Summer Wrap Up

I can’t believe summer is already over. It seems like just yesterday I was rejoicing at the prospect of weeks of vacation (And work. But whatever.) Now I’m trying to get ready for the first day of school on Tuesday! Agh! 

I’m really excited for the upcoming year though. The beginning of school is always stressful, (I say this like I have more than one year of teaching to compare to) what with students transferring to and from your school, working and reworking schedules, remembering how much I dislike IEP paperwork, organizing my room, and about a million more things. 

But once we get going and get back into a routine, I know it’s going to be a great year. I have a new room to organize and decorate, which is really exciting. 

I’m also working with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders this year. I already know that I absolutley love 4th and 5th grade. 3rd will be new to me (3rd and 6th grades are the only ones I didn’t work with last year) but I am excited to learn more about this grade and meet all my kiddos. 

I don’t have any picture of my room yet because it’s still a work in progress, but I’ll post some when it’s finished! 

For now, I’ll share a few pictures from the last few days of summer break!

  
  
We built a fire pit in the yard. Well, I say we, but I mainly mean my fiancΓ© with some help from one of his friends. But still. We’ve only had a chance to use it once, but I envision many chilly Fall Saturdays spent sitting around it, hot cider in hand. At the risk of being a walking cliche, I love fall. I can’t wait for October!

  
Lounging in the yard, Charlie’s favorite way to spend the day. 

  
Rainbow chip frosting was my all time favorite when I was a kid…and a teenager. When it was discontinued in favor of rainbow sprinkle (no, just no) I was so upset. Thankfully, Betty Crocker listened and brought it back. When I saw some on the grocery store shelf I may have grabbed the last two tubs on the shelf. Sweet, frosted goodness

  
We’ve had a lot of rain over the past few days. It was much needed, and there’s nothing like a good lazy, rainy day once in awhile. 

Now I’m watching Netflix with the fella and Charlie, looking forward to the curry I’m making for dinner, and making a running list of all the school stuff I still need to get from Walmart. Life is good πŸ™‚ 

My first year of teaching

My first year of teaching wrapped up recently. The last day for students was about two weeks ago, but then we had a few teacher work days. Immediately following that I started my waitressing job again. This was Friday…

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Holy guacamole. No wonder my feet hurt. Anyway, that’s been my life lately. This post probably would have been more appropriate on one of my actual “last days” but oh well. 

The end of the year was a welcome relief but a bit sad at the same time. I had to say goodbye to one of my two schools as I will be at the other school full time next year. While I am excited to be at one school (which just so happens to be the school at which I spent the 9 years of my elementary and middle school career, and at which there are some truly fantastic teachers I have so enjoyed working with) full time and thus have a much less complicated schedule that doesn’t require a degree in theoretical physics to make possible, I will miss the students and teachers at the other school that helped make my first year a great one. 

 I’ve learned a lot this year. The first few months, when I was still figuring everything out and learning the ropes, were rough at times. I’d still rather not know exactly how many paperwork mistakes I had to correct…ugh. But as the months went on and I became more comfortable with my coworkers, students, and responsibilities (and figured out the paperwork basics!) I grew to love my job. That was the best part- realizing that I was looking forward to going to work and seeing the kids grow and learn. 

I had a professor once tell me that the first year of teaching (maybe even the first two years) is more about getting your feet wet. Learning how to apply what you learned in college in a real world situation. Finding out that a lot of what you learned just plain won’t work. The next years are when you really begin to develop as a teacher and can start honing your craft, so to speak. I’m so excited to begin (or at least be closer to beginning) that phase of my career. I already have a list of things I want to do, not do, remember, try, forget, and continue next year. While I fully intend to enjoy my summer (I’m only working 3 days a week), I am also really looking forward to next year. I love what I do, and I’m so glad I can say that. I know not everyone can.

Enough sentimental stuff, though. Let’s focus on the start of summer- Huzzah!!

  

  

  

The books my students actually look forward to reading

I have loved reading all my life. Even as an infant I was read to extensively, and I credit this early and constant exposure to my love of reading. English was always one of my best subjects in school. I also apparently enjoyed writing from a young age. Even before I could write, I had a tendency to dictate stories to anyone I could con in to helping me. A surprising number of these stories began with “it was a dark and stormy night,” and proceeded to involve me solving strange and mostly nonsensical mysteries involving ghosts at the ballet studio or horse thieves at the stable (have I mention I freaking loved Nancy Drew?)

Because a I love reading so much, I’ve always loved teaching reading and writing. I want my students to get the same joy out of it that I did, but that is sometimes easier said than done.

When I was trying to come up with a list of books I wanted to use with my 5th grade reading group this year, I spent a lot of time considering what kind of books my students would actually enjoy. My students all struggle with some aspect or another of reading and writing, and because of that many of them have turned this struggle into an all out hatred of reading. They don’t want to read at home. They think books are boring, and I knew I would need some pretty exciting tales to hold their interest.

