Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Few Nice Words

It’s crazy how a simple compliment can change your whole perspective on something.  There are many times in my new career – as in many new careers – where I have felt lost and had no idea what I was doing every day.  There are millions of things I know I want to do in/with my classroom, but just not enough minutes in the day to prepare for everything and make sure I get through what I have to get through as well.  I haven’t thought I was completely failing, but there is just more I want to do that I haven’t gotten to do yet.  I can see the progress my students have made in their learning and even more progress I have noticed in their change of behavior from my first days in the classroom.  When it comes to behavior, my class seemed crazy when I showed up on my first day.  Now there are only a handful of moments of craziness every once in a while, as opposed to almost constant craziness.  I am very proud of how far they have come, and I will continue to work to get them to meet my expectations. 

As I said before, there are times when I feel completely lost and totally unprepared and it’s hard to begin to fix a problem when you do not even know where to begin.  Today we had a professional development instructor going around the classrooms to show an example lesson on how to better use EBLI (Evidence Based Literacy Instruction) in our English/language arts lessons. The teacher has been in and out of our school several times this year.  She did not teach an example lesson in my class today, but she did do a quick walkthrough while I was teaching. When I was on my prep hour she came back to compliment the change in behavior she had seen in my students since she came in before I began my teaching career.  I couldn’t help but smile.  After school the day the kindergarten teacher also came to me to say she has seen the same improvements and that the professional development teacher shared the compliments with her earlier. 

Others in the building have offered similar kind words about my class’ improvements every so often since January.  Even when I feel lost and unsure of where to go from here, it is a truly amazing feeling to know others are seeing the improvements my class has made along the way.  It’s crazy how just a simple compliment can really change how someone feels about what they are doing.  Definitely something I want to work on doing more for others.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

One "Month" in First Grade

First Month

I’ve been teaching for a “month” now.  I write “month” in quotation marks because even though I've been a first grade teacher for just over a month, I do not think I've had one full week of school yet.  It has been a crazy start to a career.  Three straight snow days delayed my start date, throw in four more snow days on top of that, along with Martin Luther King Day and I've had eight weekdays where I did not get to go to school.  The streak of having at least one day off will continue for at least two more weeks.  This Friday we have the day off, and then with Monday being Presidents Day I’ll have another two four day weeks.  Not having a full week of class has some positives – aside from catching up on sleep –  as it gives me more time to think through my lesson plans, brainstorm additional ways to differentiate my teaching, find new books for read alouds, etc.  However, the breaks in the week also have some downfalls.  It has made it difficult for my class and I to find a nice groove for how our week goes.

Extending the Year Has at Least One Positive

I also think we will have to make up at least one day at the end of the year, and each additional snow day will be another day made up in June.  In trying to stay positive I am not too down on having to lengthen our school year.  Many days have been too cold to safely take the children outside for recess.  Even on the days it is a bit warmer and we’d like to go outside, the excessive quantity of snow makes it nearly too difficult for my little first graders to maneuver outside.  To top it off, where there is not snow, it is a solid sheet of ice.  The students and I are definitely getting cabin fever and we all need to get outside o play off some our built up energy from each indoor recess.  At least on the made up days in June we will be able to go outside, play on the playground equipment, run around, and kick/throw a ball around together.  Recess is one of my favorite parts of the day because it is a time I get to see my students outside of the classroom so I cannot wait for the playground to thaw so we can have recess every day!


I’m disappointed in myself for how long it took me to find time to go to the local library and sign up for a card.  I finally did that this weekend and got a solid collection of books to read aloud in honor of Black History Month.  I cannot wait to share the stories about Satchel Paige, Willie Mayes, a jump rope handed down from one generation to the next, and a poem by Langston Hughes with my students.  Currently my local library is under construction and the most important area to me, the children’s book section, is inaccessible to the public L.  Luckily, if I find the call number in the catalog one of the staff members will happily go get the book for me J.  I am excited for the construction to be finished.  Not only will I be able to see the really cool renovations, but I will also be able to just browse without a particular book in mind as I search for another great read aloud.  Libraries are so AWESOME, and I have no idea what us lower elementary teachers would do for daily read alouds if it were not for local libraries.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reading on my Snow Day

