Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Myself During Distance Learning

10 – I Would Not Be Good At a Desk Job

I have learned I can NOT sit in one spot all day on my computer. I love teaching for many reasons but one of the reasons (that I never realized until now) is because I am constantly moving around the room multitasking and working with multiple students at the same time. I love how no day is the same and I drink 2 water bottles of water a day because I’m so active. I used to be excited to lounge out on my couch binging the newest Netflix show but now I would give anything to run around with my head cut off in the classroom.

9 – My Patience Has Its Limits

I think I’m a very patient person but I have learned that between the internet failing, Seesaw crashing, and students only doing assignments they want to do I have lost it a few times. It’s hard to keep your cool when your students are all freaking out because they can’t check assignments on Seesaw because it’s down or they’re constantly messaging you because you’re not responding to their posts because your internet is down. It’s hard to stay calm when things, completely out of your control, are preventing you from doing your job.

8 – I Actually Don’t Hate Google Classroom

Before distance learning I was not a fan of Google Classroom….(sorry). My teammates are huge fans but every time I tried to use it in my class, something went wrong. With distance learning, I didn’t really have a choice but to become familiar with it. I have to say, after 8 LONG weeks, I’ve actually come to enjoy it. It has become an easy way to stay connected with my students and to share fun videos and read alouds with them.

7 – I’m Even More Awkward During PLC’s Now That They’re Online

I’m a super awkward person in general. During PLC’s at school, I would be one to just sit there and not say anything because I was so scared to say something stupid. Now, having Google Meets PLC’s, I’m even more awkward than ever. Actually, the PLC’s in general are more awkward than ever! Maybe it’s just our grade level, but no one talks AT ALL. It is silent for a good 2 minutes before someone finally takes charge and says something. Of course, I still don’t say anything (because I’m awkward) so I just sit there, staring at myself in the camera. It’s great….

6 – I Miss My Team

In my school there are 10 of us who teach 4th grade. Because there are so many of us, we are split into 2 teams of 5. My team of 5 is amazing. We have become so close during this past year. They also were there for me when I had to transition from 3rd to 4th in less than a week without really even knowing who I was. We would always have the best talks about teaching and life during prep and lunch. I miss those talks so much. They would always keep me sane during those crazy tense days. They are amazing ladies and I hate not seeing them everyday.

5 – Wine Understands

I hate to admit it, but I feel like I’ve been drinking WAY more than normal. Even though I’m teaching from home, I seem to be having more bad days than I do teaching in the classroom. Because of that, wine has become my best friend. Enough said.

4 – I Don’t Find The End of the Year Fun Anymore

As teachers, we all know how fun the end of the year can be! There are so many fun activities and projects to do that keeps May moving. We all know that the month of May is crazy because everyone is checked out (students and teachers.) Because of that, we try to make May fun. Between field trips, track and field day, and themed dress up days, May stays busy and exciting. I miss that.

3 – I Miss Read Alouds

Reading to my students is the BEST part of my day. I LOVE watching their reactions to the stories and I LOVE the conversations we have about what we read. Not having that these past few months, has been hard on me. I’ve tried to have live read alouds daily but it’s still not the same. I would give anything to have one more day to read to them out loud.

2 – I’m Having a Hard Time Staying Positive

I usually try to be a very positive person but it’s been hard. This whole situation has been hard. It’s crazy how much we take for granted. Life has been weird for all of us but my life has totally changed. Teaching has always been my life, and now, I don’t have that. Sure, I’m teaching online but it is not the same. That’s been hard. Also, because of COVID, the district’s budget for next year has been cut significantly. Because of that and because I’m not tenured yet, my position has been cut. I’m not going to lie, knowing that I don’t have a job at this point, is killing me. It’s hard to stay positive when the one thing you love is taken from you. It’s also hard to stay positive when there is a very real possibility I won’t see my students in person again. I’ve had my moments more these past few months, than I’ve had in the past few years. I just want things to go back to normal and I want my students back.

1 – I MISS MY STUDENTS

I think that explains it all. I miss them so much. They are amazing kids and seeing them on a Google Meets is not even close to seeing them at school. I am with my students more than anyone else in my life and I don’t get that right now. They mean the world to me and it breaks my heart they have to go through this as well. The worst part is we never got a proper goodbye. Friday, March 13th was our last day at school but we assumed we’d be back on Monday. We had no idea things would change so fast. If I knew then that I wouldn’t see my students (possibly) again, I would have made that Friday the best day ever. I would have given them the closure we all need. I miss them so much. I went into teaching because I love kids and I wanted to make a difference in their lives. Right now, that’s all on pause.

