Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back to School as a Volunteer

     School started without me this fall -- and I am loving retirement! But after talking to the teacher who replaced me, I  decided to go help out in my old room today.  And I found that volunteering is more fun than teaching!!  Here are the advantages:
 1. I can park in the visitor parking slot closer to the door, and I can come in AFTER breakfast.
2. I can wear jeans, even if it is not Friday.
3 Everyone is happy to see me -- lots of hugs and smiles from parents, teachers, kids, lunchroom friends.
4 I know some tricks to make life easier for the teacher and assistant and they appreciate everything I do.
5. I can teach whatever I want and leave when I feel like it.  I asked to teach the morning message and it was still fun for me, and their new teacher picked up a few ideas that she wanted to try (she was taking notes). She also let me teaching the reading lesson.  I love doing that!
6. I don't have to call parents when kids misbehave (I hated that!)
7. I can teach new songs and sing and dance around without looking silly.
8 I can eat lunch without getting up one single time.
9.I can take a break any time I feel like it and stay out of the room as long as I want to.
10. I can relax on the playground because I don't have to keep getting up or blowing my whistle to stop kids from doing the wrong thing.
  I love my school family and it felt like home when I walked in the door.  I know what a hard job it is and I wish I could help all of them.  It is such a rewarding career, but it's also very hard at times. As a volunteer, I don't have to do all the hard parts -- no paperwork or meetings or phone calls or workshops -- or responsibility.  Of course, there is also no paycheck --- but I find it very rewarding in other ways,
  I have no regrets about retiring -- I have other things I want to do at this stage of life.  Like cooking healthy meals instead of frozen pizza. Keeping the laundry caught up.  Spending hours reading or chasing ancestors on (sometimes until 3 in the morning, but who cares? I can sleep late the next day! Volunteering at church.  Working on my chorus music. Taking naps.  Reading my Bible.  Having lunch with my husband or other retired friends. And volunteering at my daughter's daycare as well as in my old school when I need some hugs and smiles --  I still love the teaching part and I am grateful for the opportunity.  And I love seeing my friends and former coworkers -- it is nice to be able to help in ways that a parent volunteer can't. I expect they will see me on a regular basis!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Random Suggestions for First Year Kindergarten Teachers

     Someone recently said that the first week of kindergarten was like turning on a blender without a lid.   After 11 years of teaching kindergarten, I have to agree -- it is a pretty crazy time. My niece just got her first full time job -- teaching kindergarten -- and I was thinking about how I might help her and other beginning teachers manage that first wild month.  So I'm going to share some suggestions for survival.
1. Keep your iPad or camera handy all the time. Take pictures of each child alone and with their family when they come to open house so you can use them for the video you make for graduation.   You can use the pictures of the children for lots of things.  I cropped the faces and printed them all on one page like a yearbook page. Try to take lots of pictures all year.
2. Have name tags with lunch numbers ready to use for lunch time. You can get plastic name tag holders that clip on at Walmart. Lanyards are even better, but cost a little more. I even sent a letter home before school started to give them the numbers so they could start trying to learn it.  I sometimes offered a reward when a child could say their number.
3. Read The Daily Five book and plan to start teaching and modeling modeling modeling the procedures on the very first day. They can learn to sit in one spot and "read" books independently by the end of the month and that will give you time to work with groups. 
4. Let the children help you compose the RULES OF THE CLASSROOM.  I had 5 rules and we practiced them many times every single day with hand motions. Their first homework was to learn these rules. My rules: 1. Listen when others are talking. 2. Follow directions quickly. 3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself.  4. Clean up your area 5. Work quietly.  Heidisongs and Harry Kindergarten both have good songs on you tube about rules. Pin them on Pinterest so you can find them quickly.
5. Print off a Donors Choose permission form and get parents to sign it with the other papers at registration. You will need it if you want to try to get them to fund things for your classroom. I got a wonderful rug, cd players and DVD players from Donors Choose.
6. Have a signal to get the attention of the children.  I had a wind chime that I rang when it was time to gather on the carpet and a few songs loaded on my computer.  Sing every day! My favorite was "Ready to Read" by Jack Hartmann. I also recommend the  "Whole Brain Teaching" method of calling "Class" and they respond "Yes" and look at me. 
7. I kept a box of Skittles on my desk to reward the quietest in the bathroom line or the first children to follow my directions. It is amazing to see what they will do for one Skittle. The only time I gave one to the whole class was when they got a compliment for walking quietly in the hall. 
8. Teach them the "Quiet Game" I learned this wonderful game from Heidi Butkus of Heidisongs. It is great for the bathroom line or for when you need them to sit quietly while you need to do something else, like talk on the phone or talk to a visitor.  Just choose one child to come to the front of the room and look for the quietest kid. They point or call the name of the one they choose, and that kid gets to come up and choose the next quiet one. No call backs -- can't choose the one who chose you. We played it every day while lined up by the boys bathroom and they never got tired of it.
9. Teach them a hand signal for going to the bathroom. We used sign language for toilet. They could give the signal and I just nodded silently and usually no one else noticed.  Otherwise it was contagiously and suddenly everyone needed to go.
10. Take them on a trip around the school on the first day and show them how to get their lunch, how to choose a library book, how to go down the slide, etc. Before they actually need to be there.
11. I recommend a whistle for the playground. My signal was 3 short blasts that meant Everyone knew to come running when they heard it.
12. Read lots of blogs. There are so many fabulous teachers who share ideas to make your job easier. And if you write your own blog, you can get to know some of them.  I highly recommend blogging!  Or follow some on Facebook, like Heidi Butkus, Deedee Wills, Deanna Jump, and Kreative in Kindergarten. They also have great stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers.
      What an adventure you will have this year!  When I started teaching, there were no blogs or TPT, NO Facebook or Pinterest.  Today you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips and soon you will have a room full of eager faces looking up at you.  I hope you love this opportunity to teach little ones to read and write -- it will be one of the most rewarding years of your life!!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Unfavorite Things -- part 2

