Friday, January 31, 2014

I Wanna Play Dodgeball For My Birthday!!


What a week it's been!  It started out with me in some fierce bad mood on Monday for really no reason, then my mood did a complete one-eighty, and I have spent the rest of the week floating around school on sunshine beams.

My students have been absolute ANGELS all week, and the only negative thing I've had to say all week is "OK, turn the volume down a couple of notches".  That's it.  No complaining about forgotten homework assignments, no disappointment speeches about work not being done or effort not being put in, no frustration over giving directions and then getting questions asking what they are supposed to do, and no standing in front of the class waiting on the students not paying attention.

It's been AMAZING.

I have loved every single minute of each of my days between Thursday and yesterday.  

And it feels so great that today, I'll get to reward them for their hard work by our class participating in a mini dodgeball tournament.

Do you remember a few months back, before Christmas, when the school did a Penny War to raise money for Shop with a Cop?  

Well, my class came in 3rd place, and the prize was a dodgeball game against the Student Council and members from the local police department, including the SWAT team.  Due to all the winter weather we received, the dodgeball game got postponed... and today, we will actually get to have the reward.

My class will play the class that came in 2nd place, and the class that won the competition will be playing against the SWAT/police team.  

I think it will be LOADS of fun, and I will be out there with them playing the game, throwing balls at people, and undoubtably receiving a few hits in return.  

I think it will be a great way to end out this amazing week, and an early birthday celebration... being that it's my birthday tomorrow.  The only downside will be having to wear sweats.  Well, that's not a downside, that's a big PLUS... except for the fact that I hate wearing sweats to work, because I don't exactly have the best figure to pull them off.  Especially when all of my school t-shirts are a little on the snug side around the waist.  But, I'll suck it up (no pun intended), and run my fat behind all over that gym to have the best time that I can have.

The game will throw a kink in my usual Friday routine of finishing up our reading unit, but I'm not that concerned about it.

There's a big possibility that we'll be getting more snow days next week.  The news is saying we're in for a MAJOR winter storm at some point.  Maybe starting as early as Sunday, but may not really impact us until next Friday.  I hate it when the weather reports are all so different and conflicting.  Pretty much every meteorologist in the tri-state area agrees that we're getting some snow, but they all seem to disagree on when it will hit, how much we'll get, and where the biggest impact will be.

I'm just going to sit and wait.  I'm not going to start my Black History Month unit until the week after next, and just extend this week's unit out another week.  The kids are just really getting in to their books and completing the activities I had prepared for them, and it's been a pretty hectic week... so it won't hurt to give them more time to really study the books they currently have.

With today's dodgeball game and an assembly yesterday morning, we'll be two days behind in the reading plans, so it won't hurt pushing the unit out another week.

Yesterday, we spent most of the morning in the gym for our monthly Terrific Tiger assembly, and that was followed by an AMAZING performance by the high school's Rhapsody and Rhythm show choir.  It was a combination of singing, theater, and dance all rolled in to portraying a historical event...and I was captivated by the show.

The first half was performed by the county's "Dynamic Divas", an all female show choir.  They performed songs to portray life for a woman during WWII.  I was completely blown away by the singing talent and choreography of the whole show.  After their performance, the co-ed "Rhapsody and Rhythm" group performed their show depicting life during the Civil War when women disguised themselves as soldiers in order to fight along side their men.  It was a moving, funny, and emotional show...literally ending with a bang in the form of a mini confetti cannon.  

The shows lasted about an hour, all together, and I could have sat there all day long watching them perform.  They were absolutely breathtaking... and now I want Peanut to join the group next year when she enters high school.  We'll see how that goes for me.

I can't believe that this time tomorrow, I'll be 32 years old.  Time sure does fly when you're having fun... and getting older.  And, it's my plan that I spend the last day of being 31 having a blast.  Dodgeball will start the party, and then this afternoon the kiddos and I will have a little class party and maybe some extra recess time...depending on the temperature outside.  

I want them to leave my classroom today knowing how much I have truly appreciated their dramatic change in behavior and attitude.  Their complete change has been the cause of my amazing mood all week, and it's only fair that I shower them with praise and appreciation for it.  My only hope is that they don't lose that momentum over the weekend, and come back to me next week still motivated, energized, and devoted to doing the best they can.

Well, I better get to getting dressed in my "dodgeball best", ready to face this last day of the week.  It will most definitely be a day of all play and no work.  Well, a little work.. but mostly play.  We've earned it this week, and I plan on celebrating my birthday with my kiddos having an absolute blast.

Have a wonderful Friday, everyone!!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

OK, OK... I'll Try and Turn My Students in to Bloggers

It was another great day in the neighborhood, yesterday, as I continued my marathon of running on sunshine beams.  Apparently, the miraculous transformation I saw in my kids on Tuesday wasn't just a one day fluke.  Yesterday, they were just as good and energetic and focused... and I was able to hear first hand that I wasn't just imagining it all.  Several other faculty members gave me compliments about how wonderful they were acting.

They earned a highly coveted Tiger Paw from their specials teacher.  They earned several compliments about how quiet and well behaved they were in the hallway.  And everyone that came in to my room yesterday made some kind of comment about how hard they seemed to be working.

I'm not going crazy!!  They really are acting different.  AND I LOVE IT!

One of my kiddos told me yesterday that all of my students must have evil twins that were coming to school for them up until this point, and they won't let them ever come back again.  Cute, right?  I told them I didn't care who had shown up before these past couple of days, but whoever these kids are that are coming now, I LOVE them very much and hope they stay with me for the rest of the school year.

Math was another fantastic adventure filled with deep questions and self-solving strategies.  Grammar and spelling was filled with some fun and quirkiness as we discussed definitions and past and future tenses.  I threw in some funny examples and explanations, and that seemed to help liven up the discussion.  During reading, the students were really focused on completing a "during reading" strategy, and it helped generate questions about what they were reading.  And writer's workshop was another awe inspiring session of me being blown away at the level of imagination and creativity I'm seeing from my students.

The kids actually got to go out for recess for the first time in a week, and I waived some recess sentences or gave time off for good behavior.  Figured it was the least I could do on my part to show them that good behavior and hard work pays off.  

After school, I attended a faculty meeting/ mini professional development about blogging.

Yep.  Blogging.  

Did I need a professional development on blogging?  I sure hope not.  I mean.  Urm.  Is this thing on?  It's kinda what I do.  

