November 3, 2015

I Made a Big Mistake

Each year, when my students ask, as they invariably do, I tell them I am 29 years old. My Grams always says that when you find an age you like, you can stay there as long as you'd like. This is why she's been 105 for as long as I can remember!

The other week, though, I made a fatal error when I posted my actual birthdate as an example for how to login to our Chromebooks. Here is the conversation that followed:

Student 1: You said you were 29, right?
Me: I am!
Student 1: How can you be 29 if you were born in 1982?
Me: I just am.
Student 1: But wouldn't that make you 33?
Me: No, I'm 29. I'm sorry for your math!
Student 1: ...
Student 2: But that's impossible. You have to be 33!
Me: Again, I'm 29. I'll be sure to talk to your math teachers about your math though, because that really IS a problem.
Student 1: ...
Student 2: ...
Student 3: Look! I understand that you want to be younger than you are. But telling us you're 29 doesn't actually make you 29. It just makes you delusional!
Me: ...

And then we all laughed until I had tears running down my face.

They will NEVER let me live this one down!

October 22, 2015

The Day I Broke

Hello friends! Remember me? I know I've been M.I.A. this year, but my excuse is valid. That new job I started? Yeah... I've been busy with that.

As it turns out, living 61 miles away from your job makes for some LONG days. 5:00 AM comes very early, and being gone from home for 13-15 hours each day means I've had to let some things go...


Thankfully, I have a super supportive boyfriend who has picked up my slack in all things around the house. Although he doesn't always prepare the healthiest meals, I do appreciate the fact that he always has something ready when I walk in the door. He gets major bonus points for doing the dishes most of the time too.

My house isn't in the best shape. The major disaster areas get cleaned on the weekends, but the detail cleaning has been mostly left undone. And we won't even talk about how much laundry we have to do on the weekends just to have something to wear for the following week.

I'm still firmly in the "I love my job!" phase, even though we're deep into DEVOLSON right now. My kids have completely taken over my heart, and although I'm exhausted, they're worth it... most of the time.

Today, though, I broke.
I reached my limit.
I reminded myself that I'm not superwoman and cannot do it all.

I feel like I've been running on pure adrenaline since August 3rd. In that time, I've taken on quite a few new things:

  • Implementing a new ELA curriculum
  • Developing a curriculum for my reading intervention classes
  • Being appointed PLC lead
  • Becoming cheerleading coach 
  • Volunteering to start a spirit squad
  • Starting two fundraisers
  • Attending a two-day conference last week/weekend
I know that it was bound to happen, but today, the stress (because as my mother likes to remind me, even good stress is stress) got to me. On this, the day before quarter one grades are due, I sat in my classroom with about 20 students who finally decided to retake some test they failed this quarter. You know... the ones I've been encouraging since August. 

You know that saying, "Poor planning on your part doesn't constitute an emergency on mine!"? Yeah... I guarantee that wasn't said by a teacher.

Trying to manage 5 different tests while I sneak in my own lunch had me frazzled by the time 6th period began. And it was then that I discovered yet ANOTHER new student due to this week's schedule changes. This makes 7 new students in this one class. SEVEN. This was already my most challenging behavioral class, and today's change was the straw that broke the camel's back. 

My the time the period ended, my frustration had peaked and tears were building behind my eyes. I found my work BFF during the passing period and told her in a cracking voice that I was about to cry. Being the amazing friend she is, she volunteered to leave her co-taught class to give me 5 minutes to cry it out and regroup. Because of her, I was able to release some of that frustration and pull myself together for a great 7th period. 

Tomorrow will be better!

September 8, 2015

Show Me Your Papers

During my 5th period plan today, I went to the office to make a class set of assessments for this week. Upon arrival, I was informed by a secretary that we're out of copy paper for the week.

Out of copies?

For the week?

I smiled nicely and explained how desperately I needed to make these copies. There was no school yesterday. Today is our Monday. We were only half-way through the day at this point. We simply cannot be OUT of paper!

She then told me that the stash in the hall closet contains our entire inventory of copy paper through December, and we're already over our allotment for this week. Thankfully, she filled the copier for me anyway... SO I COULD DO MY JOB!

I know my school district is in financial distress, but this is RIDICULOUS! I shouldn't be dealing with no copy paper in September!

(We also had ZERO paper for the first week of school. None whatsoever. That made for an interesting start of the year.)

Save our schools!

