Monday, September 4, 2017

Classroom Reveal 2017

This past summer I had to do the dreaded task of moving classrooms again. In my 6 years of teaching, I have moved classrooms or to a new school 5 times. Even though I do not like packing, just to unpack and set up an entirely new classroom, it does give me time to purge and have a nice, clean slate to work with. I finished my classroom with about an hour to spare before Meet the Teacher, so I was very relieved! I am still missing bits and pieces of my classroom, specifically labeling everything and adding a few things to bulletin boards, but it is ready for the first day!
This year's "theme" is tropical fruit! I always have the same color scheme every year- turquoise, lime, and pink, but like to change different themes each year. The bulletin board letters were made using Astrobrights Color Paper. I also used Tropical Punch Pineapples Border, Yellow Wavy Border and fabric from JoAnn's. 
This is my classroom door bulletin board, and I know I am lucky to only have 7 students so far! Last year I had 18, so the numbers do change a lot. Teaching at a private school definitely has some benefits. I used the Ombre Lime Green Scallops Borders because it matched this pineapple fabric I was lucky enough to find last year at JoAnn's. 
These are my displayed work bulletin boards. I use them to hang up work easily and not have to take out my stapler every time I want to hang them up. They are a lifesaver and so easy to change frequently. I used clothespins and hot glued them to colorful scrapbook paper and then printed out a little pineapple/circle and glued that to the other side of the clothespin. It is so much easier than trying to glue the thumbtack to the clothespin! 
Find what I used here:
Ombre Turquoise Scallops Borders
Pineapple Bulletin Board Kit by Apples & ABCs

For my Classroom Jobs, I will use a clothespin to keep track of which student has each job for the week. I used hot glue and ribbon, and then stapled it to this bulletin board. Find it here: Classroom Jobs by Sweet for Kindergarten

These are my new classroom "rules". I like to have encouraging rules to build our classroom community in a positive way. We repeat these every day and refer to them quite a lot, especially in the beginning of the year. Find them here: In this class... Classroom Rules.

Focus Walls are a great visual tool for your students (and YOU!) to focus on what you are learning for the week. At the beginning of the week, we go over what we are learning, and then throughout the week, we refer back to the board. My students will use it when they need help spelling a word, or if they forget the essential question. My school uses the program Reading Wonders, and you can find this focus wall here: Kindergarten or First Grade
So this year, I am trying something new.... No teacher desk! It has taken up so much room and I hardly sit at it anyways, so I am trying this out for now. I have a computer table and then will be using my small group table next to it. It does get a little cramped back there, and I had to find a home for my 10 million Flair pens and Sharpies (new home: in the rainbow cart), but so far it is working well! 
Here's a closer look at my organization behind the teacher table. If you are going desk-less, you have to figure out a storage/organization system that works! Thank God for this toolbox! Without it, I don't think I would have been able to get rid of my desk. Labels are from Teach Create Motivate, you can find them here. I use these turquoise and pink bins from Michaels for my daily plans. I have two 3 drawer storage organizer to store paper, copies, and things to prep. On top of the shelf, there is a To Copy paper tray because that is what I end up reaching for the most. 
I used these Rainbow Cart Labels from Miss West Best. They are editable and match my classroom perfectly! The days of the week labels are actually from this Calendar Set from Love and Lessons, I printed extra and they ended up fitting in the adhesive labels on the bins. Score! 
How cute are these Pineapple Clock Numbers from All Kinds of Special?!?! 
This next area is my Art Center. At the beginning of the year, we use this space to do Letter Crafts, and by the end they are doing long vowel crafts and flip books! It's amazing how much they learn in a  year. 
 I redid these crate seats this summer, because mine were gross. They looked like they were brown chevron, not the pretty rainbow chevron they once were. My fabulous sister (who is a 1st Grade teacher) showed me this idea of using a shower curtain OVER the fabric. So if there is a spill, accident, dirty hands, etc, you can just wipe clean. GENIUS! 
This is my Phonics board, where all the phonics crafts hang up to display. This little area under it is going to be my "Cool Down Corner". It's just two desks pushed together, and then I put extra fabric over it! 
Now...this is my FAVORITE area! My classroom library/reading corner! I use this chair to read aloud books, do our morning phonics lesson and our morning meeting time. 
 Here are the book bins with all the read aloud, sorted by holiday/theme. I find this the easiest way to look for a book. Library Labels by Natalie's Nook
I made this bench over the summer and can't wait for my students to get to sit and read there. The bookcases are from Target, I had one, so I just bought another and put them together. Once I saw this Pineapple Throw Pillow Case , I knew it would be so cute in my library area! These Chalkboard Posters are a freebie by Khrys Greco. 
These bins SAVE MY SANITY! When a student finished their work, they put it in the "Finished Work" bin. I can easily grab it the bin whenever it is overflowing starts to fill up and go through and check their work. If a student doesn't finish their work, it goes in the "Unfinished Work" bin. On Friday afternoons, I hand out all the papers in the unfinished work bin and students work on that. If they have no unfinished work, YAY!, then they get to pick a Fun Friday activity, like play-doh, STEM bins, or free draw. This really motivates my students to finish their center work!
Here is my Calendar area. This is the one part of my classroom that is not completely finished, because I add to it as the year goes on. The Calendar Cards are by Love and Lessons and the Calendar Inserts are by Extra Special Teaching. 
My birthday display is on the back of our cubbies this year! I am using whatever wall space I can get and this is the perfect place for birthdays. The apple border and "Best Day Ever" wall stickers are from the Target Dollar Spot. 

