goodbye, march?

Today is March 31st....really?  Can't be, can it?  I'm fairly certain that in my little bubble of the world January 3rd was only 2 weeks ago and I'm still floundering trying to figure out 5th grade!  Somewhere between 2 weeks and 3 months?! we're headed into April.  I love April for multiple reasons.  First, it usually means spring and flowers and rain showers that make everything smell like, er...new?  We have been blessed with an early spring here so some flowers have bloomed and I do believe the smell-like-new-rain shower is on its way!  Secondly, for the last four years of my life, April meant the last month of college.  By the beginning of May I would be packing up to move home and finishing up my finals for the year.  I am more than thankful April does not mean I only have one more month of fifth grade left.  I don't think I'm ready for that yet.  Lots of people are counting down (we're somewhere is the 40s I think?) the number of days until summer arrives.  I'm not.  I don't enjoy change, I don't welcome change, and usually if I can, I run wildly in the opposite direction of change.  It's slightly ironic seeing as how the past three months of my life I have spent changing who I am as a teacher, hopefully becoming a better one.  Most days I still feel quite insecure in my teaching.  Ask partner teacher how many times in any given day I interrupt with various questions....most of which I probably should be able to just make a decision and move on.  Yet I have this anxiety that I'm not capable of making the right decision.  So I ask him, he's better at this and more experienced at it.  If my initial answer matches his I know I'm good....if it doesn't, I'm thankful I didn't go with my instinct!  haha, Want an example?

We're a Storytown Reading Curriculum school and in 5th grade there are 30 lessons.  Well, we will be finished with 30 lessons prior to being finished with school....by a few weeks.  Exciting?!  I KNOW!!!  That means we can do literature circles!!  My kids have been hinting for a month or so that they are tired of the routine curriculum and would really like to read chapter books.  I haven't told them that we're going to read chapter books yet, I kind of want to surprise them :) Anyways, partner teacher and I will be in the same boat as we stay together on which lessons we're doing when.  I'm a bit of an over planner and tend to have anxiety about new things...eh literature circles in this case!  I wanted to start organizing my groups now, because I know the next four weeks will go by quickly and I'll be into the circles before I'm ready to jump if I don't start now!   So I laid my groups out, rearranged, and laid out again.  Fourteen hundred (slight exaggeration?!) questions later, I was satisfied that I had good groups!  I went over to partner teacher and said "I have my groups.  Do you think 5 is too many?"  He laughed.  Simply laughed at me.  "M, you're not going to want more than 3 going at the same time." came his reply.  In my head I'm thinking "I could handle 5.  There are 5 days in a cycle, each day I meet with one group.  I have five good groups laid out, I don't want 3."  I think my face gave away my disagreement.  "Trust me.  You don't want 5 groups....3 max."  he said.  I left the room and threw my tantrum in the hallway.  haha  Twenty minutes later I had 3 groups.  The farther into the planning I get, the more thankful I am that partner teacher laughs at me and tells me that no, 5 is way too many groups. Just go with 3.

Have you taught literature circles before?  Ideas or suggestions?  Do's and don'ts?  Am I diving into a bottomless swimming pool?!  Happy teaching!


what I learned this week...

I typed this while out of town last weekend for a family funeral.  I'm just getting around to finishing and posting.

This week, I have learned......

....to be thankful for the caring staff I am blessed to work with.
....to look my students in the eye and every once in a while, stop to take in their inosence.
....to take them outside and teach them (er....watch partner teacher teach them) about nature
....to remember this life can be short. It is filled with beautiful stories that involve some wonderful people. I am not guaranteed any amount of time in any given place. I don't think I am very good at cherishing the precious moments I am blessed with. I get so wrapped up in organizing, planning, executing all plans, and staying "on track" that I'm pretty sure I've missed moments that were meant to be filled with love.
.....to savor the time I have with my husband. I realized this past week that school has
become my main focus. Not him. Not our baby marriage. Not even our precious dog. I don't exactly know how I am going to balance school and him better, maybe by starting to stay him and school. I want to though.

When I met husband man a few years back, I slowly met his family. Fantastic family! I am blessed to have two fantastic families. Some of his family lives in West Virginia. Grandma and Grandpa are two of those people.  Grandma was already pretty deep into the Alzheimers disease when I met her. Grandpa though, he is one of those "The Notebook" men. The men that you don't meet very often. Grandma died on Friday. He was right by her side as she left this Earth. There story is beautiful. It's the story I hope to have. He adored her. He cherished her. He loved her to the very end of her life. He always did whatever she needed to be comfortable. I'm sure somedays weren't always beautiful, but their story ended beautifully.  There was a photo on display at the funeral; his hands wrapped around hers.  That's how they always were.  That's what I hope to always be.

