Thursday, December 17, 2015

High Strung

Waiting for an after school meeting to start today, visiting with a friend/school person about stuff and I said--

"You know, I'm a little high strung."

She was serious and said--"no, not really. I feel and see your passion, but not high strung."

To which I said--"but my insides are screaming! All the time."

So, how do tame the beast that I feel? Especially today?

Especially every day...

Wish I had kept up with mindfulness.

Thankful for two weeks coming up to fill that cup and create a new path for the high strung beast that lives in me. 
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015


When the day is busy and we are trying to do all the stuff and be the places and take care of the needs, I do not always see the magic.

I saw it tonight as I was reviewing the photos of the day.

The community. 

The growth.

When we take the time to "be" humans, to be social. To take it easy academically, but promote soft skills. When I really focus on observing the little people, I see so much that I am thrilled with.

Compassion. Sharing. Teaching. Helping. Friendship.

They stick up for each other. Like friends, or family.

I do not see this every day, but when I do, I have hope for our future, for their future.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Gratitude Lately

Recently my friend and I have started daily thankful lists. We text our lists to each other just before bed (or the next morning, if we fall asleep before we get it done).

What has this practice taught me? To reflect daily on what I'm thankful for. And to start the day looking for what to write that night. (That was my friend's comment, but I love it also.) 

Many of my lists go like this...

My Family.

My job.

My teacher support network. Both far and near. Those that I know in real life, and those that I wish I knew, but get ideas and inspiration from.

Cozy blankets, delicious drinks, soft lotion,

Often my list is something specific about each of  the above...

My sons who talk to each other, me and my husband and think that it is fun and normal. A student who showed love in a note. Lunch with a friend on a day off of school. A crazy class activity (making pumpkin pie) and coming out on the other side smiling.

There are more. Because when I start being thankful, the list goes on and on...

Michelle, thank you for a linky that gives me space to reflect on what I'm thankful for on this day.


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Thursday, November 5, 2015



Or maybe not. You can decide later, after you hear the story.

Is fear of something the same as not liking something a whole lot? I'm not sure.

I REALLY, really, REALLY do NOT like mice. But I do not think I am afraid of them. Just do not like them. Maybe it is fear. 

Nope. Just dislike.

Moving on... For 3.5 years I have been waiting for this day. Not eagerly, but knew it would happen. A dead mouse made it's presence in my classroom known to me this morning.

The story is long. And not very wonderful.

Except the part with me tearing apart my newly organized space trying to not touch anything and find the source of the smell. Here I was brave.

I was smart enough to document the activity...

And, as my new best friend constructed the removal devise, "I need a picture of this, you're going on the blog tonight." Brave again here.

But when it was time to actually get it, I was screaming, running, and made quite a big scene. Not brave.

Sorry kids who were trying to learn.

I wrote to my students that I was brave. They do not know the details, they were out of the room while the removal happened. 

The rest of the day is a blur. We did stuff. Talked. Learned? Had an extra recess. And I left my wonderful, peaceful, lovely room like this...

I hope to be brave tomorrow and put us (the room and me) back together again.

These monster cookie bars should help!

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Extra Hour

It came.

The email.

At the end of the day canceling the Staff Meeting.

I would have done the Happy Dance, but I was too busy getting stuff done!

See, I listened to Ashely on Periscope last night. (She is from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and really smart...) She was speaking to my heart.

It was all about organization. Sigh. Delightful. Her room is amazing.

So I had ideas about what I would do to make my room more organized, less chaotic.

And I got so much done. I was a work horse! Last one to leave.

I haven't had a teacher desk for 4 years, but still managed (until this year) to clutter up the Teaching Table. Since I'm not cluttering the Table, I am cluttering the bookcase behind the table. 

But this afternoon, the bookcase looks good. My plan book, two folders with important kid info, and the stack of Donor's Choose permission forms that need to be filed. Other papers were recycled or put away (which is her #1 Tip). 

I'd say that was a success.

How about a few photos from last week...

Front of the room...

Middle area...

Back of the room...

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fall Break Begins

Today and tomorrow I am on Fall Break. No schedules, no lesson plans. Just me and my quiet house.

That means that yesterday was a Halloween party in our first grade classroom. Sugar, costumes, a parade, and fun.

A very capable mom (who is a teacher, and a great one) ran the party. All I did was sit and marvel.

Why was I marveling?

Because they were quiet, engaged, and followed Every. Single. Direction that she gave. For 45 minutes she had their attention and admiration. It was like I wasn't even in the room.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not jealous. Seriously.

