Saturday, November 23, 2013

lucky me

It's so easy to get wrapped up in the everyday things....annoyances, aches and pains, insecurities, stress and fears...and focus on what's not going your way. 

Like...this annoying cough that WON'T. GO. AWAY.

Or....feeling like even when I stay late at work I'm still just keeping my head above water. 

And the fear that every time we get a lot of rain in a short period of time (like last week) I'm going to have water in my basement.

That tire that needs replacing.

Those meals that I haven't been cooking.

That stack of bills I need to pay.

Since I'm human, I worry.
About the little things.
The big things.
And even the non-existent things.
(like worrying about book characters-- seriously, I do that)

What I'm deciding to do....actually, what I often decide to do, is stop myself on that worry track. 
Turn around.
Look at what's important.

And count my blessings.

Because.....those things I listed above? 

They are greatly outweighed by the magnitude of how lucky I really am in life.

I often joke that I'm the world's most unluckiest person, but really I'm just talking about the little things-- I don't win contests, I pick the wrong line/lane/route, I'm extremely clutzy (like you-wouldn't-believe-it-if-you-weren't-there clutzy)....all things that don't really matter in the grand scheme of things.

When it comes to the big picture.....I'm very, very lucky.

(Really....what's luckier than seeing a double rainbow?)

My parents- amazing role models

My family- fun and loving

My friends- supportive and generous

My job-  being able to do something I love and that inspires me everyday

My coworkers- so hardworking, dedicated and thoughtful

My home- having my own place, being able to have an outlet for my creativity, and feeling safe where I live

My health- I can walk, talk, see, hear, breathe, smell, feel.....I'm alive.

My mind- I can think clearly, problem solve, remember, comprehend, and feel compassion.

I've had a pretty stressful couple of weeks where I had a lot of those "poor me" moments.   It's prevented me from doing a lot of things that I wanted to do, or even really needed to do.  After a much-needed fun night out with a great group of friends, I felt the urge to turn my thoughts to the positives in my life.

Lucky for me, it wasn't hard to do.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

changes are coming...

If you have visited my blog in the past, you may have noticed a different, stripped down look for the past couple days.  That's due to my old blog template (which was free) not being free anymore.  Until my new template can get loaded, I'm in temporary free-blogger-template mode. 

Stay tuned to see the new look for my blog....and although it's not going to be a custom look (yet), I definitely think it will be cute!  I wouldn't have it any other way.  :)

On a different is my dad's birthday.  While he passed away over twenty years ago, I still think of him all the time, and November 9th definitely puts me in a bit of a sad mood. 

Rereading last year's post about my dad last night did help me to recall all of the cherished memories I have of my dad.

If you'd like to read more about the wonderful man who was, along with my mom, a huge influence of who I am today, go here.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 my home away from home!

You know how teachers joke around about how their students think they "live" at school?'s closer to the truth than I'd care to admit sometimes.   I spend an average of 11-12 hours at school (sometimes more, sometimes less) a day during the week and then I usually come back on Saturday or Sunday for a good chunk of time to get ready for Monday.

The past two nights, I was literally giddy over the fact that I left work at or before 5:00.
State testing= less planning for the next day.  
Really the only perks of standardized testing.

The reason I bring this up.....I spend a lot of time in my classroom, so I want it to be comfortable, inviting, appealing, colorful, organized, and a reflection of who I am.

So I bring to you very first.....


Please note that all of these photos were taken the week before school started, so everything is new and clean and neat and organized.   And while it's still neat and organized (I wouldn't have it any other way), it's definitely more "broken into" like a new pair of shoes after a month of wearing them.

Warning:  An obnoxious amount of photos are to follow.  I just love my classroom that much.

View of the front of the room

View from the door toward the "window side" of the room

Standing in the front, looking toward the back of the room

And the last full view- to the "cubby side" and doorway

Cubby Wall

All the cubbies are loaded up with the student supplies, ready for the first day!
Above the student cubbies are all of my Reading Street teaching resources (we got a TON of stuff for this new curriculum!). 
On top of the cubbies are totes of all of my extra books.
I'm kind of addicted to buying books for my class....:)

As you can probably tell, I heart organization.  All of my Reading Street resources are now organized by unit and reading level.
Such a time saver!

I provide my students with five colored folders and label them ahead of time. 
(The past two summers I've bargain shopped and got them for a penny each!)
This is one of my favorite organization tips that lasts the entire year.  Papers for every subject have a place, and with a quick scan of the room I can tell which students have out the correct folder!

