July 7, 2015

Unshakeable Summer Book Club: Chapter 1

Good morning! 

I am a new, gigantic, Angela Watson fan. I've blogged about her Podcast, Truth for Teachers, before, and now I am participating in a Facebook-based Summer Book Club focusing on her fabulous book Unshakeable
The platform for discussing the book is really only through the Facebook group, and I am not here to share everyone's thoughts at all. I just had so many thoughts about the first chapter, I want to expand on them through this blog. 

Chapter 1 is titled: 

There were some parts of this chapter that I felt I am already doing well, and some things that I struggle with big time...but I have a new perspective that I am very excited about!

What I do well: Sharing my interests, personality, and humor with my students has always come easily for me. I have grappled with this a little. I will see some teachers who are truly just teachers, and they have almost a Jekyll and Hyde routine with their job. They put on the teacher mask, the students know nothing of their personal lives, and they really don't know very much about their students' lives either. They teach the standards, assess, and go home ready to take off the mask and be "human again". 
I get that. And I have had moments where I admire that. I've wondered if maybe I am a little too personal with my students...will it get in the way of their academics? Can I be rigorous and funny? If they make too many jokes about how many cups of coffee I've had, will I seem less of a leader and more of a peer? 
What I've come to decide (and what this chapter has reaffirmed), is that no harm has come from me being Miss Hannah, with a strong side of Stephanie mixed in. I think a good point to make here is that I would be considered by most to be a strong role model for students. It's not like the "Stephanie" side of my personality talks about my favorite kind of wine, or how my fiancé and I quote Drake & Lil Wayne lyrics as part of normal conversation. But they do know my favorite books, that I have a fiancé, that I won't kill bugs in my classroom, but I will go to great lengths to get them outside. They know that I used to believe that I would never go to college, but that I had several teachers who (slowly) changed my mind. Like Angela said...her students knew Ms. Watson was in charge, but they also were familiar with Angela, and that was fascinating to them, and it strengthened their bond. I was proud to think of the bonds I have created with my students in the past few years because I made a point to share my authentic self with them. 

What I can improve upon: Chapter 1 also focuses on the harsh reality that being a passionate, authentic teacher is only possible if you are a passionate, authentic person outside of your career. This one I can confidently say I am not great at. Of course I have interests, hobbies, friendships and all of the things that create a life outside of my classroom. Am I good at cultivating those things? No. I felt like she was describing me in that part about being too tired to do menial tasks...even if they only involve sitting on the couch and writing something down, or calling someone. Mental exhaustion is real, and this teacher can attest to it. I will put things off for weeks that are so simple to do, because I actually feel like I have nothing left. I will let books pile up next to my bed for months. Calls will go unanswered for many, many days. I have this awful habit of being really awesome on Monday, and by Friday the students are lucky to get 5 minutes of conversation or light-heartedness out of me. Now I understand why, and it seems almost stupidly obvious. I feel like I can take care of myself on the weekends. I "have time" to cook, exercise, catch up, etc. I come back on Mondays with that re-energized spirit. The thing I need to remember is that I actually do have the time to do things that energize me the rest of the week. I will actually be more productive in my classroom if I'm not dragging myself there each morning during the week. I will feel excited about my personal life, which will keep me authentic and passionate during my professional life. 

So simple, but so hard to remember. 
Have a great Tuesday, friends! If you are interested in the other 19 ways to enjoy teaching every day...check out Angela Watson's books on Amazon, or visit her website cornerstoneforteachers.com. 

July 2, 2015

Paint Chip Writing!

I looovveeee summer, and it's already half over! I truly could take 3-4 more months of flexible days without getting tired of it. I also love the bursts of creativity that hit me when I'm truly resting. My brand new Paint Chip Writing product in my TPT store is a product of one of those sudden brainstorming moments that hits you when you're driving around town, or lying on the couch, or trying to decide when you want to go to bed...you know, summertime things.
I had posted this picture on Instagram near the end of the school year:

I was trying to find creative, out-of-the-box ways to keep my students working through those last painful challenging days of school. I had come across a version of this "Paint Chip Writing"  somewhere...I really wish I could credit the find now. But the article had suggested writing poems inspired by the names of paint colors. I went to Walmart that night and collected a rather large amount of paint samples for my classroom. (No one was working the paint counter at the time...don't tell on me!)
The way I initially assigned it was each of my students drew a paint chip, face down, and they had to make the name of the color the name of their story. I had created a hand-written rubric on notebook paper that I just copied for each student, and it included all of the elements of fiction that we had studied that year. Their task was to create a story that a partner could easily identify each element in. 
It was a huge hit. It was an awesome creative outlet, and a great summative assessment of being able to apply everything we had discussed that year with fiction text. But, it was kind of sloppy because I basically invented the assignment at 10 pm the night before in the aisles of Walmart. 

