Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cabinets, again


Three years ago, we started to remodel our master bathroom.  We ripped out the medicine cabinets and started the process of putting in built ins.  But due to a series of unfortunate events (and life getting in the way), our bathrooms have been sitting like this for a while:





My inspiration (from Pinterest):



Our first contractor was taking months to get back to us after coming to take measurements, so we had to let him go.  I've never fired someone, so that was a difficult experience.

We met with a second contractor (who happens to be a dad at my school) and he built our cabinets.  He has a handyman company and is a carpenter for the Venetian, so he's legit.  He also lives really close to us and was extremely flexible with our schedule.

Basically he built two boxes that will fit into the wall and drilled holes for adjustable shelves.

Each cabinet will have 2 shelves.

They sat in the garage as I dealt with end of the year chaos:



But finally it was time to paint.  I borrowed one of the hubby's work shirts, found gloves and a mask, then got to work.




Since the wood was brand new, I didn't have to de-gloss or sand it.  I got to jump right to step 2, which is painting.

Unpainted wood and after one coat:


One of the blessings of living in the desert is that paint dries incredibly fast.  Instead of waiting for two hours between coats, the real wait time between coats is about twenty minutes.

The cabinets get two coats of paint, which ends up looking more purple than I'd like.  Luckily that's where the stain comes in.

After eight hours of dry time, I put on the stain.  This is perhaps the easiest part.  Using a sponge brush, I slap on black paint.  Before it dries, I use a cloth to wipe it off in long, vertical strokes.  Some black color is left behind and the result is a sea-washed, quasi-rustic look.



The final touch is putting on the clear sealant coat.  Using a dry brush, I coat all sides with the sealant.  I used a sponge brush to soak up excess white bubbles.

The cabinets then stayed in the guest bedroom until our contractor came back to install them:



I had some issues with the inside edges (they are darker than the rest) but I think it'll be okay once they're in the wall.

I laid everything out in the bathroom (and of course had furry investigators): 



The process:



The final look:



(They do perfectly match the cabinets below the sink, despite the lighting in the picture.)

Naturally, I put my own touches on my side right away:



I originally bought the ceramic cactus for my classroom, but it fits perfectly there! I've been eyeing it for over a month and it's really hard to say no to whimsical knickknacks that are under $5.   Darn it TJ Maxx!

Up next?

We're going to replace the carpet in the bathroom (yes, bathroom) with some white and gray tile and re-carpet the master bedroom...next summer.  I'd also like to frame the mirror with the same molding he did on the cabinets and replace the lighting over the sink. Perhaps that's a winter break project? 

Next up?  I should probably discuss with the husband first...



One project at a time!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Weakness

Last week I had a lovely lunch date with a friend from work.  She taught second grade last year (long term sub) and will hopefully fill our third grade vacancy this year.  She's going to be finishing up her degree and student teaching and be fully licensed for next school year.  If the stars all align, I'll be her supervising teacher and she'll be two classrooms away.  She's quite the lovely person, open to learning, and actively seeks out ways to improve.  She's also fully aware of this blog post.

She said something that rubbed me the wrong way (and has been rattling around in my head for a few days).  She was hesitant to talk about things she wanted to work on for next year, as if it was a weakness to want to improve.  As her potential supervising teacher (for student teaching), we've got to have honest conversations about growth.

I quickly jumped in and told her that it's awesome to have a list of things she wanted to improve on.  I shared the gist of my {goals} for next year.  Once I shared that I've got plenty I want to improve upon, she seemed much calmer and more open about her perceived weaknesses.

First off, they aren't weaknesses.  They are targeted areas of growth.  Self awareness is the first crucial step.  There's nothing wrong with saying you want to improve as a teacher.  We applaud when athletes improve their records from previous years, so why is teaching different?

Granted, sometimes the professional developments (PD) we receive aren't the greatest, especially when they are mandated and generic.  But that's not the only option for PD.  Creating a PLN (professional learning network) and sharing ideas (virtually or in person) is a great way to continue to grow as an educator.  Reading books, watching webinars, and talking with others are all stellar options.

Second, one of the greatest (and worst) things about teaching is that there is always something new to learn.  There are always new strategies to try and ways to improve.  It's wonderful that she's open to this.  Everyone should be.