    Nothing left to do but finish cleaning out my room -- school is out and my retirement will be effective after Monday.  I have loved being "Teacher" to so many little ones.  It was such a privilege to teach them to read and write stories -- that was one of my favorite things.

              Our retirement luncheon at school was today, and I wrote some new lyrics to sing to
 "My Favorite Things" to reflect  the parts of the job that I will NOT miss!

Head lice and pink eye and kids late for classes,
Nose bleeds and scraped knees and broken eyeglasses,
Morning bus duty until the bell rings,
These are a few of my Unfavorite things.

Faculty meetings and EOG testing,
Workshops and SIOPS and no time for resting,
Making up snow days and writing PDPs,
These are a few of my Unfavorite things!

When I miss you,
As I might do,
When I'm feeling sad,
I'll simply remember my Unfavorite things
And then I won't feel so bad!!

         Writing this blog is another of my favorite things -- and getting to know some amazing teachers through their blogs.  Last week I was looking for a certain Heidisongs paper for my class to do, and I could not find it anywhere. I looked in the file cabinets and computer documents and was about to give up. But I took a chance and sent Heidi Butkus a message through Facebook.  I knew she was not teaching this year, but didn't really expect a response in time to help that day. But to my surprise, she sent me a link right away so I could print it off that morning! Wow!  I told my class that the paper was from the same Mrs. Heidi that we had just been singing sight words with on the screen.  One little boy said, "You mean she is real??? I thought she was dead!!" Heidi even offered to Facetime with us, but we just ran out of time.  Technology is amazing, but the teachers using it are even more amazing!
      So, I don't know if I will have anything else to blog about since I will no longer be growing my kindergarten, but I expect I will keep reading other blogs.  And when I start volunteering in the fall, who knows? Maybe I will have more stories to share!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