Are you good at balancing school and home?  Or is it "territory that comes with the job" that I'll never get past?


somewhere around 4:22am....

I found myself laying awake, for the second day in a row.  Stress?  I don't think so.  Nerves? Not that I know of.  Pure anxiety? Again, no?!  So why would a newbie exhausted teacher be wide awake at 4:22am for the second morning in a row?  Oh...the pup haha yeah.  She was dreaming and must have been talking to the rabbit she was chasing.  She woke this newbie teacher up.  Once I'm up, my brain is going......and so began my day.  Starting with the mental list of things that I need to get done today.......(insert cloud bubble).....

.....review spelling words
......read story again
.....finish class book; it needs mailed tomorrow
.....oh you didn't print those photos for the class book yet
.....oh you didn't write your stories either
.....don't forget you and partner teacher need to plan at least the begging of the Civil War unit
.....kiddos have choir this morning; no morning work time
.....G is leaving early and needs to take spelling test right away today

Got the idea?  So here I am bloggy world.  My photos are ready to be printed and my pup is sound asleep on the couch....go figure!  She has a dream and I'm the one awake! haha  BUT, seeing as I had an extra 45 minutes (and yes I realize they probably should have been spent getting ready to leave early or running on the treadmill or trying to go back to sleep) I decided to post a few more photos just because I can.  I figure the list is still mostly going to be there at 8:00am regardless of what I do at 4:30am!  Enjoy the photos!!

Happy Teaching!

State testing laws require pretty much everything to be taken down or covered up.  Partner teacher
and I each created a similar banner to cover up a large bulletin board.  It made the room look less empty!

I originally found one similar to this on Pinterest (pretty addicting!) but when
I went to create my own I morphed it!  haha This is what I ended up with.


a fifth grade request...

Being a newbie, my experience with children's literature (especially books beyond first grade choices!) is pretty limited.  My mind has been opened to this world of Magic Tree House Kids, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and a few other series, one of which is about Owls!  I am excited to be approaching our last Storytown literature theme!  It's a good curriculum, but I do believe the students and I are both looking forward to "What do we do after we're done?!"

Well, they don't know this, but I would like to do chapter book literature circles.  I have two main skill groups in my classroom; however, my kiddos have a wide range of independent reading levels.  I am looking to spend two maybe three weeks on one book.  I'd like to have at least three maybe four books going.  All of this is brainstorm in my mind.  I think they would really enjoy working in small groups and I know they have been requesting "chapter books"!

Do any of you followers (HAHA!!! I have followers!!! WAHOOO!!!) have any suggestions for my fifth grade class??


four day weeks...

I have come to realize that having Friday off does not bother me near as much as having Monday off.  It's only 8:45am Sunday morning and already I have had to remind myself 3 times that I am not going to school tomorrow and that's okay.  I'm not supposed to go to school tomorrow.  It just feels weird to be anywhere but school on a Monday.  I get quite anxious with four day weeks...though I'm fairly certain if I counted them, I have had more four day weeks since January than five day ones!  Still, no school on Monday gives this teacher the nervous butterflies :)  Enough of me complaining about having off school....

Husband man and I have plans to clean our carpet tomorrow on our day off.  Should be interesting.  We have a cute lil pup named Mia....whose age we still don't know.  She's getting bigger and biting like mad, so we'll keep her :)  She doesn't like when I vacuum the carpet, so I'm certain she'll LoVe the steam vac hahaHAHAHAHA anyone want to come watch the three of us attempt to clean tomorrow? I promise it'll be entertaining.

Mia is adorable, adventurous, time consuming, and spoiled! haha She gets bites of my toast in the morning, husband mans empty yogurt containers, and even an emptied peanut butter jar to roll around the abode.  She has become my growing baby, and yes, I unashamedly admit to picking her (23.5 lbs and all) up and holding her.  Yeahup, I do.  It has become one of my favorite moments of my day.

Do you (who don't ever look at my bloggy space haha) want to see a picture of my munchkin?!



Well, it appears that we have successfully made it through round 1 of our state testing.  We have spent the last three mornings testing reading and math.  WOW did those kiddos amaze me.  If you have never watched students who have been told for weeks that "you know this!"  "you will do GREAT!"  "you are all smart cookies" take these state tests, you need to.  These kids worked so hard on these tests.  I couldn't be more proud.  It was interesting this year because the state threw out a new mandate saying the regular teacher can not administer the test to their own students.  So partner teacher and I had to switch rooms for all three mornings.  Now, partner teacher and I have very similar tastes in organization....that being that we sort of have to be organized in order to survive.  We were not thrilled about the idea of not having "our" stuff for the mornings.  So I packed my largest bag and he packed up a box and switch rooms we did.  It was the sweetest feeling to again back my bag this morning and return to my room.  AH!  His room is fantastic, but it's not "my room", it's not "my bucket of pens", etc.  Those of you who share our borderline OCD organizational skills will fully understand.

