Guess who's a first year teacher? :)

In the last month I have worked at all four schools in my district. Maybe that needs a little explanation. 

School Number 1: For the past two years I have worked at a middle school. Unfortunately at the end of the year I got the news I was being moved to...

School Number 2: the high school to be a special ed para. I definitely had mixed feelings (I would miss the middle school a lot, I was certified k-6, high schools do have awesome environments tho) and after a couple weeks I had adjusted to the idea. It would be different, but I would still enjoy it and I would learn a lot. Then there was a para opening at...

School Number 3: the intermediate school which works with students grades 3-5. I got called in to an interview, realized how much I really would enjoy the job while at the interview, then a week later got the call: I got the job! I would be in a similar position as at the middle school working as a SRBI math and/or reading interventionist. Then a week later I got a call from...

School number 4: the elementary school which has students in grades K-2. A technology teacher position I had applied, interviewed and demo lessoned for was still open and they thought I would be a good fit, but they were concerned because I didn't have a lot of experience with the younger elementary students. The principal asked me if I would still be interested in the position if it was a long term sub position for one year where I would have the chance to learn, grow and be mentored. I obviously said YES! I had the interview with the superintendent and director of curriculum today and signed the contrast shortly after. 

My first reaction: disbelief, followed by excitement, followed by shock (is this a dream?), followed by: oh my goodness gracious! I have no clue what I am doing! 

I think my biggest thing right now is a shift in thinking. I have been a para for two years but now I'm a first year teacher. 

So I googled it. And these are some of the resources and articles I found:

1. The first article is at Education World titled "Advice for First Year Teachers-From the 'Sophomores' who survived Last Year" and contains 8 tips as well as the ABCs for first year teachers and additional resources. 

2. This second one is actually from the US Department of Education. It's actually a book from 1998 entitled "What to Expect Your First Year of Teaching". I'm sure some of the material might be dated but also sure that some of it has stood the test of time!

3. This one is a blog entry on the Washington Post's site. It is a reflection given by a high school physics teacher Kate Miller based on her own experiences as a first year teacher for what prepared her for the crucial first year.

4. This last article found at The New Teacher Center websites details the stages of being a first year teacher. Oh boy! It's intense and scary and exciting! They have a nice little graph of the stages and it looks a bit like a roller coaster! All I can say is I am definitely in the Anticipation Stage!

With a little less than a month to go (I start new teacher training on the 24th) I know these will be very busy and exciting months ahead! 


Five For Friday!

There was a moment this week when I forgot what day of the week it was. I also forgot what day of the month it was. And I almost forgot what month it was. I knew it was June, July, or August, but I wasn't quite sure which one! I wish I were joking but I’m not. (Okay I knew it was July, but not the date or day!)

Which is why it is very handy I happened to purchase a new planner for next year! Although like most teachers I love the scent of new colored pencils and crayons, I think that love is reserved for the very end of August. So I definitely surprised myself by picking out this planner. But it was too good to pass up!

First, it had the most beautiful cover: Blue with pink flowers. In the past my planners have been pretty basic: blue, black, red.
Second, it was made by a company I have used before and I like how they set up the calendar with a monthly page as well as weekly pages. The weekly pages have enough space to write down due dates, meetings, and other planning logistics.
It also has tabbed months which make it easier to find the page you want.

Speaking of shopping, I love a sale and recently bought some lovely gems from Old Navy and Binna Republic when they were having some crazy Fourth of July sales. Included are these adorable tank tops:
 The one on the left is from Banana Republic and after 40% was taken off the sale price it was only $15. The Run Rest Repeat one on the right was from Old Navy. I've already worn both, a sure sign that they’ll get good wear.

