Friday, September 26, 2014

TGIF

Thank goodness for Fridays! This week was somewhat of an emotional one and I'm glad for a little down time (hahahaha...not really, grad work is on the docket for the whole weekend).

Yesterday was the first day I wasn't at school this year...and my sub left me a note saying my class was the BEST class she's been in all year so far. LOVE! I especially love it when I'm out and my students do exactly what I have trained them to do. I didn't realize until this morning when I had gotten to school that I forgot to put in my plans to have the students finish their morning work yesterday so they could turn it in. (We have a math warmup for morning work M-Th and cursive on Friday.) I checked the basket of work that was done yesterday and the morning work was in there and all completed. LOVE THEM.

One of my little friends said, "We figured you forgot your brain so we reminded the sub what we are supposed to do." [Note: he said I forgot my brain because if they are being kind of sluggish, I'll say "oh no, we must have forgotten our brains!"] Have I mentioned how much I LOVE them? 

Today was a little weird. We had a half day and my TA was also out sick so it was weird trying to cram everything that I couldn't let go into our day as well as get things ready for the new friends I'm getting on Monday. I am ever so thankful for the amazing team that I have had the pleasure of working with these past three years. Mrs. K, the 4th/5th grade resource teacher, watched my friends for just a moment so that I could go get my new students and bring them briefly to our class. I wanted them to be able to see their new locker, their desk and how our room is set up. 

I know that things will be a little hectic for them as I know we are ahead in my class of where they were (simply because I know the curriculum having taught it already and it took my colleague a bit to get her bearings coming down from middle school), but I am determined to help these kids see this as a positive transition. I think the hardest part is going to be acclimating them to the calendar we do and the homework since it is not the homework that goes with our math series. Alas, a lot of smiles, praise and positivity is going to be what gets us all through it.

This afternoon we had some PD on PBIS and then an hour to work on data. A couple of the kiddos I am getting are REALLY high achieving. Interestingly, in analyzing my data, I noticed that almost all of my students have Operations and Algebraic Thinking (OAT) or Numbers and Operations (NO) as their "low" strand on MAP. This was true last year as well...and with the spiral homework and calendar, our kids gained over 19 points in those two areas from Fall to Winter. Plus I am working with stations a bit differently than I have before so it'll be interesting to see how it all works out.


I really wish I had time this weekend to just be lazy....but it isn't probably going to happen. I have a project due tonight, a huge transcript due tomorrow and grading and finishing up plans for my class for next week. Plus, I have a Thirty-One party on Sunday. Holy moly.

I suspect I am going to be up most of the night trying to get the grad work done so I can at least take a few hours tomorrow to not think about school or work. Two more weeks in this term for my grad class and then an entire 7 days off. I am SO looking forward to that.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Changes

We all knew it was coming and honestly we had hoped it was coming SOONER but it didn't. It will happen on Monday.

Our 3rd fourth grade class is being dissolved...we knew it was going to happen because there was just no way they could justify me having only 16 kids. It has been absolutely awesome, but I knew it would never stay that way. Alas, it isn't as bad as it could be. I am not losing any of my current students. I will just gain some from the other class. I got a new friend this week putting me at 17 so now I'll get 6 kids from the dissolving class and we'll be at 23. Still a very good and manageable class size so I can't complain (and I won't -- it could be so much worse).

I feel sad for my 4th grade colleague though. She has admitted she felt lost with us because she has taught middle school so long, but we accepted her and tried our best to help her make due. She is being moved to kindergarten. I would cry if that was me. I'm sure I could handle it and be fine...but it's not where I would ever feel safe, comfortable or secure as a teacher. I tried to catch up with her after school yesterday just to say that I was sorry that she was being moved to another school and going down to kinder but she wasn't in her room. It's probably for the best....awkward conversation almost guaranteed.

