Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Beginnings!

I was just about to crawl into bed for some much needed sleep when I thought, "Hmm, I'm about to start a new adventure tomorrow.  This might be a good time to get back in touch with my little blog."  So here I am, sitting on the couch when better judgement tells me I should be hugging my pillow.  It's okay though, I promised myself I'd keep this short!

After 16 years at the same school, I've decided to make a change this year.  I've moved to a new site. I've been eyeing this school for years now.  I've always been drawn to it because it is the only K-8 school in our district and I love that concept! I've often thought about how nice it must be to not send your fifth graders off to be devoured by Middle School wolves.  Over the years, there were so many reasons (most of them rather good) and excuses (most of them rather lame) for not transferring school sites.  This past year, however, was particularly trying for me...not just professionally, but personally as well.  At the beginning of last year, I had heard about the potential for an open fifth grade position at my dream school and, as the year from hell progressed, it was the one glimmer of hope I held on to in an effort to survive until June.

When the new position was finally posted, I was more than ready to make the move.  The only regret I had in leaving my current position was that I was giving up the opportunity to continue mentoring my daughter. We've worked on the same grade level team for the last two years and it has been an experience I will always cherish. As you can imagine, leaving that behind was a difficult decision, but I knew the time had come for me to make a change.  The angst I felt in choosing to leave was short lived. Not long after I accepted my new position, my daughter found her dream job at my new site as a full time reading intervention teacher.  The stars had obviously aligned for us for a second time!

So here I sit...on the eve of my new adventure and I just had to blog about it.  New school, new colleagues, new faces...I couldn't possibly be more excited!  Bring on the new year!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Coming Up for Air, Taking a Walk, and a New Adventure!

We're almost at that 6 week mark! You know, that point when you finally feel like you can come up for air?  Well, I finally feel like I'm managing to do more than just keep my head above water despite jumping into Common Core.  Week #6 also means it's time for goal setting conferences and progress reports.  The good news: with a week of early release days ahead of me, lesson planning was a breeze!  Now I just have to get motivated to work on those progress reports!

We had an amazing surprise this week!  About a year ago, I wrote a post about The Walking Classroom.  I was lucky enough to receive a donated set of materials. The Walking Classroom is a great program that combines standards aligned academic content with physical exercise through the use of WalkKits.  The WalkKits are personal audio players that are pre-loaded with an incredible variety of educational and entertaining podcasts.  My students love our Walking Classroom time!  Last week, I received an email from Laura Fenn, the founder of The Walking Classroom.  She said she would be in the Bay area and wanted to know if she could stop by to visit our classroom.  What?!?!?  How cool is that?  My students were equally thrilled!

Laura showed up on Thursday as promised and my students were instantly starstruck.  We powered up our WalkKits and headed out the door for a jaunt.  My students were all smiles as they walked with Laura and learned about interjections.  After our walk, Laura graciously answered a million questions.  While our time together was short, my students are sure to remember the day for years to come.  Go check out The Walking Classroom.  Rumor has it that Connecticut is one of the few states without WalkKits.  If you're a 4th or 5th grade teacher there, contact The Walking Classroom.  I hear your odds of getting donated materials are better than average!

Time for a walk.

Question and answer time with Mrs. Fenn!

Warning:  Shameless Plug Ahead! 

Have you ever had the feeling that you needed to jump out of your box and try something new?  Before I had the chance to talk myself out of it, I did just that.  I jumped out of my box and into a new adventure.  Not long ago, I fell in love with some products from Perfectly Posh.   If you haven't heard of Perfectly Posh, it's an amazing line of personal pampering products.  With names like the Classic Snarky Bar, Mint for Each Other, Hottie Patottie Hand Creme, Cozy Coma, and Shine Bright Like a Diamond, who wouldn't fall in love?  While the product names are great, the products are absolutely fabulous!  My list of favorites and 'must haves' grew quickly, so I decided to become an independent consultant for Perfectly Posh.  

