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Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Very Unlikely Teacher



At the end of my last post I mentioned the recent events surrounding teachers in West Virginia, and by recent events I mean this.
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If you've seen any of the latest media coverage you might have heard about what most people are calling the West Virginia "teacher strike."  Those of us in West Virginia however, are calling it a MOVEMENT.  This movement has been one of the most life changing experiences I've had in my short little lifetime but before we dive head first into all of the glorious details, the good, the bad, and the everything, let's back up for a minute and start from the beginning.

Allow me to reintroduce myself... 

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My name is Devon and I'm a 1st grade teacher.  In my corner of the world, teaching is what you would call the "family business."  My parents were both teachers and still work in the school system today.  My uncles, aunts, great uncles, great aunts, and cousins are teachers as well so naturally I spent my whole life dreaming of becoming a teacher right?  WRONG.

Growing up I spent a lot time at school with my parents.  They were heavily involved in any and all school related activities so I spent the majority of my childhood at sporting events, teacher meetings, tutoring sessions, and countless hours helping my mom work in her classroom.  

That was my life...and I hated it.  Not all of it.  Some events were fun, a lot of fun, but I quickly realized that my mom worked WAY too hard and did WAY more than she was ever appreciated or paid for.  It's a pretty well known fact that teachers work more hours than they are paid for but until you live that life yourself you truly can not understand what that life is really all about.  That life, I determined, was not for me.  I wanted to go places, explore the world, and in all honesty not live off of a teacher salary.
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I went to college and majored in public relations and communications. After graduation I realized that "doing what I love" required me to move away from home and the people I love.  Something I really didn't want to do.  Coming to that realization when I was fresh out of college and ready to change the world was a deflating one to say the least.  

I knew grad school was in my future.  I just wasn't sure as to what I would get my master's in.  I needed to get a job in the mean time and after some encouragement from my parents to "just try it" I reluctantly gave in and began substitute teaching.  What happened after that was astonishing.  

I don't consider myself to be a negative person but life was hard and frustrating at that point and I can admit now that I didn't always see the glass half full.  When I started working with elementary school children my perspective on the world was completely transformed.  It's amazing how you feel when you start to see life through the eyes of children and it certainly was a game changer for me.

The rest you could say is history.  I decided to pursue a master's degree in teaching and my job now is a little thing I like to call "changing the world one 6 year old at a time."  

Fast forward almost 9 years later and life has brought me here.

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So how does the girl who was "dragged kicking and screaming into the teaching profession" find herself fighting for the future of our state, teachers, public education, and most importantly students?  Well,  that's a story for tomorrow. 😉#55united #55strong #55ignited  #airbornealltheway

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Five for Friday..on Saturday..Welcome Back edition





I'm ashamed to admit I'v been on a blogging hiatus for quite some time now.  So much has happened and I have so many stories to tell so let's kick off this welcome back post with a little Five for Friday on a Saturday.
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My knowledge of link parties is slim to none and I stumbled on to the Five for Friday party when I dove into the blogging world and it helped me learn so much.  Five for Friday is my absolute favorite link party because it's weekly and the motto is anything goes.  However, I haven't been able to find the link up link on the page this week.  I'm doing it on my own today but I hope the Five for Friday days have not come to an end!  If you know something about this that I don't please let me know!
This has been the year (or two) of moving.  I moved from teaching Kindergarten to 1st grade, I moved schools, and I moved houses.  Did I mention there's been a lot of moving?  The interesting part of this year of moving is that I am now teaching 1st grade in the same classroom that I attended Kindergarten.  Talk about coming full circle! This is a picture of my new classroom.  I definitely miss my old room, my students, and my teacher friends but it's been worth it to be closer to my mom as she continues to recover from breast cancer treatment.
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I've mentioned my mom several times in my posts.  A couple of years ago she underwent treatment for breast cancer.  That year was very challenging for me and truly was the catalyst for the changes I decided to make the following year.  Oddly enough, a year after I moved schools to be closer to her she took a job at the same school I now work at.  Working with my mom has been a unique experience and I'm so glad to be sharing this with her.

Has anyone else had a winter of crazy weather?? We've gone from 16 degrees to 50 degrees to 30 degrees to 70 degrees to 40 degrees and back the 30 degrees.  We've had weeks where we had summer weather on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and a snow storm Thursday and Friday.  What a weird winter! On Friday we had a snow day due to snow and ice.  We keep hoping this will be the end of it but I don't think I can promise that!  

