Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How I'm Surviving My First Year

Tomorrow is the first day back after the break! It was supposed to be today, but the temperature was "dangerously low" (somewhere in the teens) so they canceled school.

Woo! This is our second snow day and I still haven't seen snow.... so confusing but hey, I'll take the birthday present ;) Speaking of birthdays, I had a GREAT birthday yesterday! I was able to celebrate with my family and friends back home over the weekend and then yesterday we had district PD at my school before going out to sushi with some of my favorite Memphis girls and then watching FSU win the national championship. (This makes my family very happy, so I'm happy.)

When reflecting on the first half of my first year of teaching, I think my biggest lesson has been to take care of myself. It's easy to let teaching (or any first job) just dominate your life. This is how I've survived so far:

1) Books
I LOVE to read and save at least 10 minutes to read before going to bed. Same goes for Saturday mornings. Reading in bed when I don't have to get up early is the. best. thing. ever. Here's what I've been reading lately:
About to start this one!

Read the trilogy and really enjoyed it.
Pretty exciting and a creative concept about a future society
Saw this on a list of books for girls to read in their 20s.
Jennifer Close nailed it.
 2) Birchbox
I told myself I'd start doing this once I got a paycheck! For $10 a  month you get a box of about 5 samples of high-end beauty products. I convinced my roommate, Meghan, and my sister to get them too. Now every month we get a little surprise! It's way  more fun than it sounds ;)

Meghan posing with her first birchbox
3) Bubble baths
I love love love sinking into a hot bubble bath, especially now that's it's FREEZING outside, with one of the books I mentioned above! Meghan's learned that when she comes home and I'm in the bath, it was a rough day...
Minus the dog (missing Sadie)

4) Beale Street
Or just going out in general! All week I look forward to going out with my friends, whether its downtown, midtown, or someone's living room. I've met some of the best people through TFA and they are a strong part of what get me through the day!

Don't mind me posing

5) The Bachelor
Or just horrible television in general. I've never pretended I had good taste in television and as the years go on I see just how far down the rabbit hole I've gone. Oh well. Bring on the dramatic reality shows, ridiculous teen dramas, and absurd people "trying to find love". I'll watch them all.
I also do the brackets for The Bachelor.
Yes. I realize that's not very normal.
So that's a little bit about what I've learned about myself during the first half of the year. Here's to 5 more months of being a first year teacher!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January Currently

Happy New Year!! I hope you all had a fun and safe New Years Eve. I had a great time with my friends here in Jacksonville and am trying to squeeze in as much as possible in the next 5 days before I head back to Memphis. Time is going by too fast!

I saw this on a lot of blogs so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon for January and try it out. Here's what I'm up to currently!

Most of this is pretty self-explanatory. It's warm and rainy here in Florida but I am NOT complaining because I know I'm going to be cold for 9 weeks straight between winter break and spring break. Wah. 

I need to pack up my room here in Florida because we are selling the house after my mom gets married in March (over my spring break) so I won't have another chance before then to go through everything. We've been here 20 years so I have quite the collection of junk. 

I got Les Mis for Christmas and still haven't watched it yet. What's wrong with me?

I think we all need to re-hydrate after last night. No comment. 

And one of my favorite traditions is our family white elephant gift exchange. My whole extended family wraps ridiculous and horrible gifts and we spend the whole afternoon drinking, eating, and laughing as we unwrap velvet dresses and jars of mustard. 

That's me currently, what are you doing on the first day of 2014??

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Crafts

We are officially on winter break and it feels SO NICE to relax and sleep in! I wanted to share some of the fun activities we worked into the last week of school. We had a lot of testing the last two weeks of school, so after reviewing, and testing, we let the kids relax and have fun! Here are some of the crafts I did in my class:

One day we made these snowman I found on TPT (for free!) and put on Frosty the Snowman (which I found on YouTube). Granted, it's intended for K-2, but it kept them busy, was simple enough to do without a lot of instructions, and was something fun while watching a movie. Here's how some turned out!
Too cute, right?

