Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Plan B...

Yep, this is how you want to start your day:

Plan B it is!

But I'll tell you what - my IT gal took care of the issue in record-breaking time. Something like this would have taken WEEKS at my last school. Soooo great to be back here!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Feeling Like a Rock Star

Not gonna lie, I am feeling like a rock star this weekend! For one, it was a GREAT first week of school, fun even! Two, my readers are definitely making me feel loved. I got a shout out from M over at Teenagers Are Ridiculous. If you don't currently follow her blog you simply must check it out - she is HILARIOUS! You can totally picture all of the absurdity that she reports from her classroom. Also, Mrs. S over at The Crafty Raider offered to send me a Snoopy flag that she is not using. You know I love me some Snoopy flags! (Not so much grammar, apparently, but it's Sunday!) So thoughtful!

I've got lots to share, but for right now I've gotta make sure I have everything ship-shape ready to go for tomorrow - the half-hour preceding 1st period is booked full of 504 meetings, so there will be no time for any foolishness in the morning. More to come about back to school adventures in the following days!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

And That's My New Philosophy!

If you're a fan of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," you know that the title of this post comes from Sally's big number in the musical. It's been going through my head a lot this week, the reason for which you will soon read.

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY! Kids come on Tuesday! We had our first of two Institute Days on Friday, so it is GAME TIME, PEOPLE! I've been working hard at getting my room ready to go, as well as organizing all of my classroom materials - just like the rest of you. Unlike the very few of you non-teachers who read this blog either because you know me and I told you to, or you... well... I don't know why you would read this if you don't teach and you don't know me. Must be my winning personality! Anyway, here's a peek at what I've been doing.

First, a big scrub-a-dub-dub of all five of my new kitchens (thank you, mini shop vac!). God bless my new principal, who gave the okay for me to use the school's industrial dishwasher in the cafeteria to speed wash and disinfect everything!

What would have taken me DAYS to do by hand took about 90 minutes. Yes! So it wasn't long before my kitchens began to look like this:

Still have labeling, shelf lining, etc to do, but since we won't be in the kitchens until several weeks into the school year this was a good enough start.

I livened up my entryway, since it's the first impression my students will get of my classroom. My doorway is at the end of a hallway directly across from the stairwell, so they'll see this as they climb the stairs.

My Snoopy flag was of course a given, and will be changed out with the seasons - as will the apron. The red sign on the left is my daily schedule of classes, and the yellow is a sketch that a student from this school actually drew for me 5 years ago of a possible logo for outside of my door to replace that little chef guy - the sketch has Snoopy sewing and baking!

While the standing chalkboard in the classroom was charming, it was not nearly as practical as a whiteboard - especially since I'll be adding a projector to the room! Luckily there was a 4' x 6' whiteboard attached to the recessed wall past the flag (where no one can really see it, wha???), so the maintenance crew was extremely kind and moved it from the wall and attached it to the chalkboard at my request. It has of course been Snoopified with bulletin board border found at Joann's!

My desk has also been Snoopified in the same manner:

We're required to post a large display of our classroom rules (which I'm in the habit of doing anyway), so I took advantage of $1.60 engineering prints at Staples to make these:

After reading the "Whole Brain Teaching" book I added #6 - I love how it covers all of the loopholes you could argue for the rules! I made a really big schedule because I much prefer pointing rather than constantly answering the "When do we get outta here?" questions. In April. Hmf. On the back is our late start schedule, so I can just flip it over on days with a different schedule.

This year I've decided to also post "Class Philosophies" in addition to the class rules. These are the things that I say over and over and over again to the kids, to the point where I only have to start the sentence and then they finish it. I'd rather focus on these concepts than the rules, so they are much bigger in the classroom:

1. "Take Care of Self, Take Care of Others" is a phrase I learned through Link Crew, which I think encompasses the whole "respect" idea, as well as all the dangers that a FACS classroom has to offer - needles, scissors, knives, fire, etc. The language is a little less PBIS-y as well.

2. "Go Slow to Go Fast" is another tenet of Link Crew, but has been a mantra of mine since well before I encountered it there. I learned very early on that if you have students go too quickly nothing will sink in and you'll have to start all over. I say this every time a kid is rushing and will clearly have to redo or start something over, or when they complain that it takes us too long to get to the "good stuff."

3. "Say I can't YET." Gets rid of the whole "I can't" business.

4. "Make it AWESOME." I am still a huge, huge fan of Kid President's Pep Talk, so I think about this a lot. I've also found that "awesome" is a whole lot less subjective than you would think. This is my response every time a kid asks me "Is this good enough?" When I ask back "Is it awesome?" the answer is usually a pretty obvious "no" and it's back to work for him/her. I'll mention my sister thinks I should have made it "AWESOMESAUCE," but that's a lot of letters... : )

So this year I am going to try emphasizing these "philosophies" over the rules, in an attempt to make the classroom culture more positive.

