Monday, August 31, 2015

First Week Recap!

I've finally found a moment to breathe and recap on week one in the classroom.

The first week of school definitely kicked my behind.  I accomplished maybe half of what I intended to each day and it wasn't because we were wasting any time.  I struggled with my classroom last year due to several distinct behavior issues, so this year I wanted to really focus on building a strong classroom where needs were supported.  I think we're off on the right track!


I've got thirty four good kids.  Two on my original roster didn't show and one was moved from another classroom.  My one student with a behavior plan is very excited to be in my room and gives me daily hugs.  He gets wiggly some times due to his ADHD (and hello, they're ten), but after a silent nod or look from me, he is back to work.  He thanks me on multiple occasions for being his teacher, being nice, and teaching him things.  That makes my heart happy.

Class dojo as our behavior management system is working really well. 

I've got about 1/3 of the parents connected and already received messages from some families who are pleased to see all the positive choices their students are making.  My students seem to really like it too, which is awesome.  I love that it's free and I have it on my phone, so it's easy to give points throughout the day.  

They were appreciative of their first day treats, but more on that later.

They did well with our first week challenge activities and seem to have a strong sense of persevering through problem solving.

They want to help each other.

They want to read.

They're excited about our read aloud, The Lighting Thief.

They're excited about the book orders.

They're just plain excited for fifth grade and that makes my job much, much easier.


The humidity is making it extremely difficult to open the outside doors at work.  Some delightful mornings it takes a good twenty minutes and walking around to every exterior door until one will open with my key.  This annoyance is not something I have time for.

One of my students, who is new to school, had some miscommunication with his grandpa about where to be picked up.  He'll normally take the bus, but was being picked up the first few days of school.  Grandpa found me and together we found the student, who was waiting patiently in the front of the school.  We clarified the schedule and I praised the student for knowing to wait near the office for an adult.  That seemed to calm the grandpa down.  The first days of afternoon dismissal are always a little chaotic.  One student ran off and hid in the bushes.  Another wandered off from her teacher, but found me instead.  We called her mom, who was visibly upset, but I reassured her that her daughter did everything right.  She knew her phone number (which is mighty impressive as a first grader) and looked to a teacher for help.  The poor mom was worried about her child and quite pregnant with another, so she was understandably emotional. 

I already had a sibling/teacher conference.  On the fourth day of school...yikes.  

One of my student's older brothers (I'd peg him mid-twenties) ambushed me at the dot where I meet my students on Thursday morning.  The gist of the conversation was I'm not doing enough to make the student feel welcome in my room.  Considering the time, effort, and financial resources (first week goodies for thirty four) I've put in, this stung.  When I was compared to the fourth grade teacher, that was another low blow.

However, I have to be an adult and a professional, even when I don't want to.

I thanked him for bringing this to my attention, apologized for needing to go inside with my students, and told him I'd follow up on the situation.  Naturally, when I got to my line, two of the other boys were shoving each other, so that was an additional moment of fun and paperwork.

I told my admin about the meeting, then talked with the student.  The student expressed feeling nervous because fifth grade seemed hard.   He expressed concern that I wouldn't help him if he got stuck because I wasn't helping them on their first week essays.  I (once again) explained that their first week assignments were to show me what they already knew how to do and that it wasn't for a grade.  After more investigating, the student revealed that he was worried he'd get in trouble because another boy at his table is a talker.  These two students are polar opposites when it comes to physical appearances.  These two boys don't even sit next to one another, but I reassured him that I could tell the difference between them and it would be okay.

I called home after school to provide an update and I think that calmed the sibling.  Again, it was the fourth day of school.  Most students are still a little nervous because routines aren't established and it's still hard to get up in the morning. I'm hoping that being proactive and following through with this family will mean they're on my side for the remainder of the year!

The invasion of kinders

My classroom has the distinct privilege of being near not one, but two kindergarten classrooms.  This is how I feel about it:

One young girl was quite upset about getting her bus identification wrist band and began slapping, biting, and swearing at every adult who tried to help or talk to her.  I had my door shut and was hiding in my room during prep, but heard the whole situation.

