Friday, October 10, 2014

Thoughts after 10 days of intentional positivity

Two Fridays ago I had a moment of teaching that I wasn't proud of. In a moment of frustration I literally screamed "No, No, No!" while throwing papers on my desk. I don't normally throw temper tantrums, and I was really upset with myself. So, after beating myself up for the weekend, I decided to make a drastic change. For one week, I was going to think positive, act positive, and speak positive. I wanted to see what choosing to look on the bright side would do for me professionally and personally.

So last Monday, I entered the classroom with an intentionally sunny attitude. I have a really tough class this year, and I wanted to see what my attitude would do for me.  To be honest, that first day seemed like the world, my class and my life were conspiring to steal my positivity.  But I made it through, and by Wednesday I realized things were getting easier.  A few days in, my class got in trouble for being negative in their speech about another teacher, and I wondered if I should share with them the way I was challenging myself to look at the positive.  So I told them the whole story to try to build some morale.  And here's where I totally underestimated my students, something that I'm not super proud about either.

13 of them asked to join me.  

So for a week, 14 of us chose to look at the positive and decided we would check in together at the end. Their written checkins made me realize what a cool thing we had done together.  With no identifiers, here are some of the things they said.

"I realized that I was doing better in school and work was easier to get done.  I had more free time because staying positive helped me get started on work faster without complaining."

"Choosing the positivity challenge was an easy choice. I want to be a better friend and peer."

"I noticed that me being positive made other people be positive also."

And this one was so good I am sharing the whole paragraph:
"I think I had a good experience attempting the positivity challenge. I not only noticed that the people around me were happier, but I was as well.  This week I had a hard time trying to stay positive, but I think if I tried it more often, it would get easier to notice the good rather than the bad.  I think being positive is hard because we see others as competition, not friends. It's easier to put someone down to put yourself up than to put someone else up and have people think better of you.  If we all just tried to be positive for one day, we'd know more about each other and make new friends."

I couldn't have said that better myself.   Our classroom truly was a different place this week.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Productive Weekend

Last weekend was a welcome break from the craziness of the first week of school.  Out here, we start our school year before Labor Day and then the long weekend gives us our last tastes of summer.  We lived our last weekend to the fullest!  Here's what we did:

We canned and canned and canned.  14 jars of peaches in syrup, 7 jars of peach sweet and spicy salsa, 10 jars of regular salsa and 5 jars of pickled red onions.  We worked with friends and it was a really fun day.  Here are my attempts at food bloggery photos.

Lining them all up on the fireplace and then putting them away made me feel a bit like Grandma Tildy from But No Elephants, so longsuffering Willie let me read that to him afterwards.  He said he identified most with the elephant :)

We also brewed a batch of beer for Alex and Amber's wedding in October.  Alex was the best man in our wedding, and he and Willie were roommates for years.  We are so glad he and Amber are together-they are great for each other.  And Amber and I have a lot in common because she is also a teacher.  Here are our brewing pics:

Willie had already made one batch, and is making another today at Alex's bachelor party.  When all is said and done, I think he will have made half the beer for the wedding, which is awesome!

And the last cool foody thing we did this weekend was use my birthday paella!  Ever since I studied in Salamanca in 2006, I have wanted to make a real paella.  For my birthday Willie got me the pan, the rice and the chorizo, which is no mean feat when you live in Yakima.  We had a bunch of friends over and feasted...a perfect end to a great weekend!

Friday, August 15, 2014

End of summertime

So the summer break is winding down, and I wanted to revisit some of my goals that I had set for myself earlier in the summer. I definitely had some successes, but in some areas I didn't accomplish all that I had wanted.
Goal 1:read at least 50 books from school. While I didn't finish this goal, I did read nearly 50 books this summer, but many of them were adult books, not books from my classroom.  However, I did discover the Alix London mystery series and another cozy mystery series, both of which I look forward to continuing.

Goal 2: clean the clost.  I already posted my hugely successful pictures :)

Goal 3: write the portfolio.  This is my weakest goal.  I did get a bunch written, but I did not finish the portfolio.  My new goal is to finish a rough draft of entry 1 by the start of the year....which is next Tuesday. Wish me luck!

Goal 4: search classroom deals.  This is the ideal time for this goal, and I am on it.  The paper hoarding has begun!

Goal 5: I feel very successful here.  I attended a conference, read two books, and aligned six curriculum maps.  I am ready to help my students meet standard!

Some other cool things I did this summer include:
Learning to do a waterfall braid
Learning to crochet!  I have wanted to do this for so long!
Traveling a bit, including exploring my new home state (or not so new, but more permanent)
Helping Willie get ready to go back to school

I am sad to see summer go, but happy to be back with an exciting new class and awesome new co-teacher!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Some time at home

So the time has rolled around for my yearly summer pilgrimage to New Jersey.  While I have been living in Washington for 6 years, New Jersey remains, and probably always will, my home.  Besides the usually gluttony on Dunkin' Donuts coffee and taylor ham, two delicacies unavailable to me in Washington State, it has been lovely to just spend some much needed time with family, whom I haven't seen in a year.
I had coffee with my friend Christine last night, and she said something that got me thinking.  During our conversation she said, "I love my twenties.  I am really proud of what I have accomplished in them."  Her positivity made me look at my own twenties with a critical eye.  I still have two years left in my twenties, but what got me thinking was that Christine wasn't measuring herself by other people or their standards, but by her own ideas of what is important.
So here is my non-comparison based list of what I am proud of accomplishing in my twenties:

1. Getting healthy:  At age 20, I hit a personal low.  I weighed 98 pounds and was struggling with depression.  By working with several good therapists and spiritual directors, I was able to put on some weight and began running- something I love.  While it is still a battle to love my body, I am a healthy 130 now and have run 6 half-marathons, something I wouldn't have dreamed I could do at 20.

