Saturday, September 6, 2014

Inclusion

A word that has always and will always weigh heavy on my heart. Funny thing is that I am now in the mist of an inclusive environment. Something that I have been longing for a couple of years now. I'm used to self contained classes and a very wimpy version of inclusion. 

You know, the kind with all the ESE kids a few gen. Ed. ones in the same class and two teachers (one ESE and the other gen. ed.). Not my idea of what inclusion looks like.

 Now I have what I would define as a true inclusive environment. A class of twenty some students with less than half of them receiving ESE services. This past week I witnessed the beauty of what an inclusion classroom can do. Students working hand in hand to discover the theme of a story. A low murmur filled the classroom as groups of students found evidence to support their answers from the text. These two groups of students, the ones with labels and the label less ones, blended together. This experience made my heart happy.  I drove to work Friday morning knowing that the ESE students I love so much may have a chance to fit into this world with little to no fuss. Now will everyday go as planned, absolutely not. But it's nice know that inclusion works and everyone can benefit from this model.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Orientation

First off, the word orientation is a funny word. Especially when you consider the opposite of this word: disoriented. Sitting in a day long orientation can bring up an array of emotions ranging from excitement, gloom, giddiness and boredom.

Typically the purpose of these meetings is to familiarize yourself to your new surroundings. The funny thing is they cram so much information at you within a couple of hours that when you are finally released you feel disoriented.

Here is the information that was graciously given to me yesterday:
Avoid touching blood
Think twice before hugging a kid
Do you want to join the union
Teachers do not have freedom of speech
PPOs & HMOs
Do you want to join the union
Safety first
Each observation is a piece of the puzzle
Do you want to join the union

I will pay someone $5 if they create a "Do you want to join the union" song to the tune of "do you want to build a snowman"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Change

'The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not of fighting the old, but building the new'
-Socrates

Building a new beginning can be intimidating and overwhelming. Where does one begin?

Well as much as I enjoy awkward situations I do not enjoy uncomfortable ones! For the 2012-2013 school year I was debating leaving my school to move to another county and teaching there. I ended up staying at my school for an additional year knowing that I would make the transition at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The uncomfortable situation dealt with telling my principal that I was leaving. Me wanting to move to a different county was in no way a surprise. It was only a matter of time before I made the move.

 My first mission after telling my principal was to create a kick a** resume. I have never been a fan of the traditional resume. In my opinion your resume should stand out among the rest. Through the help of Craft Pimp that mission was accomplished. She did an outstanding job and was more than patient after each countless change that was suggested. She took my lack of vision and created a resume that made me look pretty good on a piece of paper.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Apartaclassroom

When I first moved into my classroom five years ago I already started to dread the day when I would have to move out. Despite the fact that I teach middle school and one subject teaching supplies tend to add up one way or another. Thankfully, a majority of my materials came from Donors Choose. Not to mention there is an overflowing amount of books. 

I've always tried to keep work and home separate. There has been some success with this separation. Every now and then an IEP will need to be worked on or a handful of essays will require editing, but other than that home and school have not spent too much time together. 
Well this summer the two have collided in full force. I not only moved to a new apartment in a different city, but my classroom came along with it.  So now my classroom sits in my apartment waiting to be moved to its new home.

In other news, I was able to get inside my classroom this week.
High five.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The rough life

Let me introduce you to what summer looks like:
I know what you're thinking this looks pretty rough. Eating a nectarine at the beach could be the definition of perfection. This picture was not taken during the weekend, but on a Thursday in the afternoon. Although I am usually not a fan of summer time I do enjoy partaking in summerish activities. Mainly the ability to do whatever I want and not feel the need to accomplish a to-do list. In a few short weeks my Thursdays will take on an entirely new look and I'm okay with that. Bring on the new school year!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Top 10ish

During the last week of school I decided to have students create a top 10 list of the school year. After explaining what they were going to do I quickly realized that none of them have heard of a top 10 list (add this to my list of disappointments with today's youth). This prompted me to create a top 10ish list of my own.

Ms. Halls top 10 of this school year (I realize there is more than 10...now you know why I do not teach math)

1. Watching M receive his award in true Rocky form
2. Actually liking the group of 6th graders I have this year...they may be my favorite (shh don't tell them)
3. Shuperific
4. Watching E, S, M and D run their little hearts out
5. No longer going home to grade essays for hours because the FL writes is over
6. Realizing that Mr. Irwin is M's secret BFF
7. Watching M.C Skip down the hall at the end of the day
8. Peter Pan
9. Making students squirm during their IEPs
10. 2:05 on May 28th
11. Watching Ms. A show off her sweet basketball skills
12. Students trying to conceal their gum while they are in class...FYI I'm not stupid
13. Do you want to build a snow man
14. The fear in students faces when they realize their monthly articles are due that day
15. Secretly cursing in class but not really...look there's a water dam
16. Accepting the fact that S will never stop talking EVER
17. When I go an entire day without M touching my food
18. Being handed a citation because I had gum and didn't share
19. S busting a move
20. Listening to  B's non stop complaining...jk
21. J's hair
22. Freaking students out because I am eating something that looks gross
23. Dear Darla
24. When a student is being picked up in the office by their parent and I decide to have an impromptu parent conference
25. Public shaming
26. Throwing things at students (with their permission)
27. What are the people that eat other people...carnivals
28. What the Hell...




