A chance to sit down and think

Everyone knows what it’s like to be busy. To be at it all the time and not really have time to sit down and think about what’s going on, how life is effecting you and what our response should be. You’re just doing well to keep up with the routine. While that’s been true I’ve been pondering somethings.

A thought I’ve been going back and forth over has zero to do with teaching or bow ties. How am I growing and developing as a disciple of Christ? How am I being changed by Christ compared to me trying to change Christ? Most of the time, if I’m honest I spend a great deal of time trying to coax Christ into co-signing things I’m doing rather than surrendering my life in order to glorify Him. Just think about it. How often do we violate principles and commands that He gave with little or no thought that we’re off base.

Being challenged to examine what I’m putting in my life as truth. Recently,  I was really digging this motivational speaker. Very positive and upbeat. Lots of good, solid non-churchy content. However, I started examining closely what he was saying in light of scripture, which has to be our measure. I started wondering did God want this for me or was it just a good sounding, positive man-made idea? Then some of the glaring contrasts to solid teaching began to show up. Some of it is just flat out new age. Not my cup of tea at all. I’ve kind of eased off this guys channel for that reason.

As you can guess my TV watching has taken a hit as well. I haven’t been settled enough to really sit down anyway. But like most people I’d make time for my favorite shows. Been wondering if what I’m watching is pushing me away from Christ or drawing me in? If it’s drawing me in, how? Needless to say now I have a DVR full of shows and no scheduled time to watch ’em.

Within all this I’ve also been thinking closely about who I surround myself with. Had to do some cutting and trimming. Even the best of people aren’t always the best for us at this time. Tough choices now yield better results in the long run.

If it’s any consolation meal prep still makes the cut every week.

Not my usual classroom hi-jinx blog post. I will make sure soon to discuss the wonders and joys of “conference week”.

2016 has started off…

This year has really been a mind bender. I’m SO used to resolution/goal setting/Daniel fasting/starting off with the end in mind/blah-blah-blah. This year however, I didn’t do any of the usual. I am sticking to what worked as I ended 2015 and not doing what didn’t work. That just seemed easy enough. Coming off our epic Christmas I have had ZERO interest in over stressing myself. So I’ve kept it all very low key. Let’s talk about it.

Family

  • We’re spending a lot more time together. The girls have so much going on that our little moments together are pretty special.
  • Family planning time. We have so much going on that we need to spend some time looking at and planning our calendars.
  • Um…yeah. We all are going to have to pitch in on household stuff. No reason to fake that any longer.

School

  • I love my little class. We’re struggling to make the gains that we need, but we can do it.
  • Each student has a chart of their place on our “gains train”. They all know just about what they need to do each week to get to the end with success.
  • I also LOVE my school. I can’t say enough about them. That being said I would like to just stay there, learn how to address the needs of this community and help DES become the school it’s supposed to be.

Crossfit

  • I am going to go get my Level 2 certification soon. Why not? I enjoy CF and I want to be better as a coach as well as a Crossfitter. The next certification will help me with the coaching aspect.
  • I want to find more ways to meal prep! I know that’s crazy cause I already to every meal and snack that I eat, but there’s some more that I’d like to do.
  • I can’t express how much I get out of Olympic lifting. I feel better and I feel amazing going at it on the platform.

Finances

  • Team Whitaker is in a good spot. That being said there are some areas that we’re not addressing. We’ve skipped them for YEARS and truth be told we just don’t know enough to be good in these areas. So…we’re going to fix that.
  • Sometime this year Team Whitaker will increase our streams of income times 2. More later.

Faith

  • I want my family to be able to properly sort and discuss matters of faith without feeling they’re not properly equipped. No need to wait for someone else to “defend them” they’re able to discuss these matters on their own.

I will expand on all of these more and more as the year moves on. Can you believe that we’re half way through January? Amazing how time flies.

A look back at 2015

The 1st part of this school year is almost wrapped up like a present under the tree. I can’t say just how excited I am about getting away and recharging, but I am sure you understand my current state.

Also this marks the end of 2015 a pretty good year over all. As with all years it seems to have just flown by, but a lot happened this year.  I am going to just highlight a few mostly centered around the shaping of young minds.

