Tuesday, November 21, 2017

eleven


 eleven: My husband

A  year in, that still feels weird to say.  

He makes every day better.  He's not perfect, but neither am I.  He's my favorite person to tackle all of life's adventures with, whether it's navigating the grocery store right before a holiday, tackling home improvement projects, or frantically finishing a show on Netflix before it goes off line, I'm grateful for my rock.



He helps me laugh at things and not take everything so seriously.  He's truly the opposite of me in so many important (balancing) ways, but at the end of the day, we agree on what matters.

He doesn't complete me.  I am complete as a person.  Instead, he compliments me and challenges me to be the best version of myself. He comforts me when I need it,  encourages me always, and lets me know (politely) when he thinks I'm wrong (on the rare occasion it happens).

I'm thankful for a friend's birthday party that brought us together.  I'm thankful for the relationship we've built together over the past (almost) five years.  I'm thankful we got through the first year of marriage! I'm thankful that the adventure continues and the best is yet to come.

ten

ten: my pets (and by default, adoption rescues)

After I earned my masters degree, I adopted my two cats (Chloe and Crookshanks).  I went in for one (Chloe) after seeing her picture on adoption websites, but after seeing her curled up with her sister, I couldn't leave one behind.

So, I adopted both.  This is my greatest buy one, get one for half price deal ever.  (It was $150 for one or $200 for both to cover vet bills, fostering, vaccines, and a donation to the no kill animal shelter.)

(I adopted the cats from Happy Home Animal Sanctuary, one of the Petsmart charity shelters.)

Flash forward several years and I found myself purchasing a home with my (now) husband.  Now that we had a yard, we wanted to expand our family by four paws.  We were looking at one puppy in California, but couldn't justify the drive when there were so many adoptable pets here.  We decided to adopt over the summer so I could be home to supervise the cats and puppy interactions as well as crate train.  

We looked online, found a baby girl mutt that we wanted to meet, and headed out to Petsmart one Saturday morning.  It was love at first sight and we left with our new pup (Waffles) that day.

While they cause me great headaches some days, I couldn't imagine life without my three fur babies.  I am thankful not only for the opportunity to own pets, but that adoption rescues were an option. #adoptdon'tshop



nine

 nine: cardigans.  

It might seem silly, but I am super grateful for cardigans.  They turn any top into teacher appropriate attire and add an extra layer of coziness.  I can toss one over a plain shirt and jeans, but look instantly dressed up...or at least, dressier.



I don't like full coats (which is good because I live in a warm climate where they aren't necessary), but cardigans are just enough coverage for my arms on chilly mornings.  

Target's Merona brand is my favorite, but since there are retirement rumors (say it isn't so!), I've got to find a new inexpensive brand to love.  Lularoe has a long cardigan with pockets, but I refuse to pay full price ($70) for one. I've snagged a long gray one, but for half off (because that's more budget friendly).  

However, I can't just buy Lularoe, so any suggestions blogging world?

eight

eight: grade level teams

In teaching, there is simply never enough time to accomplish everything.  This is the sad, unfortunate reality.  However, grade level teams can make things better and for them, I am thankful.

This year, my work wife Ms. H and I are planning reading for the grade level.  Not everyone uses our plans or copies, but that's okay.  Two other teachers plan/copy math while 2 more tackle writing.  It's nice to share the work load and bounce ideas off one another.

I'm also thankful that my work wife understands that unfortunately, sometimes this planning needs to happen outside of contract hours.  Tomorrow, on the day before Thanksgiving, we have a lunch date at Panera to crank out the next few weeks worth of reading plans. 

Beyond having other people to plan with and share the copying fun, it's nice to have a team where we can share ideas and strategies.  We are within a few days of each other in terms of plans, so it's nice to be able to give one another a heads up about what math lessons the kids struggle with or share strategies that really seemed to click for students.

