Monday, August 29, 2011

Welcome to Bear Creek!

Nope, it's not GO! time yet, even though our first teacher day is tomorrow. GO! time is officially saved for next Tuesday when the kids arrive. So next Monday night you'll get my GO! post. Until then, I would like to officially welcome you to my #10pixtour of Bear Creek School.

This is the front entrance to our school. To the right of the doors is our beautiful Instructional Media Center, and to the left is where the main office is located.

A shot from inside the IMC - sorry it's kinda dark. I still haven't quite figured out where the lights are in there yet! You can also see our beautiful gym and just half of our amazing music room! Kids will be able to be part of Chorus, band and orchestra in addition to their music classes. I forgot to get pictures of the art and technology rooms. Guess I'll need to do another 10 pix!

This is just part of the cafeteria where the kids will come to lunch with their entire grade level. Our stage is also located in here, and the kids will go right out to recess from the cafeteria.

Our fourth grade hallway is the first classroom hallway on the right, and we are lucky enough to be this beautiful blue color. Sixth grade, a chocolate plum, is the next hallway and fifth grade, an amazing green, is the final classroom hallway across from the cafeteria. The steps under the 4 lead you to the lower level where my classroom is located.

And these are my classroom! It's not quite finished, but I am very happy that it is starting to feel like home. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that a carpet may be in my future to make it feel a little more cozy, but I'm loving the way everything is coming together. I can see my kids and I learning a LOT here this year!!

I am looking forward to sharing many more pictures and experiences from this brand new building. It's an amazing opportunity to have the chance for a fresh start.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Different Perspective

I loved school when I was little, and learning came very easily to me whether I listened to my teacher, wrote my own notes or watched something being done. It's mornings like this morning that help me realize how different learning is for some of my students.

Being sick of the All Irene, All the Time broadcasting (which, as a side note, we're all good!) my hubby was flipping through the channels to find something he wanted to watch. He settled upon a car guy show, you know - the shows where they take a car apart and put it all back together to make it all awesome and cool looking.

After about two minutes of trying to watch this show with him, I found my mind wandering. I hear the words the man is saying, I'm watching what he's doing, but I have NO CLUE what is going on. Ask me to retell what he just did - HA!! I feel like I'm listening to him speak in a different language. My mind quickly started to wander to what I have to work on today, what's happening on Facebook, checking the roof to see if we lost any shingles... you get the idea.

This is exactly what school must be like for some of our students. They hear our words, but they have no idea what we are talking about. I need to take this TV experience I had this morning and keep it in mind as I work with my kids this year. It's my job to help them connect these new learnings to past experiences and prior knowledge to make it meaningful. And if they don't have the background knowledge then I need to make sure I develop enough of a foundation for them that they don't feel like I do when I was watching this show.

And who says you can't learn something by watching TV! ;)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Get Set.....

Things have been moving along quite nicely in my little room on the lower level. Books are all out on shelves, posters are up, my new magnetic word wall flanks the Smartboard, desks are arranged, folders are labeled, sticks for choosing Daily 5 are organized, and it's beginning to feel like home. I had a meeting with the other 3 members of my team yesterday, and it was great to share some laughs and goof around in addition to getting a lot of work done. I swear I had my camera for my #10pixtour yesterday, but I got so wrapped up in everything that I was doing that I forgot to take pictures! Don't worry - I promise it's coming.

The two things I'm most excited about, in terms of getting my kids more involved with presenting our class to the world, actually happened here at home. Last night I set up our brand new class website which the kids will be in charge of updating each day, and I also set up our class Twitter account so parents can follow us and get information that way. I know I can use these two tools to educate my students about being productive, respectful online citizens, and I'm hoping that I can also use these tools to educate the parents to be informed online citizens who understand all the positive aspects of social media and the web.

It's strange because I'm so used to beginning school the last Monday of August, I feel like it's time to get started. But with all of the construction and moving we'll only be having our inservice days this week. I'm looking forward to putting the finishing touches on my room and my plans, working with our staff to implement our PLP professional development plan, and seeing my kiddos when the come for open houses on Wednesday and Thursday.

I am SO excited!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Your Mark...

I am finally, legitimately excited about this school year. It took a while because of... well, because of several different things over which I have no control. I got sucked into the whirlpool of negativity, and it took me a little while to get my head on straight and escape.

Besides remembering to let go of the negative, there are a couple of other things that have me riding the WOOO HOOOO train right into the new year. First, I have finally finished unpacking everything. That doesn't mean that my room is all ready for the new year, but it does mean that there are no more boxes stacked everywhere and the clutter is controlled to the table currently in the front of my room. Now that everything is put away, I can get down to the nitty gritty of setting up my room so it will work best for me and my students. Once I get back to school I plan on getting a post with my #10pixtour so you all can see my beautiful new home away from home!

