Monday, February 25, 2013

Zip Ties, Desks, and Sanity

Back at the beginning of the school year, the only student seating I had were very large, very heavy tables. Here's a photo from the beginning of June, two and a half months before I could go in and do any work in the room:

I hated these tables. Having a full classroom of kids facing four different ways did not work for me, but there was no way to arrange them to avoid that. And then I realized that I had soooo many sewing tables jammed into storage areas.

This got me to thinking...

Now I could see what EVERYONE was doing. Of course, the kids kept opening the tables and messing with the machines, so over Christmas Break...

I removed the sewing machines and wonderful hubby drilled the tables shut. That problem was solved!

At the beginning of the new semester, I decided to try another arrangement:

Love it! The only problem with these "desks" is that five minutes into each class they tend to look like this:

So frustrating! (Credit for the idea of using happy faces for confidentiality purposes goes to The (Un)Caffeinated Teacher) Even more frustrating were the kids who insisted they "couldn't help it" that their desks moved two to three feet every time they were in class.

A couple of months ago I found this idea on Pinterest from an elementary school teacher:

So genius! Yet, my desks don't have legs, so I wasn't able to use it. D'oh!!!

Then on Friday I happened to be looking at the floor (probably because of a mess left by someone), and noticed that there are spaces right above the wheels on my desks, and sooooo....

I gleefully installed these on Saturday morning, then waited giddily today to see how they worked. It was AMAZING - no desk drift whatsoever! A photo right after last bell:

Also enjoyable was how the kids who "accidentally" moved their desks before reacted - haha! 

So anyway, all this to say 1) Zip ties ROCK!, 2) Zip ties SAVE sanity!, and 3) If at first a truly inspiring idea from Pinterest seems like it won't work, don't give up on it - find a way! It's always worth it!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

For God So Loved {insert name here}

Just finished another round of prayer cards! At our former church, there was a prayer ministry for teachers - teachers in the local school district could sign up, and then church members would be given a list of names of teachers to pray for daily and to periodically send cards of encouragement. Because I was close with many teachers in my former district, I signed up again to pray even though we've moved away. Anywho, the thought I included in the cards this time was one I thought would be helpful for others to read as well:

I don't remember which of his books he wrote this in, but it has helped me over the past couple of years immensely. Doesn't just have to be students - could be your own kids, friends, spouses, people who cut in front of you in line at the grocery store...

Arranging the verse to spell out "valentine" was a Pinterest idea, by the way...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

February Currently

Month two of Farley's Currently!

Pinterest, the root of all things wonderful and "why didn't I think of that?" inspired the orange peel/cinnamon stick boil - the house smells heavenly! Another successful pin!

Punxsutawney Phil did NOT see his shadow, which means an early spring! Woo hoo!

Always thinking about how to make lessons better; a teacher's work is never done.

It has been BITTER cold here the last few days, so I am SO ready for warmer weather.

I have a paper due on Wednesday that I need to at least complete the first draft for by tomorrow night, so that I'll have time to revise and pretty it up before handing it in. Not a difficult assignment, just have to sit down and do it.

Ah, pet peeves. Not listening has to top the list. I have (nearly, on most days...) infinite patience for re-explaining things to kids who don't quite "get it" or have difficulty understanding. But for the kids who blatantly ignore directions, talk while I'm talking, chat while I'm displaying examples, write notes while we do a sample exercise together, refuse to read the written directions that mirror all of the above, and then expect me to stand there and give them a private tutorial when they full out admit that they paid no heed to anything that has gone on in class up until that point... that makes my head want to explode. In fact, I think that my brain breaks a little each time it happens. Which explains my headaches and inability to locate my keys on occasion.

And whining. How I loathe the whining. If only we were allowed to use duct tape to eliminate that problem... : ).

Another Use for a Planner...

Even though I manage my time and events electronically now (go Google calendar!), I still really love pen and paper planners. I found this one at Barnes and Noble, and once they went 50% off after Christmas I couldn't help but snatch it up!
Since I don't really NEED one I spent time thinking of legitimate ways to use it, rather than just creating a hard copy of my Google schedule. Over Christmas Break I read "Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching" by Angela Watson - highly, highly, highly recommend. It's a tremendous resource for developing an outlook that helps you to deal with all of those frustrating occurrences that steal the joy out of your teaching (like lack of copy machine etiquette, which I will be writing about at some point in the near future). The book gave me quite a bit to think about, and two questions in particular that I was focusing on were 1) How can I focus more on the positive things that happen throughout the day? and 2) What can I do to end the school day on a positive note, regardless of what happens the final class period of the day? Combine that with my desire to effectively use my frivolous Snoopy-obsession-induced purchase, and here's what I came up with: at the end of every day, I use the space in the planner to record the good things that happened that day. That way I am always forced to sit down and think about the rewards of the day, and I've even begun the habit of keeping a running list of the good things on a section of the running to-do list I always keep on my clipboard so I don't forget later on. Here's what it looks like:

And a close-up:

I love the multi-colored pens to make it extra happy-looking! It has been a tremendous tool for ending my day remembering all the worthwhile events that took place. The last hour of the day thus far has usually been the roughest at this school, with both groups of kids. This helps me keep in mind what came before that. Great way to record personal victories!

I've also added a couple of other items to the days as well. I write down the hours that I actually spend in the building. I had thought I would also track the time I spend working at home, but after a couple of days realized that looking at that number would most likely just depress me. I'm also trying to get in the habit of jotting down parent phone calls in here as well. Since this is always handy, it's a great place to jot down name/time/number called, and then I can record the other pertinent information in my student records later on. Still working on establishing that habit, but I've written my happy notes after school every day for four weeks now. Given that it's only a small space, it's much easier to keep up with on a daily basis than a typical journal or all-out reflection - I can always squeeze in a few sentences before grabbing my belongings. It will be fun at the end of the school year to look back on all of the great memories from each day.

I know some teachers jot down notes when something good happens and then keep them in a jar or other container, then open it up at the end of the year, which is also a great idea - I just like the idea of having mine all written and bound in one place. I'd love to hear ideas from other teachers: What do you do to keep track of the good times?