Then I realized I’m not going to be paid again until sometime in September. So after paying my credit card bill and adding up how much money I’ll need to pay other bills, I came up with how much money I can spend until then. I divided it by week, then by day. It’s actually kind of refreshing to know ‘Okay, I can only spend $X amount.’  There isn’t that nerve racking feeling of ‘Oh, I really shouldn’t be buying this, but oh well, I will anyways. I’ll pay the bill later.” It is quite frankly a relief not to have to think about how much I am spending because I know I can only spend so much. It has also made me a creative shopper.
I recently took a trip to the fabric store where I bought nada because I didn’t bring any money with me! Seriously try it: Go to a store you love but don’t bring any money at all. Just enjoy browsing. It helped that I was with my sister who was buying things so I was able to help her shop which reinforced the idea that I would love to be a personal shopper. But anyways, getting sidetracked. While there I saw lots of beautiful fabrics, and ribbons, and (fake) flowers. 
And it reminded me that in the spring I bought some fabric there with the intent to make some tank tops and a skirt and never did. I now have something to add to my summer bucket list:  Make clothes.

I’m at the end of week 4 in marathon training and it feels, pretty good. I don’t want to say awesome because I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m to 14 miles on my long run and I think I’ll be able to keep building my running base. It honestly, more than the physical exertion, is mental stamina. At the end of my 14 miler last week I was dying! Then I checked my Nike App and saw I only had .1 of a mile left to go! My pace suddenly jumped to 8:30! It wasn't the physical ability to run, but the mental exhaustion and (maybe a little) boredom. And I realize one of the keys to my long runs is to spice it up. Run for a bit on a trail, then into a random neighborhood, then through a busy part of town so you’ll be embarrassed to stop. Each week I’ll have to figure out ways to add surprises and interesting bits.  It’s all a mental game I play. Running is 40% physical and 100% mental.

And I’ll leave you with this gem. Happy Summer!


Wordless Wednesday: Classroom Clean-Up

I realized I never shared my pictures of my classroom clean-up. I think it was (confession) too emotional! But to celebrate Wordless Wednesday, I'm linking up to Second Grade Sugar and Spice with my before and after pictures! Enjoy!

This is my classroom before I began my cleanup:

Here are my two lovely computers, which yes, I named: Stanley (after Flat Stanley, because, well, the screen was flat) and Dino (because the students were always commenting on how old the computer was)

And here it is mid-clean-up.

And Ta Da....All Cleaned Up!

Now if I can just get the motivation to do some at home cleaning!


How to Rock...The Demo Lesson

As someone who is applying for jobs, I have had the opportunity to complete several demo lessons. If you are applying to a teaching position, chances are you will have a demo lesson in the process (in my experience, it goes interview, demo lesson, superintendent interview). If it's the summer and they don't have access to children (or adults pretending to be children) you might not have to do a demo lesson, especially if they have already seen you teach, let's say as a long term substitute. 

But I've always had to do a demo lesson and from my experience I've picked up some tips:

Have name tags (blank or even better already filled in) before the lesson. 
I have had demo lessons where the children already have name tags, which was awesome, but I've also had two demo lessons where the students didn't have name tags. One was in the summer and the kids were coming from a local day camp and the other was when the students were coming back from PE. 
Let me tell you, the situations where the students had name tags went SO much better. When you know the students names, the students feel welcome and appreciated. They feel acknowledged and you look more professional. I'm fairly good at remembering names, but it takes me about three times of connecting the name with the face to be able to fluently use the students’ name. Which, you guessed it: In one lesson, it led me to only remember one students name by the end of the thirty minute lesson and it was because I kept reprimanding him, which is the worst way of using a student’s name: connecting their bad behavior with name specific attention. The student learns that a teacher saying their name = something bad. 

