June 29, 2013

July Currently

For the first time EVER, I'm actually linking up with Farley early! I'm so proud of myself! haha!

June 25, 2013

Feeling Displaced and a Bloglovin' Blog Hop

I'm feeling a little frustrated with myself and my lack of blogging. To be completely honest, though, I feel a little lost in not knowing what to do with myself. I had such great intentions for unit plans this summer since my school is officially switching to Common Core for this coming year. I envisioned an insanely busy summer writing my own curriculum (one of the joys of teaching at my charter was that there is no provided curriculum, meaning first and second-year teachers were left finding for themselves... poor teachers!). But... since I've resigned from my job (and moved back to Chicago), I'm feeling a little lost because I don't know what or if I will be teaching this coming year.

So, even though I did this to myself... I'm not sure what I should be doing to prepare myself for a job I may or may not get. I check the job postings daily and spend hours filling out lengthy applications and essays, but I know that with so many qualified teachers out of work in Illinois, it all comes down to who you know. And unfortunately, I don't know anyone who has openings.

So... I sit... and wait. And I ponder whether or not I should consider other options.

But the truth is, my heart is still in teaching. Despite all the frustrations, I love working with my students and can't imagine anything that would be more fulfilling.

So, in the meantime, I keep adding things to my wishlist on TPT in hopes I will be hired somewhere and be able to commit to some of those purchases. And I hope.

As for my blog, I think I'll start going through activities I already have and modify them to fit common core standards. And after 7 years in schools, I still have tips to share on Tuesdays, even if I'm not using them at the moment, right?

I don't want to let my little blog die.

To that end, I'm linking up with Tori today for her Blog Hop, meant to connect all us fabulous teacher bloggers on Bloglovin' before Google Reader is gone for good at the end of this week. Click on the picture below to get to her blog for full directions on how to participate in the Hop. See ya'll over at Bloglovin!

June 18, 2013


Those of you who do your blog reading via Google Reader know that the site is going away on July 1. Basically, that means you need to import all of your blogs into Feedly or Bloglovin now so you don't miss any posts.

I signed up for Bloglovin tonight. It kinda reminds me of Pinterest but for blogs... sold! And they have apps for your iPhone/iPad so you never have to miss the newest post, which is super important if you want to jump on people's time-sensitive giveaways. I can't tell you how many I've missed because I don't read anything on my phone... I will now!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

June 11, 2013

Teacher Tip Tuesday - Student Book Recommendations

I'm linking up with Holly today to tell you about my new Teacher Tip about student book recommendations.

I think it's true of all ELA teachers that sharing book recommendations with students gives us that warm fuzzy feeling we all love. But what do we do to motivate those reluctant readers in our classrooms?

I pride myself on winning over my reluctant readers with a multitude of strategies I've implemented in my classroom, one of which being today's tip: a Novel Recommendation Binder. This tip seriously took me about 15 minutes to throw together but has made a lasting impression in my classroom.

In my classroom, I keep a binder in my classroom library for all of my students to access at their leisure. Inside, I keep a stack of blank Novel Recommendation forms.

On the top half of the form, students write the title of the book, author, genre, short summary, and a brief description of who they think would enjoy it. The bottom half of the form is left blank with the subtitle "Recommended By" above the space. Any student who also recommends that book can simply sign their name on the page, which is sorted alphabetically by the student who completes the form (you can use alphabet binder tabs to help here). If a student needs to choose a new book, he or she will often grab the binder and see what their friends recommend instead of asking me. Peer recommendations weigh much more heavily among middle school students, after all.

In my classroom, this binder has cultivated a positive peer pressure to read. In fact, the year I started this, I had specific titles I simply couldn't keep on my bookshelf (despite the fact that I had four copies of each title) because students couldn't wait to get their hands on whatever their peers were reading.

My top readers are usually the ones to start the recommendation pages, and sometimes it becomes a friendly competition to see who can finish a book first (my only requirement) so they can fill out the form. It's a great early finisher activity as well.

My reluctant readers also enjoy being able to add their signatures to pages when they finished books. I think, in a way, it's like a brag book for my students to show off what they were reading.

An additional bonus for the middle school classrooms is that this binder allows students to share their recommendations with peers in other classes as well.

As a teacher, I've used this binder to help me see which books I need to add to my classroom library as well as which titles I need to add to my summer reading list so I can stay current with what my students read.

Back to Life

We're home safely from our trip to Louisiana. It was an 18-hour drive because we had to tow my car behind the box truck, which slowed us down quite a bit. Michael (Joel's brother) and I took turns driving Joel's pickup behind the box truck, and I can honestly say that there were times it felt like the trip would never end. As usual, Joel was a trooper and drove the whole time without complaining once. I was pretty good until Michael asked me to take over for the last 3 hours of the trip... so close yet so far away. By the time we got home and crashed into bed, the sun was already up for the day. 

Now that our stuff is in storage and I'm caught up on sleep, I swear I'm going to get back into my blogging routine. You should see how many tabs I have open right now... I have so many posts to read! 

In addition to getting back to blogging, I need to continue applying for jobs here. I don't know how the application process is in other states, but here in Illinois, the applications are all online and include multiple essays. It feels like a giant waste of time to put so much thought into the application to know that I am just one of thousands of applicants (literally) seeking each opening. I know no one ever reads those things, but the perfectionist in me spends way too much time writing and editing these essays. And I know it's the law, but it's annoying that districts post openings when they already know who is filling them. Quit wasting my time!

So, as I wait and hope someone will offer me an interview, I'm going to work on organizing my digital files (I don't keep anything in hard copy) by CCSS. I think it will help me be more prepared for whatever grade level I may teach because I will easily see what I have for each standard. I have SO many files from over the years. It will be good to go through them all and revise as needed.