Bless our school counselor and administration, since I do not have the patience for those behaviors.

One girl cried, twice.  The first time was because I wouldn't let her check out a book on the first day.  We hadn't gone over classroom norms, library check out procedures, or how to treat my books.  As one of the highest readers, I'm sure she would have treated my books with the utmost respect.  However, it's not fair to demand a book when we are in line to leave and the bell has already rung.  I calmly explained through her frantic tears that I don't play favorites and no one was allowed to check out a book until we'd gone over my expectations as a class.  This was not the reaction she wanted and I dealt with the tears all the way to the line.

With week one done, I was exhausted.  However, Friday also was my birthday, so I had dinner plans with friends.  Not as much work happened as it should have over the weekend, but I refuse to feel bad about that.  I set up my grade book, fixed my weebly (had to delete pictures of last year's students from the class blog), and graded their first math exit ticket.  I've been up since four with the pup and know today will be a long day.  I am ready for Monday and will spend after school getting ready for the rest of the week.

Good thing there is only four days with students!  Thank you staff development day!  However, rumor has it we are sitting through a six hour math training...that is identical to the one I took two weeks ago.  In a logical world, teachers who have already taken this training would be exempt...but the district isn't always the most logical place.  We'll see what happens.

On to week two!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bridal Party and Pictures

I've kind of talked to part of my bridal party about very basic wedding ideas, but I found this {awesome post} about wedding pictures with my maids.

B and I had a wonderful dinner at one of our favorite {Las Vegas restaurants} and talked about some more wedding details.  We are looking at venues next weekend and my goal for the end of September is to have a venue and date picked.  We'll also have confirmed our bridal party, so that's exciting!

We talked about honeymoon ideas and the bridal shower for a little bit before I (understandably) lost his attention to Italian food.  One of the pictures that are on my "must have" list is a last kiss.  After the rehearsal dinner, I want one more last "single girl" kiss.  We won't have any contact with each other after the rehearsal dinner and I want this last unmarried picture.

On the subject of pictures, here are some shots I can't wait to get with my bridesmaids:

Confetti toss:

On the plus side, I also really like the color of those dresses!  If we go with a spring wedding, that may be one of the shades!

How we met:

I do love chalk boards!

Group hugs:

So cute!


My wedding day will be a celebration of B and I starting the next chapter of our lives.  I want it to be a day filled with laughter, so it shouldn't be too hard to get a shot like this.  Plus my maids are ridiculous.

In the bridal suite:

Girl time at its finest!

I'll make sure to tell my photographer about these must-have shots!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Come on in!

A few days ago, I posted some {classroom pictures}, but I thought I'd add a few more.

Tomorrow marks day one, year seven of teaching fifth grade.  I'm sure I'm in for a restless night, but I've got thirty five ten year olds awaiting me, so I'll put on my game face and make the day amazing.

We were given these updated print outs for our Reading Ranger program.  Instead of just laminating them, I took the extra step to add some polka dot borders:

I think it makes it much cuter!  As an unintended bonus, they remind me of Minnie Mouse and a little Disney never heart anyone.

I also took the print outs of the Reading Ranger level expectations and put them in page protectors.  I bundled the page protectors with a book ring and hung them on a jumbo sized push pin.  They're still accessible to students, easily moveable, and take up much less wall space.  A win for all!

While we're near those signs, here's my reading corner:

Yes, that is an ASU t-shirt pillow you spy!  The yellow text books are the social studies ones that will go inside their desks.  One entire bookshelf is dedicated to Harry Potter, the Series of Unfortunate Events, and various books by Rick Riordan...and I'm not ashamed of it!

Here's an updated shot of our classroom command center:

I moved my diffuser and electronic sharpener to near my desk so they can be closely monitored!  

Our mystery bucket:

I draw a stick and specifically watch that student in line.  This year, instead of adding student/teacher points (because I'm {skipping that} this year), that student (if successful) will earn points in class dojo.  