Third, there's only one true weakness in teaching: arrogance.  To assume that one's teaching is perfect in every aspect is the height of hubris.  Classroom management, behavioral conflicts, these can all be fixed with mentoring and ongoing conversations.  But the arrogant mindset and refusal to be open to others?  There's no outside forces that are capable of fixing that mindset.

I've been there and it's not pretty.  It was my third and fourth years teaching.  I'd finished my Master's degree.  I worked with some veteran teachers who were on their way out to retirement, so their work ethic and quality of teaching wasn't quite where it needed to be.  I was still very much in the Teach for America mindset where if a teacher isn't devoting every waking hour to the kids, they must not care.  This relentless, work-a-holic mindset isn't sustainable, isn't healthy, and isn't good for kids (or the teachers).  

I started attending professional development outside of my school and district and was quickly knocked off my high horse.   For this, I am eternally appreciative because my stay in arrogant teacher land was a short staycation, not a long term residency.

While I may have been the best in my grade level, there was plenty more to learn.   Quickly humbled, I made it a point to seek out opportunities for improvement...and I haven't stopped.

I've attended some awesome professional developments. I've led some sessions at school and district levels.  I've read some great books and am fortunate enough to be at a school that encourages professional growth.  But I'm no where near being done learning.

I have teacher friends at my school, within my district, and outside of CCSD that I can turn to for advice and lesson ideas.  I have a close knit group where I can openly admit when a lesson fails and complain about all the ways it didn't live up to my expectations.  After my allotted venting time is over, we turn to problem solving and how to improve it for next time.  It's all part of the learning process.  My students experience it often and as a teacher, I'm also a life long learner.

I'm (hopefully) out of the elitist mindset.  I am fully aware that as a teacher, I have areas of improvement.  So, I do something about it.  

I schedule observations and actively seek out feedback.  I look for opportunities to expand my learning (and bonus if it's paid!).  As a mentor, I have an open door policy.  If a mentee or peer is willing to have me observe in his/her classroom, I should be willing to reciprocate.  As a mentor, I am peer mentored.  I talk about my lesson ideas, lesson successes/failures, and ways to improve with other teachers, our strategist, and my administration.  It's sometimes a scary and honest conversation about what's not going well.  There needs to be a great deal of trust between all involved parties.  

Through trial and error, I've found a few peers who I could have honest conversations with about classroom instruction.  The point was not to gossip or belittle my instruction, but rather to find solutions to the problems I was facing.  

Sometimes, this honesty has failed miserably.  I've been blindly assigned to watch other colleagues and had them tell me "I hear you really stink at ____, __(name of previous administrator)__ told me so. I'm happy to have you watch me so you can fix __(my perceived area of weakness)__."  

That colleague was not in my trusted circle and presented herself as the savior to all my problems.  I have trouble respecting this person's work ethic as it is.  I was hurt by the betrayal of confidentiality from my supervisor.  Had it been presented as a choice of teachers for me to observe, it would have been another story.  But the administrator took our private conversation where I was seeking out feedback (from the administrator) and essentially outsourced feedback without my consent.  The other colleague took joy at knowing my weakness and chose to exploit it by sharing my situation, loudly, in the teachers' lounge.

That's not how we help each other out.  That's not teamwork.  That's not appropriate.

It took a while for me to be open to feedback from others after that incident.

One of the hardest part about working with other teachers is running into arrogant, inflexible teachers, like the one mentioned above.  They've been teaching for X many years and know everything.  They don't want to work with others, they don't want to be observed, and don't welcome constructive conversations.  There are a lot of reasons behind this mindset, but the biggest is fear.  Fear of being wrong. Fear of trying new things. Fear of failure.

Instead of being frustrated with these teachers, taking their comments personally, or worse, continually butting heads with them, I do my very best to keep my professional distance.  

I am not a perfect teacher.  I have things I want to work on.  I have skills I want to improve. I've had lessons fail miserably...and that's okay.  Because these things are not my weakness.  They are areas of growth.

Being resistant to change, having an arrogant mindset, and refusing to receive feedback are weaknesses.  

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I'm a sucker for sales...

I didn't plan on having such good luck at Joann's, but I'm a sucker for sales:



Both for 70% off (plus 25% off my whole purchase and 10% rebate from Ibotta).  

The pillow will be another addition to my classroom library.  It also goes really well with the other pillows:



I'm going to have a lot of pillows in my classroom.  Some can be used as floor pillows for flexible seating, but for the most part, they'll just be used during reading time.

The basket was an unexpected find near pillows.  I want to make this frame and selfie props for my classroom:



I also want a place to store props (for when they graduate, make growth, etc).  This bucket will be designated for that purpose.



My students love selfies and silly pictures of themselves, so why not bring that into the classroom as a reward?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Done!

My oh my, the side hustle game is strong this month!



I'm finally done with the Hidden Oracle and Dark Prophecy work!



Snag the novel guide for The Dark Prophecy {here}

Snag the chronological order comprehension sort for The Dark Prophecy {here}

Snag the student question guide for The Dark Prophecy {here}

Snag the bundle for The Dark Prophecy {here}

Snag the mega bundle (The Hidden Oracle and The Dark Prophecy) {here}

Snag the student questions for The Hidden Oracle {here}

Snag the updated bundle for The Hidden Oracle {here}


Now...I wait for what's next.



I swear this is like Harry Potter all over again.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Back to School Schedule

I know I'm ending my summer early.  I've explained my reasons {here} and it's a personal choice I'm making to alleviate some of my anxiety.

I'm fortunate enough to have the flexibility to go in early. I don't have to worry about child care costs and live ten minutes from school, so it's not a big time commitment to run over and work for a few hours.

If we're being totally honest, it will be about three hours of work per day followed by a nap.  

I tend to put on music (or a few movies) and work until it's done.  I'm hoping the pod is relatively empty so I can be productive (and not distract myself with chitchat). 

I did sneak in yesterday during Open Library and set up my tables.  I also noticed I had two extra tables, but we figured out who needed them and the custodians said they'd take care of it.

Here's a rough outline of what I hope to expect during setting up my classroom:

Day 1 (Tuesday, August 1st...theoretically)
1. Hang my bulletin board fabric and spray with wrinkle release if necessary.  I tend to staple the top and let the wrinkles fall out overnight.

I have two classroom bulletin boards and one in the pod.  I'm reusing fabric from last year.  Some of my fabric is an old bed sheet from Goodwill (twin works great), some is fabric from Joann's, and I'm pretty sure some is an old table cloth.  Fabric gets washed over the summer and reused each year if possible.  Unlike paper, fabric doesn't fade over the course of the school year, which is another teacher win.
 
 2. Move furniture (if possible).  Some of my bookcases will cover the bottom part of bulletin boards, so I can't move everything.

3. Set up my teacher desk.

Day 2
1. Finish hanging bulletin boards by stapling the rest of the fabric up.

2. Hang bulletin board borders.  I'm using mesh this year on two of them.  I'm hoping it goes much better than the time I used burlap:




It was beautiful, but it took hours.  HOURS.  Never again.

3. Finish moving furniture. 

4. Hang the net.  Yes, fishing net.  It goes with part of my aquatic theme.

5. Start to organize my library.  When I moved classrooms, I tried to separate books and send the fifth grade books home to live in the garage.  I didn't get to all of the books and just gave up at the end.  I'm sure I'll have some books to weed out that aren't appropriate for third graders.  

I'll also be reorganizing my classroom library.  I probably won't have entire buckets devoted to Number the Stars or The Giver.  Sure, I'll keep a few of each in my library for my higher readers, but the rest will be stored at home in the garage.  Instead, those buckets will house Babysitter's Club books (because I keep finding them for super cheap at Goodwill).  My library needs to match my students' levels.  

I will also use this time to look for any damaged books or ones that need stickers (to match the bins and help the kids know where to return books). 

Day 3

1. Sit on the floor and continue to make piles of books.  
2. Begin to put books in buckets.  Put buckets of books on the book shelves.  Repeat.
3. Make a list of sticker labels to print.

Day 4

1. Hang up bulletin board decor.  Print the lettering for the banner (and stuff into my purse to deal with at home, where there is wine to drink while I cut out letters.)
2. Copy cacti for students to color for our pod bulletin board. 



3. Attempt to find the box that says beginning of the year papers. 
4. Finish classroom library.
5. Unpack my snacks (top desk drawer of my teacher desk is devoted to snacks).

Day 5

1. Copies (before everyone returns)
2. Empty remaining boxes. 
3. Finish setting up technology. 
4. Revise and print new business cards/magnets


We have to return on Wednesday, August 9th.  The kiddos show up on Monday, August 14th. I'd love to be totally done in my classroom before the 9th.  Thanks to our union, we have the 10th to work in our classrooms without meetings.  I'd like to use that time to work on lesson plans and copies. 