Even though it may seem that all I do is get on here and ramble about my life in general, now, doesn't mean I don't have some blogging credentials.  I have been featured in Shape Magazine's most influential blogging list.  I have guest posted on several blogs.  I won a blog award on a blogging website (that for the life of me I can't remember the name of at this particular moment in time), that earned me a feature post spot and drove a lot of new visitors in my direction.  And, I have received almost 200,000 page views on my blog, and 200 followers from many countries I've never even heard of and people I've never met in my life.  OK, so all that mostly came from when I was a devout weight loss blogger, but it was enough to earn me some serious knowledge on blogging and the blogging world.

But, even I will admit that I did get some great stuff from it.  Like the fact that I now want to try again at the whole class blogging thing.  And seriously, can I really sit and brag about all my "blog cred" and not want to motivate my students into becoming bloggers themselves?

Last year, I set up blogs for each one of my students.  But, there was so much on our plates, we just didn't have the time to put in to really make it work.  I had the same concerns during that meeting.  Kid blogging is a great idea, but exactly when do we fit it in our already jam packed schedule?

I have two computers in my classroom, and it's hard enough to get all of my students on those computers to take a 5 minute AR test during the week, let alone give them time to get on and compose a blog post.  Especially when I have a class of extreme "hunt and peckers".  Trying to get them to type a sentence could take up to five minutes.

Which is exactly what I said when asked by my principal as to why I wasn't the first in line, behind the blogging guru we have at our school, getting my kiddos blogging.

But, as the presenter shared and was then reinforced by my principal when I had a quick chat about it, blogging doesn't have to be writing an extensive post about a given topic or free writing.  It can be a tool to get a student to share ideas, answer questions, and generate discussion about whatever it is I want.

Our school's "blogging guru" (as I refer to him) has made it work for his students.  He has an extremely successful class blog, and does all kinds of interactive work with those blogs.  He has students present work in the blog, answer discussion questions, give opinions on certain subjects, and even completing assignments that would normally be done with pencil and paper.  

And sure, he teaches junior high and taught 6th grade last year making it somewhat easier to use because his kiddos are a little more "adept" with using a computer... but that doesn't mean it's impossible for 4th graders to do something similar.

As my principal pointed out, I've jumped in to creating my own reading units for my students.  I've moved away from the normal reading cycle of reading a selection, studying that selection, having lessons that pertain to a specific skill that pertains to said selection, and then taking a multiple choice test at the end of the week to determine understanding of the selection.  

While there's absolutely nothing wrong with that format, I wanted to do something different.  No.  I needed to do something different.  Instead, my students are selecting their own books on their reading level, having discussions about their books with their peers, creating graphic organizers and applying various reading strategies to the reading of their books, and ending the week out by creating some form of "presentation" on their understanding of various reading skills and opinion of their book.

Why on earth couldn't they spend 20-30 minutes each week writing a short blurb or answering a quick question about their book in blog format?

My principal suggested setting up the class blogs and having the students use the blogs for very direct instruction.  Meaning, instead of asking and expecting them to get on their blogs and compose posts about random topics... I could start out with just having them answering a simple question about the week's reading experience.  Or maybe having them compare the book they are reading this week to the book they read last week.  Or having them share one thing they learned while reading the book.  Or their favorite part of the book.  You see where I'm going with this, right?

I think one of my biggest problems I had last year, and the ultimate reason my class blogging experiment failed, was the fact that I expected WAY too much from them.  I wanted them to get on their blogs and compose a piece of writing.  Or use their writer's workshop notes to publish a piece they had written.  

The big flaw with that idea is the fact that I had AMAZING writers, but TERRIBLE typers. They could write pages for a story, but it took FORVER for them to type a paragraph let alone their whole story or piece of writing.  And that was very overwhelming and stressful for them.  They felt so much pressure from how long it was taking them to type, that what started out as a very exciting opportunity ended with them having anxiety about their computer time because they were so worried they wouldn't be able to complete what I was asking them to do.

Type up a 200 word document, then revise and reread said document in 20 minutes when you can only type 2 words per minute.  


So, instead, my principal wants my focus to shift from my using blogging as a composing tool and use it for a comprehension tool.  Just getting them familiar with the idea of blogging, rather than trying to throw them in to the deep end and hoping they can swim.

Maybe start out with asking them to write a very short summary of their book.

"My book, Goldilocks and the Three Bears was about a girl named Goldilocks that went in to a house where bears lived.  She ate their porridge, broke a chair, and fell asleep in the baby bear's bed.  In the end, the bears found her and she ran away."


Then, maybe the next week I ask them to share their favorite part of their book.

"My favorite part of the book Goldilocks and the Three Bears was when the bears found Goldilocks sleeping in the baby bear's bed and it made her run away."

How about some author's purpose?

"The author's purpose of Goldilocks and the Three Bears was to entertain with a funny story, but to teach people that you shouldn't go in to houses without being invited."

Maybe after a couple of weeks, I ask them to go in and select a classmate's blog to read and then comment on what they read or ask a question about the post.  To help them interact with blogging and using it for more than just a place to write stuff.

It would take no time to have them write short little blurbs like this, and each week they would be developing their comfort zone with their blog and the typing process.  If started at the beginning of the school year, I'm sure I could have my students publishing more in-depth, thought provoking responses, opinions, and their own discussion questions about whatever books they were reading, and interacting with each other and offering suggestions and thought about each other's writing.

I think I can make it work.  I'm going to try, anyway.  I think if I start out slow, and ease them in to it, it could be a very fun, exciting, and educational experience for all of them.

Today, it's my goal to set up the class blogs and have a look around the site I'll be using.  I've decided to give KidBlog a go, and see how I like it.  

Then, maybe tomorrow, my kids can have their first go at writing something.

We'll see.

OK, I really need to go... I rambled on WAY more than I thought I would.  

Have an awesome Thursday, everyone!!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Walking On Sunshine


I'm having a hard time deciding if yesterday actually happened or if I just slept so well that I dreamt the whole thing.  Not in the sense that the day was hazy and hard to remember, but because it was so freakin' awesome, it's hard to believe that it actually happened and wasn't just some vivid dream that is making me question if I was awake while it all happened.

Which is kinda weird, because only 24 hours ago I was writing a post about my extremely CRANKY day I had the day before.  

Maybe the promise I made to myself about not having another day of being so cranky and being a lot more happier sunk in, or maybe it was the extremely peculiar but awesome behavior from my students.. but yesterday, I really did spend the day walking on sunshine.

Just like I said I would.  And, it really did feel good.

It's crazy to know that I went from being THAT cranky to being THAT happy in a matter of 24 hours, but I did.  I managed to do it.  And, hopefully no one is now wondering if I have some kind of split personality disorder.

