12 Days of Christmas – Day 3

Would you rather eat only Christmas cookies or only drink hot cocoa?

Oh man….I’ve never thought about this one before. I’ll be honest, I love both Christmas cookies and hot cocoa but neither are my favorite thing in the world. I think if I had to pick one, I would choose to eat only Christmas cookies. I love hot cocoa but I love coffee more and a peppermint mocha is more exciting to me than hot cocoa.

I mentioned in the post 12 Days of Christmas – Day 1 that there is nothing better than one of my grandma’s chocolate crinkle cookies. She only makes them at Christmas time and knows they’re my favorite. She usually makes me my own batch when she is making some for our family Christmas. She now lives only 20 minutes from me but she used to live over 4 hours away, every year she would drive those 4 hours just to give me my tin of chocolate crinkle cookies. Just thinking about them make me think of Christmas.

I think as much as hot cocoa reminds most of Christmas, it really doesn’t do that to me. My mom is not a coffee drinker so growing up she had hot cocoa all the time. She would have a mug every single night whether it was 30 below in February or 100 degrees in July. As kids, she would always make my sister and I some whenever we wanted. We had it so often it never really seemed like a holiday drink to me.

Another reason I would choose Christmas cookies over hot cocoa would be just the tradition of making the cookies. Every single December growing up, Sundays were spent making Christmas cookies with my mom and sister. Those are memories I will never forget and will definitely be doing with my children someday. We all know that besides spending time together, the best part was always eating the first batch right out of the oven. Those Sundays were easily some of my all time favorite days.

Christmas 2017 making those homemade cookies with my grandma, mom, and baby sister!

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To join in on the festivities, go check out our amazing leader’s page Abbey@ThreeCatsandaGirl! If you find her 12 days of Christmas tab, you’ll see her posts from this Blogmas and her past 3 YEARS worth of Blogmas posts!! If you want to read more Blogmas fun, go check out the pages of my other friends; AJ at Petite Slice of Life and Amber at To the Great Western World!

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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

12 Days of Christmas – Day 2

Would you rather be an elf in Santa’s shop or a reindeer on Santa’s sleigh?

This is an interesting question….would I rather be an elf or a reindeer? I think if I had to choose I would choose to be an elf rather than a reindeer.

This might sound silly but deep down I’ve always wished I could live in a fantasy Christmas themed world like being an elf at the North Pole. Watching movies like The Santa Claus, I always wished a little Christmas magic would make its way into my life and I’d be able to live in a world full of candy canes and hot chocolate.

I think being an elf, I would have more opportunities to live that magical life. Sure, I’d have to work all the time but elves are born with happy and optimistic personalities. I wouldn’t care that I was working all the time because that would be in my nature. And come on, how amazing would it be to say that your job was an elf? You don’t just have to build toys to be an elf, you could work with the reindeer or be Santa’s personal assistant. No matter what your duties are, you’d be surrounded by other happy and optimistic elves just like you. Doesn’t that sound like a fun and magical life?

One year in high school, I even dressed up as an elf for Halloween. Yeah, I was a little strange but I love Christmas and what says Christmas more than an elf?

Flashback to Halloween 2011….Yikes

The only thing that interests me about thinking about being a reindeer would be having the ability to fly. I mean, you’d have to be crazy to think that wouldn’t be awesome. I’m terrified of heights and I still think that would be cool. That being said, I think the pros of being an elf outweigh having the ability to fly making my choice very easy!

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To join in on the festivities, go check out our amazing leader’s page Abbey@ThreeCatsandaGirl! If you find her 12 Days of Christmas tab, you’ll see her posts from this Blogmas and her past 3 YEARS worth of Blogmas posts!! If you want to read more Blogmas fun, go check out the pages of my other friends; AJ at Petite Slice of Life and Amber at To the Great Western World!

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12 Days of Christmas – Day 1

Would you rather give up Christmas trees or Christmas cookies?

I know this one might be hard for some but for me, this is an easy would you rather Christmas question. It is not Christmas without a wonderous beautifully lit Christmas tree. I would easily give up Christmas cookies if it meant keeping my Christmas tree.

