Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Peek at My Week (@ 23 Days and Counting:)

Just a quick little share and link up with Jennifer of Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her Peek at My Week linky.

Every year at this time, I find myself in a place of despair.  I question my worth as a teacher and bemoan all the things that I haven't been able to cram into their precious brains.  This weekend, I started graded notebooks and essays, and quickly found myself hiding under the covers and eating chocolate chip cookies.

Somewhere around 2:30 p.m., I dragged myself out of my cocoon and started thinking how I was going to get through to their locked down brains.  Today the sun came out and I got busy with my battle plans - in middle school, at 23 days and counting, their are no such things as lesson plans.

Their essays are a mess.  My kiddos have the Perfect Paragraph down perfectly, but an argumentative essay?  Well, they forget what they are arguing for and soon list all the reasons to not believe their essay.   We are in the third week of total essays, and it appears that I took the training wheels off too soon.  So after, reading and weeping over their essays, I came up with this organizer to help. 

Our whole week will be about this organizer.  We will take our sample one and deconstruct it.  We will take their wholly unacceptable essays that they turned in on Friday, and deconstruct those in the attempt that they will understand.  Then we use the organizer to rewrite said horrible essays.  Hopefully, this will help.  If it does, I will clean it up and put the whole six page "organizer" in my TPT store.

And, we might do some math, and a LOT of reading.  Their lack of actual independent reading was the reason I made the chocolate chip cookies.  Those who have been reading and doing their Quickwrites will be richly and repeatedly rewarded this week.  Those who have not been reading, will have to watch those select few be richly and repeatedly rewarded this week.  I am going to do my best to be positive!

Hopefully, this will help.  At 23 days and counting (with 6 of those days being minimum days!), I feel like I am teaching a brick wall.  There is still much to do!

Speaking of 23 days and counting, be sure to check out my last post for my fashion reflections:)
And now, I must go attack the backyard before I lose my dog in the depths of lawn!  Don't forget to go over to Mrs. Laffin's Laughings to check out her cool new unit, Mythology Museum & More.
It looks like a great way to keep them busy and learning in the last few weeks!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

23 Days and Counting!

With SBAC behind me, I am starting to breathe a little.  The early evenings are cool and light enough to get lots of yard work done, and with all my injuries and illnesses this winter, there is plenty to do.  My mind is starting to churn and yearn for summer.  At 23 days and counting, getting up in the morning has become a struggle between myself and the alarm clock.  And before you start in on the hating, I started school the last week in July!  This week, I had to laugh at myself as I was blindly grabbing clothes out of the dryer - my wardrobe is at 23 days and counting too!

1st Quarter

Don't we all pay close attention to what we are wearing that first quarter?  We want to make an impression on the students, parents, and our colleagues.  I always have my wardrobe planned out down to the earrings on Sunday afternoon.  Everything is hanging in outfit groups in my closet.  My shoes are buffed and clean.  My toes are painted.  I actually wear mascara and other real make-up just so I won't be mistaken for a student (Don't laugh! It happened a lot my first 10 years teaching.  Granted, it hasn't really happened in the last 16 years, but it could!).  I blow dry and straighten my giant head of hair to glossy perfection.  My daily packed lunches make everyone else feel bad about what they are eating.  And even though my report time isn't until 7:05 a.m., I am in the classroom by 6:30 a.m.!

2nd Quarter
By 2nd quarter, I am starting to slip a little.  Oh, I am making an effort.  I mean, I am actually wearing grown up outfits still with real lady shoes.  Everything is still matching, but I am only preparing two-three days in advance.  I have given up on mascara because the Santa Ana winds are blowing, and I have shaved off a little prep time by giving up the flat iron.  During conferences, I start sneaking in a cookie and hitting the Diet Coke again.  Now, I start aiming for 6:40 a.m. and still feel smug about it.

