Happy New Year...Welcome Back to 2015

So...you have been away from teaching for about 10-12 days. You hopefully felt relaxed and were able to catch up on some well-deserved sleep and rest. I know that is probably a little idealistic, but it sounded positive! Well, in reality you are just NOW able to relax and catch up on sleep and tomorrow is New Year's Eve!

In a few more days, for most of you, it is back to schedules, lesson planning, testing, interventions, parent communication, listening, counseling and of course sugared up worn out kiddos!  You walk into the classroom and on Day 1, the students seem tired but okay.... You feel exhausted.  it is the first day that you and the children have not slept late and actually let's face they as well as you are in a sugar coma from all the cookies, candies, gingerbread houses, lollipops, staying up late and doing whatever they and you wanted to do for the past week and a half.

Day 2 comes and if the truth be told, you wonder what you even taught, what you planned for the week, why you are here and your desk is filled with empty coffee mugs that you did not have a chance to throw out or wash due to sleep deprivation for past 2 days and worst of all, your kiddos have seemed to forget everything and anything you taught!  Rules, how to spell, classroom procedures have seemed to gracefully float out the window on the clouds.

Never fear here are some things to remember when you get back into the classroom after the New Year!
  • Give your students a soft landing: time to chat with friends and share their Winter Break experiences.
  • Don't assume that your students remember the procedures and as you transition into each stage of your day, take a few minutes to review your expectations for everything and anything!
  • Work slowly the first week and give many Brain Breaks or choose some activities that are knesthetic. 
  • Choose some fun activities to start your week. Perhaps a New Years Booklet for children to reflect on memories of 2014 and goals for 2015 would be a great way to start the week.
  • It may even be necessary to add an extra recess and play some group games to develop cooperative play (playing on video games all day is not promoting sportsmanship!)
  • Give yourself a well deserved soft landing by simplifying your plans.  One week will not make or break the curriculum!
  • Remember to do your best and your best depends on the day, how you feel and what's happening in your class with YOUR students.
  • Don't compare your class to your colleagues' class!
  • And....check out all the products on Teachers pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook.  We have done all the work to save you time so you, hopefully, were able to enjoy your holiday or land softly into your first week back!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


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A Thought For This Week and Everyday!

A thought for this week and everyday!

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Calling all Teachers!

    
Recently I was asked to think of an experience that defined the way in which I teach or taught.  I came to realize that there are many experiences in my career and life that have probably defined the way I teach or have taught, but one in particular stands out today as I write this.  Years ago, probably about 22 or more years to be exact before the phrases Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Asperger's, Spectrum Disorder etc. were an integral part of a teachers vocabulary I pioneered an inclusion setting in my first grade classroom and worked with a special education teacher (you know who you are) full time to support those learners who needed a different approach to learning. I realized through my partner teacher that you need to have fun teaching, laugh a bit, enjoy each child for the unique individual that he or she is and celebrate the small milestones as well as the huge breakthroughs.
We started to co-plan lessons that met individual needs and differentiated instruction before it was a buzz word.  We would think of each child and what was needed to encourage his or her growth as a learner.  We had children who did not speak so if they said one tiny word, this was a personal celebration for that child and was what we needed to encourage creating more ways to support the individual needs of students in our class. We bounced balls to learn sight words, wrote sight words and letters on cards taped to the floor and jumped the words, played twisted the words with the game Twister, set timers for focus, had stations to support individual needs, buddy learning, Guided Reading, small group instruction, shared reading instruction, and created active learning opportunities for all aspects of the curriculum and much more! We did have fun coming up with the ideas trying to imagine what it was like to be a 6 or 7 year old and what they might need to stay actively engaged in a lesson or activity.

The realization that these ideas that were developed to support those children who had special needs also supported all children came to light.  So, differentiation of learning did not just support children who learned a bit differently, but also supported all children because, as we realized, every child may learn differently and it is our job to figure out how they learn and give them exactly what they need to learn and grow!

As I participated in the walk for Autism this weekend, I realized just how important our job is and also just how difficult it can be. Yes, we as teachers are asked to do a difficult job and many people do not really understand just how difficult that is to do. As a teacher YOU need to remember that you can't change the worldbutif you just do your best, and remember that your best changes depending on your day, then you have done your job! With that being said, you can go home feeling blessed and knowing that you tried your best!  Enjoy the Journeyit is yoursmake the best of it because some day you will look back and realize you DID make a difference!
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It is NEVER Too Late to Get Organized So...