So, the polished TPT product was born!


I designed this with 3rd-5th grade in mind. But I know it could be scaffolded for 2nd grade, and it's writing...you can always ramp up the expectations for older kiddos, as well. I also created it thinking it would be more of a writing project or center that would come into play earlier in the year. So the rubric I've included focuses on mechanics. That way it doesn't have to be saved for the end of a major Fiction unit, or the end of the year. 

Also! My guilt ate away at me for taking all of those paint chips with no intention of buying paint, so I have made digital paint chips. This product includes 45 paint name colors for your students to choose from! 

If you check it out, please leave feedback. I am so excited to share something with all of you that was such a hit in my classroom!

You can click on any of the images above to visit the product directly, or click on my new banner below to just see my store! It's still a work in progress, but I am so happy with it so far! 
Have a Happy 4th, everyone!

June 23, 2015

Dare to Dream!

It is TPT Seller Challenge Week #2-Dare to Dream! I absolutely love this challenge...I thought last week's was great, but this one is so personal, and I am really getting a glimpse into everyone's heart through their dreams. I am just eating it all up.
So, I have hesitated writing in what I would really like to accomplish through TPT (in conjunction with blogging, of course), because it is all so new to me, and I am virtually only making Starbucks money each month-so these dreams are definitely daring! I am a long, long way off from accomplishing any of this, but I have my eyes on the prize now, and I am planning to put in the work it will take to make it all happen!

Here are my dreams:
MORTGAGE PAYMENT: Ok, so...I'm revealing a little about my personal life here, that only my family and a few friends know about, but my fiancé and I are in the process of buying a home together. It was a huge decision, which has taken a lot of prayer, tears (both happy and frustrated), and celebration. Fortunately, my fiancé is brilliant and bought and renovated a condo long before he met me, so we will be able to supplement some of our mortgage payment with rent money from his place after we get married. My dreaaammmm would be to use TPT money one day to cover the rest of the mortgage payment, so we can save like crazy! We are Dave Ramsey people...we want that emergency fund in tact. The more savings the better!

JOB FLEXIBILITY: I have always kind of known that I didn't want to be a traditional classroom teacher for my entire career. What drew me to education back in college was the idea of truly making a difference in education on a grand scale. Right now, I am simply gaining experience, and I really do love teaching. But it's an exhausting, all-consuming love. When I have children, I don't really anticipate being able to give 250% of myself all day, every day. I have toyed with many ideas of how I could mold and shape my career in the future. Everything from consultant, to instructional coach, to cohort leader within a university has crossed my mind...but I have decided that I don't need to decide right now. I want to invest in TPT right now, and maybe one day I will have the flexibility to make the decision without breaking the bank. :) 

TRAVEL: I have always had a travel bug. I started traveling my freshman year of high school. I went with a team to Peru for 2 weeks with my church. I went on several missions trips through the course of high school, followed by studying abroad in the middle of college. In between the major international trips, I have made a point to do a lot of sight-seeing within the United States. But, sadly my traveling came to a screeching halt when I graduated and started teaching. It's not like I don't have the time! All summer is usually wide open! But I normally cram my summers with tutoring, babysitting, and any other odd jobs I can gather up so I can save money. I get sad when I think about being in my mid-20s, and moving quickly towards my late 20s...I feel like my days of traveling are almost over, and I haven't taken advantage of them. So, one of my major TPT dreams was having money to set aside in the future for traveling, making it a possibility even when I'm not a 20-something!

So, there you have it. My TPT Dreams! I can't wait to read everyone else's. :) 

June 18, 2015

Makeover Madness!!