Knowing yesterday that the change was coming and that I wasn't going to be at school today due to an appointment, we had the students help us quickly rearrange the furniture in our class to accommodate the new students. I had only set up for 22 students since I was slated to have 21  at the start of the year and then we lost a bunch to other schools or districts (housing is unreal in our school's neighborhood due to the expansion of the college 3 blocks away and thus our families can't afford to live there anymore). I had to get rid of my Double E which is kind of a bummer but it's okay. We had enough space to keep our carpet area and now we have four groups instead. It's how I had my room all year last year -- four groups of 6 and it worked out just fine. 

I'm very, very glad we do not have MEAP in the fall this year because I would be scared of what the testing environment would be like. It's too much change and transition for the kids to turn around and expect them to take a huge test. It'll be a transition for everyone but in a few weeks, things will be settled again and we'll be okay.

Tomorrow is only a half day with students and then we have PD and time to work on student data in the afternoon. I need to get data on the new friends I have coming to me so I can adequately make new groups so my students are challenged but not floundering. It's going to be a very busy and insane day tomorrow, I think.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Shenanigans

This is the view I had for a good portion of my day today. Much more fun than having my nose stuck in a book/computer screen working on grad work!

Here's me bleeding green and white! GO MSU!


Michigan State University sponsors many of our inner city students each and every year to attend a football game at the Spartan Stadium. This is such a big deal for our kids because so many of them would never have the opportunity to go to something like this on their own. It's so much fun and they make it so worth it. This is my 4th year going with my school (the only year I didn't go was the first year I was there) and it is so much fun. Very tiring, but so fun.

It's amazing to see the kiddos outside of the school environment too. This year was, by far, the best group we've taken! They were so respectful and sweet and did such a good job. I'm so proud of them. A bunch of kiddos ended up not showing up because it was raining at school. I had 4 kids from my class who came and they asked me if they could bring their souveniers to show everyone who DIDN'T come. Absolutely you can! It was a total blast!

They have a whole spot for the kids to "tailgate" in with bounce houses, jump rope and other yard games. The cheerleaders come and perform and this year the male cheerleaders got in the bounce house with them and also did the bag races. So much fun and so very funny to watch. We always have such a great time and while I always wish I had been able to sleep in that weekend, I'm always so glad that I ended up going.


Once I got home, I wanted to be lazy...pretty sure doctoral students don't have time to be lazy...but I was anyway. I installed Sims 4 which I have been dying to play since it came out on the first day of school and while that was loading, I did a little research for my paper. But then I spent a good hour and a half just playing the game...even though I have a paper due tonight. Which I hadn't started writing when I was doing the research. (Very, very grateful that I am on Eastern time and my university is on Pacific time...thus, I can afford to procrastinate a little because I have 3 extra hours I normally wouldn't get.) 

I decided that I work my behind off all week at my job-school and grad school...and since I went the extra mile and gave up the majority of a Saturday to take my kids on a once-in-a-lifetime trip...it was worth just having some down time, even if I am now going to be crunching a bit to get done. 

It's all about balance and quite frankly, I have not allowed myself to have as much fun as I need to allow myself since school started. Grad students need to have fun too.

Plus, it was really nice to have a Saturday Shenanigans day today. It probably won't happen again for awhile but I'm glad I basically took the day to have fun. It was much needed and so worth it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five for Friday!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday!


 WORDS THEIR WAY
This week we got started with our Words Their Way Sorts. One of my colleagues found a super cute set of posters with activities for the kiddos to do each day and it worked out awesome! Sometimes time is a little tight but the kids had fun with it and (hopefully) learned something!

 CIRCUITS
We have been learning about circuits in science. I love this unit so much because it is awesome when the kids know the light bulb is supposed to come on...but to hear their squeals of delight (even in 4th grade!) when the light actually does come on is pretty priceless.
 
 OBSERVATION
This was our third week of school and Mr. Principal has done pop-in mini observations of my class a couple of times. He popped in yesterday just as we were coming back from finishing our MAP testing. The feedback form he left me (very informal but helpful) gave me all Effective and a few Highly Effective. I was so pleased because I have a REALLY hard time shutting up and letting the kids do the talking/thinking and I'm really working on that. It helps us both!