Okay...so I decided to remove all my shoes out of the closet to reorganize and see exactly what I had going on in there.  After all, I am retired and isn't that something all retirees should do at some point during the fall when everyone is back teaching and you are sitting home? Of course the shoes were, and I emphasize were, in pairs, but it was a challenging job to get them all out so I thought...oh let me just remove them from the closet as quickly as I can and I can pair them up as I put them back in...well...when I turned around...this is what I found. Now...just to help you with this visual image (we tell our students to visualize as a a comprehension strategy. So...we probably should do the same) the pile was about 2 feet high and 5-6 feet wide with shoes in every which direction...I am thinking my infinite wisdom was a little off last night! Why did I decide to tackle this project at 9PM tonight?  I am still trying to answer that question! 

Now...I did get all the shoes minus a few pairs that made it into the trash back into the closet and there were 112 pairs of shoes...perhaps, as friends suggested...I am the Imelda Marcos of Springfield, but somehow I think there is someone out there who may have more shoes than I do...I know my friend Cleo did and she is up above tap dancing on the clouds with glee in her leopard stilettos I write this!!

If you are a teacher, you may already see where I am going with this and how this relates to teaching without the connection I am about to share.  How many times did you think about reorganizing or throwing something out only to find that you were afraid you might need it somewhere down the road? Some of you probably thought this very thought before you left school or work today! So...here is my suggestion...scan it and save it on your thumb-drive, flash-drive or whatever you want to call it and toss the hard copy in the trash! This idea is more for the seasoned teacher than the youngin's because the "newbies" have been doing this before they became teachers and that is why their classrooms appear to be so much more organized.  Of course we ALL start the year extremely organized, but then it happens...the kiddos come in and it is nonstop till June! So here comes suggestion 2:  After each unit of study, before leaving school for the weekend, quickly go through what you REALLY need and toss the rest.  Let's face the facts, even if you toss it, need it later and forget to save it, chances are someone will have it on their flash-drive and you WILL have it!

Some researchers feel that an organized classroom leads to better learning because children are less distracted.  I have added some sites and books that you can browse to support organization in the classroom below!

The Organized Teacher

The Cornerstone


So...Let's get going!
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I am a Teacher: What's Your Superpower?




Yesterday I was notified that I was in a video that my school district showed at their "First Day Back For Teachers."  My first thought was: Geez I am retired and I am not even there to see it, but many of my colleagues sent it to me so I was able to view it. There were clips of many teachers doing their job and I felt very fortunate to have been in the first few minutes of the video in which it showed me working on the rug with a very special student, since he lives right down the street from me and his mom was a colleague in the district.  Yes...It was a privilege and honor to be a part of this very inspiring video to say the least especially since I am no longer a part of the school district.  It actually made me feel like maybe I should be teaching again.  However, when I pondered upon that feeling or thought, two words came to mind...NO WAY!  Yes, I LOVED teaching and could not have chosen a better or more inspiring profession, but after 34 years, I figured it was time to move on and just have the memories of a job well done...no regrets...fun times...touching lives in many ways and not just students, but parents, colleagues and others.   Although teaching probably is one of the most difficult jobs, it is definitely one of the best jobs in the universe.  You have the ability to touch others in a magnificent way...you touch minds, feelings, academics...you nurture, support and help students and families...you give advice, share good and not so good news, you go to work and are on for 6-10 hours a day depending what you take home with you, not to mention that feeling of did I handle that situation correctly, did I do my best, did I help that little one, should I call the parents, should I forget about it???