3rd Quarter

By 3rd quarter, I have given up on much more than the flat iron.  I stop wearing bracelets, because they really bug me and I just take them off before the end of 2nd period.  Powder foundation is faster, and I really need a miracle to keep my skin from drying out totally.  I slip into wearing jeans and light cotton sweaters, because in Southern California you don't really get to wear wool, but I fool myself into believing it is okay because of "the weather."  The same earrings will keep finding their way back into my ears for several days in row.  My hair is now being blown dry while I brush my teeth, and smoothed down with fancy smoothing stuff as I race out the door.  I am down to protein bars and apples if the kids are looking, and cookies when they are not.  Plus, I am lucky if I remember to drink one bottle of water.  Diet Coke is a liquid, right?  I start hitting the parking lot around 6:50 a.m., darn that traffic!

4th Quarter

All pretense is gone!  I have met all of the parents, either at conferences or by chasing down their car in the parking lot.  My wardrobe is being planned as I dig through the dryer in the morning with a towel wrapped around me.  I don't accessorize, I make decisions based only on comfort.  My old lady feet are happy in my Birkenstocks.  With the exception of tinted lip balm that I found in my purse on the way to school, my makeup is non-existent.  My hair?  Washed, coconut oil worked through it, and open the sunroof!  Lunch?  What lunch?  I mainstream Diet Coke.  I tell the kids that it is the "same can" and hide the empty cans like the addict I have become.  Chocolate is medication and necessary to my continued survival.  And since I don't have to be there until 7:05 a.m., I figure as long I beat the principal there, all is good - and I am not above passing him as I get off the freeway!

23 days and counting!

p.s. If you haven't already discovered Polyvore, you really need to!  Virtual window shopping, fantasy wardrobes for your fantasy perfect body!  Go check it out and follow me @ Polyvore!  My username is Susimi!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Random Bulletin Boards and Such...

Today, I was able to get home at a decent hour!  Since it is still too warm for a walk - it was pushing 90 degrees today in SoCal - I decided to share a few bulletin board pictures that are long overdue.

In our district we are required to post the standards.  Apparently, it magically makes the lesson better.  Now, I have always talked about the "target" of the lesson, and I have even made sure that the students wrote it down on the top of their assignment, but I am not so good at posting the standards. 

  • First of all, most teachers write the standard as it appears in the state framework.  Most of the time, I am not entirely sure what that means.  
  • Some teachers just write the numbers and letters of the standard...I can guarantee that method means nothing to the students. 
  • One year, I had big notebooks at each table and made the kids flip to the correct one at the beginning of each lesson.  The kids loved it, but the notebooks took up too much space, and the flipping through my perfectly color-coded targets took too much time.
So, with the new Common Core standards, and the renewed emphasis (been teaching a while now, and that mythical pendulum that you scoffed at as a new teacher...well, it really does exist) on posting the standards, I had to come up with a way to stay on top of it.  Heaven forbid if I get a "Where are your standards posted?" note!  Seriously, I would die because I have to please everyone.

This is not a real bulletin board, so I was able to hammer in a few nails to hold the clipboards.  I am working on my own set of "I Can" statements, because I have not found any that match exactly what I do and how I break it down in my classroom.  Not to mention, they have to emphasize the standards that our district are emphasizing.  Those will be available this summer on TPT.  The little clipboards are perfect!  I just switch them out at will and don't have to think too much about it. 

Next to the "I Can" statements is the chart tablet that I write their meager reading HW on - ACTION magazine.  It is pretty much in shorthand, but they totally understand what they are SUPPOSED to do.

Below is the class calendar of testing dates, trainings for me, after school intervention dates, and of course, minimum days!

The little clipboard to the left holds my OCD lesson plans.  They are randomly checked too, and it makes it easier if they are hanging, and more impressive to the parents.

Why a bulletin board and not a white board?  I only have ONE white board!  That was the main problem I had with posting the standards before!  I have to actually USE that white board. 

