Monday, June 30, 2014

How cute is she?

My previous school essentially became a self-appointed turn around school.  Over ninety percent of my previous staff, including my principal, left for various reasons. 

I did my research and interviewed at one school which prioritizes reading and is quite close to my new home.  They did quite well last year on standards and have a diverse population.  They are still a Title 1 school but with an incredibly supportive community, which will be a nice change.

When I went for my interview, there were dozens of high school students coming over to volunteer and parents helping in the office.  Immediately I welcomed this change and the thoughts of never grading Aimsweb progress monitoring probes again danced in my head.

My interview went well and I was hired, which was a huge sigh of relief.  I was the last of my grade level to secure a new position.  One teacher is headed to teach third grade with several other staff members (oddly at the elementary school my boyfriend attended many years ago).  Another is leaving the district for charter schools with her husband.  A third member of our team is headed to an elementary school close to her daughters' daycare to teach departmentalized math and science, which her masters degree is in.  Our special education teacher is following our former principal to her new school, along with several other teachers.  We are all on to better things and I was finally, with a sigh of relief, welcomed into this club.

It was hard to tell my students I was leaving, but since they are all moving to middle school, I stressed that we all need change.  

My mentee in third grade and his wife had interviewed several places but were struggling to find positions at the same school (their requirement). 

I knew of one opening at my new school and quickly inquired about the possibility of another with my new principal.  I passed along her contact information to the married teachers and was thrilled when they had interviews.

I was even more excited when they were both hired at my new school.  He will be teaching third grade again while she will be back in general ed in second grade, which she's previously taught.  Adding to my excitement is she will be in my pod and only a few doors down!  I was thrilled when I got her Facebook message sharing they'd both been hired.

If possible, I was even more excited when my new principal texted to let me know she adored them and hired them both.  She thanked me for recommending them to join our school family.  This sense of support is such a refreshing change.  How cute is she?!

 I love that I'm going to a new school where everyone is excited to go to work.  I love that there is such a community feel and that two of my favorite teachers from my old school get to join me at my new one!

Onward and upward!

Simplicity part 1

I'm always looking for ways to make teaching just a little bit easier.  Some of the grand ideas on pinterest seem wonderful but when I start them, I quickly realize that these ideas simply won't work for me.

After sifting through hundreds of pins (hey, it's summer!), I found these three gems that I can easily implement next year:

Idea One: Sticky Labels

Now, I love sticky labels but didn't think to use them this way for grading.  I think this would work best for grading writing but I'm excited to adapt it for other subjects.  It would also be easily modified to include the standards at the top of the assignments.

Idea Two: Math for the First Day(s) of School

The first week is dedicated to establishing routines, setting up notebooks, practicing procedures, and building a supportive classroom culture.  One of the things I struggle with is incorporating math into the read alouds, team building, and getting to know each other activities.  This gem fits right in with the first week vibe:

I also think it'd be especially helpful this year at my new school.  I think this thirty minute activity could be great for not only introducing me to my class but helping them see how math is incorporated into every day life.

Keeping in mind with the first week theme, I liked this idea from pinterest as well:

Idea Three is enabling students to be problem solvers when they're in small groups and I'm conferencing with students.  I would type up these "what if" scenarios and have table teams brainstorm how to solve these problems, then open the discussion up for a class debate.  In doing so, they are creating their own norms and thus have more of a "buy in".

I'm excited to try these three simple things in my classroom next year!

Because that was a good idea?

I didn't always agree with the leadership of my previous school, thus prompting me to make a change.  I was by no means the only one who felt the decisions that were made were in the best interests of the teachers or students.

One staff member who has been at my previous school for decades just recently announced her school change.  This came as a shock to everyone.  She gave the polite "I'm moving to a 9 month school that's a few minutes from my house" response.  Pretty much everyone gave that politically correct response because it's hard to argue with wanting a shorter commute.

She gave me the real scoop.

The prep schedule for next year is...atrocious.  For one track, she would have been looking at three classes at once.  It's bad enough the specialists sometimes have double classes, but three? That's close to ninety kids.  That's in no way acceptable and I don't blame her for not wanting to be a part of that mess.

That choice is in no way best for students nor teachers.

Sunday, June 29, 2014 major project accomplished!

I'm finally feeling the sense of relief that accompanies summer.  With the exception of a guest bedroom where I dumped my classroom (specifically several thousand books), my new home is decorated and unpacked.  Over the course of my summer break, I painstakingly painted thirty seven cabinet doors to give my kitchen a complete makeover.  We also painted our master bedroom and bathroom because olive green wasn't my preferred shade.  We patched the doggie door so our kittens won't try to be adventurous and explore outside and patched several dozen wall nicks from picture frames.  We had our friends and family over for our house warming and I can now finally relax.

