Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Snow Day Realization

I'm sure there are lots of other people out there who read Babbling Abby or her teaching blog, The Inspired Apple. If not, you should. I have been following Abby for a few years now and she is not only an incredibly creative teacher, but also an awesome mommy. She's shared her story of trying to have her second child and the adoption process that came next. Anyways, I was reading her blog this morning and something really resonated with me so I thought I would share it here. It's a simple realization, but a powerful one that I'm sure most mothers have had.

Over the past few months of becoming a mommy and all the adjustments it has brought, I'm torn between being the best mom and a great teacher. Both come so naturally to me - and I'm thankful for that. But I've realized that being mommy is my number one job right now. Someone commented on Abby's blog that the "teachery" stuff will always be there, but these times with your baby go by so fast. I don't want to look back and remember trying to choose between report cards and other teachery things or playing with my baby on a snow day. Everyone keeps telling me to enjoy this time with N because it goes by so fast so I'm okay if this blog doesn't get updated as frequently (or at all). I'm going to focus on work when I'm at work and leave it there when I come home for the day. Teaching and whatever career step comes next will always be there.

As teachers we have the luxury of holidays, summers, awesome hours, and snow days! Before baby I would have used this time without students to get ahead ... now I find myself taking it one day at a time and using the extra hours to be with N. My perspective and priorities are completely different and I'm okay with it. Accepting this change has taken that burden of "I should be doing something for school" off my shoulders and allowed me to be present with my time at home. It feels good to know that's it okay to just focus on being mommy - my most important job!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I'm Back! And Happy New Year!

Well a lot has changed since my last post. I am now a teacher mommy and learning to balance the demands of being a wife, mother and teacher ... but man it is a lot of work. So sadly my blog has suffered, but I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things. As I wrote back in September, I got a job teaching kindergarten in a new district about 2 weeks before N was born. It was quite an experience interviewing, setting up a new classroom, and teaching for 2 days 9 months pregnant. I've now been back from maternity leave for about 2 months and I am getting used to life as a kindergarten teacher. I also always like to blog around this time because it was in January, 3 years ago that I stumbled upon the world of teacher blogs and they seriously changed my life. I know that sounds dramatic, but its true. I think my blog has been a huge tool in my success as a teacher and so even if I've taken some time from it, I always like to reflect in the new year.

One of the first blogs that I stumbled across were Mrs. Wills and Mrs. Jump's kindergarten blogs. I saw their penguin units and was instantly in love with their ideas. Not only did I recreate their penguin unit (which we are gearing up to do in a few weeks), I also knew I needed to join this blogging world. And I'm so glad I did!

So that's it for now. Just a little update to say that I'm still here and will be back with classroom ideas as we kick off 2014. Happy New Year!

This was back in October...crazy how fast babies grow!


Monday, September 2, 2013

My New Classroom!

It's official...I'm making the move from first grade to kindergarten this year! I feel incredibly lucky to get to work in my new school. There will be adjustments as there are with any new job, but this past week was teacher work week and I think I ended up in the perfect place for me.  It's been a whirlwind the past two weeks, from interviewing, getting hired, going through the HR stuff and setting up a new classroom. I was even able to empty our mud room and unpack all the boxes, thanks to some awesome new teacher friends...and yes all of this was done VERY pregnant. It is possible : ) And I'm thankful for keeping busy because otherwise I'd be going crazy sitting around at home waiting for this baby to come.

My husband was happy to load these boxes into the car for me! 
So at 9 months pregnant I'm feeling pretty accomplished. The first day of school is tomorrow and as I'm writing this I'm still very pregnant with no signs of the little man making his move...looks like this teacher will make it to the first day of school.

Hanging in there at 39 weeks pregnant. Thanks to Mom who helped me in the classroom today!

A view of my room. It wasn't quite done at this point but you get the idea.

I'm looking forward to a great year with my kindergarten class, but will probably be taking a little blogging break once little man arrives. For now, I've updated my blog for my newest teaching adventure and I can't wait to share the exciting things that will happen in the year ahead. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Teacher Week '13: Organizing for Instruction


I'm so excited about today and tomorrow's topics for Teacher Week '13 because they are two areas that I feel are crucial for teachers to have under control, especially in the beginning of the year. I know "organizing" isn't everyone's idea of fun...but it just so happens to be mine!  My husband thinks I'm crazy but it actually relaxes me to organize things which must be why teaching is the profession for me because there is always more to do.

When it comes to planning instruction it can be overwhelming to think of each task that must be completed. I've spent hours researching and writing lesson plans and just when I think I'm done I realize now I have to go create this activity or organize this station. I admit sometimes my plans are quite lofty and I have to scale them back to reality. But with each year of teaching, I've had more units already planned and ready to use. It definitely helps when you have a few years under your belt and can rely on things you've already spent hours creating. I also find that there is always some new idea I want to try, so then I'm back to the drawing board. That's the fun in teaching anyways!

Last year I came up with a great system to help maximize my time before or after school and during planning. Each year I've been better and better about utilizing my time wisely so when I get home I can focus on family things and not be stressed about cutting out that roll of laminating film. I do better with a plan and realize this system may not work for everyone. I'm also a list person. Our plans were due on Friday last year so I would divide up the planning a little bit everyday so I didn't have to stay late Friday writing plans for the next week. It really helped me focus on each standard and gave me time to create or find things I may need for the next week. Starting on Monday with Grading & Filing, I've divided my major planning tasks into five days. Here's a little printable I made to keep myself on track. As I think of things I need to remember for each task, I'll write them down under the day.


