Tuesday, December 13, 2011

5 More to break...ramble

I have decided this week, that next year...if I'm still teaching (who knows what the future holds)...I'm going do do a 12 days of Christmas in my classroom. I want to have some sort of Christmas activity each day for the 12 days leading up to Winter break. I have no idea what it will look like. Hopefully, I'll actually follow through. I really don't know how you fantastic teachers come up with units of study. I feel like I'm sinking in common core and testing.

But oh well..

Today, I taught my kids how to make snowflakes...and not the crappy square ones. It took the last 15 minutes of school to do it. I didn't send home folders. We just needed something fun to do. One girl said I was the best teacher ever and then asked for my autograph.

My best friend's brother is dying. He stopped breathing on Monday and hasn't had any brain activity in the last 24+ hours. She lost her mom about a year and a half ago to cancer. Her brother has had health issues all his life, but this is obviously the most serious thing to happen.

I told one of my kids about it today because I've been keeping my phone close during breaks. I told her that my friend's brother was very sick and in the hospital. She said that I need to go get him some vitamins and take them to the hospital so he could get better. How sweet!? I wish it was that easy.

The other day she told me that her head was going to explode with peas. I asked her if she had peas at lunch. She said..."no. Nachos." I laughed. Yesterday she told me her head was going to explode. I asked her with what this time. She says..."uh...lots of little Miss R___'s (my name)". I gave her the strangest look. Ha! I love that kid.

5 more school days to go. We so got this...and will somehow squeeze in a crazy amount of testing!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting Back..

I feel like I need to take a step back. I have somehow lost myself.

I question my decision to be a teacher.

Don't misunderstand. I LOVE teaching. When I talk about it with family and friends, I get such passion and joy for what I do. It seems that when I step back into the classroom/school, it gets lost.

I can't keep up with the changes. I am constantly being made aware where MY preparation to be a teacher had massive holes. (Like I never learned what should or shouldn't be included in a small group reading lesson.)

I don't know how to do it. I don't know how to get back to myself. I would honestly love to throw my curriculum out the window for a week to just enjoy learning. Maybe I'd enjoy teaching.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy November!

I can't believe tomorrow is our 50th day of school!! Our kids had a FIVE day weekend due to parent teacher conferences and Halloween. We had PTCs on Wednesday evening and all day Thursday. We all got Friday off. Today was a professional development day.

We finished our business centers. Pointless. Our new Superintendent of Elementary-in training is an idiot. Seriously. The only reason he's making us do this stupid stuff is because his school made AYP last year and he can show off. So..if it doesn't work for the rest of us..because our kids are not the same kids he had last year...can we cut the busy work? I know I haven't been doing this a long time, but this is ridiculous. I know that every place has issues. Nobody is like us. My district is so ridiculous sometimes. If my school doesn't get AYP this year, it's for sure going to be handed to us. There's a possibility that the state will step in and we'll all have to reapply and interview with the state. Ugh. I don't even want to think about that.

There's so much stress and tension in the building that it makes focusing on the teaching difficult. As a new teacher, I feel like I'm drowning.

Oh well, right?

I was supposedly groomed to be an urban teacher....to withstand the drama and trials to last longer than most urban school teachers. I'm supposed to go longer than the average turn-over rate. Yah...I'm sure I'm going to go under it. I am too young and too ill-equipped to deal with these pressures. I don't know how anyone can do it with a family. I would quit. Just up and quit.

I love my students. I love teaching them. I love sharing stories and learning with them. I love learning from them. I love opening a new world to them. I love helping them through struggles. I love giving them praise and teaching them how to act appropriately. I love the hugs and pictures.

I would really love to be able to close my door and teach. Maybe that's what I'll work on this quarter.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Still alive..

Much has happened since my last post.

My all-boy student moved (with his family, of course) to Egypt. Not going to lie..that was a blessing from God. I love the boy, but I knew he would be quite the stretch for me. And with my current lack of creativity, passion and motivation, that would have just not been pretty.

I lost two girls a few weeks later. :( Taking me down to 20 students. Twenty is seriously the perfect number for a class. It lasted for like a week and then I got two more..a boy and a girl. And I'll be getting a new boy on Monday. This turnover is ridiculous. It's like never being able to get into a smooth routine. We started really focusing and moving the week we were at 20. This is possibly the worse part of my job. But..we deal and it all works out great. I couldn't imagine my class without these students.

We're currently pushing into the second phase of Vicky Gibson's Differentiated Instruction model. Since when it is it ok to put all your eggs in one basket?

Thankfully, I have an instructional coach that doesn't quite buy all of her ideologies and is willing to support my efforts to be a better teacher for my students. I am starting to explore the idea of flexible grouping in my classroom. Unfortunately, I haven't seen it done or really know the basics of it. (Thanks, University!) I've found some things on the internet and am just going to flesh it out myself. It's a big task to take on, especially 41 days into school. But....it's the first time I've been excited about teaching this year.

We've been asked to do ridiculous things, and the stress from the politics of teaching is really wearing me out. Why am I spending my time making interactive data bulletin boards in the hallway when data is up in the classroom and in student data portfolios and I could be using that time to really look at my data and figure out what my next steps are? Why am I creating a "business center" when all those things are in my classroom just not in the same place? My kids can't read all of that stuff anyways. Seriously? This stuff makes me want to jump ship.