So, joining this TPT seller challenge is just about the best thing I have ever done. There is SO much inspiration out there! This first challenge was something that I desperately needed to do.
I am not very well-versed in TPT yet. I've been a member, mostly as a buyer, for about 2 years...I've been a "seller" for maybe 5 months, but the first thing I ever uploaded on TPT was probably 2 years ago, and it is almost embarrassing! I uploaded it as a student teacher, because I had wanted to make a Valentine's Day themed center for the 2nd graders I was working with at the time. I had slapped together this quick little product, but I knew NOTHING about using my computer, shopping for clip art, downloading fonts...nothing. To make that dinky little product took me probably 6 or 7 hours of trial and error, and I ended up with something I still didn't love. But...I uploaded it and never looked at it again.
I chose it as my "Makeover Madness" product because it is the one linked for people to assess the quality of my work, and I feel like I have learned a little since then. Maybe people can better assess the quality of my work now? Haha.
Anyways, here goes!

This before/after image shows the cover pages of the old product and the new one.
Here are the pages of the new product:

So there it is! All made over...easier to read, easier to understand, nicer to look at it...I am much happier!

In other news, on the TPT Facebook page, everyone was asked to post their button. I haven't really had an official "button" since I began blogging, just a screen shot of a picture from my blog that has my name on it, and it has not worked out to upload as my button when I link up with other blogs. It looks pixelated or distorted every time. So! In the spirit of making things over, I did a little research and I made my own button. I'm still playing with the colors and trying to decide if I really love it. I would love some feedback!!

What do you all think?? Is it a good start? 

Have a great weekend everyone! Can't wait for challenge #2!

June 11, 2015


First Currently of the summer! Woohoo!

I am an HGTV addict. I'm not afraid to admit it. I spiral deeper into my obsession over the summer. Am I alone?

I've taken on some tutoring jobs this summer, and I really want to make money, but I also really want to stop working...is that bad? I've had sessions scheduled every day this week, but not today! After I write this I am headed to the pool!

I have a lot of big changes happening this year. I'm getting married, switching grades, experimenting with ways to supplement my income...And a big thing to happen in early 2016 that I can't even talk about yet! I just love feeling so refreshed in the summer and being able to reflect on all of the blessings that have come my way. This 2015-16 school year is going to ROCK! But not before I have spent this summer relaxing. :) 

All of this down time has me looking at pinterest a little too much... I just feel like I will be a cuter 2nd grade teacher with new clothes, right?

Getting married is expensive. I'm going to be in the same clothes I have in my closet for many years, probably. I need more money, but I don't want to work! Lazy girl problems, for sure.

Summer Lovin
In 2 weeks I get to do my most beloved thing. I get to go to Michigan to visit with my cousins, and my fiancé gets to go and meet them for the first time! I am also spending a large amount of time at my parents' house during the week to just eat with them. I love, love my family. I truly do not take advantage of living so close to them during the school year. I am trying to make up for that this summer. 

Have a great end of the week, friends!

June 8, 2015

Reflect & Refresh, part 1

Now that it is officially summer, I have the time to notice linky parties as they are actually happening AND link up to write with them! I am super excited about that, and I was thrilled when I stumbled across Mrs. D's Corner (click her name to link up!), and she was hosting a link about reflecting on your past school year, and then getting to refresh over the summer. This seems super appropriate because I am gearing up to change grades, and I am doing all kinds of self-reflection anyways!

So here we go!

I learned last year that sending parent emails at random points in the year just to say "Your child is awesome", builds an amazing rapport with parents. This isn't rocket science, of course, but I never would have predicted how strong the reaction would be! I mean, as a first year teacher I was nominated for teacher of the week by one parent just because she was so impressed that I had sent an email saying her daughter was doing well. That email was maybe 3 sentences long! Never underestimate the power of positive talk in any capacity. 

Organization & Classroom Management
The best decision I could have ever made was color-coding my classroom library. If you don't know what this looks like, please read Molly Maloy's post about it on Lessons with Laughter. It may change your life; it did for me. I followed Molly's technique exactly, and I ended up with a beautiful library that my students totally took ownership of. I wasn't using any of my planning or after-school time to tidy up the library, which was great. Even better, however, was the fact that the books didn't just look neat and organized...they actually were! They were grouped by the author's last name! My little OCD babies would immediately move a purple book out of the green section if it were to happen. I literally set up the library in August, and the books were loved and read by the students all year without any interference from me. In May, I had to pack up my classroom, and the books were still in the perfect order. Oh my goodness...I could go on all day. What an amazing system! Thank you, Molly!

