Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kindness Day

Something my 2nd grade level partners and I decided to do was to create an ABC Countdown to track the last 26 days of school for our students. It would offer some fun and interest to those last few days that draaaag like nothing else.

The challenge was to come up with something appealing to 8-year-olds (as opposed to 6-year-olds, where things like ABC Countdowns are the norm). 

We each put our own spin on a list, and today was Kindness Day. 

I was a little surprised at the resulting day. 

I started off the day by reading Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler! It was a silly, cute story that the kids really enjoyed. We discussed some of the acts of kindness from the story, and how we would apply them to our classroom. I challenged the kids to do as many acts of kindness as they could during the day, and I gave each one an index card to keep track. Anytime I noticed an act of kindness, they would earn a sticker. 

(Now, this is Kindness Day, not Competitive Kindness Day, so we didn't count the stickers or declare a winner. It was more a celebration of their actions.) 

The surprise? (For me at least?) 

They loved it. They couldn't get enough. They spent half their day doing kind things for me and for one another, and the other half reporting each other's acts of kindness and congratulating one another on their stickers. It made the day so pleasant, and I was thrilled to hand out probably close to two dozen stickers. 

The other surprise? 

Two of my students wrote me little notes thanking me for what I do, and I couldn't believe how much it meant to me. We only talked about kindness to peers, not necessarily to me, so it was really touching to have these two share their kindness with their little ol' teacher. 

I just may keep this going (minus the cards...just randomly hand out stickers for kindnesses). It could just make our last 15 days that much better! 

Saturday, May 25, 2013



Watching: Game of Thrones! Among other things, but I'm kind of horrified and fascinated by this show. I haven't read the book (I know, a travesty) but it's nice to see a Medieval-style fantasy that's not TOTALLY gimmicky and overdone. Plus with HBO, you can generally count on decent acting.

Eating: Loaded sweet potatoes. I'm certifiably obsessed. I've been topping them with black beans, roasted broccoli and asparagus, and a little sprinkle of cheese and a dollop of sour cream. It's beyond delicious, and the best part is that it's relatively healthy and there are like, limitless possibilities of interesting things for me to pile on this baby.

Reading: Still slowly chugging along through Lord of the Rings (just started to type LOTR and then realized, not everyone was dorkily obsessed with this in high school). I'm just about finished the Two Towers and totally ready to move on to Return of the King. The best part is that Aragorn is just as awesome and badass as I remember him. The worst part is Frodo is kiiind of boring and the movie version of Frodo is a wuss. Ha.

Enjoying: The long weekend! I only have 16 days left of school, but man the going's tough. We're all just pretty far gone and it's hard to keep morale up when my patience is lagging.

Snuggling: My little dog, who is finally clean. Whew. It's my attempt to justify her being on the furniture, I try hard to keep her very clean and well groomed.

Indulging: I'm crazy about frappes, all summer long. It's my favorite icy treat in the summer, and I just can't get enough. I try to limit my intake, and I enjoy the "skinny" ones with skim milk, but they're a great indulgence.

Please ignore the marker on my thumb. Mark of my trade. 

Trying: To be artistic. About poker. Or something.

What are you up to lately?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mama's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

(Also applicable for awesome grandmothers.)

It struck me today how very long I've lived outside of my mother's home. In the meantime, I've been in the homes of plenty of women who willingly offer me the love of a mother, all biology aside.

But nonetheless, it's been longer than I realized since my mom and I called the same place "home."

And you know what?

It doesn't matter.

My mom will always be part of "home" for me, as will so many women who has taught me about love, grace, gentleness, and honor. And I'm thankful to have a mother who instilled a strong sense of "home," and how to appreciate that.

Home, away, or somewhere in between--Happy Mother's Day!

Also, this is a beautiful reminder about how to treat Mother's Day with gentleness. Part of my growing up has taught me that Mother's Day is not a day of rejoicing for everyone.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Garden Update!

We've had a cool spring here in the Philly 'burbs...I'm totally ready for the heat of summer.

For now. Give me a few weeks and I'm sure I'll be complaining about the humidity.

'Cause I'm dramatic like that.

Anyway, I'm resolutely plugging away with my garden, even though it's off to a slow start. I'm just thrilled to be playing in the dirt. In this post you can see some of the work I (and Dan and Dean) did on the fencing. It's so much prettier now.

Especially now that there's a bit of green poking through!

Two rows of Tom Thumb Lettuce, and one row of Bibb. And those little spikes in the background are spinach! They're all heirloom and organic, 'cause I'm fancy like that. 


Peas creeping up the trellis...

There's also a baby zucchini on the other side, and I'm going to add some cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and beans over the next few weeks. Eventually I'm hoping to propagate some basil and green onions too. 

Love this!!!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

30 Days Left

I'm psyched to be almost done my first year of teaching. I can honestly say at this point that it's been such a great year (I couldn't always say that, but now I see it). Here are a few snapshots from school lately...


Nervous about this. Give me plants any day. 

In the chrysalis...

I had to tape them to the lid of their habitat. They fell off repeatedly.  0_0

But today...one hatched! I couldn't get a good picture because my phone doesn't focus through the netting, but the little guy was fluttering around. They're Painted Ladies, in case anyone cares. 

Patricia Polacco project. See the full details in this post.

Sweet little Teacher Appreciation gift from my class. It's called a Living Locket, it's like a shadowbox on a necklace! It has my initials, an apple, a little book (<3 to read) and an owl (because I'm obsessed with them). 

Now, we just gotta finish strong. Then the warm, easy days of summer will be here! 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

No Excuses, Just the Truth

I've been a little absent lately...no real excuses. I'm just tired, feeling burned-out, and lacking any inspiration whatsoever. I'd rather postpone writing than write worthless words.

Anyway, I'm down to something like 32 days of school and 4 more weeks of Sunday School. I'm almost cleared to teach summer school, but those days will be really laidback and end at 12:30, so...hardly counts in my book. No papers to grade, no math lessons to mull over, no research (except some extra awesome crafts), it'll be a comparative breeze.

In the meantime, I do want to share a project that I completed at school recently! Our district utilizes RTII (Response to Instruction and Intervention) which is a great program that essentially looks like good, old-fashioned reading groups. The pedagogical idea is that when students are grouped for a portion of the day based on ability, we as teachers are able to target strengths and weaknesses, build necessary skills through carefully differentiated instruction, and maximize growth and learning.

Exciting stuff.

(Really, actually. This stuff lights my fire.)

Anyway, out of the whole second grade I teach the highest level readers for 30 minutes each morning (thanks to our great district, very few of our students are actually below grade benchmarks, but I work on some higher-level thinking skills). As such, I have a lot of flexibility and I've had a lot of fun designing my own curriculum for this group.

You know, because I don't have enough to do as a first-year teacher.

My most recent project has been an author study of one of my favorites--Patricia Polacco. She's an awesome and incredibly talented author and illustrator, and we've had a blast reading her books. We've discussed themes, genres, and made lots of connections between her texts. One of my favorite things about Ms. Polacco is that she injects so much of herself into her books, and so many of her stories have at least autobiographical elements, if not being totally based on her life.

Patricia Polacco's Official Website

As such, our culminating project was to skim through the books we'd read (complete list below) and glean information about her life completely from her books. We'd done other research on her life, but we put together this awesome timeline just based on her stories.

The kids really enjoyed this project. They loved digging through the books for factual information, and we got to practice our sequencing, comprehension, making connections, and main idea all in the bargain.

Now...just 32 days to go!