Sunday, July 27, 2008

Maybe this year...

Looks like I’ll be back, trying to actually keep up with blogging for more than two months this year. I honestly felt good about things when I did it last year, and I know that if I can force myself to write regularly, I’ll be glad that I did. I’m just very aware of how busy things get, and how crazy it is to try to balance work, family, my relationship, and still have time for myself – and that doesn’t even include blogging. I’ll try, though!

I just typed a nice, long list of goals for this school year in Microsoft Word, because the new version is so darn pretty. It was numbered and lettered with Roman numerals and everything, and then I pasted it here and realized that it doesn't work that way. I should've known. Is there a way to maintain formatting without having to type out the html for everything?

There are a couple of things I’m wondering right now. The first one is this: I posted that thing last night, and tonight, I have three comments. How do you people even find this thing? I don’t think anyone links to it anymore. Was it pure randomness? How did you find me?

Second thing I’m wondering: I know this makes me look like a total loser who can’t use the internet, but I don’t care. When someone leaves me a comment on my blog, do I respond on my blog as well, or go to their blog and post a comment there? Any online journaling thing I’ve done before keeps it all on the same page, but I have no idea and I feel really dumb for not knowing. I promise I'm good with computers. I even use Twitter and Tumblr and all that cool stuff. Still, this question is driving me crazy.

And now I’m going to find something to eat (cheat on my diet) and go to bed.

I never like how these posts turn out after I write them. Hmm.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Decisions, decisions...

Should I continue this thing? I can't decide.

On one hand, I only made it from July to August last year before abandoning it.
On the other hand, I really felt good about what I did write, and I think that if I can force myself to actually write, I'll be glad that I did.

I thought about putting everything on afrodiary and just having separate journals for school, personal, etc... but there I can't get as much response from teachers, and that's pretty valuable.

So... who knows what'll happen.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #4

Thirteen things I want to do during workdays next week:

1. Finish writing lesson plans. So far I've got plans up through the end of November, and I want to get at least enough done to hold us over till Christmas. (By the way, that means lesson plans for that particular subject - writing. It was kind of vague when I reread it.)

2. Do lesson plans for other subjects. Or at least long range plans, and a bunch of lesson plans. Usually it turns out that I might know that next week, we're doing Chapter 9 in math, but more likely than not, I don't have a clue what's in chapter 9. I want to be able to be more prepared. I think if I am, I'll be less busy during the day, and I can spend more time with my kids than doing other things.

3. Plan our Reader's Workshop. Here's the thing. I don't have money to go buy a bunch of books on this topic, which I would love to do, so if you have any links to good Reader's Workhop websites, or just any insight at all, that would be awesome.

4. Plan our classroom economy. I'm going to make the kids pay rent for their desk and chair, and if they don't pay rent, they have to sit off to the side at a table that day. That's going to be hilarious. I thought about making them stand up all day if they didn't pay their chair rent, or making them lean on their laps to write if they didn't pay desk rent, but I thought that would be a little mean. Funny, but mean.

5. Plan our morning meetings. Again, this is something I'd love to read up on, but can't buy books for right now. Any ideas or suggestions?

6. Visit other teachers. Almost every teacher in our school has had to change classrooms, and I think it's so interesting to see how they make the rooms different than the previous teacher. I'm going to waste a lot of time this way, I know.

7. Rearrange the desks. I had to move all of the furniture out of the way before I left summer school, so I have to put it all back. I can never come up with a good room arrangement, since my room is like, some kind of weird triangle.

8. Find somewhere to put my alphabet. I've had one of the alphabet strips that goes across the chalkboard for two years and haven't put it up yet, because it doesn't quite fit on one board, but it's not long enough to cover two. I'll probably end up not using it again.

9. I downloaded some genre posters from the Internet that I'm going to laminate and tape up to my cabinets, which are a horrible orangy-pinky-salmony color. Hopefully the kids will learn something AND it will cover up that horrible horrible color.

10. Laminate the nametags (why did I never think of this before??) and tape them down, along the little cursive alphabet stickers that go on the desks.

