Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June Wrap Up

It's a little baffling to realize that it's the end of June.  It's been a very hectic month, so let's recap!

  • I wrapped up my sixth year teaching and my first year at my new school.  The end of the year was a bit anti-climactic.  No one cried.  I just got a few hugs and one thank you card. With all the frustrating choices about six of my students made, I think their negativity just rubbed off on everyone.  I'm hoping next year is better!
  • I had six trainings.  Some were useful. Some were not.
  • I had LASIK.  I'm still recovering from that, which means lots of eye drops (and naps).
  • We took a weekend trip to see my family in Arizona.  We went to Old Tucson, saw Jurassic World, and had some nice family time.
  • I had some girl time.  Between Starbucks lunch dates, dinners, and dancing, I had friend time and it was great for my soul.
  • I worked on plans for DENSI 2015 next month and the best friend time that follows!
  • I worked on a book. I hope to be done with it by this weekend!
  • I had baby time :)  I saw my nephew and two of my coworkers' newborns.  So cute!
  • We had my niece's birthday at Chuck E. Cheese. B was just as excited as the six year olds.
  • I hosted my first Jamberry fundraiser for a friend's kiddo.  I was able to help her raise $80 toward her cheer and choir expenses. 
  • Oh yeah, and we adopted a puppy! She's a handful!

Luckily July looks a little less busy!  On the docket is vet appointments for all three fur babies. I've got an in house pa-JAM-a party (Jamberry nails and brunch), and more reading.  Plus ten days in Washington DC :)  

August brings another two weeks of relaxation before it's back to work with three days of math training before I'm "officially back".

I may need a summer break to recover from my summer!

4th of July Sale!

Happy birthday America!

In honor of the 4th of July, I will be having a sale on my TpT store!  From July 3rd through the 6th, everything is 20% off!

Not in the mood to buy? Download some of my free products :) All I ask is that if you like them (which I hope you do), you leave feedback.  It'd be super cool if you liked my store too, if you're into that sort of thing.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Non-teaching post: LASIK

Three days ago, I had LASIK surgery. Minus pictures, here's the gist!

Before Surgery

In fifth grade, my teacher noticed I was squinting at the board.  Eye appointments and glasses ensued.  In middle school, I got contacts because my mother was understanding that I didn't want glasses and braces at the same time.  Fifteen years of contacts, glasses, and endless bottles of solution followed until one day I decided that I'd had enough.  I wanted to pursue LASIK.

In February of this year, I brought it up with my eye doctor.  He did preliminary measurements and said I was a good candidate.  I scheduled a follow up visit in May, since I'd planned LASIK for June.  You know, typical teacher, doing all my appointments over the summer.  

My last day in contacts was April 26th.  My eye doctor said I needed to be out of contact for at least four weeks before surgery to let my eye return to its normal shape.

I had my follow up appointment at my eye doctor in May and my measurements were still within normal limits.

From there, I scheduled my consultation with the surgeon (Dr. Wellish at Wellish Vision Institute).  I went in for my consultation and redid many eye exams just to make sure I was within the appropriate limits.  All my measurements were within the desired categories and I appreciated the thoroughness of the doctors.  I set my pre-op appointment and surgery date for the end of June.  In order to prepare for surgery, I was given biotears capsules to boost my tear production.  I was also given eye drops to take several times a day to overly lubricate my eyes.

The night before surgery I had trouble sleeping.  I know it's a routine procedure and my doctor is one of the best in the country.  I still was scared because it's a major, life changing surgery.

I headed to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription.  I had anti-inflammatory drops, antibiotics, and vials of lubricating drops.  My insurance (teacher's health trust) paid for half of one of the bottles and not a dime of the actual procedure. 

Disclaimer: The next section does include details about LASIK surgery.  There are no pictures but I do explain what happened to my eyes on the operating table.

Surgery Day

The day of my surgery I arrived at Wellish Vision Institute at 9:15 for a 9:30 appointment.  I had quite the checklist of pre-op instructions.  I could not wear any make up or earrings.  I couldn't put on lotion or any scented body products.  The surgical room tends to be cold, so I had to make sure I had a sweater...which felt quite weird considering it's upwards of 110 degrees outside. I had to eat a light breakfast, take my bio tears and extra strength Tylenol, and ensure I had a driver to take me home.  B took the day off of work to take care of me.

They said to plan on being there for a few hours, so B headed out to get a smog check and register his truck.  He had the option of watching the surgery from the gallery window, but chose not to because he was squeamish about the operation.  I had another check up just to make sure everything was still within appropriate limits.  There was no change, which was to be expected.  From there, they re-explained the procedure and shared some of the sensations I would be feeling.  

