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!

For more live day to day videos and lessons, go follow my teaching Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

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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 … Continue reading Outside Cafeterias and Masking Up – COVID Classroom 2020

The New Normal

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

Yesterday however, things were HARD to say the least.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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What is Happening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Personification Superheroes & Ice Cream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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New Hair, Who Dis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Crazy Scheduled Week

I’m a day late but I’m here to share so many different things that happened this week. This is a week that was fast but long at the same time. The week itself went by fast but the days themselves seemed like they lasted forever.

Monday and Tuesday were normal days and went by relatively fast. Wednesday was insane! On Wednesdays, teachers have to be in PLC meetings for an hour, which ends up going 15 minutes past when school starts. For those 15 minutes, students go to the gym and have a mini assembly with our school counselors. It’s a great thing in theory but students leave this assembly hyped and it usually takes another 15 minutes to get them settled in for the day. That right there takes up 30 minutes of our Wednesdays. This past Wednesday I was stressed because I was supposed to be having my 1st observation of the year with my new principal. Luckily, my class was awesome and calmed down right away (I also may have put the fear of behaving in them ahead of time but that’s beside the point.) I had this great lesson for my observation but my principal warned me he might be a little late. I waited as long as I could for him but eventually had to start teaching without him there. He ended up walking in as soon as my lesson was over and my students were doing the activity that went with the lesson.

Later that day we had our make up race that we had to postpone from last Friday due to weather. We had our races scheduled for the afternoon. The morning was beautiful but, of course, it started to rain when we went out for our race. After the running, we have a grade level tug-a-war tournament. Each class goes against every other class until we have the tug-a-war champions. This and the race take about an hour and a half. Because of this, I obviously didn’t have our afternoon planned. Because of the weather, we were only outside for the race and had to cancel the tug-a-war. That meant that when we went back inside, we had an hour to kill that wasn’t planned. We had a snack and did some cleaning. I then read to them for the remainder of our day.

**Side note: If you are a teacher, or have kiddos around the age of 10, I have the PERFECT read aloud suggestion for you!! The book series is called The Land of Stories written by Chris Colfer. It’s about these 11 year old twins who fall into their grandma’s fairy tale book (called the land of stories) and have to find their way home. They go through this crazy journey while also meeting their favorite fairy tale characters. The best part is this is a 6 book series. The past few years I’ve read the first 3 books to my classes and they have LOVED it. They get so hooked they want to read the second half of the series to themselves. Seriously, go look it up! It’s also super funny and has a lot of adult humor hidden inside so it makes it entertaining to the adult reader as well.**

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Thursday was a semi-normal day. The only change was that in the afternoon we had our annual walkathon during our kids’ specialist time. Our walkathon is our fundraiser for school activities, playground equipment, app subscriptions, etc. Students are asked to ask 5 different people to donate $5.00 to help their school (we call this “Strive for 5.”) They then spend one hour on our walkathon day walking around the track at our local high school (which is the backyard of our elementary school) as their way to make the most of the money the donated. In my opinion, it’s a fun fundraiser and gives the kids a chance to do something to help their school. They aren’t required to donate any money (which I like because I hate asking anyone for money) but they all get to participate in the walk. It’s a great class bonding activity and a great way to get everyone in the school active for a day. Teachers are asked to walk for half of the hour their students are out there. I love that part. It’s so fun to just talk to your students without worrying about teaching or meeting any standards. At the very end of the grade’s time, our phy ed teachers lead them through a couple different dances to do all together. We did the Cupid Shuffle and the Hokie Pokie. It was so fun!

Friday was an early release for the students so we could have an afternoon of staff development (focusing on our individual growth plans for the year….so much fun) so it was another crazy day. I wanted to do something fun since we didn’t have as much time for things as normal. I decided that we were going to do some major multiplication facts review.

Last year in 3rd grade, they learned all about multiplication. The only problem was that after the summer, some don’t remember their facts. We needed to review these so I thought a half day would be the perfect day to do this.

I set up 4 different multiplication stations for us to do instead of our usual new math lesson. Before we did any stations we played a multiplication “I have, who has” game (I bought the game for $2.25 from TchrBrowne’s store.) I timed them so we could have a starting point on how fast they could get through the game with their basic facts. I then split them into 4 different groups to switch between 4 15 minute stations. The stations included; multiplication bingo with me, an October multiplication packet (First Tries and Sunny Skies store), a choice between 2 different multiplication games (Multiplication Squares from Flying through Fourth‘s store and Multiplication Connect 4, also from Flying through Fourth ‘s store), and 2 different multiplication IXL assignments done on their iPad.

Once we finished the stations we played “I have, “who has” again and they dropped their time by a whole minute. They did awesome! My plan is to continue this game throughout the year so they become experts at their facts.

This week was fast but slow. The crazy days Wednesday-Friday threw it all off. It’s weird because days when the schedule is different, it should seem faster, but in reality the day is so much slower.

I am exhausted and ready to sleep in tomorrow as late as possible. I honestly can’t wait, however to be back on Monday. I love this class. They are so amazing and sweet. I have had 2 hard classes (each hard in their own way) the past 2 years, so this year, compared to that, these kids are a piece of cake. Happy weekend friends!

 

For more day to day action, pictures, and videos, go follow my teacher instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!