Saturday, March 25, 2017

Loving Love & Logic



While it took about two months, I'm happy to report that I've finished Love and Logic.  I've {previously shared} that I read the parent edition last summer, but it didn't quite meet my needs as a teacher.  This book is often back ordered, but persistence and patience paid off.  Amazon delivered the book a few months ago and I've been slowly making my way through the pages.

Most of the book isn't filled with earth shattering revelations, but rather small tweaks to my classroom management and instruction.  As a teacher, I've found that one of my biggest challenges is falling into power struggles with students (particularly strong willed, more difficult ones).  I'd often find myself frustrated and wanting to have the last word in arguments.  This cycle wasn't leaving me very happy as an educator.

So, I sought out solutions.  A colleague recommended this book and not wanting to admit defeat with my teaching career, I took her advice, swallowed my pride and read the book (the parent edition) last summer.  This year, I've tried some of the strategies (such as choices and consequences with empathy).  It's making a difference.

There are still days when I'm frustrated by my students' choices.  One of the most difficult things about teaching (that no one tells you) is that I don't get to leave my job at school.  Often times, I'll be up tossing and turning, trying to figure out how to deal with a particular student.

One of my students this year has really gotten under my skin.  He's not defiant, he's not argumentative, he doesn't shout out.  He just simply doesn't do anything.  He is not meeting his reading goals, he's not doing his homework, he's not participating in class, he's not doing much of anything.  He simply sits all day.  Parent contact doesn't help the situation.  He's a smart young man and capable of being successful, he's just choosing not to apply himself or try, which is beyond frustrating as a teacher.  Writing him up doesn't work. I don't want him to sit out of recess to read, because then he'll associate reading with punishment (which is not what I want).  I've tried asking him how he'll solve his problem, but he simply shrugs apathetically.  My usual strategies aren't working.

Luckily, Love and Logic had an idea that I'll be trying in the classroom.  One of my favorite aspects of this book is the real world scenarios and different suggested lines for discussion.  My students have been a little antsy lately (spring fever hit early), so they're going to have a bonus surprise indoor fun break...if they've met their weekly goals and completed all their work.  

However, this student (and several others) probably won't be joining.  Instead, I'll phrase it that they're fortunate to have some bonus time to catch up on their goals and are welcome to join us once they've met their requirements.  It's not recess that's being taken away, but rather a very real consequence to their actions (or rather, inaction).   When the complaining starts (as it will), I'll respond with empathy. I'll state that it's a bummer and ask how they intend to solve their situation. I'll state that they're welcome to join us once they've completed the expectations.

Will they be frustrated? Yes.  Will they get to uncomfortably experience the natural consequences of their actions? Yes.  Will it be a discussion? Nope.  I will let them choose to continue to be off task, but also choose the consequence (not participating in our fun activities).  I'm okay with them living with their consequences because I'm no longer owning their behavior choices.  

Fingers crossed this strategy will be a game changer for my more apathetic students. I don't resort to yelling, consequences (being written up) aren't working, so instead I'll focus on acknowledging the positive choices that others are making.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Conference Time

In a little less than 48 hours, I'll be off to my first conference of the year.  I've had the opportunity to attend several summer teacher conferences, but this weekend will be my first during the school year.


I'll be heading to Anaheim, California, with my principal and three fellow teachers for the ASCD Empower 17 Teaching Conference.



We'll be in workshops for the better part of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  Luckily I have a pretty awesome sub for Monday, so I'm not worried about my students.  She's the PE teacher often, has subbed my class before, is liked by my students, and most importantly, doesn't put up with their shenanigans (which have been escalating at an alarming rate).

My work wife is picking me up on Friday morning and my husband is taking me (and a co-worker) to the airport so we can catch our 6 pm Friday evening flight.  He had the option to attend (he'd have to pay his own airfare), but chose to stay home with the pets.  Plus our school's first soccer game is this Saturday at four and since he's assistant coach, it's kind of important that he's there.

We'll be back from the conference at some point on Monday (I'm not 100% sure when) and then it's back to work on Tuesday.  

Next week we're also taking our first round of SBAC testing (standardized testing), so there will be a lot of walking on Thursday and Friday. I'd better make sure my Fitbit is ready!

I'm excited for my first real conference (during the school year) as a teacher (it only took eight years).  I know not to have more than one drink at dinner with my principal and have some comfy flats for the day. I'll make sure to look professional and take lots of notes.  Luckily one of my close work friends is also going and has similar interests, so we'll attend some of the sessions together.  I've downloaded the conference app, have a reminder set on my phone to check into my flight, and have at least a mental idea about sub plans for Monday.  I've started packing (basically all Lularoe Carlys, no shame) and have to stop off at the store tomorrow for a few small items. 

(Okay, I have to get snacks and a magazine.  These are crucial items!)

Will I be seeing any fellow DEN members there?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The firsts of the lasts...

I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders now that I've been allowed to publicly share that I'm moving down to third grade.

