Friday, May 22, 2015

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.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Forget Superwoman, 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 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!

Wednesday, May 6, 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!

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