Friday, July 25, 2014

Pajama interview

Going on a two an a half week vacation to Hawaii while searching for a job in Florida is not ideal. Prior to leaving I assembled cover letter and resume packets to send out to schools that I was interested in. The two counties I was looking at had yet to post any jobs. 

I'm not sure why they take their sweet time posting vacancies.

 While waiting to board the plane I once again checked to see if any jobs had been posted and sure enough there they were all lined up on the screen. My automatic thought was to cancel the trip and pursue school after school.  Thankfully, I realized my crazy notion was not smart and put my trust in The Lord as I flew to paradise. A week into island life I had selected three different positions and was waiting to see if anyone would bite at my offer. Nothing happened. Managing stress while in Hawaii is not that difficult. The water is bluer than blue, the air is crisp and the landscape is breath taking. 
While laying in the sand one day the phone calls started rolling in just like the waves. Five schools wanted to set up interviews with me. When I told them I was currently in Hawaii I received no sympathy. Two schools set up phone interviews while the other three set up face to face ones when I returned. The first phone interview was set for 9:30 a.m Florida time which translates to 3:30 a.m in Hawaii. I had to be bright eyed and bushy tailed at an unbelievable hour.

The 3:30 interview felt like a dream. I had awakened myself 30 minutes prior to the phone call in hope that I would be fully functioning. Wishful thinking on my part. I was asked nine questions during the interview. One of the questions was how I incorporate literacy in my classroom and my initial response was "well...I have a lot of books." Not the best response, but I some how recovered. Interview had ended and I crawled back in bed hoping everything would turn out for the best. Sure enough, the next day I received the phone call offering me the job in which case I gladly accepted. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Three letters PLC

First off I would like to ask who in the world came up with PLCs?

Before I go any further I need to tell you a little bit about myself...I like things to be organized, I enjoy being productive and in general I like being prepared ahead of time.

I was introduced to these three little letters two years ago.
I really had no idea what this PLC thing was going to be about and I'm pretty sure no one else around me did either.

The first two months of PLCing (yes, I just turned it into a verb) went fine...then again I do not remember anything significant happening. Then sometime in October I was over PLCs. It's like a truck carrying PLC ran me over and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I felt like I was not being productive and was being held captive. In my book not being productive is not an option...teaching three grade levels and IEPs...I don't have time to waste.

I had my fill of PLCs one Wednesday morning when I was sitting in a meeting and all of a sudden I had the urge to cry. I hate crying...nothing good ever comes out of crying. Tears were filling my eyes and my friend, who knew my frustration with PLCs, leaned over and sweetly said "why don't we take a walk."

I didn't budge because I knew if I left the meeting I was not coming back...so I sat there doing nothing praying that the watery substance in my eyes would go away!

The meeting ended and we were released to go about our day.

I talked this incident over with a few teachers and I came to the conclusion that I personally needed to lower my expectations of PLCs....and what do you know it worked! I started bringing my interactive notebook and lesson materials to PLCs and that little act made these meetings more bearable. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

A nickel

I often shy away from telling others that I am a teacher. Instead I call myself an educator. I find this term more fitting. Teaching sounds temporary. I feel as teachers we often get stuck with going through the motions making sure every box is checked twice. Where as educating seems to go beyond the basic everyday lessons.  My role in the classroom surpasses teaching daily lessons.  In order to reach my students I myself have to know who my students are. I have to educate myself on who these people are that I encounter on a daily basis. What are their fears, hopes, passions and goals. Without this knowledge learning will only be superficial. This is why I went into education to motivate students to go beyond their limits. I did not become a teacher because I could not wait to teach students the difference between a simile and metaphor. My desire is to be the best educator possible so when my students leave my classroom they are equipped to conquer every goal they set for themselves.

So here's to completing the first five years of teaching and many more to come. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tricks of the trade

I stumbled upon two wonderful teaching strategies this past school year. They are not something you would use on a daily basis, but they are nice to have in your back pocket. 

Trick One: Go buy the most disgusting flavor of gum you can find at the store. I recommend Extra's Cinnamon Roll and Trident's Jelly Bean. When you find that a particular meeting is going longer than you would like, pull out the gum and offer it to those around you. Then sit back and watch as your colleagues wrap up the meeting as fast as they can. I came upon this trick during an IEP meeting. 