On a positive note...My kids are already showing great academic growth as well as emotional/social growth. We went on our first field trip on Friday. We had a huge amount of parents that came with us. My group ended up being just two boys. And let me say, we may have challenging kids because of us being an "urban" school district, but my kids were so polite and aware of the kids around them. They didn't push to get to the activities that they wanted. They waited their turn and then didn't hog the activity the whole time. I couldn't have been more proud of them.

We have parent teacher conferences the 26th and 27th. Never look forward to them, but I think they'll be fine this year. But I am definitely ready for Christmas break. I wanna see my parents and friends. ha. Oh..the joys of school!

Friday, September 9, 2011


So I have a very gifted student who is all boy! He is super busy and makes buzzing noises and whistles all day long. He goes to our districts enrichment program on Fridays. Here he gets to do lots of hands on science activities and such. It's fabulous for him. (And me too, because I need a break some days. :) )

Thursday he was goofing around in his reading station. I pulled him to have a little conference with him about why he was playing instead of working and found out that he'd rather play with toys in stations. We talked about how that probably wouldn't happen, but I could definitely see what I could come up with that would be something that he liked.

We talked about what things he was interested in learning about. Lots of boy things like: Transformers, Pokemon, Mario, bugs, science, food, outerspace, muscle cars and racing. He doesn't like writing, but I found that I could probably get him to write if I gave him themed paper.

I'm going to be searching for station activities that are very boy themed. Or creating them if I can't find them.

Here's where you can help....if you read this.....

Do you know of any boy themed literacy or math stations???

I teach first grade, but he's probably at a middle second to beginning third grade level (DRA's from last year are lost). I'm going to focus more on reading comprehension and building vocabulary because he pretty much has all the decoding skills needed. If you can help or point me in the right direction, I would be so thankful!!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

A brief update...

I've been a slack blogger, but I usually am. I go through spurts of wanting to write and then wanting to keep it all to myself.

Today was day #14.

I thought that as you continue in your teaching career things get easier. Well..not so much for me. I feel more like I am lost in a sea of papers, little people, data folders, smart goals, common core standards, PLCs and everything else. I feel like my classroom is in shambles and routines are nowhere to be found.

I feel like I can't even get things started or organized. It's like I don't even know what I want my classroom to be. It's absolutely draining and disheartening.

I'm so ready to just throw up my hands and walk out...for fear that I won't be able to get it together at all.

I love my 23 students. Well....1 of them gets on my nerves frequently, but that's to be expected. We laugh often mostly at ourselves and are learning lots of reading and math vocabulary. I am really proud of them.

It was a crazy start to the year. I was the fortunate teacher who had all but 1 of her kids show up the first day. The other two didn't and have been getting about 1 new kid a week. One of them got 2 in one day.

In a span of 5 school days, I had 3 throw up at school and 1 poop their pants. I've gone through about 6 boxes of Kleenex.

I have one sweetie who is so low. She's supposed to be getting tested soon. She is priceless!! We were working on numbers that come after other numbers. I asked my students to show me on their dry erase boards what comes after 49. She says, "forty-ten". Ha! She also has said that if you need to get rid of your hiccups, you can hold your breath for 10 hours. :) She cracks me up on the daily.

Despite feeling like there's no room in our classroom, I have had a good start to the year. I just feel like I'm not giving them enough and don't even know where to start. So frustrating!!

I don't even know how to ask for help....

Hopefully, things will come together soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher

Tell us a little something about you...

I am originally from North Carolina but have been living in the midwest for 5 years this month! WOW! It seems like forever and then not long at all. My parents still live in NC, and I spent my entire summer there. Perfect!! I live with my sister who moved to them midwest almost 3 years ago. My brother moved out here about 10 months ago. Unfortunately, my parents will not be moving out any time soon. I played teacher as a kid. I honestly didn't have a strong desire to become a teacher when I finally decided to finish my bachelor's degree, but it was a perfect decision.

How long have you been teaching?

This will be my third year teaching in an urban school district. I'm fortunate to be teaching in the school I student taught at. I will also have my third principal in 3 years. I love first grade. Especially sharing stories with my kids.

You might not know...

Hmm. You probably don't know a lot about me. Honestly, I'm not sure I'm going to make being a classroom teacher my only career. I'm playing around with ideas for a Master's degree and hope to figure out just what I want to do. My mom is a social worker and so is my best friend. So..who knows!?

Oh...I also got stitches on my first day of my teaching career. Thankfully, it didn't happen at school, but it was a great story to tell my kids the next day.

What are you looking most forward to this school year?

I'm looking forward to working with our instructional coach. I am also looking at strengthening my small group teaching and classroom organization. I was not given the organizational gene and having 23 kiddos in my room this year is forcing me to be organized and focused. I'm also looking forward to sharing my extensive collection of books with my kids. I loved reading "Aliens Love Underpants" to them last week.

What do you need to improve?

Organizational skills. Small group instruction. Time management. Rigorous centers.

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?

My SMARTboard. LOVE IT!! My kids love it too. I'm excited about letting them use it more.

Post-its...and the good kind. Love making charts with my kids.

Fun markers. Love Mr. Sketch. My kids are already enjoying their scents. I use them for checking their morning work and desk work. They love the smell.

Carl's Corner and other websites that help me not have to make my own stuff and give me ideas of what to use with my class.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A New Year...

I really took a long break this summer. I ended up staying home in North Carolina for 8 weeks instead of 4. Best.summer.ever! I was not looking forward to coming back to the midwest and having to work.

I had a wonderful class last year and was very nervous about the group I would be getting this year. I ended up not getting the class I wanted and got a kid I retained from last year. I felt really down and disappointed for a couple of days and then decided that whoever is supposed to be in my class will be there and whoever isn't there isn't supposed to be there. From then on I have been getting more and more excited about the group coming into my room.

Unfortunately our numbers kept going up. All 3 classes are at 24 on their rosters. However, not all 24 have shown up in our rooms. I'm at 23. The one student missing is the one who was retained from last year. PRAISE THE LORD! He was the one I was dreading the most. I did not want to deal with the same kid again. He apparently doesn't live in our district; his family life is tragic. If he does come back, we'll make things work. And if not, I hope that he gets put with a great teacher and a great class.

So..we've been in school for 2 days. It's been difficult to transition from a wonderful group of kids to some I'm not sure about or don't know very well. I miss my kids from last year but am excited to see them move on to second grade. And I love that they're still on my hallway.

I am loving my kids. We're so cramped in our room, so we're spending time discussing how we can be respectful and how important it is that we keep in our areas. I'm launching the clip-up/clip-down behavior chart that so many teachers use this year. I learned about it from reading lots of blogs and browsing lots of pictures. It so fits my personality better than just flipping cards. My kids seemed so excited that they could actually move up and earn more rewards. They were given the compliment of "best class in art" today, and as a reward, I let the whole class clip-up. None of my classes before have ever gotten that compliment. The kids were so excited and proud. I also shared with them about earning class compliments. In the past I've use plastic chain links to make a chain to the floor. It usually takes about 45 compliments to hit the floor. We had to wait a bit to go into Art today. The kids waited so patiently and were complimented by the Art teacher. I congratulated the class on their first compliment. One of my boys asked me if we could put stars up rather than links. What a brilliant idea! I immediately die-cut stars and got one up on the wall. I love this because I can put the date and who the compliment came from. We ended up getting three today!!

I can foresee a few problems arising, but I think we'll be ok this year. But TWENTY-THREE!?!?! (9 boys and 14 girls) My biggest class was 20. Which I realize is only 3 less...but 3 bodies makes a big difference. I can get rid of two tables in my room with 3 less kids.

I am so glad to be excited about this. I was not thrilled about coming back to work after experiencing a great summer. I definitely think these kids are going to make the transition easier. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

10 Things You Don't Know About Me..

I'm joining up with Mrs. Owen's who is hosting a linky-party where you get to share 10 things about yourself.

So..Here's 10 things about me..

1. I am from North Carolina, but I have been living in Missouri for the last 5 years.
2. I have 4 nephews in their 20's. The oldest is only 3 years younger than me.
3. I wanted to be a lawyer when I was a kid.
4. My favorite movie has always been "Meet Me in St. Louis".
5. It had no influence on moving to Missouri.
6. My friend Jordan caught me a jellyfish this summer for me to bring back to show next year's class.
7. I am slowly becoming a Diet Coke addict. I think it's a requirement for all teachers. :)
8. My mom's social work career was a big driving force behind becoming a teacher.
9. I've had so much sweet tea in my life that I think it runs in my veins.
10. I have only worn closed-toed shoes 3 times this summer. I've been living in my sandals practically all summer.

Now it's your turn!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer Vacation

I'm taking it very easy at home with my parents this summer. I'm trying to keep myself away from lots of computer and television and reconnect with old friends and myself.

I am loving this season of being quiet and reading.

Of course, my teacher wheels are spinning. I just can't make them stop. I got to talk with one of my high school teachers this evening. I realized that I really do love my job. I sometimes forget when I'm in the middle of the year and we all have cabin fever.

I am going to keep reading and learning and preparing for next year, but mostly I'm going to soak up some sun, sweet tea and familiar faces.

I love summer!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last Day

Today was our last day of school.

14 of my 18 students showed up...just my luck, right? We actually had a pretty full first grade.

It was so uneventful...THANKFULLY!!!! We colored, played on Cool Math or PBS kids, watched a Reading Rainbow and Arthur and took down the word wall and data and job board behind the sink.

I actually had to hold back tears as I walked my last two boys to the busses. I'm really going to miss these kids.

I've got to work in my room tomorrow and close it down. I am hoping to have everything done tomorrow. I've actually gotten a lot done the last two days.

Unfortunately, I have to pack a lot of it up because my room is going to be used for summer school.

Ahh..what a great feeling to be done. :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We interrupt your daily scheduled classroom....

We spent an hour and a half in our hallway today.

The tornado sirens went off around 11am. I knew we were supposed to get rain, but I had no idea the weather was going to be so severe. I honestly wasn't sure the sirens were for real...like maybe they were a false alarm. I saw the other teachers in my pod area taking their kids into the hall, so I did the same.