To recap, Monday was a tough day.  Not because anything specific happened making it a tough day, but because I was suffering from some sudden onset of Cranky Pant Disorder, and I was like a bear with a sore head pretty much all day long.

It was so bad, I sent out a letter to parents explaining that I was going to be getting tough with my grading procedures.  That I had grown tired of the nonchalant attitude I was getting about not finishing or turning in homework and assignments, and that I would be putting a lot of weight this semester on effort and participation with my grading.  I explained how students would be receiving zeros for not turning in assignments, and they should expect to see failing grades if their child wasn't doing the work that was asked of them.  I then attached said letter to the progress reports I send home weekly, and out of twenty students, ten had F's highlighted on the report card.

And, if I really think about it, the crankiness that I was experiencing on Monday was probably stemmed from what I said in that letter.  I was growing EXTREMELY tired of the lack of effort demonstrated by several of my students.  I was getting more and more frustrated by the not paying attention, asking questions that had no relevance to the material being covered, not following the directions I had given, and the shrug of shoulders when I asked where an assignment was or why they hadn't done their homework.

I truly believe that I had psyched myself up with the crankiness in order to have the guts to write that letter to the parents, and be prepared for any lash back I may receive.

But, do you know what happened yesterday?  

For the first time since the school year began, every SINGLE student returned their black folders (which is the way I communicate with parents each week).  Not a single week has gone by where at least one or two or five students have "forgotten" to bring the folder back or have brought the folder back unsigned.  Until yesterday.

Every SINGLE student returned the letter I sent home, signed by a parent.  

Every SINGLE student returned the failing progress reports I had sent home, in which I required a parent to also sign to acknowledge they were aware of the grades their child was currently making.

And it was from that moment that I knew I was going to have a good... no great day.

During math, my kids were alert and actively participating in the discussion.  We were starting the process of dividing with remainders, which can be a pretty tough concept... especially if the child doesn't have a very good understanding of multiplication facts.  Which happens to be the case for several of my kiddos.

But, you know what?  They knocked it out of the park.  We discussed.  We did examples together.  They were all eager to share their answers and how they figured the answers.  They didn't care if they got a wrong answer, and actually used the wrong answers to ask amazing questions on how to identify and correct where they were going wrong.

I was completely shocked and amazed.

During our reading block, the kids all, again, actively participated in the class discussion.  We had some great laughs over some of the examples I used for incorrectly using past, present, and future tenses.  Examples I had seen with my very own eyes from their writing.  Even though I didn't mention any names, several of the students identified themselves as the culprits I was using for my examples.  

When the kids were asked to make predictions about the books they had selected to read this week, they all discussed their thoughts with each other and the reasoning behind their predictions.  I didn't get a single "I think this book is about a bear in a house because the book is called A Bear in a House".  Instead, I got reasonable, descriptive predictions based on clues given from the cover of the book.  "I think this book will be about a boy who travels with animals who are his friends, and they have adventures as they float down the river because on the cover there is a boy on a raft.  On the raft there are different animals and they look like they are friends because they are all smiling at each other."


During writer's workshop, I had kids share their ideas for the books they are creating.  We're currently working on writing a pourquoi tale - which is a story that explains something in nature.

One student is writing about rainbows.  She explained to me that in her story, rainbows used to live in the rainforest, because there are a lot of colors and a lot of rain in the rainforest.  Then, the rain stops coming to the rainforest, which makes the colors start disappearing from the rainbow.  So, the rainbow starts talking to a cloud, and the cloud asks the rainbow to visit it in the sky because the cloud is lonely.  When in the sky, the cloud gives the rainbow rain, and they become friends so the rainbow decides to stay with the cloud in the sky.  So, that's why rainbows are in the sky.

Another student is writing about a battle that ensued between hurricanes and tornadoes.  They used to be friends, but kept having problems with both being on land.  So, they had a fight and in the end the tornado won because it's winds are stronger, and it makes hurricanes stay over water and tornadoes get to stay on land.

Another is telling a story about why elephants have long trunks.  And she explains that elephants used to have regular noses, but they ate way too much and got too fat to be able to bend over and pick up their food.  So, they asked God to make them smaller so that they could reach their food and water.  But because the elephant kept eating too much, He "cursed" the elephant by keeping him fat but giving him a really long nose instead.  

And I could keep going with these.  They are truly fascinating.  Way above and beyond my expectations.  Pourquoi tales are pretty easy to come up with, but a lot harder to make in to a story.  Especially with the level of imagination and creativity that I saw and heard yesterday.

I'm very eager to see how their ideas translate to the picture books they are all making.

During indoor recess (we had an arctic cold front going on, so it was too cold to take them outside), most of my kiddos opted to work on homework while watching/listening to the movie I was playing.

After recess, the kids all joined in with a great discussion about sedimentary rocks.  We talked about fossils and how the rocks are made and how the rocks turn in to soil and how scientists use sedimentary rocks to figure out the age of certain animals.  And again, they were completely in-tune and asking amazing questions about what we were talking about.

In the middle of our science discussion, we had a tornado drill.  One that I completely forgot that we were going to have.  Usually, I prepare my students any time I know we're having a drill, but I hadn't said a word about it to them.  While I was getting over the initial shock of the sound of the alarm, and realized what was happening, they had all grabbed a textbook and had lined up at the door ready to head to the bathroom.  When in the bathroom, they got straight down on the floor, assumed the position, and I didn't hear a single peep out of them until the "all-clear" was given.

I even had another teacher come look at them in there, because I've never seen a class of kids act so quickly and perfectly to the situation.

So, with all this, there's no wonder I was walking around on sunshine all day.  I don't know who those kids were that came to my classroom yesterday, but I LOVE THEM and hope they continue to come see me each and every day.  It was a complete night and day transformation from the previous day.  Which was the motivator, I'm sure, for the complete night and day transformation to my mood.

I have absolutely no idea if the transformation stemmed from the letter I sent home, and them receiving a stern talking to from their parents, or if they were just amazed that I had called their bluff and really handed out the F's I said I would, but either way... it looks as though it may have worked!

Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I was able to experience an entire day of teaching bliss.  Perfect students, perfect learning, perfect atmosphere.

I don't expect each and every day to be as perfect, but if the majority of them are even half as good as yesterday was, I'll be spending the rest of this school year walking on sunshine.

And, now it's time to get ready for another amazing day.  I'm excited, ready, and eager to get in to my classroom and have another day of AWESOME.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Take Off the Cranky Pants!!


