Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer Projects

The past four days have been great! I've actually given myself a chance to relax for once. Even though it's summer, I will be starting camp tomorrow—which runs from June 18-July 20 (with a week off for July 4th), from 7:30-4:00 each day. So.... I will basically be working the same hours as school—not that I will be doing anywhere near the amount of work I was doing during the school year! Once July 20th rolls around, I will probably take another couple of days off and then try to get back into my classroom to either pack it up to move to a new room or begin decorating my old room again. It all just depends on what grade I teach next year. Either way, I will have a lot of work to do! Thankfully, I tried to make things a little easier on myself by going ahead and taking everything down and storing it. That's one less step I will need to do at the end of the summer. Look at the before and after:

Before (well... this is the beginning of the year pic... but it looked basically the same)

After. Totally clean!

On that note, since I am only teaching during weeks 2 and 4 of camp, I am going to try to do a “summer project” every week or so. I can not for the life of me remember which blog it was that I was reading a few weeks ago where the blogger said she was going to post a new project every Monday to hold herself accountable, but I am going to try to do something along the same lines. I'm not making any promises though! :) I have a couple projects that I already know that I would like to complete this summer (I'm sure the list will get bigger... but I'll handle that later).

Here are some of the things I really would like to get done.

  1. CLEAN- First and foremost, I have got to clean my apartment. I mean it is a WRECK. A disgusting, messy, I'm-never-home, wreck. I already spent half a day cleaning out the fridge, my part of the pantry, and my closet (holy crap... now that was a project in itself!), but there is still the rest of the kitchen, my bathroom, my bedroom, and the living room. After that is done, I can start on some new projects!
    Look, you can see the floor of my closet! I don't think it's been this clean the entire time I've lived here!
    I forgot to take a "before" picture of the closet... but this is after I had taken all of the stuff out of it to organize and put back in it.

    After! I even left space on the side for all of the school stuff I need to put in here. I do plan on reorganizing my clothes and possibly getting a shelving unit, but this is SUCH an improvement!

    2. Gallery wall- My roomie, Brittany, and I moved into our apartment almost a year ago and I still have not finished decorating my bedroom. I have an entire wall that I have been planning on turning into a gallery wall since I moved in but never got around to it. Brittany even bought me some frames for Christmas to get me started and I still haven't done it. I have been so consumed with decorating/organizing my classroom that my apartment kind of took a backseat. Well, now that I can't get into my classroom for a while, I have to look at my apartment all the time! So, maybe that will inspire me a little bit.

    3. Pirate theme- I need to print/create some pirate wall art for my classroom. I already have my pirate themed CAFE signs and writing posters. Now I need to print out the ABC letters I bought (is that even appropriate for 3rd grade still, if I end up moving?), classroom rules, and some cute signs I plan on framing. I also want to do a couple paintings. There's a lot of things I can't do while I'm at home, because it takes materials that are at school—but I'll worry about that in August!

    4. Organize- I need to find some more organizing things for my classroom that look good together. I am a bin hoarder, but none of the bins match and all of those bins together still don't make things look organized. I plan on doing a lot of yard sale-ing and spray painting this summer!

    5. Read- I know that I am definitely reading the CAFE book and some books on writer's workshop... but I am going to read some books for fun too. I finally finished the last book in the Hunger Games series last night, so I will be moving on to some other novels I've been wanting to read.

    6. Lose weight—Ohh the constant goal that is on everyone's list. I managed to lose 15 pounds earlier in the school year (not really due to diet and exercise, more due to the fact that I was very sick) but I have gained it all back in the last few months, because I haven't been sick anymore. As glad as I am to not be sick, being sick was a very easy way to diet! Haha, I'm kidding. My goal is to get healthy and feel better and continue to not be sick; hopefully, in the process, I'll go down a few pants sizes at the same time! ;)

    7. Randoms—Here are a few pictures that I have pinned that I would really love to create this summer. I'm not good at writing sources correctly, so I'll just put the link under each picture where I found, if it is available. I am a pinaholic, so this narrows it down for me just a little bit:

    Seashell Lamp
    I've already started collecting a lot of shells and it gives me an excuse to keep going to the beach. :)

    Anchor Paintings

    I know that these are beach towels, but I want to paint at least one painting with an anchor on it, but in red and white to match my classroom.