Have a classroom management strategy. 
Keep it simple, just as a way to call the students back together, to get their attention and to use during transitions. In the past I have used a bell that I ring to get the students attention. The key to using a simple classroom management strategy in a demo lesson is to take time to explicitly teach the strategy to the students. It is completely worth it to take 5 minutes out of a 30 minute lesson to teach how you expect students to respond when you ring the bell (or clap your hands, or say "One two three"). The rest of the lesson runs a lot smoother when you do this. I've had demo lessons where I have forgotten to add the classroom management piece or I brought my bell but was so focused on the lesson that I never took time to explicitly teach the strategy. When it came time to draw the students back together (after a partner share or whole class activity), they heard the bell, quieted down for about a second, then went back to what they were doing. I could tell their mind process was "What's that noise? Okay anyway, I think for the action word we should use...” 
By not clarifying what the bell meant first and having them practice, they didn't see it as a signal. Teaching the students the signal beforehand also puts you in charge and in a place of respect. It sets the expectations and they know the rules. If they don't know the rules, they can't follow them. 
The only thing I wouldn't recommend is doing something too complicated. This is not the time to teach all of the Responsive Classroom or Whole Brain strategies! The key is to Keep It Simple and have it be something that will be useful and usable in the lesson. A bell might work well with older students who are more cued in with environmental clues, but with younger students teaching a chant might work better. 
I recently have started looking more into Whole Brain Teaching (YouTube it: There are many awesome classroom lessons using Whole Brain) and one of the cues I can definitely see using in future demo lessons is Class Yes. Here's how it works: You say "Class" and the students respond "Yes". You alternate on this by Saying "Oh Class" and students respond with "Oh Yes." You can also say "Class, Class, Class!" and the students respond "Yes, Yes, Yes!” By alternating your tone and the exact wording it ensures the students are focused and really paying attention. 

Teach your lesson before the demo lesson.
I don't care if you teach it to your goldfish, your coworker, your family, or to actual students. By running through the lesson before the actual lesson you are able to see what works and what doesn't, see if you are missing any pieces or materials, see the timing of the lesson, and see if the lesson makes sense chronologically. You want to make sure that you work out any issues the lesson has before the lesson. It's also helpful if you choose a lesson you have already taught (or even just part of a lesson you taught before). One of the best demo lessons I taught I based on a lesson from my student teaching. I expanded it a bit to meet the standards and because I was so familiar with the core of the lesson I was able to focus on the classroom management, student engagement and transitions. By practicing beforehand and using material you know, you are more comfortable and more confident (keys to rocking any lesson). 

Stick with the lesson
During my personal teaching experiences (not during demo lessons) sometimes I would think, 'Well, this is going awesome, you know, I'll just skip over the next section!' or 'Hmm. I only have 10 minutes left; I'll just skip to the closure.' 
No. Just no. It won't work. You put that part of the lesson in there for a reason. Okay, yes, sometimes students "get it" quicker then we think but did they really "get it"? The next part of your lesson is usually key to branching to the next part and the next part and...You get the idea. 
What happened with me is when I skipped parts of my lesson when we're into the next section, students have questions or are confused and could have benefited by the cut out part! Or you skip to the closure and the closure makes no sense because you missed part of the lesson!
During the demo lesson, you are with a class you probably don't know, with six or seven adults watching you, and it can be very nerve wracking. That’s why it’s so important to keep calm and stick to the lesson. In my experience, this is not the time to improvise! 
That said, sometimes you do simply run out of time (well, if you didn't practice in front of your goldfish!). In this case, when you realize you only have five minutes left, draw the activity to a close and recap what the students learned, then provide extensions to the students of what they would learn next, basing it on the missing part of the lesson.

Have a copy of the lesson as well as any handouts for each of the observers. Usually the people who have interviewed you are also the people observing you. Sometimes not (in one case only the vice principal interviewed me, but during the observation she was joined by three teachers). I generally print out 10 copies of the lesson just to make sure I have enough. I have never had a demo lesson where I had 10 observers (the largest number was 7) but it's always better to be prepared!

Dress like yourself, but dress aware.  
At one lesson I wore a black maxi skirt. It was with first graders and I knew I would be moving around a lot. Long skirt = covered, right? Except it was a very hot late spring day and I felt like I had wrapped a wool blanket around my legs! 
There is a teacher in my district who works in all four schools in district. She goes from Kindergarten to high school seniors, from state of the art air conditioning to no air conditioning. She always wears these really cute skirts but I couldn't help but wonder: How does she pull that off at the elementary school where sitting in a chair means your knees are somewhere by your chin? Then at the end of the year staff picnic (where everyone else was struggling to get onto the picnic benches and not flash everyone else) she revealed that she wears black spandex shorts under her skirts. The shorts are short enough that you don't see them but they provide coverage so you can feel comfortable you won’t accidentally flash someone. Brilliant!  
That said, I prefer either nice pants, or a semi fitted knee length skirt now for demo lessons: you’re comfortable, but you’re also covered! Win win!  And don't be afraid to let your personality show! Wear colors, prints, etc.! As long as you aren't distracting from the lesson I think your outfit should be something that you like. 