Soooo... you know how I said on Sunday that this week I was going to be all rainbows and sunshine?  How I was going to write about being in a good mood, and try and be a little more upbeat and funny?

Yeah.  Well..  Somehow, when I got dressed yesterday morning, I put on my cranky pants.  

I just thought they were new leggings.  Little did I know they were going to turn me in to a raving She Monster from the Cranky Lagoon.

The worst part is, I didn't really have a reason to be so cranky.  I just was.  Like don't look at me the wrong way or I might shoot laser beams from my eyes and burn your soul cranky.

And instead of just keeping my crabbiness to myself, I spurted it out to anyone who asked me how my day was going or how I was doing.  I can only imagine that my reaction was perceived with me talking with flames burning in my eyes and horns popping out the top of my head.

I ran my mouth to the amazingly sweet library aide, and I am now convinced that she thinks I am Old Mother Cranky, and may fear for the kiddos that are in my classroom that have to put up with me.  A simple "how's your day going" turned in to a fire frenzy of complaints and whining and snarky remarks about my mood and why I thought I was feeling the way I was.  

The poor woman will probably never again ask me how I'm doing.  In fact, she may never want to make eye contact with me again.  And I wouldn't blame her.  There I was, second year teacher, ranting and raving about stuff that most veteran teachers probably never complain about.  

And the whole time, she was probably thinking "Who hired this crazy woman??"

I don't know if it was because I was tired, hadn't had enough coffee, or simply just woke up on the wrong side of the bed... but I definitely wasn't my normal self.  I mean, it's not unusual for me to sometimes carry a look of slight stress on my face, but for me to unleash that much cranky just isn't becoming or fitting for me.  Even on my worst days, I try to shield and contain the cranky beast and only let it out to the people that I know I can let it out around without coming off like some crazy person.

I hate days like that, and I can say that they don't happen too often.  For that I'm thankful.  But, then I spend the next few days regretting and feeling bad for how I came off, and try and remember who I was cranky too so that I can apologize and try and convince them that I was somehow temporarily possessed and the evil spirit has now left my soul to find it's new victim.

I mean, it's one thing to spend the day feeling like I'm traveling around in circles, having a tough time getting my students to understand or follow directions or listen, and then being cranky and frazzled when the day is over.  But, to be THAT cranky at 10AM when there is absolutely no rhyme or reason for the sudden onset of Cranky Pant Disease is a little frightening.  

I suppose I could just blame it on my time of the month.  Which isn't the reason....not even close... but hormonal imbalance has always been a quick Get out of Jail Free Card, so I suppose if I wanted to I could take the easy way out and just blame it on that and be done with it.

"I plead temporary insanity, your honor, due to the fact that I'm in between cycles and I'm sure there's some form of scientific study that will back me up that women can blame crankiness on that stuff regardless of when the 'time of the month' actually occurs."

Today, I feel much better.  I woke up without the sudden shock to my system I received yesterday.  I feel pretty refreshed and like I got a good night's sleep.  I've had a cup of coffee, and I'm now enjoying the peace and quiet of my house before the kids wake up.  I feel calm and serene.  

I have absolutely no idea what caused me to act the way I did yesterday, but I know that I don't like it and I'm very ashamed of myself.  Maybe I was cranky because I had no reason to be cranky.  That's a thing, right?  Someone that spends so much time being frustrated suddenly figures out a way to fix some of the frustrations...that's a pretty big shock to the system, so it may have some repercussions.  Like manic, post cranky withdrawals.  

I really hope that's not a thing.

That wouldn't be good.

Today, I'm making it a goal to ride around school on a sunbeam, sprinkling out warmth and happiness as I go.  Hopefully it won't be perceived as me being under the influence of anything.  I mean, that's a pretty drastic change to make in the course of 24 hours.  

But, it's important to me that I not be perceived as "that" person who does nothing but complain and whine... even when there's nothing to complain and whine about.  I am NOT that person.  A sudden onset of the cranks is forgivable, right?  I mean, everyone is allowed one free pass to be uptight and moody for absolutely no reason at least once or twice in a blue moon..right?

I hope so.

Cause today I plan on turning in my Free Pass card, and hope that it's accepted and honored at all the stops I made throughout the day yesterday.

OK.  Time to start making today a good day....and checking all my pants for any signs of crankiness.  



Monday, January 27, 2014

Must Be Monday


Ever have one of those mornings where you're just having the most amazing sleep?  Snuggled up in your blankets, dreaming of being at the beach with Channing Tatum...urm.. I mean....with your awesome Hubby and kids.  And then BAAAAABAAAAABAAAAAABAAAAA!!!!  TORNADO SIREN! Oh, no...wait.  Freakin' alarm clock.

That does NOT happen to me very often.

I could go to bed at 3AM and have my alarm set for 4:30AM, and still wake up at 4:29AM because I have this psychic ability that starts to wake me up to let me know the alarm clock is about to go off.

Yet, this morning, the psychic switch was broken.  What ended up happening instead was me being ripped out of the magical world of slumber with the impression that we were being warned of some natural disaster, when it was really my alarm clock going off and it took me a few seconds to actually realize what was going on.

And then I thought it would be really smart to hit the snooze button, thinking that I'd just lay there for a second and calm down from my near heart attack, only to go through the exact same thing 9 minutes later.  

By the third snooze hit, I had learned my lesson and calmed my heart rate back to normal....and drug my behind out of bed.

I'm not sure why I had such a rough time waking up this morning.  I mean, I went to bed around midnight, but that's not unusual for a Sunday night.  I'm quite used to only getting about 4 hours of sleep on Sunday night and then I'm all ready for bed at 4PM on Monday.  But, I manage to stay awake long enough to drive home, eat dinner, and then fall asleep on the couch around 7PM. 

It's my routine.   

Going to bed earlier on Sunday doesn't help.  I just end up laying there for hours thinking about random stuff.  

What am I going to wear tomorrow?  Will I make it to work early enough to get to the copy machine to make my copies before everyone else that didn't make their copies Friday afternoon?  Will I weigh in and see a gain for the weight loss competition?  Should I have eaten THAT much chili for dinner?  Will those cookies I had after dinner cost me a couple of dollars in pounds gained?  Do we really have to weigh in on Monday knowing darned well that we weren't as good as we should have been all weekend?  Did I remember to make sure I refreshed all the grades after I posted them?  What am I going to do Friday if we're having an assembly?  Will there be another time to fit in the tests my kids are scheduled to do?

You know the drill.

Going to bed late saves me from all that added garbage clogging my brain, and I'm able to move swiftly in to sleep mode quickly and worry free.

