Sunday, August 30, 2015

I might be cursed...


As you may recall, I was vastly nervous about who my 3rd grade partner would be because my former one quit since she's having a baby. I found out my partner was my former reading coach from another school and things were lovely again.

But on Friday I went to our first staff day to discover that this person took a medical leave....and no one knew. :( So there have been some "oh crap" moments as we try to find someone to cover this room. I'm quite anxious about it because I have a ton on my plate this year: PBIS committee, WIDA and M-Step coordinator, teaching a grade I have never taught before (so I am not familiar with the curriculum at all), hosting a student teacher, being part of the leadership cohort, four Doctoral classes between now and the end of April, plus being a momma and a wife (and soon-to-be a grandma!). 

Unfortunately, last year when my teammate retired, we did not have a lot of consistency for those kids. I worry about that happening again. I know it isn't my problem....however, I would be a total jerk and a terrible person if I was like "oh well, they aren't my kids! Sorry about your life!" Because I do care about those kids...and my 2nd grade colleague is sick to her stomach because these are her babies!

I just have to laugh about it...because it seems like whatever ills are occurring happen in whatever grade level I happen to be a part of! Seriously. I have not had a totally "normal" year in all of the years I have been at my school. 

Then I realize that this is probably God showing me where I am most needed. Remember the Grade Level Shuffle from two years ago?? I ended up back at my school because those kids needed me...and when I'm being entirely honest, I need them too. They give so much to my life. Because I was in their shoes once. There is just something powerful about being able to say "Friends, I was totally you before, I know where you are and look where *I* am can do anything!"

I may need to find a voodoo witch doctor to lift off my curse though! *wink* Fortunately we have some candidates that we think may be able to help us out. I just want consistency for ALL of the kids at my grade level. They deserve the best opportunities and it is hard to get that when you have an inconsistent teacher for months on end.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mystery Vacation + Here we go!

The Husband and I got back from our "Mystery Vacation" yesterday. We left on Sunday. It was short but we packed a lot into those few days! Hubby only planned a place for us to stay; everything else we did was on a whim. I am SO not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of person, but I have to admit it was very fun! I wish the weather had been more cooperative (it was cold, overcast and rainy until yesterday when we came home!). But we made the most of it and had a great time. We put 670 miles on our truck on the trip :)

We stayed in Bellaire, MI but went all over. We went to Sleeping Bear Dunes and the surrounding areas and we also went to Charlevoix and Petoskey and drove through the Tunnel of Trees from Harbor Springs to Cross Village. Absolutely beautiful, even if it was kind of yucky out!

This picture was taken at Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was SO windy that I just closed my eyes, pointed my phone and hit the button, hoping I'd get a good shot! We had sand all over us (it even flew down the back of our shirts!) so I was quite happy to discover I got this awesome shot! 

This shot was taken at the pier in Charlevoix. I had to wait a couple minutes to get the waves crashing up but I am quite pleased with this pic (especially because I took it on my cell phone!).

We had such a good time, despite the crappy weather. The B&B we stayed at was absolutely amazing with awesome hosts, great food and fun company. I definitely plan to go there again some day!

To end our short vacation, today we went to a paint studio I went to last month for a "wine and canvas" type event....they have open paint certain days and The Husband and I made a reservation to go. We were the only ones there so that was kind of fun. When I was there before I saw a cute octopus that I knew would look awesome with my ocean animals theme. I am SO not artistic by any stretch of the imagination...but I had fun at the event I went to and talked hubby into coming along with me as a "last hurrah" before I go back to school officially. I think the bottom of the octopus looks funny but seriously....for someone who is totally not artistically inclined and the fact that I did this free hand, I think it turned out really good!

Now it is back to reality...tomorrow is the first staff day! Eek! How did that happen? I feel overwhelmed by all of the things I want to do...but most of them are WANT, not NEED so I have to take a few breaths and just relax! I have all weekend and all of next week to get my ducks in a row. Plus, in reality, my first week plans are written and my students' desks are all set (except for pencils). So I have nothing to really fret over. I just need to breathe and take it easy and not drive myself insane trying to be Super Lady.

