Sunday, April 3, 2016

Rick Morris is Coming! Rick Morris is Coming!

As a new(ish) teacher I'd heard Rick Morris' name but until recently didn't know much about him.  I had the opportunity to attend the CTA Good Teaching South conference in Anaheim last month.  While there, I attended the 8am bonus session with Rick Morris.  And I was hooked immediately.  I spent the whole session madly scribbling down notes, snapping pictures of his presentation, and thinking "that is SO true" and "wow, that is amazing".  I attended his second session that weekend as well.  I took it as my personal mission to learn all he could teach me in three short hours.

Since seeing Rick at the CTA conference I have begun incorporating some of his strategies in my classroom.  I'm a firm believer in including my students in classroom decisions because it creates more buy-in and builds a closer classroom community.  We talked about the different hand signals and some other new tricks we were going to start using - and I quickly noticed that my class couldn't wait to tell visitors about our new hand signals!

I tweeted a photo of my students using his magnetic numbers and suddenly found myself in conversation with the classroom management guru himself.  And then...he was scheduled to visit my classroom.  Wait, what?  Rick Morris?  In my classroom?  That sounded totally terrifying, but at the same time, totally awesome!
Fast forward to the day Rick Morris arrived!

Rick Morris walked into my classroom and I immediately thought "Oh my God, he's going to see every move I make.  He's a guru...oh no!"  I was a ball of nerves!  You know those times where you don't want to look like you're putting on a dog and pony show but you also don't want to fumble all over the place?  Yeah, this was one of those times.  Once we got started, I just sat back and prayed my students would remember all the "Rick Morris-y" things we'd learned/talked about!  Oh, and I took a lot of pictures too!
The first thing I noticed was that Rick had the undivided attention of every student in the room as soon as he sat down.  He spoke softly and was very clear with the direction of the conversation and his expectations for student involvement in the conversation.  It was great to watch him call on the students and see the things he spoke about in his CTA conference sessions in action.  At one point, the students were guessing his age.  One of my students gave the answer signal, but as soon as he was called on my student started in with "I think I know how to play the game you're talking about..."  Rick moved on to another student without even missing a beat and without giving the student any credit for his off-topic comment.  This is definitely something I'm trying to work on.  It's just so easy to fall back into what we all do every once in a while and explain to the student that the comment is off-topic - but then we're just giving it the attention we're trying to avoid giving!
Rick also taught us a fabulous PE game, Belt Wars.  Belt Wars blog post coming soon!
Overall, Rick's visit was incredible!  My class LOVED Belt Wars and I loved getting a chance to see some of Rick's methods in action.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why We Still Make Leprechaun Traps

*In an effort to keep all magic going strong for as long as possible this is NOT a post for children's eyes!*

Throughout the year I talk with my class about how third grade is a really special year.  They are technically considered "upper graders" but I like to look at it a little differently.  My third graders are the biggest of the "little kids" and have to be good role models for the students in grades K-2, but they're the smallest of the "big kids" and still have a lot to learn from the students in grades 4-5.  I like to think of third grade as a magical land where the students get the perks of being little kids and big kids throughout the year.  Why act older than you have to?  But at the same time, why be treated like you're younger than you are?  And on the teacher end, if my students are head over heels for Santa, itching to catch a leprechaun, or hanging on every word of a fanciful story, why would I want to miss out on all the magical opportunities?

I'm the only teacher above first grade at my school who does anything with leprechaun traps...which doesn't always earn the most encouraging comments from others.  Whenever I catch myself getting defensive inside I remind myself of one of the most important things I learned in my credential program: as long as you can justify the decisions you are making in your classroom, you are the teacher and you need to do what's best for your students.  That pulls me out of my "soon to be defensive" mode and reminds me to highlight the good in my instructional decision - in this case, leprechaun traps.

I loved St. Patrick's Day while I was growing up...I got to build things, there was glitter, and there was candy involved!  I will never forget walking into Mrs. Lehto's classroom on St. Patrick's Day and seeing the little green leprechaun footprints on our desks (covered in gold glitter).  Obviously, one of the highlights of being a teacher is getting to provide those magical memory for my own students now!  (However, it's a lot more work that it looks like!)

While the magic is fun (and I believe, essential to learning in the long run) the academics can't fall off the wagon.