Thank you so much for stopping by to check out my classroom this year! 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

First Year Teaching Advice

When I got the call for my first teaching job, I was so excited that I cried in the middle of my summer job at the pool. I knew I was ready to become a teacher, after years of working with kids, two student teaching internships, and a Pinterest board full of ideas. But when I first stepped into training, my head began to swarm with all these new responsibilities. It was so hard trying to remember everything I had to do- check AR, take attendance, tie this kid’s shoe, submit lesson plans on time, write the objective before each lesson, grade papers, keep up with data binders, parent emails, staff meetings, the list went on! The first month was a blur and then I was up to my head with all the teaching responsibilities. I became very frustrated at school because I was having to stay late at school, grade on weekends, and thought about my students 24/7. It felt like I never got a break. But, the year got better, I started to get in the swing of things, and soon teaching became like second nature. At the beginning of every school year, I still get those same feelings of anticipation, excitement, nerves, and stress. However after 5 years of teaching, they start to go away much sooner!

 I could go on and on about the difference positivity makes in your teaching career. Remember how I felt the first few months of my first year? Keeping a positive outlook and mindset was the main thing that got me through that year. (and wine helped too…) Surround yourself with a like minded positive teacher tribe, who lift each other up, instead of bringing each other down. They don’t even have to be in your grade level or subject area. If you are around positive people, you will be more positive yourself. There are always going to be negative teachers or administration or parents. If you radiate positivity and a good attitude, you just may “rub” off on them. Be positive with your students, show them that no matter what they can succeed. Positivity makes a difference!

This one may sound cliché, but building relationships with your students, their parents, administration, and other teachers is SO important! Don’t be afraid to seek out help from other teachers or administration. I know it was hard for me to ask others for help, because I always felt like I had to prove something my first year teaching. I became close with the other teachers on my team, so I always had someone to vent to, share ideas, and just teacher talk with. You might not get along with everyone, and that’s okay! But just remember the first tip- Be positive and try to find ways to connect with them, even if you just share a favorite food or music style!

Building relationships with the student’s parents makes a difference. I know my first year (and every year after, let’s be honest- I look like I’m 22 still), the parents seemed a little worried because I was so young. One Grandma who came in for Meet the Teacher asked me, “Where’s the teacher?” because she thought I was an assistant or someone’s older sibling. They couldn’t believe I was only 22 years old! I made sure to build positive relationships with the parents by sending home newsletters, sending home happy notes, positive phone calls, and just friendly chatting when I saw them in the hallway. The parents weren’t so worried about me being young as the year went on.

