2021 = CHANGE

So it has been a while and things have been insane. I feel like I don’t have time for literally anything in my life because I have SO MUCH going on right now.

So first things first, I had a HUGE thing happen in my life back in January….

Her name is Annie and she is amazing, adorable, and insane all at the same time. I knew that getting a puppy was a lot of work but man, it is a LOT of work! It happened completely out of nowhere and was super impulsive but it was totally worth it. It has been a big change and I’m still adjusting but she is a sweetie and I love her.

On top of getting a puppy, gymnastics season finally started. We were supposed to start back in November but thanks to COVID we had to push the start of our season back. We were FINALLY able to start the first week in January and it felt so good to be back! (Gymnastics has always been my one true love and this is the time of year gymnastics is my whole life. This was my first December without having gymnastics in 15 years so that was very strange.) It was amazing to finally be in the gym again. We have some weird COVID rules but it’s worth it to be back. (It’s also been great because I get to work with my 2 best friends and my life mentor. It’s kind of the best job ever!) Normally, gymnastics season exhausts me but this year mixing in my COVID recovery, distant teaching, and my new pup, I’m still surprised I’m able to walk without sleeping.

To top it all off, we got to go back to in person learning on February 1st!

I was so happy to be back with my kids but it just added even more craziness to my schedule. I wake up at 6:15 to my crying puppy who needs to go outside, teach until 3:15, and then rush to our high school where I coach until 6. When I’m finally able to get home, I have to give Miss Annie some play time while also try to give my kitty some much needed attention. By the time I finally eat dinner, it’s a little after 7 and I’m ready for bed. (I know, so lame!) I have no time at all for anything else. My apartment is a MAJOR mess and I order food most nights because I never make it to the grocery store. I clearly haven’t been blogging or posting on Instagram because I don’t have time to even remember to do that. It’s been a crazy couple of months and it’s made me realize I am definitely not ready for kids because I can hardly handle my life with a new puppy.

It has been great, however to be back in person with my kids. It’s only been a total of 8 days (because this week we had conferences on Thursday and PD on Friday so our kids only had to come Monday-Wednesday) but I’m so happy to get back to what I’m good at. It was a weird few days getting back in the swing of things though. We had to basically treat the first few days like the first day of school all over again. I had 2 new kids start so that was also kind of weird. I had to try to jump back into our lessons while also trying to get everyone, especially my new kids, acclimated to our class routine again.

It’s been a crazy couple of months but I’m glad I’m making change in my life. Getting Annie was a huge step for me but I’m glad I did it. I’m still struggling with some post COVID issues and getting used to my new life schedule but I’ll get there eventually. Hopefully, once I’m back in the swing of things, I’ll be able to get back to my posts because I do love writing as well. It’s so therapeutic to just post about my life to people I trust but who are also kind of strangers to me.

Here’s to change! That has been my 2021 already and the theme of my year. I hope you’re all doing well and I look forward to sharing with you what my new crazy life holds.

Top 10 of 2020

One thing I enjoy the most about the end of the year is looking back and finding the best parts of the past 365 days. Obviously, we all know 2020 has been ROUGH. Like most people in the world, I lost a lot. I got dumped (twice), I lost my job, I wasn’t able to go on an international trip I had planned, and I got COVID. This year was easily one of the worst years of my life. That being said, because of all the bad it made me respect the good parts even more. I’m looking back at my top 10 of 2020! (I was going to do the top 20 of 2020 but I’m a realist!)

10. True Team Gymnastics

I love gymnastics. If you’ve been following me the past few years, you know that gymnastics rules my winters. I have been coaching high school gymnastics now for 3 years and love every second of it. Last January, our girls were ranked one of the top 10 teams in the state of Minnesota. Because of that, we got invited to compete in the Minnesota True Team tournament. The top 10 teams in the state are invited to compete. It’s a huge accomplishment for the girls. The girls ended up placing 7th that day. We were so proud of them!

9. State Gymnastics Tournament

In February, our team was able to advance 3 individuals to the state tournament. These 3 girls were able to represent our team with the best individual gymnasts in the state. We had a few falls, and it was a rough day, but they made it to the most important meet of the year which was huge! We stayed in a hotel the night before and had some serious bonding time together. I loved it!

8. Easter

Easter came around the time of lockdown. My family wanted to do something together that was special but also safe. For the first time ever, I “hosted” my family for Easter at my apartment. We ordered take out from Olive Garden (I don’t cook) and we spent the day playing cards together while spending some much needed quality time together. (Something that we hadn’t been able to do in a long time!)