Writing
This year, our persuasive writing unit started right before St. Patrick's Day; just enough time to give students a taste of what opinion writing is - and then have them try their hand at a persuasive piece about their trap.  Students started by brainstorming strengths of their traps.  I loved reading each student's argument about why his/her trap was the best trap to catch a leprechaun.  Some students even chose to write their piece in the form of a letter to a leprechaun.  It's impressive what a kid can come up with when trying to convince a leprechaun to get in a trap (*cough cough* house).

Math
We started with a review of the basics of measurement (gotta make sure we're using the correct side of the ruler!).  Students first estimated the height of their traps in inches and centimeters - then found the exact measurements.  Once the measuring was completed, students compared their measurements with a classmate and had to calculate how much taller (or shorter) the classmate's trap was.  We wrapped it up with a short geometry review - identifying different shapes on the trap (and uses for them if they were part of the "trapping mechanism").

Growth Mindset
While this isn't necessarily standards based, our school has been focused on Growth Mindset and the power of "yet" this year - so I think it's important to incorporate it into our academics as much as possible.  Our class talked about the traps they made in first grade and how they could learn from their mistakes, use what they know now that they're third graders, and improve their traps this time.  "We haven't caught a leprechaun...YET!"

STEM
We've already got the mathematics part covered - but what's more perfect for creating a leprechaun trap than engineering?  These kids had to make something out of nothing that could actually do something.  Some of my students' traps were so good that I actually had to put thought into how the sneaky leprechauns were going to escape!  Traps came in with pulley systems and all sorts of hidden tricks!

In the end, while my students were building traps and building memories, I was sneaking learning in all around them!  Once all the fun was done we talked about how some people didn't understand why we were doing a "kindergarten project" and one student went "uh, and because it's FUN!"  Yes, my dear child.  Yes.










Monday, February 15, 2016

Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome - in the classroom

For the past 100 school days my class and I have been reading Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome.  In it, he provides 100 ideas to help make the world more awesome.  His ideas range anywhere from fun things like "mail your friend a corndog" to more serious topics like "love changes everything, so fill the world with it".  Every morning in Room 14b has begun with one of KP's incredible (and often hilarious) ideas.  We started this awesome journey with Kid President (and his brother-in-law Brad) on the first day of school and have recently come to the end of the book (not the journey!) on the 100th day of school.  While our Kid President journey is continuing, we aren't quite sure what to do with ourselves now that the book is done!

To find out more about the book that's going to inspire you, energize you, and make you see the world with new eyes - Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome.

While many of the ideas KP presents in his book were right up Room 14b's alley, there were some that were definitely way above our third grade perceptions of the world.  The thing that was so incredible throughout this journey though, was that even when they weren't sure what KP meant, they came up with something.  Together they made meaning of things they didn't understand (and they were usually pretty close of what KP meant!).  After the idea for each day was read, I got into the habit of just saying "what does that mean?" and stepping back to let the class have the discussion.  The things you will hear and learn when you let your kids have the floor are just amazing.  The conversations we had and the ideas they came up with were far above what I could have ever imagined.

Thanks to Kid President's willingness to get out there and make sure his ideas are heard, I have 25 students who are ready to take on the world with an entire collection of things they can do to make sure the world they live in is more awesome.

For any teachers looking for some KP activity inspiration -
Some KP ideas were better for discussions, but others were great for quick activities!  Here is some of the fun we had!  Most were simple and could be prepared VERY quickly, many didn't need any prep at all!  We also tweeted about our journey (almost daily) which led to conversations with Brad and KP as well as major retweets!  The things these kids did because they were inspired by Kid President were noticed, and that makes the world more awesome all on it's own.

