Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Quit!

I just read this article on another blog and felt like I had to share my thoughts.  The mere fact that I am posting this to my blog should be taken as an indicator of my strong feelings on the matter, as I haven't posted anything to this blog since I started the school year.  I have lots of reasons for not posting, but don't want  to go into that now. 

I apologize for getting firmly attached to my soapbox in the following post; I don't mean to offend anyone.  My main reason for commenting here is to serve as a personal reminder of my thoughts in the days, months and years to come.  I sincerely hope that I can live up to my own beliefs!

Please teacher friends; take the time to read this article.  I know I probably wouldn't read it as I was rushing through my Google Reader trying to keep somewhat caught up and on the lookout for new great ideas to try in my classroom.  But I am interested to know what you all think.  Is this the direction we are all headed?  Is it really this bad in NC?  Is it only this bad in NC?  I teach in a private school; are we headed down the same slope? 

My thoughts:

I don't know what to think... I guess I am grateful that I don't feel that way (yet), but I can see that I am headed that way...  I have taken on many extra (unpaid) duties in an attempt to prove myself necessary to the powers that be...

I was especially moved by the comments that follow regarding our need to teach and defy the lawmakers; we do what we do for the students, and we need to be cognizant of our roles in their lives and less worried about the repercussions of testing.  On the other hand, many teachers cannot take such a stance without fear for their jobs.

So what's the answer?  I don't know; but we teachers have to stay strong and committed to our students.

Monday, September 3, 2012


It's September.  The best time of the whole year!  The weather gets better, school settles into routine, aaannnd... it's my birthday month!  I have to admit, I am totally annoying about my birthday.  Every time someone mentions a date in September, I do the math and announce how many days that event is away from my birthday!  I'm trying to tone it down... but it's hard!

Click here to link up.  I'm really going to try hard to plan posts and be a better blogger!  Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Wonder Woman I am not!

Boy, have I been a bad blogger this week.  I had big plans to be a part of the Teacher Week Linky, but only got Monday's post written, before I hit the wall.  We started with kids on Thursday after three days of meetings, and I am wiped out!  I spent yesterday catching up on laundry, sleep, and grocery shopping.  I also managed to write some basic lesson plans for this week.  So today, I have time to relax, read, knit and blog!

Speaking of reading, I am reading a really great story by Chandra Hahn called UnEnchanted; an Unfortunate Fairy Tale.  It was a freebie I found and started earlier in the summer on the school's iPad and found yesterday for my Nook.  In UnEnchanted, Mina is a typical insecure teenager who is unknowingly descended from the Grimm Brothers.  A family curse catches up to her, and she must complete the Grimm tales to stop the characters from living in our world.  I love it.  Click the picture to add it to your Nook library for free!

In other book news, Ivan died this week.  So sad!  Ivan's story was just released by Katherine Applegate (of Animorphs fame) in her remarkable book The One and Only Ivan.  You can read my review of this amazing story here.

In other news, my new class is great!  Although we only have two days done, and who knows what they'll be like when we actually start school work, so far, they have been delightful!  A bit chatty, but I am hopefully attributing that to their excitement of a new year.  This week, they will have so much to do, they won't have time to talk!!!  :)

The scariest night of the year is just around the corner.  No, I'm not talking about Halloween.  Or even Monday...  CURRICULUM NIGHT!  Picture me cowering in a corner...  I don't know if anyone can relate, but I get sooo nervous in front of parents!  I am super silly and have been known to sing and dance in front of the kids, but in front of the parents, I turn into a complete mess.  Even after 12 years, I hate it.  But I have a secret weapon this year.  I have made a Prezi to introduce the parents to room 102; my hope is they will be sol busy being amazed by my tech-savviness, they won't notice how nervous they make me!

Back when I thought I was Wonder Woman and could do everything plus three more things, I was going to write about Prezi for Technology Tip Tuesday.  And to wrap up this crazy, rambling post, the movie at the end of my presentation is about Ivan.

Hope the beginning of your year is the best ever!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Must Haves!

It's late, but I'm linking up for Teacher Week at Blog Hoppin!  I don't know how well I'll do the rest of the week, but here goes!  (I originally wasn't going to link up at all; I start back to school this week with meetings and kids on Thursday. I didn't think I'd have the energy, but it's amazing how much energy a great start can give!)

Anyway, on to my must haves!