7. Graduate

In May, my baby sister graduated from college! I was so proud of her. She graduated with a 4 year degree in 3 years. She gradated with a Bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Studies. She is an incredible young lady who was able to get a job before she officially graduated. (During this time she also wrote her own devotional book because, why not?)

6. Maid of Honor

My best friend was proposed to back in the spring. She is like a second sister to me. Growing up, we were a few years apart in school but only a year apart in age. Our personalities are 100% the same so we’ve been there for each other through everything! I was so happy for her when I finally got the picture of her ring with no caption. About a month later, she surprised me by asking me to be her maid of honor. I was so honored I started to cry. I’m so excited for October 2nd, 2021 when I can officially do my maid of honor duties.

5. New Job Alert

Thanks to COVID, I was let go from my previous school district last spring. They ended up cutting every nontenured teacher in the district because of budget issues that came along with COVID changes. It was a huge blow and one of the worst days of my life. I was fortunate enough to get hired in August back in the original district I taught in 3 years ago. I am so grateful for that. I love my “new” district. It’s the same district I grew up in and the same district I coach in so it was meant to be!

4. Best Friends Forever

This year has tested the relationships in my life. I have lost friendships and gained deeper friendships. I was dumped by two different guys but I became much closer to another guy in my life. My best friend (not the one who’s getting married) and I have had an interesting relationship these past 5 years. Anyone who knows us, knows how close we are. People are always assuming we’re dating because he’s a guy and I’m a girl and we know everything about the other one. We’ve had some major ups and downs in our friendship but this year made us even tighter than we were before. We have spent so much more time together and talk daily. He is family and I love him to death. Quarantine has shown the both of us how important we are to each other and how we will always be there no matter the circumstance. (He also is the one who gave me COVID so we share that unique experience!😂 )

3. My Students

I love my kids. Anyone who knows me knows how much my students mean to me. The spring was just awful, not being able to see them every day. It was also awful knowing that, because I was cut, I would never be able to see them in person again. Distance learning in the spring really showed me how much the students in my life mean to me. My class this year is just as special. I love each and every one of them so much. (Even the ones that test me on a daily basis!) I have been so impressed with the maturity and flexibility they have shown through this pandemic. My kids this year are so used to change that they can handle literally anything I throw at them. It has also been so refreshing to see how grateful they are for even the smallest of gestures. They’ve lost so much this year as well so they are thankful for things my classes in the past wouldn’t even bat an eye at. As much as distance learning has sucked for students, they have gained so much through this experience that will make them incredible people in the future!

2. Lucy

My baby! ❤️ This year we celebrated her 4th “got ya day!” I love my kitty so much (and I’m not shy about it!) Thanks to COVID and quarantine, I’ve got to spend so much more time with her than I ever have been able to before. Pets are true happiness. I don’t know how I would have survived this year, being locked by myself in my apartment, without her. (I apologize for the Lucy collage I’m about to share!) She is my best friend and I’m not ashamed to say that!

1. Family Love

This year has been amazing for my family reconnecting. 2019 ended with my parents being separated. They had a bad end of the year and we weren’t sure what would happen between them. My sister and my dad had a very strained relationship as well. They could hardly be around each other without the toxicity starting. I was stuck in the middle of it all. We didn’t spend much time together for the longest time because of all the issues we were dealing with. Because of COVID and lockdown, we all really reexamined our relationships with each other. I think we all separately realized how important we were to each other and we wanted that back. It wasn’t easy, and it took months to work through, but we are back to being a strong and happy family of 4. If it wasn’t for the time we had to sit and think about what matters in life, we might not have worked through all of the issues we had going on. As much as COVID and quarantine sucked, this was the best thing that came out of it. I love my family and I love how we are stronger than we have ever been!

We all know 2020 was terrible and I’m so excited for that ball to drop in 6 hours, but I am thankful for the year we had. I’m grateful for the positives that occurred even with the tragedies going on around us. That being said 2021, I’M SO READY FOR YOU!

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NEDA Week 2021

2 years ago I shared a story that is very close to my heart. I talked about my younger sister’s struggle with Anorexia Nervosa and how it has impacted her life and my life. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week so I thought it would be time to share again the battle my … Continue reading NEDA Week 2021

Holiday Week 2020 Style

Well people, we made it to break! (Or if you’re not at break yet, you’re very close!) This is usually my favorite month of the year because of all the activities we do and the projects I have. In fact, my first few posts ever were from December activities that I wanted to share! It’s been hard adjusting to this new normal. This whole month was spent getting used to distance learning rather than enjoying the season. These past 2 days, I wanted to change that. I wanted us to have fun. I wanted to be as creative as possible so my students still felt the fun of the season even though they’re at home.

