Thursday, January 21, 2016

Kindness Without Words

Wednesdays are super important to my two children.  In my house, Wednesdays are called Library/Pizza Wednesdays.  Wednesday evenings are spent at the public library together as a family, followed by pizza for dinner at Dewey's.  My kids look forward to this evening every week.....and honestly, I do too.  It's a fun tradition that we started over the summer with my sister and two nieces.
Pizza after the library with my two nieces

This past Wednesday, I came across a picture book that I haven't read before and I really want to share it with you!!  It is called Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith.  I immediately fell in love with this book.  The pictures are beautiful.....and did I mention that it is a wordless picture book in a style that looks like a graphic novel?!?!  Awesome, right?!?! I love it!

Sidewalk Flowers is such a powerful story about a little girl showing small acts of kindness as she walks home from the grocery store with her preoccupied father.  Along their walk through the busy, black-and-white colored streets, the little girl pays close attention to the world around her while her father is distracted with his thoughts and cell phone.  While walking through the streets, the young girl collects colorful weeds and flowers that are springing up through the cracks in the sidewalk.  She begins to give her colorful bouquets away as an act of kindness to a dead bird, a sleeping/homeless man in the park, a neighbor dog, and lastly her mother and siblings once she gets home.  As you turn each page, the scenes start to fill with more and more color....and by the end of the book, the page is complete with beautiful watercolors.
Wordless picture books are perfect to use in the classroom because they have so many functions.  I especially love to use them when teaching my students how to make inferences.  Wouldn't this book be good to use when teaching character traits too??

There are so many wordless books that I love and this one is definitely going on my list to purchase.   Have you read this one before?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Reinventing the Wheel

 Do you ever find yourself reflecting on your day as you drive home from work?  The good thing about living 25 minutes from my school is that I get to use that time as an extra plan bell.  I spend that time thinking about my day....what went right.....what went wrong....what could have been better.....what I will change......and what I will reteach tomorrow.    

The other day, on my drive home from work, I was thinking about my upcoming unit.  Now that quarter 3 has started, my students are ready for their biography research project.  This is one of my favorite and most challenging units to teach.  I love how the students get excited about this project, but teaching students how to research can be HARD!  Not only do they get to choose their famous person (within the parameters), but they also get to use the Internet and non-fiction texts for their research.  Plus, their end product is represented in a neat file folder display. I'm slowly driving down I-71, I'm thinking back to the unit and what my students did last year.....and I immediately recall what needed to be changed.  I thought to myself...."I didn't like this part.....I'm going to change that part.....This didn't work well.....Never-will I do that again..."  And by the time I got home from work, I had completely thrown the project I did last year out the window.  Therefore....I am, once again, reinventing the wheel.


I went into school the next day and pulled my biography research file out of my cabinet.  While thinking about my reflective drive home the previous night, I concluded that there isn't a single thing I want to use from last year.  


Why do I create more work for myself every year?  Why change everything I created last year?  
Why reinvent the wheel?


I thought about this over the next few days.  And after consulting with and venting to my #1 role model (aka sister....aka Curious Firsties-Em), I think the answer comes down to three important words.   Three words that have me reinventing the wheel every year.....Three words that have me choosing another route than the previous year. 

1.  Growth-  I've been  teaching for 11 years.  That is roughly 4,015 days as an educator....1/3 of my life.  These 11 years have been filled with (but not limited to) a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, countless hours of professional development, mentoring several new teachers, and a three year commitment to a piloting project through the Ohio Department of Education.  With that being said, I still have SO much more to learn and many more years to grow.  Every day I am learning something new in education.  I learn from myself, my students, my amazing colleagues, and all the wonderful bloggers out there.  I am in the business of changing and shaping lives, so it is my duty to evolve and grow everyday to become the best educator I can be.

2.  Change-  Change is constant.  Change happens whether we want it to or not.  The lessons I taught last year are not going to fit perfectly to what my upcoming class needs.  Every student is different.  Students learn differently.  Behave differently.  Respond differently.  We spend 9 months getting to know our students inside and out.  We do this so we can teach them the way we know they will learn best.  But what worked for one group of students will not necessarily work for the next year's group of students.  Every year is different with a different set of learning styles and needs.  Therefore, changing my lessons every year is a necessity.Change is a must. 

3.  Improve-  Improve is defined as making something better or to raise to a more desirable or more excellent quality.  If your doctor told you that you needed to improve your health....would you?  Of course.  So, if you teach a lesson that could be better....wouldn't you try to improve?  Of course.  No matter the number of years I have taught, I will never be perfect.  I will never know everything there is to know about education.  But what I can do is make sure that I am improving every day....every year.  By growing and accepting change, I will improve. 

So, I guess I could say that I am not necessarily reinventing the wheel.  I am growing.  I am making changes.  I am improving.

