Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Randoms

Happy Sunday evening, all! This is my first time linking up with Fabulous in First for her Sunday Smorgasbord party!

I'm also still linking to Michelle at Big Time Literacy for her July blogging challenge( Un-fail! :)

So first, a little bit of this:

The girls are at their cousins' house for the weekend, which has been a very relaxing (quiet) weekend for me...and they asked if they could stay another day? Hello! Of course you can, my pretties.

Which means...

Yes, that's right, some grown-up beverages with my boo at our local watering hole to ease into the new week.

Next, a dash of that:

I have been getting into back to school mode by surfing TPT and Bloglovin' of course! I just bought a couple of cute first week of school activities and resources, which only inspired me to make something of my own! So for the rest of the night I will be working on an All About Me writing activity for the first day (in Spanish, of course). I will be using the cutest clip art from Krista Wallden's store.

(This is how I feel!)

And now, some randomness:

I got a really nice Berry facial on Friday as a treat to myself, and the facial itself was lovely. But the aesthetician said she was going to rub my shoulders and arms too, so I thought, Bonus! But I think she somehow jacked up my shoulder because my whole left side has been stiff since Friday! I think I'm used to carrying tension in my shoulders, and once it got relief my neck didn't know what to do with it, so it locked up on me. It's better now that I iced it all weekend, but it just goes to show how we as teachers need to take care of ourselves more. 
So if you are reading this, I am ordering you to go do something to pamper yourself before we go back to school. I mean it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Five Things I'm Looking Fwd To

Happy Friday everyone! Today I am combining DoodleBugs' Five for Friday

aaaand Big Time Literacy's July blogging challenge linkups!

I decided to do the Top Five Things I'm Looking Forward to for the Next School Year (in no particular order :)

-Implementing Guided Math/Daily 3 Math/Math Workshop-I've been reading some fabulous first grade teacher blogs, and there are lots of good ideas out there. I also attended a PD on small group math structures that offered great resources. I've concluded that no matter what structure/model I choose to follow, the key is routine, engagement, and meaningful work for students. I'm going to start with just 3 rotations (digital math, math with manipulatives, and math writing) and float around and observe/assist until they get the hang of it. Then (eventually) I will hopefully begin pulling a small teacher group for reteaching/differentiated instruction. Right now I'm excited about using this bundle from Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits!

-Decorating my classroom-Yes, I have also been looking at teacher blogs for inspiration :) My favorite first grade classroom that I've seen is Jennifer's from First Grade Blue Skies! First of all, her room is HUGE, so I know mine won't be able to hold as much cute stuff. But I love the way she used blue all throughout the background--I intend to do something similar with lavender. I think I've also settled on a theme of owls and birdies. Something like this:
with a birdie for each student's name?? Adorable.

-Getting to know all my new families-I was at my last school for 7 years, and I had a wonderful relationship with the families there. I knew the parents, the siblings, the cousins, the grandma's, the babysitters, etc. But now I get to start all over again at my new school! My goal is to meet all the families before parent/teacher conferences and establish a partnership with them so that we are all working towards a common goal. The easiest way to start is to introduce myself and be available in the mornings and after school when they drop off and pick up their children. A little 3-5 minute chat goes a long way to establish trust and familiarity!

-Being a super-organized, lean, mean nice, teaching machine! My goal is to do most of my work at school this year, instead of bringing it home and worrying about it until Sunday night!

Every year I start out getting to school at least 1.5 hours early and getting ready to start my day...but then around October I start sleeping in a little more, skipping breakfast, and drinking coffee all morning until lunch. Then I crash around 1:45pm and feel icky the rest of the day Well no more, not this year! I am going to get to school early everyday, stay maybe an hour after, and then hit the gym for yoga or light weights before dinner. I've decided that I hate doing aerobic workouts. So just something light to get the blood flowing, stretch and decompress from work, and then shower and dinner. At least that's my plan...


