Monday, November 28, 2011

The 3 Rs

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you would notice that life has been a little bit on the crazy side of things for me (but when is it ever not?!? Ha!).  Lately, there have been oodles and oodles of changes and new things for me to learn and all of this, at times, can be overwhelming.  However, with Thanksgiving break happening this past week, it’s given me a chance to rest, relax, and reflect.  With all of this “extra” time, I’ve made quite a few realizations.  I’m thankful for… EVERYTHING!!!!  Life is simply wonderful!
Life is loaded with challenges, but I’m so glad to have encountered each and every one of those challenges.  I would not be as fortunate and grateful for the life I lead today if these challenges never presented themselves.  Each and every experience I have had in my life has shaped who I am today and has made me proud to be here on this earth doing exactly what I’m doing.  I can’t help but feel blessed every single day for my family, friends, students, career, and good health to be able to enjoy all of these things.  I am inspired each and every day by these blessings! 
I am truly blessed!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Roller Coaster Week

If you take a look at my previous post, you would see that life seemed to be headed towards the upward mend.  However, it quickly took an unusual turn!  Needless to say – it was an interesting week!  Haha.  I won’t go into detail but I’ll give you a hint: bathroom stalls, all-out brawls, and poor choices galore…  I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.  You can tell it’s about time for break! 
On a positive note- I have some funny stories to share! 
1.  I had a student ask to borrow some scissors and a glue stick for a project he was doing.  I reluctantly gave them to him, making him promise to bring both items back the next day.  When I went to pick up my first grade group in the hallway, I see this student standing with a stack full of papers up to his nose, along with the glue stick and scissors in his hands.  He greeted me by placing his “project” in my hands and eagerly awaited my response.  He showed me each of the different creations that he had been working so hard on… some snowflakes, some drawings, some “presents” (glued pieces of paper that I had to open to see what was inside), and a picture frame, all complete with a bag of shapes (a ziplock bag crammed full with scraps from each of his creations).  I had a total of 30 “presents” made for me. I could tell that he had spent the majority of his evening on this.  How thoughtful!  J 

2. When teaching the after-school program this week, a student exclaimed, “I have to go to the bathroom really bad!”  So I told him that he could go use the restroom.  His response, “I’m just going to hold it until I get home.  The toilets at school scare me – they are so loud and make me feel like they are going to suck me in!”  Poor guy!  I told him there was nothing to be afraid of and that all schools have powerful toilets because so many people use them.  I also told him that I had never heard of anyone getting sucked into a toilet.  I hope that he can get over his fear!  It would be awfully uncomfortable (and unhealthy) to have to hold it all day every day!

3. Friday was a rough day behavior-wise!  After reminding my kiddos of our classroom rules and having a brief discussion about respect, one of my students raised her hand wanting to contribute to the discussion.  This is what she shared, “You have to do a lot of work because you’re a teacher.  That’s why kids shouldn’t be disrespectful because you work so hard!”    And these are the words of a first grader!  Love it!  J       
Even after a rough day, my students never cease to put a smile on my face!  They really do remind me of the exact reasons why I teach and always keep me looking at the bright side of things! 
Have you smiled today?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just Breathe

