Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Expanding My Horizons

I'm a firm believer in trying new things and expanding your horizons.  Between teaching full-time and full-time grad school, I just don't have as much time to explore as I'd like. 

The other day, I took the dog for our usual afternoon walk.  Instead of mostly sticking to our neighborhood and the two fields next to it, we went into the next neighborhood over.  Since we hadn't walked at all in the neighborhood, we were able to go a little further into the next neighborhood.  Just as we were turning around, I noticed what looked like a little park.  Me being me, I dragged the dog down the hill and checked it out.  It turns out it's a decently sized "Fit Trail."  It's well kept, people were friendly, the animals were friendly, and there's one part that goes around a pond full of geese.  We had a blast enjoying the sunny, upper 60s weather and friendly people.

My recommendation is this: go out, take some time that you don't think you have (you'll be more productive later, I promise) and enjoy nice weather, people, and walking/ jogging/ whatever it is you do outside. :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Free Stuff!

My free things from Vistaprint arrived!  I had a mini holiday and got to open the package full of goodies.  Here's all my good stuff, most of it for my classroom.  (I'm addicted to shopping for my classroom.)

Here it is:
 The return address labels say "From Ms. Green: Please return!"
The postcards are for the notes I pass to my students when they're upset that says "Ms. Green mustache you a question."
Bachelorette party invites and envelopes.
Business cards for me
and  a  t-shirt for my heroes.
Best of all?  It was ALL FREE!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Artie's Harrowing Excursion

My poor little man, aka my cat Artie, went missing the night before last.  Now that we know he was in the great outdoors, I assume he must've snuck out the front door while I was putting a leash on the dog and I just didn't see him.  THe last two weeks or so, our cats have decided that the world of our home just isn't big enough for them, and that maybe they need a taste of outside so they like to hang out right outside the door.  Evidently, the little man snuck out and bolted. 

Usually when I go to bed at night, he comes in and sleeps in his bed next to my bed.  He didn't come into my room, so I left the door cracked and figured he'd come in when he was ready.  The next morning, he didn't come to tell my that my alarm clock was about to go off and wake me up.  I assumed he was just in my roommate's bedroom, since her door was closed and didn't think anything else of it.  During the middle of my first period, my phone started vibrating like crazy.  I dug it out of my bag and saw that I had a text message and a missed call from my roommate.  The text read something to the effect of "Artie was crying in the bushes this morning.  He's in the house now-- or his doppelganger is.

Of course, I immediately had to call her back and make sure my poor little man was okay.  Since it was during class and the kids were being really good about doing their work, I gave them something to do and said, "I'm really sorry guys, but I've got to call my roommate back really quickly."  Of course, they could only hear my side of the conversation and it went something like this:

"Is he okay?"
"Aww poor baby....."
"I had no idea he was missing.  I noticed that he didn't come and cuddle with me, but since your door was closed, I just assumed he'd gone into your room."
"He's cold and wet? Oh my goodness!"
"I'll make sure to give him some extra attention when I get home. Thanks so much!"

I mean, if I was an 8th grade boy, I could see how maybe my teacher was talking about her boyfriend who also likes to sleep in her roommate's room?!?!?!?

Anyway, I explained it all to them later, since their comments were becoming increasingly odd in their misunderstanding.  When I went home, the poor little man was still pretty traumatized from spending his first night ever outside. :( But he's back to normal now!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mission Impossible

I'm currently in the middle of a project with my 8th graders called "Mission Impossible."  It feels like mission impossible and it also feels like a bit of a failure, but really, that's because I have five 8th graders (one group of three and one set of partners) that absolutely WILL NOT do the work.  I know when I'm thinking logically that this is only a few of my kids and the rest of them are really enjoying the project and are pushing their limits and doing some phenomenal learning and working.  Unfortunately, I'm not very good at remembering one of my co-workers' mottos: Q-TIP!  This stands for quit taking it personally.  It's a great motto, but I take it personally.  I always have, and I probably always will.

To introduce our Mission Impossible project, I had told the kids in advance that we were going to be doing a big astronomy project, but hadn't really given them much more than that.  We had made pull-out file folders ( I color coded and wrote each kid's name on the front) and the kids were allowed to write "Astronomy" and decorate in any space-related way they felt appropriate.  Now, this isn't rocket science astronomy, just a bit of the study of outer space.  Everything that we've done for this unit is put into this folder and they're supposed to have a table of contents for it.  As in, I modeled one and we drafted them together in class.  Whether they kept up with it or not is their responsibility. 

As they came in the day that I was introducing the project, I had the mission impossible theme song playing.  Note-- the majority of my kids had absolutely no idea what this was/ had never seen the movie, etc.  Once it was explained, though, they seemed to get it and appreciate the connection.  They liked the idea of achieving the "impossible."  I reminded them that I really DO want them to do well in my class, but that they have to help me out-- they can't learn if they aren't willing to try.  So, I gave them "mission impossible" with all the tools and resources they needed to get an A.  I modeled, gave them a detailed instruction sheet, and a rubric.  They had three project choice options, each with a separate requirements list and separate rubric.  In the end, all the students but one chose to do a visual presentation with poster, but at least they had the option to choose to cater to their learning/ personality styles.  We've been working on this project on and off for about three weeks (I don't want to do it constantly, and it's easier for them as we progress through the unit).  I hope the end results are good.  So far, I've been pleased with them.  And, one of the groups that isn't willing to do much work labeled the planet Uranus and was clever enough to draw two smiley faces underneath the label.  They look something like this    : )( :  Inappropriate, but also pretty clever, since I can't "prove" it's a rear end.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Vista Print

I've gotten into couponing some lately.  It makes things MUCH more affordable.  My newest find that I just HAD to share with y'all is that you need to go to Vista Print NOW! Seriously! Southern Savers tipped me off that Vista Print is having a FREE sale.  Several of their items are available for FREE.  The only tricks are 1) You can't pick the expensive designs and 2) you still have to pay for shipping.  However, here is what I got:

I stole an idea from Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade! and mustache my students questions on their assignments.  Bahahahha.  They love my corny jokes (at least, they do in my mind).  Anyway, you can see what I ordered: a t-shirt, 100 postcards, return address labels (but since I'm moving soon and don't know my new address, I'm going to use them in the books in my classroom), and some business cards to send home with the parents of my kids. :)  I paid 2.49 to upload my mustache card (I wanted to get a stamp too, but decided against it for the time being) and SAVED $33 and some change.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Also known in lesson plan lingo as "an activity in chemical and physical changes and chemical reactions."  Just kidding...my lesson plans said that we were going to make s'mores to illustrate these concepts.  Y'all, we had So . Much . Fun .  This was a terrific lesson, at least as far as student participation and behavior goes.  They were involved, on their best behavior (because who would be crazy enough to risk losing their s'mores privileges?), and actively questioning and thinking about what they were doing.  It was a great discussion.

More pictures and details to come later!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Products, Reactants, and Chemical Equations Lab

This lab served two purposes: 1) to illustrate how products can change during a chemical reaction and become a reactant and 2) to make me some home-made laundry detergent.  One of my coworkers has started making laundry detergent for the school.  It's about 1/7th or LESS the cost of typical laundry detergent, works wonderfully, and smells wonderfully. * It cost me between 25 and 30 bucks to buy enough supplies for 7 batches of this, also known as 35 gallons of laundry detergent. *   As for why my school needs laundry detergent, we provide and keep clean uniforms and PE clothes for all of our students.   I figured I'd try making my own since my coworker sent out a recipe and I'm rarely against saving money.  So after learning about chemical equations, chemical reactions, products, and reactants, we did an activity.  The subsequent discussion was a chemical equation of laundry detergent formation (roughly guesstimated) and a list of the products and reactants of laundry detergent.  It seemed to really help them make the mental connection between products and their (sometimes) changes into something different, but still supporting the law of conservation of matter, in the form of a product.

Here's the Recipe:

1 bar grated Fels Naptha soap (you can get this at Wal-mart with the laundry stuff or at Publix)

5 gallon bucket

1 cup washing soda (Arm and Hammer.  Not baking soda, washing soda)  

1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax 

4 1/2 gallons water

Put grated Fels Naptha in saucepan and cover with water. Heat on low until dissolved. Fill bucket with hot water and add soap. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup washing soda and 1 cup borax and mix well. As it cools, it will thicken. If mixture becomes too thick, add hot water to thin it to desired consistency.  May be used immediately. Mix well before each use. Use 1/2(normal) to 1 cup per load (heavy). Cost per load .04.

Grating the Fels Naptha...looks remarkably like cheese, smells really clean

Everybody got a turn grating until it was down to a nub, when teacher took over for safety.

trying to get Fels Naptha dissolved.


Semi-final product.  Just add 4.5 gal water and stir.

This is why I love my coworkers, Maverick and Ice Man.
** When I got home, I added less than a load's worth of my regular scented laundry detergent, even though I like the scent of the home-made detergent.  It has just a hint of lavender and smells oh-so-good.  I washed a ton of clothes in it Sunday.  I have super sensitive skin and break out in hives after using many laundry detergents.  This one is great for skin and allergies.  (If you have allergies and use a free and clear detergent, this is fine, but scenting probably isn't a good idea).  I'm never buying laundry detergent again!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lessons From Mama

I am truly blessed to have a mother as wonderful as mine is.  We've learned some of the ways that we're different, and we work wonderfully as a team.  For as long as I can remember, my Mom has been a very busy woman.  One thing that she started a few years ago was pre-cooking meals.  She cooks meals for just about the entire week over the weekend and that way, when she works a 12-hour shift or doesn't have the energy/ doesn't feel like cooking, the meals are still homemade, healthy, and ready to go.  Or, if my dad and baby brother are starving, they can go ahead and start warming the oven and heating up dinner so it's ready to go even before my mom gets home from work. 