By relax, I mean spend a few hours on pinterest finding ideas for next year and tackle the pile of books I've been dying to read!  My boyfriend asked what my plans for tomorrow are and was a bit shocked when my response was simply to read.  I've got The Throne of Fire and Mark of Athena just waiting to be devoured!

I also need to start figuring out my classroom theme for next year.  What I love about my new school is the fact that every classroom is cute and organized.  It makes me feel accepted and not like a strange person for wanting my classroom to be organized with coordinating colors.

One of my former neighbors is moving to teaching sixth grade science and gave me her entire cube collection that she used for her classroom library.  I'm excited to get to actually organize my books by AR levels and author rather than just throwing them all on the shelf and crossing my fingers that students find ones they like.  Granted, the first few weeks in August will be spent organizing my new classroom but it's a great thing that my new school is only 8 minutes away!

Now that my home is done, I can leisurely enjoy my summer and catch up on reading!

Friday, June 20, 2014

What? You've Never Seen This?

Now that it's summer break, I have time to reflect upon yet another year in the classroom.  This year was my most challenging yet and for that, I am grateful. 

I have some definite face-palm moments in my classroom.

Sometimes I forget that things I assume are common knowledge just...aren't.

The first of many, many moments was when I had to clarify that kings and queens do actually exist.  We were reading informational text on the American Revolution, which naturally included a discussion on King George III.  This was our mentor text:

They really enjoyed reading and analyzing this passage, although the language and vocabulary did provide some stumbling blocks.  However, through discussion, I realized that many of them were confused.  They knew the passage we were reading was true and based on facts because it's informational text (hallelujah they've got that down), but were "clunking" on the king label.  They didn't realize that kings and queens were real.  So after a quick discussion that included yes, kings are real and no, dragons aren't, they seemed to be more okay with the topic.  

Apparently they then all went out to recess and informed the other fifth graders, thus ending their confusion as well.  Kings did (and do) exist.  Glad that's cleared up.

Second, some didn't realize World War Two actually occurred at all, much less (potentially) within their grandparents' lifetime.  We were reading Number the Stars and I set the necessary historical background.  We looked at some maps (okay Google's much more interactive) and took a virtual field trip of Copenhagen.

Then some of my higher students, who have read Number the Stars earlier in the year made the connection that wait, this was based on true events.  Another made the connection to some video game, which sparked a class-wide discussion.  Next time, I think I'll start with the video game reference since that made a lot more sense to many of them.

Live, learn, and teach on!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

CRT Data


I rarely check my work email over the summer.

I deleted the app from my phone and since I'm not in my new school's system yet, I don't see much of a point to log in daily only to delete spam and teacher coupons (looking at you Lakeshore). 

I saw my (former) principal post on Facebook that not only were CRT (Criterion Referenced Test) scores in, but she was excited about the results.  So naturally I asked to see the fifth grade data because well, I'm a numbers nerd!

I was at my new house painting so I figured I'd check the data in a few hours.  Well, my grade level beat me to the analysis part.  In a matter of minutes, I had six texts from my former grade level sharing their excitement about particular students.  

While I'm sure I'll get official reports with the break down of each class, I couldn't wait.  My insomnia got the best of me and sure enough, I was up at four am crunching numbers and making graphs.  I couldn't be more pleased with my class results and know that I didn't accomplish this feat alone.  It took our entire grade level working tirelessly, together, for ten months to achieve these results.  For those at my school who did not approve of our quasi-departmentalization experiment, I'd like to waive this data in their faces...but I won't...because I am a professional.  

I had the privilege of working alongside some of the most inspirational fellow teachers.  I will miss being able to pop into their rooms and the amazing collaborative mindset we all shared.  For various reasons, we are all starting at new schools and collectively represent third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and special education.


(I didn't teach math besides our intervention block and number talks, so these scores are due in a large part to the amazing effort of my two neighboring teachers.  Well done ladies! I trusted that my students were in very capable hands each and every day.)

I'm a visual person, thus the graph.  Here is my class data for math:

1 student exceeded
22 students met standards
3 students were approaching
6 students were emerging


We shared students for science and I taught the FOSS Landforms kit four times before getting my own class back for CRT prep.  When my homeroom wasn't with me, they were with my fellow teachers learning about environments, mixtures and solutions, force and motion, as well as variables.  We broke our year into four seven week rotations and started switching the third week of school.  We didn't switch right away because we wanted to set up science notebooks and go over the scientific method with our homeroom classes.  