So, I finally felt like I had those 4th grade standards down this year!...and then I requested a grade level change. :) I truly feel that I will grow most as an educator if I push myself out of my comfort zone consistently. Half way through this past school year, I felt like 4th grade was just getting easy. I wasn't on Pinterest for hours looking for ideas, I wasn't laboring over lesson plans, I wasn't working and reworking materials in my classroom. That's great, of course! I had a great second half of the year. But I am definitely ready for something new...so 2nd grade, here I come!

My Big Summer Project
Speaking of moving to 2nd grade...I have to switch classrooms. I feel like that should speak for itself, but let me reinforce why this is my project with a few pictures...

So, I have my work cut out for me. But I am so excited to take some time to REFRESH, and then get in there and set up for 2nd grade! Wish me luck!

June 6, 2015

What is going right?

I don't know about y'all, but sometimes I get angsty.
My computer is telling me that "angsty" isn't a word, but I can't think of a solid replacement.  I look at the developmentally inappropriate standards, the random assessments promising to chip away at instructional time a little earlier each year, leaving less and less room for students to master the daunting curriculum, and the mounting pressure to ensure that they succeed. 
As teachers we serve as a shield every year. We take all of this pressure in stride. We read the crazy standards, and we turn around, smile, and promise our students that they are smart. They can get this. We just need to work a little harder.

And then I think about their home lives. I think about the food that may not be in their bellies, the sleep they didn't get, the care they haven't received for that cough that I have noticed, which keeps getting worse. 
Selfishly, I'll admit, sometimes I think about my crumbling social life. About all of the people I haven't called. About the events I've avoided because I just have too much to do. I think about the people I do make time for who have to listen to me complain. And I wonder how much longer they will want to put up with me. 
And then I get resentful. I feel that angst creeping in. I know it's ugly, and I shouldn't sit around wallowing in my own stress, but it's hard when it's avoidable stress that you didn't create. I'm weak. I let myself get angry at policy makers, superintendents, principals, fellow teachers, parents...all of the people who buy in to the system that we have today. And I start to actually believe that it's too big of a mess to fix.
I start to believe that everything is going all wrong.

I shared on Instagram this week that I am going to be making the move from 4th to 2nd grade this coming school year. This is a change that I practically begged for. I loved 4th grade a whole lot. I connected with my students, and I genuinely loved coming to work everyday, but I really feel that my heart is in K-2. I am really excited!
In the spirt of summer, I have been seeking out some professional development. I am nerdy, and I actually love to see what PD books are big hits right now, and I read them at the pool. I also catch up on teacher blogs that I haven't looked at in a while. In my search, I came across Angela Watson's podcast Truth for Teachers. (You can check her out on thecornerstoneforteachers.com...I highly recommend it!!) I came across episode 17, which is titled "How to reconnect daily with the reasons why you teach", and I may have to listen to it multiple times this coming school year to refresh my memory. :)
The main message that I pulled from this episode is to take what you believe is going wrong, and focus on how it is going right, instead.
For example:
On an average school day, you may say, "A parent just sent me a really ugly email because she believed that the consequences her son faced at school today were unfair". You can totally focus on this situation as a negative experience. In fact, it's hard not to! But, you can also choose to see how it created something positive. You could instead say, "I was given the opportunity today to point out a very difficult truth to a parent about her son's behavior. This may have planted a seed that will benefit this child in the future". 
Angela gave a couple of examples that stuck with me. You can view a standard as developmentally inappropriate that barely anyone in your class could grasp, or you could celebrate the handful of students who did grasp it as a huge success, because it was really hard for them.
You can view a data team meeting as a huge waste of your planning, or you can view them as a time to sit back and share your hard work with your team, and collaborate with others about ways to achieve even more in the next quarter. 
It's all about perspective. I have been given the gift of a fresh start in a new grade. I will choose to focus more on what is going right this school year. And, yes, this can apply to what is going right with education in general. Because, if we let ourselves, there is a lot to celebrate when it comes to teachers. We have created much of what is going right, and I think it deserves more attention. 
Click on the picture to link directly to Angela Watson's podcast. :)

May 2, 2015

Sittin' Waitin' Wishin' for Summer...Currently MAY

I am SO excited to be doing my first CURRENTLY post this month! I have been reading these and following Farley's Blog for many years now, and I am thrilled to be joining this linky party!!


Ok, so here it goes...

There it is! My wishes, hopes, wants, thoughts, etc. for this current moment! In case you haven't been over to Oh Boy 4th Grade yet (link above-Farley's Blog), all of the boxes are pretty self explanatory except for the last one. For summer, my "Yes I'm definitely doing that" item is Wedding Planning (yayyy!!), my "I hope I can do this" thing is saving money...two items that don't go together, I know...and my "I wish I could do this" item is going on a fabulous vacation. Again, I know that doesn't fit in with wedding planning and saving money, but hey! It's my dream! 