I was able to finish up my reading unit for next week.  I kept it simple being that it's only going to last the one week.  And then I remembered I had other plans to write, papers to grade, grades to enter, and all that jazz.  

It also occurred to me that I want to get a bigger unit planned to start off February, but next weekend is my birthday and I'm not going to want to spend my birthday weekend writing unit plans.  So, now I'm going to have to come up with a way of writing the unit sometime this week.

You know, while I'm AT work.

Is that even possible?  Getting work done while at work?  

What about the extra time I spend at work AFTER work?

But that would mean giving up my Chat Time with my gal pal.  And she was gone Thursday and Friday, and we have so much to catch up on.  We hardly even spoke all weekend.  

Maybe I'll catch up on Monday and Tuesday and then hunker down on Wednesday to devote some time to doing some actual work after school instead of staying at work an extra two hours just to get in some social time.  

Smart idea, but let's see how it plays out.

Today, I'm sending home a letter to parents letting them know about my new grading system for this semester.

It boils down to the fact that students will be receiving grades based on the effort they put in to their work.

While I've always had the mentality that students should ALWAYS earn their grades, the first semester I was a little wishy washy with the whole thing.  If I assigned something, and only 50% of the class turned it in, I'd throw out the grade because I didn't want to give half the class a zero.  The problem with that mentality is that it really punishes the kids that did what they were supposed to do, and they did the work for nothing.

This semester, I'm turning that around.  If only 50% of the class submits an assignment, then half the class is receiving a zero.  The kids that did what they were supposed to do are earning the points they're due.  

I warned my kiddos of this new protocol the first week of school after our Christmas break.  I even gave them a week to get acclimated and understand that I wasn't joking.   And, this past week I've kept to my word.

The sad part is, though, I now have several kids who have F's on their progress report that will be going home today.  Not because the work was too hard for them, but just because they didn't do it or didn't turn it in.

Being the amazingly sweet and caring person I am, I even offered up alternate assignments that students could do to replace a failing grade, if they received one.  And the only kids who did the make up assignments were ones that received a C or low B on an assignment and couldn't stand the idea of making a C or a B.

No bueno.

So, I'm sending a letter home explaining what an F means if there's one on the progress report.  I'm sending home a friendly reminder for the parents to check homework folders and look for progress reports and notes from me each week.

Cause let's face it.  Kids are smart.  They know how to hide evidence if they don't want their parents knowing that they're failing.  

"No, Mom, she didn't send home progress reports this week."

"No, Mom, no homework!"

"Hey, big Sis, can you sign my black folder? Dad forgot."

Yeah, well I'm not stupid either.  I wasn't born yesterday, and I know all the tricks in the book.  I'm making a pact that starting next week, I will be calling each and every parent any time an F is made on a progress report and letting the parent/guardian know WHY that F is there.

This whole semester is going to be focused on accountability and responsibility.  The options will be there for every SINGLE student to make good grades, if they just put in a little effort.  Alternative assignments, CARS (correct and returned signed), last ten minutes of each day spent gathering everything needed for homework and checking planners.  

It is NOT my mission to set a child up to fail.

It IS my mission to set a child up to succeed, be accountable, and responsible... if he/she really wants to.

And, at the end of the day, not many parents are OK with seeing Fs on a report card.  

Call it Tough Love, I suppose.  

Anywho, I'm fired up and ready to get this week started.  

Now that I've had a cup of coffee.

Time for me to get ready for work.  


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Just Pretend There's Something Attention Grabbing Written Here


One thing I know about myself is that I'm a writer.  And by that, I simply mean someone who loves to write.  I may not be all that great at it.  I'm not hilariously funny, or witty, inspirational, or motivational.  But, I've had my moments where I think I've achieved those things.  

I don't write for the amusement of others, I write for the therapy that it provides me.  And, when writing almost every single day for the past couple of years (sometimes on two blogs), there's going to be times when I find it hard to come up with material to write about.

But, do you know what I've learned about myself recently?

When my life is in turmoil, I'm stressed, angry, frustrated, or sad, I am able to write the most thoughtful, thought provoking, and best pieces of writing I've ever written.

When I'm happy, content, life is good... I sit staring at my screen for a long time wondering what on earth to write about.

Weird, right?

I mean, I'm not surprised that I do my best writing when I'm having the negative feelings.  Again, my writing is my therapy.  It's very easy for me to dig down deep and pull out my emotions and put them in to words.  In fact, it's WAY more easier for me to write about my feelings than it is to express them in any other way.  If I'm having a problem, I write about it until the solution to my problem pops in my head... or I just feel better.

What surprises me, though, is why it's so difficult to write happy, funny, and/or amusing posts when my life matches those feelings.  

If I'm good at writing sad, deep, and emotional.  Why can't I write happy, funny, and amusing?

I'm a reader of blogs just as much as I am a writer of them.  I prefer to read blogs by authors who are witty and funny.  And, I have a few on my blog roll that can have me literally laughing out loud just by sharing their normal lives.  They have the ability of writing about life in general by making wise cracks, finding humor in just about anything, and keeping an upbeat and funny attitude.  They even have the ability to keep the laughs coming even when life isn't so great for them.  And, out of nowhere, they can write a blog post that has me crying and blubbering because there words are so touching, thought out, and emotionally captivating.  

I envy those writers.  And, have tried with all my might to be like them.  But, I've faced the reality that I'm not like them.  I'm me.  I write about whatever is in my head, and that's how I like it.

This past week has definitely had me on an emotional rollercoaster.  And that has been evident by my blog posts.  Each morning, I've gotten up and had no worries deciding what I was going to write about.. the words just came.  

What I didn't write about was the fact that the reading situation was one tiny aspect of the day.  There was some good stuff happening in my classroom, yet I chose to focus on that one thing that was majorly stressing me out.

Then, I was able to decide how I was going to deal with that one little problem I was having, my mood switched gears, and I went from stressed to excited.  Yet, once that switch came in my mood, I had no idea what to write about.  I've already shared how I'm fixing the problems I was having... so now I'm happy, but now I'm not sure what to write about.

Here lately, I've written A LOT about teaching.  In fact, it's started to kinda take over my blog.  And, honestly, I'm OK with that.  Life is good at home (now), the kids are good, the house is good, and really there's not much more to elaborate on than that.  This blog is supposed to be about my life in general, and the majority of my life revolves around my classroom.  It doesn't mean that my classroom is the most important part of my life, it just provides the best material.

It's so frustrating, though, that I can come on here and whine and cry about all the worries, but can't come on here and give anything more than "had a great day today", and that's about as much as I can muster in sharing the good stuff.

