Friday, August 8, 2014

why she hated the first grade teacher

Meet the teacher night is in about a month. I was so, so nervous for it last year. It was a come-and-go event, which I didn't like very much and am excited for more structure on the school's behalf this year. Out of all of my twenty four students who started the year with me last year, a few stand out from that day. One in particular.

She was a tiny little peanut, all year long she remained one of my smallest students. But oh, was she feisty. Not at first, though. When I asked if she was excited for first grade, she shook her head "no" with tears in her eyes. Her mom was just as nervous, I could tell. She went on and on that her little girl wasn't all that smart. She couldn't read very well, and couldn't do this very well, or that. I continued to reassure her that I would use various assessments to help determine what I needed to do on her daughter's behalf.

Her daughter proved to be one that had to work harder than the other students. Not because she couldn't keep up, but because she was day dreaming a lot and missed the lesson and instructions.

But she was a doll. It was her mother who proved to be one of my most difficult parents. One that had me bawling in the principal's office within the first two months of school (And I don't mean cute, quiet alligator tears, I mean huffing and puffing, hysterical ugly crying. I eventually had to lock my classroom door while the kids were in specials and sob.).

She told me her daughter "hated" me sometime in the first trimester. Her sweet little girl. The one who came to school with black hipster glasses on for a week (she didn't need glasses). Who twisted her ponytail into a bun the one day I wore my hair up in a bun. The one who came back for a second hug after school every, single, day the last two weeks of the year. By the end of the year, her little sister was giving me hugs, and the mom was giving me nervous smiles because we all new the truth: her little girl loved school.

Yes, we did a 180 in our teacher-parent relationship. I wouldn't say it was great at the end of the school year, but we could work together. For me, that was enough.

One of my teacher friends posted this article, and I got a little teary eyed. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones, but I also feel like I got a glimpse into what this mom's world might have been like. She was a little princess, and being pregnant with our own babe, I can only imagine how I'll feel when there's another adult who is more influential in our child's actions than I am. Probably something similar to the author, but I hope to react in a much kinder way that some parents have acted towards me, because I know the influence parents have on their kiddo's teacher.

Meet the teacher is coming up. I'm sure I'll have another little one who says that they aren't excited for second grade. I'm also hoping that with a much more organized time to explain classroom procedures to all of my parents at once, that I can alleviate some of those questions and concerns that might follow us into the school year. 

Here's to second grade. I'm hoping my firsties from last year are getting excited. Especially that sweet little peanut who was so nervous for first grade. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

small groups & centers

Last year, I really struggled with centers and small groups. I shed many tears and spent too many hours after school trying to figure out what would work for myself, and my students. There was so much pressure for me to get it just right, and I never did.

This year, it's going to be different.

I started picturing what I wanted small groups and centers to look like in my classroom. I think having a vision of what I want my room to look and sound like has really motivated what approach I'll be taking this year for centers organization.

This year, my new school uses the AR reading program, which is how I'll divide my students up for their small groups with me. Easy peasy. I really like AR and am excited to use it.

But for centers? The classroom management of being invisible while you're with a small group and yet the rest of your class is still on topic and engaged is scary business. Especially for a new-ish teacher. And especially when you're working with the little ones.

Enter the Daily 5.

I've never used it. Heck, I've never even really seen it done before. But I get the jist of it, I like it, and am planning on finding the book in the next week or so to read up on the logistics of starting it up and running it successfully. Essentially, their five center choices are: read to a partner, read to self, listen to reading, writing, and word work.

Read to a partner and read to self are pretty self explanatory. Listen to reading is essentially a listening station. I'll be using accountability sheets so that students are responsible for keeping themselves on track with what they should be doing, knowing that I'll be checking in on what they were reading or listening to. I need to get some cd's and tapes that read along to books for this because I have none!

Writing I'm pretty excited about, to be honest. I found a great resource on pinterest that I am so, so excited to use. It came from the blog, second story window, and is essentially a basket for each month with journal writing prompts, research cards, and list ideas. I love this because it introduces students to various types of writing. Not all writing is done in a journal, not all writing is research based, and not all writing is a list (like a grocery or to-do list), but the point is it is so easy to focus on just journal writing during centers! It's a neat way to get them to branch out and explore different writing venues. I'm so excited to make my own monthly baskets and keep things fresh in our classroom writing!

For word work, I'm thinking I will use my Words Their Way phonics lessons that are differentiated to each student's needs, but will also use a teachers pay teachers phonics activities packet. I think I'm going to have my students bring me their packets during small groups, look through whatever was assigned, and then let them work on various parts during their Daily 5 word work. That way it extends my small group lessons into what they're working on outside of our specific, differentiated time together. I would then fill in any extra time they have with Words Their Way sorts that go hand in hand with whatever phonics skill packet they're on.

Is it perfect? No, of course not. But since I found an organizational Daily 5 folder system (thanks again, pinterest!) with a weekly accountability chart for them, I'm pretty confident that it just might work for my classroom next year. I'll share later how I'm putting mine together, since it's a little different than my original inspiration and source for the print outs. I especially want this to work well so that when I'm on maternity leave, things can operate like a well oiled machine in my absence. That might be wishful thinking, though. They are, after all, only seven and eight years old... ;)

Has anyone else already started prepping for next year? Our guest bedroom/office is starting to look messy from my piles of paper to sort and put into binders for my organization. Yikes! While I'm really enjoying sleeping in and staying in pajamas all day, I am looking forward to getting back into a schedule and teaching second grade on the Air Force base!