However, I've also started to realize that I'm experiencing some of my "lasts" for fifth grade.

A few weeks ago, I went on my last field trip to Harney MS.  They learn about electives, clubs, and classes.

They register for classes and get to pick their electives.


I won't get to feel like a celebrity when I go back and hear my name shouted across the classroom or basketball courts.


Tomorrow is the pep assembly for SBACs.  I'll still get to attend because it's 3-5, but it would have been my last time with my grade level.  Unfortunately, I am quarantined at home with bronchitis, a sinus infection, and an ear infection. I've missed 2 1/2 days this week (which means I lost 2 personal days next year).

It's a trolls themed assembly and we (the fifth grade team) made tutus.  The students made their own headbands:



They're so excited and I'm so bummed to miss it.  Luckily my work wives will take pictures.

I've started boxing up my classroom of materials I won't need for the rest of the year (since I'll be changing rooms). I've also been working on going through stuff in the garage to determine what's appropriate for third, what I'm keeping for fifth, what I'm donating, and what just needs to be tossed.  It's my goal for spring break to finish the garage since he wants to put the old TV out there to complete his man cave.

This year will also be the last time I get to go to the Hollywood Rec Center pool on the last day of school.  That's always one of my favorite parts of fifth grade.  Bummer.

I guess I'm feeling super nostalgic towards the end of my career of teaching fifth grade.  There will only be a few more "adjusting to middle school" counseling lessons.  There's only one more growth and development (aka puberty) class.  I only have to administer the science standardized tests one more time.

Fifth grade, it's been fun.  I've got something like sixty days left as a fifth grade teacher and then it's time for a new challenge: the third graders!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Book Goals

I've made several lists, so I might as well condense them here.

One of my goals for the year is to read more, both professionally and for pleasure.  (If the pleasure books coincide with books my students read, so be it!)

Professional

Love and Logic (in progress)
   
Last year was rough in the classroom and I needed some tweaks to my classroom management system. I borrowed Love and Logic (the parenting version) from our school's counselor.  It was helpful, but geared towards kids 0-6 which isn't quite my demographic.



Enter Love and Logic, the teacher edition.  The book is often sold out, so I waited until it was available on Amazon. I'm about half way through and enjoying it.  Lots of things are reaffirming, but it's nice to have scenarios and sayings to try with some of my more challenging students.  Essentially the book is about choices, boundaries, and consequences.  My goal was to finish it by the end of February, but I'm a tad behind schedule.

Your School Rocks...So Tell People!



This book was recommended by a fellow teacher. She is the K-8 technology specialist at a nearby Catholic school and in charge of her school's social media.  She said the book was about spreading joy and positive messages.

Personal

The Dark Prophecy (The second in the Trials of Apollo series by Rick Riordan)



One of my students asked why the sequel to last year's the Trials of Apollo wasn't released yet. I told him to suck it up and welcome to my world. It's like waiting for Harry Potter sequels all over again.  He's a student I have a really good relationship with, so my level of sass was acceptable.  The release date is May 2 and yes, I've already pre-ordered it on Amazon.

Who Is J.K. Rowling?

I've read Who Was Steve Jobs? and Who Was John F. Kennedy?.  I really like the structure of the books and I think they're really easy for students to understand.  There are lots of teachable moments (time lines, illustrations, etc) and my students really like these nonfiction books.



I received this one as part of a wedding shower gift (because my coworkers know me so well).  Currently one of my students is enjoying it, so I'll conquer it when she's done.


Marching Onward!



Out of no where, March appeared.  It's gearing up to be a busy month.  It's the fifth and I've already crammed a lot in.

First, we conquered {Reading Week}.  5 spirit days, 2 assemblies, 1 guest reader, 1 field trip, 3 lunches outside, and lots of reading time.  As a school, we also hosted a book drive to collect books for Spread the Word Nevada, a nonprofit.  We collected almost 2,500 gently used books in a week.  (100 of them are from my class!)




We also received our first box of new books from our {Donors Choose} project.  We made thank you cards for our donors and dived into reading.  Look how cute they are!











Second, fifth grade was in charge of First Friday treats.  Each grade level has an assigned month and we bring in treats for the rest of the teachers.  

I went to Costco for several dozen pastries, but picked up fruit and juice as well.  We put down butcher paper (it makes for easy clean up) and I raided Sunshine's closet for some decor.  (One of the perks of being co-chair is that I can borrow decorations whenever I need as long as I bring them back in a timely manner!)




I bought a little too much food (I went to Costco hungry), but still came out pretty close to our budget.  We split the cost between the five fifth grade teachers, so it was only $12 each.  Considering all the teachers (plus some substitutes) had happy tummies, I call this a win.  We're also off the hook for 11 months.

Third, I'm sick of this being my weekend:




So I made a change. I've stopped working from home and on the weekends. Yes, I'll continue to work on materials for Teachers Pay Teachers (because it doesn't feel like work). But unless it's a special occasion (report card comments), this work stays at work.  