1. Iced Tea.  I am totally addicted; I don't know if this actually counts, because I MUST HAVE tea every day, not just at school!
2. My laminator.  Love this thing!  I have been using it tons this summer, and can't remember what I ever did without it!  My favorite laminated thing:

3. My ActivBoard!  Currently it's broken - boo!  I am hoping and praying (crossing my fingers, ankles and eyes!) that it gets fixed by Thursday.  BTW this is the second year in a row it hasn't worked after a summer away - what's the deal!?

4. A good book to read.  I feel it is sooo important to model silent reading when I expect my kids to read.
 But if I don't have a good book, I won't be able to get into it and forget about all the work I could be doing!  So I try to keep something great on hand.  I also like to be reading adult books.  I want my students to know that I am a real reader; I don't just read kids' books!  Some of my favorite authors:
Jodi Picoult                    Kristin Hannah                   Diane Chamberlain

See you tomorrow with a Tuesday Tech Tip!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

5 things...

Joy of Kindergarten is hosting this great linky, and I couldn't resist.  The kids come today for open house.  Then Monday and Tuesday, we have meetings and we start on Thursday!  While I am really looking forward to a new year, there are definitely perks of summer that I'm going to miss - a ton!

1. Staying up late.  I am a night owl at heart, and during the summer, I allow my late night-ness roam free!  This summer, I've spent my late nights reading, blogging, knitting, pinning even going for late night walks around the block!  This past week, I've tried to go to bed before 10 to prepare for a new year.  It hasn't been easy!

2. Afternoons on the front porch.  This is the first summer I have spent a lot of time on my front porch sipping tea and reading.  I love it!  I live in a fairly quiet neighborhood, and it's so peaceful out there; I'm going to miss my lazy afternoons.

Not my porch, but isn't it pretty?
3. Snacking throughout the day.  I have gotten so used to just grazing all day long.  I have been starving by the time I made it home this week as I was working on my room!  It's going to take some time to get used to eating on a schedule again!

4. Capris and sandals!  I guess it's time to wear 'real' clothes again... sigh.  Meanwhile, to that end I went to the store and bought two new dresses today!  One was only $11!!!
Not the exact dress I bought, but close!

5. Fresh brewed iced tea!  I have such a huge addiction to iced tea.  I always take a giant cup of tea to school, but once it's gone (usually before 10am!) I settle for instant. 

What a great linky!  Click to link up!  As for me, I plan to spend the next few days enjoying as much as I can....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Welcome to Room 102!

I'm ready for Open House tomorrow!  Can't wait.  There are some little things left to do, but my room looks great and no one else will know what's missing.

See the chair pockets?  When I went to Home Depot to buy them, I mentioned that they were for school, and Beekeeper Bill got permission from the higher-ups to donate them!  Although I am super grateful to Home Depot, I covered the logos with duct tape to match my theme colors!

Word Wall.  Don't call it an alphabet!  :)
My math board is a mix of CFC and Laura Candler's math stations.  Love how this turned out!
Bucket Fillers
My library area.  Love this, too!  Please ignore the chart paper laying in the middle of the floor!  I still need to drill holes in my new easel (thanks Dad!) to hang it from.
A little closer of the seating area.  The two square pillows I made from school t-shirts.
My books are sorted by genre.  I don't worry about levels; as long as they're reading!
Close up of my genre baskets.  The labels are courtesy of CFC!

The view from my desk.

My objective board.  Easy to update; dry erase.
I even changed out my toolbox to match my new theme.  Sorry for such a blurry picture. I swear it looked fine on the camera!
Locker Magnets.  Lockers are a HUGE deal to 5th graders because it's their first year to have lockers!

Close up of locker magnet.  I wrote the names on the magnets using dry erase marker, so I can use them year after year.

I'm linking up!  You should, too!  This is one of the best times of the year, and I love looking at everyone's spaces!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Bus Called Heaven

I just read the most amazing story.  A BUS CALLED HEAVEN by Bob Graham (2012) is a charming picture book about a community that is forever and completely changed when a bus is abandoned on the side of the road.  Where many see an old decaying and falling apart bus, a young girl sees beauty and promise!  With her encouragement, the bus is turned into a recreation center/meeting place.  Eventually the entire neighborhood is vested in the bus.  When their bus comes under attack, the people come together to save their beloved community center!

As we start a new year and work on creating a community within our classrooms and our schools, this book would be ideal for discussions.  What makes a community?  Were the people a true community before the bus?  How did they change with the introduction of the bus?  Are we a community or just a classroom full of people? 

Let me know if you check this book out and how you use it in your room!

