Friday Five- Whew!

Friday Five- Whew!

This week went by so quickly that I had to look back at my photos and my texts with my sister to try to remember what happened! Here we go! 

One

Bring in the Guitar

My kids were just not getting vibrations and sound. We watched videos, we read stories, we did a few experiments… nothing. On Monday I ran to the music room before our science class and asked the music teacher if there were any instruments where kids could see vibrations. She handed me a guitar and I walked back to class. The kids were so excited about a guitar being in our classroom that I thought we might miss the point. Nope. After feeling the vibrations and seeing the vibrations on this guitar they got it!  

Two

Out on a Tuesday

On Tuesday our entire teacher taxi headed out for drinks after school. By Tuesday afternoon it felt like we taught for 780 days straight. Some weeks are just like that. I don’t know why… I can’t even remember anything from Tuesday. We went out and we laughed and got into really messy conversations about politics but a fun time was had by all. Sometimes you need a night out in the middle of the week. 

Three

Stacks of Books

If you follow me on instagram then you know about this. In my classroom I have sets of books for guided reading. They are in my own room. I can reach them without even standing up if I am sitting at my teacher table. BUT I never put books back. I pull them out for lessons with kids and then I pile them up. I pile them up until they are so out of control and then I am annoyed with myself and spend a whole prep putting them back where they belong. It did make me feel a little better when 100% of teachers who answered my insta poll said they also stacked instead of put away. I mean, you win some you lose some. 

FOur

The Messiest Desk

Things were so busy on Thursday. I found myself saying just put it on my table more times than I knew. When I finally walked back there (period 3, don’t judge) it was piled high with so much stuff. So much stuff! I tried and tried to clear it off but must admit that it was still a disaster when I left today. 

Five

Opposite Day

At precisely 8:29 this morning I had had enough of opposite day. FYI our school day begins at 8:30. My kids were so crazy! I know that opposite day is so much fun as a grade 1 kid so I didn’t spoil their fun but I was dying all day long. Our schedule was put up in the reverse order and the cards were upside down. What was silly and funny at the beginning of the day was not so funny at the end of the day. Kids were wearing pants inside out and backwards. Kids were so goofy and laughed so much. BUT I was so proud of them when they said the only math we should do is turn around facts. If you don’t teach everyday math 3+4 is a turn around fact to 4+3. See what happened? Oh to be a first grader again! 

How was your week? Did it fly by or did it feel super long? I feel like this is the time of year where it either feels like a rush or it feels like a drag. Let me know in the comments below! 

Happy New Year! Resolutions for Teachers

Sparkler New Year Teacher Resolutions

Happy New Year! 

I hope this new year brings a lot of great things your way. While I’m not a big fan of resolutions in my personal life, I do always set some in my teacher life. Here are 10 resolutions I think all teachers should have this year. 

1. Build Stronger Relationships

Classrooms rise and fall based on the relationships within. Take time to get to know your students. Each morning or class period when they come in take a moment to greet them by name. Ask them how they’re doing. Acknowledge them when they do great things or when they attempted to do great things but didn’t quite make it. The more positive your relationships with your students the better atmosphere within your classroom.

Create stronger relationships with the adults that pop into your room too. Check in with them when you see them. Say hello with a smile! Get to know a bit more about them. Even if it is just a teacher who pops in for 10 seconds to pull a kid out. The stronger the relationships between the adults in your classroom the better functioning your classroom will be. Remember it takes a village, you aren’t at this alone. 

2. Become More Culturally Responsive

Over the last few years I have learned a lot about being culturally responsive. I am in no way done learning and have so much that I am still learning. I learned a lot in 2018 and I’m working to learn ever more in 2019.

Every educator should strive to be culturally responsive. We have racist educators all over the country and even the world. At Halloween, we had teachers dress up as the boarder wall and Mexicans. As if that’s not bad enough we had more teacher defending what they did because they’re “good people.” Now, let’s get real here, good people aren’t racist. They just aren’t. We can’t ignore the fact that this was blatant racism. Sometimes we like to find comfort in calling racist acts things like “a lapse in judgement” or “insensitive” while it is both of those things it is also straight up racist. Step outside of your comfort zone.

It isn’t enough to not be racist, we have to be actively anti-racist. 

Ok, so how do you become more culturally responsive and anti-racist? Good question. First of all you must understand that it is not a member of the global majority’s problem to fix racism. You also learn about terms like global majority and don’t brush off politically correct terms but learn why the shift in language is important. It is also not their problem to educate you when you don’t understand something or when you feel uncomfortable or attacked. Ok now here are some easy steps to follow to become more culturally responsive.

