Another Wonderful Christmas Break

If you read last year’s post, you know that we went on a cruise. This year we did it again and I can’t say enough great things.

This Christmas’ cruise was amazing. Let’s look at the specifics first.

7 Day Cruise on Harmony of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)

Drove to Florida, again

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This ship was huge. The largest current cruise ship in the world

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This is an absolutely beautiful model of the ship. It’s pretty cool.

Now let’s talk about the experience and it was an experience indeed.

The Good

  • This ship is a sight to see. It’s fantastic from front to back, left to right.
  • The amenities were spot on. There were so many fun things to do on the ship that I honestly could have stayed on board and been perfectly fine.
  • Some of the things on ship were water slides, dry slides, rock climbing walls, carousels, zip line, mini golf, theaters, ice skating and much more.
  • The pools were excellent.
  • The shows were well done and outstanding. I’m not a huge show guy, but these were impressive.
  • The food was phenomenal. There were some great specialty restaurants as well as the normal main dining.
  • There was a full scale Starbucks on board! Talk about a happy cruiser!
  • Though I did harp that there were a lot of kids on the ship, there was equally a lot for them to do.
  • Our stateroom was much larger than last year. I continue to stress that everyone get a stateroom with seaside balcony. This ship even had balconies that faced inward and some that looked out over the back of the ship.
  • The staff was very polite and again, made me feel welcome and appreciated all week.
  • The ports of call were outstanding. I’d rank them St. Maarten, San Juan and then Labadee.
  • Having two days at sea to start was really cool. I like having the multiple days at sea towards the middle of the cruise, however this was a pleasant change.
    • This is not an exhaustive list of good things by any means. But I don’t want to keep you from reading last year’s experience.

The So/So

  • I hate to say it, but I think this ship was too large for my taste. At no time did I ever not feel like there were 6,000+ people on the ship.
  • The beverage package changed and it left me lacking my daily free Starbucks hit. I could use my Starbucks card, but I couldn’t use my free rewards.
  • Though the ship was huge the lay out of the Grand Promenade felt cramped. (Especially on the sales day, where there was tons of stuff for sale and tons of people walking around.) But don’t get me wrong, the sun there is just as amazing and some of my best pics were of these mountains resting over the beach in the distance.
  • One port of call was only a few hours. I suppose that it took longer to park the ship than we were actually out enjoying Old San Juan.
  • The gym was nice, but due to its placement on the ship it smelled like cigarettes.
  • I am not sure who planned it like this, but on the Harmony the steam room and sauna is a pay to use service. I’ve never heard of that.

Changes

  • This isn’t a Royal Caribbean problem at all. However, this ship’s size and appeal brought about something every school teacher dreads. There were a lot of kids on the ship. Most of them were very respectful and polite. However, there were quite a few that made my teacher ire rise.
  • I am glad I tried other restaurants. I am very thankful for the Windjammer, but it’s not my thing anymore.
  • I write this with great sadness, but I kept getting lost on the ship. It’s not anyone’s fault, but mine. I just had a bear of time keeping my bearings. I ended up taking the stairs A LOT.
  • I’m over Labadee. Though it’s a specimen of beauty, I’m over the beach and the hustle of the island. The beach is very rocky and really not that fun. The beach is beautiful, but the water and shore was tough to walk on.
  • Next time I’d certainly go on a tour or an excursion on Labadee.
  • Be careful with the Wi-Fi. Being able to access the net is a great thing and it wasn’t that expensive at all. However, it’s very easy to just get sucked into staring at your phone, iPad or whatever. I had to catch my own self and not get caught just staring at social media.

I am very glad I was able to take my family on this trip. There’s really nothing that I would say I’d honestly change. I go back to school in two days. I’m rested and ready to make this semester our best semester so far.

I’m sure you know that Team Whitaker cruise #3 has already been booked.  

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.

 

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!

 

Back at it again

This school year has been RICH! I can’t really quantify every second, but trust me it’s been a wild ride. It’s been tough. It’s been rewarding and thankfully we’ve endured faithfully. The end is in sight.

I hope to have some news in a few days.  How has your year been? Are you finishing strong? Wondering what went wrong or is the Fat Lady singing her song?

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.

 

Working wounded

Anyone who’s worked 15 minutes knows what it’s like to work wounded. Maybe your physically sick, but you can’t take a day. You might really not “feel” like work today, but you also know you need to be there. You may have 1000 other things you’d rather do than go to work, but you go.

Many people also know what it’s like to still go workout because you love your sport, your committed to the challenge or someone is going to be looking for you. You’ve worked wounded.

Here’s a little kick in the pants to keep going after your goals and keep adapting.

The Dip started early this year

If you’ve ever read the book “The Dip” by Godin you know I mean. The dip is the drop, dead space, the slog that happens in every venture. For runners it’s the 20th mile of a marathon. For med school students it’s Organic Chemistry. Every field, every venture has a dip and those that master their craft all over come the dip. For me it seems like every year I get into a dip. It usually happens right after MLK Day. There aren’t any more holidays coming up and we have 6 long weeks of heavy teaching before Spring Break. It’s a grind.

Just the other day I was getting myself in the mind set to press through the Dip. I know the kids are getting antsy. Hey, I’m getting kinda antsy, too. Yeah, I’m about the take this thing like a boss. Then I looked up, IT’S ONLY NOVEMBER! I’m in trouble!

The lessons aren’t popping. The talking isn’t stopping. I’m not sure if I’m coming or going most days. This year has really been odd. I’m pulling out my pre Spring break tricks and some of those aren’t working. The weather is blah so being outside isn’t nearly as rewarding. Calling home isn’t resulting in what I expected. I can’t say it enough this year is very peculiar. Another bi product of being in the dip to long is it’s draining. My ideas have been flat and I haven’t had the desire to blog. I’m going to keep pushing on through and maybe that will mean that my post MLK Day slog will be much less “sloggy”.

Meal prep has been excellent. I’m starting to see results in eating better. I’m starting to do bigger breakfasts, nice sized lunches, but a much smaller dinner. This has resulted in me going to be really early rather than being up late, tempted to eat. We’ll see.

How’s your school year going? Is it strange for you as well?