Saturday, October 31, 2015

Teacher vs. Student

One of my students has been working on The House of Hades for about a month now.  He's on page 188 and has read other books in the mean time, but he's stalling.

I only have one copy of this book and two other students are ready to read it.  

Instead of demanding that he finish the book over the long weekend, I game him a challenge.

If he finishes his book (The House of Hades) and I don't finish my book (The Sword of Summer) by Wednesday, the class gets to pick my outfit for Thursday.  They voted on a Denver Broncos jersey and a San Francisco 49ers hat.  As an Arizona Cardinals fan, this is hurtful and they are so excited about the idea of me wearing my rival team's attire.

If I finish my book and he doesn't finish his, his table team gets to pick his outfit for Thursday.  They voted on a pink tutu.

If we both finish, there is no public embarrassment.

On a side note, he started on page 188.  I was on page 20.  I've got a lot of reading to do before Wednesday!

Revisiting October goals

Since it's October 31st, I should probably revisit my {October goals} that I set earlier this month.

1)  For the love of all things holy, I need to finish this dang book:

 Um....nope. I did read The Crossover for Battle of the Books though! 

2) Purchase and start this highly anticipated book:

In the middle, must finish by Wednesday because of a {competition with a student}!

3) Work on our wedding website.

4) Buy a new computer.   We just need to order a case for it.

5) Make the second {DEN ambassador meeting} even more awesome than the first!  I've already got a few more teachers interested in attending, which is great. I have to upload some videos and complete homework by December, but I've got time!

6) Attend a cultural event.  We're actually going to Greek Fest tonight, so this one will be easily accomplished!  One of the great things about Vegas is that there are lots of fun things like this.


7) Visit the {Bellagio gardens}. 


8) Make something with apples.  It might be an apple pie.  It might be apple cinnamon sangria.  Okay, it will probably be the sangria.  A friend just sent me a video of a new recipe and it looks fairly easy.


9) Have a girls day.  We had a {Jamberry} and {Younique} make up party, so I'm counting it!

10) Catch up with old friends.  Yes and no. I have some calls to make.

11) Start Battle of the Books!   We've had our first few meetings, we got the kids notebooks, we've got our system structure set, we've got our first fun activity (Paper Slide videos) planned, and I've read my first book {The Crossover}.  The goal is to read all 8 by April.  

12) Catch up on grading (almost done), finish the next two regions for social studies (the West Region is part way done), and maybe even get ahead in terms of planning (a girl can dream).

I have 33 essays left to grade and enter. The West Region and Great Plains regions are done, I'm just working on the Midwest.

13)  Continue to be extra patient with my students.  Some of them have a lot going on at home and act out in school because they're having trouble coping.  This is totally understandable, it's just taking some additional patience on my end.  Patience that I quickly feel I'm running out of.  It's hard with 34 students.  It's hard when some of them are able to focus for thirty seconds at a time and constantly shout out.  It's hard to continue to be patient when I have ten different private hallway conversations with a student on a daily basis about class norms.'s necessary.  

Yes.  I even added another, putting me at 35.

14) Figure out my school costume.  We're doing a theme for fifth grade...and the theme is balls.  We're not the most appropriate ones, I know.  It's more of a joke for the adults.  I'm thinking of being a disco ball or a bowling ball.  Totally fine costume by itself, but then when the teachers realize that all of the fifth grade teachers have something to do with balls...hilarity will ensue.  The kids won't get it.  But it makes us giggle. 

I was fantasy football.  I wore UNLV grad robes and carried a wand and a football.  Mrs. H wore a jersey, pink witch hat, and carried a wand.  Together we made sense to some.  Not everyone got it, but we're so punny.

The rest of the grade level was a magic 8 ball, an eye ball, and a gumball machine.

So apparently my "top ten" got a little over zealous and I now have 14 goals for the month.  But...overplanning is how I live my life.

Then life changed, goals changed, and I got only part of what I needed to accomplish.  Good thing November starts tomorrow!

What did you accomplish this October?

Friday, October 30, 2015

With my upcoming wedding still almost a year away, I've got time to patiently think about each small detail of the big day.  For some, having a year and a half long engagement would be torture, but I'm loving the time.  I don't feel rushed about any of my decisions and can shop around to find good deals.

However, I'm realizing the more time I spend researching wedding ideas, the more frustrated I'm getting with things that are deemed "must-haves".  Who started these trends? They are a bit ridiculous.