Being a new teacher has been a very exciting experience.  My students are quickly adjusting to meet my expectations for their behavior and quality of work.   Going into my first full time position I knew that early on I would not have much down time.  I knew I would have to spend much of my time outside the classroom learning the curriculum and planning everything for the next day.  Coming into my teaching position at the middle of the school year made the task a little more daunting, as I would not have the summer to get my classroom set up how I wanted.  After three weeks at American International Academy I have seen great improvements in my own ability to plan for the next day, and even greater improvements in my students’ behavior and work ethic.  I still have a lot of time I need to put into organizing and decorating my classroom.  All the little things I need to do have taken time out of one of my favorite activities at home: READING!  I have found time to read out of a book at least a little bit each day, but not nearly as much as I would like.  Luckily, the excessive amount of snow days I have had since I began teaching first grade have given me extra time to plan/prep and to read!
Finishing my Book

After our staff meeting Monday we learned we would have a snow day on Tuesday due to extreme wind-chill temperatures.  This was awesome news!  I was all but done with my report cards, and parent-teacher conference scheduling so I knew I could spend Monday night finishing the magnificent second book in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, InsurgentDivergent is similar to the Hunger Games series in that it is set in a dystopian society.  I never thought I’d find a series I enjoyed more than Hunger Games, but Divergent is just that in my opinion.  It’s fast paced and the twists and turns always keep you wanting to read more so you can learn how it ends.  I had a feeling I liked Divergent a little better than Hunger Games (which was hard for me to admit with my love for Hunger Games), but it was not until I finished Insurgent that I realized I definitely put the series just above Hunger Games.  As I read the last sentence of Insurgent I experienced something no book has ever done to me before.  Many great books have left me with the feeling of the below picture:

With Insurgent this experience was multiplied.  As I read the final words unexpected chills/goosebumps covered my body and for an unexplainable reason my eyes were teary.  I was blown away by Veronica Roth’s ability to capture my attention for the past 850 pages of her first two books and leaving me yearning for more with the final book of the series.   I wish I had the writing ability she has, in order to better describe the feeling the end of Insurgent gave me.  I cannot wait to finish the series and look for another amazing book to leave me feeling like the above picture. So thankful my most recent snow day allowed me to have such a wonderful, and much needed, Monday night filled with reading.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Thank you, Clip System

The Start

Even though my first day of school was postponed three straight days due to inclement weather, I have officially been a full time teacher for two weeks!  It’s just so exciting to be able to say that!!  In my first two weeks I feel like I have already learned almost as much as I learned in my entire time in the teacher education program.  Albion College did an awesome job in preparing me to be a full time teacher, but nothing is as valuable as actual work experience in your very own classroom. 

The first few days the students and I focused on building a classroom community, creating a classroom set of rules and guidelines (both in general and for specific classroom activities), and setting expectations of my students and the students expectations of me.  After that we tried getting into the curriculum, but we had a few setbacks as the students were struggling to stay on task and behave.  The second week started off okay, and then quickly went south as the behavior of my students on Wednesday was completely unacceptable.  Before Wednesday I had tried many different classroom management strategies for maintaining good behavior that only kind of worked.  From the marble jar for extra recess, taking away minutes of recess, to calling out students who are setting the example for model behavior nothing seemed to work well enough.  Going into Thursday I knew I had to do something different to get my students to stay on task and behave well. 

Clip System

All along I had planned on installing a clip up/down system, where my students clip up for great behavior and clip down for unacceptable behavior.  Every student starts in the middle each day, and can clip up a total of three spots or clip down three spots.  Wherever they are during the day they always have the opportunity to clip up or down.  I even had some students who clipped all the way to the top and continued to exceed my behavior and work ethic expectations that I had to tape their clip above the top spot.   Clipping to the bottom and ending the day their leads to a parent phone call home.  In the two days I have used the clip system only a few students have ended their day below the middle, and I have only had to make two phone calls home.  Students who made it to the very top were rewarded with a “Good Behavior” certificate from the school, and I threw in a sweet treat to motivate others to show model classroom behavior and work ethic throughout the week, every week. 

The clip system is not perfect by any means.  Often times some of the more well behaved students are not clipped up because they are usually behaving and on task to begin with.  I have tried making sure I notice positive behavior and clip students up more often than I clip students down for poor choices.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Short Week...Short Post

Since I am still trying to plan my week of lessons and learn how to better follow my school's curriculum this post will be shorter than others.  Hope you still enjoy reading :)

My first week in first grade was cut short by three straight snow days.  The short week then resulted in lower attendance for the two days we were in school.  Overall I would say the two day week was as successful as it could’ve been.  I was able to meet about 2/3 of my students and get to know them.  We did a lot of community in the classroom building, read alouds, run throughs of daily routines, and the students came up with anchor charts for classroom rules and expectations.  The anchor charts are now located on opposite walls in the room so at least one chart is visible to the students at all times. 

