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.

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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.

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    Day 1 room configuration

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Another shot of Day 1 room set up

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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.

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    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.

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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

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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.)

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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?

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

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!

 

Flip teaching on it’s ear

I like, no I really LIKE this poster. It sums up what I do everyday and puts a nice CrossFit bow on it. This isn’t from some high brow teaching conference, this is from a CrossFit meme. It’s something our head coach sent out. Most of you know that I now coach on the side and many of you know that endear this opportunity to help people reach their fitness goals.

There are some rich parallels to coaching and teaching. There are goods and bad, mind you.  My two greatest take aways this year are that this is the most important class I have, right now. Also that I need to be more intentional about how I mix up and vary my teaching without changing the overall outcome. There are so many ways I can enhance my lessons, flip the time, change the environment and even toss the lesson totally to make sure each student gets what they need. When break is over I will have just a little more than a 30 days left in this school year. I’m going to work on coaching these students and mixing up a lot of variables. Let’s see what the last 30 days bring.

Next year I will certainly start the year with pushing for more engagement. As in CF there are people who have to scale a workout in order to get any benefit. This year I focused so much on those students and not the over all lesson and that each student was getting better. Going to spend this Summer coaching learning how to scale so much better. Next year is my break out year.

How did your school year unfold for you this year?

Am I on the wrong side of the War?

 

This video sincerely voices my concerns for the boys in my class. I’ve always said that “school wasn’t made by a boy”. The very structure of MY class doesn’t encourage boys and really restricts them. That’s right I include myself. I’m just as guilty of trying to get my students to do exactly what I couldn’t do when I was 7-8 years old.

The part that struck home more than anything in this video was helping boys become readers. Every week we go to the media center and grab a new book to read. And just like following a script my girls get fiction feeling books while my boys get non-fiction books about snakes, cars or records. I didn’t think about how much they’re telling me with their book selections. Even when they’re allowed to go online with little direction most of them find material that’s about animals, cars, and the such. I have to do a better job of letting my male students be, boys.

The way school is organized it almost requires that I (a big boy) have to require these 10 boys do what they’re not even wired to do. However, the 6 girls in my room are almost perfect according to my classroom set up. I’m an accomplice!

My one area of concern is a missing cog in this machine. Parenting. The video didn’t seem to address any of the parenting methods that add, subtract or create some of the battlegrounds that boys must compete. We certainly need to discuss all our roles in helping boys be boys along with being functional parts of society.

I have to research and read more on how to organize my class to be more Boy Friendly. What do you think about this? Do you notice any differences in our society in regards to boys? Let’s talk about it.

 

I promise I’ll talk about teaching, I promise.

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I truly appreciate my CrossFit experience. I particularly LOVE our coaches at CrossFit South Cobb. For whatever reason I’ve been blessed with very, very poor mobility in my shoulders. This tends for my elbows to not move fast enough in Cleans. If you don’t fully know what that means put it like this. Slam 200 lbs on your up right wrists 2 or 3 times and you’re now in my world. I’ve done a lot to improve and I’m getting there. The winds aren’t in my favor. I’m 40 years old, I don’t have hours to work on this particular skill (I could take hours to stretch)

This week we had a guy come in and do some shots of us working out. Very nice guy. Took some amazing shots. Everyone talks about how this picture is great of me cause I look intense. My wife even said I look “Hot”. For me this makes me kind of tear up. MY ELBOWS ARE UP! I can’t get them up any other time, but thank God I got them up in this pic. I 100% attribute this to my coach team and friends in the gym. So many people have given me ideas to stretch my bear yoke shoulders to get them limber. So many ideas has been shared to free up my hands so that the weight will land in my open hand rather than crash down on my wrists.  I can’t even count how many demonstrations, practices and encouraging words have been shared while I’m killing myself to get my “elbows up”.

As a teacher we need this kind of support just as much. Our jobs are lovely. We are able to shape future, doctors, lawyers, business execs and countless other professions. Future generations are in our classrooms and we’re about to touch each and every one. But this job is equally hard. Day in and day out we have to make sure our technique is sharp and we follow through with every move. There’s room for error, but not much. We have to be on our game a whole lot more than we’re off.

When we as teachers supported by great coaching staff, we can do amazing things. It’s almost like someone is taking the weight of this job and lightening out load. Our community is strengthened when we’re supported by piers who see us struggling even when we don’t know we are in bad shape.

This year I made it my personal goal to show the CFSC level of support to my co-workers that I get from my coach team. I’ve been able to help a few people “get their elbows up” in my own little part of the world. Not sure if it’s a BIG deal. They may not even realize it. I do see the impact and I’m thankful that I’m able to do this. Can you imagine how this fellow feels? What kind of coaching do you think he gets?

Day 2 of Operation Write, Grade and File.

Meal Prepping has been amazing. This coming week will be all about weighing and measuring. No over eating. Even good food.

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.

30 random thoughts during the standardized testing

I’ve been tasked with administering the standardized test to 5th grade. Let’s just say I get A LOT of time to think. Here’s 30 things I’ve thought and questions I’ve had while walking around a class in total silence.

  1. Why do they make student desks look like this?
  2. Is it possible to test for growth without doing the standardized tests?
  3. What would happen if every student at this school had access to clean clothes and grooming everyday?
  4. Why can’t Christians usually argue a point from a secular angle?
  5. Does it matter if a child has both parents in the home?
  6. Why do so many students wear Nike?
  7. Could a school have it’s school uniforms sponsored by a shoe manufacture? Would that be some kind of conflict?
  8. What would happen to the Black community if everyone stopped buying hair extensions for 1 year?
  9. If everyone could save 10% of their income for 1 year what would happen to the banking industry?
  10. Is it possible to get an entire school to compost all compost trash?
  11. So if God wants to reproduce Himself in our lives, what does that look like on a grand scale?
  12. What would it take to get all non-essential staff people in the school district to help with classroom school work?
  13. Could I bike to work?
  14. What am I going to sell at the yard sale tomorrow?
  15. Hey I haven’t been Crossfitting in sometime. I can feel it.
  16. What if I got a part time job? How would I balance it?
  17. Am I doing to much? Am I just to busy, doing stuff?
  18. Why is it so hard to do and stay on a budget, but easy to complain about the lack of funds?
  19. Can I get my Level 1 cert and Crossfit Kids in 1 year?
  20. Could I sell my “Super Learners” and “Workshop” classroom themes at my yard sale? How much?
  21. Will we get to see how our lives could have been or will we even care?
  22. How much would I pay to join a van pool that dropped me off and picked me up from work?
  23. What’s the best mobility complex to teach 5th graders before during and after sitting doing this test?
  24. Would I accept any additional responsibilities at work that would take my time from home?
  25. If we get 80% of our growth from 20% of our work is it the same that we get 80% of our struggles from 20% work?
  26. How much could I make during the yard sale this weekend?
  27. Where am I going to put all the stuff I accumulated this school year over the Summer?
  28. What’s the best home workout program for heavy lifting even if you only have 400 lbs?
  29. What does 100% paleo look like for me?
  30.  What’s the best way for me to build my skills without doing a lot outside of work? Is that even possible?

How was your week? Did you have to do any standardized tests? How did you fair?