I think underlying all of these is to be organized and be prepared. If you know what you're going to do, doing it is so much easier!

What makes you (or made you) rock your demo lesson? I'd love to hear!


Five For Friday...Summertime & Happy Fourth!

This is my first five in a while. As with what normally happens, I actually wrote them the past two weeks but for whatever reason never actually posted them (I think last week I never got around to adding the pictures I wanted to add).
So! This is really a Five for (Three) Friday(s) post.

1) I am officially done with my Masters! I submitted my last assignment on Tuesday and I am done!!!  I calculated that this will be the first time in NINETEEN YEARS STRAIGHT that I haven't gone to school! Is that crazy or what? I am beyond looking forward to the break...until I get antsy/bored and start something else! We'll see as I'm holding deciding anything else until I've had at least sometime to enjoy doing nothing! 

2) June 19th was the last day of school! Whoot whoot! The last week was packed with a Luau dance, a whole school picnic, a staff picnic, a PBS work day, 8th grade promotion, an 8th grade picnic, school wide assembly....the list goes on and on....
There was also a school mile long race (as a fundraiser for The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp) and I was the first faculty finisher! Okay it was technically a tie but I jumped in front of the male teacher right before the chute. I know I'm a horrible person. 

I also received the most awesome early birthday present from my coworker:
Four boxes of crackers and one thing of Oreos...they lasted me, oh about a week.

3) I was told my placement for next year and interestingly I'll be working at a high school in the special ed department.  I never imagined working at a high school so it will be an adventure for sure! I do have to say I will miss the middle school...a lot! But new adventures are a part of life and the longer I have to get used to the idea the more exciting it seems.

4) The budget in my town passed!! The school budget passed by literally THREE votes. Three votes people!! It really shows how every vote counts. 

5) Summer bucket list: 
Train for a marathon, 
Learn to longboard (it's a long skateboard used for cruising: I bought one in May but have only learned to go down my driveway. When I tried to go up my driveway I fell and scraped my knee [but my dress did not get a tear]), 
Continue to write on my blog (I'm thinking a What I'll Miss About Middle School post is up next), 
Organize my clothes (I have clothing issues. 'Nuff said), 
Complete my coaching application (Find CPR class in the area stat).
Write. Stories, poems, blog posts. I love writing but too often I fail to make the time to do it!

And as an extra bonus update: I successfully cleaned up my rooms and desks!! Yea! Granted I was still bringing stuff home the Monday after school ended.  But hey! Whatever works right?

Happy Friday and Happy SUMMER! 


The Latest Adventure: Summer Running

Up front I'm going to admit this post has nothing to do with teaching. Instead it's all about running. 

I love running in the summertime.
If you like getting up early you can run then (I strongly advise going before 9 though or else it gets too hot) because it's light out. And if you like night running (me!) then you can run in the light of the setting sun while secretly sweating to death because it's still secretly hot out from the day.

That said I did something crazy on Monday: I signed up for an October marathon. Yes a marathon. 26.2 miles.
I've only run one mile races and 5Ks before! I even bowed out of running a half marathon in my own town!

I started a marathon plan last week and wanted to make it official by registering (They always say having an actual race helps to motivate you).

Oh how easy it is to agree to run that far in October when it's only June.
Clearly my euphoria of successfully completing my ten miler had me in a deranged state.

Then to make things worse I shared on Facebook that I would be running said race. And we all know, if it's on Facebook, it's official. No backing out now.

Of course it turns out a woman I know from high school is going to be running the exact same race!
Which is why I'm making my race plans even more official by putting it up here.

Feel free to cheer me on this summer as I attempt to run and blog. Hopefully I'll be successful at both!

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