Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Heart is Singing

Today was a wonderful day. In the midst of changes in our district and adoption of the common core we needed to find a way to show how ag and project based lessons can fit in with our core instruction time. That was my morning.

Maybe that doesn't sound like the most fun I could have on my 2nd official day of summer vacation, however, the afternoon session was joyful.

When we (my teacher friends and I) got back from our lunch break and after I spent 15 minutes with our retiring teacher who is giving me her room and 33 years of teaching supplies and goodies, I went into our "work room." What I saw was amazing. In fact I whispered to the teacher next to me "This makes my heart sing." And then she gave me a look that indicated that she thinks I am weird.

They were filling in a chart. A year-at-a-glance chart. (Which happens to be on my summer bucket list.) Well, I got a chart and started filling it in as well. We worked on adding K-2 science standards and I listened as two teachers worked on 2nd grade social studies standards.

If I knew how to upload the end result I would do that now to show what got me so excited. But I don't, so I won't. You can just imagine it.

More time in my room. Packing and sorting for the next phase of my move.

Now, for the next reason my heart is singing. My county is in the middle of wheat harvest. As I was driving down country roads and highways to get home I saw numerous combines and wheat trucks in fields. Working like crazy to get as much wheat cut as possible before any rain comes.

I've lived in Kansas for almost 22 years and I don't remember feeling this way about harvest before. Perhaps it has to do with the combine ride my son got the day before. Or the huge way that ag has influenced me over this past school year. Or the tour I had of JaKo farm on Monday. Whatever the reason, I am pleased that I have embraced Kansas and all that it can offer me (including the thunderstorm right now, and the tornado watch around my state tonight).

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Birthday Celebrations

I love my birthday. I love people making a big deal over me. So it makes sense that I would make birthdays a big deal in my classroom as well. And I hope that is what I did for each student.

On the day we celebrated the birthday I covered the birthday students' desk with wrapping paper.

I got the idea from my son's fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Harder. At the end of the day the student takes the wrapping paper home.

At some point we have the actual celebration. It starts off with having the birthday kid (B.K.) sit in a special chair and the rest of the class asks the B.K. questions to get to know him better. Questions like: favorite restaurant, favorite ice cream flavor, sports team, activity, etc. It if fun to watch the students learn to address the B.K. and not me. I write the responses on the chalkboard.

The we sing to the B.K. Not the regular "Happy Birthday", but we sing "On the Day That You Were Born" by Red Grammar from the album Hello World. By the third or fourth time singing it this year, they knew the words and did a really fine job. It is a lovely song that celebrates the B.K. and then all of the rest of us at the end. Sometimes the mom was in the room when we sang and she would get tears as we sang it to her child.

Now it is time for birthday cards. Each child works on writing a birthday card (given a sheet of copy paper) while the B.K. hands out the treats. The birthday card has some requirements: "Dear B.K., Happy birthday. (at least one sentence about why you like the B.K.) Sincerely/Love/From, your name." And then they can create a picture for the B.K. When it is completed it is placed on the B.K.'s desk.

I forgot his birthday paper. Oops. I put it on the next day. We were celebrating an unbirthday.

When treats are delivered the B.K. takes the first bite and then everyone else can enjoy the treat as well. (A couple of times I made popcorn for the treat.)

During this whole time I play the album Hello World and it is fun to hear the students singing along (one of my favorite parts). I also enjoy watching the B.K. read the cards as they come in. The smiles are priceless.

At our school (since we are smallish) the B.K.s love to bring too much treats so they can go to all the teachers and staff and hand out treats. I would often get treats throughout the year from students in other classes. The rest of the class is so familiar with this that they do not even feel left out when I can eat a cupcake and they can only watch.

When the day ends it often takes an extra bag to take home the cards and wrapping paper. (I do not know why the kids want the paper, but oh well, they can have it.)

