Good Food, Best Friends

For the past six years my friends and I have been together for second Thanksgiving together. It started out as a big thing with all of us and our guy friends and boyfriends, but as the years went on we decided to make it a “girls only” night. With busy schedules and different zip codes, it’s hard to find time to get together, but we can always look forward to our Thanksgiving together; it’s a priority. This year we celebrated in my best friend’s new apartment. What a sign that we are growing up (scary!)!
IMG_0089.JPG
IMG_0091.JPG
IMG_0087.JPG
IMG_0092.JPGIMG_0090.JPG

IMG_0094.JPG

Share

20 Things I Learned From My Dad

rp_1466142_10151872911803940_1988175929_n-300x292.jpgThe older I get, the more I notice how much I’m like both of my parents. My mom is sensitive and caring, and she won’t hesitate to stay up all night if you need a shoulder to cry on. I see her in myself when I put someone else’s needs before my own, when I worry about doing my best, when I’m honest about my feelings, and when I choose to stay in over going out dancing. My dad has a big heart, he gives good advice, and he enjoys his time alone. I know I’m like him when I tell my friends what they need to hear, when I face problems head on, when I go out of my way to make things easier for someone else, and when I am comfortable sitting alone on a park bench.

While I have learned so much from them, my dad is the lecture type (and good at it, too!). So, feeling inspired by Amy Poehler’s book, I created a list of everything my dad has taught me. I hope you can take from it as much as I have.

  1. If you’re not happy, let someone know. This goes for relationships, family, dining out, and bad customer service.
  2. Work is work. It’s hard, but we have to do it.
  3. It’s polite to pay the check or pick up the tab for people who are hosting you.
  4. Apologize when it’s your fault.
  5. If the car gets you from point A to point B, it works.
  6. Always send thank you notes.
  7. It’s never too late to take a deep breath and start the day over.
  8. Meditation, in even the simplest form, is important and healthy. Take a few minutes each day to count your blessings and ask for help.
  9. Starbucks has the best coffee.
  10. Travel often. Don’t wait for anyone to come with you, or you might never go.
  11. Sometimes all you need to feel better is a big bowl of ice cream.
  12. Worry about money, but not too much. Don’t let it hold you back from experiencing life.
  13. No one has ever died from being tired.
  14. Exercise is important.
  15. Tell people what you want, no one is a mind reader.
  16. Save, save, save! (I have trouble with this one)
  17. Nightmares can be cured with a pinch of food coloring in a glass of water.
  18. Drink a lot of orange juice if you’re feeling sick.
  19. Don’t be so focused on the destination that you forget to enjoy the journey. Pull the car over. Take a moment to enjoy the views.
  20. Never be too afraid to ask for help.
Share

Sick Days: 1

Oh my goodness! It’s so good to get back to blogging! I apologize for my mini hiatus, but it has been a crazy week (like, crazier-than-usual-crazy). The students were on a trip the week before Halloween, so when they returned it was a rush to teach! teach! teach! I had to substitute fifth grade while my kiddies were gone, and boy did I miss them! Being in the fifth grade really made me appreciate my sixth graders. What a difference it is from one grade to the next! So, I was rushing to wrap up our imagined narratives, and finally jump further into Bridge to Terabithia before Halloween, when life hit me with a big, aching, coughing bump in the road. I got sick.

I started to feel it on a Wednesday night, but my temperature never went above 99, so it just didn’t feel right to stay out of work. Despite feeling icky, I put on my big girl pants on Thursday morning and dragged myself to teach! teach! teach! But it turned out to be a mistake, because by the end of the day I was aching all over, all the while smiling at the kids pretending I felt great. Which sounded a lot like this: “Okay, turn to page four. Isn’t it cold in here? Is it cold in here or is it just me? I’m so cold!” By 3:30 I was climbing (more like crawling) into bed with a thermometer in my mouth that read: 102.7, wonderful.

It killed me to miss Halloween. I was really looking forward to seeing all the costumes (I was going to be Hermione), and hearing the scary stories we had worked on the day before. To make things worse, my dad was flying in from Florida that night. I had been excited about his visit for months, and now I wouldn’t be able to do anything but sit on the couch covered in layers of blankets and wallow in my misery. Okay, I’m being dramatic. My dad and I ended up watching a few movies, but we were planning to go on a road trip and have “Thanksgiving” at our favorite diner, so movies felt kind of sad in comparison.

Being sick as a teacher is the absolute worst. Don’t get me wrong, being sick isn’t fun for anyone, but when you’re a teacher it takes significantly more work to be sick. I remember wishing my teachers would take a sick day when I was younger. I couldn’t understand why they never seemed to be absent, it was so much fun to be absent! Now, I get it. Not only is planning for a substitute difficult, but then you worry all day about how things are going: Are the kids behaving? Does the sub understand my plans? I hope they aren’t forgetting that we have a test tomorrow! Who is going to remind them that we have a test tomorrow?! It’s exhausting. And it doesn’t stop when you feel better, because when you return you are greeted with piles of student work, and tons of catch-up planning to do. I know I sound like I’m complaining, but that’s because I am.