My favorite Christmas movie of all time is Jim Carrey’s The Grinch. (The reason is because when I was little, I used to look identical to Cindy Lou Who. My parents also used to tell me her character was based on me because our personalities were so similar as well.) I always like to have a whole day centered around Grinch themed activities. I was not letting that go this year.

Yesterday was my Grinch day! We started the day by doing a series of Grinch would you rather questions which were amazing and hilarious! My kids loved it and it was interesting to hear their reasons for their answers. After a little fun, we had to jump into our reading lesson. I love doing the lesson where you listen to “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” and then find similes and metaphors in the song. I’ve done it every year since I started teaching but I had to be creative with it this year.

We have been using Seesaw and Google Meets as our teaching tools. We pretty much are on our Google meeting live all morning while they submit assignments on Seesaw. I created a Seesaw assignment where they first had to highlight the similes and metaphors in the song. I had them highlight in two different colors so I could tell they knew the difference between the two forms of figurative language. After they highlighted, they had to pick one simile or metaphor and then had to decorate their Grinch to represent what they chose. It was very fun to see how creative they were with it.

For math, I made another Seesaw assignment full of Grinch themed word problems. I split them into breakout rooms and let them work on them together in small groups. I organized the groups so they were with kids who were at all levels but who they also felt comfortable with. It was fun to just bounce back and forth between the different rooms and listen to their conversations. The one thing with distance that is lacking is having the opportunity for them to just talk to each other.

Because of our schedule, that was most of the Grinch themed activities we did. We spent the afternoon making our parent gifts (which were adorable snowman ornaments made out of buttons) and catching up on work while students went to their intervention groups. It wasn’t as much as I usually do, but it was something and that’s all I cared about.

Today I wanted to have fun and even though we were distant, I still wore my traditional “day before break candy cane” dress (because that’s fun!)

I wanted to throw them a surprise virtual holiday party. I tried hard to come up with fun activities to do throughout the day to keep them entertained. I wanted them to have a special day because that’s what this day in elementary school is supposed to be. The day before Christmas break is supposed to be full of treats, movies, and presents. I didn’t want them to lose out on their last elementary school holiday party!

We started the day doing a fun little “Guess the Mystery Sound” activity. I had a Google Slides presentation that had them listen to a mystery sound and then guess what they thought each sound was in the Google Meets chat.

We then did a real reading activity to get some sort of school in. We read an article on the science of the snowflake and then discussed different parts of it. (I definitely didn’t spend as much time on it as I should have but at least I can say we did it!) We then moved into our math time. For math, students had a holiday packet that was sent home last week. I put them in breakout rooms with their friends and they got to work through the packet together.

The packet wasn’t math related. It had a bunch of puzzles, mazes, and coloring pages. It was more of a way to allow them to work together again while having fun. Again, it was so fun jumping back and forth between groups. I miss seeing and talking to them so it was nice to have silly little conversations with them in small groups. I even had a competition with a couple of my kids over who could finish a sudoku first, it was a blast!

We spent the afternoon having our virtual holiday party! I started the party by having Christmas music playing in the background while they all slowly popped back on to our meeting after lunch. We then played a few different games. I first had them take out a piece of paper and a marker. We did the directed drawing activity where they had to follow my directions on how to draw a snowman while the paper was on their heads. I LOVE this activity and was so happy to be able to share it with them even though they weren’t right with me. I also made another Google slides game where they saw a zoomed in picture of something holiday themed and then had to guess what it was. We then shifted into a few rounds of holiday charades which was super funny. I then had an ugly sweater making contest. I assigned them a blank sweater template on Seesaw and gave them five minutes to create the ugliest sweater they could. We then went through each one and voted on their favorites. My favorite was one with my name on it. I don’t know why but it made me laugh way too hard.

We finished our party by doing a winter themed Kahoot followed by a directed drawing on Arthub of a winter village. It was a nice and fun way to end the day.

Finally, during the day I had my kids go onto PixtonEdu to create their own personalized avatar. I then used those avatars to create our virtual class photo. I know some of you have seen these before! I’ve seen them a few times and thought they were the cutest thing ever. Today I had to do it as a special little surprise to “give” them at the end of the day.

It was for sure not the way I would normally have spent this day but I made the most of it. The best part was how grateful my kids were. They were very appreciative of the activities we were able to do. I know they know this is not how we would normally have celebrated but they were troopers and loved whatever we could do.

