Thursday, December 26, 2013

13 in '13

As the year comes to a close, I'm taking a minute to reflect - nothing serious, I promise.  I'm linking up with 3 fabulous ladies: Kristin, Traci, and Miss Kindergarten for their 13 in 13 Linky.  I'm liking this kind of reflection the best right now in my fast paced life :) I have been terrible about taking pictures, so I'll add what I can.

13. Favorite Article of Clothing
This year I had to purchase quite a bit of clothing because I changed schools.  In my former school, teachers were only allowed to wear navy, khaki, white or light blue, so all of my clothes were those colors - boring! Over the last few years, I haven't purchased anything that wasn't the right color, so this year, I broke out of the mold and went for color and pattern.  But, I'm a comfort girl at heart.  My favorite article of clothing this year was a flannel shirt from Old Navy.  Truth be told, I also have a black and white gingham oxford that I wear all the time, but flannel seemed so much more interesting :)


12. Favorite movie you watched:
Not really a movie, but a 2 disc mini-series, that I watched this year was North and South - not the Civil War series, but the British novel.  It is in the same vein of Pride and Prejudice and was amazing.  Mr. Thornton is running a tight race with Mr. Darcy now in my opinion. The BBC puts out some amazing shows these days.


11. Favorite TV series:
Since moving to Tennessee, we have done without cable television - for 6 months now.  That's an accomplishment in and of itself, but we have completely taken advantage of Netflix.  My dear friend, Amanda, at Teaching Maddeness, introduced me to Dexter through her blog and now I can't get enough.

10. Favorite restaurant:
I don't really have one of these because I like most restaurants.  So, going to skip it for now.

9. Favorite new thing you tried:
Coconut oil!  I'm using it as a makeup remover, moisturizer, hair conditioner, lip balm, and so many more things.  It's kind of pricey, but for as many uses that it has, it's well worth it.  I haven't tried to cook with it yet, but that's coming.

8. Favorite gift you got:
My favorite Christmas gift is the handmade red and white quilt that my mother sent to me this year.  She has been working on it for years and finally finished it.  I don't have it set up yet in the guest room, so no pictures.

7. Favorite thing you pinned:
I can't narrow it down to just one thing, but something I've pinned recently that I have been playing around with is addressing envelopes.  I know - handwritten envelopes!  I love the fanciness of it all and I'm seriously contemplating taking a calligraphy course to learn how to do this well.

6. Favorite blog post:
Gah!  I can't play favorites here at all, but my favorite to write is the Currently series from Farley!

5. Best accomplishment: I guess the biggest accomplishment this year is making it through the first half of the school year as a Master Teacher in a new school and a new state.  It hasn't been easy at all.  It's been down right ugly some days and there have been many tears shed and second guesses of this change.  But, I've made it and plan to continue making it.

4. Favorite picture:
It's not from 2013, but it represents a life long dream! I got to hang out with Ron Clark for an entire day when he visited my district last year.  Not just sitting in a row listening to him, but as his personal host.  He even mentioned me in his talk.  It was fabulous!  Now to get to RCA to visit on his campus.

3. Favorite memory:
My 20th high school reunion was this year and it was fabulous.  I spent the entire weekend catching up with friends I hadn't seen in 20 years.  It was amazing!

2. Goal for 2014:
To have a presence on TPT.  I've got an account, now just to add product.  Biggest obstacle - TIME.

1. One Little Word: Enjoy
Enjoy the journey, enjoy the process, enjoy the result.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Questionnaire..

Today I'm linking up with Michelle and spilling the dirt on what I think about Christmas. 

Hot Chocolate or Eggnog...
Neither!  I'm not a big hot chocolate fan and definitely not an eggnog girl.  The texture of eggnog and the whole idea of drinking eggs just freaks me out a bit.  Give me coffee any time of the year and I'm a HAPPY girl.  During Christmas, I'll drink an entire pot by myself because I have the leisure time to sit on my couch and enjoy it.

Does Santa wrap gifts or leave them unwrapped under the tree...
Growing up, our traditions began by having designated places for a pile of gifts that were unwrapped.  As we got older - ornery teenagers- my mom started wrapping the gifts that were from Santa in a special gift wrap.  Now, I don't have kids, so I don't have that option, but I wrap everything to put under the tree - even empty boxes.

Colored lights or white...
I'm a colored light girl.  I love the festiveness of it all.  If I could find vintage bulbs, you know the old painted ones, I'd cover a tree in them.  My tree is covered in little colored lights from tip to bottom.  I still haven't mastered the stringing of the lights.  I get frustrated and end up giving up with the string every branch approach.

When do you decorate....
This year, it was the day after Thanksgiving.  We went to a tree farm and cut down a beautiful Leyland Cypress and decorated that night.  Some years, depending on whether we travel or not, the date varies.  Last year we celebrated Christmas at the beach and decorated in our house. 

Real or fake...
Real if possible - but sometimes because we were traveling or lacked the extra money for a tree, we used one our grandparents' artificial trees. My house smells amazing with a real tree and I love the whole adventure of putting it in the stand, holding your breath to see if it will fall, etc.

What type of topper tops your tree...
This year we don't have anything.  I had great intentions, but I'm looking for a specific topper that is rustic, but vintage, no angel.  It's harder than I thought.  We have had a golf club driver cover one year.  I'm planning on adding a big burlap bow soon.

Favorite Christmas memory or tradition...
Growing up it was opening a gift on Christmas Eve.  We were allowed to only open one and it was late at night after visiting grandparents or going to church.  Since Cheney and I have been married, it's stockings.  We designate a certain amount and buy for each other, so each piece is a huge surprise.

