Sunday, August 31, 2014

Weekly Summary 8/31/14

This is it! Students come back on Wednesday!  Lots of thoughts and feelings happening right now.  Lets see if I can make a 3-2-1 summary of it.  If you would like to join in on the challenge, click here.

3 things I found out this week that have me worried:
1. Got a call from my father-in-law this week and my mother-in-law is not doing too well.  They found "stuff" on her lungs and pancreas, but since it is the holiday weekend they won't be able to do anything until Tuesday.  My fil had to take her to the hospital yesterday because she was in a lot of pain and turned yellow.  The thing that is the hardest for me and my husband is that they are in Kentucky while we are in New Jersey.  I really want to be there right now to support them in person and it really has me upset.

2. My school has partnered with Achievement Network Inc, to do our benchmarks and coaching.  While I'm optimistic that this is going to be a good thing and help our school out, I am worried because I'm not sure how the pacing is going to work.  First of all, it is totally different from our pacing last year and our textbook.  I have plenty of experience not following a textbook and that doesn't bother me too much, its just that this textbook series that we adopted last year seemed to be laid out pretty well and the topic flowed nicely.  Also it seems like a lot to fit in before the exams.  I'm sure it will be ok, just has me worried since its new.

3. All of the teachers in my school are going to be required to co-teach some classes this year.  I am actually super excited about this since I am going to get to co-teach in two of the eighth grade classes 3 times a week.  These are my last year 7th graders so I'm happy I'll get to continue a little bit with them.  I am worried about the logistics of co-teaching with the other teacher.  We get along fine, but I think we have very different styles.  I guess it could be worse since I'm only going into his classes and he is not co-teaching in mine.  He is absent a lot and does need a lot of "bathroom breaks" so I guess my biggest worry is that I'll be responsible for teaching the majority of these classes in addition to my own.

2 things I am enjoying this week:
1. I found a case with some old CD's in them and I have been really, really, really enjoying listening to them.  I almost forgot how happy I am when listening to the band Rush.

2. Here is another one that could go up in the 3 things that happened that have me worried this week, but I'll focus on the positive side of it.  My baby girl got her DRIVER'S LICENCE!!!  I am a nervous wreck everytime she leaves the house, but on another note I've noticed our relationship is changing  and its actually pretty nice.  She has always been a very good child and never given us any trouble (other than getting C's in math which burns me up!!)  I can't really describe how this is changing but we spent the whole day together and it was really noticable.  She is becoming a grown up and although I am sad she is not my baby anymore, I am proud of the woman she is becoming.

1 thing I am looking forward to this week:
Meeting my new classes!!  I always go into the first day knowing my 8th graders since I had them as 7th graders, so this year I am getting four new groups of kids to get to know.  I am excited since I have watched most of them grow from 1st graders and 2nd graders at my school!  Its going to be a great year and I can't wait for it to start!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Biggest Teaching Accomplishment So Far

Today was an amazing day.  We've been back at school since Monday with the usual PD and classroom set up.  We spent the morning learning about our new partnership with Achivement Network, which seems pretty cool and scary at the same time and then after lunch we went to an offsite PD.  It turned out to be one of those indoor trampoline places.

Let me just say that it was a blast!  We had so much fun and acted like kids for the whole two hours we were there.  The first thing we did was the open jump.  I learned how to do a jump and turn off the wall, mastered the butt bounce and the knee bounce!  After the open jump we played a game of dodgeball.  I didn't want to play and was going to stay in the open jump for awhile but decided to go ahead and play.  I had no clue what I was doing but I ended up being the last man standing and won the game for our team!
After some more open jump, we went over to the foam pit.  This is where two really cool things happened.
First thing was only cool in the after thought.  We were having a race, split into two groups and one person from each team jumped down the strip into the foam pit and had to go all the way across and get out.  I am not a person who curses but when I got out I had to exclaim it was f****** hard!  Anyway, one of our teachers who is kind of an outcast at our school got stuck trying to get out.  I could see that he was struggling so I immediately ran over to help.  Turns out he had asthma and was really having a bad time.  The nice thing though was that he really appreciated the help and I felt glad that I didn't even think about it while others just stood around and almost didn't care.
The next thing was when one of the 4th grader teachers was getting ready to go.  I told her how when I was in there I noticed that the natrual instinct is to try and push your upper body up, but what you really have to do is focus on getting you knees up and let them propel you forward.  I must have explained it like 10 times before she got to go, but when she did it was like watching perfection! She totally did exactly what I told her to do and just glided across the foam blocks.  It was AWESOME!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weekly Summary 8/24/14

I'm participating in the #MTBoSChallenge to blog at least once a week for the rest of the year.  Today I am choosing the weekly summary prompt that you can read about at Teaching Statistics.

