Friday, May 22, 2015

I could have died. But I didn't. So let's enjoy the weekend!

Last weekend, I wrote my post about making learning count during the last few weeks of school. I was determined to not countdown the year, but instead focus on making the last three weeks of school something my 3rd graders would remember.

Then came Monday.
I had some chest pains on Sunday that were quite intense through Sunday night. I decided that on Monday morning I would run into a walk-in clinic before heading into school. I thought I had pulled a muscle and figured some type of medication would clear it up. When I got to the clinic, I was first diagnosed with some type of inflammation and was going to be prescribed a steroid and higher dosage of ibuprofen. For some reason the diagnosis just wasn't sitting well with me, which I stated in a text to my husband. Then the doctor came back into my room, asking me about our plane trip to Spain and some other questions. I shared with her some strange bruising I had on my leg and asked her if she thought they could be related. Her face immediately changed into concern. She then told me she thought I actually had a blood clot in my lung and I needed to proceed immediately to the ER because I could die.

Yes. On Monday, I was told that I could die.

Needless to say, I was rushed to the ER where every blood test, CT scan, x-ray, heart echo, and other tests were conducted with a diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism. I had a blood clot in my lung. I ended up being admitted to the hospital where I have spent the past four days.

Four days of laying in a hospital bed gives you a lot of time to think.
I thought about my life.
My family.
My friends.
My students.
My career.
My priorities.

I'm ecstatic to share that today, I came home. As I'm typing this, I'm sitting in my front yard enjoying the warm sunshine and soft breeze as my daughter plays and my dog lays in the grass next to me. I can hear my son playing his piano through his window.

On Monday, I could have died.
But, today, I'm happy to say I'm alive.
And I won't be wasting tomorrow!

It's okay to have plans. I will admit that I am one that always has a backup plan for the backup plan. But, remember that sometimes life doesn't necessarily follow a plan. Sometimes we just have to go with the flow. Take time to just be. Enjoy the important things like friends and family. Stop and smell that flower. Walk on the beach. Relish the quiet moments.

This weekend is a long weekend for many of us. I encourage you to make sure to take time to do something unplanned with the people who mean the most to you. Because remember that life is not a guarantee and you never know when you may be told that you could die.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Don't countdown, but make the learning count!

The days leading up to summer vacation can be some of the most challenging in classrooms. It is critical that teachers have a survival plan in place. Oh and there is not any place in that survival plan to share a countdown with students. Well maybe in the last 5 days, but not before then.

Instead of focusing on the countdown, focus on making the learning count!

One thing I do to end the year with a bang is to use one of my favorite books for reading. We do a unit on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that includes painting with chocolate pudding, creating character puppets, using recycled materials to create a new candy making invention, taking a virtual field trip to Hershey's chocolate factory and so much more. We end the unit by inviting parents to the classroom to see Mrs. Tuttle's Chocolate Factory where kids show their parents all the activities they have completed over the past two weeks. When I see my previous students, this the first thing they will talk about, our Chocolate Factory Unit, and when my students come in for meet the teacher, inevitably one, two, or a few will mention how they can't wait to do it at the end of the year.

So pick a book that you enjoy and want to share with the students. Then decide how you can go beyond the book and use activities to engage your learners. Think about ways you may be able to mesh subject areas too. Don't reinvent the wheel! Chances are if your book has been around then you can find Pinterest boards, Teachers Pay Teachers resources, or just do a search on Google to find already planned activities. You will be excited because you chose something you enjoy and your students will love it, too!

Usually at the end of the year, the testing is finished and most of the content has been covered so take some time to introduce your students to something new. What is something you wanted to learn more about? Something you want to use in your classroom next year? Let your students be the guinea pigs. Give them the tool, app, game, activity, whatever...and let them explore. Chances are they will be able to teach you something new and you will discover how you can successfully implement it next year.

Some activities I'm doing to wrap up the year:

  • Incorporating games! After a fabulous #satchat on Twitter, I realized that I under utilize games in my classroom. Games can teach life lessons (problem solving, risk taking, perseverance, sportsmanship, collaboration, etc) so why not incorporate them more. I would like to do a few game periods where students just play and learn. So far I'm thinking Battleship, Scattegories, Set, Blokus, Scrabble, Monopoly...what would you add?
  • Exploring and reviewing apps! I am lucky enough to have accessible iPads and I want to find new ways that students can use them to create products. There are so many apps available that I know I'm missing many useful ones that could enrich my students learning. I also know that my students probably use some already that they could share with me. I plan to spend some time letting my students find and review apps. Part of their assignment will be writing a convincing review of why I should download it and use it next year.  
  • Genius Hour! This year was the first year I implemented Genius Hour and my students LOVED it. They would ask every day if it was Genius Hour day. If you are not familiar with Genius Hour, it is simply providing students with time to learn about what they want to learn about. Some of the projects from my class included learning about sea glass, finger knitting, solar system, creating a Lego animation, coding, wolves, school gardens, using a Smartboard as a green screen, tornadoes...the possibilities are endless. Give students the time to learn what they want to learn and trust me you will learn too!
Whatever you do, I encourage you to stay structured, planned, and keep the focus on learning. Make the last days you have with your students count. These days could be the ones that the students end up remembering the most!