#8 Focus on the awesome - KP talks about making awesome tinted glasses...so we did!
#10 As human beings, we are capable of lost of bad stuff, but also cupcakes - you guessed it...cupcakes!
#13 Every time you see a slide, go down it - class "field trip" to the playground for a slide extravaganza!
#14 Sing out loud.  You don't have to have a reason to. - Loud singalong!
#18 Mail your friend a corndog - PostIt note activity: What could you mail a friend that would make their day?
#20 Every room you enter?  FREE HUGS! - you guessed it...hugs!
#21 If you see spinach (or anything else) in somebody's teeth, tell them, but only after you've told them something embarrassing about yourself - a few minutes of embarrassing stories (but no one was embarrassed because we were all embarrassed! [get it?])
#22 We need to live in a world with fewer selfies and more otherpeoplies - PostIt note activity: draw an otherpeoplie
#23 Practice the art of the unexpected burrito - PostIt note activity: What could you surprise someone with?  (AND!  An unexpected burrito arrived shortly after the lesson!  Coolest thing ever!)
#31 Ask Questions - KP asked us these 3 questions: What are you not ok with?  What do you have?  What can we do about it?  And inspired us to participate in Socktober!  (See Socktober post.)
#32 Stand in someone else's shoes (metaphorically) - I gave each kid a shoe cut out with a different life/school situation on it (some super great, some not so great) and the class read their shoes, thought about how that would feel if it was their story, and had a class discussion.
#37 If you want to be a world changer for people everywhere, be a day maker for the people right next to you - PostIt note activity: What are you going to try to do TODAY that will help you be a day maker here at school?  We then kept our PostIt notes in our pockets all day to remind us to be day makers.
#38 Send a card.  Every day.  For 365 Days. - Made a card for anyone they wanted to and sent it off!
#44 Invent a new handshake - Split into partners, invented new handshakes, and taught the class!
#45 Solve a conflict using ice cream! - We didn't have any conflicts to solve, but we decided to practice using ice cream so we'd be pros when we did need to solve conflict ;) - ice cream day!
#52 Think of something you want to say, and the sing it instead - We discovered one of KP's pep talks had been songified!  We now sing the song every morning!
#53 Write and record a song for someone - I typed up the fill in the blank song template KP provided and we wrote songs!
#54 Help someone who is younger than you - I typed up a little ticket that said "I helped _____ by ______" and required an adult's signature.  My Imagineers were helping little kids on the playground, taking kids to the nurse, and helping their parents with younger siblings!
#56 Love changes everything, so fill the world with it - PostIt note activity: How can you fill the world with love?  What do you love to do?
#57 Don't be in a party.  Be a party. - PostIt note activity: How can you be a party for the people around you?  What do you do that makes you the happiest?
#60 Throw a pop-up art show - Each student got to take 6 photos on a disposable camera.  They could take pictures of anything that gave them joy or they were thankful for at school.  We will be developing them (warning: EXPENSIVE!) and having a pop-up art show at Open House.
#63 Put tape on your nose.  It's a great conversation starter. - Yup, we put tape on our noses and took selfies.  We laughed.  A LOT.
#64 Come up with names for things that already have names - we did just that!
#65 Meow the words to your favorite songs.  We call this cat caroling. - We cat caroled to I Am Able by EmiSunshine
#68 Be kind.  It's not always easy, but it's always important. - PostIt note activity: How can I be kind even when it isn't easy?  What can I do to be kind even when I don't want to?
#69 Write a poem for somebody who doesn't normally get poems written about them - Students picked important people in their lives and wrote acrostic poems about them.
#70 Gather your friends, dress up like superheroes, and do someone's yard work - We wore superhero capes and cleaned up the playground!  It was a blast!
#82 Give out handmade awards - We created the 14Bee (since our room number is 14b) and have handed it out to some incredible day makers in and around our classroom!
#83 Lick the walls of the White House - While we would have loved to take a real field trip...we settled for a virtual field trip to the White House!  KP videos with President Obama and a Google Maps tour of the White House to find the walls KP licked!
#84 Take a moment to reflect - PostIt note activity: I wish my teacher knew...
#85 Kiss BeyoncĂ© - No kissing BeyoncĂ© here!  Just KP videos!
#86 Let your heroes know they are your heroes - Padlet activity: My hero is _______ because ______.  We also recorded each student reading their sentence to be put together for an Open House video.
#87 Teachers keep teaching.  Students keep studenting. - This one just led to great discussion about how we're all teachers and we're all students.
#88 It's ok to get discouraged... - Class led discussion about what we can do when we get discouraged so that we don't stop just because of that.  PostIt note activity: What helps you to not stop when you get discouraged?
#89 Ask: "Who do I want to be?" - Class led discussion about the difference between WHO you want to be and WHAT you want to be when you grow up.  PostIt note activity: WHO do you want to be?
#92 Remember: Things don't have to be the way they are - This landed at the perfect time because we were just wrapping up a mini unit on Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr.  This slid right in to our discussions and activities.
#93 Take care of yourself, so you can take care of others - Class led discussion about the importance of staying healthy and taking care of yourself because you can't help others if you don't take care of yourself.
#96 Look backwards and forwards - Landed perfectly at the beginning of Black History Month!  Lesson on Nelson Mandela and the importance of learning from past mistakes.
#98 Write down your dreams - We wrote our dreams on little clouds to be displayed in the classroom.  We also talked about how writing your dreams down isn't enough to make them happen, you also have to DO something about it.
#99 Remember that the world is bigger than your backyard - VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP.  Thanks to Google Maps we were able to travel thousands of miles without ever leaving the comfort of our classroom.  Led by student requests we visited Rome (went inside the Colosseum), Paris (top of the Eiffel Tower), the Philippines, Hawaii, Chicago, Michigan, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, the North Pole, Iraq, the top of One World Trade Center, pyramids in Egypt, South Africa, Mexico City, Spain, and more!  We even swam the Great Barrier Reef!  This was definitely one of my favorite days.
#100 Start writing on a page and then lose track of... - Hearing the class finish this sentence was GREAT!  At this point, they are pros at thinking like Kid President and are pretty much ready to take on the world.  Each student filled out the final page in KP's book which asked: "What are you not ok with?"  "What do you have that can change that?"  "Who can you bring along to help you?"  "The world would be more awesome if ______."  We used these questions to help us start Room 14b's Guide to Being Awesome.  We have a wall in the back of the room where students are adding their "#101".

To wrap it all up, I gave my students a Kid President RAFT*/menu that included things like:

  • Make a poster of your favorite Kid President idea
  • Write a speech: If you could be Kid President for a day, what would you tell the world?
  • Write a letter OR record a video: If you could tell Kid President anything, what would it be?
  • Online menu: provided videos for students to watch and then prompted them to come up with their own ideas
  • and more!
*RAFT: Students get to choose their Role, Audience, Format, and Topic.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Teaching One Thing but Practicing Another

I made two goals in July.  The first was to post at least once a month.  The second was to post my classroom creations when I created them instead of waiting forever.  Progress check?  I haven't been doing that great!  Yes, it's only been a couple of months, but still!  I put it out there, expecting that I would stick with it.  But then the year got started and I got busy and I was tired and I had planning to do and I came up with A TON of excuses.  Not ok. :)

I've always been a perfectionist.  I've striven to be the best I can be at everything I set my mind to for as long as I can remember.  I set extremely high standards for myself and I expect myself to reach them.  But the catch is, as great as high standards are, chances are that once in a while I might not reach them.  To most people, this would be completely reasonable.  To me, I've always been an all or nothing person when it comes to fulfilling my expectations of myself.  It's always been "perfection" or "failure".  The funny thing is, this mindset was created all on my own.  I grew up knowing that what really matters is not always reaching what I saw as perfection, but the effort and work I put into it in the process.  I was surrounded by a growth mindset.

Being a perfectionist, always taking on too much, and always giving my all to everything has been a great way to learn a hard lesson (more than once): there are some standards I will not reach when I expect to reach them.  Doesn't mean I don't still try though! ;)

This past weekend I realized how interesting it is that I spend my days trying to get my students to believe that doing their best is what really matters, and that getting 55% on a test is a great thing if they only got 35% on the last one, and that our "failures" only teach us, the list goes on and on.  How can I convince my students to listen to this and believe it, when even I am not listening to it?

So what's the point in all this?  I know our students don't see the behind the scenes aspect of our day-to-day school life, but they do see more than we think they do.  They know when we're having a hard day even when we're all smiles and pretend everything is great.  They can sense when we're really passionate about something and we aren't.  They can (sometimes) tell when we're making it up as we go along.  There are things they figure out without us telling them.  If we're really wanting our students to believe the life lessons we're teaching them, we need to start believing them as well.  I can't hold my students accountable for being ok with their best effort even if they haven't done as well as they wanted to when I know I wouldn't settle for that if it were me.

Some things are meant to be learned over a lifetime.  For me, it's learning to truly be ok with not always reaching every standard I set for myself within the time limit I expect.  But it sure has given me great stories to use as examples for my students!  It really helps when they're freaking out about a test score and I can say: "Trust me, I am a pro at freaking out about grades.  If I tell you there's nothing to worry about, then there really isn't anything to worry about."

Everyone has something they push their students to take to heart that they themselves haven't yet taken to heart.  Think about that next time you wonder why some students haven't figured out what you're talking about yet.  I mean, my students are 8.  I'm 24.  If I'm still working on it, they probably are too!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Socktober

I learned a great lesson last month: do not underestimate children.  Especially once they've set their minds to something.  A big something.

We've been enjoying starting our mornings off with Kid President each day; we've been inspired to talk together, write our ideas down, sing out loud, be day makers, and just be more awesome!  But one day, Kid President inspired us to do something more awesome than ever before.  Kid President gave us a way to help others.  (3 Questions that Could Change the World from Kid President)  The video hadn't even finished, but I could tell my Imagineers were already thinking about what they could do to help.  In the discussion that followed the video, we visited www.happysocktober.com and my students set to work.  It started with "Socktober?  We can do that!" and "If we all brought 4 pairs of socks then we'd have 100 pairs already!" and it wasn't long before we had a Google Doc of ideas and were inviting our principal, Mr. Himaka, in to hear our plan.

*I read about Socktober (a sock drive to collect socks for homeless people to help
keep them warm over winter) when I read Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome
over the summer and I knew I wanted my students to participate, but I wanted them to
come up with the idea, not me.  I'm so glad they latched onto the idea when it came up
and decided to run with it!  Things like this mean so much more when they come
from the kids instead of the teacher!*

It's incredible what kids can come up with when you give them the chance.  They brainstormed ways to invite Mr. Himaka in to speak with them (a note on a sock!) and ways to invite the other 3rd grade teachers to participate with their classes.  They planned how they would advertise and where each sign would go.  They created their own posters and flyers to be sent home.  They dictated my tweets.  They even set to work designing a myriad of possible games for the Fall Festival.  This was 3rd grade Imagineering at its finest!  These kids knew what they wanted, and they couldn't be stopped.

Our school already has a lot of fundraisers going on in the fall, so Mr. Himaka helped us decide to have Socktober be a 3rd grade run event this year.  My class' original goal was 500 pairs of socks - if it was just us participating - or 1,000 pairs of socks - if the whole school was participating.

Somehow, in all of their brainstorming and planning, someone suggested that a great way to advertise Socktober was for me to dress up as a giant sock.  No.  There was no way I was going to dress up as a giant sock.  No one does that!  We joked about it, but it was too unrealistic to actually happen.  Although I thought the idea had died...my bright (and sneaky!) Imagineers threw the idea in while talking with Mr. Himaka!  Of course, he thought it was a fabulous idea!  He even gave me a name: #KefferTheSock!  Realistically, part of the reason I had been so against the idea in the first place was because I was worried about what the other teachers would say about it.  I didn't want to be seen as a distraction!  Once I had the go ahead from the principal, I agreed...on one condition: #KefferTheSock would only appear on the last day of Socktober IF we had 1,000 pairs of socks.  1,000 pairs of socks from our four 3rd grade classes...definitely thought it wasn't going to happen.  I set that goal high for a reason!

The kids did a great job and worked their little butts off all month long.  Socks came pouring in at the beginning, we got about 150 pairs in the first week!  By the end of the third week, we had just over 500 pairs of socks.  If it took us three weeks to get that many, how in the world were we going to get 500 pairs in ONE week?  We weren't.  As much as the adults talked (out of earshot of children, of course) about how we'd done such a great job for our first time even though we weren't going to hit the goal, the kids NEVER once said a word about not hitting the goal.  They talked about #KefferTheSock showing up.  They helped count socks.  They kept bringing socks.  But they NEVER doubted themselves.
Happy Socktober!
Our final push for socks came from Mr. Himaka: it turns out that phone calls from the principal work magic.  Especially when those calls include announcements about #KefferTheSock making an appearance at Friday dismissal.  Throughout the next four days, the socks came pouring in.  We hit 1,000 pairs of socks on Thursday night, and exceeded our goal on Friday.  It took us three weeks to get 500 pairs of socks; and then, in a matter of four days, we got 500 more pairs of socks.  I have never seen my students so dedicated and excited, nor have I ever seen them so capable of explaining the purpose of something they were doing.  They were proud, and I was proud of them.
Almost there!
The last day of Socktober was a BLAST: #KefferTheSock made her first public appearance.  Instead of waiting until dismissal, I wore the sock for most of the morning.  It was so much fun having kids ask to take their picture with me!  I even got to present my PeaceBuilder of the Month awards at our assembly...dressed as a giant sock (in front of parents!).  I spent the rest of the day switching back and forth between Miss Keffer and #KefferTheSock.  It was a really fun way to celebrate reaching our goal and my class was STOKED that I was finally dressed up as a giant sock.  We ended the day with #KefferTheSock out front during dismissal...LOTS of waving!  I loved seeing the kids and parents enjoying the fun together.  Lots of waving, lots of laughter, lots of pictures...
Before school - some of my amazing Imagineers
#KefferTheSock at our Red Ribbon Week Assembly 
#KefferTheSock enters the mummy race during the Room 14b class party...and ends up like this?
#KefferTheSock ROCKIN IT with a fabulous Mouseketeer from last year's class.
#KefferTheSock ROCKIN IT with a fabulous Mouseketeer from last year's class.
Mr. Himaka, #KefferTheSock, and a fabulous Mouseketeer from last year's class 
Friday, 10/30, total 
Final total - EXACTLY 1, 175 pairs!
Whew!  I had no idea that was going to be such a long post!  I am so thankful to have had this experience with my Imagineers and with our entire school community.  My kids set their minds to something and they didn't let anything stop them.  Although this was lead by the 3rd graders, the entire school got involved, and it was amazing to watch everyone come together for such an amazing cause.  Teamwork sure is an incredible thing.  Way to go Gators!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Little but Magical Changes

I may be in the minority here, but I am a firm believer that even if you don't change your classroom theme for the new school year, there should be something new.  I don't want my new students to just fall into the empty spaces left behind by my last students.  I want my new students to notice differences, be intrigued by the changes, feel like they matter enough for me to make changes.  Because they do.  I believe they deserve something they can call their own.

I didn't make any huge changes for this year, but there are small things here and there that I changed just enough to create wonder and excitement.

Flying ear hats!  My super creative mom helped come up with the idea and my handy dandy daddy did the hard work: hanging up my ear hats!  Last year they sat on top of my cabinets.  This year, they're flying above them!  It's fun when the air conditioning kicks in because the hats move like they're floating. :)


More pillows/rugs!  To help encourage my students to take advantage of my alternative seating arrangement and provide them with comfortable options, I bought more pillows!  I never realized how expensive pillows are, but I got lucky and found some fun, inexpensive, Disney themed ones.  The only problem with more pillows is a place to put them!  Last year my 7 pillows (and two rugs) fit perfectly on my low square table, but the additions took much more space than that.  I re-purposed my supply crates from last year and have now created an out of the way home for the pillows.  (If only the class could put them back as neatly as I do!)

The pillow crates are under the counter by the round table.
New seating options!  My last class LOVED my two big bean bag chairs...so much so that both of them exploded in the last week of school. :( My classroom said goodbye to the bean bag chairs and my search for new seating began.  Lucky for me, my sister (also a teacher) switched grades this year and no longer had space in her classroom for this fun striped saucer chair!  And to top it off, the bench by the window is a toy chest/bench that we've had at home since I got my very first desk set (all of which is now in my classroom!).  Great storage, great seating, and free!


More fun decorations!  Disneyland is celebrating it's 60th anniversary right now and I would highly recommend you go if you can!  As part of the 60th celebration they are selling popcorn buckets shaped like the Mickey head balloons.  These are clearly a must have for my classroom!  I still need to get the third one (red), but I love how fun they look "floating" into the sky.


I also came across this awesome photo booth kit.  It came complete with two frames and six props.  These made for some great, fun first day of school pictures!


An expanded classroom library!  I'm not sure how, but I seem to have gained a ton of books over the summer.  YAY!  I bought the six square shelving unit from Target to house my series and LOVE it.  I like how organized it looks and being able to keep each series together.  I also bought more baskets like the ones on top of my shelves (Big Lots) for certain types of books and placed them on the shelves.  This is my effort to keep my classroom library as organized as possible...but then the kids attack! ;)


Ride posters!  I've been hanging on to my set of incredible Disneyland posters until I could find a good place for them to go...and I'm finally starting to get them placed poster by poster.  Last year I had maps of Disneyland and California adventure under the question, but with the placement of my chrome book cart there, there wasn't going to be enough space and I didn't want it to look cluttery.  I thought these three posters would be great with the question because each has to do with the question in some way: the wildest ride in the wilderness, the happiest cruise that ever sailed 'round the world, and the train that can take you all around Disneyland.  It's up to them how they want to start!