My online launch party, "Ready? Set! Launch!",  will be open from Sunday (9/21) through Friday (9/26). Feel free to stop by my Facebook page to join in the fun and learn more about Perfectly Posh.  Bring a friend along!  Sometime during the week, I'll be giving away a free product or two on the Facebook page.  It's never too early to start thinking about your Christmas shopping and Perfectly Posh products make great holiday gifts! Who's on your list this year? Visit my online store to see the full line of products.

End of Shameless Plug.

Wishing all of you a restful Sunday!  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Snapshots

Ugh. summer vacation is half over...no, wait...there's still almost a full MONTH left!  There, that's better! Perspective is everything, right?  I'm linking up with Run, Miss Nelson's Got the Camera for Saturday Snapshots for a peek at my week.

The fireworks on the 4th of July took on new meaning this year.  My stepmother-in-law passed away on the 4th.  Her name was Angel and she truly was one.  I'd like to think that the skies lit up that night to celebrate her life and illuminate her journey.

Wine club pick up time!  I belong to two clubs.  One winery is in Sonoma and the other is in Napa.  We made Sunday our 'pick-up' day.  Of course, if you're going to pick up your wine, you might as well sit for a spell and do a wine and chocolate pairing.

Rutherford Ranch Winery

Looking at the calendar and realizing that a month of vacation has gone by prompted my daughter and I to plan a little local adventure.  Our first stop was Muir Woods.  I love Muir Woods.  Walking through those towering redwoods is a bit humbling.  For as small as we humans are, we are the guardians of some pretty amazing places.  

Tuesday found me poolside, resting my tired toes.  

On Wednesday, we jumped on the Angel Island ferry out of Tiburon.  Many folks just think of Angel Island as the Ellis Island of the west coast, but that's just one piece of its history.  If you're interested, you can read more about the island here.

I used the pano feature on my phone to capture this view of the San Francisco Bay.  To the left is the Bay Bridge that connects Oakland and the East Bay to San Francisco.  San Francisco is in the center of the picture.  To the right is the Golden Gate Bridge.

It's nice to have friends who are always willing to grab their camera and head out on a photo jaunt with you.  Thursday found us just across the Carquinez Strait in Martinez and Port Costa.

The Martinez shoreline.

There's not much green this time of year.

Port Costa

Apparently, you can only act out your dreams on the weekends?

This is the town's wishing tree.  There's a bucket filled with pens and tags.
People hang their wishes on the tree for all to read.  

One of the wishes we found.

I loved the randomness of this.  

This morning I woke up to this:  

This was the most expensive project I've ever posted and I was more than a little worried about it being funded.  Kudos to my amazing students who earned $1000 for the project by participating in code writing.  Most of the remaining funding came from donations via the Caring Classroom community.   If you're a DonorsChoose fanatic like I am, go take a peek at this incredible group.  They've donated over $70,000 to projects like mine.

So that was my week in pictures.  Today's adventure:  cleaning the house and the Wild Ones.

Remember to link up with Miss Nelson's Saturday Snapshots!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Meet Up!

So this is a record.  It's still June and I'm posting AGAIN!  This MUST be summer vacation.  Let me start by pointing out that blonde over there on the right.  She's the reason I'm sporting a sunburn.  I decided to play around with my Art Studio app this morning and wasn't paying attention to how long I was sitting in the sun.  Ouch! I feel obligated to disclose some information here:  I look nothing like her.  The blonde hair is now graying (long, but graying), there are a few extra pounds hanging around, and my feet aren't that small.  But I created her in the image of what I would want to look like if I was a piece of clipart.

This is the real me.....

I thought I'd join in with The Teaching Tribune's Monday Meet Up.  I know, this is Week 4 for everyone else, but it's Week 1 for me and I'm pretty excited about it!

Here are a few completely random tidbits about me.  

I'm curious, what's the most interesting food item you've ever eaten?  

Be sure to head over to The Teaching Tribune to read some entertaining tidbits about your fellow bloggers.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reading in the Wild: Chapter 1

I know, two posts in one day.  I'm sorry.  I just had to link up with Ideas by Jivey's book study of Reading in the Wild.

