Sunday, December 25, 2011

Journey Update

Here is Journey being taken by a student for his turn to see Santa.
Journey, our classroom bear, occupies a very important place in our classroom and in the hearts of my students. When he isn't traveling to far off places, he goes out with the car riders almost every day. He receives gifts of notes, art and food for special occasions, is read to almost every day and has had his picture taken with different students many times. Now he can put a visit with Santa on his list of accomplishments! Here he is being taken for his turn while wearing his very own bell from Polar Express and getting his candy cane just like everyone else in the class. I have a feeling that he plays a more important role than I ever imagined he would.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Journey is Home!

A special package arrived at school last Thursday! When we opened it, we found our traveling classroom bear, Journey! He was curled up with Baguio City coin purses for everyone and some interesting artifacts for us to study and they came all the way from the Philippines! Journey has spent several months visiting a 1st grade class there and we have been learning about life in a country 8000 miles from us through his journal entries and pictures he has sent us since school started. You would have thought Journey was the most important person they had ever met when he popped out of his bag. Their faces lit up and they could hardly stay in their seats.
I love 2nd graders! They are still willing to pretend and "believe" even though they know the difference between fact and fiction deep inside. It makes my job a lot more fun.
Oh... Journey also brought a snack for us. At first the class thought it was a bag of potato chips. Not quite! It was actually a snack of green peas called Munchers. They were a little surprised! :) We will be trying them tomorrow!
My experience with Journey has taught me some things about motivation for learning. I believe he has had a larger impact on my students by NOT being here for students to meet before he left on his trip to visit my cousin's class in the Philippines. There was an intrigue and anticipation that built over the last 3 months. They had pictures of him, read his travel journal entries and got to know him that way. I witnessed students studying maps and finding the Philippines on our globe. Getting them to write was a cinch when I asked them to write to Journey.
Now that he is home, the challenge will be to find new ways to incorporate Journey into what we are doing and keep that motivation going.

 I wonder where he could journey to next?...

Friday, November 4, 2011

 A couple of weeks ago my friend, Lisa, came to cook with us. I have a student with a peanut allergy which was brought back to the attention of the class when Lisa told him that she had brought him another treat. Soon after, I saw another little boy lean over and start to talk to him. As I moved closer to quiet him, I overheard what he was saying. With the most serious face, he said, "I'm allergic to cats and if I eat one, I will die!"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Coming Up For Air!

I'm not much of a swimmer and have never been in a race, but if I had, I can imagine that it might give me the same sensation as I have had during the last 4 weeks. I prepared for this race most of the summer. The first weeks of August were full of planning and preparing. I was doing what I could, but nothing that would help me enough to allow me to win the race without getting in the water. I feel like it shouldn't be a competition but that is exactly what it feels like so I'll continue using it.

On the morning of August 17th, I plunged in, along with all of my other colleagues, and began the underwater portion of this race. I wanted to avoid the word "race" when writing this because  It has taken me several weeks to feel like I might finally be coming to the surface for a breath of badly needed air.

Teaching has definitely changed since I was last in the classroom. As a coach, my brain always knew that teachers were being asked to step it up more and more each year. I admire all of the teachers I have worked with over the years for their hard work and expertise. It truly is one of the most taxing jobs I know of, although worth the labor because of the people who benefit - our students. 

It's the sudden dive into the water after so long, the unnerving silence as I realize how much responsibility I have in the final outcome, the struggle to keep my eyes on the goal while staying aware of where I am in my lane by constant assessment and observation. The knowledge that, as a former coach, there may be people watching to see what I have to offer to the team. The long pull as I force myself to work as hard as I can before I catch that first breath in hopes that it will get me out in front by the time I reach the surface is exhausting. I'm longing for that anticipated first breath and signal that the race is off to a good start.

I believe it will be worth the effort if I remember to swim strong and smart without panicking and flailing. The rewards will follow.

In the meantime, I want to enjoy this experience. I love the feel of the water as I move among my students and get to know them. The exhilaration of flexing my muscles as I craft my lessons and deliver them, and the small reward of a move ahead with each successful strategy that pulls us forward in the trip across the pool in our first lap, motivate me to keep on swimming.

Coming up for air and still swimming!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Still Busy!