I calmly asked my kids to line up, and we headed into the hallway to assigned place. My kids were FANTASTIC!! They got right behind the kindergarteners, dropped to their knees and covered their heads. I didn't have a single kid cry!! (But I did have one fall asleep.....)

We had teachers coming down the hall with updates. At one point there were 4 tornadoes on the ground around us and some that were headed in our direction.

My hallway is K-2. Our kiddos were really calm. Our teachers were really calm too. We all had our phones out and were texting family members. My parents are back East, so I was texting them like crazy. Some of my friends were in the way of the tornado. I was trying to keep up to date with them and check on my brother as well. Crazy boy was driving right into the mess on his way to work!!

We ended up staying in the hallway for AN HOUR AND A HALF!

We didn't get an all clear until around 12:30. Our kids had to go to the bathroom and were hungry, but they really didn't complain. We kept telling them this was serious and they needed to stay down and keep their voices quiet.

The other hallway (3-5) was in hysterics. They kids were balling and wanted to call their parents. It probably didn't help that some of them had been learning about weather and learning stuff about what happened in Joplin, MO., and one of the teachers was telling them that a tornado was coming towards us. Really? Who tells kids that?

I understand that it was a VERY serious situation, but to scare them? That's not our job. We're supposed to be the calm, reassuring ones. I consoled two first graders (who are not in my class) letting them know that we're in the safest place and that we're going to be fine and their families are going to be fine, too. We had a couple of parents come to the building while the sirens were going off. We weren't allowed to let the kids leave, so the parents joined them on the floor.

I couldn't believe how calm I was. I HATE tornadoes. BUT...I couldn't really see anything going on in the sky and I didn't see a radar until after the fact. I suppose we just get adrenaline or something going and know exactly what to do.

I think I'm going to have a better kit prepared for stuff like this. I also thought that I probably need to get email addresses for my parents, those that have them, to send them updates when stuff like this happens. This is the first time this has happened in the three years I've been in my building.

What a crazy day! Only 2.5 more to go!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Last week..

This next week is our last full week of school! YAY! We do have to come back on May 31 for a half-day.

I haven't formally planned out my last week, but I am planning on enjoying every moment of it. Even with my special little friend who pushes all my buttons before walking into the classroom. Definitely ready to send him to 2nd grade! ha! :)

It's going to be bittersweet.

Despite the last three weeks being the roughest of the year, this has been a complete turn around from last year. I have enjoyed teaching and learning new things. I have become extremely excited about the next year. It's been a challenge trying to get out of the hole I got in last year. I kinda feel like I was set up to fail last year. I somehow survived, but I've been trying to climb out of the hole all year. It's like this ugly cloud following me around.

But....that year has been over for a long time. And now this year will be over very soon.

Ahh..what a great feeling. Woo!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


We have it.
We have it really bad.

We've got Summer-itis!

It feels like absolute craziness in my school.

For whatever reason, I don't remember what last year was like at this time. I'm sure it couldn't have been worse than this year. I feel like it's come out of nowhere. I have students who are acting like it's their first day of school EVER!

Of course today wouldn't have been a good day.

We had a schedule change 30 minutes before school started. The other two teachers on my team were out today. The SPED teacher had meetings in the morning and couldn't take her kiddos. One of them is on new meds, and they take FOREVER to kick in. Oh...and I had a TWO hour observation today.

My special friend decided to whack another kid with his backpack while standing outside the classroom door. He then proceeded to rip a think sheet into itty-bitty pieces and throw a fit. Ugh. I'd just like for him to actually act like a first grader just one day. Just one. And of course, kids were playing in stations and yelling across the room and bothering me while I was trying to DRA. And of course, my Cross-Cat kid would show up when he normally doesn't on Wednesdays. And of course, I wouldn't be able to try out a new strategy I've been planning especially for R-controlled vowels because my students wouldn't allow me to explain it before they had to tell me about their shoes or jackets or pets or whatever it was. And of course, when I asked them to be quiet, three more who WERE quiet would feel the need to talk. Ugh!

It was all I could do to keep it together today.

It felt like last year all over again.

Alas! Only 7.5 days to go. 6.5 for me because I'm out on Friday. I've got to keep myself in the present and not worry about all the things I want to do this summer.

We can do this!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Next Year

I have already started to think about next year, as most teachers are. I have been thinking about it all year really...making mental notes and trying to figure something out. I tabbed a page in my go-everywhere-hold-everything notebook as my 2011-2012 ideas and to-dos. I am hoping to spend quality time purging a lot from my room this summer and reorganizing.

I plan on rearranging my room to reflect more of what I believe as a teacher. I plan on getting rid of a lot and reorganizing EVERYTHING!

I definitely fail in the organization category. I just can't seem to get it together. I plan to put a lot of my "worksheets" and activities into binders by subject, but I have to figure out how to organize them in the binders. I really wish I could have taken a college course on classroom organization! I'm going to figure it out, write a book and have my career made! haha!!

My theme for next year will be star related, I think. I'm going to play around with a lot of ideas and work on some decorations.

The biggest undertaking for the summer will be planning my year in units and really mapping it all out. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this in college either. There was no way to plan anything last year, and I didn't plan anything this year. I feel like I am finally familiar with our "curriculum" to break it and do the things I want. My personality is very much a "rule-follower". We had a reading "Nazi" last year who was a stickler for following the book. It's difficult to break myself out of habits. Thankfully, I have people who are willing to push me and help me figure it out.