I just finished reading the first chapter, "Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read", and had to respond.  It felt like coming home.  Our school has gotten so far away from giving students the chance to read independently and it's made my heart sad.  Readers' workshop has gone by the wayside.  Guided/leveled reading groups, reading intervention pull-outs and push-ins, and fidelity to the curriculum, while all have their place, have  pushed that sacred time right out the door.  It's gotten to the point where most teachers feel guilty if admin walks in to find kids reading silently at desks, under desks, stretched out on the carpet or snuggled into a comfy little nook.  Imagine that.  Having to feel guilty when you have 34 kids fully immersed in a book of their choosing?  What a horrible thing...kids reading for the sheer joy of reading!

I will admit, that over the years, it has been difficult not to succumb to the pressure.  In Room 24, we still have Fall in Love with Your Book Time for 20 minutes when we return from the library.  After FILWYBT is over, students are invited to give a quick book talk to share first impressions of their new reading material. My students know to always have the book they are currently smitten with on their desks for when their other assignments are complete and we sponge up any extra minutes between preps, lunch, and recess by opening up those same books. They know that this is our covert independent reading time.  Each and EVERY day, I use the last 10-15 minutes for a read aloud.  Shhhhh!

This coming year, we're jumping into common core and new curriculum with both feet.  I'm not sure how it will all work, but I'm determined to find time each day to dedicate to the type of reading Miller describes in Chapter 1.

"When students read together every day, they forge strong bonds though shared reading experiences that help them define themselves as members of a reading tribe."  I love this!  I want to do whatever I can to help my students become a tribe of wild readers this coming year.

Like others who have already responded to Chapter 1, I love the idea of having a book on hand at all times for 'reading emergencies'.  I usually carry my iPad mini with me for just such occasions.  On our recent camping trip, I was chastised a bit for bringing a piece of technology into the wild.  I quickly pointed out that it was my 'book' and not an iPad mini at all.  Having finished my current book half way through the trip, I was more than a bit upset when I realized I hadn't downloaded the next book on my list!  With no internet connection, I was in a true reading emergency! You can bet I'll be more prepared next time.

Five for Friday!

It must be summer vacation...I have leisurely sipped my cup of coffee, walked the three Wild Ones, and have been catching up on some much neglected blog reading for the last hour or three.  I've also found time to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching's Five for Friday linky party!

So what's been going on this week?

Not the best way start to summer vacation, but I did what teachers often seem to do best and ignored my health as we wrapped up the school year.  So long sinus infection!

My husband and I loaded up the three Wild Ones and headed for the mountains for a few days.  We camped at Gerle Creek, perhaps the quietest campground you'll ever find.  Days were spent either romping through the woods or hanging along the shoreline with our energetic pups.  You'll notice the hooded sweatshirt I'm sporting.  Yes, it was COLD up there!  

Just started reading this.  I fully intend to link up with Ideas by Jivey's book study.  I just need to catch up!  I borrowed the ebook from the library, but already know that I want a copy of my own to keep.

I HATE shopping for clothes.  There.  I said it.  However, my son's graduation in Las Vegas next week is a formal affair.  So I had no choice.  Fortunately, I have my own built-in personal shopper...my daughter.  I basically stand in a dressing room and she brings all the possibilities to me.  We laugh, we giggle, we cringe, and I sometimes cry.  It's a painful process made a little bit more enjoyable by having someone do all the work for you.  The dress in the middle is for the big event.  The other two, while I'm not sure I'm keeping both yet, are just for fun.  Does anyone really 'need' two polka dotted dresses?  The one on the left is brown and very Pretty Woman-like.  Neither are really 'me', but maybe it's time to redefine 'me'?

A co-worker showed up at my door last night.  He's the only co-worker who lives in the same town as I do.  We used to commute together until he transferred to a different campus.  He came back to our site this year, but I opted not to carpool with him. While I felt guilty about not joining in again, I enjoyed my solitary commute and wasn't ready to give it up.  That's my unwinding time.  That's my one opportunity to sing as loud as I want or to just sit in silence. Carpooling with fellow teachers means a daily rehashing debrief.  It often feels like work isn't over until I step out of the car.  Call me selfish, but I don't want to carpool.  Anyway, back to my story.  This man is a pretty amazing human being and I could probably write a whole blog post about how caring and kind he is.  As he stood at my door last night, he handed me a card.  It was a thank you with the sweetest sentiments written inside along with a Jamba Juice card.  What did I do to deserve this treat?  Nothing. He was in a car accident during the last week of school and needed a ride to school one day.  ONE day.  I get a heartfelt thanks and some yummy Jamba Juice for that?  I told you he is an amazing human being.  I thanked him and said, "Let's carpool next year."  He smiled and said, "I'd like that."  I can still do my singing in the shower.

