Sunday, September 18, 2011

And Now, The Moment You've Been Waiting For...

What was supposed to be a restful, relaxing day turned out to be anything but!  I woke up this morning feeling like my skin was on fire – it turns out I had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics I was taking (yes, the one for the spider bite turned staph infection I had gotten earlier in the week) and developed hives all over my body!  Yuck!  So I made a little trip to urgent care (we’re on a first name basis now – haha) and made it out of there in record time – one hour!  Woohoo!  Lol.  I then stopped by Target to pick up some soothing lotion, vitamin E oil, and antihistamines to go along with my new prescription, returned home to load my car full of books, and finally made it to school (4 hours later than expected – ha).  Anyways, that’s neither here nor there; the fact is that I made it and have some pictures for you! :-) 
Here are the before pictures (to get you prepared for the amazing-ness that you are about to witness – hehe):

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… (Are you ready for this?!?  Brace yourself!)

Welcome to the Olympic Training Center! 

(I'm hoping you shouted some Ooohs and Ahhhs after seeing these pictures!) :-)

And now for the details (sorry for the poor picture quality, most of these were taken with my new iPhone)...

The Olympic rings were created from colored posterboard, laminated, and hung up as the main focus in the room.

Sound/Spelling cards - organized by category (consonants, short vowels, long vowels, vowel teams, r-controlled vowels, and diagraphs)

I hung the sound/spelling cards using string and clothespins, that way I can take them down and hang them up when needed

The Focus Wall!  This bulletin board is home to most of our reading strategies and skills that we will use on a regular basis.  The blue paper in the center is for the story we will be reading and the red and blue pocket charts are for our vocabulary (current vocab words displayed on red chart, last week's words displayed on blue chart).  This bulletin board is still a work in progress, but I'll be sure to show you an updated picture once I get it up and running!

 And now, the Word Wall of Fame!  This is where we will hang "no excuse" words or words that the students must know in their reading and be able to spell correctly in their writing.  This is also a work in progress, but I'm hoping to have the kids write some words to display this week! 

In between the two walls of the Word Wall of Fame, you'll find our easel and floor space (with the blue and yellow tape clearly marking the boundaries of where to sit during "carpet time"/whole-group instruction - I quickly realized that boundaries were a skill we needed some work on after the very first day! Haha.

Next stop, Hopes and Dreams...

I had heard about this great idea from a teaching blog (Thank you Mrs. VanDyke!) and adapted it to fit the needs of our class.  Here's what we did:
We started with brainstorming a list of things we hoped to accomplish in class this year.  I then gave each child a dream cloud to write what they personally hoped to accomplish in school this year.  Once they had turned these in to me, I compiled a list of hopes for each class and turned it into a graphic organizer.  The following day, I shared all the students' hopes and dreams with each class.  I then asked them,"What do we have to do every day in class in order to accomplish our hopes and dreams?"  This is what they came up with:

 Our class promise (Thank you Mrs. O for helping with this wonderful idea)! Every time the students enter the "Olympic Training Center," they must adhere to these rules (after all, they made a promise) ;-).  It was a fun way to get the students involved in creating the classroom rules/expectations and helped establish a classroom community.

Here are a few examples of what the students wrote:

and my personal favorite...

(I hope I could win the mortal kombat!)

Haha.  It puts a smile on my face every time!  :-D

Since my classroom is housed in the conference room, I have this wonderful cabinet in the middle of the wall.

When you open it, this is what's inside: some chart paper, a white board, and a bulletin board!

 This is great, however, it takes up a lot of wall space and covers all my wall decorations when open.  I tried putting posters on it, but the finish on the wood would not allow for any sticky-ness.  Needless to say, it will remain a block of wood for the time being...

Moving on...

These are the lifeskills that I expect my students to use everyday in my class.  They include skills such as hard work, friendship, self-control, team spirit, confidence, and personal best (at the very top of the pyramid because that is the overall goal).  Here are a few zoomed in:

Now onto the front of the room... 
HOWL - our  school's Positive Behavior Support (PBS) acronym (the yellow blurbs tell students what each letter looks like in a classroom setting)

 Happy and Sad Pencil Cups - that way students won't have to get up to sharpen their pencil in the middle of class, they can just trade out their sad one for a happy one!  :-D  Also, check out my awesome electric pencil sharpener that I purchased from Target (on sale for $10)!

 The white board at the front of the room (notice all the lovely magnets on my board!).  Above the board are some inspirational quotes and more (accompanied by pictures) next to the board (all fitting the "Olympic Dream" theme)!

 Some ways to keep my small space organized! 

My happy little bathroom, hall, and office passes

And lastly, rounding the final corner...

   Writing expectations


How to choose a "just right" book (Thanks Mrs. Carroll at the First Grade Parade for these fabulous print-outs using the Daily 5)

Just a few more things to go...

