Friday, November 28, 2014


Happy belated Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoyed the day surrounded by friends and family. We keep it pretty low key here, just hubby, me and the three girls. I'm fine with that for a variety of reasons I won't go into. :) We were happy and healthy and that's all that matters.

Earlier this week, The Husband moved himself out of our home office area. He moved his computer desk into the TV room (I suspect so he can watch TV and be on the computer at the same time.) At any rate, that means the entire office is now mine. Yay!

I spent some time today cleaning and organizing the extra space I have. Now all of my Thirty-One goodness is in my office and not scattered elsewhere because there was no room. I need to buy myself a small table for my small sewing machine and life will be golden (not that I really sew...but I could if I wanted to and that's what counts, right?). 

While I was reorganizing my bookshelves, I came across a large envelope that said had the name of my Former School and the year 2006-2007 on it. That was my first year of teaching. Curiously, I opened it and found the memory book my kiddos had made me that year. I was a long-term sub so I knew I wasn't going to be back at my school the next year, and really didn't even have a job anymore once school was out that year. So we made memory books for all of the staff, down to the lunch ladies and custodian (because our school was small so all of the kids knew all of the teachers).

Those kids were rough -- by far the toughest first year I could imagine. But man did I learn a lot from them! I would never, in a million years, change that first year for anything. Because of what I taught them but mostly because of what they taught me. I started tearing up reading their little notes. They are all (hopefully) graduated from high school and in college by now...I think about them a lot. I guess that's normal when it's your first class. Here are a few of their notes:

 This kiddo was a particular pickle for a long time. He had a rough home life and it took him a LOT of time to trust people. A few years ago, he actually found me on FaceBook and sent me a message. It said a lot that he wrote this -- it took me until about March to finally break through to him (I started with them the Monday after Thanksgiving). It was worth it.

 Even though you aren't supposed to have favorites...we all do. This one was one of mine. I later had his sister and his brother.  His writing isn't the best but it says "I will always remember you because of how you came into our class and still stuck it out even thou we wasn't the best kids". Cue.The.Tears.

Talk about tear-worthy...."I will remember you when you saved us from not learning". This is a chld who I literally had to claw crayons out of her hands (5th grader) the first month I was there because that is what their previous teacher had allowed them to do. Basically as long as the kids weren't being naughty, the previous teacher let them do whatever they wanted. So yeah....I guess I really did save them.

I save stuff like this for a reason....because it reminds me. Reminds me of where I started and how tough it was (and believe me, it was TOUGH -- I wanted to give up two weeks in until all of the teachers told me "no, no, honey you have no idea how good you are doing, they actually LISTEN to you") but it also reminds me of why I became a teacher and why I stay in the city. It isn't always easy to be a teacher where I am. It's much better the last few years since our superintendent changed but it's a tough job with tough kids. This reminds me why I wanted to become a teacher. The kids need me....but more importantly, I need them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Holy Snow!

Would you believe me if I told you that today, November 18th, we had a snow day?

We did. A colossal one! We've had somewhere in the vicinity of 12-15" of snow since  yesterday. It's only November. I'm scared of what is to come, seriously!

Instead of really getting anything accomplished today (seriously, WHERE did my day go?), I slept in after three phone calls letting us know things were shut down (one from the district we live in telling me The Littles don't have school, one from my district saying I don't have school and one from The Oldest's college saying she doesn't have school -- pretty sure the Mr. wasn't very impressed with all those calls in the 5 o'clock hour), waited on the U-verse guy to come install my internet upgrade, took The Oldest out in this yuck to go to work and while I was out, decided to get my nails done, something I haven't done in ages. Not since early in the summer for sure. I was well overdue.

I didn't get anything done for the day job...and got a little done for grad school. Conferences were supposed to be tonight so those will have to be rescheduled for Thursday. It just keeps coming down out there. It seriously worries me for the rest of the winter since it's not even winter yet!

The good news is, my new little car drove great in the snow. I'm really glad we found me a small, comfortable car that is clean, runs well, has nothing wrong with it (aside from a weird whir sound when the fan is on) and drives well in the snow. Can't beat it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What weekend?!

Please tell me I am wrong and it's really only Saturday did it get to be 9:30 on Sunday night already? Wow.

I promised myself when school started there would be no Sunday Night Blues for me this year and thus far, I have kept that promise. I don't have them now either...I probably should but I don't. I'm just truly floored that the weekend is over already.

It was VERY busy and I did not get everything on my list done which may explain why I feel like time zoomed by. I gotta slow down a bit. I had two things on my schedule this weekend that I really should have politely declined doing...but I committed to them long ago and I don't like to back out of stuff. I probably needed and deserved the mental break those two things brought me (a mental break from grad school and teaching, I mean), but it sure cut into the time I had to do other things!

