Friday, August 18, 2017

Blog Series

Surprisingly, I only had 8 votes on my blog poll (according to the blogger stats, over 140 people read the post so I'm not sure why there were so few votes). At any rate, of those folks who did vote, the vast majority want a blog series on Reading Workshop. Let's be real, I'm still going to do one on Math Workshop too but I'l focus on the reading stuff first.

I've been thinking about how to do this since we are getting a new reading program this year. We have used Reading Street since 2011-2012 school year and that's the program I have used to shape and begin to perfect my reading workshop methodology (keeping in mind, obviously, that what is perfect for me may be a total disaster for anyone else). My new school is switching to Journeys and we don't have our curriculum training on it until next Thursday. 

We also have a new third grade reading law in Michigan that has some big changes that will absolutely affect how I run my reading workshop. (In a nutshell, any student who is below a certain percentage on whatever screener the district chooses--my district is using NWEA/MAP--has to have an IRP or individualized reading plan. It's basically like an IEP but for reading only and every child below the benchmark has to have one. We have to document the interventions that we are doing to try to fill the gaps. I know that probably sounds hellacious but there are so many things we already do for interventions and this just gives us a tidy way to document them and ensure we are doing everything we can to help boost the kiddos up to benchmark.) 

That all being said, I'm not sure how long the blog series will end up being, but I am going to focus upon the screening process (using MAP), how I put students into groups, how I manage and run my reading groups, the activities the other kids are doing and as I learn more about it, I will share how those IRPs will work. The blog series for this will definitely be slanted toward having at least some help (a paraprofessional or a student intern) but I'll do my best to show what can be done if you are 100% by yourself too.

I am not an expert. Not even close. But I do know I benefit, even all of these years later, even with all of the credentials I have, from seeing what others do and having the chance to learn from them. To this day I still take ideas from multiple places, modify them and make them work for me. That is what I hope to be able to share with this blog series too. 

I'm not going to promise a specific start date for the series because you know how overwhelming back to school is (and my school is getting three new curricular programs all at once so it's even more overwhelming than usual). I hope to at least provide an overview of my new reading program next weekend (August 26/27) before we begin with kiddos on the 28th. 

Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017-2018 Classroom Tour

Yesterday, I posted a short video of my classroom setup. You can view that here if you missed it. 

This post will provide a picture tour of my 2017-2018 3rd grade classroom. I had so much fun setting up this room. It is, hands down, the best classroom I have ever had. It's big and spacious and we won't be feeling crowded in here, that's for sure!

Let's take the grand tour, shall we? We will start at the entryway and go counterclockwise. 

This is my entryway. It's really hard to read but the words are positive affirmations to let the students (and anyone who drops by my room) know that they are loved and important for being who they are.

Inside the door. I hung my anti-bullying sign on the door. That's my storage closet (which is very deep and is full of STEM kits and centers for reading and math along with some actual storage items). On the closet door is my sign out system. When students leave my room for anything (bathroom, resource, speech, mentor, etc), where we aren't all together as a class, they move their magnet so we always know where they are. It's great for during emergency drills!  

This cart holds the students' book boxes. They are obviously empty at the moment. Usually I select some books for the students at the beginning of the year, but this year will allow them to book shop on the first day. 

This is my "No Excuse Words" board...otherwise known as the word wall. I made this out of foam boards I bought at Home Depot last year and covered with a fabric shower curtain. It hangs there with command strips. Underneath will be the rotation schedule for Words Their Way which we will use for spelling this year. 

The meeting area. That green chair was my desk chair last year. There were so many chairs left in this room that it will be going back home. The pocket charts are for the teaching that will happen in the meeting area (I like to do mini-lessons together at the carpet area). This rug is super large and awesome. I will also have kiddos sit back here for group work sometimes.

You can see the library there too. The smaller cart has book baskets on both sides and the pink baskets you see on the left are only on one side of that cart. Genre posters are on the small cart and above it on the wall. 

This is a long view of the student desk arrangement. I have two double rows with seats for 14 in each row. I don't have that many on my roster, but I always plan for extra students, just in case. 

This is to the immediate left of the library area. These windows are opaque on the bottom because they face the library. There are extra book boxes and binders resting in this spot for now because I have two teacher tables that have to be removed and replaced with student tables instead. If you look closely at the second window, you can see my gecko's tank (obviously empty right now). Where those binders are sitting will be where I put my new light box because there is an outlet right there. 

The small table in front of the window (where the CD player is) will be a small listening station. I have some picture books on CD that the students will be able to browse and listen to with a partner during our reading stations. Eventually the picture books will be replaced with chapter books on CD. 

The drawer cart with the bins on it will have copies and materials for the week. We are 1:1 technology so much of my stuff will be digital but there will be some things that are paper and I needed a place to keep them sorted out. 

You can see the tech area better in this picture. The board above will have our daily schedule and the calendar (which says August but I put my numbers for the dates down somewhere and don't know where haha). The small group table will double as my student teacher's desk. Just behind it is a small filing cabinet and on top of it are supplies for her to use. She will also be able to use the filing cabinet for whatever she needs it for. 

This shows the rest of the white board with our Fist to Five sign to show understanding. It's hard to see in this picture but above that small bulletin board is our hand signals for bathroom, tissue or a drink. I've used this system for years and it's awesome because kiddos can ask for what they need without needing to interrupt me for anything.

This is my favorite spot in this room. This is my teacher desk/small group teaching area. This table was donated to me at my last school and I wasn't about to leave it behind. You can just see the stools underneath the bulletin board that the kiddos use when they meet with me at my table. 

It's hard to see but behind my chair is an organizer that has 6 slots which will hold materials for my small groups. I absolutely LOVE this space. I have my Thinking Maps there and the pocket charts can hold focus wall information or whatever else I need to support my teaching. 