We have lots of meetings Friday, Monday and Tuesday (and I get to train the staff in Synergy on Monday morning...woot!) and then Wednesday is the opening staff meeting and Open House. So I will work all weekend prepping the last minute things because my next grad class begins on Sunday and I have meetings and appointments on Monday and Tuesday after school. Nothing like jumping right back into it, right?? :)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Classroom Setup {Part 2 - The Reveal!}


I love spending quiet time in my classroom preparing for a new school year but holy cow. I am WIPED. I spent a good portion of time at school this week getting things ready so I can enjoy my Mystery Vacation next week and not be panicking about all of the stuff I need to do at school.

Yesterday I was there from 9:30-5:30! Today I was there from about 9:30-2, but when I left, all of the super major big stuff is done. I still need to get my Word Wall set up and I have to get my new theme pieces printed out but those are minor things I can do at home and get set up just before Open House when my student teacher is there to help me :) 

Aside from lesson planning (I don't have a final schedule yet), I'm pretty much good to go :) It's SUCH a relief. I spent way too many hours cleaning out other people's things that they left behind but it's all clean, organized and functional now.

Before (everything was moved in and placed mostly along the perimeter of the room)

After :)
Our adventure begins at the door and goes counter-clockwise around the room

The entry door. It's a little hard to see but the pocket chart is a "Where Are We?" sign.

Immediately inside the door is our Homework Hot Spot. This is where kiddos turn in their homework each day (so I can see at a quick glance who didn't turn it in!) and I put their homework here for them to take home each night.Our STAR Behavior expectations poster also hangs here (mostly so we can review our STAR Behavior before we go into the hallway!)

Our classroom library. The cart on the right has all of my own personal books. The other one is school-provided books. Genre posters are hanging there on the door (which connects to the other class which I will never, ever use). The blue pocket chart will hold our 100 Book Challenge one kiddos have started school.

Two dinosaur computers (but they work so I'm not complaining!). Above that, the blue bulletin board will house our Brag Tags which I am trying as incentives this year instead of a prize box.

My handy frog curtain hides the bump out space that connects my room with my neighbor. (Our shared printer, bookshelves and other things are stored back here--I totally cleaned it and it's organized and beautiful....I should have taken a picture because it was a mess when I got there!)

Meeting area. We will have all of our Daily 5 mini-lessons from here. You can see my box of froggy friends underneath the chart stand :) 

That huge blank wall will be the Word Wall. The reason that isn't done is because I've never had 3rd and thus don't have the 3rd grade set! lol So I will make my own and get that started before Open House. 
 The yucky window got a makeover :) I decided to make it a functional space where I could still cover most of the gross looking glass but not have to keep the shade shut. This was a perfect solution! The ledge holds all of my most-needed teacher stuff.

 I was SO glad my cabinet fit here! Now everything is within reach :) My weekly plans will be on the top of the cabinet in those buckets. The drawer organizer houses lined paper, colored printer paper and sheet protectors since I use them for lots of things!

 This is on the other side of the whiteboard (didn't bother to take a picture of that!). The calendar and schedule will be on the bulletin board. You can also see my CRAFT board (didn't think about the blue background and "T" being blue until I had already put it up and I wasn't gonna change it! lol) which is right in front of the small group table. The cart under the bulletin board has things the kids are allowed to get whenever they need them (scissors, rulers, math manips, etc).

 The counter area. SO clean and neat! :) It was such a mess before I didn't know if I would ever get it all cleaned haha
On the far left, where that black crate is sitting will be where I put Apollo the gecko when he comes to school with me :) 

 View from the whiteboard of the students' desks. I had originally tried a modified Double E but it wasn't working for me so I decided to go with this model since it still allows for partner and small group work but takes up much less room.

Monday, August 17, 2015

2015-2016 Classroom Setup {Part 1}

Man, I am wiped! After taking The Youngest to her doctor appointment this morning, we had a chance to get into my classroom. I mentioned before I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure if my things actually got moved. I'm happy to say that except for a couple of things that were not labeled well on my end, EVERYTHING got moved :) That saved me about a bazillion years.