Like I said, I was stressing about the whole reading thing, but failed to mention the fact that I started the week off with having NO students that could multiply 2 digits by 2 digits, but ended the week with having only a few kids struggling with it.  Or, the fact that for the first time since school started, 95% of my students turned in their spelling contracts, or that most of my kids passed their science test.

The honest truth of the matter is, negative feelings and frustrations only take up about 10% of my day... so why am I not writing about the other 90%?

This next week, I want to dig down deep and try and come up with more upbeat stuff to write about.  I like to think I'm a pretty funny person.  When I'm having conversations with people, I have the ability to make them laugh.  OK, so sometimes they might be laughing at me instead of with me, but a laugh is a laugh.  Surely, I can write something that does the same thing.  

Moving in to this next week, I'm super excited about getting the new reading unit up and running.  I've been working hard coming up with the new plans and new activities the kids will be doing.  I'm sure there'll be some kinks that will need working out, I'm sure the kids won't understand everything all at once.. but my goal is to focus on the good that's happening, and not the "kinks".  

I am not a negative person.  I'm actually quite a positive person, having a positive look at most of my struggles.  I'm not a person who just makes lemonade when thrown lemons, I also like to make lemon squares, cake, pudding, and throw a few slices in to the mouths of others... just so I can get a kick out of the expression on their faces when the sour hits their tastebuds.  

So, this week, I want to really buckle down and bring some light and amusement in to my blogging world.  

I'm sure it will be a challenge.  

I know enough about myself to understand that I like to live in a world of rainbows and sunshine, and I have no need to write about that stuff, because I live it as much as possible.  I only write about stuff I struggle with:  Tough situations.  If I see a raincloud coming my way, I write about it until it evaporates.  But this week, I'm going to write about the sunshine and rainbows, even if there's rainclouds on the horizon.  

I don't like being a whiner.  I don't like being "poor me and my difficult situations".  And, I actually cringe when I read comments along the lines of "hang in there", "you can do it", and "I'm sure it will get better".  When, the truth of the matter is, it's not really as bad as I portrayed it to be, and I'm hanging in there, doing it, and making it better... but somehow have no ability to write about that stuff. 

So, the challenge is on.  I'm gonna have a go at being funny or at least upbeat.  Not just randomly going on with babble... because I have nothing else to write about.  But, actual, focused blog posts about GOOD stuff.

I can do it!! 

But, right now, I have to finish up the work I still have to do.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Some Good, Some Post Bad, and Some Ugly


It's Saturday, and I'm actually EXCITED about spending a good part of today in front of my laptop WORKING.  Saturday, excited, and working in the same sentence.  Huh. Who'd have thunked it?

But, as excited as I am to get started on my work, I can't until I do what I do...and that would be to write this blog post.  

Being that this entire week's posts have been either depressing and deep, I thought I'd just mash updates and highlights together...and hopefully brighten the mood up in here.  I'm happy.  I'm feeling happy.  I should write happy.

So, let's start with the ugly and work backwards.  Be a little naughty and go against the grain.  Which will also help me end this thing on a high note.

Yesterday, Jelly stayed home because she was sick.  And when I say sick, I mean she had diarrhea the day before, but wasn't exactly sick.  She was still in a good mood, still happy and playful, just didn't want to eat because if she did... it know.  

So, I figured I'd make her stay home from school for the day just to make sure it was completely out of her system.  Hubby was home, so I didn't have to miss any work.  And, to be honest, it was more for the benefit of not wanting Jelly to have some kind of embarrassing accident at school... because that would be TOTALLY devastating for her.  

By the time I got home yesterday evening, she was fine.  Had enjoyed the day home with Daddy, sleeping and resting and had some toast and eggs for dinner.  There had been no diarrhea all day, so she even had a bowl of ice-cream after she ate her dinner.  

But, at 2AM this morning, I was awoken by a sound I do NOT like waking up to.  The sound of vomit.  Or, someone vomiting.  It was poor Jelly, in the bathroom, vomiting up the small amount of food she'd had several hours prior.  The poor baby was as white as a ghost, and did not look good at all.  After she was finished I scooped her up and got her something to drink... but within a few minutes, that was coming back up.  Awesome.  She threw up a few more times between then and getting her to fall back to sleep.

This morning, she's on the couch, with a trashcan at her side, and that's where she's staying.  I'm going to run to the store here in a few and get her some soup and crackers, but that's all she's getting today.

So, that's the ugly.

Let's move in to bad/post bad.

Remember the "issue" I discussed with Butter yesterday?  

Yeah, well yesterday morning wasn't any better.  He woke up with the same 'tude.  Still thought he was all that and a bag of chips, and was popping off insults and mouth left right and center.  So, I did what any mother who has no idea what to do with a mouthy preteen would do.  I ratted him out to the assistant principal and his football coach.  No, he's not playing football right now, but that boy did learn that being a part of that team doesn't just last the season.  And, at the end of the day, even though he may not want to hear what I have to say, he does listen to those two men and will do EXACTLY what they tell him to do.  

After school, he acted very awkward.  Like he had something to say, but didn't know how or didn't want to say it.  The ride home from school was filled with awkward silence, until I asked him what he had to say.  He responded that he wasn't going to apologize because I wouldn't listen or wouldn't accept it.  I told him he hadn't even tried, and that apologizing just because someone told him to wasn't genuine.  If he didn't feel the need to apologize, he shouldn't.  Because, he was right, I wasn't going to accept a half-hearted, forced apology.  He went back in to his grumpy mood, and just told me to stop talking to him because he had nothing more to say about the issue.  So, I dropped it. 

The rest of the evening, he didn't say a word to anyone.  He ate his dinner, he cleaned the kitchen (a chore he's skipped out on for the past couple of nights), and then he went to bed.  This morning, Hubby woke up first and found Butter had already made coffee and was in the process of cleaning.  


Butter knew that by just telling us he was sorry wasn't going to cut it.  He had to do something to try and make up for the way he acted.  The way he treated us.  So, he went straight for the area he knew would win me over: Cleaning my house.  And, he's right.  Manual labor is always the way to go around here.  My kids know that if they want something, they have to work for it.  They have their regular chore every other night of washing dishes, but that's it.  So, in order to "butter" me up, the quickest way to do it is to clean the rest of the house...and save me the trouble of doing it. 

So far this morning, the floors have been swept and the kitchen floor has been mopped.  He cleaned out the cat litter tray (my usual daily task that I've NEVER asked the kids to do), and took out the trash.  He told me that he plans on cleaning the living room as soon as Hubby isn't playing his video game.  