P.S. ~ My room is DONE (yay!) and ready for Open House on Sunday!  But I forgot my camera at home today, so pictures will be coming soon!  It's GOOD!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Best Sharpener Ever!

Have you seen one of these?  If not, you need to check out this sharpener at Classroom Friendly Supplies!  I received mine in the mail today; it was sent by Troy Decoff, the owner of this amazing site for sharpeners.  He is an elementary school teacher who knows the joys of a good sharpener, and, I assume, the pain of a bad one!

I was so excited when I opened it, but I couldn't find an unsharp pencil anywhere in my house!  So I jumped in the car and took it to school to try it out, and let me tell you - this thing is as just as awesome as everyone says!  I had a blast visiting all my friends and commerciallizing (yes, I made it up, but you know what I mean)!  Even my principal was amazed; I'm thinking this would be a great Christmas present for all of us teachers!  (Only a teacher would get excited over a pencil sharpener for Christmas!)

I sharpened 24 pencils in under 5 minutes.  To a point unlike any I've ever seen!  On top of how easy it is to use, this sharpener was quiet enough that I could still hold a conversations with my friends.  Amazing!  It's so easy to use and to empty that I actually threw away two electric sharpeners that have lived in my room for more years than I can count.  In the past I have had both sharpeners plugged in and the kids had to switch from one to the other.  As one overheated or just stopped running, they would switch to the other one and finish the job.  I can't tell you how excited I am to be done with those and have this sharpener instead!

I showed my friend's daughter (4th grade) how to use it, went and laminated a bunch of stuff and came back to all the pencils I needed sharpened.  No learning curve there!  It came with a clamp to hold it still, but when I used it and when Molly used it, we just held it with a hand and had no problems.  I don't know if I will clamp it or not. 

If I had one suggestion, it would be to make another model for my preschool and kindergarten teacher friends who use those fat pencils.  I have read that it works on colored pencils, too, but I couldn't find any today (mid-set up).  I'm going to dig those things up and try it tomorrow!  That would be a miracle!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Early Mornings & PD

Boy! Is it me, or are mornings earlier in August than any other time of year?

Do you enjoy PD as much as I do?  I love learning new ideas, new technologies and anything else that I can implement in my classroom!  Today I spent the day at a technology conference.  The day was broken into four sessions.  I went to sessions called ActivInspire, iPads for the Intermediate Teacher, Digital Storytelling, and ActvInspire and Elmo. 

The first one was not good.  It was really for beginners, so I didn't get much out of it.  In fact, I started writing this post during it.  Here's what I wrote:  Just a quick post today.  I'm at a technology inservice, and usually I love these kinds of things.   So far this morning - not so much.  This first session is using ActivInspire; not much new.  But I'm hoping for good things in the next sessions.  Fingers crossed!

Fortunately the day got better!  (And the sessions weren't as long as I thought, which is why that's as far as I got when I was feeling icky about the whole day.)  Anyway...  the conference turned out to be well worth the extremely early morning drive and the rough start!

My favorite session was Digital Storytelling led by Stephanie DeMichele, M.A.  She is the technology teacher at St. John of the Cross School in Euclid.  And let me tell you people - this woman is amazing.  This session could have gone on all day long, and I wouldn't complained.  Her passion for digital storytelling came through in a big way.  She has so many great ideas and resources to share.  The best part was that she had practical ways to incorporate Digital Storytelling into real lesson plans with examples from 1st grade up to middle school.  And she was very clear that these technologies don't eliminate the need to teach the writing process or the content areas; it's just a way to enhance and motivate the students to do it better!  By giving them an audience of more than just one (the teacher), students are motivated to impress their peers, their families, etc.

Stephanie shared a webpage she made for just this conference that is chock full of resources.  She included some great technology blogs (Just what I need, more blogs to follow! Who can resist, though?),  sites to get free pictures, music and sound effects, and tutorials.  She has also included practical pages for creating storyboards, links to great sites for both Mac or PC, and even rubrics.  Click here to check out this amazing site!

All in all a very successful day!  I love Professional Development that gets me fired up and excited!  I'm off now to explore and try to create my own digital story to share with my students and their parents.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Made It ~ I can't stop!!


I really thought I was done last week.  I had no intention of doing another Monday Made It post.  But I can not stop reading all the wonderful blogs and surfing through Pinterest.  Therefore, I'm back.