Until further notice, this is my "home away from home." With 26 second graders to keep me busy, I feel like I'm not seeing much of my real home. After 10 years without my own classroom and then moving into a new classroom with an entire curriculum that I have never taught (except for a lesson here and there in another teacher's classroom) it is expected.
I'm sure it will get better and the planning and organization of all of the materials will fall into place soon. Then I may be able to have my old life back. You will probably see me then!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


My Workspace
 I'm sitting here at the Ford dealership waiting while my car gets serviced; with my laptop. I have so many things on my mind that I want to create for my classroom that I think I caused the service assistant's joke to sink like a lead balloon. He "jokingly" said that he could get me out of here in 3-4 hrs. And, I said with a smile, "Okay, I have my laptop along. I'll just work." From his expression, I guess that wouldn't be the usual response!
Free wireless, free lunch, giant diet Dr Pepper, 70's music, comfy chair, big table... Who could ask for more on the Saturday before school starts?
"Sir, please don't call me too soon. I'm busy!"

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone which is a very advanced skill! ;-)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Journey's Journey

This is Journey. Judy, one of my long time teacher friends who retired this year, got him for me for my birthday. The plan is for him to travel home with a different child each weekend. He will have to return from his latest trip before he can get to know my class. Today he embarked on an exciting adventure to the Philippines with my cousin, Glenna, who will be teaching there this year. As I write this, he is somewhere over the Pacific keeping Glenna company.

When he comes back I'm sure he will have lots to tell us!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone which is a very advanced skill! ;-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Journey Begins

Here are the newest additions to my classroom. Don't they make you want to begin a journey? This last week I searched several used stores and ebay for suitcases just like these to use as props and activities. I was watching several on ebay but I hated the thought of spending $30 - $50 for one. I was about ready to give up when I spotted these two sitting at a Goodwill store. I couldn't make up my mind and, after several minutes of opening and closing each one, I decided that they needed to stay together. They are a perfect, stackable pair. A few travel stickers will add the right amount of intrigue to capture the imaginations of my students.

It looks as though they have spent some time waiting in an attic or down in a basement, but in their prime, I can imagine that they took many journeys. Trips in the trunk of a car traveling down route 66, in the cargo hold of an old prop plane, maybe on an ocean liner excursion to Europe.

I wonder where they will take us this year...

 - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone which is a very advanced skill! ;-)

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Chance to Use Your Imagination! Take the Journey With Me!

I have started a page (link to the right) where I will be working on my "Journey" classroom theme. I've started some idea lists. Please feel free to comment on that page if you have other ideas that you think you can use. Thanks!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Road Trip! (teacher style!)

Shortly after my last post I came down with a bad case of allergic bronchitis. It has taken me several weeks to get my energy back. I'm so glad to be feeling better! Now I'm ready to start planning for August.

A month ago I was so tired and sick that I couldn't think, let alone plan for next year. For a few weeks I couldn't bring myself to even talk about next year. Fortunately, I'm feeling much better. I allowed myself most of the month of June to relax and think about anything but school. I feel relaxed and reenergized; ready to get started with my plans.

June activities (with bronchitis)
  • Closet in new room cleaned out and organized with the help of a good friend
  • Room packed and closed up for summer
  • Old office cleaned and closed
  • Interviewing and hiring of another 2nd grade teacher for our team
  • 2nd grade team meeting
  • A week of vacation
July: Road trip!
Today, our 2nd grade team took a road trip to Overland Park, Kansas to buy out, I mean visit some teacher stores. The drive up and back allowed for some nice discussion time. It was definitely a fun team-building activity. Setting up a new room after 10 years out of the classroom isn't cheap! I spent a larger chunk of money than I'm used to. I'm hoping to use these things for a few years!

Our Teacher Treasures by the end of the day!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Got Caught!

My principal caught me on Friday. She happened to see me as she walked down the hall.While the current occupants of my future room were out, I was measuring and creating my floor plan.  She laughed when she saw me stepping off the distance between walls and marking my grid but she knows I can't keep myself from future planning. Later I borrowed a tape measure from a custodian and discovered I'd done a really good job of estimating! I was off by less than a foot! The inset is the beginning of my floor plan. Do you think it will be difficult for me to fill all those cabinets?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Now I know!

The last few weeks have been exhausting! After deciding to go back to the classroom, I waited for several weeks for the news as to where and what grade. It was hard to wait but I'm excited for the news I received this morning. Next year, I will be teaching 2nd grade at the same school I am currently working at as an Instructional Coach! I will be joining a great team that has already welcomed me aboard and I'm stepping into the place of a retiring teacher who has taught for 37 years. Now my teacher brain that seeks to make plans can work without hesitation!