This is what I'll use for student mailboxes.  They will take papers home each week from the week before. I will put a sign above it that says "You've Got Mail" :)

This is the rest of my storage area. I had that fabric hanging up at my old school to cover the shelves and such. It just looks so much better with it covered! All of that stuff on the top of the cabinets is old curriculum materials that were supposed to be removed, so I'm not sure what they are going to do with it. I will just leave it there for now since it's out of my way. 

Underneath the counter are some crates I haven't figured out what to do with yet and some lapdesks the kiddos can use to sit around the room with their iPads (or their notebooks for that matter). The two door cabinet holds board games and puzzles for indoor recess. On top of the counter in the crate are our SMILE folders (goal setting), the pink baskets hold scissors and rulers. The green basket in the middle (which I bought my first year teaching and it's still going strong!) is currently holding folders which will be the students' take home folders. Next to that are the glue bottles. Those yellow boxes hold spiral notebooks that have to be labeled and passed out to kiddos.  

And that is a tour of Room 124 :) 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

This is Not Okay

My heart hurts.

It sickens me that in 2017, we have white supremacy marches happening and it hasn't been condemned by the White House. Instead, it's brushed off as coming from "many sides." 

Well, I'm calling B.S. on that. It isn't coming from "many sides" at all. It is coming from the normalization of hatred and bigotry from our nation's leaders. If you refuse to call out these marches for what they actually are, you're complicit in them. You may not have marched yourself, but you're condoning what they stand for. 

People lost their lives and were gravely injured so a bunch of white folks could whine about their oppression. Seriously? Did any of these people actually pay attention in history class? The ability for these idiots to demonstrate the way they did is really the poster for white privilege. 

As educators, we can't stand in silence. We have to speak out, we have to tell our students, our families, our colleagues, the world that this is wrong, this is NOT okay and we are not going to stand by and allow it to happen. Hatred and bigotry have zero place in our country, but they are here, alive and well and festering like an angry boil.

Stop being silent. Stop looking the other way. Stand up and tell people, this is not okay. This is not the America I want to live in. This is not the America I want to leave to my children, grandchildren and future great-grandchildren.

We deserve better and should BE better. Don't be complicit or complacent. Stand up against hatred and bigotry and by all means, teach your students to do it too. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Intentional Educator Planner Overview (& Giveaway Details!)

I am super excited to share an overview video of the 2017-2018 iteration of the Intentional Educator Planner. This planner was designed by an educator--by a teacher for teachers. The theme of this planner is mindset, mindfulness and reflection.

Check it out!

You can order your own copy of this planner at 

Additionally August 14-18 Nicolette, the creator this planner, will be hosting a giveaway for the planner. You can find all of those details and participate at her website :)

There is another giveaway being hosted by Two Writing Teachers for the planner as well. Check out this post to see the details (act fast, this one ends August 16!). 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Blog Poll

What should I do a blog series about?

Guided Reading
Guided Math
Whole Group Reading
Reading Workshop (whole & small combined)
Math Workshop (whole & small combined)
Poll Maker


Today I moved into my new space! It is seriously the best room I have ever had, hands down, not even a contest. 

I was having a blast putting things together when the custodian popped in...and said "this room hasn't been cleaned yet...all this stuff has to come out still." :| 

See, I could have panicked. I could have died. I could have thrown a hissy fit. (You'll be glad to know that since I am almost *gasp* 39, that I refrained from doing any of those things.)

I TOTALLY FORGOT that my new school houses summer school. And summer school didn't end until last Thursday. So of COURSE my room hadn't been cleaned. I didn't even think about it. The good news is, the custodian is WICKED nice. Seriously, her and I will be BFFs. Not even a lie. She was fabulous. We compromised. She felt bad that there was miscommunication (she said they were told teachers weren't coming until the 21st...hahaha, not this crazy teacher! No way I could wait that long!), so she said if I put stuff on the counters and into my four window sills (which are deep and will hold boxes), they would let me leave my books on the bookcases and just wheel everything out, clean the carpets and put it back.

Okay...that I can handle. Whew!

It was seriously just a bummer because I was having WAY.TOO.MUCH.FUN. setting up that fabulous new space of mine. My teacher table/small group area is going to be EPIC this year. For real. It is going to be awesome. I was so bummed to have to stop working in that space and put things in the cabinets and drawers since I knew they had to pull it all back out. 

I was planning to not go back until next Tuesday but I think I'll pop in on Monday and see if its all done and then can get some work done in there before meeting with my team on Tuesday.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

School Projects {Picture Post}

I passed my dissertation proposal defense on Wednesday night. It was the scariest thing ever, but it went very smoothly (probably because I practiced like a crazy woman!) and I did very well. Woo hoo! That means that I have three glorious weeks to think about back-to-school with no interruptions for grad work. And believe me, I am already taking full advantage!

Here's a showcase of some of my projects thus far:

Swag Stickers
When I moved to third grade, I ditched my prize box and jumped on the Brag Tags bandwagon. I LOVE the brag tags. They are super cute and there is one for pretty much everything you can possibly think of. But they are pricey to print and laminate and time consuming to cut, sort and organize each week. So while I wanted to keep the same concept, I wanted to find something a bit different. Enter Swag Stickers. I don't even know where I first saw them, perhaps someone else had mentioned them in a FaceBook group or something.

They are generally just like brag tags except they are stickers. I was instantly intrigued and looked them up. There are a ton of choices in the product I purchased and they print 63 to a sheet. That means, in a perfect world, one sheet could last two years if I only gave out one of each type of sticker all year. That's not a bad deal!

I found round circle sticker paper on Amazon for super cheap too and all in all, it's much cheaper than printing the Brag Tags (it was $80 last year to print them in color---then I have to laminate and cut which takes more money and time). They are super adorable and I'm excited to try them out.

