Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Snowy State of the Blog Address

Before getting into the blog stuff, let's talk snow.  I don't know where you are, but where I am it has been snow, snow, snow, and how about a nice freezing hail-rain combo to top it all off. We had four snow days built in to our school calendar.  We have used those four snow days.  If we take anymore, they will start to make-up the days by taking back other days off, like Spring Break.  Not looking forward to that.  In addition to the snow days, we've had a few delayed openings and an early dismissal all due to weather. Thankfully, those days still count as a full school day so we don't have to make them up.  Here are some snowy, icy scenes from the past week or so:

my ride to school

ice encrusted cars

snow covered playgrounds

which mean indoor recess. . .
Is there anything more chaotic and loud than indoor recess?  I feel for the kids because they really do need to let out that pent up kid energy.  In our school, indoor recess happens in the gym and in our classrooms.  The kids alternate locations because the PE teachers also still need to use the gym.  Thankfully, teachers don't have to monitor indoor recess as it during our duty-free lunch period.  Instead, the lunch aides come to supervise the kids.  But, with all the snow and freezing temperatures we've had lately I'm beginning to think these poor kids will never get outside! Let's all think summer!


So, onto the blog. I am a month in to my blog goals.  Some are going well, others not so much.
Let's check in with a little State of the Blog Address!

1.  Finish Blog Redesign - This one is going well!  I finally booked a blog designer to help me out.  I decided to go with A Bird in Hand Designs by Megan. She's pretty busy, so I couldn't get a start date with her until March 31st.  Not a problem because it seems I have some blog homework to do.  I feel like I'm building a house and have to decide on floors, counter tops, paint colors and such. :-) All fun, but still work.  But, I am excited to see what comes! I can happily promise that come April things will look a lot different around here.

2. Make at Least 6 Literacy Based Resources/Projects - Well, this can go either way.  I grabbed a bunch of Dr. Seuss books with the intent of creating a couple of upper elementary level activities in honor of Read Across America.  Then, I realized how quickly it would soon be here. March 2nd is right around the corner.  I am going to give it a shot, but no promises!  By the way, that link for Read Across America will take you to the NEA's page that has some printable resources for the day.

If the Seuss projects don't pan out, I think I will still be working on this goal anyway because of some upcoming school projects.  I'm still working on the hero unit for my enrichment class.  One of the books I plan to read with them is the 2014 Newbery Medal winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.  There doesn't seem to be a ton of resources out there, so I am going to have to make some myself.  However, the book title link will take you to a page with some teacher resources if you are interested.  The site also has "book resources" that are teacher friendly.

3. Blog at least Twice a Week - Ummmm, this one might not be going so well.  I think it boils down to a comment I saw on another blog.  I wish I could remember whose blog it was.  The blogger said their goal was not to post x number of posts a week, but to post more quality content.  I think that is a much better goal than my twice a week goal.  It just makes more sense.  Not saying every post will be a gem at all, but I like the idea of posting when I really feel I have something to say or want to share instead of because I have to meet a goal of two posts a week.

4. Step Up the Social Media Portion of the Blog - I think with the new blog design in progress this will kind of take care of itself.  At least for the first steps.  As part of the blog design I am going to be adding social media buttons and updating/creating certain social media sites.  After that, I just have to remember to post on the sites.  I don't see this really happening until after the blog design is done.

5.  Organize the Labels on Previous Posts - Yeah, they are still a hot mess.  I just need to sit in Starbucks one afternoon on a weekend and plow through them.  I have been looking at other blogs to see how they organize their posts, and it seems like everyone is all over the place.  Some bloggers have tons of different labels while others have just a few broad, generic labels.  I think I need to fall somewhere in the middle.  I do know I would like to have this done by March. 

6.  Connect with Other Bloggers - I'm still slacking on commenting at other blogs, but I have been trying to read more.  It all comes down to time.  It seems like there is always just so much to do.  But, I feel this is important so I need to make it more of a priority.


