Survival or Love?

Day 1 is in the books. I did it. I survived… no, LOVED every minute of my first day back in the classroom after 10 years of working in educational technology. I am exhausted. My day was 12 hours of preparing, sharing, smiling, learning, teaching, and building relationships. Wow. What a day!

Like most teachers and students, the night before school starts is not very restful. I woke up an hour before my alarm clock thinking about this and that. Do I have enough planned? What will the students really be like? Will they like me AND respect me? Will I be the teacher I know I can be? Since I was up I decided to go in to work that much earlier. The normal things that could happen did happen. I realized I forgot to copy a sheet for the students. Running to the copier before anyone got there… it didn’t matter it was down. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “eh, we will figure it out.” The students started arriving to my room at 8:00am even though they didn’t need to be there until 8:40am. I have freshman and they were nervous so I talked to each of them as they came in to the room. The day started and it felt as if I never left the classroom, I was calm. I smiled. We learned about one another. I know I am not “supposed to smile until December” but I’ve never been able to follow that rule. The day flew by. I made a couple mistakes throughout the day but I will correct them tomorrow. After school, I managed to prep just about everything for the next two days. I arrived at 7am and left at 6:15pm. I am exhausted but invigorated in the same respect.

As I reflected on my day, I thought about when I entered in to my last semester at USC-Aiken to do my internship. I wondered if I still had my portfolio from the semester. I did. I found my final assignment a letter to the next interns. The letter was long and the last two paragraphs summed up that experience and what I believe this new experience will be.

My very first planning guide and letter to the next semester of interns.

My very first planning guide and letter to the next semester of interns.

I have made the connection, metacognition. Not only have the students learned to apply their knowledge, I have learned how to give the students the tools to find and use the knowledge. During this semester, I have found that my true calling is to be a teacher. Leaving this internship will fill me with a vast range of emotions. I will be happy because I will finally be graduating. Sad because I have learned to love the kids and won’t be seeing their faces everyday. Excitement and anticipation because next year I will hopefully have my own classroom, and finally, respect for everyone and anyone who truly knows s/he is born to be a teacher.

If you asked me what I have learned this semester? My answer would be… I can’t breathe without these kids. I wish you the best to succeed this semester and no matter how bad it sounds now you will make it through and hopefully find your niche.” (1998)

Here is too a great year. If the feeling I had today is any indication of what is yet to come, I can’t wait.

Traffic Lights – Ticket out of the door

In preparation for going back to the classroom I watched a lot of teacher preparation videos on The Teaching Channel. As I watched, The Spotlight Method: End of Lesson Assessment I love the idea of getting students to tell me where they are with their understanding of the lesson. The idea is there are 3 circles like a street light and the students fill out a sticky note completing the following statement: Today, I learned…(green circle) Today, I considered…(yellow circle) or Today, my learning stopped because… (red circle).

I made my signs today. I will laminate and hang tomorrow! They are about 11″ round so many kids can add sticky notes per class.

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If you want to watch the video from The Teaching Channel, here you go! The Spotlight Method

I have keys

IMG_2519So this happened today. I picked up the key to my new classroom. Walking in I felt this sense of belonging and excitement to make it mine. It will be interesting to see what I can do to this traditional looking classroom.

My mind is reeling of grant ideas on how to update the seating in this classroom. As you can see the desks are attached to the chairs. It doesn’t assist with the ease of  movement but I have seen ways teachers make it work.

The first thing that is going are the rows of desks. I will most likely group them in 4s to start. The teacher who left the room did leave a couple interesting tables in the room that I think I can DIY for a standing table and a collaboration space.

What is my vision? 

Unlimited. I want to see a space that will meet the needs of all of my students based on how they feel when they walk in the room. I envision a few standing desks/tables with a few chairs/stools; a couple lower tables with chairs; a few individual student desks; and maybe a campfire table with comfortable chairs around it. The room does have 5 whiteboards so I can build collaboration spaces around the boards. I would even LOVE to have a few FitDesks to allow movement even when students have to sit.

Can I make my vision come to fruition? 

I hope so. This is where you come in… If you have disposable cash to fund a project like this let’s talk. If you have funding sources or grants you know of PLEASE share. I am not afraid to ask/beg for funding.

This is the first steps in this journey. I hope you come along with me.

Happy Step Mother’s Day

I want to wish all of the Step Mothers a happy day today. When I met my husband and found out he had a daughter I thought ok this is fine. It will be great. What I learned is being a step mom is the hardest job in the world. How do I work through the “Who is this lady? Why is she hanging out with us? Who does she think she is? I don’t have to like her. I don’t have to listen to her. She’s not my mom.”? And this is what I dealt with through the communication skills of a 4 year old.

I never want to replace her mother. I only want to be a support and a rock for her. I want to teach her how to be independent, confident, to love herself and life.

Today, she is a couple weeks from 9 years old and we have come a long way in 5 years. We craft, bake, can, visit museums, go on adventures, watch movies, read books, and laugh together. She has a big heart and today she showed just how big her heart is. This morning I was greeted with a handmade duct tape purse, a pocket whiteboard, and a poem that made me cry.

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Let me share her words with you…

Cookies, cake, and chocolate

Are sweet

Kisses to you

Emazing friend

 

You, are a treat

On the menu of life

Living it well

Owesome parent

 

Lending a hand

Only you understand

Veins are filled with peace

Enter the love

Better than treasure

Everything is great

Sun shines on you

Together forever

Cookies,

Cake, and

Chocolate

Are Sweet
Her words for me – CAKE, YOLO, LOVE, BEST. I love her more than she will ever know.

 

 

Creativity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this word. Where does it come from? What inspires us? How can you use it? What defines creativity? What do we learn in the process of creating?
cre·a·tiv·i·ty – krēāˈtivədē/ noun: creativity – the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. (Google)
This past week creativity has been all around me. First, my step daughter is at the age she is exploring things online, living and breathing Minecraft and just very creative in general. She and her dad have decided to do a podcast called Ella’s Entry. The first episode is possibly the cutest thing I have ever heard. I am not biased or anything but I think it is. The podcast came out of her dad listening to podcasts with her in the car and a curiosity of how podcasts are made and why people listen to them.
IMG_1839On Friday night, I was packaging some things I sold on ebay and when I finished I had this overwhelming urge to make something.  This year, I want to take my crafting to another level. I want to start creating rubber stamps and I have played around a little but I’m not a professional by any means. So I pulled out some sheets of rubber and started looking around on Pinterest to see what I could find about carving or something that would inspire me. I decided to carve a branch and a flower on a vine.
As I finished carving, I started looking at what the stamp looks when used with ink.
IMG_1841They were not bad but I could definitely see where I could improve. What struck me was as I looked at the inked images I began to think about what I learned in carving the stamps. I tried numerous blades. I moved the blades in different directions. I noticed imperfections in my stamps. The leaves weren’t completely smooth. I even cut parts out I wasn’t supposed to cut.
This is where my creativity really started to kick in. My imperfections did not deter me from continuing. They actually threw me in to a plan of action and excitement about my next steps to improve. Maybe they are not steps but more like guidelines.
  1. Any design is ok.
  2. The more I design and carve the better.
  3. Always draw the design bigger to allow for carving in smaller spaces on the rubber.
  4. Try carving ANYTHING. No theme needed.
I also set two goals:
  1. I want to be able to carve script
  2. I need to carve weekly

All of this came from being inspired to pick up the carving tools when I was sitting in the craft room.

Today, my family and I were walking downtown on a photo walk. It’s one of our “family things” since my step daughter has taken an interest in photography. I find when I am on the photo walks, I deliberately try to see things in a creative way. When we walk around we talk about different ways we can take a photo to show different things. Before we started doing this, I really didn’t think about how creativity wasn’t just something inside you. Creativity can be deliberate. Creativity can be about perspective and lenses (literal or figurative).

So what do you say to people who claim, they don’t have a creative bone in themselves? I think it is awareness and listening to your inner voice. It’s the learned ability to look at things differently. That takes practice. It’s the willingness to try something different.
What are you doing that is creative?

Portable sound booth for your classroom

As I begin thinking of things I want to do in my classroom next year, I turned towards audio and video. I want my class to be heavily intertwined with projects. One of the issues I repeatedly see in classrooms is poor sound quality on student videos. What could I do to help with narration or voice overs in student projects? I did a little research on this and I found a DIY $20 solution. I made my own sound booth from an 18 gallon tub, a twin size “egg crate” mattress pad, and spray adhesive.

PicMonkey Collage

 

Now that I have the booth made it’s time to test it. I have a SnowBall microphone for the booth. My students will have Chromebooks to record their audio. The great thing about the Chromebook is you can connect USB microphones and they work great. If you do not have external microphones to use, you could simply place the Chromebook in the booth to record using the default microphone.

There are a number of apps available to record and edit audio on the Chromebook. For this test I used AudioRecorder. It is a simple app to record and save audio as a wav file. This app also works offline. So here are the test audio files.

Without the sound booth

Using the sound booth

I believe there is just enough of a difference for the audio to sound clear and full. If you are interested in taking about 15 minutes to create a DIY sound booth for your classroom, here is the video tutorial I used to make mine.

The only thing I didn’t like the tutorial is I did not cut the hole in the bottom to set the microphone in. with the SnowBall mic there was enough stability that I didn’t feel I needed the hole.

So if you try this, I want to hear from you. Comment below with your experiences. Also, if you use Chromebooks, what apps are you using for audio recording and editing?

Tourist in your own town

Have you ever taken a different look at the town you live in? My family loves to go on small adventures and today we decided to do take an adventure not far from our home… in our city of Columbia, SC. We were able to experience a carnival atmosphere, take a step back in history, and take in the arts.

IMG_0959The day started on a sidewalk in the Rosewood area of town. It was time for the annual #MardiGrasSC parade. This is a great parade with such fun and energy. Mardi Gras is an growing event in Columbia. My family loves to watch every year. The parade is great because anyone can be a part of it. Just show up! My favorite part is probably the drum line. It’s a great family event. The parade participants throw a ton of beads and candy for the kids (and adults alike). People dress up in great costumes and for a brief moment you feel slightly transported to New Orleans. This was the 4th year of the parade and it was the largest to date. After the parade you can join an all day celebration of Mardi Gras at City Roots, an in-town sustainable farm. We are such fans we are going to participant with our own Krewe next year.

Here is a little taste of the Benedict Drum Line  that preformed today.

After the parade, we decided to take a step back in history by taking a gorgeous stroll across the Gervias St. bridge. Over the last month Columbia has been celebrating the Burning ofIMG_0969 Columbia by General Sherman during the Civil War. The “celebration” continued today with the Battle of Columbia. At 12:00 the city was under siege by union troops on the banks of the Congaree River. We watched the battle begin as the cannons were fired from the west and the Confederates used shotguns to fire back from the east banks. There are still a number of events this month to continue the celebration.

I used to teach history and visited a number of American Revolution and Civil War reenactments but I don’t think I have ever been as close to the cannons while they were being fired as I was today. My entire body felt the cannon blast. I have no idea how the reenacters can stand it. I was not prepared with earplugs and my fingers stuck in my ears was not the best protection. It makes me think about how many actual soldiers that made it home from the war could hear.

IMG_0978The final destination for the day was an infusion of the arts at the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA). It was a Valentine’s Family Day.  CMA has the BEST events for families and adult nights. The family day included multiple stations to create valentine’s day cards, heart necklaces, secret message cards, create your own gallery, fingerprint art, and selfie booth. CMA also created a great scavenger hunt in the art galleries for kids and parents.

The programing at the Columbia Museum of Art just keeps getting better. My favorite event they hold is Arts and Draughts. It’s a monthly night out with art, music, and local brews.

The best part of the day was when the 8 year old says, “Today was a really great day.” Today we were able to enjoy multiple facets of the city and it was all FREE. So get out there and become a tourist in your own city. You might be surprised by what you find.