I am SO happy to relax for the next two weeks! I know for a fact we will be distance learning for at least another month so I’m ready to have some screen free time and some family time. The best part of today was realizing teaching in 2020 is officially over! 2021 is going to be a much better year, I can feel it. If we made it through teaching in this, we can make it through teaching in anything!!

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Go check out my recent posts!! Blogmas 2020 is almost over 😢 so don’t miss out on our fun 12 days of Christmas would you rather game!!

Distance Learning Take 2

We are officially wrapping up our 3rd week of distance learning round 2 and I have felt so much better about it this time around than I did in the spring!

Don’t get me wrong, I still hate that we have to be distant instead of being at school but we are so much more prepared this time around. Ever since our Welcome Back days the first week of September, we have been preparing our kids for the inevitability of going to distance at some point. From day 1, I told my kids that we wouldn’t know when but we were going to go back to distance learning during the year and we had to be ready. That definitely has helped us be much more successful this time around.

In the spring, we didn’t have a whole lot of rules or expectations for our students and that was the biggest problem. Because it was such a strange time, we had to go with the flow and we couldn’t penalize a student for anything. I had a few students who I wouldn’t see for weeks and I couldn’t do anything about it. On top of that, students knew they wouldn’t be graded on anything so I had kids who flat out refused to do work because why would they? Being so loose on everything made my job incredibly challenging because I couldn’t teach.

I made sure my kids knew that we would be taking this much more seriously this time and learning was going to take place. They have been doing amazing with it! In the spring, we were encouraged to do a Google Meets with our kids once a week to check in. I tried to do one everyday but I couldn’t make it mandatory so only the same ten kids came. This time around, we have to teach live all day on a Google Meets and it’s so much better! Sure, it’s not fun staring at a screen sitting on your computer all day but my kids are in front of me all morning and we are getting things done.

Another helpful thing we’ve been doing this year is posting our daily agendas that are super detailed. We post them every morning at 9:00 and our follow them exactly how they are written. I go through it with them every morning during our morning meeting so they know what is expected of them that day. It has been super helpful keeping them on track while also getting them on our Meets at the correct times.

This is an example of the one I posted today:

The other helpful thing this time around is that our kids actually have binders with assignments for them to do with them at home. In the spring, we were flying by the seat of our pants every week because we had to do everything over Seesaw or Google Classroom. We taught using resources our kids weren’t used to. This time, we get to send things home weekly so our kids are using materials they would be using if we were in person. It reminds them that this is still school.

When we went to distance learning in the spring, I felt a huge disconnect from my class. I thought we had such a great bond all year but, when we left, I lost all connection with them and it killed me. This year, I’ve felt the same with them that I do in the classroom. It makes me so much happier to log on everyday. I actually think I’ve bonded more with this group being online because, at school, we couldn’t do a whole lot of relationship building due to COVID rules and procedures. We were so busy making sure we were at least 6 feet apart at all times, wearing our masks, and following all the new rules that there was no time for fun and I couldn’t play all of my classroom team building games that I have in the past.

It’s definitly been a hard few weeks, I’m not going to deny that, but it could be so much worse right now. I love my class and we will get through this. The best part is knowing that at some point, we will be back at school which, again, is much better than not going back at all last spring.

Also, can we just take a moment and love the fact that T. Swift just dropped her second album in 6 months? She kills me! I will forever be a huge fan and will never be ashamed of that! Evermore is pure beauty!

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Going Back to Distance

Like most Americans right now I am starting my 10 day stint of being in quarantine. I just found out that I have been exposed and had to take my first test. I’ve been dreading this day because I didn’t know what it would mean for school. I couldn’t imagine being away from my kids for 2 weeks while someone else teaches them. Ironically however, yesterday was our last day of in person teaching for awhile. Our district is officially moving to a full distance learning model so this unfortunate quarantine is coming at the right time.

As we all know, COVID cases have been skyrocketing these past few months and it is now hitting Minnesota hard. I can honestly say, up until August, I knew of maybe 3 people who had tested positive. Those cases were people that I didn’t even know personally. They were relatives of Facebook friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I knew how serious COVID was, and I have been one to take it very seriously, but it hadn’t really affected me yet.

About a month ago it started hitting too close to home. My class started to become a rotating door of students in and out of quarantine. At first, they would only be gone for a few days while they waited for their parent’s negative test results to come back but then the tests started to come back positive and I would have students out for weeks at a time.

It wasn’t just my class. This started to happen around our community. Because of this, we had to move our elementary schools to a hybrid model of teaching. Our hybrid model was a bit different than what other schools have done. The district still wanted our kids to come everyday but they had to be at least 6 feet apart at all times. To do this, most classes didn’t have to change anything except for moving some desks farther apart. That was not the case for my 5th grade teammates and I.

