Saturday, July 11, 2015

Redefining "Super Teacher"

Flashback 7 years ago, I was just starting to prepare to begin my very first teaching job. If you had asked me then and within those first few years of my career as an educator who I was, I would have proudly and firmly replied, well a teacher, of course.

Flash forward to present day- seven years, two states, three schools, and four different teaching positions later and I'd like to think I am now a much more effective and knowledgeable teacher (while there is certainly still plenty of room to grow).

But while I have learned over these past few years how to be more successful inside the walls of my classroom, I have learned simultaneously that it is equally important that I find my own identity outside of them. A "teacher" isn't all that I am or want to be.

I started out thinking that to be a "Super Teacher" I needed to eat, breath, and sleep teaching at school and at home. And this is exactly what I did. Enter blogging about three years ago and the "madness" only escalated. I would not only spend time prepping for my students, but now I was organizing, writing and creating for teachers as well. Don't get me wrong, I truly love and enjoy both teaching and blogging, but I was beginning to find that all the rest of the parts of me were suffering because of them.

This year was where all of this pressure I had been placing on myself seemed to come full circle. Call it the 7-year-itch, but this past school year, felt at times more overwhelming that my first.
Trying to find time to balance school, an hour long commute, blogging, keeping up with daily chores, working out, meal making, spending time with my husband, and if I was lucky a decent night's sleep, was utterly exhausting. I can't tell you how many times I broke down this year and felt so incredibly insufficient for not being able to "do it all" with grace and a smile on my face.

This endless amount of stress I had placed upon me was not fair to my students, my family or myself for that matter. This year was a turning point for me; a transition year, if you will. I have slowly but surely started to understand that it's okay if I do not join every committee I am asked to, to conduct a lesson or activity that doesn't scream creativity, and that I do not have to blog every week or two if I am not feeling inspired. I have learned that my classroom wont't fall apart the next day if I chose to just set down my computer and enjoy some quality time with my husband or take my dog for a walk. I have learned that when I crash on the couch every night that it's because I am utterly exhausted and the best thing I can do is give my body the sleep that it is so deeply craving. Most importantly, I have learned this year, more than ever before, that being a "Super Teacher" isn't about how much time you put in or putting on a facade like you've got it all together - it's about taking care of oneself, feeding and taking the time to cultivate those super powers and relationships that we each possess so that we can more freely share them with our students and the world.

Contrary as it may seem - I am a better teacher when I work less, not more. When I find the time to pursue those passions and other parts of me (those parts that aren't a "teacher"), it makes me a healthier, more well-balanced individual. It energizes me and gives me a greater sense of self, that I feel like I, truth be told, was sort of lacking those first few years out of the gate. That eat, sleep, breathe teaching thing is exhausting, and while I know and understand I still will have those days where I feel like this job is all consuming, I will also strive to have a greater balance of days where I leave it behind when I close the door at 3:45pm. Because I have to. I have to and want to consume myself with all of the other blessings in my life as well. Because when I do this, even though I am focusing less of my energy on my career, I will, in turn, have more energy, exude more happiness and find pieces of myself that I may have otherwise missed that I know will make me a better and more well-rounded teacher than I would have been.

That being said, my fellow super teachers, you may have noticed that I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus these last few months. I have been going over and over in my mind how to best convey my reasoning to you all and trying to decide where I want to head in the future with my blogging ventures, and for now, this is where I'm at. I don't want to make any promises as to when I will post next or create a new product, etc., because to be honest I am really not sure. I am not saying that I am throwing in the towel, I am just saying that when the time is right (and I'm feeling inspired), I will certainly share, but it is not something I am going to push myself to do anymore on a scheduled basis. I love blogging and writing and the connection that I have been able to make with so many other teachers, such as yourselves, is incredible. It is a piece of me that I cherish. But I want to make sure that it continues to be just that - a piece of who I am - so that I can take time to embrace all of my other "pieces" as well.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Perimeter and Area Superheroes & Poem

This week we wrapped up our study of perimeter and area with some superhero action.

I gave each student one sheet of graph paper and told them that they needed to cut out two legs and then two arms of the same size, a body and head. It was their choice how small or large they wanted to make them. I then gave them a white sheet of paper to glue their pieces together and add a backdrop to really give it that superhero pizazz. 

Throughout the week, we also reviewed this poem that my intern and I worked together to create to help students remember the difference between the two. I had them do TPR (body movements) to go along with "sus lados has de sumar" (fingers make the shape of a square) and "contar los lados debes hacer" (make square counting motion). 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Site Sábado # 11

It's been awhile, but I have a truly super app to share with you all today.

This week we have been working away at a review of verb conjugations in the present tense. Those pesky "yo" verbs keep giving my students a difficult time, so I decided to spend some additional time on them.