Love the creative eyes

This student added eyes
The next day, we did another craft. This time we made Reindeer Food in little white paper bags. I found this freebie label on TPT as well and printed enough copies for every student to have one. They glued them onto the bags and then decorated the bags with colored pencils. Then I worked with one table at a time to scoop sunflower seeds, oatmeal, and glitter into their bags. My only regret is not having more "ingredients" in the reindeer food and not taking advantage of the learning opportunity to use fractions with measuring cups. Oh well! Still turned out cute. I told the kids to sprinkle it on their lawn on Christmas Eve so the reindeer can have a snack while Santa delivers presents!

Finally, the little treat I made for the kids this year was something I found on Pinterest. It was simple and cheap, which, as a first year teacher, is a must! Just bought a GIANT bag of Jolly Ranchers, little baggies, ribbons, and printed out the tags. I put about 5 jolly ranchers in each bag, tied them up with ribbon, added the tag and voila! Done.
So pretty! And so simple!
So those are a handful of crafts I used this season. I love that teaching gives me the chance to really enjoy holidays all day everyday! You better believe the Christmas Pandora station was playing everyday the three weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break! Overall, I'm just so relieved to be halfway through my first year. Time for a break and some sunshine =]

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How I did Elf on the Shelf

* UPDATE: I put the last 5 pictures of Elfie at the end of this post. *

Every once in awhile I get a little pang of sadness when I see all the fun and cute ideas there are for lower elementary. K-2 is all about read-alouds and writing on fun cut-outs, and singing songs with matching dances, and hugs and cuteness. I admit. I get jealous.


I remember that K-2 is NOT all smiles and rainbows after spending about 5 minutes in one of my friend's kindergarten classes and I am suddenly grateful for children that give me attitude and mean-mug me, but will also not run around my room screaming (most of the time).

One of the things I really wanted to steal from K-2, though, was Elf on the Shelf. But would my "too cool for school" fourth graders be above this???

Well here's how I used him in my classroom:

1) I kept the activities basic:
The only thing I gave the students was this elf journal I found on TPT. I stapled some together and they got to draw a picture and write a couple sentences each morning about what Elfie did. We haven't done too much with the elf with all the other activities you see all over Pinterest because I don't want to overdo it. We play it cool in fourth grade.
Day 1: gets delivered along with one elf journal per student!
2) I had him delivered by someone else:
It's gotten to the point that if a teacher says something, it's lame, but if THE PRINCIPAL OR DEAN says something, oh baby. So I had my dean deliver our elf and journals (after keeping them in the freezer all morning) so that I could be skeptical along with the kids. I read the letter I found here and gave the kids journals (oohs and ahhhhs at how cold they were) and we all agreed that we would just see what happens with this so-called "magical" elf.
This was never seen by the kids bc the janitor cleaned it up.
Haha fourth grade teachers decided we couldn't eat all that candy again
to get wrappers so this one would have to wait to be revisited!
3) I'm amazed with the students:
Every morning when they come in, I tell them "I came in this morning and look where I found Elfie!" They quiz me about where he was when I left, did I lock the door, who has access to the room, etc. Haha but I always laugh with them and say things like "I can't believe that little guy got into my tickets!" and deny deny deny that I did anything!

Finally, here are some more pics of Elfie and how he's been doing in our classroom. The kids are so funny with their suspicions. They will look through the class window every time they walk by trying to catch him, while others thinks it's me and others have blamed our poor maintenance man. Others have told Mr. E (the 4th grade science teacher) that my room is haunted. Eeek!
Day 2: doing our morning work

Day 3: taking tickets the kids get for good behavior
Day 4: swinging/hanging out in one of our pom-poms 
Day 5: reading fairy tales in the reading corner
Day 6: working on a puzzle (one choice for indoor recess)
Day 7: doing homework (one student handed it to him when posed doing the puzzle
and said "who knows? maybe he will do it!" so Elfie also wrote a "PS: thanks <student name>!!" haha)
Day 8: holding hands with my scarecrow. BFFs!
There are 8 days from the last two weeks because he didn't come to us until Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Monday's are overwhelming and he got left in the freezer-oops), and we had a snow/ice day that Friday. But there are five more days before break so that gives us 13 days with Elfie!!