Because our kids are bigger and our class sizes are larger, we had to split our kids up. In order to do that, but still give them full instruction in person everyday, I had to move 1/2 of my kids into an adjoining classroom.

This was a wild concept for me to grasp my head around. I was going to have to teach 2 classrooms at the same time. After many hours of planning and preparing I finally got my “second classroom” set up and had my schedule set to how I was going to do this.

The view from my adjoining classroom door.

Within days of us moving to a hybrid model, our district decided we would be moving to a distance model right after Thanksgiving. We spent exactly 8 days in this hybrid set up with our kids.

Yesterday was the last in person day with my class. It was surreal to have to go through this again. The upside was that I was able to prepare my students for this possibility. I stressed so many times how this would be vastly different than what we went through last spring. I explained MANY times how we would be coming back sometime soon. This still was hard for some of my kids to understand. I had a few meltdowns because they were convinced they would never see me again. It was breaking my heart.

I was able to send them off with a little gift to keep them entertained until we start distance learning on December 1st. Last year, I had donors who supported my students so each one would get a free book every month. Thanks to the shut down, I wasn’t able to give them their March, April, or May books. Those books have been sitting in my car for 6 months waiting to be given to someone. I thought this was the perfect thing to send home with my students to put a much needed smile on their faces.

It was exactly what they needed. Even my harder students were thanking me.

This is going to be very challenging once again but I think we are more ready than we were. I know that this won’t last forever and I’ll have my class back in person soon. Once again, this proves to me how much I love my job and how much my kiddos mean to me.

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Mystery Science for the WIN

Oh. My. Goodness. This COVID teaching life is no joke. I am EXHAUSTED. I mean, we all know that teaching is exhausting but adding on all of the new rules AND the constant changes, is extra rough.

I’ve learned this year that I have to be okay with not being the best teacher in some areas and accepting that things are going to be hard and different. I will admit that this week was a hard week in many ways. Our school has gone from dropping the bomb that we would be moving to hybrid learning in the elementary schools on Monday, to being told we wouldn’t be given prep time for that transition on Tuesday, to then being told we would not be going to hybrid on Thursday. There is no other way to explain it than to say it was a total mind f**k. On top of that huge confusion, I had parent and student issues going on as well. I honestly can say I know I taught something this week but I don’t really know what.

The thing that got me through this week was my amazing team. This is the first time I feel like I’m on a team where everyone understands each other and is always there for you no matter what. I’m also finally on a team where everyone is a real person. There are no words to explain how helpful that makes everything.

There has been one resource that has truly been a lifesaver for me. If there is one subject I am not good at teaching, it’s science. I have really struggled with that in the past and was really stressing about how I would do it this year since I’m struggling just teaching reading and math.

This year our district is piloting Mystery Science as our science curriculum. For years I have been showing Mystery Doug videos weekly to my classes just for fun. If you’ve never watched these videos, do it! They are usually about 5-10 minutes long and touch on anything and everything kids want to know about. A video might be on how pencils are made, but the videos go way deeper than just that answer. I’ve told my students that every time I watch a video, I learn something new even if I know the answer to the title of the video.

Mystery Doug than evolved into a full fledged science curriculum website known as Mystery Science. (To be honest, I’m not sure what came first Mystery Doug or Mystery Science but I personally heard of Mystery Doug first.) Mystery Science’s website is super easy to follow and teach that literally anyone can do it! Even someone like me who really struggles understanding parts of science in the first place.

All you do is find your grade level standards and there are videos ready to go to show your students. The video goes through a lesson and always has a hands on exploration at the end. My students are starting the year off by learning about energy and electricity. They just completed an activity where they built their own chain reaction machine. It was so cool because they got to learn about energy transfer while also being their own engineers.

The site is so friendly to use that it is PERFECT for a distance learning teacher. My students all have their own Chromebooks so we’ve been practicing on doing lessons completely independently just in case we have to go distance in the future.

I send out a link on Seesaw to the week’s lesson, show them the materials they will need for the exploration, and then set them loose. The lesson videos are 10-30 minutes long and the hands on activities are around 30 minutes long. I’ve really enjoyed watching my kids be totally independent in their learning while navigating the videos and making their projects.

We do every other lesson together as a class so we can have class discussions and I can keep track of their learning. The weeks that they go through the videos on their own, I have a print out of questions they have to answer throughout so I can see later they followed along. (This has prevented my slackers from just clicking through the videos just to get done.)