 

 

For more day to day action, go follow my teaching Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

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Distance Learning – Please Be Kind.

Hi friends! I hope quarantine and social distancing is treating you well (as well as it possibly can.) I’ve had a lot of time to sit back and think about certain topics during this period that I may not have spent much time thinking about before. I’m sure we’re all in the same boat. I wanted to share my thoughts about what it’s like being a teacher during this time. I am now ending my 3rd official week of teaching distantly and there have been some things that have worked well but a few things that have also bothered me, especially when it comes to working with parents in a new way.

I have been fortunate enough to have an amazing class this year. If you’ve been following along my 3rd year journey, you know how incredible my students are. I’ve also been blessed with amazing parents. I’ve had my fair share of interesting parents during my first 2 years teaching so this year, I have been incredibly grateful to work with supportive and cooperative ones instead.

During this period of distance learning I have been shown so much support from this group of parents. I’m constantly getting thank you emails from appreciative parents and words of encouragement on platforms like Facebook. I’ve also been amused in seeing parents around the country thanking teachers all over for what we do everyday. Teaching isn’t an easy job and it’s been so humbling to see others share their gratitude towards us during this difficult time. It’s funny though how so many positive and kind comments can be extinguished by one negative comment from someone who has a strong opinion over choices you make as an educator.

Like I’ve stated, today wraps up week 3 of distance learning here in Minnesota. I have had an incredible turn out when it comes to my students completing all of their work and showing up for class Google Meets meetings. One problem I have had is that some of my students are choosing not to log on to their IXL accounts for math. Most of our weekly math assignments are done on IXL because:

  1. Our school has spent a lot of money on subscriptions to the program.
  2. The assignments are directed exactly to the topic/lesson we want students to learn about that day/week.
  3. I can go onto my teacher account and see who has completed what assignments and what scores they have received on them. I also can see how long a student has spent on the site per day and per week.

It’s an incredible teaching tool that I utilize every day in my normal classroom. Some of my students however, have either forgotten to log on or have chosen not to do the assignments because they don’t think I have access to see what they have done.

Like I would at school, I have reminded my students DAILY about these assignments and have told them how I do have access to see what has been done and I know for a fact a handful of students haven’t logged on to the site in over 30 days. I have warned my students multiple times in the past 2 weeks that if they do not complete these activities/assignments I would be calling them out to check to see why this was not being done. All of my students have internet access and all of them have iPads that they usually use at school but are now with them at home. They also know how to access IXL because, like I said, I used this EVERY DAY in my regular class. In my opinion, there really isn’t an excuse as to why some of my students have not logged on in over a month. Also, the students who have not logged on are students who I know are more than capable of doing the work on their own. My students are 4th graders (almost 5th graders) at this point in their school career, they should be independent enough to do work without having someone else constantly tell them what to do.

Yesterday, during our morning meeting, I pulled up my IXL teacher screen to show my class how I can see who has and hasn’t done the work. I asked a few of my students why they haven’t been on the site in over 30 days. We talked about how this is their job and they need to be mature enough to take responsibility in getting their work done. I also told them that if they haven’t been on for technical difficulty reasons, to let me know and I’ll be okay with that, I just need to know.

Well apparently that wasn’t the right thing to do during our meeting because a few hours later I got one of those emails that make all of the nice and kind ones nonexistent.

I had a parent reach out to me telling me how inappropriate it was for me to humiliate my students like that. She began sharing statistics with me about the crisis we’re in and how I shouldn’t be shaming kids for not having things done. She also proceeded to inform me about how this leads to mental illness and how I don’t know anything about mental illness in children. It was pretty much an 8 paragraph rant about how I have scarred my students for life and how I have no idea about what my class is going through….

Needless to say, after reading this, I wanted to throw up. I immediately forwarded the message to my principal asking for advice on how to respond. Once I did that, I went and cried under a blanket on my couch for an hour until I fell asleep.

I know there are so many theories and philosophies on best teaching practices and how to motivate children but those are all just theories and philosophies. Unless you have been a teacher and have spent 8 hours a day with the same group of kids for almost 8 months, you have no idea what actually goes on. I have known my class since September (some, I’ve known for almost 2 years now because I taught this group back when they were in 3rd grade.) I know my students. I know who works well and who needs constant reminders from me. I know who has supportive families and who may not. I know that my highest kid may also lack the most motivation so I need to push him more than others to get his best work out of him. I know them better than almost anyone else. Any teacher can understand that. I don’t think it’s right to have an outsider criticize a teacher without being in their shoes and knowing what the teacher knows about their kids. Granted, if it’s a concern about their own child, it is extremely valid. But if the criticism doesn’t even involve their child, there is no reason for them to get involved without the facts. That was the case with this parent. The concern wasn’t even about their own student, it was about my class as a whole.

