stuff

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How I'm Developing the Culture of my Classroom

I'm going to be completely honest here.  I have not been my best teacher self the last few years.  My room has been working on creating a safe environment, so I'm going to extend that to this forum.  

My classroom has been a hot mess the last few years and there is one huge thing that I can pin that on...I have not been conscious enough of building my classroom culture from the start of the year.  I had been trying to simply deal with things as they came about, but that was not working.

My students were out of control because I was always in control.

As one of my favorite pastors (Hi, Dad!) says, "The more you try to control others, the more out of control YOU get."  Ain't that the truth.  I was trying to control things that didn't need to be run by me.  

One of the biggest things that I had let slide was a morning meeting time.  We had intervention right at 8 each morning and then I was placing all the emphasis on academics for the rest of the day.  I don't like to put that out there, but there is a huge emphasis on the content in classrooms.  Gotta get those standards in, darn it.  Breakfast started at 7:40, intervention started at 8:00 and the day took off from there.  I wasn't allowing the time to slow down and figure out my kids.

This year I have incorporated a Responsive Classroom morning meeting approach to my classroom.  No matter what, we are greeting each other and playing or talking with each other for 20 minutes every day.  No excuses. So far (3 and 1/2 weeks), we've been successful!   This morning the class talked together to decide when and how to celebrate birthdays in our classroom this year.  It was amazing to hear them guide each other and take charge of getting to an answer together.

Another thing I have introduced is Zones of Regulation.  I have quite the mix of needs this  year.  One student is on the autism spectrum, another lost his mother to breast cancer in June, and many of them aren't having basic needs met on a regular basis.  I was introduced to Zones by the occupational therapist of my student with autism.  Being the daughter of a school counselor and the teacher of an English Language Learner class I found this approach immediately appealing.  Students have already started identifying themselves (and others!) in certain zones and how that affects their ability to interact with the class.  

I was sick last week with the cold from hell and used it to start a dialogue with my class.  Thursday was the day I felt the worst (which was saying a lot, since this was literally the cold from hell) so I let them know that since I was starting the day in the blue zone it was easier for me to get into the yellow and red zones.  I then explained that this was not their issue to deal with, but mine.  I needed to be more aware of my triggers and how to deal with what I was feeling during that time.  This was so helpful because students began to realize that they could talk were in charge of responses, not the teacher.

Another helpful thing that has come from using Zones is that students have been better able to identify which zone they are in even if they can't name the emotion.  This is helpful because the emotions that my students are familiar with are happy, sad and mad.   I have had students discuss how another behavior puts them into a certain zone that makes it hard to learn.  My kids have had some great discussions already about how to deal with the stressors that come with each zone. 

My goal is to promote a classroom of learners that ask questions until  they have found the answer.
What are you doing to develop a culture in your classroom?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Flexible Seating: The Best Thing I Could Have Done

Last winter I kept stumbling on posts about Flexible Seating.  "I could never do that," I'd tell myself.  However, I was in a teaching rut.  My students weren't getting what they needed from me: CONTROL.  Control over their environment.  I was pushing them to take control of their own learning, while unintentionally limiting them in so many other ways.

Along came this post by Kayla Deltzer of Top Dog Teaching.  It was the inspiration I needed to take the plunge.  
This is what my classroom looked like at the beginning of last year.

What da heck, J?! I can barely breathe looking at the way the space used to be.  I was constantly tripping over chairs and running into desks.  The students were no better.   What could I expect?  There were 27 of them crammed into this space with all this darn furniture!

We had a three day week right before Spring Break, so I decided to let the kids design the new room.  I used tables that the school already had and no one was using and either took the legs off or raised them all the way up, snagged a couple of benches from a teacher moving out of a classroom, bought some canvas chairs at FIVE Below (5 at $5 each), brought in some old pillows from home, and learned that I am a minimalist at heart.  I surprisingly (I have NO IDEA WHY NOT) have no pictures of the classroom at this time!

I spent the summer trying to find cheap, but quality additions to the room.  I snagged stools from IKEA (10 at $5 each), white side tables from Target used as stools (2 at $8 each), and 3 child benches made by our corporate sponsor Lippert Components.  

Here's what the room looked like after the first 2 days of school:

Bench table and standing table

Floor table


 How we store our workbooks and read-to-self books


 Classroom library
It's the hot spot in the room.


 My space
The cleanest it will be all darn year.


 Table with "stools" from Target
At least one child tips over on these a day.  Someone asked if I was going to take them away and reminded them that second graders can fall of anything...including the flat ground if given the chance.  Hahahahaha!
The bench in the background was re-appropriated from around the school.


 One small group area with IKEA stools
Those are a favorite in the room.  I will definitely need to get more since we are always trying to find them for small group time!