I can't access my cabinet yet because I locked it (so it wouldn't fly open during the move!) and we haven't had our keys delivered back to our school yet. But I purged so much stuff last spring when I cleaned that I'm not too worried about it. I just hope the stuff that is in there isn't all helter skelter after being moved down a floor ;)

There is something seriously funky going on with the window in my room too. Apparently there was a split or crack in the double pane and a cloudy weird foggy mess is hanging out between the two panes. It's not something I can clean and it looks horrible. Hopefully they can replace it because one reason I was so excited to go back to this room is it is on the side of the school that doesn't get the sun all day so I can leave the window shade open....but I am not going to leave it open to look at that ugliness LOL

 See?! Ewww!

So yeah....hoping they can fix it. Because I really don't want to keep the shade down all the time! That was one thing I hated about my room the last two years; it was on the other side of the building and we had direct sun shining in all day and had to keep the shade closed so we could use the ELMO on the projector. When I had this room before, we could leave the shade up and see daylight and it was so awesome...but no one wants to look at this. It looks so icky! 

Aside from that gross-ness, I did get quite a bit accomplished. The third grade materials were easy to locate and I helped another teacher move some center materials into a spot in the library where everyone on our floor could access them if they wanted to use them. Some grabbing of materials that got left behind and then it was on to sorting and moving.

The last teacher left a lot of stuff in this room not labeled or anything so I have no idea if she wants it or not. I'm going to clean it all up and get it organized because I don't do messy and cluttered! Not at all. If she hasn't claimed it by next Friday, out it goes! 

The Youngest and I got the desks moved into a modified Double E (because it has an extra leg and is shorter on the long side) to accommodate 28 kids. I really hope I don't have more than that because if I do, I'm gonna have to rethink the desks. I was going to put the small group table up in the front but there wasn't as much room as I would have liked for movement around the student's desks so that had to be moved around. I spent at least 75-90 minutes just moving furniture and layouts to make sure everything went in a way that I can live with. As it stands, I still may have to move the desks over slightly so I have a little more space for my small group table. 

I'm adamant about having a whole group carpet area so that was a non-negotiable for me. I may nix the U-Shaped tabled and use two student tables in an L-shape instead. It would take up less room overall and I could actually be closer to the kids as we work together. (I dislike our U tables because they are way wider than they need to be and thus I feel like they take up way too much room.) 

Overall I feel like I got quite a lot accomplished and that feels awesome! I will pop back in on Wednesday afternoon since my meeting only goes until 2 that day. I can spent about 90 minutes in my classroom before I need to leave for the chiro. I can at least begin to sort out and organize what was left in there and the 3rd grade curriculum materials so I know what I've got.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Final Countdown

Did that Europe song just pop into your head?? :)

It's unbelievable that summer is winding down. I know some people are already back in school with students (crazy!). I am heading into my classroom on Monday. I'm quite nervous that my things didn't get moved to my new room and that I'm going to be spending the time doing that when I could be doing a million other things.

I found out this week our Open House is September 2nd....and since I am on vacation the 24th-27th and not going anywhere near school (as I'll be out of town!), and the 28th-1st are full of meetings and I have appointments after those meetings....I'm starting to feel a little bit of a time crunch! lol 

I finally decided that I needed to just prioritize what I absolutely must accomplish on Monday so that I can spend Thursday and Friday (Tuesday and Wednesday I have leadership cohort meetings all day across town) in there getting done what needs to be done without feeling panicked or like I'm not going to get things done. This is also a great reminder that my room does not need to be 100% finished for Open House. Yes, I'd like it to look inviting and welcoming but I'm not going to go overboard...I also decided I'm not going to change my theme and have to reprint and create everything. There is no time for it and the kids aren't going to care in the slightest!

Priorities! What MUST be done? What can I let go of? That's where my train of thought it.

My plan of attack for Monday:
1) Make sure all of my materials got moved (cross your fingers they did because I labeled everything with a kind note to please move them to my new old room...because it was mine once before!).
2) If they didn't get moved already, NO GRUMBLES, just smile, roll up your sleeves and get it done
3) Make sure all of the former teacher's things are out of that room. If they aren't, keep them in the bump out so as to not mix them with my stuff
4) Locate and sort all of the 3rd grade Reading Street and Everyday Math materials that should be located in the two 3rd grade rooms (but some are likely floating around other places)
5) Arrange the classroom furniture

That is honestly all I really hope to accomplish on Monday. If my things were already moved, it'll be MUCH better because it won't take as long. But since we are going from 2 1/2 to 2 third grade rooms....I need to find the materials from the other 3rd grade room so that my new partner and I have them with us. I have 27 kids on my roster right now so we need all the materials between us so if we need extras, we aren't hunting for them later.