*Don't judge me when you see "1 package of copy paper" on the school supply lists for next year!*

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! 

August 21, 2015

Classroom Reveal & Progress Report

Hi, friends! I'm super excited to be FINALLY sharing my classroom reveal today. I know many of you (and by that, I mean my mom and grandma) have been anxiously awaiting this. Of course, I don't think my room will ever truly be finished, but I'm satisfied with the way things came together, especially considering I planned everything before actually seeing my classroom.

Today marked the end of our official first week of the 2015-2016 school year. Yes, I've been back in professional development meetings since August 3rd, but we weren't "required" to be present until this week. As a new teacher in this district, I'm still feeling quite overwhelmed with all the new things that have been thrown at me over the past couple weeks.

It's tough being the new person, feeling like I have to play catch up AND stay with my PLC during our limited planning time. In our first planning period together Thursday, I feel like I spent the entire time searching for files in the bajillion folders in Google Drive and requesting access to things I couldn't see. As things stand today, we have a common assessment and a text to use next week, but we still don't have daily objectives for our lesson plan, which are also supposed to be common. I'm sure we'll get into a good groove eventually, but this is stressful for me since I'm such a planner.

My principal has been INCREDIBLE! I've never felt so welcomed and appreciated by an administrator. It almost seems too good to be true (but I've asked around, and it's been confirmed that she is 100% genuine)! Earlier this week, she and another coworker were seriously arguing in my doorway about whose home I should stay in during inclement weather (you know... when my one hour commute turns to three). I assured them both that Chicago winters promise enough snow for them both to take me in... probably more times than they hope! haha

I've added so many coworkers to my "friends" list, and the texts, phone calls, and daily chats have truly made this experience amazing. My days are L.O.N.G. (I typically get to school at 6:45 and leave 12 hours later to avoid traffic), but right now, I'm having so much fun because those before and after school hours are when I'm bonding with our amazing staff.

It's probably too soon to tell for sure, but I feel like I may have found my home school! :)

I also want to send a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you have encouraged me and supported me on this journey. Every time I contemplated walking away, it was my friends here who urged me to keep pushing forward. I can't say enough good things about this community!

August 6, 2015

Chromebooks In My Classroom

I found out yesterday that I will have (at least... they ordered more over the summer, so we don't have new numbers yet) 10 Chromebooks in my classroom EVERY SINGLE DAY! 

I am soo excited! 

I can teach my students about blogging!

I can teach them that their stories MATTER and that their voices can be HEARD. If I've learned anything in my going-on 10 years of teaching experience it's that everyone wants to feel heard. What a great opportunity we have now!

I can give them PURPOSE and AUDIENCE for all their writing. 

I can show them the VALUE in articulation, vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and being able to support their ideas. These things matter so much more when they know their writing will be published and available for commentary! 

So, while I also learned that we will undoubtedly run out of copy paper at some point and I will need to buy my own, I am SOOOOO EXCITED about these Chromebooks!!!!! 

August 5, 2015

My Classroom BEFORE

I did it! I finally remembered to snap some BEFORE photos of my new classroom for you. It's actually in much better shape than I first thought, thanks to a new paint job this summer. 


SO MUCH STORAGE! Like I don't even know what I'm going to do with all the storage! What a good problem to have, amirite?

Without further ado... my classroom:

This is my door, obvi. That white panel is on both sides and ugly ugly ugly. I literally just remembered that I bought some aqua contact paper, so I plan to cover it with that tomorrow. Hopefully. I love that little built in on the right. I threw my Sterilite drawers in there for now... not exactly sure how I'll use them yet. 

Just to the left of my door is this cabinet. It also locks. I think this is where I'll keep personal things like lady products and snacks and extra clothing for the days I have to sleep on a coworkers couch due to snow! :)

This is the wall to the right of my door. It's one big shelf with some bulletin boards and TONS of cabinets with shelves below. At the moment, they house my empty boxes because I have no idea what else to do with them. But they're nice, even if some of the doors are missing handles. 

This is the front of my room. That white board is a hot mess, even though you can't tell from the photo. It's all scratched up from years of use and has years-old tape residue all over it. I tried writing on it today, and nothing erased. This is where I plan to write my daily objectives... if I can get it in working condition. If anyone has tips in how to salvage this (should I just buy some dry erase paint and paint over it?), PLEASE SHARE! 

My desk area. Nothing really exciting here. But you can see my little window unit air conditioner. This shall be my lifesaver... no pun intended. The first thing I did was move my desk next to that baby. This girl does NOT enjoy being hot.