It is a very lovely time together. Back in November my teaching buddy, Miss Murphy had a birthday. I had the kids in both of our classes make her cards (same format as above) as a surprise. When we delivered them to her my class also sang to her "On the Day That You Were Born." Her class did not know the song. Well, Miss Murphy was touched and as she listened to the song she got tears in her eyes. It was not my goal to make her cry, just let her know how special she is to each of us.

I like the way we celebrated birthdays, but perhaps there is something else to add.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Math Relay Race and End of the Year (as I Know It and I Feel Fine)

Yesterday I wanted to play with my students. Thanks to Katie at Queen of the First Grade Jungle I printed off a math relay race.

I split my kids into 3 groups (because I had 2 other grown ups around to supervise), gave each group a bag with the exact same questions/prompts. It was fun. The kids had fun.

One of the prompts said to skip around the playground and count by 2s. As I watched them go I felt like Maria from The Sound of Music. The kids were in a line (and it happened to be tallest to shortest, and there is a big difference in my class since I have both 2nd and 3rd) skipping around the playground, just like the vonTrapp kids. (I love that movie and can quote most of the lines.)

It just made me smile.

Today was the last day. Bitter sweet. Sad to be done, but glad to be done. I got presents. I never got presents when I taught in special ed. A water bottle. M and M's. Sonic gift card. 2 separate bouquets of flowers. Many cards. And a hug from each as they departed for their summer.

Tomorrow I need to pack up what's left of my room and get ready to move it. I am going to teach first grade next year. Our current first grade teacher is retiring, so I am moving into her room. Some big teaching feet to fill. I can only hope that the whole school will be easy on me as I try to fill the room with energy and ideas and good teaching.

It is the end of the year as I know it and I feel fine.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another Field Trip

Am I crazy? Perhaps. I scheduled field trips back-to-back. But it was either that or not have one.

Miss Murphy and I took our classes to the Great Plains Nature Center today. It was awesome.

My trick...keep them fed and watered. So to accomplish that each student left the bus to go off wandering with a granola bar to eat. We split the students into 5 groups with an adult and sent them off with a map and instructions to be back at the pavilion in 75 minutes to have lunch.

My group had a great time, but seemed to be going in circles and didn't get too far. Other groups almost made it all around. Several of us thought of sending up flares so someone, anyone, would come and tell us how to get back to the pavilion. It was crazy fun.

We saw dragonflies, fish, ducks and loads of poison ivy (I think I have poison ivy, or maybe I'm just itchy because I think I have some).

Lunch was uneventful, except that I didn't pack my own son's lunch full enough. He was still hungry, so I gave him my granola bar that I hadn't eaten. He was still hungry. Oops.

Two wonderful ladies from the Center gave us tours in the afternoon. We learned more about the grounds and specifically about animal habitats. She even showed us some king snakes, a tarantula, a tiger salamander, and their mealworm colony (I did not need to get close to that).

I was sort of having a mini-moment while we were feeding some geese, turtles and ducks and one of my sweet boys came to me and gave me a side hug. He stayed there for just long enough and then went back to doing what he was earlier. Mini-moment over. Thank you special boy.

As each person got on the bus I gave them peanut butter crackers and they got their water bottle.

I kind of thought the bus ride back to school would be quiet, but they forgot to sleep, maybe they were extra loud in order to stay awake.

We were super excited to wear our class t-shirts on this trip. They arrived from Utah yesterday. Here we are in the shirts by our school just before we left. Each of us made a self-portrait and the ladies at Whitney Daniels Designs created these adorable shirts.

So tonight I am recovering. Gear up for two great days of playing together and bringing closure to our amazing year together.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Fishing Trip

Miss Murphy likes to fish. Me, not so much. She wanted to take her class and my class fishing.

Today was the day. I was not looking forward to it, but I had the best day!

Miss Murphy planned and organized it all (except for the helpers from my class), all I had to do was show up with a group list.

There were 9 grown ups (some parents, and a grandpa) helping my 20 kids fishing. I was able to meander around and take pictures and enjoy the day with the kids.

