Happy Teacher

Teaching is hard.

You’re constantly reflecting on what you can do better and how to meet each students’ needs on a variety of different levels and subjects.

This week in our professional development, our leader provided us with a grid for The 30 Day Happy Teacher Challenge. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day grind of teaching so this was refreshing to help us take time for ourselves and focus. We were challenged to get a Bingo and then we’ll get a prize. Since I enjoy a challenge and I liked what was on this chart, I figured I’d go for it. Besides, who can’t use a bit of positivity?

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Yesterday I gave my students an index card with the prompt “I am happiest when . . .” I enjoyed reading their responses and they made me smile.

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If you’re a teacher, thank you for all that you do. I know it’s hard work. If you like a challenge and need a positive boost, try this 30 Day Happy Teacher Challenge!

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Welcome to Another School Year!

Just like that, summer was over! It was an incredibly busy one yet strange at the same time. I’m not even sure how to even explain it. Yet I was excited to get into my classroom and changed my theme slightly this year. I was fed up of using the same borders and colors that I’ve used over and over and over again for years! I had bought black fabric years ago for my bulletin boards and I continue to use those (frugal!) so this year I decided to do black and gold.  I believe “Glimmer of Gold” was the name of the theme that I purchased at Mardel’s. Why not?

The custodial team cleans all of the classrooms during the summer and takes out all furniture. My carpet was cleaned and the furniture put back where I wanted it other than the student’s desks, which I arrange into groups. The photos above show what my classroom looked like when I first walked in after the summer break.

Here’s what it looks like right before Open House.

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One of my student groups, ready for Open House night! I used folded sheets to cover the storage area shelves above the coat hooks. Love my new poster on the left and incorporated our district’s theme of Dream, Believe, Achieve on the right.

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These cubbies hold textbooks.  Their desks are too small to hold these as well as their other supplies we use daily. I used labels with sticker numbers and then put clear contact paper over them so they can be reused year after year. If I want to, I could write the students’ name on the contact paper also and it will still keep. The signs above the sink are for birthdays and the post office I use for handing out papers weekly. The desk is my “Safe Seat” for students from other classrooms or my own that need a break from their other space.

 

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This is my Focus Wall for our new Journeys English Language Arts curriculum as well as a part of my library. I redid my tubs to the black/gold and cut the signs in half to do more tubs. Frugal?! I also reused plastic tubs from Furniture Row that had leather cleaners in. I arrange my Accelerated Reader levels and also by collection, like Captain Underpants, The Magic Treehouse, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I bought the pencil tubs from the Dollar Tree and I reused chalkboard clips from my wedding reception to label the tubs. 

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The central part of my classroom, the SmartBoard! I did buy a new black & gold calendar.

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The classroom door. I added my students’ names on arrows and kept my Gold Glimmer theme going outside the classroom with signs and notices. I love the difference! Can you see the guinea pig cage through the window? I brought Cosmo  and Tito back to the classroom!

This is my 12th year of teaching and I’m looking forward to hopefully making a difference in the lives of my students and taking them to the next level.

I Surrender

He did it again. On my way home from a sports chiropractor appointment following work last night I was praying about how some issues in my life weren’t going the way I wanted them to and apologizing for not giving it to Him. I’d been playing Josh Groban’s Closer CD in my classroom prior to the beginning of the school day and the tune of  “Confession” came to mind as I was drifting off to sleep last night. The words themselves, however, escaped me.

This morning as I was climbing into my car to go to work, another song came to mind – Hillsong United’s “I Surrender”. I’ve always wished that God would speak to me with huge neon signs so that I can’t miss what He’s trying to tell me. Between these two songs, He’s encouraging me to surrender it all to Him. The illnesses I’ve struggled with this summer. The fatigue. The worries of my training and inability to run due to my knee issues. Untimely deaths. Family in weather related destruction areas. Raising children worries. Body image. Allergies. Relationships. Rejection that just won’t seem to let me go. Forgiveness. Lack of sleep. Stress from my job. Car problems. The ability to handle certain situations. LET. IT. GO.

Psalm 86:7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble, and you will answer me.