But our kids, man oh man, did they work hard!  We had the most beautiful weather for March for our area!!  65+ degrees each afternoon and we took them out to play.  I am proud (and fully thrilled!) to say that I have a slightly sun burned face....glorious, yes?!  In MARCH?!!!!! I'm tickled pink.

I put my 18 munchkins on their bus tonight and breathed a sweet sigh of relief.  We all made it....including me :)  Tomorrow is an in-service day for us....while most people seem to prefer to skip these days, I am rather enjoying them.

So, until next week....Happy teaching!


if i could....

I would bring my husband, his co-workers, and some members of my family to my classroom.  I would sit them in the back (preferably behind a one way mirror) and tell them to watch.  I'd give them cookies and coffee or soda if they prefer; and I'd let them have chairs.  The comfortable kind, not the straight back conference kind.  This group of people seem to not understand what it takes to be a great teacher.  Sure, you can go in right before the kids and you can follow them out the door.  You can write simple lesson plans and never make a visual aid or review game and still be considered a teacher....maybe even a good teacher.  That isn't enough for me.  I don't want to be "a teacher" or "a good teacher".  I want to be "a great teacher".  A teacher like "Freedom Writers" who meets her students where their at and forces them to reach their potential.  I usually don't feel like I'm "a great teacher", but I want to continue to strive towards that.  The problem I'm finding is the group of people closest to me seem to not understand this difference.  Teaching is teaching to them.  I shouldn't be exhausted after a week.  I shouldn't be grumpy or crying because work should stay at work; not come home through the front door with me.

I'm here to say they are terribly wrong.  Work should not stay at work.  I should be exhausted every day and every week.  I should feel like crying, when things go really well and when they fail miserably.  Daresay I should be praying for my group of students every day and I should be kneeling before the throne of grace asking for strength and love to give to them each day.  This is my passion, it's what I was created to do.  I know deep down these students were given to me, even for a short time, for a reason.  There is something God wants me to show them.  I stopped focusing on that about 3 weeks back.  I feel as though all I do is fail. I guess it could be a "lack of experience" or "first year teacher syndrome".  Maybe it's more because I stopped asking for grace and strength to honor Him in my classroom and with my students.  I am overwhelmed, I feel inexperienced, I do not have much confidence in my ability right now.  I plan and plan and plan; I try to create the most useful and memorable visuals to help my students grow...most days they leave, I come back to my room and I stare at the walls wondering if I taught them anything.

So anyways, I want this group to come and watch.  Watch the lack of coffee I drink (only right away, once we get going, the cup sits in the back), the amount of energy I expel (in keeping their attention, in presenting a lesson, in showing them I care about them), the amount of interruptions I try to deal with quickly (the young girl who is crying, the two boys who constantly bicker), and the amount of time it takes to prepare even a twenty minute review lesson.  I want them to watch...and see...and know that it's not as easy as walking in at 8am and leaving at 3pm.  I want them to see how these students look at me when they are sad, confused, overwhelmed, feeling neglected, or lonely.  I want them to see how I need to be just as excited as the student who did something well and just as somber as the lonely body starring back at me is.

I think I'm starting to forget why I chose education.  Seeing as no one reads my blog (at least not yet...) I think this is going to be my "reminder" post.  This is written for me...

Meghan Elizabeth,
You mustn't forget why you chose to be a teacher.  Remember in first grade....looking to Mrs. Hagerty?  She started your little dream; be like her.  Remember in fifth grade....looking at Mr. Wilson for his "moment of silence" with his head bowed every day; be like him.  Remember your first grade field experience....how excited you were to finally be in a classroom; don't lose that excitement.  Remember your third grade and seventh grade experience co-ops; don't become them! Remember the day you walked into the high school emotional support class and you met the group of young men you were going to get to work; don't EVER give up on ANY student....Patrick, DJ, Zack, Kay....they worked, and they worked for YOU, because you CARED....and you showed them you cared; don't stop caring Meg. Then there was sixth grade...the group of street wise kids, the burned-out teachers, the lounge filled with "I'm glad I'm not trying to find a job..." conversations; don't listen to them....don't dwell on that.  God is bigger than any economic issue; He'll give you the classroom when He is ready to have you there.  Then the subbing began!!  Five weeks with 5th & 6th graders....wasn't it blissful?  It was an experience that taught you how to start the school year; save that binder! Day to day went okay; good with bad, but lots of new ideas...you wrote them down :) Finally, January rolled around and you were handed a key; that unlocked room three zero.  Room three zero was filled with eighteen 5th graders.  They are yours for the rest of the year.  Meghan Elizabeth LOVE them!  Teach them, care for them, but carry their burdens and excitements.  It was worked well every time before.  They need you to be passionate.  They need you to be thankful for the time you've been given; not moping because next year is unknown.  God could have placed you anywhere, or nowhere at all.  Instead, He put you here...in room three zero to grow in your teaching abilities and to care for His eighteen children.  It never was about the money, it still  isn't, and don't you ever let it be.  It always was, always is, and always will be about the kiddos :) It doesn't matter what people walking past may think of your crazy song and dance.  The children coming into the room are your top priority.  Nothing else matters more.  Trust Him to provide the strength, grace, and love for each day.  Give them your best and never less than your all.  When the day is through, tears may fall...and thank God for them; for it shows the passion you have and the attachment you have made. He gave you a heart to overflow for these children.  He created you to teach.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”” Joshua 1:9 NIV