The other super nice thing about this site is they are always updating it and posting new projects and videos weekly for any grade level. An example this week was that they posted a video on creepy crawly bugs. I sent this video link out to my class today during WIN time as an optional “Friday Fun” activity. They watched a short video and then got to make their own symmetrical centipedes. They LOVED it! It was so fun watching them laugh at the videos and get super into making their own bugs. The best part was that, to them, it was a Friday Fun activity but they were actually doing a science lesson at the same time without even realizing it.

Moral of the story, even if your school has a set science curriculum, go check out Mystery Science’s site. If you subscribe to Mystery Doug’s weekly videos, you get a new free video sent to your email every week followed by extra activities they will randomly post throughout the week. (Like the bug activity from today.) Kids love it and I promise you will to because it is no extra work. It’s actually a nice relaxing time of the week because for a few minutes you can take a breath while they are captivated by the video being shown.

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Back in Work Mode

Oh man, I don’t know about the rest of you but I feel like everyday has been a marathon and a sprint at the same time. I don’t know if it’s because of our shortened schedule mixed with our new COVID rules and procedures but I am exhausted at the end of every day. I also feel like I never get everything done that I need to.

We are now officially one month into school and I have finally come to the conclusion of what kind of class I have. I have a group of really sweet kids but they are also a group of kids who cannot be unsupervised or unstructured for more than a few minutes. They are the type of class that can get really loud and excited fast but then cannot come back down. I’ve had a couple of classes like this before so I sadly know what we will and won’t be able to do.

I’ve also come to the conclusion on who my students are as people. I know who my class clowns are, who my shy insecure kids are, and who my overachievers are.

My students (at least I think) have realized who I am as a teacher as well. I have high expectations for them and they know it. (Some of them hate it.) I do not tolerate certain behaviors that they have been able to get away with in the past. For some, this year has been a rude awakening and I’ve been called the mean teacher many times. In our district, 5th grade is the last year of elementary school. We tell our kids on day 1 that we are going to treat them like middle schoolers so there isn’t such a culture shock next year when they enter 6th grade. It’s been crazy for me to see how many of them don’t even act like a 10 year old.

It’s been rough trying to get everyone back into school life again. I’ve been told by my teammates that the 5th grade teachers are known as the “mean teachers in the school” because of the high expectations. What has made this year even harder than normal is that some of these kids haven’t had any structure in over 6 months. (Some even longer than that because their 4th grade teacher had no expectations what so ever.) The first few weeks I caught them doing things that I couldn’t even believe I was seeing. During a test I had students getting up to talk/share answers with another student in a different spot of the room. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had students who constantly tried to “sneak” on their hats in the classroom even though it’s a school policy to not wear hats. I’ve also had students who have flat out refused to do what I’ve asked of them. When I’ve asked them if they have gotten away with refusing what a teacher has asked before they said yes. It’s been wild and has definitely been an eye opener.

Besides the weird behaviors and adjusting to being back at school, we’ve had some pretty good moments including these amazing Daily 5 moments and this amazing writing my student wrote for me during write to self. (For anyone who doesn’t know, Max Kepler is an outfielder for the MN Twins and I love him!)

This year (thanks to the threat of going distance again) our school has provided Chromebooks for everyone in the district. Before this year, only kids in grades 6-12 had them. Being 5th graders, our students were the first to get their Chromebooks in the school. It’s been fun incorporating different sites and apps into our lessons. I am used to teaching with 1:1 devices, so it’s been fun for me to teach my students how to use different platforms like Seesaw, IXL, and Epic. I’ve also learned that “free Chromebook time” is the perfect Friday afternoon reward for positive behavior since the novelty of having them hasn’t worn off yet.

On top of the sites I’ve used before, I’ve also learned about more platforms our school is rolling out district wide this year. It’s been exciting incorporating different typing and music sites that they’ve been learning how to use in their media and music classes. As crazy as this year is, using the Chromebooks has been a nice constant in our day that will be able to stay constant when and if we have to go back to distance learning.

I’m also trying to adjust to trying to teach outside as much as possible. I’ve kind of been slacking on this. The only time I’ve really been outside with my class is to eat snack and lunch. That’s been it. (And that has been interesting itself.)

This is one of my students using the tinfoil from his lunch to “heat up” his friends peas….

I felt bad this week when I was hearing from other teachers about how they’ve been out to teach reading and to do math homework. Today I finally decided it was time to try going out. We were in the middle of taking our super long unit reading test so I had them finish it outside. It was wonderful and went much better than I had expected. (It helped that one of my harder students wasn’t in my room at the time.)