    Mod-Podge Filing Cabinet

    I will probably not actually use mod-podge because I want to be able to take the paper off it I want. But I want to cover my cabinets with red, black, and white paper.

    Scrap Paper Organization

    I have a ton of scraps and end up throwing away even more because I have no real way to organize them. I want them to be organized enough to look good, while still being easily accessible for the kids. No more wasting paper!

    Pirate Bulletin Board

    I want to create one of these, without the “Captain of the Week” at the top. I want to use it to put near my desk to hold personal pictures. Right now I have only one personal picture up in my room and would like some more to remind me of all the people I love!

    Guess I'd better get to work! :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

No Longer a First-Year Teacher!

Well... yesterday marked the last day of my first year of teaching! I suppose I'll need to change the title of this blog to something else then. Any ideas? This year has been one of the most stressful and influential years of my entire life—I am definitely not at all the same person I was a year ago. When I graduated from college, I was very worried that I was not “grown up” enough to start a career and really just wanted to go to grad school instead. But I have learned that you can't possibly feel completely ready to teach upon graduating—it's just one of those things that you have to jump into and work your butt off until you get it. There are still so many aspects that I don't get... but I was able to reflect on my teaching this year and really find some key areas that I needed to focus on improving this summer before I begin teaching next year. All I can do is improve!

As of right now, I do not know what I will be teaching next year. There is a possibility I may move to third grade! I am very open to the move and can't wait to start preparing for either grade... I just hope I know something soon!

My current challenge is a science camp that I will be teaching at for four weeks this summer (beginning on June 18). It is all inquiry-based and I will be teaching sessions of 2nd - 3rd graders, 4th - 5th graders, and 6th - 8th graders (a little worried about that one—but I'll survive). Right now I am trying to learn all of the content I am teaching, as well as looking over past lesson plans and trying to revamp them a little bit to add my teaching style to them. Although school has ended, I don't officially get to relax until July 20th. At least I won't be bored! :)

Friday, April 13, 2012


Where have I been? Overwhelming exhausted is where I've been. It is nearing the end of my spring break and I was going to make sure to blog at the very beginning but I was still too exhausted even then. Whew I needed spring break something bad! Anyway, I wanted to show something cool that we did a couple weeks ago that we are getting ready to do again this week.

As part of our unit on matter, the kids and I did an activity called “Broken Crayon Factories.” I got the idea during my internship. I'm not sure where my teacher got the idea but I thought it was great. Basically, the kids take broken crayons (or regular crayons), peel them, and break them into small pieces. We then melted the crayons to show that adding heat changed the crayons' state of matter from a solid to a liquid and then cooled them off to go back to a solid. The kids loved it! In fact, they loved it so much that they decided to make more of them next week in our class store (more on that in a later entry, possibly!) to sell to other second graders.

Take a look at the process:

To go along with the crayon theme, we also made a melted crayon heart (from Pinterest). The kids were so amazed—I had so many parents come in (parent teacher conferences were not long afterwards) and say that their child said they HAD to check out our heart. Too cute!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Some Very Important Questions

As I said last week, I had been kind of taking a step back from overworking myself for a few weeks. My goal this week was to try to come out of that and make my lessons for next week really shine and to really get back into being the hard worker that people say I am. I did manage to work pretty hard on what we are doing next week but I was extremely tressed about it and worn out by Friday. I'm struggling with finding some kind of balance where I feel like I'm doing it all at school but still manage to have some sort of life outside of school. My problem is that I recognize what I need to do in order to make my teaching better but I just run out of time and energy. Am I the only one that is seriously bothered by this? I know that not everyone is a perfectionist and I really don't consider myself a FULL-ON perfectionist (I am a little bit of one though) but if you know how to make things better and you don't do it because “there isn't enough time” how do you manage to feel okay about it? Maybe I just really need to come to terms with the fact that I can't do it all. But I don't want to!

Okay I'm done pouting.