  1. Follow people of the global majority on social media. We all have social media so do a little review of who you’re following. If you are only following people who look and think like you (or slightly differently but pretty much the same) then this is a place to start. Your social media should be both a window and a mirror. I would argue a window more than a mirror.  If your social media just provides a mirror to you then you must find some windows. I started with my social media this year and it made a world of difference. 
  2. Teach about different cultures year round… and accurately. You better not be pulling out resources about Black Americans for the first time on Martin Luther King Jr Day. Don’t teach that Martin Luther King Jr’s dream has been realized in this country when there is inequality all around us. When I was in college we learned that the old way of teaching went like this… Imagine a storage room near a classroom and in the storage room there are different boxes filled with books and activities related to people of the global majority. During certain points in the year the box comes off the shelf and is taught about and then returned. Oh, it’s Black History Month, let’s learn about slavery and civil rights. Oh, it’s Cinco de Mayo let’s learn about Mexicans. Time to learn about Native Americans because it is Thanksgiving. Oh it’s Woman’s History Month let’s learn about women’s place in history. Let me tell you that I went to college a long time ago but there are classrooms who still pull out the boxes (perhaps figuratively), feature a global majority group, and put the boxes back on the shelf. We have to do better. 
  3. Buy resources created by members of that culture. Is the resource about Black History Month created by a Black American? What better way to make sure your resource is accurate than get it directly from the source. Also what better way to support people of the global majority than to purchase resources from them. Don’t do cute, do meaningful and educational and accurate. 
  4. Examine your own bias and explore your identity. Sometimes I see posts on Instagram or Twitter and they rub me the wrong way. When this happens I reflect a bit and try to decide why that happened. Then I do research and try to educate myself further. We all need to do this. I was raised in a white family in a white conservative neighborhood. I didn’t know much about people who were different than me. I can’t live in that bubble and I need to realize that I may have certain biases because of this. I need to recognize my own bias and work to learn more and confront it. We can all learn more about ourselves and grow. 
  5. Remember: You don’t get to decide what is an isn’t racist. If a First American says using the word tribe or spirit animal is offensive to their culture you stop. If someone says it is offensive to dress in their cultural dress, you don’t. As a person who is not a member of the global majority, I listen to those who are and take the lead from them. Just because you just don’t see racism on a daily basis does not mean that it does not exist. Recognize that privilege and try to do something for the cause. It isn’t enough to not be racist we must actively be anti racist if we want to see true equality in our future. Isn’t that what we want for all of our students? 

3. collaborate More WIth Your Peers

First of all, if you skipped number 2 because it made you feel uncomfortable or because you’re not racist go back and read it- it is 100% meant for you. 

Stop. Collaborate and Listen. Can you ever start writing about collaboration without a little nod to Vanilla Ice? I don’t think so. Collaboration is what makes or breaks teachers. I have learned so much through collaborating with peers. A district I used to work for constantly repeated that the smartest person in the room was the room. Think about that. We can learn so much from each other and I think collaborating is sometimes overlooked. You are surrounded by so many smart, wonderful and brilliant teachers-why not collaborate more with them. Even if you disagree about education philosophies you can always learn something new through collaboration. 

4. Create a Classroom With More Joy

Once when I was teaching in WI we had to write our SLO about reading. We emailed a professor at a nearby university because our district always said students below grade level should move up 1.5 years over the course of a year. We wanted to read more research on this practice before setting our goal. Instead of emailing us back with any research she emailed us to say we should set a grade level goal based on joy within the classroom. While it didn’t work for our SLO, I think creating more joy in the classroom is always a good idea. 

This resolution goes hand in hand with the first resolution on this list. How often are kids smiling in your classroom? Do you hear laughter coming from within? Are kids eager to learn and engage in learning? Are student interests at the heart of your classroom?

5. Use Your Planning Time Intentionally

Sometimes I like to pretend that I always use my planning time wisely but I don’t. Sometimes I spend my planning time chit chatting with my teacher friends who also have prep. Sometimes I spend my planning time catching up with my assistant. Sometimes I use my planning time to walk a lap around our entire school, which is sometimes needed. All of the things I do can be great but they can also get in the way of the work that needs to be done. 

Sharing assessment data and planning next steps for certain students is important to chat about with my assistant teacher. Getting ideas and brainstorming is helpful chatting with my teacher friends. Taking a walk while reflecting on an idea is useful. 