3 Things That Happened This Week

  1. Finished decorating my room!  What a relief that is, I'm not really the most crafty person and I usually have the suckiest bulletin boards, but this year with the help of Pinterest I feel a little better about it.
  2. Sat in on a bunch of interviews.  We are hiring a 7th Grade ELA teacher, World Language teacher, ELL teacher, Sped teacher and a multi-pupose aid!   Met some really good candidates so demos next week. Just wish we weren't cutting it so close, feel bad for our new hires. They all seemed really positive and up for the challenge though!
  3. Learned that we are going to start using Achievement Network Inc. for our benchmark assessments.  I am pretty excited about this and nervous at the same time.  In the past the whole process of creating and grading the benchmarks has been very stressful and time consuming.  If this service works the way its described we can spend more time on actually analyzing the data and using it to reteach.  There is also coaching involved. One of our pd's this week will be on it so I will learn more then.
2 Things I'm Nervous About This Year
  1. The big grade level change.  But more specifically the test scores.  I've improved my test scores every year that I've been teaching, but the are still pretty bad.  (Went from 34% to 67% over the last 4 years.)  While the 5/6 scores were 80% this year!  Exciting for our school, but now I have to make sure they don't drop!
  2. I want this to be the year I finally get back on track with my diet and workouts.  I say it every single year and I can't get it together.  So I'm nervous as I sit here facing the school year with the thought of adding another 10-15 pounds to my already overweight body, which has been the trend for the past four years. Scared to death is more like it.  I'm already seeing some of the effects of aging and I know that being overweight makes it worse.  Time to take my health seriously!
1 Thing I'm Looking Forward To:
  1. Mani/Pedi and haircut today!!!  I never splurge on myself, so since I earned some extra cash at the bodybuilding show yesterday I am treating myself to a spa day!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Room is Ready!!!

I have been working on my room since last Wednesday.  I am really excited about my room this year.  I'm not really a fan of themes, but this year I adopted a superhero, patriotic theme and I'm really digging it.  I think in the end your room has to be comfortable for YOU since you are the one that spends so much time in it every day!

So here it is the final product!  (almost, one tiny thing to do first)
above my IWB obviously, excited to add the place value chart for my fifths!
This board is for my "Fantastic Fifths" (homework, objective, essential quesiton)
"Super Sixth" side.  This is where my laptop goes to hook up to my IWB, and where my Elmo lives!
My comic theme clock background from Pinterest...was it a fail?  Can't decide.
Divisibility rules!  New desks sooooo happy about that! Shelf for manipulatives, INB stuff and student folders.
Board idea stolen from the fabulous "Sarahs" at and
Here's my desk and tiny to-do, have to staple my board!  This is the most organized my desk will look all year!!!
Wooo Hooo!  Love this so much more than my SWAG poster from last year!!  Below is my calendar, wish I got a full wall shot!
Another Pinterest idea.  This is literally my word wall, the vocab words will extend off of the bulletin board.  I should probably just get rid of it next year.  
This I think still needs more work, but I'm not sure yet what to do!
All in all I am really happy with it.  Next week we have four full days of PD, with a little bit of time here and there so I can do a little bit.
On a side note, these past two days were spent mostly interviewing.  One of the cool things about working at a charter school is that the teachers are so involved with everything.  This year we are filling an ESL, 7th grade ELA and World Language position.  So far so good, next week will be demo's and they are always fun!

A peek into our classrooms was the topic for this weeks #MTBoS Blogging Challenge!  If you would like to share yours click here!  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

3-2-1 Sunday Summary 8/17/14

3 Things to I Need to Do:

  • Finish my room-I covered my boards with black paper since we didn't have much in stock and I thought it would make the colors pop, but I'm not loving it.  I hope that when I go in tomorrow it feels better.    
  • Work on my reflections for the Math is Personal smooc I am participating in.
  • Work on lessons-would love to get the first unit for 5th and 6th done.  This includes finding good juicy problems to work on each day and creating the centers!

2 Things I Am Looking Forward to:

  • Lunch with my college buddy!
  • Finishing my room!

1 Thing I  Am Struggling With:

  • Not knowing my schedule or even how many minutes I have for each class.  It is so hard to plan without knowing this!  We probably won't have anything solidified until the following week.

Do you have a Sunday Summary to share?  Please head over to Sherri's blog and link up your blog post since I don't have a clue about how to put the link in my blog!!!  Don't forget to also share your post on twitter using #MTBoSChallenge.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

1st 5 Days 2014-215

Must once again send a big thanks and shout out to the wonderful teachers of the #MTBoS who decided to continue our blogging challenge and especially for this prompt! If you would like to join in on the fun take a look here for all of the details!

I have been pinning and saving all kinds of activities and ideas to Evernote , but I think its time to really pull it all together and make a plan.  I've got the first day pretty much nailed down but the rest is going to be more like an outline.

