Wednesday, February 27, 2013

State Pride and How I Ended Up in New Jersey!

Do you have pride in your state?  Like to represent where you live?

If so, you should totally join in the fun over at Fifth in the Middle!  Diane is hosting a linky called Bloggers by State.  You can pick up a cute button for your state to add to your page.  Then, you can peruse and find other bloggers from where you live and the other great states.

Here's mine:

Personally, I never imagined living in New Jersey, but God clearly had other plans for me.  In honor of my new NJ pride, I thought I would quickly share the crazy story of how a Midwestern girl like myself ended up in the Northeast.

The story starts in the spring of 2011.  I was down in Lynchburg, Virginia, finishing my final semester of school at Liberty University by student teaching in an inner city school (more on that another day).  

As graduation loomed every closer, I began to experience what most college seniors do...FEAR.  The Big Bad World was approaching and I was in a straw house with no where to go once I switched my tassel.

So, I did the only two things I could do:
  1. Prayed
  2. Applied for Jobs
When I say I did those two things, I mean I really did them.  My life outside of student teaching, which was busy and insane enough, became consumed with surfing the internet for job openings, going to job fairs, writing cover letters, filling out applications, printing out resumes.

I honestly don't even know the exact count of how many jobs I applied for.  I applied for every position I could find in OH, PA, VA, and MD.  I think I have about 50 different cover letters saved on my computer to this day, some of which, I probably wrote in my sleep just out of habit.

Out of all of the jobs I applied for, guess how many interviews I had....


Well, unless you count the two or three I had in a busy hallway at school during a job fair.  I don't.

The interview I had was actually after graduation, so, I graduated without having a job lined up.  Scary.  However, the fact that I was in the same boat as most of the other education majors made me feel a wee bit better.

Anyways, the interview was with a charter school in Erie, PA.  It was a great school and I had worked hard to keep in contact with the HR rep for several months.  However, the interview I had was more like substitute teaching for the day, with pay!  Afterwards, I was told they liked me, but didn't know if they had a position open.  Fun stuff.  Not.  It was especially frustrating since I had driven myself out there and had the interview only TWO days after having thyroid surgery!  I had to wear a scarf to cover the stitches on my neck, so they wouldn't think I had been in a knife fight!

At this point, you may be asking: "What about NJ?"  "Will this story ever end?"

I promise it will.  I'm getting to the good stuff now.  At least, I think so.

The day after my failed interview in Erie, I flew out to New York for my best friend, Jessica's wedding.  During my days out there, I had a wonderful time being a bridesmaid with some great friends.  

However, at night, the reality of not having a job would hit both Jessica and me, so we would start discussing the future.  One night, as Jessica and I were talking, she said, "You should apply out in New Jersey, near where I will be living."  

My response at the time, was "Yeah, maybe.  I'll think about it"  I loved the idea of being near her, but the thought of figuring out licensure for yet another state made me want to throw up.

Still, two days after returning from her wedding, on Tuesday, June 7, I randomly applied for a job in a school district near where she and her hubby would be living.

Here's a timetable of what happened next:

Tuesday- Applied for job
Wednesday- Missed an evening call from a principal to schedule interview
  • Called to set up interview.  
  • Found out interview was Friday, the NEXT DAY!!
  • Decided to go to interview
  • Packed bag, booked hotel, PLANNED A LESSON, and drove 8.5 hours by myself from OH to NJ
  • Stayed in a hotel by myself
Friday- Had the interview.  Was offered the job.  Freaked out.  Asked for time to think.
Saturday and Sunday- Prayed.  Freaked out.  Prayed.  Talked to my parents.  Prayed some more.

That is literally what happened.  Boom.  Boom.  Boom.  Door opened.  Becky has a job.

The worst part about me accepting the job was that Jessica was still on her honeymoon, so I had to wait a whole week to tell her!!!  When she got back, I called her and was like, "How was your honeym...I got a job in NJ!!!"  She was so psyched!

So, that's how I got a job in NJ.  I will spare you the crazy details about how my mom and I spent the rest of the summer apartment hunting and spending WAY TOO MUCH money on supplies for me and my classroom.  

Overall, how I got to NJ was a crazy experience, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.  It is so clear to me that God had a plan and opened the right doors in His timing.

If you are still here, thanks for sticking with me through the saga.  I would love to hear a bit about your applying/interviewing/getting a job experiences.  Leave me a comment!

Also, today is exactly one month from the official day for the One Meal, One Day campaign to help hungry children in Ethiopia.  If you don't already know about it, please click the button below to find out more.  I have some great products I would love to give you as a thank you for donating!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Manic Monday and Math Week! Freebie Included!

Manic Monday says it all.

I don't even know how to express how crazy and hectic today was.  It was truly a test of my flexibility as a teacher.

To start off, I got to school already feeling mentally busy because I knew I had to finish a few assessments and input final grades by 3:30 p.m.  I also knew that I had a child study determination meeting for my sweet boy who is WAY behind grade level.  Plus, I knew that it was the start of Math Week, which meant that other classes were going to visit my room to play math games and that my class was leaving to visit theirs.

Upon entering my classroom, I discovered that my room must have been converted into a walk-in freezer because it was RIDICULOUSLY AND INCREDIBLY COLD!!!!!!  I am pretty sure these penguins would have felt quite comfortable there.

I was very surprised to discover how cold it was because usually my room is one of the very few that actually maintains a normal temperature, rather than being a sauna or a freezer.

Not knowing what to do about the temperature situation, I proceeded to prep for the day with goose bump-covered arms, shaking fingers, and chattering teeth.

Upon conferring with the teacher in the room next door, I learned that my classroom was not the only one that had been moved to Antarctica.  In fact, several of us were having sub-zero experiences and the principal was trying to remedy the situation by having classes meet in the library.  However, I was told to just take my class right to specials as usual because the room would be fixed by the time they were over.

Yeah right.

No one came to fix anything during my prep.  I know that for a fact because my meeting was canceled, so there was no escape from the cold for me, at least not if I wanted to be productive.  :-(

After, I picked up my kids from P.E., I had them gather some supplies to bring to the library.  There were some free tables, since my neighbor's class had just vacated them in order to go to specials.  In the library, I attempted to whisper-teach a reading lesson on looking at close-ups in nonfiction books by moving from table to table holding up a book.  I will probably have to re-teach that tomorrow.

At 10:15, I was told by the secretary that the heat should be better now, so I could take my kids back to the room for math centers.

It wasn't.

Fortunately, for my kids, they didn't have to stay in the room, but rather got to travel to two other classes to play math games.  I hosted two other classes for 30 minutes each.  Thankfully, it takes at least 40 minutes to make human popsicles.

Once I got my kiddos back, we all managed to survive until recess by wearing our winter coats.  Then, after lunch, I carted a bunch of materials to the computer lab and we spent the rest of the day there using the computer tables for desks and the carpet space for a writing lesson.  The kids were pretty good about the whole situation, so I rewarded them and myself by letting them play computer games for the last 30 few minutes of the day.  

When we got back to the room for dismissal, the heat was FINALLY working and the room was getting a bit warmer.  It was still pretty bad though, so between that and the fact that I was just worn out from all of the insanity, I booked it out of school at 3:30 on the dot.

I am really hoping that my classroom is a normal temperature tomorrow.  With my luck, it will be a sauna and we will be sweating bullets as day!

That would be terrible.

Anyways, now that I am done ranting about the temperature, I would love to share a math freebie with you.  As I said, it's Math Week at our school where we are celebrating math and looking for it in the world around us.  Tomorrow's activity will be food math during snack time, which should be fun.  I am having a parent come in to do a Skittles graphing activity.  Should be fun.

In honor of Math Week and my Manic Monday, I created a Froot Loops sorting and graphing activity.  You can pick it up for FREE by clicking the picture.  I would love it if you would let me know if you download it.

Whew.  That's it for my Manic Monday.  Time to go get my hip-hop on at dance class!  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Report Card Comments Celebration!!

Happy Sunday everyone!

I am not going to write a huge post cause I am tired and have been doing way too much school work all weekend; however, I just wanted to have a mini celebration because....


If I wasn't feeling so tired and lazy right now, I would be doing a happy dance.  Instead I will post a video of one.  :-)

Any other Madagascar fans out there?  I happen to LOVE all three movies, especially the first and the third.  I actually have a special bond with one of the characters who happens to be my animal alter-ego, but I am not sure if I am ready to confess that to the world yet....

Back to report card comments, I am honestly shocked that I got them done in about 3 hours.  Usually they take me longer.  Our district requires narrative comments about reading, math, and social/emotional/behavioral stuff.  I actually am okay with having to write about those things because it helps me prepare for conferences; however, it takes a long time to think about what to copy and paste write for each student, especially since everything has to be said as positively as possible.  There are only so many phrases that sound positive, while still expressing concern.  Some of my favorites are "working towards...," "needs to develop...," "making progress in...," "needs support and encouragement to..." etc.  With all that extra language, I have a terrible time being thorough, but concise.  My comments usually end up being at least half a page long.

Fortunately, I had the time tonight, after Josh left, just to focus and get them done.  They aren't officially due until Thursday, but with needing to lesson plan during the week and having a busy weeknight schedule, I figured today was the day to do them.

Well, that's about it for my little celebration.  Does anyone else have anything to celebrate?

Also, what does your district require for report card comments?  I am interested to hear what you have to do.

Friday, February 22, 2013

It's Finally (5 for) Friday!! March Freebie Included!

Boy am I ready for the weekend!  I have had enough of assemblies, meetings, lock down drills, one-on-one assessments, grading, and everything else for the week!

Unfortunately, I have to continue grading like a maniac this weekend because report card grades are due on Monday.  I can't believe how many assessments I had to squeeze into the last 3 weeks.  I feel a bit badly for my firsties because I know I have been driving them really hard so that I could get everything done and so that they could show me what they know and don't know.

Overall, I have seen a lot of progress in my kiddos.  Many of them are reading on grade level after starting the year a level or two below.  Also, many of my kids did better on the math test than I thought they would.  The problem with the test wasn't that I hadn't taught them the concepts in the chapters; it was that the test DID NOT MATCH THE LESSONS!!!!!

I hate it when that happens.  I mean come on, I spent all this time trying to teach these crazy complicated ways to add and subtract by making and grouping ten etc., and then the test has INSANELY complicated higher order thinking questions that look NOTHING like the ones in the workbook.  Ugh.

Do you agree with me that these problems are a bit two abstract for first graders?

Alright, enough ranting/venting.  Time for my favorite linky parties: Five for Friday and TBA Friday Freebies!

1. Magnets!!!!!  Throughout school, I never was a huge fan of science, except for when we got to do hands-on experiments.  I never found topics interesting unless I could really engage with them.  Now that I am a teacher, I try to fit in as many hands-on science activities as possible.  This week, we got to do some of my favorite ones involving magnets.  The first day, I just let the kids experiment with the magnets to see what they would stick to.  Then, I had them predict and test whether or not the magnets would attract to certain objects.  We also did an experiment to figure out which poles attracted and which poles repelled.

2. Black History Month Presentations- All week during snack time, the kids got to present/share their Black History Month projects.  Each student shared about the famous African American he/she researched and then the class asked questions.  I was very pleased with how the projects turned out.  Some of my kids were so creative!  By the way, you can get the project template FREE here.

Here are some of the ones that turned out awesome!

3. Day 100- Wednesday was our 100th day of school.  I honestly did not have the time with all of the assessments to make a huge deal out of it, but we still did some fun things.  The kids shared their collections of 100 items, did 100 day math activities including writing a name pattern in a 100 chart, playing the 100 Tally Game, and writing pages for the Wolf's Chicken Stew class book.  All of those ideas and activities are available FREE on Mathwire here and here.

