Wednesday, January 22, 2014

100 Happy Days

No, this post isn't about 100th day of school.  In fact, this post has little to do with school.  This post is all about finding happiness and joy in the small moments.  We forget to do that when we're stressed out about the next assessment, a lesson gone wrong, the pile of ungraded essays on the kitchen table, the loads of laundry piling up at home, and the day that never seems to have enough hours in it for us to be successful as educators/spouses/parents/friends (choose one or more!).  We forget to sit for a moment, catch our breath, and notice all the little things that make us smile.  Catching those little moments can be rejuvenating.  Capturing those moments in a picture allows us to relive those little moments again.

That's where comes in.  I stumbled across #100happydays on Instagram the other day.  Someone I follow added that little hashtag to one of their photos.  Now I'm not a hashtag person and have to be honest and say that I don't really understand them.  But I clicked on her little #100happydays and it took me to half a zillion pictures of things that have made folks around the world smile at in the course of their day.  I started smiling just browsing through them!

I know I need a little more 'happy' in my life and this might just do the trick.  Life IS about the small moments and I'm going to take the challenge to capture 100 happy days on Instagram.  I'll share my first three days here, but if you are curious and want to see more, you'll just have to follow me on my personal Instagram account (ltanner24).

Day 1:  I love my NordicTrack treadmill.  I can program walks
like this.  I walked 2 miles in vineyards in Tuscany!
Tonight I'll be walking through Tokyo.
Day 2:  I was looking through old pictures yesterday and found
this one of my two boys.  I can't look at it without smiling.
It was taken about 27 years ago.
Both boys are now pilots in the Air Force.
Day 3:  Remember, it's all about the small moments.  I decided that,
since it is never going to rain again in California,  I had better
stop by the carwash on the way home.  I have a CLEAN car!
THAT really makes me happy!

So what makes you smile?  Where do you find your happy moments?  Feeling up to a challenge?

Go find your happy!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Spot It! A Great Rainy Day Recess Game...if only it would rain!

Reading about all the snow days schools are having back east makes this a bit more difficult to admit, but here goes.  I want rain.  There are the obvious reasons I want rain.  Like the fact that we have had less than 15% of our average rainful this season.  That a good downpour would help to clean the dust and bird poo off my car.  That the lack of rain is going to adversely affect the wine grape crop I so depend on after a long week at work.  But there's another reason I want rain... rainy day recess.  Can you believe it?  I actually WANT a rainy day recess.  Go ahead and hate me if you must, but this 65 degree-blue-sky-bright-sunshine weather is getting old. I want to stay in and pull out the games and art materials.  I want to play "Mum Ball" and "Who's Missing?"  I also want to play a new game I was recently given:  Spot It! 

If you've played before, you already know how much fun it is.  I just got it for Christmas and have fallen in love with it.  I'm looking forward to sharing it with my class...just as soon as it rains!  The game comes in at least 10 different versions.  There's even a Spanish word version.  I have the one above and the camping version. Here are just a few others:

The game is designed for 2-8 players, but I prefer groups of 4.  So what's the gist?  It's a card game that tests visual perception.  Each card is covered with a variety of symbols and all cards have one symbol in common.  The object of the game is to be the first to recognize which symbols match and call out the match.  It's fast, fun, and a little bit loud so it may be better suited for rainy day recess than a quiet least for my boisterous class.

I'm going to go do my rain dance now.  Wish me luck because here's our 5 day forecast:

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Day in Our Life Schedule Linky

I have to admit, I've had a lot of fun looking at everyone's daily schedule.  For some of them, I'd gladly trade my first born child (but given that he's 34 now, I don't think many of you would jump at that offer).  Other schedules I've seen confirm that many of you should be wearing your super hero capes on a daily basis.  Yikes!  I'm not sure how some of you do it. Anyway, I thought I'd link up with Amelia over at Where the Wild Wild Things Learn and share my daily schedule.

Every other week, my 5th grade team has morning and afternoon duty.  Ninety-seven percent of our kiddos are on the free/reduced lunch program which means they all get to have breakfast in the cafeteria.  Morning duty is cold, but easy as we monitor the kids when they show up at their classroom doors.  

School starts at 8:00.  As my students enter the room, they complete the morning warm-up and have their homework ready to check.  By 8:15, we're working in our Greek and Latin Root binders.  This year I'm trying out The Reading Olympians: Prefixes, Suffixes, & Roots.  I'm not using it exactly as they suggest, but it's working great in my room.  My students LOVE doing the raps.  

Writing and anything grammar related are tucked into a 30 minute block that goes far too fast.  When we're working on a larger project, I struggle to find time to conference with my students.  I only have about 6 or 7 who I would consider to be at grade level and the other 28 desperately need my help.  Oh, what I would give to have an aide in my room during this time!

