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Recipe For One Happy Mama

COMBINE

One boy-child’s car…

PLUS

One boy-child’s bag of laundry

THROW IN

One boy-child’s happy puppy

Allow to settle for three days.

 

Recipe yields one very happy mama indeed!

The Current State of My Yard

You might remember that I am in the process of getting my yard landscaped.

The original plan was to apply two rounds of industrial-strength Roundup to kill everything (namely the weeds).

Both times the landscaper sprayed, it rained.

A lot.

Florida has had a TON of rain the last few weeks.

This, unfortunately has slowed down the process.

My weeds started to grow back.

Not good, let me tell you.

I called the landscaper, and he was already aware of the problem and had a plan of attack.

Namely, he was going to spot-spray.

The Mr. and I discussed that the entire yard needed another application of Roundup…not spots here and there.

The landscaper assured me that he would call to let me know when he was coming so I could keep the dogs inside.

Meanwhile, things began to magically appear in my yard.

And then one day, I arrived home to find a blue yard…evidence that the spray treatment had been administered.

Do you see the flags?

They are marking utilities and the sprinkler lines.

The landscaper didn’t spray the back yard.

Really, what’s the point?  All that exists out there is dirt.

So, we’re in a holding pattern right now.

The landscaper’s sod farm is drenched with water, so he’s got his hands tied on that end as well.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that within the next couple of weeks, I will have my new front and back yards.

One can always hope, eh?

Loving the Labor Day Hodgepodge

I cannot believe it’s Wednesday already!!!  Honestly, my schedule is so busy that I have gotten behind in my blog reading.  Please forgive me.  I’m trying hard to catch up, but with lesson plans to write and a six-week class that started this week, life continues to be hectic.

Either way, I’m also grateful for the Hodgepodge questions.  Thanks, Joyce!!!

1.  Americans will celebrate Labor Day this coming weekend. Do you know what we’re actually celebrating? (without consulting your friends Google or wikipedia, ahem) What’s a project you’re currently ‘laboring‘ over?

Actually, I do know because I saw a website mentioned in a teacher magazine that I read yesterday.  The site has videos about Labor Day, and I’m planning on showing the following one to my students on Friday.  It’s only three minutes long, but it will give them a good introduction to what this holiday really is about.

history-of-labor-day

Well dang.  I can’t seem to imbed the video.  No worries.  Just click on the link.

Now, what am I currently laboring over?  I’d have to say lesson plans, for sure.  On the knitting front, I’m working on a shawl, but I haven’t touched it in a few weeks because of the lesson plans I’m laboring over.  Grrr.

2.  Labor Day also signals the unofficial end of summer for most of us…what summer food will you miss the most? If you’re in the southern hemisphere feel free to substitute winter for summer.

This is going to sound very silly, but I’m going to miss the Black Bean Soup that Newk’s has on its menu.

Yeah.  I know.  Soups aren’t summer foods (unless they are cold soups, that is), right?  Not with this restaurant.  Last year they took the Black Bean Soup off of the menu when the cold weather hit and told me it was not a winter soup.  I had to scratch my head in confusion at that one.  I also refused to eat at the restaurant until the soup was back on the menu.

Never aggravate a vegan who’s just trying to find a meal to eat.

3.  A well known proverb states, ‘It’s easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission.’ Your thoughts?

I don’t think I agree with this if you’re doing something while knowing, at the same time, that you’re going to have to ask forgiveness later.  Now, if the occasion is life-or-death, like you have to “borrow” a motorcycle to go after the girl who stole your man,  I’d say go for it.

😀

4.  Food critic, film critic, book critic, art critic….which hat would you most like to wear? 

I would love to be a book critic.  Here’s why.

Food…well…I already critique that, and most of it stinks and is not vegan-friendly.

Films…well…I already do that (remember my scathing review of Transformers 2?).

Art…well…I don’t know much about art and probably wouldn’t “get” most of it anyhoo.

Books…well…I’m a reading teacher, last time I checked my lesson plans (which I labor over all the time), and I’ve read some good ones and some really bad ones.  I’d love for someone to pay me a hefty salary to critique books!!

