Saturday, March 25, 2017

Being the Best Authentic Teacher I Can Be

It’s Spring Break and I’ve had the privilege of spending it at home with my loves.  I’ve cooked a lot.  I’ve given my closet a spring makeover, cleaned my classroom, and had the pleasure of spending time at the 2017 Teacher Blogger Retreat. 

I was so excited because Principal Gerry was scheduled to be there.  I drove the beautiful country drive to French Lick listening to a Jerry Archer book on my I-Phone.   (Seriously, if you haven’t tried audio books, give it a try.  It’s addictive.)  I arrived, found a parking spot and began to search for the correct entrance.  The place is both beautiful and enormous.  As I was wandering around, I decided to make a stop in the restroom while I wasn’t surrounded by noisy crowds.  As I made my way inside, I noticed a gentleman sitting down the hall from where I was standing.  I immediately recognized him as the one, the only, Principal Gerry!  I immediately text my teacher friend (on vacation in Florida) and sent her my sneaky pic of him.  She answered right back just as excited as I was.  I mustered the courage to walk up to him.  He was, at that point, sitting with his back to the hall, trying to get his zen on before his lecture.  Even though I totally interrupted his quiet time, he was super nice and posed for a picture with me.  I quickly made an exit not wanting to steal any more of his quiet time and found my way to the crowded area of the retreat. 

Principal Gerry...Trying to get his Zen on.

I stood in line to register and received a super neat tote bag filled with cool goodies!  The organizers sure know the way to a teacher’s heart.  The Scentos company was super cool and donated a ton of goodies for the retreat.  I met some super friendly bloggers while waiting for the doors to open.    I sat with one of my fourth grade teacher friends and settled in for the hilarious Principal Gerry.  Guys…you have to understand.  He is my salvation sometimes on cranky days.  I sit during prep and listen and laugh with him and readjust my attitude on those days. 
A teacher's dream!  Scented markers galore!

He took the stage and I was in for a surprise.  First his name isn’t pronounced Jerry…his name is Gary…I know, right?  He has zero accent.  Zero.  I have more of an accent remaining from living in Arkansas than he has.  Zilch.  Nada.  I listened to him and was surprised to find him…not just funny, but inspirational.  I was prepared to laugh until I cried and to feel like I’d been to a comedy show.  Yes.  He was still hilarious, but he was warm, honest, and made me feel like he was an old friend.  When he left the stage I felt a renewed sense of hope for my profession.  He reminded me of the importance of loving kids, not just worrying about test scores, but truly loving them.  I’m an even bigger fan after listening to him. 

He was followed by Hope and Wade King.  They are a husband and wife that both teach at the Ron Clark Academy.  Their subject was student engagement.  They began their segment walking around the ballroom and standing on chairs to talk to us and keep our attention.  They were high energy and seemed to care about teaching.  Don’t get me wrong.  They were sweet, genuine people.  I just wasn’t feeling the connection.  Hope talked about being high energy, creating room d├ęcor that would engage students, playing games to excite them, and Mr. King got out his electric guitar to show us how to turn popular songs into cheers.  Beautiful people, but again, I just wasn’t buying it.  I finished my day learning a lot and enjoying myself, but I left with this nagging sense of…something.  I wasn’t sure what.

I got home and shared my day with my husband, who is also a teacher, and tried to relay to him that feeling that I had.  I got online and researched Hope King.  I also researched the Ron Clark Academy.  They spend an average of $18,000 per student.  They interview, literally hundreds of students to fill spots of less than fifty.  Their parents have to commit to a grand number of hours of volunteer work within the school to keep their child’s place, and the work load for students is mind boggling.  No doubt, it is a success.  No doubt, their formula works.  They have trampolines, slides, and music blaring as you walk into the school.  Each room is elaborately decorated in themes to engage the students.  One room even has a car inside of it!  Trying to compare the money they spend turning classrooms into an Alice in Wonderland, or a Mario Brothers Video Game just isn’t feasible to a public school teacher.  We are already underpaid and overworked.  Now I have to stand on chairs, play an electric guitar, and make my classroom look like a video game.  WHAT!? 

Here's what I learned from all of this.  While Wade and Hope King were inspiring and incredibly talented, they don’t have all the answers.  No one does.  We are all the same.  We are all just people doing the best that we can.  There is no “one size fits all.”  Principal Gerry is just a person who wanted to inspire his teachers during testing time so he made silly videos that went viral.  Ron Clark is just a person who found himself in a hopeless teaching situation and wanted to make a difference in the lives of kids one step at a time.  We are all just people and we can all make a difference in our own way.   A wise teacher, Mrs. Peggy Stark, once said, “It’s easy.  Just make them love school.”  That’s really the root of it all.  Love our students, and give them a love of learning.  If I tried to be Hope King it would appear manufactured and false.  I have to be me and love my kids to the very best of my ability.  This retreat inspired me to go back and be the best I can be.  I want to engage my students with my own love of learning and pass that along to them.  I want to inspire my students to be lifelong learners.  That’s what it’s all about.  People inspiring young people to go, grow, and do. 

It’s been a fantastic spring break and I feel renewed and invigorated.  A big thanks to all the organizers of the 2017 French Lick Blogger Retreat.  We’ll be back!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Spring Break Freebie!