We are very blessed to have a local church coming to host a school makeover work day for us in July. They're bringing tons of supplies and people to spruce up our school. We got to submit wish lists of what we'd like to see. I can't wait to join them in making our school over.

I am looking forward to having an even better year next year!! I am so inspired by everything I am reading in books and what other teachers are doing. Y'all are seriously amazing!

I am also secretly hoping that I get the entire kindergarten class in the room next to me...minus one who I know I would not get along with. :)

Head on over to Time 4 Kindergarten to see what other teachers are planning for next year.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Field Day and other ramblings

Today was Field Day. Thank goodness it's over!

Two of my gentlemen were called by the principal to miss the morning stations. After she called their names, several of my other students threw fits because they didn't get to go. They didn't realize that it was because the two were in trouble. Once they knew that, they calmed down.

One girl threw a fit because she was in uniform rather than street clothes. She wanted me to call her mom, which I was unable to do because we had about 10 minutes before Field Day started and before I had an IEP meeting. She threw a major fit. She ended up pulling it together. Her mom randomly showed up about an hour later with a change of clothes for her. In the afternoon, she pulled a major fit. I called Mom, and Mom came and got her. Such drama.

Overall, it was a really fun day. My kiddos won the tug of war--which was the best station/game. The girls beat the boys, too. We had plenty of time at each station, and surprisingly my kiddos were pretty well behaved. Our downtime in the classroom was the worst part.

I really wish it was the last day. I don't know if I can make 15 more days.

My principal came to me about 3:15 to let me and the other first grade teacher outside with me know that we are being observed next week. 9:00am to 1:00pm for me! FOUR hours! I'm hoping they won't be in my room that long. It's going to be nuts. Hopefully, my scholars will be calm. They're about to come unglued. We're so ready for this year to be over.

There has been major drama with my newest student. His mom took him from the aunt's house on Monday...didn't bring him to school Tuesday through Thursday. I found out this morning that he's now coming to and leaving school in a cab. Aunt was at school today to watch her kids at field day. She didn't realize he was here. She said that the police and social workers were looking for them because mom is unfit and running. He responds poorly to structure and is at a beginning kindergarten level. It's really frustrating.

My one team member is retiring this year. She was planning on working 2 more years, but her class is just too much. They haven't grown emotionally or behaviorally all year. She is a great teacher but is just at the end. It's so sad. She's using up her last 10 days the next two weeks and will be back for the last 5 days of school. How horrible! I know exactly how she feels because I was there last year and it was only my first year. I just can't believe it. I'm really going to miss her.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The Art and Science of Teaching"

Today I (and the rest of the selected team) finished up our Marzano training. We've had 6 days total of training (broken up into 3 groups of 2 days at time). The training was based out of his book "The Art and Science of Teaching".

I loved, loved, LOVED it. It gave me as a beginning teacher a lot to think about. It has also matched up with what my teaching philosophy is (and is becoming) and other professional texts I am reading/have read.

My team is now in the process of defining our next steps. We're looking at creating a model of teaching/instruction for our school and creating a cohesive language and strategy bank for assisting teachers in being more effective and finding success in the teaching model.

As we had moments to talk about what we were learning yesterday, we came up with a writing strategy to use K-5. Ok. We didn't come up with the 4-Square model, but we looked at how we could use it throughout our school. Those of us in lower elementary (first grade) talked about how to use it in K-1. Those in middle elementary (second) talked about how to transition it to 2-3. The upper elementary (fourth) did the same for 4-5. We talked about how to use it for all types of writing--informative, narrative, persuasive, etc. We even talked about how to use as a graphic organizer in Math and Science. We discussed how even though the amount of writing will differ for each grade level, the process will still be the same. The students will have a cohesive and consistent model to use in their writing/thinking.

It was so much fun!

One frustrating thing was one team member. She seemed uninterested the whole time. So much so that she decided not to attend the afternoon session today. Really?!

We also had conversations about teachers who will give resistance. I know that no where is going to be 100% buy-in. Or maybe it can be?

I want to work in a place where teachers are excited about teaching and improving. I want to be in a place where we have honest and open conversations about what works and what doesn't work. I want to be in a place where teachers are willing to make changes.

I have thought multiple times this year that my current district may not be the place for me. But does the "perfect" place exist? Does the location and issues of my school/district prevent that?

How do you be the change you want to see?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oh Monday..

I think a clear indicator of how your day will go is evident when a student throws up 15 minutes into the day.

Whew. It was Monday for sure!

Two of my special friends decided to clown around all day. Seriously, how do you handle a student who should probably be in a self-contained room? He can't do ANY of the work we're doing. Honest. None of it!

Today is was a little daunting even with 4 kiddos out.

Then I ended up being at school until almost 7! I'm out the next two days for a Marzano training. I couldn't seem to get any plans done during my plan time. It was nuts. I would have been out of school earlier, but I spent 30 minutes tutoring one of my sweet boys. He makes me laugh and warms my heart with his unfailing effort.