Now I shall end.  We start our last five day week before state tests tomorrow :)
Happy Sunday!


new arrangement...

When I came into this fifth grade class in January, the students were in four groups of four or five students.  We stayed this way for a few weeks, and then we moved into a "U" shape.  With the help of the previously mentioned partner teacher, we found an abandoned rug and a squiggly "U" shaped table to put into the middle of our "U".  This became the area I used for my morning reading skills group!  About 2 weeks into the "U" shaped arrangement, I was over it!  I didn't have the mobility that I enjoy having within my classroom.  I rode it out for another 2ish weeks, then said enough!  We had hit the half way point of our third marking period so I changed :) I put my students into groups of 3, situating them in a triangular shape.  This allows me to have six small groups and the ability to move around between all of them freely.  I can get from the front to the back quickly and fairly easily (not including the binder that is bound to be in the middle of the floor!).  I am liking our triangles much better than our large "U".  The students seem to be enjoying it as well; though I am having to reprimand more for chatting than in the "U", but having instant small groups makes it worth it for me!

For all the people that don't ever look at my blog anyways, haha, here's a photo :)

anchor charts: geometry 1

We spent just over one week on geometry; these are the anchor charts I created for this unit of study!

anchor charts: customary and metric measurement

We began our measurement unit about 3 weeks ago.  We combined both customary and metric systems in order to prepare our students for these state tests :)  I created a few anchor charts which are still hanging on our classroom windows.  They seemed to help the students, though memorizing the conversions is always a tough spot!

it's been a long time...

Every week seems to pass just a bit faster than the one prior.  I don't quite understand how that happens or why it feels that way.  I teach my students there are 24 hours in everyday, and 7 days in every week....but most of the time I do not feel as though I have had all those hours!

Going into fifth grade I thought I had a fair amount of experiences.  Not a lot, no; but enough to get me going? I thought so.  Each faster passing week is showing me the gaps I have yet to seal in my learning.  I guess maybe they will never be fully sealed, for what would I have left to learn then?  Goodness though, these gaps feel huge.  When I think I've finally handled the two bickering boys, they start up again.  When I think I've encouraged the sweet girl with very little self esteem, we have a break down.  When I think I've finally planned a successful week, something comes up, our schedule changes and I end the week still not finished with all I had hoped.

Our state testing begins in two weeks.  I think I just want those to be done with.  I don't fully know what to expect as I have not gone through them on this side before.  I took them as a student, but even then the tests were not "THE TESTS" that they have become today.  Or at least it wasn't verbally emphasized as much!

I really like the school I'm at right now.  I have a great team teacher.  We seem to mesh well in planning and teaching our students.  I'm spoiled :)  The thought of not knowing what next year will bring is adding a rather large damper to my subbing gig.  I try to push it out of my mind.  "Do not worry about tomorrow, for today has enough worries of it's own." "I know the plans I have for you" declares the LORD "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future." I, in my little bit of faith and the desire to control this area so badly, want to throw myself on the floor and throw a tantrum until someone promises me that I'll have a classroom somewhere next year.  Even then, I want to stay at this school.  I'm selfish.  It's a problem.  One that is eating me to pieces right now.

The posts following after this will have photos of what's been happening in our fifth grade room.  Most will be anchor charts; I've really started to enjoy having these!  The students take better notes when I'm making the charts and I like having them on the wall.  The partner teacher did request that I stop climbing up on desks to hang them until he arrived in the room next door.  "We don't need Mrs.B juice on the floor".  Personally I think I'm a pro at climbing on desks to hang items on walls/the ceiling.  Have you seen my solar system?!  Alas, I shall abide by his request.  I wouldn't want my students to find a "Flat Stanley" on the floor when they arrived, now would I?

Happy Teaching :)