the year and I always put them to music I know the kids are currently listening to. 

I'm ready for some sun, sand and...grad school lol (doesn't quite have a ring to it, does it? :)





The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Next Year + Currently

Holla! It's JUNE which means it's almost summer time. Yay! I love me some summer....days off to be as lazy as I want...sun, sand....ahhhh.


This year, for the first time in FIVE YEARS, I am not moving classrooms OR changing grade levels for the fall! Do you know what this means?? Not only am I going to be able to RAWK IT in 4th grade again....but I am also going to FINALLY be one of *those* people at my school who leave IMMEDIATELY on the last day of school because my crap will be DONE and I can LEAVE and not have to PACK, MOVE, UNPACK, MOVE AGAIN, etc. :D

I can not tell you how freaking happy I am about staying put for once. It will be so, so nice to know where everything already is and only have to move my furniture and set up my bulletin boards in August. That, I can do. 

Plus, yesterday we had our staff meeting to do our grouping cards (not sure if y'all do those--they are cards with kiddos' information on them regarding any disabilities, glasses, learning styles, etc that we do each spring so the teacher who has them in the fall has a little bit of background on them). 4th grade did them at lunch because there are only 2 5th grade classes next year (so far) and we already kind of knew who we were putting where. We also did this because the upcoming 4th graders have a handful of children who need to be split up and/or need some extra TLC. So Mr. 4th Grade and I sat with the 3rd grade team to help separate those classes up (side note....what I am going to do next year when there are TWO Mr. 4th Grades?! How will I tell them apart on the blog? haha).

As of right this second....I have 21 students for the fall. TWENTY ONE. (This year I topped out at 25, last year I had 30 in a split, the year before, 26 and the year before that 30.) I suspect that due to the extreme amount of behavior issues and referrals for this upcoming class, and how wide-spread the achievement levels are (seriously they are either WELL above grade level of ungodly BELOW grade level....not much in the middle) that the district is trying to be proactive and keep the classes smaller in 4th to a) combat the behavior issues and b) to help with the academic concerns. 

Regardless of the reason, I AM NOT GOING TO COMPLAIN! I just hope it stays this way. I suspect we will end up with a 4th/5th split again and that will put a wrench in our best laid plans...but maybe we'll get lucky and they'll leave us be. (As of yesterday the 3 fourth grade classes will have 21, 20 and 22 in them. Perfect in my mind.)


And finally....after all of my crazy, happy shouting....my Currently....

Listening -- I am home from work today still trying to recover from this ear issue (it has given me vertigo which is why I stayed home) and it is blissfully quiet here. The girls are at school and camp and I am loving the peacefulness.

Loving - I seriously will be in HEAVEN if my class stays as little as they are projecting...heck even 24 is better than 28. Those extra few bodies make a huge difference. I am also so, so glad to not be changing rooms or grades for once :)

Thinking - Starting with this current school year, our district has asked us to make two specific goals each year, one for student learning growth and one for instructional, something we want to change. I want to do something with Choice Menus next year, especially for math, so I need to start putting my thinking cap on so I can do some planning for it this summer.

Wanting - I do love my class and my school...but I am ready for this year to be done. It's been really warm and sunny the past few days and I am SO ready for no alarm clocks and flip flops for 3 months!

Needing - I knew yesterday that I probably wasn't going to make it to work today due to my inner ear issue so I brought home some things I absolutely MUST get done and I need to get started on that list....I don't want to, but I need to.

Summer Bucket List - 1) In January I joined a gym and was doing really awesome at going...but I never went even once in May. Not once! :( It was a super busy and crazy month...so I am determined to get to the gym at least 4x per week (unless I'm on vacation out of town) this summer, starting this week. 2) I am starting my EdD program on June 29th and I am SO excited about my first class...I am also determined to finish that first class with an A...A- at the very worst. 3) We bought a pontoon the weekend before last and just got a trailer for it...now we need to get the motor fixed and put it into the water. I can't wait to spend lazy summer days on the water on our super fun pontoon!




The Caffeinated Teacher