Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Shenanigans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five for Friday!

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How to Be a Popular Teacher

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

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

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

4) Be firm, fair and consistent.

5) Be fabulous.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Woo hoo!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Woo Hoo's and Flattery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Halfway through 2!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

First week done!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend :)