Sunday, March 31, 2013

Still Going...

Spring Break 2013 is officially over; in just a short time I'll be setting out tomorrow's work clothes. I thought I'd share some of the work I was able to accomplish over break:

What you see are 2 1/2 more cabinets emptied, and placed on tables for the staff to pick and choose from before the contents are eliminated forever. An extensive collection of waffle irons, blenders, toasters, coffee makers, spatulas, etc, etc that are AT LEAST three decades old. Not to mention an enormous collection of glass - GLASS - serving ware. Who on Earth gives glassware to two dozen seventh graders in a small, contained space??

I keep inching closer and closer to getting these rooms under control. Maybe by the start of next school year, if I'm allowed in the building at all over the summer. Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Oh Pinterest, you saucy minx, always giving me obvious ideas that I should've come up with years ago. Today I wrote out another round of teacher prayer cards, but this time I made my own envelopes! Here's the original pin, and here's how I did it:

Found this cute pack of cardstock at Michael's (half off! Didn't even have to use the standby 40& off coupon!):

Opened up a regular envelope the same size I wanted to make:

Traced the envelope onto the cardstock and cut:

Folded 'em up (I used a ruler to help make a sharper crease, didn't take a pic), and used double-sided tape to hold the flaps:

Ta-da! Created this stack in the time it took to watch "The Office" on the DVR! 

I wrote the addresses on labels and then slapped them on - worked great! I may never use a "real" envelope again! : )

Monday, March 4, 2013

Currently March

Another month, another "Currently" from Farley!

"How I Met Your Mother" - at the prompting of a co-worker back in May, I picked up this show on Netflix - I figured it was going into its last season, might as well. When they announced they would be running another season after this one, I was crushed. I want to know who the mother is and move on with my life already! But I've come this far... argghhh... (On a somewhat related note, hubby and I just finished the first season of "House of Cards" - AMAZING! Love this show, can't wait for the second season!)

Casimir Pulaski Day, a school holiday in my neck of the woods. Hooray for three day weekends! I promise you, I would work longer days four days a week to get a three-day weekend every week. Think about it: despite your best intentions, Saturday is usually a recovery day, Sunday is for grading/lesson planning/laundry/house cleaning/church/all sorts of miscellaneous chores, then boom! Back to work. With a third day you can actually get stuff done! Or, not get completely buried by a weekend getaway... : )

Another storm threat - these always disappear before hitting us. And not that I want to extend the school year, but I wouldn't snub my nose at a snow day. It's been two years since the last one, after all! Ideally, we would report for school tomorrow, run ISATs in the morning, then get sent home early... still get credit for the day, no nightmare ISAT make-ups, AND a little free time!

Grading. I don't mind the first-run stuff so much - it's all the darn make-up work!

Like/Love/Hate - I did break the rules a bit here. They were all supposed to be one word, but I couldn't (wouldn't?) do it. Dessert, mmmm. Had my first dessert this weekend since Thanksgiving weekend. I've been very good about cutting the excess sugar, but when you're at a lovely Italian restaurant, how do you turn down tiramisu? Disney World! Best vacation ever - I still think about it daily since we returned seven months ago. Daylight Savings Time in the spring means that it goes back to being pitch black when I leave the house in the morning. So much harder to get moving without natural light!

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?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Last Few Precious Hours...

Well friends, this is it - school resumes tomorrow. 1st hour starts at 7:40am. Are you ready?

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon completing odds and ends grading - make-up work, a quiz I gave the last day before break, work turned in from in-school suspension, etc. My mind was screaming "No! No! Not yet!"... you know how it is.

The primary reason I'm not 100% enthusiastic about tomorrow (other than having to get up at some dreadful hour again) is that it's going to be a weird week. We have two "regular" days, two final exam days, and then an Institute Day. You can imagine how seriously junior high kids take final exams, not to mention elective class final exams, so it's going to be rough. Especially since my kids all leave me and switch electives after this week.

I am pretty excited about brand new rosters coming up, though. The bummer about switching schools is that two weeks into the school year you realize about 40 things that you wish you had done differently/wish you hadn't done at all/wish you had done, but you've got to wait a whole year until you get that second chance. I get my second chance during the first year this time! So not only do I get to revamp procedures/rules/seating/etc, I get to revamp curriculum/projects/instruction. And since I've put all of my classes on a rotation, three of the four big units I've taught this year (sewing, foods, child care) I've already been through three times, so this will be the fourth time through. I love fitting six years into one!

In other news, it's been a while since I've mentioned a product/piece of equipment that I find extremely useful. So today, let me rave about my Rachael Ray Bench Scraper!

This thing is a fantastic piece of kitchen equipment, I absolutely love it. I used to be attached to the traditional method of using my chef's knife to transfer ingredients, but this gadget holds so much it is so much more convenient! The ridged rubber handle makes it easy to grip, and it lays flat when you set it down unlike many other scrapers. It is ideal for scooping up piles of food, chopping apart dough, or scraping pastry. Right now it is offered in four colors: orange, purple, blue, and red. If they would just add green and yellow I would buy them for my school kitchens! Guess I'll just have to look for a generic option for those kitchen colors.

Friday, January 4, 2013


So I finally got around to opening all of the packages which contain the textbooks I'll need for my next grad school class, which begins Jan 23 (order early, get the best deals before my classmates!). This many packages cannot be good. Look at the fun they contain!
Did the song "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong?" pop into your head while looking at these? I couldn't help myself but order "K is for Knifeball" when I saw it. It is HILARIOUS. During my child care unit my students analyze various children's books, and I've been looking for a couple of books to slip in that are definitely not appropriate but look like books for kids (and I'm thinking slipping in "Go the F**k to Sleep" would probably get me fired) - this is perfect! And, an enjoyable read all on its own, of course.

And now that I'm scrolling through my blog, I don't think I've mentioned grad school at all. In September I went back to school for a Reading Specialist master's. I don't know what if any career changes that may lead to in the future, but what I'm learning has already made me a better teacher! It has always driven me crazy when high school/middle school content teachers pronounce "Well I'm not a reading teacher." Bull, we're all reading teachers! The number of strategies to help kids with their reading (and let's face it, no matter what you teach or what age you teach, you have got a LOT of kids who struggle with basic reading!) I've already learned is staggering, and I've implemented quite a few of them with great returns so far. I keep thinking "If only I had known this x years ago!"

The only problem with taking on a Reading degree is that it leaves you much less time for your own reading! I managed to get in some of the reading I wanted to do over break, but not what I aspired to (isn't that always the case with breaks?). One of the great ironies of being a teacher is that most of us love to read and most of us don't have anywhere close to the amount of time we need for such pursuits!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Currently and a New Year

It's been a while since I've posted, but with the new year I'm getting back into the swing of things. Here's a "Currently" linky from Farley (check out the link if you don't know what it's all about - it's fun!):

Listening - I am a "West Wing" nut! I've watched the series through more than once but it's been a few years, so I'm starting it up again.

Loving - The way break fell this year is so great - I love not going back until the 7th!

Thinking - I get all new kids with the beginning of second semester (January 14th), so I'm thinking about what to do differently: rules, procedures, units... the whole she-bang! I'm pretty sure I'm going to leave binders behind and switch to folders. For some reason, despite the many many many many many teachings, modelings, etc, the whole concept of putting three-hole punched papers in the rings of the binders seems to elude junior high students. Also thinking about a new way to arrange the desks...

Wanting - Hot cocoa is soooooo gooooooooood!

Needing - Gotta get going on creating the "prezi" for a presentation due in a couple of weeks. There's still plenty of time, but that time will get sucked up fast when school is back in session.

OLW - POSSIBILITY! With the new year comes a fresh start, a blank slate, and all sorts of possibilities - especially since I'll be starting fresh with new kids after the first week back. Learning all the procedures and hidden rules of a new school along with transitioning to junior high has been incredibly challenging, but I'm beginning to really "get" it. And, I'm excited to get a second chance to start fresh within the same year.