Math typically runs from 9:00-10:05.  An hour might seem long, but I have so much remediation to do! My fast finishers are given the option to become Academic Assistants.  Peer tutoring is a big part of our math block. My assistants get to don a lanyard with an official badge:

Our recess runs from 10:05-10:20.   Two teachers are monitoring the kids on the playground while the third stays in for study hall.  This is also an opportunity for kids to head up to the cafeteria for Second Chance Breakfast if they didn't eat earlier.

We have 3 prep periods each week:  P.E. on Monday and Thursday (despite the Tuesday I put on my schedule above!) and Music on Friday.  This gives us three 50 minute planning periods each week.  On the days that I don't have prep (Tuesday and Wednesday), we use part of that time for a visit to the library and some additional science.

I'm liking (notice I didn't say LOVING) my reading block right now.  Things are running relatively well with my reading groups.  My 34 students' reading levels span from high first grade to about the ninth grade level.  It is definitely a challenge to meet all of their needs!

Probably my least favorite time of the day is ELD.   Did I say that?  I love the kids who come to me during this period, but it's not an effective use of time for my non-ELD students.  My ELD group consists of 17 intermediate ELLs.  During this block, my beginner and advanced ELL students go to the other two fifth grade classrooms and 5 of my highest students stay in the room to work on independent projects or Young Einstein Club. The rest of my non-ELD students go to leveled writing groups.  With so many kids on the move, too much time is eaten up during the transitions to and from these groups.  I would much rather keep my own ELLs and work with them during this time.  My other students could be doing meaningful enrichment and remediation centers during this 30 minute block.  Okay, my rant is over. On to lunch!

Lunch is our duty free time.  Yay!  We do have our Student Council meetings on Wednesdays during lunch and I hold Lunch Bunch on Fridays, so I actually get 3 quiet lunches a week.  I will admit that I love having lunch with my students.  It's a great opportunity to interact with them in a very relaxed setting.  Their true goofiness comes out and we usually end up in serious giggle fits.  

Math board is done right after lunch.  Math board is essential for our students.  So many of them are struggling learners and it gives us the chance to spiral through our standards and preview upcoming concepts.  

Following math board, it's time for either Social Studies or Science.  We just tried out Teaching in the Fast Lane's European Explorers Dice Simulation.  


My students really enjoyed the activity.  I did change one piece though.  Once students left Europe on their journey, ANY situation that caused them to return to Europe meant they were finished with their careers as explorers.  They were quick to note that very few explorers were truly successful.  

At 2:10 we start packing up and I read aloud to them.  We're currently reading Among the Hidden, the first book in Margaret Peterson Haddix's Shadow Children series.  They are hooked!  If you haven't read the series, you should check it out!  Fifth graders love it.

By 2:15, my room is empty and I'm outside for afternoon duty.   At 2:20, I'm back in my classroom for an hour of tutoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Grade level meetings and professional development happen on our early release Wednesdays.

Well that's my average day.  For now anyway.  I've seen a few schedules on this linky that I need to look at a little bit closer. I might just need to rethink parts of my day. By nature, teachers are always tweaking this or that right?  If you haven't done so already, hop over to Where the Wild Things Learn  to take a peek into everyone else's day and link up.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ahhh...The Smell of Freshly Baked Bread!

I'll get to the bread part in just a bit, but I figured that was a good title for this post since my house is filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread on this gorgeous Saturday morning. Freshly baked bread AND no polar vortex.  Jealous?

We started back to school on Monday and, much to my surprise, all of my students walked through the door.  You might be thinking, "That's a surprise? Aren't they all SUPPOSED to come back?"  Not at our school. We often have families that take the winter break as an opportunity to visit relatives in Mexico.  These visits sometime extend 2-3 weeks into the new year.  Right in the middle of the toughest part of fifth grade math...fractions. But not this year!  It was great to see ALL of my students sitting in their chairs on Monday morning.  I do have one who's leaving next week for two weeks, but she's one of my most conscientious students and I have no doubt she'll complete all the work in her independent study packet.  The worst part about her leaving is that she keeps me organized.  She's my 'right hand girl'.  She remembers where I put my keys, always knows what time it is, reminds me to send the attendance folder up to the office, and loves to stay in at lunch recess to straighten up my desk.  I'll miss her.