A suction machine would keep my eye open during the procedure so I couldn't blink.  There was pressure, like someone was pushing on my eye.  During the process, I would hear various noises from the machine and for a brief moment, everything would go black.  This was normal and I didn't go blind.  I'm glad they told me this before I was on the operating table because I would have freaked out. 

From there, I headed downstairs to the surgical suite.  I got two Valium to calm my nerves and had a blue surgical cap to wear.  I forgot a hair tie, so it was a bit frustrating with the surgical cap.  Ladies, if you have LASIK, make sure your long hair is in a braid, bun, or pony tail to make the cap situation a bit easier. I also had gauze taped to cover my ears to ensure no drops dripped in.  I had blue booties over my flip flops.  I was given a final eye exam and then asked to sit in a dim room to calm down while the Valium kicked in.  I was still nervous, so I asked for another Valium.  At that point, I was calm and my hands had stopped shaking.  I headed to the operating room.

I laid down on the table and was given numbing eye drops. From there, the suction machine held open my eyes and the laser cut a flap on my eye.  After flaps were created on both eyes, the laser corrected the imperfections on my corneas.  I had to hold incredibly still and stare at a red light.  The surgeon counted down and the actual laser correction took less than thirty seconds per eye.  My first round of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drops were applied at the office.

Once the flaps were placed back down (to immediately start healing), I was taken back to the exam room.  My flaps had been placed correctly and there were no bubbles (because that would have been awful.

From there, my surgical cap was removed and I was given goggles and sunglasses.  B walked me to the truck and apparently I was delightful in my super medicated state.  I was asleep before we got home, which was quite the feat considering it's a fifteen minute drive.

I had medical tape over my eyes and had to wear goggles for the rest of the day.  We left at eleven and I slept until three.  From there, I woke up, had a sandwich, put in more drops, and retaped my eyes shut.  Honestly, removing the tape was one of the hardest parts of the day.  I apparently listened to Mulan on Netflix, but had no recollection of this.  I slept again until six, then woke up again to eat and listen to HIMYM.  At eight, I decided I was ready to go back to bed and slept until four the next day (Waffles the pup was whining to go outside).


Friday was day one of post-op care.  For the next seven days, I had to wear the goggles at night or whenever I was sleeping.  I continued with four bio tears pills a day.  I use the antibiotics and the anti-inflammatory drops three times a day and the OTC lubricant drops every hour or two.

These have been my best friend, especially in the Las Vegas heat:

I had an appointment at Wellish Vision Institute at eight am and with my regular eye doctor at 9:30.  While I could have been fine to drive myself, I had my friend M take me.  As a thank you, we went out to breakfast afterward.

After I took the medical tape off, I could see.  Perfectly!  There was some haloing around certain objects, but they said that was to be expected for up to a month after surgery.  I did have a slight headache, which continued for a few days, but that was a normal occurrence as well. 

Both eye doctor appointments went well.  I do have some slight inflammation, which hopefully will be gone at my next check up.  One of the eye drops I take three times daily is a white goopy substance, so it looks like glue is leaking out of my eyeballs.  This also means my eyelashes are matted together and I can't touch them, which is the most frustrating part of the recovery process.  I also have gel drops for at night and have to turn off the ceiling fans.

I can wash my face with a wash cloth, but have to avoid my eyes.  I can shower, but have to face away from the shower head.  For the next ten days, I have to avoid dusty, dirty, smoky environments.  I need to wear sunglasses whenever I'm outside.  Yesterday we had our niece's 6th birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, so I chose to wear the glasses inside as well because of all the blinking lights.  I have to avoid sweating, exercise, and running outside for the next two weeks.  I can't go swimming for a month, and no sky diving, scuba diving, or martial arts for three months.  

I have another appointment at Wellish on Monday as well as with my regular eye doctor on Friday.  I appreciate that there are so many appointments and they make sure everything is healing correctly.  

I'm three days into recovery and feeling good.  I do plan to spend the rest of my Sunday alternating between napping and working on finishing a book.

Overall, LASIK was a very positive experience and I'm glad I did it.  While it was very expensive, I'm just trying to think of all the money I'll save by not having to buy prescription glasses, contacts, or contact solutions anymore.  Plus I can lay in bed and watch Netflix without squinting!  I'm glad I went through with surgery, even if it means my eyelashes are super crusty for the next week.  If that's the price I have to pay for clear vision, it's worth it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Art Night

I love new ideas! 

Yesterday, while waiting to get LASIK (more on that later), I stumbled upon a great idea in a parenting magazine. My reading choices were limited but I'm glad I picked up that issue.