Keep your fingers crossed for me that I land a job!

June 8, 2013

Thanks for the Memories

I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I've been THIS tired for so many consecutive days. 

We drove through the night, literally leaving Chicago at 8:30 PM Tuesday. At least I think it was Tuesday... This week is kinda hazy.

My legs and feet are throbbing.

My right knee may need a replacement.

My back was sore BEFORE crashing on the floor at 2:30 AM.

And poor Joel and Michael stayed up even later getting the last big pieces tucked into the box truck. I think Joel finally crawled into our makeshift bed at 4:15.

He's still snoring beside me as I type this. 

Today, we say goodbye to Baton Rouge. The place we had our first (and second) home together. The place we learned to fully depend on each other, physically and emotionally. It's where we embraced the addictions of plastic parade beads and Raising Cane's chicken. It's the place we tried crawfish for the first (and last) time. 

It's where I learned the realities about the struggles of urban students across the country, both in and out on the classroom. Where I gained new perspective on teaching without unions and merit-based pay (both things I thought I'd like until I experienced them myself). It's the city that showed me that there ARE parents who will support you when you call home with a behavior concern instead of turning the blame on you. It renewed my faith in building lasting relationships with my students because that IS how you really reach them. 

Today, we head out on what will probably be a 16 hour drive back to Chi town.

Where we will then unload the box truck.

But first, maybe a little more sleep...

June 3, 2013

June Currently - Lots of Updates

Better late than never, I'm linking up with Farley for this month's Currently:

Listening: My dog snoring by my feet. As bad as it is for my allergies, I love being able to snuggle up with the dogs now that we're back in Chicago with my parents. I missed both my babies!

Loving: I finally got the ring and artwork I inherited from my grandma, who passed away in February. The ring is a star sapphire, which she got from my grandpa when my mom was a kid and wore pretty much every day on her right ring finger. I got it re-sized this weekend and plan to wear it always and remember her.

I also inherited a really cool painter's pallet, which was used by my great-great-grandmother. My grandma hung it on the wall in her bedroom where I admired it for years. I loved all the remnants of paint left on the pallet, how they tell the stories of all her years of painting. I was beyond excited when my aunt decided she no longer wanted it, and my mom snagged it for me, knowing how much I loved it.

Thinking: about how nice it is to be in Chicago. It's been great to catch up with family and friends, and we've been extremely busy seeing everyone. It's so much more convenient to be home when it's not a holiday because everyone else is actually available to see us too! And things are only getting better now that most of my friends are done teaching for the summer.

Wanting: to get out of our current lease in Baton Rouge. Somehow, we ended up signing a contract that ends July 31, even though that's 13-months, and we didn't know it until we submitted our Intent to Vacate paperwork. We need to move before Joel starts work... so we're grasping for ideas here.

Needing: to find a teaching job. The market here is just as bad as when I left, but I need to figure out something... even if it means I'm subbing. I still need to be hired someplace.

3 Vacay Essentials: iphone for mapping, photos, and audiobooks; swim suit for my days lounging on a beach; and sunscreen because my German-Irish heritage results in crazy sunburns, even after I get a tan. :)

June 1, 2013

Words that Matter

Yesterday marked one full week that we've been in Chicago.

Yesterday was also the deadline for my decision about whether or not I would be returning to my school for another year. 

I asked my administration for one more week so we could figure out our options here. I didn't want to string them along, like many of my peers encouraged me to do. I just don't think that's fair to them. So, I was upfront with our desire to move closer to family but also expressed how much I would want to stay in my building if we ended up staying in Baton Rouge. I'm very fortunate to have a supportive, understanding administration who granted me the extra time to figure things out.

Joel has a second job interview, this one with the hiring manager, on Monday for a job he will likely take. And even though it's not set in stone (and therefore a leap of faith), we're going with the assumption that he will take the job (if not, he has another option). So, with that news, I wrote my administration and gave them the bittersweet news that we are leaving Baton Rouge.

I thanked them for the opportunity to work with them. It was definitely an experience that has shaped me, both personally and professionally. I feel that I'm a more well-rounded teacher after working in this environment, and I'm grateful for the ways it's taught me to be a better planner, especially when it comes to differentiated instruction. And then I asked them for a letter of recommendation to take to future employers.

And this is the response I got back from admin:

I'm sorry to hear that you are moving back to Chicago. You've been a great team member all year long. Your passion and caring towards students and their success and well-being, I believe, made a difference in their lives. I would be happy to write a recommendation letter.

I can't tell you how meaningful it was for me to read that short email. For anyone that doesn't know me, I had a terrible principal in one of my past schools who really made me doubt myself as a teacher. In my opinion, her words and actions did not reflect each other when it came to building relationships with the students. She would tell us to consider students as whole persons and then criticized me for being "unprofessional" when I talked to my students about what it meant to date in middle school and because I knew who students were dating (which... anyone who works with middle school students can tell you that this information is voluntarily offered on a daily basis). 

There was a lot of confusion. And a lot of tears. And even though I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, there was that self-doubt that creeped into my mind. 

Building relationships with students is the reason I teach. So, it feels really good to have found an administration that supports this belief and even says I'm a better teacher because of it. I feel validated and appreciated. (And I won't lie, I totally feel like taking his words straight to that terrible, awful, no-good, very bad former principal... with a few choice gestures.)

So, even though I have no idea where I'll be working next (and am dreading the potential of being trapped as a substitute again), I can look for my next job with more motivation and confidence that I AM a good teacher, darn it. 

Now, to just get a hiring district to realize this...