Do you reinvent the wheel every year or are you growing, changing, and improving?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Test Lab for New and Innovative School Furniture...PART 1

A few days before the 2015-16 school year started, my principal called me into his office.  In my mind, I figured he wanted to talk about the previous year's test scores...or something to that nature.  Boy was I WRONG!!!!  Needless to say.....I think I walked out of his office looking like Taylor Swift when she wins an award!
Picture Source
Imagine your principal saying that you have been picked to test out new and innovative school furniture....  What would you say? What would you do?  

Honestly..... I thought my principal was joking!  This is not a question most teachers are ever asked in their entire teaching career.   I don't know about you, but I just get super excited over a new pack of pencils or Papermate grading pens.....My brain can't even fathom new furniture---basically a brand new classroom!!!!  It is every teacher's dream to have new, ground-breaking furniture.  I can't think of a single teacher that would say "no" to this opportunity!  And this year, I get to experience this amazing opportunity.  It honestly feels like I won the jackpot!  By accepting this amazing opportunity, I have to understand that this is going to be a year-long process.  I also need to be willing to invest time outside of my classroom and workload to work with School Outfitters.  Needless to say.... I ACCEPTED!

A local company in my area, called School Outfitters, approached my district, last summer, looking for teachers that would be willing to transform their classrooms to test out 21st century furniture.  Since 1998, School Outfitters has provided convenient online shopping and expert customer service support to educators looking to create productive learning environments for all types of learners.

Next, I met with a panel of employees from School Outfitters.  These members included the sourcing and supply chain VP, sourcing director, sourcing coordinator, and designer.  Our initial meeting in September is where I explained and discussed the biggest obstacles (classroom furniture and design) I currently face while teaching.  I discussed what I like about my classroom/furniture and what could be more efficient or systematic. I explained my need of an easier flow from whole group instruction to station rotations.  I mentioned that I would like a place where I can store my stations that will make it easier for students to access. I also described the amount of space that is not utilized due to large pieces of furniture (I am so thankful to have 25 Chromebooks in my classroom, but the cart where they are stored takes up so much space).   Plus, I currently have to stand in the back of my classroom when using my Elmo Machine (which means my students' backs are to me as they look at the whiteboard).    My kidney-shaped table, again, is so large that I almost have to lay on the table to read closely with my small guided reading group.  (This is only a few of the things I talked about during this meeting......I could go on and on.....)

In October, a team from School Outfitters came to take measurements of  my classroom.  And I mean measurements of EVERYTHING!  From my chalkboards..... to the area where my students place their bookbags..... to my teacher storage area...... to my window ledges.  A few days later, one of the source coordinators observed my classroom for about two hours.  She took notes about everything she saw (notes on what I did and what my students did).

Afterwards, I was asked to send them a quick sketch, or layout, of what I would want my classroom to look like in the end.  OH MY----this was SOOOOO hard.  I was told that it just needed to be a rough sketch....just an idea.....BUT-seriously?!?-I have never had the opportunity to come up with what my ideal classroom.  I took this task very seriously.....maybe too seriously.... Here's what I came  up with (please keep in mind that this was very difficult and I have already thought of ways to change it!):
Between all the meetings and emails, School Outfitters also brought me furniture to try out in my classroom.  I was brought four different types of  chairs and two different kinds of desks.  My students have used these products for almost two months.  Check out my pictures below and let me know what you think.  Would you find these chairs or desks to be useful?  Have you used anything like these in your classroom?

Stay tuned....... I will keep you up-to-date with my classroom transformation.  What is something you would want for your classroom if you had the opportunity???

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Currently January 2016

I am linking up with Farley to tell what I am Currently doing in 2016.....

Listening:  I am listening to my seven year old jamming out in her room to Taylor Swift.  She asked for the CD for Christmas.  I was a little hesitant, but I went ahead and got it for her.  She LOVES it!

Loving:  I love the time that I was able to spend with my two children, husband, parents, sisters, brother-in-laws, in-laws, nieces, and friends.  It was so nice to relax and get ready for the new year.  It was a MUCH needed break!

Thinking:  During the school year, I go to bed around 9:00.  I love my sleep.  My day starts at 5:00 am, so it's important I go to bed early.  During my winter break, however, I stayed up way too late and slept in (sleeping in = 7:00 am in my house).  It is going to be SOOO hard hearing my alarm clock go off tomorrow morning.

Wanting:  SNOW!  It was 60 to 70 degrees during winter break.  That is very unusual for Ohio weather.  I miss the snow.  I want some snow days!!!

Needing:  I need to get off the computer and make dinner.....enough said.

One Little Word:  Love.......I want to spend this year loving all that I have in life.  Sometimes I think I take things for granted.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my Currently January 2016.