Mrs. Patterson being jealous she missed out on
Principal Gerry.
It is finally here! SPRING BREAK! One teacher friend is in sunny Florida, while the other is stuck at home in Indiana....Don't feel too sad for her though, she got to go to the French Lick Blogger Meet-up and listen to Principal Gerry Brooks speak. She even got her picture with him! How cool is that?! I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous.
Mrs. Reinhart and Principal Gerry.

Do you give break homework to your students? We have in the past. This year we went a different route and made a reading log. It is a forever freebie in our Teachers Pay Teachers store ------>check it out here!

It comes with 2 different reading logs and 4 different bookmarks. Print and Go ~ or ~ print on card stock/laminate/and go! Either way, it gets students reading....and that is a big deal.

I hate to write and run....but I am in Florida and it is sunny and I want a tan.
Have a great break, wherever you may be!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Rediscovering My Love of Chapter Books

Grateful!  Oh, so grateful that our first round of I-step is over.  We plowed through a power outage, two days off school, terrible storms, lots of rain, and all the fun behavior challenges that come with all the disruptions to routine.  We are all (teachers and kiddos) quite tired of the testing talks so I decided it was the perfect time to begin a novel. 

I must constantly remind myself to slip novels into my reading block.  We are required to teach from the basal reader, but nothing, and I mean nothing compares to a well written novel.  The length of a chapter book gives the much-needed time to develop characters, to make personal connections, and to fall in love with books.  There is really nothing like it!  As a child, my family moved a lot and my very best friends became the characters from the many books I read.  Laura Ingalls is still a character that I consider a friend from my childhood. 

With my busy schedule, it is often difficult to plan for a chapter book.  I have also found that students hate stopping at every chapter to answer two pages of questions and to learn more vocabulary from each chapter that are commonly found buried in the pages of a novel study.  Reading should be a pleasure, and comprehension should be a natural process of reading and getting to know the characters and their predicaments.  Because of this struggle, we developed a product that can be used in grades 3-5 that meet all the Common Core Reading Literature Anchors.  I know we created it, and I shouldn’t toot my own horn, but I really do love this product.   It is called Common Core Reader's Response Graphic Organizers.  It is a pile of graphic organizers for everything from point of view, character development, poetry, figurative language, fables, plot development, and more.  Seriously it has it all.  It is so easy to find a relatable organizer for any book you are teaching and to print, copy, and go.

Introducing this novel, How to Steal a Dog, by Barbara O’Connor has been just what both students and teacher need.  We have bounced back from testing and can’t wait to daily dive into this rich piece of literature.  The discussion has been so encouraging to me and has reminded me during this stressful time why I became a teacher. 

 I recreated one of the organizers on chart paper and we completed it while discussing the events of the story all together.

Another exciting element of this week has been the test drive of our new product, “Sneaky Little Leprechauns.”  The students loved using junk from around the classroom to create their works of engineering mastery!  Check out this fun product for a great writing experience along with some hands-on creativity.  The kids loved it!

 Check out these fun Leprechaun traps!

Be sure to go over to our store to check out "Sneaky Little Leprechauns!"

Friday, March 3, 2017

Testing Rockstars

First off, let me fill you in on our week.... This week our state testing began (ISTEP). Tuesday was the first official testing day. Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning we had a bad, terrible, awful storm that cause most of our small town to be forward to Wednesday morning when school was canceled, DURING TESTING, due to no power! Thursday, school was also canceled for the same reason. Lucky us, we got to go back to school on Friday and test our sweet babies who have been off for the past 2 days unexpectedly.
I went to school! There was no cell service, meaning no internet either! I didn't want to be "that teacher" that didn't show up...Do you know how hard it is to get ready in the morning without power?

To encourage our students to be the ROCK STARS we know they are, we have created a fun incentive. Testing Rock Star Tickets will be the 'carrot' you need to dangle in front of your students during the grueling state tests to keep them motivated. These tickets are free in our store, be sure to click the link to download them!

Set up is easy-peasy! Print on colored paper for easier sorting. We chose pink Rock Star tickets and purple Job Well Done tickets. Students knew they wanted a pink! When they earned the pink it was so rewarding to see their face light up---most of them knew they would be getting it when they did. Even the students who might not have showed their best effort and got a purple slip were still excited to get it.

The reward part is the fun part! Get creative! You know your students best, have fun with it. We did our shopping at the dollar spot at Target, the Dollar Tree, and our homes! Here is an unfinished product of part of the grand prize. For the 'runner-up' prizes there will be lunch with the teacher, a drink of their choice, and maybe even a no homework pass (if they're lucky!).

Testing can be boring and long, and then even longer. To us, it is important to make sure our students don't lose focus. These Testing Rock Star Tickets really helped get our students to go above and beyond. They were constantly trying their hardest and wanted that ticket, pink or purple. 
Have fun shopping, remember not to spend a lot. You do so much for your students as it is, don't feel ashamed to go cleaning out a toy closet, or a junk drawer! Kids love that kind of stuff (We should know, we do it all the time! The looooooove it.)

Have fun. Happy testing!