This is what my students walk into:

There is a large welcome banner and blank desks (minus their water bottles, which are a first day treat.  They say I hope you're thirsty for knowledge.)  There is nothing inside their desks.  We will build our desks together.

Here's the ever-growing stack of agendas I'll pass out:

Along with our 8 math practices:

Here's some of the copies I'll need the first week.  Emphasis is on some.  

I can't wait until my classroom is filled with my students. I've been a bit lonely in there all by myself!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Day 1 Goals

I was talking with another member of my DEN tribe about his first day of teaching fifth grade.  Mr. C, you'll be great! Don't sweat it!

I started thinking about what my goals are for day one and I realized they're quite simple.

My goal for day 1 is all about my students and their feelings.  I want them to leave room 71 feeling excited, supported, cared for, and enthusiastic about fifth grade.  I want them to feel challenged by our first day word problems (yes, first day of school means word problems).  I want them to be ready to come back and try their best again tomorrow.

The learning will come.  The notebook set up will come.  The team builders are imbedded throughout our day.  But I only have one chance to make a first impression and i want them to feel good about fifth grade. 

What are your goals for your first day of school?

Bracing for Day One

Wednesday and Thursday were filled with such hope and optimism.

Then Friday hit.

My morning started off rough and involved vomit, pee, cat poop, sexual harassment from creepy men at the gas station, and Waffles trying to bring a bird that she'd caught into the house...all before seven am. A rather rough training followed, then I hid in a colleague's classroom during what I'd like to call the invasion of the kinders.  My classroom is near two different kindergarten classrooms and all the parents came in to meet the teachers and tour the school.  

I went as far away as possible on the off chance I share a sibling with one of those teachers.  See, the kinder teachers dressed up that day.  I was in a tee shirt and yoga pants, not the ideal first impression.  

Lunch was provided, which means having to bring my own lunch on Monday will be a strange adjustment!  We got a little spoiled after food for three days.

I found time to tackle a few small tasks, some laminating, and prepping the first Sunshine treat of the school year.
Rather heavy trainings on bullying regulations followed in the afternoon, followed by committee updates.  

Then the bombshell dropped.

I knew that fourth grade's numbers were high.  My roster on Monday had 31 names, but Thursday's had 33.  I'd already alphabetized their files, made labels for markers and data folders, set up desks, entered names in class dojo, and printed welcome letters.

I redid everything for Thursday's new additions.

But the list wasn't done.  I got more.

In fifth grade, in an inclusion room (meaning I have students with IEPs, LEPs, and in tier 3 for RTI), I have thirty five students.  If I want to buy anything for my classroom, I need three dozen.

Other fifth grade classrooms are all upwards of thirty, with two sitting at 38.  Thirty eight students.  

We're hoping there's enough funding come federal count day to get another teacher, but that's a month away. We have no room for this new teacher, so that poses an additional challenge. School starts on Monday and the district is several hundred teachers short. do I cope with the fear of having 35 students (if not more) on Monday?

One, I tried to frame this in a positive way.  We have such a great school that everyone wants to be there.  Lucky us!  

I stayed until after six on Friday, then had errands afterward.  I got home around ten pm, so that was a very long day.  Saturday brought a {Jamberry} and make overs party, followed by Chinese food and Arizona Cardinals football.  I'll carve some time out tonight to work on craft projects for the classroom.

Tomorrow,  the day before school starts, brings a few hours in the classroom (just to be totally ready) and a hair cut before getting to bed nice and early. 

Monday will be a long day, followed by a tough conversation with someone. I don't like confrontation, but there are some things that I'm not okay with just ignoring. 

I'm bracing for day 1.  Positive vibes, people!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blogtember Challenge!

It's that time of year again!  Bailey from bravelove has her blog challenge.  Since she's in grad school and a tad busy, she's posted all her blog topics ahead of time.  I can't necessarily do each post (since teaching takes a lot of time), but it's nice to start brainstorming.

Will you be joining the Blogtember Challenge?  

Here are her challenges:

Tuesday, Sept. 1: Introduce yourself however you like! Pics, vlog, collage, your choice :)
Wednesday, Sept. 2: Describe your ideal day. Where would you go and what would you do?
Thursday, Sept. 3: Create a collage or inspiration/mood board that describes your blog.
Friday, Sept. 4: What are you passionate about?
Saturday, Sept. 5: Put your iTunes/music player on shuffle and share the first 10 songs that play.
Sunday, Sept. 6: Share your style. What fashion trends do you love, frequent, or avoid?
Monday, Sept. 7: Tell us about your blog name. Where did it come from?
Tuesday, Sept. 8: Tell us about your favorite season. Why is it your favorite and what does it say about you?
Wednesday, Sept. 9: Write a letter to sixteen-year-old you. Any advice or funny stories?
Thursday, Sept. 10: 10 items off your bucket list. If you haven't made one, now's a good time to start!
Friday, Sept. 11: It's a Friday night and you decide to stay in. What do you do?
Saturday, Sept. 12: What are you up to currently? I have examples here and here.
Sunday, Sept. 13: Create a collage or inspiration/mood board for this season in your life.
Monday, Sept. 14: The 5 books that have impacted your life the most.
Tuesday, Sept. 15: What's in your bag? Pick up your purse and peruse its contents, then share with us!
Wednesday, Sept. 16: The real you vs. the online you. Are they the same or different?
Thursday, Sept. 17: Just for fun, your latest obsession. What can you not get enough of these days?
Friday, Sept. 18: Record a VLOG! It can be about anything you'd like!
Saturday, Sept. 19: Tell us about one of the best days of your life.
Sunday, Sept. 20: It's guilty pleasure time! Shows, books, songs, foods, whatever it may be.
Monday, Sept. 21: A favorite quote/expression and how it has impacted you.
Tuesday, Sept. 22: Get creative! Sketch, paint, dance, play music, whatever then give us a glimpse.
Wednesday, Sept. 23: Grab a guest post. Recruit a friend or fellow blogger to share on your space for the day.
Thursday, Sept. 24: Shout out five of your favorite bloggers. Who are your regular reads?
Friday, Sept. 25: Three songs you are connecting with right now.
Saturday, Sept. 26: What's on your to-reading list, and what have you recently read? 
Sunday, Sept. 27: What's on your wish list? Be sure to include links so we can shop too ;)
Monday, Sept. 28: A day in the life. Take us through it with you.
Tuesday, Sept. 29: Write your own list of 10 blog topics to inspire us next month.
Wednesday, Sept. 30: A farewell coffee date. Take some time to breath, sip a warm drink, and share with your new blogging buddies. If you'd like a prompt: how did the Blog-tember Challenge go for you? Any surprises? What was your favorite prompt, or what would you like to see included next time?

Will you be joining us? If so, link up! 

My Classroom

It's been a long few days and I'm not quite done, but without further ado, here is my classroom for the 2015-2016 school year!

My wreath:

I'd originally planned to hang it over my door, but I didn't like how it sat with the window.  I worried that if my door was slammed the wreath would break.  You can read more about the process of the crayon wreath {here}.

I made it stick out from the wall with strategically placed push pins:

My chair:

Not that I sit in it often, but this chair was a great investment.  I found it at Goodwill, store tags still attached, for ten dollars. 

My classroom command center:

It includes files that I need, our calendar, our Scholastic book code, our specials schedule, the treasure box, and my dropbox (where they turn in all papers to me).  Underneath the wobbly computer desk is a laundry bin that holds anchor charts and a pile of dictionaries.  I have bins under my dropbox and treasure box which hold math manipulatives and extra table supplies.  I wanted to make a space that was helpful to both myself and my students.  After all, it's not just my classroom.  It's our learning room.

I added a few more things to the wall beside my desk:

I just wanted to make my happy place a little more exciting.  The Eagles and stuffed eagle pendant are from my trip to DENSI 2015.  The painted V is signed by all my students from last year.  The YALE pendant is from my bestie.   The certificate is from Harry Reid as a thank you for my service (Teach for America). 

Our schedule board:

I purchased the border at Joann's and laminated it for durability.  The cards were a {free download} from TpT.

My banner:

It's from the dollar section at Joann's and is hung on my certificate.  I did have to add the twine myself, but thought this was adorable. 

My bulletin board:

I want to add washi tape as the trim for the tent, but it's mostly done!

Bulletin board letters:

This font is Swagger and downloaded from  I printed on scrapbook paper and hand cut them.  When I was done, several people offered me their cricuts. (Thanks gals, but before would have been better!)

Australia Cards

I love reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day with my students.  

Like Alexander, students have complex emotions and some times want to move to Australia.  These cards are a subtle indication to their neighbors to provide kindness and space.

Reading Ranger Goals Board:

I made the goals banner from a good find at the dollar spot at Target!

I also have my Harry Potter CAFE signs:

This {freebie} combines lots of my favorite things: Harry Potter, pink, and zebra print!

Here is one of their first day treats:

It's hot, so I wanted water.  It's healthy and I know there are no allergies! 

Tomorrow I'll be finishing my classroom, then doing my nails for the first day.


Back to Work, Days 1 and 2

It was really, really nice to go back to work.

We were greeted with donuts and a present:

The sticky label said "we're the sharpest teachers around!" 

We did a few delightful ice breaker games, went over our data from last year, and talked about new procedures.  We decided on committees (I'm co-chair of Sunshine and on the math committee) and had time to meet with both our committees and our grade levels. 

Our long range plans are done and most of the copies and lesson plans for the first week are done as well. 

Oh, and Cafe Rio was provided for lunch.  Thank you admin!

Thursday brought an entire day of classroom prep and grade level planning.  It was amazing.  PTA splurged for lunch and we got a lot accomplished.  My room is almost done and I took home some first week prep (cutting) because I can do that while watching Netflix.

However, I am exhausted.  I've put in two twelve hour days and tomorrow will be another long one.  I've been productive and know that I'm a perfectionist.

I stumbled upon {this article} and it reminded me why I'm a teacher.   

Thank you Candice for noticing teachers! I've put a lot of work into my classroom and eagerly await my 33 fifth graders.

I'm ridiculously excited about this school year! 

Math Training, Day 2

Last Friday, I attended {day 1} of a math training.  Monday I attended part two. 

Overall, it was a decent training.  It's frustrating that due to scheduling issues, they condensed two days into one.  When they did this, we lost a lot of the processing, collaboration, and reflection time.


-We were in a smaller break out room. We were encouraged to talk to our neighbors.

-The focus was much more on using manipulatives (place value blocks, centimeter grid paper, etc) to show the math.  i think that my fifth graders don't necessarily get enough practice time and exposure to the concrete math, which leads to conceptual misunderstandings.  The focus was on shifting students from concrete to representational to abstract methods of problem solving.  (Manipulatives to diagrams with manipulatives to just numbers).  By fifth grade, the concrete step is often skipped but when students have conceptual gaps or it's a new concept, they need hands-on time to explore.


-There was no processing time.  It was very high paced and for six straight hours.  There was no reflection time to write down thoughts or think about where to use these strategies in the classroom.

-It was an hour away.  That's frustrating.

However, since 3/5 of my grade level was there, we are bound to use most of what we learned! I'm glad I'm not the only one responsible for remembering this information!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Silly Wedding Ideas

I'm not going to be a "traditional" bride and we aren't having a formal wedding.  That's not who B and I are as a couple.

There's a chance my dress won't be crisp white, but rather in the champagne or blush realm depending on my skin tone.  I am indifferent about this whole veil concept and right now, there's a possibility we won't have flower girls or a ring bearer.  After watching a less than stellar performance by a show-stealing ring bearer recently, I've kind of changed my mind on the whole little kids in the wedding thing.  

Here are four small, silly wedding touches that we're strongly considering:

Song Line

There will be dancing at our wedding.  B and I have already kicked around some ideas for our first dance, but that's a secret until the wedding day.   However, I love this idea of including a song request space for the guests.  It will definitely help when making the play list!

