August 31, 2015

My Classroom Library

I haven't been able to display my classroom library in five years. FIVE! When I taught in Louisiana, I had them in storage because there were already other books on my classroom shelves (I never knew where they came from), and I was afraid to get them mixed up. The few I did bring in didn't exactly make it back to me at the end of the year, so it's been a while since I've been able to assess my collection.

This year, though, I went out and bought four new IKEA bookcases, which Joel graciously assembled for me. I honestly thought that would be enough. I was SO WRONG! On the day before school started, I was in a panic to get out of the building because I needed to get back to IKEA and buy more shelving. Thankfully, a new friend stopped in to check on me and saw that fear in my eyes. He had a large bookshelf in his room that he had no plans to use and offered to help me move it to my room. YES!!!

So, I present to you my 2015-2016 classroom library. 


The first, large bookcase is my Book Club Bookshelf. This is where I house my books that come in groups of 4 or more. I love to buy multiple copies of the most popular choices so students don't have to wait so long to check them out. Also, since there is so much excitement around these books, they lend themselves naturally to book club selections, as students always have much to discuss. 


On the top of the white bookcases are my buddy books. These are the ones that come in groups of 2 for students who want to partner read. I also have series books like Twilight, Hunger Games, Uglies, LOTR, and Harry Potter

On the first day of school, when we did a classroom tour, my sweet babies asked, "All them books for US?!" with a sense of awe and disbelief. And when I finally gave them time to start checking them out last week, you would've thought I was giving away free candy. They were so eager to pour over the titles, ask me about my favorites, and feverishly write down titles they knew they'd want to read in the future. 

My heart was sooooooo happy!

My students. My title 1 students who supposedly hate to read, begged for the chance to select books to read. Many checked out two titles, one to leave at home and another for our classroom. I'm already watching them dive in every chance they get. Even students who aren't on my roster have been coming to me, begging for permission to borrow books from my shelves. It gives me ALL THE FEELS!

If you can believe it, I'm not completely satisfied with my current library. I haven't really purchased many books for my library in the past 5 years, except for the ones I've found at Goodwill, mostly because Joel was going to have a heart-attack if I kept bringing home books to store in our garage. My current list of books-I-want-to-buy-for-my-classroom-library is at $280. Some of the newer ones, like The Fault in Our Stars and The One and Only Ivan are already being requested by my students. How can I deny them access to such titles??? Oh... my bank account. That's why I'm setting up a donor's choose account ASAP!

More on this to come.

August 30, 2015

Weekends Have New Meaning

When you're a teacher, it's easy to forget, in the summer, how great a weekend feels. But now that school is back in session, I definitely remember. Saturday mornings, oh, how I love thee! 

On Friday afternoon, I was debating whether I'd try to go home right after school or stay for a while and work. I knew Joel was already home, and since we hadn't really seen each other much during the week, as we've both been working 12 hour days, I liked the idea of going home for some quality time with my man.  

But then Renee walked in and mentioned some things she needed to get done for Monday. Of course, I know how everything is better with a friend, so I told her I'd stay and make some more positive calls. Ten minutes later, our AMAZING social worker, Maddi, and SPED department head, Val, walked into my room demanding that we pack up our things and exit the building. Maddi even closed my laptop for me. They were having NONE of this working on Friday afternoon business. Instead, we were kidnapped to Chili's for happy hour.

It was a good choice. I laughed SO much. And My social calendar is filling up fast with activities with my new coworkers from baseball games to Oktoberfests and winery visits. 

After happy hour, I raced home for a dinner date with Joel. I have to say, when we're both working so much, we have so many extra things to discuss when we're together. It kinda feels like when we were newly dating, before we moved in together, because we have so much to talk about! It made it extra fun to have a date night. I have more to share about this (including a super embarrassing story) later.

By the time we got home, I was exhausted and only lasted about 30 minutes hanging out with Joel and Aniya for Sesame Street time before crashing in bed. I think I slept 11 hours Friday night. Now, it also wasn't exactly a peaceful sleep because... I'm a teacher, and my mind is always racing with things I should do, but it was still blissful not to have an alarm screaming in my ear at 5 AM!

Sesame Street, equally mesmerizing for nieces and uncles alike
Yesterday, Joel and I watched Aniya so Resha could have some mommy time. We had lunch and then ended up taking her to Woodfield Mall to run around in the play area since it was rainy outside. Weekends at Woodfield are usually crazy, but they're extra crazy on rainy days, so the play area was PACKED. Also... who are these parents who let their kids run amuck without supervision? The perimeter of the play area was full of parents staring at their phones, while their children ran UP slides and knocked littles off the stairs. The mama bear in me came out when one such child knocked Aniya flat on her back. I knew she was okay because the ground was super squishy (like... can I get some of that in my classroom, please? My feet would LOVE it!), but the poor baby still cried because it scared her to death. 

After she got knocked down a second time, I had had enough. We turned our attention to shoe shopping (why do I ALWAYS wait until the end of the season to buy the shoes I need for right now? I cannot find cute, black sandals to save my life) and a visit to Rainforest Cafe to see the animals. Aniya liked the monkeys and butterfly, but was terrified of the alligator at the entrance. Toddlers don't understand when you tell them the alligator is fake. That means nothing to them. Instead, I got certain ear drum damage from her shrill cries! haha  

My favorite monkeys!
We then treated ourselves to bubble tea, which is my favorite thing in life, before heading home for nap time (for all)!