I'll end this with my goal for this summer's vacation.  At summer's end, I want to feel as relaxed as Gus looks in this picture:

A napping Wild One

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bark Mulch, QR Codes, and 7 Days to Go!

Whew!  Where did the year go?  Obviously, it wasn't spent tending to my little blog.  I figure I might as well try to get in one final post for this school year.

Here's a little bit about what's been going on lately...

We welcomed this little man into the world last week.  His name is Will. He's our second grandbaby and first grandson.  

On the school front, our 5th grade student council decided to tackle a rather dismal area outside of our classrooms.  Here's the transformation: 

It's looked like this for YEARS!

We were able to get much of our materials donated through both Lowes and Home Depot.
Our student council ran a Flower Fund drive that raised about $40.

The daughter part of this mother-daughter fifth grade team.

Planting time!

Relaxing in the 5th grade reading garden.
I need to get a better 'after' photo that includes the flower pots and colorful Dollar Store pinwheels.  The kids LOVE coming out here to read and it's not uncommon for teachers to stop by to hang out after dismissal.  

I tried something new last week!  Laura Candler recently listed her Team Scoot activity on TPT.  My kids tested it out and reported back to Laura with their thoughts on the activity.  They LOVED it!  You can read more about it here on Laura's Corkboard Connections.  

We'll be using Team Scoot on Tuesday as we try out Laura's new Fractions of Whole Numbers Task Cards.  I just printed and laminated the cards with the QR code answers on the back.  I may be a bit behind the times, but I've just recently fallen in love with QR codes. 

We have our Outlandishly Odd Olympics coming up this week. Kids sign up for 3-5 events and we spend the morning giggling our way through the various competitions.  

A few of the activities are self explanatory, but I'll briefly explain the others.  

Tower of Cups requires students to creatively stack the greatest number of cups to the greatest height.  We bought packages of brightly colored, shot glass sized plastic cups from Dollar Store. 

In Snowball Shoveling, students are blindfolded and have to shovel cotton balls from one bucket to another.  

For A Bit Dicey, they hold a popsicle stick or tongue depressor in one hand and try to stack as many dice on it as they can without the dice toppling over. Greatest number of stacked dice wins.

Speed Crab is a race across the room in the crab position.

Bean-o is always a favorite.  Students each have a straw and a pile of uncooked beans.  Using suction through the straw, they have to move as many beans as they can from their pile into a cup.  Whoever moves the most beans wins!  Just make sure the beans are too big to actually go into the straws!

Field Goal is a paper football 'kicking' contest.  Winner is the one with the longest 'kick'.  You remember flicking those with your fingers in math class, right?

Noodling Around requires students to place one end of a piece of uncooked spaghetti in their mouth.  Penne pasta is scattered on the desktop. They try to 'spear' as many penne noodles onto their spaghetti spear as they can.  First to pick up all of their penne pasta wins.

Math Maniacs pits students against each other as they try to solve 5 different math problems.  First one with all five answers correct wins. 

For Word-it, we give students a word and they try to make as many other words using the letters as possible.  Not sure what the word is going to be this year. Scoring is based on the number of letters per word. 

Tanner Trivia has a new look to it this year.  Obviously, students have to answer trivia questions about me.  Usually, I give them a worksheet with the questions on it.  Not this year!  Remember me saying that I've fallen in love with QR codes?  Yep.  The questions are embedded in QR codes on cards that will be posted around the room.  Kiddos will find the cards, scan the codes, and answer the questions in their nifty little Secret Agent books.  I hope they are half as excited about it as I am!  

Alright, now that I've finished this post, I've got some catching up to do on my blog reading.  Wishing all of you a relaxing rest of your three day weekend.