In it, a mom was discussing fundraising ideas for her child's school.  Many of them we already do (collecting box tops, asking for classroom donations, hosting movie nights) but one of them was new:
 I'm super excited to bring this idea up with my art teacher and Sunshine committee.  The article suggested charging admission, but I think it should be free for families to come into our school.  Families would walk around and see students' art displays.  Choir could perform.  Student council members could lead tours and act as ambassadors.

As a school, we could charge for "wine" (grape and apple juice) as well as cheese and crackers to make it more like an official art night.

Perhaps works of art could be auctioned off to benefit our school.  We could also sell ceramic tiles that families could paint to use in a new school mural.  

I envision something like this:

I'm hoping I get the green light from admin and that others are on board! 

What fundraisers does your school do?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Try It Tuesday: Genius Hour

I'll be the first to say I love new ideas for my classroom!  

I like to switch things up and try new strategies with my students.  We reflect on these strategies, talk about what went well and how to improve for next time.  After some modeling, my students do really well with these reflective conversations. I share with them the purpose for the activity or strategy because I believe in transparent teaching.  The honesty also helps with student buy in.  Most of the time, these activities go pretty well.  However, some of them have flopped and that's okay too.  I engage my students in the conversation about what didn't go well and how to improve for next time.  I think it's important for them to see the process of reflection and realize that trying new things is okay.  New things not going perfectly is okay.  Failing is okay.  Trying new things is good for you!

In the spirit of newness, I thought I'd share one of the new strategies I'm trying next year.  It's called "genius hour".

Basically I set aside one hour a week for student inquiry and research.  It's an opportunity for them to explore their side interests and inquiries.  Of course, this will be explicitly modeled the first few weeks of school.  I'm hoping to have this be the last hour of the day on Fridays, but I want to make sure my GATE & TAGS kids can attend as well.

This "genius hour" will blend researching, writing, reading, science, social studies, and math into student lead inquiry projects.  We'll be doing lots of open ended questions and I'll be modeling creating questions.

I plan to spend the first six weeks setting up inquiry notebooks, going over norms for researching, and doing a guided inquiry activity.  I want students to spend time really thinking about what they're interested in and exploring these topics.

I will have them present their findings to the class using various technology tools (prezi, powtoon, wordles, vokis, glogsters, etc).  I plan to let them work with a partner or triad for their first project, then have them work independently on the second.  I'm planning on two large scale presentations (with grades for listening, speaking) but am open to more depending on how well this goes.

I'm excited to carve out time for them to explore their passions.  I'm excited to see what they want to research!

Monday, June 22, 2015


I use my blog as a way for me to shift through my thoughts and catalog my journey as an educator.  I have a few followers (thanks!) and enjoy collaboration.

I'll often sit down to work through my ideas but am hindered by my furry helpers:

I'm pleased to announce a third furry helper has joined the pack.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet Waffles!

We adopted her from ARP at a local Petsmart.  She's a Shepherd/Collie mix and the most mellow pup ever!

So I have another adorable reason for being delayed in blogging :)

Teachable Moments, Part 3 (Classroom Management)

A large part of teaching relies on being reflective of one's practices.  Some lessons I've bombed and that's alright. I made corrections and retaught it with a different strategy with a different outcome.

Sometimes I embark on various different tasks and when I'm done, I realize there was a much more efficient way to get the job done.  Here is part three of teaching lessons I've learned the hard way.

Classroom Management (and the Prize Bin)

My first year teaching, I spent a long time laminating different colored cards for my behavior system.  I came up with a system that had both positive and negative consequences.  For six years, I used my blue pocket chart and a laminated tracking system for student behaviors.  They'd start each day on green and move up or down depending on their choices. At the end of the day, the color they landed on coincided with a given point value toward a tracker.  At a predetermined point (every 15 points), students visited the prize bin.  
I kept up with this system for the past six years because I thought that's what I was supposed to do.

But you know what? 

It didn't really work.  

What it did was reward the students who are already intrinsically motivated to succeed and publicly acknowledge those that struggle to make good choices.  Honestly, the behavior tracker just reinforced my students' perceptions of themselves.  It wasn't motivating for the students who needed the most reinforcement for positive choices.

So if it wasn't working, why was I doing it?  Because I was supposed to? Because that's what all the other teachers were doing? Because that's what I was used to?  

None of those reasons are justification for keeping something that doesn't work. 

So I got rid of it.  I parted ways with my trusty behavior tracking system that withstood six years of teaching fifth grade.  I passed it along to a brand new kinder teacher.  I'm hoping it works better for kindergarteners than it did for fifth graders.  Since everything is still new to them and they tend to be motivated for stickers, I hope it will be successful in her classroom.