Coach and I will both be working separate jobs this summer on top of our normal teaching income, and we are hoping to have a cheap, easy wedding and an incredible honeymoon, so there is a lot of penny pinching going on these days! I have eaten peanut butter and jelly for lunch more than I have since I was in elementary school! Just to save money! It's getting pretty serious right now.

Anyways, please go on over to Oh Boy 4th Grade and link up! And remember the rules! Leave a nice comment on the two blogs before you, and the one after! (Such a great rule!!)

Have a wonderful weekend! We all need the rest right now. I can't believe it's already May! Hang in there teacher friends.

April 26, 2015

Goodness Inspires Goodness

So, this post is going to veer off into being personal for a minute, and I hope that's ok. 
I got engaged this week! At school! In front of my students! It was amazing.

My new fiancé is an amazing man. He's smart, funny, and handsome...all of the obvious things. But he challenges me, and teaches me. And that is the number one thing that I love about him. (I know...awwww.) I will spare you all of the cheesiness. If you've ever loved someone, you get it. 

As I was saying, he teaches me things. He doesn't always know it, but he always challenges me and makes me think differently. This proposal was a great example of that. He was thoughtful enough to include my students, and it was completely transformative for them. I mean, I don't know how long this will last, but it is like love is literally in the air right now! I decided to harness their sweetness on Friday so I would have hard evidence that, even though it's the end of the year and we're all tired, they truly do care about our class. 

And that's where this post really begins. It's no secret...testing season is here. I feel like I've been saying that since January (oh wait...I have). But now it's REALLY here! The ELA test is this coming Friday! 

All of the warm fuzzies going around lately inspired me to create an encouragement project for TCAP week. I had already planned on writing each of them a nice note for them to read before the reading test, but I initially thought I would write a sweet poem and attach a piece of gum and it would be quick and easy. But Friday I changed my mind completely. 

I am in the process of writing each of them a personalized encouragement letter. I am writing about how much they have grown this year, what they are good at, how intelligent they are, etc. etc. I am trying to enlist parents to do the same for their child so the kids have a second letter to open on the second day of testing. And for the third and final day of testing...the kids have written each other letters!

Oh my gosh, you guys...the sweetness of these letters. Here are some of the best quotes:

"I am so glad that I got your name, because I could write about you all day. You are so smart and I hope you are not stressed about this test. You've got this!"

"You are going to do so great on this science test! Honestly, I think you should be a scientist when you grow up. You are so smart in class, and I know this will be a breeze for you."

"We are all cheering you on! Don't worry-just bring your smart brain to class and remember all of the strategies that our teachers gave us."

Needless to say, tears were flowing when I was reading this after school. I have never seen so many sweet words in one activity, and those are just excerpts from THREE of the letters! 
This is what I learned from my proposal...goodness inspires goodness. If we shower these little minds with kind words, and sweet gestures, they begin to model it. Just the way that we as teachers find ways to model everything from our handwriting to our thoughts while we are reading...when we model goodness, they begin to mimic. 

Have a wonderful week. :) 

April 20, 2015

Monday Made It-Study Groups

I am trying something new, and linking up with 4th Grade Frolics's Monday Made It! I am so excited to be joining in on the fun!!
As we know, testing season is upon us. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I resist the urge to just curl up in a back corner of my classroom for a nap during planning just about daily. We are BUSY PEOPLE RIGHT NOW. 
What I know I don't have time for  is reteaching every concept that I've already taught...ESPECIALLY when the foundation for the skill was given in previous grades. (As an ELA teacher, of course I'm talking about grammar. I mean, if you have a 4th grade class where every student can tell you the difference between a proper noun, possessive noun, and pronoun without batting an eye, I would like to personally shake your hand.)
Therefore, my Monday Made It was born. TCAP Study groups with fancy cards. 
First: I made the cards on my computer. 

Then: I copied them two sided so each page had space on the back for definitions and examples of each term. 

After that: Each student got their own set to cut, color, and fill in with all of their TCAP knowledge. 

Finally: I placed them in TCAP study groups to quiz each other. This has been the CUTEST. They created their own mini-competitions today. My study groups are mixed-ability and it has been equally engaging for my advanced learners, as well as my approaching-grade-level kiddos. 