But this is what I was thinking. (I know, because I quickly jotted it down yesterday and shoved it into my pocket.)

"Do they always sit this quietly? If yes-that's awesome and I need to be ok with some noise when I teach, because it really isn't interfering with the instruction. There is so much engagement. I should video."

The video part--I should video ME teaching, so I can see what the kids are doing that I can't see while I am trying to wrangle some information into 23 wondering/wandering little minds.

I'm getting an idea... Maybe I can write ANOTHER Donor's Choose grant for a GoPro video camera. I have a feeling that watching me would be difficult and great. Both at the same time.

But first, rest, watch bad (and good) tv, drink chai tea, shop with my sister-in-law, and watch my son run at the State Cross Country meet. It's going to be a great 3 more days!

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Post-Conference High

Usually the end of parent-teacher conference days leave me feeling relieved that they are finally over. 

Today is different.

This year is different.

Parents are allies. I've joined them, invited them to join me, in being a daily part of the school experience. That is what is making the difference. It is hard work. It takes time, energy and persistence. But the payoff is amazing.

It's all about the connections. The connections made with the kids, with the parents, and with other teachers.

It's not about what happened last year. It's about this year and how to make it the best possible.

It's not about comparing with another teacher. It's about how to encourage each other, share ideas, and lift each other up.

Tonight I am thankful for all the teachers who have led me, collaborated with me and encouraged me. Tonight I am thankful for the parents who care about their child and work with me to educate their whole child. Tonight I am thankful for 23 first graders who know me very well and give me hugs. smiles and notes. Tonight I am thankful for a family that lets me be the teacher I want to be.

Tonight I am full of gratitude.

That is all.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reimagining Classrooms

I've been waiting and waiting and waiting. So have my many Internet friends.

This summer I was cruising blogs, and found my way to someone new to me. Kayla Delzer (who blogs at Top Dog Teaching) is a friend of a friend. She seems to know about technology and alternative seating in a classroom (a new favorite of mine). She teaches second grade. She travels and shares ideas. 

And sometime during the summer she gave a Ted Talk. Talk about Big Time!!!

The Talk came out today. I watched it. You should too. It is 14 minutes long. Maybe you will find one idea, tip, or inspiration that will make it worth your time. 

Next time I watch it, I need to have paper handy to take notes. But what is in my head right now, is: we are 15 years into the 21st century, does my classroom and teaching reflect that time, or does it still look like it did when I was in school... 

What did you find in the Ted Talk?

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Letters

Ever think about how our lives shift and change and the things that are important shift and change also?

This morning I have done some of that thinking. I'll reflect a bit on it in some letters.

Dear Local Teacher Tribe,
Thanks for being a group of like-minded adults that can share, cry, pray, and be present for each other. The time we spend together is like a balm on my soul. My soul gets scratched and bruised and you understand. Having a group of people to validate my experience and confirm that it is normal is a big deal. I used to teach in my room and not know what is going on. Now, I have others to talk to, be inspired by, and care for. Teaching is a great profession, but finding a tribe has made a difference in my level of satisfaction of my profession. Take care and see you soon.

Dear Sister,
You make me smile. So glad we have phones and can talk and talk and talk. Hope you have a great week.
Your sister

Dear Autumn,
Thanks for coming back. I've missed you. The air feels wonderful and the sunshine is just perfect. Please stick around for a long time.

Dear Royals,
Please win today.
A Fan

Dear Michelle,
I hope you have a wonderful week. Wouldn't it be great if the Cubs and the Royals end up in the World Series? What a great series that would be.

Time to link up with Big Time Literacy and then enjoy a soccer game and a baseball game.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Think, Speak, Celebrate

I think a lot.

Sometimes I think too much. Sometimes I should think a little bit more.

Today I was wondering if I became a teacher so I could talk all the time. Because I really talk too much.

Next week my goal is to talk LESS and let the first graders talk more. It's a great goal. Sometimes I talk to fill the space so that the kids can't talk. Yikes, totally need to find a better way.

As I visited with a wise teacher before school today, she reminded me that every improvement (more words read, more time on task, etc) should be celebrated. So this is what I celebrate tonight...

Some tough to love kids and I have started to play at recess. Like tag and hide and seek and laughing and hugging. It started as just a little thing between me and one student. Now it has spread to more.

Most days I feel like Maria von Trapp, skipping around, leading the children, about to burst into song. Other days I feel like the Pied Piper. The kids just follow. I have not asked them to follow, they just do. I feel kinda famous--they want to play with ME. And I am nothing special, just a teacher who wants to create relationships so that teaching is easier.