The Good

  • I have a fantastic group of students.
    • Lots and lots of good kids here. Most want to do well and just need direction and guidance.
  • My co-workers are the BEST!
  • Most of my systems have worked out well…albeit I need some more. Next year I need to have a system for systems.
  • My centers have been on point all year long.
  • The ESOL students have been “getting it”.
  • I’ve had a blast teaching science and social studies this year.
  • I had some awesome student teacher observers. Hope they get a great classroom one day.
  • GROUPME!
  • The support team here is out of this world! Real troopers
  • I am enjoying Marietta City Schools. It’s different from APS and it’s ok.
  • I’ve had some FANTASTIC class visitors this year. Not sure how I can top the Docs coming in to talk about good back health and getting my babies moving.
  • MEAL PREP!
  • BOWTIES!

The Bad

  • I haven’t seen as much progress as I thought we’d have by close of 2015.
  • Cracking the code and helping them WANT to learn has proven to be a much more tricky task than I first thought.
  • I don’t honestly think I get the guided reading/math portion of my day.

The Down Right Silly

I’ve had the best time teaching 1st grade! I’ve had some adventures for sure…

  • The student that didn’t like me because I was “brown”. Oh he was brown as well.
  • My ESOL student that corrects me every time I try to speak Spanish.
  • When I was having a emotional break down over a student leaving my student that consoled me by telling me she’ll do good work, too.
  • The kindergartner who told me she’ll behave in class because she loved me.
  • The student who gave my co-worker a recycled day card that had been given to her, but it was in Spanish.
  • The student that told me that “decomposing numbers” is like when is daddy took the rims off the car.
  • My little guy who refuses to put his shoes on correctly. He even will change them back if I have him change them.

On the non-school related front I had such a great year. Many, many new things happened.

  • I became a better dad and a pretty good husband
  • Started Olympic Lifting and have found a real desire
  • Finally got to my goal body fat
  • Financially, Team Whitaker got on track this year.
  • We’re taking our first REAL vacation this year!  Won’t be our last.
  • I had so much fun with my BGE!
  • I cleaned out my friend stable. Now I feel lighter not carrying around so many extra folk.

I’ll post a pictorial collage later.

 

 

 

 

I now know why I teach

wpid-20151015_145715-1.jpg

wpid-20151015_110225-1.jpg
image

Today I said good bye to the most precious student I’ve had in my career.  This little guy came to my class two months ago.  He was from Mexico.  He didn’t read, speak English and had some issues with reading Spanish.  What worked in his favor is he had a super supportive family and he worked hard in class.

He immediately stole my heart with his polite demeanor and his will to work.  He got lots of support and help from our ESOL staff. In one month with all kinds of help he started speaking basic English, answering questions in both languages. He was a superstar. Because of his willingness to learn I started using Google Translate to relay messages to him and my other ESOL students. They all love it!

As you can see he has a handsome smile. When he walked in the room you couldn’t help but smile, laugh or both.

A few weeks ago his mom came in to tell me, with tears in her eyes that the family would be returning to Mexico in November. To say that I was heart broken isn’t the full story.  Then a few days later mom told me that everything had been moved up to October 15th. What?

Every day he walked in class he’d hug me and most of the time we’d cry.

Then this past week happened. I had kind of forgot that the day was coming until I got this text.

image

This was the week! I knew that I had a workshop Wednesday, a field trip Thursday, so this would be a short week. I told him we’d have a going away party Friday. Whenever he could he’d grab my hand and walk down the hall. He’d hug me and most of the time we’d openly just cry. It got so bad that another student told me that she’d be a good student, too since I was losing Angel.  This was a special kid and I knew I wasn’t ok with losing him.

We went on a field trip Thursday. I feel sorry for the rest of my class. All I did was walk around with Angel and try to get some good pics for his mom. She wanted me to get some good memories for him.

And this wouldn’t be a story if I didn’t have one more twist. Thursday was his last day. Due to all the things his family had going on he wouldn’t be able to come to school Friday.

wpid-img_20151017_101318.jpgwpid-img_20151017_101337.jpgwpid-img_20151017_101406.jpgwpid-img_20151017_101737.jpgwpid-img_20151017_101752.jpgwpid-img_20151017_101810.jpg

There have been many a day that I wonder why I teach. If you know me off line you know I asked this question a lot. However, this past weekend I realized that this is why I teach. I teach so that I can feel alive. So that I can have authentic connections with another generation and one day know that this connection will net life change.