*Last week with Elfie:
Found Elfie on www.northpole.com when we came in! haha

Took a personal day to take my certification exam.
Elfie watched the kids for me

The day I was out, Elfie fell and some kids played with him.
A student called to tell me "It was a bad day for Elfie" so he was sick the next day.

Once Elfie felt better, he brought candy canes for everyone!
"A treat for you from the big guy. Almost Christmas! <3 Elfie"

Goodbye Elfie! Stole the poem from Jake that graduated with me
"Dear 4th grade, Today is the day I must say goodbye, I know it's sad but please don't cry,
for I will be back this time next year, to fill more lives with joy and cheer! Love always, Elfie"
The kids were surprisingly upset Elfie wouldn't be back in January. I love this age because they still allow themselves to believe in magic! So sweet!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Where Did the Last Four Months Go?

Oh hey guys. Haven't seen you since AUGUST. My bad. I've been slowly and painfully suffering from this thing called "being a first-year teacher". With two weeks until winter break, which also marks half of the school year, I FINALLY feel like I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off so here I am! I know the blogging community has practically ceased to exist without me, right? ;)
2/3 of the Fourth Grade team.
Feels like such a small school after last year (with a 7 teacher team)
I'm not even going to try and catch you up on how my first semester was, because many of you have heard my stories/tears/victories and I'm sure it will all be a blur in a year or so anyway. I will tell you that I am LOVING Memphis, LOVING my friends here, and LOVING our new schedule for departmentalization. Now I only teach math with one hour of remediation reading and a half hour homeroom. With a 90 minute math block and a set of laptops, I'm able to do a blended learning model class. Here's the schedule:

15 minutes: Do-Now and then check answers and go over homework
30 minutes: Half the class is on laptops doing iReady (a remediation program) while the other half spends 15 minutes at a game center and 15 minutes with me at a teacher center
30 minutes: Switch- students on laptops go to centers and vice-versa
15 minutes: Exit ticket, pass out homework, sign behavior logs, and pack up

With about 16 students in a class, I LOVE teaching 4 students at a time! And 4 students playing a game together is so manageable. Should've done this earlier.

No school yesterday, thanks to freezing rain for 48 hours

Not in Florida anymore...
The ice storm outside reminds me that it is in fact December. To stay festive this year, I have the christmas station playing CONSTANTLY in my room and we also have our Elf on the Shelf ("Elfie") getting into all sorts of trouble. Here is the little guy:

More on him another time! Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gator Classroom

People. I've been in the classroom for two days now and it has been a WHIRLWIND. It's like everything I learned rushed out of my head when those kids lined up at my door Monday morning. Talk about panic.


the good news is this week we are on the short day schedule (7:30-2) and we have an hour long enrichment block where the kids go to Watoto (which I mentioned in this post). I am definitely feeling overwhelmed, but I have a lot of support through TFA, my 4th grade team, my school, UF teaching friends, and my roommate! I also have to remind myself that Rome wasn't built in a day and I can't be perfect day 1.

I do want to introduce my classroom in all it's Florida glory. Mind you, it's a work in progress. I still need some rugs, some student work, and to put up my Florida posters and gear, but hey, it's better than the last post! Enjoy =]
Front door, word wall, and class library 
Close up of the word wall with writing posters above.
Eventually I want a table to use for writing underneath it.

My reading corner, before the cozy rug that's coming!

Yes, that is a dollar store blow up alligator

Best part of my room! Still need to add my little individual gators!
The front of the room

Good work bulletin board, calendar, and chart paper 

My school-wide rules and areas for the daily objective and standard

Teacher area and Gator of the Week

My little corner =] Especially love my class picture from last year. Miss them!

Love love love these pom-poms! Made of tissue paper and inspired by this

My SMARTboard. A little bland... maybe some Gator curtains??

My storage area and "take a break" chair. Needs a rug and some color....

Desks in pods of 4 (hey Kagan!)

Swampy name tags

For my front door

Behavior punch cards as my classroom incentive.
Different colors for different periods (three 4th grade classes)

Rewards for punch cards (taken from here)
Also taught them the "It's great to be a Florida Gator" chant and have attempted "Na na na na na GO GATORS!" but it was a bit of a struggle. I'll keep you updated. We were also misidentified as Florida State today. NOT OK.