Monday, July 31, 2017

So...what have you been up to?

So...what have you been up to?

Full disclosure: I hate this question, especially during the summer time.

If I share that I've been working on classroom stuff, especially with other teachers, I'm sometimes met with attitude.  Yes, I know it's summer but my brain and teaching ideas don't just turn off.  I'd rather do a little bit of work to make the transition back less painful.   (Read more about my decision to cut my summer short {here}).

If I share that I've watched a lot of Netflix, I'm met with a similar attitude from non-teacher friends.  Plus I feel like a lazy bum if I wasn't amazingly productive.  I'm not cut out for the stay at home mom thing.

I just can't win sometimes.

So, here's the recap:

I've enjoyed crafting time.  I made a wreath for my mom, for a good friend, and for hopefully my future SIL Leah.  

(L's wreath)

(Mrs. K's wreath on her front door)

(Mom's wreath)

I'm working on a banner for my classroom and a photo booth frame (inspiration from another teacher on Instagram).  

(Pre-cut banners were a find at Target! Hooray for less work.)

I've got three more wreaths in the works. 


I knocked out Teach Like a Pirate, Your School Rocks...So Tell People, and The Essential 55 this summer.  Professional reading keeps my mind sharp and the ideas flowing. 

I also read The Dark Prophecy and created TpT products. 

I also read several magazines and some just for fun books on the airplane ride(s). 

I enjoyed:

I'll be writing a more in-depth book review with my "a ha" moments in a few days, so stay tuned!

I'm also working on:

We'll start with the classroom first because that's a less daunting task.  Plus it coincides with my {clean desk} goals!

House Improvement Projects

I deep cleaned and reorganized the pantry:

(Yes, we have a doomsday-prepper sized pantry and I love it.)

I cleaned out closets.

I finished staining our cabinets so they could be installed.  

(More on that adventure {here})

I continued to tackle organizing the garage.  With classroom supplies in there, it's difficult!

I made sure the guest bedroom is ready for when friends from Florida come to visit in September and October.

Teachers Pay Teachers

I am no where close to my end of the summer goal of 250 products, but I did make a {year of journal prompts} and various activities for {The Dark Prophecy}.

I also started a journal of my future projects:

(I'll try to create one new thing a month.  That seems reasonable.) 

Prepping for Next Year

I picked out bulletin board ideas and started the banner.  I snagged supplies for 70% off (thank you Joann's).  

I'm reusing blue fabric for one bulletin board, undecided on a second, and snagged a tan sheet for the third at Goodwill for $2.99. I'd call that a win!

I bought pillows for my classroom library (thank you sales at Joann's and Target).

I revised the grade level long range plans to fit my teaching ideas:

I brainstormed future lesson looking at Pinterest.

I also felt very strongly about Target rolling out back to school items right after the fourth of July. 

There was still over a month left of summer at that point.  Calm down guys.

However, {this video} does a pretty good job of summarizing how teachers feel about school supplies being out too early.

Helping Others

I helped K with her upcoming Labor Day Weekend wedding by finding table center pieces and loaning her various items (head piece, card box, etc).  I loved it, she's an awesome friend, and it could be her something borrowed.

I am helping host a baby shower at the end of September and we've had a few planning sessions on the logistics of the event.

I had lunch with another friend several times to help her plan her son's Sweet 16.  I went shopping for materials with her and loaned her photo booth props.  While I didn't attend, from the looks of it, he had a wonderful time and that's what matters.

I went into work to help with open library on a few Wednesdays and reorganized the Sunshine Club's cabinet.

I continued to clean out the garage and donated boxes to a friend who is moving.

I brainstormed paper topics for friends who are finishing up teaching degrees and loaned out books (so the published authors were the experts). 

I helped my mom with the start up logistics of her Etsy shop (coming soon!)

The Rest 

We went bowling. I'm still awful.  Wait no, I'm a teacher and this is a growth mindset situation.  

With practice, patience, gentle guidance (and beer), I transform from awful to mediocre over the course of several games.  I ended up with a 105 (without bumpers).  Hubby is still undecided if he wants to do a bowling league with me.

We celebrated a friend's 30th birthday.

I had brunch and lunch with gal pals several times.

I went to Gilley's for line dancing and birthday celebrations.

