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.

 

 

 

 

We start my new classroom in 3,2,1…

I am all about a dramatic outside presentation of a serious learning environment. I want everyone to feel that giving anything less than their best in my room isn’t going to go over very well. It’s not intimidating, but it has to be a situation where everyone knows what to expect and that I believe they an measure up. I want the entrance of my classroom to Pop and Amaze. That being said I am going to pare down my interior classroom design. There’s a good reason, too. Harvey Specter would.

Many of you know that I am an avid “Suits” fan. It’s a smart, fun show. Lots of thought go into each character, their wardrobe, heck even their offices. There’s a reason Harvey’s office looks like it does. It’s meant to display a full and complete control of his environment. There isn’t a lot of wasted space. The art that’s there is meant to continue the theme that Harvey has his stuff together. So what if Harvey had a classroom? I don’t know, but I plan to give it my best shot this week.

Yes, I know Harvey Specter isn’t real. However, the attitude and control of situation he projects is real in deed. What if he had a classroom. What would it look like?

Rather than focus heavily on deluging my classroom with creative ideas. I think I’m going to keep it very simple, focus on function and usefulness of my design and finally present an attitude of “getting stuff done” throughout my room. There are going to be some “busy” spots. The overall thought of the room is Reading can be found everywhere.

What would Harvey’s classroom look like? Can I draw any ideas from this office? I think so.

I am going to add to my room through out the year. How it looks on Day 1 will be a finished project. However, how it looks on Day 21 will be added and improved. I have some great things that won’t be done in a week.

Pictures should be ready by Tuesday.

How’s your classroom coming along?

My new classroom

A new district. New school. New classroom. I’m looking for as many creative storage and decorative ideas as possible, but I’m not going to just pull them from Pinterest. I want this year’s classroom theme to be a darling of Pinterest and be 100% original ideas and content.  I’m expecting others to pin me all over their blogs, social sites and the InterWeb. That’s saying a lot cause my Super Learners themed room still is the most popular view on this humble blog.H

If you are creative and want to throw your hat in on this challenge, please comment. I’d appreciate your insights. Here’s the pallet. Now I need to just be creative.

The door has to be the best door entry I've ever done. Ever.

The door has to be the best door entry I’ve ever done. Ever. It has to SCREAM that we’re all about reading in this room. 

 

This hallway/entrance has to be intense.

This hallway/entrance has to be intense. I’m at the end of the hall, but I want this to be THE destination. I want other kids to say to my students “THAT’S YOUR classroom?” with awe and wonder. 

The room comes with SUPPLIES!

The room comes with SUPPLIES! The room already has lots of good supplies and materials. I just need to organize them. 

I have a lot of ideas for this space. Please know that it won't look like this long.

I have a lot of ideas for this space. Please know that it won’t look like this long. I have a teacher’s desk. You already know how I feel about that. Yuck. 

I need a curtain idea. My theme is going to be "All the things we can read"

I need a curtain idea. My theme is going to be “All the things we can read”

Pretty good storage closet in class

Pretty good storage closet in class. It needs to be organized so Day 1 has a mission already. 

 

Nice size closet.

Nice size closet. My coats, shoes and aprons have a home. Going to keep some other ready to go classroom supplies in here as well. A wide angle shot of the place I'll be calling home in a month.

A wide angle shot of the place I’ll be calling home in a month. So much to do. Check out the blue carpet!

Another angle of the room. Lots can be done with this space.

Another angle of the room. Lots can be done with this space. Did I mention that I have a restroom IN my class? (No reading in there, please!)

So many ideas. So much space.

So many ideas. So much space. This is going to be so much fun. Even better than Super Learners. 

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!

 

Week 1 has been great

1st of many great weeks is in the books. I had a fantastic time getting to know my students. I feel they understand me and what I want them to know by the end of the year. Every parent I met raves that I’m what their child needs. I always counter that they are what they’re child needs, but that’s another story.  Here’s my week in pictures.

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Days 1- 5 have been outstanding. I made a major mental shift that I think has helped me not be so frustrated, but I’ll talk about it as the year wears on.

 

I’m not sure, but this is a real game changing drink. Take a cup of fresh watermelon. Crush is up pretty good and top it off with a can of Kill Cliff. Again, I’m not sure, but I’m sure this is a game changer for sure. Fantastic mid day pick me up. Might try other mixes one day, too.

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I had a debate with two good teachers. The discussion was around me putting up pre-made charts in my class. I was obviously pro-charts and they were con. Both made really good points. Here’s my issue.