On the upside, tonight was our celebration for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year teachers. They had a little dinner and certificate for us. I missed it because of tutoring and sub planning. BUT..we got a $15 giftcard to Target! Yay! And the PD Representative is the SPED teacher in our building and my former cooperating teacher while I was student teaching. She dished out an extra card for a couple of us. Completely on the DL, of course. There are perks to knowing some people.

Oh..Major Giveaway at First Grade is Fantabulous! A $25.00 gift card to TPT!! Be sure to check it out!!

Oh..I forgot. Several of my ladies brought me Easter gifts...which included a real hard-boiled egg. So thoughtful. :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Question: Initial Assessments

If you happen to stumble upon this, maybe you can help me out.

About 2 weeks ago, I got a new student. Actually I got 2 new boys a day apart from each other, but one's family has since gotten the clear to head back to Japan where Dad is stationed.

We're about 25 days away from the end of school. (YAY!) My new kiddo is extremely low. I knew this before he came into the room because I saw his report card from his previous school.

Here's my question that came from getting a new student so late in the year. I've gotten 8 new students after school had already started this year.

What assessments do you have in place that help you know exactly where your new kiddo is?

We have DRA's, Early Start Literacy, Star Math and District Common Assessments in Math and Science. As a 2nd year teacher, my assessment resources are a little slim to non-existent. I've talked with my mentor about having an assessment binder sectioned off by quarter and then by subject. I wouldn't even know how to begin putting things in it.

What would give me the most bang for my buck and time?

If you can offer any suggestions or point me in the direction of resources, I would greatly appreciate it. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

ou/ow phonics

Since we were testing last week, I took the time to review our phonics skill from last week. We learned ou and ow as in ouch and owl. My scholars brainstormed a list of words they knew that had the ow/ou sound. (My handwriting stinks without line sometimes, too.)

Here's our Ou/Ow Cloud:

My scholars then had to choose 4 words to write on their clouds. They then cut and pasted them on a piece of construction paper. They had to choose at least one word to use in a sentence. They wrote their sentence on their construction paper and then had to illustrate it.

Here's a couple of my favorites. Sorrythe pictures are bad. My camera and my room lighting do not like each other.
This sentence: "I found a big room in a big house." This is one of my "low" scholars. He still struggles to write without lines but has improved GREATLY!! since the beginning of the year.

This sentence: "I am loud." (and she really is...)

This sentence: "The clown bowed and had a crown and said how did I win first prize." She drew a clown at a clown contest. (one of my high scholars who used all 4 of her words)

As much as I sometimes want my scholar's work to be perfect or neat, I really love their creative, personal expression.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tattles....with update

Testing is OVER!

We can hopefully get back into some recognizable routine tomorrow and the next week before we go back to our regular schedule. I have no idea who decided to change our schedule so drastically. This was NUTS! I want my big plan time back.

My kids have been little tattle tellers all week. It's stupid stuff like "he's looking at me"..."she's wearing her coat". Really?! You need to interrupt me for that.

I tried a tattle jar last year. It didn't curb the tattling like I thought it would, even though we read them during recess.

I've found teachers that have used a stuffed animal, picture of the president or a picture of an ear for their kids to tell their tattle to.

I decided to make mine incredibly labor intensive to hopefully cut down on the tattling.

I'm going to make a Tattle Tales book. The kids will have to write their name, date, what the problem is and how they can solve it. They'll have to write in complete sentences. I'll check the book occasionally and revisit the procedures for writing in the book, as needed. I plan on discussing the different between tattling and telling something important (i.e. somebody's hurt, etc.) Unless my counselor has a book, I'm going to use a video from learn360. Hopefully, this will help.

My kiddos learned the difference between tattling and telling. Honestly, I think I had less tattling. I overheard a few of my kiddos telling each other to go "write it in the book". I'll have to revisit the tattle book format, and I may even have the counselor come in for a follow up lesson---just so they hear someone else say it.

Sad news: My district let go of all of last year's new hires. This included one of my teammates. :( About 15+ first year's in the district were riffed, meaning they may be hired back. I am hoping that my teammate is rehired. I love working with her. We graduated together. If she is not rehired, I hope that we get another outstanding teacher. Whoever it will be, they have big shoes to fill.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Eggs"celent Scholars

My class has been sending encouragements to a 4th grade class as they are also taking our big state test.

The first week of their test, we sent them some Smarties with a little card saying they were smarties.

This week, we sent them candy filled Easter eggs. I made a band/wrapper to go around the eggs that said "You're an 'eggs'celent scholar!". My kiddos colored them, and I wrapped them around the eggs.

Both classes are going to meet up on Friday to celebrate the end of our tests with Popsicles. Hopefully, it won't rain.

Here's the egg band/wrapper.

Monday, Monday.

Can we start summer break on Friday?

We started testing this week. My kiddos did fantastic...as I knew they could but was super stressed that they wouldn't. We went over about 20 minutes, which I think is pretty good since it was our first day. We'll tighten up tomorrow.

My one little friend who has been in our class for 4 days and who is only at a beginning kindergarten level(yikes!) struggled through the test. I figured that he would but was thankful that he didn't have a big meltdown or tantrum. He constantly said that he couldn't do it. I would push him to just do his best and make a choice. He guessed probably 65% of it right.

