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

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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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

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 Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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The New Normal

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

Yesterday however, things were HARD to say the least.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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What is Happening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Fairytaletopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Personification Superheroes & Ice Cream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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New Hair, Who Dis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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