5.  When you were a kid, who (besides your parents) was your favorite adult?

Sorry, but my parents were not my favorite adults.  Traumatic childhood and not that great of teenage years, ya know.

Thus, my favorite adult was my best friend’s mom.  That woman never said I couldn’t sleep over and always had a cabinet full of snacks.  When she knew I was coming, she packed the fridge with the ingredients we needed to make my favorite dip…sour cream and onion.

To this day, I can walk into her home (haven’t seen her in years though) and feel at home in her embrace.

She never judged me and was quick with the parental affection and acceptance I craved.

And I just realized something.

I’ve never told her any of this.

The next time I go to Podunk, Alabama, I need to visit her and say thank you.

6.  The astronaut, Neil Armstrong, passed away last week. He was regarded as a hero by many generations of people all around the world. Do we still have modern day heroes? What makes someone a hero?

I do believe we have modern day heroes.  These are the people who go out of their way to help someone when the need arises.  These are everyday people who put their lives on the line…firemen, policemen, and other emergency personnel, to name a few.

What about those who donate organs after they pass away?  I’m remembering Madison as I write this.  Her parents were heroes when they made the difficult decision to donate her organs.

The mark of a hero is unselfishness.  I will always think of Madison’s family when I think of the word “hero.”

7.  I never get tired of __________________.

I never get tired of being silly.  I don’t know why, but I’m goofy.  I can’t help it.  In fact, I was talking to Rooster on the phone a couple of days ago, and the Mr., who’d been listening in, asked afterward, “Why do you have to act so goofy?”  It’s me.  What can I say?  I’m corny, and I know it, but who cares?  I would rather go through life with a happy-go-lucky attitude than a grumpy-go-unlucky countenance.

8.  My Random Thought

Speaking of being silly, look at what arrived in the mail on Monday…

See those 50’s CDs?

They contain the music that my kids will be listening to when they walk into class or when we take dancing brain breaks.

I’m not sure what the principal is going to say if he walks into my room unexpectedly.  All I’ll say is that the breaks are brain-researched activities that are proven to be crucial to getting oxygen to students’ brains to help them succeed in the learning process.

Hey!  Any excuse to cut loose…even for a minute, eh?

While the Waters Were Rising

While the waters were rising in town, on the beach, and down the road hundreds of miles away, I was home.

My school district had cancelled classes for the day because of the risk of tornadoes and flooding.

Fortunately, we only experienced minimal effects.  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, though.

For today, however, it meant that I had been given a gift of time.

The beginning of the school year is extremely hectic, and with this only being my third year of teaching, my lesson plans are still things I struggle with.

It seems that the more I learn about differentiating for various learning styles and disabilities, the more particular I become about getting everything into my plans.

Added to that nervousness (not wanting to leave anyone out), I am creating student-friendly presentations in SMART Notebook, the software that goes with the new SMART boards that were installed in March.

So, if you combine my overachieving tendencies with my tech-know-how, you’ve got one busy gal!

I must say, though, that I am pleased with my efforts, and my students seem to be responding well.

One thing I am very cognizant of this year is time.  Last year, my lessons constantly ran over, and my students grew very frustrated at having to be let out late.  We only have five minutes between classes, so it’s imperative that I let them out on time.

Thanks to the procedures I am putting into place, students are mastering the routine of retrieving and putting away their working folders.

The agenda is my responsibility.  Here’s a sample of what I create for each day…

Precise, eh?

I’m learning how to flow…cutting minutes where I need to.  Surprisingly, though, I am managing to get most things accomplished.

Students seem AMAZED when they see everything we need to do.  When they start giving me trouble by talking too much, I point to the agenda and warn them that we WILL get through it, even if that means that they don’t get their five minute break between sessions.

That usually works.

😀

An activity that gets my students going when they walk into class is the bellwork.  I began giving them Rebus puzzles to activate critical thinking, stretch their phonological awareness skills, and help them begin learning new figurative language phrases.  Eventually, I will help them create their own (an activity idea I borrowed from another reading teacher).

The kids LOVE these and even commented about how they are a favorite activity!