When I failed to come up with any specific titles that I thought might be engaging enough to encourage my students to actively participate during our reading lessons, I took an informal survey at the beginning of the year about the types of books, movies, and t.v. shows my kiddos favored. Without exception, every single one of them mentioned ghost stories and/or mysteries.

Suddenly, two books that had both been favorites of mine when I was in the 11 year old range immediately came to mind. I’ve been using both of these books this semester with more success than I could have imagined.

The first, The Ghost of Fossil Glen by Cynthia deFelice, follows the adventures of Allie, a smart and spunky 6th grader who just happens to begin seeing a ghost who needs her help.

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Allie teams up with her best friend Dub to help solve a decade old mystery, all while trying to convince her friends and parents that she’s really seeing a ghost and is not, in fact, crazy.

The other book, The Smuggler’s Treasure by Sarah Masters Buckley, takes place during the War of 1812. After 11 year old Elisabet’s father is captured by the British, she leaves her Boston home to live with an aunt and uncle she has never met in New Orleans. Once there, she finds herself in the middle of a hunt for a hidden treasure surrounded by mystery and a possible haunting. This book includes real historical figures and also details a lot of the French history of New Orleans.

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Both of these books have been a huge hit with my 5th graders. They have main characters around their own age that have fabulous adventures and solve mysteries, which has an automatic appeal. Additionally, I’ve found it really easy to make the assignments that go with these books fun and interactive.

It absolutely made my day when one of my students asked me if we were going to finish the book before Christmas break. When I told him no, he said, “What?! But I have to know who the ghost is! Please can we read extra so we have time? I’ll even come during recess!”

Operation: Love Books seems pretty successful so far.

AMLE Conference in Nashville

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to attend the AMLE (Association for Middle Level Education) Conference in Nashville this week. I traveled with a group of three other teachers from one of my schools to attend this national conference. It was, I should add, the first major conference I have ever gone to. It has certainly set the bar high for all other professional development opportunities I may have in the future.

For starters, the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center where the event was held is absolutely GORGEOUS. Not to mention massive. This place has over two thousand rooms, complete with dozens of restaurants, coffee shops, stores, jungles, and rivers.

No, I’m serious. This place is like its own little town. And it was decorated for Christmas, because apparently Tennessee no longer celebrates Thanksgiving.

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There are several huge atriums like this. I don’t know how many exactly, because it seems like every time we left the room we found a new one.

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There where Christmas decorations suspended from the ceiling, wrapped around banisters, winding up stairs…

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I’m also in love with the lights. I’d hate to see the power bill for this place, but they are beautiful!

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And…here are about nine billion more pictures, because I went a little picture crazy on this trip.

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This conference was amazing. There were so many wonderful presenters and I feel so excited to start implementing the ideas and strategies I’ve learned about. I will be sure to blog about them and let you know how they work.

I have to say, though, as awesome as this experience has been, I am looking forward to getting home to see my family. And this fella.

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A world without writing

On Friday afternoons I work with a group of 5th graders for reading and writing. Today I had a video for them to watch on Discovery Education which has to be my new favorite teaching resource. It has tons of video clips on every topic imaginable for a variety of grade levels.

The clip I had them watch today was about the development of writing in ancient Mesopotamia. Afterwards they were working through a response journal. I had asked them to brainstorm some things the write down every day with the intention of getting them to think about how difficult life would be without a written language.

Being the uniquely minded kids that they are, though, this group started coming up with an elaborate system for getting by without writing. They were discussing different roles they would perform and who would be responsible for remember what information. We ran out of time for them to fully develop this plan, but as they left one student told me he was going to write about a world with no writing and how they survived over the weekend.

The irony of writing about not writing did not escape me, and though the lesson derailed a little from the track I had envisioned I was super excited to have my kids thinking creatively and outside of the box.

After school was over I ran around doing paperwork and trying to pencil in some IEP meetings before I realized I was at school at 4:45 on a Friday. So then I went home and this happened-

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I’m currently preparing to move to a new apartment, so posting may be a bit sparse for awhile. Just FYI, and Happy Weekend!!

A day in the life of a first year teacher, as told by her thoughts

6 AM Okay. Wednesday. Hump Day! I’ve got this.

7 AM Second cup of coffee, check! I’m at school early, gonna get tons of stuff done! But first, gotta check my email.

7:15 AM Wait, what did I plan to do this morning? Oh yeah, copy reading comprehension packets!

7:20 AM Why, copier, WHY do you hate me?? I don’t know what your incessant beeping means and can you please just stop before I have to fess up that I broke you?

7:45 AM Copier crisis averted. Now to sort and staple…

8:00 AM What is that noise? Oh. The bell.

8:15 AM Exponents? I don’t know how to do exponents! What is this madness??

8:17 AM Oh wait. Wait. Yes I do know this. It’s scientific notation I don’t get.

