Sunday, December 23, 2012

Catching My Breath.... "Winter Holiday" Catch Up! :)

I promised a few I would blog... and I haven't kept my promise. 

Truth be told...

Blogging is the last thing on my mind as a new teacher! If you are in the profession, you surely understand. 

If not... Here is a look at my typical week.

 On top of teaching through the days:

Mondays:  Middle School Cluster Meeting... where we have been learning about our rubric for our evaluation system.  It has so much detail that we spent each weekly meeting talking about it... More about that program later!

Tuesdays:  No Meetings... if I'm lucky.  However, Tuesday is tutoring day!  My district really encourages tutoring for kiddos who have fallen behind or aren't passing the weekly tests we are required to give.

Wednesdays:  Staff meetings bright and early 7:45 am!

Thursdays:  7/8 grade team meeting to discuss those little rascals that won't give us a moment's rest.  Another tutoring day.  We also must post our grades on a weekly basis... that's funny because I don't usually put grades in on a weekly basis... SILLY SILLY ME! Oh, and we are supposed to have our lesson plans submitted... that never happens! ;)

Fridays:  Thankfully, no meetings! I am usually trying to lesson plan and get copies ready for the next week.  I don't get much paper, so I have to be resourceful!  :)

Don't forget Lunch Tutoring... that is always a blast! 

And during basketball and softball seasons... add in practice  and games (which is something that keeps me sane as a teacher...)  

Sometimes, when I look at my calendar... This is what happens!

Things obviously change from this schedule all of the time, but I'm flexible.  If I wasn't, I wouldn't be a teacher! hehe!

I always find myself needing to post really long blogs because I am horrible at keeping up on it! 

I've had a very lesson-filled experience throughout the first part of the year, but I wouldn't change it for the world.  I thoroughly enjoy the teachers I work with, and  I am learning to cope with a very "on top of things" administration...

According to this one lady... I'll call her 'The Master, "IT's ABOUT SUPPORT!"  I sure hope she reads this! :)

I would like to fill you in on life of an educator in ARIZONA....

1:  You can't count on any money coming from the tax payers... Arizona is EXTREMELY Conservative and any proposition or override that suggests tax increase or extra money coming out of the tax payer wallets, you can forget it!  Although I was impressed by the results of the presidential election this year  (as one of about 9 liberals in the state), the local elections were an eye opener...

Proposition 204:  To keep the slight tax increase as a permanent state in order to fund education got shot down.  I've looked for the exact numbers and I've found it was shot down by something like 65-35!  Not even a close race.  Ouch! 

Our district override also got shot down pretty badly... You can look it up, if you're interested!  I know I have put it out of sight and out of mind. 

2.  Common Core Standards:  You may see them pop up on the news or on pinterest... They are quite the adjustment for any teacher!  This is the adoption year for my district, and they are tough!  I will become a Common Core Ninja though,  I promise!  The gist of Common Core is all about incorporating informational texts, reading, and writing across all content areas and not leaving it to all to the English teachers... THANK YOU! It is so much appreciated! Still, very tough. 

3.  TAP program...
It has ups and downs... but overall, it has helped me to become a better teacher. It is a program in which the base is a more rigorous evaluation system, but with more support and feedback.   We have a 7 page, jam-packed, rubric with so many indicators and elements, I can't keep them all straight.   If I were Wonder Woman, I would implement all parts of the rubric into my daily classroom because they do represent a "rock-solid" teacher. But, sadly, I am not. As a school... we are to shoot for a '3.'  This means we are aiming to earn an average of 3/5 on all indicators! It is tough! Many things seem like common sense, but it sure is an adjustment! My district was a shoe-in for the TAP grant... but we sadly did not receive it.  Each teacher who met the goal of 3 average on their evaluations was going to receive incentive pay.  That isn't going to happen.  There was some bitterness, but