This board is about to come down.  It occurred to me that I had not taken a picture of it.  These are the kids that showed growth on the SRI before Christmas.  Just recently, we took a new one and they have even more impressive scores to show off, so it is coming down.  A few on the bottom row were not so impressive, but I have Special Ed students in my afternoon group, and they do not always show the growth as consistently as my "regular" students.  See the student with the lowest growth?  Well, he just jumped 114 Lexiles on this last one:).  Different ways, on different days!
Last June, I scored at Big Lots and found these really cool square plates.  I just typed in their names and growth into a square with rounded corners, my TA and I trimmed them off, then we taped them on to the plates.  If they had reached their goal, they received a giant gold sticker to make it even more impressive!  The students love looking at their "plaques" or plates.  When I said that I was going to take them down, several jumped right up and asked to keep their plates.  Sillies, of course they are getting their "plaques."

Well, the washer and dryer are calling my name!  Some boring chores have to get done before Lucy and I take off for our walk at the park.  Last night, there were herds of bunnies...they come in herds, right?  Anyway, Lucy was most interested in those big eared hopping creatures.  It is such an exciting life we lead:).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Finally, Five For Friday!

Yes, this is actually a new post!  I could list the reasons and excuses that I have for not blogging recently, but that would be whining and borderline comical.  Suffice to say, things have been busy, hectic, and stressful around here.  Posting was the last thing on my survival list and there many things that came before it.

So, what better time to jump back in to the blogging world than a Five For Friday with Doodle Bugs?

This will simple, pretty much photo-less, and to the point because I simply too exhausted for anything else.

1.  Math textbook adoption committee meetings, [insert deep sigh]!  Oh my word, why is there not a button for us to slap down on during sales pitches?  You know, like the one they have on America's Got Talent?  A big giant X?  One that will make them stop talking?  Forty-seven million meetings later (I might be exaggerating a tad), we finally have it narrowed to to 3 textbooks and we are starting to pilot.  I won't say anymore, because I don't want to be hauled off by the Textbook Adoption police.

2.  We started our trial run of something that is very stressful and something that I signed a legal document swearing not discuss [insert deep sigh].  I never thought I would say this, but I miss the old one.  This new one brings stress to a whole new level.

3.  I finally managed to physically finish moving my office furniture out of my living room - where it had been since right after Christmas, where I had moved it before going to workout and falling headlong into a mirror and hitting my chest on the ballet barre...I am so graceful.  My office and sewing room is almost ready to take pictures of and share.  I just have to set up the closets.  It is so nice to not have furniture stacked in random rooms of my house!  I want to have it all picture perfect before I share it...so exciting, I have a worktable/cutting table at standing height!

4.  My kids and my teaching partner's group rocked the SRI out of sight!  Our average growth for 80 kids for the year was 195, and we still have one more to go!  The bar graph comparing the other schools in the district came right before we went over to take the Language Arts portion of the very stressful thing that I am legally not allowed to discuss.  I was able to share it with my kids, and it really helped pump up their confidence for the thing that followed.   As one of my kids said, "We totally beat those other schools!"  I know that learning is not a competition, and that I am supposed to be the grown-up, but we totally "won" the SRI, again:).

5.  Since my beloved Hank puppy dog is being fostered by my brother and sister-in-law, I have been trying to drive up most weekends to visit and bond.  During our Spring Break last week, he came down and stayed with me!  Oh joy!  It was so nice to be a two-dog house again.  He and Lucy did great together.  She jumped up and hugged me when I brought him through the door.  She has been one lonely little fluffy dog.  He has grown, just a little:).
This is the last picture I shared with in the blog.  I think it was around the week of the big February TPT sale.
This was taken about three weeks ago (Lucy is still wet from her forced bath, because I do not get in the car for a three and half hour drive with dogs who roll around in dead things they found exploring the yard).  Lucy is 30lbs, soaking wet.  Hank has totally caught her, and he is still growing.

I promise to post more often, but this year is kicking my butt!  8 more weeks for us, and I might survive them.