  • With no class theme my room would be REALLY bare sans my charts.
  • I like my charts and made them for the purpose of using them again as decor.
  • I don’t like making them on the fly, because often they’re not as neat as when I take my time and make them.
  • Most of the charts I put up for Day 1 are really there for the kids to glean from right off the bat. It would take a few weeks to teach ALL the subjects that I have charts for.

Anyway, it’s always good to hear opposing ideas and thoughts.

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These little magnet people came from my 2nd grade yard sale angel this Summer. I haven’t moved my students to legitimately doing centers in groups, but I think this will work perfectly. I pinned the chart to the AC unit. The magnet people have each kid’s name on them. I can easily discuss the plan for the day and what group each student is in. This will make it super easy to change groups, condense groups or just not have a team. I was thinking of moving the names round so they’ll be color coded, but either way will be good for my use.

  • IR- Independent reading/work
  • PR- Partner Reading/Work
  • GR- Guided Reading/Work
  • LC- Listening Center
  • Skill- Independent work time working on specific skill

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The mailboxes have started off excellent. I did take for granted that each student understood where I wanted each book to go. Just a little fine tuning and I think  they’ll be right on the button.

Other little things that have started out better than I planned

Table caddies– last year’s group was just special. A lot of the drama that happened in years past was just drama. (Haven’t sharpened a pencil yet.)

Time management-I seem to be on pace. I will know more perfectly as I start breaking them up into groups and running centers like a boss.

Class size– I can’t and won’t complain. I have a very nice sized group. Even if they level the 2nd grade I’ll be thankful.

 

The next couple of posts maybe all about CrossFit since I’m going to get my Level 1 certification this weekend.

 

I sense that this year is going to be unique for a lot of great reasons.  Ready to see how I can change the world. One bowtie at a time.

 

Let’s just go ahead and get this thing going

This has been an exhausting pre planning week. It hit me today, SCHOOL HASN’T STARTED, YET! I am really a creature of habit and my attempt to do something different might have thrown me off. All that aside I got A LOT done. I had some super fantastic help from my nephew and a family friend. Got to take the out for some ice cream or something.

My daughter came today to give my classroom her approval.

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What an inviting door

 

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I could learn a lot in this room!

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So much information. I feel smarter already.

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It’s like a mini lesson on each chart!

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Oh, I’m ready to learn. Yes, sir.

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Chilling in the reading center with a good book

This sounds strange, but I don’t like teachers’ desks. I feel like I’d sit down to much. I also feel they take up space. I’m a minimalist for sure. A few years ago I started using a cart for my make shift desk. It works so well and I rarely find myself sitting down. Most days I’m jumping all over so this really makes it easy for me. Last year I had 2 carts and this year I added another to my fleet. image

Most of my work happens here. I do all of my standing in from of the class teaching from here. I have no issue wheeling it around the building to meetings and the such. image

This is where just about all my tech is found. When I’m going to an oh so dear planning meeting I bring this with me. I always find a reason to print, staple or need some audio.  It’s not on  there in this picture, but I have an LCD projector on this cart as well. It seems odd. Since my class doesn’t have a smart board this just helps out SO much. I’m supposed to get a smart board soon and when I do I’ll move to…image

This is the smallest cart I have and I honestly don’t think I’ll be wheeling this around the school, it’s very short. However, when I get my smart board I can down size my tech cart, maybe.

As always, I have charts, charts and more. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make some change to them this year.

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Summer is almost over and I need to get about 8 hours of relaxing in. Next weekend I’m getting my CrossFit Level 1 cert. Very excited. My return to CFSC has been good. There’s been more laying on the floor than I remember. Besides that it’s been good.

Yeah, about this no classroom theme thing

Setting up my classroom was much easier when I used a classroom theme. I still didn’t prepare one for this year. Please know that next year I will. Collecting donations now. So far this year has started off just right. (Planning always does) I guess things might change when 13 little faces meet me next Monday. Stay tuned. Be ready cause the revolution will be bowtied. 

 

24 hours of “what ifs”

Creativity is an area I feel I can build, grow and expand in. I don’t think that I’m horrible, but I don’t think I create stuff like I should. So I’m reading a book on nurturing the creative mind. An activity in the book is asking “what if”. The more ridiculous the better. I sat down for 24 hours and came up with 200 What if scenarios. I have more, but I stopped myself at 24 hours. I then sorted out the absolute insane time travel, flying and invisible ones. Leaving only the ones that could, maybe possibly happen. Then I threw out the ones that were only about me. I was left with those that dealt with a large group of people, my neighborhood, my family. Then I excluded all the ones that I needed A LOT of help to do. Then I said “Stop”. I went back and put them all back in the list. Here’s my little list of my favorite what if questions. I may go back and ask some follow up questions since each of them requires probably 4-5 follow ups.