In the mean time, I'm working on a bulletin board banner and giant mermaid tale from home.  Home is where the wine is!

Rules, Rules, Rules

Teacher confession here:  I hate going over all the rules the first day.  The kids tend to be experiencing a Taylor Swift-range of emotions and are quite frankly overwhelmed.  Simply sitting and receiving information isn't the best plan.

Instead, I switch it up with a few hands on activities.

The Scavenger Hunt

Instead of pointing out everything in the classroom,  I have students find a partner, grab a clipboard, and go on a scavenger hunt.  I stand back and let them find things around the classroom.  

Granted, I don't have the scavenger hunt made yet. I've got to set up my classroom first...but I've got last year's to revise.

They'll talk about their answers as a table and then we go over the answers as a class. It's a perfect time to incorporate listening and speaking norms. I model standing up, facing the class, introducing myself, and speaking clearly so the class can hear.  From there, students will practice public speaking in a non-threatening environment.  Finding different things in the classroom (pencil sharpener, telephone, etc) is completely safe.  They are almost guaranteed to have the right answer and as a class, we can practice cheering and applauding one another.  At the end of the activity, not only do students feel more comfortable in the room because they know where things are, but empowered because they found them with a partner and were celebrated for their correct answers.

While yes, this takes more time in comparison to me standing in front of them pointing things out.

But here's all the things the lesson also teaches or incorporates:

1) Teamwork (they work with a partner)
2) Using materials appropriately (they'll use clip boards and practice putting them away appropriately)
3) Movement (I don't sit well and neither do they)
4) Sharing ideas
5) Celebrating others (class cheers)
6) Agreeing with others (hand signals)
7) Active listening
8) Shared sense of ownership over our classroom 


The Rules

While every teacher has basic rules in mind about the classroom, it's important that students feel that they help create the classroom   (and that includes the rules).

To do this, I set out large pieces of paper with the following questions:

1) What do I expect from my teacher this year?

2) What do I expect from my classmates?

3) What do I need to have a good school year?

4) What does it mean to be a good student?

5) What do I expect from myself this year?

6) How should I treat other people and materials in this classroom?


I lay the papers out around the room and introduce the concept of a gallery walk.  I split the class into smaller teams (not with their table teams) and give each group a pack of markers. Every student will have a different color (for accountability).  I go over answering the question (spelling doesn't count, which puts many at ease), talking at an appropriate volume, and that I'll be setting the timer (usually for 2 minutes).  

At the timer, I call for everyone's attention.  I go over capping the markers and looking for direction.  I go over the rotation pattern because the students will be rotating to each large piece of paper.  I have them silently practice rotating to their next piece of paper.

Before immediately writing down their own answers, I introduce my expectation that they'll read their classmates answers first.  If they agree, they just put a check mark.  If they want to add more, they can add bullet points underneath.  If a student's idea is not on the sheet, that's when he/she may add a new comment.  I have them review my expectations as a group.  I then give them 90 seconds at their second rotation.

At the timer, I go over the expectations for transitions again.  I repeat this after each rotation.  I have them repeat the expectations to one another.

After all the questions have been visited by all the groups, I bring the class to the carpet.  We look at each sheet together and discuss what stands out.  From there, we create the rules.  (Spoiler alert, I already know what the rules are. Most of the time they come up with exactly what I want them to do but if not, I gently guide them to what I want to emphasize.)


School Rules

School rules and expectations are a little different because they're set in place by administration. 

However, just because I can't change them doesn't mean we can't have fun going over them.  I split the class into eight teams (different pairings then their table teams so they can mingle with each other) and give them a sheet with true/false statements.  As a group, they go over the statements and mark their answer choices.

I then teach answering procedures using {the cups}.

I don't love when everyone shouts out answers.  By using color coded cups (from the Dollar Tree), all students get a chance to answer without speaking.  



It's another opportunity to incorporate classroom procedures, but with a clear purpose (answering the game questions).  They answer with green (true) or yellow (false) cups.


Recapping Everything

By Friday of the first week of the school year, we've pretty much covered all the classroom procedures, rules, and students know where things are.  To recap everything, I once again split the class into teams to teach kahoot.

