Thursday, October 24, 2013


We are doing our best. But sometimes it seems as if our best isn't good enough.

Ever feel that way?

The pressure is from ourselves (me and Mrs. Jones), not from our principal, superintendent, or instructional services director.

My district is implementing CC ELA standards this year. It is touch and go. Each week is another chance to do it better.

Next year we will implement CC Math standards. But, really, why wait? So, we are researching the standards and trying our best to teach to them. Now.

We have two teacher's manuals, but neither is CC aligned. We buy units from TpT. I read blogs. Mrs. Jones searches Pinterest. (Don't we make a great team?)

Many days we feel lost and grasping at what to teach next. And how best to teach these young mathematicians who LOVE math.

Today Mrs. Jones was at a Math committee meeting. And during lunch (when I should have been eating and relaxing during my 15 minutes of solitude) I found an email from her. "Check out these two websites."

First one was nothing.

The second one...Well, it was so good I sent Mrs. Jones 4 emails telling her how amazing it was. I may have used all caps in one email. It is more hope. 

Activities are good. Fun. Necessary. 

But actual lessons, that I can tweak to meet my class's needs, are essential. And that is what I found. 

And it is CC aligned.

So, I gotta go. I have a lot to read tonight.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Club for Me

I'm so excited! And I just can't hide it!

This afternoon 4 teachers and I sat around a table and discussed a book. We shared thoughts and insights.

What book has caused teachers to read in the evening, meet after school, and watch videos?

Whole Brain Teaching, find your copy for $12.50 on Amazon.

Today was our first meeting. We will meet every Monday until we finish the book (in mid-February, unless we can't help ourselves and go through it faster!!). Our goal is to read a chapter and have thought about some guiding questions every week.

Since this was our first meeting, we read chapters 1 and 2. The lovely thing about the chapters, is that they are short and manageable.

Some notes I took today:
1. In a Whole Brain classroom, the class works together as a team.
2. It is for all ages, from kindergarten all the way through high school (and beyond).
3. Focus a few moments on instruction, then the kids get a chance to reteach.

But the best was this comment: "I have more hope for my class now than I did 3 weeks ago."

I'm already excited about what next week will bring.

If you want more information, you could check out the WBT website or Mrs. Shipley's blog (she is a first grade teacher who has been using WB techniques for a long time, and this year has started a 1:1 iPad initiative in her classroom).

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Five for Friday (10-18 edition)

Happy Friday. And a double happy for is part of my fall break. My school teachers stayed until 8:30 on Monday night and 9:00 on Tuesday night for conferences, so we got Thursday and Friday off.

Here is my last of the week in pictures. At the end I will link with Doodlebugs and her five linky party.

No picture. Just some news. Late Tuesday night I learned that I will not be moving my classroom. What a relief. I really wanted to move in July, and I could next July. But not in the middle of the year if I can avoid it. 

So, my temporary room becomes my permanent room.

Wednesday became the day for report cards, planning and dealing with the mess I made. Don't all my work days end up that way?

Found more files, manuals, and workshop presentation books that the retiring teacher left me. Slowly, I weeded.

And then a partial rearrangement of my permanent room. More work is still needed.

On Thursday family took a day trip to learn more about the Flint Hills of Kansas. We drove for 2 hours. Then hiked for two hours. My older son and I took the 4.4 mile loop, while my younger son and husband took the 6.2 mile loop. We saw what Kansas looked like 200 years ago.

It is hard to tell in this picture, but that hill was H.U.G.E. And there were four more like it. What a work out.

I promised that I would not do any school work on Thursday or Friday, but well, I broke my promise. Time to prep some anchor charts while watching GMA was a good start to both mornings.

Burgers and a shake for lunch on Friday at our favorite burger joint. Freddy's Frozen Custard. In our family it is called "FFC."

Add in a little bit of snow, and it was a great day.

Happy weekend!

Hop on over to Doodle Bugs Teaching to check up on more of my friends, and their days or week.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dinner and Art

My weekend started off great!

Seven colleagues and I went out to dinner on Friday. We tried really hard not to talk shop, but when you love your job as much as we do, it is difficult not to.

After dinner we had a painting lesson. At an art studio. Some of us were nervous. Some of us were intrigued. It reminded me of directed drawings that I did with my class last year (ideas from Art Projects for Kids).

Only this time I was the student instead of the teacher.

