Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dear Teacher Who Has Climbed the Mountain,

Seasons greetings! I would say Merry (belated) Christmas, but it has been so long since I posted that I should be saying Merry Christmas, Happy Thanksgiving, and even Happy Halloween!

Fellow teachers, you have climbed the mountain! Whether you feel as though your students just walked through the door for the first time or if you thought you would never make it to this point, our school year is half-way through.

I love this time of the year.  Besides, you know, that whole Christmas thing, this is the time of year when I always feel like I start to hit my stride with my class. Routines are tweaked to run smoothly, organization is well-established, parent-teacher relationships have been nurtured, and I have grown attached to each of my students.

Okay. So maybe I don't feel that way EVERY day!... It is easy to look back on the first half of the school year fondly while enjoying Christmas break, easy to forget the months of September, October......But everything just seems to look a bit brighter this time of year and there is a noticeable shift of perspective in knowing we are about to begin the descent of our school year (weird to think we are at this point already!).

But NOW! Wait just a minute. That is not to say that just because you are descending you can go on autopilot. Going down the mountain requires just as much skill and careful attention as going up because you wouldn't want to start going too fast only to end up tripping and faltering. That overwhelming stress of days past will still sometimes creep up and you will wonder how you will ever get everything done, but.... this is the time to remember what keeps you in this vocation you love, to remember the motivation you had when going back to school.

I have found my motivation this year in my students, my class of 14 lovely young women. And I do say women now when before I was said girls because the growth I have seen in each of them this year is astonishing. I don't know when I will every again have the opportunity have such a lovely group of students. I feel so blessed and fortunate to be able to share in just a small piece of each of their stories and this drives me to be my best each day for them, to give them everything I can during this short nine months we have together.

There is so much more to share, but all in time. For now, I leave you all, dear teachers,  to find what motivates you to once again feel invigorated on this mountain top. What is it that will drive (and improve) your descent this year?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dear Teacher Who Keeps Forgetting to Breathe,

After these first few weeks in 6th grade, I was kind of forgetting to do that sometimes.


In preparation for the move from 2nd to 6th grade, I spent my whole summer, day after day, week after week, organizing my classroom, studying up on the curriculum, and trying to become super teacher to fill the shoes of the woman who spent more than two decades in the position I was taking over. I was so prepared. I was over prepared. No one had ever been this prepared, I was sure. I was quite pleased with myself.

Eek. That was mistake number one.

Do you know Phillip Phillips? I am kind of an American Idol Fanatic :).

Call it weird if you want, but I have always had this intense connection with music. I keep hearing the line from this song in my head, "Troubles they might drag you down, but when you're lost you can always be found. Know you're not alone, I'm going to make this place your home"....

I was confident teaching 2nd grade. I was good at it and I LOVED it. Each day, I start to love 6th grade just a little bit more, but every time one of my little ones from last year comes to give me a hug, my heart melts a little and I just miss them so much! One day at a time, I sure hope I can make 6th grade my home :).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dear teacher who feels like she is failing,

You're not.

And do you know how I know that? Because you care enough about what you do to FEEL like you are failing.

Believe me, I know how easy it is to feel that way.

I've lived the less than restful night, pulling into the school parking lot so early that it's still pitch black outside and even Starbucks isn't open yet... the panic over realizing that you didn't copy something you needed for the day and then the wasted 30 minutes fixing a paper jam while you silently curse yourself for not being as prepared as you should be...the jealous glances into other classrooms in your school full of pinterest-inspired organization, decorations, and projects that you covet and are constantly itching to try but somehow keep getting pushed to the bottom of your to-do list... the "oh crap" moments when you notice your unfinished response to a parent's email that you started writing before school started in the morning... the disaster of a kitchen, empty fridge, and overflowing laundry baskets you force yourself to live with because you go home and work on school stuff all night until you exhaustedly fall asleep in front of your lesson plan book.