 Small group area 2
The room often has kids working independently and up to 3 small groups happening at a time.


 Small group area and stage
The kids LOVE having a stage!  We use it for everything.  They scramble to present things in class so they can stand on it.  They also volunteer more to write things on the whiteboard since they get to stand up there to do it.

I say it's what it looked like 2 weeks ago because it's already changed!  That's the joy of flexible seating!  It changes as my students' needs change.

Here is what it looks like in action:

Items travel around the room all day long.  The only reminder they get is they own the room and the way the come into it the next day is the way they left it.  

If you have been considering Flexible Seating I would encourage you to GO FOR IT.  It's been the best thing I've ever done for my students.  An added bonus is that when I get over 25 students in the room it never feels like there are that many people in there.  SCORE!  Plus, I'm a huge fan of being on the floor, sitting on the counter cross-legged, and laying down to get as close to my students' level as I can.  Now I don't look like a dork doing it. :) 

Go ahead and try something that scares you this week!

Always,
Mrs. B

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I'm BACK! I'm Back in the Saddle Again...

I'm always surprised to find that I still have a blog and that no one from the Blogger-sphere has taken the liberty of d-e-l-e-t-i-n-g this lil ole corner of the internet.
I'm not making any promises, but I have been getting the urge to write lately.  I think I go through phases of blogging and crocheting.  I'm not making any promises that I'll blog more this year, but I'd like to think that I will!

Well, I survived! Today marks the first day back with students of the year.
I'll be the first to admit, I was not ready to greet these new babes *quite* yet.
I ended last year with 23 students in my class.  We had 4 classes and I had the most by at least 2.
I have 27 "official" students on my list, but saw the whites of 24 sets of eyes this morning.
I truly believe that I am going to have a wonderful class this year...I simply have to bend them to my will!!  Muwahahahahahaha!

One professional change this year is that I am a Mentor Teacher.  My school uses the TAP Evaluation system and this is the 5th year.  Since we started with TAP I have known that I wanted to eventually be a Mentor Teacher.  I'm not one to rest on my laurels and keep the status quo the same each year.

Last year may have been the hardest of my career.  I had been with the same team for 4 years and we were AWESOME.  No, seriously.  We kicked edubooty.  However, good things don't last forever.  I ended up the team leader, mother to a 6 month old, and only person on a 4 person team with current 2nd grade experience.  
PLOT TWIST!

I am more than a little excited to take another step in my career.

Ok.  Back to this year.  I used objective boards in the past, but needed to change them this year to incorporate more aspects.  We got some new curriculum maps this year that don't fit the Monday-Friday model.  Because of that I designed my boards to reflect that we are always working on one thing to get to another.

The calm before the storm.
See that bench back there?!  
I snagged it on a whim from one of our lobbies (it was being re-purposed) and stuffed it into my classroom library.  I think the kids are going to love using it to read!


My first day wouldn't have been complete without some snuggles from my best girl.
We snagged some Mommy/Charliebabe time before bed and she held my hand!
Melt me into one gigantic puddle for heaven's sake!
Girlie and Husband are coming in to visit me tomorrow.
I can't wait for my new kids to meet her!
(I actually polished my nails!!  I'm wearing Essie's Mademoiselle.  It's my new favorite polish and I have a feeling that I'll go through the current bottle pretty quickly!)

Okie Dokie.
It's off to bed I go!

Laters,

Mrs. B

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Failure to Thrive: Mommy Edition

I've been holding onto this post for quite a while.
However, this post pushed me into pushing the publish button.
I swear...this lady reads my mind.
And makes my crochet-deprived fingers itch.

Now, to the meat of things...

I have been infatuated with all things babies for as long as I can remember.
Growing up I would always say that I wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother.
I went into motherhood thinking that I was pretty prepared.

And then, the baby came.
And my world crumbled around me.

I couldn't control what was going on.
I couldn't fathom not knowing what to do.
I couldn't even plan a basic schedule for my day.
And, hey...you're telling me that babies don't know how to nap straight out the womb?!

I kept asking people on Facebook what they did for their children, worried that I would make the wrong decision for Charlie.
I read book after book and googled my fingers off.
I still couldn't figure out why my child cried for hours some nights but not others.
Why she seemed to only like me for my boobs.
Why she cried her head off for me all day, but settled down for my husband.
I wanted to make sure that she was "normal" and did things that other peoples' "normal" children did.
I didn't use the swing to get her to sleep at night because I thought that was cheating.
I didn't use the swing to get her to nap so I could take a quick shower.
I would wait until my husband got home to take showers every day because she wouldn't nap long enough for me to get undressed.

