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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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 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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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. … Continue reading The New Normal

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 … Continue reading What is Happening

Hot Mess Alert

Well it’s been a hot minute guys. I apologize for being a little behind on posts but life has been crazy busy. It’s crazy to think that I was going to share on Valentine’s Day about our party, and now here we are 2 weeks later and there has been nothing. Today’s post is going … Continue reading Hot Mess Alert

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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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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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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Fairytaletopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Colds, Idioms, and Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Back After Break

Oh man guys what a week back! I am EXHAUSTED!!!

I don’t know when you went back to school (teacher friends of course, sorry to those who had to work over break) but we went back last Thursday giving us a 2 day week followed by a full week. Man, a full week of school is HARD!!

Last week, on Thursday, I wanted to ease back into the school day (which was for the kiddos but also for me because I was not in the mood to be back.) I started the day like it was the first day of school all over again. We sat and discussed our rules and expectations as a class. On the first day of school, I have the kids put together a “contract” about their top 6 rules they want for the class along with their top 6 consequences they want for the class. Coming back, I had them discuss those rules and consequences and had them discuss what rules and consequences they wanted to keep and what they would want to change for the second half of the year.

They decided they wanted to keep 5/6 of both. I was so proud of how seriously they took this! They are such a great group of kids who constantly want to do the right thing. Their list of rules and consequences show how mature they are!

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This week was a marathon with a TON of extra stress that was added. Obviously, I knew this week was going to be hard, and I was ready for that. The difference is I was surprised with an observation this week….

Being a non tenured teacher, I have to be observed 3 times throughout the year. I’ve already had my first one back in October and wasn’t thinking about another one AT ALL coming back after break. I got a nice little surprise on Tuesday morning when my principal said he wanted to get my second done this week. I hardly knew what I was doing that day so I had to pull it together fast so I could get a good observation under my belt.

I was able to come up with a good lesson and thought it went well when I was observed today. It wasn’t a perfect lesson AT ALL but, considering the week and how unprepared I was, I thought it worked out.

Man seriously, January is rough. I coach high school gymnastics (which is a winter sport) so I feel like I am constantly working and never have time for anything else except for sleep. I love my teaching job and I love my coaching job but I am so excited it’s a Friday night so I can finally sleep and do nothing for the next 2 days!!

 

PS: I never shared my New Year’s Eve catastrophe about how I met this guy at a bar and really connected with him for a couple hours trying to get that midnight kiss. I have the worst luck in the world (especially with guys) so about 20 minutes until midnight, he disappeared so no kiss for me…..ugh. BUT I thought I looked great so I wanted to share my awesome outfit!

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

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Blogmas Days 5 and 6 (PLUS Hot Chocolate Craft!)

Blogmas Day 5 – Tree Skirt

This is a hard one for me. I know some families have a tree skirt that they may have used forever and it has sentimental value….not our family. We would usually buy a tree skirt every few years from Target, but they’d always be the cheapest one they had. My mom always said that it’s better to focus more attention decorating the tree itself than buying something expensive to go underneath. We also would have a ton of presents for friends and family under our tree, so we never really could see the tree skirt.

When I moved out into my own place, I wanted to buy a nicer looking skirt for my tree because I wanted it to have a full and finished look. I got a pretty white and red one from Hobby Lobby last year and have it again this year.

Blogmas Day 6 – Anti Wish List

This one is hard for me!! I usually don’t even have a wishlist for myself on Christmas. I’m a lame person who prefers giving gifts rather than receiving them. I am appreciative over anything I get. Being a teacher, I get a lot of amazing gifts but I also get a lot of gifts that I don’t really have any use for. I am grateful for anything and everything I get. Because of that, I don’t really have an anti wishlist.

Want to participate in Blogmas 2019? Check out the following guidelines!

Last year you might have followed along with the 12 Days that I did with some of the gals listed above and we had such a good time that we decided to celebrate again together this year! So without further ado here are the guidelines for my 12 Days of Christmas.

  1. use the image provided in each post, so that way anyone who might jump in later can see what the plan is for the month.
  2. for sure link back to me, Abbey@ThreeCatsandaGirl, so that way I can celebrate your Christmas with you and maybe get some ideas of how to create festive enjoyment!
  3. spread Christmas cheer in the way you know best!

 

School Fun – Warming our Hearts

In school yesterday we did one of my favorite projects of the year that I wanted to share. It is one of my favorites that we do during the holiday season. The project I got off of Teachers Pay Teachers a few years ago from Counselor Keri‘s shop for $2.00. It was totally worth it! We start the activity with a mindfulness activity that gets them thinking about what makes them happy. They pretend they’re holding a cup of hot chocolate and think about the warmth they feel. We talk about how that warmth is like how our hearts feel when we’re happy. After the activity, I hand out 4 paper marshmallows and ask them to write something that makes them happy on each one. They then cut them out and put them on a hot chocolate (paper) mug they already have colored. They always turn out so cute and sweet.

 

 

For more day to day action and activities, go follow my class’s Instagram @lifeoftherookieteacher!!

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