As an added bonus, 4 of the 7 third grade teachers are in my pod, which means help is literally right next door.  I am thankful for grade level teams.

seven

seven: raspberry green tea lemonades

I'm trying to reduce my soda addiction and drink more water.  However, I fully admit I have a weakness for Starbucks' raspberry green tea lemonades.



I discovered this gem by accident when the barista told me they were out of peach flavoring, thus rendering my staple peach green tea lemonade impossible.  Not just out for the day, but that Starbucks had stopped carrying peach syrup.  (I since learned that this is not true, thank goodness!)  He offered to swap in raspberry flavoring and ya know what, it was even better than my go to PGTL. 

This by no means can be an every day indulgence, but when I do find myself with a Starbucks gift card, this is my new favorite drink.  (Unless it's December, in which case, I'm a sucker for peppermint hot chocolate!)



six

six: Rick Riordan

 While no author will ever replace J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan is coming in at a close second.  Not only have his books been on the NY Times Best Seller List for the past nine years (yes, years), they are highly engaging for my students.  As an adult, I find humor in his writing style and despite not being the target demographic, still enjoy the stories.



He tends to publish two books a year (May and October), so I'm savoring this one:



It will be a few months before I can get my hands on the next one. 



Saturday, November 18, 2017

eighteen


Eighteen: Lofthouse Cookies



Before you laugh, let me explain:

Yes, they are delicious.  Yes, I could eat several in one sitting (but don't).  Yes, they have different colored frosting depending on the season. Yes, I think the pink ones are the best.

I'm thankful for them because they are made in a nut and peanut free factory.



As a teacher, this phrase means that I can safely pass them out to my students at class parties without fear.  Not all my students with nut allergies have an epi-pen (or similar medication) at school.  This is one of the safe foods that I know I can buy at the grocery store and pass out to my students without fear of a nut/peanut allergy situation.

(None of my students have reported gluten allergies.)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

five



Thankful November post five: craft time

When I'm not teaching, grading, lesson planning, or any of the other tasks that accompany the whole teacher role, I like to spend my time crafting.

I'm grateful that I have this creative outlet. I'm also grateful that I have friends who want me to craft for them.  Not only do I get to make others happy, I get to craft for free (because they cover the cost of materials).

Here's my latest creation:



It's for my assistant principal.

I started with the plain layer, then wove in solid red and chevron.  The flowers came next and the double layer bow was last.

I've had a few other coworkers approach me about making them wreaths as well.  I'll happily craft them, with enough notice.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

four

Four: Chewy.com

While it might seem silly, I am super grateful for Chewy.com.  One of my cats has stage one kidney failure.  She's been in stage one for a year and a half.  Her numbers are stable, thanks in a large part to the prescription vet food diet.

Our vet is only a few miles away, but it's easier to just order her pet food online.  It's slightly cheaper, comes right to my door, and if I spend over $49, my order ships for free.



Plus they have a clearance section, so I'm able to order a few treats for the pup at half-off.

Chewy boxes being delivered are quite the exciting event in our house! 






As a side note, she is thoroughly enjoying her bone this morning!  Thank you Chewy for your prompt deliveries, sale prices, and that I didn't have to change from pajamas to purchase cat food.  Winning all around!




three



Thankful November Three: Professional Development


Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to attend some amazing professional development courses.  

In late October, I signed up for an all-day Saturday conference.  To be honest, my primary motivators were:

1) It was close.  It's hard to say no to something that is literally five minutes from your doorstep.

2) My husband was out golfing anyway.

3) It was paid.  I have very few opportunities within the school district to make extra money.  With the holidays coming and a growing desire to redo our master bathroom floors, I'll take almost any opportunity I can get.

4) It was on a topic I found appealing: bringing joy and the arts into the classroom.  

5) Several of my colleagues were going, so I knew other people.  (Yes, not being in a room with strangers is a concern.)


The timing wasn't the best because the night before was my school's carnival and haunted house. I was definitely tired, but caffeine helps (as does the five minute drive).

