Tuesday, August 28, 2018

BTS 2018

School seems to be going well. 

--I'm ahead in planning.
--We seem to be settling into a good routine.
--No tears (yet).

And over the weekend I asked my husband if I am doing it (school) wrong. I mean... I'm not exhausted in the evening and I'm leaving school at a decent time.

Reminds me of something I wrote 2 years ago. Am I Doing It Wrong? 

Perhaps I am finding the sweet spot of experience, confidence and curiosity. This sweet spot allows me space to try new things.

Today we tried something new. It was day 7 of kindergarten. And we painted with watercolors.

When I told the class what we were doing, another grownup in the room looked at me with wide eyes and pointed to the white pants she was wearing.

"It'll be ok, I have a great plan!"

Our wonderful art teacher taught me last year to use paints in order from light to dark. The only problem is, I cannot for the life of me remember that order (or figure it out for myself!!). Thankfully she is kind and will always help me with the order, because she likes that we are reinforcing what she teaches.

It was completely directed by me (as far as what color to use and how to use it--how to get a puddle of water, how to brush back and forth, not crush the bristles). But the results were amazing!!!

I, of course, was modeling, and when my fish was done, I commented (several times), "This is so much fun! Let's do this again!" The other grownups laughed at me, or maybe they were smiling about the joy that was bursting out of me.

The project is now hanging proudly in the hallway. Stop by to see the fantastically painted fish sometime, I'd love to show you!

If you can't make it... here is mine.

(And if you want to use watercolors, or any painting, and want to paint from light to dark, remember, do not go back! and use this order...

(My scribbled note of the order, just moments before the great painting began.)
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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Trends and Band Wagons

I'm a good one to jump on a trend or band wagon.

When I read about something that sounds interesting or good for my classroom, I jump right in.

Sometimes I am concerned that I do it right. Sometimes I just do what I think is right for me.

Lately I've been reading about flexible seating in the FB group I belong to. And teachers are wondering what seating options they need to buy in order to do it.

Here's what I think:

Flexible seating is a mindset, not a set of seating options.

When I started to change my classroom, it started with adding some standing desks (by cutting PVC pipes to add as extenders to the desk leg). Why did I do it? Because I had some wiggly first graders that needed the option of standing to work, and this was an easy way to meet their needs.

Later I added cube chairs and Hokki stools (both funded by Donor's Choose), because I saw these on blogs.

At first I thought I needed them (chairs and stools) in order to say that I am using flexible seating. But the more years I am in the classroom, watching students choose the seats, I see that it is more than equipment.

Flexible seating is a mindset, not a set of seating options.

The last two years I have been immersed in Trauma Sensitive practices. But it wasn't until April that I read in Fostering Resilient Learners that some kids NEED a home base in the classroom. 

(Yes, I am mashing three ideas together: no desks, flexible seating and no assigned seating, and I feel like I can, because I have done all of it.)

Actually, that was a relief to me. I had dabbled in no assigned seats, taught kids how to choose, but it was just never smooth or good. Perhaps it was me and my need for order, perhaps it was the kids and their need for a home base.

As I plan and prepare for another school year, I am so hopeful.

**We will start with assigned seats. And reassess as the year moves forward.
**We will have options for seating as I recognize who needs what and try out choices.

What is a flexible seating mindset?

Be open to the non-conventional. Be able to recognize that each student may learn best using something other than the standard chair and desk. Try out some options. Some work for a bit, and then need to be switched. Be open to changes. Be open to growth and that preferences may change over time.

If you decide to adopt a flexible seating mindset, good luck and best wishes; and I'd be happy to hear about your journey with flexible seating!!!

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Thursday, July 5, 2018


Dedication to a cause.

Dr. Becky Bailey says that when we say our commitments out loud to someone we are more likely to follow through. And since I have finished rereading and note-taking Creating the School Family, it is time for me to make some commitments for the coming school year.

**Create a friends and family book (or board)

**Take photos of all the grown ups that work with the kindergarteners inside and outside of our classroom. These photos will be "working" photos--"time to go to music, see the picture of Mrs. Tucker, she will be your teacher." Or, "You are bleeding, this is Nurse Holly, go see her in her office."

**Visuals. Carry my good camera with me all the time at the beginning of the year to get photos of students in line in the hallway, or in the lunch room, and stage photo ops of using the restroom, getting a drink, and every other time/situation that is chaotic in our classroom or school. (Perhaps scour TpT for resources, or learn how to make them myself... Any takers to teach me how to do this?)

This resource from The Primary Party would be perfect! Visual Direction Cards

**Use images of what I WANT students to do

**Train my eyes to see a misbehavior as a call for help. Help by teaching skills. (Use self-talk to remind myself that when a student does not know the name of a letter, I do not get frustrated, I reteach and offer opportunities to practice. The same goes for social skills-teach and offer time to practice.)

**Refine my start of the day routine. Make sure that all four parts (unite, disengage stress, connect, and commit) are included each day. May even do this between subjects or after lunch/specials.

And a reminder from Dr. Becky Bailey:

Compassion seeks to uncover similarities, embraces differences, and is based on shared power.

I wish us all well: the teachers who are resting/reading/planning/collaborating; the families who are doing the best they can and want the best teachers for their kids; and anyone else who in some way supports the education of the adults of our future.

These clouds.
On my walk this afternoon I was struck by the beauty of these clouds. They were even better in real life.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Adventure Time

Today is a holiday and I wanted an adventure.

So I created a day full of fun and learning.

Thankfully my friend and her kids were up for this as well and we took off on our adventure!

This air-conditioned bus took us on an amazing 1.5 hour guided tour through part of the tallgrass preserve.

We were so excited to see the tiny dark spots through the window. Were they buffalo???