And that's my new philosophy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mini Shop Vac {Bet You Didn't Know You Needed This}

I'm borrowing an idea from "The Clutter-Free Classroom" blog, which has a series on helpful classroom items that she finds absolutely necessary. Here is my necessity:

This little guy is FABULOUS for cleaning out cabinets, sucking up loose threads, random food particles, and the very worst custodial offenders: hole punches! It is soooo worth the investment (less than $30 at Lowe's) to have my very own shop vac that remains in my classroom. Just make sure you write your name all over it. It's no guarantee that it won't walk off, but it's more likely to be returned.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer Worker Cinnamon Rolls

As I've mentioned before, I think it's very important to show appreciation to the people at school who help you to do your job! As a FACS teacher, I usually rely on baking to accomplish this purpose. In the summers I like to bring in a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls for the summer work crew to chow on during their breaks - nothing says "Thanks!" like an insane amount of butter and sugar!

Doesn't it drive you nuts when you remember to take photos of every step except for the finished product? Or am I the only one? Sheesh...

I brought these puppies in for the adults and kids working to make my new school all shiny. Like magic, they disappeared pretty quickly.

What do you do as a "Thanks" for making the school pretty over the summer?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Cleaning Baking Dishes

So I've been putting a lot of time into deep-cleaning my new kitchens (again), and I thought I'd share a few insights. Yesterday I posted about stand mixers, today it's glass bakeware and cookie sheets.

Since I've now been through the whole setting-up-the-kitchens things several times, I've come across some pretty nasty-baked-on-grease-and-other-unrecognizable-substances cookware. Apologies for forgetting to take before and after photos, but here's a good example I found online:

Mmmmm, appetizing! Luckily advice abounds on the Internet (Pinterest especially) on how to deal with these things. Since I've now had much experience in such matters, I'll share the method that I've found to work the best.

1. Don a pair of heavy-duty gloves. Possibly a face mask as well, if they're really gross.

2. Gather all cookie sheets, glass bakeware, etc into one central location.

3. Find a good-sized, sturdy box. The best ones are cookware boxes, because they're obviously designed to hold some heft.

4. Place ALL items into the box. Fold the top tightly closed - here's a demo video if you're not sure how.

5. Create a large, clearly written sign marked "TRASH," tape it well to the box, and set the box outside your classroom door.


I have wasted an insane amount of time cleaning up items that are relatively cheap to replace when my time would have been much better spent on other tasks that needed to be completed in preparation for a new school. Either sacrifice part of your budget or pay out of pocket, it is WORTH IT. Plus, you'll have shiny new stuff which the kids will take better care of anyway.

Actually, let me change one thing: leave the box top open. Chances are that someone will take a lot of the stuff out of the box - even once it hits the dumpster. Trust me. I just wanted to include the video, I thought it was hilarious.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Stand Mixer Fixer

The last time I worked at my new school, I used grant money to purchase brand new KitchenAid stand mixers for all of the kitchens (did the same thing at the next school I worked at - love these things!). They really class up the kitchens, and of course accentuate the color-coding scheme. Practical as well.

So, these mixers are now only about 5 1/2 years old. The photo below shows the general condition I found them in this week; I think that Dante needs to deal with people who would allow this to happen to a KitchenAid:

So, should you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, here's what you'll need: warm water, Dawn dish soap, a gentle rag, a toothbrush, a towel, and a magic eraser. 

Wash the unplugged machine as best you can with the water, dish soap, and rag, using the toothbrush for all the little nooks and crannies. Dry with towel. Repeat. Then use the magic eraser over the entire thing to pick up the well worn-in grime you can still feel with your hands. This should do the trick. For a little added shine, spritz with a little bit of glass cleaner. Bask in the glow of your beautifully transformed stand mixer : ).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grocery Bagging

I LOVE getting to bag my own groceries! This is primarily due to the fact that about 98.4% of all baggers out there don't seem to know what they're doing.

Disclaimer: This is a rant. Brace yourself.

1. I always bring my own bags. One of the beautiful things about the reusable bags is that you can fit 3-4 times as many items into them. For whatever reason most baggers only fill these bags maybe one-third of the way. This drives me crazy.

2. Despite the fact that I want them to use my bags, I think it's only common sense to wrap meats in plastic before placing them in the fabric bags, in case they leak. I'd say the odds of a bagger offering to do this or automatically doing it is somewhere around 50/50.

3. I place my items on the grocery belt in logical groupings so that like items will be bagged together. For example, I put all of my frozen items together so that they will be bagged together. Likewise refrigerated and pantry items. Yet when I arrive home I will have one bag (2/3 empty) with ice cream, a cucumber, Juicy Juice and toilet paper all mixed in together. The rest of the bags will follow suit in containing a jumbled up mess.