One of my ladies showed up 5 minutes after testing started. One of my gentlemen has to see the nurse to have his blood sugar checked. We took a break, and he went to the nurse. Turns out his blood sugar was WAY high, and he had to stay longer. What craziness?!

I'm really proud of my scholars. I think I almost cried as I was looking and making sure that they were filling in the circles. I have been very stressed about the test, getting two new scholars in two days, finishing my 2nd year teacher portfolio, lesson planning, end of 3rd quarter grades, planning/strategizing for the 4th quarter and just life in general. I need a break.

Hurry up, Summer!

34 more days to go!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A few of my favorite things....

So, I'm joining up with my first linky party...because I think it will be fun but mostly because I'm completely stressed out. (2 new students in 2 days three days before our big first grade state test. ahhhhhh!!!)

Persnickity Pickles is hosting a non-teaching related linky party. Here are my 7 favorite things::

1. My family. They are the best.

2. music. I love finding new music. I am currently loving Matt Wertz's new album "Weights and Wings".

3. Books! I love just about all books. I have a list of books I want to read. I'm hoping to get a lot of non-teacher books read this summer on my Nook.

4. Old movies: I love Gone With the Wind, Meet Me in St. Louis, Dear Ruth, State Fair and on and on. I can watch them over and over again!

5. BoJangles'. It's not good for you, but I seriously love this stuff. Unfortunately, I can only get it at home. :( I have it at least 3 times when I'm home. Ohh, how I can taste the sweet tea, cajun fries and chicken and the buttery biscuits. yummy!

6.Shoes. Hi. My name is Jana, and I am a shoe addict.

7. Mint Ice Cream. It has to be green.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Free stuff...

Who doesn't love free stuff? I think teachers love it more than anyone else.

So..here's your chance to win some free stuff.

Check out Erica Bohrer's blog or Anna Brantley's blog for a chance to win a super-packed Spring themed math and literacy units. There's a crazy amount of stuff in them!!

You can enter at both blogs for double the chances!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Easter M&M's Graphing

Next week (starting April 11), we start our state testing in K-2. One of the things my scholars will have to do is create a bar graph. We have done this in our classroom during our data unit, but that unit was about two units ago. We will be revisiting it this week.

One of my team members did this activity with her scholars on Friday. I'm going to do it this week. I recreated her sheet to add cute fonts and a little clip art. I plan on adding another response sheet to add more writing.

For this activity, the scholars will have to sort their M&M's, tally how many of each color they have and then create the bars on a graph showing how many of each color they have. And of course, when that is done, they'll eat the candies.

I think my scholars will really enjoy this activity...especially since our schedule is going to be very different starting this week. Not looking forward to that. Oh, and I'll be adding a new scholar to my class. :/

Materials: 1 package of fun size Easter M&M's per scholar

M&M's Sorting Mat
M&M's Graph

These are not the cutest. I really haven't made a lot of worksheets for my scholars. I either already have them or we use construction paper/drawing paper to do our work. Paper is scarce in my school.

It could easily be modified for the "regular" M&M colors. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Decorah Eagles

At lunch today, several of the teachers were talking about the Decorah Eagles in Iowa. There are three bald eagle eggs that are about to hatch. They were laid February 23 and are projected to begin hatching TOMORROW! I showed them to my kiddos after lunch. We were late getting to the Library because they didn't want to leave the eagle. They kept asking me to go back and start the video over again or stop it so we wouldn't miss anything. I don't think they quite got that it was a live stream. Some of them even asked to stay in from recess to watch. Oh..and two of my boys grabbed Bald Eagle non-fiction books to check out from our library.

My kids actually got to see both the male and female eagle as switched incubation duty after we got back to the room from the library. It's so fascinating.

My mom even called me to tell me about it during lunch. She heard that the female had died or been killed(a long while ago) and the male took on another female, but I can't verify that.

Here's the link so you can check it out: Decorah Eagles

Now to find as much information on them as possible to share with my kids tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Anchor Charts

Over Spring BreakThe first day of my Spring Break, I read Reading with Intention by Debbie Miller. I made notes while I read the book to make the learning stick and to have note to use when I met with mentor later in the week.

In the book, Debbie mentions several times "anchor charts". She doesn't give any definition of them or anything. Unfortunately, in my ENTIRE teacher preparation/education not one teacher mentioned the term anchor charts. Yes, we made charts, but I had never heard that term. I made a note of it as something to ask my mentor about. She was pretty floored that I wasn't sure what it was (as she was when I couldn't define or explain what shared reading is...thanks University!).

I realized that I was already making them, just not calling them anchor charts. I make them all the time, especially when we are learning new phonics sounds.

Last week and this week, I have challenged myself to make charts that are creative and really help my scholars cement the phonics skills.

Here's my /ie/ pie. I know I could have added words like tried and pried, but I really wanted to keep the words simple for this one. I am definitely not an artist. My scholars think I am. I am pretty proud of it. We're going to make an /igh/ light bulb this week, too. The picture is not the best quality. I took it with my phone.