Favorite gift as a child...
Not sure if it was my favorite, but my mom made me a fake cabbage patch doll when she couldn't find one in the stores.  She sacrificed her sleep and hung out in the laundry room long after I went to bed to make something special to me.  For the record, it didn't look anything like a cabbage patch, but it was stitched with love.

Do you prefer giving or receiving...
Not going to lie, I love getting a good gift.  But, I enjoy buying things for others that are not expected.  I love the hunt for the special gift.

What is your favorite Christmas song?
 Oh Holy Night and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Candy Canes...yuck or yum?
Yuck, just not a big peppermint fan.

Online or stores?
Combination of both

Photo Cards, Letter, or Store bought?
Store bought this year - first time in a long time we've sent out cards.  Used to make our own. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Today I spent some time over at Venspired reading.  Krissy is one of my most favorites to read because she is honest.  She inspires me to always step out of the box I have often created for myself and experiment, push the limits, always dream, and encourage my students to do the same.  So, I'm trying her "Eleven" challenge.

Eleven Random Facts About Little Ole Me

1.  When my husband told his family about me for the very first time, he told them that I was in fact named after a hunting dog.  True Story- Completely False.

2.  My first dog was a mutt German Shepherd named, Bowzer, after the guy off of Sha-Na-Na.  It was a treat for mom and dad to let us stay up after 9:00 on a church night to watch.  For some odd reason, I found love in Bowzer at the ripe old age of 8, and felt compelled to name my first furry companion after him.

3.  I LOVE to read and read on average a book a day when I'm not working.  Unless it is Harry Potter and then I stretch them out over days for extreme enjoyment.

4.  I'm a listmaker.  I make lists about lists about lists.  Then, I lose them and have to make more lists.  Right now, there are 5 sticky note lists on my end table - all about the same thing, just in different steps.

5.  I abhor cooking.  Really.  I. Hate. It!  Hence the eat out every day almost week.  I have to get better so we can save some money.

6.  I find it an adventure to move around the country.  So far, I've lived in Alaska, Washington State, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  Both my husband and I get restless after about 5 years and look for the next adventure.

7. If I could travel anywhere, it would be to Europe.  I'd love to spend the entire summer or spring just exploring history.  I'm not at all interested in doing the touristy ventures, but want to immerse myself in the culture and really get to know the continent.

8.  I have a collection of real lady bugs on the lamp beside my sofa.  In October, ladybugs migrated through our town - in HUGE clouds.  My husband was outside when this happened and he carried a few hundred into our house.  They have slowly hung on over the last few months.  There are about 20 left and they are all congregated on the lamp beside the sofa.  I don't have the heart to set them outside because they will surely die because of the temperatures. I've noticed they are getting weaker every day and it is breaking my heart.

9.  I am one of the most driven people that I know when it comes to work, but ask me to commit to exercise and for some reason, I can't get the get up and go attitude.  I know it's good for me and will have lots of benefits, but I lack the motivation after working 12 hours each day.

10.  I have VERY low tolerance for people who yell at children and mistreat animals.  I am completely unnerved when I hear a teacher yelling at a child over something stupid like homework.  I am unable to watch any commercial from the humane society because they bring me to tears every time.

11.  When I was in college, I sang in a trio with two very good friends.  We traveled around to churches and even recorded in a studio.  If you asked me to sing today, I wouldn't be able to, it terrifies me.

Now to answer Krissy's questions:

  • 1.  What inspires you most  of all?
I live for the moments when I see a sparkle in a child's eye or a smile in the classroom.  It's the lightbulb moments that I strive to create every single day.  When a student achieves a small victory or a large one, I love being the cheerleader that stood beside them and coached them along the way.
  • 2.  What is the best food you’ve ever tried while traveling?
I have to say New York Cheesecake is my favorite food that I've tried while traveling.  But, Thomas Jefferson's sweet potato biscuits at City Tavern in Philadelphia were pretty dang good, as was Martha Washington's pot pie.  Shrimp and Grits from the Seewee Restaurant in Awendaw, SC and the blue crab tacos from T.W. MacGuires's in Mcllellanville were amazing.
  • 3. What is your favorite holiday? Why?
Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I love sitting in the dark living room with only the tree light reflecting on the entire year.  The traditions of stockings, food, gathering with those you love are icing on the cake.
  • 4. What is one school supply that you could not teach without?
Sharpie Markers!  I know, boring, but I doodle with them and the colors inspire me to color my lessons with variety.
  • 5. What’s your typical morning beverage?
Coffee with cream and sugar - at least 2 cups.
  • 6. When you fly, window seat or aisle?
I like the aisle so I can stretch one leg out further.  My knees hurt all the time and sitting in a crampled position doesn't help.
  • 7. Describe the best teacher you had when you were in school.
Laurie Clement, Advanced Biology and Chemistry!  She pushed me until I was angry enough to prove her wrong.  She taught me that questioning a teacher is not a bad thing, but adds to my experience.  She saw the potential in me before I saw it in myself.
  • 8. Do you enjoy cooking? Anything specific?
  • 9. What book are you currently reading?
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  Every year, I read the entire series the month of December.  I'm on track to finish before New Years!

  • 10. What’s your all time favorite movie?
To Kill A Mockingbird with Gregory Peck or the Original Sound of Music. Gone with the Wind and Wizard of Oz are close.  Can't choose just one. Add in Casablanca, Pride and Prejudice,  and the Harry Potter series.
  • 11. If at the end of your life, there is just room for one word on your grave marker, what do you think it will be? 
Driven - and that just convicted me that I've sacrificed a lot along the way.  I probably need to take a moment and really nurture the things around me instead of always being so focused on what is next.  I'd hate to get to the end of my life and have that word be on my grave marker.  I'd rather have loving or loyal.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness in Honor of Sandy Hook

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School.  We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children.  We honor their memory with our service.  Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

December Currently

I think I am probably the last person to link up on Farley's December Currently, but I don't want to miss out on this tradition.  Each month it's the one post that I am guaranteed to blog.  So, without further adieu...

