Sunday, June 18, 2017

Week 1

I'm officially a week into 

And man oh man, have I been productive (at least in my mind).

In the past week, I've:

1) Attended a {training} with mixed feedback and feelings.  Mrs. O, a kinder teacher at my school loves WBT and offered to let me come observe some lessons. I told her I'd be taking her up on her offer because I don't want to completely write off the entire philosophy based on a less than ideal training.  Plus if she's passionate about it, I want to see that passion and joy in action.

2) Took this one to the vet:

She's pretty much perfect.

3) Read this book:

4) Reflected on {previously mentioned book} and created a teacher Instagram account to build a sense of community.

5) Renewed my teaching license, got finger printed for a background check (again), and got a new badge with my married last name:

6) Attended a beautiful baby shower for a friend.

7) Caught up (ish) on blogging.  With help.  Always with help.

8) Finished a {TpT product} for a dissatisfied customer.  Hopefully the modifications I made will make him happy.  I also uploaded the product into my Lightning Thief {bundle} for free.

9) I continued to work on a morning message board, which I {previously shared}.  My goal is to finish a CCSD version (because that's what I'll use) and a generic version by Monday.  One of my teacher friends has agreed to peer edit and return it to me by next Thursday, so that should be up shortly.  

Sneak peek:

10) Helped a friend celebrate her birthday (by having beer and pretzels). 

Looking ahead to week 2:

1) Lunch date with Mrs. K and Ms. H (as a reward for being done with the previously mentioned product)

2) Teeth cleaning (thanks mama)

3) Celebrating L's birthday with family

4) Seeing family

5) Making significant progress in The Dark Prophecy (if not done completely)

6) Finish cleaning out pictures from my phone (to make space for honeymoon pictures)

7) Make vet appointments for the kitties  

8) Finally see Wonder Woman

But first, a nap!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Play Like a Pirate (book review)

I was introduced to Play Like a Pirate by the author at ASCD in March, bought the book on site, finished it within a week, loaned it out to friends, implemented new ideas, and promptly forgot about actually finishing/publishing this blog post.  Oops!  

We'll blame it on teacher brain...

At ASCD, the title of the presentation immediately caught my eye:

And by far, it was one of the best sessions I attended.  Immediately my wish list for graphic novels grew and I started a donors choose project shortly after.

After this magical 1 hour session ended (and my frantic tweeting paid off because I won a free Teach Like a Pirate shirt), I wandered down to meet Quinn and Dave (Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate). 

We chatted, I followed them on twitter, and I won't lie, I had some fan-girl moments when they retweeted or replied to me. 

Since then, I've shared lots of ideas with fellow teachers.  I wasn't necessarily asked, I just couldn't contain my excitement about the ideas and how I wanted to implement them in my classroom.  I was really eager to share my plans to make teaching fun again (what a novel concept!).

I'm not really sorry about my over-zealous attitude toward the awesomeness that happened in my classroom (or that's going to happen next year).  In all honesty, I'd rather be surrounded by equally passionate weirdos who are innovative, creative, and honest.  Those are my people.  That is my tribe.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ending with a Bang!

With the end of the school year fast approaching, I thought I'd take a minute to highlight some of our school's end of the year traditions.

**Full Confession: This took me almost a month to write due to the incredibly long days associated with the end of the year.**

  To help families out, I sent home a "cheat sheet" of different events happening the last month of the school year:

As the year approached and I struggled to finish all their testing, I sent home a second calendar:


We unintentionally caused a bit of (unnecessary) drama this year.  Traditionally, the teachers vs. fifth grade students kickball game happens after Memorial Day.  However, it's absurdly hot on the face of the sun (meaning Las Vegas).  We had a few days in early May where the weather was in the mid 80s, so we asked to move the game up.  We checked with fourth grade (since they were doing SBAC testing), but a few veteran teachers got incredibly upset about the change in routine.   The teachers won on one field, the students won on the other, but overall the teachers won.  There was quite a bit of cheating from the students, which was disappointing.  Some of the more gifted athletes were cutting and not letting all their classmates play, which isn't okay.  We want all the fifth graders to have fun, not just the athletes.