This chart will be used for "Hot Tamale" words - words that will spice up our writing!

Last but not least, just a small sample of the books that make up my classroom library (I still have quite a few more boxes to unload and organize).  The blue bins will hopefully expand to each of their own letters (space permitting), but for now they are grouped together (practicing their lifeskills of friendship and cooperation - haha). 

I hope you enjoyed the tour!  Happy almost Monday!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Weekend is Here! (A much shorter post this time...)

After a crazy busy week I can finally say, “Hallelujah, the weekend is here!”  J  This is one of the first weekends that I’m not working my other job and have no other obligations, other than to relax, which is exactly what I plan to do!  Here’s a little summary of my week:
Monday – busy, but short day of teaching (we have early release days for PD on Mondays), training on teaching phonics, late evening at school (stayed until 7:30pm organizing and preparing for the week), came home and wrote sub plans for Tuesday afternoon (we would be having a collaborative planning session for literacy)
Tuesday – assessment day (placement tests, unit test, etc.) during the morning, collaborative planning for literacy with the first grade team in the afternoon, 3 hour training after school on Success Maker (which I will be using to teach during the after-school program)
Wednesday – started testing 1st grade students on sight words, taught first full literacy lesson, stayed after school to plan, prepare, and organize for the following two days (left at 8:30pm)
Thursday – another busy day of teaching, made it out of school by 5:00pm, ran errands until 7:00pm (FYI – Target has all their back-to-school stuff on clearance – composition notebooks for $0.10 each and colored pens for $0.25 per pack – I couldn’t resist!), came home exhausted and needing to plan, but the exhaustion won
Friday –half day of planning (for conferences – haha) and a half day of conferences (trying to make it to all of my kids’ conferences was quite the feat… I still have Tuesday and Thursday to go!) 
And, finally, the weekend!
Now that I’ve kinda, sorta figured out the way things are going to run in my classroom, I’m going to go into school for a short little while tomorrow to put some finish touches on my “classroom.”  I have an entire classroom library that I will be unloading from my car (which will hopefully create a lot more space in my closet at home – lol) and some other useful items to drop off.  Once that is done, I will be fully ready to give you a tour of the Olympic Training Center!  J
Until then, have a restful, relaxing remainder of your weekend! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Week Full of Surprises (AKA The L-o-n-g-e-s-t Post Ever!)