Trick Two: During the last two weeks of school things can get a little interesting. The amount of tasks that need to be accomplished can be overwhelming. Kids are typically losing their mind and finding interesting ways to entertain themselves. In hopes to finish packing up my classroom I decided to have a group of boys untangle a ball of twine. I had no intention of keeping the twine, but thought this might keep them occupied. Sure enough they worked on the giant knot for half the class. At one point they were spread out across the room creating a giant web of some sort as the rest of us maneuvered around each strand. This went on for several days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Those $40

When I was younger I had a strange love for office supplies, mainly pens. I think by being left handed I am always trying to find that one pen that is 100% smudge free and writes effortlessly. My admiration for office supplies has not faded. There's something about the array of colors and endless possibilities that makes me all giddy. Well, one Friday night I somehow found myself meandering the office supply aisle and came across the deal of the century or so I thought. Glue sticks are constantly being used in my class thus requiring me to always badger the office for more of these pesky sticks. This one Friday night I stumbled upon packs of glue sticks that had been marked to clearance.  What does a teacher do with this lovely discovery you ask, we take the entire stock. So here I am, with an abnormal amount of glue sticks piling high in my cart. Feeling quite proud of myself I head to the check out and dish out $40 on glue alone. I go home pleased with my new glue supply only to wake up Saturday morning shaking my head when I realize I actually spent $40 on glue. Since then I have banned myself from the office supply section especially after a long day at school.
This being said, another Donors Choose project is up and waiting to be funded. Just in case anyone is feeling generous.
Notebooks, Get Your Notebooks

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer time problems

If you were to rewind my life two months ago my worries of that time to today are vastly different. In May I was focused on grades, exams and progress reports. Today my concern is centered around the fact that my Cheerios are spilling over my bowl.
I know, I should alert the media to this crisis.

 To be honest I've never been a fan of summer vacation. Don't get me wrong I love the first two weeks but after that, I'm over it. I love what I do and feel that my purpose in life has been put on hold. I think in general the public is under the impression that teachers have a pretty great life when it comes to summer. What they fail to realize is that summer time brings a lot of change and with that change comes uncertainty and anxiety. How we left last school year is not how we will begin the new one. Summer time is like a snow globe. Over the course of two and a half months* everything is swirled around. Classrooms, subject area, students, faculty, school location, administration, curriculum, assessments, colleagues, new procedures are all likely to change. When teachers start a new school year it's as if we are starting a new job all over again. 

Teachers put on a pretty good show. We seem calm and put together, but if you were to jump into our thoughts your outlook may change.

*ya let's clear this misconception up, that's right two and a half months, we do not get three months off. Let's add in the fact that we are often in trainings during our time off. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tinker bell and The Crocodile

The age old pastime of skipping class can be interpreted differently when coming from two groups of students. To an 8th grader skipping class takes on a figurative meaning, but to a 6th grader this phrase is interpreted quite literally. 

My dear sweet 6th grader was listening to this massively tall 8th grader complain about going to his next class. He was deciding where the best place was to skip when the perky 6th grader demonstrated how you skip down the hall correctly to get to your next class. It's safe to say that the 8th grader did not find her cuteness amusing or entertaining. I am certain that if he was a crocodile he would of snatched Tinkerbell from sprinkling her pixie dust right out of the air. To make matters worse he decided to skip his next class by standing right outside of my door. Not smart. 

And to top it all off
The 8th grader was skipping P.E
Who skips that class anyways?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

OPI vs. IEP

Truth: I am procrastinating.
Fact: I should be writing an IEP.
Flashback to two weekends ago...walking IEP...this scenario is repeating itself.
I'd much rather paint my nails which takes a total of three minutes compared to creating an IEP which is  close to three hours. At least I have something pretty to look at while I click away.
OPI kiss me I'm Brazillian

Verdict: OPI was declared the winner

Friday, March 28, 2014

That empty chair

I typically have one of these chairs in each class. Day in and day out there seems to be an empty chair. That chair should have a student in it and yet it doesn't. For this reason or that a student did not make it to class today. 

I often wonder what will happen to students who perpetually miss class on a regular basis. Perhaps schools not for them and they will seek other options to educate themselves. As educators, we desire for our students to be successful, but if they do not want that success for themselves then why bother. 

This week there has been a particular desk that has been empty. A student that I have been with for the last three years is finding it difficult to finish what they started. Every avenue has been traveled down to assist this student onto the path of success and nothing seems to work. After awhile all we can do is hand that student a map, wish them well and continue on our journey of helping others. Is it difficult to see that empty desk? Yes, but after a while there is not much I can do. How can I fill an empty chair if the student it belongs to does not want to be there?