"Must Have" Number One: Temporary Wedding Tattoos

Yes, this is a thing.

This is not a favor.  A majority of my guests are over the age of six and temporary tattoos are simply not that exciting.  I also hope that my guests don't need a reminder of where they are...or who we are for that matter.  Plus there would be that one guest who puts one on his forehead and ruins every picture he's in.  This is not a "must have".  This is ridiculous.

"Must Have" trend number two: A wedding hash tag

I know my guests will be taking pictures with their phones and I highly encourage them to post them to wedpics, but twitter is not private.  I don't want my guests spending the reception on social media.  I want them spending the reception in the moment, which means dancing, drinking, socializing, eating, and being silly in the photo booth.  The reception is not meant to be on social media.  Share the next day on facebook, but I don't want my wedding shared with the world.

What's worse? There are websites dedicated to helping brides generate their own wedding hashtags.  

"Must Have" #3: Two dresses

Again, why is this a must have?  One, yes.  Two? This is not a theatrical event with costume changes, this is a wedding. 

The wedding dresses I'm eyeing are not cheap.  They are within my budget and would not qualify me to be on "Say Yes to the Dress" (since I've never seen anything below two grand there).  But two dresses? One for the wedding and one for the reception?

No.  Just no.

That screams high maintenance.  I'll be buying one dress and making sure I can actually dance in it.

Any other "must haves" that recent brides skipped?!

All the Feelings

With the exception of last year, every one of my years in the classroom has involved co-teaching with the special education teacher(s).  

In a nutshell, this means that one or more of my students are in special education and qualify for services.  Since we advocate for the least restrictive environment for these students, most spend a majority of the day in the general education classroom with two teachers.  I am the general education teacher while another teacher (the special education teacher) comes into my classroom to co-teach with me.  This "push-in" model means that all my students benefit from having two teachers.  

This means that two teachers can pull intervention groups.  This means that one teacher can lead the lesson while the other pulls individuals or groups for remediation or extension (because this is sadly often overlooked).  This means that one teacher can deal with behavior issues privately in the hallway while the other continues instruction, so the rest of the class doesn't lose out on instruction time.

There can be challenges in terms of planning and sharing responsibilities, but open communication and a shared sense of ownership (these are our students) goes a long way.  One of the biggest challenges can be IEP meetings, which are held yearly to update families on their child's progress at meeting individual education goals.  These meetings can be very difficult for parents, especially when they don't realize how much their child is struggling.  Tissues are always available and readily used.  I've been fortunate enough to have some amazing parents that know their child has educational struggles and are happy to work with the school to provide what's best for the child.  I've also been in situations where parents are in denial, blame educators, and threaten to sue me in the middle of meetings...but these parents are few and far between (thank goodness!).

Of all the things that randomly appear in my Facebook news feed, this one really hit home:

I'd love to start every single meeting with parents this way.  Yes, every single one.  This may be posted outside my door during parent teacher conferences and brought up in future IEP meetings.

This business of educating little ones is hard work, but so rewarding.

Game On

One of the amazing aspects of my school is the healthy sense of competition between classrooms.  This past week, to keep our students motivated before a five day weekend (yes, five days), we had a school wide challenge.  In each grade level, the classroom with the highest engage time got to participate in an activity in front of the entire school.

What is this glorious activity you may ask? 

The teacher who has the highest engage time gets a the face...from the student who read the most.  

The pie will be mostly whipped cream and trash bags and goggles are provided, but our students were so incredibly motivated to read.  The idea of smashing a pie in my face is quite thrilling and I personally have never felt more loved by my students.  The idea of public embarrassment is perhaps one of the best motivators for my students.

Unfortunately, a sudden downpour caused our celebration to be postponed.  Over nine hundred students (and their families) were outside, in costumes, when a slight drizzle turned into a sudden rainstorm, drenching everyone.  

The celebration will be in the afternoon on Wednesday, November 4th.  For once, I really, really hope I come in second place.

Here we go again!

{Earlier this month}, I knocked out a graduate course in a weekend.  It was a great course where I learned new strategies, felt energized about my teaching, was excited to try new things in the classroom, and I could immediately apply what I've learned the next day.

Basically, the dream in terms of professional development.

So naturally, it's time to take another course.  If I'm correct with keeping track of graduate school, this is the final class I need to hit the "Masters +32" level.  This of course makes me think I should have just gotten another master's degree, but oh well.  