There is something so magical about a Christmas tree! Between the the ornaments, lights, and (of course) presents, it means the holiday season is officially here. Unlike most people, the tree in my family goes up the day after Halloween. Always has and always will. It makes me so happy when November 1st finally rolls around knowing that at the end of the day, I’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the wonderful new view in my living room.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good Christmas cookie (and my grandma makes the best chocolate crinkle cookies that exist) BUT I’m not a big sweet person. I used to love every single cookie that was out there and lived for Christmas to come around just for the cookies. Over time though, my taste changed and I started to enjoy making the cookies more than eating them. (I know, I’m weird!)

So you tell me, would you rather give up Christmas trees or Christmas cookies??

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To join in on the festivities, go check out our amazing leader’s page Abbey@ThreeCatsandaGirl! If you find her 12 Days of Christmas tab, you’ll see her posts from this Blogmas and her past 3 YEARS worth of Blogmas posts!! If you want to read more Blogmas fun, go check out the pages of my other friends AJ at Petite Slice of Life and Amber at To the Great Western World!

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My Experience With COVID-19

Well it happened, I got the COVID. I didn’t get it at school AND I wear a mask ALL THE TIME when I’m around people I don’t know and when I’m in public but I still was lucky enough to get it. I wanted to share my experience since it is such a weird virus. Everyone I’ve talked to who have had it have experienced different things. I kept going online looking for someone with similar symptoms as myself but I couldn’t find anything. I’m hoping that maybe someone reading this can relate to some of the things I talk about and it clicks with them that they might have it too and should get tested.

How did I get it? Most people have this question because you truly might not know. I know exactly how I got it and from whom. I’m not going to lie, I’m a very antisocial person! I have a very VERY small group of friends who I enjoy spending time with and see on a regular basis. My best friend, let’s call him Sam, is the only person I see weekly and I have done so for the past 4 years. I’ve also been super cautious these past 9 months about who I interact with and I know he has been the same way so I have felt safe spending time with him. Well, unfortunately one of Sam’s roommates was exposed and didn’t know. In turn, he gave it to Sam without knowing, and Sam gave it to me without knowing. It happens that fast.

I was exposed on a Saturday but didn’t have any symptoms until 4 days later. I’m on day 17 post exposure and I’m still feeling the effects of this thing. Here is my timeline (again, it is probably different than what you may have experienced or what you have heard from loved ones.)

Day 1: No symptoms

Day 2: No symptoms

Day 3: No symptoms

Day 4: The symptoms began without knowing they were symptoms. I had a sore throat and was super tired. (This is normal when I get overly tired at school. I had no idea these were symptoms.)

Day 5: Sore throat got worse and my tiredness began to turn into pure exhaustion.

Day 6: Sore throat felt the same as Day 5. I also developed a stuffed/runny nose and headache. (I truly thought this was a cold because these are my normal cold symptoms…) I also was so tired, I could barely think. This was the day that I found out Sam had been tested and his test came back positive. I then took a test myself.

Day 7: Throat felt much better but my nose was still stuffed. I was so tired and fatigued I could barely get off of the couch. I slept most of the day. I also noticed the “COVID fog” set in. I could hardly focus on anything.

Day 8: Very similar to Day 7. My nose was still stuffed and I slept the day away. This was the day I also noticed my taste and smell were gone. This was SUPER weird. I’m used to losing smell because my nose is so stuffed but I’ve never fully lost my taste before! It was so weird.

Day 9: Started to feel a little better. I could get up and walk around my apartment but only for a certain amount of time before I needed to lay down again. Nose still stuffed and still no taste or smell. This was the day my test results came back confirming I had Coronavirus.

Day 10: Very similar to Day 9. I was able to get up and move around. I started to notice, however that a deep breath was very challenging for me. This was also the day the insomnia set in.

Day 11: My taste returned but still no smell. My nose was still stuffed and taking a deep breath was still hard. I was able to do more around my apartment without feeling so fatigued. This was the day I started to feel super bored in quarantine because I didn’t feel the need to sleep all day. The insomnia continued at night.