Another thing that’s a MUST in my SMART files are the standards (put in student-friendly language) and essential questions for the units…

I try to show these to my students every day of a unit plan so they stay focused.

I’ve been using a lot of the new tricks I learned during technology training (layering and grouping is the name of the game) to create fun pages in my SMART files.  The following is a quick little review I created last week…

When I tapped on the screen, the correct answers appeared…

Here’s a fun thing I created to help my students master the art of previewing text.  My goal is to help them recognize text features as tools that authors use to organize information and aid comprehension…

When I tap on each colored rectangle, students will see the following…

As you can see, I love to use color.

What I discovered the first couple of days of school was that I was trying to share too much information on each page, so I needed things to stand out.

So that, my friends, is a snapshot of how I spent my day…how I spend my time when I’m at home.

I am constantly working on lesson plans and creating these SMART files.  My hope is that next year, I’ll have these files to use and won’t have to start from scratch.

Fingers crossed!

Batten Down the Hatches

So you’ve probably been hearing a little something about a hurricane that’s making its way toward the southern United States.

I’ve been through quite a few hurricanes since moving to Florida twenty-one years ago.

They don’t scare me much.

In fact, because of where I live now, I usually have a fairly good idea of which direction a storm will head…namely west.

Although the storms bring with them lots of rain, there are some positive things about hurricanes.

The weather before a storm hits is AMAZING.

Take Sunday, for instance.

Here’s what I saw as I ran errands Sunday morning…

Although I had lesson plans to write, I suggested that the Mr. and I head out to the mall at the beach.  I wanted to pick up a few free items I had coupons for and hit up a local market that I love.

Look at the view I had along the way…

You can’t tell me that you would have stayed inside and worked if you had been me.

😀

After I got my shopping done, we looked for a place to eat.

We decided to visit Redbrick Pizza.

We’d never eaten there (that’s saying a lot), so we were curious.

I’d planned on ordering a pizza without cheese; however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this eatery offered gluten-free products (not that I am allergic to gluten) and other vegan-friendly items.  In fact, there was a dairy-free cheese available on the menu.

Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of the cheese on Sunday, but the employees steered me toward a tasty cheese-free pizza.

I settled on the Hawaiian and added artichoke hearts (I developed a longing for them the moment I saw them behind the glass).

Let me tell you that I’ve been a vegan since December 2010.  This was the first time I had ordered pizza since that time.

I was in heaven…more so with each bite I took…

One of the things I liked so much about this pizza was its thin crust.  I didn’t feel over-full when I finished.

Thus it was that I had room to enjoy this…

That, my friends, is Blood Orange Sorbet…vegan-friendly and, hence, dairy-free.

The restaurant employee described it as tasting like Flintstone Push Ups.

He was correct.

It was delicious!!!!

As we headed home, I enjoyed my dessert, feeling ready to begin a long afternoon and evening of lesson planning…

Yes, the storm was on its way, but at home, I’d battened down the hatches and was enjoying life in the process.

Reflections of My Third First Week of School

It’s Sunday night, and it will only be a few short hours before I begin Week 2 of my third year of teaching.

Before I embark on the new week’s adventures, I figured I’d better reflect on the first week before new experiences and emotions push the previous ones aside.

After spending a summer resting up from a hectic second year of teaching, I was very nervous to begin the third.

I don’t know why, exactly.

It’s not as if I didn’t know what I was doing…at least not mostly.

Being at the same school, one I love tremendously, and working with fabulous teachers, should have alleviated my nerves.

I didn’t sleep much in the nights leading up to the 20th…the first day of school.

Though I’d prepared, nothing truly prepares a teacher for the uncertain blend of teenage personalities.

Well, let me tell you that my worries were for naught.

I felt such joy as I entered the school on that rainy morning and was greeted by the faces of students I’d taught the previous year.

Man, do I love the kids I teach!

School began with homeroom, and I am fortunate to have the same group, now tenth graders, that I had last year.

I had no idea that we’d bonded during the ten or so times we’d met…for purposes such as handing out schedules, progress reports, report cards, and bullying lessons.  Most of these students were not in my classroom for curriculum instruction time, yet we breathed sighs of relief as we greeted one another.