For the last time today Angel stopped by my class and it was hard to say good bye for the very last time. His family was beginning to make their journey south and eventually out of the country. He and I hugged for our last time When he let me go he whispered. “I love you”. This is why I teach.

wpid-img_2246.jpg

Good bye my dear friend. Many, many blessings on you and your family. Thanks for making me a better teacher

This is becoming a trend

Another great week. I got a lot done. I still have a ton to do, but this week was productive for sure.
 wpid-20150901_084556.jpg
Our math coach stopped by to teach a Math Workshop Lesson. Wow, she’s good. My kids learned a lot.
wpid-20150901_090102.jpg
This was a part of the lesson. Thank you, Coach O’Connel!
wpid-20150903_082818.jpg
wpid-20150903_091123.jpg
Combined our two classes so Mrs. Smallwood and I could drive home the point of using tally makes to capture information then using that information in a graph. Once again, my students learned a lot.
wpid-20150904_085759.jpg
We learned so much we took our learning to the streets. We went out in the hall and tallied up the students we saw wearing certain color shirts. Then we took it to class and made a simple graph using the data.
wpid-20150904_072444.jpg
This week we started working on our AR tests. We’re focusing in on reading the book a couple of times then jumping on line to take the test. Teaching the students to stay with the book and make sure they understand it is a real task.
wpid-20150904_133042.jpg
I wouldn’t be me if there weren’t bowties this week. Got a new Batman as well as Marvel comics bowtie. Let’s just call this Superhero week.
wpid-20150901_080457-1.jpg
Good friend needed a reminded. Hey, I need this reminder, too.
wpid-20150903_132946.jpg
Startbucks cookie straw and Kill Cliff iced coffee. This wasn’t a good idea. I’ll talk about this a little more on Thursday on a special Whole30 blog posting.
wpid-20150831_235109.jpg
Let’s crack open the sparkling apple cider! My grade level won the best yard (hallway) decoration contest. We have full intentions of this starting a trend. We already started the plan for the next design in a few months.
wpid-20150831_172015-1.jpg
And as always there were heavy weights lifted. Some didn’t fare to well, however. RIP.

wpid-img_20150902_103003.jpg

Do I have to say that there was meal prep this week? My dinner swap made this fantastic breakfast bowl. It wasn’t 100% whole30, but it was all the way tasty and nutrient dense.

Let’s talk about a great week

This week I made LOTS of head way with  both my English as well as Spanish students.  They all need help, but in different scales to say the least. I had two readers come in this week. (Had to catch up on the fact that I didn’t have one last week)

wpid-img_20150828_092316.jpg

So you need to hear your native language as well as English? Well, why don't I bring in an expert to read to you all?

So you need to hear your native language as well as English? Well, why don’t I bring in an expert to read to you all.

Shout out to my mom for coming to read this week!

Shout out to my mom for coming to read this week!

I re designed a color chart to add Spanish and English. Next the Alphabet chart.

I re designed a color chart to add Spanish and English. Next the Alphabet chart.

Welcome to 1st grade's weather wonderland

Welcome to 1st grade’s weather wonderland

Grade level chose Weather as our hallway decoration. I think we did a fantastic job. The kids pitched in a lot and most of all they all loved it.

Yeah, those are

Yeah, those are “almost” real clouds

Please note the rain drops coming down. Get your umbrellas!

That's right. There's a blizzard of vocab words on 1st grade hall.

That’s right. There’s a blizzard of vocab words on 1st grade hall.

Have no fear, we end it all with a rainbow. (There are bowties on the rainbow. Get it...)

Have no fear, we end it all with a rainbow. (There are bowties on the rainbow. Get it…)

What do you do with 100s of paper bowties? Well...

What do you do with 100s of paper bowties? Well…

I think for my birthday I’m going to cover the building in bow ties, just because it’s wrong.

wpid-20150827_104352.jpg

I wanted to  decorate my “class sign” with a little something special.

wpid-20150828_071018.jpg

I also spruced up my team’s signs. I wonder how long it will take them to notice this little update.

wpid-20150825_071152.jpg

We’re spotlighting our math skills this week. We pick a strategy to focus on and try to use it as much as we can. We write  about it, talk about it, use it and most of all learn it.

Many schools use Accelerated Reader, but my school  takes it to another level. We had a kick off to get the kids excited about  AR and earning as many points as possible. The school puts  out a goal a long with a prize. This year they’re having a school wide picnic with all kinds of fun and games. Let’s see how the kids do.

wpid-20150828_133225.jpg Note that Marietta Reads is wearing adidas. This school ROCKS!

The goal is 35,000 points. My class has to earn 1000

The goal is 35,000 points. My class has to earn 1000

The goal is 35,000 each grade/class has a part to contribute. I have to get my students to each earn 66 points. That’s a lofty goal considering everything. We read tons of books each  week, but getting them to stick is going to be tricky. I’ll keep you posted.