Listening:  A colleague at work was playing instrumental Christmas music last week and her room was so peaceful.  I mentioned that I liked it and she handed me a CD and said I could have it.  I like the uncluttered feeling of instrumental.  I'm still able to work and focus, but the atmosphere of work is different.

Loving:  A lighted Christmas tree puts me at ease with its peacefulness.  I could sit in the living room for hours with a cup of coffee and stare at it.

Thinking:  The Chattanooga Christmas market opened this weekend.  I want to go today, but the hubs wants to hunt.  Think we are headed there tomorrow - if I get my work done (I should probably start, right?)

Wanting:  Since moving to a new city and taking on a role that is more admin in nature, it has been very difficult to befriend people.  I've crossed to the other side and that has been difficult.  So far, it's been me and hubs taking on the world, which is fine, but that core group of friends would be great to have in town instead of 3 hours away.

Needing:  To work on the stack of evals that are sitting in my bag.  I only have 2, but they take hours (5-6 ) to write up.  They are the last two before Christmas and cycle 3 starts. Once I finish those, I'll be okay, but it's getting started with those and then lesson plans!

Favorite Tradition:  Stockings have ALWAYS been my favorite Christmas tradition, even when I was little.  I was more excited about what mom put in the stocking than what was under the tree.  For the last few Christmases, hubs and I have taken stockings and twisted it a bit.  We set a price limit for stockings and then go out shopping for each other.  The first year we did it, we set $50 as the limit and he spoke my love language with the gifts - beignet mix, salt water taffy, and a case of glass bottled Mexican cokes.  I LOVED it.  This year we have set the limit for $100.  We bought each other a nice big gift, so I'm looking forward to seeing what is stashed in the stocking this year.

Head over to Oh, Boy 4th Grade and see what is currently happening with everyone else.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Quiet Thanksgiving...

I've been looking forward to this week for quite sometime.  It meant quiet, peace, and quality time with family.  The break was much needed.  Cheney and I had planned to leave this morning to drive back to Greenville to spend Thanksgiving day with his family.  That was before the two days of work were some of the worst that I've ever experienced, before I fell in a hole and sprained my ankle, and before the Thanksgiving Storm of 2013 decided to hit.  Temperatures dropped drastically, snow began falling on Wednesday, and the roads iced up between here and there.  If we wouldn't have had to drive through a mountain pass, we would have gone, but the I40 pass is not a good place to get stuck or stranded.  So, this week has not been what I had planned. I spent some time in self-pity, but as I sit here on Thanksgiving evening and reflect back on the blessings that I do have, I feel down right shameful that I was focused on how I wouldn't be having the Thanksgiving that I had dreamed.

Two months ago, I came too close to losing my dad.  I received a call around lunch time on September 20th while I was in training from my brother.  I chose to ignore it.  Right behind it, Cheney texted me and said to call when I had a chance.  I thought that was pretty suspicious since I had just seen him 15 minutes prior.  So, I left the room and called.  The news was devastating.  My dad was in the ER in kidney failure and the outcome didn't look good.  Apparently for 2 weeks, he had been having symptoms that his kidneys were shutting down, but he didn't let anyone know.  His creatin levels and his potassium were at fatal levels.  His potassium was at a 9 and all of my nurse friends have told me that they have never seen anyone alive at a 9.  After emergency dialysis and a time spent in ICU, followed by a few days in the hospital, he finally came home.  The next few weeks were full of cardiologist and renal appointments.  A mass was found on the kidney that was 9 cm long.  The kidney itself is only 12 cm.  The doctor told us that it was probably cancer, but it was contained.  The decision was made to remove the kidney and the gall bladder and to clean the prostate out.  Surgery would be scheduled for November 20th.

Living out of state has its advantages at times, but when your family is working through life changing events, it is difficult.  I was unable to make it to the surgery last week, but I've kept in constant contact with my family since - multiple calls a day.  But today, I am reminded at just how thankful I am for family.  Sometimes it takes a wakeup call to make you realize how you have taken their presence in your life for granted.  Cheney's grandmother is 95 and we don't know how many  more Thanksgivings we will have with her, so it was bittersweet not to be there with her today. 

Cheney and I have spent the day lazing around the house.  Me with my cup of coffee.  I've taken the time to enjoy the quiet.  Thanks to a dear friend for supplying me with instrumental Christmas music.  It has been the soundtrack of my life this week.  Taku has spent the better part of the day curled up beside me as I've plugged away on a little project.

I know I'm not technically supposed to be working on work things, but when you get the chance to work on something you are passionate about, it really isn't work. I'm in the middle of writing a writing curriculum for my teachers, so I've been neck deep in mini-lessons, mentor texts, anchor charts, etc.  Not having cable television has allowed me the focus I needed to get it done. Sure, I missed my first Macy's parade in 30 years, but it's been nice to be quiet.

Cracker Barrel served us a nice hot Thanksgiving meal, so we didn't go hungry. For that I am thankful.

So that quiet, restful, and relaxing break - I am having one, just not the one that I had planned.  The candles are lit, the music is playing, Cheney is in the woods, and I am enjoying the peace that comes from having a full life.  Saturday we are headed to Greenville for a late visit to make up for missing this one :)  Hope you and yours have had a wonderful Thanksgiving today!

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Truth Monday (on a Tuesday)

A quick little post because I need a mental escape right now.  It's the eve of Thanksgiving vacation and Denise over at Sunny Days in 2nd Grade has us talking about a real vacation.  Gah...a girl can dream, right?!