Brag moment: My sweet, most struggling reader and I have been working one on one for the last month. He's reading 30% of our HFW. I started having him chant the words he doesn't know 5 at a time this week. We have been working on 5 for the last two day, and I am going to add one or two more tomorrow. Today we started a new story. I did a thorough picture walk using the words in the story and tapping into his schema of planting flowers with his mom. While reading the story, he read poke, seeds and holes BY HIMSELF!!! We sounded out the word 'next' together. When he came to the word 'shake', he started sounding it out by himself. As I quickly dealt with a scholar having a melt down, I heard him start with the s and h separate, but then put them together to make one sound. When I got back to him about 10 seconds later, I praised him to for sounding them out and then remembering that they go together. I asked him what he knows when there's an 'e' a the end of the word. He remembered that they say nothing and make the other vowel say the long sound. He put the /sh/, /A/ and/k/ together to say the word. Oh man, he was on point today. SO SO proud of him.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skype and the Classroom

I was asked by our technology person if I would like to have my class Skype with a first grade class from Long Island. My one word email response was "Absolutely!"

The kindergarten teacher next to me is going to Skype with her dad (a retired principal) to have him read a story to her class. We had a conversation a couple of weeks ago about making our classrooms more global.

Our kids are urban kids. Their scope is very limited due to their age and their location. My kids and I had a talk about tornadoes and hurricanes two weeks ago. They know all about tornadoes but nothing about hurricanes. I grew up with hurricanes. We didn't get any snow days but would occasionally get one or two hurricane days a year. I showed my kids what a hurricane looks like. we watched a quick video of what it does. I shared some of my experiences--nasty shelters and one time, one of our trees that fell on a neighbor's house. I think I scared them a little, but I assured them they had nothing to worry about because we are no where near any substantial water.

As I was talking to my dad tonight, sharing this news with him, I started thinking of all the possibilities. We know people in England, Nicaragua and all over the US. How much fun would it be to Skype with them!?

I can see the endless possibilities and learning this could bring. Sharing stories and lessons. Getting pen-pals. Seeing what kids do around the world. Sharing culture.

ooooh..It makes me want to start tomorrow!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grandma Bears + Farts

This last week, we have been working on measuring with non-standard units. I started the week by introducing/refreshing the students on measuring and measuring objects with counting bears.

While meeting with my third small group, one of my boys...my most challenging boy...asked me if the bears were the "grandma bears". I looked at him kinda funny and said, "Grandma bears??" He continued to say "Yeah. You know, Grandma bears". I told me I had no idea what he was talking about. One of the other girls at the table chimed in that they were like the ones you eat. The light bulb went off. Teddy GRAMS!

We laughed for about 2 minutes.

These moments I love completely.

I had my scholars sit on the carpet after lunch to explain to them our new math rotations. One of my boys was a little gassy. He let out a couple of loud farts. The standard reaction is lots of "ewwws" and "gross" from the scholars. I remind them that everyone does it, so it's not a big deal. It's definitely not worth a 5 minute interruption. This particular time one of my scholars spoke up to say that everybody farts 14 times a day. I told them I didn't know if that was true. He told me it was because his grandma told him. haha!

They're so great.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Mentor

Every kid needs a mentor. Everybody needs a mentor. - Donovan Bailey

I have been so fortunate that my program of study included a mentor teacher for my first two years of teaching. My mentor happens to be one of my former undergrad professors. I would not have made it through my first year of teaching without her. Seriously.

My mentor taught in an urban school for at least 10 years before moving to the university level. I believe I only had her for two classes, but that was enough. She has simplified the process of education and pedagogy. It amazes me how complicated I make things. I am constantly floored at how easy she makes it.

I have relied on her to help me in the areas where my college education was deficient. Apparently, it's quite a few areas. Most of our conversations include her saying that she cannot believe I did not know anything about a particular strategy or guide.

She has seen me at my absolute worst and still praised me for something that I do well. She has given me strategies that actually work.

She is priceless.

I have the pleasure of writing a letter of recommendation for her as she looks into a different position in the education field.

I am going to truly miss not having her pop into my classroom and check out what is going on. I am infinitely better because of her.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A little introduction...

I decided to separate my teaching stuff from my "personal" blog.

I am a 2nd year teacher. I have been in my school for 3 years. My first year I completed my student teaching internship. In May of that year, I was hired as a first grade teacher. I completed my student teaching internship in the classroom that I have now.

I teach in an urban school district. I have 17 wonderful scholars this year.

Last year, my first year, was the worst year of my life. I only exaggerate slightly when I say I cried my ENTIRE first semester of teaching. I definitely did not have tough skin to handle what was thrown at me.

I had a really good student teaching experience and worked with a fantastic cooperating/mentor teacher. I inherited her classroom as she moved to Special Education.

I definitely entered my first year very excited and ready to go. Unfortunately, I did not prepare enough. I got beat up! I have no idea how I made it through the year. I look back on it as a complete failure. Yes, I learned a lot, but I hated the entire year. I dreaded going every day. I had quite a few kids who were more of a challenge that I could handle.

If it wasn't for my mentors I wouldn't have made it. They held me up when I started to fall. They gave me strategies that worked and gave me loads of encouragement.

I was so thankful to make it through that year.

This year has been a 180 of last year. For that, I am extremely thankful. I have been able to improve my teaching strategies while already having a handle on the management piece. I have a great team to work with this year.

I love First grade.

I hope that this blog will be a documentation of my teaching journey...hopefully full of laughter, learning and love.