Friday, August 1, 2014

goals for august

July is gone. It's officially August, and the month school starts. Holy smokes. I'm ready to be back in a schedule (I think), hoping that as my second trimester is coming up quickly that I'll start feeling better, and maybe - just maybe - it'll start to cool down a little bit. But that's just wishful thinking... Anyone in Vegas knows that won't happen until close to Halloween.

Here's what my ambitious July goals looked like:

1. Read 1-2 books. ((mark of the lion and the nesting place))
2. Make an IKEA trip with Melyssa ((& maybe have the hubs chauffeur us there)). 
3. Declutter furniture we no longer need.
4. Finish organizing my school materials.
5. Finish a quilt I started!

Let's chat about how those actually worked out...

I was able to get some reading done! I finished Bread & Wine for my second time, and started reading The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy. I never made a trip to IKEA, all because I never put the plans together because I now get car sick and driving 4 hours sounds kind of miserable right now. Check in with me in a few weeks when we take a 12 hour car trip for a family vaca... We did, however, do a lot of decluttering! We moved out of the Utah condo, sold about 1/2 of that furniture so far, and have been gathering stuff we no longer need for a garage sale/to donate once it cools down. In terms of organizing school supplies, that's a yes and no. I've been working on sorting my classroom library by AR levels on days that I feel good. And quilting? I wish. I haven't sewn in months. I blame it on the nausea. 

For August, my goals won't be so ambitious. I'm making a baby. That has to count for a lot of productivity, right?

1. Try to avoid car sickness on our road trip to our family vaca. 
2. Move into my classroom!
3. Continue organizing my classroom library. 
4. Host a baby shower for friends. 
5. Make said friends a cute baby quilt. 
6. Clean the house so I can take some update pictures. 

Nothing ambitious. Nausea and morning sickness kick my butt, and on days when it's bad, there isn't much I get done except for logging hours watching Boy Meets World reruns. I'm hoping it'll go away as I come out of the first trimester, but am not really counting on it after hearing how long some of my friends struggled with it! If anyone has advice on ways that worked for their nausea, please let me know! I'll try just about anything right now.

Monday, July 28, 2014

the first trimester

Thanks for all the love on our baby announcement, ya'll! Needless to say, that's why there's been a blogging hiatus for me the past several weeks. I haven't really been able to keep my eyes open long enough to write much, or heck, do much.

We had been talking about starting a family for quite a while, and decided to actually start trying before I left for Poland. Between my ten day vacation and then lots of stress with work, it didn't happen right away for us. Honestly, a part of me was sort of bitter about that. Pretty much all of our friends who have kids or are pregnant got pregnant either: (a) without trying, or (b) on the first try. We didn't fall into those two categories, but looking back, I'm glad we didn't. God had a better plan for the timing of our baby and it is perfect. 

I had it kind of set in my heart that we wouldn't get pregnant in May. I was much too stressed with the end of the school year and moving out of my classroom to think my body would actually relax enough to get pregnant. Suddenly, I was emotional. I mean unreasonably emotional. I remember being depressed one night and not able to tell Austen what was wrong because I thought he'd send me to the looney bin for feeling like my swoon quilt top would never come back from the quilters. The last week of school, I ate two bags of mega peanut m&m's. And I wanted Chipotle guacamole all day, every day. Still, I thought nothing of it. 

I was a few days late when Austen told me to go take a test. I assured him I was not pregnant, just stressed, but I humored him. It took a whopping 30 seconds for the word: pregnant to show up on the screen. I ran giggling in the family room and told him the news. He told me I was lying. We stood there, staring at each other for what seemed like forever. We hugged and kissed, I kept giggling, and at one point, I think I said, "Oh, shit." We really did it. I was really pregnant. 

This was on a Saturday afternoon, so on Monday morning I called my doctor at the hospital on the Air Force base to let them know the good news. They don't consider your results true until you get a blood pregnancy test done, so I went to enjoy that magic. At the same time, my sisters were asking if I was pregnant or not (note to self - never tell your sisters you're late because they'll want real answers). We were going home in two weeks. So, I lied. I told them I had gotten my period, because we wanted to surprise them in person. 

Fast forward about two weeks. I had cramping in my lower right side and was exhausted, but not a lot of other symptoms. On a Tuesday evening, I had a burning sensation in the same cramping spot, and then the cramping was strong for about 12 hours. The next morning, we decided to go to the ER (because that's what you do on a military base) to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. I had urine samples, a cervix check, 6 vials of blood drawn, and an ultrasound. Needless to say, everything looked fine. I just don't handle pain well, but better safe than sorry in my opinion! 

We were able to announce our pregnancy that same week when we went home to Texas! My mom's birthday was a few days before, so I got her Bread & Wine, some wine, and a card with a European grandma on the front. Inside I wrote that we can now call her Babcia (Polish for "grandma") and signed the card, "Love Austen, Katie, & baby". It took her four times to realize who it was from! Afterwards, my parents were ecstatic. We told my sisters the same night, and gave his parents a card that said, "To the new grandparents." (no more risking someone not getting it!) a few days later. Everyone was over the moon!

Since then, I've had a constant nausea and some bouts with morning sickness (but for me, it's more like evening/nighttime sickness). I sleep more than I'm awake. Some headaches. Bloating and starting to outgrow some of my clothes. I've also started to become more emotional the past week or so. Really, I could have it much worse, and my aunt (who works as an ultrasonographer) reminds me that all of the symptoms are a reminder that my HCG levels are increasing and baby is growing. 

I'm looking forward to the second trimester, that's for sure! Mostly to get my energy back. It'll be nice to be in a schedule again and (hopefully) be feeling a little better. Maybe then my pudge will resemble more of a baby bump, and not just too many Chipotle veggie bowls... ;)
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