12 Days of Christmas – Day 6

Would you rather star on a popular holiday music single or star in a popular holiday movie?

This is a quick and easy one. I would LOVE to star in a popular holiday movie!

I am one of those hopeless holiday romantics who love Hallmark Christmas movies. Yes, they all have the same plot, but they are all so sweet. I’ve always wanted my life to play out like one during the holiday season. I think it would be so fun to star in one of those movies. For a few weeks, you could pretend you were actually living in that world and take in the Hallmark magic.

I wouldn’t mind staring in my own holiday single but I can’t sing to save my life. It would not be pretty! I love to sing Christmas songs but I also like to be good at what I’m doing. Being a teacher, I think I know how to put on a show. I think I would be much more successful staring in my own holiday movie than singing my own single.

All 3 of us love our Hallmark Christmas movies!

Come join our 12 days of Christmas Blogmas fun!

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

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NEDA Week 2021

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

Distance Learning Take 2

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

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

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

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

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

This is an example of the one I posted today:

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

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

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

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

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12 Days of Christmas – Day 5

Would you rather eat gingerbread every day or candy canes everyday?

I honestly had to ask my students this question because I thought it seemed like an interesting one. The results came back even more interesting, it was almost an exact 50/50 response. Half of my kids would rather eat gingerbread and the other half would rather eat candy canes. Personally, I think I would pick candy canes.

I do enjoy both gingerbread and candy canes but I prefer the taste of peppermint over gingerbread. A candy cane is a nice little treat to have that will also freshen your breath. I can’t finish a full sized candy cane but the mini ones are perfect! I’m not the biggest sweet eater but a nice mini candy cane is perfect for me.

Candy canes are also a nice little reminder of my mom. She used to stock up on the packs of mini candy canes during the holiday season. She would buy so many of them that we had one every night with our hot chocolate until the end of July. I would love to have a candy cane everyday just to pay tribute to my mom.

I do enjoy gingerbread but it’s not my favorite thing in the world. I enjoy a gingerbread cookie maybe once a year and that’s good enough for me. I get my holiday cookie fix in and I’m good for another year.

Come join our 12 days of Christmas Blogmas fun!

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

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12 Days of Christmas – Day 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come join our 12 days of Christmas Blogmas fun!

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

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12 Days of Christmas – Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

Flashback to Halloween 2011….Yikes

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

Come join our 12 days of Christmas Blogmas fun!

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

Go check out my Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher for more day to day action and live activities!

Go check out my previous posts!

My Experience With COVID-19

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

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

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

Day 1: No symptoms

Day 2: No symptoms

Day 3: No symptoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 14: Similar to Day 13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Going Back to Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

The view from my adjoining classroom door.

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

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

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

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

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

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Mystery Science for the WIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Back in Work Mode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Outside Cafeterias and Masking Up – COVID Classroom 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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