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So...let's talk about the real catalyst for change.  If you have kept up with the news lately you may have seen the stories of the recent West Virginia teacher walk out.  I'm proud to say that I am one of those people in the picture above.  I never expected to be a part of something like this but it's been a life changing experience to say the least and I can't wait to continue to share with you our story, our journey, and the movement we all hope that we've sparked.  We have been 55 strong, united, and ignited and now we are hopeful for a brighter tomorrow for our students! #55united #55strong #55ignited 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Let your "blue" light shine

Hello everyone.

Long time, no see.

 Today is autism awareness day and in honor of today and autism awareness month I want to share a little story with you.

Last year I had a class of 23 Kindergarten students.  Three of those students had a diagnosis of autism.  I wasn't sure until right before school began whether or not they would be placed in my class.  Secretly I was hoping they would be.  I knew this would be a great opportunity to teach my students lessons about friendship, working with others, respect and acceptance, and also, MY chance to pay it forward.

Growing up I had a very special friend.  His name was Cullen.  He was my friend before I knew what the word friend meant.  We were in weddings together, went to Sunday school together, and were classmates in elementary school together.  Cullen was special.  He was loving, kind, and smart.  He loved life and everyone in it.

When we were in either 1st or 2nd grade his parents started noticing changes in gross motor skills.  He was eventually diagnosed with a condition that I can neither spell, pronounce, or correctly define.  All I know is that slowly he began to lose all of the physical pieces of himself.  A boy who once ran, played, and line danced for a second grade show and tell was now bound to wheel chair.  It was a hard concept for us as his friends to understand. As time went on he lost his outward functions but his insides never changed. I will never be more in awe of one person and their strength, love for life, for people, and for Jesus.

That year my 2nd grade teacher arranged our desks in horseshoe shape and every day we rotated our desks so that each of us had the chance to sit by him and another student in our class with special needs.  Our job for the day was to assist them, either but helping them use their scissors, get books from inside their desks, or just be their buddy for the day.  It was a responsibility, a lesson, and privilege.  One that each of us not only looked forward to but often times we found ourselves fighting over who would play with them at recess, sit with them at lunch, or be their partner for a class activity.  We never had a discussion about these boys and their conditions, their special needs, their differences.  We were not lectured about all of the ways we were going to be forced to treat them because it was the right thing to do.  We were simply given the chance to demonstrate our powers of love and friendship.

And it worked.

BEAUTIFULLY.

My 2nd grade teacher was a genius.

Last year, when I was told I would be getting three students with autism my only hope was that I could create a classroom that would make half the impact on my students that my 2nd grade teacher and my friend Cullen made on me.  

Although my boys last year did not have the same unique situation as Cullen the conditions were still the same.  They look like everyone else.  Talk like everyone else.  Love life, school, people, and sports like everyone else. They are no different than anyone else only they see life in a different way.  A special way.  They all want love, acceptance, and a chance to share their amazing gifts with the world.

To me autism is not a sad diagnosis.  It's a brilliant one.  One that has the capability of giving more to the world than any of us could ever imagine.  There are times when life with autism is difficult, frustrating, and exhausting but the highs that counteract the lows, the days of pure J. O. Y. will always outweigh the hard times.

If you don't have much knowledge about autism I would encourage you to learn.  I would also encourage you to reach out, support, and love someone with autism or someone who is raising, teaching, or encouraging someone with autism.  Let the world of autism make an impact on you.  Let your blue light shine. You will never be the same and you will be so glad that you did.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

FRF Back to Life Back to Reality

Happy Saturday!

We are inching ever so closer to normal life here.  Maybe because we escaped another snow storm this week.  Maybe because we are getting used to a week of five full school days.  Maybe because we were able to have a couple of days of outdoor recess this week.  Maybe because my mom has finished her six rounds of nasty chemo and is one step closer to no more cancer treatments.  Or maybe it's all of the above.  Whatever the reason is we will take it!


Last weekend I played tutor for a friend of mine who recently started a master's program.  She has been out of school for a little over 10 years and is a little unfamiliar with online classes.  I spent the morning/afternoon helping her maneuver the website and understanding APA citation.  

We searched for research articles.  Looked at websites to help with in-text citation and I sipped on about 4 cups of vanilla and cinnamon infused coffee.  It was a major success.

I talked last week about the greater than, less than activities we were doing in class.  This week was round 2 of all about comparing numbers.  I said before that I love our comparing numbers unit because it allows my students to practice their number sense skills and get them ready for addition.  I really like to hit the number sense part of this lesson hard because if you haven't noticed already...I'm all the number sense.  With that said we use all kinds of manipulatives to create inequalities, solve them, and prove our answers.  