On Monday I look forward to meeting the rest of my class.  I am very excited to get to know each student that I will be teaching for the remainder of the school year.  Since there was a handful of students absent on the two days back from break we will begin our week by reviewing the classroom rules, expectations, and routines before delving into the curriculum.  Setting the expectations for quality of work and behavior is extremely important to do early, or the rest of the year will be a constant battle of us all trying to get on the same page.

It has been somewhat difficult to figure out where the students were in the curriculum but I think I have a solid idea.  I chose to err on the side of caution, with the thought that a little review – especially following almost three full weeks off – would be much more beneficial than accidentally skipping ahead and having to back track to find the proper location of where my students are with their understanding of the lessons.  I am so excited for my first full week, and look forward to hitting the books – those in the curriculum and just in read alouds of quality stories – with my class.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Own Classroom

Full Time, First Grade Teacher!!!

***Disclaimer: If this post seems jumbled I apologize, my thoughts are all over the place with excitement and wonder!

I was offered a first grade teaching position this past Saturday, and on Monday, January 6 I will begin my career as a full time teacher.  I honestly did not anticipate getting a full time gig this quickly after graduation.  I was hoping to land a long term substitute job that potentially led to a full time position within that district.  To already have a full time position lined up is so awesome and exciting!  I have worked with first graders quite a bit through my education at Albion College and my substitute teaching experiences, so I know I will be in a very active age group that is constantly on the go.  Coming in at the middle of the year will pose some challenges, as the students already had a full time teacher they were used to.  With the first few days after winter break I will focus on getting to know my students and letting them get to know me, as well as building a community within my classroom.  I strongly believe that a classroom needs a strong sense of community for the students to be able to learn and achieve their full potential. 

Busy Weekend

I will not be able to get into my classroom until tomorrow because the school had to run my fingerprints and background check before allowing me inside other than for my interview.  That leaves just three days to assess the classroom and see what I need to do by Monday! WOW.  I know my brother and sister took plenty of time in the summers to set up their rooms for the upcoming school years, so to do it in three days will be quite an adventure.  It has to get done so I will spend all the time I need in my room.  Once I get settled in I plan on scouring resale shops for little things to help make my classroom better suited for myself and my students – books, posters, organizational tools, etc. 


It will be so fun to meet my students on Monday.  If my school allows I will plan to hold an informal open house the first week and invite parents to come meet me and see our classroom.  I am so excited to have my own classroom and group of students to teach and mold into better individuals inside and outside the classroom.  

Monday, December 2, 2013


My brother and some of his super cool nerdy friends started a community they refer to as #NerdLution.  The goal is to make a resolution you can commit to for 50 days, and you blog about it (or not if blogging isn't your thing).  After 50 days round one is complete.  At that point you have hopefully turned your #NerdLution into a habit. If after round one you do not feel your #NerdLution is a habit, you can keep the same #NerdLution for round two or adjust your #NerdLution. If it has become a habit then you keep doing it while making a new #NerdLution for the next fifty days. http://sharpread.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/nerdlution-round-1/

It took my some time to decide what I truly wanted my #NerdLution to be for round one.  I want my #NerdLution to be literary based, and knew I needed to set a realistic goal since I am currently in the final week of my college career.  I love reading, but sometimes it has been difficult for me to make time to read with student teaching and a side job that keeps me busy from 7:00am-7:00pm.  Then when I get home I take time to run almost everyday.  When all is said and done it is about 8:15 when I can finally take a breath from my go-go-go days, and I still have to be prepared for my next morning of school. This week will be very hectic and consists of building three portfolios by Friday, along with some other stuff. My #Nerdlution for the next 50 days is to read out of a paper based text for a minimum of thirty minutes everyday, to not eat after 8:00pm, and to keep up with my "1 Second Everyday" videos (it's a really cool app for 99 cents that you should definitely check out).

I am excited to join this nerdy community, and have already began thinking of how I can improve my #NerdLution for round 2!

Join the movement! BE NERDY!