Plan out what you use each prep time for and stick to it. I started doing that at the start of the school year and it has been a game changer. First of all, I am so much more productive during the day. I hardly bring anything home anymore. Second of all my classroom has run so much smoother. Of course from time to time I have to step away from my scheduled out preps due to a meeting or something but it really does work wonders. 

6. Learn a New Skill

When was the last time you learned a new skill? If you are a teacher and you can’t remember then that is a problem. This past year I became a Google Certified Educator, maybe that would be a place to start. Read a book, try something new, engage in a twitter chat, do SOMETHING NEW. 

Right now I am working on my Level 2 Google educator certification and it is tricky. Mostly because I teach first grade with one iPad so I don’t have a lot of use for all the cool Google features but I am learning a lot. Learning is what is important. Seek out opportunities for learning and growth in your professional life. 

7. Organize Yourself and Your Time

A major goal of mine within the classroom is organization. If you only know me outside of school, you’ll think this is hilarious because I am the least organized person in the world. At school, I must have a Sasha Fierce type of alter ego who is extremely organized. (If you do not know who Sasha Fierce is then you need to hit up Google ASAP or unfollow this blog #beyonceforlife) 

This resolution obviously relates to resolution number 5. I do have one schedule prep (not the whole time but a chunk) set aside for organization. When I am organized the world is happy. I don’t have the most organized class this year and we are taking time each month to work on different organizational goals. Currently, we’re working on putting caps back on markers. We’re in the midst of a serious marker crisis. Each day we’re losing upwards of 7 markers due to cap issues. I find this insane! We might have a marker lockdown if this sitch continues into February. Also, if you have any solutions, hit me up! 

8. Increase Student Engagement

More student engagement leads to more joy. (Something I just made up but can probably be proven true.) Please see resolution number 4 about joy. Every once in a while I’ll do a quick engagement survey to see where we’re at. A post about completing an engagement survey will be up on the blog soon. You might want to subscribe so that you don’t miss out. 

Increase engagement by following student interest. We recently read The Quickest Kid in Clarksville and my kids were fascinated by Wilma Rudolph. We then searched our classroom library database and found Wilma Unlimted in the grade 4 classroom library. We had to run to that classroom immediately and interrupt their learning to get it! We were so excited! This story is LONG. Like really long for first graders. It also uses so many hard words. I thought for sure our class was going to give up the quest to learn more about Wilma but we did not. After reading (over the course of 3 weeks) the story they wanted to see if there were any youtube videos of her racing. There were. Now some kids are researching further. This was not in the plans. I just read The Quickest Kid in Clarksville with the intention of focusing on character actions and feelings but we ended up doing a little research on Wilma Rudolph. Instead of learning about characters we learned that readers can find out more about what they read by researching. The squeals of delight that came from our classroom as the kids saw a picutre on google that was also in the text wmade this completely worthwhile. 

9. Use Less Worksheets

Yeah… we gotta talk. It might be time for you and the copier to start seeing other people. I’m not saying you can’t be friends and see each other from time to time but you don’t need what it’s giving you on the daily. Trust me you and your students will be better off if you just take a break. I don’t make many copies at all. We use a lot of whiteboards and scrap paper to work on problems. Recently our school’s copier has been on the fritz and it has caused me to rethink a few things. Maybe just play pretend that the copier is broken. Can you still deliver your content without the paper? Maybe not, then make your copies but maybe you can reimagine your class and find a new possibility. 

10. Create a Better Work/Life Balance

Since living in Poland my work/life balance has hit the ultimate balance. This is partially due to the culture and the expectations of teachers at my school. I wouldn’t be honored as a teacher or be considered so dedicated if I worked all weekend or extra long hours each day. People would be concerned about my time management and just think I was straight up crazy. There is more to life than teaching. Happy teacher, happy classroom. Stressed teacher, stressed classroom. 

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Happy New Year! 

Take a moment to leave a comment with one of your resolutions for the rest of this school year!

Friday Five- First Week of Winter Break

Friday Five- First Week of Winter Break

This year it felt like winter break almost came too fast. I know I am probably the only teacher in the world saying that but it is true. Usually, as we approach winter break I am ready. When that bell rings for dismissal I can’t get out fast enough to start my holiday. This year I didn’t feel that way. When the bell rang it felt like it had come too early. Like I wasn’t quite ready for break and could have taught another week or two. Either way, it is here! 

One

Welcome to the united states of america

Hearing those words as we touched down in Chicago brought so much joy to my heart. To be honest, most of the time I don’t miss too much about living in the US but when it comes time to visit I cherish every moment. I do so much shopping when I am back in  the US. Last year I had to bring two suitcases back to Poland with me because I bought so much junk. Now I can justify the clothes I bought but my goal is not to spend any money on teacher stuff. The stuff I want to by is a want not a need. This trip I am most excited to spend time with my family and friends. This week it was all about quality time with the fam. 

Two

Happy Birthday to My Brother

My youngest brother’s birthday is in the middle of December. This means that I get to be at home for his birthday! Last year he turned 21 and I literally got to my parents house at 11:00 and went to the bars for midnight. I had one beer to celebrate with him before jetlag began to take its toll and I had to call my mom to come pick me up while the rest of my siblings continued the party! For future reference, going to the bar after a ridiculously long flight and drive is not the greatest idea. Lesson learned. This year I had a few days to prepare, also 22 is not as monumental as 21. We went out to breakfast together and celebrated with Chinese food for dinner.  

Three

Visiting Friends

When you live abroad and come home everyone wants to see you. It can be pretty tricky to juggle your time and plan to see everyone. Last year I didn’t make it up to visit one of my closest friends so this year I scheduled her in first. Next week I will be visiting my very first teaching bestie and now just a general bestie. I’m so excited! We haven’t hung out in 3 years!! She also had a new baby right before I moved to Poland and I can’t wait to actually meet her! 

I will also visit my other two teaching besties who I miss very, very much. They helped me get through one of the toughest years in my teaching career. These two are always available for a consult and to just chat teaching… although sometimes they call in the middle of the night because they forget about the time change. It always results in a hilarious conversation I usually fall asleep during! 

FOur

Read, Read, Read

Although I am overwhelmed by all the new Netflix possibilities I want to spend this break reading as much as I possibly can. I love to read and sometimes while school is in session I don’t have the time to read as much as I would like. Over vacations I like to try to read as much as possible.

To Be Read: 

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  •  Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

Five

Google Level 2 Certification

Earlier this fall I became Level 1 Google certified and now I want to become level 2. Over the break I’ll watch complete the training course and hopefully take the test. I didn’t think it was too tricky to become level 1 certified and I think it would be cool to learn a bit more and become certified in level 2. 

 

Were you off on break this week? Leave a comment below with your winter break plans! 

Friday Five: Thankful Edition

Friday Five: Thankful Edition

One

My Teacher Friends

How could a teacher start a thankful list without mentioning the people who always support her? Teacher friends are essential. Partially because they get it in a way that no other friend could understand. My teacher friends constantly uplift me and challenge me. We push each other to learn more, to do better, to grow. We also support each other when this challenging profession becomes too much. My teacher friends have supported me through the worst of times and helped me celebrate the best of times. I still remain in contact with my close teacher friends from my past schools. I am extremely grateful to have these wonderful people in my life. 

Two

My Students

…should students have come first? Maybe but I just got done Facetiming one of my teacher friends in the US! Teacher friends were on the brain. I am so thankful for each and every diamond in my class this year. I am also so grateful to have had the opportunity to teach all my friends of years past. How can you not take a moment to appreciate all the smiling faces that you work with each day? 

Three

Juicy Markers

You might think this is a joke but it is not…. if you teach lower elementary you might just understand. This year my class loves to take caps off of markers and lose them! 😂Just kidding! They’re in grade 1 and they can’t help it! We’re working on this clicking of the caps but until then I am eternally grateful when I pick up a whiteboard marker or a chart marker and it actually works. I mean, is there anything better? 

FOur

HandWritten Notes

This week we had indoor recess due to air pollution. After indoor recess, I got so many cards filled with drawings of me and hearts and our classroom. I seriously treasure all of these notes that I have gotten over the year. In the States, I have a box that is full of them. There is nothing better than a note of appreciation from a child. 

Five

You!

If you’re reading this blog then I am so thankful for you. I love sharing my educational expertise with the world. Over my career, I’ve had several blogs but this is the one I’ve kept running the longest. I am so thankful to everyone who takes the time to read my words. Hopefully, I’ve helped you learn something or try something new within your classroom. Let me know what other things you’d like to read about and I would gladly post about them! 

I hope all of my American readers had a wonderful holiday filled with relaxation and rejuvenation. 

Leave a comment and let me know what makes your teacher heart grateful! 

Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom