Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Good News!

I'm not sure if I have mentioned that this fall, a local university placed a teacher assistant with me. My school has always gotten them from my alma mater (convenient since it's 3 blocks from our school!) but over the last year there have been less candidates and we haven't gotten as many students placed with us as we did previously. This other university reached out and ta-da.

The only weird thing is, their TA program only has students in the classroom for 7 hours per week. The following semester they student teach. That doesn't seem like much time to prepare to me (my TA program was 5 days per week for a half day each day). Well fortunately, my TA also needed a TESOL placement and since I am certified in K-12 ESL, they agreed to let her just stay with me for that also. YAY!

So Miss TA will be with me all day Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I couldn't be more delighted. She is very sweet and eager to learn. Plus, she will be student teaching at my school in 3rd grade with one of my colleagues (that's another weird thing, my university would never allow students to be in one building all year). I can't wait to help her grow in her teaching...and it'll be much easier to do that if she's with me more than 7 hours per week ;)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

There is no tired....

like Back-to-School tired! Wowza. I haven't even had a day of teaching yet and I am pooped!

Today we had our Open House. In all 9 years of my teaching, I have never had one before school started before, they have always been 2-3 weeks after the year started. Usually we don't get a really stellar turnout. This year, I had 9 students...and 4 were former ones! :) I suspect that part of the reason is that most of these kiddos know me and I know them and if parents are working or whatnot. I got a lot of love tonight though -- two of my former kiddos were upset that I wasn't teaching 5th grade because they wanted to have me again. One of the moms told me that her son cried when he saw that I had 4th again and not 5th. How cute is that?

I have two students who are new to my school and they both came tonight. One boy and one girl. Both were very sweet and I am super excited to have them this year. The young man has a very creative name. I'm not kidding. I can't pronounce it. I know if I try to, I am going to massively screw it up! Fortunately he has a nickname that is much, much easier for me to say. I don't want to have to call him "hey you" for the first few days while I practice my pronunciation! 

This year, I decided I am taking care of me. I am not doing all of the extra stuff I did before. No one really appreciates it when push comes to shove so I'm not doing it. I will keep my social committee but beyond that...I'm taking care of me and my class and that's that. I was chatting with a colleague about it today and she said when you realize that no one else really and truly sees and appreciates your worth, you do have to look inside and take care of you and only you.

Someone told me once that it's not possible to look out for number one (meaning yourself) and be a teacher. I disagree. I will collaborate, I will help someone who asks me, but mostly I am going to shut my door and teach my heart out. I am going to ensure that EVERY child in my classroom feels loved, respected and welcome. Even on the days when they are driving me insane, I still love them. And I want them to know it every single day. I will love you even when you're being a pistol. I will love you when you're doing your damn best as well. 

That's what they need after all. They need love. And this tired teacher is gonna rest up this weekend so I can give them all the love they need.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Weekend + Final Reveal 2014-2015

I spent a good amount of time in my classroom today after not being there since last Tuesday. We spent Wednesday night - Friday mid-morning at our cabin, then I had a not-so-awesome car issue when I got home and had to call in a big favor with a friend so I could still go down and see The Husband this weekend. 

It was sooooo quiet and lovely in Ann Arbor (and really funny since The Husband purposely wore an MSU hat around town and got a ton of dirty looks from the die-hard UofM fans haha). The Husband had to work still so all day Saturday I was pretty much on my own. It was peaceful and quiet and awesome. (I never realized how LOUD my world is until I got back home yesterday...holy moly.) 

The Husband spoiled me rotten while we were in AA together. He gave me money and told me to go to the mall while he was at work. Who was I to say no? :) Then we shopped some more that evening when he was done with work AND he took me out to dinner twice. That never happens at home. I have a nice, new wardrobe for this fall and almost everything I got was on sale which is even better. I took the girls shopping for back to school when I returned home yesterday and they did well also (and we came in under budget..woo hoo!).

Today The Oldest started at the local community college and thus, it meant I needed to take advantage of the fact that I am her ride and spend the day at work. Except for my library, my room is DONE. Yay! (Library literally consists of just resorting the books I brought from home into the existing books. It won't take long.) The Youngest came with me and despite her ADHD tendencies, she was actually quite helpful. I don't think I would have finished today if it wasn't for her help.

I am taking tomorrow off so I can get ahead on my graduate school work since my new classes started yesterday. Wednesday is our official first day back with a full day of PD, Thursday is a building-wide staff meeting and then time in our classrooms for the afternoon, followed by our Open House. This is the first time in all 9 years I have taught that we've had our Open House before school. I think it's a great idea and I'm excited to meet my kiddos before the first day.

My 4th Grade Classroom 2014-2015 
(Final Version)

Starting from the hallway and then going clockwise in the classroom
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That's my recycle bin you see at the bottom (yes its a laundry basket!)

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I decided to just put up all the words to start the year since we don't really emphasize the monthly words.

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I LOVE this space! That black organizer is from Thirty-One. It is being retired (*sad face*) and I had a spare that I used in my display. I wasn't sure what to do with it. But it makes a great math manipulative station!

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This is where my desk was last year. But since I do sometimes like kiddos to use the ELMO, this seemed like a good solution.

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Mr. Principal found this rug no one else was using and said I could use it :D

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I think I might actually be in love with this view.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lazy {The Last Hurrah of Summer}

The girls and I decided to spend mid to end of our week at our cabin. With The Husband out of town for work and The Oldest actually having two days off in a row from her job, it seemed like a good idea. I have not nearly been up here as much this summer as I would have liked but life has been busy!

I have been incredibly lazy all day today. I can't tell you the last time I had the luxury.  I did bring my Reading Street stuff with the plan to start creating my Choice Menus...but lazy won.

Tomorrow I will take the girls home, The Oldest will go to work and then I'll unpack and repack to head down to see The Husband for the weekend. Monday really starts the crazy-busy. 

I feel kind of bad for being so lazy today because I haven't been able to all summer but I know once I board the crazy back-to-school train next week I'll be glad I let myself have this one day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I am SO GLAD that we got all of our specials schedules early this year. I don't think in all 9 years I have taught that I've ever had my entire schedule ready this far out before the year begins. It's really kind of nice! I'm not sure what made Mr. Principal decide to do it like this for this year but I am so glad that he did. 

Of course, certain things won't start yet (like library and computer lab because of MAP testing the first few weeks of the year) but knowing already when they will be is awesome. I don't have to worry later about trying to figure out where to put them in a schedule I've been working with for three weeks. 

I had been told that the upcoming group of 4th graders are a) really low academically and b) have many students with behavior issues. Behavior issue kiddos don't bother be honest, they often tend to become my favorite kids. I firmly believe they act the way they do because something is missing in their little life and they aren't developed enough to know/understand what it is and if they DO know, they don't know how to ask for it. I think you really have to get to the heart of the matter and think about the whole child with classes like this.

That said, since I finally finished my work for my doctoral classes, I had a chance to really sit down and analyze the spring data I have on my new kiddos. I was told there was a huge achievement gap...and there is...but it isn't any worse than I've had in the last 5 years. I have some friends who are on a K-2 level and some that are 3rd-5th level. The majority in both reading and math are on 3rd grade level or higher. Of course this doesn't account for the inevitable summer slide but it's much more encouraging than I was expecting!!

The 4th and 5th graders tend to take the MAP test starting the first week of school. This is both good and bad: it's good because you get data right away showing where the students are coming in at but it can be bad in that it often takes a ton of time to administer. I am going to cross my fingers and make initial groups based upon where they were in the spring (because that data shows me they WERE at that level and have the potential to get back there quickly) and then will adjust once I get my new data. I doubt the groupings will change that much this first time though. 

It makes me very, very glad that I made one of my goals for this year to be Choice Menus. I have kiddos who are so behind in math they are going to stare at me like I've got three heads when I'm teaching math -- it's just going to be too far above their head to start with. But I am going to take a closer look at my data once I get the new stuff and really think about what it is vital for my kiddos to know how to do and that is how I will balance my Choice Menus. I have a couple of friends who left 3rd grade performing on a 5th or 6th grade level so I definitely have to make sure they are challenged so they don't get bored. 

It also did not escape my notice that several of my friends who were identified as having behavior issues are VERY low academically. It makes me wonder what accommodations were made to help them feel successful and not totally lost in class, which is usually when the negative behaviors begin. Another reason to ensure the Choice Menus are leveled and at each kiddos working level so they can ALL be successful. 

Pending any unforeseen schedule changes (which I don't think will happen unless the district adds interventionists late this year like they did last year), I have planned 90 minutes per day each for math workshop and reading workshop. I don't plan to teach in set small groups on a daily basis but rather see where the kids are and go from there, sort of like the conferring tracker from the Daily 5. This way if I need to spend 5-10 minutes with my higher kids to help them get started on a challenge task, I can but then I can still give time to my lower level learners so they can find success. 

