Thursday, June 29, 2017


As I've shared a few times, I'm in the middle of Teach Like a Pirate.  

I've been enjoying the book and all the teaching ideas that are flowing from the author's open-ended questions.

Between tidying the house, unpacking from my trip, and deep cleaning, I've been breaking up my house work with escaping into the book.

Yesterday, I headed to school for two main tasks.  

First, the Sunshine social club cabinet was in desperate need of tidying.  By tidying, I mean I took everything out, wiped down the shelves, organized by item, and trashed some particularly disgusting ancient table cloths and bowls.  It looks so much better now.

Second, we were doing open library.  Students are invited in for two hours to read and take AR quizzes.  There were several teachers there for a half-dozen kids, so I didn't feel bad about only being in the library for the entire time. 

One of my former students (he's off to sixth grade) was there and it was good to see him.  Upon leaving, he inquired if I'd finished The Dark Prophecy yet because he'd like to read it.

The libraries don't have it yet and he is eager to tackle the next adventure.   Wooed by his puppy dog eyes and eagerness to read, I gave in and said he could borrow it next Wednesday at open library.  He was thrilled (as were his parents).

I'm currently on chapter five (page 43ish) of a 400 page I've got some reading (and note taking) to do.

Sorry, Teach Like a Pirate, we're taking a break in the name of making a kiddo happy.

Monday, June 26, 2017


I can't remember the last time I made a 200 slide PPT, but my latest product is done and available {here}.  It's #218, which is a tad mind boggling to think about!

I originally created the product for my future third grade classroom.  I aligned it to our school's calendar for next year and included the vacation days.

(Not my planner, but you get the gist!)

However, upon further reflection, I realize this probably isn't super helpful for non-CCSD customers.  So I made a second, more generic version without specific calendar dates.  The revision itself only took about an hour due to the magical "save as" feature in PPT.

I bundled them together and posted the product on my {store}.  I'm excited to use them next year.  A third grade teacher at another school and a fourth grade teacher in my pod are also going to use them (and provide feedback).

My plan for this product is to cut down on the chaos during breakfast.  We have universal breakfast, which means all the students are eating breakfast.  My teaching role is to mark off who is eating, tally which milk they take, take attendance, collect notes, and greet the class within the first five minutes.  I figured by building in the routine of writing and then sharing, they'd have something to occupy their time.  I'll be calling tables over for breakfast and once all the tables have been called, then they will share their answers.

I'm hoping the consistent routine will help.  After we share, then I'll go over the daily schedule, have them toss their breakfast, do a number talk, and start our day.

Plus having the fun journal prompt first thing will hopefully encourage attendance.  Tardy students don't get to share their ideas.

I'll also use these as mini-writing prompts, character education lessons, math lessons (polls, graphs, data analysis), and opportunities for speaking/listening grades. 

What do you do for bell work?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Weeks 2 and 3

With my staycation in Arizona winding down, I'm not really sorry about not accomplishing all my summer goals in a timely manner.

B was supposed to be on a work trip to Texas when I planned this staycation (and birthday celebration for my bro's gf).  However, that got cancelled but he insisted I still take my mini-trip (but without the pets).

So for the past week(ish), I've been shopping, napping, eating out, watching movies, and lounging about with my family.   It's been lovely.  We're spending my last full day here doing brunch at home to celebrate a birthday, then my mom and I will visit Marshall's and Joann's.  

Next month, the hubs and I will be going on our island honeymoon and after a discussion he now realizes he does in fact need flip flops/sandals for the beach.  Thus, the Marshall's trip.  

My mom is also looking forward to launching her quilting Etsy shop later this year (stay tuned), so we've got some props to buy (for staging the quilt) and banner colors to look at (for the photography set).  She's visited the postal store to look at her shipping options.

I've also {crafted} and continued to work on Teach Like a Pirate, although it's not a book I can just breeze through because I stop and jot down ideas about what I want to do next year in my classroom.  (Again, the whole sparking ideas thing might just be the point of the book.)

I'll be driving back super early tomorrow morning to beat the heat.

The rest of the week is devoted to:

1) Picking up my mom's wedding album from Costco

2) Finalizing honeymoon details

3) Cleaning and painting our built ins

4) Two different planning meetings with friends.  One is for her son's sixteenth birthday, the other is for a baby shower in Sept. I'm easily bribed with food.

5) A coworker's birthday BBQ

6) Finishing Teach Like a Pirate

7) Oil changes on both vehicles, plus a brake change for the truck

8) Cleaning out the Sunshine closet at work

9) Manning the library for 2 hours.  Our principal has opened up the library for students to come visit on summer break. I sent out the message on class dojo because I'm hopeful some of my students will come with their younger siblings (my future students)

10) Perhaps getting around  to fixing the format of this blog.  Sadly, adventures in fifth is no longer relevant.

11) Following ITSE posts from a distance.  Maybe one year I'll apply...

12) Posting the morning messages PPT on TpT

13) Continue to work on The Dark Prophecy

I'm exhausted just looking at this list.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Creative Breaks

While I'm still digesting the information from Teach Like a Pirate, one of my big take aways was about preventing a professional and creative stalemate.  (For more feelings on being creative, read {here}.)

I've been in a bit of a professional stalemate, which is one of the reasons I'm super excited to move to third grade.  I've never had the desire to be one of those teachers with thirty years experience, but only in one grade level.  I'm looking forward to a new curriculum, getting to know a new team, continuing to mentor, and quite frankly, smaller class sizes (with smaller humans).

One of the things I'm excited to bring back to next year's classroom is pillows for my library.  I had them years ago, but fifth graders got a little inappropriate with them, so I discontinued their use.  Granted, not setting the appropriate boundaries was a rookie mistake (and I was a rookie teacher).  The entire class got punished for a few students' poor choices.  Again, rookie mistake.