4. Unannounced Observation- On Thursday, as the kids were unpacking, I got a call telling me that I would have my unannounced observation sometime that day.  Since I had been anticipating it for 3 weeks, I was not totally panicked, which was good, especially since my prep time got taken up by a lockdown drill, so I literally had no extra time to prepare and fancy things up for the day.  My hopes came true when my principal walked in just before I started reading.  I had really been hoping she would come to see the daily 5 because it is working so well right now.  Of course, I was still nervous that it wouldn't go well that day, but my fears did not come true.  The kids did a fantastic job!  I taught a mini-lesson on diagrams and labels in nonfiction books and then let the kids go to their centers.  They worked so hard and needed very little redirection.  I was able to assess kids the whole time without too many interruptions.  I was so happy with how things went, especially when I got AMAZING feedback at my post-observation conference today.  I was on cloud nine as I walked out of the office this morning after hearing some great things.

5. One Meal, One Day Fundraiser- This week I officially launched my One Meal, One Day fundraiser for Compassion International.  One Meal, One day is a great campaign dedicated to helping starving children in Ethiopia by raising awareness and money.  I have teamed up with some other blogger friends to promote this campaign with a goal of raising $500 by March 27.  As a thank you for donating, my friends are offering you some great products for FREE.  Please click the pictures below to find out more and to donate now.


Finally, before I sign off for this Friday, I want to share a freebie with you.
Freebie Fridays
This week's freebie is a end of the day reflection sheet for each day of March.  You can pick up a PDF version or an editable word version by clicking the links below.
PDF Version
Word Version
Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Show and Tell Tuesday: Book Share and A Hall Pass

Oh Tuesdays.  They aren't Mondays, but they are always my longest day because of pointless, boring, tedious, informative after school meetings.

Today's meeting was actually important, but in a sad and scary way because it was a training session for Active Shooter Drills.  We had a police officer come to visit to tell us about some of the new protocols including that our administrators now have to actually say, "active shooter" for the drills, rather than just "Code Red."  Apparently, the police and the district are mandating the use of plain English for clarity.

Personally, I cannot understand why that language is necessary.  As a teacher in a K-2 school, I hate to think of how all the little ones are going to react when they hear that announcement over the loudspeaker.  In fact, I don't think I am going to handle it very well myself, especially since the word "drill" is totally forbidden.

The most unfortunate thing is that we have to have these drills at all.  It is sad to realize how many incidents there have been in the last few years and how they have continually escalated.  I wish that our children could stay innocent and not have to worry about such scary things, but I guess if being prepared can save lives, it's worth it.

Anyways, on to a happier topic...FAVORITE BOOKS!!!!  I LOVE children's books.  What teacher doesn't?

Therefore, I am excited to be linking up with Denise from Sunny Days in Second Grade for her Show and Tell Tuesday on Favorite Books.

Asking me to choose my favorite read alouds is like asking me to choose my favorite song or my favorite food.  There are just some things that can't be narrowed down to one or two choices.  So, here are some of my absolute favorites.  You might notice that many of them are Caldecott books.  That may have something to do with the fact that my senior thesis was called, "The Appeal of Caldecott Award Winning Books and Their Importance in the Classroom."  :-)

This is a beautifully illustrated book about an adventurous young girl in France.  The students can really connect to Mirette's emotions and they love the colorful artwork.  
All of David Wiesner's books are fantastic!  They are wordless picture books that are so creative and interesting.  They allow for the students to be creative and imaginative in ways that no other books can.

My students go CRAZY for this book.  It cracks them up!  The whole story is about a pig who is trying to write a book, but can't because you, the reader are interrupting him.  I use it to introduce writing workshop at the beginning of the year.  I like to get really animated when reading it to make it extra fun!

I love pretty much all Kevin Henkes books.  His characters are so cute and the stories are great for discussing character traits and for teaching reading and writing.

I use this book to teach predicting.  Read more about it here.