“Confession” lyrics: (partial)

I have been blind//Unwilling//To see the true love//You’re giving//I have ignored//Every blessing//I’m on my knees//Confessing//That I feel myself surrender//Each time I see your face//I am staggered by your beauty//Your unassuming grace//And I feel my heart is turning//Falling into place//I can’t hide it//Now hear my confession//I have been wrong about you//I thought I was strong without you//For so long//Nothing could move me//For so long//Nothing could change me

“I Surrender” lyrics: (partial)

Here I am//Down on my knees again//Surrendering all//Surrendering all//And find me here//Lord as You draw me near//Desperate for you//Desperate for You//I surrender//Drench my soul//As mercy and grace unfold//I hunger and thirst//I hunger and thirst//With arms stretched wide//I know You hear my cry//Speak to me now//Speak to me now//I surrender//

Thank you, Father, for my neon sign through music. I surrender it all to you. May your will be done in my life according to your timing and your purpose. Amen.

A Refreshing Trip to CO

When the wedding invitation arrived in my beau’s mailbox, I’ll admit I was a little nervous about attending. “Let’s wait and see what the schedule looks like,” I remember saying. I wasn’t looking for excuses really, but something about going to a wedding that involved the family of my beau’s ex was a little nerve-wrecking. Good news was that his ex wasn’t going to be there. Although divorce shouldn’t sever the ties of previous family relationships, my situation, unfortunately, seems to have gone differently. I was genuinely happy that my beau still has relationships with his ex’s family. Once it looked like the trip was going to be a “go”, we planned some activities around the upcoming celebration of love.

Day 1: After many trips to Keystone, I had driven by the shadowed mass on the I-70 of what is Pike’s Peak but don’t recall having actually gone there so the drive toward this particular mountain was incredible. I’ve always wanted to run the Pike’s Peak Ascent but my schedule has never permitted it due to timing of the school year. Some day, perhaps! We arrived after about a 7 hour trip to Colorado Springs and after checking into the motel (great price through booking.com!), we decided to check out Garden of the Gods. This particular location was also listed on my Bucket List board on Pinterest! Inspiring, to say the least! I can’t help but feel closer to God in the mountains, particularly when you see such wondrous sights such as these!

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Day 2: Our morning began early after having purchased tickets weeks ago to ride the Cog Railway up Pikes Peak. We had to be at the depot by 7:30 AM. Of course, I hadn’t planned on having strep throat and still being on antibiotics for this trip either, so although I had wanted to HIKE Pikes Peak, that wasn’t going to happen on this trip.  I wanted to get to the top so the railway was the way to go. Again, the views were spectacular! I was elated that I didn’t get altitude sickness on the way up (I can be prone to that based on my history) and we were both trying to stay hydrated to ward off any potential problems, so much so that Mike couldn’t wait to get to the top and was first in line for the bathroom! The conductor did an excellent job with her commentary on what we were seeing and puns and made the 1+ hour journey up (and back) very enjoyable.

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Day 2 continued: The wedding was also this day so after heading back down the mountain and visiting the gift shop (of course!) we rested before getting ready for the wedding. It was a lovely ceremony and you could just feel the love and contentment between the bride and groom. I felt very accepted and there was no discomfort at all.

Day 3: This was the BIG day! We had planned to hike a 14er (a 14er is a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet. See What are 14ers?)and carefully chose Mt. Bierstadt as my beginner mountain. Mike had hiked a couple of 14ers many years ago so this wasn’t new to him but he hadn’t hiked this one yet. We got up at 4:30 AM to drive 2 1/2 hours to the trail head (from Colorado Springs to Georgetown) to ensure that we were down below the tree line prior to any potential storms coming in during the afternoon. I had my Garmin on to see what the mileage would be like but it died at 6.4 miles after several hours on the trail despite having been fully charged prior to departing. The book that we referenced said the trail was a 6 miles round trip hike that should take about 6 hours so I’m curious as to what our actual mileage was since we were beyond that and weren’t even down yet!

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The trail started through willows and then got to boulders. Due to my running, I would consider myself to be quite fit yet my legs were screaming at me to stop because they were so tired of climbing! When we got to the part where we could actually see the summit, it was easier to keep going. A second wind? Perhaps. The end was near! Well, the TOP was! We still had to hike down.