In my last post, I mentioned not being thrilled about having to use a specific computer program for lesson plans.  Something my district is requiring next year.  It was one little thing I mentioned in a post of many topics.  In light of that, I thought it was interesting that all the post comments focused on lesson plans.  They are just so personal to each teacher! I wonder if admins ever realize how individual every teacher's lesson plans are.  They are definitely not a one size fits all document! Oh well, somehow I will have to make it work.  Isn't that what we teachers always do, though?  We make it work!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

February Currently

I'm joining the Currently bandwagon this month! 

Listening: The Bridge School is a non-profit organization in California
 for children with severe speech and physical impairments.  One of their main fundraisers is a benefit concert put on every October that draws huge name musicians.  The songs are all acoustic and amazing.  I have yet to find one that I don't love.  They have the benefits recorded and available on iTunes. I think I pretty much have them all! The good news is that if you buy them from iTunes, the school gets the revenue.  Nice to know that.

Loving:  The day it was announced this week that the Newbery Medal winner for 2014 was Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo I picked up a copy.  You can't go wrong with a Kate DiCamillo book!  To be honest, I don't keep up with current kid's lit as much as I should (spoiler for 2 truths and a fib!) and didn't even know this book was out.  I still have a bit to go, but so far it is very good.  I can see how it would engage young readers right from the start.  When I finish, I will post a review.

Thinking:  In the next few months, my district will ask to fill out forms to request a change in or keep our teaching positions.  There's no guarantee it will be honored, but it is a chance to ask for a change.  I really, really miss having a homeroom.  I miss having one set of kids to work with all day long.  I feel like I have more control over their instruction and achievement than I do as a push-in teacher visiting different classes each period.  However, there are definite perks to my current position that I enjoy very much.  There are so many other factors I choose not to discuss on my blog that go into this decision.  Suffice to say, at this point, I'm not sure what I want to do.  Half of me wants to go back to being a homeroom teacher, half of me is willing to continue on as is.  What to do? What to do?

Wanting: Time! Time! Time!  I'm still working on the heroes literacy unit and could seriously use more time to finish it up. 

Needing: Magic Tree House just published in January a great biography collection on heroes.  It is perfect for the heroes unit and I'm just waiting for them to arrive.  I ordered one for myself to preview and loved it.  Now it's just a matter of wanting that time to create all the literacy work to go along with it.

2 Truths and a Fib:  Well, by now you know the fib is that I keep up with all the current children's lit that comes out.  I try, but there are these pesky things like planning, teaching, family, and having a life that get in the way! :-) However, in an effort to be better about that, I'm reading Flora and Ulysses.  I also picked up a copy of the 2014 Caldecott winner Locomotive.  A lovely picture book that is definitely for the older crowd.  Not so much a young kid picture book if you know what I mean. 

When it come to the truths, I do LOVE snow days and I do miss my plan book.  Snow days are like getting an unexpected gift.  Having said that, we have four built in to our school calendar.  If we use more than the four they start to take back other vacation days.  So far, we've used three and there's more snow in the forecast.  I'll take one more, but then that's it! 

And as for my plan book, our district is in the process of switching all plans to digital.  We have this year to do either paper or digital, but next year we will all be required to use a special computer program for our lesson plans.  No more paper books.  I've actually been doing mine on the computer for a few years now, but this program they want us to use has an entirely different format. Also, instead of turning in plan books for review, we have to post our plans in a designated file each week for review.  Oh, technology! Sometimes I just can't decide if you make my life easier or harder!

I found these pictures on my phone last week and meant to put them on the blog. 
I had to get my car inspected and laughed when I saw my new inspection sticker. 
This is a picture of my old inspection sticker from the inside of my car.
It has looked the same for years. 
 This year, someone decided to change things up a bit. 
Here's the back of my new inspection sticker.
Proof from the state of New Jersey that you are never too old for picture books!