Here are some pictures of the day.

This is my absolute favorite picture of the day. (Above)

Hot dogs for lunch by some wonderful ladies.

I loved being invisible and listening to the relaxed conversations my class was having with each other. The conversation is what I think of when I think of a couple of friends hanging out. Today fishing was the backdrop and friendships were deepened. What a perfect way to end the year.

Three more days.
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Friday, May 18, 2012

A New Sheep Home

Wooly, Lily, Lucy Belle and Black Bob have gone to their summer home. I took pictures of the operation (get the sheep from the pen into the trailer), but they are on a camera at school and I could not get them before leaving today.

Everyone wanted to help (and we were all out to witness the operation). How do I choose when 21 hands are up and willing? Two helped with the big ewes. That was easy. The ewes are easily enticed to stand still if you offer corn in their feeding trough, and that is how the wonderful Sommer (mom to one of my students) got halters on the two.

I should have put on my chore boots, because my foot got trampled by Wooly, or was it Lily, I'm not sure who, but I am now the poster child for not wearing sandals into the sheep pen. Leading them to the trailer was work, but done without incident. Getting them in was another story.

The babies were trickier, but Sommer managed just fine. Bob was timid and not sure about being lead from his safe pen, but since he is so little he was pulled/lead outside. Lucy was a stinker. Not moving, and probably 70 pounds by now. Sommer was pulling and a kid was pushing. When she got outside she finnegled her way out of the halter. You should have heard the children. Screaming and running. Sommer was calm and got the children quiet and let Lucy go back into the barn and again got control of her and started out to the trailer.

Getting them into the trailer was hard, because they did not want to go in, and were just so stubborn about it. A big wheeww from both Sommer and me when the trailer door was shut and locked.

It was fun to let the children climb on the trailer to see "our" sheep and say good-bye to them. That is the picture I most wanted to share. Perhaps next week.

In regular work we are having LOTS of birthdays (summer celebrations), making sure we know what perimeter is, and learning the history of our nearby town, Newton, which used to be known as the "wickedest town in the West." We are mostly happy that Newton is not wicked anymore (some would like more cowboys).

Only four days left in this school year. Two will be field trips (nothing like waiting until the kids are DONE with school to try to corral them into field trip behavior) and then activities to pull closure to our year.

Sommer sent a picture of the big ewes enjoying the fresh grass in their summer pasture. They look so happy.

My toe still hurts.
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Good bye wonderful class

Only five days left. I am going to miss these second and third graders. When I'm in the middle of the day I just want to sigh--they have been soooo chatty this week--where is my well-behaved class?

Today as we were leaving, my student's whose job it is to wish us good-bye, wrote the good-bye message on the chalkboard. I wish I had taken a picture. I will remember this always. "Good bye wonderful class". I didn't prompt her to write a message, she did it on her own. I never prompt what the good bye message could be. This was truly a heart-felt message from a sweet second grader.

This is what I want to take into the next five days. We are a school family. We have each others' back. We have fun together. We enjoy each other. We care for each other.
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Monday, May 14, 2012


More last minute lessons. They didn't get done earlier, because we were super busy with waiting for the lambs to be born, then taking care of lamb and mother, cleaning out the sheep pen (more than I ever thought I would), and so many other projects that go along with our ag school.

Today the students rotated through five magnet stations (there were six, but I opted out of the last for time and supply issues). I was totally surprised how well it went. The station booklet and direction that I found on TpT was free. Thanks Ashleigh, the kids loved it and they learned so much.

Here are some pictures.

Learning about magnets and how they could "float".

What is magnetic and what is not?

How many paper clips can a horseshoe magnet hold on top? Or on the bottom?

My favorite part was at the end of the rotation time asking what they learned or surprised them. Wow--they did learn something and they practiced working together in a group. Win-win.