I'm reclaiming my nights and weekends.  If I'm at work from 7-5 each day, that's enough. That's 3 hours unpaid work every day.  It's still not enough time to get everything accomplished, which is beyond frustrating (but also the life of a teacher).  Nights and weekends are for things that fuel my soul: couple time, pet time, friend time, family time, and/or nap time.  A week in, it's going fairly well.

Fourth, I'm making slow and steady progress through Love and Logic.  My goal of a book a month isn't quite on track, but January's book was nearly 500 pages (and this one is 300), and I'm taking copious amounts of notes, so it's okay.  




Up next? A book for Battle of the Books, then perhaps another teacher book.  I've had a few recommended during trainings, so my  Amazon cart keeps getting new additions.  (I'm saving receipts because it's tax deductable.)

This month also brings an in home party for Lularoe and Lipstains (co-hosted with our school's librarian), a quasi-bachelorette party, traveling to Anaheim for a conference, a GATE training, and preparing for two showers at work in April (a wedding shower and a baby shower).  We also have the SBAC (standardized testing) starting soon, and with that means a pep assembly...and assembling 200 green troll headbands.

We'll also be having our new cabinets dropped off.  We had custom built ins assembled, but I'll be staining them myself (so not only will they match the other cabinets I stained, we'll save a little in the process).  Our next home improvement project is replacing the flooring in the bathroom and doing the backyard.  We hope to have both completed by December.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Change.






I am writing this a few days before it will be published.  It's been rattling around in my brain for a while but out of respect for my grade level, I will share with them before I share publicly.

I am not teaching fifth grade next year.  



After eight years, I am making a professional change.  I will be moving down to third grade.



I am fortunate to have a great relationship with the rest of my fifth grade team, so this is not the reason for my move.  Due to budget cuts, we are losing a fifth grade position.  Fifth grade classes will be staffed at forty students at the beginning of next year.  Yes, forty students to start with.  The thirty seven I have right now is difficult enough.  

Furthermore, I sold my prep for next year to assist with the Read by 3 Grant.  For those not in Nevada, Read by 3 (RB3) is a grant designed to have students reading by the end of third grade (with retention starting in 2019).  I worked on the grant this year by mentoring new teachers and providing professional development at a site level.  I will be continuing this next year, but actually teaching in one of the grades that is impacted by this grant.

I enjoy fifth grade, but eight years is a long time.  I'm getting a little bored with the curriculum, even though I try new things each year.  I'm excited to have a slightly smaller class size. I'm excited to work with younger kids.

Even more exciting?  My work wife, Mrs. H, is making the move with me.  We will both be transitioning out of fifth and into third grade.  I'll be doing more observations of third grade teachers over the course of the school year.  We'll spend some time over the summer getting ready for a new set of standards.

What does this mean for me professionally?  I will still be in upper elementary.  I will still be in a testing grade.  I will still be at my school and co-chair of Sunshine Committee. I hope it doesn't alter the friendships I've made at work.  I am aware that I will have to move out of my classroom and into a smaller room.  I love my tables (instead of desks), so I'm hoping these can move with me.

I've already started going through materials.  I won't be getting rid of my fifth grade materials (because I don't know what the future holds), but will be adjusting my library to better meet the needs of third grade readers.  (A {donorschoose} project is coming, not to worry!) 

I will still be continuing this blog. I will still have my {TpT store}, except I will be branching out to provide third grade resources as well.  I will still read all of Rick Riordan's books as they are released and create the accompanying guides because I enjoy them (I guess my humor level is on par with a sarcastic middle schooler's).

 I'm excited for this change.  I'm ready for a new challenge.
  
In the mean time, if anyone has any book suggestions that third graders are super into, please let me know!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Keep Calm and Read On

I'm spending as much time as possible relaxing today in preparation for reading week.



For those not in Elementary, it's a rather chaotic week that requires a lot of caffeine and patience.  

For starters, it's a spirit week all week.  While I love dress up days, they are often accompanied by additional quirky student behaviors (which when combined with spring fever, leads to lots of head aches and write ups).

Monday: Crazy Hair Day
Tuesday: Oh the Places You'll Go! (College shirts day)
Wednesday: Wacky Wednesday, full of mismatched ensembles
Thursday: Dr. Seuss day, it's time to find a tutu.
Friday: I forget the technical theme, but it's pajamas.  Enough said!

 We also have two assemblies, one on Monday and one on Tuesday.  I also have two guest readers on Thursday, one of them being my boss's boss.  No pressure there!  There's a school wide reading competition for the highest percentage on AR tests, book bingo, drop everything and read, buddy reading with other classes, a story writing contest (by pod), and read around the pod (where we visit other classrooms).

Oh, and we're taking a field trip on Tuesday.

In addition to all of that, I have Battle of the Books, new teacher meetings, a post observation conference, a grade level meeting to plan the pep assembly skits, and fifth grade is responsible for First Friday treats (which means a Costco run on Thursday).



Oh yeah, I'll also be teaching. 

Sigh.  It's time for a nap.