The favorite manipulative of all of my students?  

Goldfish.

Let me tell you what.  Throw some goldfish in front of them and they are comparing number machines.  We had to review the rules of comparing goldfish because of my little darlings thought I was just providing snack while they were working.  

Once they were all reminded that the goldfish were in fact for comparing first THEN for eating it was smooth sailing.  

Not to mention the fact that they cheer every time I announce that we will be using food in math.  

I pretend they're cheering because they love comparing numbers.

Teacher of the year right here.

We had a little end of the week "celebration" on Friday and did math station rotations with no seat work.

I repeat NO SEAT work.  

That's right.

All games.

Did I mention teacher of the year?

My students celebrated an hour of game playing.  I celebrated the fact that they knew they were practicing the comparing numbers skills while working at each station.  And they were loving it.

We had a number sense matching game that I worked with, a comparing numbers with alligators game on the computer, a number sense game that included building towers of connecting cubes and reading and writing numbers 0-20, and a bug catching comparing numbers game.  IT. WAS. GREAT.
Do you use Classdojo?  I learned about this a couple of years ago from a friend of mine.  If you don't know about it basically it is a classroom management tool.  You create an account, add your class, and you're ready to go.  You can print usernames and passwords for parents so they can log in to the website via computer or by downloading the free app and they can see when their child is awarded points for staying on task, working with others, participating, etc. 

There are a lot of pros and cons to using this tool but what I like about it is that they are creating more options and features to help create a more positive learning environment.


We watched an episode on the brain this week and my students were introduced to concept of exercising your brain.  It was very informative and age appropriate.  We are going to watch it a couple more times before moving on to the next chapter.

Here's a picture of the episode we watched.  If you'd like to check it out or tried it before they added the new features and want to give it a shot again send me your e-mail and I will refer you.  It's free.  Plus they slapped a mentor sticker on my profile a few months ago so I want to continue to do my mentor duty.  You can e-mail me at AVeryUnlikelyTeacher@yahoo.com.


I had dinner with my cousin Kaitlyn and our friend Jordan last night at the Lakehouse.  I realized that the last time I was there was with the same group of girls back in October.  My mom was newly diagnosed with breast cancer and they were donating proceeds that night help raise awareness and fund reconstructive surgery as a result of breast cancer.  I love being with these girls.  We laughed through every conversation, even the serious ones.  It was nice being at the Lakehouse under different circumstances as well.  During our first visit there I was on information overload from everything we were learning about cancer and my mom's case.  Six months later we are almost half way through her treatments and are now looking at the recovery process as opposed to the options for killing the cancer.  It's a relief and one I was glad to celebrate with these girls.  

So there you have it.  Back to life, back to reality.  I've never been so happy hear that phrase.  I have no words to describe this school year.  All I know is that right now I'm thankful for the norm.  I'm thankful for a week devoted to comparing numbers and spending quality time with my friends.  I'm thankful for the awareness I am gaining through all of my experiences this year.  I'm thankful that even the darkest times God's light always shines through.  Whether it's in the outdoor lights of the Lakehouse, the eyes of 23 five year olds, or the little tiny hairs on my mom's head.  It's always there.






Saturday, February 20, 2016

Five for Friday A Week Without Snow

Happy Saturday!

Happy warm Saturday!

Happy, warm, sunny, birds chirping, it feels like spring Saturday!!

If you haven't been able to tell, we've had no snow this week.  I don't hate snow.  It's kind of exciting at first.  It's the dragging on for days and days and cold temperatures and thinking about the number of days we will still be in school during the month of June because of all of the make up days that sort of just rains on my winter parade.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this warm, sunny weather is a growing trend.  I'm not the dark, cold, snowy type of person.

Here's what else happened this week.    



We started learning about greater than and less than this week in math.  We are still recovering the enormous amount of interruptions the past few weeks so we'll be working on it a little bit next week, too.  I love teaching greater than and less than because it's a great topic to introduce symbols, build number sense, and segue into addition and subtraction.  It's fun.  There are lots of options for instruction. In this pictures students were grouped in pairs and were comparing different amounts of counters.  This was the beginning of unit.

This school year should be named the year of interruptions.  As if snow and frequent trips to the cancer center with my mom weren't enough, I was also called for jury duty this week. 

That's right.

You heard correct.

Jury duty.

Seriously?! 