Even though this past week was only a three-day week of school, it was quite a whirlwind!  Here’s a little re-cap of how it all went down:
My day started with having to track down all the teachers I emailed the night before because our email system was down.  After my long scavenger hunt, I met with the first grade team and the principals for one of the most important data meetings of the year.  We analyzed students reading scores and behaviors and then used this data to place them into reading groups where all their needs will be met (then did the same for 2nd and 4th grade).  My groups could only be a maximum of 16 kids each due to space restrictions (ie. my conference room/”classroom”), so trying to place the right kids in my class was quite the challenge.  After dividing the students, I had a pretty good idea on what groups I would have and what programs I would be using to teach them.  However, shortly afterwards, we realized we forgot to account for some teachers who were available to teach during this time who weren’t able to attend the meetings, so we had to do even more dividing and shuffling.  My groups and reading programs were once again up in the air. 
As if that wasn’t enough to stress about… I had gotten bit by what I thought was a spider over the weekend and had a nasty swollen bump on my elbow.  It was continuing to swell and was hot to the touch, so I decided a trip to urgent care was in order.  It was the end of the school day when I finally discovered our email was back up and running.  I decided to quickly check my email before heading out to urgent care (I know- priorities… haha).  I stumbled upon an email from a colleague of mine explaining that she was unable to attend the mandatory induction seminar/training after school due to a family emergency.  Looking up at the clock in my room, I realized I was going to be late, sprinted out of the school, and drove pedal to the metal all the way there, arriving just “casually late.”  While there, my arm started to hurt worse, but I had to be there in order to fulfill my induction requirements, so I just sucked it up.  The training lasted much longer than expected, and in my furious frenzy of rushing out of the school, I realized that I left my teacher bag in my classroom (uh-oh!).  Needless to say, I had to turn around and make an extra trip back to school only to then arrive at urgent care just 5 minutes before it closed (talk about good timing!).
Luckily, the doctors were still willing to see me.  I was their last patient, but had 3 people ahead of me.  Little did I know that one of those 3 was a laceration which took a lot of time and a lot of screaming.  L I was eventually brought back into the triage room, where a nurse assessed the damage on my arm.  I was told that my “spider bite” was probably from a brown recluse spider and that the affected skin was probably going to turn black and die so I’d probably need a tetanus shot (but not to worry, it could’ve been a more poisonous spider and I could’ve died instantly – now that’s some real comforting information – NOT!).  I was then brought back to an examination room where I waited for 2 hours before finally being attended to (and I thought an hour at the DMV was bad- yeah right!).  The doctor finally came in and assessed my “spider bite” for about 5 minutes only to determine that he thought it was a staph infection (now I don’t know which is worse, a staph infection or a brown recluse spider bite? – knowing how quickly these both can spread, I’d have to say it’s a tie at this point).   I was given a prescription for antibiotics and scheduled a follow-up appointment for the next day to make sure that the infection wasn’t spreading and that my body was not resisting the antibiotics (basically checking to make sure that my arm wasn’t going to fall off – ha.). 
At this point, I was feeling super stressed out about life, but I knew that if I had a little faith, everything would be okay.  And it was!  J Thank you to all of you who care so much about me.  I love you all! 
After figuring out I needed to take a half-day off to attend my follow-up appointment, I couldn’t log into Subfinder.  For some reason (I think it’s because I’m a new employee) I can’t log onto anything!  It’s driving me crazy! I spend much of my free time chatting it up with my wonderful technical support friends on the other end of the phone line so that I can get logged into all of my accounts that I’ve been denied access to.  This time, the person I had to call did not answer the phone.  So I was left in a moment of panic – what to do?  I didn’t actually need a sub, but I had to find some way to document that I wasn’t going to be there.  What I decided to do was to drive all the way to my school (a good 20 minutes from my apartment) and talk to everyone there that I needed to talk to and get permission to leave for the morning.  So I did, but found out that they couldn’t help me out with Subfinder either.  Anyways… they gave me permission to leave for the morning and sent me on my way back to urgent care.
And guess what… even though I had a scheduled appointment, it took me an hour and a half to finally be visited by the doctor.  It was a different doctor this time, but I described my symptoms and my reaction to the antibiotics that I was given (the swelling around my arm was going down – hooray!).  I told him that it still felt like there was a lot of pressure and warmth and redness and pain, so he decided that it might be a good option to “drain” it.  ~Caution – it gets a little more graphic if you continue reading beyond this point. ~ He sprayed some freeze stuff on and around the infected area, then proceeded to poke it a few times with a needle.  I’m not sure how well that freeze spray worked, because I sure felt it!  Once that needle hit me, I was in excruciating pain – I held my breath and bit my lip so I wouldn’t scream.  Thank goodness it was short-lived!  He then bandaged me up, told me to keep taking my antibiotics and to continue to monitor the size of my infection, and sent me on my way. 
Here’s a “quick” summary of the rest of my day…
I arrived back to school at noon, made a long to-do list of all the things I needed to get done before Friday (I wrote the majority of this at the doctor’s office for the 1.5 hours I was waiting…), went on a scavenger hunt to try to find the materials I would need to teach each of my reading groups (after finding out what groups I would be teaching and what programs I would be using), realized I was short by 6 chairs in my classroom, proctored a standardized test, observed a reading group with one of the programs I was going to be implementing, double-booked an after-school meeting with a reading training and decided to attend the training instead, was completely overwhelmed by the amazing stuff you can do with the program presented in the training, but saddened by the lack of resources I have to make it work really well for 2nd graders, continued working on my to-do list, eventually turned my to-do list into a to-done list, and finally made it out of the school by 8:07pm (now that’s a run-on sentence if I’ve ever seen one).  Even though the exhaustion set in as soon as I got home, my arm was throbbing, and I still had to plan for my first day with my groups, I couldn’t wait to teach!  Friday would be my first real teaching experience as a certified teacher – how exhilarating!   