If you are thinking that the below picture looks familiar, if you've seen the movie The Goonies, this is where the ending scenes were filmed.
Anyone willing to come with me?
Link up with Denise and take a mental vacation!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Routine

Sundays look relatively identical in our house. They start the same and end the same. Here's a peek into what my Sunday schedule looks like.

 8:00 AM An impatient little pup climbs out from under the covers and begins the day with a request to go outside. When I finally do roll out of the bed and put real shoes on to trek in the backyard, I start a pot of coffee to brew while we are out. Sunday is the day I brew more than my share. Usually, it's a full 8 cups, sometimes depending on the temperature, it will be an entire pot. Taku and I begin the journey around the yard until he decides he's found the perfect spot.

9:00 AM  Breakfast while I check in on all the social media that I've missed in the 8 hours that I've been asleep. catches my attention as well as Pinterest, all of the blogs I read, and other celebrity mags.  I know, not good for a Sunday morning.

11:00 AM  Husband is usually awake and I fix him breakfast or a "brunch" because it is so close to lunch time.

12:00 PM Laundry begins.  I wait until Sunday to do the laundry from the week.  I despise laundry and put it off until the last minute.  That usually means no more socks, undergarments, or pants to wear.  

2:00 PM Work begins for me.  Lesson Plans, grading papers, etc.  It's a lot.  For the last 13 years, I've spent the better part of Sundays working on school stuff.  I hate it.  I had a time for about 2 years where I didn't bring anything home, but life doesn't work like that now.  I wish that I could show a visual plan like everyone else has been doing as of late, but my plans are SO detailed that I can't.  Here's a peek. Yep, it's all for one day for a 45 minute Science lesson.  These aren't even the most detailed of the lot.  

Lesson plans give way to support documents like graphic organizers, handouts, etc.  Then flipcharts need to be developed.  It makes for a very busy Sunday evening.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why I Agree with Common Core Standards and Teacher Evaluation

I know this post has the potential to cause a lot of backlash and disagreement. I am owning that, but I feel like some things need to be said. This is MY opinion, feel free to agree or disagree. Also, understand that I'm not agreeing with CCSS 100%, but I do see some benefit in certain areas.

 1. Student Centered Classrooms - I believe wholeheartedly in students having ownership in their learning and Common Core is allowing that to happen. Empowering students with this piece of their education will do far more good than bad further down the road. Students should be talking in classrooms instead of sitting and getting information from one person. Students should be taught to question the credibility of sources, content, even the way that instruction is being delivered. They should have a voice. Common Core is moving classrooms into this realm of students analyzing their own work, providing feedback to others on their work, asking questions about relevance. I want to live in a world where people learn to question instead of just doing what is told.

 2. Multiple Strategies to One Answer - Life in the real world is messy, let's admit that. There are many, many ways to solve one problem, and there is not one that is greater than the other. If a student uses a strategy that takes more time than a traditional algorithim, but gets the same answer, shouldn't we be okay with it? I've taught Common Core Math for 4 years now, and I've seen my struggling students who struggle with math succeed with place value models and other strategies. When their understanding is solid, they then progress to the traditional method of multiplication and division. Am I okay with it? You better believe it. I want my students to succeed and not be penalized because of not using the same strategy. We are a world of diverse learners. No one learns in the same mode, so why do we teach in the same mode?

 3. Communication is critical - I've lived in many different places around the US and taught in many different schools - private and public. There is a need everywhere for effective communication. Common Core puts a huge emphasis on writing, speaking, and listening - all skills that we need to be good at in order to be successful. I LOVE that writing is being put into every subject area! Everyone should be able to make a claim and provide evidence. Everyone should be able to really hear both sides and debate an issue. Everyone should be able to listen effectively and join a conversation. These are skills that are being lost.

 4. Common Core allows for authentic learning - One of my favorite things about CCSS, is that it allows freedom to step out of a textbook and really begin making decisions for the students in the classroom. I think this is the scariest part of the standards because there is no one way to approach them. There is no one resource that will meet all of the needs. However, it gives freedom to teachers to use authentic texts from newspapers, magazines, internet articles that are geared to the interests of their students instead of just being the next story in a reading book. Real world scenarios and situations are knocking on the doors of classrooms and begging to come inside with CCSS. This excites me. I am not bound to textbooks. Hallelujah!

 5. Evaluating Teachers is Necessary - As a teacher, I have been given a HUGE responsibility in educating the young minds of today's world. I know that I am strong in some areas, but others areas need my attention. Evaluation helps me to know where I need to improve. It helps me determine what I need to change to provide the best education to my students. Is it nerveracking? Yes! I get nervous every time, but I value the information that I gain from the evaluation process. Should it be tied to test scores - not completely. I don't believe in hiring or firing teachers based on test scores because that is one day of an entire school year. But, I do believe that we have a responsibility to grow students. If our students are not growing under our tutelage, then something does need to be done. I should be held accountable for that. Teaching is a profession with a lot of pressure and a gargantuan amount of responsibility. In addition to teachers being evaluated, I believe that principals should have to go back into a classroom from time to time to see what we deal with on a daily basis. Those principals should also be evaluated teaching a room full of students. That would definitely add a different layer of interest.

 Now, do I agree with EVERYTHING or the way that CCSS has been brought about, no. But that is a post for another day.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thankful Week...

My friends over at BlogHoppin' are hosting a spectacular Linky this week - THANKful week for teachers.  Each day, for 4 days, the gals over there have chosen a theme and on Friday they will host a huge giveaway.  I know some of these ladies personally, and I'm confident the giveaway will be amazing.

So, here's the scoop.

So, today, being the 11th focuses on Time Savers.  Oh, I wish that I was an expert in this field.  However, my new position has FORCED me to use my time wisely and I am working on it.  I have a couple for you today.