Our keynote speaker was engaging and we got a copy of his book:



I'm super appreciative of free things.  I also am really enjoying reading it (which isn't always the case with some teacher books).  It has a lot of space to reflect upon my own teaching and is meant to be read at a slow pace (1-2 chapters per week) over the course of a school year (or season as the author calls them).  The focus is on finding joys and empowering others to do the same (or at least that's the focus of the first few chapters).

After the keynote, we had 4 sessions and a wide range of topics to pick from.  I enjoy PD sessions that offer this choice and freedom.

The first session I went to focused on math fact fluency and how to take the pressure of off kids when working on the memorization of math facts.  I was also super excited to see a former colleague and friend as one of the instructors.  

We snagged this freebie:



Which is full of all sorts of math games.  I haven't started using it yet but will!  (I just haven't found the time to start making the card stock copies or gathering the supplies.)

I was fortunate enough to get into the highly coveted reading one before lunch, but it was a bit of a let down only because there was no new information.  All of the strategies that were discussed I'd previously learned in other professional development courses and was already using in my classroom.  I did snag a free book out of the training.

After a lunch break, I joined some fellow teachers from my school to attend a counseling-based session that focused on helping kids cope with anxiety.  The instructor modeled some interesting lessons and we walked away with another freebie.

The fourth session was by far my least favorite.

Overall, it was a successful day, I was home by 4 pm, learned some new strategies, received several new books, and was paid for attending.

These are the types of professional developments that I appreciate.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

two






Thankful November two: Student Teachers

This year I have the privilege of having student teachers from BYU Idaho.  It's my first time having student teachers and it's definitely been a learning moment.  For me, I'm learning how to give constructive feedback in smaller, bite-sized chunks.  I'm working on letting go of control in my classroom to step back and let someone else take the lead.

It's beyond exciting to see how much they've grown. I get to bask in their enthusiasm, try new things, and watch them flourish.  My students have the opportunity to provide feedback to their teachers and are benefiting from two adults in the room.

I am so thankful for this opportunity to work with new teachers and to challenge myself as an educator. 

 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

one.






Thankful November post one: my students' parents

I operate with the mindset that every parent truly means well and wants what is best for the kiddo.  While the parent group may be frustrating at times, when I step back and remind myself that I am with their precious baby for seven hours a day, it's a little easier to deal with when I re-frame my mindset to one that emphasizes they are doing what they think is best (instead of thinking they are doing X, Y, and Z on purpose to irritate me).  

Last Thursday, we threw a surprise party for our student teacher.  It was her last day in our (general education) classroom before she transitioned to student teaching in the resource (special education) setting.  I must say, it's tricky to plan a surprise party when someone is with you all day long! I kept finding excuses to send her on quick errands so the kiddos and I could discuss the party in five minute increments. 

I sent home a letter to families explaining our advice book and asking for some donations to our surprise party.

I was blown away by the sheer amount of goodies we received.  I didn't have to buy a single snack supply (and for that, I'm grateful). 

My students wrote wonderful, heart-felt letters to our student teacher.  I glued them into a hard cover book.  Students took the time at the party to share their favorite lessons with her and what they'd learned from her.  There were a lot of tears all around and it was a bittersweet moment.  She's off to a great start in her teaching career.

Parents shared on class dojo how much they appreciated her and their own fond memories of student teachers in elementary school.   I was humbled by their generosity in gifting supplies for our party. 

We had quite the feast and yet, still had left overs.  We had a welcoming party for our new student teacher on Monday.  (She'd completed the first half of her student teaching in the autism room.)  We had even more donations come in for our fall celebration (because I have students who don't celebrate Halloween).

The kiddos had 3 bags of chips, 3 capri suns, cookies, and more yesterday.  I still have boxes of drinks and unopened snack bags of chips.  I guess we'll be having a reading picnic soon!





(Yes, I did also thank them on class dojo as well as in person.  I know many of them do not read this blog.)

