Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What to do??


I hope all of you are posted up at the pool enjoying the sunshine, outdoors, and stress-free beauty that is summer.  It is well-deserved!  There is nothing quite like the feeling of having NOTHING to do.  It starts out as amazing-I can clean my house, go to the pool, walk the dogs, read a few books, etc. But then, after 2-3 weeks....reality sets in.  I am bored.  I dislike LOATHE being bored and feeling unproductive.  So, I have compiled a list of "things to do" for teachers of the restless variety.  You know you all secretly love having the opportunity to spend some quality time just brainstorming creative new ideas for your classroom-even if it is during the summer.  I always enjoyed having enough time to COMPLETELY revamp, refresh, and update my classroom.  So without further ado:

8 Summer Projects for Teachers

1.  Work on a long term curriculum map.

Evaluate what went well, and what needs revamping from the previous year.  There are a plethora of free templates on teachers pay teachers or that you can find by just googling "free long range plan templates".  If you are moving to a new grade level or subject area, familiarize yourself with your new curriculum, and begin developing a long range plan for yourself.  This WILL HELP you in the long run.  I always found that a long range plan would help me remember special units or books that I wanted to use with certain skills.

Check out these amazing resources:

Scholastic Long Range Planning Guide
More ideas from Scholastic
Mandy's Tips for Teachers **This teacher has some amazing stuff!!**

Feel free to download this sample long range plan that I used with my team:

2.  Create a floor map for rearranging your classroom.

Tired of the same ole' thing in your classroom?  Take measurements of your room, and brainstorm ways to rearrange your class while maintaining an effective flow.  There are several online tools that you can use to help you, and an infinite number of classroom photos online to help you form new ideas.
3.  Create a Reader's and Writer's notebook to use as a model for students.

Check out my post HERE.  I made these models during the summer, so that they were ready to go during the school year.  I also made several extras, so that when new students joined us late in the year, they would be able to use the same type of notebook as their classmates.

4.  Read or Reread The First Days of School or some other motivational/inspirational teacher book.

Whatever teacher book motivates and inspires you...read it!  I reread The First Days of School every year.  It helped me reset for the upcoming year, and reminded me that I set the tone and expectation on day one!  Another inspirational read is The Freedom Writers Diary.  It has been a while since I read this one, but I remember loving it.

The First Days of School

The Freedom Writers Diary

5.  Create or organize learning centers for use during guided reading.

This can be EXTREMELY time consuming during the school year.  I like for my centers to be very tactile, which means finding a lot of resources.  It can be a challenge to change up centers during the school year.  To help yourself prepare, think of center ideas during the summer, and gather up materials so that you can have them ready to go!

Click HERE to see some ideas for literacy centers that I have used in the past.

6.  Create new procedures posters or rotation charts.

You know they fade.  Just freshen up!

7.  Develop a new integrated unit.

Have you always wanted to teach fractions and plants together?  Go ahead and think through an integrative unit now, so that you are less overwhelmed when the times comes to plan for the unit during the year.

8.  Use Donors Choose to create a project for funding.

I have had many projects funded on Donors Choose, and I posted most of the projects during the summer.  It can take a little while to post a project on the site, but once it is there, you don't have to do anything!  Also, Sonic does Limeades for Learning during August/September, which is a great time to get your family to enter votes for your existing project for FREE.

Donors Choose

Sonic Limeades for Learning

I hope that you find this list helpful for you if you are the kind of person who has to be busy **like me** ! Please include any other ideas that you have in the comments box:-)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Come Back Song

Well hey there teacher bloggers!

I have taken some solid time off from contributing new posts to this blog.  Solid, like, a year long.  My reason for "stopping" my posts was that I was leaving the classroom, and felt that I would be out of touch with things that were going on, and that teachers would not want to hear from me.  As it turns out, that couldn't be farther from the truth.  I have decided...it's time for a come back!  Cue Darius Rucker come back song:

To refresh your memory...
Last year I made a decision to leave the classroom when I applied for the NC Principal Fellows Program.  This decision was extremely hard for me, because I love teaching.  Now, after a year of being in my program, I can honestly say that that decision did not become easier with time.  There are certain things that I just genuinely miss about teaching and being in my own classroom.  Consider this a don't forget to "be thankful" post.

Be thankful for your opportunity to carry out a REALLY important life's work.  Be thankful for the open, honest conversations that you can have with children.  Be thankful for the feeling of accomplishment that you have at the end of each day. Be thankful for your colleagues. Be thankful for those moments when your students tell you how special you are to them.  And most importantly, be thankful for the time you have, and the kids that you are privileged to teach.

*Sniff, sniff, tear.*

Now I know that being out of the classroom can definitely tint my rose colored glasses, but these are some things that I truly came to miss.  The hardest times have been holidays and "special" times of year.  I cried during the first week of school.  Not being there, and feeling like I had lost my purpose was challenging for me.  I do not regret my decision to start this program, but it is hard to make such a drastic life change.

Time for the silver gold lining.

The Principal Fellows Program started for me in late August.  Throughout the program, I attended classes twice a week, and worked as a graduate assistant.  There were 7 other students in the program with me, and we dove in headfirst to learning what it means to be a school leader, from an administrative standpoint.  I have LOVED this program.  My professors are all super duper supportive, and my classmates are a joy to work with.  Here's a picture of my PF class:

If you live in NC, and are considering going to route of school administration, I HIGHLY recommend that you look into the program.  As a HUGE part of our course requirements, we complete what is called a Service Leadership Project.  Basically, we go to a school of our choice, and collaborate with the Principal to decide on a project that will help us hone our leadership skills, and offer some kind of service to the school.  Long story short, my Service Leadership Project was starting an intensive Beginning Teacher Support Program from the 20 beginning teachers at the school I selected.  After getting things going with this program I realized that if I thought I was going to be out of touch with teachers and classrooms, I was dead wrong.  I spent over 150 hours working on this project:  training teachers, observing teachers, and coaching teachers.

Another exciting element of this program is the opportunity to observe administration at work.  I visited about 15 schools, and was able to practice observations, walk-throughs, and participate in meetings with teachers.

After giving it some thought, I have decided to come back to this blog.  While I personally am not teaching in a classroom, I definitely see ALOT of creative, fresh ideas in the classroom, and want to share these ideas with all of you.  Hopefully you will welcome me back with open arms;-)

Have any of you ever made career changes that were challenging?  I'd love to hear about your changes-tell me about it in the comments box!