I take things way too personally sometimes but to have someone tell you you’re failing at the one thing you thought you succeeded at, is heartbreaking.

I also caution some of you to not tell someone they know nothing about mental illness. I think that was the part of the message that hurt me the most. Just because I don’t come out and tell someone I’m struggling with a mental illness, doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about the topic.

I grew up with a schizophrenic father and a depressed anorexic sister. I have struggled with anxiety my entire life and have also been on antidepressants for my own depression for almost 5 years now. For this parent to tell me I’ve scarred my students and have been a trigger to metal illness, is an insult to me. Mental illness is a HUGE part of my life and I am not afraid to talk about it. I know that, right now in our country, we need to take care of ourselves but we also need to try to keep things normal. If I let my students get away with doing absolutely nothing during this time, I’m hurting them more than when I encourage them to complete their work. By telling me I was hurting my own students, she attacked my self esteem and put me in a downward spiral hurting my mental health. Never try to tell someone they know nothing about this topic when you don’t know what the person your talking to is dealing with.

As teachers, parents, students, people, etc. we’re all trying to do our best right now. We’re all doing things completely new to all of us. Instead of shaming each other for our mistakes and thinking we know better than them, why don’t we help each other and support each other. Like I said, I have gotten an incredible amount of encouraging and kind messages through this time. The problem is though, it only takes one negative message to make the others meaningless. Don’t be the sender of those kinds of messages. Think about how you would feel if something like that was sent to you when all you’re trying to do is help.

Hang in there everyone. I know we’re all tired and frustrated over this mess but we will get through it. We just have to take a nice deep calming breath and go one day at a time. That has become my new personal mantra.

 

For more day to day action, go follow my teacher Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

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Distance Learning Week 1

What kind of world are we living in right now? We are now a few weeks into social distancing and a week into our shelter in place policy (for Minnesota.) I know all of us can agree that this is strange, insane, weird, scary, etc. There is no one word to explain everything that is happening. This week started something else totally abnormal and weird for all of us educators in the state, distance learning.

We were under strict guidelines that the past 2 weeks were designed to plan for distance teaching. We got 2 weeks to organize and prepare our new creative ways to get information across to our students. Monday, March 30th was the first day we got to “teach” our students. It has been a crazy week to say the least just trying to adjust to that.

I wanted to share with you what are grade level team came up with just because I thought it was pretty well organized but also because I’d love to hear other ideas on how to implement distance learning the best way possible. I know that what we chose to do is very different than what I’ve heard from other teachers in and out of our district. I would love to know things that worked well in order to possibly adjust some of the things we have set in motion just to make it easier.

We decided that as a 4th grade, we were going to do the exact same thing every week and use the exact same outline for every subject. We created a 4th grade website that had all of our information on it along with PDF’s for each week’s assignments. When we came up with this idea, we split into teams to put together 8 weeks worth of lessons for each subject. We have 10 teachers on our team so we split into 3 groups. One group worked on reading, another math, and the third social/science. We had a working Google Doc for each week where we wrote out each subject’s assignments. It took a lot of work, but once we were done, we had everything laid out for parents to see and use. It made planning lessons SO MUCH EASIER because I really wouldn’t have to.

We are lucky because we are a 1:1 district. Each student has an iPad to use. These have come in so handy during this period of time. We are also very much used to using platforms like Seesaw and Google Classroom because we use them daily with our students. This made assigning and collecting work super easy. Students were able to have access to our website and their homework on their iPads and had step by step instructions right in front of them on what to do and where we wanted them submitted. This was by far the easiest part of my week! I was worried they would be confused on where to find their homework and where to turn it in but there were no problems what so ever.

One of my biggest struggles this week has been trying to meet with my class virtually online. As a district, our students were given a new app on their iPads called Google Meets. It is essentially Zoom but the Google version. I had never worked with it before so I wanted to play around with it and give it a try.