Anyway, I came into this year being fully aware of some of the areas of teaching that I needed to improve on (mostly math and writing) so I decided to try to work pretty hard on those areas. However, I came into this with the experience that I had with my students last year who were a totally different type of learners. None of them were struggling with reading, so I didn't have to put much energy into that but they didn't immediately catch on to math concepts so I had to work extra hard on that. That's how I came up with the areas that I needed to work on. However, after working with the students I have this year for a little bit, I am beginning to understand that I shouldn't be looking at the areas of teaching that I feel insecure about, but the areas that my students really need extra help on. These areas would definitely be reading and writing. My kids are amazing at math (I'd like to think it's because of me but it's just because they really are naturally good at it haha) so I am really beginning to focus on improving my guided reading.

My goal over the next few weeks is to really dig deep and find out:
What is it that each student needs in order to move to the next reading level?
What are the students' concerns with their own reading? (I've found that asking a student what they think they can improve on is probably more enlightening than any kind of assessment you can give)
What are some specific reading strategies that each student needs to be taught?
How can I accelerate my low group's progress and enrich my top group?
What are some things I can do with my literacy stations that would be more beneficial than what I'm doing now?
Who are some really great teachers that I can observe in guided reading that would help me?
How can I make changes in what I'm doing right now without throwing my students' routines off too much?

Looks like I've got my work cut out for me. But I think that I'm going to have to shift some of my energy from planning in the areas that my students' don't need as much help in and really focus on some things that would be more beneficial to them.

On a lighter note, I have my spring break trip planned and booked! A couple of the girls from work and I will be exploring Savannah for a couple of days. I am so excited! It is a much needed vacation and I think it will be the perfect time of year to explore the area since it's miserably hot over the summer. Yay! :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I've got a case of writer's block. Obviously not on here, since I'm blogging to procrastinate on what I should actually be writing. We are doing a little Dr. Seuss skit contest at school this week and I want to have the skit script ready tomorrow so that my kids have some time to practice before we film on Wednesday afternoon (eek!). Our skit is supposed to use a Dr. Seuss book to show a character trait and I have chosen to do Hooray for Diffendoofer Day to show perseverance. BAD CHOICE! I know it can be done... but I am having some serious trouble making this skit interesting. It can only be 2-3 minutes so it's kind of limiting in what I can do. But I love this book and I am determined to make this happen... even if we have no chance of winning the contest, my students are going to learn a lesson and have lots of fun performing either way!

I feel a little guilty that I haven't blogged in a couple weeks but I haven't had too much to share. We had a lot of extracurricular things going on at school last week and I'm on the committee that was planning on the Dr. Seuss/Read Across America Week activities for next week so I've been doing a lot for that. Not to mention, my mom is coming to visit my school for the first time tomorrow! She is an assistant principal in a high school about two hours away and is coming to see how it is in an elementary school and to see me being a grown up. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time cleaning my classroom on Friday! :)

As far as my class, I have been taking a step back from doing a lot of the creative activities I was doing before. I am still doing a lot, but as I've been planning my lessons, I'm really trying to keep in mind how much time will go into preparing for each of the activities that I'm planning. If there is an option that will teach my students the material just as well without me having to spend hours and hours preparing for one forty minute lesson, I am trying to do that instead. It's a little frustrating seeing all these cute ideas on Pinterest and having all these great ideas floating around in my head and not having time to execute them all, but I had started to notice a couple weeks ago that I was getting burnt out. I'd rather take a little bit of time for me so that I can get back to normal in a couple weeks (as long as my students don't suffer because of it) than to keep it up and get to a point where I don't want to teach anymore. I think that's a mistake that a lot of first year teachers make and it is one of the (many many many) reasons that teachers quit so early on in their careers. I am trying to not be that person because the success of not just my current students, but my future students as well, is extremely important to me. But I do have to start looking out for myself. I just have to keep reminding myself that I can't do it all and that I have to leave myself some room to grow next year... everything that I create for my students will still be there next year and I'll have time to build on it. It's just hard to see all these fancy things that teachers put on their blogs or on Pinterest because I want to be on that level as well, but I have to remember that most of those people are not first year teachers so they aren't dealing with the things I am dealing with.

For those of you that are going through what I'm going through, I'll leave you with a quote that I saw the other day that put it all in perspective for me:

"No man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

In other words, you've got to be in your right state of mind in order to be the best teacher you can be for your students.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Heroes and 100th Day Fun

I really need to start keeping track of the moon because, after figuring out there was a full moon this week... suddenly everything made so much more sense! Plus we had an early release day and picture day (we have uniforms at our school, so the kids get a little crazy when they are allowed to wear regular clothes on picture days) so it was really difficult not to get frustrated this week.

