May 30, 2010

On To Better Things

Thursday was the last day of school, and I feel like I finally have the freedom to share some of the things that have been on my mind. You may recall my earlier post about being in "The Hallway" where I was admittedly pretty vague... it's time to divulge some of the details.

The biggest news is that I will not be returning to my school in the Fall. While this was not my decision,I have come to the conclusion that this change is truly a blessing. As much as I adore some of my coworkers, it is a toxic setting, and I don't see how anyone can be expected to thrive in that type of environment.

Moving forward, I've done a lot of thinking about the kind of school I need and want to be a part of. Because so much starts from above, I cannot help but starting first with my view of administrators. Above all, I feel they should be mentors for their staff; this means caring for, coaching, collaborating, and encouraging them.

I want an administration that follows through with their claims to do what's best for the students, utilizing the skills and passions of their staff, not one that changes teaching assignments based on grudges and favoritism.

As a teacher, I see my role as a facilitator of learning, meaning I want to give my students the tools they need to become the best learners they can be. In the same way, I want my administrators to be facilitators of my teaching, helping me to become the best teacher I can be. I welcome their constructive feedback (note: not criticism) because I have a passion for this career and a desire to grow as a professional. I also need to be able to trust that their feedback comes from a genuine desire to help me become better rather than to catch me doing wrong.

I enjoy working in a collaborative environment, but I've learned that this can only be successful with trust. I wish to work in a school that demands respect for all employees and does not tolerate bullying (because it's not only the students who are guilty here). I've seen how great it can be to work closely with others who are supportive of each other and genuinely want to see each other be successful. I can only imagine how great it would be to have that type of environment on a whole-school level. And that is exactly what I'm looking for.

May 16, 2010

Skype Dating

I never thought I'd be in a long-distance relationship, but... life happens.

I just want to say that I am soooooo thankful for Skype. The ability to have a video chat with someone I've been missing since before he even left has made a world of difference.

All through our conversation, he kept asking me, "What are you smiling about?" And the truth is that I was just elated to be looking into his eyes again.

Now... if only I could find a way to snuggle with my laptop.

Classroom Ideas - Rooted in Words

In language arts, we study word roots, prefixes and suffixes as part of our spelling units. District data was showing, however, that students could not apply these words outside of this context.

So, a "Rooted in Words" tree was constructed in the classroom. I started each trimester with a bare tree to make it interactive for the students. After studying a word root, prefix or suffix, students could add leaves to the tree displaying words they found that fit the rules. I also gave bonus points for each word that was found, so it was a great incentive.

This interactive bulletin board also turned out to be a great activity for students that finished assignments before the rest of the class. Students would dig through novels and dictionaries to find more words for the leaves.

Side Note: My coworker taught me to laminate the leaves so I could write on them with a sharpie and erase it with rubbing alcohol. What a life saver that tip turned out to be! Thanks, Elaine!

Classroom Ideas - Sweet Stories

As I head into my last full week at LJHS, I wanted to share some bulletin board ideas I had in my classroom this year. My purpose is two-fold: 1) to help me remember what I did and how and 2) to share ideas with any other teachers. I found very quickly that it's not easy to find ideas online that are appropriate for middle school. Nearly everything I came across was either too old or too young, so I had to create from scratch or modify things to make them "just right" for this age group.

The first idea is my favorite. I titled this bulletin board, "Sweet Stories" on a purple banner and polka dot letters hanging above (not in the picture).

The lollipops were created from plastic party plates, which were hot glued together and adorned with colorful straws for sticks. On each one, I pasted the title of one of the Rebecca Caudill books for this school year (in the future, I would probably include a picture of the book cover as well). Each lollipop was then covered with a clear party bag, which you can find in any party store, and secured with a twist tie.

I had a fun polka dot border, which reminded me of that dot candy we used to eat when we were kids (from the Popcorn Shop in Wheaton), and I later added some cupcake cutouts from the calendar section of the teaching store for a touch more color.