Kahoot.it is free for educators (my favorite) and requires some prep work.  You create questions and put in answer choices, marking which is correct.

Students will use iPads (assuming they're ready for student use) to answer trivia questions on the web-based platform.  Each game has a specific code, teams can create their own names, and they get points for how quickly they answer the questions.

Kahoot is great for reviewing concepts before tests, but I want the first time we use it to be for fun.  While it's not tied directly to academics, knowing the classroom procedures and expectations will save loads of time as the year progresses.  I'd rather spend a good chunk of the first week(s) setting the foundations in place for the rest of the year. 

Yes, it's important to get into the academics and the whole learning thing. But it's also important to ensure that there is a classroom foundation where students know the expectations, feel safe, and are empowered to take risks. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Run, don't walk!

I was planning on doing some dramatic Instragram reveal about my classroom theme once my bulletin boards are done next month, but I couldn't wait.  These deals were just too good!

I was at Target today (to no one's surprise) buying mosquito repellent for our honeymoon.  Low and behold, I wandered by the outdoor aisle.  There were large bins with outdoor pillows on sale.  

These outdoor pillows happen to perfectly match my classroom decor.  They're quite large and were super on sale.  They also happen to be scotch-guard and rather durable, which works out quite well for third graders.

The large navy pillows were $8.98 (regularly $29.99), the teal one was $14.98 (regularly $29.99), and the octopus one was $9.99 (regularly $19.99).  All of them were at least half off!



Feeling pleased with my classroom finds, I wandered over to Joann's where my luck continued. 

I wandered into their summer section where everything was magically 70% off (because they're getting ready for fall).  There I found three more beautiful outdoor pillows to complete my boho/beachy/nautical/calm ocean vibe.

I also found mesh for my bulletin boards (more info to come) for 70% off.  

Oh, and the entire purchase was an additional 15% off with my teacher discount card. 

Oh, and I scanned the receipt into Ibotta for an additional rebate.



Here are my pillow finds (displayed on our twin guest bed for size reference):



Run, don't walk to Target and Joann's if these interest you!

The novel is done, now what?

As I {shared} last week, I had a time crunch to finish The Dark Prophecy by well, yesterday.



I met my goal, but barely.  I walked into open library with sixteen pages left.  Luckily my former student was understanding.  He turned on all the computers for me so I could finish the book in peace.

Now that the novel is read, the rest of my work begins.  

When I read these novels, I pick out important tier 2 and 3 vocabulary words for each chapter.  I pick out comprehension questions and jot down suggested answers, relying on textual support.  I look for opportunities to highlight figurative language, author's word choice, and making inferences.  I think what homework questions I'd want my students to answer and jot down what type of answers I'd want from my students.

My next steps are to take the 64 pages of hand written notes and turn it into a word document. I estimate it will be around 50 typed pages when I'm done.

After the novel is done, I'll make the chronological order sort and a student question guide (worksheet format with a few comprehension questions for each chapter).  I'll post all of these products separately on my {store}, as well as bundle them together.  My goal for finishing all of this is next Friday.

Good thing I'm powered by caffeine and Netflix marathons (for background noise of course!).

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nine for Nine


As I'm savoring the last few weeks of summer break, I'm looking ahead to year nine.  Yikes, nine?  Sigh!

Last year I had the most amazing year with thirty six fifth graders.  We had some bumps in the road, but overall, I had amazingly supportive families and loved co-teaching with Ms. S for PBL (project based learning).  We tried curriculum units with moderate success (the timing, planning, and copying was more intense than we anticipated).  I had a lot of fun with my students, they learned a lot, and I'm proud of the work we did.

I've enjoyed my summer.  I tackled some craft projects, crafted, napped, vacationed, saw friends, and read books.  



But now it's time to look ahead to the 2017-2018 school year.  I've got my bulletin board ideas mapped out (thank you Pinterest) and will ease into the school year by headed back early.  (More information about my super short summer and decision to return early is found {here}.
In honor of year nine, I've decided on the following goals:

1) Have a clean desk on a more consistent basis.  Read more about my struggle {here}.

2) Continue with my {teacher instagram} account.  

I had great success with class dojo last year, but I want to step out a little more and use social media to create more of a classroom environment.