From what I’ve heard, counselors keep homeroom teachers with the same students all the way through, so in two years, I can look forward to escorting my group onto the football field for graduation.

I cannot wait.  🙂

The day got even better as I greeted each of my three classes.

Our schedule is new this year.  We’ve moved from four blocks of ninety minutes each to seven forty-five minute classes.

Drastic, eh?

I still teach ninety-minute classes, though, because I have intensive reading.  The State of Florida mandates that students who do not pass FCAT receive intense reading instruction.

I am glad, let me tell you.

The reading department decided to allow its students a five minute stretch break between forty-five minute sessions.

Although the schedule was a bit difficult to adjust to the first couple of days, by the end of the week, we were pros…both the students and teachers.

Students are spending much less time loitering in the hallways…given that in-between class time has been cut from ten to five minutes.

Students’ don’t have to attend as long to classroom lectures because they are in class for a shorter amount of time.

The days fly by.

I attended quite a few days of training this summer…training that I sometimes grumbled about because of having to get out of bed at an early hour on my “time off.”

I am so glad I went, though, because I began utilizing the information I gleaned in my classroom from the first day of school.

The thing I decided to work on the hardest at the beginning of the year was class building.  I believe that to ensure success in my classroom, my students must learn how to support one another.

I attended several days of Kagan training.  Essentially, I learned how to plan instructional activities that engage the largest number of students at one time, factoring in such things as collaborative learning and brain breaks.

I never realized how important brain breaks were to learning.  The brain needs oxygen to work at it’s optimum level, and getting up and moving around provides that oxygen.

Last year, I had classes that grumbled when I tried these types of activities; however, last week, I would not take no for an answer.

Every ten minutes, I had students up, walking around, using the Smart Board, high fiving one another, and doing silly gambits to praise one another.

Although they, at times, proclaimed loudly that these things were cheesy, they laughed while they grumbled.

Another thing I’m working diligently on is keeping my students’ focus on the future…the long-term goals…pass FCAT…graduation…succeed in life after high school.

To do this, I took each student’s picture wearing a cap and gown I’d secured from Guidance.

They did not like this at all, but all but one student cooperated.

I just developed these pictures, and I was floored at how amazing my students looked.

I asked my students to write two goals…one short-term and one long-term…on 3×5 index cards.  I’m going to affix these to the backs of their photos and create a bulletin board in my room with the title “Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize.”  My hope is that they will see these visual reminders every day and not lose sight of what’s down the road.

On Friday, I used an activity that another teacher had shared with us.

I provided instructions on the Smart Board and told my students that I would not assist them with the activity but expected them to follow directions.

Students had to line themselves up in alphabetical order by first name.

During first period, I had to send an email really quickly, so I looked down, composed the message, and in less than a minute looked back up to find the biggest surprise ever.

My students were lined up around my room, standing quietly, smiles on their faces, waiting for me.

Their faces said it all:  “Look Mrs. AuburnChick, at what we did.”

Wow.

Then I had students place me in the line and, beginning with the first student, asked them to say their names as well as the names of those standing in line in front of them.

Naturally, everyone looked at the last person with sympathy.

Not surprisingly, students had a little trouble remembering some of their classmates’ names, but other students helped them out, whispering the forgotten names.

When we reached the end of the line, I turned things around and told the first person that he/she had to name everyone since he/she had gotten off easy the first go-round.

There was a lot of laughter at that announcement!

I enjoyed watching each class perform this exercise, but I especially enjoyed watching my last class do so.

I have a cute, but loud, female student who loves to talk.

She, however, took charge of the activity and made sure everyone was lined up properly.

I took pictures of her pointing where everyone was supposed to go.

It was quite revealing to see what a leader she was!!

As I locked up my door and drove home Friday afternoon, I called Super Sis to find out how her first week had gone.  She teaches pre-school, so you can imagine what first days are like in her school…tears, I’m sure, by sweet little ones leaving home for the first time.

We shared similar stories, though, of how fantastic our first week had gone.

As I thought and talked about it, I decided that I couldn’t put my finger on just one thing that had made the week proceed so well.

Part of it was being in comfortable surroundings.