Light Box
You may recall me mentioning before that I was showing self-control this year and wasn't going to be jumping on the Light Box bandwagon. Well, I have officially eaten those words! While were we supply shopping yesterday, they had them out and they were only $10 at Walmart. How could I resist that price? Not to mention, my teenagers were like "you HAVE to have this in your room" so I got it (and still stayed under budget...yay!). 
I've heard a lot of people say that you can't use the inserts that are available on TpT in the Walmart box because they don't fit. I bought some growth mindset inserts (one of which is shown in the picture), some Pun inserts and some general ones that say things like "Happy Fry-Day" and has a graphic of french fries and is super cute. They are all designed for the name brand box that everyone else owns....but I printed one out (for the picture) to test it and only had to cut a tiny bit extra off to get it to fit into my box, so still worth it if you have a paper cutter and can make sure you cut a straight line. And the TpT ones are SO CUTE. For real. There are so many to pick from. 

As much as I said I wasn't going to get on the bandwagon, I totally realize why these are so addictive. They are just fun! And even if the kids never notice the sign--which everyone assures me that they will, *I* will be cheered by it every day so I guess that is what counts, right? :)

Crayon Cases
 The one crazy I did join in on was buying the little snack containers from Dollar Tree to use as a crayon case. Some people in the groups I'm part of wondered why anyone would do this. Well, I don't know about your students, but mine are often not gentle when they put away their crayons. Those cardboard boxes don't hold up worth anything and by November some are already in shreds. When I heard about this idea, I knew I had to do it. 

I couldn't find any in my local store so I ordered them online. The only issue with that is you have to buy a case. But its 72 of the containers so I already have some for next year :) [This assumes that I don't reuse them...not sure if I will or not. We will see how they hold up with little hands on them for 180 days!]  Plus it leaves me about 12 extra (I always set up for 30, just in case) for other things like holding small manipulatives for centers or whatnot. 

I found these cute labels for them on TpT. Look how cute these are!

I'm pretty sure I am driving everyone on my FB feed insane because it's all been back-to-school projects or pictures of my grandson the last few days :) I LOVE how these turned out. I will write my students' names with a silver sharpie on the first day of school. [I never label beforehand because you never know who will show and who won't.] 

Math Centers
I purchased a math centers bundle from Not So Wimpy Teacher and am in absolute LOVE with it. It's so good because the format is essentially the same for every unit and there are 10 centers for each unit. So in buying this bundle, I got 90 centers! (And there are some geometry ones for third grade that are a freebie so you get 93 if you download that.)

We have a little variety shop where I live that has basic office supplies for pretty cheap. I bought a pack of these Bazic brand file holders with the string clasp. I am pretty sure they were 2 in a pack for $1.29 each. Then I got the smaller envelope style ones to hold the actual centers. Pretty sure I got those 3 in a pack for $1.29 also. Something like that. All in all, it wasn't super expensive and they are poly plastic so they will last long.

Not counting the freebie Geometry one (because I haven't made that was yet), there are 9 units. There is also a "Back to School" one which I really appreciate because it's all second grade review and you can teach the kiddos the routine for the centers with things they *should* already know. Each unit has 10 centers (except Geometry as mentioned before) and each center goes into its own envelope as seen below.

These are filled with the Back-to-School unit. I expect that it will take us about a month to get through them all. Then the centers will come out of these envelopes and be either paper-clipped together by center or put into small baggies and labeled so they can go back into their "home" envelope as seen above. Then they are all set and ready for the next year! I so wish I had these last year!

The idea is that you use the BTS one as you teach your first unit. Then whatever that unit is (place value or whatever), is the next one you put into the centers. So the kids aren't ever working on centers with material that they haven't already learned. It's all reinforcement and review. Brilliant!

Positive Affirmations
 The Teenagers (they are way too big for me to get away with calling them "The Littles" anymore!) went to summer camp this year. They were part of the service crew so they got to help out around camp. They made a new wooden trash can, helped replace wood at a volleyball net and more. They loved it. The last day they have a closing ceremony with parents and everyone. Then you can get your stuff, sign out and head to the camp store or home or whatever.

They had this window cling that had this very positive message on it and I absolutely loved it. So I adapted it for my classroom (see below). It wasn't laminated yet but I absolutely love how this turned out!
This is going to hang outside of my new classroom. There is a small entryway before the door that this will be perfect for. I am going to arrange it so "enough" is the last word. I think it's super important that kids hear positive messages, especially kids who are always told they won't be anything because of where they go to school or because their parents didn't go to college or finish high school or whatever other mean reason people have to say stuff like that.

I'm also a big advocate of not just having things be "wallpaper" so this will also be a topic of conversation at our morning meetings. I want the kids to know they ARE valuable and loved and all of those other adjectives. Maybe we will even come up with a few more to add.

New Furniture
 One of the things I always hated about Former School was the layout of the rooms. You've likely heard me complain about that  stupid bump out space. My rooms there were basically square and didn't leave a lot of space for extra furniture (especially not the times I had 30 kids!). But my new space is fabulous and has a very big, dedicated space for a meeting area. I wanted a rocking chair before but never had the room.

I have been hunting for one and came across this one on FaceBook marketplace.
 It's a little dusty and has a scratch on the seat, but otherwise it is in pristine shape. The seller was only asking $20! I couldn't believe it. Turns out, she is moving home to England and can't take it with her. It's old and heavy but with a little elbow grease it will clean up just fine. I just need to get a cushion for the seat. I'm super excited to bring this to my room!

And that's that for now. I've packed a lot into the last few days (this has all occurred since Thursday!). I can't wait to at least get my stuff into my new room on Tuesday. Then the real joy of unpacking and figuring out where to put everything begins.

Monday, July 31, 2017

[Almost] Back to School

It's crazy to think that this is my last real week of summer break. I don't technically begin until August 22nd, but I have a training next Monday and we get access to our schools next week so I will essentially be back to work as of Monday. 

Along with the change to my new school, we are getting three new curriculum programs! (I guess it's a great thing I agreed to stay in third...learning three new curriculum programs for two grades simultaneously sounds pretty awful.) We are switching from Reading Street to Journeys in reading, from (the very old version of) Everyday Math to Go! Math and from FOSS kits (assuming we had any and they were stocked) to the Discovery Education Tech Book.

Years and years third year I was at Former School, I piloted the tech book and it was awesome. It's different now of course because now it is all aligned with NGSS. Plus my new school is 1:1 iPads so we will be able to do groups and modules and whatnot that I didn't have the ability to do before. I really enjoyed the lessons and activities in that program when I piloted it. I am NOT a science person. I didn't have a single class in undergrad that taught me how to teach science to kids. So I've always just flown by the seat of my pants with it...but the tech book is laid out so well and now that I do have 1:1 devices, it will be awesome because the students will be able to do the simulations and activities right on their devices. I especially liked the program because it was a nice mix of online simulations and paper/pencil explorations. They need to get hands-on when possible.

Next week Monday I have a full day training on the new edition of the Tech Book. I am super excited about it...which is great since I have mentioned I am so not a science person. I'm really stoked to have a science curriculum that will make science more enjoyable to teach and hopefully for my kids to learn.

Next Tuesday I am moving into my new building. We get access on Monday but I'll be at the training all day. The Husband took two hours off on Tuesday so he can help me move in. We are literally going to load up all of my crap stuff into the back of his truck and onto his trailer and haul it all there. With his help and using the trailer, we can get it all moved in one trip, rather than the 20 trips it would take me to move it all in my tiny car. Then he can go to work and I can spend the rest of the day organizing, cleaning and making the room presentable. 

Tuesday is really the only free day I have next week so I plan to be there as long as I can (typically we can be there from 8-4 on non-school days once we have access). My game plan is first of course to get everything moved in. Then I will spend time deciding on furniture arrangement. That's huge for me. I need to decide where I want my class library and my teacher area (this is especially important because I need a space for not only me but also my intern). Once the furniture is arranged, I can move boxes and materials to their respective spaces and then unpack one section at a time (i.e. all library books will be moved over to the library, all teacher desk things will be put by the teacher area, small group materials/supplies will be moved to the small group table). I find when I am systematic like that and tackle one area at a time, I get SO MUCH MORE DONE and it doesn't feel as overwhelming. 

Really if I can just get my furniture arranged to my liking, I'll call Tuesday productive. My new room is VERY long compared to my almost square room I've had previously, so it may be a bit of a job to decide how to arrange everything. Plus, I have no idea what furniture will be left in the room. I plan to set up for 30 even though I am only slated to have 25 (but who knows who has left or enrolled since then, you know?). I'd rather be prepared for extra friends, just in case :)

It would be a super awesome bonus if I arrive and my math and reading curriculum materials are there. I'd like to at least get a peek at what I will be teaching this year. 

In the meantime, this week I am attending a virtual math PD and defending my dissertation proposal (eeek!). So I will be plenty busy this week too. If I play my cards right, I can spend the one day at school next week moving in and getting some things arranged and then spend one more day getting everything how I want it so I can still enjoy some time off before we actually go back. 

I am excited to start this new adventure in a new school. I think it will be just the change I need. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Short Vacation {Pics}

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I am a glutton for punishment. I am ALWAYS busy. Being a mom and teacher is busy enough but then I go and decide to get National Board Certification. Not even 7 months after finishing that, I decide to get my doctorate in Education. I am definitely crazy!

All of that busy stuff means I rarely, if ever, have time to just sit and relax. And usually I don't. During the rare times I don't have school work to do, I'm constantly reading for professional improvement or hanging with my fabulous grandson or doing something related to my job or personal aspirations. It is so very rare for me to go entirely off the grid.

I did just that on Tuesday. The Husband and I drove 6 hours north to Lake Superior on Monday. We stayed Monday and Tuesday night and came home yesterday. We packed a TON into our day and a half in the U.P. (Interestingly I had two people on facebook ask me what "U.P." stood for...they know I'm from Michigan. So now I'm curious if Michiganders are the only ones who say "U.P."? I also discovered people FROM Michigan don't know that if you live in the L.P. (lower peninsula) you're a troll because you live under the do these folks not know this?? :)

For a few years I had a real itch to get the hell out of Michigan and live somewhere else. I have lived here my entire life basically. My mom tells me we lived in Texas for 9 months when I was three. I don't count that because I don't remember it (although weirdly I do remember going to a weird watering hole was shocked I remembered because I was three!). Alas, all of the traveling I have done in the past two years has really helped to curb that desire to move. Good thing too since The Husband is never going to agree to least not until he retires. :| 

It is short trips like this one that make me so glad I live here though. Michigan is absolutely beautiful in the summer. We visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and were just blown away by the beauty. Monday we did the Pictured Rocks cruise tour and it was the perfect way to see all of the shoreline. Tuesday we went entirely off the grid (I seriously had zero cell service pretty much the entire day--it was awesome!) and hiked through the various trails back to some of the waterfalls. Gorgeous but tiring. (For the record, we clocked just under 12 miles! Much of that was hiking up through crazy tree root trails!) It was so fun though. Unfortunately it was just nasty and rainy Wednesday and we were so exhausted that we just drove home. I was kinda bummed because it would have been cool to do the Glass Bottom Shipwreck Boat Tour also but the lake was really choppy and we didn't want to chance it being cancelled. 

Alas, here are some pictures of our trips. [And to be fair, these photos DO NOT do this trip justice at all. So beautiful in person.]