-Being a classroom teacher- I guess I should have started here! When I first went back to school to become a teacher, my goal was to be a self-contained bilingual teacher in my own classroom, but it just did not work out that way. My first job was a nightmare and I ended up resigning my position at Thanksgiving (but that's...another story...). Then I subbed for a couple of years in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs while I finished my Master's, getting experience in different school settings until I was hired at my current district. But I was hired as a resource ESL teacher (read: pull-out), which was the opposite of what I wanted to do! I just didn't see the point of pulling out students who already spoke English to give them a 30-minute ESL lesson that was not related to what they were doing in class. So I s-l-o-w-l-y instituted the push-in model, which then turned into the co-teaching model for ESL Science and Social Studies. It was great, and our students were making academic gains at a monster speed! But, given the current state of public education, the powers that be saw it fit to eliminate my position (for no good reason) and move me to a different school...I was sad, but in the end, this is what I wanted! I believe the universe has more good things in store for me, and life has a funny way of working out....

So, I am reading all of your linked blogs, but please share what you are looking forward to most this year in the comments!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The College Years

Happy summer, everyone! Today it is a sizzling 92 degrees in the Chi and I am trying to stay cool by sitting in the air conditioning and sipping on some ice water (and reading teacher blogs, of course). The man's at work, the girls are at the pool, and I have some very nice "Me Time" to be able to write and link up with Michelle at Big Time Literacy:

Today's prompt is to share a story from the college years :)

To be honest, I'm starting to forget a lot of it already. I worked really hard and was involved in a lot of campus politics (angry minority, Present!) so I was always really busy. I actually ended up taking a couple of years off and working retail before I went back downstate to finish my degree. For a while there I had to commute back and forth between Chicago and Urbana (it's only about 2.5 hours) to attend meetings and tie up loose ends. ANYWAY, the story:

I was driving a 1993 Buick Skylark with like 90,000 miles on it, no A/C, no tape player, and a gas tank that did not have a warning light when it was you can picture what happened next! Yup, I ran out of gas on I-57 in the middle of nowhere. I did not have a cell phone yet and I had my little brother with me along for company (he was in high school, so not that little). So I pull over and he's trying to convince me to start walking to the next town and possibly hitch-hike (ah, teenage boys and their bravery) when this huge, really shiny semi* pulls over and the driver offers me a ride to the nearest gas station.

Now, of course the first thing I think is that the driver is probably a serial killer and nobody will ever see me again, but then he mistakes my brother for my son and tells him he can come along to keep and eye on his mom! And of course my brother just wants to get it over with, so we go in the truck and it is all pimped out on the inside with a shiny entertainment system and a bed! Which freaks me out a little. And the driver starts asking me if I'm single, he's been looking for a little "señorita," etc. It sounds made up, but it's not. To wrap up the story, he drove us to the nearest gas station and then we got a ride back to my car from two random college students who were also on their way to Urbana. And I lived to tell the tale! Aaaaaand scene!

I want to send some love to Alyce at Mrs. Bartel's School Family for jogging my memory about accepting a ride from a stranger! I really had repressed this memory, and I never told my parents! Shhhhhh....

So, what's your hitch-hiking adventure? Please share with me!

Friday, July 18, 2014

5 for Friday and BTL Challenge

Happy Friday everyone! It's Friday, we just got paid-it's Friday, we just got paid! (And it's already been spent)

Today I am linking to Michelle at Big Time Literacy for her July blogging challenge:
And also linking up to Doodle Bugs Teaching for her super-fun weekly 5 for Friday:

Today's challenge is to write about my favorite teacher must-haves for the beginning of the new school year (which is only 4 weeks away!)


I love using Composition Books with my students because they are so much neater and compact than regular spiral notebooks (which can actually become hazardous as the year goes on and the metal spiral starts to come loose and stab little fingers when they are searching inside their desks!)
Every year around this time you can find them for $1 a piece at different stores--I definitely stock up and hand them out during the year.

2. An electric pencil sharpener! So far all the blogs I've read have stressed how awesome pre-sharpened pencils are, and I totally agree :) But, inevitably, kids have to sharpen their pencils at some point during the week and I HATE the manual sharpeners that are installed in our classrooms. Right now I've got my eye on this bad boy from Amazon. I've been trying different brands, but I find that they don't last more than 1.5-2 years in elementary school...