I enjoyed bonding with the couch and Netflix.

I had lots of pet snuggling time.

I had the oil changed in both vehicles and B's truck got new tires.  He put new windshield wipers on my car (because that's love) and I look forward to the annual smog check and registration in a few days (not).

I spent a week with family in Arizona.

I hosted B's graduation party.

All the pets went to the vet.  Some were more behaved than others.

We spoiled our niece and nephews on their birthdays.

I did a lot of blogging,

Sometimes with help.

I had lunch dates and mani/pedis with friends.

Oh, and we enjoyed an amazing two and a half week honeymoon.  We visited Arizona for family time, saw friends in Florida, went to the beach, played mini golf, saw alligators, went to Universal Studios, and then jetted off to St. Maarten for a week.

I've got a few more days until I officially have to be back to work, but I'm ready to ease back into it.

Thanks summer 2017, it's been lovely!

BTS Sale

I'm ready, are you?

Shop {here}.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

After all this time?

20 years.

That's how long I've loved the boy who lived.  

This wasn't just a book series.  

This wasn't just eight movies.

This was my childhood.

I have first editions of all the books.  I begged to go to midnight releases to get my hands on new books, then ignore the rest of the world for the weekend.  I would re-read the books each summer in anticipation for the new releases. I saw movies on opening day, in costume.  I own more than one Ravenclaw sweater.  A gallery wrapped portrait of the Maurader's Map hangs in our den and the Hogwarts crest is proudly displayed on the couch pillows.  Those three stars in the always image above? They are also tattooed on my wrist.  Part of our honeymoon was spent at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida (pictures to come!).  The love is there and it's not fading any time soon.
This book series turned me from a reluctant and apathetic reader into who I am today.  But my story is not unique; hundreds of thousands of fans feel the same.  For that, I am forever grateful.  

So let's all raise our wands to Harry Potter, the boy who lived.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Wreath #3

It appears to be the summer of wreath making and that's totally fine by me!

My brother and his lovely girlfriend moved to a new apartment this week.  It's much closer to her work and I'm super excited to get to see it in a few days (when it's not just boxes piled everywhere).

As a gift, I wanted to make them a new wreath for their front door.  The idea was strongly suggested by L and my brother went along with it.  Keeping their decorating styles in mind, I knew I wanted it similar to the one I made Mrs. K:

I asked L what she liked about Mrs. K's wreath.  Initially she said she "loved everything" because that's just her warm and bubbly personality.  With some prying, she said the K wouldn't work for them (because they aren't married), she didn't love the sea stars and would like shells instead, and the net wasn't going to do much for her but loved the over-all beachy vibe.

The net was a complete pain to use, so I'm more than thrilled I got to avoid it the second time around.  Since all three of my hot glue guns are still missing (and I refuse to buy a fourth), I borrowed a glue gun from Mrs. K and once again visited Joann's.

(With Hobby Lobby's recent {smuggling scandal} and the 10% back Ibotta rebates through the end of the year on top of my teacher discount, Joann's is my go to store for crafting.  No, I don't get any sort of endorsement deal from them, although that would be quite nice.)

I went in knowing I needed another grapeline wreath and to visit the 70% off summer clearance aisle.  I knew I wanted to do a wreath with blues and yellow tones.  I was a tad intimidated by my options:

I then discovered instead of netting, I could use rope for a similar nautical effect.  I also found a bag of shells with some brightly colored options, so those came home with me as well.

Knowing her love of octopi, I found a small one to incorporate into the design.

After letting the hot glue gun warm up, I wrapped the rope around the wreath.  Next, I attached the wooden sign with twine and rope.  I then laid out the seashells and glued each one directly to the base of the wreath, getting my fingers several times in the process.

Only one of our three pets came to help and she was quite interested in the rope.  Luckily she has the attention span of a small child, so she quickly moved on to something more interesting.

I'm hoping she likes the final result:

I will have to wait a few days to see how it looks on their front door.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Um...that's not how this works

First, this is not meant as a personal attack on any individual TpT sellers but rather a blanket statement of frustration.

As a TpT seller myself, I work very hard on what I create.  First and foremost, it is created for my students.  I've found some amazing resources on TpT (both free and paid) that I love using in my classroom.  Overall, I have an extremely positive perception of TpT.

