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 fiancĂ© and I quote Drake & Lil Wayne lyrics as part of normal conversation. But they do know my favorite books, that I have a fiancĂ©, 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!