Tomorrow we have field day in the afternoon. So glad the weather has been fabulous.
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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Summer Bucket List

Teri, over at A Cupcake for the Teacher, is having a linky party. I have never joined a linky party before, but this looks like a great one to test myself on.

I love lists and planning, so this one is perfect for me.

1. Create a year-at-a-glance for reading, writing, math, social studies, and science. Incorporate as much agriculture as I can wrap my head around.

2. Read up on and prepare for differentiating math instruction. Perhaps guided math/math work stations.

3. Make one of those cute clip behavior management systems that are all over Pinterest (it's on one of my boards, too--I'm just too lazy to link to it right now).

4. Have a weekend getaway with The Schrock Women on beautiful Lake Michigan.

5. Eat, play games and get to know my sister and her family again (haven't seen them in two years) when we all arrive en masse at my folks house in Indiana.

6. Read novels, just for me, that have absolutely nothing to do with teaching.

7. Go to baseball and basketball games to watch my sons play.

It seems a bit silly to add things that I know I will do (# 4 and 7), but then I know I can for sure mark something off. And I know that as sure as I plan all this, life will happen.

Maybe my kids will want to create a summer bucket list. It might look like this: go to The Twisted Cow (every week), play on iPad and iPod, read a tiny bit, swim once or twice, fight with each other a lot, and never practice piano. 

This summer will be awesome!

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Friday, May 11, 2012


Shoes for me have to be functional and nice for me to look at. Even though I do not spend much of my day looking at them.

I have been known to wear ballet slippers for a day of substitute teaching because they were fashionable. I did not care that by 8:30 I had red marks on my feet from them. (I have since given those shoes to Et. Cetera.)

Today I really wanted to wear my new Teva flip flops. So I did. They do not have much support, but I didn't care. 

I gathered my class at 7:50, went to our room, started with lunch count, and about 8:00 as I bent over to get something a terrible pain shot across my lower back. It surprised me a bit and I told my class, "I think I just hurt my back."

My next thought was--flip flops. I took them off and walked around without any shoes on for a bit, but that didn't make much difference. So, I spent the day complaining that my back hurt. I had tennis shoes I could have put on. Or my chore boots. Nope, I wanted to wear my flip flops. I even went grocery shopping after school in them.

As soon as I got home I kicked them under my bed and put on different sandals. Immediately my back felt better (or maybe not as bad). This may take several days to stop. Am I going to have to give away my new flip flops?

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012


How will it all get done in the next week?

A master calendar. I just made one. Adding special events, like field trips and field day, and what to assess and when. Looking at the calendar I think it can all get done. That is better than I was feeling 25 minutes ago.

I love creating lists (when I make time to do so) and feeling organized. I am super lucky right now because husband is out playing ball with the boys, so I had the time to create my master calendar. It is nothing fancy. A piece of blank paper with boxes drawn for days and the events and stuff added in pencil.  But putting it on paper is relaxing me. I do not need to stay up until 10 tonight fretting about it all. I know what I need to do and when I'm going to do it.

Perhaps this summer I can create a master calendar for the year and each month. Ohhhh, just thinking about it is making me happy.
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Sunday, May 6, 2012

FIre Alarm

Yesterday was a normal Saturday afternoon.

I left the boys at home at went to school for a couple of hours (to check on the sheep and make preparations for next week).

As I was completing my final task of the day (at 5:10 pm) the fire alarm went off.

I grabbed my pounding heart and my school bag, turned off my light and ran out the door. What should I do? I texted my principal about what was going on.

She thought maybe I could go back into the building and shut off the alarm.

WHAT??? What if there was a real fire? Nope, not doing it.

So she called 911.

I waited out front for the fire truck to arrive. It came in less than 2 minutes. 

Five guys calmly got out of truck. Took my school key and disappeared into the building.

Then a truck and a guy came. Then a tractor and a guy came. Then a truck and the mayor came. They were all in the building, except the one who was maintaining the pump in case they needed a hose. He was trying to impress me with how quickly they responded, and had I ever had that quick a response before? Well, No. I have never needed a fire truck before!