Day 12: Very similar to Day 11. I had taste but no smell and my nose was stuffed up. Deep breaths were hard and I began to notice that the more active I was, the easier it was for me to become winded. I started to notice that I had to do things at a slow pace otherwise I would be out of breath. I also noticed that I was still pretty weak without feeling as sick.

Day 13: Similar to Day 12 but I began to notice my legs were achy. I thought it was from all the laying and sitting but I stretched them and made it a point to move around more but they felt weak.

Day 14: Similar to Day 13.

Day 15: Similar to Day 13 BUT I was able to do 20 minutes of yoga again!

Day 16: My symptoms were similar to how they had been but the major fatigue was back. I had a virtual staff meeting in the morning for 2 hours and by the end of it, I had to go and take a 2 hour nap. I spent most of the day on the couch again just exhausted. I also noticed that after working for a few hours, the COVID fog was back. I could hardly focus on anything.

Day 17: This is my first day back officially at work. The plus side is that we are fully distance learning so I can work from my desk all day without moving around so much. I also can go and work from home if I need to. Deep breaths are still challenging for me and I still get winded very quickly. I feel like I am extremely out of shape. I still have a stuffed nose and I still can’t smell. My legs still feel super weak and the COVID fog comes and goes.

It’s SO weird how this virus has changed over these past 2 weeks. I also want to note that I never had a fever or a major cough. (2 very common signs of COVID.) My aunt, uncle, and cousin all had it but they all experienced something completely different from me and each other. The one thing we all have in common though, is that we still are all slow moving and get tired too quickly. My uncle had it a month and a half ago and told me he still gets winded from the simplest of things and has to take it easy.

The one thing about quarantine that I did enjoy, was all the time and photo shoots I got to take with my cat….yes, I’m a crazy cat lady and I embrace it!

I have attached an interesting chart I saw on Facebook yesterday that compare COVID symptoms to the flu and the common cold. I found it interesting because a lot of my symptoms aligned with the common cold and not COVID. If you have ANY of these symptoms, go get yourself tested because it might just be the Coronavirus even if you’re convinced it’s not.

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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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Outside Cafeterias and Masking Up – COVID Classroom 2020

Our first full week is complete and I’m shockingly not as tired as I have been in the past. It was a good week full of lots of housekeeping and FINALLY starting some curriculum lessons!

This week started off with a pretty normal couple of days but then the bomb came. We found out Monday that on Wednesday our entire school building’s schedule was going to change! Because of specialist schedules and bathroom schedules, the schedule had to be rewritten so our classes wouldn’t mix in the hallways. Luckily for us, the only thing that switched in our schedule was lunch being a whole half an hour sooner than it had been. That was wonderful news for me because I was STARVING by the time we finally got to eat. It’s crazy how much of a difference 30 minutes can make.

My students loved the change in schedule as well so it didn’t bother me too much. The only problem came when one of my students (who needs to know what’s going on at all times otherwise he has a mini melt down) couldn’t understand why our schedule changed and why we were going to lunch sooner when the clock didn’t read our “normal” time. I felt bad for the poor kid. He handled it much better however than I thought. He was able to adjust quickly by the next day.

Lunch has been one thing that has been really strange this year. For one thing, because we can’t mix with other classes, we can’t each lunch in the lunchroom with the whole grade level like normal. Because of that, we have to eat in our classrooms (gross) or outside! If there is one thing I hate, it’s the smell of a cafeteria in an elementary school. I LOVE my job but I hate lunch supervision duty. (Even if the smell wasn’t so bad, just watching some kids eat is disgusting!) When I heard that my students would be eating in the classroom, I was not too thrilled.

The first few days I tried eating inside but it was too chaotic and the smell was too much. This week, I took my students outside to eat and it was a little easier. It was a challenge to get my students to eat the first few days rather than go crazy because they were outside. I think it was hard for them to understand that we were outside to eat lunch, not play. Yesterday and today, however finally got better. They found a spot in the grass and ate their lunches like normal human beings which was a small but exciting win for me.