So now what?  

I believe in having some sort of tracking system to reinforce life skills.  Students need to be accountable for their choices.  They need to work for things.  They need to have the experience of working toward individual and classroom rewards.

These rewards will be in the form of coupons for experiences.  I'm still in the process of making these coupons and they will be available on TpT once I'm done.  There will also be physical rewards such as pencils, erasers, and other things that are purchased relatively cheaply.  

So how will students earn these rewards?  

That's right, I'll be using classroom dojo!  I used it previously for Reading Rangers with great success.  It's a free program and parents can see snapshots of how their students are doing.  I can give positive points for any of their predetermined categories or add my own.  I can also take away points for shouting out, not turning in homework, etc.  I'm excited to use this for my whole class management system.   

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Reviews

Over the past few years, I've had the opportunity to participate in several book studies with the focus on improving my craft as an educator.  Here is a synopsis of those books:

Questions, Claims, and Evidence

This book really helped me shift perspectives for science instruction.  Essentially, this guided me through setting up my students for success and shifting away from teacher driven science experiments.  Instead, this is replaced with student created extension inquiry projects and helping them write about science.

Building Academic Vocabulary (Marzano)

Even after reading this, I struggle with vocabulary instruction.  It's the highest of the big five components of literacy (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and comprehension being the other four).  It's crucial, especially for my ELL (English Language Learners).  I feel successful with teaching academic vocabulary when it's content specific (i.e. math, science, and social studies) but struggle when it comes to what words to teach whole group. I'm wary of just choosing a list and going from that.  I tend to teach words that are associated with the novels I'm using and more specific lists with my RTI group.  I want to empower my students to monitor their own vocabulary acquisition and give them the space to share these words with their peers. 

I haven't quite decided how this will look in my classroom, so stay tuned!

Waiting for Superman

I led this book study at my previous school...and it didn't go very well.  Part of it was because I was leading it, not an administrator.  Part of it was because I was still quite idealistic about how teaching should work because I had just finished my first year in the classroom and thought I knew everything.  This book, while an interesting read, doesn't give enough credit to the teachers who are working really hard to change the system.

Read, Write, Lead

I was really excited to read this book as part of a book study.  My group was assigned chapter five, which is all about principal leadership.  While I have no issues with my administrators popping in my classroom on a frequent basis, this was a cause of major concern for some of my colleagues.  The chapter also talked about celebrating teachers and students, which I don't think is done enough.  This was my big take away from this book is that while programs and standards may (and do) change, good teaching is consistent.  Good teachers are reflective, collaborative, innovative, and push one another to do better.  

Number Talks

This gem isn't really a book review but rather an opportunity to share that this is a wonderful book that should be used wherever possible!  While the first few weeks of number talks are rocky, especially if students aren't familiar with the format, the pay off, if done consistently, is amazing.  For the past few years, my students have left my classroom with a strong understanding of number sense and problem solving strategies.  This book is a large part of the reason why.  It's worth the money if your school district doesn't provide this resource. 

Up next?  I'll be diving into Love and Logic for some new strategies to use with my whole class.  I also borrowed The Tough Kid Tool Kit to gain some new tips and tricks for dealing with difficult students.  I had a particularly troubled one last year that gave my whole school lots of headaches, but I'm glad next year that kiddo will get the services that are needed.  

What books would you recommend?  Which ones were educational game changers?

Back to where it Started

Years ago, while sitting in a UNLV grad class, I got the idea to teach the fifty states using post cards.  I started a blog and utilized social media to ask for post cards from around the world.

My previous PE coach was amazing enough to give me a massive velcro map of the United States to use for the year.  After he saw how great it worked in my classroom, he refused to take it back and ordered me a slightly smaller world version so I could extend their learning beyond US borders.

I used the map for two years before pausing.  My previous school made some instructional changes and social studies, sadly, was not a priority.

When I moved schools, I left the map in my garage, unsure of if it would be welcomed or deemed appropriate at my new environment.

However, I quickly learned that any activity that engaged students and fit standards was more than welcomed.  Mid year, I brought in the map.  

Over the course of the second semester, my students learned state by state about our country.  Mrs. H, my work bestie, helped on a daily basis to create the ppt that would accompany the post cards.  She reached out to her network too and together, we had enough for all the states.

We had fun learning fun facts about the other states in our country.  More importantly, our students had a wonderful time and got very excited about geography, which is always a win!

Here is the completed map:

Next year, we'll start the map much earlier.  We'll do more smaller quizzes and practice labeling regions more frequently.  We'll tweak the ppt so it has a consistent format and has more imbedded formative assessments.