We teachers downplay all the incredible things we do for our students each and every day. Stop making yourself feel guilty for the toppling over stack of uncorrected papers sitting untouched on the table, or overflowing closet that requires a map for you to find anything. The time that the other teachers spent correcting their students' work, you spent making sure one of your students who is struggling in math felt good about his new math facts. The time that the other teachers spent filing and organizing, you spent listening to your students' stories about their dance recitals, softball games, and swimming practices.

Don't let the stress take your passion, don't let it make you forget why you're there.

For every person who complains to you or tells you you're doing something wrong, there's 5 students who know how to fill out a job application because YOU taught them how to read. You'll never know how deeply you've touched your students' lives.

Stay strong, teachers. You're NOT failing.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Account Number, Please!

I just love Saturday mornings. You know it's going to be a great day when you get to start it off with an early morning pilates class and a trip to the coffee shop to catch up on your web readings. How can that not be a great day?

So I have successfully survived my first week in 6th grade! For the most part I really am loving it, but I do miss my little ones...especially at times like last night when I was working at our school's carnival, The Gathering. I was running the Plinko game with another teacher. It mostly attracted the younger students, including many of my students from last year, and as they came running up to the game with their sweet little smiles and eager hugs it just made my heart break a little.

The hugs. Yes, I think all of the hugs are definitely what I miss the most!

And while I do have a few of my kiddos from my class last year stop by my room each morning, it's just not quite the same. Tear.

But there is definitely an upside to having older students. I am LOVING the curriculum. It is so much more interesting for me (duh, right?). Yesterday afternoon was the big opening of the classroom Bank of Hoxmeier and Hoxmeier's General Store, and this was definitely the highlight of my week!

Here's my store sign made on Vistaprint. Check out Teaching in Room 6 for more awesome ideas on running a classroom economy!

On Tuesday, all of the students filled out job applications and were given classroom jobs. Fridays are always pay day for these positions, so the girls all visit the bank and the banker (one of the jobs) gives them their pay. The banker fills out the bank log and the students all fill in their "check books" and/or deposit slips. After they are paid, they are allowed to visit the merchant (another job) at the the store. The best part of this whole thing yesterday (and the reason I deemed this relevant to post about) was the girl in my class who has the job of the banker. I just can't even convey how ridiculously ecstatic it makes me that she has the job of the banker. I quickly explained to her how to give out the pay, deposit slips, and fill in all the bank records of checks and balances and she took it SO SERIOUSLY. It was both amazing and amazingly amusing at the same time. For each job, she would call out, "Next customer!", greet them, and then say "Account number, please!". One time a girl came up to the bank before being called and she said, "I'm sorry ma'am, but I'm already in an appointment, you'll have to come back later". I was stifling giggles on this one. She even tried to convince a few of her customers to open savings accounts and relayed the benefits of saving their money vs. spending it all right away.

I'm pretty sure she's found her calling, ha!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

You Are Special

How excited am I to have the first (three) days of the new school year completed?!
It's always better after the first day! :)

Even though it was kind of a bummer of a day that started with me opening the door of my classroom to a wasp that dive-bombed down from the ceiling right at my face. Even though I had a coworker bum me out at lunch by saying we might have to reduce our staff down one teacher again next year. And even though after school I had a parent email me to apologize for not being able to attend the 6th grade parent meeting tonight that we had canceled in the school newsletter last week and had somehow magically uncanceled in the school newsletter this week causing me miss my warrior sculpt class so I could scramble around to contact all the parents and try to make sure they didn't show up at school since the meeting really WAS canceled. Confused yet? Yes, even after just three days it's already become so much easier, ha!

AND, I got to have dinner tonight with one of my absolute favorite people in the world, my former 2nd grade teaching partner, whom I just love and miss terribly. How could it NOT be a good night after that?

On the first day of school each year, no matter what grade I teach, I always read my favorite book to the class. It's called You are Special by Max Lucado.