To create these cards, I simply went through the list of 4th Grade Grammar TCAP SPIs, and created one card for each skill listed in the standards. After students finish centers every day (if they aren't in my group), they are expected to get in study groups and start quizzing. It has been an easy, effect, student-centered method to get the kids memorizing those pesky grammar skills that they always get confused. 

March 17, 2015

In Defense of Sad Books

This week is my Spring Break. Of course, I have many projects waiting to be accomplished, but no motivation to do them. I am, however, spending a lot of time reading. Does anyone else ever get upset about how little time the average adult gets to spend reading? I have to literally force myself to stop working/worrying about work/zoning out in front of the tv throughout the week and go to bed early enough to read. And it really doesn't happen as often as it should. I was one of those kids who loved reading growing up...so it makes sense that I seek it out at least a little as an adult. 
What about our kids we have today who we practically have to beg to read a chapter book to the end? My guess is they grow up to be those adults we all know who never pick up a book. They don't make the time to read to their children. And the cycle continues. And future teachers will still be writing blog posts like this one...but, I digress.

I just finished reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I know...I'm late to the party with this one. I've been hearing about it for a very long time. But, you know. Life. I didn't get around to reading it until last week. (A sweet student bought it for me from the book fair!)

Oh my gosh, this book! If you've read it, you get it. The book is just magical. Do you remember the first time you read, or heard, Charlotte's Web? This will make you feel a lot like that. What makes it especially good, and what I'm convinced makes all good books good, is it has elements of tragedy and sadness followed by real hope.
I mean, why do we still talk about Charlotte's Web? Because Charlotte taught us what it means to be a great friend. And then she died. Yes, death in a kid's book. I had never felt sad about someone or something dying before Charlotte. But I can assure you I learned from it. 
Finishing this book made me wonder why I love that so much. What in our nature makes us hold the books that make us cry closest to our hearts? For example: if Dumbledore dies in the 6th Harry Potter book, why is that my favorite? And then I read Katherine Applegate's Newbery Award acceptance speech in the back of the book. 
She talks about how a book store had contacted her about an elementary school visit she was preparing to do. A mom was concerned that The One and Only Ivan would make the kids at the school feel sad. Applegate points out that, yes, the book will make your children feel sad. This is a good thing. 
Our students are dealing with sad things all of the time. And our grown-up job, as teachers, parents, care-givers, is to give them the tools to cope with this sadness. Nothing is better for that than a good story. How many of you know a student who cannot afford breakfast? Or has a broken home? Or has lost a family member? Or even a pet? I was 23 when we had to put our cat down. We had gotten her when I was 6. That same year I read Each Little Bird that Sings by Deborah Wiles for a children's lit class. I won't spoil anything for you if you've never read it...but that book holds some major therapy for anyone grieving the loss of anyone. And it really helped me. I let my 4th graders borrow it every time one of them loses a family member or pet. 
I think where I want this post to get to is here: Life can be sad, but you have to keep hope. Children's authors have written hundreds of beautiful stories where sad things happen but the characters keep going. Adults don't always process sad events the same way that kids do. A talking animal may be the exact medium that a child needs to cope. 
I have watched our school librarian pull way too many books off of the shelves this year. Almost always at the request of an adult who hasn't read the book. But what are we afraid of kids being exposed to? A character who makes a poor choice but learns a lesson? Evil existing but being conquered by good? 
Our job is to create lifelong readers. This is most likely to happen when children have actual free choice of what they are reading. This includes sad books. Books where characters die, parents get divorced, people don't have enough money to pay bills, people leave and don't come back, etc. 
Books that mirror real life.

March 4, 2015

I feel like Miss Trunchbull: A Teacher's Confession

When a teacher says, "It was just one of those days...", only other teachers can actually understand what that means. And today was one of those days.

Do you remember the movie Matilda? Do you remember sweet Miss Honey? She was the beautiful, unendingly compassionate teacher who could see Matilda for the marvel that she was, and believed that her life was remarkable, despite what her family constantly told her.

This is who every girl who studies to be an elementary school teacher decides, before she ever gets her own classroom, who she is going to be. I always knew that my students would see me as their own Miss Honey. 

And then there was Miss Trunchbull. The evil, child-hating headmaster of Matilda's school. She locked children up in the scary "Choky" room, and made that chubby boy eat all of that chocolate cake in what is still one of the most disturbing movie scenes I think I have ever seen.