Day 1 was kind of a mess. I wanted my students to all meet at a certain time so we could all talk and see each other. For some reason, half of my class weren’t able to get one. Day 2 came and I learned how I was able to see my whole class at once and how to help them see the whole class at once (you need a certain extension otherwise Google will only show up to 4 people at a time.) I attempted this but then something went wrong and I couldn’t see a single student in the meeting. By day 3 my students were getting bummed out because we were having such a hard time getting it to work. We tried one more time but again, something went wrong. I decided then to test out Zoom. We were recommended to use Google Meets but because I’ve heard of so many teachers utilizing this tool, I thought maybe Zoom would be easier and less chaotic. We had a Zoom meeting and it worked pretty well. Some of my students weren’t able to get one but it was more successful than our Google meetings. Sadly, I guess I was not supposed to use that because I was immediately reached out to and told not to use Zoom at all. I felt bad because I didn’t know we absolutely couldn’t use it.

I had my 5th Google Meets meeting today with my class and it finally worked! I’m just crossing my fingers it continues to work in the weeks to come. I love seeing my students and being able to talk to them and listen to them talk to each other. They need that right now. Heck, I need that right now!

This week has been stressful in so many weird and different ways but I did have 3 big take aways that I learned:

  1. I HATE sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen all day. I need to move and do something. I have had a massive headache the past few days because I’ve been on my computer so much.
  2. Technology is not always your friend (I’ve already known that but this week reenforced that tenfold.) Besides having students who were having trouble opening links, my WiFi crashed Thursday morning. That was literally the last thing you want to happen when you’re supposed to be teaching from home all day online.
  3. I MISS MY STUDENTS. This has been the longest few weeks of my life. I love my kids and I need to be back in the classroom. Seeing them this week has been nice but it’s still not the same. I would give anything to be back with them on a daily basis.

In order to keep myself preoccupied and somewhat sane, I’ve gotten many things done (which I’m sure you all can relate to.)

  • I’ve been able to read more books than normal. I usually don’t get a big chance to read in the school year but I’ve gotten a huge head start on my summer reading list.
  • I’ve spent a lot of quality time with my cat. It cracks me up though because I’ve given her more attention in 2 weeks than she’s gotten total the past year and she is more whiny and clingy than ever.
  • I’ve worked out more than normal. I usually have the worst motivation for that but being cooped up inside ALL DAY LONG has inspired me to get out (even if that means having to go for a run!)
  • I’ve been able to keep up on my laundry and cleaning! I’ve been cleaning things over and over just to give me something to do. I’ve also done so many loads of laundry, I don’t even know how my washer is still working.
  • I’ve binged on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, AND HBO. (Don’t judge okay, I’ve been behind on a lot of shows.) Tiger King anyone?
  • I also have been able to be a little bit crafty which I normally don’t have time for. I’ve been inspired by the #HeartsAroundtheWorld movement that keeps showing up on social media. I decided to join in by decorating my own window.

It’s a weird time right now all over the world. I’m constantly inspired by those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us all safe and healthy. For all of you in the health care service, and everyone working essential jobs, thank you. Our world would fall apart without you. I also want to thank all of the parents out there who are trying hard to adjust to the new normal of helping their kids with school while also trying to work. I could barely get things done with my cat around let alone a child. You are all my heroes.

Things will get better. Life will go back to normal. We just have to take this day by day and be so thankful for what we have.

 

For more day to day action, go follow my Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher. There will be some distance learning resources being shared over the next few weeks.

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The New Normal

What world are we living in right now? It seems like things get more intense every single day. I don’t know what to think. Up until yesterday, I was doing okay handling all of this. We were told on Sunday that Minnesota schools would close officially as of today until at least Monday, March 30th. I figured this was going to happen and I was at peace with it.

Yesterday however, things were HARD to say the least.

We were told as a district that students would not return to school at all this week and staff would report on Tuesday so the admin could meet Monday to come up with a game plan. Walking into the empty school and empty classroom for the first time was surreal. Knowing I won’t see my room full of my kiddos for who knows how long, was one of the hardest things I had to wrap my head around. This was the first time I cried.

We were under the assumption that this would be a short break and we would return the first week of April. Our students have 1-1 iPads, so Monday night families were told that Tuesday morning they could come in and get their iPads to use just in case we have to go into distance learning. (Side note: Minnesota’s break this week and next week is a non school time for students. It’s primarily for staff to prepare for the possible future once this two weeks is over.) Because of this, I didn’t think my students needed to come in because they already brought their iPads home on Friday. Things abruptly changed around 8:00am yesterday morning.

We were under a new order that we had to clean out all student desks and lockers. We had to put their things in garbage bags with their names on them and then we’d have a drive thru like system going on outside the school. Parents would pull up to the doors, say their student’s name, and a para would run to get their stuff. It was like the last day of school but with no kids. That was what really did it for me. Realizing we were preparing for them not to come back at all was heart wrenching.