It may be that I love recess as much as the students do. I look forward to recess. Our game. The laughter. The time when my only agenda is to run and smile and create a space that is contagious.

Tonight I celebrate the kid in me that is connecting to the kid in my students.
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Monday, September 28, 2015

News From the Farm

Just another Monday...

Meet our newest first grader. She's a little young (3 weeks) and pretty hefty (90 pounds), but our principal made an exception and is letting her stay. :)

She doesn't have a name yet, but my class has brainstormed a few, narrowed it down and tomorrow will be the final vote. It will be decided between both first grade classes.

I feel kind of in charge. But thankfully, another teacher knows more and is a consultant on the case. And the other first grade teacher jumped right in and gave the first bottle. And I think she could easily be in charge, but I guess we will co-lead this project.

It was amusing today as we needed to decide the feeding schedule for the rest of the week and had a stalemate. We Rock, Paper, Scissored to determine the morning feeder. We went three rounds and every time chose the same. It was awesome--we are starting to think alike. And the students enjoyed seeing us do it. 

In other news... Our class has the saying of the year... Do. Not. Panic.

It comes from Roxie. The book about her and some hooligans is so enchanting. Seriously, go check it out and read it. It could make you laugh. (Find it on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore.) So, anyway, we say it a lot. 

During math. Do. Not. Panic. In preparation for lock down drills. Do. Not. Panic. When Mrs. Bartel is having a freak-out moment. Do. Not. Panic. And apparently, they (at least one) say it at home. I love it!!! I think that book may become a beginning of the year read aloud for every year in the future. Just so we can have that saying.

Do. Not. Panic.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Telepathy is Real (in my opinion)

The "First Grade Brain" is still going strong. 

The distance between us is about 20 miles, but the telepathy just amazes me! We think alike and can still finish each other's thoughts.

Mrs. Jones (my soul mate teacher bestie) called last night to tell me about her awesome day, which included apple and crop learning and making applesauce with the kids in her classroom. Super fun, super cool, and super educational.

Low and behold... My class made applesauce yesterday! And we NEVER even talked about it together.

Not all that other stuff happened in my room, but I'm on my way to check out her ideas and incorporate some of them next week, along with an apple poem, and a trip to the apple orchard. 

Well, the trip to the orchard is a stretch, but maybe I can wave my magic wand and make that happen...

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What's New?

So, you know how it is when you are with someone a lot?

You start to know what they are going to say, what they are thinking, and it just feels familiar with them.

It can be a very comfortable feeling.

I find myself saying good-bye to some of my co-workers by saying, "bye, love ya." It just comes out, and then I realize it...

That it is true. I do love them.

Today as the kids were leaving for the bus, we were late and I was just trying to rush them out the door. No hugs, just, get moving!

That's when I felt the arms around my waist. I stopped and gave a hug back and said, "bye, love you."

We have been in school for just a few short weeks, but the love is real.

And thank goodness that first day, the first week, the first three weeks are over for the year.

Routines and patterns are being established. And the familiarity with each other is growing.

And so the year has begun.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Tried to find a linky party.

No one is home.

But I'm gonna party by myself.

Two pictures that make me LOVE my day today...

Shoes lined up after being dumped of sand after recess. There are more shoes around the room as well. I think they did not want to put them back on. Who am I to make them? It's hot, and as long as they are doing the math, I just don't care.

A dance party to celebrate the end of the math testing!!!

Hope you had a fantastic Wednesday--what made it good for you?

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's That Time of the Year...

It's that time of the year,

when I become a cranky MESS.

Also Known As... Benchmark Testing.

I like the data.

But the giving of the tests. That's a whole nother story.

I'm in the thick of trying to get everyone tested, and keep my cool, and follow the protocol and keep it quiet for the best testing situation.

And all I want to do right now is crawl in a hole and take a nap, cuz it is just not happening.

But what I really want to do is teach the kids, like last week. Introduce them to wonderful books. Encourage them to take chances with letters to read or write. Smile at them when they make connections or dig up a detail in the story. Watch them play a fun math game (that is really the lesson in counting and adding on).

So, can we all breathe together. And hope that tomorrow will be a day full of goodness and grace.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Parent Information Night

I can talk to and teach and guide little ones all day.

But their parents? That scares me a bit.

So, every year when "Parent Information Night" shows up, I start to get very nervous. 

Two groups of parents, sitting, looking at me, wondering what I have to say.

They are not scary, really, they are loving parents, just like me. But I am supposed to "know' stuff about their kids and teach their kids and I just want to do a good job. And by the end of many days I can't remember what we did or who learned what, and that is the part that is scary.