Our leader was knowledgeable, but... When we had a question she "did" it for us, and did not give verbal directions for how we could do it.

I never asked a question, because I did not want to be rude and say, "Get your hands off my painting. Use your words and TELL me what to do."

I think I could have learned a lot from her if we were both willing to work with each other, rather than shut each other out.

I willed her to stay away from me (but eagerly listened when she was using her brush on my friends' paintings), and she barely looked at my canvas. Luckily I was the very farthest away from her.

Wow, I did not know how frustrated I was by the situation. I wanted to learn. I was ready to learn. But she had trouble differentiating.

I think I learned a valuable lesson last night. And it had nothing to do with art. 

My lesson was how I felt when she didn't teach, rather gave away the answers.

Next time my firsties have questions I am going to:
1. Stop
2. Evaluate the situation
3. Offer an alternate verbal, visual and kinesthetic approach
4. Give them enough time to practice what I offered without "giving away" the answer
5. Jump for joy when we both "get" it.

Wanna see the project I created? All by myself. No one else touched it with a brush.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Just Another Day at My Farm School

The weather is gorgeous.

Crisp mornings. Sunny. Warmish afternoons.

I loved watching the flock of birds fly around this morning at recess.

I asked a boy who was running past me, "why are there so many birds?" He responded, "because the birds like Walton." And away he went.

I like Walton, too.

Our temporary/portable unit is nearing completion. 

Perhaps furniture can be moved in the end of next week.

Recess is tricky. Keeping kids safe while the big machines are nearby. Glad when my biggest concern will be throwing up on the merry-go-round.

I showed this video after lunch today...

Why did I show it? Because he was at it again. Today he caught a live mouse. He saw it running around and thought it would be fun to hold it and pet it.

What am I going to do with that kid???

Our secretary overheard me talking with him. She said her daughter does the same thing. WHAT??? This is normal childhood behavior for some kids?

I thought people could die from holding a mouse (or even looking at one).

Apparently some have held wild mice and lived to tell about it.
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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Five for Friday (10-5-13)

Again. I'm late. But I have a good reason. My fun Friday stuff didn't end until 12:30 am, and I had only enough energy to crawl into bed.

But now I am up, awake, drinking some hot tea and ready to tell you about it. When I'm finished, I will link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching and her weekly linky party.

I picked up my boys on Friday at noon from school. We (my boys, my husband, my husband's parents and I) traveled to Lawrence, KS with the intention of attending KU's basketball latenight extravaganza.

What we found was an extremely long line that we joined. We waited about 20 minutes, then it appeared that "the people" were letting the waiters in. We walked. We were hopeful. And then, thirty yards from the door, the line stopped moving.

We waited with this crowd for another 15 minutes. Our hopefulness was diminishing although our spirits were still high. We made an alternate plan.

The alternate plan included driving around the city for a bit, showing the boys some of the sights, landmarks, important places to our family, and looking through a shop downtown. The shop wasn't really on the agenda, but we walked by and decided to have a look around.

There is a pizza place downtown that my husband loves, and takes us there whenever he can (once every two years or less). "The Brutus" had olives (green and black), feta cheese, and artichoke hearts. It was delicious, and huge!

What to do now? Can't see the Jayhawks, and it is lightning and raining hard. How about drive through the storm to Topeka and see some of my husbands' family? Yep, and add in a bunch of Civil War history that my older son was sharing with us. 

Some of my favorite moments are when my kids are talking with us. Often the conversations are school-related learnings, or boy humor. Neither one would I trade for anything else.

My boys were invited to play Dutch Blitz with their cousin and her friend. 

My heart was full. How lucky for me that my family (and my husband's family) are also my friends and that we like being together.

Here's to a great weekend!
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wednesday Wow!

Hello middle of the week! So glad to see you again.

This has been a good week. (At least I think Monday and Tuesday were good. I'm having trouble remembering earlier than this morning...)

Yes, the lessons are going well. The children are coming along with routines. Relationships are being built.

But the cool part? 

I think I'm getting it.



What data to collect. How to use that data to plan instruction. You know, stuff they didn't teach me in college.

Stuff I've been struggling to understand for three years.

So, at the same time that I am celebrating my new enjoyment of data, I am contemplating my next task: learn how to continue to collect data while at the same time teach the kids.

And at home? I've found a tv show to watch with my boys. Great times together.

Thanks Curious Firsties for another opportunity to share some good "stuff."

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