Of course these are just guidelines and there is always more to do, especially those little tasks that pop up during the day and need to be taken care of. However, at least this way of thinking made sure that I didn't wait until Friday to start planning for the next week. It's all about staying ahead of the game. I like to Grade & File on Mondays because then I have all the assessments from the previous week and can use them to guide my instruction and small groups for the current week. And I'm not going to lie...a lot of time I end up grading on the weekends (in my comfy clothes) to get my differentiated groups straight for the week. I didn't designate a day to plan for small group reading and math instruction because I feel this is an ongoing task and I sort of do it daily. Once the kids go home for the day I look back at my small group notes from that day and quickly prepare for the next day. I find it difficult to plan out small groups too far in advance because they are always changing.

Another quick tip  when it comes to organizing instruction - and this doesn't sound like it has anything to do with instruction at all but...get the children to straighten up the room throughout the day and at the end. I can't tell you how much time I've wasted cleaning up after children when I could have been planning for instruction. Your time is already limited before school and during school, so why waste precious time after school doing something you can easily pass on to your students. Sounds simple, but makes such a big difference.

Those are my tips for planning instruction. Can't wait to share some behavior management ideas tomorrow!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Teacher Week '13: Let's Talk About Me Monday



I'm linking up with one of my favorite blogs, Blog Hoppin' for their Teacher Week '13. Even though there is still a lot up in the air about where I will be teaching next year, I truly feel it will all work out for the best. So I'm pushing forward and keeping my head in the game by posting this little "Meet the Teacher."



Stay tuned for more Teacher Week '13 updates! 



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The end of an era...the beginning of something new





As you can see, I have had a hard time writing this post. It's been over a month since I packed up my innercity classroom for the last time and moved my 15 boxes of prized teaching possessions to our rental house about 2 hours away. The boxes are still sitting in a sort of holding pattern in our utility room and sometimes its hard to believe I actually packed up the last 4 years into those boxes. So yes, it has been a bittersweet experience leaving my old classroom behind. In the past weeks of quiet, summer vacation that teachers await all year long, I've done a lot of reflecting and there are a few points I've learned from Room 102 and hope I never forget.

1.  A good teacher can make magic happen in any type of setting.

It's no secret that for the past four years I might not have always had the newest equipment or nicest rooms. Sometimes the furniture was mismatched and falling apart, but the minute I got in the classroom every August and started putting my own touch in the room, the space came to life. It doesn't look like much when it is all packed up, but I spent so much time in that room and when it really came down to it, details of the space didn't matter. The time spent on that carpet exploring books or doing a science experiment were far more memorable then the space around us. We just got used to it and moved on. I hope I remember that if you are flexible and keep a positive outlook, it doesn't matter what the four walls around you look like. Teaching can happen anywhere.

2. My colleagues were my saving grace.

Without the support of my team, I would not be the teacher I am today. My greatest accomplishment over the past four years was being named my district's Teacher of the Year. I wish they could name a grade level of the year, because no teacher can succeed on their own. It truly is a team effort and whether I needed to vent (which happened a lot) or celebrate a breakthrough during reading group, my team was always there. Even though our school was working through some issues, I honestly believe I worked with some of the best teachers in this country. Any child would be lucky to have them. We lifted each other up and supported one another in ways that I've never experienced before and for that I will always be grateful. 

3. You may not think you are making progress or a difference, but teaching is a magical thing.

I experienced some of my most frustrating days in Room 102. These walls forced me to grow up and learn some tough life lessons. I learned to be patient...really patient. I also learned how to speak up for myself in a professional and productive way. Over the past four years my positive outlook saved me, whether it was in listening to and helping fellow teachers work through a situation or talking with a parent during parent teacher conferences. I loved that just about any teacher in the building felt comfortable stopping by my room in the mornings or after school just to chat about their day. I loved the "high" I felt after an exhausting day of parent teacher conferences. But what I will remember most are the notes, phone calls and conversations with parents thanking me for my work with their child. Sometimes they felt few and far between, but when they did pop up, the passion from my parents was so strong it could bring you to tears. I grew to love these families and even when I thought we had hit a dead end, I was always amazed at the end of they year with the progress my kids made and the outpouring of support from these particular families. Their energy and dedication despite whatever was going on at home, propelled me through the tough days. 

The platform of this blog was meant to document and support urban teachers. I may never work in the same setting as I've had for the past four years, but I know without a doubt the lessons I've learned in that city have set me up for a successful career in education. I'm proud to say I worked in an urban setting and had the opportunity to experience the passion of so many wonderfully dedicated teachers. And even with all of the challenges I faced, I already miss it terribly. But stay tuned...a new chapter and purpose for this blog is on the horizon and I can't wait to start the next chapter of my life as a teacher.


Monday, June 10, 2013

What it's all about...



I had one of those moments this afternoon...teachers know what I mean. One of those times where we get a glimpse into the effect we are having on little people and their family's lives everyday. One of my former first graders came back to see me with his mom. They had heard I was leaving at the end of this year and wanted to come by and say thank you. It was this mother's genuine expression of thanks, even a year after I had her son, that reminded during this last week of school of the impact I've had over the past four years. It was refreshing and I hope to have more moments like this in my new school. To all my former students and their families, yes it is true I have been teaching you, but in all honestly you have taught me more about myself and this world in the past four years then you will ever know. Thank you GPMS family!