11. Velcro some pencil cups to the desks, and make sure I have enough sharpened pencils.

12. Set up a mini-classroom store (which will probably [in]conveniently be located in a cabinet, since I have nowhere else for it, and since I don't trust the kids not to steal from it).

13. Take lots of pictures of my room!

Question: How do you feel about cursive handwriting? I'm thinking about making it required for some assignments, because my kids REALLY need to work on it. But I just don't know. That might be more trouble than it's worth. Any input?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #3

I have tried to keep this blog school-related, but it has become really hard, even after only two Thursday Thirteens, to keep them that way. If anyone has any school related suggestions for Thursday Thirteen topics, please send them my way! Until then...
Thirteen Things about Becky

1. I am 26 years old. I'm very proud of this fact, because most people have no idea. I'm constantly being carded for buying lottery tickets, and just today, I was picking up my mom's prescription at Wal-Mart, and the lady working there asked me, "You're eighteen, right?"

2. I have a very full life, although it probably doesn't seem like it. My boyfriend moved here from British Columbia, and I spend most of my time with him. However, I try to spend a good bit of time at home with my mom, too. After my dad died, I don't like her to be at home alone because I know she gets lonely.

3. Lance and I are moving to Canada one day in the near future. We are both in love with BC, and our plan is to get married, live here long enough to save up some money, then move back there. I've only been there once so far, but it was enough for me. Victoria is a beautiful city; that's where we want to go.

4. But I want to lose some weight first. I'm constantly battling with my weight and right now it seems to be winning - I'm heavier than I ever have been before. I won't mention my weight here, but I'm only 5'4", so any extra weight shows up too much for me. I have been trying to eat better lately, and I have been doing Yoga Booty Ballet for about a week now. (I know - Yoga Booty Ballet? Still, though, it's fun, and by the time it's done, I am SWEATING and hot and I know I've burned some calories.) Lance and I are also walking some mornings, and every now and then I do pilates.

5. I love to read. I've been reading "Teacher Man" by Frank McCourt forever - it takes me so long to finish books, because the only time I really have for reading is at night in bed. I love everything written by Jennifer Weiner, too. It's chick lit, yeah, but it's smart and funny. I like it.

6. If I ever get to a point where I'm not in debt, I will be one happy woman. Since my dad died, my mom and I have had the hardest time paying bills... we even had to go to a credit counseling agency and get help creating a debt management plan. It's been really hard, and it's going to keep being really hard, but we've been in the DMP for five months, and three years will be up before we know it. I hope, anyway.

7. I never planned to teach fourth grade. I interned in second grade, then did two maternity leave positions (planned for 3 but then my dad got sick) in second grade. It was assumed that I would just automatically teach second at that school. I did get hired there, thanks to my wonderful principal, but the only position open was fourth grade. I accepted it and have fallen in love with it. I love how independent the kids are, and the curriculum is so much more interesting for me.

8. I try my hardest to be nice to cashiers and other people in public service jobs. I worked at Kroger for five years before teaching, and I know how rude people are to those they think are below them, so to speak. I always try my hardest to be courteous to them.

9. That said, I HATE IT when people are rude for no reason! Like when you're ordering food at a restaurant and the waiter is unnecessarily unfriendly. I'm always the first one to call the manager and either complain if the service was bad, or compliment someone if the service was good. I don't know if that's a virtue or a fault.

10. I'm too often a perfectionist at school in terms of tidiness. I always have to make sure that my desk is cleaned off before I can leave for the day, and I have a really hard time walking away from unfinished work. Before I turn out the lights, I always check the room to make sure that the chairs are pushed in, and there's nothing on my desk or the kids' desks. (My students are trained to push their chairs in when they get up, no matter where they're going.)

11. We just found out that my 20 year old sister is pregnant. I wasn't particularly happy about this, since she's not married, not financially stable, and (in my opinion) not mature enough to have a child. But none of that matters, because there's nothing that can be done about it now. I know that I just have to support her and do whatever I can to help her.

12. My boyfriend and I just drove about 45 minutes away to get a Wii. We didn't think we were going to find one anywhere, but turns out a store called Game Stop had one left. I told the guy how far we were coming, and that we'd be there as soon as we could, and he held it for us. So far, I kind of rock at that bowling game. I love that stupid thing.