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Once I had all of their things packed and ready for pick up, I went in my room and cried again. I didn’t know what to think. Just the scene of it did something to me, I don’t even know how to describe that feeling.

At the end of the day, we took all bags that were left over into our large gym for parent pick up today. Seeing the entire school’s school supplies in one area made it even more surreal.

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As a staff, we are bonding together. Today, we are going to begin planning the next few months (if need be) and decide on best practices to get our content across to every student. The support we have for each other has helped immensely and is what is getting us through this, it’s what is getting me through this. An anonymous staff member put this up in our lounge yesterday and it was exactly what I needed to see.

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We all went into education because we want to make a connection with students. We want to change their lives and interact with them on a daily basis. We want to give them love while also teaching them some tough love along the way. Education is a powerful profession. I know the last thing we want to do is sit behind a computer all day. If we wanted to do that, we wouldn’t be teachers. I know these are strange waters we are all walking through but we’ll all make to the other side stronger and better professionals. This will give us new tools that will only make us better teachers in the long run.

During this time, do silly things and remember to laugh. My mom is a 5th grade teacher and all of this is just as hard for her as it is for me. We decided that we would read picture books together, tape them, and share them out to our students. We shared our first video last night and I got countless messages from parents and students saying it brought joy to their day and made them smile. I’m going to share the Youtube link for you if you would like. We only have 1 story on their so far but we plan to share as many books as we can during this crazy time. (We need it just as much as our students do.)

What are you doing to battle this crisis? How is your district, families, kids handling everything? Please, share with me all of your thoughts and ideas. Our superintendent keeps reminding us to think outside the box. There is no right or wrong answer right now, all that matters is our students.  I am sending my love to all of you.

 

For more day to day action, go follow my Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

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What is Happening

Well well well…I feel like I need to share my thoughts on everything going on considering the education system is being effected pretty hard.

I know some other states are closing schools but Minnesota has yet to follow in their footsteps. Our neighbor state Wisconsin announced yesterday that they will be closing for the next week. Our governor has stated he is doing everything possible to prevent our schools from closing.

That being said, yesterday was INSANE because throughout the day, we were constantly getting updated memos on policies and procedures that we had to follow to keep our kids (and ourselves) healthy and safe.

Thursday night we got an urgent email saying that we had an impromptu staff meeting Friday morning with updates. We were told that the state had some basic policies we needed to follow in order to protect everyone. Most of the policies that were stated are already a thing we do in our school. One main thing that was different was that, as soon as our kids were settled in Friday morning, we had to show them a hand washing video. Parents had requested that we teach our students how to wash their hands. (Although, I have my own opinion on parents not teaching their own kids how to wash their hands, I do think that it was important for us to remind the kiddos on why hand washing is important.)

Another policy that we had to implement, was preventing the interaction between large groups of people. Ironically, yesterday our students were supposed to walk over to our high school to watch a musical put on by the middle schoolers. We were scheduled to leave at 8:40. We literally found out as our students were putting on their jackets at 8:37, that the musical was cancelled. It was pure chaos. My kids were so excited to go and I was so excited because that was 2 hours of no teaching time for me. Because of this, I had NOTHING prepped so I just kind of went with it!

We survived the unplanned morning but I still had to adjust my day to meet the new policies and procedures. During our meeting in the morning, we were told that we had to prevent intermixing classes that don’t usually interact. This was to prevent the spread of germs they’re not used to. Because of this, we had to stagger our dismissal times at the end of the day. It was so weird because usually with dismissal time, when that bell rings, the halls are CRAZY BUSY! When I released my kids yesterday however, the halls were DEAD!! It was eerily quiet and I didn’t like it.

I know these don’t sound too crazy, and I probably could’ve shared some more, but my brain is fried and I just can’t believe some of the stuff that is happening. Our hometown girls basketball team made it to the state CHAMPIONSHIP game that was supposed to be today and they couldn’t play because it was cancelled. How sad is that? I understand the precautions but it’s still heartbreaking thinking about the girls on the team and how hard they worked to get there. I’m also personally devastated because with the cancellations of ALL NCAA competitions and tournaments, college gymnastics is over already and that’s my normal Friday night date with myself. What am I going to do now!?

I hope all of you are being healthy and safe and are finding the nonexistent toilet paper to help stock up your homes (to lighten up your day, I found some pretty fantastic toilet paper memes on one of those Facebook ads that I think you may love Just click on the link!) Hopefully this all passes soon and are lives will be back to normal.

 

Also, to brighten your day, here is a picture of my lovely kiddos with their new monthly book! This should also put a smile on your face!