Our bus driver/tour guide/park ranger stopped and let us out to see a buffalo, up close!

At our second stop, Mr. Park Ranger was saying so many things that I wanted to remember, so I pulled out my phone and started the notes. As I was finishing, my friend says--"are you taking notes?" Of course. ;-)

As we stood at this point (the highest in the 11,000 acres), feeling the wind (thank goodness since it was nearly 95 degrees), Mr. Ranger reminded me about the name Kansas. It comes from the native people, the Kansa. The People of the Southwind. 

See off in the distance, a faint line where the sky meets the land? He said that it is about 15 miles away! So cool.

He talked non-stop. I loved it!  So much information. He really knows the prairie and used that knowledge to remind us that we need to take care of the earth.

And when the bus tour was over, we toured the historic limestone house.

When this house was built, Mr. Jones spent $25,000 on it. These are the steps from the front door looking up.

To the left is a sitting room.

To the right, another sitting room.

I would love to take my students here for a field trip!!!

When you are in Kansas, I would be happy to meet you at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, take a bus tour, hike around, fish, tour the house and barn and share the views with you.

It was a fantastic day and we cannot wait to have another adventure together.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Dreams and Baseball

I had a dream last night.

A school dream. 

Not a BTS dream, rather we were into the school year I just had not got my act together regarding management and regulation.

The gist: there was a conflict in the classroom and instead of offering skills to the students, I was irritated that they "were not listening, being respectful, yada, yada, yada." I then found myself unregulated and things spiraled down.

The scene playing out in my dream was similar to situations from the past two years.

I'm not surprised I had this dream, because I've started rereading Creating the School Family by Dr. Becky Bailey. It's been 6 years since I read it and I've been surprised how much self-regulation talk is in the beginning chapter. The other time I read it I was focused on routines and rituals that I wanted to start in my classroom, and this time I find myself taking copious notes on the why I am doing it.

In real life I fail a lot in managing the emotional mayhem that happens in my classroom. However, at the end of this year I was not just failing, I was failing forward. I mean: I was messing up, and felt safe enough to talk about the situation with my principal (which was scary--are teachers allowed to talk about how they screwed up and still keep their job?). Mostly she listened, and while I babbled on, cried, and blew my nose, I came to see where I veered off-course. I came up with my own plan while she smiled at me, hugged me and let me know that she still valued me as a person and as a teacher.


I love summertime when I can watch all the Royals baseball I can handle, any time of the day.

The other night while I was watching, one of my favorite players made a mistake on the field. For all the people to see. It was a mistake that MLB players should not make. It cost an out or a run or both (I can't remember all the details).

This is what fascinated me: the commentator talked about the mistake, what was wrong, what he should have done. And then in a nice voice he said, he will learn from that mistake. He will go into the dugout, talk to a coach and not make that mistake again.

I felt so happy for that ball player, because he was given the time and chance to do it right. Sure, we were all sad it happened, but he gets a do-over. How wonderful for him.


I am lucky to work in a school system that values our teachers, provides us with training and support to become better. Allows for do-overs. But here's the thing--

I have to be open to listening, to reflect, to want to change and be committed to doing what is right for my students no matter how hard it is or how many times I have to do it.

Yes, I will probably get down on myself for mistakes I will make in the next year, but I will then pick myself up and read the poster I found yesterday...

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Classroom Reveal 2017-2018

Usually teachers reveal their classrooms in August or September. I just don't have time or energy for that. Plus my room feels like a work in progress all year.

Friday I had my good cameral at school and took some photos. It is still a work in progress, but I love how it feels right now. 

The "front" of the room. The whole class teaching area. The "Student of the Day" and his/her table group gets to sit on the blue couches behind the carpet. My favorite parts here are the little red chair and the gray chair. I sit in the gray chair to read books to them, and the little red chair to be close to them while I demonstrate something.

Moving around to the left, a side of the class. My favorite part of this picture is the letter/phonics cards that hang. We review them daily in a variety of ways.

The "back." Behind the six doors that you see is my least favorite part of the class. Back there are hooks for coats and backpacks and a wonderful place to go hang out with your friends.

The other side. My favorite part are the windows. It looks into a grassy area, so we are not distracted by recess or a road. I love the sunlight!

The "Teaching Table." The bulletin board has grown with us this year. It holds our high frequency words. If they are written in green marker, the word "follows the rules." If the word is written in red, it does not "follow directions." I love that saying. One of my kinders has named the red words that--words that do not follow directions. 

And my very favorite! Class photos (more to add tomorrow on the far left), and moving right: individual photos and names, balloons with kid photos, our zones check-in, and the Safe Place, and description of the zones.

I love how colorful this area is, and the kinders flock to it, they love seeing pictures of themselves and their classmates. 

Soon I will pack this all up for the summer. I wonder what will be the same next year...

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday Five

I used to never miss a Friday post and linky party with Doodle Bugs Teaching. (Are there even linky parties any more? Does this idea age me???) Like years ago. But tonight I'm feeling like sharing five random things...

1. Kids made awesome flowers for our hallway bulletin board. 

2. It was joke day at school, and I told the BEST joke! 

3. Twice I was able to calm an unregulated kid. I used the skills I have gathered and remembered! My principal was proud of me and she told me so. Yep, she knows me, and how to get me to do that again. I had another teacher take the rest of my kids and I did the hard work. It was hard, and so very rewarding!

4. After school, as I was sitting in my quiet room, I felt a little sad and lonely. I know them so well, and they know me. I miss them when they are not with me.

5. I took pictures of my classroom today. All the way around. I'll show them another day. But it is just not the same without 21 smiling faces looking at me. 

What randomness happened in your room today?
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