My Unfavorite Things

    Curriculum maps, parent notes, a child's writing saying "my mom is as hot as a fire", Mailbox magazines, instructional plans, an envelope full of Apple cut-outs, a sweet card from my assistant -- these are just a few of the things I have pulled out of the trunk in my living room.
    I haven't even started on the basement yet -- where the majority of my school stuff is stashed.
Or the shelves in my bedroom.  Or the trunk of my car. Or various other shelves and baskets and closets all over my house.  For 45 years I have saved everything that I might use someday in my classroom. I have a starfish I got from someone's trash. Some wool from a sheep.  A crate full of dinosaurs.  Enough certificates and stickers for every child in the school. And books!! Do I have books!!
Every professional book I ever read about on someone's blog -- I bought them all.  Daily 5 -- 1st and 2nd edition. How to teach guided reading groups.  How to set up math stations. How to teach writing to kindergarten kids who can't even write their name.  How to show the wonder of nature.  Art books. How to draw books. Whole Brain Teaching. I could start my own library.
    But my biggest challenge so far -- sorting picture books. Yesterday after school I started with 3 crates of books. I was going to take out a few that I wanted to keep, and donate/sell/give away the rest. But as I started pulling out the books, I went off into a world of memories -- and ended up with a huge crate of favorite books that I didn't want to part with.  Stories that I read to my own children or books that I read to my class -- I could hear the children's applause in my mind as I remembered reading some of them.  I know my husband will not understand if I start hauling things home -- especially since I have no grandchildren to share them with -- but how can I sing "Let It Go!" when I am not ready? I have throw away, give away, and keep piles -- but the keep pile is too big. 
    Yesterday I started cleaning out my desk.  I put items in a tub and let the children choose one to take home. Some of the things -- a jingle bell left from Polar Express Day, some glasses with a nose attached, a giant penny that I used before the common core eliminated the money unit from the curriculum, combs that I bought to use when mom forgot to comb hair -- especially on picture day. 
Dr. Seuss erasers. Some matchbox cars.  A couple sets of magnetic letters. The kids were thrilled and so was I -- a few less things for me to pack up. Why oh why am I such a pack rat??
    The next week is going to be hard -- not because of graduation on Wednesday, but because I have to pack up my classroom and turn in my iPad and key to my classroom. I want to retire -- I am tired of leson plans and assessments and evaluations and workshops and head lice and documenting intervention and surveys and opening ketchup packages and all the things that suck the joy out of teaching. But even with all those UNFAVORITE things, I have loved teaching. I love the kids and my assistant and I will miss them most of all. But for now, I have a lot more sorting and packing up to do.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Making the Ordinary Come Alive

       One of my friends posted this "Make the Ordinary Come Alive" on Facebook yesterday, and it really hit home with me. I think that is probably the very best part of teaching kindergarten -- the opportunity to lead the children to "find the wonder" in ordinary things.
     This is the last full week of school -- next week will be a short week with "Water Day" and graduation and the last half day when most of my children will not come,  I realized that I still had not taught them about the rocks!! So, although the library is closed now, I went down after the librarian was gone and quietly pulled the best rock book ever "If You Find a Rock"off the shelf and took it to my room without checking it out. (Sorry Mrs. L. -- I brought it back today!)  I introduced the topic with "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" -- another of my old favorites.  They were very engrossed in the story, but when I told them we were going to find out about rocks, I saw no excitement at all -- in fact, they looked totally bored with the idea. Rocks? Who cares about rocks?

     But when I read the story about different kinds of rocks -- skipping rocks, climbing rocks, splashing rocks, a wishing rock, writing rocks, etc. -- and pulled out the treasures from my rock collection -- the excitement started to build. Suddenly everyone wanted to feel the smooth black rock and the chalk rock.  The geode was amazing with the beautiful crystals inside the ugly ordinary looking rock. I let each one chose a rock to draw and they wrote a description -- including what made their rock cool.

     Now I have to pull them away from the display of rocks -- they crowd around every time they get a chance using the magnifying glass to get a closer look.  Some brought in rocks they found at home to show me today.Once again, the ordinary has come alive for them.

    Since we studied about insects, it is not unusual to see three or four of them gathered around watching an ant or a pillbug on the playground. Today I saw one on my boys crouched down on the floor studying a beetle that crept into our classroom.

     Helping them find the wonder in God's creation is so much fun for me.  I come home and tell my husband all about it -- and write a blog about it -- and I am really going to miss that.  Their eyes are suddenly open to the wonders of the world around them -- earthworms, clouds, penguins, turtles, insects, leaves, seeds, starfish and rocks -- so many marvels!! Its like the light suddenly turns on and they see these ordinary things in a whole new way. And for me, that is truly EXTRAORDINARY!

Friday, May 29, 2015

So Many to Thank!

   When I first discovered the world of teacher blogs a few years ago, I had no idea what an influence some of these teachers would have on my life. I have had the privilege of meeting a few in person, but mostly I just follow their blogs and get so many ideas that have made me a better and happier teacher.  I am amazed by what they are doing in their classrooms, and awe-struck when they read and even comment on the things I have written. I simply don't know how they have time and energy to create all these teaching materials after a day in the classroom, Even if I had a creative thought, I would never be able to do what they do.  So, on one of my last blogs before retirement, I'd like to thank some of these incredible teachers.

   One of the first things that caught my eye was a book barn that Reagan Tunstall of Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits had in her classroom in Texas.  I had to have it, so my husband made one for me. Since then I have bought many items from her TPT store, including a Rise and Shine folder that I use a LOT.

I also love this song that she put on you tube a few years ago. It still makes me laugh.
Thank you, Reagan!