8:45 AM Oh fifth graders. Please alway keep your outlandish sense of humor. I love it when you gleefully show me a new magic trick you’ve learned or tell me about your pet frog.

9:30 AM Multiplication tables! Now these I definitely have. Except the eights. Eights are tricky.

9:33 AM Hey kids! I have these catchy multiplication songs for you to listen to! It’ll help you memorize your multiplication facts.

9:39 AM Dang it. Now I have some ridiculous song about how Robin Hood can multiply you can to you just have to try stuck in my head. It’s gonna be a long day.

10 AM Oh boy. Meltdowns galore. Let’s ditch our regularly scheduled reading practice for a public service announcement about being kind to and supportive of each other so I don’t have to do this every single day.

10:30 AM Lunch room duty with the kinders. It’s pea and carrot day, oh boy! And I see no one has designed a kid friendly milk carton yet.

11:00 AM Now that no one is crying or glaring or huffing and puffing, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled reading comprehension practice.

11:29 AM Sorry, stomach. No time for lunch. Can I trick you into being quiet by gulping some water? No?

11:45 AM More math. I really don’t remember doing this much math in school. I must have blocked it out.

12:30 PM Time to snarf a Swiss roll from the vending machine because I almost never pack my lunch and I know that’s stupid. But I need sugar NOW!

12:35 PM Well, look at that. Another class is getting a crash course in being nice to each other. Must be something in the water today.

12:40 PM Moving on. Facts versus opinions. As much as I want to agree with you, little girl, “All cats are beautiful” is, technically, not a fact. Sorry.

1:00 PM Yay, it’s read aloud time!! I think I’m more excited about this than the kids.

1:25 PM Oh dang it, why won’t my Smart Board work? I had this really fun activity planned. Technology hates me today.

1:29 PM Backup plan: brain teasers.

1:45 PM Reading fluency practice: also known as how many times can I listen to the same passage being read before my brain short circuits.

2:00 PM Okay, what paperwork needs to go to which kid before they leave? Now, promise you’ll make sure mom and dad see this. I mean it. It’s really important. And bring it back signed!! Please, for the love of all things bright and beautiful don’t lose it.

2:05 PM Now, to get a paper from the EC file so I can finish my IEP paperwork.

2:10 PM Trek upstairs to office…sort through nine billion keys for the one that unlocks correct filing cabinet. Sort through nine billion files to find right one. Trek back to room.

2:20 PM Trek to office again. File needed is not actually in EC file. Silly Megan.

2:23 PM Check mailbox. Ooh! A free pen!

2:30 PM Kids are leaving, now I can crank out some paperwork like a boss!

2:38 PM Just kidding. I don’t know how to do this part. Or do I? Maybe? Hang on, let me see…

2:40 PM Nope. No clue. Gotta go ask my fellow EC teacher.

2:48 PM Okay, resume. Focus. Focus. Focus. Oh, look how cool my new pen is!

3:15 PM Paperwork down. Penciled in 3 IEP meetings. Now must complete ritual sacrifice so gods of scheduling coordination will continue to favor me.

3:20 PM Recording reading fluency scores. I wonder what my reading fluency score would be.

3:29 PM Can I give myself a reading fluency test? No. No. Finish working. Make rough plan for improving fluency over the course of semester.

3:45 PM I can totally give myself a reading fluency test!

3:49 PM No. Cannot give self reading fluency test. Am college graduate. Cannot measure reading fluency on 5th grade level passage. Darn.

3:50 PM Check email. File papers for next day. Check email. Close windows, turn off fan. Lock up.

4:00 PM Walk to car. Wait. What did I forget??

4:03 PM Planner. Rescue from room. Return to car. Leave for real.

Come home to this. Hello cat.

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A week in review

School started on Tuesday, and good grief has it been a busy week. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but my job is at two different schools. I am at one Monday and Wednesday, the other Tuesday and Thursday, and I split my Fridays between the two schools.

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This is one of my doors- the room it goes with is still in progress. It was used as a storage space last year. Because it’s so big (yay!) it had a lot of stuff in it. That means that right now it is finally organized but not super decorated. It’s a work in progress.

My room at the other school is shared with another resource teacher and she’s had the same room for awhile. That means it was already really nice when I got there πŸ™‚

Most of this week has involved me wrangling my nightmare of a schedule. It took until this afternoon to finally get everything in place in a way that would work for both me and the general education teachers I work with.

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Because I sometimes have to see things in order to understand how it will all fit together, I made my schedule by writing out every single service delivery each of my students needed. For example, if a student needed to be pulled out of their regular class for reading instruction three times in a week, I wrote their name and “Reading Pullout” three times. When I saw that students had over lapping goals I put them into groups. Then I spent forever sprawled on the floor, pulling my hair out, and praying to the gods of scheduling for divine intervention.

It was tough, but thanks to some really awesome coworkers it is finally set.

But if anyone changes their schedule I may burst into tears.

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Now I just have to plan some lessons for next week and I’ll be good to go…