I'm sad that I didn't have time to go through the kiddos' math projects. I had high hopes that I would get through them all (all 66 of them!) but I didn't do anything except take the basket out of the car and bring it up to my office. Oh well. They are gonna have to wait. I had lesson planning, graduate school and a big event that took up most of my day yesterday and a smaller one that took up a portion of today that prevented me from getting to them. If my little guys ask me about it, I'll be honest with them: I was just plumb overbooked this weekend. I'd love to promise to have them all done by tomorrow afternoon....but I don't think I can promise that either because we're finishing up conferences this week and I have to run around The Husband and The Oldest until one of us gets to the SOS to legalize my car.

If you're reading this...say a little prayer for my sanity this week if you don't mind. I'll make it and be fine but I am VERY ready for things to slow down in my life and have some down time. Only 7 (school) days until Thanksgiving break and man do I need it!

Friday, November 14, 2014

{Five for Friday}
 I don't always manage to link up for these (let alone on time!) but here I am :)

Awhile ago, a gal I used to teach with asked me to help her do a Thirty-One fundraiser to help the mission efforts of her and her husband in Ecuador. Sadly, the fundraiser didn't go as well as it should have but I made my own donation to help her out and she was so thankful. ♥

Every week, my students do a Paragraph of the Week courtesy of Teaching in Room 6. This week's prompt what "What do you think it will be like if kids were in charge of the world?" I got the usual answers: no homework, we wouldn't have to go to school, etc. One very astute young friend of mine wrote, "All of the houses would be messy because kids are so lazy". Bahahaha.

Parent Conferences -- I have a love/hate relationship with them. It's always great to share with parents how their children are doing and get to see the kiddos in a slightly different context than the normal school day. The conferences make for some l-o-n-g days though. We had our first night last night and I had all but two kiddos represented. One of the girls told me at the end of the day yesterday, "Mrs. Wood, you get to see my baby!" and I said, "S, you are nine years old, I am very sure you don't have a baby." She giggled. I may have too. ;)

My 13 year old car decided to have a fit and die on me this week. Not nice! First the heat went out which The Husband fixed. Then the exhaust went crazy. It would cost way more than it's worth to fix all of that for such an old car so we had to go car hunting. Normally I'd enjoy it but I have so many things going on! Alas, this fabulous little car will come home with me tomorrow. 
My kiddos turned in their first choice board projects today! I am so excited to go through them all and see the final products up close. (I will post some pictures of them once I find the time to actually go through them -- lots on the docket for this weekend!) The kiddos worked so hard and were very proud of themselves. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

*That* student

We all have *that* student every year (and if you don''re either really lucky or you're in denial *wink*). You know...that kid that just pushes your buttons, grates on your nerves and makes you want to jump out the window.

In my inner city school, we have a lot of kiddos who have really hard lives outside of school. School is often the only stable thing they have in their lives. (Case in point...I got a new girl about three weeks ago. She left early on Halloween and I haven't seen her since. Found out yesterday afternoon, she moved again. My heart aches for that girl and her family who are bouncing from house to house because they can't afford rent or whatever.) A few years ago, I hosted my first student teacher. I was looking through my files the other day and found a reflection she had given me a copy of. We'd just had a lesson from a local group for survivors of cancer. The students filled a bracelet with colored beads based upon the hardships they had endured. My student teacher reflected that she wouldn't have been able to even make a bracelet and these 10-11 year old kids had bracelets full. That's the reality of the kind of kiddos that I teach.

I love teaching them, but it can be very emotionally draining. Very. And I always have at least one student who just gets on my ever-loving nerves. I have to ride them to get anything done, to stay on task, to not annoy other kids, etc. That's the draining part. You want every kid to be a success...but you can only hold their hand so much.

I have several of those kids this year. All boys. (I don't know why my boys tend to be my challenging ones -- sometimes I have girls who are, but most often its my boys who need the extra TLC.) One friend has to sit alone because he just drives everyone crazy. He has ADHD and truly always has to be moving his body. He sits off to the corner by my ELMO area so that if he stands up and dances around (which he does!), he isn't bothering anyone else. 

On Fridays at my school, a class who had good behavior gets to sit at the STAR Cafe at lunch. This is a special table decorated by our volunteer moms, off to the side of the other kiddos. It's a big deal. We won this week and I text my TA and said we won and I would be eating with the kiddos on Friday and she could too if she wanted to. Imagine my utter SHOCK when the boy mentioned above sat next to me. On purpose. I kind of gave him a weird look and teased him, "You sure you want to sit there?" He says, "I flipped [other boy] for it." I almost died. These boys who drive me (and each other!) crazy were flipping coins to decide who got to sit with me at lunch!

These kind of stories remind me why I teach where I do. Yes, they are draining. Yes, they can be irritatingly annoyingly irritating and drive me up the wall....but in the end, they just want to be loved. Loved as they are, loved with all of their flaws, loved as a member of the classroom.