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For more day to day action, go follow my Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

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Hot Mess Alert

Well it’s been a hot minute guys. I apologize for being a little behind on posts but life has been crazy busy. It’s crazy to think that I was going to share on Valentine’s Day about our party, and now here we are 2 weeks later and there has been nothing. Today’s post is going to be a hodge podge of a few things I wanted to share with you so, bare with me.

First things first, I know Valentine’s Day was 2 weeks ago but I wanted to still share with you my absolute FAVORITE boxes made this year by my students! I for sure have a very creative group and it shows in their boxes. (Yes, I am aware that these ideas came from Pinterest but they’re still cute!)

Plus this amazingly adorable Harry Potter Valentine!

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As many of you know, February is “I Love to Read Month” so I like to do a few special activities to get my students in the spirit. My favorite art project to do with them is actually pretty simple. Students pick their favorite book and they recreate the book cover to share in the hallway. I mentioned us starting this in my last post but I finally have the final product read! I did this a few years ago and didn’t get the best result. My kids this year did PHENOMENAL! They loved this activity and most of them took their time!

The main reason I’ve been so behind on posting is because gymnastics season was coming to a close. We had our section tournament followed by the state tournament, so it was a whirlwind couple of weeks. I’m going to take a moment to brag because our team is so amazing! Our girls placed 2nd in the section (only the 1st place team advances to the state meet) and then we had 3 individual gymnasts to advance in the bars competition and in the all around. It was a pretty special and fun time getting to be there for the girls and bond with them in a way you normally don’t get to when the whole team is there. I LOVE gymnastics and I love this team, but I am so glad the season is over! I am exhausted!!

Another fun thing that happened this week was that our books FINALLY CAME IN THE MAIL!!! My kids were so excited to see the final product of the book they created! Last year my class made a book using something called Studentreasures Publishing. Students get a chance to create their own book. As a teacher, you go and order a kit to be sent to your school that includes everything you need to make your book. Once students are done writing and illustrating, you send the book back to the company and they publish the book for you! As a teacher, you get a FREE copy, which is such a cool keepsake. Families LOVE this and get the chance to order a book for themselves. My students have been on pins and needles waiting for our books to finally come back (we sent in our final product at the end of January) and were ecstatic when they did. I have to say, I am pretty proud of the finished product!

Finally, I would like to share something near and dear to my heart. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Last year, I shared with you a post that explains the importance this week has on my heart. My sister has struggled with an eating disorder for almost 8 years now. I wanted to attach the link to that post for you in case you didn’t see it last year, or you wanted to reread about how nasty this disease can be and how to see the warning signs in your self or your loved ones. The post was called NEDA Awareness Week 2019. Go take a look if you’re interested. I will always be passionate about healthy lifestyles and loving yourself. This post, explains why.

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I know that was a hot mess of information but I feel super behind and had to share whatever I could that I have missed. I will definitely be back on my posting game now that life is somewhat back to normal! (Fingers crossed!!)

 

For more day to day action and activities, go follow my Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

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Fairytaletopia

If you’re anything like me, you LOVE read alouds with your students. Back when I was doing one of my teaching practicums in a 3rd grade classroom, I heard the most memorizing story I’ve ever heard (apart from Harry Potter of course!) The story was called The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer. My cooperating teacher would read this book to her students during their snack time when I would be doing other tasks for her. I would be so distracted listening to her read the story, that I struggled to get my jobs done. As a 20 year old girl, I was hooked to a story written for young readers.

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The story is part of a 6 book series called The Land of Stories. The main premise of the book is about a pair of twins (a boy and girl) who magically find themselves trapped in the fairytale world. They get to meet all of their childhood heroes while working with them on a variety of adventures. It puts a fun and crazy twist on the fairytale characters we all grew up reading about. I HIGHLY recommend looking into reading this book to even your own kids. (Or just for your own pleasure. I know I loved it!)

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After hearing this read during my practicum, I knew this was going to be a read aloud in my own classroom. This is my third year teaching and I have read the first 2 books of the series every year. What I’ve found with all 3 classes is that they LOVE this story and can relate to the two main characters. The twins start off in the 6th grade and are complete opposites. The boy is the goofy, funny, and care free character that gets in trouble in school, but doesn’t understand why. The girl is a perfectionist who gets A+’s on all of her assignments and tests but doesn’t have a lot of friends. The two may be different but they are the best of friends and stick up for each other no matter what. Students find that they can relate to one of the two twins (or both) which makes the story even more fun to read.

I have not had a class love this series though, as much as my class now. They are OBSESSED and I love it. I see them reading the series on the side and are having discussions constantly about it. Somehow they’ve convinced me to read all 6 books in the series to them, which I haven’t done before because I wanted them to continue to want to read on their own (which, like I said, they are still doing!)