My next steps:
  • Rewrite my belief statements
  • Begin planning zones and room arrangement
  • Spend time in the curriculum and pacing guides to become more familiar with them
In the next few weeks I will be reflecting on the last 10 years and planning for the next. You can read my thoughts right here and even respond to them. I'll take any input I can get!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Letting Go

The Coaches' Office/PD room - My home away from home for the last 4 years.
     Now it feels real. I am leaving this office at the end of the month and will come back to a classroom next fall. Most of these boxes are filled with books; children's and teacher's books. I'm really not used to the office looking this way. My book characters have been taken off of the cabinet tops and stored in a plastic bag. Will I have a space for them next year? I hope so. The table is big enough for 8-10 teachers to sit around. I've used that conference table for 10 years; a witness to countless hours of conversation with collegues, passionate debates, laughter and yes, some tears. I'll be trading it and the adult-size chairs for a table with seating for smaller people next year.
    Seeing the room this way helps losen my grip on the past. If I don't let go, I can't grasp on to next year.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I think I found my twin! I didn't write this but I could have!

Putting the Nerdy Teacher Back in the Classroom - Let Project Based Learning Begin

The most wonderful thing happened to me this year – I lost my job.  After several years in full time tech integration, budget cuts landed me back into the classroom.  Isn’t that a strange twist of fate?  Yes, I was a bit bent out of shape at first, but quickly (and I mean in just a few days) realized how amazing it would be to take all the training I’ve been doing with teachers and directly give it to the students we’re trying to impact.  What would it be like to actually run my own 21st century classroom?  What tools would I need?  What projects would I want to run?...
more at:

Monday, April 25, 2011

The End of an Era (This may be too sentimental for some people.)

Today I presented what is probably my last inservice presentation as an Instructional Coach. I am really going to miss this particular duty. I know... I'm an education nerd but I just can't help it!

I have always felt fortunate that the people that make up the staff at my school are very patient and supportive. I try to engage the staff with useful and timely information, humor, interesting activities or media but these people have also sat patiently through some less than perfect sessions, technical difficulties and an assortment of other misadventures. Sometimes the speakers aren't working well and they must lean in and listen intently to the soft sounds coming from my computer. My bright ideas don't always work out exactly the way I had planned but they display flexibility and understanding and it works out. Inservice and PD days are never long enough for what I'd like to get accomplished. What I have to present isn't always what teachers want to hear but they laugh at my jokes, ask honest questions, speak their mind without attacking and take it all seriously. (Well, as seriously as they should.)

Researching, connecting, preparing, PowerPointing, creating, introducing, instructing, discussing, questioning, directing, facilitating, wrapping it up - I love it all.

It's a really good thing that I don't have to give up any of those favorite things.

Next year... I will be in a different setting. My students will be younger. The topics will be from a different point of view.

Next year... I will be able to research the best teaching strategies and interesting content to use with my own students, make connections from learning to my students' lives, prepare engaging lessons, choose just the right technology, create a successful learning environment, introduce my students to new concepts, teach them how to learn, lead them into discussions so they can learn from each other, invite them to question, direct their activities, facilitate opportunities for my students to feel successful, and wrap it all in a love of learning.

Next year... I will rejoin the ranks of the hardest working people I know. And... I'll continue to teach.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

20th or 21st Century Educator?

I read over my list of things I didn't have last time I had my own classroom today and realized that most of them are technology based. I didn't have a lot of technology in my last classroom. Over a decade ago, I had one computer for 26 students and a teacher. Even though technology is important and necessary for teaching in today's schools, there is much more to being a 21st century teacher than bringing out a piece of technology and then trying to "work it into" my lesson.

I will soon have a chance to step into the many roles of the 21st Century educator. It won't be easy. I expect to have times when I fall back into traditional methods but I will try to stay in the correct century and engage my students in a way that will help them learn best.

Technology provides many of the tools but teachers provide the opportunities to learn and apply 21st century skills. The diagram below will be my map for the next year.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Teaching Timeline

1978-1979 - Kindergarten at a pre-school
1979-1980 - Kindergarten as a long term sub
1980-1985 - First Grade full time
1985-1993 - Second Grade full time
1993-2000 - Second Grade job share
2000-2002 - Reading Resource Teacher and Core Knowledge Grant Manager
2002-2004 - Instructional Coach for two schools
2005-2011 - Instructional Coach based in one building
2011-            - Back to the classroom - Second Grade

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Change in the Wind

For the past 10 years I have served my school district as a building-based Instructional Coach. During that time, I planned and hosted professional development and inservice training for the staff at the schools in which I was based. My job also included time for coaching teachers in teaching strategies, providing resources, facilitating book studies and guiding teachers in conversations about pedagogy and data.

Last Friday we got word that the coaching program will be cut significantly because of a budget crisis. There will be fewer coaches which means traveling between buildings and less time to build relationships with teachers. In the shadow of these looming changes I have made the decision to return to the classroom next year.

This blog will chronicle my journey.