In the last couple of weeks, I've started cooking my meals, generally on Sunday afternoon, for the rest of the week.  Since it's just me and sometimes one other, a family-sized recipe goes for several meals.  Since it's now Friday night, I took the leftovers from what I cooked on Sunday (everything has made at least one meal) and now I have five frozen meals for two people in my freezer.  Oh, and the plus side is that all of these are WeightWatchers recipes and are healthy, low-fat, low-cholesterol, low sodium meals.  :)  This way, none of it goes to waste.

Take A Step Back

This week, our master teacher was out for a few days with strep throat.  We missed her a lot, and we're such a small staff that you really notice when you have to fill in the gaps for someone that's out.  On Wednesdays after school, we have Cluster meetings.  Cluster is a weekly meeting time for us to develop our teaching skills, learn new strategies, plan their implementation in our classroomsl, and reflect on our teaching.  We are a TAP (Teacher Advancement Program) school, and this is one of the many requirements of TAP schools.  Our master teacher is our resident TAP expert and leads these meetings every week.  This week, our Principal filled in the gap and led our Cluster.  We had to really take a step back and learn how to learn. 

Obviously, as teachers, we have high expectations of our students.  We expect them to learn, to work through their struggles, to continue to try, to study different techniques until one is found that makes the lightbulb go off.  In short, we expect them to persevere and to eventually become successful or master the task.  How often do we as teachers hear, "Slow down and focus on content mastery"?  Well, TAP makes teachers learn.  Sometimes it's frustrating.  Often it's hard, and occasionally it's really hard.  I feel like sometimes we fight the learning for fear and just shut down without even attempting to bend our minds around the  new concept.  Our principal reminded us during her teaching and "think aloud" that we have to be more willing to learn and learn to learn again.  Now, we're all still capable of learning.  We learn new things all the time.  But as teachers, I feel like we're sometimes more close minded about what WE personally are doing in our classrooms.  We often don't handle criticism well.  We need to take a step back and think. 

I'm terrible about keeping up with my IGP (Individualized Growth Plan), which is another TAP requirement.  We pick an area of weakness and try to improve in that area weekly.  Luckily, I'm always thinking about my IGP and what I can do to improve as a teacher.  Maybe this is because I'm a bit of a perfectionist (what teacher isn't at least a little type A?) or maybe it's because I'm young and still trying to carve everything out in my career.  Either way, I think it's a good thing, but it's so frustrating to both hold yourself to and be held to such very high standards of performance/ excellence.  Our Cluster meeting Wednesday and the train of thoughts it's sparked for me has made me not only step back and evaluate myself, but has also made me remember what it's like to be a student in your most difficult subject area class.  I don't generally think about how that feels because those days are long gone and who honestly wants to relive less-than-pleasant moments of their past?  I've been thinking about them this week though.  I'm a student now, working towards my master's, but I'm learning things that I'm passionate about and tend to be at least decent at doing.  So now I feel more empathy for my kids, especially those with any sort of LD.  I feel empathy for the kid that "gets it" early in the lesson while the rest of the class is asking confusing questions.  I experienced that again on Wednesday as well.

Long story short, I think this is a great time (for us, we just started 3rd 9 weeks, so we're almost exactly halfway through the school year) to take a step back, evaluate, make a plan, maybe some lists, and really THINK about learning as a teacher and as a student.  It's been pretty interesting.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Riddle Me This

Things that make me wonder/ giggle/ say "Hmmm" and stroke my chin :

One of my students, who was born to 2 adults who have always been and still are Christians, has the middle name Qu'Ran, which is the Islamic Holy Book.

My students think that a few days a week, I dye my eyebrows because they're supposedly a darker color some days than others.

I have a student who has the same first and last name as his father.  Not unusual?  All of the children this man sired have the same first and last name.  Talk about difficult to keep your kids straight......

In addition, I have a half-brother and sister duo who live together and have the same unisex name.  You know, like Taylor or Lee/Leigh, etc. 

I love making my students wonder.  I have a hidden coffee pot in the back of my room behind my computer.  Instead of using this to make coffee, I use it as a hot pot to heat candles and give my room a break from the musk, mold, and terrible body odors of middle school boys.  I alternate the scents and generally pretend I can't smell anything if the kids ask about the smell.  If you are wondering 1) why it's hidden, that's because some of my past students have dipped their fingers in the hot wax, put wax all over my classroom, etc.  If you're wondering 2) why I use a coffee pot instead of a hot pot, it's because I got a coffee pot, a frying pan, and a small griddle for less than the cost of a hot pot.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Currently February

I am currently...linking up with Farley for a nerdy teacher party. :) Yayyy I love it!

 wearing these super cute shoes that I got on clearance at Target.  Even though my kids have either thought I was wearing bedroom slippers or socks all day, I've enjoyed my shoes.