Parents can I get your insight

I am considering changing my homework for my class. I want to see my kids reading more, discussing their reading and overall being empowered through text. Right now the only time I can squeeze in more reading is homework.

My plan is to roll out 3rd grade book clubs in lieu of homework. This is what I see.

Each student/reading group will  have a book or chapter to read every night. The next day during their reading time they’ll reply to questions through our class website. We’ll also discuss the book in our specific reading time. Towards the end of the session they can do a project, open discussion or even an Accelerated Reader quiz on the book.

Dear Parents, I want to know what you think about homework and this idea. If you student just came home with a book every night with dedicated pages to read how would you feel? I will not be offended in anyway so please be as honest as possible.6620d-6a0120a8d8c83d970b01676357327a970b-pi.


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. 

Merry Christmas!

It's here! Christmas break is finally here what took ya so long. This school year has gone so slow fast.  I can't believe it's only Christmas break. So much to do. So much done. 

Christmas is a great time to reflect, relax and recharge and not see your students for 2 weeks. The 1st Sememster has been good in a running a triathlon with a brick tied to your head kinda way. My students are fantastic in a herding cats kind of way. I'm really going to miss them over the break dear Lord, don't strike me for that blatant lie

Can't wait to just kick back on the couch with some hot chocolate and catch up on some grading, paper work and grades. No seriously most of us do school work on our breaks, that's not cool at all. For most of us this is a real time to breathe. The year sometimes goes so fast that it's hard to catch a breath, think and figure out what in the world am I doing fine details of life. 

Got my list of Christmas wishes, too

  • That each of my students want to do better than they did the 1st part of the year. A full book bag would be nice, too! 
  • Better organization system. Less paperwork in general, please
  • Consistant parent involvement. Ok, I'll settle for working phone numbers
  • Fewer meetings. No joke there. Fewer meetings, dear Jesus! 
  • The perfect lesson plans. Just kidding my lessons are the best
  • A steady stream of iced coffee pumped into my class at an ideal 40 degrees. I'll take freshly squeezed green juice in January and February, tough
  • Some means to squeeze 2 more work home hours into the work home time
  • A new pair of work running and lifting shoes 
  • To be very comfortable with all my body weight workouts by dropping some bodyweight!

Ok, the last two had nothing to do with work, but they help me relax, relate, release so I can do my job. In all seriousness this school year's been a hoot and a holler. I expect some great things to happen in 2014 like Spring Break and Summer

I pray everyone has a safe and restful Christmas break. May all teachers experience 30 days worth or rest, relaxation and family. May every second of rest be better than 2 hours of work. Keep your head up and we'll see you in 2014. 

Merry Christmas I ain't politically correct and Happy New Years! 


I might be Teacher of the Year!

That's right if I keep teaching like this I might as well prepare my acceptance speech.

What's that you say?

Oh, wait I have to have more than 5 good teaching days in a ROW to qualify?

Dang, a WHOLE year, you say, huh?

Wow. That's serious. Can I at least get Teacher of the 4th week in August? Thanks. 

I guess I'll just be Teacher of the Year in my classroom. I'd be a shoe in for BOW TIED Teacher of the Year! 

Anyway, this week's been outstanding. This group of kids are really special. I'm positive that they're going to change their family trees and re-shape their destinies. They make teaching fun and exciting. 

To be totally honest this year has been exactly what I expected. My mind has been on the good, pleasing and perfect will of God for me and my family. Needless to say I've not been disappointed. 

I will say that I've read the 7 habits of Successful People before. However, the kids version is serious. The simplicity of the truths really hit home in a new way. I will like I'm must more aware of when I'm being proactive as well as my goals. I know I could go a better job at goal setting, but I'll get better as the class keeps going over the Habits. The students are getting better. They've really embraced the Habits so we'll see when they've gone through all 7 a couple of times.

This is where I think I am as of today. I really wouldn't mind being a 5 in all areas, but all jokes aside I want to keep pushing myself as well as the kids to better results.  