The relationship with your students can kind of be tricky. The main key is to base your relationship on respect. If you show them that you respect them, they will respect you back. My first year, I was too lenient with my students because I wanted them to like me. As the year went on, their behavior got worse, as did my classroom management. Trust me, they will like you even if they get in trouble sometimes. I set strict standards and am not wishy-washy when it comes to my classroom expectations. However, I still have fun, make them laugh, do the Go Noodles with them, and even play with them on the playground sometimes (well, maybe not when it’s 100 degrees). One of my students told me that her favorite day was the day I swung on the swings next to her and we sang a Taylor Swift song. Every Monday morning, we take turns sharing something fun we did over the weekend. Getting to know your students and learning more about them helps you build strong relationships.

During my first year teaching, I had a college friend do some observation hours in my classroom. One particular day, she happened to see my worst day of my entire year (probably career too) teaching. Seriously, I was Captain of the Hot Mess Express that day. It was one crisis after another- cancelled specials, failed lessons, technology issues, constant disruptions, tears, and throw up (twice…). I was about to cry myself! I remember thinking how awful of a teacher she must think I am, that I have no clue what I am doing, and there’s no way she learned anything today. At the end of the day, I apologized for my no good, very bad, horrible day, but she was thankful. She knew her first year would be anything but perfect. Watching a first year teacher made her realize that her first year teaching was not going to be like her other observations, where everything ran smoothly. It gave her a more realistic picture, than the other teachers she had observed.

Don’t compare yourselves to other teachers, especially veteran ones. I remember doing observations/student teaching, thinking this is easy. It is a whole other world when it’s just you in front of the classroom. Going into my first year, I was constantly comparing myself to other teachers, thinking “Why can’t my class look like that in line?”, “Why aren’t my students reading at grade level like that teacher?” “Why can’t I think of lessons like that teacher?”, “How does that teacher leave at 3:00 every day?” Rather than comparing, try to observe other teachers- Watch their classroom management techniques and try it in your room. Ask an experienced teacher to come in your classroom and walk you through it, decide on procedures, and help you organize everything. I did this my second year and it helped me immensely. The teacher asked what every little thing in the classroom was used for, talked me through procedures, and helped organize my paper flow (things to be graded, copied, sent home, filed, etc)

One thing I highly suggest your first year is to take time to observe other teachers. I know you did a lot of observations as a college student/student teaching, but it is different when you have your own classroom. If you’re still in college, make sure one of your observations is a first year teacher. It gives you a realistic picture of what your first year will be like, rather than observing a veteran teacher who’s got it down.   

My first year I spent way too much time on little things that don’t matter and wasted so much valuable classroom time. While you are getting your first classroom ready, don’t spend all your time making crate seats, copying that perfect bulletin board on Pinterest, or trying to create a TPT-worthy worksheet. Just focus on making a happy classroom, where students love to come in and learn something new everyday. I hardly remember what my classrooms looked like growing up, but I do remember what I learned and how my teachers treated me. One tip is to use a timer when students are in your room and when they are not. I use a timer during centers, so that I do not lose track of time or run out of time. Also, when you are working on a bulletin board, or lesson planning, use a timer so that you don't spend too much time on one thing. Make a to do list, budget your time per task, and get to work. If I am trying to get something done in a time crunch, I make sure I have no distractions (lock your door, no cell phone, no eating) and just do it. I have a whole blog post on how you can be a more organized teacher and use your time wisely. 
Sometimes, it is better to just let things go. If a lesson does not turn out the way you envisioned it in your head, it's okay. If an observation goes awry, that's okay too! Don't spend all your time worrying about every little detail and rather focus on the big picture: Are my students learning what they need to?

Nothing will go exactly as you had planned. Don’t stress over messed up lessons, chaotic centers, upset kids, bad test scores. Just let it go! You cannot control everything in your classroom.

There will be good days. There will be bad days. There will be days where you go home, change into your pajamas, and eat ice cream for dinner. There will be days where you almost start crying because you are just so proud of your students. Let go of the bad days and remember the good ones.

You are ready for your first year teaching. Good luck with your first year teaching. It is one you will never forget!