Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Vacation from My Vacation

Hello, blogging community!

I wanted to let all my readers know that I will be taking a short hiatus from blogging for the next week or two. With the start of the school year just around the corner, I have much that I need to work on and prepare for my new classroom. I have to visit my storage unit and figure out what stuff I will be taking to my classroom and what items I won't (like the kitchen play set and pretend play food). I have to set up my lesson plan book and teacher binders (both of which I will have posts about in the coming weeks). I also have several days of professional development and meetings at my new district. 

Stay tuned for new posts! I know I will have much to talk about as soon as things get underway at my new job. Thank you for your patience!

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Parental Guidance

I have always valued and appreciated parents who work as volunteers in my classroom. I understand that many of my families work - often more than one job - and I have always appreciated them taking the time to help out whether in the classroom or taking something home to work on. At the beginning of the year, I send out a survey to all of my classroom families and invite them to volunteer and help out in the classroom in any way they can. Being present in the classroom isn't the only help I need and parents are able to indicate ways they can be of service. For a copy of the survey, click here

However, when I open my classroom to my families, I also get parents who have no intention of working but would rather sit in the back of the classroom and watch their child the entire day. I've had parents who have asked to "volunteer" and then spent the entire morning sitting by their child at each and every center, wiping their nose, and intervening when they thought it was necessary. It wasn't productive for the parent and it definitely was not beneficial for the child. 

In order to help deter some of this problematic parent behavior, I send out a letter prior to the parents' visit that clearly and explicitly states my expectations of them while they are in the classroom. It provides a contract for the parents and myself to refer back to throughout the course of the year, should any disagreements arise. I'm not sure where I originally found this letter but feel free to download it here and tweak it to fit your own classroom needs.

I hope you find these documents useful for parent volunteers - I do! Until next time...

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's That Time of Year!

So, apart from the winter holiday season (Thanksgiving until about New Year's), the beginning of the school year is one of my favorite times of year. I know it's time to go school supply shopping when I start seeing Target's "back to school" commercials start playing on repeat on the TV.

As a student, I always relished that weekend in August when my mom would gather my younger sister and I up and take us back to school shopping. Being a Catholic school student, our first order of business was to purchase new uniforms for the school year. (This part wasn't my favorite.) We'd spend a good 45 minutes at the tiny, overheated uniform store trying on skorts, skirts, jumpers, and crisp polos. If my mom was feeling generous (which, thankfully, was often), she'd even throw in a matching headband or bow.

My sister and I on my first day of kindergarten
Next came my favorite part of the weekend shopping spree - a trip to Office Depot and Target. We'd march, determined, into these stores - school supply list in hand - and hope to get as much checked off as possible in one stop. My sister and I would each find school supplies that tailored to our own likes (for my sister, it was always animals...for me, it was pink and girly) and my mom would diligently put the items into our shopping basket and move to the next item on the list.

Before ending our back to school shopping, my mom would take us to one more store - Sanrio. She'd let my sister and me pick out one pencil box and some pencils to complete the set. I loved these special extras...and to this day still have a slightly unhealthy obsession with all things Hello Kitty.

As a teacher now - and knowing that school supplies and uniforms don't come with a cheap price tag - I'm more appreciative of my mom and her generosity with school supplies than I was at the ripe age of eight or nine. Teaching students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds has put a lot of things into perspective and I'm extremely grateful and blessed to have had the upbringing I did by a mother who could afford to buy school supplies for both of her children and splurge on little extras like pencil boxes from Sanrio. 

That sense of excitement still overcomes me at the beginning of each school year as the summer comes to an end and it's time to head into the office supply store for school supplies. Thankfully, I have teacher friends who relish in the excitement with me. I spent this afternoon shopping with my friend Melissa (from The Adventures of Room 83) and we left both Office Depot and Target with bags in hand! Although I haven't gotten the chance to get into my new classroom yet and see what I have and what I will need, I bought some supplies that could be readily used in any situation. 

Most of my loot came from Target's dollar section, including the reading comprehension books and non-fiction readers. I also managed to nab a desk calendar that is reminiscent of Eric Carle with the polka dots - love it!

And, being the movie aficionado that I am, I couldn't resist picking up a couple of DVDs to add to my ever-growing collection...

I'm sure this won't be the only trip I make to pick up things for my new classroom, but with all my fantastic finds I found the first round, I'm excited to get things rolling in my new classroom! Until next time...

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Some Advice for New Teachers

Five Things They Don’t Tell New Teachers at the Beginning of the Year:

  • Your first week will be hard. No matter how much experience you have under your belt. No matter if you worked for the district before. No matter if you read dozens of “new teacher how-to” books. No matter if you graduated at the top of your class with honors and think you know everything there is to know about teaching prior to stepping foot into your own classroom. Your first week – possibly even the first entire month of school – will be difficult. It might even make you want to cry and quit. (Trust me…I cried and had those thoughts my first week of teaching!) But as a new teacher, and during that first month of school, you will learn so many things about yourself and about your students that when you look back at the end of the school year, you will wonder how you could have ever thought about leaving these kiddos.
  • Do your homework. This is not just a mantra for the students to remember, but one to remember yourself as their teacher. Know exactly who’s coming into your class prior to the first day of school. Read their cumulative folders…extensively. Note any of their quirks, things that may set them off, and any problematic behaviors. I found out too late that I had a “runner” in my class…that was not a very good day.
  • Seek out a mentor. As intimidating as it may be for newer teachers to approach and even consult with veteran teachers – specifically veteran teachers who have worked at your school site a lot longer than you – find at least one teacher in your specific grade level that you can collaborate with and who – if you’re lucky – will take you under his or her wing. Reflecting upon my first year of teaching, I can tell you that it would have been a lot harder had I not had another teacher to lean on for support. I found a general education teacher who was not only generous with her time to me, but also made my students feel as if they were fully included in all of the kindergarten activities and programs.
  • Make friends with your front office staff. A little known secret among the professional teaching community is that while the administrator may be the big boss of the campus, the front office staff helps to ensure that the school – and ultimately your classroom – runs effectively and efficiently. These ladies (or men) handle those parents who like to call…constantly, while also taking your sick students in when the nurse isn’t there or is unavailable. They make sure that all your “t’s” are crossed, all your “i’s” are dotted and that no IEP document goes unfiled. They are also very generous with school supplies…especially if you bring them Jamba Juice on a regular basis.
  • Find balance. While teaching is a full-time job, it is ten times more stressful when you’re also working on a master’s degree, which – in today’s economy – many teachers have opted to do in order to secure their financial future. (As if teaching wasn’t already a 60+ hour work week, let’s add some graduate textbooks, a thesis paper, and additional case studies to that workload!) As a first year teacher and college graduate student, I had to remind myself to put aside grading papers, reading dozens of educational journals and articles, and take a few minutes (or hours) to focus on me. It’s extremely important to maintain a balance between work, school and maintaining some semblance of a social life. A happy teacher moves mountains with her students.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I've Got a Button, Hey Hey Hey Hey!

I finally have buttons/links to my Pinterest, TPT, and Teacher's Notebook stores - yay! Although I don't have any of my products listed yet, I'm hoping to work on some stuff this week and upload it as soon as I can. 

Just wanted to let everyone know to stay tuned! 

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Adding IAs to the Equation

As a former paraprofessional, I have always prided myself on knowing what it takes to be a successful and effective classroom aide in a special education environment and what supports I needed in order to do my job efficiently.

Knowing this has made my transition from classroom aide into supervising teacher a much smoother one. I have attempted to establish a classroom environment where my staff feels welcome, invested, and respected for the jobs they do.

For the last two years, I have had two exceptional aides who often went above and beyond what was required of them. It took me a while to understand which areas I needed to give and take with them – and at what times it was important to stand firm in what I wanted for the classroom. Thankfully, my aides were open to learning new programs and materials that they hadn’t previously used, and they offered invaluable suggestions with the day-to-day running of the classroom.

As I look forward to another school year in a new school with a new group of paraprofessionals, I thought I would share the letter I gave my aides at my previous school when I started with them two years ago and the letter which I will be giving to my aides at my new job site. I wanted to give them my expectations for the school year to come and have something physical to refer back to in case any disagreements should arise.

I don’t remember where I had gotten the original template from but I’ve tweaked it a few times at this point to reflect my current classroom. Feel free to download here it and do the same! 

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Monday, July 22, 2013

New School, New Me

I am three weeks away from starting the fall term at my new school and school district and I couldn’t be more anxious and a little freaked out! Much like a student, I have butterflies in my stomach and that knot feeling in my gut every time I think about starting at a new school.

I’ve spent the last five and a half years at my former district (longer if you include the time I interned for them at the college level), so leaving the district to go teach elsewhere has been a big transition for me. I left some valuable colleagues and friends and I pray that I’m able to establish the same sense of security, collaboration, and community that I felt at my last job site.

I’m also switching grade levels, which has added to my anxiety. I’ve taught a kindergarten special day class for the last two years and I’m now moving up to a 2nd/3rd grade combination special day class. Although I’ve worked with 2nd and 3rd graders both in an RSP program and through private tutoring, I’m nervous as to how my experience will translate to a SDC classroom setting. I just hope that I prove to be as good of a teacher as I know myself to be.

Wish me luck!

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Friday, July 19, 2013

I see London, I see France...

After a two-week hiatus, I am finally back to blogging! I have spent the last 14 days traveling around France and England with a group of 5th and 6th graders with the program People to People Student Ambassadors. (If you haven’t heard of them, check out their website!) As much as I wanted (and probably needed) a break from students this summer, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to travel abroad.

As a teacher leader, I was one of three adults in charge of a group of 26 students from California and New York. The group consisted of students from private and public schools alike and of various socioeconomic backgrounds. The other leader from CA and myself have been working with our California delegation since October, so we have had several months to get to know all of our students and families. 

We had the opportunity to visit some amazing places. We started our trip in Paris, France where we were able to visit and explore some of the more well known sites – the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Sacre Couer, and the Eiffel Tower. We also explored the Palace of Versailles, the Montmartre area, and the Champs-Élysées. Before leaving France, we had the opportunity to visit the memorial museum in Normandy and tour Omaha and Utah beaches from D-Day. We also visited the memorial cemetery and partook in a special ceremony with our entire group.


After leaving Normandy, we travelled on an overnight ferry to Portsmouth, England and began making our way to London. Along the way we visited Warwick Castle, the city of Bath, and Salisbury Cathedral (home of one of the four surviving Magna Carta documents in the world). When we did finally make it to London, we explored Westminster - saw the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. We had a bird’s eye view of London from the London Eye. We experienced London’s transportation system – the underground or “tube.” Our group also visited the Churchill War Rooms, St. James’ Park, and Buckingham Palace – we even got to see the changing of the guard!

It was tiring at the end (especially with the amount of walking we did each day and with the foot injury I had sustained while we were in Paris) and I was happy to board the plane to come back to LA. Our group was great (with the exception of one student) and I would gladly do it again next year. These past two weeks was a nice vacation away from the familiar and I’m hoping to get one more weekend trip (possibly to San Diego or the Bay area) in before I have to return to work in August.

Now that I'm back, I will be concentrating on finally getting things ready to open my Etsy and TPT shops - so stay tuned for freebies that I may post in anticipation of the openings! Happy summer!

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