I told him that his work wasn't going unnoticed.  We can see that he's trying to make an effort, and that we appreciate it.  I explained that it doesn't mean he'll get everything back today, but he will know exactly how long he is grounded and it won't be an unreasonable amount of time.  A few days, maybe just the weekend... something Hubby and I will decide together.  There was no deep sigh, no rolling his eyes, but just a look of understanding.  He knows he messed up big time, and that he has to face the consequences of that.  But, he also knows that making an effort goes a long way around here, and the punishment will be fair.  

Right now, he's shooting hoops.  Which he asked to do before he started.  He wasn't sure if that was a part of his punishment.  I told him that his punishment was the loss of his electronics, for a few days. Coming up with ways to occupy himself without them was not a part of the punishment.  

I think we're over the storm, and he will realize that overreacting isn't the way to go...and hopefully he'll take a second to think about that the next time he decides to throw a tantrum.

So, bad turning good and leading in to more good.

I am so flippin' excited to start writing up my reading unit for the week.  I had a hard time getting back to sleep after the Jelly ordeal last night, as ideas bounced around my head.  It took me back to last year when I was so excited to come up with ideas for the reading units I was making then.  This time, instead of doing novel studies, though, I'm coming up with ideas for my students to read the books they want to read, on their reading level, and ways for them to show their understanding for the concepts we're covering.  

I've made the decision to use a layered curriculum.  Meaning they will be selecting the activities they want to do from an assortment of activities.  There are three layers, starting with basic activities and ending with more in-depth activities.  There will be pre-reading, mid-reading, and post-reading requirements they have to complete.  

The "theme" for this next week will be fiction.  A story.  Any story they choose.  We're going to start out simple just to get them acclimated, and then the following week will start the longer, Black History month unit.  

Before reading, they will have to make predictions and explain why they chose the book.  During reading, they'll come up with words they are having trouble with and ways to help them find the meanings. They'll make inferences and draw conclusions.  And after reading, they'll create summaries, discuss author's purpose, identify the problem and solution, and explain the character traits.  All by choosing how they want to do it from their layered curriculum "menu". 

My head is buzzing with ways for them to show their understanding that's away from the worksheet or question/answer format.  Maybe making a "Fakebook" for the main character and highlighting the events of the book through status updates or banter with other characters.  Creating a news article, explaining the problem of the story and inferences on how the problem could be solved.  A post reading article, explaining the problem and how it was solved.  A context clue treasure map, identifying the words they had problems with and the "clues" that helped them solve the meaning.  Using graphic organizers to explain the different concepts.  Writing an alternate ending to the story.  

And I could go on and on and on.

But, can you feel the excitement?  It's rushing through me at 150MPH.  And, I can't wait to get started.  

First, I have to go grocery shopping.  UGH.  Food comes first, apparently.  

Sitting here isn't helping, because it's time I could be out grocery shopping so that I can get home and get started.

So... I guess that's my cue to get on out of here.

Have a fantastic Saturday, everyone!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Ending the Week on a High Note

It's Friday.  And for the first time in a while, I haven't felt like the week has whizzed by in the blink of an eye.  It's been a pretty long week.  Lots of downs, lots of ups, swimming, and riding on boats.  And, honestly, I'm really looking forward to the weekend so that I can just rest, relax, and clear my mind.

Yesterday was another day of me not feeling so stressed.  I ended the day still in a good mood, and not worrying about how much still needed to be done before the week ended.  I'm really focused on keeping the kids accountable for their learning, and I've explained to them that with all the changing I'm doing for them, I expect them to return the favor with the effort they put in.  Grades will reflect effort.  Something I'll be reminding parents, also, when I send home next week's newsletter.  

The start of a new semester is a great time to shake up the parents a little and send a reminder on how important things like finishing homework and spending a little time reading at home can be.  I'm also really focused on stuff like reading and following directions.  And, if directions aren't followed, it can have a HUGE impact on a grade for an assignment.  

I have a feeling I'll be sending home a few F's on the weekly report cards I send home next week (because there's only one or two assignments submitted).  With the new semester, grades start over.  And, it's in those first few weeks when I can really grab the kids' attention.  When they see those F's, they start to panic.  Some even panic at the sight of a C.  But, with every failing grade that's handed out, I offer the opportunity for a make-up assignment or extra work.  I haven't had a single student take me up on that offer this week, so when those grades go home on Monday and the parents are informed of why the F's were given and the opportunity for those grades to be improved were passed by, I'm hoping it will shake things up a little.  

I know that sounds kinda harsh, and not exactly a positive outlook, but I'm all about taking some responsibility.  I've realized my mistakes and have vowed to work on fixing them, but the kids also need to realize that in the end, they won't be spoon fed just so they can pass.  They want to earn all A's?  Well, they are going to have to actually do the work to get them.  And, an F on an assignment is never "game over" for me.  I will ALWAYS offer opportunities to make it up, replace the grade with something different.  But, if it's not that important to the student, then it's not that important to me when I send it home for the parents to see.

And just when I start to get my ducks in a row in the classroom, we have a setback at home.  

Long time readers will know some of the struggles I've had with Butter in the past.  His past.  His ability to overcome a disorder.  And, for the past year and a half, that boy has come leaps and bounds to what we were going through two and three years ago.

But last night, we had a setback.  All the hard work he and Hubby and I have put in, set back leaps and bounds.

It all started over finding out he's been taking candy from my room when I've asked him repeatedly not to.  I buy candy to keep in my treasure chest at school.  For my students.  My biological children get plenty of treats at home, and need to stay out of the stuff I buy for the students.  

All of this I've told the kids over, and over, and over again.  Most days, Jelly will ask if she can have a piece of candy.  Sometimes, I'll let her have a piece.  Sometimes, I'll let Peanut and Butter have a piece.  IF THEY ASK!  

Yesterday, I discovered the new bucket of candy I bought over Christmas break (that has yet to have a single piece taken out for a student) was almost empty.  I'll admit, I was FURIOUS.  We've been back at school all of two weeks, and a TUB of candy.. almost gone.  And, I discovered my culprit when I hunted Butter down, and found him and his after school friends chowing down on yet another handful he had helped himself to.  The janitor had let me know that she'd seen Butter go in to my room countless times, while I wasn't in there, helping himself to the candy by the handfuls.

So, I confiscated his cell phone.  Told him that if he was going to steal from me, he was going to lose his phone for a few days.  And, had he let the issue stay right there, that would have been the extent of the punishment.  Besides him not being allowed to be in my classroom unless I was in there for a while.