Same wall... as you can see, it's a giant window, which is great for natural light. And I'm super glad I get the morning sun instead of the afternoon because I'm told the classrooms across the hall get pretty toasty in the afternoons. 

And the back wall. I'm probably going to cover these white boards with posters because they're in the back of the room. I think I'll make this area my classroom library. It's kinda silly that I'm going to buy bookshelves when I have so much storage, but they really aren't good for books. I'm kinda hoping to get a futon or coach on Craigslist to put back here too (the room is plenty long enough) to make some comfy seating for my kiddos. 

Ok... that's all for now. I can't WAIT to turn this into the homey classroom I've been envisioning for weeks. If you have any suggestions for those white boards or how to use all that extra storage, please share!!

August 2, 2015

Sunday Letters

I know yesterday was the first and that I didn't link up for Currently. I also didn't open my laptop once, for the first time in WEEKS. Instead, we took Aniya for her first trip to the splash pad and had a blast in the beautiful weather. I took my first IG video, but I'm so sad it doesn't have any sound. Her shrieks of excitement were lost in the fact that I keep my phone on silent at all times. Lesson learned. Bur you can clearly still see her excitement!

For weeks now, I've been planning to go to school this whole week to setup my classroom. Little did I know, I'd receive an email Thursday afternoon inviting me to three days of induction meetings instead. Even though this makes me SUPER anxious, it's not really an option to skip these meetings and work on my classroom as planned.

So I came here to bitch about it and realized that Michelle was probably hosting Sunday Letters. Except that she's on a beach right now.

Apparently, none of my plans are working out this week! LOL I'm posting my letters anyway!

July 27, 2015

Summer is for Salsa & Guacamole

Even though I've been crazy busy making things for my classroom, I'm not sharing those things today because I'm still waiting on some final information before I can consider them complete.

School doors open in one week for classroom setup, so I'm planning to go on Monday to meet my principal (I hope) and hopefully some of my team members who can answer the list of questions I'm keeping. And hey... maybe I can even get my hands on the curriculum!

In the meantime, I'm going to share some YUMMY recipes for Monday Made It. I don't know about you, but on really hot days in the summer, I have ZERO desire to cook. Also, when I've been SO busy preparing for this next year, I find it hard to pull myself away from my work to make food.

It's just so much easier to graze.

So... I made some grazing foods this weekend. And they were all AMAZING, so of course, I have to share with my favorite Internet friends! Check out this goodness:
Nothing really compares to homemade salsa and guac, and these were divine! I couldn't possibly tell you which is my favorite because their flavors are so distinctly different. This was what we had for lunch yesterday. No... I'm not kidding.
 First up is Jeremy's Corn Salsa, which is a recipe that was shared by my dear friend Alison at Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin' last week. I don't really like tomatoes, so any salsa recipe that uses something else as it's base is good in my book (though I did use one tomato in this. As expected, it was DELISH! Thanks, Jeremy and Alison!

When Joel's mom comes over or one of us goes to see her, we never walk away empty-handed. This week, she gave us a bunch of delicious peaches, and I just knew they were going to go bad if I didn't do something with them. Since I'm not a big fan of peach desserts, I looked online for a peach salsa recipe. I found one from the Pioneer Woman and gave it my own twist. The result was AMAZING!

The guacamole the recipe from Chipotle, except I use three avocados instead of 2.

I hope you guys enjoy these recipes as much as we have!

July 20, 2015

Classroom Management Freebies

Happy Monday! I love that I can say that to teachers in the summer and MEAN IT! haha

We finally had a break in the rain this weekend, so Joel, his sister, and I headed downtown for some relaxation on the beach of Lake Michigan. We didn't hit much traffic until we arrived, when it took us 1.5 hours to find parking! I guess when the hottest day of the year (two years, actually) falls on a Saturday, EVERYONE heads to the beach!
Joel in his happy place
By the time we got situated in the sand, some ominous clouds started forming above. I swear we weren't even there an hour before it starting storming again!

Luckily, I have a great friend who lives nearby and invited us to dry off at her apartment. We ate some linner (that's what I call a late lunch/early dinner) and played a round of my current favorite board game, Ticket to Ride (Note: it's not actually called Ride the Train as I said previously. I miss that up EVERY time. I don't think it's hard to see why!).
Even when I lose, I still have fun
By the time we were cleaned up, the sun was shining again, so we headed back to the beach. It was much cooler, so we didn't get in the water, but we were DETERMINED to make the most of our beach day!