We did do a couple of cool things this week and last week that I wanted to share because I thought they were kind of cute ideas. I get so excited nowadays when I don't get ideas off Pinterest because I can claim it myself! Haha.

First off, we did a short heroes unit where we talked about what makes a real-life hero and what heroes we know of. We did all kinds of thinking maps on it, then the kids used their ideas on what makes a hero to create their own heroes... we did three but I only took pictures of two of them and they are so funny looking! They had to trace the shortest member of the group and then use words and illustrations to show what a true hero is. You just have to look at the pictures of their heroes—one is apparently a firefighter (the bearded one) and the other one is a policeman in a cast.

We also did past, present, and future heroes later in the week but I forgot to take a picture of them. I put them in groups and gave each group articles on a past hero (Abraham Lincoln or Gandhi) and a present hero (George Bush or Barack Obama) and they had to pick out important facts on each. Then they made a three-column chart (a column for past, for present, and for future) and added pictures and facts on their people. The future column had a picture of them and what they planned on doing to be a future hero. They were cute! My students always surprise me so much when I only give them a few directions and let them take projects in their own direction—I always end up much happier with the end product and get much less irritated about them not perfectly following my directions. Plus they're learning to be creative and independent :).

Something else that we worked on in the past couple of weeks in social studies was black history... we talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. and what he did for our country and how much of an impact his “I Have a Dream” speech had. The students created their own “I Have a Dream” thought bubbles with their pictures. I love it when they use their own pictures on things—I think it turns out so funny looking! I made a sort-of bulletin board for them to share with those that walk by the classroom and I've gotten a lot of compliments on them!

Our 100th Day of School was Monday and we had a blast all day long using 100! My favorite activity that we did was with the book 100 Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes. I had the students get into three groups and count out 100 Froot Loops. Before doing so, we talked about the best way of counting them out so that they wouldn't lose track of what they already counted and the students decided that it would be best to put them in groups of 10. As I read the story to them, I would stop every time the ants wanted to get into new rows (if you've never read the book, they start out in 1 row of 100, then get in 2 rows of 50, 5 rows of 20, and 10 rows of 10) and have the students show me what it would look like with their Froot Loops. Since we are currently working on fractions, we talked about how how the “ants” were in equal groups and what fractions we could make up. The loved it! They especially loved being able to eat Froot Loops after (I'm a freak about germs so I made them throw all the Froot Loops away from the activity and I gave them all clean ones from the box haha)... and so did I!

In other news, I have been asked to be a guest speaker at the Elementary Education Club at my alma mater (I was the president last year so I am super excited to go back... even though I still live in the same town lol) and I am supposed to give tips to some future tips. I need help getting ideas on what to talk about! Help! :)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mini-Break from Being Busy

I have been a bad blogger! I've just been so busy... I feel like I just don't have time to get anything done! And I haven't been feeling well thanks to my students sneezing and coughing all over me (really?). I had some issues with my car this week and I went home for my sister's birthday so that took a little bit of time out of my usual working time. Plus we are sending home report cards and I finally managed to get them done Friday afternoon and will spend part of today stuffing them in their envelopes so that they will be ready for tomorrow. Not to mention I have to have a sub on Wednesday because I'm going to training. Whew!

Since I have been so busy, I haven't been able to keep up with the Clutter Free Classroom Project at all. :( I did manage to clean off one area above my cubbies and put my monthly resources up there. I wish I had taken a picture—I am so excited about it! I bought 9 tubs and labeled them by month (I combined August/September and May/June) and put all of my read alouds, themed games, and holiday folders in the appropriate tubs. I am so happy with it! My next goal is to clean off the rest of that area and the cubbies that the students don't use. I think what I need to do is make myself de-clutter for at least 15 minutes a day so it doesn't take too much time out of my schedule and doesn't seem like such a daunting task either. I think one of the most frustrating parts of trying to organize my room is that I really do have lots of places to store things, but they are so oddly shaped/tall that I can't figure out the best way to work with those spaces. Hmm...

Well I am off to clean my BEDroom (it currently looks like a laundry room), work on report cards, and go see one of my students in a play. :)