I spent a week crying my eyes out because I thought I wasn't a good enough mother for my child.
I wasn't following the books.
I was too worried about others.
I asked my mom when the happy, smiling baby on the covers of magazines would arrive in my household.

Then, my mom figuratively smacked a little sense into me.
She reminded me that parenting isn't about perfection.
It's about survival.
Put down the books.
Stop googling every little thing.
Listen to your gut.
Pay attention to Charlie's cues.
She'll let you know what she needs.

The swing got a lot more use after that!

I had to remember that I WAS and AM good enough.
Will I ever be a perfect parent?
Hell to the no.
Is my child a happy, healthy baby?
You bet.
That's what matters.


Laters,

Mrs. B




Monday, July 14, 2014

Mommy Wars

Ho.  Ly.  Crap.
Ok.  People judge.  I know this.  I've lived it.

...or so I thought.
Then, I became a pregnant and started reading up on things and discovered the comments sections on blogs and forums.

Breastfeeding vs. formula
Cloth diapers vs. disposable
Attachment parenting vs. whatever you call it
Baby led weaning vs. purees
Store bought baby food vs. homemade
Organic vs. not organic
Natural childbirth vs. pain management
Stay at home mom vs. working mom

I could go on and on and on...
UGH!

I'm going to say this as nicely as I can...
Cut the shit.

It is so disheartening to see people who could be lifting each other up and encouraging one another tear each other to shreds. 

Due to personal and physical reasons Charliebabe is going to need to be introduced to formula to supplement her nutrition once I go back to school in a few weeks.
I couldn't believe the downright NASTY look I got from a mother while plucking that container from the shelf in Target.
I just smiled broadly at her, commented on her adorable children and sauntered down the aisle...all while withering a little bit on the inside.
I am a confident person, however, I was embarrassed even though I know that this is the very best decision for both Charliebabe and myself.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times...
women can be vicious.

This is NOT a "Why can't we all get along?" post.
It's a reminder that we can do so much good.
It just takes effort and an open mind.

Have you been a victim of the mommy wars?

Laters,
Mrs. B

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Baby's Asleep! So...

mommy's back to blogging!

I can't lie.
I enjoy hanging with my Charliebabe waaaayyyy more than anything else.
However, I constantly find myself composing blog posts in my head!

They range from mommy ramblings to teacher musings to random things that pop into my head when nobody's looking.

Here's a little of what I've been up to for the last 6-ish months...(note: these are apparently out of order and I'm too lazy busy to fix them.)
Watching Handsome Husband fall in love with another woman.

Falling in love with baby yawns.

Celebrating my first Mother's Day.

Loving this killer smile.


Laughing at how much Charliebabe resembled my father-in-law in the beginning.

Loving those first "smiles".

Celebrating her first (of many) visit to Target!

Smiles!

Cuddling after her first real bath.

Becoming a family.

Watching the Super Bowl.

Introducing Charlotte to her great grandfather.
(We aren't allowed to call her Charlie around him.  Haha!)

Four generations!


Pumping and pumping and pumping...don't get me started on the panic attack I had during the power outage last week.

Realizing that babies weren't always pooping and sleeping.
They spend a lot of time crying for NO REASON.

Getting her hips checked by her great grandfather.
It's a tradition!
He's an orthopedic surgeon (retired, obviously) and founded this place.

Loving the stuff that Handsome Husband's students would send home.

Realizing that a swing is THE BEST THING you could ever buy.
She spent more nights than I care to admit in this thing.

Taking walks in the cold because mommy desperately needed it.
(We only went a block to Nonna and Rock's.)

Buying and returning 4 different tubs until we found the right one.

Dealing with poop.
Lots of poop.

Leaving her for our first night out.


Snow, snow and more snow.
Ugh.
However, I couldn't have picked a better winter to take maternity leave!

Going back to school.
(I miss having hair at my temples!  No one tells you that your hair might thin in spots and not just all over!  Baby hairs for life!  Just kidding...they're coming back.)

Loving this grump.

Laughing when she's attacked by Jaja.

Begging my dad to assist when our babysitter's daughter was super sick.
They both survived and are better for it!

Taking Charliebabe in the pool for the first time.

Finishing up the school year with a bang!

Trying cheesesteaks in Philly with this dude.

Being naughty with my brother.

Taking Charliebabe to her first wedding.
She stayed up until 11 and was amazing!

Taking her to her first baseball game.

Crocheting again.

Taking Charliebabe on her first road trip.
(Spoiler alert!!  She wasn't a fan.)

Dying over those crossed ankles.
All.  The.  Time.

Forgetting to put shoes on to run errands.

Loving her even when she wakes up from a nap needing a nap.

What have you been up to?

Mrs. B