  • My classroom procedures, work (4.5 bow ties)
  • Classroom routines are pretty special (4 bow ties)
  • My basic filing system is ok (3 bow ties)
  • Storage is pretty swift (3 bow ties) I need more hangers
  • Teaching is in the neighborhood (3.5 bow ties)
  • Centers (3.5 bow ties) Not as consistent as I'd like
  • Communications (2.5 bow ties)
  • Meetings (NO TIE!)
  • Lesson planning (3 bow ties)
  • Planning sessions with the students (3.5 bow ties)
  • Time management (3.5 bow ties)
  • Teacher lead instruction vs. Student lead (3 bow ties) 
  • Having a system that is keeping me from wearing the same bow tie in the same week (5 bow ties) 

This school year has been rocking along like a well oiled machine. The major things are under control. The little fine tuning issues will be dealt with on a daily basis, but the important things are under wraps. 

Now, I'm not sure if my Libertarian brothers and sisters will accept me for this, but hey. I really like the Fresh Fruit and Veggie program our school is doing. Not sure if this is a part of FLOTUS initiative or what. Everyday our school gets a shipment of a fruit, veggies or both for our kids to taste. It's nothing super elaborate. The school serves it up  as a mid-morning snack. Yesterday was a Pluots and Bok Chow. The day before strawberries and muscadines. Today they had kiwis. The kids LOVE it! My class at least has been very receptive to the snack choices and give everything a good tasting. I like the idea. Seems like they're more receptive after snack time than they were pre-snack. Might make some kind of game or lesson out of it if the schools keeps doing it. I hope so. 

How's your year starting off? What do you do to communicate with parents who aren't as tech savy? You don't want to call after hours, because your time doesn't allow. So what do you do? 


I may have fixed a HUGE problem in my classroom


If you know me or follow my blog you know I'm not very organized. I want to be. However, BEING has alluded me to years. Last year I was buried in paper work. I honestly can't say I know what happened to it all, but I can tell you my inner tree hugger is silently crying. 

In order to save a tree or two and to keep my sanity I did something different this year. To my surprise so far it's been a 10 bow tie idea! I have the students keep the "Red Number Journal" for all class work and the "Blue Number Journal" for all their homework assignments that require them to write or what not.

  • I'm not sure, but I certainly feel I've used a lot less paper. 
  • I was able to check homework today in less than 3 minutes where as before I'd have to hunt down papers and the such. 
  • The kids have a great note system whenever we go back over their journals and put a sticky for key info. 
  • The kids can get to work quickly in the morning. No searching for paper or writing sheets. Just go to the next empty page, date and start. 
  • Whenever I have parent conferences I know I can quickly put my hands on ALL the kids class and homework in less than a minute. 
  • I feel as if the class moves better and flows easily. Translation…less stress. 


 Most teachers waste these composition books. During pre-planning I sent my helpers to find as many partially used comp books as they could. We neatly tore out the used pages and slapped a sticker over the name. I'm pretty sure I have almost 50+ recycled journals ready for duty. 

Not sure where I got this idea. I don't think it qualifies as a true interactive notebook,but I will give Pinterest credit either way. The teachers on my hall used to have 3 journals. 1 for Reading, Math, Social Studies and Science. That made me even crazier, cause I know most of the students didn't use them fully. Plus the kids didn't have a good place in my room to put their stuff so instant insanity. This year, thankfully I have a much better system and I see it working. 

One day I will report that I've found a great way to do my lessons in advance. Yeah, right. Anyone have any good suggestions on what to do with lesson planning so not to have to do them Sunday night? 

Tomorrow I must talk about what I did to defeat the ugly "Mr. Whitaker can I sharpen my pencil" monster. 

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Homework doesn’t work if Home doesn’t Work

I'm through with homework. I'm not sure where I fall in the ranks of the on going war over homework, but I'm sure I made someone mad with that statement. I've worked a lot of angles with HW and I'm surprised how few really panned out. My new school does the weekly homework. It's a culture thing and I thought it was on point. 

    The problem is my student's don't care about homework and I have a very limited amount of time on Friday to check it and give feedback on what's missing or what wasn't done correctly or if the student needs help. It tends to just pile up. And if you know a teacher you know that we're great at making piles of paper and not so much as getting those piles dwindled down.

    Here's the problem. I am really flustered that my students just blew off the history project we did as a 2nd grade. It was cute and I envisioned each year being able to use these as teaching tools for the next class. When I tell you after 3 weeks of planning and a lot of conjolingmy class only turned in 2 projects, I was fit to be tied. Yeah, I was disappointed in the kids. *I sincerely don't think they realize how important education is. But even more I was just to through with the parents. I called, wrote notes, emailed and text. The result was 2 projects on time.