This is a wide angle picture from Miner's Beach of the Lake Superior Shoreline. Absolutely gorgeous!

The picture below is part of the trail! This is mild. I don't think you'd believe me if I told you the stuff we climbed over and around and we were ON the trial! :)

But these beautiful waterfalls were the reward for all that climbing so it was worth it!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Self Control with BTS

I have joined a couple of Facebook groups for teachers and whew! These folks are SERIOUS about their back to school shopping! I'm overwhelmed looking at their purchases, ideas and indulgences. I can only imagine how brand new teachers in the group must be feeling. (I know some are feeling overwhelmed because they have said so.) 

First there is the back to school schedule. Some folks are back to school at the end of July. With kids! (What the what??) Some folks don't go back until end of August and don't see kids until after Labor Day. So depending upon where in the country a person is teaching, some folks are already setting up their classrooms and some of us are still basking in the lazy summer days. 

Second, it is not hard to get excited when someone else posts something they have purchased and their excitement is evident. 




Putting things in all caps makes them seem even more exciting, so the excitement spills through the screen to every reader and suddenly WE are excited too. I have to have that {whatever it is} now too! 

Don't get me started on Amazon Prime Day. Holy cow! Someone mentioned they spent $800 on Prime Day and hoped their hubby didn't notice. (That is, in and of itself, a whole other rant.) 

So yes, I understand. It is overwhelming yet exciting to see everyone else getting excited about BTS sales and deals and seeing other people's fabulous classrooms coming together.

I totally get it. I've been there. I've been very guilty of buying those random things in the Dollar Spot because, well, they are adorable and I have to have it. Nevermind that most of that stuff has sat unused for YEARS because I never did figure out what to do with it. 

This year, I have found my self control. Perhaps it is because I'm changing buildings and had to go through every single thing in my classroom and clean it out (while simultaneously realizing how much STUFF I have). Perhaps it is because I'm older and wiser and realize that I don't NEED that stuff. Whatever the reason is, I have found my self control and I'm glad.

Don't get me wrong. I see those adorable light boxes and I want one too. But then I stop and think. What would I really use it for? How useful is it going to be when the students don't even notice that I changed the sign? Then the internal dialogue begins and I realize after the first week or so, the third graders likely WON'T notice and I'll have spent a ton of time and money for no good reason. So after letting it sit in my online cart for a couple of days, I have rationalized that I don't really need it, I've just been caught up in the excitement. So I get it out of there. 

That's how I've planned and paced myself this summer. I did purchase the Bazic pencil pouches I used last year and Ticonderoga pencils I've used forever, along with 30 bottles of 4 oz glue that were a steal at $1 each on Amazon. But I know I use those things. They are part of my instructional routine 180 days out of the year. Well worth the money. The only thing I have splurged on so far are these snack boxes from Dollar Tree. 

Lots of folks in the groups I'm part of have shared many ways they are using these snack boxes including for crayons and other supplies. Usually I have kids keep their crayons in the boxes they come in but let's be real, the cardboard breaks or rips after being pulled in and out of desks day after day. So I indulged. It's the only indulgence I'll make because I have tons of other things I can use the containers for (storing manipulatives and other small pieces needed for lessons for groups which makes it easier than trying to put things into plastic baggies). 

I still have to buy notebooks, crayons and folders. The only other indulgence will be a new class theme since I haven't actually bought one in several years and I'm moving to a new school. Otherwise that's it. 

Self control. I KNOW 90% of the things I have seen people sharing that they have purchased would just sit in my classroom collecting dust and/or wasting space. 

Before you buy everything...consider if it's actually useful and if it will be clutter or useful to your class. My theme materials are the ONLY thing that really doesn't have anything to do with instruction...I just like things to match :) 

Are you exhibiting self control this year or are you a big spender? :) 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

EdCamp Voice on Voxer (Part 4)

I am so super excited for EdCampVoice on Voxer again this weekend! From Friday July 7 at noon to noon on Saturday, July 8 it's an edcamp held entirely on Voxer! It's super fun and awesome and I learn so much each session!

In December 2015 I joined Voxer because I kept hearing about it and wanted to see what the fuss was. Then I heard about EdCampVoxer that occurred for the first time over that winter break. Oh my word! I was hooked from that moment forward. I have been a participant in each session since. Last summer I co-moderated a session on Student Centered Assessment. It was tons of fun and super informative.

This year I am moderating a group about Supporting Student Teachers. It spawned from a conversation I intercepted on Twitter about how best to support student teachers while they are student teaching. It's a small group so far but I expect to have more folks join in over the next few days.

If you are going to be student teaching or will be hosting a student teacher, we'd love to have you join us. Voxer is free and will explode your PLN like nobody's business! :)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

It Won't be Easy {Book Review}

It has been eons since I did a book review here on the blog...but this one needs and deserves one.  

Quite honestly, I have no idea how I got connected to Tom Rademacher on Twitter. It's possible that it occurred when someone retweeted something of his and I noticed it. The name stands out to me immediately because there is a journalist by the same name in my hometown. This only matters to me because that journalist's brother, Dan, was my 6th grade teacher (who once lit up a cigarette in class to demonstrate a laser for us--it was the 80s, you could get away with that sort of thing back then). Dan was also my colleague for four years. The name kind of sticks out when I see it. 

Regardless of how the connection happened, once I saw that he had a new book out, I had to get it and read it. (Really, at this point, anything that distracts me from the dissertation is quite welcome since that sucker is All. Consuming. And. Never. Ending.)  

I was quite prepared for this book to not really be for me. I was sure it was written for new teachers (and it probably was)...but I will tell you after 11 years in the classroom, it still struck me in so many ways, so many times. I think the biggest reason is the profanity. I LOVE profanity. (For reals...the biggest criticism I have gotten from The Phoenix Rising is that I'm a teacher and swear too much.  As if teachers are such supreme beings that we can't have potty mouths too. Bonus: my new boss also swears like a sailor. So I'm not going to have to be too careful about those f-bombs...except around the kids of course. But I digress.)