I put everything they need in their cubbies before the first day: all of the books, workbooks, notebooks, folders, planner, clipboard, etc. are numbered and ready for them. 
These do NOT stay in their cubbies-- that would require way too much getting out of their seats and wasted transition time.
Within the first couple days, all of this (except for the clipboards) will be brought to their desk.  This process provides a great opportunity to practice efficient procedures.
Next to the cubbies is a small bulletin board, with a weekly calendar of events, reminders about our Michigan Miles, and a few signs with inspirational quotes.
Michigan Miles are a behavior reward program we came up with years ago to have the students "earn" their trip to Fourth Grade Camp.  They earn miles through good behavior, turning in homework on time, and getting their planner signed.  It's been a great motivator for the kids!

Another sign next to the door.....a list of what students can do when they're done with work.  These "May Do" activities aren't choices every day, but often enough to keep up as a reminder.

Front Wall

One of my bulletin boards up front.....with my calendar/birthdays, jobs board (which I explained in this post), and Social Contracts for my homeroom and math classes.
On the table in front of this board are some free choice activities- Hot Dots, writing prompts, and math facts practice activities.
You can get these calendar pieces at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.   :)

On this side of my board-- Volume Control (freebie here), the poster where I list each day's homework assignments for students to copy into their planners, a pocket chart for our daily schedule, and a few other signs for reference.

Right in front of the board-- my Elmo/Projector table, covered easily with some chevron fabric (see more about that process here).

On the left side of the board-- my daily objective frames (read more about these here and here), a spot for missing work stars, behavior clip chart, and SLANT reminder poster.

My other bulletin board....Reading Street Concept Board and posters with literary elements and different genres of literature.

This part of the board changes every week.....if you teach 4th Grade Reading Street, go to my TpT store to find these Unit and Weekly Question signs!

Window Wall

My classroom library....and there are more book boxes in the front of the room.
Did I mention I am addicted to books?  ;)

Above the bookshelves is my "Moral Focus" wall.  I teach at a charter school with a Moral Focus and Citizenship component.  We teach the Core Democratic Values along with Moral Virtues.  Each month, this display changes but the CDV posters above it stay there all year.
Sorry this is so blurry-- I tried getting everything in the picture.  I should know better by now!

The dull and sharp pencil cans I made from metal buckets I found at the Target Dollar Spot last summer.  Love these!  And with my new pencil sharpener (described in this post), I start each day with a supply of perfectly sharpened pencils for the kids to trade.

I had to include of the few things I still have (and use) from my first year of teaching.
A shoe box, covered with contact paper, having seen better days, but still serving its purpose.
Students write compliments to each other when another student does something for them that they want to recognize.  I read these at our weekly class meetings, and give the students their compliment slips to keep.  Those little pieces of paper mean a lot to many of the kids.
And they mean a lot to me, too.

The front corner of my room-- storage for supplies (read this post about the labels I created), class rules/consequences/behavior reminder posters, and my bookshelf that I wrote about in this post.
(Yikes....I apologize for the blurry pictures-- my classroom has some areas of low light)

Two motivators-- Homework Stars and Catching Compliments.
I'll write more about these two things in a future post.  :)

Back Wall

On my back counter....drawers for organizing my supplies/copies for each subject area, and the binders/resource books/Teacher Editions I need for planning.

The file box is for "Extra Papers"-- I make a couple extra copies of homework assignments, study sheets, spelling lists, and reading logs for students who lost theirs.
Proudly displaying my two diplomas as well!

Close up of this Command Center--- Bandaids, Travel Passes (basically like a hall pass),  Lunch Parent Reports, and Behavior Notes.

My second microwave with lunch supply tub on top, and the filing cabinet that I beautified this summer (as described in this post).

Reading Area.....lots of comfy pillows to read comfortably around the room during silent reading time.   I even have a student whose one job is to keep the pillows organized. 
I'm a little OCD like that.  :)

Right above the reading Star of the Week board (which isn't bare anymore) and my "bed" of Scooby Doo dolls.  Many gifts from many students over the years. 

Next to gallery-wall of  "Wise Words".  Most found via Pinterest.
This came to be after changing my objective frames to plastic magnetic ones.....I took the glass out of the remaining ones and used the frames to go around some laminated signs.
I did the same with a couple cheap Target frames too (glass taken out for safety reasons!)...
One of my favorites.  :)
And finally.....a Welcome Sign that I whipped up an hour before our Parent Orientation this summer.  Because for some reason I needed to do one more crafty project....
Phew!  If you made it to the end of this tour, I congratulate you.
And thank you.
And am impressed by your stamina.....and patience.
As you can probably tell, I love my classroom.
I should.....since I kind of "live" there.  :)

Friday, September 13, 2013

five for friday- second week of school

It was one week ago that I was sitting at home, exhausted after the first week of school.

I wish I could say I felt better one week later (a.k.a. today).....but, this week I went from just tired-- to sick and tired.  Like, can't sleep at night from coughing fits sick.  And losing my voice sick. know how fun that is, right?

One week later, it seems to finally be making a turn for the better.
So, I'm celebrating with a fun "Five for Friday" linky party. 
Yeah, I'm such a party animal.  :)

Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching....


number one

Sharpening pencils has always been a source of frustration for me.  Maybe because it's a never-ending cycle.  Maybe it's because my electric sharpeners always break pencils.  Or break down.  Or are extremely loud and grating to hear.
This one....sharpens pencils perfectly, doesn't break the pencils, and although I wouldn't call it "quiet"'s definitely quieter and less annoying-sounding than my electric ones.
If this sharpener keeps this up all year, I would be even more impressed.
So excited to have found it through Classroom Friendly Supplies!

number two

I found this idea from Pinterest for a "Mystery Walker", and thought it might be a fun new thing to try this year.  So I took some poker chips that I randomly had accumulated over the years, numbered some round stickers and keep them in a large coffee mug that I got from a student last year.
(I don't drink coffee, so finding ways to use the teacher mugs I get is always a good thing)
Basically, each time we leave the room to travel to one of our specials classes (like music or art), I choose one of these chips from the mug, look at it secretively, and put it in my pocket....announcing that I have my "mystery walker".  The students know that I will be paying attention to this student and if he or she was walking up to my expectations, when we get back to the classroom I will reveal it to the class and they get to come pick a prize ticket.
Note:  If they don't meet my hallway expectations (i.e. talking, goofing around, etc.) then I just put the chip back and say that the mystery walker didn't earn a prize.  I don't reveal who it is though-- it keeps the students guessing if it was them. 
This has worked SO well this year, and it's amazing how a little incentive can motivate the kids to improve their hallway behavior!  Best thing-- the prizes are free and easy like being able to sit next to a friend at lunch, or sitting in one of my rolling chairs for a day.

number three

So this isn't from this week, but I had to share's the second year in a row that I've used this "Welcome Bag" and I think I'll keep doing it.  The kids really seem to love it, it's a sweet way to start off the first day of school, and a chance to make sure they have a couple things they need right when they arrive.

This note explains what's inside the bag.  I can't take credit for coming up with this idea.  I found it through (shocker!) Pinterest, which linked me to the blog Pencils and Magic Wands. The note and homework pass can be found here.

Here's what else they get....some cute stickers, a happy star eraser, a welcome pencil (sharpened with my amazing sharpener of course), and a bright and fun bookmark.

I put them all into clear cellophane gift bags, and staple the note to the top.
Once I had everything in an assembly line, it didn't take long to get it all put together.
Totally worth it to see the kids' excitement finding them on their desk on that first day!

number four

Another new idea inspired by Pinterest....and another success!
Instead of your traditional bathroom passes that students either wear around their neck, wrist, or clip to their shirt....these actually stay in the classroom.
One for boys, one for girls.
Just simple labels (see link below) that I laminated and taped to a bottle of hand sanitizer.
When students need to use the bathroom (not during instruction, but any work or break time), they just take the "pass" and put it on their desk and then head to the bathroom.
When they come back, they can of course use some sanitizer and then put it back on the counter for the next student to use.
It's awesome because (a) I can always scan the desks to see who is gone, (b) I don't have the kids asking me if they can go since they can see where the bottle is, and (c) I don't have to worry about passes being left in the bathroom, wet and dirty from who-knows-what-they-do-with-it in there, or having a kid forget that they are wearing the pass.
My students have learned this new procedure very quickly, and I can already tell that I love it!
Note:  If you want those labels, you can find them FREE through the original blogger I found through Pinterest.  Go here for that post.

number five

One of my awesome fourth grade teaching teammates showed me how she had organized all of her meeting notes for this year into an adorable bound notebook.
Of course, I couldn't resist making my own.....through the seller "A Modern Teacher" I bought the organizer pages on TpT, and then I brought it to Staples for the binding.  The front and back covers are heavy-duty laminated so it will last all year.

Inside, I made tabs to label all of the sections for the different types of meetings I'll have regularly this year.
This doesn't even include special ed meetings, parent meetings, and other random committee meetings!  Whew.  I'm exhausted already.