The next thing that has me pumped up is that I revisited my Daily 5 and CAFE books, and I'm starting to think about how I really want to change things up this year. Last year was a great start, but I knew that there are things I wanted to do differently. Because others were still using the more static guided reading groups with questions and assignments, I was trying to do the same. I was happy with how I allowed the students choices for what book we read and was also pleased that my groups were somewhat fluid, but I want to do away with the "busy work" I feel like kids were doing instead of the authentic reading and writing activities. I'm also looking forward to incorporating what I learned about Words Their Way into my Daily 5 work as well. After messing with my schedule I think I may have come up with a schedule that will work really well with all of my plans. I'll share more about the schedule if it gets the thumbs up from my 3 teammates. :)

The latest spark of excitement bubbled up the last two days as I was reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Three is my magic number so when two of my Super Twitter Peeps and one of my friends all mentioned this book within 48 hours of each other, I knew it was something I needed to check out. It confirmed my desire to do more with students' choices and their independent reading that I was pulling from Daily 5, and it gave me the idea for the schedule that I talked about above.

You'll probably think I'm going to say that the most important thing I learned from this book is that kids need to be reading, but that's not it. The most important thing I'm taking away is the reminder that while I can use other people's frameworks in my classroom, I need to make it my own, and THAT is what has me so excited. I've been so worried about squandering my opportunity to start fresh by "doing something wrong" that I totally missed the fact that that's impossible. I may do things that don't work quite as I'd hoped. But this is my classroom and I can't "do something wrong" as long as I'm doing right by the kids and teach what's in the curriculum.

So I'm on my mark. There's lot's to do to get ready for the new school year, but I'm ready for what lies ahead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Frozen By.....???

I'm not sure interesting is the word that I want for today, but I can't quite figure out what would be better.

On one hand, my first blog post for Voices from the Learning Revolution was published, and I am still pinching myself. One the other hand I spent my day at our summer building inservice, and I feel like a lot of the information being discussed was exactly the opposite of what I wrote.

We have a pretty unique opportunity at our school. We have the chance to start from scratch: brand new building, brand new teaching assignments, brand new teams - even for people who did not switch grade levels, things are changing. But as I listened to people talk today, I heard so much of what has been done for the last 20 to 30 years.

I've changed a lot in the past year, and I disagreed with a lot of the things that were being discussed today. For some things I spoke up, for others I kept my thoughts to myself. This is not the way I choose to run my classroom any more, and I know that if we expect schools to change and better meet the future needs of our students we need to help other teachers change, too. But how?

How exactly do you express your beliefs and try to persuade others to do things differently when they seem frozen by fear of change, by the inability to see a new picture, or by their belief system? How do you speak up without being perceived as a pushy know-it-all or a loud mouth? I see myself trying to gently nudge others to change their direction and, when they just don't budge, giving up and going in that direction with the others who already see that it's what's best for kids. But that can't be good because that means many kids aren't getting what we think they need.

Am I frozen by fear? By insecurity? Who am I to say this is what's best for kids? Am I so worried that people won't like me that I'm not willing to speak out for what is right by our students?

I recognize that if we're going to really step up and make a change, now is the time to do it. I guess the big question is HOW?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On The Doorstep

My summer of fun, my summer of cramming two summer's worth of fun into one summer, is slowly coming to an end. After spending another amazing week at Camp Can Do and a few days cleaning up the aftermath from 2 dogs and a hubby left alone for 8 days, I finally ventured in to my new school to see my new room.

My first day back always follows the same pattern, and I liken it to the first day of class when I got my syllabus. I would stare blankly at the pages covered in assignments, feel slightly like I was going to throw up, and wonder what in the world I got myself into.

Thursday was pretty much the same. After signing for my new keys and swipe card, I headed through the main hallway, down the flight of steps, and padded down the 4th grade hallway to my classroom. I stepped inside, set my things down, and looked around. I walked over to the window and put up the blinds. I looked around.

A desk.
An American flag.
2 two-drawer filing cabinets.
1 long table.
25 desks.
6 two-self metal book cases.
A flag.
An electric pencil sharpener.
2 trash cans and a recycle bin.
Two and a half skids worth of boxes piled in the corner.

I sat down at my desk and tried to set-up my voicemail box. Didn't work. I walked over to the storage area and opened every drawer and cupboard. I propped myself up on the table and looked around. I went back to my car and got the personal stuff to set up my desk and brought it back to the room. I sat some more. I literally spun in circles a few times. I walked up and down the hallway peeking in classrooms and seeing what others have already done since I'm about a week behind. I went back to my room and thought, "What in the WORLD have I gotten myself into?"

Then I got changed, helped with an orientation tour for some of our 4th graders, grabbed my purse and went home feeling completely overwhelmed.

This happens every year, although with a new building, classroom and grade level, the fear, nervousness and pit in my stomach seem to have shown up on a much grander scale. The good news is that since it happens every year I know what to do. I go to school, I have my moment, and I go home. When I go back on Monday I will be ready to tackle those boxes and set up a classroom that will work best for me and my students.

I'm on the doorstep of a new school year, and I have no idea what will happen when I cross that threshold.