The idea was inspired by Your School Rocks, So Tell People! and approved by my administration.  It wasn't approved so much as I texted my principal that I was going to do it and wanted to make sure they were in the loop. In my opinion, it's always better to ask for forgiveness than permission.  

I then recommended the book to her and let her borrow it, so she's able to see the rationale behind it.  To be fair, I've got an amazing principal who encourages us to take risks and try new things.  She doesn't micromanage (which is good, I need freedom and creative opportunities to be successful).  As long as she is told the "why" or purpose behind the action, she tends to be on board.

So my purpose for a teacher Instagram account? To share the awesome things my students are doing with the outside world.  I'll continue to use class dojo for close up face pictures of my students, but post the artistic (non FERPA violating) pictures on my teacher account.  That way aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc can still see all the things my kiddos are up to.  

I will also use this as a forum to post inspirational messages.  I have friends that battle with depression, so seeing supportive messages may help.

Read my thoughts on the book {here}.

3.  Provide more prompt feedback with writing tasks...maybe.



I'm not supposed to say it...but I hate grading writing.  I'd rather do literally anything else.  In fact this is how I feel about grading writing:



Hopefully it'll be better in third.  There won't be as many essays to grade.  They won't be as long. I can give smaller, more frequent assignments and focus more on the mechanics of writing instruction.

With smaller assignments, I can (theoretically) grade them faster and provide faster feedback.  Fingers crossed!

On a side note, I totally bribe myself with Panera when I'm grading writing.


I am not ashamed.

4. I want to take a more active role with community involvement this year.  I went to most of the social events last year, but only the girls' soccer games.  I'd like to be more prevalent at school events.  This will go hand in hand with our school's new house system, based on the Ron Clark Academy.  

As a member of the Reveur house, I'll be bonding with not only  my own students, but kiddos across the school. 

(More on the RCA {here}.  Fair warning, it's a long post and Ron Clark information is at the end.)

5. Provide my students with more computer time.  One of the benefits of being in the pod is that computers are right outside our door.  Third grade will also be the first time my students take standardized testing on the computers, so I want to give them ample opportunities to be familiar with computers.

6. This one is a little tricky for me.  I want to collaborate with my grade level, but not do all the work.  This balance is something I've struggled with my whole teaching career.  I want things done right for the benefit of my students, but I don't want to do everyone's work.  This commitment to excellence means sometimes I pull more than my fair share of the weight. I want to learn the new curriculum, continue to build my {TpT store}, collaborate with new team members but not be taken advantage of.  

7. Along with goal six is setting limits.  Last year, I sold all of my preps to be a Read by 3 strategist. I loved getting into classrooms and mentoring new teachers.  It also meant I needed to juggle a lot and be flexible with when other teachers wanted to meet and discuss classroom events.  While my contract time is 8:26-3:36, I unofficially made my work hours 7:10-4:45.  Living close to school means I was home by five and left work at work (most of the time).  I'd like to keep to that schedule this year, even though I'm still in limbo if we will have Read by 3 again.  We're waiting on funding from the state to determine if I'll be a teacher/strategist again this year.

8. Continue to build up my PLN (professional learning network) with twitter chats (specifically #TLAP on Mondays), blogging, Instagram, book chats, and the DEN on facebook.  My husband loves me, but he really doesn't want to sit around discussing teacher philosophies and classroom ideas.  (To be fair, I don't want to engage in an in-depth analysis of his fantasy baseball stats or how his latest round of video games went.  We stick to the highlights.)  I've got a stack of books to read, 4 of them being related to teaching (and one being for our honeymoon plane ride):



I'm excited to implement Ron Clark Academy principles in the classroom.  I'm excited to learn more about Google Classroom.  I'm excited to try to create video updates (another idea from Your School Rocks) instead of (boring) paper newsletters.



9. Be open to change.


What are you looking forward to this year?

It's the final count down!

If you've scoped out some of my teaching materials at my {TpT store}, now is the time!  



There's a few hours left to snag products at 20% off!

(My next sale will be next month with TpT's annual back to school sale)

Happy shopping!

Another day, another wreath

I often choose to procrastinate work or chores with a craft project.  It's not really something I'm ashamed of, but rather accept that when I'm feeling creative, it's best to just run with it.

Last month, I crafted this beauty for my momma:



(Read more about the creation of my mom's {wreath} and {being creative})

My awesome friend Erin was in need of a new door wreath, so I decided she was going to be the victim of my next craft idea.