  • What if we moved out of state?
  • What if we moved out of the country?
  • What if I could meet with a mentor for 1 hour a week?
  • What if we had four kids?
  • What if every house in my neighborhood had a garden?
  • What if we all had solar panels on our houses?
  • What if I get all the really low students this year?
  • What if I get all the really well behaved students this year?
  • What if we read a book in order to be able to watch TV?
  • What if we worked 4 10 hours days?
  • What if we all took off for the Sabbath?
  • What if we could record our dreams?
  • What if the Church was persecuted globally, right now?
  • What if no one tithed?
  • What if everyone did 3 missions trips by the time they were out of college or turned 25?
  • What if every HS student had work experience in 3-4 different areas?
  • What if my entire community composted and recycled?
  • What if we were paid $50 for every lbs of fat lost and $10 for every year we maintained?
  • What if Christians were 100% confident Christ was with them, right now?
  • What if Christians were as passionate against sin as they were politics?
  • What if everyone saved 10% of their income for 5 years?
  • What if I get 100% parent involvement this year?
  • What if I have a class of all girls this year?
  • What if I have a class of all boys this year?
  • What if every time you needed, you could call up a duplicate of yourself to do 60 minutes of work?
  • What if it were harder to get into college?
  • What if college was cheaper?
  • What if it were possible to communicate with other creatures?
  • What if we all rode bikes?
  • What if we were paid for the books we read?
  • What if we jettisoned our trash to the Sun?
  • What if we buried our trash deep in the earth?
  • What if I don’t get any supplies this year?
  • What if I have ZERO parent participation this year?
  • What if we created a ship to filter trash from the sea?
  • What if I did 12 30 day challenges?
  • What if my family/Small Group didn’t have any debt?
  • What if my family(s) moved closer/further?
  • What if I taught in an all white school?
  • What if you had to get a license to have kids?
  • What teachers were able to take off for a year, do another job/career and come back and explain how that year made them better teachers?
  • What if I have NO support this school year?
  • What if we did job swaps?
  • What if food trucks over took brick and mortar establishments?
  • What if food trucks did neighborhood deliveries?
  • What if all abandoned/empty properties were torn down after 2 years of being unoccupied?
  • What if everyone brought their lunch/homecooked for 30 days?
  • What if every family in my community created and lived on a zero based budget?
  • What if I could carpool whenever I wanted to?
  • What if I rode a cab to work everyday?
  • What if healthy, good food was cheaper than processed food?
  • What if certain companies got a tax break to help a city stay neat, clean and orderly?
  • What if Marietta City set a goal to save $ rather than spend?
  • What if woke up 1 hour earlier everyday and worked out?
  • What if we looked for leaders who served rather than those who wanted to be served?
  • What if I went and met all my social media “friends”?
  • What if no one wanted credit for the good done in the world?
  • What if the next 5 years were all we had left?
  • What if we saw ourselves as God does?
  • What if we were all able to live to our 200s?
  • What if churches collected membership dues rather than offerings?
  • What if my neighborhood saw a 25% increave/decrease in income?
  • What if we could really multitask?
  • What if teachers were paid by the hour?
  • What if we all spoke 3 languages from birth?
  • What if we could travel back in time only once?
  • What if we could write our futures?
  • What if Christians became passionate about sharing the Gospel?
  • What if half the human raced lived in space or on the moon?
  • What if we could create hydro electric power AND not disturb the environment?
  • What if we could create an engine to propel a space craft at light speed?
  • What if were possible to transform a desert?
  • What if we could make ourselves faster, thinner, prettier with a pill?
  • What if we stopped trying to do the last one?
  • What if…SELF DRIVING CARS!?
  • What if politicians got paid nothing?
  • What if we knew when we would die?
  • What if we got paid for our mistakes?
  • What if we NEVER forgot?
  • What if all schools went online?
  • What if we had a set % of success and it increased the amount of times we tried?
  • What if we could communicate with our younger and older selves?
  • What if we had a regular Bible study for a month?
  • What if we had to solve a problem before we could complain about one?
  • What if we didn’t have any regrets?
  • What if I found 6 non-crossfitters to agree to CF for 6 months with me?
  • What if all the businesses in Cobb county adopted one homeless person and gave them a job for 1 year?
  • What if my blog started getting 10k reads a day?
  • What if I didn’t send home any homework this year?
  • What if my students did 7 major projects in class and out that were worth their entire grade?
  • What if my small group became a house church?
  • What if we had to be quiet and think for at least 30 minutes but no more than 1 hour a day?