Here are some highlights of what I think has been a great start to the new year:

I read Memoirs of a Goldfish to my class before break.  The book was leaning up against the whiteboard when I left.  When I got back, I found it on my desk with this stickie note attached to it:

The photo isn't as clear here in blog world, but it says, "This book is Amazing. Make sure your students hear it.  Jason the Custodian."  Okay, how wonderful is THAT?  Our night custodian actually sat down to read this book during his shift...and LOVED it as much as we did.  That just makes my heart smile.

Around 9:00 on Monday, the office called to tell me to send someone up to escort my new student to the classroom.  New student?  Yikes!  My 'right hand girl' jumped into action and rounded up supplies while I raced out into the hallway to steal borrow the empty desk that was out there.  I hate not having any warning that a new kiddo is about to step into my classroom.  I want them to be able to come into my room and sit down at a desk that just looks like it's been waiting for them to arrive.  I want all the goodies in place with neat little nametags on the consumables and a cute name plate for their desk.  I want them to feel like we've been expecting them.  But that's not our reality.  So it's a mad dash to pull it together while I send our Messenger up to retrieve them.   My new student puts my roster back up to 34 and she's a great addition to our mix of personalities.  We're lucky to have her!

Monday afternoon was like Christmas all over again.  If you're a DonorsChoose fanatic like I am, you know what it's like to have your projects funded right before winter break.  It means you have to wait until after the holidays for your project materials to be ordered and shipped.  I was pleasantly surprised to find two packages in the office on Monday afternoon.  The first was our new Epson Small-in-One multifunction machine.  Yep, we're printing in color now!  The kids are really excited as they are about to embark on their journey of researching and writing explorer reports.  The second box contained this:

Let me introduce you to iPad #6 from DonorsChoose!  The kids were pretty excited.  Almost as much as I was.  Now, if only our district technology folks could be as excited as we are and actually allow us connect to the internet through their system.  But no.  Still, where there's a will, there's a way.  I use the hotspot on my iPhone to give them access to the internet.  I haven't had a problem with exceeding any data limits on my plan, so it's all good!

Next up on the week's highlights: "Pauly".  No, that's not his real name, but he looks like a miniature Pauly D. from Jersey Shore (I feel the need to add the disclaimer that I have never actually watched that show). "Pauly" has never liked school.   It has always been an incredible struggle for him.  This year has been no different.  So imagine my surprise when we had this conversation on Tuesday:

"Pauly":  Mrs. Tanner, something's wrong with me. I don't know what it is.
 Me:        You're not feeling well?
"Pauly":  I don't know. I don't know what it is, but ever since Christmas break, I think I LIKE school now.  I don't know why, but I want to be here.  That's weird huh?

I got a little bit dramatic and felt his forehead to see if he had a temperature and fussed over him as though he was truly ill.  He smiled and said, "No, no, no, it's okay.  I'm not sick.  I just hope whatever this is, it lasts."  I'm happy to report that it lasted all week.  I'm hoping that whatever he's 'come down with' sticks around for a while.

I had a college student spend the day in my classroom yesterday.  He sat quietly in the back of the room taking notes all morning.  I'd check in with him whenever I could to answer any questions he might have.  He didn't say much.  But then, when the kids went off to their music prep, he came up to me and said, "I love you."  There was the briefest moment of awkward silence after that declaration.  Then he continued with, "I wish you had been my fifth grade teacher.  You seem to love all your students and they love you back.  How do you do that?"  It was another one of those moments that makes my heart smile. I shared a comment with him that a friend made after I had a little rant about not having enough time to teach such a large and wildly diverse group of kids everything they need to know before heading off to 6th grade:

  "Thankfully, that regardless of the system...regardless of the outcomes, each soul you teach is blessed with caring growth and is transformed in a way which is good."

That's what it's all about, isn't it?

So, what's happening on the homefront this week?

I got a bread machine for Christmas.  Now I'm only ever a few hours from freshly baked bread without all the mess.  I'll be making some toast as soon as I finish this post.

Honey Oatmeal Bread...Yum!

I also have a new addiction.  Sadly, it's not exercise, but I'm working on that.  No, my new addiction is zentangling.  You've no doubt read about it on several folks' blogs already, so I won't go into detail.  I bought this book:

... a set of micron pens, a sketch pad, and artist tiles so I can do this:

My Day 4 Zentangle 
Zentangling is described as "creative drawing for relaxation, inspiration, and fun." The artist gene skipped a generation in my family, so I'm thrilled that I can actually produce a doodle like this.  I'm finding it to be a great way to unwind from my day at work.  I can't wait to introduce zentangling to my students.

And finally, I have my One Little Word for this year:  Choices.  I love my word.  I have completely embraced it.  It gives me space and holds me accountable all at the same time.  Just what I need.

I've got a piece of honey oatmeal toast calling my name......

Hope all of you have had a great start to 2014!