Saturday, August 15, 2015

Exciting Changes

It's almost the start of another school year and I'm excited.  I'm ridiculously, optimistically, enthusiastically excited about this school year.

 Yes, the school district's budget is awful and I'm still upset about taking a pay cut, but there's not really anything I can do about it so there's no point to dwell on it.  As teachers, we've made our disapproval pretty clear! So it's time to move forward.

I have an amazing school that prioritizes people first.  We take our jobs seriously, but have lots of fun while working hard!  This culture of support and fun spills over into our classrooms and I think that's important.  I enjoy going to work.  I want to be there.  I enjoy the people I work with. 

It's an awesome feeling.

So now let's zoom in on what top ten things are contributing to my excitement:

1) Long Range Plans

We have long range plans done before the school year has started.  I feel like I have direction and a sense of purpose.  Last year, we didn't have plans and as a natural result, some activities ran too long and we hit major crunch time in March.  Our long range plans, which we know are flexible, have all our standards addressed by the beginning of April.  That leaves eight weeks of flexibility for testing, reteaching, and shifting things around due to school events (field trips, assemblies, etc).  

2) My Planner

Continuing with the excitement of long range plans, I have already sketched out the year in my teacher planner and created my online planning calendar.  

I have my first week's plans done and many of the copies already made.  Mrs. H and I are going to go over the plans on the way to day two of our math training on Monday, then head to school after to do some more planning.

3) Balance.  

With a new puppy at home, I'm not staying late each day.  I will go in early because that's when I work best, but I am leaving each day as soon as the parking lot is clear.  I've voiced it to others to keep me accountable, but I am going to leave on time to spend time with B and our fur babies. 

I've picked one night a week to work on things from home (whatever night B has class), but that's it.  I'll be more proactive in planning and keep my door closed more in the morning so I can get my work done.  I'll just ask my coworkers to respect closed door means work time while open door means I'm willing to chat.

I've got an upcoming trip to Arizona planned in October for my mom's birthday (and buying a new computer because this laptop is eight. EIGHT. This laptop is a third grader.)  

I've got fun girls nights planned.  We've got date nights to look forward to.  Friends have new babies that I get to snuggle, then hand back when the crying starts.  I've got a full calendar and there are fun social events planned!

4) Sunshine committee.

At the end of last year, I started talking to Mrs. S more at work.  She was always friendly, but she intimidated me.  Not only is she like a walking Amazon (six feet of gorgeousness) but also appears to have every aspect of her life together.  She crafts, has three young kids that are all involved in sports.  Not only does she show up to their games, but she makes their jerseys and does their make up (for dance, not for her son's football team).  Plus teaches, is quite good at it, and runs Sunshine committee.  It's a little intimidating!

However, she's also possibly one of the nicest people at my school.  I asked how I could help with Sunshine events next year without stepping on her toes.  She welcomed my ideas with open arms and we started talking.  Turns out, she lives maybe ten minutes from me.  She loves crafting, organizing, wine, and girl time as much as I do!

We've hung out over the summer under the attempt to plan Sunshine events (didn't happen) and she's become more than a colleague, she's a friend.

So next year, I get to have craft and wine parties with a friend.  It will be for school events, so it's legitimate procrastination.

5) DENSI 2015

I'm still in my glorious post DENSI bubble of happiness.  I signed up as an ambassador for my district, so I'll be hosting some PD in the coming months.  I'm still going through my notes and blogging about the amazing sessions I attended.  There are so many things I want to try, but I'm not going to overwhelm myself.  Two of the things I'm most excited about are notebook sketching and mystery skype.

6) Notebook Sketching

Also known as {embracing the doodling}, I'm excited to add more creativity into note taking with my students.  I know it will take some modeling but I'm eager to embrace something new.

Learn more about it {here}.

7) Mystery Skype

Our adventures with the map have been well documented.

The map is blank and ready for the next round of students.  However, this year we are stepping it up.  Last year we made powerpoint slides for each state, but didn't give students enough practice time identifying states and capitals on the map.  (That was quite obvious with the end of the year assessment.)  

This year, we're adding mystery skype.  Thanks in a large part to my tribe, the DEN, I am connected to educators in every other state.  We're going to call other classrooms and have students try to guess where each other are from, using geography clues.

For example:

1) Does your state border an ocean?
2) Are you closer to Mexico or Canada?
3) Are you east or west of the Mississippi River?

It will require some flexibility (time zones) but I think it will be a great learning opportunity for my students.

8) Engage NY

Last year, math was frustrating to plan.  We were pulling mostly from Engage NY's lessons, but didn't follow their pacing guide.  As a result, many of the lessons had to be tweaked.  After switching up planning roles, Engage NY was abandoned because it was too time consuming.  I didn't agree with the change, but I must remind myself of this:

This year, it was decided by my admin that all grade levels would be using this.  There are no excuses.  We've also split up the copying load so everyone has a role for each unit.  I think that it's important for all of us to be involved with the planning of all subjects.

9) Novels

I've picked the novels I want to do with students and am fairly positive I already have enough copies!  We'll start the year with The Lightning Thief, move into Esperanza Rising, and finish the year with Number the Stars.  It's a tad ambitious to do three novels, but I think we can do it.  All of the fifth grade reading literature standards can be taught with these novels and I think it's important to have students involved in longer, more complex texts.

10) Support

I'm not alone. I have a supportive grade level.  I have a great school.  I have teacher friends in other districts.  I have a (future) family member who is now licensed to sub, so I don't foresee having to worry about finding someone to watch my kids if I'm out of the classroom for the day.  I have my DEN tribe and know that I can reach out, virtually, for support and be overwhelmingly comforted by the advice of others.

I have a wonderfully supportive fiancee.  He's even willing to help me sharpen hundreds of pencils next week (because that's love).  People have shown their true colors recently and while that was a painful moment, I'd choose to focus on the overwhelming support and loving messages I've received from others.  

I'm in the midst of planning my wedding (no major developments) and enjoying this engagement period.  I've received lots of advice, some welcomed and some not, but it's nice to see people (for the most part) supportive of my choice to spend forever with that goober B of mine.  However, I want to remind them all that I was on student council, I was an RA, I'm a teacher, and I'm a ridiculously type A person.  I like logistics. I've got this wedding planning handled!

Monday brings day two of a math training and classroom prep.  Tuesday brings finalizing my room.  Wednesday marks the official start of training and next Monday will be my first day with students.  Right now, my roster is sitting at 31 and that's where I hope it stays!

There will be moments of darkness and periods of doubt.  I'm glad I've got support to turn to.  This year will be the best yet.  Thanks for being a part of it.

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