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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

 

Starbucks iced coffee in stores!

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I feel some kind of way that Starbucks didn’t send me advance notice of this little gem. Forgiveness has been granted.  But please don’t try me. (Send me a few coupons, ok)

While strolling through the super market this past week I found this goodie in the cooler section. Iced coffee on tap.

First impressions

  • The bottle is HUGE.
  • The bottle has a wrapper around it probably to protect the iced coffee goodness from light.
  • It’s in the cooler near the milk and cold beverages.
  • It comes in “Lightly sweetened” and “unsweetened”.
  • It’s pricey, $5.99 for a 48 Oz bottle. But that maybe ok. I think a 30 oz (Trenta) and a (Venti) iced coffee would be more.

Second impressions

  • The cap on the bottle useless. What up with this huge cap?
  • There is a foil seal on the mouth of the bottle after you pop the cap.
  • The color of the beverage seems consistent with my regular purchase.
  • The taste isn’t exactly freshly made iced coffee. However it’s quite tasty.

Final analysis

  • I’d buy this and keep it in my classroom fridge before I bought the powdered SB via.
  • I can make my drink exactly like I want.
  • Since Starbucks hasn’t started offering coconut milk this is a fantastic option for someone who wants to cut out dairy and doesn’t want the other creamers out there.
  • SB staff didn’t seem to know about this. I didn’t do a deep survey , but I did ask two who said they had never heard of it.

Over all this is a pretty impressive product from Seattle.  I could see this slowing down my SB rewards accumulation big time.

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.

Conservative Christian Southern Black Tea Party Male Public school Teacher

I just wanted to see if I could get 100 views with that heading. Help me out, won't ya! How many more labels can I add?

Honestly, I keep politics out of my blog as much as I can.  I do have an opinion, just like you. Most of the time the armpit rule applies. I do think politics is a part of our lives and sadly it becomes more a part every day. However, there is so much about life here in America that unites us all. Most of the time I'd rather focus on the great things that make us Americans than the nasty underside which is American politics. 

Alright back to your work and don't forget to VOTE!

If I string together enough little wins

Today was another W for "Super Learners Central". Taking the time on the front end to practice procedures is making me feel better about the time when we dive into the meat and potatoes of class. I also know that some of my kids aren't the strongest in every subject. I can see little signs that tell me where to work with each. But one thing is for sure they're all Super at doing these procedures so they at least have that win under their belt. 

HELP!

To many this is a Starbucks cup with pencils in it. To my students is the Cornucopia in the Hunger Games. Everyday it's a battle for pencils. You'd honestly think there was a competition to see who could use up the most pencils in a day. 

 

My Pencil policy is this:

I sharpen about 20 or so pencils in the AM. The kids are welcome to trade out one of their not sharps for one of mine. If they don't have a pencil at all (often) they can take from another cup of sharp short pencils I freely give away. Multiple times during the day I sharpen the pencils in the cup so there are sharps for the dulls the kids have. The trades happen through out the day as the kids need a pencil.

Why do it like that, Whitaker? 

  • This keeps the kids from making a game out of killing my pencil sharpener. 
  • The personal sharpeners are a disaster! Pencil shavings are all over and they make the floor horrid! 
  • The kids don't have to fidget with the sharpener. 
  • The sharpener becomes a noise distraction as well as a movement issue. Sadly my students can't take the freedom of 1 person sharpening 1-2 pencils and sitting down. I'd have so many kids "needing" the sharpest pencil all day it would be craziness. 

 

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I thought this would quell the foolishness that I saw when I came into this class. But really it hasn't. Just new foolishness has arisen. 

  • I have the black market personal sharpeners. Shavings everywhere!
  • Kids stealing my pencils. I give them for free just don't take 8!
  • Kids not even trying to bring a pencil to school. "Whitaker will take care of that for me"
  • Kids bringing 10 pencils and swapping all 10 out first thing in the morning, thus depleting my stash for the other students. 

I know this seems so simple, but what do you all do to maintain Pencil sanity in the class? 

Driving this week with the brakes on

Not sure why, but this week feels like it's going in slow motion. It could be due to the fact that I'm running sans coffee/sugar, but I don't think that's it. What it could be is that it's 80 lovely degrees out and I can't get outside because of the Yellow Scourge aka pollen running amok. *I'd to be the reason some kid swells up like a balloon because they have some crazy allergic reaction to this stuff. At 9000 parts per million that's pretty intense. It wouldn't be a good idea to make them go out and do 10 burpees this week.  

Thankfully, I had a great meeting with my admin about my performance this year. Even though I don't feel as successful as I'd like it felt good to know others who know what they're looking for see that I'm doing a good job. I got a list to work on and the most important it keep assessing my kids. I need to find a better way to assess and retest, reteach on a regular basis.

One thing I did get is that my efforts to keep my students on task are not going un noticed. The kids may/may not always response like they should but it doesn't always look bad on me. *I'm really conscious of the kids making me look bad. Needless to say I don't look as crazy as I thought I did. 

We're in crunch mode getting ready for the end of the year. I'm just taking each day as it comes and thankful for everyone of them. Can't wait to get in the gym today. I have a lot of stress to burn off. 

A day in the life

So I have this huge crate with papers to sort and arrange. The Teacher of the Week, Jason said "carry this stuff home and tackle this pile." The Dad of the Year, Jason said, "my foot. This work has been here and will be here whenever I decide to tackle it. I'm going to spend time with my family this weekend" Dad of the Year wins again. 

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Went in and bought my students the audio book "Nate the Great". Don't think that qualifies for teacher of the week, but certainly Teach of the Friday. The kids loved the reader and his inflections. 

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Saw this on Pinterest (aka Teacher crack dealer). My kids love that I tell them to tell The Tattle Toolbox, but now it's got personality. My unique kiddo now goes to the corner and has full out right conversations with the toolbox. Not sure if I should be happy he's found someone to listen to him or worried. 

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Didn't have any Starbucks today so that's either a good thing or a very bad thing. Hahahaha

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Just realized that Dr. Seuss's birthday is next week. Can't wait! I really like Seuss books!