I think it's going to be a lot of work up front to create these Choice Menus the way I want to make them....but honestly if it helps my kids make gains, I think it will be worth it. And once I make them, I have them and won't have to create them again. 

Should be interesting to see how it all works out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Progress {+ Pics}

Whew! What a day yesterday! 

I had huge plans to finish all of my graduate work (namely an abstract and a 3-page reflection) Sunday...but The Husband told me on Friday that he was going to Ann Arbor for two weeks (the next two weeks!) for work and there was so much to do and time to be spent together that I didn't do anything graduate-school-related on our last day together. I finished my abstract yesterday evening and will do the reflection tonight and then I'll enjoy my whopping 6 days off before my next course begins :)

Yesterday was busy from the word go.

First up, I had to get the kids up to send off their dad. Then The Youngest and I had to head to the ENT for a follow up after her adenotonsillectomy in July. (Dr and intern were impressed that we had ZERO issues. Wish all my surgeries/recoveries had been so easy!) After that, we headed to Starbucks to meet with a teacher I used to work with (she got a new job in another district). I asked her before school got out last year (before she had gotten the new job) to help me with how I'm teaching Text Talk vocabulary because my kiddos are just NOT getting it and the 3rd grade vocab was so much higher on MAP than for us. Since she got a new job, we met to go over it instead. It's really funny because I do not drink coffee. Ever. I can't even stand the smell most of the time. But we met at Starbucks :) (Thankfully those sorts of places have other options too!) The Youngest was super patient while we talked shop and I let her get a cake pop even though it was only 10 am! haha

After that, we zipped over to Dollar Tree for a couple of things, grabbed lunch through the drive-thru and FINALLY got to my school. Whew! It was nearly noon by the time we finally got there. The Youngest was a great helper and we got a lot done so I definitely feel like progress is being made. It was really rainy and yucky this morning so I went in for about 3 hours by myself too. Once I felt like I was no longer being productive, I left. No point in sticking around if nothing is really being accomplished.

4th Grade 2014-2015

This sign hangs on my door so anyone who might come looking for us knows where we are. I lost the arrow that would point to each topic so I stuck a pom pom into a paperclip and stuck it on haha (you can see it on the bottom at "Home").

  Last spring, I found this set on TpT. It says "What's the SCOOP in 4th Grade?" and the kids wrote memories and things they learned on the ice creams. :) I thought it made a cute little back to school display.

The door. You won't be able to see through the glass when I'm all done because I will either put paper or something else up. It majorly cuts down on distractions not having the glass visible for the students.

  This is my back counter (this was yesterday -- it does not look like this anymore, it's got a lot less clutter!). I covered the shelving with this super cute fabric because a) no one needs to see the curriculum stuff on those shelves and b) it's just super cute! That opening spot underneath the counter will have a small rug and a bean bag. For whatever reason the kids L-O-V-E to sit under there during SSR.

  This is my desk area. (It's to the left of the picture above.) This is also as of yesterday so it has changed a bit. I decided this year to separate my teacher area from my tech area and so far, I'm really glad I have. I love having my own space.

  Right now (knock on wood), I am slated for a small class, only 21 kiddos! So I had enough room to leave this HUGE space up front for a meeting area. I wish I had a big rug but I don't :(

  Across the way is the teacher tech area. I used a spare student desk and my ELMO and desktop computer stuff will be there. This way students can use the space as well without me worrying about my own stuff being in their way. It's hard to see but behind the tech area is another table that students will be able to use during partner work. The big wall in the back will have charts and whatnot on it.

Crappy lighting, sorry! My Double E desk setup. Love it! 

  The blue pocket charts in the back corner are around the library area. Not quite sure what is going in those charts quite yet.

  Word wall and small group table. The table on the left (with the green crate underneath) is another spare table I had since I had more kids last year. There are recess games and clipboards underneath the table and on top of the table will be literacy stations and partner games.

  It's not all finished yet but I'm getting there. Mostly I have a lot of little things to sort and put away. I found a huge stock of Literacy Centers in my barn that I forgot I owned. They will be great during small group/Choice Menu time (more about that soon!). 

I know I won't get into my room again until Monday as we're going up north tomorrow-Friday and then I'm going to Ann Arbor to see The Husband Friday night - Sunday morning. Then my second doctoral class begins and I go back to work. Busy busy!