See all that water behind me? That's ON the beach!
OK... now for the stuff you're really here to see! I'm linking up with my girl, Tara at 4th Grade Frolicks, for Monday Made It, which is definitely my FAVORITE linky of the week because I'm stealing so many great ideas for my classroom!

I was pretty busy again this week, making things for my classroom. And the good news is that I have some freebies to share with YOU!

The first item I finished this week is a classroom management visual for my classroom. A couple years ago, I learned about CHAMPS, which is about setting clear expectations for every activity in the classroom. Students need to know, for each Activity, the expected Conversation level, how they should seek Help, what Movement is allowed (if any), and what is expected for Participation. As always, it's a good idea to display this in your classroom so students can refer to it as needed.

As you know, we can do MANY activities in an ELA block, so this can change multiple times per period. I've seen some teachers create HUGE posters that show all of the information for each type of activity, but I feel like it's too overwhelming to see all of that information at once. Instead, I created HEADINGS & TAGS for each section. Mine are printed and laminated, and I'm putting them on those loose leaf rings (which I will hang on a thumb tack) so I can flip to the correct tag for the current activity. I plan to make a student responsible for this (as we discuss the expectations for each activity) so I don't spend my whole day changing the tags!

I obviously made these to match my new classroom, but if you'd like a copy of my set, you can grab it, my first freebie, here!

Up next are two posters I created for my classroom. I adapted the SWAG posters I've seen all over Pinterest to meet my needs in the middle school classroom, and of course, I needed a THINK poster that would match my new decor. I still have to print and laminate these, but I have to go Kinko's for that so... it may be a while before that happens!

These will eventually be a part of my Classroom Poster Set, but you can click on the pictures below to download these flash freebies! Grab them before the set goes live on TPT and the freebie ends!

I also threw together this Classroom Behavior Log, which I plan to use for tracking purposes. I have four boxes for each day because, as an ELA teacher, I want to track their behavior in 4 instances:

  • First period of the block - Teacher Instruction
  • First period of the block - Workshop Time
  • Second period of the block - Teacher Instruction
  • Second period of the block - Workshop Time
As you can see, I plan on doing a reading and writing workshop in my classroom this year, and I want to be able to track WHEN students are off-task as much as HOW OFTEN. I have some simple codes for things like no pencil or no book that I want to record for conferences.

Click on the image below do download your copy!

Finally, I made a little somethin' for me. While we were at the beach, we saw vendors selling big chunks of DELICIOUS-looking melons, and it gave me a serious craving for some fruit. I made Joel go with me to the store yesterday and purposely selected some fruits we don't normally buy.

When I got home, everything sounded so good that I couldn't decide. So... I made GIANT fruit salad with kiwi, pineapple, nectarines, honeydew, and watermelon. OH MY YUM!

OK, folks! That's all for this week, but don't worry because I'm already hard at work on next week's items to share!

July 17, 2015

Happy & Healthy Breakfast Recipe

If you've read my blog for a while, you're probably well aware of the fact that I LOATE mornings. I've always been more of a night owl, which is proven by the fact that I'm usually commenting on posts at 1:00 AM over my breaks!

With my new job, though, and the EXTRA long commute (1 hour without traffic, 2 during rush hour), I know I need to start thinking about my sleeping habits now. When school starts, my plan is to leave at 6:00 to beat the morning rush - actually, I'm PRAYING that's early enough because this 5:30 alarm is a whole hour earlier than normal for me, and I just can't fathom waking up any earlier!

As you can imagine, 30 minutes doesn't leave me a whole lot of time for morning preparations. For this reason, I try to do as much as possible the night before. Before I go to bed, I always do the following:
  • Shower, blow dry, and straighten my hair (only minor touch ups needed in the AM)
  • Apply makeup (I only wear eye makeup, and I've never had any issues with this)
  • Lay out my clothes for the next day
  • Pack myself a lunch & snacks for the following day
  • Prepare whatever is necessary for the next night's dinner (thawing meat, chopping veggies) so i can throw it together when I'm hungry and tired after school
  • Set my travel mug next to the hot water dispenser with a bag of tea waiting inside
  • Pack my school bag and set it waiting by the door
When I'm in a rush, the easiest thing for me to neglect is breakfast. Now, don't get me wrong! I LOVE a good leisurely breakfast; it's one of the things I enjoy most about school breaks! It's just that my desire to sleep usually wins out over my desire to eat.