13. I have three dogs. I used to have five, but we got rid of two. Without my dad here working, it just because too hard to afford to properly take care of them and feed them, so we had to find better homes for them. We're in the process of trying to find a home for Pookie Bear, an enormous Great Pyrenees, who is very lovable and sweet. I am in Aiken, SC, and Pookie Bear is free. Any takers? :)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Getting desperate

Our school has been locked since the beginning of July. Apparently they're redoing all of the floors. We can get back in on August 1. I am going crazy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #2

Thirteen things I'd like to buy before school starts

1. One of those pocket charts to identify which stage of Writers' Workshop a student is at. This thing.

2. A new desk chair. Because you know what? Yes, I'm a teacher, and I think I'm a pretty good one. And guess what. I SIT DOWN SOMETIMES. I always run across teachers who think that if you sit down during the day, you're a crappy teacher, but I don't believe that. I believe that I have hallux rigidus in my big toe and my foot is killing me by 10 am, so yes, I sit down.

3. A bunch of storage crates.

4. A nice, bright, colorful, CHEAP rug to put in my classroom.

5. Some comfortable bean bags or chairs for my kids to sit in while they read. Right now they're limited to their chairs or the dusty tile floor - not great options.

6. Nice, swanky clothes to wear to school.

7. Storage containers!

8. Somewhere to put the storage containers and chairs, etc. My room is so weirdly shaped. It's like a triangle, and I have no corners, and no blank walls where I can stack or store things. It's so weird.

9. Staple-free stapler

10. Free blank checks for our little classroom economy thing.

11. Some kind of books on teaching reading and writing. I feel pretty confident in teaching everything else, but I'm about to branch out to something Ive never done before, and it would be nice to have some sort of reference. Everything is so expensive, though!

12. A good way for the kids to keep up with their own materials. They only have so much room in their desks, and they have so many books and things to keep up with. I really don't have anywhere in the room to store their stuff. Most teachers at our school buy those gigantic sized Ziploc bags, but that's not very effective for me. Any ideas?

13. An iPod. Because really, why not?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Long range planning

When I did my internship with the second grade teachers at my school, they did all of their lesson planning as a team. One teacher would write reading lesson plans, for example, another would do math, a third would do science, and so on. It worked well for them, and I thought it was a great method. For someone who had never done this professionally, I thought it was great to have my lesson plans written for me, for the most part.

However, once I got my own classroom, I was informed that the fourth grade teachers don't plan together. Every now and then, one of them told me, they'd get together and check each other's progress, and make sure they were all sort of on the same page, but other than that, nope, no team planning at all.

I was scared to death.

But over the past two years, I've grown to really appreciate writing my own plans. Sure, it's more work, but it lets me focus on what I think is important - not what other people place emphasis on. I can also tailor my lessons to what my own students need, so if they're having a hard time with multiplication, we can spend an extra few days on it, rather than being forced to move on, regardless.

So that brings me to this year. I'm grade level leader for the new fourth grade team. That's kind of exciting, and I'm pleased that my principal feels that I'm prepared enough to do that in my third year of teaching. However, in our six person team, three are new to fourth grade. There are two who have expressed an interest in planning together, and they are basically scared to death to teach a brand new grade (one of them has taught second grade for fourteen years - quite a change!). I feel that as grade level leader, I need to help them out, while at the same time, not letting myself get bogged down in what they need.

I mentioned in a couple of posts already that I'm interested in readers/writers workshop. I can see how that might be intimidating to someone who is doing this for the first time (it's still intimidating to me!). I can understand that at this point, they'll probably rely pretty heavily on the textbooks we're given. What I'd ideally like to do is plan out my year in detail, then provide anyone who is interested with a copy of those long range plans. If those teachers are interested in following the same format as me, that's great. If they're not, they certainly won't be made to do it.

Still, planning for an entire year is a pretty big goal, and to be honest, I haven't really done it before; not well, or in depth, anyway. I really don't know where to start or what the best way to do it is. I'm open to any and all suggestions; I'd love to learn some of your techniques for planning.