I did have to laugh though, because a group of my boys were yelling and pointing at something in the grass. When I asked what it was they informed me it was a dead bird…..I asked them why they didn’t move and they looked at me like I was the crazy one. I guess eating next to dead birds is the cool thing to do now…? 5th grade boys are weird.

Another small success came this week with one of my students. Last week I hinted at a story about one of my anti mask wearing students. In our district, parents were offered many options for their child this school year. They could opt in for 100% distance learning classrooms or 100% outdoor/nature based learning classrooms if they didn’t want their child to have to wear a mask. It was then stated that any family who chose to send their student back into the classroom would understand and agree to having their child wear a mask all day everyday. No exceptions.

One of my boys had a really hard time with this.

Side note: He is a really sweet boy who has ASD and ODD. He receives behavioral support services in a normal year so I had a feeling, with this crazy strange year, he would need some extra support to help him get through these first few weeks.

When I first met this student at our Welcome Back Days, he flat out refused to wear a mask. He then informed me his thoughts on mask wearing and let’s just say, they weren’t positive thoughts. During our first 30 minutes together, I didn’t get anything out of him other than his negativity towards coming back to school and having to wear a mask. I think I heard the word hate come out of his mouth at least 5 times every minute.

Because of our non-negotiable rule that if a student comes to school they must wear a mask, I knew the first day (plus) would be hard. Sure enough, day 1 started with him flat out refusing to take his mask out of his backpack. I didn’t know yet how to work with him in a way that would be productive so I had to call for some backup. Sadly, he was in my room for maybe 1/2 of the first day. I was able to have a conversation with him at lunch that day. I tried to get him to talk about anything other than masks but he was stuck on that subject all day. At one point, I asked if he’d like to wear a face shield instead. His response, “People who wear face shields look like terrorists.” Yep, so no face shield.

He was so angry and stubborn about wearing his mask on day 2 that I only had him in my classroom for 1 hour that day. I hate that! I never want a student out of my room for a long period of time even if they are having a rough behavior day. I wanted to regroup and go into this week with a fresh attitude and mindset on how to get him to be more relaxed so he could stay in our room all day.

This week, he walked in Monday morning with his mask on and that was that. It was like I was finally getting to see the real him instead of the angry irregulated boy I met last week. Granted, he still complained up and down about how much he hated masks but he kept it on. He would take it off every so often but as soon as I would ask him to put it back on, he did it no questions asked. That’s a success in my book! The best part was that by the end of this week, I finally got him to smile and laugh with me. I think we finally made a breakthrough where he feels he can trust me and knows that I’m in his court. I know we will have rough days this year but I think we’re building a relationship to help offset those rough days.

I know I’ve said this before but I have a soft spot for kids like him. It’s my more challenging students that I think about all the time even after I have them. I know that, because of past behaviors, sometimes these types of kids get a bad rap and some teachers immediately are prejudiced towards them because of that. I hate that. These kiddos need extra love, support, and understanding. They’re different, they need different things than most students in the classroom and I’m not afraid to give them what they need even if it makes my job harder. If you can build that connection and trust with those students, your “bad” days won’t be so bad. That kid will know it’s okay to have those hard moments and it won’t change how you feel about them or how you treat them.

Overall, our first official full week went pretty well. I love my class and can tell it’s going to be a great and fun year! There are a few yahoos in my room, however that might need to see the “mean Ms. Nygaard” come out if some of their choices don’t change for the better. They’re not bad kids by any means but I can tell it’s been 6 months since some of them have had any structure and discipline in their lives, thanks COVID! I’m hoping next week is just as great.

(There are talks about moving to a hybrid model soon so we’ll see what happens. If it comes sooner than not, be ready for some major teaching fails as I try to navigate teaching 2 rooms of students at the same time! Fingers crossed!)

Extra little surprise this week, one of the teachers at my old school sent me this awesome message over Facebook. One of my old students wrote about me in their weekly morning work. It’s the little things like this that make it all worth it!

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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.

 

 

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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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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