Without further ado (or distractions), here is my honest review of It Won't be Easy:

The book is split into five parts: summer, fall, winter, spring and summer again. From the get-go, you're introduced to the "slightly unprofessional" side because the first chapter is called "welcome to the Shit Show" (is it horrible to admit that he had me at profanity?).

From the beginning, the text is filled with stories from the classroom and the life of a real teacher. Real kids, real issues, real situations that very well could have happened in my own school district. There are discussions about how you have to try to work together with adults (even when it sucks) because hey, guess what? It's not about you, it's about the kids. (That, in and of itself, was enough for me to really feel like this book deserves 5 stars...because I often feel like I'm surrounded by people who don't understand that it doesn't matter at all what we want or need or's about what that kid/those kids need in that moment that matters.)

At its core, what makes this book so powerful is the blatant love you feel for the students that are talked about in the stories. There are some downright crazy things that happen, but invariably, somewhere in there, Mr. Rad says something along the lines of "this kid is going places, just so you know." The complete and shameless belief in the ability of these students to go out and change the world is what kept me hooked in this text, without a doubt.

I think, hands down, my favorite part in the book is "Fall." It begins with a toolkit of sorts which provides practical things you should definitely make sure you keep handy in your classroom  at all times. (My own personal toolkit also includes chocolate and a travel size toothbrush and toothpaste that I replace quarterly--I am not a coffee drinker but news flash, diet coke breath isn't that awesome either.)  The next section is called "Do No Harm" and it's magical and should be printed and passed to every new teacher when they sign their contract. Seriously. Mr. Rad flat out tells you that you're less important than the kids. (Sorry, but I agree.) Again, it's not about the adults. Ever.

Honest discussions about racism, how to navigate (or not navigate) the slang of the kids and how to be mindful of what you say and how it might be interpreted by those around you abound throughout this book. From having to break a promise to a kid to not tell (but telling because you actually care about the kid) to owning the fact that every single teacher in history is going to feel like the worst teacher ever at some point, this book lays it on the line and doesn't sugar coat anything. (You're definitely not going to find a sunshine and rainbows narrative here and quite honestly, it is probably the biggest strength of the book.)

Just over halfway through the book (roughly 59% according to Kindle), Mr. Rad talks about the worst advice ever. Guess what? I have been given this advice many times in my career. I've also ignored it. I ALWAYS put my nose in where it isn't asked and yes, it gets me in trouble. Guess what else? I don't care (because again, not about me).

Obviously I enjoyed this book. It's worth the read, it really is....but when you cut to the chase...the last part of the book is the most touching. Instead of a simple acknowledgements page or two, you get multiple pages with multiple examples of students who have made a difference to this teacher. I actually kind of teared up reading it because it's so genuine.

Even if you're not a newbie, this is a book worth reading. I think it's long overdue that someone had the nerve to share the realities of teaching--that it can be and sometimes is a shit show--while always putting forth the proclamation that it is, indeed work worth doing.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Don't be Yourself (A Rant)

Disclaimer: Normally I try to keep my ranting (and cussing) to a bare minimum on the blog but this just pisses me off and I have to get it out there for now and for the future. 

If I had a nickel for every time someone in my life accused me of thinking I was better than they are (or than anyone else is), I would never have to work again a day in my life. EVER. I mean, for real, I could buy a house along the ocean shore and never owe a single penny of debt ever again. 

Why must my success and striving to be better mean that I think I am better than anyone else? Why is it always, and I mean always, quantified in this way? Why can't I just be trying to be a better me? Why does it always have to be about the other person and thinking I'm better than they are? I will never understand it.

Over the past six years, I have been accused, multiple times, of thinking I believe I am better than other people. "People" would include family members and colleagues. Apparently I earned National Board Certification for the sole purpose of one-upping everyone around me. It couldn't possibly be because I saw/see weakness in myself and want to get and be better. 

Apparently I have busted my ever loving ass working on my doctorate for the last three years while teaching full time and managing a household simply so I could be better than everyone around me. 


Let me lay it on the line. I am probably the most insecure person you will ever know. Truly. I can talk a big game and probably do sound completely full of myself to people who don't know me very well. But actually have a conversation with me. Engage in dialogue with me about the same topic over a period of several days/weeks/months. I guarantee that if you actually listen, you will hear my insecurity. Some people never do because they don't actually listen to hear and learn. They listen to respond. If you actually listen to my message, you'll hear (and likely see) my insecurity. Many times over. 

I hold people to an incredibly high standard of success (and quite frankly I have probably screwed up relationships because of it) because I can't stand mediocrity. I don't want to be around mediocre people because I'm afraid their mediocrity will rub off on me. For a huge chunk of my life, I was told I wasn't good enough. Every single thing I did was questioned and analyzed and told that my motivations were selfish. I was doing things just to give the finger to the man. 

I rid my life of the person who gave me that message in the summer of 2011. Six entire years later, I still hear that voice. When I earned National Board Certification, that voice told me that I didn't deserve it, that I was a fake and a loser and people would find out about me. As I have pursued my doctorate, that same voice has constantly snuck into my ear and told me that I'm a fraud. 

People closest to me know who this voice belongs to and why it is so ingrained in my head. They also know why I finally had to take out the trash in my life and cut ties with this person. In fact, most people who have been around me for more than 3-4 months know the truth about that person. I don't hide it. I own it because hearing that voice, still after all of these years, makes me who I am. Whether I like that or not. 

This is why it is so damn frustrating when the people closest to me, who should know better, accuse me of thinking I'm better than they are. The message I get, loud and clear, when I hear this is "Don't be Yourself. Be who I want you to be." 