2. Becoming (and staying) a teacher:  This is my vocation.  To make it happen, I took the risk of moving to Washington, and everything has worked for the good.  I love my job, my students, my coworkers.  I know this is the profession I will continue to grow in and love.

3. Meeting and marrying the right person:  Willie is the yin to my yang.  We met at a trivia game at Bert's pub in 2009 and got married in 2013.  We have a wonderful life together and it is just starting for us.  The world is our oyster.

4. Finding my inner leader: I used to be a pushover.  I had perfected my role of "side-kick friend" and always felt vaguely unhappy in that.  I think my biggest obstacle to overcome in this regard was the fact that I constantly compare myself to other people.  This is still something that I am working on, but I know it's gotten a lot better.

5. Taking a leap of faith: At 21, I packed two suitcases and moved to the West Coast.  I didn't know I had it in me, but I did.  I have now lived there for six years, and while I would love to move closer to my family, the idea of being in a new place and learning new things no longer scares me.

If you are reading this, and want to take the time to comment, what are five things you are proud of accomplishing in any decade of your life?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A success story

 I started by taking every single thing out and deep cleaning.  We're talking mopping, scrubbing etc.
Then everything went in, but this time in an order that made sense.  I got rid of a lot of stuff too.

Summer goal one= accomplished!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer goals

School is officially out for the summer, which means as someone who has my summers "off" I can finally do all the projects I haven't had time to even think about in my room.  I've spent the day and a half since the last child got picked up to start their summer adventures looking over my pinterest boards, reading organization articles and prioritizing my to do list for this summer in the classroom.

1. Read more books in my classroom library.  This one will be a real hardship for me- reading as many books as I possibly can. When I finished my masters degree, my final project was developing a better library in the classroom, and with well over 500 books, I think I am on my way to succeeding.  My goal is to read at least 50 of these books that I haven't had time to yet, starting with award winners so that I can recommend books to students with more ease.

2.Clean out the closet in my classroom.  Teachers who are reading this are being overcome with envy.  I have a closet in the back corner of my classroom.  I can store textbooks, art supplies, class novels etc. here, but it still has remnants of the last five teachers who had the room in it.  This year that will change and a new era of not saving bizarre things like pinecones and handsoap will begin.

3. Write my proteach portfolio.  As a teacher in Washington State, my portfolio for my professional teacher's license is due in January.  I have been hoarding student work all year, and this summer I am going to organize it, then buckle down and take the time to write the entire portfolio.  This will give me the beginning of the school year to edit and have people help me proofread it.

4. Search out deals for my classroom.  I stole this idea from Scholastic.  Their blog had the idea of writing the supplies you always run short on and then stocking up during the beginning of the year crazy school supply sales.  For me printer paper is always the biggest issue, so I will start looking at ads about halfway through the summer.

5. Common Core- insert sinister theme music here.  I know there has been a lot of debate about common core, but regardless of the people who think it is Satan overtaking education and the people who think that it will single-handedly save American education, I think it is a new set of verbiage that I have to learn.  So I am attending my third conference for ELA teachers to help me do just that.

My hope is that come August I am prepared for my best year of teaching yet!  (And yes, complete these five goals will take most of my "off" time this summer.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A bit of a rant

I had a really rough day yesterday, and without getting into specifics, here are the things I wish I could have said if I had time to think.  Sorry if this feels like a bit of a rant.

I have been teaching for six years.  Not super long, I know, but long enough to have figured several things about myself as a teacher, my students as learners and their parents as their advocates.  I am a good teacher.  I know my subjects, and I know how to explain them to others.  I differentiate instruction, use data to inform my best practices and blah blah blah.  A student leaves my class knowing more than when they entered.  I am strict because I know that my students can be excellent, and this is what I want for them.  

In addition to knowing my subjects, I know my students.  I know their families, their older and younger siblings, their interests, their friends.  I use my time after and outside of school to support them-I go to their sports games, their concerts, their church celebrations.  I even volunteer extra time to teach them dance free of charge.  I can tell when one is having a bad day, or when another is frustrated about prepositional phrases.

I know that you, their parents want what's best for your child- but here's something you may not have realized about me: I want that too.  More than anything else, my job is to help your child be successful where it really matters- in personal responsibility, kindness, and always giving challenges their strongest effort.

Here's another thing you may not know about me: I love my students.  Yes, that includes your child.  I cry when their grandparents pass away.  I feel empathy when they break their arms and legs and fingers and can't do all the things they want to do.  I see all of these things, and I don't judge your child only by their words on a paper or their scores on a test. 

 Please don't judge me by the one time I ask them to redo an assignment because I know they can write a more thorough answer.  Please don't judge me by the one time I ask them to please stay in dress code because that is an important part of our school identity.  Please don't judge me when I remove a distraction from your child during a test- as long as it isn't gross, I WILL give it back after class. You don't hear about the cards we write when someone is having a hard time, or the cookie prizes for a job well done or the books I find for the classroom for just your daughter or your son.

I do these things because your child is excellent and can be even more excellent- and I think that's what we should all be working for together.