One of the great things about teaching is the opportunity to continually reflect and improve upon my craft.  I tried the ppt for the first time this year in conjunction with the map and it went much better.  Next year, I'll make more tweaks and it will be better still.  

However, I still need some help completing the map.  I want to emphasize colleges, so if you are able to send one from your local university or alma mater, it would be greatly appreciated!  I am also in need of a Mount Rushmore post card as well as any international ones.  

Post cards can be sent to:
Ms. Vice
Iverson Elementary
1575 S. Hollywood Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89142

Thank you for the help!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Making of the crayon wreath

One of my craft projects this summer was making a crayon wreath for my classroom.

Total cost: Around $10 since I already had the glue gun, glue sticks, and ribbon.

Total time: About an hour.

Difficulty level: Easy.

  • Crayons.  I used a 128 count box of Crayola Crayons from Target.  I used about 80 crayons for this project but I wanted to make sure I had enough color options.  I chose to not use the browns or blacks in the wreath, so I needed lots of crayons to make it possible.
  • Hot glue gun & glue sticks
  • Frame or hoops.
Optional supplies:
  • Ribbon or twine (for hanging the wreath)
  • Decoration for the wreath (letters for names, inspirational messages, mini chalk boards, etc).   I found this "dream big" in the dollar spot at Target (disclaimer, it was $3).

Pinterest suggested using two embroidery hoops of different sizes for this project.  I chose to go in a different direction and use a wire wreath frame, like this one from Joann's:

I flipped it over and used the back side of the frame because I wanted to glue the crayons to the most outside and most inside rings.

I started with putting down newspapers over my work space. I tend to get strands of hot glue everywhere, so I wanted to protect my table cloth.

I chose my four anchor colors (red, blue, green, orange) and glued these crayons in the corner.  

I forgot to take a picture of this step, so here is Two Yellow Birds Decor's example:

They used embroidery hoops but I found the floral wreath frame to be easier.  

From there, I simply glued the crayons to the wreath.  I tried to glue using the black designs on the Crayola wrapper, but it didn't line up quite perfectly.  However, from a distance you can't tell!

When I was done gluing, I added my decorative sign:

All that is left is to add decorative ribbon (which I think is in my classroom) and I'm done!  The total time for this craft project? About an hour, although it's longer if you're distracted by Netflix!

A helpful hint:

Pay attention to where you put the glue gun down.  I didn't and ended up melting the edge of one of my crayons after I'd already glued it down.  It's not noticeable from a far, but it's still a bummer.  

I'm already planning my next craft project!

I will be recreating this:

Stay tuned!

Current Favorites

I've seen a lot of "five favorites" posts lately and I thought I'd join in on the fun!  Here are five of my current favorite things, plus one that I'm not super fond of!

Five: Healthy Choices

I am trying to make healthier choices and I can notice the difference it's making.  I started a vitamin routine with supplements and feel less tired in the morning.  I switched to an organic, coconut oil based shampoo and conditioner and my hair feels softer.  I started doing a coconut oil mask weekly on my hair and using coconut oil on my cuticles and those fine lines that are starting to appear around my eyes.  I'm watching portion sizes and starting my day with a glass of water with lemon.  I picked up a pretty glass water bottle (BPA free) to carry with me to motivate me to drink more water throughout the day.  I'm trying to cut back on soda and ensure that I have a glass of water before I have soda to quench my thirst.  Plus then I won't gulp my soda and can savor it.  We are doing more meal planning and eating at home, which is better for our budget and our waist lines.  Don't worry, we've still got cheat meals planned too!

Of all my healthy choices, I think what I'm most excited about is my water pitcher.  I found one similar to this at Marshalls:

It's great! I cut up some fruit and my water has some natural flavoring in it.  The pitcher lasts for a day or two, which I learned the hard way.  I left  some lemons in there for three days and when I had a glass of water, I felt like I was biting into a lemon.  There was way too much flavoring.  B however thought it was great and had the rest for me.  Lesson learned, there's a time limit!

I've done lemons, lemons and raspberries, and strawberries.  I'm excited to try mint, blueberries, and pineapple.  Any other combinations you'd recommend?

Four: Patio Chairs

My momma is awesome.  When we were visiting her last weekend, she gave us two metal rocking chairs from her patio so we could have more furniture on ours.  She'd inherited them and they didn't quite match with her patio set, so we adopted them!  

B is going to re-spray paint them (a surprise he doesn't know yet!) and I'll be picking up some new cushions at Target later to make them feel like our own.  We eventually want to purchase a patio set where everything you know, matches but that's not high on our priority list right now.  We've got two lime green metal chairs, a small stone table, two folding chairs, one camping chair, and now the two rockers.  I'll be looking for a patio set when it's on sale, but we're living within our means (crazy concept) and it's just not a right now priority.  However, there is a pretty nice hammock on Amazon that I'll be purchasing next pay check because that's a necessity! 

It's ridiculously hot right now (more on that later) but I'm excited for the October through March periods when we can comfortably turn off the AC and sit outside for an extended period of time.

Three: Craft Time

I've somehow managed to lose another glue gun, but I'm still loving craft time!  A few years ago, I made a crayon V for my classroom while binge watching Gilmore Girls one afternoon:

And decided to make a crayon wreath to go with it!  Read more about the process {here}.

I love craft time!  I'll be adding a black and white polka dot ribbon to hang this up in my classroom.  The "dream big" sign is at Target in the dollar spot (although it's $3).  I used a wreath frame, a jumbo box of crayons, and a hot glue gun to assemble this.  Total time? Maybe an hour (after I'd organized the crayons into the pattern I liked).

Two: Being Organized

Last year I really struggled with being organized.  Between moving both homes and schools, I never really fully unpacked.  As a result, I felt disorganized and it was frustrating.  I also lost my planner more than once, so I had to start over.

I vowed this year would be different.  I ordered a teacher planner off Amazon (for the first time in my teaching career) and already mapped out a rough sketch of my long range plans for the year.  I feel ready to start next year organized and prepared, which is a lovely feeling.

I also realized my Jamicure totally matches my planner....oops!  

But hey, I know what I like!

One: Girl Time

Moving to a new school means making lots of new friends.  With teachers, this also often means figuring out the cliques and who really wants to be friends outside of work and who is just there to be friendly.

I've been fortunate enough to find some really great gal pals at work and met up with them for weekly Starbucks dates over the summer.  As an added bonus, two of them have newborns that I get to snuggle with!  

I've also had lunch adventures, some shopping time, and line dancing with my ladies.  It's nice to have girl time.  It keeps me sane!

Um...not acceptable: the heat.

We're having higher than normal temperatures in Nevada.  It's 114 outside today.  Thank goodness for air conditioning!

What are your favorite things?  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Teacher Myths

There are a few myths surrounding teachers and summer break that I'd like to discuss this evening.

Myth 1: Teachers are paid to do nothing over the summer.

At least in my district, here's the gist.  I am paid for nine months of work.  My nine month salary is paid over a twelve month payment.  This means my school district does not have to pay me unemployment over the summer.  This also means that 25% of each paycheck is technically withheld, then given to me months after I've earned it.  

Myth 2: Teachers are overpaid.

This is one of my favorite myths.  I am three credits shy of my masters +32 level.  That's essentially two masters degrees.  Often, I wonder why I didn't just get a second masters instead of random classes (and a technology endorsement), but that's neither here nor there.  My overtime options are quite limited (trainings or tutoring) but I actually spend 10-15 hours at work each work unpaid.  Yup, I technically am volunteering my time to get all my work done.  I can't think of any other job where extra work is required, but unpaid.  The "teachers make so much" complaints irritate me beyond belief.  I can't remember the last time I only worked my contract hours (8:26 - 3:36).  Most days it's more of a 7 - 4:30 situation, plus work on weekends.  I love what I do.  I wish I made more so that I wouldn't have to supplement my income with two other part time jobs.

Myth 3: Teachers do nothing over the summer.

I have been on summer break for 14 days, weekends included.  In that time, six of those days have consisted of trainings.  One of those trainings was a complete snafu, but more on that later!  Some of the trainings were beneficial...and some were not.  I've got a three day math training in August and a week long teacher institute in Washington DC as well.   

I'm also using the time to finish up novels for small groups for next year, work on creating mini-lessons (especially for language since I feel I am lacking in that area), meet with coworkers to work on planning, research new ideas (okay, look on pinterest and blogs...but it counts!).  I'll also be working on small craft projects like spray painting rescued metal containers to match my classroom decor.

Yes, I will have some down time on my summer break.  B and I escaped to Arizona for a weekend adventure and it was wonderful.  I figure I'm playing catch up with all those Saturdays I spent working, so it evens out!

Myth 4: Teachers shouldn't make more money because we do it for the outcome, not the income.

I love my job 96% of the time, which is pretty darn good.  I love learning new things and when students finally grasp a concept with their "brain fireworks," it's beyond rewarding.  There are wonderful outcomes from teaching.

That being said, it's a lot of hard work.  It's work I love, but it's hard work.  It's a lot of long hours and seemingly endless to do lists.  

Yes, I love the outcome of a successful lesson. Know what else I love?  Making a livable wage!  I like being able to do silly things like: funding my savings account, paying bills on time, going on dates with B, being able to take vacations, and have a comfortable life style.  We've had some large expenses lately (security door, new dishwasher, lasik surgery) and if I had to pay for all these things on only my teacher salary, they wouldn't have been possible.  So yes, the income is necessary and a little more of it would be appreciated.  

However, I'm not getting a pay increase this year.  My next pay increase will be when I finish my masters +32 credits, which will be by the November deadline.

In fact, due to budget issues, all teachers in our district are actually getting a "temporary" (6 month) pay cut.  Yes, a pay cut.  There are funds to give hiring bonuses to teachers who recruit out of state teachers to come to Clark County as a thank you gift, but not enough to keep our salaries consistent.  Oh, and they've raised our insurance co-pays as well this month.  Not okay school district, not okay.

What are your favorite myths about teaching?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Currently in June

I borrowed the idea for this blog post from Bailey at Brave Love, which is a super fun blog that you should also follow :)

Reading... The House of Hades by Rick Riordan. I'm embarrassed with how long it's taken me to get through this book, especially since he's one of my favorite YA authors!

Playing... catch up on various tasks before the weekend.

Watching... Netflix! I'm dying to watch the next episode of Arrow (we're on season 1), but it's a show I'm watching with B and I can't go ahead of him on Netflix episodes.  That's relationship treason.

Trying... to reflect on the school year and learn from my experiences.  This year was challenging with adjusting to a new school, new team, and new expectations.  Next year will be better.

Cooking... in the crockpot.  

Eating... healthier, or at least trying to!  We're going out of town this weekend but next week I'm going to get better at meal planning!

Drinking... water, water, water. I have a pretty glass water bottle and am trying the whole put fruit in the water to make it taste better plan.  

Calling... no one. I need a phone date with my BFF, but her being 3 hours ahead makes it difficult!

Texting... with a friend about a Starbucks date tomorrow.  I've got a training until noon, so we're meeting after.  Plus she's bringing her eight week old son, who is adorable and totally not helping my baby fever!

Pinning... all the things. A majority of them are about my classroom or my upcoming wedding.  No ring yet, but when he makes comments about groomsmen's gifts and how he wants to coach our future kids' soccer teams, I'm pretty sure it's a done deal.

Tweeting... about DENSI 2015. I can't wait to spend a week in DC.

Going... back to my mom's tomorrow! We're doing some touristy things and celebrating my brother's gf's birthday.

Loving... naps.  No shame. I take a nap whenever possible. I'm also very excited about the art piece I found at Marshall's (pictured above).  It goes quite well with our decor, includes my favorite flowers, and will start our family gallery wall.  My favorite part? The words are lyrics from one of the songs that will be in our wedding.  Oh, and it was on sale.  Winning all around!

Hating... lack of communication and surprises in terms of the school district.  But hate is such a strong, ugly word.  My emotions more align with the moderately irritated, not hate realm.

Discovering... balance.  Balance between my social life, down time, relationship time, and work time. I'm taking more time for me and doing more healthy things, which hopefully will pay off.

Thinking... about exciting life changes that are ahead.  Specifically Lasik surgery and a puppy this month!

Feeling... creative.  I just finished a small craft project for my classroom and I'm waiting for a friend to return from her trip so I can get my glue gun back.  I refuse to buy a third glue gun in twelve months! No idea where the first one went and her munchkin has my second.

Hoping (for)... clarity, reflection, honesty, and bravery.  Ready for fresh revelations and adventures!

Listening (to)... the dryer. B is at class, the fur balls are asleep, and it's blissfully quiet at home.  

Celebrating... learning.  I'm taking a few summer classes to learn more strategies to help with my students.  Plus they're paid, which helps!

Smelling... nothing. Thank you allergies.

Thanking... B for being supportive.  Considering we just bought a security door and a new dishwasher, plus I paid for a flight to DC (I'll be reimbursed in the fall) and we're adopting a puppy, it wasn't the best time financially for me to get lasik.  However, summer break means I don't have to take time off of work to recover and it's a good time physically for the surgery.  He's supportive of this, even if he refuses to watch the procedure.  I'm also thankful of my dear friend M, since she's watching the fur babies while we're gone. I appreciate you both!

Considering... how to move forward with a few of my dreams. I want to do it all!

Starting... to pack for tomorrow's trip.  So far I have pictures for my momma, a birthday gift for L, and a pair of yoga pants.  I may need a little more than that!

Finishing... this blog post! I think I may include "currently..." lists monthly in the future.

What are YOU up to currently?

Changes for next year

Week one of summer and I'm already thinking about some small changes for next year. Overall, I'm really pleased with how year six unfolded.  That being said, there will be tweaks for next year.  I don't ever want to do things exactly the same with my students because that means there was no growth for me as an educator. 