A few years ago, after I learned how much my students loved the series, I found a fun inferencing activity on TPT from The Teaching Twins that allows students to solve a fairytale mystery. The activity is about something going wrong at Cinderella’s engagement ceremony. The pack comes with interviews from famous fairytale characters along with finger print examples and handwriting examples they need to look at. I have used this the past 3 years and it has always been a success. They LOVE being able to solve a mystery that involves the same characters from The Land of Stories.

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Today, we got to start with reading witness interviews and looking at clues found at the scene. They each are working in groups of 3 to come up with their answer on who committed the crime. Tomorrow, we will finish reading the interviews we have left and then, as a group, they will each write a summary explaining who their main suspect is and why. I love it so much!! They have so much fun!!

We also are working on a project to celebrate “I Love To Read Month.” Yesterday, I told students they had to think of their favorite book of all time. They were then given a piece of white tag board and were told they had to “recreate” the cover of their favorite book. It melted my heart to see over half of my class pick a book from The Land of Stories series. They had so much fun starting this project and have begged me all day to give them more time to work on it. I can’t wait to share the final product with all of you!

It has been a fun fairytale filled couple of days and I love it! I can’t stress enough how amazing this series is and that you should definitely go take a look at it for yourself!!

PS. Happy Valentine’s Day week, teachers…may the odds be ever in your favor!

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For more day to day action and live projects, go follow my teacher Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!!

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Personification Superheroes & Ice Cream

Oh man it has been a LONG week! My kids were very good this week but my schedule was so jam packed, I barely had time to relax and enjoy their behavior.

In the winter, from November-February, I’m coaching gymnastics AND judging gymnastics. Because of that, I am usually working late every night and, about one time a week, I’m working so late I don’t get home until 11:00. The difference about this week however, is that we had 2 home meets which meant that I was home late TWICE this week. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but not getting home until after 10 on a week night is rough once but doing it twice is SO HARD!!!!

Besides being exhausted out of my mind, I was still able to give my kids a structured but fun week. This week in reading we were talking about personification. We’ve touched on this before but this week it was going to be a focus on their story of the week’s comprehension quiz. Thursday was the day I had scheduled to really focus on this.

I wanted to find something super fun and beneficial to teach this, so naturally, I went to my love TPT and found a FREE resource (my absolute favorite!) I found this personification packet created by Creative Classroom Core and made some personification superheroes!

The task was for each student to think of an inanimate object that they use in their everyday lives. They then had to turn that object into a superhero by being very detailed using personification. They had SO MUCH FUN!! These turned out SO WELL. It also did the trick because when I graded their weekly comprehension quizzes today, NOT A SINGLE STUDENT got the personification questions wrong. Talk about a teacher win!

One more fun little thing we did this week was have a small reward ice cream party!!

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Are these not the cutest math rockstars you’ve ever seen?

Our school utilizes IXL math and language arts. For every unit in math, we create BINGO boards that has 25 different IXL assignments for them to complete that correlates directly with the unit we are teaching. I gave my class their boards 3 weeks ago and told them it was due this past Monday. If a student got a BINGO, they got a candy bar. If they got a blackout however, they got to be invited to our ice cream party at lunch. These boards are completely optional but I do tell them if they get a BINGO they get a prize but if they get a blackout, they will be rewarded greatly for it. My other students were so jealous of the kiddos that got ice cream, that I have a feeling a lot more of my students will be getting blackouts on our next board. I HIGHLY recommend utilizing IXL if your school has it. If not, recommend it to your administration because it is incredible and promotes amazing review and practice! (Plus, students LOVE it!)

Oh boy has it been a LONG week, I am so ready to sleep and not set an alarm for the morning! Have a wonderful weekend teacher friends. Until next week.

 

For more day to day action, go follow my teacher Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!!

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New Hair, Who Dis?

This has been an INSANE week with my kids!! We had Monday off for MLK Jr. day, so I was thinking it’d be an easy week. I was wrong. They were not ready to be at school Tuesday morning and it lasted 3 full days.

I have an AMAZING class this year, but for some reason they forgot what being a respectful student looks like. We had multiple incidents where they wouldn’t be listening or they would do the complete opposite of what I said (which, yes I know that’s nothing but that’s not my class!) Yesterday, multiple things happened that I can’t even believe. I had kids fighting by the lockers with their boots as weapons, messing around with food and talking back to paras in the lunch room, and kids stealing snack out of other kids’ lockers. It was definitely not them!