3. Multi-color eraser caps for when you still have a perfectly good pencil but the eraser has a.) fallen off  b.) been worn down c.) been chewed off by the 6 year-olds or d.) all of the above. I give these out like candy (because I don't give out candy) and kids get so excited to have a different color than their neighbor!


 Even though my district requires electronic lesson plans, I still like to use a lesson plan book/teacher notebook to keep track of my ideas, quickly plan out the next week, and make notes on how each day went and what I need to tweak for the next day. Right now I have this cute Spanish bilingual planner from Bilingual Classroom Resources in my cart at TPT. She has them in English too!

5. A positive attitude! Every year I come back recharged from summer break and ready to get to work on the serious business of teaching little ones. We do very important work, my friends, and it is thankless, and it is stressful, but it is the greatest job that anyone could ever have. I love being a teacher!

I hope you enjoyed reading my list; please share yours with me in the comments!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thinking About Back-to-School (in July)

Good morning, and welcome back to me and to you! I've been gone for a week or so, still reading fantastic blog posts from fantastic teachers but too busy to post my own. Today I am linking up with Michelle at BigTime Literacy for the July blogging challenge.
Even though I'm not blogging every day (and therefore have FAILED the challenge), I love that I get to reflect on my teaching through these occasional posts and through reading all of yours! This week I'm thinking more and more about going back to school on August 15...the countdown begins...

I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic PD by the very talented Lindsey Lahr, who is a former Science teacher and instructional coach in my district.  She is also an ed-tech guru and she taught me how to unlock Pages for creating awesome teacher-made resources! I know a lot of TPT products use PowerPoint, but Pages has lots of cool features too. Here is an example of a very quick "About Me" page that I made:
I'm thinking of sprucing this up to post on my district class page and maybe hand out to parents on curriculum night...or maybe I should make a brochure instead. Anyway, as my friend Mo pointed out--we are exactly 5 weeks away from going back to school, and I am already starting to plan for the craziness. I feel like I blinked and the first 5 weeks went by, another blink and I will have some yummy little first-graders in my room all set to learn! So exciting!

Thanks for reading, and any and all comments are appreciated!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why I Entered Teaching

Today's prompt from Big Time Literacy's Blogging Challenge is to write about why/how I became a teacher. I already sort of covered that in a previous post, but I will expound on it here. As I have mentioned before, I never planned on becoming a school teacher (although I always loved school). I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up so that I could help people. Luckily, I have found a profession where I can still help people--just in a different way.

I sort of stumbled into teaching via subbing in CPS and the surrounding suburbs while I was in between jobs. It was fun to be in a different school everyday, and to get to see the different cultures in each building. Now, I don't mean "culture" as in the demographics of the different schools; I mean the "school culture" as in how the adults treated each other and their students. I could tell what kind of day it was going to be based on how the secretary or administrator greeted me when I walked into the office. Some schools were completely cold and dysfunctional, while others were warm and inviting. I quickly learned which schools to go back to and which ones to run away from (or rather, to not pick up the phone at 5:45am when the substitute line called).

Each school was different, and you couldn't tell from the outside how it would feel until you walked through the halls. But the one thing I noticed that all of the schools I worked in had in common was that the demographics of the student body did not match up with the demographics of their teachers and administrators! All of these public schools were overwhelmingly non-white schools in low-income communities, but most of the adults who worked there were not from the community and did not look like their students. This is a problem that we as a society must address. According to the latest numbers that I have seen,

" 2020, the percentage of teachers of color will fall to an all-time low of 5 percent of the total teacher force, while the percentage of students of color in the system will likely exceed 50 percent...."

Even though I didn't have the numbers back then, I knew that I wanted to teach kids in my community because I used to be one of them. I wanted to serve as not only a role model but also as a mentor to Latino kids and to help their families build a bridge with their local public school. When I was growing up, all of my teachers were white and spoke no Spanish, except for one. Ms. Robles was fresh out of college and still living in our community on the Southwest Side when she became my 5th grade teacher. It was so nice to have a teacher who could pronounce our names and speak to our parents after school. We all invited her to our houses for birthday parties or just to visit, and she actually came! I will always remember her because she was a great teacher AND she looked like me.