I got some great ideas from this exercise. I know some are whack-a-doodle, but some aren’t that bad. What are your thoughts? Do you have any crazy what if questions to add? Mind you I didn’t include all 200, but I’d like to see/read yours if you have any good ones. Even those not so good ones will be appreciated.

School starts back in 15 days and I have to say that I’m mentally ready. Now I just have to find where my dry cleaning ticket is.

 

Summer is for reflecting

I’ve had a little time this Summer to think about what I’m going to do next school year to really bring change in my class. I could really enjoy the rest of the time off and relax. But I chose to spend a little time thinking about the next school year. Here are some things I thought about.

  • This year I’m going to spend a lot more time budgeting time. I have been blessed to work with some new teachers this summer. The only sliver of advice I believe I was supposed to give them was to not try to manage the kids, cause you can’t. Manage resources, opportunities and privileges to steer the students where you want them to go. Last year I feel I wasted a lot of time putting out small fires and not pouring water on my garden. A lot of my mental energy and resources were wasted doing other things that didn’t add to my students learning. This year it’s going to be very, very different. I have to be intentional. Watch.
  • I’m not going to do a classroom theme this year. This kind of stinks cause I have a great plan laid out and I think it would win awards. However, I don’t think it will help my students learn. Last year’s 7 habits theme was a bust to say the least. I will take 100% of the blame cause I don’t believe my students left that room with 1 better habit than the walked in with. I let them down. So this year I’m going to have a great room. It’s going to be inviting and it’s going to be engaging. But it’s not going to be a theme. I need to spend more of my energy on getting as much info in the minds of these kids and doing all I can to get them to love learning. Help me Lord.
  • This has nothing to do with education but, I regret wholeheartedly switching my blog from Typepad. I know that WordPress is supposed to be the business, but I haven’t found the “ahha” that’s WP. I’m sure it’s me, but I think I’m going to have to go back to TypePad. If anyone wants to give me a call, text, email or Skype me please do. I’m about to switch back to TypePad cause this for the birds. (That rant really felt good.)
  • I’ve resolved to remain a classroom teacher and God willing a 2nd grade classroom teacher. I like the idea of being out of the class, but the practical truth is I want to be in the trenches rubbing elbows with the kids who’ll one day have to make decisions that may effect me. I salute all those who want to and are outside the classroom.
  • You all know I’m not he meeting guy. I am all about collaboration. So this year I’m going to join some blogs and some online forums to share ideas and get new insights. At the moment GA is all in on Common Core so I need to make sure that my students are getting the best that they can get.

I have had such a restful few weeks off. I know that next week starts the slow build up to Day 1. I’m actually excited. I have a belief that things are going to work out a lot better than last year and that this year is going to be the start of something great.

2013-14 School year. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Is there a  school out there that does an end of the year survey of what worked, what didn’t and what certainly doesn’t need to happen again? There has to be some value to hearing what the staff thought about the last 170 or so days. Deep down inside I fear it would become a gripe session for some and the most constructive comments won’t be shared for fear of reprisal. So this year I’m going to talk about what happened in my little slice of  APS. Room 157.

The Good

  • BOWTIES!
  • More times than not, I kept my cool. Once I made a slight change in my perspective it really became easy.
  • Everyone is moving on to 3rd grade. Except me, Thank You Jesus!
  • I started with good systems in place.
  • Homework and classroom journals, ROCKED!
  • Time management.
  • College road trip
  • I stuck to my AM schedule like a champ.
  • I stayed true to Jason. I didn’t let anyone impress me to be someone else.
  • Lesson plans in general were on point.
  • I was able to roll with most of the changes that come with working in a school.
  • I remained true to a lot of my physical goals. All be it they hit a deep pot hole.

The Bad

  • Paperwork management.
  • My “7 Habits of Happy Kids” theme didn’t help with good habits.
  • Still think I talk to much. I repeat myself a lot!
  • Paperwork.
  • Sad face for science.
  • I didn’t vocally encourage my student’s as much as I mentally thought it.
  • I relied on copies a lot more than I intended.
  • Some of my systems fell apart by year’s end.
  • Drumming up parental buy in.
  • Waste
  • I didn’t start one new project in the building. I have nice ideas, but I didn’t stick my neck out there once.

The Ugly

  • The system of identifying struggling students didn’t work well.
  • Creating plans for struggling students just became blah. Nothing exciting. Nothing that pulled them into the lesson.
  • I wore a horrible bowtie/shirt combo once and my coworkers still dog me out about it.
  • There are a few days where I know I didn’t even remotely make the sale. I didn’t get the kids to WANT to learn.
  • I don’t hug my students. They probably needed a hug more than I realized.
  • I left Crossfit. Major sad face.

Please feel free to give your feedback on your year in the comments and take my “scientific” poll.