Waffle Bar

Okay, this one is more appropriate for the bridal shower, but I still think a waffle bar would be quite fun.  I love waffles (um, hello, it's what we named our pup) and I can steal brown butcher paper from work. 

Candy Favors

There's an old-fashioned candy store close to my mom's house, so we could stock up on candy in bulk.   I'd rather do something like this than traditional favors because then people can get what they want!  I do already have a few glass vases, but could borrow more from friends to cut down on the supply cost.

Relationship Questions

We'll probably put out madlibs on each table, but I like these relationship questions as well.  When the wedding is done, I can totally scrapbook them into our wedding album.

Thank you to my lovely officiant for sending me {buzzfeed articles} that assist in the wedding planning!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Planning for a magical wedding

My love of Harry Potter isn't a secret. 

I'm trying to find small, subtle ways to incorporate this love into my wedding.  B isn't as much of a die-hard fan, so many of the ideas found in these {Buzzfeed} {articles} while wonderful, would be unfair to him.

However, there are some ideas I think I want borrow:

Photo Booth Props

These are pending in my {Etsy cart} as I type, I just have to wait to buy them.  (Sadly classroom supplies come first this month.)  I thought about making them myself, but after buying all the colored card stock and meticulously cutting out those Gryffindor stripes on the tie, I thought it'd be worth my time to splurge on the pre-made ones.  Plus I can reuse them for post-wedding activities!

Head Table Decor

Yes, I want these. Yes, they will be displayed in our home after the wedding.

Really, I'm just excited for this upcoming magical day (okay, weekend) where we get to celebrate with our closest friends and family.  While I would love to have the budget to invite everyone who matters to us, that is simply not the case.  I hope friends understand. 

Skipping Student/Teacher Points

For the past six years, I've relied on the trusty "student/teacher" point system.

The premise is simple.  Every time students are collaboratively working or on task, they earn points.  When they aren't, I earn points.  The difference at the end of the week (usually weeks) would be converted into marbles and fill the purple Disneyland yard glass.  Once they reach the top, a reward is earned.

I was pretty proud of my system and though it was working out well.

There are lots of articles about this behavior management system, praising it's ability for highlighting positive choices and "catching students being good." 

However, then I stumbled upon a different article that made me completely shift my mindset (which naturally, I can't find.  Sorry readers.)  

Basically, this is setting students up to fail. Yes, fail.

This statement baffled me at first.  I was rewarding students' collaboration and positive behaviors, so why was this classroom management system being discredited.  I thought I'd have to write another {dissenting opinion post}, but then I realized the author was right. 

Did this system reward students' positive choices? Yes, absolutely.

Does it create a game like atmosphere that stresses cooperation and competition? Yes.  Both of these things are encouraged in my classroom, especially when done correctly.  (Cooperation for example, on a test is frowned upon.  Competition when it belittles another isn't allowed.)

But it also set them up for failure because I, the teacher, was rewarded when they didn't meet my expectations.  I was rewarded when they failed.  

That's no way to run a classroom.  

I don't want to send the message that I'm looking forward to them failing.  I don't want to celebrate their failings.

So instead of displaying my T and S glittery magnets and washi tape "game board" space, I packed those letters away.

Instead, I'm relying solely on class dojo for my behavior system and classroom management this year.  I'll be able to keep better track of the magical 3:1 ratio (three positive interactions for every negative interaction), but I know some students need more than that. 

I'm still debating if I want to do table challenges.  I could look for the tables that are working together and award points, which highlights both cooperation and competition.  I would take myself out of the equation, allowing students to model appropriate, positive choices for one another.  The tables with the highest points after a given amount of time could have additional rewards in terms of extra class dojo points for cooperation or the ever exciting (and free) strategies of going to recess first, reading with pillows, or taking their shoes off during the school day.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the student-teacher points game?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Don't forget!

Tomorrow (Monday) through Thursday, everything in my {TpT store} is 20% off!  
Happy back to school week for CCSD!