1.  Windows 7 Sticky Notes:  All computers with Windows 7 installed have access to sticky notes.  Just go over to your start menu and type in the Search box.  *That's another time saver.  You no longer have to go to your library to get to your documents.  Just type the name of it, if you can remember it and you can access it right there.  Any who, on to Sticky Notes.  Most of the time I can't find the pad of sticky notes under the pile on my desk, so these electronic notes are the ticket for me.  I will likely lose it if it is on paper as well.  The only problem I have is putting too many on my desktop.  I color code them for different purposes and then delete them when I'm able to do everything on the list.  I'm saving trees too :)

2.  iPhone Reminders:  I live by my calendar and those electronic sticky notes, but my Reminders allow me to put a time deadline and an alarm on a task.  I use them DAILY!  You can see that I'm overdue on getting my transcripts to the District.  Oops!

That's it for today.  No big revelations here.  But, these work for me and save me countless hours of searching for that written to do list.

Link Up over at BlogHoppin!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Currently...

I cannot believe that November is already here!  In some ways I feel like the year is passing quickly, but on some days (or weeks) I feel like it is passing as slowly as molasses in January downhill.  This week was one of them.  We had fall break the week before last and our week of return has been so SLOW!  I know that the next few weeks will fly by though and the holidays will be upon us in no time.  Time to get Christmas shopping!

I'm joining up with Farley again this month for her Currently series.  Honestly, this is the only consistent blog post that I can keep up with - sorry followers!  Thank you for loving me despite my sketchy blogging habits.  I think this one is easier to post regularly because it is quick and someone has come up with the topics for me.

Here goes!

Listening:  It's Saturday morning, so that means the hubby sleeps in late and I am left in the silence of the house.  Nothing but the ticking of the clock in these parts today.  I do have a snoring pup curled up under the blanket with me so I'm hearing those sounds too.  I love the weekend mornings.

Loving:  I try my hardest not to work too much on Saturday.  I leave all of my school stuff in the car until Sunday usually so I can relax.  This week though, I'll be pulling a few things out because of my "thinking" task.

Thinking:  Part of my new role this year is evaluating teachers.  I evaluated two this week and that means that I have to write up the evaluations, score, and then conduct a post-conference.  Each evaluation requires 4-6 hours of work, so I've got a busy weekend.

Wanting: A vacation!  I haven't had a break from work since Spring Break of last year.  When school ended in SC for me, I immediately moved to TN and dug in here with training.  School started the last week of July, so no summer!  I need some time to get away from the every day routine and recharge my batteries!

Needing:  A Fall/Winter shopping spree!  At my previous school teachers were required to wear white, navy, light blue, or khaki, so I didn't really buy any clothes that weren't appropriate for school during the fall/winter.  Now that I can wear what I want, Praise Jesus!, I am in desperate need of some great fall and winter clothes!  But, I need a bit of extra cash to do what I want!

A Yummy Pin:  Glazed Pork Chops - I know, nothing fancy, but with my crazy schedule, fancy is the last thing that I can tackle.  I made these last week and my husband asked for more.  A sure sign that it was a yummy pin.  And EASY PEASY to make!  Click the picture to head to the original source.

Head back over to Farley's and check out the other Currently posts!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Truth on a Tuesday...

I'm linking up again with Sunny Days in Second Grade for her Monday Truths.  Completely enjoyed all of the fitness truths that were shared.  It helped me get in gear yesterday.

This week's truth is all about the things that creep us out.  In addition to creepy mustaches, there are a few things that send chills down my spine.

Link up for My Truth Monday!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Truth About Fitness

Denise over at Sunny Days in Second Grade has started a new series that I can jump on board.  She is doing a Truth About...series that will take us all the way to the new year.  Her first week is all about fitness.

I've been a slacker in this area for the last two years, but here recently I've picked up running again out of necessity for my sanity.  The 30 minutes I'm plugged into my iPod on the treadmill or on the road becomes the only time during the day where I am completely stress free.  I've grown to crave those moments like my coffee.  They are much needed.  Even though I'm a mess running and I'm as slow as molasses in January, I'm dedicated and I've seen improvement (until a recent week off sabotaged my progress). It's time of year is beautiful and I can't wait to head out tomorrow morning.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Reminder

There are days when the chips are stacked against us and our patience is paper thin.  The morning begins with an alarm that we snooze until the last possible second. Breakfast is ruined because there is no milk or no cream for the coffee.  The pants I was going to wear did not get put in the dryer or ironed and when I got into my car, it was on empty and it was raining.  When I arrive at school the copy machine is on the fritz, I forgot to do the flipchart I needed, and there's a parent who needs a conference ASAP.

As the day progresses, the little patience I have is gone. The child who hasn't done their homework for the last 50 days still doesn't have it.  A nasty note in the folder from a parent. One student just won't stop talking. An unannounced observation that does not go well. The small crack that was there earlier has now grown into a huge crevasse that can't be repaired today.

I notice I'm short with my students, with other teachers, and hard on myself because I know better.  All I want to do is curl up under a toasty blanket and go back to bed.

It's days like these where I need to keep reminding myself that every child in my class is someone else's baby.  A child that could have been waited on for eternity, one that was prayed for, one that was almost lost, one that deserves so much more than what I have given.

I try every day to keep this in mind, but there are days where I slip.  I try every day to remember, if I was this child's mother, would I be okay with the words that came out the teacher's mouth, the questions about why homework wasn't completed, about the consequence I just administered, etc.  

I don't have children of my own, but I've had about 25 each year that I have considered my own.  The days where I genuinely put myself in the shoes of the parent are amazing.  The days where I don't, aren't.  