Ms. S and I manned the outfield.  She's a much better athlete but I tried!

A-Z Count Down

We celebrate the last 26 days of the school year with a different spirit day.  Some are more successful than others, but it's nice when the whole school is having fun.  Granted, there were teachers that completely changed each spirit day to match what they wanted instead of being team players, but that's always going to happen (unfortunately).  Don't be that teacher.

A day: Art day.  We spent a good 40 minutes making mother's day and father's day cards.  I planned for twenty, but oh well.  We also had a life chat about everyone's families being different and truly just making a card for someone that you care about.

B day: Beach day.  I forgot a towel.  It was hot.  We read inside on the floor.

C day: Crazy hair day.

Yup, I've got bedhead down!

D day: Disney day. I was out for a training so I didn't participate.  We did have a nice discussion that technically, Marvel is owned by Disney, so yes, Iron Man is a Disney character.  What a pretty princess he'd be!

E day:  Exercise day coincided with the previously mentioned kickball game.

F day: Fruit day.  With three dozen kiddos, I don't bring in food to share on a regular basis.  We had a discussion about allergies because I had students allergic to cherries and pineapple.  Some brought in fruit and shared with their friends, but not the whole class.  I was fine with it.

I also snuck in a mini-math lesson on frequency tables.  I had them talk about their favorite fruits, called on volunteers to share, created this table, and they didn't even realize they were doing math.

I also had them create their own survey and practice polling one another.  It was a great, authentic math lesson with a much needed wiggle break.  

G day: To celebrate geography day, we continued learning about the fifty states and capitals. 

H day: Hat day.  There is one hat that is superior to all other hats.  This is that hat:

I sorted the kiddos as they entered the classroom.  I am not the owner of the hat, so I had to return it to Mr. S.  Sad day.

I day: Inside out day.  While I forgot and wore my clothes normally, I did post these characters from the movie:

We used it as an opportunity to talk about the many feelings in the classroom about the end of the year.  I wanted to be respectful of the fact that some students couldn't wait to be middle schoolers while others were absolutely terrified of growing up.  All emotions are welcome and we talked about appropriate coping strategies for dealing with larger than life feelings.

J day: Joke day.  We shared during breakfast time (and a little into our math lesson).

K day: Kickback day is code for yoga pants. It is glorious. I also had a planning day on this day, so I got to kick back in the conference room and write some long range plans for next year.

L day: Lollipop day. I didn't get the best feedback from the sub, so I didn't provide any suckers for the day.  If they brought their own, they could enjoy them during reading time.

M day: Mismatch day.  Yup, I rocked this day.  

Very few others participated and I felt a little awkward. 

N day: The only thing close to neon is the leggings I wore the day before. I don't look good in highlighter yellow.  Very few do. 

O day: Ocean/octopus day.  We watched a few videos on sharks.

Then they had lots of questions.  Luckily, I am a honorary shark expert and we had a good talk about conservation.

P day: Pajama day.  Once again, there is something glorious about wearing pajamas to work.

Q day: Quiet day.  This one was a struggle for them.  One sweet kiddo brought a white board and communicated that way all day.

R day: Red day. I was unintentionally rebellious and wore a blue dress.  Oops!  

S day: Stuffed toy day.  I showed them a picture of my pup who absolutely loves her stuffed unicorns.  She brings them to bed with her.

T day: Twin day.  I think I matched another teacher (?).

U day: Uniform day happened to coincide with grades being due and me helping to host a retirement party after work.  It was a fourteen hour day and I wasn't pleased.

On the bright side, I did wear my new jersey.  We got matching ones for the wedding with our new matching last names.

V day: Video day.  We forgot. We watched some on W day.

W day: Watermelon day.  Not a favorite of mine because I don't like watermelon.  Perhaps I'll be rebellious and next year will be water day.  Some students brought some (pre-cut) watermelon in and shared with classmates.

X day: X-change autographs.  We took the fifth graders to the center courtyard and gave them 40 minutes to sign one another's year books.