I once again visited Joann's for supplies.  I snagged a grapevine wreath, a K (for their last name), sea stars, and sea netting.

Her one request for the wreath was a {Hidden Mickey}, which I incorporated into the K.

I painted the K blue, but it was too harsh for the rustic sea look I was going for.  Luckily, a coat of white paint, then wiped off did the trick to done down the blue.

I used a Q tip to paint on a Mickey, but then one of my furry helpers decided to aggressively smell the paint and smeared it.  (She's fine, she just made a mess.)

So I wiped off the Mickey, hoping to try again, but was left with the mouse outline:


It reminded me of the smudged Simba outline from The Lion King, so it all works out:


 
Here's the final product:



I spent a good hour fighting with the netting, but the third time is the charm.  As a side note, wrapping it doesn't work.  I wove in the sea stars with twine, but used extra netting to secure the sign.  

The entire project took about three hours, but I was also watching Ink Master, so I wasn't entirely focused the whole time.  The pup tried to eat glue, I got paint on the counter, one of the cats sniffed paint and made a mess, plus I couldn't find all of the necessary materials so there were some definite hiccups.  

Fortunately, I like the final product.  Erin and her hubby love it.

Look how great it is on their front door:



Up next? My brother and his lady are moving to a new apartment and I think they need a wreath too...

(They do.  She told me. My brother has no say in the matter.)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Cutting my summer short...


July marks the half-way point for summer break.  Due to {calendar changes}, we've got a 9 week summer.  That's a bummer.

Granted, I've spent a week with family in Arizona and am looking forward to a two week honeymoon. I've completed one book and am half way through two others.  I've had craft time, seen friends, enjoyed movie marathons, and napped without guilt.  I've went into school to help with open library and cleaning tasks.

I've had a good summer break so far and will continue to enjoy my well deserved time off.

  
(For all the squawking about summer break, I worked an average of three unpaid hours a day during the school year.  I'm also paid for nine months of work that's dispersed over a full year.  The government keeps 25% of my paycheck each month, then gives it to me months after it's been earned.  I also don't earn vacation time. I get one universal flex day and between 1 and 4 personal days depending on how much sick time I use the year before.  Next year, because I took 3 sick days, I get 2 personal days.  That's three days off for the entire school year before it impacts next year's personal days.  I'm also doing work over summer break, so it's not unstructured time-off. I'm dismounting from my soap box now.)

Students start the 2017-2018 school year on Monday, August 14th.  Teachers are required to report back on the 9th.  I however, am choosing to cut my summer short and return the 3rd.  Here's why:

1) I've got a brand new classroom to set up.  The teacher who left my new room wasn't moving out in a timely manner.  I have bookcases to move, boxes to unpack, a library to reorganize, and bulletin boards to hang.  This all takes time and the one day we're guaranteed in our classrooms to work simply won't cut it.

2) I've got a new curriculum to learn.  Moving from fifth to third hopefully won't be the drastic change I'm envisioning, but it's still a change.

3)  I don't do well with stress.  I've got a friend getting married early September and she wants help assembling wedding favors on Saturday, August 12th.  She was one of my bridesmaids.  How awful would I feel if I blew off returning the favor and helping her with her wedding because I procrastinated setting up my classroom?   I'd rather leave the weekend before school starts open for fun things, not being in my classroom.

4) I live ten minutes from where I work.  The air conditioning is only on from 7:30 until 12:00 each day.  I can use that week to transition back into the routine of school (and being dressed by 7 am each day).   I can go in, work for a few hours, blast music, slowly tackle items on my to-do list, not wait in line for the copier, and still have a bulk of my day left.  Chances are I'll do lunch with co-workers, making the day more exciting.  Spending a week slowly transitioning back to teaching sounds a lot better than a drastic and abrupt end to summer break.




Calendar Changes



Next year, our school district will be undergoing some major calendar changes.  Overall, I think it makes sense, which is a rare move on CCSD's behalf.

The Pros 

1. We will be done before Memorial Day.  In recent years, we've had a three day weekend for the holiday (obviously), then had the students return for a day and a half.  While we made it work, it's a tad silly.  Everything will be finalized, stamped, and sealed before the holiday weekend.