There is no review process before people upload products to TpT, which is why feedback from buyers and previews are so crucial.   A vast majority of what I've downloaded or paid for has been exactly as described, for which I'm thankful.

But lately I've noticed a trend on TpT that's a tad irksome.

Sellers are tagging their resources as being appropriate for several different grade levels.

I've also witnessed these products being used at my school.  Teachers will download products that say they're meant for a specific grade (say second), but upon examination, they are actually more of a kindergarten/first grade activity.  That's frustrating and deceptive to teachers.  

I don't think my colleagues want to use materials that are below grade level.  They trust that a passage deemed second grade truly is second grade, but that's not the case.  The material was marked K-2, which meant it was too easy for many of the students.  This happens all the time and teachers are unknowingly using materials that aren't challenging enough for students.  '

The blame is with TpT sellers overtagging their materials.

Now, I am slightly guilty of this because I tag my novel guides in 4th and 5th, despite only teaching fifth grade.

However, many of the novels are focused on Greek Mythology, which is a fourth grade literature standard under the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).   However, The Lightning Thief is used extensively in Jefferson County's long range reading plans, meaning the novel is frequently used as a mentor text in fifth grade.

Further more, these novels (by Rick Riordan) range from 4.6 to 5.3, which corresponds with the 4-5 Lexile band for reading.

Materials within one grade level (K/1, 1/2, 2/3, 4/5, 6-8, etc) tend to be appropriate.

However, reading passages should not be tagged as being K-4 or 2-6 grade appropriate.

 A second grader and a sixth grader should be reading very different passages.  Reading instruction should look very different in kindergarten versus fourth grade.

(I'm referring to materials meant for grade level, tier 1 instruction and not activities designed for intervention/extension (tiers 2 and 3). Whole group instruction should look very different in second grade compared to sixth grade.)

Materials shouldn't be marketed to K-3, because there are great differences between these grades and students' ability levels.  

So, fellow TpT sellers, please stop over tagging products.   An amazing activity for first grade should be labelled as just that, not tagged as something that's also appropriate for fourth graders.

With the upcoming annual sale, shop with caution fellow teachers!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Clean (?) Desks...

One of the great things about fifth graders is they speak their minds.

More than once last year, I got called out for having a clean desk.  When my desk was clean, they knew one of the following things would be happening soon:

1) I would be out and they'd have a guest teacher.

2) I was going to be observed by my administration.

3) We'd have visitors from another school.

If one of those things was happening, my desk was spotless.

Any other day, it was a different story.
I don't start out with the intention of a cluttered desk.  But as the day progresses, students place extra copies of papers there, notes are turned in, and by the time I notice, it's covered in papers.  

I don't spend my time with my students cleaning or tidying.  I spend my time being in the moment, immersed in their learning opportunities.  I won't apologize for that.  

I try to tidy it before/after school, but I have an open door policy and usually some other teacher is in my room venting/problem solving/chatting.  Again, I won't apologize for being there for others.  In the scope of my responsibilities as a teacher, having a spotless desk is quite low on my to do list, ranking right above filing student nurse pass slips in alphabetical order.

Growing up, I had a desk in my room.  I had grand ideas of how it would be decorated and that I'd sit there, every night, doing my homework.  

That's not what happened.  It became a dumping ground for things and I'd do my work in a chair, in bed, or laying on the floor. 

That's simply not the case. I'm not a desk person. That didn't change when I became a teacher.

Don't get me wrong, I love the look of this:

Or this:

But that's not my reality.

I will sit at my desk to input grades...and that's about it.

I don't sit there to take attendance. I don't sit there and teach from my seat. I don't even sit there and grade.  Instead, my desk is a catch-all spot for paperwork and holds up my computer.  If I had the option to get rid of it, I would, but that's not in the cards...yet.

So instead of snapping at my students over their mess, I provide opportunities to clean and practice organization.  Being tidy and organized is not something that comes naturally to everyone, so why would I expect it naturally from all of my students?

It's one of my goals to be more organized this year.  I think a change in grade levels will mean people won't just bring me  papers in the middle of the day.  I'm hopeful that less copies (28 of everything instead of 40) will also make a difference. I'm hopeful that more notebooks will mean less copies of papers.

Stay tuned for how operation #cleandesk will unfold!


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 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!