.wpid-20150828_193256.jpg

And yes, there were bowties this week as well.

Week 3 is in the books. If this was your 1st or 3rd week, how did it go?

I’m looking for a few guest bloggers. If you’re interested, please let me know.

First full week in review.

This week was OUTSTANDING!

I love this group of kids! I’m so very happy to have come aboard. Now let’s review this week in pics.

wpid-20150810_080442-1.jpg

 The 5th grade team thought it would be nice to start everyone’s week with a special card. They were right. That was kinda cool.

wpid-20150812_165726.jpg

My neighbor who’s a 1st year (Shout out to The Most Beautiful 1st Years in the World, Perry and Davis) and I combined classes to help all our kiddos get the grip on how Number Talks work. Ms. Storie is a great teacher! We had so much fun doing this.

wpid-img_20150812_134828.jpg

I like centers a lot. I did an inventory and I found that I have almost 65 handmade centers for 2nd grade. Since I’m in 1st grade and I can’t use 65% of the things I have from last year I guess all I can do is…make more! So expect an explosions of charts soon.

After Centers time I asked my dear, precious ones what kind of educational experience they’d make for a classmate using these random bags of manipulatives. They might only be a few weeks out of Kindergarten, but they’re pretty bight. They had some neat ideas. I will showcase these new centers when we put it together.

wpid-20150813_163256.jpg

The lunchbox saga has been solved. I scored a great Norchill cooler bag that can hold almost 2 days worth of food along with a 64 ounce growler (The Tank)! That’s a lot of space. Most importantly it keeps stuff cold sitting in my classroom.

wpid-20150813_110553.jpg

We set some reading goals this week. I know they’re afraid to read, but I am going to get them out of that real quick. I’m looking for a creative way to post these around the class so the kids can check off as they read. Maybe to a class total chart as well. That would be cool. Of course having them read to me, write a book report or read to a Book Buddy.

wpid-20150814_110200.jpg

Oh, yeah I wore a few bow  ties this week. I think I’m going to give in to the Jeans Friday. Thought I’d be stanch stickler for my tie, but I find myself moving around on the floor, running and doing more now. The tie was to restrictive.

How was your first full week of school?

And so it begins

This school year started off with very little fan fair. That’s a good thing, trust me. I’m OK with easing into gear and a slow take off to cruising altitude. Let’s look at the current state of affairs.

wpid-20150807_143707.jpg

The Exciting

  • I have 15 students. Most are of Hispanic descent.

  • I have more boys than girls in my class. I like my class theme. Whitaker’s Bookstore. The kids seem to like it as well.

    wpid-20150730_155402.jpg

    Day 1 room configuration

wpid-20150728_151019.jpg

Another shot of Day 1 room set up

wpid-20150807_154338.jpg

Now that we know how to do let’s change the room around to allow you to move better.

  • Reading and getting everyone to read on level is HUGE and at this very moment almost the only thing that matters.

    Got to give this guy credit for being a snazzy dresser

    Got to give this guy credit for being a snazzy dresser

  • I have some spirited students, but everyone else knows why they come to school and are ready to work.

  • My new school is SUPER supportive. Lots of support staff ready to help in any way.

  • I’ve met almost all my parents. Some don’t speak English, but I have me them.

    wpid-20150807_072427.jpg

    Thanks for all the great supplies to stock our class for learning!

  • That being said EVERY parent has brought me a huge bag of classroom supplies. Yahtzee!

  • My team is six deep. Never had that many co-workers on a grade level. Lots of good ideas and mind share.

  • The ethnic mix of teachers/students and staff is cool. Not all one ethnic group or even gender. Lots of males in my school.

wpid-20150731_131104.jpg

Aren’t we adorable?

  • 1st grade is GREAT! They’re so small and funny. Kinda remind me of my own DD2 in size.

The Kinda Big Deal

wpid-20150805_053412.jpg

My lunch box and water bottle take up my entire rolling cart. Sup wit dat?

  •  I don’t feel l have a full grasp on my daily schedule. Praying every second no one does a “walk through” on me.

  • It’s a LONG school day. 6:25 – 3:45 is a thing for sure. Add in Coaching or Training at CFSC and I’m wore out by days end.

  • I am not eating enough and sometimes I find myself going  long stretches of time sans food. Not a good idea at all.

  • Though my school is considerably closer to my house. I still have a lot of turns to make so it ends up being 15-20 minutes.

  • I get paid once a month. That’s odd. But let’s just praise God that I GET PAID!