Theoretically finishing this class means I'll get a pay raise next year for increasing my education from master's plus 16 to master's plus 32, but since I got a pay cut this year and the district is going into {arbitration} with the teacher's union, I'm not holding my breath on being paid fairly. 

This one is offered by the same instructor (because she's amazing) and on close reading and text dependent questions.

It's not a secret that I love books, so I was really excited that this beauty is now mine!

Fisher and Frey are some of my favorite educational researchers, so this is just an added bonus.

The next three weeks will be consumed with seven modules and reading a majority of this book, but I've got my work wife Mrs. H along for the ride.  I love learning and I love working with colleagues who are also motivated to continually learn and try new things.  I've got a general understanding of close reading and text dependent questions (TDQs), but I'm excited to learn more about the four part model and how to use it with students.  

The ultimate goal of text-dependent questions and close reading is to have students interact with the text.  I'm not in the business of making little robots who can read a passage and regurgitate information back to me.  I'm in the business of creating little thinkers who interact with the text and think critically about the world around them.

What steps are you taking to continue your own education?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Happy Birthday Nevada!

Upon moving to Nevada seven years ago, I immediately found it strange that the schools had a day off to celebrate the state's birthday.

Then I realized the state's birthday is Halloween and everything suddenly made a lot more sense from a teacher's perspective.

So, to celebrate my long weekend and Nevada's birthday, I'm having a flash sale on {TpT}!  From Friday, October 30th until Monday, November 1st, everything will be 20% off!

Happy birthday Nevada!

Done and done!

Last night, instead of tackling the essays I have to grade, I typed up my notes for The Crossover into a handy, dandy {teacher's guide}.

One of the requirements for advisers for Battle of the Books is to read one of the eight novels and create 100 questions for the book. These questions are then used in the creation of powerpoints for the competition rounds (in March and April).

Since I was already taking notes, I figured I'd bundle them as a product to help other teachers.

Additionally, I created a matching {chronological order sort} for our Battle of the Books students to check themselves before quizzing.  One of my favorite aspects of these sorts is that the answer key is included, so I'm not bothered when I'm working with a small group by questions of "is this right?".  Students are able to be self-reliant and check their own work.  This helps them to take responsibility for their own learning and self-assess their understanding of the text.

Up next? The Sword of Summer! (Obviously this is a much better task than tackling the pile of essays.)

My life in a nutshell:

I have broken the task into seemingly bite-sized pieces (six essays a day), but when each takes about ten minutes to grade, enter into the grade book, and make notes about in my conference journal, this doesn't seem all that manageable. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Perfect Storm

After a thrilling weekend in Arizona, the harsh realities of Sunday night seem to be hitting harder than normal.

This week brings:

  • An hour long Battle of the Books meeting after school
  • An hour of tutoring after school (one of my students missed an entire week)
  • An observation
  • A parade
  • Making a Halloween costume
  • A four hour grad class on Thursday
  • An upcoming FIVE day weekend for students (Friday is Nevada day, then next Monday and Tuesday are staff development days)

Perfect storm indeed.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Meet Our Pumpkin

As I previously {shared}, our school has a great tradition of decorating pumpkins about book characters.  Each class gets a pumpkin (which are donated) and decorates it.  You can't puncture or pierce the pumpkin in anyway, but the kids have lots of fun with it.  The younger classes tend to have parent volunteers or the teacher make the whole thing...but that's not how we roll in fifth grade!  This was entirely done by my students. 

As a class, we voted on characters and brainstormed our options.  I had student helpers stay after school (with permission) to help decorate.

We voted on Harry Potter and here is the (almost) finished result:

In the library, Harry has a scarf, wizard hat, and wand (aka a chopstick).

Voting starts next week!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Crossover

As I've previously shared, I'm doing Battle of the Books again with the fourth and fifth graders!  This time around, not only do I have a better grasp of what I'm doing and how the competition works, but I also have the help of our school's librarian.  Together, Mrs. H and I seem to have this under control.  

We meet after school for an hour on Mondays with the students who are able to stay.  Since many have sports or ride the bus, we can't force all students to stay.  Plus it wouldn't be fun if we were forcing them to be there.  We want students to want to read.  The fourth graders will also check in with Mrs. H on their recess on Monday (because it coincides with her prep).  The fifth graders will also check in with me weekly during independent reading.  Since there are five fifth grade teachers, I'm just giving each teacher a different day.

The kids will come meet with me for a few minutes so we can touch base on their questions, the book, and their progress.  The work is entirely on them, we just want to help keep them accountable by setting small, measurable goals and seeing how they progress with weekly check ins.

I'm going to try to read all eight books this year, but with all my grading, it does seem a tad daunting.

I tacked the first book, The Crossover, over the weekend.

This book is written as a series of connected poems, which was a new format for me.  I was immediately hooked and found myself literally laughing out loud at certain parts.  One particular moment, when the father is explaining to his son that talking to his twin (who has his first girlfriend) is futile at best, is written as:

Trying to talk to your brother right now is like trying to push water uphill with a rake.

Just let that mental image sink in.  

What a gloriously wonderful way to describe the struggle to communicate with someone who is wrapped up in first love infatuation and resistant to any conversation.

The whole novel is filled with lines like that.  Words that seize you and engulf you with passion.  While I'll admit I had to do some googling for some of the basketball references, I was incredibly impressed with the ease at which the story flowed, mixing sports and real life situations.

It's not a surprise this novel won both the Newbery and the Coretta Scott King awards in 2015.

I was not prepared for the plot twist and had a very emotional reaction to this book.  Fortunately, I was alone at home when I finished this up, so I was able to avoid the looks of strangers.

Part of my assignment as an adviser, I had to write fifty questions to use in the competition.  Since I was writing anyway, I took notes throughout the whole book to turn it into a novel guide.

I'm working this for {TpT} and hope to have it available next week.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Not Always

I try to keep a positive attitude about teaching, but lately it's been really, really difficult.  Google CCSD/CCEA negotiations and you'll get a plethora of articles where teachers are being slammed, our pay is being cut, and our insurance is increasing.  Not a happy time in Las Vegas.

When it comes to grading, more is NOT merrier.  I spent quite a few hours grading.  Now, my grading wasn't the multi-tasking grading where I spend a bulk of the time watching television.

This grading was at six am, with the television off, and no distractions.  No phone, no facebook. Solid hours of work...and I'm not done.  I left all their essays at work and progress reports go home on Tuesday.  Oh vey.

When it comes to classroom numbers, more is NOT merrier.  We're quite full at 34.  Please don't give me anymore.  I'd be a little better if my projector was mounted to my ceiling because that would free up carpet space...but still.  Anything over 3 dozen in elementary school is not teaching, it's crowd control.

I really, really wish we had a fall break.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Yeah...we're going to lose.

One of the adorable traditions at my school is the fall decorating of pumpkins for the library.

We get a bunch of pumpkins donated and each class gets to decorate the pumpkin based on a book character.  I tried to slap a post-it on our class pumpkin and say "this is a gourd, we read informational text" but was vetoed.  The pumpkins have to be based on a book character (not a recent movie character).

The pumpkins also can't be punctured in any way because we want them on display in the library for a few weeks.

The primary classes usually produce the most adorable pumpkins because parent helpers or the teachers spend hours crafting very adorable and very complex designs.

Mine however, is completely student driven...and it shows.  

Volunteers stay after school and armed with paint and big ideas, they navigate working together to create this work of art that will be on display for the rest of the school.

I'd love to do this:

However, we haven't read any books on mummies and my students are very excited about all their ideas.  We have an online poll going, but then will turn that into a survey (embedding that technology folks!)

The current winning idea is...

The Minotaur.

From Greek Mythology.

Something tells me we're not going to win the cutest pumpkin contest, but if my students have fun making it, that's all that matters.

Friday, October 16, 2015


I've had a lot of feelings lately, most of them being irritation with others.

I don't like feeling irritated with others. 

But I also have a firm sense of fairness and I get frustrated when others don't pull their weight.  I work hard, every day. I prioritize the tasks my grade level needs, then put my own classroom needs second.

I try new things and sometimes there are bumps in the road...that's okay!  I tried flipping my classroom this week and it was super awkward to talk to the camera.  I'll get better with practice.  I am tired of being told that it was a waste of time to try something new.

I'm tired.  

I'm tired of working so hard when others aren't.  

I'm also tired of their complaints about their long hours.  It doesn't count if you stay at work and chit chat with people for hours.  That's not working, that's socializing.  

I'm tired of the negativity about the school district.  Yes, we're in a crappy situation.  Yes, it could be worse.  Complaining about it every day doesn't make it better.

I'm tired of being put down.

I'm tired of being interrupted when I'm trying to work.  

I'm trying very, very hard to remain professional. I'm trying very hard to continue to be the bigger person, but it's exhausting.

{This article}, which is an open letter to teachers who bully other teachers, pretty much sums up 90% of how I feel. 

I wish I'd found it weeks ago.

One Task Done!

I'm not very good at following this advice most of the time.

When my principal asked me if I wanted a college student to observe my classroom, my first thought was sure! So I agreed to have a fresh faced, nineteen year old in my classroom for her ten hours of observation.

It was an interesting experience.  She was super dedicated and came way more than her required hours.  She sat in on a grade level planning meeting, went to GATE, went to specials, and observed some special ed  teachers.  

I didn't do anything special to prepare for her because I didn't want to put on a "dog and pony" show.  I went about my normal teaching routine so she could get the most authentic view of teaching possible.

It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows.

She saw a life chat where I told my students I was disappointed in them.  Nine of them failed to do their must do assignment.  During their hour of independent reading while I pulled conferences, they had to write down what they thought the theme of their book was and why on a post-it.  Two minutes, tops.  Yet, they didn't follow directions and that's disappointing.

She got to witness  a student receiving a citation for being off task (despite five reminders), having a melt down, breaking my pen, and running away.  I calmly let the office know I had an eloper and went about with my day.  The rest of the students didn't know. I'm so fortunate to have a supportive administration and counselors that stepped in to handle the student's crisis and keep me in the loop about how to best help the student.

She got to talk to some of my students about their work and filled notebook pages with observations (which makes me a little nervous!)  She helped prep an activity and witnessed the joy of making hundreds of copies.  Since we share planning responsibilities, everything is made in sets of 200.  

Her last observation was Monday, so I got her a card to wish her well with the rest of her classes and gave her my contact info.  If you're reading this Ms. F, I'm glad you observed! I'm here if you need anything!

I really lucked out with my student observer.  I hope to see her again because she lives in the neighborhood and has younger siblings at my school.  The other students have been in for maybe an hour or so, but she cranked out all of her observations in the start of the semester (smart girl!).

I want to be more involved with mentoring (since I didn't have one and want to give back), so one task (partially) accomplished!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why am I doing this again?

Back in August, I looked at my teacher badge and realized that my license is expiring soon-ish and that I should take more professional development.

So I looked at the schedule of graduate classes offered at UNLV in conjunction with RPDP and picked one that looked relatively interesting, but more importantly fit my schedule.

I convinced my work wife to take it with me (thanks Mrs. H!) so I'd have a buddy to carpool with.

I registered for the class, paid for it at UNLV ($45 a credit hour, which isn't awful), and went on with conquering the beast known as September.

Before I knew it, October was here and that meant it was time for the class. 

Once I realized that the class fell during a particularly hectic week, four letter words ensued.  One day of prep was taken up by school walk throughs (which were beneficial, but more on that later!), I had RTI, grade level meetings, my 1:1 with admin for beginning of the year goal setting, and observations (again, more on those later).

The class was Thursday night from 4:15 until 8 pm.  Not so bad, right?

Oh, it was also Friday night at the same time.  Oh, and again from 8-4 on Saturday.

Did I mention that it's on the other side of the valley and a 45 minute drive?

Why do I do this to myself?

Oh yeah, because I like to learn.

I went into the class with a positive attitude and I'm pleased to say I haven't been disappointed.  Yeah, the drive is frustrating, but I'm a tad spoiled that I have a ten minute commute to work.  I guess I can drive a little longer on these few occasions.  

The classes have been extremely helpful (at least the first two.  The final one starts in a matter of hours.)  We've zoomed in on nonfiction and how to best support the Common Core anchor standards.  The content has been useful, the strategies are immediately applicable to my classroom, and having Mrs. H there means we can bounce instructional  ideas off of one another.  

Most of the time, I feel like this during professional development:

(Unless it's the DEN. Love the DEN)

I was pleasantly surprised to feel more like this:

I'm glad we're taking this course, even if it means I've got a limited amount of fun this weekend.

My pile of grading is overwhelming.  I'm looking at five different assignments to grade, two powerpoints to finish, and a good dozen other tasks to knock out before a friend's goodbye party on Sunday evening.

Naturally, the night before the final day of training, my overactive brain decided that sleep truly wasn't necessary.  

It's going to be a long day...but at least I'm learning!

A dash of professional reading

I'm in the midst of another graduate course, so I've been doing a lot of professional reading lately.  I'm a life-long learner (as I think educators should be) and wanted to take a minute to share two articles that have been rattling around in my brain this week.

Article {One}: Boo the Long October

Preach it, iTeach Fourth!

I feel like I could have written this article myself.  I liked it so much I took the time to comment, instead of just trolling through and remaining anonymous online.

Basically, October is a long, weird month.  Students are out of the beginning of the year behavior honeymoon, meetings seem to be multiplying, and first quarter grades are due soon.  I'm almost a fourth of the way through the year, how did that happen?!

Instead of griping about this, the article focuses on a cute Halloween tradition of "booing" your fellow teachers.

Images are all over TpT and pinterest, but one person starts by secretly leaving treats in another coworker's mailbox.  That coworker has a limited time (usually 2 days) to reciprocate by "booing" another colleague.  Ghost or pumpkin dicuts are usually put in mailboxes to indicate that one has been booed, and a witch or goblin could be posted if someone does not want to participate.

It's a fun little way to add some festive fun into the month of October.  Plus who doesn't love surprise treats?!

I'll be starting this round of boo-ing at work this week (ssh...don't tell my coworkers!)  I've got two black and white polka dotted tins (obviously) from the dollar section at Target (again, obviously).  I'll fill them with candy and print some boo instruction sheets. 

What fun fall traditions does your school have?

Article {Two}: Rip those behavior charts off the wall and burn them

While this was written with a tad too much angst in my humble opinion, I agree with the underlying message.  The traditional "clip" or "chart" system no longer serves a purpose in classrooms. 

 I will be the first to admit that yes, I used this system for way too long.  I started it my first year as a teacher because that's what I thought I was supposed to do.  I thought every elementary classroom needed some sort of (very public) way of displaying behavior.  I thought this truly kept kids accountable for their choices and was a motivating factor.

But then I realized how wrong I was.  This isn't really motivating, it's demoralizing.  {Last summer}, I decided to discontinue the use of this system and I haven't looked back.  I know there is some resistance, especially in lower grades, about getting rid of this trusty security blanket.

What good does this behavior tracker actually do?  Almost immediately, your eyes zoom to those kids on red.  We all know what red means.  Tsk tsk Max, Jared, and Brendan.  

How demoralizing.

Did they truly make poor choices all day long?  Or did they simply have one or two "oops" moments throughout the seven hour school day?  Chances are, it's the latter of the two scenarios.  To be fair, what human goes all day long without making an oops moment?  

If a child is truly struggling to make appropriate classroom choices, how does this reinforce doing the "right thing"? 

...It doesn't.

This article goes on to state that as educators, part of our job is preparing students for coping with future demands.  This includes helping them take responsibility for their actions and utilize techniques to cope with mistakes.

As a teacher, I wouldn't if a behavior chart was used to publicly broadcast my performance to the entire staff.  Oops, Ms. Vice left her copies on the machine in the lounge!  Uh oh, she forgot to take afternoon attendance and now she's on red.  (These are common situations for me.)

How humiliating to have one's behavior broadcast for the world to see.  

But instead of continuing to gripe upon problems, I propose a counter solution: Class Dojo.

It's by no means a new teacher tool since it's been available for several years at this point, but it's new to my classroom.  Seven weeks in, we're loving it.  (Bonus? It's free.  That's a must!)

I have the opportunity to recognize students for both positive and negative behavior.  It's easy for me to see if I'm reinforcing the 3:1 ratio (three positive interactions with every negative redirect) with every child...especially the ones that struggle with behavior.  Parents are able to see all the great choices their students make and it's a quick and easy way for me to communicate with families.

The behavior categories are editable, which means I can give more weight to behaviors that are desirable (like meeting a personal academic goal).  

My favorite part? I can send out messages to all the families at once and see who has viewed my message.  This has replaced the Remind app because it's already built in to what I'm using and parents don't have to download two different things to stay connected to our classroom events.

What are your thoughts on behavior charts? 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Currently in October...

Reading... Al Capone Does My Homework...still.  It's hard to find independent reading time when all the pets leave me alone.

Playing... a delightful game called how long can I procrastinate finishing grading before panic sets in.  I've got a few reading tests left, but I seem to seriously lack the motivation to finish them.  It's not even a long test, I just don't seem to want to focus.

Watching... Football.  It's Sunday.  This is what we do.

Trying... to be productive. I'm procrastinating work with other work, so that counts, right?

Cooking... salsa verde chicken in the crockpot for dinner.  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a bottle of Blue Moon, a jar of green salsa, and a dash of cumin.  Simmering on low for eight hours, then will be shredded for tacos for dinner. 

As a happy coincidence, October 4th is National Taco Day.

Eating... fruit for breakfast! 

Drinking... V8.  There's a strawberry lemonade version with low sugar and lots of nutrients, but it doesn't taste like vegetables in a glass. 

Calling... friends later.  It's been far too long.

Texting... my work wives. 

Pinning... wedding ideas.  I've got dress appointments in December and am fairly positive about what direction we're going with bridal party attire.

Tweeting... gosh, about nothing! It's been a while since I've been on instagram and twitter.

Going... to Arizona soon!

Loving... life.  Focusing on the amazing people in my life and trying not to be sad about friendships ending.  Some just naturally run their course. 

Hating... my allergies.  Crosswalk duty, playground duty, and walks with Waffles aren't helping!

Discovering... my life is an endless series of baby showers.  We just had one at work.  There is another one on Tuesday.  There will be another one in November.  All my friends are having babies...on purpose.  Welcome to adulthood.

Thinking... about a nap.  Goodness I love naps.

Feeling... sleepy!  It was a busy, busy weekend and I'm just catching my breath.  I'm so fortunate to have great friends.  Last night we went to Greek fest (Opa!) and a friend's birthday party.

Hoping (for)... cooler temperatures.  It's October. I'd like to shut off the AC and open the screen door. 

Listening (to)... Football. Obviously. 

Celebrating... my future FIL's (Father-in-law) birthday later.  

Smelling... nothing. Thank you allergies.

Thanking... my tribe.  You know who you are.

Considering... joining the nap party that's happening in the house.  Waffles is asleep at my feet and Crookshanks is on the counter.  

Starting... freak out about paying for the wedding.  Thank goodness we have help...but still.

Finishing... grading.  It's an endless, daunting task.  Then finishing lesson plans.  Sigh.

What are YOU up to currently?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

October Goals

As I {previously shared}, I got through about half of my {September} goals...and that's okay.

Let's do some goal setting for October!

1)  For the love of all things holy, I need to finish this dang book:

It's good, I'm just struggling to find time to read independently...without pets on my lap.

2) Purchase and start this highly anticipated book:

I thought it was Annabeth's brother, but alas, Magnus is her cousin.  It's in the newest Scholastic book flyers that I distributed, so I'll be buying myself one.  There were lots of other great books, so I might spend some of my points and stock up on new things for my students.  

3) Work on our wedding website.  We decided (okay, I decided) to make a free one to fill our out of state guests in on events.  I've started one on the knot, I just have to finish it.

4) Buy a new computer.  B's is....eight.  Yes, eight. It's a third grader.  It's time for a new one.  We're visiting my family at the end of the month, so it's a perfect time to get my brother's feedback (since he works for Microsoft) and get a new one.  It's not perfect timing (because it never is), but we've been putting this off for about a year.  He needs it for school and I need it for work.

5) Make the second {DEN ambassador meeting} even more awesome than the first!  I've already got a few more teachers interested in attending, which is great.

6) Attend a cultural event.  We're actually going to Greek Fest tonight, so this one will be easily accomplished!  One of the great things about Vegas is that there are lots of fun things like this.

7) Visit the {Bellagio gardens}.  We went over the summer and enjoyed their underwater display, but I guess they've changed it again for fall.  It's free to get in and there's a chocolate store nearby.  If B doesn't want to go (or has class), I'm sure I can talk some of my gals into going...right?

8) Make something with apples.  It might be an apple pie.  It might be apple cinnamon sangria.  Okay, it will probably be the sangria.  A friend just sent me a video of a new recipe and it looks fairly easy.

9) Have a girls day.  We're doing a Frankenstein Jamberry Wrap Swap on the 17th and playing with make up (always fun), but I want to do a happy hour with my bridesmaids (the ones that are here).  I also want to do a happy hour with some of my lovely coworkers.  Y'all down for that?

10) Catch up with old friends.  It's been far too long since I've talked with some of them on the phone.  There's been some childish antics with "friends" here, so I'm ready to cut my losses and focus on the amazing people that I do have in my life.  

11) Start Battle of the Books!  Mrs. H, the librarian, and I have been hyping this up to the fourth and fifth graders.  We're collecting permission slips and getting ready to start our after school book lounge.  We're offering the kids some guidance, but the Battle of the Books is totally up to them.  We wanted to give them extra reading time in the library after school and offer structure, but it's up to them.  

12) Catch up on grading (almost done), finish the next two regions for social studies (the West Region is part way done), and maybe even get ahead in terms of planning (a girl can dream).

13)  Continue to be extra patient with my students.  Some of them have a lot going on at home and act out in school because they're having trouble coping.  This is totally understandable, it's just taking some additional patience on my end.  Patience that I quickly feel I'm running out of.  It's hard with 34 students.  It's hard when some of them are able to focus for thirty seconds at a time and constantly shout out.  It's hard to continue to be patient when I have ten different private hallway conversations with a student on a daily basis about class norms.'s necessary.  

14) Figure out my school costume.  We're doing a theme for fifth grade...and the theme is balls.  We're not the most appropriate ones, I know.  It's more of a joke for the adults.  I'm thinking of being a disco ball or a bowling ball.  Totally fine costume by itself, but then when the teachers realize that all of the fifth grade teachers have something to do with balls...hilarity will ensue.  The kids won't get it.  But it makes us giggle. 

So apparently my "top ten" got a little over zealous and I now have 14 goals for the month.  But...overplanning is how I live my life.

What will you accomplish this October?

Oh...hey October

I'm pretty sure I blinked at here we are in the beginning of October.  I glanced back at my {September Goals} and realized I didn't accomplish all of them.

Here's the recap:

1) Catch up on blogging
      This one is a work in progress!

2) Nail down a wedding date and venue.
      Check! November 11th, 2016 at a gorgeous venue.  Outdoor ceremony, indoor reception.

3) Finish Al Capone Does My Homework
      ...still working on it.

4) Put the house back together
      It's in it's normal state of relative cleanliness. 

5) Decorate for fall
     Done!  Now I need to get out my Halloween decorations!  Yes, I have fall ones and Halloween ones.  I'm not putting the fall ones away, just getting out more pumpkins...with faces.

6) Get Waffles to obedience school
     We've paid for it, we've just got to schedule it.  That's one of our weekend tasks

7) Long term social studies plans
     Yes...and no.  They're evolving as I'm getting more input from the rest of the grade level.  We finished the intermountain region and I got some feedback on things to revise for next year.  The format is way more consistent then last year's, so we're moving in the right direction.  However, there should be more information on why each state has it's specific nickname, what makes a mountain and canyon, and more explicit instruction on the Rocky Mountain range.  All totally valid ideas.

I'll need to tweak that and then re-upload the ppt {here}.  The great thing about TpT is that if I upload a revised product, previous purchasers are able to redownload it for free!

The next region is the West Region.  Ms. C is from California, so she was super eager to sit down and help me include lots of information on that state.  We also imbedded earth quakes (CA), tectonic plates, glaciers (AK), underwater volcanoes (HI), calderas (OR), and volcanoes into the unit, so it hits both our science and social studies standards.

8) Finish thank you cards.
      I need to give Katie hers tonight, but then I'm done!

9) Walking schedule.
     In progress. It's still in triple digits in October.  I've got a sinus infection, so being outside isn't pleasant.  We're working on the walking.

10) Adjust the budget. 
     Another work in progress.  I know feeling this financial crunch won't be forever.  His truck is almost paid off, the security door and dishwasher are almost paid off, and we don't have to make another big wedding payment until July (hallelujah!).  We are both working overtime on things and it's a nice feeling to have a partner who is also making sacrifices for our shared dreams.  I'm working overtime on {Jamberry} and {Younique} parties and online fundraisers, having one here, selling my prep whenever possible (to cover another class that doesn't have a sub), and developing more products for {TpT}.  He's working longer hours, on call for one weekend a month, and looking for grants to help pay for school.  We used up Target gift cards to cut down on expenses and are eating out less.  I didn't really buy any back to school clothes and luckily grading has me so busy that I don't have time to go shopping for fun.

So looking over September's goals, I accomplished about half...and I'm okay with that.  I got sick (curse you nature!). I had work commitments. Life got in the way.

Time to revisit my list and make some {October Goals}.