 "The Master" does an amazing job supporting everything we do.  'The Master' is simply (or not so simply) our Master Teacher (I know, I'm super creative with my nickname).  She is phenomenal.  She is here to support any and all teacher with whatever we need.  I email her with an idea... she emails me back with resources.  I don't understand part of the rubric, she can come in and model a lesson.  I get angry or mad about something... I go to her office.. ;)  SHE IS THAT GOOD and I appreciate everything she does!
 This is a pretty good depiction of her :)

4.  Weekly Formative Assessments... 5 question quizzes, worth half of the students' grade.  Already created for me....making it really tough to teach entire topics!  Some of the formatives are really tough... I find myself double checking the answer key as I am grading.  Not to mention, they are multiple choice, with many questionable answers.  To say the least, they make my life difficult.   When I find a week that doesn't have a formative already created for me, I do a Happy Dance because I get to teach the whole concept instead of the content on the very specific tests!  :)

There are more, I am sure, but I don't want to bore you.

Some things I have learned:

My favorite:
 Must Do's and May-Do's:  Pretty simple concept, but it keeps kids working.  No matter what they are working on, they have a list of things that MUST be done... and a List of things they MAY do when they are done.  Simple concept? Yes... would I have thought of it on my own?  NOT A CHANCE!  Pretty cool!

Incentives:  I am so happy I took advice from The Master in creating an incentive board.  Below are some pictures, but the basic gist is rewarding students who do awesome things.  This varies from student to student. A student can earn something for the board (ie...feathers for a turkey or hearts for the Grinch), they put their name on it for later use.  
I give incentives for various things, for example: A student who never raises their hand raises their hand and provides a correct answer, they earn something for the board.  I might catch a student helping another student on the homework... they may earn something from the board.  At the end of the month, I put all of the names on the board in a drawing for a HOMEWORK PASS.  The kiddos eat that right up because they could earn a night without homework.  They love it!  :)

Written Objectives:  Having an "I CAN" statement on the board of what each student can do by the end of the lesson.  The students think it is all for them, but it's not! Haha, it keeps me on track! This is part of the TAP rubric.  Referring back to the standard and objective regularly helps ensure understanding.  I find myself wanting to create gestures sometimes ;)! 

Homework Folders: 
"Ms. Johnson, did I miss anything yesterday?"  Most of the time, I say, "No, we didn't do anything because we didn't want you to miss out!"  Haha. This is my reason for homework folders.  Whichever day you missed, you grab the work and get it to me by the following day (rarely happens).

Four Corners Folders: 

The kids love this!  I have handouts in four folders throughout the room.  The class is split into four teams and each team has a captain.  While being as loud and as obnoxious as possible, I time the students to see how fast they can get the papers passed out.  The classes compete for 10 days and at the end of the ten days, the class with the most 'winning' times wins a class drawing for 8 homework passes.  It is a fun and easy way to pass out papers and give kiddos a break! :)

Now, I've had some ups and downs.... Made some rookie mistakes so far... but I love what I am doing, and that is what really matters!  Arizona is different, but I knew it would be!  I may not agree with everything that happens, but in what profession would I?!

Here are a few other photos... :)

 Normally... Weekly (most weeks) Vocabulary is posted on this wall.  I happened to take this picture in between vocab sessions.... Only one bulletin board in the classroom means makeshift ones out of butcher paper! Works for me! :)
 Haven't done much with this, but I really like having a place focused on reading... near the "bulletin board, you can see a folder with a 1 on it.  That is one of the four corners folders! :)
 My class just so happened to have won the door decorating contest before Thanksgiving... My students didn't know it, but snoopy is from Minnesota! They chose pilgrim snoopy and Christmas Tree Snoopy.  They got a cotton candy party... barf!
And my desk area... A mess by day, clean before I leave at night!  My bookshelf contains my rookie teacher classroom library (always looking for free/cheap books).  Students lost the right to checkout books freely because books were returned in very poor shape, or not returned at all. 
Problem Solved! 


  1. Sounds like your on the way to being an awesome teacher, besides being a great partner and friend. I love you Laura and Im glad I get to share this time of your life with you!!!

  2. great post Lu! You put your teacher momma to shame! I love seeing inside your classroom1


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