Day 1
I usually start the year really knowing all of my students except for the few kids that transfer in over the summer.  This year is a whole new group of students that I will probably recognize and know a handful, but for the most part they are going to be very new to me and of course won't know me as well as the 7/8s would.  So my goals for the first day are:

  • Get to know my students.
  • Let them get to know me.
  • Teach them how to enter my room. (I am VERY particular about this!)
Basically when students enter my room I am very strict about them entering quietly and quickly and showing me they are ready for business.  No matter what is going on that day, games, parties, career day, I don't care, every single time they come in it has to be like that.  We don't have a bell schedule, students line up outside the door and come in all at once.  Also since we don't have bells, every minute is precious.  So we will probably practice it a bunch of times.  
I plan on letting students pick their own seats for the first three days.  This is where I start learning about them.  Who are friends, who are talkers, who work well together, etc.
Next up I am going to give them a quiz!  I made a fun Kahoot! quiz about me and each of my 5 groups will have an iPad.  I like this activity because we can practice group norms for teamwork and using the iPads. Plus they probably haven't used Kahoot! before so it should be a fun way for them to get to know a little bit about me.  
After the quiz I will have them fill out an "All about Me" form like Dan Meyer's Who I Am activity.

Day 2
This day we will talk more about the norms of the class and I'll start off by doing similar post it activities as Sherri at Middle School Math Rules!

Day 3
Introducing the Interactive Notebooks!  So excited to be going back to these this year!!!  I skipped last year and completely regret it.  I am also excited that Office Depot has a sale starting tomorrow on composition notebooks. 10 cents each!  They have a 3 notebook limit, but I hear Walmart does price matching with no limit!!!  So hopefully I can get a bunch  (ideally 72) so if students didn't get one I can supply it.

Day 4 and 5
Here's where it gets a little tricky.  We don't have our schedules yet so I'm not sure how long my classes will be or when each class will have their double period (they will each get one a week.) 
My plan is to use the workshop model again as well and since each of my classes will have a double block each week we will use the extra class for centers.  So there are a lot of routines and norms that will have to be learned and practiced.  I am toying with the idea of showing the same video Sherri is showing, but like she said the teacher does have a thick Irish accent.  Will have to search the rest of the weekend for another as well, if not, it is a pretty good video.  Really shows how the math workshop should be run.  During these days or on the other days when the class has the extra period we will do The Marshmallow Challenge! 
Also during these two days we will take care of handing out textbooks and setting our goals!

Ok! I think I have a good outline for my start of the year!   Remember if you want to join in on the challenge visit Sherri's blog and join the Linky!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mission and Vision Statements


The mission of The Queen City Academy Charter School is to provide a nurturing and cooperative learning community where each student can achieve his/her maximum academic, creative and physical potential; develop a lifelong love of learning; develop respect for self and others in a multicultural world; develop self confidence and self esteem; function with high ethical standards; and accept responsibility.

I love my school.  We congregate every morning in our auditorium before homeroom and say the Pledge of Allegiance and our school mission statement.  Our Director (principal) or Asst. Director (vice principal) reads the daily announcements and then we are dismissed.  

I think our morning routine really makes us feel like a family, we are a small K-8 school and even though the 8th graders tend to think its a little corny, it is nice to be all together as one school body in the morning.

We started last year by really focusing on our mission, but it kind of faded out.  We say it every morning, so it does get to be a little automatic.  I would like to focus on keeping that mission front and center all year long.  The biggest challenge in our whole statement though is "develop a lifelong love of learning."  I think the staff and students do a great job with every other line in our mission except this one.  

Does your school have a mission statement and how do you carry it out?  

Do you have a mission or vision statement for your classroom?  I tried that last year as a suggestion by Principal Kafele who we had the honor of hearing speak at our school during our PD week.  My vision looked like this:

We will persevere in problem solving.
We will not fear mistakes but embrace them as opportunities for learning. We shall achieve the goal of becoming mathematical thinkers.

I still like my vision statement, but again it fizzled out after the first week or so.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Currently August

I am linking up with Farley for her August Currently!

Listening:  My sister has been telling me about Outlander for awhile now.  I really wanted to read the book, but she let another friend borrow hers and never got it back.  I have to admit the show is a little slow.  I like the idea and the story, but it didn't really capture me that much.  I read some reviews and they say the same thing.  I am going to give it a chance though.  I heard the 6th episode is really good!

Loving:  I have only one more week left before I can get into my classroom for set-up and I feel that this will be the end for me.  I have so much work to do getting ready for this new school year, so I figure I will enjoy my last week :)

Thinking:  I was invited to one of my former student's Quinceanera.(oops totally botched the spelling up there because I was too lazy to go look at the invite!)   I am excited to see what exactly happens at these since I have a lot of students that talk about them all the time.  Her mom was a former coworker who I stayed friends with and another teacher I work with will be there too so it should be fun!  I'm just not sure what I'm wearing yet!

Wanting:  So I got a text last night from the Special Ed teacher asking if I got my scores yet and she heard that they were back and the 1st grade teacher's class scored 100% proficient!  I emailed my principal and this is exactly what she said: " Yes they are and 7th / 8th grade keep making strides. They both were in the high 60 percentile. So way to go. Keep pushing!!!! :)"
Last year they were 56 and 57% so I am happy as well that my students are improving, however I want them higher!  I also can't wait to see the breakdown, since I had a high percentage of advanced proficient last year.

Needing:  Well, with my grade change to 5/6 there is a ton of stuff I need and it mostly has to do with the things I need to do.  Too much to list!

1st day:  We go back for a week of PD starting on the 25th.  We get the Friday and following Monday off though!  Kids (students and my own two) Go back September 4th!