I thought it was a joke in the beginning but I can assure you it was not. So I spent my Tuesday downtown at the courthouse.  I was a nervous wreck.  I've never been inside a court room.  It's intimidating.  Don't worry though.  I'm not giving away any details that could get me fired or fined or whatever else.  I was not an actual juror and there were no cases going on.  It was basically just an information session to inform me that there is a possibility that I can and will be asked to do my civic duty.  

The best part about Tuesday, meeting my cousin for coffee.  It was strange and fun to be walking around town in the middle of the day.  I actually ran into a parent of one of my students at the coffee shop and I immediately blurted out "I'm not skipping school!" Amateur. 

This is something I'm pretty excited about.  I've been working on creating and transforming my focus wall since the beginning of the year.  This is the first year I've actually done a focus wall and I love that it creates a visual reminder of what we're learning each work for my students. 

I've been working on letter and sounds cards to post on the wall to remind my students what letter we are focusing on each week as well as give them some examples of words that begin with that sound.  We use these, obviously, on the focus wall every week but they could easy be used in any reading or writing center.  My kids love them.  If you want a set you can get them HERE.

We've been celebrating President's Day all week.  Mostly because our study of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln began on Monday and will continue into next week.  I really want to get my students writing and we tried it out this week with during our President's Day celebration.  We read a few stories about George Washington, learned a song, made a list of facts, put them all together to make a couple of sentences, and made a really cute George Washington to hold our sentence.  You can get the George Washington craft for free thanks to Ms. Freshwater's class HERE.

I saved this one for last just because I needed a little end of the week humor.  I often think that if you're not a teacher you can't even begin to realize the amount of miracle working, juggling, and functioning in crisis mode we do every week.  With that said here are few memes I found this week. 


I'm a little more partial to Madea but they both work for me.

That's a wrap for this week.  It's supposed to be 60 degrees today.  I don't even know what to do with myself.  What are your plans this weekend?

  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

FrF Lying Groundhog Edition

Happy, snowy Saturday.  I think snow has been a major part of my posts for the last 3 weeks.  You know it's time to seriously reevaluate your sanity when you trust a rodent's prediction on the length of winter but let. me. tell. you. when I saw those signs behind Phil that said "no shadow" I was leaping with joy!

 Pure joy.

I'm talking J-O-Y JOY!

 It's only because we spent the last two winters here in the polar vortex.  Anyone remember that?  Arctic blast after arctic blast after arctic blast.  It was cold! Really cold.  Even for us.  I was so hopeful for a mild winter and early spring.  Sadly we were hit with more snow this week and they were threatening another storm this coming Sunday night but now they're not sure if it will just be rain or snow or rain and snow or ice and snow or anything at all.

Oh the humanity!

On Saturday some of my mom's wonderful former students hosted a benefit dinner for her.  She has received so much love and support since her diagnosis with breast cancer and it has made such a difference in her journey.  Last week we celebrated the end of her final chemo infusion for this part of her treatment.  She and my dad were not able to make it to the dinner on Saturday so I went to see everyone and say thank you for everything they continue to do for her.


On Tuesday, you guessed it, it snowed.  AGAIN.  About 8 inches which seems like a few flurries compared the 2 feet a couple weeks ago but still.  The favorite phrase around here has become "I'm so over winter."  No one I know is a big fan of Phil right now.


As you can imagine the amount of time we spent in school this week was limited with all of the snow. Somehow we found time to finally celebrate our 100th day.  We did some math centers with 100 objects.  Cup stacking was the favorite.  It was really interesting to watch them.  They were so excited when I put the cups in front of them then they looked at me and said "how are we going to build with all of these cups?"

We exchanged Valentines yesterday.  Valentine's Day is actually on Sunday and all of the teachers at my school decided that we would much rather celebrate on the Friday rather than Monday.  It was a good decision.  Each of my little minis decorated their own Valentine bag.  We loaded their overflowing bags into their backpacks as the headed out the door for the weekend and as I was cleaning up I found that 4 students forgot to hand out their Valentines.  I guess we will be celebrating on Monday anyway.

One of the best things about teaching Kindergarten is that I get to be everyone's favorite teacher.  Mostly because I am their first teacher and I have no competition. However I'm pretty sure for most of them I will always be the favorite.  Every year our awesome PTO does a Valentine themed fundraiser and sells "heart grams."  I received heart grams from three of my students from previous years.  There is no better feeling as a teacher than to know your former students still love you.

So that's it for this week.  Lying groundhogs, snow, and lots of chocolate.  Here's hoping next week brings some warmer temperatures.  Is it possible to give up snow for lent?