I survived my first day of teaching!  What a whirlwind – getting kids from their teachers, to their teachers, making sure they were in the correct line, getting students back to their classroom on time, meeting my other groups on time, getting a full week’s workout in a day... Oh what a day it has been!  I LOVE all my kids.  They’re a great bunch!  I have a few shy students and a few real talkative ones making for an interesting mix, but I absolutely adore each and every one of them!  It is going to be a FANTASTIC year!!!! 
I’ve still been feeling extremely overwhelmed… I stayed at school until 5 (on a Friday), but I guess that beats my 8 o’clock night the night before.  I was just informed of what programs I will be using to teach each group and have been trying to catch up by reading what information I have on them, but I really don’t know where the resources are or even know which ones I’m supposed to be using. For the first couple days I see each group, my plan was to go over rules and expectations.  Then I would begin teaching the “normal stuff” once we finished with these essentials. 
I am also realizing how short my time is with each group!  I see each group for 40-50 minutes (besides a first grade group which I see for a straight 90 minutes).  During this block of time I have to pick up the kids from their grade-level hallway, wait for any kids that are let out late from their class, walk to my classroom, teach my lesson, walk the kids back to their grade level hallway, supervise the ones who are waiting to enter their homeroom classrooms until their teacher finishes his/her lesson, and then run to a different hallway to get my next group (and repeat).  I feel like I only have 30-40 minutes to teach what I need to teach, which does not seem long enough to get much accomplished.  I’m hoping that with a little help from the classroom teachers we can figure out a good system that will begin working within the next few days and will run smoothly for the rest of the year!
Trying to figure out what materials the kids need to bring is another issue.  Different teachers want their kids to bring different things or think that I already have all the materials (which I don’t), so it makes it really hard to teach – especially when the kids are worried about not having the right supplies or want to go put their stuff back in their classrooms.  I think this is another thing I’m going to have to work out with the classroom teachers for each grade.  I just feel like I’m spread so thin – working with 4 different grade level teams (18 different teachers to be exact! Plus the other interventionists, coaches, and principals), having 4 brand-new reading programs to learn and implement in my teaching, and only having a super-short amount of time to do it in.  I want my kids to be successful and I want to help them make huge strides with their reading, but I’m struggling with how to make it all work. 
I don’t even know where to begin with room organization.  There is absolutely no space- zip, zero, zilch!  It was near impossible to fit all 16 kiddos in each group in that room.  I’m trying to arrange it so there is some floor space and so they can sit at their desks.  We have a mix of big and little chairs and different types of tables (round, hexagon, and rectangular) at different heights.  The fourth graders need the bigger chairs and tables, but when the firsties come in, they look like they are sitting in a giant’s chair with their feet dangling off the floor (too cute, but not the best learning environment).  I was told that I could possibly move my 4th grade group into the cafeteria, but I’m not sure if that’s the best option.  What to do, what to do????  SO much to think about!!!!
At least I’m figuring out all these things within the first week, but any suggestions you have to offer would be greatly appreciated!   J 
P.S.  If you made it to this point, thanks for reading my extremely long post!  I really do appreciate it!  There is just so much to think about, but once I reflect and write about it, I always seem to come up with new ideas.  J 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend.  I was lucky enough to get a four-day weekend (due to a furlough day :-/), but my extra day off was well spent visiting the school where I did my student teaching.  I was able to eat lunch with my fabulous first grade team (we had Garbanzo – can you say yum!?!) and visit with my fantastic “firsties” (now second graders!).  It was amazing to see how much the kiddos had grown in just three months!  They were super surprised to see me and especially excited to hear that I got a teaching job working with 1st and 2nd graders.  J  It was great to see everyone and catch up.  I miss all of my friends there, but I’m glad to see that everyone is doing well!
After my little school visit, I had to run some errands and make a special trip to the DMV.  I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but no matter what time of day you go to the DMV, it always takes at least an hour.  Ah!  After what seemed like forever, I spent a total of 2 minutes renewing my license plates (which I was later told I could’ve done online – I’ll definitely remember this the next time around) and carried on with my to-do list.  The next item on my list was to pick up some poster-board for my classroom.  Luckily, Super Target was right next to the DMV.  As I entered the store, I passed the $1 Spot, which happened to have a ton of teacher stuff left!  I went a little crazy buying everything in sight (well, almost – the Target by my school was out of all the things I needed).  So… here’s what I ended up with: brightly-colored compartmentalized tubs for organizing school supplies, strong magnets with hooks, a hall and office pass (unfortunately they were out of bathroom passes), colorful bulletin-board borders, dry-erase sentence strips, dice, blue ink pens ($.50), kid scissors (on clearance – 2 packs for $.98 each), composition notebooks (also on clearance - $.28 each), and an electric pencil sharpener (marked as $20, but on sale for $9.99).  Getting so caught up in these dollar-saving deals, I walked out of the store, completely forgetting what I needed.  Oh well – I guess the poster-board can wait!  I guess my entire point of sharing this with you is that if you need some last-minute teacher/classroom stuff, go shopping at Target, just don’t forget the poster-board.  Ha!
It’s a gloomy day outside, but my day was definitely made brighter by getting to see the kiddos and visiting with my teacher-friends!  And my teacher license arrived in the mail!  I’m officially official!!!!  J  Now it’s time to knuckle down and get some planning done for this week…  Happy day everyone!!!! 


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mission Accomplished!

I can finally say that I am all done with beginning of the year testing and I’ll soon be getting to teach!  Hooray!!!!  Yesterday I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster- it was a bit of an overwhelming day.  But, I’m glad to share that today was 100 times better!  Knowing that I’ll be getting to work with kiddos soon, I spent some much needed time gathering materials and preparing the classroom for their arrival (I promise I will be posting pictures next week).  I have a packed-full day tomorrow, but tomorrow is Friday and you know what that means… afternoon dance party!  Haha.  Have a wonderful three-day weekend and enjoy your last little bit of poolside fun in the sun!  J