2.  The first semester will actually end at Winter Break.  Again, a wise choice.  In the past, the first semester went in through January, with the idea that students could study over the holiday break (or make up missing work).  In elementary school, this isn't really a big deal.  However, it was quite frustrating for middle and high school teachers (and students).  First semester trickling over into January wasn't the best idea. It also meant teachers got the joys of feeling pressure to grade make up work, essays, etc.  With everything wrapped up nicely before the two weeks off, it makes all involved players just a tad happier.  Plus, it's a fresh start (with fresh courses for some) in the new year.



3. Thanksgiving Break.  To be fair, we enjoyed a week off at Thanksgiving last year too and I'm glad they kept this in our new calendar schedule.  


For 28 weeks of the year, teachers report 64 minutes early on a chosen day.  We voted to keep our Wednesday morning start time at 7:22 (instead of 8:26).  Other schools have this contract time after school, or split it into two periods, but each school got the flexibility to decide when this SBCT (site based collaboration time) would occur.  

We used our time for professional development with Close Reads, Read by 3 materials, behavior interventions, training on students in trauma, planning for APTT (Academic  Parent Teacher Team meetings), and professional book studies.  (Most of these PD opportunities I assisted in planning and executing, so I was rather pleased to find that a vast majority of the time was spent in a useful manner and well received by most of the staff.)   

These extra 64 minutes, 28 times a year, add up to four contracted days for teachers.  Three of them are used to extend Thanksgiving Break to a full week (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are now off).  The fourth day is either used for Election Day (let's not mess up the next election everyone) or for Easter Monday.  This upcoming year we will be having Easter Monday, which means Spring Break gets an extra day off.  

4.  President's Day Weekend.

I don't know what scheduling gurus snuck this gem into the calendar, but I'll take it!  We have school through Valentine's Day (which is a Wednesday this upcoming year), but have off Thursday and Friday.  That's in addition to Monday being off for President's Day.




So basically we'll provide copious amounts of sugar in the form of red and pink frosting, then send the kiddos to their families for a five day weekend.  Sounds good to me!


The Cons 

1. School starts earlier.  Students start Monday, August 14th.  Teachers have a mandatory reporting date of the 9th, but schools open on the 1st.  I plan to go back in the 3rd because with a new curriculum to learn and a room to set up, I'll need extra time.  The decision to go back early is more fully explained {here}.  

Temperatures are still uncomfortably warm and some schools may not have adequate air conditioning.  Or the AC won't make it through the day.  Or we'll have heat advisories on the black top and host indoor recess.  None of these situations are exceptionally fun for students or teachers.

2. We have off Friday, October 27th for Nevada Day.  But Halloween falling on a Tuesday practically guarantees a partial week of the following scenarios:

a) Students who have consumed way too much candy and are experiencing sugar crashes.

b) Students who are extremely tired from staying out too late on a school night and try to fall asleep in class.

c) Students who sneak candy into class.  While this is a tad irritating, it's also potentially dangerous for students with peanut allergies.

3. We've got a short summer.  Last year, we started August 29th and enjoyed a 12 week summer.  School ended June 8th.  We go back in the middle of August this upcoming year, leaving a 9 week summer.  That's a little rough.



Additional Changes

 I don't know if it's for all of CCSD or just my school site, but we've moved parent-teacher conferences from December to October.  The rationale behind this move is that in October, there's still time for students to catch up during the first semester.  Interventions can occur.  There is some teacher squawking about this being "too early", but honestly, it's seven weeks into the school year.  By seven weeks in, all initial benchmarks should be completed (for students who start on the first day) and teachers should have a pretty good grasp of what students are struggling with.   

December conferences were a little trickier.  By four months in, the honeymoon period is over and teachers are blessed with seeing the full range of these lively personalities.  We know our students pretty well.

Parents and families struggled to get time off, meaning I was super flexible with time and stayed long past my contract time.  My rationale was that if parents had the opportunity to take time off from work, they should spend it with their families during the holidays...not sitting in my classroom for a thirty minute meeting.  I am also fully aware this cut into my own family time, but I have an incredibly supportive husband who made dinner each night I worked late. Granted, smaller class sizes in third grade will mean I'll have a dozen less conferences to hold.  Plus, by December, for the most part, first semester grades are set.  There's not a lot of magical work that can be done in two weeks to make up for the first four months of the school year. 

While I'm not thrilled I have about a month of summer break left, I am excited about the upcoming school year.