Enter Word Clouds by ABCya. This app gave us an engaging way to practice conjugating these verbs  and allowed for the students to be creative at the same time. Here is an example of how it works:

First, enter the desired words separating each with a comma. For our little project, I asked each of my students to enter, "yo", then their names, followed by at least 5 verbs conjugated in the present tense to describe them. You could truly use the Word Clouds app though for any subject area in which the students have developed vocabulary!

Once students have finished typing, their cloud will appear. This is where the creative aspect starts. Students can change the color, layout and font as they choose. There is also a randomize button which allows them to scroll through different setups the app designs for them.

Once my students had a little fun with it, I asked them to eventually end on a black and white color scheme for printing purposes (we are not lucky enough to print student work in color). I then asked them to utilize the "save to photos" feature in the app to save their work and send it to me to print their finished product.

Backed them on some patterned scrapbook paper and voila. Verb cloud magic.

The Word Clouds app seems to be free for a limited time, so grab it while it's hot. Most I searched for did cost money, and I think overall this one is the most elementary student friendly anyhow!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wintery Pattern Block Fun

This week we combined the wintery elements outside our windows with our current unit on geometry for a little project fun.

We have been working our way through reviewing names of common polygons and exploring their attributes using pattern blocks. Thus, in working to take it one step further and embrace the season, I asked my students to make snowflake patterns by selecting at least three different shapes to use in their creation. 

The students traced the patterns on to a sheet of white computer paper with a pencil. They then retraced their finished product with a permanent marker and cut before gluing onto the blue background.

To take it one step further, they each wrote a paragraph about their snowflake. (We sneak writing in wherever we can, right?!) In the paragraph, they had to share the names and how many of each shape was included in their flakes.

And there you have it. Quick, fun project that incorporates math, writing, and the season!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Metacognition Masters

We spent the better first half of our year really focused on different strategies for thinking while we read (aka. metacognition). Here are a few different tools of the trade we use on a daily basis that have helped us become "Metacognition Masters".

First up, our "Metacognition Wall" found in our classroom library.

It contains the anchor charts we utilized as we learned about each strategy along with key phrases the students can use in sharing that type of thinking.

The students also have a mini copy in their reading notebooks shown below. You can grab a free copy of this printable here. (Note: It looks small/does not take up the whole page, so that when you print it will fit on a notebook page.)

In addition to key phrases in their notebooks, the students also have thought bubbles that they use while reading to remind them to be thinking as well as quick reference bookmarks that they often use during read-to-self.

The bookmarks can be downloaded here.

As a final project to demonstrate their understanding of the various thinking strategies, our third graders this year each selected a "good fit", fiction text to read, think about and utilize to create a piece of writing titled "Metacognition" in which they shared information about the strategies and how they used them with their readers.

Here is an example of how the students jotted down their thinking to begin "generating their ideas" on post-its.

After reading and jotting down all of their thinking, I asked the students to go back and star 3 of the post-its, each a good example of a different type of metacognition that they would like to use in writing their piece.

They then went through the writing process to develop a multi paragraph piece about their writing like the one shown below.

They read all of their pieces and shared the books they utilized in small groups before we headed out on winter break. It was a great way for the kids to engage in discussions about reading and writing and learn about different book options for future reading in the classroom as well!

What are some of your tips, tricks, and goodies for teaching metacognition?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Our families "light up" our lives...

We had a blast today putting together our family gift before we head out for winter break tomorrow.

Each student was given a set of 6 lights. The very first light on each string of lights states "Mi familia ilumina mi vida porque.../My family lights up my life because...". On the other 5 lights, I asked students to share a reason as to how their family members make their lives brighter.

The kids came up with some very sweet things to say, sharing everything from "you support me when I am sad", to "you help me with my homework", to "you cheer me on at my sporting events". 

After writing each of their ideas, the students worked to evenly space the lights and tape them on a piece of black yarn (this tied in nice with our fraction unit we just finished up- equal parts had meaning!)

Then they were ready for wrapping. A little tissue paper, a fun tag, and a red lunch sack (compliments of Target), and we are good to go folks!

You can grab a copy of the lights template here in Spanish or English.
Fun font is from Kevin & Amanda and cute light graphic is from My Cute Graphics.

What are some of your favorite classroom gift making ideas? I always love to have a bank ready for years to come!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

My Thankful Class

Yesterday afternoon we took some time as a class to share our gratitude for the special qualities that each student brings to our classroom. Each child was given a name of another student in our classroom and asked to write a note of thanks to that student sharing something positive they bring to our classroom community. 

I then compiled each page written into a book titled 
"Damos gracias por nuestra clase/We are Thankful for our Class". 
We will be reading our finished product on Monday morning upon our return from break.

Here are a few samples of the respectful and wonderful things the kids had to say about one another. Looking forward to keeping this in our class book bin to look back on from time to time throughout the year!

(I am thankful for ___________ because she is kind, a good friend, and funny.)

(I am thankful for ________ because he helps me when I do not know something to find the answer.)

Happy Thanksgiving blog family. I hope you all have a wonderful day filled with love, gratitude and lots of good eats. God bless.