It’s been a weird month and it’s only going to get weirder. With our county’s COVID numbers, we are more than likely heading to a hybrid model soon which will be a whole new definition of weird. BUT I am thankful to have a job and to be able to see and teach my students in person. I’m really hoping things start to turn around soon so we won’t have to go back to what last year was like. Fingers crossed.

The mask eyes you have to make in order for your students to know
you mean business.

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The First 2 Days of the 2020-2021 School Year

Well as most of you are aware, this year is going to be a hot mess. After 2 official days with my class, I know that will be a true fact but I am so lucky to have the class I do! They are amazing and so sweet.

Our first day was yesterday (Thursday, September 10th) and it was a crazy day but it felt SO GOOD to be teaching in front of a group of kids again. I forgot how much I love working with them but I also forgot how much I love just getting to know them. It was a weird first day though because most of my “get to know you” activities we couldn’t do because of social distancing and masks.

Instead of having a full lesson plan on the whole day, I just made a list of what needed to get done and I worked from there. Our mornings are insane because school officially starts at 9:15 and we have to be at our specialist classes (art, phy ed, music, or media) by 9:20! Pretty much my students arrive and we’re out the door. That isn’t exactly the way I would like to start my day (especially our first day) but I’ll just have to get used to it.

Once I picked them up from their music class we had to take our first bathroom break of the year. I never thought I would have to have a “bathroom break schedule” for my 5th graders but that’s what this year entails. We can’t mix our class with anyone else so we can’t go to the bathrooms when other students are there. Because of that, we have certain times of the day our class can go to a certain bathroom when no one else is there. Needless to say, the poor 5th graders were so confused that this was happening but listened pretty well and didn’t complain. We have a few more scheduled throughout the day and they were awesome at handling that new change.

I was able to throw in some traditional first day activities like reading First Day Jitters and We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. I love reading those stories on the first day of school because they spark great conversations on how everyone is nervous for the first day of school (even teachers.) They’re also just fun silly books that the kids get into. Before we created our class rules I also read a fun new book called The World Needs More Purple People. It’s a fun new book written by Kristin Bell and Benjamin Hart. It talks about how the world needs more kind hard working people who are themselves and who accept others. It was the perfect book to read considering all of the things that have been happening in the world. We decided that our class motto was that we’ll all be Purple People this year.

Once we finished that story we created our class rules together. I do this every first day and every first day after Christmas break. I love it because the students are involved in our rules and take more ownership in following those rules.

The day was crazy and seemed to fly by. On top of all the normal first day things like organizing materials and getting to know each other activities, we had to go through new rules and procedures like wearing our masks, taking mask breaks outside, eating lunch in the classroom, and cleaning ALL THE TIME. Before I knew it (and before my list was complete), the day was over.

When I finally got to check my email at the end of the day, I saw I had a “delivery” waiting for me in the office. My mom had this beautiful flower display sent to celebrate my first day back.

Today was day 2 and it also flew by and was full of challenges but my kids were awesome and flexible about it. Today was centered around Chromebooks and the internet……yeahhhhhhh yikes.

This year, our district is finally rolling out 1:1 devices for all students k-12. Before this year, 6-12 had Chromebooks so the elementary students were not used to sites like Seesaw and IXL. Last spring during distance learning, they had a really hard time implementing those sites because no one had used them before. This year they wanted to be more prepared.

Today we decided to distribute their new Chromebooks and log into some of their online accounts. It was a crazy mess! Some of my kids could get into certain sites and others could get into different ones. For some wild reason, I couldn’t get all of my students into every account we have to start using on Monday. Hello headache!!!

Luckily, they were super patient and understood the struggles of the internet not working. Once we attempted all log ins, we played a Kahoot game to just have some fun. They all were able to get into that and it was so much fun! I made a 20 question Kahoot all about me and they loved it. Over the past 2 days I had shared tidbits here and there about who I am so the Kahoot was my way to see if they could figure out how to use Kahoot but also to see who in my class listens well and who doesn’t.

After our Chromebook mess, I had them pick out their first read to self book from our class library. We had a nice calm 15 minutes of reading before lunch. It was a nice way to practice stamina while also calming down after the crazy Kahoot game.

Today we also had to finish up our rules and consequences for our class. Day 1 we created our rules so today, day 2, we created our consequences. Before we brainstormed a list, I read The Bad Seed and The Cool Bean to remind them of what we want our class to look like and what we don’t want our class to look like. I was so impressed because their consequence ideas were so mature and realistic. Out of my 4 classes, I can already tell this group is the most level headed group I have had.