I realize this is an over-controlling impulse, but seriously, there are sensible reasons! Keeping the cold items together keeps them cold; also, the ice cream won't melt while I'm sifting through the rice/ground beef/toothpaste/one bag of frozen vegetables bag looking for it. Not to mention that it takes significantly less time to put the groceries away if they are grouped by location!

In my life I have had maybe half a dozen baggers who have had their acts together, and one of them was a former student of mine whom I taught about grouping groceries on the conveyor belt.

Is it just me? Does anyone else have this issue?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What I'll Miss From Summer Vacation

This is not a Linky, just a post inspired by one written by Miss Trayers over at Not Just Child's Play. She wrote about what she'll miss from summer vacation, and I felt inspired to do the same.

1. Spending time with friends.
When you're a teacher there's really no time for a social life during the week, and naturally the little free time you have over the weekend you want to spend with your family. That makes time for friendships difficult to schedule (especially when your friends are also teachers!), compared to the freedom and flexibility of summer. Back in January I made a commitment to myself to meet my BFF in Chicago for brunch at least once a month, and it made such a difference in my well-being. I will be holding on to that this school year!

2. The ease of keeping the house clean.
This would seem counter intuitive, because I'm around a lot more to make a mess of things, but when work kicks in plus grad school, keeping up becomes a little more difficult. During the summer it's pretty darn easy to find a little bit of time during the day to clean, but during the school year I've got to keep to a pretty strict routine or things will get out of hand.

3. Time for reading!
I sooooo love to read! Reading time drops significantly once school returns.

4. Hanging out with my kitten.
We adopted a kitten this summer to keep our lonely cat (10 years old - quite the grumpy old man) company. He is such a cutie pie! The older cat spends most of his time during the day sleeping under the bed, and only comes out to socialize after about 4pm or so. The kitten spends most of his time hanging around me though, so we've had some good times. As I've started going in to work to organize my classroom he's become increasingly needy while I'm at home, so I hope he does well with the transition!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to School Goals

Yet another Linky - unusual for me, I know, but I was planning a "Back to School Goals" post already before I saw this and it was the perfect lead-in! If you want to join in, scoot on over to I {heart} Recess.

Personal - As I mentioned in my "Currently August" post, I am a recent C25K grad about to run my first race! I've really been enjoying running, so I want to make sure I keep up with it. I've been worried that going back to school might throw off my routine and/or dedication; I'm just going to have to establish a new routine that includes both work and running!

Organization - Every year I make one or two "New School Year Resolutions." The past couple of years one of them has been to make sure my desk is completely clear (meaning things are put away, where they belong, not stuffed in a drawer!) before leaving each day, and it has made a HUGE difference! This year I have a much longer commute, so in case there are any delays in the morning I want to make sure that everything is ready to go for the next day before I leave each day. I've always been really big on getting to work extra early each day (especially when I was coaching and staying after was not an option!) to set everything up and get caught up on grading, etc, but again with the commute I don't want to leave anything to chance!

Planning - My planning goal is stay at least one full unit ahead in each prep this year: activities, copies, supplemental materials, props, the whole sh-bang!

Professional - I have a lot of ideas for maintaining regular parent communication this year. I've done pretty well at staying in contact with parents in the past about their kids' performance, but with so much technology available now there are some things I want to try out to keep them informed about what's actually being accomplished in class. And after last semester I am completely in love with Remind101 and so I will definitely be implementing it for parents and students from the very beginning this year!

Students - My goal for my students is that they feel safe in my class and look forward to my class. This is an annual one, because of course how can they learn if those two things do not hold true? In some of my classes we have some pretty intense discussions (child development = conception is one that springs to mind) that require mutual respect across the room to be successful.

Motto - Make it awesome! If you still haven't seen Kid President's Pep Talk, watch it right now! My message to my students this year is that they have the choice to make their time awesome, or to make it boring. Awesome definitely seems preferable to me!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

TPT & YouTube

Apologies for double-posting in one day...

I have after long delay decided to jump on the Teachers Pay Teachers bandwagon: 1) I've received many, many requests for my foods lab task cards, and 2) Who can't use a little side money for their classroom? Prices for task card label sets are only $1 each (and in MS Word, so completely open for customization), accompanying recipes are free (as they should be, I didn't write 'em!). Please note that only the .doc file for the labels is for sale - you still have to do the printing, the sticking, the assembling, etc.

Click the TPT button on the side of this blog, or click here to check them out if you're interested. Right now there are three sets available: Cheddar Bay Biscuits (just like Red Lobster!), Sugar Cookies, and Pancakes. All recipes are sized to an appropriate amount for one cooking group, and all task card sets are prepared for a three-person kitchen (because you just know that somebody's going to be absent on cooking day!).