Are you up for the challenge?






September and October have passed without any major hiccups.  As November sets in, the month ushers in parent teacher conferences, my 1 year anniversary, Thanksgiving, and a slew of days off.

It also sets up the thankful challenge, where participants (like myself) are tasked with focusing on one positive thing each day to be thankful for. 

It's easy to be cynical. It's easy to complain. It's easy to whine about the amount of work that goes into each parent teacher conference, how difficult it is to attend a 7:22 morning meeting the day after Halloween, or vent about how difficult the students can be the day after a major holiday.  That's the easy path, the one where you've marinated in grumpy feelings and are ready to share them with the world.

Let's focus on another choice: being positive.

Yes, being positive is a choice.  At times, it takes a lot of mental toughness and energy.  At other times, it feels damn near impossible but it is still a choice.  Being positive doesn't mean life is perfect (and often times, far from it).  Being positive and participating in this monthly challenge reflects the unconscious mindset that you attract the vibes you put out into the universe.  If you spend your time looking for all the things that go wrong and loudly, often, complaining about them, it will seem like everything is wrong.  The opposite is also true.  If you cultivate a mindset of being grateful and thankful, you might start to notice the small things and appreciate all that is going right in your life.

Will you join me in this Thankful November challenge? I'll be writing daily (even if I don't share them all) and really trying to limit my negative complaints.  For the next thirty days, my goal is a daily post about something or someone that I am truly grateful for.  Some posts will be heartfelt while others will be silly, but all are written with an appreciative heart.

Are you up for the challenge? 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Balance, Revisited

As a teacher, one of my biggest struggles is finding balance between my personal and professional life. 

I could easily work 12 hour days and still feel behind.  That, unfortunately, is the culture of education.  We are constantly asked to do so much with so little in return.  Every time I blink, it seems "one more thing" is added to our plates.  I don't hold admin at fault because they too are accountable to higher ups.  

But being a work-a-holic is not sustainable. It's not healthy. There's no medal in working twelve hour days all the time.  Fellow colleagues seem to enjoy bragging about their long hours, as if staying at work until the late evening is a badge of honor.   

News flash, it's not.

There are days when long hours are unavoidable.  They seem to exist around the beginning of the year (setting up classrooms is time consuming), parent/teacher conference time, report card time (writing comments takes a while when each one is three individualized paragraphs about specific strengths and weaknesses), carnival time, or end of the year (again, report card fun).  

In an attempt for balance, I start each day with a to do list.  I write out the items that absolutely must get accomplished that day and then leave space for additional tasks that are needed, but necessarily time sensitive.

At the end of the day, I remake the list for the next day so I can come in with a purpose.

I also keep my door shut from 7 until 8 am.  I prefer working in silence because it's when I'm most productive.  Our start time is 8:26, so I'll open my door around 8 if others want to come in to chat, problem solve, etc.  I try not to seek out others before school unless it's absolutely necessary because I know I easily get caught up in chit chat.  

I don't bring work home unless I absolutely have to and stop responding to parent messages after 5 pm.  I know all my students' parents mean well, but I don't appreciate frantic messages on class dojo after 7 pm wanting to discuss grading.  There are boundaries.  

(I have gotten middle of the night texts about family emergencies and hospital visits.  That I understand. I don't respond until I wake up, but it's good to have the heads up about things that are happening.)

My weekends are for me, family, and friends.  We've had some rather full weekends this year.  In the first seven weeks of the school year, we attended three different weddings.  B was in one of them as a groomsman.  Another weekend brought hosting out of state friends who were in town for a wedding (that we weren't invited to).  Weekends are for movie marathons, Netflix binging, lunches with friends, and dinner dates.

Without balance, individuals are at a much higher risk of burn-out.

What are you doing to promote balance this weekend?

 

 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Spooky Savings!






Pop on {over} for some spooky savings!  This sale will last about as long as my hidden stash of Reese's cups...