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The view from the top

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Another view from the top. The clouds were starting to gather and you could see lightening off in the distance therefore we didn’t stay on the top as long as we would have liked.

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Tired was an understatement but WOW! what an accomplishment! We hiked a 14er!

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This was the “official” marker of having made it to the top – a cardboard sign! Yep, had to take a picture.

Going down was tough and Mike twisted his ankle more than once. The parking lot seemed a long, long, long way away and we got rained on a couple of times as well as lightly snowed upon. We did pack adequately though, and had plenty of fuel and water to make the trip, for that I was grateful. After spending about 7 hours hiking and getting up predawn, we crashed that night!

Day 4: Since we were in Georgetown , just down the road from where I spent many days in Keystone, I wanted to show Mike the place I love so much so the next day we headed in that direction. After showing him where my parents’ town home used to be, we walked around Lakeside Village and then walked to River Run, sharing stories of my experiences as we went. After shopping at the Silverthorne Outlets following our walk (I took advantage of the savings and did some Christmas shopping!), we headed back to Colorado Springs.

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Day 5: That night we stayed at the Air Force Academy (cheap lodging!) and toured the chapels in the morning. They were absolutely incredible! The larger chapel was Protestant with a humongous organ in the balcony. Below that was a Catholic chapel and Buddhist and Jewish chapels. What an amazing place!

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I only had a week left before I headed back to the classroom for meetings and I can’t think of a better way to wrap up my summer. I accomplished things I hadn’t done before, admiring God’s incredible works and spent precious quality time with the one I love. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I was very glad that I went!

It’s been quite a year . . .

I had such plans for my blog this year. I had great thoughts of what I was going to write about, how life was going to go, and then things started to spiral in all sorts of directions. Hmmm. . . I guess that’s how life works, isn’t it?

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A run-down:

January: After nearly 14 years of living in the same home, it was time to move. There were too many not-so-good memories in that house and I wanted to downsize. I met with a realtor, determined a time-line in which to get her recommended improvements done, and started the work.

February:  The goal was to have the house on the market by the end of February. I had to repaint the entire ceiling (kitchen/dining/living room/hall/entry way) due to changing out the light fixture in the kitchen.  It took 6 GALLONS of paint and a lot of time & energy. I didn’t meet the deadline. I wasn’t even going to even start looking at other homes yet as I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case my own home didn’t sell in a timely manner. My teenage son didn’t help matters any when the hallway had to be patched, as well as his bedroom wall, and the bedroom door replaced. Ugh.

March: House finally hit the market after spring break and a lot of sweat equity!

April: Let me tell you that trying to have a house ready for viewing with 3 kids, 2 dogs, 3 guinea pigs and working full time was just crazy.  However, on our 3rd last minute showing, the house sold —  in only 4 days!! Uh-oh, now I have to find somewhere else to live AND pack! I had already started purging things left and right and even managed a yard sale in an attempt to earn some $ instead of just giving it all away. That was a nice surprise as I earned about $300 for one day! Then there was CraigsList and Facebook Marketplace to help get rid of some of the other stuff. . .

May: I ran the Spring Prairie Fire Half Marathon and, amazingly, somehow managed a PR in spite of all of the craziness! I finished in 186th place, 4th in my age group out of 67 women with a time of 1:53:49. Soon after, my nephew graduated from high school. We found somewhere else to live but the home inspection came back with horrible issues so we backed out of that deal and luckily didn’t lose my earnest money. In the meantime, my teenage son got angry in the bathroom and punched a hole in the bathtub. Another costly repair. Closing on my existing home was scheduled for May 15 and I didn’t have anywhere to live!  The rush was on to find another home! This entire time I’m praying for God’s guidance and his direction on all of the plans. After all, He’s got this under control, right?! My stress levels were off the charts . . .

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trust in god

May continued . . . I found another home but they couldn’t close in time with mine so we moved all of our house into a storage unit and moved in with my parents. A week after closing, school finished up for the year and we headed to Sanibel Island, FL for a week with my parents. Perfect timing for a break, that’s for sure! I ran miles on the beach, biked across the island, relaxed poolside, and enjoyed time with my parents and children. I also got to see my aunt and uncle that I hadn’t seen in ten years! The very next day that we returned from FL, my oldest son moved to Lawrence, KS. Well, he IS 20, but nothing can prepare you for your children leaving home.  And it’s not like he was just around the corner — it’s a little over 2 hours away!!

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Bikes and beaches. Ahhhh . . .

 

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I loved running on the beach!

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My beautiful children at various locations on Sanibel. But then again, I’m biased!

June: My mortgage company was giving me issues and dropped the ball on the purchase of my new home, delaying the closing date to mid-June. Praise God, though, as the sellers were willing to let me move in on our original closing date! If that hadn’t have happened, I would have had NO help to move all of our belongings AGAIN, this time from the storage unit to the new house. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in my mortgage company.  What makes it even worse is it’s the same company that carried my previous loan! Crazy. In the meantime, my younger brother and his family were planning a move out of state. They had put their house on the market and my sister-in-law had already moved to FL. We settled nicely into our new home and it didn’t take me hardly any time at all to unpack. I still have work to do with it (the previous owners REALLY liked the color gray and couldn’t paint worth a darn) but it was mine with fresh memories ready to be made in it. Refreshing, I tell you! I also managed a quick weekend trip to my parents’ lake house. A change of scenery can do one good, that’s for sure, especially with someone you love!

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Here we go again! Between moving from 1 house to the storage unit, Taylor moving out, then moving all of this out again into a new home, I was sick of moving!

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In the outdoor gardens at Crystal Bridges. We couldn’t resist having our picture taken by the LOVE art!

July: Even though I was feeling less stress than I had all year, my ocular migraines returned. I have been suffering with these migraines for more than 6 years and they’re actually quite strange.  They come on suddenly, rolling in behind my right eye, feeling like a knife is piercing me. I had already had an MRI in the past and tried medication, to no avail. After more than a week of excruciating and debilitating pain, I opted for daith piercings.  My niece also suffers from migraines and she said they really helped her. Once I got through the pain of the actual piercing and the healing of the cartilage, I am pleased to say that they have most definitely helped. I would highly recommend them! By July 7th, my brother and his family left for their new home in FL. In the meantime, I’m supposed to be training for 2 more half marathons and a 10-miler so my training has been suffering.

Still July:  I spent two days taking a class working for graduate credit in order to renew my teaching license by January. Next up? Homework! Then I went to my parents’ lake house and enjoyed time with my younger two children as well as my boyfriend and his children. The water was lovely and floating around in the hot sun was refreshing!

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Still July: Fast forward a week and I awoke with a sore throat. No big deal, right? Except for it got progressively worse. And worse. And worse. The Dr. visit said mono or strep, yet all of the strep tests came back negative! The white sores in my mouth told me otherwise, however, so after waiting too long on test results, I finally got a prescription for an antibiotic. Let the healing begin! Once again my training was derailed and I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. Argh!

So, what do you do during all of these types of fiascos? Dare I say that I’m actually glad that it’s now August and I’ll soon be back at work? Well, maybe I’m not THAT desperate. Cling tightly to His hand. I do believe in what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! God always has a plan. . .

A Long Day and Failure

It had been a long 12 hour day of teaching restless students with an early release day due to parent/teacher conferences on top of emotional conversations with parents. When I finally walked through my door, my fur babies greeted me enthusiastically, yet my first gaze fell upon the dirty dishes all over the counters and the ½ full gallon of milk – now warm – left out. *sigh* Really? And what was that smell?

My daughter was at work. My oldest son was MIA. Apparently telling your mother where you are when you’re 19 is optional. I only knew that he didn’t work that day. My youngest son was laying on his bed with bloodshot eyes playing Xbox.

I exhaled and tried to convince myself that it’s okay. But it sure didn’t feel that way. I felt like a failure again.