Most recently I have proclaimed that I dislike most people. It's not a lie. I DO really dislike most people. They are fake. They go along, they try to fit a mold. (Someone I hold near and dear told me awhile back that mold is for cheese and I don't need to try to fit a mold. And I love her for that.) I'm sure these people mean well but they conform. I am not a conformer. I never have been. This is why people either like me or they don't. It's one extreme or the other. There is no in-between. 

I don't care if people don't like me. I am not fake. I am who I am. Take it or leave it. 

What I do care about, however, is people who are supposed to actually care about me turning around and telling me I think I am better than they are or better than anyone. It's the same message. "Don't be yourself because I can't handle it" or more likely "Don't be yourself because I can't compete with who you are becoming."

Why do you need to compete with me? Why can't you recognize that I am still, every single day, trying to convince myself that I'm good enough. That I'm worthy. That the voice in my head is wrong about me. 

So to those people...I say this: Screw You. You should know better. I thought you did. It's a real shame to discover you are just like everyone else. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Apple vs. Google

I don't consider myself to be especially tech savvy but put a device in front of me, allow me to play around with it for awhile and chances are, I can figure out how to make it useful in my life. 

In my teaching life, I have had very little technology to speak of unless I go get it for myself (I have written grants for iPods and tablets for use in my classroom). This year, with some extra laptops and some tablets from Donor's Choose, I was able to actually integrate technology more than I ever have. (I suppose you can really only integrate technology when you have some, right? :)

We experimented with Google Classroom a bit and I liked the capabilities it provides me, but didn't end up really doing much with it because it was really challenging to try to get the kiddos to remember directions once it was there turn to have the devices/laptops. I still used it some but lamented (often) how much easier it would be to integrate GAFE (Google Apps for Education) if I actually had 1:1 devices.

Fast forward a few months and suddenly....I do have 1:1 devices. (Or I will.) Last week when I popped into my fabulous new space, I got a good look at my new classroom but also at the technology I have. I was given a MacBook and a new iPad mini. All of my students will also have an iPad mini to use. (I even discovered we have some cute little wireless keyboards that go with the iPads.) 

Along with my new teacher devices, they said I needed to get Apple Teacher certified. Basically I need to read up on and practice using the different Apple apps/programs and then take short quizzes on them to become an Apple Teacher. There are 8 badges for iPad and 8 badges for Mac (basically the same applications but for use on the two different devices and they aren't exactly the same going from the tablet to the computer). 

I have already finished the Mac badges. This means that technically I already am Apple Teacher certified. But I will also complete the iPad ones just to ensure I know the differences between using them on each device (because while I have the Macbook, the students do not and our computer lab has PCs so I definitely need to know the nuances of each device). 

That all said, before getting this devices and learning about the Apple training, I was gung-ho about fully integrating Google Classroom into my teaching this year. Now, I'm not so sure I want to do that. The iPads do have Google Classroom and all of the GAFE on them (at least I assume they do since mine does). Before we went on summer vacation, I even made folders for each subject area in Google Classroom for this upcoming year. It would certainly be nice for the kiddos to be able to access their files from the PC when we are in the lab as well (which means GAFE would be the way to go)...but I am learning some pretty neat features of the Apple programs that I didn't know about.

It's kind of embarrassing how little I knew about what the iPad can do since I've had one for many years (although both of mine are old and I'm not sure they can do what this wicked little mini can do since it's almost brand new). 

Perhaps I can use some of the Apple apps/programs for certain things but still integrate GAFE for others. I do definitely want to explore hyperdocs more this year for social studies (it will be the only curriculum I have this year that isn't brand new to me). 

I don't think, at this point anyway, that Apple or GAFE are better than the other. I just think each have features that I really like (love that GAFE will be there on any device, any time!). I will just have to figure out which ones to use when as I navigate the path toward being a 1:1 teacher.

Friday, June 16, 2017

New Space

Yesterday I got to pop into my new school and see my new space. All I can say is L-O-V-E. 

The school was renovated between 2007-2009. Some of the old rustic charm has been kept while it has received many modern upgrades. Perfect example...the library used to be an outdoor playground that was in the middle of the school. They put an opaque roof over it and adding flooring and lighting. It is my favorite thing about this school. It is so neat! (Bonus: my classroom is on the perimeter of said library :D)

I can't even say how much I just LOVE this new space I get to spend my days in starting in August. Don't get me wrong, I didn't have a horrible space previously...this is just different. I think, for my purposes, it is different better. One of the things I hated the most about Former School was the shared bump out space. Mostly because it took out room that I could have used for students (especially when I had 30 kids!) and if you have a big mouth like I do, voices carry through that bump out from the other room. One year it was me next to another louder teacher and was kind of a disaster. Neither of us meant to be loud, and it's not like we screamed or anything. We just have voices that really project and it can be a big problem. Or if there is a sub who isn't handling behavior well, it can get super loud and be really distracting and annoying too. By far that was my least favorite thing about Former School. I really came to resent and hate that wasted space.

At any rate, there are also drawbacks to my New School. One is that because of its unique U-shape (which I actually like) there aren't any windows in the hallway area and so it seems dark to me after being in a space where there is a ton of natural light. It's a trade off, I suppose.

Alas, I was able to stop into New School yesterday and get my class list and my Apple devices for the fall (I have some homework to do to become an Apple Teacher). I was able to see my room and check out the school a little better than I did before because there were no kiddos around this time.

This is what you see when you walk into the room. Immediately to the bottom right (so if you're standing here and you looked to the right), you'd see the closet area. Didn't think I needed a picture of that LOL This back space of the room is HUGE and so perfect for the meeting area and circle time in the morning. 

