Saturday, December 22, 2012

Twas the Week Before Christmas

'Twas the week before Christmas,
and all through the school, 
children were acting quite like a fool,
The teachers were dreaming of the holidays with flair,
in hopes that sweet sleep soon would be there.

I expected this past week at school to be completely chaotic.  I was pleasantly surprised.  My kiddos have, yes, been excited (though arguably not as excited as us teachers), but have mostly behaved and only been a little wired.  

I woke up Wednesday with absolutely no voice.  As in, couldn't get the dog to come from across the yard because I couldn't make any sounds.  I just knew the kids were going to absolutely run over me because they knew I couldn't say anything to stop them.  Luckily, I texted a sweet college friend before I left for work, and she suggested making typing/ writing everything to my kiddos as a game instead of just typing/ writing.  I did, and it worked splendidly! Nevermind that she's an early childhood teacher and I teach upper middle school.... it worked! All but one of my classes were excellent.  I didn't have to remind kids to stay in their seats, to lower their volume, nothing.  As a plus, many of my kiddos were genuinely concerned about me, which may have motivated their behavior.  

It's been a busy week at the "Skreet," as our students call our rusty old building.  Monday (and the following days) were filled with hugs from my babies, who hadn't learned anything from us about Connecticut on Friday, reminders about security protocols, and some really good, thought provoking discussions with two of my classes about school security and safety.  Actually, we missed the National moment of silence yesterday (Friday) because we were in an assembly.  I'd already told my class that we'd be observing it, and that I'd chosen to spend one second in silence/thought/ prayer for each victim.  When we got back from the assembly, several of the kids raised their hands and informed me that we'd missed the moment of silence.  I told them that I knew but that we'd been in the assembly.  As a class, they chose to observe the moment of silence late and, even after it was over, remained thoughtful and quiet for a little while.  Pretty impressive for the last day of school before a holiday break, eh?

We've been working on all sorts of projects as we finish up our long unit on the human body systems.  Half of my kids have been writing their own versions of The Night Before Christmas in their writing class, so I addressed that in my room as well.  I found a great cell style version of the story and posted it on my door.  It was a good review for the kiddos.  We also made a classroom quote/ doodle page.

Nutrition extra Credit- analayze your favorite foods' nutritional values.  As a plus, I had a couple of kids who actually brought in some foods that I'd eat. :)  It made me think of my 30 days on the plate friends.

 Santa let us know how our progress was coming behavior-wise...

We took off on the "Organ Trail" to search for naughty organs.... some of the kids got really into it, creating rewards, etc.  A lot of what I noticed is based on their levels of experiential knowledge, which will be another post in not-too-distant future.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

On the 12th day of Christmas....

I literally got 12 drummers drumming.  I help out with the band during my planning as often as I can, and our Christmas show is coming up, so I got to hear all the drummers practicing.

In other news, this slightly OCD teacher loves things like 12/12/12.  It's had me smiling all day.  Last year, for 11/11/11 at 11:11.11, my class and I celebrated.  (Of course, 11:11 is my favorite minute of the day and I'd told them more than once to make a wish at 11:11.)  They set their own alarm and helped me enjoy it...such sweet kids!

Today, we were taking a benchmark test in Social Studies.  One of my kiddos looked up at the clock and exclaimed, "Oh, Man!!!"  I forgave the disturbance because she seemed so distressed.  Turns out it was 12:20 and we'd totally missed the magic number. :(

In other news, there are other sorts of fun celebrations in my life these days.  Yesterday, I submitted my last final exam for my masters and I am FINALLY done with coursework.  Here's what I've been working on:

holiday baking. :D

I made an ironing board cover!

Maybe ironing will be less painful now?


Sorry, nothing too Earth-shattering here. Just living the dream.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

College Experience

We've been chugging right along at school this month.  We're in session through the 21st this year, which is pretty late for us here in SC.

Yesterday, we got to go to a college basketball game at my alma mater.  Before the game, there was a very brief assembly in the college's auditorium where the kids got to meet admissions counselors, be introduced to the Athletic Director, and speak with the Dean of Admissions.  It wasn't so much a "come to our school" spiel as a "stay in school, and consider college" spiel, which is probably much more appropriate for a group of 5-8th graders from a rural school district.

The kids had a blast, though I don't believe there was too much watching of the basketball game after the first 5 minutes of playing time.  As a friend who works for the college said, "I'm not sure whether I was at a basketball game or a teeny bopper night club."  The kids had a blast, though, and we've had the blessing of being able to use basketball as a real life connection to the respiratory and circulatory systems (as well as the muscular/skeletal systems).  :)

I don't think this can hold a candle to the four years I spent as a student here, but it was a blast for the kids (and the teachers).

Some of my gospel choir girls singing the National Anthem.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's Only Middle School...

This is one of those phrases where I could say, "If I had a nickel for every time I heard.... I'd be rich!"  I hear about it only being middle school in so many different contexts.  Recently, some of my friends and I have been talking about this generation- where we lost them, what happened, what we can do about it, etc.

I can't tell you how often I hear the complaint that middle schoolers think that they're adults from people all over this nation.

Well, no, they're not adults.  They're children, or adolescents, or youth, or whatever other term you find applicable.  Do they sometimes think they're 'grown'? Absolutely. Are many of them forced to grow up before their time? Yes...too many.  This, my friends, is the crux of my post.

Far too many of the kids I work with (when I'm paid and when I'm volunteering) are old before their time.  Generally, it's not their fault.  It's the cancer that has affected them or their siblings.  It's the gang violence, murders committed by family members, family members that are murdered, parents leaving, parents generally being crummy parents (a lot of my kids live in children's or boys' homes), family members in jail, living in childrens' homes, true poverty, immigration issues, illness of guardians, and so forth.

We hold them to such a double standard.  We expect them to act rationally as adults, when in reality, their hormones are raging and it is literally impossible for them to be level-headed.  We expect them to make mature decisions, to do their schoolwork and make school high on their priority list.  We expect them to act politely as (most) adults do in public, to use their manners,  and to be well-spoken.  We expect them not to cave to negative peer pressure.  We expect them to ask when they need help or someone to talk to.  We expect them to deal with their issues in healthy ways rather than adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms.  In short, we expect them to be the model of a well-adjusted adult.

On the flip side, we think they're too young to wear make-up.  We think many of them are too young to be dating, too young to be exploring their sexuality, too young to be parents, too young to be experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and other social temptations.  We think they're too young to get away with speaking frankly to an adult as if they are adults.

We think they're too young to have such heavy burdens on their shoulders.

We think about them often.  Yet what do we do? What should we do? More importantly, what can we do?

I'm speaking for myself here, but these are some of the things I'd like to do:

~to give them a chance to be young in my classroom
~to post more inspirational quotes
~to teach that beauty is much more than skin-deep, and that make-up sometimes makes you less beautiful
~to connect as much of our curriculum to their lives and their background knowledge as humanly possible
~to teach that your words can be much more impressionable than anything you wear or do
~to teach and demonstrate manners, respect for others, and how to deal with conflicts
~to open up with my students and let them know that school really can be a safe haven- explain what it's done for me
~remind them that at least for 8 hours a day, they are safe.  It is seasonally appropriate inside, they are given breakfast and lunch and food for the weekends, those that need it are given school supplies, toiletries, and clothes.  We have adults whose job is to protect our students.
~to make them laugh
~to show that learning is fun, and that it never ends
~I pledge to better show my students that I don't know everything, to let them see me research, and to more often think aloud for them.
~ to love them with a Mama's love, all of them -- For me, this is the biggest task.  Love a child that seems unloveable, provide for them even when they make you want to scream and pull all of your hair out, and teach them academically and socially regardless of what happens.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Youth Development Leadership

Exactly 3 weeks from today is Christmas Day.... that is, if the world doesn't end first. :)

The good news is that even if the world does end, I'll have successfully earned my diploma for my masters in youth development leadership. Talk about a great gift!  I graduate the day before the incorrectly prophesied end of the world.  Plus, I'm gonna look super tacky cute in my orange shoes for graduation!

Tonight is the last night of class I will spend getting my first masters.  I've been in school for the past 19 years, with the exception of the semester I took off my first year of teaching.  It's ending, and it's a little bittersweet.  I love learning.  I really do.  I think it's fun to look up new things, especially with the onset of the verb "googling."  I research all kinds of things.  I study my curriculum regularly to make sure that I can challenge my students and adequately answer their questions.  I'm constantly looking into new ways to try things, ways to be more efficient, new strategies, etc.  I love learning.  I mean, I could arguably do without the stress of finals and tests and major deadlines, but the process is almost addicting.  No worries, I still have two graduate level classes to finish my gifted and talented (aka how to teach brainiacs) add-on that I'll be taking in the spring/ summer.

When I was in college, people talked about how much better college was than high school because you really got to choose your area of study and study your passions.  Since I attended a liberal arts school, there was a very similar vein of conversation about finishing your general education requirements and getting into your major classes.  

Grad school is even better!  I got to take an area that I am passionate about, that really gets me going and motivated and excited, and spend 2 years studying it.  I got to work with (and study under) well-known researchers, leaders in the field, and just overall inspirational people.  And that's just the faculty!

My cohort is phenomenal.  We live and practice youth development and youth development leadership not just in all regions of South Carolina or the US, but in different countries.  We work (sort of) in different disciplines.  We have similar, but diverse, passions.  Some of us work in faith-based organizations, some of us work for the federal and state governments, some of us work for non-profits, and some of us work for private organizations.  

I have learned as much from my peers as I have my professors, and I think that is a truly phenomenal aspect of our program.  I've applied much of what I've learned already in daily life, but I'm looking forward to being able to do so even more and maybe find a way to further channel that passion in the future.

Most of us. :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

'Tis the Season

It's finally December 1st! I can get all ready for Christmas, watch the 25 days of Christmas, and enjoy the Advent season. We're leading up to my favorite day of the year- Christmas Eve.

Here are some highlights from Thanksgiving and this season:

~paper sent to committee in preparation of my comprehensive review...eek!
UPDATE: I PASSED! Unanimous vote of 3/3 professors on my committee.. Now to suck it up and dig through the last two weeks of the semester, and then I will officially have my masters in Youth Development Leadership. :)

~Finishing up the Christmas shopping...I love giving gifts, so most of my shopping was already finished, but now I'm officially done with Christmas.  Minus decorating my house, wrapping presents, and finishing touches on a few crafty gifts.

~My mixer has naturally, I need to make a cover for it.  I picked a red corduroy fabric to match my kitchen.

 ~My little brother's last Thanksgiving stateside for at least a few years.

 ~Gobbling till I wobbled.

~Spending time with the family

 ~Crafting and decorating for Christmas.

~Rivalry football games. (And introducing a Yankee to the Clemson-Carolina game).

~Parades, Christmas music, the Holiday Festival of Lights on James Island, SC, and lights here in my little town. :)

~Family Christmas card pictures...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Farty Artie

Farty Artie is the love of my life.  He is my hunk of a handsome 15 pound cat.  If that makes me a crazy cat lady, so be it.  I've been told he's a Mama's boy.  My boy is very clever, and has been from an early age.

The first night he stayed with me (back when he was too little to be adopted and I fostered him), he managed to get into one of the guys' beers, have a few licks, and ended up with the kitten sized version of the beer box on his head.

My sweet boy has always been playful but is snuggly when I'm in bed.

 He's learned tricks like how to get on top of the mantle and open the cat treats and eat them all...they were up there because it takes him an average of 30 seconds to open a container of treats and we figured he wouldn't be able to reach...wrong!

He has learned how to make benadryl froth and later how to make himself throw up after taking a pill.

 He's learned how to sneak food off Mom's plate when she's not looking.

 He's become a Dad/ Big brother... not biologically, of course.

He's learned how to unzip my lunch box, pry the lid off of a tupperware container, and eat my leftover barbeque.  

And most recently, my boy learned how to escape the kitty carrier.  I stopped for a visit on my way home from Thanksgiving and cracked the windows a good bit for the puppy.  Artie was in the carrier, which was zipped shut.  I made it almost 2 hours towards home before the kitten crawled into my lap in the drivers' seat.  This was alarming since I'd witnessed her being secured into the kitty carrier with her brother.  I pulled over, put her back, and began looking for Artie.  He was nowhere to be found.  At this point, I made the panicked, "I can't find my cat" phone call.  Bless the souls of the wonderful men who left their dinner out and went searching for my boy, then delivered him safely to my parents.  Artie is now on an extended vacation at my parents' house.... and we miss our escape Artist magician.  