I waited outside. And waited. And waited.

With time on my hands I went to check on Lucy Belle--did she have enough food and water? Yep. When I was walking away from the barn I saw the fire truck pull away. Must be no more danger so I went to the front to find my school key and get the scoop.

No fire. Perhaps dust in the duct work. Freaky. I did not finish my task. I went back today to do that.

I'm really not that good under pressure that has to do with blood or fire. Just ask my sister. So I'm glad someone else could do a job I do not want to do. Thank you volunteer (and not volunteer) fire fighters in every community.

Of course I snapped a picture of the wonderful assortment of responders to my school's emergency...

(Can't see the trucks, but trust me they were there.)
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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Teacher Appreciation and Ag Fair Wrap-Up

I can hardly wait. Tomorrow on Teachers Pay Teachers is a HUGE giveaway for teacher appreciation. So many sellers are putting one of their items for FREE! I know what I'll be doing all afternoon. Hope the family finds something to do while I am shopping at this amazing event.

Last night at 7:00 Walton Rural Life Center said "well done for another amazing Ag Fair." I know I have talked about Ag Fair, but did I really explain what it is? WRLC is a project-based school. We do projects as part of our reading and math all year long, and this Ag Fair is a time when the students can share what they have learned. Well, I did not do such a great job of keeping track all year and keeping our projects up to date. So the past two weeks have been crunch time. 

7 projects going on simultaneously. Some are new projects and some were recapping our sheep and chickens. (Most were new projects that the students chose to do.)

The students practiced their talks. Gathered props. Practiced some more.

Then said their talks 22 times (or more) to the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and other interested members of our community. One session was during the afternoon (1:30-2:30) and the other was last night from 6 to 7. Yep, on a Friday night. It was still a good turn out.

My heart swelled as I watched from the side while the children shined. And then again as the grownups walked out and said how well the students "knew their stuff." Yippee. Successful Ag Fair.

I will leave you with several pictures of this wonderful, and exhausting event.

 (Chicks, Tractors, Soil Erosion)
 (Comparing our sheep with the donkey, who is becoming a permanent member of our school)
 (Making electricity from a carrot, apple, potato, and soil)
 (Students from other classes got to go around and see as well--so much learning!)
 (Soil Erosion by wind and water)
 (Tractors and Implements)

Way to go Walton Rural Life Center students! You rocked this Ag Fair!
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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ag Fair and Other News

Today was a lot of work trying to finish up the presentation boards for the Ag Fair that happens in "2" days. There are 7 groups working on projects in my room. Wheww. 4 boards are completely finished, now they are working on their presentations. 1 board is waiting on attaching some photos tomorrow and a graph. 1 is working, not sure what their end product will look like (they still have an experiment they want to do). And the last is making photo books. Tomorrow I will print the pictures and info and then they can assembly. Done. Now for practice. 

Ag Fair is a big deal. Invitations are sent. To people like school board members, district office workers, parents, grandparents, and lots of interested individuals. We do it twice. Once in the afternoon, and again in the evening. I am looking forward to it, now that the projects are almost completed. 

In other news...
Eyore is staying at the school and has found a new home with Martha, the cow.

(You can also see Brownie in the background.)

Black Bob and Lucy Belle got sheared today by the amazing Erin. She used to be Miss Murphy's student in 5th grade, now she is in college and teaching our students about sheep care.

It was hard to talk above the noise of the clippers (but they managed, of course).

Lucy now. No wool. We weighed her. 65 pounds. Wow, she started life at 6 pound on 2-15-12! Her mama made wonderful milk.

Tomorrow the ewes will get sheared.

Last week Horizon MIlls gave us soccer goals for our playground. We are so thankful to have real goals. My kiddos were beaming when they saw their present. 

Here is a fun picture of all 21 of them in front of one new goal.

16 days of school left. 
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