Herein lies my problem: grab and go breakfast items are ALWAYS super carb-heavy and often full of sugars. They also typically lack the protein I need to stay full throughout my morning (because when you eat breakfast before 6:00 AM, lunch never comes soon enough).

I did protein shakes pretty religiously for a few years, and I got pretty burnt out on them. I was good about changing up the flavor all the time so I didn't get sick of the taste, but I've learned that I'm just not always in the mood for a cold drink in the morning - especially during a Chicago winter!

My best solution so far as been overnight crock pot options, which are hot and ready when I wake up in the morning. I like that they're easily customizable, which helps us to not feel like we're stuck in rut, eating the same meal every morning. I switch up the veggies and use breakfast sausage or bacon to change the flavors each week.

Obviously, this recipe includes carbs, but it also includes a ton of protein and vegetables, so I don't feel so guilty about it. It's not one I can eat easily in the car, but I can scarf it down before I walk out the door or heat it up once I get to school in the morning. 

Joel actually threw one together last night after he found some sausage in the fridge that was dangerously close to its expiration date! Below shows you what it looks like after 8 hours on low. I have to be careful with that because my crock pot will burn everything past that 8 hour mark, even on "keep war," so I have to turn it off as soon as we wake up. This feeds us both some pretty hearty portions for 4 days.

Do you have a easy breakfast recipe to share? If so, come link up with Mentoring in the Middle and Stuck in the Middle so we can all add to our repertoire! 

July 14, 2015

Socializing on the Internet

Growing up, my dad was pretty technology-savvy (which is funny because I would definitely not say the same today about the man who only ever calls me for help with his phone/computer), and I don't remember a time without a computer in our home.

When I was in elementary school, we had Prodigy... remember that? I used to send emails (is that what they were called then?) to my cousin, Casey, in Colorado, but that was the extent of my online knowledge. I don't remember thinking much about it, but I was young.

In middle school, I sauntered into my dad's home office one day complaining that I was bored. He took this as an opportunity to introduce me to AOL and helped me create my very first screen name, Coffee123 (if I remember correctly, the coffee was because I described myself as hyper, and my dad suggested 123 when my favorite number, 13, was already taken). Suddenly, a new world of chat rooms (I cringe at the thought of this now) and instant messaging was opened to me, and I was completely hooked on the possibilities of the Internet.

Throughout high school, I primarily used the Internet to socialize with people I knew in real life and to illegally download music (thank you, Napster) like everyone else I knew. Being grounded from the computer was literally the worst punishment EVER (honestly... this would still be the case for me)!

In college, the Internet allowed me to stay in touch with high school friends AND to connect more easily with my peers on campus. Thanks to those oh-so-important away messages, I was in-the-know about social events both near and far. This was also the time when Internet research began to trump book research, mostly for the sake of convenience.

In my adult life, with Internet access on a multitude of handheld devices, I not only have endless knowledge at my fingertips, but I also have constant access to social networks. The Internet has allowed me to be "present" for things I can't see in person when we've been separated by distance. I've watched friends get married through live feeds. I've watched their children grow through photos, videos, and status updates. Our relationships have continued because we've been able to connect in this way.

One thing I never would have believed, though, is the way the Internet has helped me to create new friends. I think about when I first decided to focus my blog on education (when I first started blogging, teaching blogs weren't even a thing) and became friends with a budding blogger, Erin Cobb. We navigated the blogging world together, and she introduced me to TPT (and has since become its queen).

I started participating in linky parties and got to know my girl Alison, who has genuinely become one of my best friends... even though we've never met in person (which is weird to even admit because I feel like we've been friends forever). I can't tell you how many nights I've stayed up texting and emailing with her about school and life. I'm a better person for our friendship!

And then I took on a writing challenge and became dear friends with Michelle, who has turned into a real-life friend and mentor. She has been an endless source of encouragement when I've fallen into blogging ruts and pondered throwing in the towel, and she's proven to be an terrific instructional coach, even though we work miles apart! Also? She encourages me to drink red wine... proof that bloggers are good people! :)

I could go on and on about the wonderful online friendships I've made, not only with other bloggers, but also with my readers and people I've met through various Facebook groups. I feel like the Internet makes it easier to find a network of people (whether they be people you know from real life or not) to support me and challenge me.

I can't even imagine my life without the Internet!