And here's a look at one of the meeting notes pages....I've already used it for a few meetings and I LOVE it-- it keeps me organized, focused, and helps me to remember those random things we talk about but I sometimes forget about if I don't write it down.
Now I have no excuse!  :)
And now....I'm finally going to sleep.  For about ten hours. 
Because I finally can.

Monday, September 9, 2013

bathroom transformation....part two!

I've been a little behind in my blogging lately....both with reading my favorite blogs, and writing new posts.  Really though....I have NO clue how teachers keep up with blogging during that week before and first week of school. 

I.  Had.  No.  Free.  Time.

It doesn't help that I literally am not teaching any subject with the same materials/objectives as last year....switching over to the Common Core for Math and ELA, and switching back to state standards (long story) for Science and Social Studies. 

And I caught a nasty cold.'s a small miracle that I'm even writing tonight. 
I just missed blogging.  :)

And I had a great reason to finish my bathroom post-- a fun DIY link that I read about through a great blog I follow.  Thanks to Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog, I was inspired to join this "party"!  Each week for the next 16 weeks, they have set a topic to blog about.

Since this week's theme is "The Color Blue"....I knew this was the perfect time to write about how my white bathroom walls became blue....more specifically, "Embellished Blue" from Behr Premium Plus.

I'm also going to head over and check out all of the other blogs listed above....probably not tonight....but soon.  I only have so much motivation for one night.  :)
So here's where I left off on my last post....
I had painted my cabinets a dark brown.... Behr's "Thick Chocolate" to be exact.
Also, above this sink was a large, plain mirror and that was taken down.
After getting all the prep done on this day, the next morning I assembled everything I would need to paint the walls.  Which....if you've ever painted a bathroom NOT easy.
Paint, paint pan, large roller for the walls, smaller roller for tighter spaces, a quality angled paintbrush/container to carry around for the "cutting in", gloves (yes, I'm *that* kind of painter-- messy).  Oh, and one more essential item when painting a bathroom....
A close up look of my (super techy-name alert) "behind the toilet painting tool".....also known as a paint-pad-duct-taped-to-a-paint-stick.   It worked perfectly for that tight space behind the toilet, so I didn't need to take the toilet out!
front (painting) side

back (MacGyver) side
I also took down the glass cover off the old, 80's-style? light fixture.   No crying occurred when this came down.  In fact, there may have been some happy-dancing.
 I wasn't planning on changing the fixture that day (I needed help with that), so I was just painting around it.  I did take out the two end bulbs, and I painted around the fixture first since I was going to turn the lights off for that section (didn't really feel like roasting up by the hot lights while painting up high in a small bathroom).
And since I didn't really have time to take any other painting-process pictures, ( you really need them?  It's painting a bathroom.  As I said, it's not easy.  Or fun to watch.) here are the "after" pictures.  It needed two coats, and I still had about a third of the gallon left.

Crazy how different the color looks between the top and bottom pictures.  All about the lighting.
Here's what it looked like next to the newly painted cabinets.
Love this combination!!
The inside of the cabinets weren't very pretty....some spills/stains from the previous owner.

Covered up with some pretty contact paper.
Which....if you've followed my blog....has made it into my classroom in this post and this post.

I also lined my two drawers with the same paper....I might have a slight obsession with it.
Or just a need to find more places to use it. 
Or both.
Anyway....I let all of the paint set for a week before doing anything else. 
With the humidity in the air (this was August) and this being a high-moisture room, I wanted to make sure that everything was set before putting on the finishing touches.
My awesome Mom came over to help install the new light fixture.
As usual when my Mom and I install new electric fixtures, it didn't go right the first time.  In fact, I think she made two trips to Home Depot for me.
Love you, Mimzy!!
I had to touch up with a couple coats of paint since it was smaller than the previous one.
And before putting on the light shades/bulbs, we also hung my new framed mirror!
I love this change-- it's exactly what I wanted and not a bad price (free- since I had a gift card).

It's covered because I put the mirror up before painting around the light fixture.

Then, the shades/bulbs were installed, brushed silver hardware on the drawers/doors (all thanks again to my Mom's help!)....and with some accessories including a new shower curtain, rug, and towels, my bathroom is put back together!
Sorry about the bad lighting in some of these photography + low light + small spaces= not the best quality.

I'm so happy with how it all turned out, and next summer when I (hopefully) can get new floors installed, it will finally be complete!
With the new school year just starting, I will be taking a DIY-hiatus, but maybe once things start slowing down (i.e. summer 2014), I'll be back on the DIY wagon.  :)
For now.....this makes me smile.  Every time I walk in the room.