But this year was/is different. 

I've been keeping daily notes on my grid (see this post), and posting on a class blog about what we've been doing daily. So, I have stuff on the kids, and the parents already know what we did.


I was still scared at Parent Information Night. But when they lined up to talk to me after my "speech," I felt like I knew who their child was, how they learn, what struggles they have, how I've helped them become successful. All because of the notes I've taken, and reread many times in order to be a better teacher.

And they LOVE the class blog. Being able to read about something that we did during the day helps get the conversation started after school. No more "I don't know" or "nothing," because the parents have a word, activity, or something to remind their child.

Let's face it. Parents just want information. They are not criticizing, or telling us what to do. They just want to know that their child is safe and in a place where they are encouraged to make growth (social and academic) every day. 

I can almost look ahead to Parent/Teacher Conferences without a stomachache...

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Welcome Wednesday! I am super pleased to share a photo today. And link up with Miss DeCarbo.

And leave you with a question...

How do you get your students ready to be independent so that you can pull small groups and teach them?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Firsties

I think it is a good sign that I adore my students.

All of them.

Without exception.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Letters on a Sunday Morning

What I'm thinking on this Sunday morning...

Dear Mrs. Jones,
I treasure our time together. Both now and the past. Thanks for teaching me what you are learning. I have your hula hoop in my van that I was supposed to give to you, but I was so involved in our conversation, that I forgot. It'll be waiting until our next lunch together...
Love always,
Mrs. Bartel

Dear Lesson Plan Book,
I will be waving a magic wand over you later this morning. I would appreciate it if you would fill yourself in... 
A Teacher Who Wants to be Prepared

Dear Magic Wand,
When you have completed the lesson plans, please do the vacuuming.
I've been busy with other stuff

Dear Donor's Choose,
Thank you so much for existing! The Hokki stools arrived this week. The kids are loving the wiggle ability and I love that they are red. Be on the look out for the "Thank You Package" soon, and another project...
A Very Grateful Teacher

Dear Big Time Literacy,
I love this linky! I love what I learn from you on all your blog posts. Thanks for reaching out to teachers in your district and all over the world. I wish you the very best school year ever!
Mrs. Bartel

Time to link up or hop over to Big Time Literacy to read more letters.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Question

I thought I was ready for a full day today. But I'm almost falling asleep. Again.

As I drift off I have a question...

How in the world am I supposed to get "it" all in, and all the "stuff" that I think is first grade appropriate (supervised playing to name just one)? And teach procedures, routines, and that you MUST wash your hands after you use the toilet.

Maybe my dreamland will sort that out for me...

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Five for Friday

I woke up today with a goal.
That goal is: document five parts of my day and link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching.

Here goes:

1. A cold chai tea latte for my drive to work. Not as delicious as the drink yesterday. but a good morning tradition.

2. A beautiful flower from a fabulous firstie.

3. A painting party in first grade.

4. A 7th grade pool party. For my son. I am certainly glad I teach first grade and not middle school. They wore me out!

5. A couch. No picture. but I am certain that teachers the world over are enjoying some R&R this evening. Just. Like. Me.

What five things do you want to remember from today?

Hop on over to Doodle Bugs Teaching and read more Five for Fridays.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Special Drink, A Grid, and Wild Leggings

A special drink...

At "Meet the Teacher" I created the obligatory "All about me" sheet. I got to choose what to include. Because I am the teacher.

I was a little sneaky. You see, I added my favorite drink. Do you see where this is heading?

You know, just in case anyone ever wanted to bring me a drink, they would know that I like chai tea lattes.

Today was my lucky day!!! A very wonderful parent showed up at 2:00 with that special drink. Oh yes, I sipped it right in front of the kids and enjoyed it even after dismissal.

It was lovely.

A grid...

Bowtie Guy was pretty encouraging this past Sunday. He got me excited to keep info on my kids. That I am the expert on these 23 and I need to know it. And let's face it, that is just too much for me to remember in my head. Thankfully he showed and talked about the grid he created to keep track. I whipped one up and started on Monday.

So far I have 4 days of notes. About math. About reading. About behaviors and skills. On all the kids.

I pretty much love looking at the days I've already completed, because there is so much "data." I keep the clipboard with me all the time (with a great pen, of course) and the kids already get that sometimes I just have to stop and write a note. 

It is helpful.

Wild leggings...

I admire the little girls at my school that wear beautiful leggings. It is fun. I want to be fun.

Today I surprised a few folks. And the same girls that I admired told me today that they Love my leggings.

It made me smile, and we all need a smile on a Thursday.

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