Saturday night was filled with grocery shopping, laundry, and Netflix. I honestly can't remember the last time the TV was even on in our house, so it was nice to have a relaxing evening at home. 

So far today, we've cooked breakfast, paid bills, and I've blogged. I know... so exciting! I do have to grade Friday's assessment, but it shouldn't take more more than 30 minutes, so I plan to do that while we watch The Real Housewives later tonight. It feels so good to be able to go into this week prepared (lesson plans have been done since Thursday) and well-rested. 

Week 3, here I come!

My Average Day

For those who are interested, I thought it would be fun to walk through my typical (well... as typical as it gets for a teacher) school day.

5:00 AM: Alarm. My least favorite part of the day. Usually I have a chance to wake up with the sun for a couple months before the dark winter sets in. With this job, though, I'm well into my drive before the sun starts to peak over the horizon.

5: 45 AM: Leave for work. And yes, I do hit a bit of Chicago traffic even at this hour. But stopping at Dunkin Donuts for my morning coffee/tea as soon as I get off the expressway brightens my mood immediately, so my attitude is in check when I walk into the building.

6:45 AM: Walk straight to Renee's classroom. She's also new this year and teaches math across the hallway. We have identical schedules and have become work BFFs already. We like to do things like walk to the teachers lounge and copy room together. Because we work in a middle school, so we must act like middle school girls. Hahaha

8:00 AM: Students begin to enter the building. They go to breakfast or line up two by two in my hallway for morning meeting with our grade-level AP. This is actually one of my favorite times because I get to talk to the kids about their lives and make connections with students I don't see in my classroom. 

8:20 AM: Morning meeting/Word of the Day/Pledge/Moment of Silence 

8:30 AM: 1st period begins. For 8th grade, this is our PLC time. During week 1 this part of my day was a thorn in my side, but magically, it all worked out this past week, and we were SO productive. 

9:29 AM: EPIC This is an intervention period for every student in my building. We use AIMSweb and MAP scores to place them into targeted small groups for 6 weeks at a time. For example, I may get a group that really needs to step up fluency, and we'll spend this time doing reader's theater together. I love the group I have currently!

10:08 AM: This is my 6th & 7th grade Intervention class. These are our "bubble" kids, who need just a little extra push because they're *almost* meeting their reading goals. I don't have a curriculum for this, but I've been given the instruction to focus on Close Reading. We're doing this through guided reading, independent reading (student choice), blogging, and weekly Socratic seminars.

11:06 AM: This is my 7th & 8th grade Intervention class. Same as above. I L.O.V.E. the work I'm already seeing out of these two groups. I had chills. And happy tears.  

12:04 PM: Planning period. Renee usually comes over and we parallel plan (you know... like parallel play. Everything is better with a buddy). She teaches math but also has two intervention classes, so we bounce ideas off each other.

1:01 PM: Lunch. Except that we usually sneak this into our planning period somewhere. But on Mondays, our team has requested to eat together in someone's classroom. So we go to be team players. Plus people brought treats last week. I like treats. :) 

1:39 PM: 8th grade ELA. This is my co-taught class with the ESL teacher. It's BY FAR my most challenging group behaviorally and academically. They're low. There are 29 of them (my biggest class). Even with two adults, I feel like I'm in a circus some days. No one has ever been outright disrespectful, but I'd love to offer superglue instead of chap stick to about half the class!   

2:36 PM: 8th grade ELA. This one is on my own. Probably only a quarter of this class needs superglue, and there are only 22 of them, so I can handle this class much better. Also, there's none of that awkward co-taught stuff where we're trying desperately not to step on each other's toes. 

3:30 PM: Dismissal. It's late. I haven't ever been in a middle school with such a late start and dismissal. I have to tell you, though, that I don't hate it. Except for the fact that traffic has already started by this time, so I don't even try to get on the roads. Instead, I spend this time visiting with co-workers (of course, Renee), making copies, planning Intervention stuff, grading AIMSweb assessments, making positive phone calls home (when possible since 50% of our students have no parents who speak English), and things like that. It's actually pretty incredible how quickly this time can fly. My classroom is much like my college dorm room was, with people coming in and our at all times. More than once, people have popped in to ask if we were in a meeting because there's often a sizable group. Nope. We're just chatting. Have I mentioned that I LOVE my co-workers?

6:00-7:00 PM: Head home. If I wait until this time, I can keep my travel time down to about an hour. Sometimes I call people, but I know it's hard to hear me through the bluetooth when I'm speeding down the expressway, so I also listen to my podcasts. The time goes pretty quickly. 

10:30 PM: Bedtime. 9:00 was my goal when school started, but I failed miserably. I mean, I have to cook, eat, clean up, and spend time with the people I love. I stay up as late as I can, and then I crash within seconds of my head hitting the pillow.

I'm sure that after school time will feel longer an longer as the year goes on, which is why I've signed up to be the head cheerleading coach. This is our first year having a squad, so I'm both excited and nervous. I looooooooved being a cheerleader growing up, so I'm excited to be part of it again, but I also have no idea what to expect from my students. And I know things have changed in the past 15 years. Either way, it will give me a purpose for staying so late every day!