Y day: Year-end cleaning day.  We finished up the final touches on classroom breakdown (at least the part they could help me with).  Since I'm moving to third grade, I had to give up my classroom and move to a smaller one.  Ms. A, another fifth grade teacher, moved into my room and we coordinated the move pretty well.  The room I moved into wasn't as easy.  That teacher was having a difficult time moving out and leaving the school, so I had to work around his mess and piles.  Luckily my principal was understanding and didn't let him slow down the rest of us in terms of checking out for the summer.

Z day: zero days left.  We went to the pool across the street, had a BBQ, read a book, cried, and said our goodbyes.  From there, we had our staff party (with a shaved ice truck) and I spent hours cleaning in my classroom.

After the students leave, we have one contracted day to clean up and check out.

Between the garage, the storage shelves, and my new classroom, all my stuff was out by 11 am.  Room 71, it's been swell.  Onward and upward! 

Panoramic Picture

Due to scheduling with the photographer, this glorious stressful activity happened on our prep.  Having 185 fifth graders, lined up by height, all facing the camera at the same time is pretty much a Herculean task.

The pictures help pay for the end of the year ceremony set up and the pool party, so we encourage students to buy them.

The Sorting (something new!)

Several teachers had the opportunity in April to attend the {Ron Clark Academy} in Atlanta, Georgia. While I was not one of them, I fully support our school's decision to embrace this structural model and implement it.  I found {this blog post} to be helpful when wrapping my brain about the Ron Clark Experience.

The school will consist of four houses with teachers and students being evenly sorted (ish).  We sorted the fourth graders since they'll be next year's leaders.  We also sorted the teachers in front of everyone.  We had our say in picking from the four houses:

Isibindi: House of Courage
Reveur: House of Dreamers
Amistad: House of Friendship
Altriusmo: House of Givers  

Granted, this house model is based on Hogwart's 4 houses (which might be why it resonated with me).  I am happy to announce that I was sorted into Reveur, house of dreamers.  As an added bonus, I happen to like this shade of blue and will happily adopt more of it into my wardrobe.  

Mrs. H and I are proud to be dreamers!

(On a possibly unrelated note, this house most closely aligns with Ravenclaw, so there's that added bonus.) 


Harney MS Rehearsal & Ceremony

To include as many families as possible, fifth grade does the moving up promotion ceremony at 5 pm at the neighboring middle school.  It's nice to symbolically move the kiddos up into sixth grade (and into the school a vast majority of them will be attending).  We have a guest speaker, specialists give awards, classroom awards (A honor roll, A/B honor roll, perfect attendance, citizenship (all E's on learner behavior) and soaring eagle for students who consistently go above and beyond), and each student receives a certificate of promotion for sixth grade.

The last full day of the school year, we head over to practice in the afternoon.  The kids don't know what awards they're receiving, but they practice sitting (in alphabetical order), walking, and the dreaded hand shake while receiving their certificate.  We work out the kinks of the slide show (which students made this year) and the order of the events.

 Families come back in the evening and I usually cry.  With sweet kiddos like this, how could I not?!

Pool Party & BBQ

One of the things I'll miss most about fifth grade is spending the last day of the school year across the street at the pool.  Students were on a demerit system and all but 3 of mine earned the right to go to the pool.  Two hours of the lazy river, the slides, and lounging about in the water, splashing my sweet kiddos is the perfect way to spend the morning.

Once we're out of the water, we head back across the street to the BBQ the parents have set up.   This year we were running a bit behind schedule, so there was just enough time to eat, go read Oh the Places You'll Go, make the chaperones cry (and I cried, a lot), then do final class selfies and hugs.

At 12:45, my kiddos were officially sixth graders and on their way out to summer.

Teacher Celebrations 

An hour after the students left, the teachers gathered in the cafeteria for our end of the year/retirement celebration.

I helped plan and host this event, but it was fairly low key in terms of our parties.  We said goodbye to Mrs. L, our PE teacher who helped open the school, and a few other teachers.  Some I will miss more than others.