One of the changes is keeping a binder of communication notes from parents, including absence notes.  This year I learned a little too late that the school district wanted all of them saved. I'd already begun the end of year purge, but luckily my office clerks were very understanding.

Next year, I'll simply have a binder with page protectors where I file their notes in accordance to student numbers (alphabetical order).

I'll probably even have this be a student's job.

I'll also be doing a citation (write up) log along with keeping track of the number of times students don't complete their work.  I want to have proof for when parents question their grades (E/S/N) for responsibility.  I'm hoping next year will bring less citations because I've got some new ideas for rewarding students who do their work...stay tuned!

I'm also really excited about rearranging my classroom. I got a second wardrobe the last week of school and a new bookcase, so I need to rearrange some furniture.  Last year I had thirty students but I'm looking at around 35 next year, so I'll need more space for table groups.  Fingers crossed that the rumors are true and our projectors are being mounted in the ceiling!  That would free up so much space in the classroom. 

I'll also be using this for no names:

I found the clipboard in the $3 bins at Target and used a white chalk board marker to do the lettering. 

I also found this at Target and will be using it for my writing conferences.

I'm not pleased with the limited number of writing conferences I did last year, so I'm thinking this will be an easy way for me to keep all the information in one place.  I'll be putting a schedule on the front so I can be accountable to myself for meeting with all students on a frequent basis.

I'll be using post-it tabs to put students' names down the side and taking anecdotal notes on the pages.  Plus there are pockets to keep information in, which will help me stay organized (one of my big goals for next year!)

I also found pink and gold polka dotted and teal and gold polka dotted versions of this portfolio, so I'll be using one for my Reading Rangers conferences and one for my teacher meetings. I also bought a new pink planner, so I'm excited to start the year off correctly!

What new changes are you making for next year?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First Week Treats

I'm finally sitting down to go through old blog drafts that I started, but didn't quite finish.  I found this one from August that I finally finished.  Since I'm starting to think about tweaks for next year, it seemed like the perfect time to reflect on what I did last year and what I will do again this year.

I'm not above bribery. Setting the year off right, with food, can make a HUGE difference. 

Day 1:

They'll be hungry before lunch time. Heck, I'll be hungry before lunch time.  So I bought a few boxes of Lucky Charms and put a few cups in sandwich bags for my students.  This dry cereal will let them munch while their bodies adjust back to a school schedule.

I attached this cute note:

I'll be keeping this, just using smaller snack sized bags!

Day Two:

Last year, I made these:

While I do last minute prep, B will assemble all my treats.  In this case, it's Starburst candies. It's so great to have a supportive man who is extra patient during the chaotic start of the year.

I'll be keeping this idea.  I may even turn this into some sort of fractions lesson by having them find patterns at their table teams. 

Day Three:

You're "mint" for greatness! (With mints).  I didn't really like the sign I made last year, so I'll be tweaking it for this year. 

I'll be keeping this idea for next year.

Day Four:

You're one smart cookie (with chips ahoy).  I feel like I gave too many sweets, so I think I'll tweak this for next year with smart water bottles instead.

Day Five:

I made this sign:

He'll be attaching the goldfish to the baggies.

I'm used to "meet the teacher" day being the Friday before school starts because that's what I've known for five years.  Mid panic, I asked my grade level about this and was pleasantly surprised to learn that's not at all how they operate.  Meet the teacher night is in September. Sigh!

What do you do the first week to build classroom culture?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Rethinking the classroom calendar

I admit it, I have a laminated calendar very similar to this in my classroom:

It's very cutesy and frustrating to change out each month.  As diligent as I am, I inevitably miss a child's birthday each year and that's super uncomfortable.  The calendar just kind of hangs there without any student input.  

Next year, I'd like to change that.

So I purchased a very basic desk calendar:

Before the school year starts, I'll go through and label all the crucial days: staff development days, three day weekends, and student birthdays.  

But here's the change:

I'm going to have students write their Reading Ranger goals, both short and long term, on the calendar.  When they achieve their goals, they'll get to highlight their goals and we'll do a classroom celebration.   

Students will get excited because it's a small brag wall, but it's the goals they've set.

I'm excited because I will keep this calendar by my small group table to help with accountability.  If all my data (in terms of students' goals) is in one place, it should stream line my goal setting weekly meetings.  Plus if I'm saving time on goal setting conferences (which will be Mondays and Thursdays), that leaves more time for small strategy groups and book chats.

Of course, the calendar will still be cute...but now, also practical.

What new strategies are you trying in your classroom next year?