I was introduced to this story by a 5th grade teacher three years ago. He reads it to his class every year as well, and right before my very first day of teaching he gave me a copy of my own. I really wanted to share this story with all of you because I just think it has such an amazingly powerful message and can foster a great group bonding experience for kiddos on their first day as a class together. Everyone is special in their own way and everyone is unique- and that's how it's supposed to be. Yes, yes, I know, awww, how cute and contrite (insert eye roll here). But really. You won't be sorry if you read it. The best part is the conversation is spurs in the students, it's really quite beautiful to listen to them. And this year with a class of 14 sixth grade girls when they're kind of starting to get to that catty stage it was especially awesome. I always read this story on the last day of school as well. The kids usually gather around with their arms around each other, and believe me tears are shed!

Trust me on this one. Best teaching item I own. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Almost Alarm That Never Was

3-2-1.... It's here!

T'was the before school, and where did summer go?!? Our first day of school is tomorrow and I have butterflies like a little kindergartener! As long as I teach, I don't think that will change. I'm always nervous for that first moment that I'm in my classroom with all my new students and I have to start everything from scratch. All the procedures, the rules, the routines... I long for that day about a month or so down the road... You know! That day when I will look around the room and realize with a smile that my classroom has gotten to the point that it can mostly run without me (besides that tiny little part called the teaching, of course, haha!). I'm sure you all know that moment :).

So today I ALMOST did something that would have been oh so terrible! I was working in my classroom like a good little teacher (I know, it's a holiday, shame shame....but I'm sure I'm not the only one!) My school building is still on summer hours until tomorrow when the school year janitor comes back to work. When he's back the building will be  open until 10:00 P.M. But since it's still summer hours, it's open until 5:00 P.M. every day. Usually. So it's about 4:15 and I'm just bopping along to my radio finishing the set up of my classroom economy materials when all of the sudden I had a minor (ok, major) freak out. Wait a second. It's a holiday. That means that church employees aren't here today. That means the building might already be empty and the security system armed for the night! OhMyGoodnessGracious. So I frantically grabbed my purse and my computer, slammed the door to my classroom shut, ran down the hall and two flights of stairs and came to a screeching halt in front of the security system box. OH NO. It was already armed and I was trapped inside. Well, kind of. I was already playing out two different scenarios in my head: one where I played dumb and just walked out anyway as the building is surrounded with police, and another where I had to sheepishly call my principal and tell her I was still in the school building with the alarm armed and could she please give me the code so she didn't have to drive all the way to the school just to get me out.... Ugh. I quickly shot down my first idea and was about to execute the second when I had an aha! moment, or memory as it was, of one of the teachers a year ago telling me she had a code for the security system. So I quickly dialed her praying she would answer..............

Are you all on the edges of your seats now? I'm sure you are, hahahaha.... In any case, thankfully she DID answer and DID remember the code and because the security system happens to be the same as the one we have in our house, I knew how to use it, too. Crisis averted. So much excitement on my supposed day off! :)

And as the school year gets off and running, September Currently with Farley's Oh Boy 4th Grade:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

You know that school is in session when...

... when my living room floor looks like this:

Yes, I pretty much spent my whole day cutting out things I laminated. Such is the life of a teacher, huh?  Here's the finished product of everything I cut out:

So much fun, right? I'm so super excited about my theme/color choice for my 6th graders this year! I'll give a sneak peak of what some of these things are starting to look like in my classroom. This is a sampling of open house night:
I had there workbooks sitting out on their desks and ready for them when they arrived at open house.

I also had a couple forms for them to fill out: safety patrols, permission to be featured on our classroom website, and "help me get to know your child" survey for the parents. I also had a fun little ice breaker activity for the kids ready to take home and prepare for the first day (It's in the Bag activity courtesy of Clutter Free Classroom). Then, I gave each girl a flower that matches the flower kissing balls we have hanging in our room and attached a free pass for a night of no homework. That was a big hit with all the girls at the open house!!

Then I labeled and color coded these baskets (which made me really haha) with a place to turn in each of the forms. 

.... This week is Open House Week on TBA (Teaching Blog Addict), so I'm linking up with them to share! Go check it out...