This is who I feel like most of the time. I like to think I'm not alone, but maybe I am.

One of the harshest realities that I have had to face in my 1.5 years of having a classroom all by myself is that not every child actually wants a Miss Honey. They don't all trust me right away. I teach 4th grade, and some of my kiddos don't have a very consistent home life. My super-sweet, I-think-you-all-are-unique-snowflakes approach the first few weeks of school is probably nauseating to those students.

Not every student needs a Miss Honey. Some parents are busy, and aren't around to lead or mold their children. Some parents are unsure of how to balance having a good relationship with their child and demanding respect. It falls on my shoulders sometimes to teach kids (in 4th grade) how to share, apologize, empathize (the hardest one). Sticky-sweet teaching doesn't do children like that much good when put into practice.

Today, I got so frustrated with a student that I said something that embarrassed him in front of the class. I was reprimanding him for a careless error that ended up harming another student, and in my correction I started to feel angry. He seemed so...apathetic that he had hurt this girl. I let my shortcomings come to the surface, and I yelled. And I could tell it embarrassed him.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has ever done that. 

I apologized to the student, because it's also important to me that my students see what a true, sincere apology looks like...and that sometimes in life you have to apologize to people who make mistakes. Because the way you respond to others' mistakes says a lot about who you are, and I did not respond in a way that I was proud of.

Approximately 25 minutes later, I had pulled two different students to a reading group, and as I was sending them back to their seats, I said something like, "Oh, I just love having you two in a group!" One of the boys turned back to me, looked me dead in the eye, and said "We love you, Miss Hannah". 

That was when I really felt like Miss Trunchbull. These kids love me. Even when I lose my cool. And my actions should show exactly how much I love them. 

I know comparing myself to a child-absuing character is a little extreme...no child loved Miss Trunchbull. But a coworker ( a new 5th grade teacher who has my group from last year...my first group ever), said to me a few weeks ago, "I just want to be Miss Honey...but they make me Miss Trunchbull", and it was the most perfect comparison. And today was just one of those days.

February 27, 2015

Student Ownership of Data

This post is a little snapshot of what I spent my small group time doing today. At my school, whether we like it or not, TCAP is on the brain. (no, you're not crazy...it's still only February!)

This year, I wanted my students' understanding of their strengths and weaknesses in reading and language arts to be visual and concrete. I created the fancy document that you see above in response to that. From many standards-based assessments that we have taken, the kids spent some time with me coloring in the "I Can" statements about various skills that they are already considered proficient in. 

Things they are still practicing, they are leaving blank for now. Throughout the entire 4th quarter, our school shifts from reading groups to skills-based groups. This way kids are still reading, still practicing comprehension, but with a focus on the skills they need to work on. This coloring sheet is showing my students exactly what they need to do. 

I love the idea of giving students a real look at what they can improve on. That kind of self-assessment carried me through many difficult graduate school assignments, so I hope that I am planting a seed that they will take with them to bigger and better things one day!

You can download my skills coloring page for free at my TPT Store. It's editable, so you can add in your own standards and skills, or leave them if you also teach 4th grade ELA in Tennessee! (and if you do, please say hi) But I want to hear how you collect data on your kiddos. How do you get them to take ownership of it in your classroom?

**Note: Because my PPT file is editable, the cutesy fonts you see in the pictures do not stay put if you do not have them downloaded on your computer! I used HelloChitChat by Hello Literacy and Chelsea Market Script by Kimberly Geswein

February 26, 2015

Where do I begin?

I am so excited about this blog. I mean, SO EXCITED. 

First of all, it's beautiful. Erin Gray at www.twothirdshazeldesign.com did an incredible job!

Second of all, it is a long-time coming. I have been toying with the idea of starting a teaching blog for over a year. I think my students are amazing, I think my school is incredible. I think that I work in a state where education is at the forefront of the conversation, and I am excited about that. I think about teaching all.the.time. But it's a different thing to subject others to what I think about teaching, my students, or my school. 

Here are my hopes:

I hope that this blog allows me to bring something to the teaching community that inspires other teachers.
I hope that it makes connecting with other teachers who have amazing ideas a little easier. I have already stolen so many ideas, but I have never been able to tell any of those educators thank you!
I hope that you like what you see, and want to come back to hear more about my little slice of Tennessee heaven.

Welcome to The Tennessee Classroom.