This bulletin board was directly above my classroom library, and it was definitely a student favorite. I love this overall effect because the stories literally pop off the walls!

May 12, 2010

Who's In?

I was browsing the internet and came across an ad for Baskin Robbins. That cup of sweet, creamy, deliciousness made my mouth water. Suddenly, I needed to have some ice cream.

(Don't you love the power of suggestion?)

So, I did what any sensible girl does and called my mother and sister (who was upstairs, by the way, because yes, I am that lazy) to see who I could convince to join me for a cone, blizzard, Dilly bar, or milkshake. I'm not even picky about the location - but I'm just saying that I happen to know that Steak & Shake has half price shakes on Wednesdays.

Appallingly, they both declined my proposition, sending me into a mild panic. I mean... if no one eats with me, that means I have to eat alone. And eating alone is like drinking alone. And everyone knows that the person who drinks alone has a problem. And I am not an addict!

My solution to said problem is not to avoid the food, but to expand my search. Certainly someone will cave into this sweet temptation with me. Who's In?

May 9, 2010

My Mama

On top of all of the qualities I listed about my mom last year, she is also one of the most giving people I've ever met. She's always going out of her way to do things for others, even when she doesn't feel like it. She works very hard doing what are often thankless tasks.

So, on this Mother's Day, I wanted to do something extra special to show her how much she's appreciated. I didn't want to just buy her flowers or a card or take her out to lunch. I knew she'd appreciate those things, but I wanted to do something more. So, I told mom to pick out something special for her backyard, and off to Menards we went.

She decided on a canopy swing for the patio and some new cushions for the lounge chairs. What a perfect way to help her unwind!

After a full afternoon of work, her swing is fully assembled (pictures to come... I'm far too lazy right now). I can't wait to catch her out there lounging on a beautiful day with a good book. Sounds like a perfect afternoon to me!

Happy Mother's Day, Mama! I hope you enjoy your swing!

May 2, 2010

Mission: Accomplished

I am pleased to report that Corey has safely arrived in New York, and that I successfully completed my mission of keeping him entertained on what turned out to be a 16 hour drive! It's a good thing we're both talkers and never seem to run out of things to discuss! :)

It was pretty comical late into the evening when he could no longer read the map, and I was trying to describe it to him as I looked on google. That street view feature is fantastic, but it doesn't do much good in the pitch black of the evening (apparently, they don't believe in street lights in upstate NY). It probably didn't help much that he spotted a headless deer on the expressway and was passing deer crossing signs every five minutes - he was certain one would dart in front of him at any moment (for the record, he didn't see any).

My navigation skills were so good that Corey asked for a repeat performance today as he tried to familiarize himself with the lay of the land. Although it would have been much more fun to be in the passenger seat beside him, I enjoyed taking this little tour with him. The added bonus is that I now know where things are for when I visit!

Girls Night Out

Friday morning started out a bit rough. I was teary eyed on my drive to work and then again when my well-meaning coworkers greeted with me sympathetic hugs. Thankfully, though, my job is one that is so busy that it doesn't give me much time to sit and reflect, and as soon as the school day began, I was out of my funk.

This weekend was a great reminder that I have some fabulous girlfriends. As soon as the 9th period bell released us for the day, my friend Liz was in my room asking me to drinks. In a matter of minutes, my favorite group of girls from work were gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings for some much needed bonding time.

My one, quick drink lasted far longer than intended, resulting in my inability to go home and shower before heading to Elaine's house for girls night. To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd be feeling up to it, but I am so glad I went. Patty, Alison, and Amy joined us for a yummy dinner, tasty drinks and hilarious karaoke entertainment. It was the perfect distraction! Despite my far-too-sober-for-karaoke state, Patty managed to convince me to join her in singing R. Kelly's "Ignition," although I think I only managed to get out half the words through all my laughter.

Thanks, girls, for reminding me that I'm not alone, even when Corey is gone.