Seriously, who has a more clever cat than this?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'm drooling over KitchenAid Mixers

So, my best friend saved up, used some coupons, and bought herself a kitchenaid stand mixer a few months ago.  Jealous does not even begin to describe how I felt.  It's beautiful, and just like her personality, it's pink and sparkly.

This morning, I was crossing some things off my to-do list.  One of them was to make my mama's delicious chocolate zucchini bread (shh...don't tell anyone it's clean AND healthy!)  I decided to mix it up while lunch was cooking.  Only problem is, my hand mixer went ka-put.  Something started smelling really bad, and I just assumed something had overflowed in the oven and that the preheat was re-heating whatever was burnt.  I was wrong.  Turns out, it was my mixer, which then started seizing and smoking.  Now, it won't turn on.  

Especially now that I'm eating the way I believe people were meant to eat, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  Not having a mixer for any length of time is not exactly optimal.  I could buy another junky mixer, but I have learned that it's less expensive to buy something durable than buy multiples of something inexpensive and low quality, especially in the kitchen.  

This afternoon, I've been researching mixers.  I called my mom just to make sure there wasn't a mixer hidden in the Christmas closet for me, and then started crunching numbers to see where and when I could get the best deals (Black Friday, etc).  I happened across a blog post discussing the variety of mixers on sale at different stores on Black Friday.  The woman who'd written the post posted an update, and I clicked on it.  As it turns out, Kohl's has a HUGE kitchenaid mixer sale going on today only.  It comes with three attachments and the mixing bowl.  I managed to get my new mixer for about half the price of a factory refurbished one, plus because it's new, I got a free 1 year warranty. :)

If you're interested, here's what you do: 

1. go to (Kohl's is 6% cash back right now)
2. go from ebates to Kohl's website
3.  Add this KitchenAid 4.5 quart stand mixer to your cart. (It says 229.99, but when you start checkout, it will drop to 206.99) *Note: You can only get it in white, but at this price, it's worth it!
4. Use Code FFNOV20P to take 20% off to drop the price to $165.59
5. Pay local sales tax + a $3.25 shipping surcharge (it’s heavy) ** Shipping is free through ebates.
6. Submit for the $20 rebate (valid 11/16-11/17/2012 ONLY)
7. Wait anxiously. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Class Dojo, Year 2

This is the second year I've used class dojo in my room with great success.  Just like last year, it's taken a little training to get the kids used to it.  I used class dojo exactly twice this year until November arrived.  It was the first week of school, and I used it during 1st and 2nd periods, then decided it was far too much hassle to have to stop what I was doing, pull up the class dojo tab, and add/ subtract points.  I was updating my phone and it sent me some application updates with a suggested list of "things I might like."  There was one for class dojo!!!!! I was thrilled.  I downloaded the app to my phone, and I can update it from anywhere in my room, even if I don't have myself logged in on the computer.  At the end of the class, I pull up everybody's points and the class summary so they can see how they did.  My classes are competing for a pizza party right now, and many of them are positive peer pressuring their friends for the first time all school year.  I love it, they love it.  You should at least try it.  It's free AND it's easy...what could it harm???

Pantyhose and Other Trivial Things

I loathe pantyhose.  There's simply no other way to say it.  I spent far too many Sundays living in my parents' house and being told to "Go back upstairs and put on some pantyhose."  Here, my students call them stockings.  I had to wear the dreaded things earlier this week.  By the time lunch rolled around, I somehow had a giant run up my heel on one foot, a big strips run on my upper thigh and knee of the other, and one behind my knee.  It only got worse as the day progressed.  I don't know how this happens since I can wear tights and leggings all day without ever having to readjust them or snagging them.  Literally, I have tights that I've had for a solid decade.  Pantyhose? Can't get the darn things comfortable, or to stay in place, or to last more than one solid day....if that.