I read one chapter of a Dessert book every day after lunch for "dessert."  The kids LOVE hearing about Dessert's crazy adventures.  The books are also good for practicing predicting, visualizing, and connecting.

Well, those are some of my favorites.  I could list so many more, but I want to stop there, so I can give you a Hall Pass.  Reagan from Tunstall Times is hosting this unique linky.

Product- Right now, two of my favorite products are Word Family Picnic from Joy in the Journey.

If you would like to get both of these products for FREE and help out Ethiopian children, visit my One Meal, One Day Post now!

Area- My favorite area in my classroom is my Calendar board and carpet area.  It is the place where we start our day and where the kids learn to use math in many real life ways.  It is also the place where we do some of the best learning in all subject areas.  I love having my students close together and ready for collaborative learning.

Signal- Give Me Five!  It's a simple signal that requires kids to not only look, but respond with the action of holding up their hand to give me five.  

Sanity- I keep myself sane by praying continually throughout the day.  Also, I make a point of stopping to eat lunch in Teachers' Lounge for at least 15 minutes or so.  It's good to get out of the classroom to take the time to socialize with my colleagues, even though we usually end up discussing school stuff.

How do you stay sane?  What are some of your favorite books?  Click on the buttons above to link up and join the fun.

Also, before you go, take a minute to find out how you can get SEVEN great products just for donating to a good cause.  Thanks in advance for your generosity!

Monday, February 18, 2013

One Meal, One Day Fundraiser- Freebies for Donors!!

Have you ever skipped a meal?

Maybe you were just too busy to take the time to eat.  Maybe you were trying to shed a few pounds.

I bet you weren't starving.

I bet you could have had food if you had wanted some.

Unfortunately, many people around the world do not get to choose to skip meals.  

They have to.  They don't have food.  They can't eat.

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time imagining living like that.  I get grouchy when I don't get to have my afternoon snack and I'm sad when I can't have ice cream for dessert.  

My students are like me too.  At school, I can always tell it's time for snack because my kids start losing focus and energy.

For children living in poverty in Ethiopia, missing meals is just part of their daily life.  These children have to work, study, play, and live life, all while ignoring the gnawing hunger.
At this point, some of you may be asking me why I am going on about this.  Why depress us with sad facts?  There's nothing we can do.

Ah, but there is!

All it takes is skipping one meal and donating what you would have spent on lunch to the One Meal, One Day Campaign.

One Meal One Day is an annual event that unites thousands of people to skip a meal, experience hunger and give funds so that children in poverty can receive the help they desperately need.

This year Compassion International is channeling its efforts to Ethiopia, a place where drought and poverty are so extreme, many children registered in Compassion programs require extraordinary food interventions in addition to Compassion's core health and nutrition services.

There are 3 ways you can jump in and change a child's world in Ethiopia. Check out the options below and select the one that works best for you.

I personally am going to skip a meal, but whether you do or not, you can still help out by donating. I set up a fundraising page and have a lofty goal of raising $500 by March 27.  I would love for you  to help me meet my goal by donating to help Ethiopian children.

In fact, I have teamed up with some incredibly generous blogger friends to offer you some wonderful gifts as a thank you for donating.  If you donate $10 or more to the One Meal, One Day Campaign, here's what you will receive:

From Mrs. Leeby, her Owl Tens Frames!!!

From Jessica from Joy in the JourneyAngry VerbsWord Family Picnic, and Solving Shamrocks Addition.

From Amanda and Stacia over at Collaboration Cuties their awesome Superhero Problem Solving Strategies Posters!

But that's not all...

Be one of the first 5 people to donate and you will also receive your choice of any product from Michele from The Lightbulb Lab's TpT store!!  That's right, you get to choose!


Donating is quick, easy, and secure.  Just click the picture below.  Please make sure to leave your e-mail address when you donate, so I can send you the products.  
Donate Now!
Imagine if you and all of your followers gave even $1.  What a difference we could make.

Also, if you would like to spread the word about this campaign, grab my button or the one below.

Thanks in advance for your generosity!!