If I can accomplish those things and get my furniture arranged, I will leave Monday feeling super productive. Unpacking is not going to be too bad because I was pretty systematic when I packed up. I labeled my boxes of materials so that I'm not too worried about. I don't plan to bring anything in with me (the supplies I bought, etc) until Thursday. That will take some pressure off of me to feel like I don't have to fuss with moving all of that stuff in while organizing everything else.

I have set up a room in a day when I've had to but I'd much prefer to be able to take a little more time and be a bit more intentional with how I'm setting things up. That is why I am focusing on the furniture arrangement once I know my materials are set. I need to ensure space for my non-negotiables this year: spare desk for my student teacher, u-shaped small group table, front of the room whole group meeting carpet area and my big library. It needs to be functional but also look inviting. 

I really am the most nervous about my things possibly not having been moved because it will take up a lot of time if I have to move them myself. Alas, I can't do anything about it if they aren't moved so I'm just going to cross my fingers that they were moved and hope for the best! :)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Birthday Pampering

We had my birthday celebration last night so that The Husband didn't have to fuss trying to come home and get everything ready after a long day at work....especially since I'm spending a good portion of my day pampering myself. Seemed only fair to let him off the hook a bit :) 

For several months he has watched me squint my little eyes at my computer screen while working on graduate work since I have a tendency to have multiple Word documents and/or pdf files open as I'm citing evidence for my weekly papers. I bought an HP 18 last fall with some Thirty-One commission that I earned and the screen is a good size...but not really when you're trying to read multiple things that are all squeezed onto the same monitor.

So he got me a UGA to USB adapter and a 2nd monitor for my desk :) I was always unsure if this is what I wanted because I have a roll-top secretary...and I didn't think a 2nd monitor would fit. And of course, to him bigger is better so....He may have gone slightly overboard with the size of the monitor LOL

The bubble bee screen is the 2nd monitor....note how it totally dwarfs the actual computer! lol

As funny as it probably looks sitting on my desk....I don't care! This something I always thought I wouldn't want but now that I have it, I'm in love! It'll be so, so nice not to have to squint to read the multiple documents I have open when I'm trying to write my big papers and need to reference 9000 sources.

He also got me a pack of Sharpie markers. He said that it just wouldn't be right to NOT buy me some kind of writing utencil for my birthday :) I have trained him well! 

This of course means that within the next year, the secretary is probably going to be given to Jeff and I'm going to get one without the top part....because this desk is so not meant for these big computers/monitors. Oh well, it will serve its purpose for now even if it looks kind of funny :) 

I also decided to pamper myself like crazy today: mani/pedi earlier and in just a bit I'm leaving to get a fabulous one hour massage. Birthdays done right :)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Back to School Prep: Math

It isn't a secret that I have spent much of this summer chillaxin' as the kids would say. Last year wiped me out in so many ways and I needed time to just process it all and let it go. Plus, of course, grad school keeps me plenty busy! 

That said, once my birthday rolls around, I usually begin to get my behind in gear. Since today is my last day of being 36, I guess that means it's time to get going! I've done a few things here and there but not very much. Some things I can't do until I can access my school materials on the 17th so that limits me some (there is a huge benefit to not being allowed in your school over the summer--you are forced to either take it all home, which I don't, or forget about it and enjoy summer!).

Since I am moving grades again (although this time by choice!), I decided to get smart and organize my materials by unit. We have used Everyday Math since I started teaching. Not everyone loves it but I don't mind it....because I hated math growing up because it made zero sense to me. This kind of math...I totally get it. It works for my brain. So I have a much easier time explaining it to my students. I show them multiple ways to do things and then let them figure out what works best for them. Ultimately the goal is for them to get the right answer and be able to tell me how they got there. If they can do that with some method I didn't teach them but they get, I'm good with that! 

Two years ago, we "unspiraled" the Everyday Math (because we are still using the non-Common Core version) and put the like skills together. It's only a pain when you have to keep flipping through both of the journals. But the kiddos don't know any different so it's not that big of a deal. They enjoy being able to work more toward mastery anyway. 

Today I decided to really unpack my Unit 1 for 3rd grade. It is all about adding, subtracting and place values. The unit is 5 weeks long and covers the standards 3.NBT.1, 3.NBT.2, 3.0A.8 AND 3.0A.9. Thus I went through all of the math goodies that I got on TpT at the Teacher Appreciation Sale in May and the Back to School Sale last week and pulled out what fits those standards and got to work.

In the past, I have tended not to print things until I needed them, but this year, since I don't plan to leave 3rd grade in the near future without making a huge fuss (*wink*), I decided to get my master copies together for things by unit and just keep them in a file. I do not have the storage space to buy a million plastic containers to keep things in--I'd much rather use my huge file cabinet instead. I can pull the folder out by unit and then put it back when I'm done a month or whatever later. (And now that I'm on this kick, I may do this for my content area units also.)
First I got a folder and labeled it with the CCSS that I know will be covered in the unit.Then I printed out a master copy of all of the materials I have that fit those standards. 
*Grateful to TpT sellers who label things by CCSS!*

Then I went through and sorted by standard and paper clipped the items together and used an index card as a label. The card says "masters" on it so that if I'm not the one pulling them out, whomever has that task knows that these need to go back into the folder. It's really hard to see but at the top of each of these pages is a big yellow M written in highlighter to remind whomever might be making copies that this is the master.

You know about the yellow highlighter trick right??? You can write on anything with  yellow highlighter and when you make copies it won't show up because it's too light. This is not true with the other colors--they will show up as I learned when I tried to be slick and color code once lol 

I have the materials for all four of these standards covered in Unit 1 in this folder paper clipped together and ready go to. The items include Interactive Notebook pages, Common Core Worksheets for the INBs, Standards Based Assessment pages, and Journal prompts that will also go into the interactive notebooks. Since everything is together by standard, I can select activities based upon what we are doing that day in math as it fits the standard.
I also purchased this fun Math Menus unit and printed the Addition and Subtraction Snacks and the Place Value Platters menus to put into this folder since they are the most applicable to the skills we will work on in unit one. Last year I used math menus and absolutely loved them--the students were able to create projects to demonstrate their knowledge of the concepts. It was a lot of fun for me and for my students. But the ones I used last year are for big kids; thus I decided to get this set because it's really ideal for 2nd and 3rd graders.
What I also like about these is that the kids don't really need to do any paper-pencil activities that they have to turn in. Instead they can use their whiteboards and practice in a team. I could have up to 30 students this year so I printed 10 copies of each of the two menus for this unit and laminated them with my Scotch laminator. Now they look like real menus because they are plastic coated :) 

These are stuck together with a binder clip by menu and placed in the folder as well. This way when we use them, they are all together and when we are done, they can just be clipped back together and slid into the folder. Ideally the kiddos will work in pairs or triads (probably triads if I have closer to 30 friends) and can help check each other as they work. I definitely plan to blog more about this after we have tried them out in this way.

Using these menus like this really appeals to me because a) I don't have to use ANY paper outside of the copies I already made if I don't want to b) the kids can use their whiteboards but also can use any of the manipulatives we have available c) they can support each other by either working together and discussing (math conversations anyone?) OR by doing them separately and then checking each other's work and finally d) I am then free to roam around the room during this time and have authentic conversations with my kids about math. I love that because I get SO MUCH MORE INFORMATION on how they are doing with concepts when I utilize things like these menus (the upper grade ones I used last year taught me a lot about who really was getting things and who wasn't--and who was copying from her table mates!).

I'm super excited about trying this system out. I know people love their plastic tubs but it overwhelms me to think of where I would keep all of that stuff. Plus I have moved around grade levels too much to feel comfortable doing that just to end up starting over again a couple of years from now! 

I only did Unit 1 so far but that takes me through the first five weeks of school so I'm good on that if that's the only one I get done for math before school begins. It feels good to be on track and really have a solid handle on what I'm going to do and how I am going to present these skills to my students.