Our rotations ended about two weeks before the science CRTs, so we used that time to incorporate Discovery Ed video streaming into our reviews.  We also practiced taking notes from multimedia presentations, a valuable skill they'll most definitely need in middle school.  However, we did this with the Magic School Bus videos and they did an amazing job.

Here is my class science data:

Numbers wise,
6 students exceeded standards
17 met standards
6 students were approaching standards
3 students were emerging on science standards

I'm quite pleased with my little scientists!


If you are new to my teaching blog, know this: I love reading.  I love discussing books with my students and watching them fall in love with literary worlds.  I love watching their excitement when they learn more about the world around them from informational text and seeing them become self-motivated to learn more by reading more is simply wonderful.  

I broke my reading data into two groups: my small groups and my whole class.

I had the higher half of the grade level for small groups, so naturally these numbers are expected to be more in the meeting category.  My job for small groups was to push these fluent readers to become more critical thinkers.  

Numbers wise,

23 students exceeded standards
28 students met standards
7 students were approaching
2 students were emerging

I'm quite pleased with my small groups!

For my whole class, which is inclusion, here are my results:

7 students exceeded standards
13 students met standards
4 students were approaching
8 students were emerging (of these 8, all were either students with IEPs or in the RTI process and still made growth over their previous scores)

I'm thrilled with my students' performances.  Did they all meet standards? No.  Did they all make growth? Yes.  

With my data analyzed, I can emotionally bid this past school year adieu.  I did my best.  I taught them strategies and how to think critically.  They learned and proved their knowledge on these tests.  It is time for a much needed, relaxing summer.

Summer Break

I'm nearly a full two weeks into summer break, so I thought I'd share some truths:

1) I haven't used my alarm clock in weeks and it feels amazing.  However, I've also found that I'm unable to sleep past 8 am which is a huge bummer.  I don't have kids (yet) that wake me up early, I guess I'm just getting old.

2) Most of the time I don't know the date...or even the day of the week.  I know when the weekends are because that's when my boyfriend doesn't have work...but truthfully, most of the time I couldn't tell you what day of the week it is.  

3) I haven't picked up a book yet.  This truth saddens me, but at the same time, I'm painting my new house so we'll let this one slide.  July, post move-in, I will play catch up with all my reading.

4) I miss my structure and seeing students.  I miss talking about books with my kiddos.  I do not miss writing lesson plans.

5) I alternate between pinning classroom ideas on pinterest and avoiding it like the plague.  I'm excited for next year...but also excited for summer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Last Days

One week in to summer break, I can take a breath and relax.

The last few days of school were an emotional whirlwind. This school year has been the most difficult of my teaching career for a variety of reasons. I asked my students to be reflective in end of year letters to me and well, the results were heart wrenching. Many wrote about how they felt I was mean and yelled. They however didn't acknowledge their own poor behavior choices, but I guess that comes with maturity.

We watched Frozen, signed yearbooks, and did a circle of sharing where we talked about our favorite memories. I passed back letters from their first days and notes from their parents.  I gave them their wordles and allowed plenty of sharing time for their paper slide videos (end of year novel projects).  We had counselor lessons on adjusting to middle school and they had time to practice opening combination locks.  Right before the awards assembly I read Oh the Places You'll Go and shared with them how privileged I was to be their teacher.

(I wasn't the only one in tears after reading this book)

With the help of my grade level, we created a PowerPoint slide show to share with their families at the awards assembly and moving up ceremony. We tracked down their kindergarten yearbook pictures to include in the presentation which was a tear-jerking touch.   After their ceremony, we lead the fifth graders outside where the rest of the school was waiting to clap them out. It was an emotional day for the fifth graders and their families.

The next day (last Thursday) was our final contracted day. I was kept 2 hours past my scheduled check out time because I'd left paper in my room. Mind you, this was unopened notebook and copy paper, stacked neatly in a drawer labeled supplies and was left for the incoming teacher.  This what I thought was kind gesture was frowned upon by certain persons and had to be undone before I could leave. So much for trying to be kind! Our rooms were also searched after hours and various supplies were reclaimed when we weren't there to vouch for them. There isn't an educator I know that doesn't purchase supplies (like notebooks, glue sticks, etc) out of pocket, so for these to be snatched back late at night was simply absurd...and another reason that validates my decision to change schools!

So after 5 long years, I bid adieu to room 45. I'm off to start a new adventure. 

Today is my day, I'm off to great places. I'm off and away!