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!