    If I were sane I wouldn't be shocked. I usually get 4-5 COMPLETE homework packets a week. Mix in there 4-5 that are imcomplete and you have my class is consistent. The next two days after the projects were due, I got 2 more. One looked like it had been done on the bus, in the dark, but he was bold to turn it in. 

So, I'm thinking about doing something different. I'm going to stop doing homework. I'm going to go back to a book in a bag and nothing else. The kids really responded well to the book in the bag. But since it was something they were doing before I came to this school I didn't invest in it and let it slip away. 

    What tends to happen is at the end of the day I read a book to the class or we watch a reading story. This that cool down time usually 15 minutes or so. I know for a fact that their homework isn't that long so I could have them breakout out their "end of class work" and do their particular days homework as an end of the day project, know it's done, give support to those that need help and keep it moving. Sending this home and getting a montage of half done work isn't working at all. 

I know I need to read up more on this debate. I used to believe in homework and really make a lot of noise about it. Now I'm not sure that's the best way to get things done cause right now very little is getting done.


March 7th is the end of our crossfit challenge. I feel good, but I'm certainly not eating everything as I should/could. I got 10 days to clean it up. Juicing is certainly helping me. I feel strong and haven't had an iced coffee in two months. *Even though as I'm writing this I'm debating getting one just to break up the eating. Stronger than ever, I expect to win this challenge. 3,2,1…Go!

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Resolved the chart storage issue

I was able to get a good file system over the weekend. Thanks to this box and some spiffy folders I'm able to store a ton of charts and posters. This week I was able to reach in and grab some needed charts right on the spot. In the process I found a lot of charts I need to put up around the class. If anyone wants to come help me one day I'll stay at work late to finish. 

Call me Mr. Rubric

I'm not sure why I didn't roll these out earlier, but I'm so glad I did. I put the question out about rubrics on Facebook and the responses were pure gold. So I have a few rubrics for specific projects and some that can be used for general stuff.   For the latter I'm going to laminate them and allow the kids to keep these at their tables. The specific ones I'll have to print off as needed and I'll make a large one to go over on my promethean board. After the kids get used to it I'll have them help me make rubrics for each project. Going to laminate a large 4 x 4 grid on some chart paper. I'll use that to make new rubrics that the kids will be able to write the needed elements on. I know my students don't care that much about paper. They're not that into NOT wasting it. Matter of fact it's a big deal that I repurpose old lesson plans and scrap paper for them to do morning warmup work on the back. I'm going to have to drill and drill that this is what I'm going to use to help you get the most from each lesson/activity. Should be fun. 

Update on Whitaker’s Workshop

So far the kids have really taken a liking to the room decor. Nothing is broken. I took my wooden caddies home this weekend to paint. The kids immediately had to touch and play with the newly painted distractions on their tables. The Home Depot aprons with the classroom job on them are a hit.  Aprons
I just never expect the kids to be able to rip, tear and ruin them like they have. I need to wash them every so often, too.  The classroom jobs, however I tough for my kids. You couple having a responsibility, with ClassDojo and the everyday off-taskness of 2nd grade and you understand why I'm re posting a job every week. 

I've received some big compliments from my peers about my room. 

What's been the biggest challenge is to get them to appreciate it and realize this isn't for my health. That's what Crossfit's for. They're really sweet kids and they've just not met a person like me before. I don't yell. I'm stern and as tough as a rattle snake. I don't care if little Johnny hit you. I don't care who's talking about your mom. I don't care whatever your problem is. Your biggest issue is that you're in a 2nd grade chair and I have to prepare you to get out of that chair and be able to hold down a 3rd grade chair next year.  Oh yeah, not having a pencil isn't going to cut it. 

I'm also getting much better at organization and planning. These have to be my bottom tier skills. Under any other circumstances I'd preach the Gospel of "focusing on what you can be a 10 in". Not sure how much I will improve in this area, but I have to improve on it. I'm so not good at it that any change can only make me look like some kind of hero.

One more area I need to step my game up in is reading everything I can related to what I'm expected to teach. Not sure if I'll ever be able to spout lessons off the top of my head like our coaches do, but I could at least sound better intuned with what's going on.

Notice I don't blame the kiddos. They're not my problem. They're doing exactly what kids should do. They're scream at the top of their actions, "Mr. Whitaker, you must keep me engaged! You can't give up on me!" The better i get at asking good questions the better I wll be at finding the solution to these little ones needs.

Alright enough of that. Let me go swing a kettlebell.