Awesome easel!  This might be my new favorite thing.  I bought this easel at Ikea ($14.99!) because I am going to need something for my chart tablets during my mini-lessons for writing (we're starting Lucy Calkins).  Now that I have it, I love how I can use it for everything!!  It has a chalkboard, whiteboard, roll of paper (for when I get super creative?), and a small shelf below the whiteboard.  We use it every day and it's fabulous!


Magnetic letters!  Ok, so this may not really have anything to do with classroom decor...my these magnetic letters are awesome!  They're a fun way to add some color to your whiteboard and create titles/labels/etc. that are purposeful and easy to see.

You know, Disneyland Tokyo, Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Avo*! (*Abbreviated school name)

New chairs!  Found these puppies at Ikea as well.  Ten bucks!  I bought two and the kids LOVE them!  They are another fun alternative to sitting in a normal chair at a desk all day.


The most awesome chair I could've ever asked for!  I wanted a director's chair for my birthday so my family teamed up: my parents bought the chair and the canvas and my sister decorated it with her amazing artist skills!  Holy moly it's amazing and more than anything I could've imagined!  It's such a happy thing to have right up front in my classroom; a great reminder that even on the roughest days, I still have so much to be amazed by!


And of course: Cinderella!  One of my students gave this life size Cinderella to me at the end of last year...and she's AWESOME!  The only problem is that she kinda takes up a lot of space, and I don't want her to get banged up by children!  (Or me, since I tripped on her on the first day of school and she almost fell on a student...Cinderella attack!)  I've had her out for about a week, but I think it's time for her to go back to the castle for a bit.  I think she'll come visit once in a while as a special treat instead of being a permanent fixture.



Friday, August 28, 2015

Changing Gears

We have just finished our first full week of school and we are already in full swing!  I can tell this is going to be a great year with a class full of unique and wonderful personalities!  This being my second year of teaching, it's the first time I've parted with a class at the end of one year and started with a new class at the beginning of the next.

My first class was one for the books.  Holy moly.  My first year of teaching exceeded my expectations and left me feeling blessed.  We had something truly special: there was a level of trust I've never seen among a group of kids before, we laughed, we cried, we learned about ourselves, we learned how to just be.  And boy oh boy did that lead to a very difficult and very emotional end of the year for all of us!  My 23 Mouseketeers and I shared a very teary goodbye on a sunny afternoon in June.

Then all of the sudden, there were 25 brand new faces staring at me one sunny August morning.  And they are not last year's class.  They are this year's class.  (And last year's class was my first class, there will never be another one of those...just like this year's is my second class and there will never be another one of it!)  As we've gotten to know each other over the past week I've discovered that I am just as blessed to be learning alongside some incredible kids once again.  Notice the word learning: first I wrote teaching, then changed it to leading, and finally landed on learning.  No matter how much I teach my students, or how well I lead them, what matters most is that we learn together.

Now to the real inspiration for this post: changing gears from the end of one year to the beginning of the next.

This is something no one warned new teachers about!  You leave one class ready for the next grade.  Then you start the next class with students who just finished the grade level before yours.  Last year's third graders were basically 4th graders when school ended!  This year's third graders are basically 2nd graders right now!  Little 4th graders to big 2nd graders.  That's a BIG difference.  It may be a big difference, but it definitely is a fun adventure!  Although it was nice to have everything dialed in last year and know what to expect every day, a new group of kids is keeping me on my feet!  I get to do the beginning of the year again, but this time, I've actually done it before!  This year is for repeating what I loved, changing what I didn't, and taking notes for my third beginning of the year.

I'm really looking forward to what this year, and this group of kids, will bring.  Right now I have to keep reminding myself that we are learning how to be in 3rd grade right now.  We are learning new routines, how to use the classroom, how to be just a little bit older, we are learning a lot!  And we have all the potential of reaching the level of trust last year's class had, but it's only been 7 days.  There's a reason we aren't there yet.  But we will be.  Soon.