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It's OK to Argue

I am all about discussion in the classroom. I enjoy hearing the students talk back and forth and participate in meaningful conversations. Learning how to effectively communicate is a life skill and I want to help my 3rd graders develop this skill.

The other day the students were participating in a number talk, where they share strategies they used to solve a math problem. While we have talk moves that help foster positive interactions, we don't always follow the "raise your hand before you speak" rule, but instead will banter back and forth. I see this as more real life application since we don't go around raising our hand every time we want to talk to somebody in the real world. During this particular number talk, a student shared a strategy that many did not agree with and they were quick to say so. The student shared that they almost felt attacked by all who were quick to comment about what was wrong with his idea. 

This led to a teachable moment as we discussed how it is okay to argue, but it is all about how you go about doing it. Some students related this to arguing with their parents and how they would get in trouble for talking back to them. But then others pointed out that if perhaps the students talked to their parents calmly, asked questions, or shared how they felt about something, that their parents may not think they were arguing. We discussed different ways we could express that we disagree with somebody without being disrespectful or hurting the other person's feelings. The students had some great ideas as far as watching how loud their voice was, choosing their words carefully, and even talked about body language. I was impressed!

It is important that we teach our students that it is okay to disagree and argue a point. We want them to critically think, make judgements, and stand up for themselves and what they believe. How will they learn these skills if we never give them an opportunity to question?


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Forget Superworman, I'm a TeacherMom!

Mom's have a tough job. They take on so many roles to meet their family's needs and keep their households running smoothly.

Teacher's have a tough job, too. They take on so many roles to meet their student's needs and keep their classrooms running smoothly.

TeacherMom's??!! Well they deserves capes all of their own.

I've been a TeacherMom for 14 years now. While each job has it's own challenges and rewards, I believe each helps me be better at the other. 

 I often find myself asking myself in the classroom, how would I want my own child's teacher to react in a situation. What would I want them to say to my child? How would I want them to make my own child feel?  

Being a teacher also allows me to be a working mom and have a career where I'm not known as mom, but just Melissa...an educator. I've always known I would be a working mom and being a teacher has allowed me the career I desired while allowing me (most of the time) to put my family first. Best of two worlds! With a 14 and 10 year old with busy lives, our schedules can be quite crazy, but the time we get to spend together is treasured. 

But, being a teacher mom can have it's downfalls as well. After answering 500 questions all day, I don't want to answer another 500 at night. After using all my patience on other children, I can get short quickly with my own. And after correcting misbehaviors and poor manners, I have high expectations for my own children's actions. While I think homework projects are great as a teacher, I loathe them as a parent. I speak about being involved, checking the bookbags, and signing papers only to miss most activities that occur during the school day (thankfully others always step in!) since I have a class of students counting on me, glance in the bag once a month when papers start falling out, and have been that parent sending the paper back on the last day it's due. 

As all working moms, it's a challenge making it all work. Being the best in both worlds. But, we try! and as we tell our kids and students, that's all we can ask for!

Happy Mother's Day to all the TeacherMom's out there saving the world, one family and one classroom at a time!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spring Renewal

Spring is finally in the air! It seems that with the warm weather and everything blossoming, there is a reawakening in the world around me.  I have found myself reflecting a lot lately about where I am and where I'm going professionally.

Lately I've been reading much about growth mindset. The idea that with persistence, effort, and hard work you can accomplish whatever you choose. I truly believe this! So then, the question becomes, what do I want to accomplish??

I know that I will be an administrator within the school system at some point in my career. I don't know when, but I know it will happen. I know after that I want to delve into a curriculum position. I have even thought about the after that, as my 2nd profession would be work in a university with pre-serivce teachers. So where does that leave me now?

My current goal: To continue learning and growing in my profession and being a teacher leader.

Next year, I will be taking on a new role within my school. I will be teaching accelerated students in a brand new program being offered in my district. There is SO much for me to learn so that I can excel in this position. To be qualified, I had to begin working towards earning my certificate as a Teacher of Gifted and Talented Students. I have completed 2 out of my 5 classes so far and will be completing 2 more over the summer. I have LEARNED so much. It has been so exciting to take what I'm learning and turn around and apply it immediately in my current classroom. I found that as a teacher I was not best meeting the needs of a group of my students. Now I am more cognizant of these learners and thoughtful when planning so that I can better meet their needs as well as others.

With my new position, I will have the opportunity to not only impact students within my classroom, but I will also be given the chance to work with more of my colleagues.  I am looking forward to sharing strategies they can use to provide enrichment within their classrooms as well. 

So that is where I am today.

Which brings me to the actual intention of this post...my blog redesign!
As part of my goal to continue learning, growing, and being a leader, I want to take the time to use this space to reflect on and share my learning. My hope is that through sharing what I'm learning, I may be able to impact people beyond my school, district, state. As a social media enthusiast, I thrive in making connections and building my PLN. Technology makes the world smaller and opens so many possibilities. It would be foolish not to utilize it to help me reach my goals. 

So I've cleaned up my blog, bought the domain, and connected all the profiles.
I'm ready.
This learner and leader is ready to tackle 21st education!
Will you join me on my journey??