I was so done at the end of the day that I went off on them! I yelled, which is not me. I also sent an email home to all parents telling them what a rough day it was and I had an incredible response! Luckily, I have great parents this year (which explains why my class has been so great) so they 110% had my back and I could tell talked to their kids last night because today was like the past few days never happened. They were their old selves again.

Besides the rough behavior, we had a good week because they got to create their own book. Last school year, I shared how my 3rd graders made their own book from a company called Studentreasures. (Yes, there is only 1 “t” and it’s only one word.) I had scheduled to create our book this year this week because of the 4 day week. (and because we are 4 weeks ahead in reading compared to the rest of the grade….again, because these kids are amazing!) They had so much fun and it was amazing! I can’t wait to share with you the final product when they come in the mail. If you’ve never looked up this company before, look it up! It’s amazing and totally free for the teacher and school! I am so excited to see the final published product!

Today was an extra interesting/fun day because of one incredible student in my class. At our school, we do Accelerated Reader (AR) to promote reading. I motivate my students by having incentives for reaching a certain amount of points. I created my incentives back in the summer (when I thought I was still going to be a 3rd grade teacher) so I created incentives up to 400 points (which I thought wouldn’t happen in 3rd grade.) Of course, I have the top reader in the grade in my class this year so she reached (and has since, proceeded) 400 points. The incentive I have for 400 points is the student gets to dye my hair whatever color they choose. This awesome student reached 400 and got to pick the color she wanted. Today we got to celebrate her achievement and had the whole class watch!

It was super fun and I was so happy for her! My hair was not a fan but I bought a dye that washes out right away so no damage done (but they don’t know that!) I definitely went home and took a shower ASAP but they thought it was the best thing ever! #TeacherWin! It did turn my mood around for the week!

 

For more day to day action, go follow my teacher Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!!

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Colds, Idioms, and Snow

This has been an interesting week with a lot of unexpected events.

This week started off as a “normal” week (which I’m starting to question is ever a real thing in the winter when your teaching) so I was ready to attack it with all of my motivation and efforts. This lasted all of 1 day, because Tuesday morning I woke with a terrible cold.

I hate being sick but I especially hate being sick while also being a teacher. There is never a good time to be gone, so even though I was feeling terrible, I still went to school.

This was a BIG mistake. I was exhausted, crabby, and stuffed up all day. It was so bad that at one point, one of my kids literally said, “Ms. Nygaard, you look terrible.” Oh the honesty of kids. I pushed through the day but got lesson plans made for Wednesday because I needed to sleep.

What do you do when you have a sub? Do you continue your weekly plans and are okay that someone else is teaching it and you don’t know what’s going to happen? Or do you give the sub a bunch of review for your class so they don’t have to teach anything? I always HATE giving the sub major lessons to teach. (Yes, I’m a control freak!) I usually give the sub a reading lesson that my kids do every week with a different story so they know what the expectation and the lesson is. I struggle having a sub teach a new math lesson. I always have review set days that I’m gone so I have nothing to worry about. But of course, since I was not planning on being sick, I couldn’t switch up Wednesday’s lesson. I came back Thursday and found out my kids struggled understanding what was taught.

Coming back after being gone for a day of school is always stressful. I got to school early Thursday morning so I could get everything taken care of from the day before and prepare for the current day before the kids came. For math, I had to reteach the day before (which I knew I’d have to do.) My kids are currently learning about decimals and have learned place values to the tenths and hundredths. When I was gone, they learned about the thousandths and started to get it all mixed up. During my prep on Thursday, I went around taping some cheat sheets to everyone’s desks so they would have a reference right in front of them!

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Luckily we had a fun activity planned for reading so that helped me get into the day!

This week, we had to review idioms. A few years ago I found this super fun template for a “class idiom book.”

Each kid picks an idiom from a hat and has to describe what the idiom is, what it actually means, and then draw a picture of the idiom if it was literal. I LOVE this activity (and they did too!) They all turned out super cute!

It made the day a lot more fun after dealing with catching up from being gone.

Today was another crazy day with a crazy twist. Up here in Minnesota, we are currently in the middle of a snow storm. The storm was predicted to start at noon today. Because it was (and turned out to be) supposed to be a big and bad storm, last night most districts made the announcements that schools would release early before the storm. We got out a noon today and it was crazy but also amazing! I’ve spent the past 6 hours relaxing, watching movies, and catching up on sleep because I still feel crappy.

It’s been a week, we’ll see if next week finally brings “normal week” that has been much needed after break.

 

For more day to day action and live stories, go follow my Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

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