I may appear "soft" to some other teachers, not as firm, more lenient. But, I'm okay with that, because at the end of the day, I get hugs from 4th and 5th graders and sweet notes that pull me out of the depths on bad days.  I know that these were my kids, I'd want the best for them and a teacher who whispers before yelling, hugs before punishing, and loves before leaving for the day.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Has It Been 20 Years???

It truly feels like it has been 20 years since I've put my fingers to use pounding out a useful blogpost.  This year has been insanely busy with my new position.  Most days, I am working well into the evening hours - sometimes 10:00 on work and the last thing I want to do is sit down in front of a screen and type any words of wisdom.  And truth be told, I haven't felt like I've had anything worthy of sharing.  My nuggets of wisdom this year would not necessarily be student based, but would encompass how to deal with negativity, name calling, and bullying from adults, how to manage your schedule so you actually see your husband in more than passing, how to manage your day so you have the energy to cook and keep the house somewhat clean.  But, I would be no expert in any of these either because they are the very things that I am struggling with EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I feel like I've used the word overwhelmed quite a bit in the past few months, but today, I discovered that overwhelmed doesn't begin to cover it.  Talk about drowning in obligations, responsibilities, etc. - I need scuba tanks to keep me breathing because if I don't have them, I think I may die.  So, if you have any useful tidbits in the above mentioned areas, I would greatly appreciate it.

My job has bled into my personal life so much that I honestly don't know who I am any longer and I think I've forgotten what I enjoy. That makes me an unhappy stressed-out lady.  I have forgotten that writing was my release, that reading was my relaxation, and running was my sanity.  I have got to get it together - fast!

But, I did carve time out of crazy land to head to Louisiana for my 20th High School Reunion - Yes, I am in fact that old!  Hard to believe.  So, while it may seem like it has been 20 years since I've written, it really has been 20 years since I've graduated.  The weekend was fabulous - Friday night football game, Saturday afternoon picnic, and Saturday night event.  It truly was one of the best nights I've had in a very long time.  I was able to visit with girlfriends who truly mean the world to me and reconnect with a slew of others who I miss greatly.  There is nothing like 20 years to heal the old hurts and burned bridges that ignorant 18 year olds create.  This reunion was truly a coming of age get together for all of us.  Our class had a significant amount of success - 3 doctorate level professionals, lots of fabulous parents, a large group of teachers who are changing the world one student at a time, pastors, free spirits, etc.  It was fabulous!  Below are a few pics of the weekend's events.

I was also able to spend some much needed and valued time with my family while I was home.  2 weeks ago, I almost lost my daddy to kidney failure.  Thank the good Lord that he fought and made it through the battle.  As we prepare for biopsies tomorrow, I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we move forward in this process.  But, that is a story for another day.  I tried to soak up as much time with my nieces as humanly possible.  We went to the football game on Friday night, had a sleep over Friday evening, spent Saturday morning together, Sadie (the youngest) came and helped me get ready for the reunion, and then we spent ALL day together on Sunday ending it with smores.  Needless to say, Auntie needed a LONG nap when I returned home.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mr. Postman...

I absolutely LOVE getting things in the mail - letters, cards, Birchbox, packages, etc.  Anything that has been personally sent to me and arrives via the Postman (or woman) always puts a smile on my face. 

I'm a Birchbox girl and enjoy getting a box of goodies that are personalized for me and my beauty routine.  So, when I saw the SLANT box on Lessons with Coffee I got very excited.  More so about this than Birchbox. Why? 

Well, it is completely personalized.  Each person who participates is partnered with another teacher.  You spend a few weeks stalking getting to know one another through social media and then create a personalized package. 

My favorite thing about it is that it includes a personal letter and something handmade.  The cost is minimal.  The contents have to total $10, but you can find things on sale :)  This month's theme is: Oops! I forgot...

Each participant will create a personalized box filled with goodies that your partner could have forgotten with the busyness of the start of school.

Want to sign up?  Head on over to Lessons With Coffee!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Stepping Out of the Box...Was It The Right Decision?

My friend Krissy of Venspired had the perfect image to describe how and why I stepped so far out of my box this year. I was tired of being comfortable.  Sure, I loved what I was doing, and I was very successful at it, but at some point I lost track of the days and my purpose.  I was too comfortable.

I wonder how many times my students became comfortable about what we were doing in class?  Did I challenge them enough, make them squirm a little because it was hard?  Did I push my kids to never settle for the same old, same old?

I hope that I did.  I hope that I showed them that always challenging yourself and pushing beyond your limits was a learning exercise in and of itself.  I hope I showed them that if you make a mistake, you learned in that moment instead of considering it a failure.  I hope that when students received their first "B" they understood that they fought tooth and nail for it and need to feel proud.

I hope that my parents received those same messages about their students.  The message that a B is sometimes hard earned.  That if students are consistently getting straight As that maybe it's too easy.

I pray that I taught my students how to work through a struggle and find a solution - maybe not the first time, but maybe the 2nd or the 3rd.  That it doesn't always come easy - that real life thing is really messy and knowing how to power through the struggle is the real skill Mrs. Looper was trying to teach.  

I hope that I taught my students that sometimes you have to take a leap because while it's nice and warm and cozy, it's just too comfortable.

Friday, August 2, 2013

August Currently

Linking up with Farley again this month over at Oh, Boy 4th Grade!

Listening:  When we moved to Tennessee, we decided to forgo cable television.  it was all good when we were getting settled, but now our evenings are full of quite a bit of down time.  Enter in Netflix - DVD style.  No internet is available at our house unless it's through our Verizon Jet Pack, so no streaming movies.  We have resorted to watching a movie every night.  I'm not really into this one.  My husband chose it.  I don't think he's into it either.

Loving:  I stepped out of my role as a classroom teacher this year and instead I'm considered a Master Teacher - basically a coach on steroids.  Today was our very first day and while it was very difficult not having kids of my own, I loved going into all of the classes today and helping out.  I can't wait for the year to get started!

Thinking:  I really do need to clean.  I've been crazy busy and I haven't had the chance in the last week or so to do a deep clean.  That's on the list for tomorrow :)

Wanting:  A new pair of shoes is an essential for my school start, but I haven't found any I'm dying for yet.  I need comfort because I'm running all over the school, but also need a little style to them.  No frumpy shoes here girls!

Needing:  Desperately needing a vacation.  I didn't get a summer because school in SC let out late compared to TN and I started back in July. The time in between was full of extreme training - almost every day!  I just need a moment to recharge at the beach.

B2S:  Flair pens are my favorite for writing and grading - they spice it up a bit.  Sharpies are a given.  Along with new shoes, I always get a dress for the first day!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Over the course of my career, I've moved a lot - states, schools, grade levels, and classroom.  I haven't stayed in a grade level for longer than 2 years consecutively.  Tiring, yes.  But, rewarding, absolutely.  I've taught grades 2-5 over the last 13 years, and each year I've learned so much about that particular age of student and the state standards I was expected to teach.  There was definitely a learning curve, but through a lot of extra time and dedication, I was able to be successful in my classroom.  I was just a tad uncomfortable, and that uneasiness, caused me to grow myself. 

Today I've spent a lot of time thinking about that word growth.  We had a motivational speaker today that really focused on teachers growing themselves in order to be the best teacher we can be for our students.  I had an image of a flower poking its head out of the soil each spring.  I imagine that if flowers could feel, that growing experience would be quite painful.  I know my nieces often have growing pains in their legs at night and they've told me how much it hurts.  But, that flower continues to push through the soil when given the proper elements to allow it to grow. If not given the proper environment and elements, that flower could survive for a little while, but the potential strength is never fulfilled.

I never realized until this summer how complacent I had become with my work.  I knew I was a good teacher and I got great results, but I was not being pushed out of my comfort zone any longer.  I was on the verge of growing apathetic.  Something very dangerous in our profession. I was beginning to lack the excitement, enthusiasm, and passion that I needed on a daily basis to inspire my students. 

Since May, I've been pushed like never before.  When I hear people talk about stepping outside of their box, I imagine little steps.  I jumped a mile outside of mine this year.  Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to be this far out of my box, but I had forgotten what that uncomfortable feeling was like.  That feeling of being unsure of what the next move is going to be.  The uneasiness of something new.

This blog will probably take on a different feel this year.  I'll still be sharing here and there about things I've done or technology tools that I am utilizing, but I won't have as much time with students.  Instead, I'll be working with teachers primarily.  Part of my job is coaching teachers to become better, evaluations, and teaching strategies to teachers to utilize in their classroom and provide support to implement those strategies.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2013-14 Goals...Yes, It's That Time!

School begins for me today!  Teachers are back and we have a huge district training today.  I say huge, but that term is relative.  There are ONLY 5 schools in my new district - 2 primary, 2 intermediate, and 1 middle school.  The middle school has about 1,000 kids and the 4 others all run around 250.  Compared to my previous district, this is a small drop in the pond.  However, the entire district is getting together today for a motivational kick-off for the year.  Kind of a nice touch, don't ya think?

School starting means big changes for me.  I've stepped out of the classroom this year to some degree.  I'll be working primarily with teachers, but will be in classrooms throughout the week observing, evaluating, working with students, team teaching, modeling strategies, and conducting field testing.  The new role I am in has a full plate plus the dessert plate, salad plate, bread basket, and soup bowl.  So, when I saw I Heart Recess' linky, I knew I had to write down a few goals to get me focused and to remain on track.

 Personal:  I've done so well running/walking this summer that I want it to continue into the fall.  I am so guilty of working until dark that I'm fearful that I won't be able to get it in during the daylight hours.  But, I have to.  In order to do my job well, I have to take care of myself.  That also means, not eating in the cafeteria.  I have a fridge in my room and my plan is to keep it stocked with fresh fruit and veggies. We'll see how this plays out.

Organization:  Because I am evaluating teachers and conducting walk-throughs to see implementation of strategies, I HAVE to keep my calendar busy.  There is no way I can organize my time if I don't write it all down.  It will save my sanity!

Planning:  There are no lesson plans to write, per say!  I still have to write for my weekly teachers' meeting and that is a different level of planning, but I shouldn't have to spend my Sunday night working on plans for a regular classroom.  Of course, that is where my calendar and organization will come in handy.

Professional:  I've been talking about it for years, but it is now time to start that doctorate.  Many of the teachers in my building have their EdS, so I think I need to start it.  I haven't decided the course I'll take yet, but would like to start in the spring.

Motto:  Keep Calm and Ask Questions - In this new position, I can't just jump into something without knowing what I am doing.  In my own classroom, sometimes we, as in the students and I, would figure things out as we delved into new territory.  With technology, I figure things out as I go.  With this position, I can't do that, so I have to take a deep breath and ask questions if I need to.  Huge jump for me.

I'm linking up with I Heart Recess today!  Hop on over and add your goals!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

An Award....

I think I actually received this award a few years back, but I never took the time to do everything I needed to do.  So, when Elementary Endeavors included me on the list, I thought I might just do a post this time since I needed new material any way.  So, thank you Elementary Endeavors.   In order to accept, I must do the following:

To accept this award, I must:

1. Link back to the blog(s) that nominated me
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers
3. Answer the questions posted by my nominator
4. Create 11 questions for my nominees
5. Share 11 random facts about yourself
6. Contact my nominees and let them know I nominated them

Unfortunately, I'm going to skip number 2 - All of the blogs I follow have over 200 followers.  As I discover more blogs this summer, I'll give the award to the new ones I find. 

1. When did you know that you wanted to become a teacher?
This is a toughy for me.  I started out as a nursing major.  While I was waiting to get into nursing school, I had to take classes to remain full time, so I began picking up education classes.  I can't tell you the exact moment that the clouds parted and I knew that I wanted to become a teacher.  However, the first time a student accidentally called me "Mom," I knew that I had made the right decision.
2. What's the funniest thing a kiddo has ever said to you? 
To narrow it down to one thing is so difficult.  After 13 years of teaching, I can't remember one year to the next.  However, I do remember doing a writing lesson with my 5th graders a few years ago around Christmas time.  We were working with fluency and were using dice to determine the amount of words in a sentence. If we rolled a 6, we had to create a sentence with 6 words.  Somehow, my mind went faster than pencil and in the midst of writing a story about Santa coming down the chimney, my pencil wrote, "Santa coming down my pants."  There was silence in the room and our principal's son said, "Mrs. Looper, I don't think you meant write that."  More silence, then the room busted out in laughter.
3. What is your favorite "teacher" item?
My camera/iPhone/iPad is my all-time favorite tool in the classroom.  I love documenting the learning that is happening.  The iPad has definitely made it easier because I can capture video as well.
4. Do you have a classroom theme? If so, what is it?
No theme, just cheerful colors and things that make my students comfortable.
5. What are three things you always must have in your teacher bag?
Colored "flair" pens, iPad, and gradebook.
6. Speaking of teacher bags, do you have a favorite that you'd recommend?
I used a 31 bag for a long time, but it finally bit the dust this year.  I need a new one.
7. What is your least favorite subject to teach?
Least favorite subject has to be Science.  It's not that I hate teaching it, but in comparison to all the others it isn't one of my passions.  But, I do love to see my kids explore and make discoveries in our inquiry lessons.
8. What is your best organizational tip for teachers?
Send papers home on a Wednesday so you have an entire weekend to get things graded if needed.  Don't get stuck in a cycle of saving papers to grade.  Use your time wisely to do so.
9. Do you have a class mascot or class pet?
No class pet, but we have had a yellow lab before.  I loved having my dog in my classroom.
10. What is your favorite memory from the last school year?
They are ALL favorites because it was my last year in the classroom.  I loved every moment with all of my kids!
11. What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming school year?
A new position at a new school in a new capacity!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Data Driven

It's Saturday morning and what did I wake up to do first thing this morning?  Analyze test data!  We are having such an exciting morning - we as in my Jack Russell Terrier and myself on the couch.  He is conked out for the most part.

A portion of my new job entails analyzing test data with a leadership team.  This was a task that in years past, I did in a way, but it was completely unique to my students in my room.  Now, I am looking at an entire school's data.  Bless you Data Coaches and Instructional Coaches who have been doing this for years. Looking at my own individual class of data was overwhelming at times - Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies all kind of blended together after awhile.  But looking at an entire school of data with different tests...Whew!  It's enough to make you crazy. 

This girl dreamed of numbers and colors and Excel last night. Honestly, Excel is the stuff nightmares are made of for me.  I hate it with a passion.   Little did I know that I had a little elf working until the wee hours of the morning inputting formulas to make my life easier.  My husband stayed up until 4AM creating formulas to calculate percentages of basic, proficient, and advanced kids for the entire school and by individual teacher.  I owe him BIG TIME!!

Now that everything is all beautiful and works seamlessly, I love what I "we" have done together. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Are Your Kids Talking?

Over the course of my career, I've noticed a subtle change in my classroom.  When I first started teaching, I was a traditional teacher.  The giver of knowledge.  Students were quiet while I instructed.  However, I quickly learned that he who does the most talking is the one who does the most learning.  So, I've relinquished most of the talking to my students.  I encourage group dialogue and verbalizing thinking.  Everyone can benefit from each other's thinking processes in my opinion.  My classroom is not quiet - maybe during a test, but even then, I have a few verbal processors that need to speak their thinking before responding.  State testing is a bear for my students because they have to be quiet for so long.

I started this transition slowly by simply using a Think-Pair-Share model.  Students think independently, pair up with someone near them, and share their thoughts.  Most times, these responses are quick short sentences - not deep thinking.  But there are many times where I wanted to hear more and would continually ask, "Why?" to challenge my kids to go deeper.

I would use conversation starters to help students frame their thoughts and try to get to deeper ideas, but honestly, that is hard when you are working with 2nd graders and even 4th and 5th graders.

With Common Core State Standards being implemented, the speaking and listening in my classroom needs to be transformed once again.  My kiddos are good at sharing their own thoughts, but not so good at expanding the thoughts of others or digging deeper and making connections.  With students spending more and more time on social media, those conversation skills are lacking.  Texting only gets you so far and so deep.  I needed a resource to help me teach "academic" conversation.

Enter Jeff Zwiers' Academic Conversations.  I'm not very far into the book, but Zwiers & Crawford are changing the way my students will be talking next year.

Both authors have spent years in coaching roles observing academic conversations in classrooms and have identified 5 crucial types of "talking" to foster critical thinking and content understandings.  The five types of conversations that he addresses are:

1. Elaborating, Clarifying, and Questioning
2. Supporting Ideas with Examples and Evidence
3. Building on Ideas
4. Paraphrasing
5. Synthesizing Key Ideas of the Conversations

So far, I love what I'm reading!  The authors introduce images and hand motions to help students visualize what they are doing in each type of conversation.  The book is divided into chapters that address each type of conversation in detail and give ideas to help incorporate this type of discussion into classrooms. I can't wait for school to start to give this a try.

As I read, I plan on discussing each conversation in detail here on The Loop.  If I'm able to do it, I want to create visuals to use and tools that will help me and other teachers develop these conversations on a daily basis.  Check out Jeff's website for more information as well.