I’m so excited to actually start a real schedule next week. I think this will be a great year no matter what it looks like. Right now, our numbers look like we may be headed to a hybrid model soon which would mean 1/2 of my class would be in one room while the other 1/2 would be in my “second room” next door. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that doesn’t happen but if it does it does. Be ready for some interesting stories if that happens! I also have a student who is anti-mask so I’m hoping next week he finally gets over the fact that we all have to wear them. Because of his defiance, he hasn’t spent much time in my room so I’m hoping that changes!! Fingers crossed!!! That’ll be a story for next week and you definitely don’t want to miss it!

Year 4, let’s go!

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Back to School COVID Style

Well here we are everyone, we made it to September. It has been a wild and stressful summer because I didn’t know if I would have a job for this school year and, even if I got a job, no one knew what it was going to look like.

I know I wasn’t alone in that boat and I know I’m still not alone.

I wanted to start by giving a little update on my crazy long wait these past few months. As I’ve said before in a previous post, I found out the last week of April my job was being cut at the end of the school year. This was completely devastating to me because I did not see this coming. I found out later that my principal didn’t even know about it until after I got the call from the superintendent. It was a mess. I was given hope, however that they would be hiring back later in the summer once the fall school year plans were finalized.

I waited and waited and waited ALL summer for them to repost my job but it never happened. In Minnesota, we were told that the governor would make an official announcement on fall plans the last week of July. Districts were going to wait to hear his plan before they finalized theirs. A week after the governor announced Minnesota’s county by county plan, I heard from my principal that they would not be hiring anyone back. I felt sick to my stomach.

While I was waiting to see if I would get a call back, I was looking for other jobs around the area but no one was hiring. I truly thought there was no hope.

I felt like there was no hope until my home district (the one I grew up in and the one I taught at my first year out of college) was planning on hiring a handful of new teachers because of new programs they were going to roll out.

Side note: This district came out with very different and creative school choices for families in order to keep enrollment high and to make sure everyone felt safe in whatever environment they would be in. Families had the choice to enroll their student in a full distance learning class, a regular in the school class, or a nature based class that is entirely outside. Because of these options, many students stayed in the district and many students enrolled in the district.

I was fortunate enough to get an interview and a job offer back at the first school I taught at 3 years ago in the town I grew up in. I will officially be teaching 5th grade this year and, as of now, I am 100% in the classroom.

Just because we get to be back in the classroom, doesn’t mean things are back to normal however. I am usually a teacher who loves grouping students and hates desks. I love having tables in my room so students can collaborate throughout the day. That is not an option this year. I have 26 students and 26 desks that are spaced strategically around my small classroom to create as much distance between students as possible. It’s crazy how much room that takes up.

Another strange thing about this year is I don’t just have 1 classroom, I have 2. If our school has to go to a hybrid model of learning, 1/2 of my class will be in 1 room while the other 1/2 of my class will be in the other. Luckily the rooms are next to each other and has a door that connects them but it will definitely be an interesting experience.

My room this year isn’t as exciting as I normally like it to be but I’ve accepted the fact that having a perfectly decorated classroom is the least of my worries. I still wanted to share some pictures of my room just in case anyone is wondering what a COVID classroom looks like in Minnesota as school begins.

We had our teacher workshop week this week and it was a very different workshop week than I’m used to. All of our staff and team meetings were centered around questions and brainstorming sessions on keeping our students safe and distanced. The weirdest thing I think we discussed this week was the idea of having scheduled bathroom breaks throughout the day so our classes don’t mix with each other. Being an intermediate teacher the past 3 years, I’m not used to taking a class bathroom break especially at certain times so that is going to be a challenge for me to get used to.

Our last day of workshop was also our first day of Welcome Back/Assessment Days. I’m used to having 2 full days of this but this year we have 3 in order to keep our families separated as much as possible. We get 30 minute time slots per family with 10 minutes built in between to clean. As nervous as I was to meet my new families and students it was easily the best thing that I’ve gotten to do since school ended last spring. I am so excited to get to work with kids in person again and meeting 8 of my new students just increased that excitement even more. It was also so refreshing to meet all of the families who were so thankful for all of the work we’ve been putting in. They were so appreciative over our efforts and were so understanding when I kept telling them that what I told them yesterday might change in a matter of days because things are changing every hour. That was definitely a highlight of my week.

It’s going to be a mess but I’ve realized that’s where everyone is at and it’s okay. We are all just doing our best and making the most of what we can. I’m just so thankful to have a job and to be able to finally teach kids in person again! I’ll be back next week to cover the first 2 days of school and all of the new challenges that will come with it including trying to talk in a mask all day.

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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.

 

 

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