Disneyland isn't the greatest place on earth

It's rare to find a place of employment where you truly enjoy going day after day.

I've found that with my school site and for that, I am abundantly blessed.

Between work friends who understand the power of random surprise gifts of Starbucks (because there is no greater gift than caffeine) and a supportive environment, I couldn't ask for a better job.


Our school fully embraces holiday celebrations, extra recess for when the kids need brain breaks, and educating the whole child.  Yes, standards are important, but it's also understood that as teachers, we have an emotional and moral responsibility as well.  I care about test scores, but I care more about who my students become.

Between our potlucks, spirit days, and very active Sunshine committee, I feel blessed to be around such awesome teachers.

I'd also like to give a shout out to my friends and students' parents who helped make this possible:


We've got some floor cushions and other wiggle options en route!

Bummed you didn't get to donate to this project? You can always check out my most active projects {here} if you're in the giving mood!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Kindness Week

It's been a rough one in Vegas this past week.

However, it was also kindness week.

Here were some of our activities:

We made a kindness chain.  I modeled a sentence stem:



 
Gave them the time and space to discuss kindness:


Then hung it outside our door.



We took those same ideas to create leaves, which went on our school kindness tree:



(Our art teacher made this because she's amazing.)

We read:



We made:




They wrote compliments to one another to be bucket fillers:


I took home enough to make each kid a compliment from me:


We dedicated an entire bulletin board to our bucket filling:



It will stay up for about a month.

We watched this {Respect Rap} and made posters for Friday's respect march and pep assembly.

We all wore blue on Friday.  Not only did it symbolize our grief over the last weekend's events, it also serves as a stand up to bullies color and helped our school feel unified.  This was a district wide spirit day.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kindness Week and Healing

I'm not sure if it was solely for our school district or a national event, but we celebrated Kindness Week.  It was pre-planned, but coincided with our local tragedy last week.  There is a lot of frustration surrounding conspiracy theories (which don't help the healing process), but there has been an amazing outpouring of love and support from people all around the world.  I truly hope no other city has to experience the hysteria, grief, chaos, and raw emotions that follow a mass shooting, but until gun reforms and mental health reforms are in allowed to occur, I fear Vegas won't be the last.



Unrelated to our tragedy, a mile from my house three teenagers were killed walking down the street when a car was racing another, lost control, and hit them.  There is a growing memorial on the sidewalk and these were innocent children who were doing nothing wrong.  As a teacher, that eats me up inside. These weren't my students, but they were neighborhood kids who went to the middle school across the street from my elementary school.  It hit far too close to home.

However, like many, I was in a unique bind.  I was processing my own emotions, but needed to put on a brave and stabilizing face for my students.  All but one showed up on Monday.  We discussed the event, focusing on the healing efforts and the actions of the heroes (not the murderers).  I did not allow space or time for discussion on the terrorist or his actions.  That is glorifying the madman.  I reiterated that they were safe and loved.

 We made cards for first responders and victims:





They've been delivered to the local fire station, police headquarters, and UMC hospital.

Wednesday night, social media exploded with rumors of shootings that were set to occur on Thursday.  The school district released this statement:



A 18 year old was found to have been making the threats and was arrested.

I had three kids miss on Thursday. I reassured their parents that I understood and respected their concerns.

We keep our doors locked at all times now.  Granted, they are propped open and I have a magnet in the door so it doesn't fully shut, but can be quickly removed in if necessary.  Part of our back to school teacher training was on active shooter protocol.  I'd hope we never have to use it.  After this week, everything feels so personal and too close to home.

We gather as a school on Friday mornings to do the pledge, hear announcements, and sing the monthly song.  In honor of Nevada Day, October's song has always been "Home Means Nevada."  This week it took on a very different meaning.



Many of the teachers, myself included, choked back tears.

I'm glad it was kindness week.  Having several pre-planned activities that focused on spreading love was needed to survive this difficult week.