         Another of the Superstars I follow is Heidi Butkus of Heidisongs. Not only do I use many of the DVDs she has produced, but she also has shared games and word family worksheets and flashcards that I use nearly every day.  My classes love singing her songs and they have learned to read and spell many many sight words by singing along with Heidi.  I was thrilled to meet Heidi at a conference a few years ago -- seemed like seeing an old friend. I especially LOVE her Gingerbread Man play -- my class performed the play at Christmas last year and the audience loved it.
Thank you, Heidi!!


 Another major superstar I was excited to meet was Deanna Jump.  Mrs. Jump is very well known as the first teacher to make a million dollars on Teachers Pay Teachers. I helped her make that million with all her products that I have bought -- and all were worth every penny! I have used the  Guiding Kinders Math and Writer's Workshop that she and another of my favorites, DeedeeWills, created. It is way better than anything provided by the county and I am so grateful for their work.

Thank you, Deanna and Deedee!

There are many other teachers across the country who have also shared their hard work, but I have been so blessed to be blogger or Facebook Friends with these -- they inspire, encourage, and excite me and even though I will not need to use their ideas and products after retirement, I will probably keep following them because they seem like my friends. Thank you all for touching these North Carolina children by helping their teacher find new ways to teach effectively. I'd like to sing the "Golden Girls " theme song -- "Thank you for being my friend"

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The End of My Teaching Career -- Look at Those Faces!

   One month from today I will not set the alarm clock or pack my lunch. I won't wake up early thinking about what I will do in school today.  After 45 years of teaching -- public school, Christian school, home school -- I will be officially retired.  I have to turn in my iPad, clean out my desk, delete all the documents on my computer, give my goldfish away, and say goodbye to daily laughter and sharing life with my dear assistant and friend.
   Although I know it is time for me to step away from assessments and teacher evaluations and observations and faculty meetings and workshops and Common Core and report cards and lesson plans -- all the parts of the profession that I DONT like -- I am having a little trouble stepping away from the actual teaching. I mean, look at these faces!


   Teaching kids to read and write stories and introducing them to everything from caterpillars to clouds -- seeing their eyes open to the world around them as they learn about growing seeds and building cubes and ocean life and Pilgrims and so many other things -- well, that is just such a joy!
    I'm not saying that it's all fun and games -- there are fusses and rule-breaking and saying "be quiet, keep your hands to yourself, sit down, stop tattling" about a hundred times a day.  There are kids who never do homework, kids who can't remember what a 4 is, kids who pinch and choke other kids, kids with head lice and pink eye, kids who have parents in jail, kids who need love but show it in the most difficult ways. I come home so tired and drained that I can hardly get off the couch some days. 
   But look at this face! Priceless and worth every hard day when you can see the wonder when they
accomplish something new!  

      So, as I walked through Target this week, I felt a little lost. Nothing I needed to buy, with less than 20 days of school left. Don't need to buy clothes for work. I saw some cute little red polka dotted buckets that I really wanted to buy, but knew that would be crazy. And that stuffed turtle at Kohls would have been great for the Franklin stories and reptiles unit. But I won't be teaching that again.
       Don't get me wrong. I am looking forward to retirement and having time and energy to clean my house and travel with my family and cook meals. I will finally empty the bookcases and closets and baskets full of teaching books and supplies that I have accumulated over the past 45 years. But I have been "Teacher" for so long -- it's who I am -- my identity -- and I don't exactly know who I will be when that is over. I am eager to find my new place in life -- time to read books just for fun, work at church, go to daytime activities, take vacations when everyone else is at school. I'm excited --and tired -- and counting the days. But I will miss my co-workers-- the lunch room ladies that fix my lunch, the custodians who clean my room, the office workers who keep everything running smoothly and intercept phone calls, the teachers who inspire me and especially the hard-working assistants who do so much to make life easier. My own assistant, Mrs. Awesome, is a treasure and the main reason I have kept teaching this long. And the kids who make me want to pull my hair out, beat my head against the wall, and cry -- and who greet me every morning with bright smiles when I walk in, and run to hug me and write love notes.  Look at these faces!!





Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"This is the Best Day Ever"

       "This is the best day ever!" Said one of my little boys today.  I bought 20 plates from Dollar Tree (best teacher store ever) and the kids were decorating them for Mother's Day. Since I could only supervise a few at a time, I let the rest of the kids play with Legos and read books and play with the math stations -- not our usual routine.  The little boy was thrilled to make a plate AND play with Legos --- and that made this his best day.  It made me a little sad to think that kindergarten is so much about reading, writing, and arithmetic that a few minutes of Legos meant so much to him.

       As we wind up the school year and start the assessment ordeal, I am trying to add more of the fun stuff that we didn't have time for earlier.  We planted seeds last week, and the kids hurry over to check out their plants when they come in the morning.


        I also got out my collection of magnets and amazed the children with the way they could repel and attract, depending on the poles.  (they are so easily amazed -- great fun)

       But the biggest excitement of the week was when I got out the dinosaurs.  I read a book

"If The Dinosaurs Came Back" and the kids were so excited they could hardly sit still and listen to the story.  Probably no one will ever listen to everything I say with such eagerness ever again!  They wrote some great stories about dinosaurs, drew a stegosaurus, and begged to take my collection of dinosaurs outside at recess.


       This is Teacher Appreciation week, and I have been surprised to receive flowers and candy and sweet cards, and lunch from McDonalds. It warms my heart to get notes telling me how much their child has learned this year in my class.  Kindergarten is such an amazing time of learning -- they come in as a blank slate, barely able to name some letters and numbers. Now they are writing stories and reading books. One was writng a story today -- she was on the fourth page when the bell rang at the end of the day so she will finish when she gets here in the morning. Incredible!
        Just a little over 5 weeks to go and still so much to do!  But I hope I will take time to have a few more "best days ever" in these last weeks.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wonderful Worms

      Since it was Earth Day yesterday, this seemed like a good time to read our Wonderful Worms book.  I stopped at Walmart on the way to school and bought some big fat night crawlers. The kids questioned me about why they had a plate at their seat, since it was not snack day.  I read the book and showed a great video about the wonder of worms, then I gave each of them a night crawler on their plate to examine.  Some were eager to pick them up, but a few-- not so much.  We made charts to describe worms, they compared sizes, and gave them a name. It was great fun, and I got several hugs for being the best teacher ever -- and here are a few pictures.  Can you guess which ones were not worm lovers?






   Now they are writing "Worms are cool." 
   But also crawling around on the floor instead of sitting -- oh, well!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Want to be an Astronaut (NOT!)


     Today at Valmead we had the privilege of having a real live astronaut at our school.  Not only was it cool having a celebrity, but he really knew how to keep an audience of little kids interested. Our astronaut, Duane Carey, flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

    He showed a video he made during his flight demonstrating how they ate and slept and used the bathroom in space -- all things the kids were interested in.

    He answered their questions, and when one little boy asked what it was like to blast off into space, he brought him up front and showed what it was like with vibrations and pressure. He told how the astronauts have to wear a diaper -- ew -- while they are waiting for the launch because they can't get up and go to the bathroom then.

    After the presentation, I took the children to the playground where they pretended to blast off into space and everything on the playground became a rocket ship.



   After playing, the children drew pictures and wrote stories about the astronaut. Some were so enthusiastic that they asked for more paper so they could write a second page!!


    On the way to the bus, one of my little boys said,"I want to be an astronaut when I grow up!" We are thankful to Mrs. Mood for arranging this inspiring event.



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy Easter Egg


          Spring break is finally here!   
          It has been a busy, fun-filled week in kindergarten. We interrupted our insect study to concentrate on Easter for this week.  I read lots of good books -- everything from the Ressurection of Jesus -- the real reason for Easter -- to Easter Bunny and Ukranian egg decorating and egg hunts.
I brought my hand-painted Ukrainian eggs that I got when I went on a mission trip to Ukraine a few years ago. I read the Patricia Polacco book, "Rechenka's Eggs" 

        One of the highlights was coloring the eggs.  The children are always amazed to see the eggs dyed into beautiful colors. They all gathered around to table to see the transformation and make me feel like a magician.

     Look at all those boys!
      I took the eggs to the lunchroom and let them peel off the colorful shells and eat them. I was surprised that some have never seen a boiled egg before -- one brought the yolk to me to ask what it was.
      But the BIG EVENT was the egg hunt today.  I had several moms and other volunteers come  to hide hundreds of eggs in the school yard while we were at lunch. And, oh, the excitement!!

   Everyone had a big bag of candy-filled eggs to take back to the classroom. I let them sit down and feast on the candy -- they were all going home in an hour -- then they wrote about the egg hunt in their journals.   I love this one.

      I am looking forward to celebrating the Resurrection with my family, then working on my "to-do" list. I've signed my retirement papers, and I need to start figuring out what I am going to do with the tons of teaching materials I have accumulated over the past 45 years...
       Happy Easter!  He is risen!