It's these sort of reminders that keep me firmly planted in my district. It's not a perfect place to work (seriously, does such a place exist?), but the kids can't be beat. They captured my heart years ago and have yet to give it back to me.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


For the past few years, we have taken a TriPod survey through Cambridge Education to help us gauge how our students feel in the classroom. The students' survey answers are anonymous but after a month or so, we get an email with our results. Not that I put a ton of stock in what a 9-10 year old child says about my classroom (because how do I know they weren't in a bad mood that day or hadn't had breakfast or whatever?), but it can be useful to see trends over time.

Last year my kiddos rated our class really low on "Choices". Basically on the survey they said they didn't feel like they'd had enough choice in the classroom. Each year we also have to have an instructional goal. In the past we've also had to have a student growth goal but this year, for tenured teachers, its just the one instructional goal. Knowing my kiddos thought they didn't have enough choice in the classroom last year, I decided Choice was something I wanted to focus on this year.

That said, I decided to focus on math with my choices. We are required to teach math for 90 minutes per day. In theory, 30 minutes of that would be "intervention" or small group time. What I decided to do instead was employ  Choice Menus to allow the kids to work on the current learning topic but in a variety of ways -- games, extra practice worksheets, etc.

Last week, as I was trying to finish up my plans, I was struggling to make a new board. We're working on decimals and had already done one menu on decimals at the end of the marking period. I didn't want to do more worksheets and hope they figured it out. That's boring! So I looked on TeachersPayTeachers...knowing full well that someone else probably already created something I could use that would align to what I wanted.

Fortunately, I was right and came across this file by Southern Fried Teachin:

Oh. My. Word. This file is FANTASTIC. They are all project based and each board covers one concept. Since we are finishing up with decimals, my kiddos are doing the decimal place value board. They started them on Wednesday (our first day of school this week) and have been doing the planning phase. They are using the back of their math notebooks as planning space and once their plan has been "approved" (ie. my TA or myself have ensured the information is correct), they will get their chart paper, markers, etc so that they can actually create the projects.

My kids are LOVING this! I already have a friend who is done with all three of his plans and on Monday will be able to start on the actual projects themselves. The bonus is that these really show me if the kids grasped the concepts or not -- they can't just willy nilly their way through it as most of them require them to have some kind of explanation or other work. 

I absolutely can not wait until the end of next week when the projects are due and I can take some pictures and show them off. If you're an upper grade teacher looking for some awesome math choices, check out this file.

*No, she is not paying me to say any of this nice stuff about her :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Non Productivity

I had high hopes for today since we had the day off for elections. It's a perk in my district since so many of our schools are polling locations.

I had to get up at the usual time to get the girls on the bus but had the luxury of going back to bed. And I did. For many hours. It was great!

I was lazy almost all day. I didn't bother to jump in the shower until 3 pm. Then I went to vote and buy queso. (Priorities, right?) After consuming said queso...I did do some homework at least. Mostly what I did today was either sleep or play a game on the computer. Which means I'll be up late finishing what I need for tomorrow....but that's just fine. I'm plenty rested. Taking a break was so amazing. An extra day off every week would be awesome.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Currently November!

Happy November! This post was delayed by the fact that a certain Middle Child celebrated the Big 1-3 yesterday. Two teenagers in the house and a pre-teen. Awesome. I realized that for the next SEVEN years, there will only be six months where there aren't two teenagers in the house. Yikes!

Anyway, onward and upward!

Listening: I have been obsessed with watching old music videos on YouTube for the last week or so. It may be my way of procrastinating. Back in the day, when boy bands were the thing and every girl was in love with Nick Lachey...I seriously want to know how I didn't realize how freaking HOT Jeff Timmons is. This momma has been enjoying some eye candy in these videos ;)

Loving: My schedule this week is really great. With Halloween being on a Friday, PD/Records on Monday and no school on Tuesday due to elections...I may be in heaven. I needed a bit of a break from the craziness that is teaching this year.

Thinking: I seriously need to get started on my To Do list, which doesn't even include my household chores like laundry. It only includes what I need to finish for school this week and all of my "doctor school" stuff. Good thing I have Tuesday off, huh?!

Wanting: A massage sounds fabulous. I actually bought a package of them back in February and only used one...which means I have four unused ones just waiting for me. I think I will schedule one for this week. An hour of relaxation? Yes, please!

Needing: TA is awesome and does a lot of my grading (and thus I will be royally screwed when she leaves me at the end of November *sad face*) but I need one this weekend to finish up the last of the assessments grading so I can finish report cards. Which are now standards based...which they didn't tell us until two weeks ago and I JUST got access to mine...but no, I'm not bitter. At all.

Reading: Oh my goodness, I have so many things I'm reading. Mostly for doctor school (which quite honestly leaves little time for pleasure reading these days). My current class is on Creativity, Inquiry and Innovation and the books we're reading are: The Man Who Lied to His Laptop, Shine and Out of Our Minds. I really like them all so fortunately the excess reading isn't too painful (not like the last class when I often felt like a moron because I wasn't understanding what I was reading). My one guilty pleasure read right now (which I read in bed before going to sleep) is The Scent of Lilacs.

What are YOU currently doing? :)