I just love the school I work at.  The administrators are incredibly supportive and have their priorities in the right order…kids first.

Part of being in a comfortable surrounding is the fact that I have a few students that I had last year.  They are sprinkled in all of my classes, and seeing their familiar faces was like having members of the family in the same room with me.

My experience working with these students, as well as others, had taught me the importance of being a firm yet loving force in their lives.  These kids come from difficult home lives, so seeing people at school who care about them has the potential to turn these students’ lives around.

I’d read material that stressed the importance of greeting students at the door every single day of the school year.  Though I’d done this on the first day, I’d skipped Tuesday and Wednesday, finishing up prep work at my desk.  By Thursday, I was back at my door, giving high fives to the students walking in.

I was amazed at the way their faces lit up when greeted by my energy and smile.

Another factor that contributed to my good week was the use of the information I’d learned during the summer.  This gave me so much confidence…especially as I saw it work!!

I began working hard on procedures…not introducing too many at once…and watched as students relaxed and adjusted to the consistency that exists in my room.

Having other teachers to bounce ideas off of also made my week enjoyable.  Some of us met a few afternoons after classes ended and planned our next days.  We have several new reading teachers…one of whom is fresh out of college.  Having the opportunity to mentor him, even though I’ve only got two years more experience, has done my confidence wonders.  I guess I bring in parenting experience that he doesn’t have, although he is phenomenal with his students after having worked with children for several years.

Quite honestly, last week was the BEST first week of school I’ve had to date.

I can list this or that reason, but ultimately I have to give the glory to God, for He orders my days…plans who will be in my classroom…and provides the patience I need and the quick wit I lack on a daily basis.

Although I continue to spend nearly every free moment lesson planning and building Smart Notebook lesson files, I’m doing so with a grateful heart.

For someone who probably will never win the lottery and, thus, spend lazy days in a hammock, this isn’t a bad way to spend my time.

Nope.

Not.  At.  All.

Still too Busy to Reflect

Oy, but I’m rushing to get in a post for the day because I’m an overachiever who likes to have one post each day.

Sigh.

Today was busy.  I ran errands after dragging myself from bed around the late hour of 10:30.

I picked up a few cases of water…

…because we have this little thing called “Issac” coming our way…

Then, I sat down to resume the dreaded scoring of the MAZE diagnostic tests I’d given my students…

After finishing that task, I began on the next…prepping for my lesson on Textbook Mapping…

It’s quite fascinating stuff, I tell you.  The worst part about it is taping the pages together.  I’ll have students do this same thing within small groups after I model the lesson to the whole class…

If you want to read more about Textbook Mapping, visit this site.

After that, the Mr. and I ran to Walmart, where we shopped with hundreds of our closest friends (not exactly) and bought a cart full of stuff we probably won’t need because, I’d venture to bet, the storm will turn west as storms usually do.

While at Walmart, I found these cute markers in the $1 bin.  I picked up five packages…one for each table of students…and will keep my fingers crossed that they last the duration of this unit.  I later went back and picked up five more for another teacher who loved the photos I sent to the reading group.

After that, I decided to watch the NASCAR race but couldn’t because the cable cords weren’t connected to the TV properly.  I had gotten a wild hair yesterday when vacuuming and decided to rearrange the layout of my television, electronics shelving, and DVD shelves.  I moved the TV from the corner, where it was blocking the window, to the center of the wall in front of my couches.

In the process, I undid the cables and thought I could rely on my memory to reconnect them.

HA!

I was wishing Rooster was around, let me tell you, as the Mr. and I resembled his parents trying to figure out technology.

Yikes!

heehee

In the end, I don’t think the problem was in the way I’d connected things.  I think that the problem was with the DVR, which I finally unplugged to reset and then restarted.

Thus, I was able to watch NASCAR, complete my teacher self-assessment (albeit two days late…grrr…but I’m blaming technical difficulties…literally), and do a few other things that needed to be done.

Hence, I was a wee bit too busy to sit, reflect, and write a deep, meaningful post about my first week of school.

But tomorrow will be the day.

I can feel it!

I know you’re sitting on the edge of your seat in anticipation!

😉

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