So, yes, I am very happy that I am in the video from the opening day, but more importantly, it shows just how important all teachers are not matter what you teach or have taught, teaching will always be apart of your soul forever...so...I pass the baton on to all of you. Make the best of each day you teach because you are SUPER!!! Wear your Superman shirt with dignity...you deserve it! (I just wish I had one!!! I guess I retired a year too soon..oh well...I have to bloom where I am.  I will just have to settle for being a retired Superman!!)
Kathy

This video is also linked on my page...ENJOY!
http://vimeo.com/104542670
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Bloom Where You Are

Today has been an interesting day for me.  The teachers from my district (my former colleagues) had their first day back.  I have to admit...it felt a bit strange not going back to school today so my friend, who also retired last year, and I decided to go to breakfast to celebrate our new found freedom. We chose to go to the Llanerch Diner and we were seated at the booth in which Bradley Cooper sat in when filming "Silver Lining Playbook."  Well that in itself was a great way to start the morning. As we left, the owner said," Did you enjoy sitting in the same booth as Bradley Cooper?"...to which I replied, " Yes, but it would be a lot better if he were sitting with us!" Of course I was kidding...well sort of kidding. I mean it really would have been nice to sit with him, but that, I would say is pretty much a mute point.

So...my new journey begins and it begins with a quote from Joel Osteen, "Bloom where you are!"
Yes, my friend and I have to "bloom where we are" and do the best we can do in our new venture. But, all the teachers that are going back to school this week should also bloom where they are!  They have been given the rewarding responsibility of some new smiling faces and yes, you...the teachers... are the ones who have to be their teacher, mother, psychologist, nurse, friend, listener, comforter just to name a few of the "hats" you will wear this year as a teacher. With this new beginning, feel fortunate to have the opportunity to make a difference in your kiddos' lives. "Bloom where you are," make the best of each day, bring back the fun in learning and have fun while you are teaching.

My Upper Floor team had a blast last year making the best of everyday and doing our best in all the roles we played.  Some of us dressed as snowmen for Halloween, 100th Day old women for the 100th Day of School, dressed as an insect when teaching insects(and the children made insect headbands),
dressed as clouds when we taught clouds and even hugged a skunk! Yes, we did BLOOM and the children loved to come to school everyday to see what might happen next. Did they learn? YES. Did they have fun while learning? YES. Did we have fun teaching? YES WE DID!

So, I challenge every teacher and actually everyone to bloom where you are and enjoy the journey...there is only one! Kathy





 
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Tips for the Beginning of the School Year...with more to come!

It is already August and, if you teach on the east coast, you are probably beginning to think about how you would like to set up your classroom for the new students who will walk through your classroom doors in a few weeks and perhaps you are thinking about some new ideas to try! Now, this year I am really not thinking about my classroom since I am now, as they say, "a woman of leisure," but I need to face the facts I will NEVER be a that!!!  My mind is always churning and coming up with ideas!  So, when my daughter said,"Mom, I am so excited that you are retired! Now, you can help me set up MY classroom!" Yes, I am presently helping my daughter set up her classroom!

So here are a few tips for you as you begin your journey back into the classroom:

  • Remember to allow the children to take ownership of the classroom by saving some activities, decorations and ideas that they will create with your support to be used in the classroom.  This will make them feel like it IS their classroom.  For example:  Children can create their own name tags to use on lockers or cubbies.  They may also like to make "people" ( I have done this for years) where they decorate a blank child template to look like them. After the templates are run off on card stock and decorated, they can be laminated.  Hot glue a clothespin on the center with the child's initial or a themed foam sticker and you can use these to display work all year long!



  • Another important tip, that should be practiced on the first day of school and continued throughout the year is to greet each child at your classroom door everyday. As they walk in try to think of something positive to say to each child. YOU will see positive behavior changes if you try to do this every day!  A smile and compliment can go a long way!  Saying good bye to each child with an "elbow shake" or high five is also an important part of teaching!  This makes each child feel special!

  • The last tip for today is to try to make a positive phone call home within the first 2 weeks of school. I know that this can be a difficult task with all that needs to be done, but this WILL make a difference! Think of yourself as a parent: you are nervous about your child going to first grade and just think how "little Jimmy or Doris"feels. Receiving a positive phone call and I emphasize phone call NOT e-mail can set the tone for the rest of the year and it will make it much easier when you have to call for other reasons.

Here is a snapshot of my Communication Log that I use to keep track of phone calls. I run off one for each child. You can find this on my TpT and Teacher's Notebook Stores in a bundle called:


So get your mind in gear...it is almost that time of year!!!

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Ideas for Classroom Set Up

Calendar with our Roar Into Learning Theme


Front of the Classroom


Writing Center with a Fancy Nancy Word Wall for using more colorful words.
Fancy Nancy Word Wall
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