First I hopped on the class journal bandwagon and created these super cute journal covers.  On the fifth grade writing proficiency, my students have to write a specific genre with a prompt.  So my journals are labeled with not only a prompt but a genre requirement. (personal narrative, journal entry, persuasive letter, descriptive paragraph, fantasy)

Then I thought I was done.  Until Saturday night when I saw this pin from 4th Grade Frolics.  I have been stressing out about how to best show standards and objectives this year.  (We have never had to do this before, so I'm a bit worried about it.)  This is it!  I {puffy} heart love the way they turned out.  Now I just have to figure out how to hang them.  I'm thinking Command hooks - my favorite!

School starts next Thursday, but my room must be done by Sunday when we have Open House.  So absolutely NO MORE Monday Made Its for me!  (Maybe) 

I have been working on my room, but I want to wait to share until it's all done.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I'm Having a SALE!!


All of my TpT items are on sale: 20% off!  Plus you can use the code BTS12 starting tomorrow for an additional 10% off from the great folks at TpT! 

Click here to go to my store.  And don't forget to let me know what you choose!  

For a look at all the teachers participating, follow this link to Blog Hoppin'!

Happy Shopping,

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wonder of the Day!

I'm linking up with Elizabeth at Fun in Room 4B for one final Fabulous Find Friday.  This week I found the most amazing website:  Wonderopolis!  This website if chock full of 2-3 minute videos perfect for enticing students.  There are over 650 videos on every topic from art to science to fairy tales to insects!

I am excited to use Wonderopolis in a couple of different ways this year.  I think videos like this:

will be great for hooking kids as we start a new unit.

Videos like this one:

are great writing or dicussion starters!  

Bonus:  Under each video is a few questions, "Have you ever wondered?"  Then there is a short article that gives some more information followed by "Wonder words to know and use."  Last there are usually links for more information.

I love this site and see all kinds of applications in the classroom.  Check it out and share your ideas!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Picture Book Picks # 3 ~ Be You!

One of the most important things we can teach our students is to be themselves.  To worry less about what others think about them and do what they feel is right.  A related lesson we must teach every year is to embrace others' differences.  I found a whole slew of books to help us do just that through Lindsey's linky party.  I know it's hard to believe, but I had never read any of these until they were recommended by Lindsey's readers!

Crysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.  I know you all have read it a million times.  I have to admit as a 5th grade teacher I thought it was too babyish and never even gave it a chance. But when I saw that Hilary at Fifth Grade Fancy recommended it, I knew I should give it a chance.  I'm so glad I did!  I now love and relate to Chrysanthemum and look forward to sharing her story with my kids.  Even if they've already heard it, as they grow up and have new experiences, they will understand it on a different level than maybe they did earlier.

Also recommended by Hilary was Giraffes Can't Dance.  I cannot believe I never read this book before!  I have a ginormous collection of giraffes and giraffe-like things; everyone knows of my love of obsession with giraffes.  Yet no one has ever shown me this book?  It is so cute and teaches the lesson (be yourself) so clearly.

One of my favorite new bloggers of the summer is Heather whose blog is cleverly titled The Meek Moose.  Heather had a super list of books, some of which I haven't been able to find yet.  But one that I did find and love is Tough Boris by the incomparable Mem Fox.  Boris is a pirate who is tough and mean and strong, but when he loses his parrot, he isn't so tough or mean anymore.  I love the lesson that even tough guys cry!  It's okay not to be a stereotype.  Great story for the boys!

The next book I found that I fell in love with is The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco.  Many, many bloggers included Ms. Polacco's books, and I've read most of them, but this one I wasn't aware of until I saw it in April's post (The Idea Backpack).  The teacher in this book is who want to be when I grow up!  Mrs. Peterson is one of those teachers who sees more in her students than their classmates, or even they!, do.  As with most of her books, Ms. Polacco draws from her own experiences to tell a story of a group of children known as the Junkyard.  Beautifully written with an afterword that will touch your heart, this book is not to be missed!
Finally, I want to mention a new book I found at the library that was not mentioned during the linky party.  Willow is the story of a  young student who does not follow the directions of her art teacher.  Willow draws pink trees and blue apples much to the consternation of her strict art teacher.  Miss Hawthorne is a very neat, very precise sort of art teacher who doesn't like Willow's free-mindedness.   The tension between the two grows all semester until winter break. 

Willow reminds me (text-to-text!) of one of the first books I ever reviewed on this blog, Odd Violet.  Click here to read my review of this equally delightful story.

Click the book covers to go to Barnes & Noble and purchase these great stories.