I'm deeply saddened that one of my mentees, Ms. S, is transferring.  We couldn't guarantee her a teaching spot (it depended on other teachers getting jobs elsewhere), so she interviewed at a nearby school and was hired on the spot (because she's awesome).  I'm thrilled for her, but did share with her that I was a bit of a "pout pout fish" about the situation.

Ms. S, you'll be deeply missed but this isn't goodbye!

And now, cheers to summer break!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

One and Done!

As {previously mentioned}, I've got some professional reading to tackle this summer.

This afternoon, I sat down with  Your School Rocks...So Tell People! with the intention of tackling a few chapters.

 Two hours later, in one sitting, I was done.  

It was a good, quick read that reaffirmed a lot of what I am already trying in the classroom.

My take-aways?

1) Continue to use class dojo to communicate with families about all the awesomeness that's happening in the classroom.

2) They aren't reading the paper newsletter.  Find a different (digital) way to communicate.  I like the idea of weekly podcasts.  I like the idea of them being limited to 2-3 minutes even more.  I'm hoping to figure out how to link them to Instagram instead of posting to Youtube.

3) Respect FERPA. Get permission before posting face pictures and don't use last names.  When in doubt, take artsy, behind the head shots.  It's hard to identify backs of heads & hands.
4) Create a classroom/teacher Instagram account.  I've got a personal one that I use and I'm already snapping pictures of class events for dojo, so why not?  In addition to this book being in favor of using social media, dozens of other respected educational articles back up this idea.

I didn't check with administration first, but created one that's totally separate from my personal account.  I shared a message on class dojo with last year's class and explained that families are welcome to follow me, but I won't follow back (thus ensuring their privacy).

One of the big "a ha" moments while reading was how often teens are on social media, so why not use that as a positive force.  One chapter focused on teachers/schools that were sending daily positive affirmations to help students start their days off right.  I have a teacher friend in Texas who has been doing this for years within the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) with massive success.  Why couldn't the same ideas be applied to the classroom?

I'm eager to see how this evolves, but I've got my branding hashtags ready (classroom specific, school specific, and the 50s pod specific). 

I stumbled upon this:

Which I plan to use.  I want the account to feel like a classroom account, so I will be sending students out with the iPads to take pictures.  I'll have them send to me and then I'll post from there. I also like the idea of them writing the captions and mini-blog posts.  Students tend to put forth a lot more effort when they have an authentic audience (meaning not just me the teacher). 

I've got two followers so far, one parent from last year and one teacher friend's professional account.  She used twitter last year and was my inspiration for the project (and who recommended the book to me), so it's nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of in the realm of technology.  Thanks Mrs. K!

Monday, June 12, 2017


As I previously shared, I am attending the Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) conference here in Las Vegas this week.

Today was day one and unfortunately, I left supremely disappointed.

First, I don't disagree in any way with the ideas behind WBT.  Activating different aspects of the brain to create long term recall is splendid.  

Incorporating movement? Fantastic, especially for my wiggly ones.  

A high energy classroom with a sense of urgency for learning? Absolutely. Embedding lessons on character that go beyond "be kind"? Yes, a thousand times yes.  My job is to help mold little humans to make the world a better place.

An emphasis on these simple rules? Sounds good!

 (Especially number 5!)

However, I unfortunately left with several major issues.  

1) Time management.  The presenter spent hours going through the different variations of teacher/student points.  I zoned out on level six.  He went through at least level 16.  

It's not that complicated.  Go over the ideas, give us a list of variations, and move on.  Again, hours.

2)  The idea of unknown rewards within WBT doesn't mesh well with me.  The uncertainty of unpredictable outcomes is quite enticing to the human brain (hence, gambling) but kids who have suffered traumatic events react quite differently to the unpredictable outcomes, often shutting down.  This isn't an environment I want to create in my classroom.

3) The nearly constant interruptions.  In fifth grade (and I'm assuming third), most of my students have longer than a 60 second attention span. I get the idea of introducing one new idea at a time for younger grades, but I feel like upper elementary can handle two steps at once.