  •  I can’t use most of the charts I made in my previous school. Can I sell ’em?

OMG! It’s time to freak out!

I can’t have a fridge in my class! I’ve spent 30000 man hours trying to find a reasonable cooler I can bring with my everyday. (It’s really that big a deal, trust me.)

wpid-img_20150727_103218.jpg

Yeah, my lunch box is big. What’s it to ya!?

This year is off to a great start. I know there will be some hiccups along the way, but I’m very pleased with the start. Now, if I could find a Yeti cooler for sale.

 How’s your year starting off?

wpid-straightouttacompton.jpg

No more 2nd grade for me. 1st grade has stolen my heart.

Let’s go ahead and talk about this 2014-2015 school year

This school year’s body isn’t cold yet and I’m ready to start an autopsy. So much to say about this year!

  1.  Off the bat, this year was very, very challenging. There were the usual challenges, yes. There were a lot of others as well that no one saw coming. There were some unique behaviors that really left my gobsmacked. Wow, didn’t see that coming at all.
  2. The Common Core isn’t exactly what I want and I can understand the concerns about it. That being said CCSS makes it very simple to collaborate with teachers all over the country. Couldn’t do that before.
  3. Teachers can be some of the easiest people to work with. They understand the “struggle”. No one is trying to get over on another. We all see the importance of our role. I love my co-workers and my teamies. #MissMrsJonesAlready!
  4. Routines. Routines. Routines.
  5. Complaining about students not following the routines, isn’t teaching the routine.
  6. The more you talk about reviewing the routines as a punishment the more you’re going to have to teach the routines.
  7. Sometimes seeking and getting parents involved is a bad thing. The Helicopter Parent is REAL. But to that point when you have concerned, engaged, useful parents you’ve hit a gold mine.
  8. Turning water into wine was a major miracle.
  9. Do not assume that because you’re doing right/good/going above that people notice.  People will ignore them.
  10. CrossFit saved my sanity more times than I can count. I can not say how thankful I am to be coaching now. I get to fully decompress from the teaching day in a creative and tough way. Thanks Team CFSC!
  11. I need a classroom theme next year. Stay tunded.
  12. My anchor chart system worked like a charm. It’s just that next year I may have a lot less space. So back to the drawing board.
  13. Everyone without a book bag is not unprepared and everyone with book bag is prepared.
  14. A classroom of 17 that sees 9 students come and through the year is going to have a tough time building team.
  15. Meal prep also was spot on. It helped so much with keeping me fed so I didn’t start gnawing on chalk.
  16. Oh, Promethean boards are amazing!
  17. The more kids read on their own the more they understand. Grade level is good, but if they can’t read on grade get them reading in the area of focus on the grade level they can digest.
  18. Read the standards. Know the standards.
  19. Small meaningful projects have a lot of use and give you a lot more bang for your buck.
  20. Paperwork can be managed. I’m not certain I did a perfect job. I know I didn’t do a perfect job with paper work, but I can say I didn’t have a mountain to pass back on the last day either.
  21. Using Journals to capture all the in class work was a great idea. It also worked like charm for homework!  Now to fine tune it.
  22. There is zero reason for me to have a classroom desk what so ever. Not like I ever did, but you get my point.
  23. Get data, use data, get more data.
  24. Class Dojo is still the best thing cooking! I know there are other programs out there, but as a fore runner to those CD is still out pacing them all.
  25. Teachers should become scientists. So much can be done by applying the scientific method to teaching.
  26. People say things to male teachers that, I am confident, they don’t mean.
  27. I have so much fun with my bowtie game. I can’t really explain WHY as much as it just makes me feel like I’m on point. Given that most of the time I’m huddled up in the fetal position wondering why I do this. I need as much confidence as I can muster.
  28. The most challenging student needs love. They need to know that even at the basic level “this person cares about me”. They are going to make it tough, but they need to you to care about them.
  29. They also need some degree of respect. Even when they behavior in the most vile, disrespectful manners. “Going there” with them doesn’t do anything, but solidify that they have to act a certain way to “demand” respect.
  30. I AM STILL WINNING THE PENCIL WAR!

I do have some news I want to post about my teaching career. Most of my family, friends and co-workers know. I am taking a position in another school district closer to my house. I’ve never been apart of my school community. I will NEVER run into my students at the market or out with my children. So to get closer to home and my own kids I’m moving from APS in August. It’s been an enjoyable adventure. Besides all the tissue I’m going to use up on our last teacher day I’m taking some fond, fond memories. Thanks to everyone!