Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chalkboards and Stress

At risk of hurting my sales this weekend, I wanted to share a little story with you.

Getting ready for teaching a new grade level in a new classroom this year I have spent many hours pouring over Pinterest searching for inspiration on how to set up my classroom. There are some really awesome classroom set-up ideas out there, but most would cost me a fortune to try to imitate, and as my classroom also has no library I just can't afford to mimic them. I decided to go with a color theme instead, as it would be simpler and cheeper than some of the other awesome ideas I have seen out there. My color scheme is based of some sea glass I found this summer, and I thought I would add seashells to the room to add interest.

Ok, so far so good. I bought fabric to cover the bulletin boards, sea shells to glue to my clothespins and things, and sand pails for passing out math manipulatives in. All I needed was some bulletin board boarders with shells on them, and something to hang from my ceilings to finish it off. That's when this all fell apart. No one is selling borders with shells on them that I can find. Not even Amazon! Bah!!!!

So, rethinking, it seemed that the plan should be to go with the color scheme. I needed turquoise and sea green borders. Strike out, strike out, strike out!!! After checking all the usual places and feeling a bit desperate I decided to check JoAnn fabrics to see if they had any ribbon or something I could use. I went to their website and discovered that they carry turquoise bulletin board borders, and there were 6 in stock in the store 1 hour from my home. Yeah!!!! So, I got up early the next day and drove the hour to the store to be there when they opened.

I arrived to find that the store is remodeling, and even though the web says they have the borders I wanted they could NOT find them. We looked for about an hour with no luck at all. At this point I was honestly shaking and about to cry. This was my rice bowl for the moment and I was loosing it. Then I walked by a small display of little chalkboards and it reminded me of an adventure I had when I was just starting out teaching.

My first year of teaching I had the opportunity to spend my summer working at a school in India. The school was in an orphanage where all the teachers had grown up. They had learned how to read, write and do math in the orphanage as children and were now trying to teach others what they knew with no formal training. My task was to go spend 6 weeks at the school teaching the teachers how to teach more effectively. I spent months collecting crayons, pencils, paper, and coloring books to give to the children thinking that these would be the supplies they would be in short supply of.

My first day in India I was brought to observe in a kindergarten classroom. The classroom had no desks or tables, only simple long wooden benches for children to sit on. There were no centers or manipulatives. The walls were bare concrete with no decoration. There was no chalkboard at the front of the room, and no books that I could see. "How are children learning like this?" I thought. Then the 50 something students began to pour into the room and sit down. The teacher arrived carrying a single book to read to the students that day. That day I watched in awe as a classroom of 50 students learned to read, write, and do math in 3 languages with only the small chalkboards they had brought with them from home that day. When the teacher read the big book she had brought with her students hung on her every word, and when she had problems she wanted them to solve (yes kindergarteners were adding and subtracting) they dutifully lined up beside her chair (she had no desk) and had her write the problems on their small chalkboards. Children would then return to their bench to solve the problems then line back up to have their work corrected and have another assignment written on the reverse side of their chalk board. It was a very humbling experience. Over the next few weeks I saw students complete math problems with abacuses, and older students treat their notebooks as if every word they wrote in them was a precious commodity. I did speak to teachers about ways they could better deal with it when a student didn't understand the problem, and give out a LOT of praise for what they were doing.

In the end I don't think I taught them much of anything, instead they taught me.

They taught me that you don't need lots of "stuff" to teach, what you need are great lessons, and the ability to command the attention of your students. It really doesn't matter if I am running out of red construction paper, or I have one giant gallon glue bottle and nothing to dispense it with, I can improvise or go without. It is frustrating when the smartboard doesn't work and it isn't getting fixed, but while it is nice to have you don't really need it.

Looking at the chalkboards that day I took a deep breath and walked to another store and bought all the trimmer they had left. It is plain and white but it doesn't clash with the color scheme. In the end, I really don't need bulletin board trimmer. It will not teach my students anything of any kind. It is the small stuff you don't sweat, and now I'm moving on to the actual important task of writing my long term and short term lesson plans. In the end, that will be what matters.

Good luck this year, and don't let the frenzy get to you too badly. Talk to you again soon!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back and Getting Ready to Go!

Hello everyone! After 6 weeks spent traveling all over our country my family and I are finally home. My 3 year old took one look at our front door and said, "Is this our house?" Then spent the rest of the day Monday asking if these were his toys, his puppy, etc.... 6 weeks was too long. I am glad to be back.

This year I am switching grade levels to 4th grade, and moving my classroom. The classroom I am moving to was a 5th grade classroom last year. So I have been spending way too much time on packing up items for 5th grade and shipping them on. Whew boy am I glad that TpT's back to school sale is this weekend. I have many items on my wish-list I intend to purchase and save myself from some of the stress associated with switching grade levels again.

I am also working on a lit circle genre study project guide for my store, I will have a sample up for you all shortly, but unfortunately it won't be done in time for this weekend. Mostly right now I'm focused on digging out from the mountain of materials I don't need in my classroom, and getting organized for this school year.

Thank you to all the TpT sellers out there for sharing with us their best ideas. It is a huge help to have a place to go and get great materials for the classroom on the specific topic that you need, when you need it.

Happy shopping, and good luck on you first weeks of school!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Greetings From Baltimore

Yesterday the students in the class I am taking had an opportunity to participate in the Advancement Project conference being held in DC this week. It was a wonderful, inspiring, enlightening, exhausting experience for all. Some of the presenters were extremely passionate about their topic and had research to back what they said, and other's simply stated opinions, with no research to back their statements.