4) The overemphasis on games as a classroom management strategy.  I was left wondering when the teaching actually occurs.  

5) The location.  The long drive didn't help and our seating options (for eight hours) were metal folding chairs or gym bleachers.  Neither was particularly desirable.

6) The tone of the presenters.  The high energy was overwhelming and I felt bombarded with directions all day.  I was told this teaching method takes some getting used to, but I felt like I was being treated as a child (and not a professional).  I'm not an auditory learner, so being talked to all day at such a fast pace was overwhelming and I wanted to shut down.  There wasn't time to ask questions, which was irksome.

We will be getting a PDF of the material that I will digest in smaller chunks. I'm willing to give parts of it a try, but I won't be returning for the remaining two days of training.  I've never really quit a conference before, but my summer time is valuable and I don't want to spend it feeling that frustrated.   

However, I did leave with some take-aways. 

1) I liked the emphasis on character education as a continuous, embedded aspect of teaching.  Those simple things of making eye contact when someone is speaking, saying good morning/afternoon, please, and thank you aren't always taught or expected.  I'd like to focus on that next year.

2) Call & Response formats and catchy sayings (high five-switch, mirrors, etc).  We are adopting the Ron Clark model for next year and I'd like to continue to look for ways to incorporate joy into the classroom.

 3) More continuous review throughout the lesson. 


Summer Goals

Summer 2017 Plans:

Professional Growth and Responsibilities

1. Attend a 3 day Whole Brain Teaching conference (6/12-6/14)
This, unfortunately, became a one day adventure.  Read more {here}.

2.  Renew my teaching license (done 6/14, along with a name change with the state DOE and HR for CCSD)

3. Set up my new classroom early.  We report back the 9th, but I'm picking up my keys on August 3rd.  With a new classroom and a new grade level, I'm treating myself like a new teacher next year. 

4. Clean out the Sunshine (social club) closet.  We're going to use left over funds to purchase some table cloths for future events (so we don't have to keep buying disposable plastic ones).  We also have the goal of buying a Keriug and setting up a cafe table in the teacher's lounge.  We'd have creamer in the fridge and charge a dollar a K-cup.  I'd like to do a teacher survey first to make sure there's an interest in it before we spend a few hundred dollars on a whim.

5. Finish Your School Rocks So Tell People (completed 6/13/17), Teach Like a Pirate, and Ron Clark's Essential 55

Home Improvements

1. Finally stain the cabinets for the master bathroom.  We ripped out the medicine cabinets and had a carpenter build custom shelving to fit inside the wall holes.  I just need to stain them to match the rest of the cabinets:

When we're done, it will look like this (above).  I've already stained the rest of the bathroom cabinets (below).

They've been sitting in the garage for months waiting for me to find the time to stain them.  My goal is by the time we leave for our honeymoon in July. 

2. Clean out our master closet and donate unused items to charity.

3. Create a new wreath for the front door.  A friend posted this on instagram:

 PC: Andi Hunt (Instagram)

It'd be fairly easy (and cheap) to recreate.  Plus our front doors are similar colors, so I already know it will be match.

4. Touch up paint in our master bedroom and hallway.  After living here for three years, there are some scuff marks.

Friends & Family  

1. Host B's graduation party (check! 6/10/17)

2. Take all 3 pets to the vet for their yearly check ups (Waffles is scheduled for this week, cats are early July)

3. Help plan a baby shower for his second cousin.  She's due early October, so we're thinking Labor Day weekend.  They're fairly certain it's a girl and I'm pretty positive I've only planned baby boy showers (three of them?).

4. Help Katie make her wedding favors. She's getting married the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and I'm her day of wedding coordinator.  

5. Finish my mom's wedding book (it's almost done I promise!) and order our wedding pictures to put into the album.

Side Job Goals

1. Finish the Dark Prophecy and create the matching TpT guides

2.  Finish the partially completed projects for TpT.  I'm currently at 216 products.  I'd like to be at 250 at the end of the summer. 

I also plan to nap, a lot.