Also, I am beginning to upload my lab demonstration videos to YouTube, under the channel "facsclassroomideas." They all have close-up shots that focus on what I'm actually doing, so while you'll hear my melodic voice you won't see me, just a pair of disembodied hands :). Feel free to use in class or as inspiration for creating your own lab demo videos. Or if you're extremely bored one night, fill up a bowl of popcorn, kick back and... call someone! Watching my demo videos is no way to spend a free evening! : )))))

Small Talk with Kids I Don't Know

Anyone else ever experience this occupational hazard? Sometimes when I'm out in public, I just automatically talk to a kid that I've never seen before in my life and who has no idea who I am. And then he or she naturally gets a little weirded out.

It can't be just me, right? I'm used to making small talk with kids I see around school, even ones I don't know; after all, even if I have no idea who they are, they usually know who I am, or at least know that I'm a teacher. So that's okay. But apparently I don't know how to shut it off.

I first noticed this when I was in a Panera restroom near Madison, WI, waiting in line to wash my hands. A junior high aged girl was standing there also waiting, and she was all dressed up. I automatically said, "Wow, what a pretty dress!" And she then looked at me like I had a forked tongue or something. At which point I realized, right, I'm just a creepy stranger. Good job, Denise.

Last weekend I boarded a hotel elevator where there was a 6 or 7 year old girl who was holding what seemed to be a really cool looking balloon giraffe. So I asked, "Is that a giraffe?" She leaned into her mother a bit and looked up at her. Mom, thankfully, nodded at the girl, who then said yes. I told her it was a really awesome giraffe, then kept my mouth shut.


Sometimes this goes well, though. This past week my husband and I were waiting in line for a shuttle bus to take us from the JFK Library & Museum (truly awesome place - if you're ever in Boston, you simply must put this one on your to-do list!) back to the train station. What appeared to be the worst chaperoned group of teenagers in the history of summer field trips was running around the area, and when the shuttle arrived they all crammed around the door jockeying to be the first on. My teacher voice automatically kicked in, reminding them that they needed to wait for all of the people who were trying to get off the bus first. Like a charm they all backed off and started telling each other to stay out of the way of the people who were getting off the bus.

So maybe it's okay for me to boss around children I don't know in public, just not make small talk. I suppose more research needs to be done to answer this question.

Anyone else have any similar experiences?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

No Names

Why I stopped accepting no-name papers during fourth quarter last year. This was from one week. One week.

Currently August

Hi everyone! I have been on vacation the past week, and it was wonderful! For those of you who have recently contacted me or commented with questions, I promise I will get back with you over the next couple of days - I'm excited to see a lot more people have been reading recently! Summer break certainly helps with time to scout out new blogs, doesn't it?

August is here, which of course means it is officially Back-to-School season but also means a new Currently from Farley! Time to link up!

Listening - Why is it that pets always believe that they are starving? My cute little guy eats like a little piggie, that's for sure!

Loving - My classroom WILL be 100% ready to launch this year before the kids arrive! Woo hoo! Always important, especially after last year's fiasco. I've already had the opportunity to go in and purge a few cabinets, so real progress is already being made. 

Thinking - Over the summer I conquered the "Couch to 5K" program! I've always been active, but running has never been something I've been successful at (really bad side stitches, really bad!). C25K has changed all that, and I am now running 5K straight through without stopping! I signed up for my first race, which will be at a local town's annual festival a week from today. Can't wait to be able to wear my first official 5K race tshirt! I highly, highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to start running but has never been able to and/or doesn't know where to start, I cannot say enough good things about it. It's amazing what it trains you to do in only 8 weeks!

Wanting - At minimum, I want to have at the VERY LEAST three full weeks of planning fully completed before school begins. I only have four preps this semester (six classes total, two repeat during the day - yippee!), and all but one I have taught before, so this is completely realistic. Hopefully I'll get much more done, but it's hard to go too far in advance without knowing your kids and their particular talents and quirks.

Needing - As I mentioned earlier, we just returned from vacation. I find it helps a LOT to go through the photos right away and add notes so that I remember everything. I usually wait several months to a year after a vacation to create a photo book on Shutterfly, that way I don't try to cram every little thing into it - the distance offers some perspective on what was really important or special. Of course, it can also lead to forgetfulness...

B2S Must Haves - I'm assuming the necessary planning and preparation are givens, right? First for me is an organized room, so that I know where everything is and it makes sense to me before the room is "active." Saves sooooo much time and frustration! Next is the "master binder" - syllabi, unit & lesson plans, sub folder, rosters, etc, etc - you know the drill. And finally for this year I'm adding "commute helpers." My drive this year is going to about twice as long last year, so I want to make sure that not only do I keep myself from going crazy but that I actually put the time to good use. Checking out some podcasts, good music, and the like to use the time.