MURDER IN ROOM 315
My small class and I have so much fun together. Thursday we were getting ready to take our weekly reading test and a bee just randomly flew out of the corner of the room (my windows have not been open since school started so I have no idea how it got in there). It landed on one of my friend's desk and I told them not to wave it away because I didn't want it to sting them. I was going to squish it and just as I was about it, it flew toward me and landed on my (flowery) shirt. I was like, "Oh NO you didn't!" and smacked it. It landed on the floor and I had to end its little life. Pretty sure my class thinks I'm crazy BUT they all laughed about it today ;)
 
STAR CAFE
Part of our PBIS program allows students to earn individual star tickets for prizes or the whole class to earn a star. They are put into containers to be drawn out. Fridays are STAR CAFE day when classes are drawn to sit at a special lunch table that parent volunteers decorate and make special. My kiddos won and were so darn happy with themselves. They're so funny--something little like a table cloth and decorations just makes their day :) 



Tomorrow I'm spending my day at Michigan State University with about 200 3rd/4th graders from our district who get to see a game for free. This is my 4th time going and it is SO fun! I'll have a huge headache by the time we leave but its worth it. They put on such a good show for the kids and its just awesome.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How to Be a Popular Teacher

1) Have iPods in your classroom. Have enough for every child to have their own. (Very helpful if your class size is 18 or less.)

2) Use creepy and/or funny voices while you're teaching to a) get the point across and b) keep the kids so interested because they want to know what you will do next. 

3) Randomly start dancing while listening to a voice mail that contains awesome news while your little friends (who are supposed to be working) are watching. You'll know when they noticed because you'll hear a chorus of giggles rise up behind you.

4) Be firm, fair and consistent.

5) Be fabulous.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Woo hoo!

Praying really does work. As you may remember, I have been nervous about our class sizes. 4th grade is overall low (I have 16, Mr. 4th Grade has 19 and Mrs. 4th Grade has 20). They originally had us at 20 each and my thinking was, we are only 5 shy of that, pretty please leave it be.

I had remembered Mr. Principal telling me last spring that we had 3 4th grades because they (district level) were concerned with test scores. This group is LOW overall. We have a few high kiddos but most are 1-2 (or more) grade levels behind. I have prayed and prayed that they found a way to keep us small...mostly because getting half a new class 4-5 weeks in is so hard for everyone. But partly because this group IS low and they need the support of a smaller class.

This afternoon, Mr. Principal said it looks like I may gain just a couple of kids but he thinks otherwise they will leave 4th grade as is. It would put us at 18, 18 and 19 so much more balanced. It's not set in stone yet but this is what we think will happen. I will be so thrilled to have only 18!! I have never had such a small class and I know I can rock it with them if we stay small.

So cross everything that by tomorrow this is the decision they finalize. It will be so much better to gain 2 new students than 5 or more.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Woo Hoo's and Flattery

I have two awesome Woo Hoo's to share today.

My class is holding steady at 16 little friends and I LOVE them. Even the little wanna be stinkers are, for the most part, toeing the line because they know I will hold them accountable. (It is AH-MAZING how the kids I have been told are "so naughty" tend to fall in line in my class because my expectations are the same from Day 1 to Day 180!) 

One of my team members has a disability that makes it very difficult for her to use the stairs. So we all agreed to take one for the team (even if we really don't like it) and help with movement of her class up and down the stairs at various times of the day. She does her part and takes her less trustworthy friends with her on the elevator. It seems to be working pretty well most of the time. My biggest pet peeve, however, is students who aren't quiet in the hallway. Especially because we have been a PBIS school all 5 years I have been there and these friends all know the rules and expectations because they were at our school last year. My kiddos follow this class into the building and on Thursday, my patience just snapped. They came in with their hats on, their mouths open just being so loud and rude. I'd had it. I directed my class to stand between two of the cafe tables that hadn't been put up yet and I marched the other class right back outside to try it again. Not only did her class figure out we ALL are going to hold you accountable but my class stood in that line I directed them to for probably 3-4 minutes and didn't move a muscle! They just stood and waited for me. LOVE. 

Then yesterday, my TA's practicum supervisor came to meet me briefly. Of course she happened to come right when school started. ;) Timing is everything, right? :) My kiddos went upstairs with the other classes and I chatted with the supervisor for just a couple of minutes--long enough to get her card and share a little bit of info. I got upstairs and my kiddos were perfectly lined up at our lockers waiting for me to tell them which group could go to their lockers (we have half lockers so some on top some on bottom and we have either the top or the bottom go and then switch so no one has to worry about being trampled by the top or bottom person they share space with). Mr. 4th Grade and I share that side of the hallway and he kept an eye on my kiddos for me and said they did awesome and literally just stood and waited for me. 

Have I told you how much I LOVE them?! :) So they got two STAR tickets this week. This is a big deal because the whole class can earn a STAR and those go into a box in the office. On Thursday they are drawn and the class who wins gets to eat lunch at a special table. Our parent volunteers decorate the table and have fancy napkins and everything. It's something small but holy cow the kids are SO excited when they win :)


Also, I have had a ton of comments and emails lately from readers asking for my advice. Hello, flattery. I try my very best to answer all of the emails I get so please, if I don't email you back, it isn't intentional! I get so much mail that things can (and have) slipped by me. If you email me and I don't respond within a couple of days, please try again because it is so likely I am either a) drowning in grad work or b) missed the email entirely.

I did want to give a heart-felt thank you to all of the teachers out there who believe in me enough to ask for my advice. Especially if I'm struggling with some "behind the scenes" drama that just goes with teaching, it's so nice to know that the words I put out here into the blogosphere are affecting someone else in a positive way. I really appreciate your kind words and I hope the help I try to provide makes your teaching life a little easier.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Halfway through 2!

Holy cow....did you know it was Wednesday?? How did that happen?

I have been super busy the last few days. My weekend was crammed with grading, freaking out, paper writing, freaking out, lesson planning and did I mention freaking out? haha

Seriously, it was a tough one. I stress myself out way too much. I thought the paper I wrote this weekend for my transformational learning class was the worst thing I've ever written. I struggled with it so much. I got an A. I drive myself crazy. 

The work week has gone by SO quickly! I have so many things I want to hang in the hallway that my kiddos and I have done but who has time for that? (You'd think I'd have more time with such a teeny class AND a TA 3 days per week, but nope!) So that's one of my goals for tomorrow, hopefully.

I love, love, love my teeny class but sadly, I don't think they are going to leave it. I doubt they could justify it budget-wise....although who knows. We're only 5 students shy of the projections they made for 4th grade. Gosh it would be AH-MAZING if they left us be. I could take these kiddos places, for sure....Alas, it occurred to me yesterday that this has happened to me every single year that I have been at my school. Every year, I've had kids moved in or out (most often it is not in my favor). I should be used to it but I'm not. It really stinks for the kiddos to have that kind of movement. So cross your fingers for a miracle :)

I have so much I'd like to get caught up on tonight. I've been doing pretty well trying to keeping up but I'm trying to use a new app on my iPad for grading and it's not working so well for me. I used it before but the updates are not working for me at all. It's frustrating me but I'm gonna have to work through it.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

First week done!

I somehow managed to coherently post each of the first three days of school but by last night, I was D-O-N-E. haha

I'm so darn tired, even after sleeping all night. I have restless legs and when I'm really exhausted, even my medicine doesn't always help with it so I had a rough time falling asleep because my brain and body were tired but my legs wanted to dance and play (and I don't dance so figure that out). :) 

A huge side effect of getting up between 5:15-5:30 every day is that on the weekend, I'm awake by 7:30-8 at the latest. That is my body's "sleeping in" (I miss the teenage years of sleeping in meaning I didn't have to surface until noon or later!). I think it may be a sign of (gulp), "old age". 

Alas, we had a great first week but it wore me out. Part of the problem is that I am SO anal retentive about stuff -- I want things to be done and done well and since it was so unclear if/when they would make changes to our classes (and I was pretty much told, they are going to wait *sigh*), I hesitated to do too much planning-wise and thus I have a ton to catch up on. Which makes me tired thinking about it! :)

One of my goals this year is to avoid the Sunday Night Blues by not spending my Sundays working on school stuff. I think that's the problem...I spend so much of my Sunday grading or planning or catching up that I dread going to school the next day. I made it a goal to try my absolute best to NOT work on Sundays this year...hopefully for teaching or grad school. I can't always guarantee I'll be able to avoid grad school stuff on Sundays but I'm going to really try to stick to that if I can. 

I think I need and deserve to have one day a week that I'm just a mom and a wife. Cleaning, shopping, laundry, etc can all happen on Sunday and still provide me with time to just chill and be with my family. That's my goal and I'm really hoping I can keep it to. Around conferences and stuff it may not happen simply due to the extra stuff going on....but I'm super hopeful that I can stick to it.

That means today is going to be JAM-PACKED. I have to reread and/or finish my readings for grad school and write a paper for tonight. That's on my agenda first because it will take the longest. Then I need to finish my post for today in my writing class. After that it's lesson plans and printing all of the stuff I need to make copies of (thank goodness I had a special switched to Monday morning from Tuesday morning because of a shift in schedules at the district level so I have time to organize my week before the kiddos ever come). Then I need to grade all of the stuff my kiddos finished up yesterday so that my TA can stuff our Monday folders when she gets to school Monday morning. 

I told myself I had until 11:59 tonight to get it all done. I didn't work on any of it last night because we went out to dinner and I was so tired when I got home, I got into pjs, crawled in bed and played Candy Crush until my legs relaxed enough for me to fall asleep. Alas, I have a ton to do and it's time to get to it.

Have a great weekend :)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pinch me!

Day three done! I had a REALLY hard time last night....I let myself fret about a situation that may not even change and I was physically ill over it. Alas, I gave it to God and asked him to bless me and my students and help my district make the decision that is best for everyone. If that means kids get moved around, I am not going to be able to change it. And it certainly wouldn't be fair for me to hold it against the kids and not be the best teacher I can be for them. So I had to force myself to pray on it and just let it go. What will be...will be.


But...can I just say this?

I HAVE HAD THE BEST THREE DAYS OF TEACHING! Oh my goodness. This teeny class is an absolute DREAM. Yes, I have a couple who have potential to "go there"...but please. Let's be honest. I am SO not afraid to embrace my "West side" (sidenote: our school is on the west side of a big city and we tend to have an attitude problem haha -- I went to school there of course so I learned it back in the late 80s *wink*). They know I will not put up with their nastiness and will set an example of them if need be. It isn't because I enjoy being a jerk to other people's children...it is because my job is to TEACH, not deal with the attitude of a 9 year old who thinks they are 30, you know what I'm talking about? 

Mr. 4th Grade and I decided this year, knowing we had some friends coming to us this year who need a lil extra tough-love, that we were going to hit it from the moment we started and just get the procedures down, get the naughtiness curbed and move forward. I have been SO pleased with these friends! They have really taken it well and are doing awesome. I know it's all about structure. When there is a lack of structure, kids misbehave. When they know the expectation is the same from Day 1 to Day 175, they usually shape up.

Yesterday at the end of the school day, I asked my friends (all 16 of them!) how many of them were sad when they saw I was their teacher because they thought I was mean? I also asked them to be honest because I already knew the answer. All but my new kids (new to our school) raised their hands. Then I said, "and now that you've been with me a couple of days, how many of you realize I'm actually quite nice?" Every hand went up except my one friend who has zero self control and probably does think I'm mean because I'm on his case all the time. :) It is hilarious how their perception is so different when they've only ever seen me at recess or in the hallway when I tend to the be Rule Police. 

Today we were sitting at the carpet (and boy is there a TON of room at the carpet when you only have 16 friends haha), working on an ELA activity. I said something about how I don't like to yell at kiddos and that its really in their best interest to do what I ask because we'll get so much more done and have more time to have fun. One of my little guys turned to his neighbor and said, "yeah, it's nice not hearing our teacher yell all day like last year". That kind of broke my heart that his perception was that his 3rd grade teacher just yelled all the time but I also know that has been an issue as every time I have taught 4th grade at my school (3 times now), the kids always tell me one certain teacher just yells at them :( How sad.


I'm almost afraid I'm dreaming--that this is way too good to be true. But gosh I am going to embrace it and love it as long as I can (and continue to pray it doesn't change). It is WONDERFUL and we have already made some good progress since our class is so teeny. Would you believe me if I told you I ALREADY started my stations?? The THIRD day of school! I am doing them a bit differently this year but still....I never would have dared do them this early before. 

As many negative things as I heard about this new group of students, I've really been enjoying them. They are, for the most part, very sweet and I think I can really do well for each of them this year.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Day 2!

I'm scared friends. I have 16 hot bodies. Yes, I already lost one friend. :( If things don't change with numbers....some scary crap is gonna go down.

I shouldn't fret about something I can't control...but oh my word, I don't want to move kiddos around. It's so hard on them and on the staff. I'll do it if I have to and with a (fake) smile but I don't have to like it.

If they gave me 2 kiddos from Mrs. 4th Grade, all three of us would have 18. That would be PERFECTION. This group needs small classes, they are so low academically it would be beneficial to have small classes. Budget-wise....*sigh*

I hate this transitional stuff. It's hard to know if I should even bother teaching anything because I could get 10 new kids in a few days.

Aside from that, these two days have been soooooo awesome. I will cry if my class composite changes because it will be a challenge for many reasons--mainly with so many behavior kiddos potentially coming to us (I gotta hand it to Mrs. 4th Grade, she is holding her own with them all!).

The last time I had an awesome start to the year and then a crazy transition was the worst year of teaching ever. I would prefer not to repeat that. Pray that I either magically find 4 bodies for my class or they decide to look at data and leave us be so we can really get these kids where they need to be.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Day

Today was the first day of school. I only had 17 kiddos! Wouldn't that be an awesome class size? Unfortunately if more kiddos don't show, crazy things could happen and I could gain 10 kids. :/ I really hope that doesn't happen because I LOVED my little bitty class today. Only one friend who needs a "come to Jesus". He will find out fast I SO do not play.

I feel bad for our new 4th grade teacher. We were so strategic with how we placed these kids last spring and it seems like my tough ones and Mr. 4th Grade's tough ones left but hers didn't :(

We always get more kids on day 2-3 so hopefully I'll get more kids and they will be able to leave our classes alone. I really would hate to go down to 2 4th grades and increase our classes that much. Mathematically we could do 2 4th grades with 27 and 28 each :/ Praying they don't do that. This group NEEDS a small class size.

Ah well. Whatever happens happens...I just hope it doesn't :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently September

I can't believe it's September and thus time for Currently!


Listening: Kiddos are watching iCarly reruns in the next room. I'd prefer some silence but with two tweenagers in the house, it's not gonna happen!

Loving: I love the start of a school year, it's really a chance to start fresh and renew oneself. Tomorrow is our first day!

Thinking: Man I have been driving myself IN-SANE trying to make sure I have remembered everything, printed off the stuff I need to copy tomorrow, etc. I hope after all the crazy effort it pays off lol

Wanting: Not that I want more grad work but I wish I had more hours to get it all in today. My hubby is coming home and I have only seen him an hour in the last week. Needless to say I am going to want to be with him but I have work due tonight.

Needing: I seriously need to do my nails. My friend sells Jamberry so I'm good with materials I just have to put them on!

3 Trips: I have never been to Vegas but would love to go some day and definitely have Ireland on my bucket list. It'd be pretty cool to see the Grand Canyon too.