After that, I moved to the suburb where I now teach and I never saw any teachers of color. To this day, there is only a handful of Latino and Latina teachers where I work and most of us are in bilingual classrooms. Once our students exit the bilingual program, it is extremely rare for them to see someone who looks like them standing at the front of their classroom.  This was the case in the 1980s and 1990s when I was a public school student, and it is still the case today. I want to change this, and that is why I am a teacher.

So I'm curious, what does your school look like? Do the students see themselves reflected in their teachers? Do the families feel welcomed into their local public school? What do you do to address this disparity in your classroom?

Thanks for weighing in,

Friday, July 4, 2014

5 Randoms for Friday

I just got home from hanging with my boo, taking a break before we finish off the 4th at our local watering hole down the street:

1. Poor Phil's Shell Bar

I have a love/hate relationship with this place: excellent craft beer selection (I think it's like, 100 beers or something) but it smells like fried seafood grease all the time :/

2. I don't like seafood because I can't get past the smell or the rubbery texture going on, even though I remember I loved shrimp when I was little...eeewwww

3. We were at Rock Bottom in Orland Park earlier. It's a chain brewery, but they have excellent brews! I had a $3 saison-style house can't beat that with a stick.

4. Before that, we went to IKEA in Bolingbrook to get some home office stuff--very married-couple-ish, don't you think? I got a cute little swivel chair for my new classroom to be used during morning meeting and in our circle time. Otherwise, I plan on standing or sitting in a kids' chair during guided reading.

5. Happy 4th everyone! This year I was feeling too lazy to go to any bbq's. Instead I slept in until 10AM!! And then had a leisurely coffee and breakfast before IKEA. And it's only Friday! It felt like Sunday all day, and then I remembered the weekend is just beginning. It's like the gift that keeps on giving.

Thanks for reading, and see you Monday!
Time to link up for day 4 of #BTBC14!
Also, this is my first Doodle Bugs linky!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Reflections On My Teaching Life (so far)

I almost didn't make the deadline, but it is still Day 2 of Big Time Literacy's blogging challenge for the month of July!

Today's prompt is to reflect on my role in education, which I have been doing a lot of lately. I didn't always want to be a teacher, in fact it never even cross my mind to take an education class in college. I was a poli sci major at U of I and I was going to be a civil rights lawyer. Then I found that I loved doing research and writing so I switched my major to history, and I was going to be a history professor. My goal was academia. But I was so involved in the politics of college (a Latina from Berwyn in all white military history boys' scene, advocating for more Latino faculty members for our ethnic studies programs, protesting the Native American mascot, etc.,) that I got burnt out on academe. I was tired of school, so I worked a mindless job in retail (I was also a barista) and I just chilled for a few years. Sometimes you need that.

Then I started subbing to make extra money...and I fell in love with elementary school! I loved the excited looks on children's faces as they entered the school in the morning. I loved the smell of sharpened pencils. I loved the laughter and chatter and noise of the hallways as we switched classes. And I realized that this was my place! I had finally found what I wanted to be when I grew up! So I went back to school and became a bilingual education teacher. This will be my eighth year in the same district, although at a new school. I'm excited to meet my new first graders and have new adventures this fall, and I hope to record some of that here!

Thanks again to Michelle for pushing me to write and giving me the inspiration to start this blog!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Currently

This is a very fun challenge for my new blog! I'm enjoying reading all these other teachers' blogs and look forward to learning a lot more. Thanks Farley and Michelle!

Opening a Window

Good morning! And welcome to my new blog. My hope is to use this space to record and reflect on my journey into the first grade bilingual classroom. After many years as a bilingual resource teacher/specialist working with all different grade levels, I am being moved back into the classroom to focus on only 15 yummy little bilingüe first graders! I am excited about it and I look forward to this new chapter in my teaching life.

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