I did learn some new information on Restorative Justice, which is program/philosophy I had not heard of before, and about PBIS which my school currently does. The conference was run by panel discussion so I was unable to get a good understanding of what the Restorative Justice program is beyond that I would like to know more about it and how people have gotten it to work in their classrooms. If you have a restorative justice program in your school and would like to share about how it works for you I would love to hear about it, as I am sure others in the blogging community would like to hear as well, so please do share, either with a comment or a link to a blog of website that you have on the topic. Thank you!

Want to watch the conference live? You can get live streaming video here. Later there will be taped videos of the conference on the site as well.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Quick Hello From Baltimore

Whew this summer has been jam-packed. 2 Days after school got out my family and I left on a 6 week tent camping trip across the country. So far we have camped in New York, Pennsylvania, Stayed in a hotel in Chicago for 2 super fun days, stayed in Lincoln Nebraska, Rocky Mountain National Park, Las Vegas, and 2 1/2 weeks in and around Yosemite National Park. My family is still in Yosemite while I am attending the AFT summer educator academy in Baltimore MD. Then I fly back to Yosemite for 3 days, go for a visit to my mother-in-law's house for 2 days, camp at the Grand Canyon for a few nights, then drive back across the country to Orlando for 2 weeks, then we will camp up the east coast on our way home. It is a crazy busy summer with little access to the internet or cell phone service.

My posts will be very scattered this summer as a result, but please check back as I intend to share resources and ideas from the aft summer academy I am attending these 10 days. The course I am enrolled in is the one on managing anti-social behavior in the classroom, and I am eager to share my new knowledge and strategies with you as I learn them.

Have a great summer!!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

It Has Been Way Too Long.

Hello everyone! It has been way too long since my last post. I always think that the start of the school year will be the busiest, but then the last weeks of school roll around and I cannot believe how swamped I am. With 10 days left of school we have Move up week (yup - WEEK), Rally tests to score, phonics screenings, Dibels, report cards, conferences, cumulative folders award ceremonies, and field day. My head is swimming. In the past few weeks we finished our unit on plants. Our hydroponic celery eventually wilted and the sweet potato never grew at all. However check out our corn it was amazing!
Sweet Potato & Celery
Big Bushy Corn... Neat!

       During science we did an experiment with paper airplanes. I got the idea from this website:
       I printed one color copy of each of the directions sheets and divided my class up into groups. Each group received directions for a different paper airplane each day for 4 days.  The group was responsible for reading and following the directions together, I told them I would not help them and that they had to rely on one another to figure it out. They complained a bit, but did eventually realize that they were as capable as I know they are, and they read and followed the directions just fine. On Friday students wrote predictions about which plane they had made they think would fly the farthest, and why. Then in throe group they agreed upon their best example of each of the planes they had folded (there are more than 4 planes in the experiment so groups did not make all of the options). Then we brought a recording sheet, meter sticks, and our planes outside to test which ones flew the fastest. Students recorded the distance that the farthest plane in their group flew, and wrote their hypothesis about why they flew that far. They had an awesome time!
Sharing a directions sheet

We used scrap paper then decorated our planes
You mean we get to finally throw them now? YEEEEAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!

We used teamwork to measure and record our data.

We had an awesome time!!!!

         On a personal note, there is one more reason I have not blogged as much as I would like recently. I have always been an avid cyclist, and during the summer months my husband and I bike everywhere that we can. About a year and a half ago I sustained a serious injury on the job and for months I walked with a cane. After I was able to go without the cane I was still in pain for large portions of the day. I was definitely not able to ride my bike. In the past few months I've been feeling better and about 2 weeks ago with some trepidation, I got back on my bike.
         Yesterday I biked 21 miles in one day!!! Words cannot express how great it feels to be able to tell you that. I've gotten a bit carried away with being back on my bike and spend most of my free time on it.  My goal for the summer is to ride at least 6 miles every day, and save time to blog and share teaching ideas with you.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Let's Walk Beautiful People... A Linky Party


         I'll never forget my first time trying to teach kindergarteners to walk in a line to the lunch room. Let's just say it was slightly below disaster. I was in the hallway for 10 minutes trying my darndest to explain to my students the concept of what a line was, when Ms. Smith brought her group of kinders into the hall. Ms. Smith was wearing a feather boa, and sparkly sunglasses, and so were all her students. My students and I stood there with mouths gaping and we watched Ms. Smith tell her students, "hips" and she put one hand on her hip, "and lips" they all put a finger from their other hand on their lips , "let's walk beautiful people" The class proceeded to SASHAY behind her down the hall like they were all out on the catwalk in the hottest new clothes. Me and my class were stunned. I'm not sure how I made it through the rest of that day, but I swore I would invest in boas and sunglasses for my next year's class.
         Now a days I teach 2nd grade and hips and lips just doesn't cut it for my "too cool for baby stuff" kiddos, so we repeat the chant "1-2-3 eyes on me, hands behind your backs, facing forward, mouths closed." As we say it, we do it. Boring yet effective. My students just need the reminder to settle down and walk quietly at the start of our walk, then they seem to manage it just fine.
        Most of the teacher's in my school have their students walk in 2 lines to make them shorter. I tried that but it drives me batty. I can't keep straight where each line leader is supposed to be, and I feel like we unsafely take up the width of the hallway. Some of the lines moving through the school look like giant masses of humanity stampeding down the hallway and I want to run the other way. However, many of our teachers have creative ways of making double lines work for them.
      Our 4th grade students manage the double lines magnificently and I asked one of their teacher's just the other day about how they were able to do it. She lead me down the 4th grade hallway and showed me the posters they have hanging up about every 15 feet on the walls. They look like this:

How do you get your students to walk in line in the hallways?

If you blog about it please join up to our linky party below so we can all be inspired!

TBA's Ultimate Linky Party

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