So I had my mama turn some old school shirts into pillows for my classroom library:

We used a 16" x 16" pillow form from Joann's (and coupons, a teacher discount, and an {Ibotta rebate}, because I like to save money.  If you're new to Ibotta and would also like 10% back on Joann's in store purchases, sign up with my referral code: uvnspet  and happy savings).  It took her about twenty minutes to transform a clean shirt into a new classroom pillow.

While she was whipping up some pillows, I decided to create a new wreath for her door.

I snagged flowers on sale at Joann's, so the whole project was around $20 (and I still have flowers left over for the next project).

With the help of wire cutters and hot glue, I created this:

I used a {twig oval base} and two bouquets of {fake flowers} (from the heavily discounted spring section!)  Green is her favorite color and pink is mine, so the color selection was easy.

 I cut apart the flowers with wire cutters and used a hot glue gun to attach them right to the base.  Tomorrow I'll use floral wire to secure the flowers to the base to ensure gravity doesn't undo my crafting.

The final product:

Teachers need creative breaks too!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Product delay

Last week I stated that my newest TpT product would be available today.  It's 185 days worth of morning journal entries.  It has been peer edited by a colleague and is ready for its final edits.

However, it's also June and I'm on vacation...

It's a staycation with my momma.  There's shopping, napping, movies, and lots of girl time on the horizon for the next 72 hours.  All that fun doesn't leave time for editing (and my laptop is at home.  Drat!)

New product will be available on Monday afternoon-ish.  Thanks for understanding!

Teach Like a Pirate, Part 1 (book review)

One of my on-going goals is always to read more and one of my specific summer goals is to read Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  

I first heard of this book several years ago, but didn't snag a copy until I was at ASCD and actually visited the TLAP booth in the convention.  I'd attended a rather awesome session by the author of Play Like a Pirate and won a free shirt, so I went down to claim it.  Low and behold, there was Dave in full pirate attire.  So I snagged both books...and had them autographed.

It's taking me longer than I anticipated to read Teach Like a Pirate, but not for the reasons you might think.

The first reason is my furry helpers.  I love them, but they do get in the way of my work time.  

Sometimes we need to stop for snuggle and scratching breaks.  

The second is because the book's content.  There are parts that seem to sucker punch my heart.  I have to stop, reflect, analyze, and realize that this author is highlighting a point that I didn't even know bothered me.   

Part One: 


For years, I've been described as a creative person.  I enjoy craft projects, scrap booking, and generally making things (except if it's in the kitchen, sorry mom!).  However, this also means that sometimes I'm assigned extra work because "I'm creative" and it "shouldn't take me much time at all".  (Spoiler: Whatever the project, it usually far surpasses the estimate of a time commitment because I'm a perfectionist.)

Deep down, this assumption that creativity just flows through me and is easy for me has always bothered me but I couldn't quite pinpoint why.  Being creative isn't an insult by any means.  But the assumption that it's natural and easy is.

But then I read a few pages from Teach Like a Pirate where the author was so clearly able to articulate all of my feelings with the concise verbiage I hope to one day master.

The author goes on to state: 

"Creativity is rarely about natural brilliance or innate genius.  Much more often creativity results from properly directed attention, laser-like focus, relentless effort, and hard work.   Outsiders see the glorious results but know very little about the sweat and blood that happens behind closed doors.  Creative genius is something people tend to romanticise, but the reality is not very romantic at all.  Like any skill it takes practice and effort.  No one assumes that an accomplished doctor, rocket scientist, or engineer "lucked" their way into greatness.  We have a certain understanding and appreciation for the years of study, sacrifice, and hard work it takes for these experts to reach the highest levels of their profession...Most people would be surprised to pull back the curtain and see the years of excruciating labor, relentless pursuit of excellence, and monstrous obstacles those "naturals" have overcome." (Burgess, p. 38)

Being "creative" isn't something I can turn on and off like a light switch.  Being "creative" isn't something I was born with and it's not something that just happens.  Creativity has been fostered since childhood with lots of painting projects, spilled glitter (sorry mom), and failed attempts at crafting.  Creativity was encouraged in student council and being an RA with finding alternative ways to problem solve and plan events with a limited budget.  Creativity was encouraged in the aisles of Joanns, in the pages of craft magazines, in conversations with others, and through countless pins on Pinterest (it's true!).  There have been hundreds of failed attempts at craft projects in the name of "being creative".  The first burlap wreath I made took almost six hours because I didn't know what I was doing and I didn't like how it was turning out.  (On a side note, burlap with a wired edge works way better for crafting wreaths.)  Being creative, like any skill, takes time, patience, and a lot of trial and error situations.  (Ya know, like teaching...)

The author goes on to describe an interaction with another teacher.  The other teacher used the crushing "six words": "It's easy for you. You're creative."  This was in response to a conversation about classroom management and culture.

The author, understandable irritated, goes on to articulate:

"It's easy for me.  Really? So with our words she dismissed sixteen years of hard work...It wasn't easy when I started, it wasn't easy last week, and it won't be easy next week either." (Burgess, 40).

I've been there, several times.  

The author then comments on the other teacher seeming to make excuses for the lack of management in the classroom.  These excuses deprive her students of their full potential.  Burgess goes on to state "It's not OK to throw up your hands in defeat because you're not naturally creative.  Few, if any, teachers are innately creative." (Burgess, 41).  He goes on to talk of creativity as something that is meant to be "nurtured and developed in all of us".

Creativity, like all things worth having, takes time, questioning, persistence, and a degree of failure.

I can't wait to see what the other 150 pages hold!

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!