I probably should have gone for a run or done some yoga. Mistake #1. Instead I looked up grades on my phone and about had a heart attack when I saw that not only did my daughter have 4 D’s, she had 2 of them that were less than 1% from F’s. (We’re working through some issues at the moment and she’s working hard at getting them better.) Mistake #2. Refer back to Mistake #1. So I started working on upcoming paperwork for my attorney because due to budget cuts within the school district it’s affected my health insurance and, therefore, my paycheck. My ex is ignoring my emails. Panic mode set in filling in the numbers and realized that there wasn’t anything on vision listed on the plan. Now I had to hold off and look for more information. Mistake #3. And on and on it went. I went to bed in an attempt to relax but couldn’t stop the tears. Refer back to Mistake #1.

LOL!!!:

Needless to say, it was a rough night. My first thought when I awoke was “Oh, no, here we go again”. A song popped into my head, “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson.

Yes, God is constantly giving me reminders that He is with me and that I don’t have to do this thing called LIFE alone. On my drive to work this morning, another long day of conferences, I not only heard “Eye of the Storm” again, but “Fix My Eyes” by King and Country and “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns. One thing I miss about being married is physical touch. After a long day of work it’s nice to be listened to, someone to brew a cup of tea for me, and hold me. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that affection. I think last night would have gone much smoother if God could have physically held me. I don’t need a man, though, just God. Even as I’m typing this post WAY-FM is playing “In My Arms” by Plumb. Just what I needed. Thank you, WAY-FM and thank you, God.

God is big enough to handle our disappointments, even when we feel like it is Him who disappointed us.:

God is good.:

Only God can fill an empty heart. Psalm 4:

My 2016-17 Classroom: AKA Home Away From Home

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Dogs. Ladybugs. Camping. Sports. Owls. Space. Sports heroes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So many teachers do an entire theme in their classroom, some to the point of being ridiculous. Me? I like to keep things streamlined and simple, primarily because I don’t want it too busy for the students. After all, the focus of my classroom should be the learning that is taking place, not the cutesie pictures on the wall!  I also add posters and anchor charts as we learn different concepts, so some walls look a little bare at the beginning of the year.

This year was no different, although I did find some new borders and tags at Target that I really liked, so I thought I would combine that with the black fabric that I’ve been using for years. (It’s so much easier to put up and doesn’t waste paper every year!) Even better, I got it when it was Buy One, Get One 50% off! I did, however, neglect to buy enough so one weekend I went to 3 different Targets looking for more. Luckily, the last one I went to had what I needed, but, alas, it was no longer on sale. 😦

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Isn’t this a cool border? Came with gold to go with it, too!

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Pinterest door on the left that I pinned — My door on the right. Need to add another name for the new student I’ll be getting on Monday! I used black construction paper and metallic markers that I already had to make these. I loved the way that it turned out and was very different from years past when I put a pencil on the door with the child’s name!

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The view from the back corner of my classroom. I use my Smartboard all. of. the.time.

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I’m using a pocket folder that I earned from turning in Highlights  interest forms (FREE!) this year to avoid more file folders on my counter. 

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A blurry picture of a portion of my library. The shelves on the left house more fiction and nonfiction books, all categorized by either reading level or topic. I redid the labels to match the colors of the border shown above. My calendar and Today is: poster is also new and matches the border.

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Calendar and job chart info (jobs were added yesterday for the new week). I do Class Dojo for a reward system in my room and the prizes will be added to this board.  My classroom houses the Xerox Color Qube printer that is shared for our 2nd/3rd grade hallway. I’m lucky to have it since I’m the Assessment Coordinator and have to print reports in color for testing. Yay me! Multiplication anchor chart was from that day’s math lesson and will be moved to my “Math” wall for our next lesson.

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This is my desk area. My desk is not normally this messy but I decided to take these pictures in the middle of my plan time (hmm, a little distracted, perhaps?!), hence all of the papers on my desk (I spread out , A LOT!).  I love the bookshelf with my teacher manuals!  My homey touch this year – an old lamp and clock since I can’t see the other one very clearly!

So, the only wall you don’t see is the one with all of my glorious windows overlooking the courtyard.  I showed a picture of them HERE if you want to see them again. I love my classroom as I spend A LOT of time in here.  I really like the color choices I used this year and didn’t spend a lot of money to update a few things here and there. It truly is my home away from home.