If I were to describe my week in one word, I would choose “AHHHHH!!!!!” Ok – I guess that’s not the best word choice, but my week was definitely CAH-RAY-ZEE!   Last week was probably one of the toughest weeks I’ve experienced thus far in my teaching career.  So many changes, challenges, and emotions… I can officially say that I had reached the disillusionment stage on my first-year teacher stages graph.  Lol.  Thankfully, with all these new changes and challenges also come new opportunities.  I’m still trying to get a good handle on things and make a plan to move forward, but I know one thing is for sure… I will be the best teacher I can be!  Nothing can stop me! 
In my previous post, I spoke about change.  Change is everywhere… it is constant.  We must embrace change if we are to reach our fullest potential.  Our school has been undergoing a lot of change lately.  One of the key changes has to do with how we group our students for reading.  Currently, I have a group of 16 above-level first graders that I spend the majority of the school day with (approximately 3 hours).  Because our grouping model is changing, I was told that I would no longer be getting to work with this group, but instead an entirely new first grade reading group.   From what I’ve been told, my new group will be made up of well-below grade level readers.  The majority of these students are non-readers that are still working on learning their letter sounds and learning how to decode and blend CVC words.  This is going to be a complete 180 degree turnaround from what I am teaching now… I have lots of learning to do, but am excited for the challenge!  J
The thing that I’m worried about most is that I’ll be letting down my current reading group kiddos.  We have formed such a close-knit bond and have learned so much together!  My kiddos keep me smiling every single day and remind me of the exact reasons why I teach.  I love each and every one of them and appreciate all the things they have taught me and continue to teach me.  I’m going to miss the group I have now, but am so fortunate that I get the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many kids and in the lives of those that need it most!  As one of my BFFs said, “Even though those kids who won’t have you as a teacher are at a loss, the new ones just received a huge blessing!”  Thank you SB!  And for that, I can only hope!  J
Thankfully, this week has already begun on the upward mend.  First and foremost, I taught a successful lesson on summarizing (a skill that my 2nd grade group has been struggling with – and they got it!  Woohoo!) and I made it home before 6pm today (I know – a new record!)!  I tell ya… it’s in the littlest things where you can find the most joy!  J   
Yesterday, we had an all staff meeting where we competed in the Network Olympics.  This is an annual event designed to boost staff morale and build new relationships with co-workers that you normally don’t see or get to work with during the day.  The staff was mixed up and divided into 6 different teams where we competed in games such as Name that Tune, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?, and Minute to Win It.  Everyone on the team got to compete in at least one challenge to try to earn the team points.  My challenge, you ask?  Face the Cookie.  Each player was given a cookie that they were to place on their forehead.  Without the use of hands, the players had to use their facial muscles to slide the cookie down their face and into their mouth.  And guess what!?!?!  I did it!!!!!  J 
Even though this took time out of everyone’s extremely busy schedules… there wasn’t a person I saw without a smile on their face as we left the meeting.  My principal put it best (this is paraphrased, but quoted from the best of my memory), “We are a family.  Having fun and laughing together is something families do best.”  He went on to say (paraphrased, of course), “It’s in the little moments we find joy.  As I look back on my week, I’ve found at least 10 moments where I can say, “This is why I’m here and I’m proud to be here.”  I hope that each of you can find these moments every day.”  I left that meeting feeling so inspired and ready to take on the world!  So, I leave you with this… a small moment where I found joy and could say, “This is why I’m here and I’m proud to be here.” 
Yesterday I was given the opportunity to observe another teacher during my first grade literacy block.  I gained a lot of new insight; however, I was only able to be with my first graders for a total of 45 minutes out of the day.  One of my sweeties came up to me and excitedly exclaimed, “I can’t wait for tomorrow!”  My response: “Why is that?”  Student: “Because tomorrow we get to spend more time with you!”  Me: *all smiles* ...And that right there is one of those moments where I could say, “This is why I’m here and I’m proud to be here!”  I am a teacher and am happy to know that I am making a difference.  J 
Happy day, sweet friends! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Season of Change

I absolutely love, love, LOVE getting an extra hour in my day today - I just feel like I can be so much more productive with that extra hour!  I’m getting observed tomorrow – my first formal observation (eeek)!  I’ve been preparing all day, along with planning for the week ahead, so in order to avoid too much brain fry-age, I’m taking a little break to write you this post (this is how I’m choosing to spend my extra hour – lol).  J  If only we had an extra hour added onto everyday…  Haha. 
Life is full of change!  Change is an absolutely normal and essential part of life.  If everything stayed the same, life would be boring - Hence the phrase, “Variety is the spice of life!”  Lately, things have been spicin’ up in my classroom!

Hot Tamale Words
I try to encourage my students to notice and use vocabulary words in their daily language.  In order to increase their motivation in doing this, I made the decision to give students who can correctly use these vocabulary words Hot Tamales.  An idea similar to this was shared in a classroom management class that I took, but here’s how I decided to adapt it for my class:  If students can incorporate the vocabulary word in their writing, answer questions verbally with the vocabulary word in a complete sentence, and/or identify the vocabulary word in their reading and tell me what it means, they will receive a Hot Tamale.  I implemented this system this week and my students absolutely love it (not to mention that they are developing a deeper understanding of all of our vocabulary words)!    

Can you believe that Halloween was this past Monday!?!?!  How time has flown!  Our school decided to celebrate and have our parties at the end of the day last Friday.  Since I don’t have a homeroom, I decided that my time would be best spent by visiting the classroom parties that all my students were a part of.  I am proud to share that I successfully made it into every one of my students’ classrooms… a total of 12 parties!  I gathered all sorts of party ideas and have never seen so much candy and sweets in my entire life!  It was weird not having a homeroom class to celebrate with, but I could tell that each and every one of my students were enjoying the festivities (and all the treats, of course)!  What a fun-filled day! 

Stellaluna Bat Folders
Since it was Halloween on Monday, I figured it would be the perfect time to read my second graders the book Stellaluna.  They LOVED it!  We are currently completing a multiple-day unit on this book and creating bat folders!  Check it out…

This is what we’ve done so far, but our completed bat folders are going to include facts and opinions, a venn-diagram comparing/contrasting all the different animals mentioned in the text, a sequence-of-events booklet, a written summary, and a few other things.  My goal was to get my students to analyze this text and practice using and responding to different levels of questioning (Bloom’s Taxonomy), which my students seem to be doing a wonderful job with!  J 

Wild Weather Wednesday
Exactly one week later and another SNOW DAY… or so I thought!  I woke up to about 6 inches or more of snow, unplowed roads, power outages, and frigid temperatures… the perfect combination in the making for a snow day.  Naturally, I jumped out of bed, turned on the tv, and watched the weather closures scroll across the bottom of the screen.  Practically every district in the state of Colorado was closed.  I kept waiting for our district to appear, but I didn’t see it – I must’ve missed it!  At that point, I couldn’t bear to watch any longer… it would be much more efficient to pull up the district webpage, so that’s exactly what I did.  I typed in the web address and this is what appeared at the top of the screen, “All schools will be operating on a normal schedule today.”    What?!?  I re-read it.  Twice.  Not even a delayed start!  I guess the odds weren’t really in our favor either – to think we could have two snow days, exactly one week apart.  Now that’s some wishful thinking!  A girl can dream!  Haha.
Honestly, I really didn’t mind going into school.  I had a lot to get done – especially with falling so far behind from being out from school for three days last week.  It has taken a lot to get caught up (and I’m still not completely caught up!), but I’m getting closer and closer each day.  The most important and most enjoyable part of my Wednesday… I got to see the kiddos!  They can always put a smile on my face! J

Hair-do (or should I say hair-don’t)
I had a ton of stuff to prepare Friday morning, so I decided to set my alarm for 5:15am so I could go into school early to finish all the things I needed to get done. Well… being extremely exhausted from the busy week, I turned off my alarm and fell back asleep.  I didn’t wake up until almost 7am (around the time that I usually leave for school!!!!)!  I took a super speedy shower and then decided that it would be easiest and most time-efficient to pull my hair back into a pony-tail.  Little did I know what a huge distraction that this would cause… haha. 
When I went to pick up my first graders, they were in pure shock.  Some of them started laughing and others shouted, “Whoa!  You look different!” or “You changed your hair!!!!” or “Did you get a haircut?”  Too funny!  I then walked them into the classroom, where they were still curious about my new look!  I was flooded with compliments about how beautiful I looked and how much my new hairstyle was appreciated.  Lol.  One little girl raised her hand and proceeded to tell me, “Can I be honest?  I really like your hair like that, but it’s soooo different!  You look kinda creepy to me!”  Hahaha!!!!  I thought it was hilarious!  One thing that I’ve learned so far… kids are always very literal!  J 

Noteworthy News
Last, but not least, I received some news that things would be changing at our school starting in a few weeks.  I don’t have many details other than knowing that there will be lots of changes!  So many possibilities… things will be very different (I’ll share more details at a later time when I know more)!

Good or bad, change will always find us.  Change is the only constant in our world.  It allows us to see things in a different way and provides us with new opportunities for growth.  I guess what I’m trying to say is… don’t be afraid of change, embrace it!