Posted on

The Printer that Saved Me

Okay, I’m exaggerating.  But my life as a teacher did immediately improve once I got an HP Instant Ink Printer.  Copy and printer ink are both hard to come by at my school, so having the power to print at my own desk has made my teaching life easier.   I purchased it for $47 on Black Friday 2016, and now I pay $9.99 a month to print 300 color pages.   If I go over that number, I just pay $1.00 more for 25 pages, which is $0.04 a page!!! Much cheaper than going to the copy shop.   The ink itself is wireless, so it communicates with the company and sends more ink in the mail automatically when it starts to run low. Before Instant Ink, I always seemed to run out of ink right when I needed to be printing pages on a deadline, and I rarely had the $60 or $70 in extra spending money to buy the replacements.   This automatic monthly fee and replacement mailing has taken all of the stress out of ink buying for me.

If you’d like to join the FREE from ink and printing stress club, join here.  You’ll get one month at no charge.

 

Posted on

Getting my Mojo back

 

I’ll admit it.  I had lost my mojo a bit, baby.    Getting put back into the classroom unexpectedly this at the start of this year, teaching a new grade level, and encountering tons of behavior problems….all of these combined to throw me off my game.     The fall semester was tough.    I had to take some steps to recharge and find my way.

Now’s it a new semester and I feel like I’ve got my mojo back.    One of the main reasons for that is attending the NCTE 2016 conference, which luckily for me was held locally in Atlanta a few months ago.    It was my first national teaching event to attend, and it was a tremendous experience.    I left on such a high, and I’ve now caught the “conference bug”…I am already making plans to attend next year !

The reason NCTE 2016 was so invigorating is because I found my tribe.    I found the people doing the kinds of teaching that inspire me.  I was able to meet and learn from teachers and authors who influenced me from the start of my career….innovators such as Steph Harvey, Anne Goudvis, Nancie Attwell,  and Franki Sibberson whose books showed me how to implement Readers Workshop in my classroom and connect my dear students to just right and much loved books.     At the conference, I connected with teacher leaders like Patrick Allen, Jennifer Serravallo, Kristin Ackerman, and Jennifer McDonough who are still walking the walk and providing creative and engaging workshop instruction, even in this day and age of Common Core, scripted instruction, and accountability.

I had been out of the classroom for so long because of my years of work as a reading specialist.   In my absence, from 2006 to 2016, the classroom landscape had changed.    Now teachers have many more resources from sources like Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, but those are expected to be used in a very monitored and data focused way.     We are now observed with higher scrutiny, striving to meet extremely high teacher standards 100% of the time, because we never know how or when we’ll receive an informal walk-through or formal observation.     All of this contributed to noise and confusion for me as I transitioned back to the classroom.  Truly, I forgot about my teaching foundations.      I was extremely fortunate to “cut my teeth” as a teacher through the America’s Choice initiative, which focused on explicit, creative, student-focused literacy workshops, and that’s the instruction that feels right-that matches my teaching style.     At the NCTE conference, I was surrounded by educators who all feel the same way and do the things that I used to do, namely putting great books in the hands of children and helping develop their writing voices.  These hundreds and thousands of teachers at the conference were doing the good work,  even in this post-NCLB classroom era.    In an instant, I was reminded of the teaching I used to do.

My students in my early classroom years READ and WROTE for the majority of the day with direct purpose.   Why wasn’t I doing that now?    What was I having my current students do all day, if not authentic reading and writing?  [possible topic for a shame-filled future blog post…or NOT.  I want to move on.]

Immediately, I returned to school and changed things, simplified things, in my room.     The students LOVED it!  The first day, M. said in amazement, “Mrs. B. we actually READ during reading time today!”      I responded, “yes, M.   Isn’t that a great thing?   Let’s make sure we do that every day from now on, and I’m sorry we weren’t doing that from day one.”

 

Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, I can connect to the tribe I located at NCTE anytime via social media, blogs, e-mails, and messaging.   I can see pictures and read anecdotes about their daily instruction and be motivated to do similar authentic literacy work with my students.    If I’m ever in danger of losing my mojo again, I’m one click away from a virtual field trip/ peek into “my people’s” classrooms, and I can be inspired once again.

Thank you, NCTE 2016 and tribe, for helping me find my mojo.    It’s an honor to be in the field of education with you.

 

“Teaching children to read and providing them with something

worthwhile to read is not a job for the faint of heart in this

world.   But I’ll keep at it, and I won’t be alone.    You’ll come

too.   We’re fortunate, you know.  Too many people in this world spend their lives doing work that doesn’t matter in the great

scheme of things, but bringing children and books together does

matter.  And we get to do it.”

 

~Katherine Paterson, “Back from IBBY”

Posted on

Data Wall

img_6064 img_6066

 

“Teachers, district level personnel will be coming to inspect your classrooms.  One of the things they’ll be looking for is your data wall featuring MAP scores and goals.”

 

Oh, S#&%!    Whoops.  Yet another on my to-do list that I had forgotten to do.  And now it had to have it done…yesterday!     What was I going to do?     Confession time:  cute design ideas are not my jam.  My brain just doesn’t automatically work that way.   And I didn’t have the time to scour Pinterest for ideas.  I shared my struggles with a friend on support staff, who’s AWESOME, and she said, “Let me help.”

SURE….HELP….PLEASE!!!!     She came up with the rocket ship idea and “Shoot for the Stars” title overnight and started hanging it up the next morning.  We were going to put star goals on student decorated index cards, but after brainstorming, we came  up with the astronaut idea instead.   I printed a class set immediately, and the students stated decorating.    I conferred with each student and recorded their original assessment scores on the center of their astronauts with their goals written on the stars.  Within hours, the entire data wall was done.    Students now know their Reading and Math baseline scores and their mid-year goals for both subject tests.  Our data wall is something that our entire class is proud of.    Good friends/colleagues are the best, aren’t they?!?!  Full design credit goes to @mrspeachyblue!