More of the meeting area. LOVE the wall space. Hello anchor charts! Ms. Principal was not sure if this carpet belonged to the room or to the teacher. I'm hoping it stays in here...30 squares means all 25 of my kiddos will have a spot for their little backsides and they are big squares. Plenty of space without drama. AND this space is so big we will be able to have a real circle that isn't all smooshed together. 

The end of the meeting area. You can see the classroom library shelves too. They are blissfully empty and just waiting for me to fill them with all of my fabulous books. I love that I have 3 double sided shelves...believe me, they will all be filled up! You can also see the windows. Natural light here I come :) It's hard to tell but the bottom of the windows are opaque because our room faces the library. 

A longer view of the classroom. I am DEFINITELY not keeping my kiddos in those rows. Not sure how I'm going to rearrange the furniture yet, but it definitely will not include rows of any kind. 

This is standing in the meeting area and looking forward. I love that the teacher left the bulletin boards decorated so I don't have to do it :) You can't see it well but the ELMO is up there along with the kidney table that will be removed so I can use my own awesome table instead with my stools. 

This is immediately to the left of the projector/white board area. The cart on the right holds my class set of iPads. I'm actually thinking this cute little corner would make an excellent classroom library. Or I may make this the "teacher space" since the cabinet is already there. I could move the cabinet against the white wall instead and then have my desk and my student teacher's desk there. We shall see. 

This is the other side of the room across from the windows. The stuff on the top of the shelving will all be gone. She said she'd leave the book tubs but I have my own so I'd prefer they go to someone else who actually needs them. I am not a fan of that flip the card chart but I noticed them in multiple rooms so I will have to ask about that. I much prefer my clip chart where kiddos can clip up for their excellent behavior too. It doesn't mean as much when you're ALWAYS just on green...when you can move up, other kids do pay attention to that and follow suit. Also if you look carefully under the counter you can just see the lap boards. I hope they leave them behind...because that teacher used them for the kiddos to be able to work around the room on their iPads. I LOVE that! 

Isn't this space fabulous? I am totally in love...and very glad only one wall is green because otherwise I think I would die LOL It's just not my favorite color.

I am going to take my well needed and deserved summer break but once August hits...that's it. I'll be in here playing with my new space. I'm super duper excited for this fresh start. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The End

Today was my last day as a teacher at a school that has held deep meaning for me since I was 8 years old (thirty years if you're keeping track). 

It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be to say goodbye. In fact, if we're being totally honest, I didn't even bother to say goodbye to most of my colleagues. I have known for quite some time that I do not belong there...well before The Husband told me last fall that I had outgrown the school. I didn't really understand what he meant when he said that, but over the course of this school year, I came to really see and believe that he was correct.

I have always been an anomaly. I don't fit anyone's mold. I don't conform. I don't do things just because someone else told me to. I don't believe I am better than anyone else (believe me, I still screw up, a lot, and in huge ways). I just try to face every day with the goal of being a better me than I was the day before. That's all. 

Yet there are many adults I work with who think I believe I am better than they are. I MUST be full of myself because I dared pursue National Board Certification. I MUST think I'm better than others because I'm working on my doctorate. There has been no such thing as genuine all comes at a cost. All of it.

So, it was time to go. I really thought today would be harder. I did. Several years ago when I got moved erroneously, it was SO HARD to pack up on the last day. It was unfair and I was not happy about it at all. I cried. The kids cried....but this time, perhaps because I left on my own terms...there were no tears, no sadness. I mean, I AM sad to leave a school that has meant so much to be. But I'm also not sad...because I know I am needed elsewhere. The promises of a fresh start and a bright future are amazing and I think that's enough to buoy me forward. 

Has it all been terrible? No, of course not. I have told people the only person I am leaving that school because of is me. I see my (now former) school going in a direction I don't agree with. Does it mean that direction is bad? No. It's just not what I think it should be. That's fine. It doesn't make me right and them wrong. It doesn't make them right and me wrong. It just means our goals and our vision are no longer aligned...and I'm smart enough to go before things go even further in a direction I don't want to be part of. 

I have learned a lot there. I have, without a doubt, literally saved lives. I have made a difference. That is what I set out to do...and I did it. Now it is time to take my talents, my passion and my tenacity somewhere else and make a difference there. 

I have always believed God would tell me when it was time for me to go. The stars would align and things would happen as they were meant to...and not only did I get my first choice school, I also really hit it off with my new principal (and I am EXCITED to work with her because I think she sees that I have so much to offer) and my new school is five minutes from The Oldest's new house. This means I will get to see my grandson multiple times per week....a luxury I currently do not have due to schedules and her place being in an inconvenient location. 

It will all work out. Things will be fine. Former School will move on with its bad self and continue to do amazing and great things for kids. And my New School will welcome me, embrace me and help me to find a new and better purpose and direction for the passion I have for children. The only way to go from here is up. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Day of Lasts

Today was the last full day of 3rd grade for the 2016-2017 school year. How is this possible?? I think this year just FLEW by. 

It was a day full of lasts: the last full day of school (we have 3 half days next week), the last day we had art, the last day we had computer lab, the last day of our YMCA presenter,  the last big test of 3rd grade, the last brag tag celebration, the last Fun Friday, the last big writing assignment for the year.

It was a bittersweet day for sure. 

Because I am transferring to a new school, I have to clean out everything from my classroom. This means files, organizers and much more. (So.Much.Stuff.) As I was cleaning out my cabinet this morning, I came across this gem and it gave me a huge chuckle. 

During our last YMCA presentation, we made fruit and veggie bugs for snack. Here is mine :) 

And of course, it wouldn't be the last full day of 3rd grade without a Super Ultra Mega Brag Tag day :) The kids were SO EXCITED to get their last big set of brag tags today. (They will get one on the last day too but this was the last big celebration for this year.) 

We ended the day with a Staff vs. 5th Graders kick ball game. It was a super fun last full day of school.