But, he couldn't let it go.  When he got home, he went in to one of his moods.  When it was time for dinner, he refused to eat.  When Hubby went down to try and talk him in to eating dinner, Butter snapped and said some pretty nasty, disrespectful stuff.  Which earned the removal of his PS3 and his tablet.  

Hubby nor I will tolerate being spoken to that way.  And, he has to learn that when you do the crime, you pay the fine.  If you make that crime worse, your fine also increases.  I usually give an early release for good behavior, and had Butter made an effort to apologize for his actions, done his chores last night, and just let what happened go?  I probably would have given his cell phone back to him, after a harsh talking to.  But, now he's blown it, which really upsets me.  Yet, he needs to really understand that throwing things and going in to a temper tantrum never solves anything... it just makes matters worse.

However tough the situation may have been last night, I'm not going to let it get me down.  I'm not going to let it ruin my last day of work.  I am making a point of ending this week out on a high note.  I'm going to be happy, and stay in a good mood, and not let anything get in my way.

I'm excited about the work I'll be doing this weekend, planning my first reading unit.  I'm excited about the progress that will be made in the classroom in the next few weeks.  I'm certain that this week is just a transition week, and that once the kids really understand that I'm not kidding around...they'll step up to the plate to make me and themselves proud.

Just got to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Alright, I'm ready to get this Friday started!!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Can't Swim Across an Ocean....I Need a Boat


I love analogies.  As a writer, they help me bring people in to my feelings and give them an understanding of how I feel...or to relate to a situation I've been in.

So, look at that picture.  You see that person who's just floating around?  You see the big boat?  

For the past several months, I've felt like that person floating around in the middle of the ocean while everyone around me is smooth sailing on a giant cruise ship.  We're both trying to get to the same destination, but as the ship sails on past I've felt like I've been stranded...floating...swimming...just trying to stay above water.  Sure, on the outside I look like I'm just happily floating along without a care in the world, but on the inside I'm worrying how much longer I can stay there without going completely under.

Every day I've come home exhausted.  It's tiring to try and stay afloat.  And the sad part is, all that time that I spent swimming and floating and staying above water, I never really got anywhere.  I didn't have anything that made my trip any easier, and I've basically just kept myself in survival mode this whole time.  It wasn't about where I went, but just making sure I didn't go under.

But yesterday?

Yesterday, I was finally thrown a life preserver.  I was rescued from the water and brought aboard a different boat.  It's not the same boat as my friends are on, but it's going in the same direction to the same destination.

And for the first time in a very long time, I didn't feel exhausted at the end of the day.  I didn't spend all day trying to keep my head above water.  I was actually able to enjoy the ride, take in the sights, and feel like I was on the right path to smooth sailing here on out.

All of that imagery and analogy... I surprise myself sometimes.

But, that's really how life has been like for me.  Going to work everyday, nervous and worried and stressed how I was going to keep up with what was going on in the other classrooms, panicking and getting frustrated because I couldn't get my kiddos to understand what they were supposed to be doing, and just feeling like I was going around and around in circles.

While every teacher has their stresses and their worries and their hurdles to jump over, I was dealing with seeing the finish line hundreds of miles off on the horizon and wondering how on earth I was going to get there by swimming.

Until finally I realized that trying to swim is just stupid.  Nobody swims across an ocean..that's what boats are for!!  

I made the decision that something had to change.  My methods had to change.  It wasn't the destination causing the problems, it was how I was trying to get there.  There are always more than one boat heading for the same place...

I know that my teammates aren't thrilled at the idea of me heading off on a different boat, they want us all to stick together.  But, I don't think they've realized that I've never really been on the same boat with them since day one.  I've always been the one swimming behind....miles behind....just trying to catch up.

OK, I think that's enough with the analogy.

It just comes down to the fact that I had to make the decision that was best for my students.  And, I realized that what's best for my kids is to move away from the current reading program that the rest of the grade is using and come up with my own.  

Will it mean more work for me?  Yes.  In the beginning. But once the kids find their bearings and understand the changes, I think it will actually make my life a lot easier.  The kids will have more choice and freedom to show their learning and understanding, and I get to do what I LOVE doing.  Creating new ideas to keep them on their toes and developing their reading skills.

Yesterday, I explained to my kiddos what we were going to start doing.  In my class I have reading levels that range from kindergarten to 6th grade.  That's a HUGE range.  And it was impossible for me to reach all of them with one story written on one level.  So, I told them that they'd be choosing a reading book on their level.  Their reading goal for the week would be to read the book three times, and create different ways to cover the reading skills that were the focus for the week, in addition to covering the skills that have been covered in the past.

So, by the end of the week they may have summarized, or discussed the author's purpose, or identified character traits, made generalizations about the book, found facts and opinions, problems and solutions, and will maybe compare and contrast their book to a classmate's book.

The same skills, just a different way of understanding them.

These next two weeks the kids will be choosing any books they want to just get a feel for the new way of doing things, but starting in February there will be a main focus for the reading to help streamline some of the projects.

For February, I'm starting with Black History Month.  The kids will select a book they want (on their reading level), but it will have to fall in line with some connection to black history.  So, maybe a biography or a story about a famous black person, or a book about a significant event (slavery, civil rights, etc.), or a book written by a black author.  And, then, the theme for the month will revolve around the students learning and sharing and presenting their books with the same focus in mind.

The school librarian has agreed to help me out on my endeavor, and it feels good knowing that I'll have someone to help me work out all the kinks.  But, for the first time in a long time I'm really excited about what's in store, and even more importantly - the kids are SUPER excited about the whole thing.

When I explained to them my idea, there were actual cheers.  The thought of having books on their level and creating small projects an writing about their book and presenting to the class excited them.  THEY WERE EXCITED about what reading was going to be.  

And that felt fantastic.  To see their smiling, happy faces.  Some looked relieved, even.  

I'm also very excited.  

My creative side is firing back up, and I'm already thinking about future "themes" and projects that I can put in to place.  

I honestly don't think it will be much more work for me.  I come up with various ways for the kids to demonstrate their understanding of the particular reading skill, I have kids read to me in small groups or one-on-one while the class is working on their projects, and I'm set.  

Fun.  Creativity.  Learning.  Proof of learning.

That's it.  In a nutshell.  And, I can't wait to get it started.

So, my dismal, whiny, negative self can go away.  Drown, actually.  I'm jumping on a boat and setting sail for my destination and excited about the fun we'll have on the way.

It's impossible for me to try and swim across an ocean, and so I'm happy I've finally found a boat.