When I say that I had to wear pantyhose, what I really mean is, it's freezing cold here and I have exactly two pairs of pants in my pair of dressy jeans and one pair of black pants.  I'm going to have access to my parents' washer and dryer in the middle of next week, and I'd really like to make it that long without having to go to the laundromat, so..... my pants are dirty.  I'll wear a dress everyday for a week.  No biggie.  Anyway, wearing hose and I had a run before I even got into my classroom, not that I know how it got there.  My sweet cherubs asked me repeatedly if I was okay because I had big scratches on my legs and they were worried about me.  They tend to worry about me because I'm notoriously clumsy and trip and fall over things routinely.  I guess they thought it was just another attack of my gracefulness, and they were probably right.  Bless their hearts, they were so concerned.  Then, they inevitably told me to just take those stockings off!  "You don't need 'em anyway, you don't need to be dressed up."  I tried to explain that pasty white girl legs just don't look good in some winter dresses and also that at 36 degrees, I was not exposing my legs to cold air.  Not to mention it's No Shave November.  Just kidding. :)

skeletal system

gravity experiment

morning snuggles when it's too cold to get out of bed

pumpkin spice woopie pies

someone has taken over...

college visiting with Baby Brother!

The purpose of this post is just to remind myself that I love my students, and a very rare few some of them love me back.  At this point, I'm not expecting anyone to still be reading.  If you are, I owe you a coke or something.  I had a great conversation with one of my coworkers today, and she was kind enough to share some of the positive feedback she's heard about me from the kids as well as from other teachers/ administrators.  It was completely unsolicited, but we were talking about the mean things we're having to do right now.  For instance, we're still doing plenty of activities, but no more group work or labs for a few weeks.  We've been really lab heavy here (human body- hello? Lots of super cool labs), but I think the kids just need a little more structure right now, so at least until after Turkey Day, we're buckling down a little more and having a little less organized chaos.  I just hope there're no more formal observations.  Thus far this year, I've been fortunate enough to have at least a mini lab planned every time someone has dropped in to observe me (except for during my weekly feedback time, which is only 15-30 minutes at the beginning of one class on Fridays and tends to interrupt either review games or quizzes).  I hate that we can't do as many labs and group activities, but I'll survive, and so will they.  I'm starting to work on actually filling out all 140 of my "Your teacher is thankful for you because...." notes for the kiddos for next week.

Of all the things I'm thankful for this month and every day, many of them are the direct result of my work, my peers, and the opportunities and learning experiences I've had thus far.  I can't wait to see where this crazy life leads me, and how God will shape the rest of my journey....even if it does start with being the teacher in the very back of the lunch line.  Yes, we do line up by age and yes, I'm the youngest in the school.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Month of Thanks

I don't know who decided to spend the entire month of November being Thankful and came up with the idea of naming at least one specific part of your life that you are thankful for each day in November, but they're brilliant.  I loved logging on to facebook this morning and was pleasantly surprised to see thanks, prayer, and hope on this election day, rather than the political bashing that is so common.  I'm still working on my 1000 gifts that I started over the summer.  You can read about the concept behind daring to be joyful here.  I try to make time each night to reflect in prayer on my day and some of the things that I'm thankful for, etc.

This month, my students are getting the "Dear _____, Your teacher is thankful for you because ______" notes that I gave them last year (and that were such a HUGE hit -- they were designed by an early childhood teacher, but my middle schoolers l-o-v-e-d them!)  My boyfriend is getting the same thing, but he gets one per day this month.  We may not see each other for awhile, and I wanted to have some regular reminders for him that I care.

Check out Erika's template here:  (It's free!)  I downloaded and modified it for my kiddos, and voila! Easy, cheap, super appreciated Thanksgiving break treat for the students.

Just off the top of my head, some things I am thankful for today: 

learning how to eat REAL food!

a classroom for me and my students to grow and learn
weddings and celebrations of love

good music

my campers and the world of feeling and acceptance they've introduced me to

opportunities to conquer my fear 

my goofy little brother

my animals
strong women in my life as both friends and family members
football.... and my Dad

the opportunity to travel- here inside the Sistine Chapel
(I'm moving to grab the camera before the guard takes it from us)

Sigma Sigma Sigma- the sorority I joined in college that has
given and continues to give me fabulous opportunities
little brothers
a college education
summer memories and time outside