Anyways, I’m happy to be back on track! I had parent-teacher conferences this past week, and they went really well. Going into conferences you see it as a very one sided meeting: You’re there to tell the parents what is going on, and they are there to listen; but it’s not like that at all. The conferences ended up being a productive exchange and great conversation. At the end of everything I learned so much about my students, and gained an understanding of them that I wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. I really wish I had made more conferences than I did!

I have a lot of lessons I’m excited to share with you, so be sure to check back soon!

xx

Share

Three (Books) I Love This Week

1. On my trip to Barnes and Noble this past Saturday, I stumbled upon the book, Just Jake. image (3) It’s written like a diary but geared toward boys, so I knew my students would love it. I had to get it! Not to mention it was brand new and only $3 (yay B&N used section)!

The book is about Jake, a sixth grader, who is struggling to regain his social status in a new school. The pages are filled with Jake’s drawings, and surprisingly sensible bits of advice (or as Jake calls them, “Rules of Awesomeness”). Despite its preteen audience, I really enjoyed reading this! The best part? The author, Jake Marcionette, is only 12 years old! How amazing is that? I can’t wait to tell the students! You can read more about him on his website here.

2.  Another book I found in Barnes and Noble’s used section, is Amelia’s Notebook. When I found the two books side by side on the shelf, I was ecstatic! About a week ago, I wasimage telling my students about Amelia’s Notebook, because diary books are very popular right now. I told them that it was my favorite series when I was younger, and that I would try to find a few. I’m so happy that I did, and I will definitely be on the lookout for more! Does anyone else remember Amelia?

 

3. The last book is a book I’ve been reading, and I just can’t wait to tell you about it, even though I haven’t finished yet (halfway through is enough, right?). The book is called The Tipping Point, and I can’t stop talking about it to anyone who will listen. It’s filled with so much interesting information! The author, Malcom Gladwell, works towards explaining the main idea, the so-called Tipping Point (htumblr_ndxb4cMdpC1qawbmqo1_500ow something goes from nonexistent to an epidemic, or trend), through easy to understand sub-categories, and examples. From Hush Puppies, to the decline of the New York City crime rate, to the success of Blue’s Clues, Gladwell covers it all. I can’t wait to finish, then check out more of Gladwell’s books.

What are you reading right now?

xx

Share

Throw Away the Post-it Notes

Sometime during the first week of school, a student asked, “Are you going to make us do post-it notes?” I answered a simple no, which triggered an audible sigh of relief around the room, and a few thank you’s. I asked them to tell me why they didn’t like post-its and I braced myself for complaints of extra work, but instead, a student replied, “We just want to read.”

Over the summer, I read Nancie Atwell’s The Reading Zonelarge-5390b3c894dfbThe Reading Zone, and I found myself highlighting every other line. Nancie points out a simple idea that seems to have gotten lost in all of the post-it note clutter. The bare bones of it, is that we need to stop interrupting students from reading, and start making time for what Nancie calls, “the reading zone”. If you were to walk into a classroom that does Reader’s Workshop, you might see students with their independent reading books open, a pad of post-its at their side, and a pen in hand. Students are told to “stop and jot” text connections, tricky vocabulary words, cause and effect, etc. Looking at it passively, it seems like a great concept; but, what Nancie Atwell points out, and what I’m already noticing early on in my career, is that it makes kids hate reading. Atwell puts it in perspective, pointing out that we, as adult readers, wouldn’t want to stop in the middle of  a good book to write down how we can relate to a character. Stop and jot takes away from the largest part of why reading is so enjoyable: it lets us get lost.

Atwell presents a solution to all of this by introducing reading response letters (which are, in most basic terms, – very long post-it notes). I loved this idea so much that I have been working very hard to implement it in my own classroom. Starting the letters from scratch is a bit tricky – especially as a new teacher. While Nancie offers a lot of help and resources in her book, I needed to decide what was best for my class. I had to figure out when to collect them, how to grade them, what a good letter looked like, etc. — all this for 50+ kids (S.O.S.). I went back and forth on a lot of these, especially grading, but I’m happy with where it’s at now, and where it seems to be going. Here’s how it all panned out:

The first week I introduced the letters, it was a bit shaky. The students were confused and if I’m being honest, I was confused. But, I put on my “teacher face” and told the students we were going to learn and grow together (or something along those lines). For the first set of letters I collected all 50 journals and gave every student feedback. It was time-consuming, but definitely worth it. I have already seen an improvement in their second letters, and I finally gained some footing on how I wanted to grade. At first I intended to only grade a few letters each week using a rubric. However, I quickly realized that the rubric wasn’t the best, and that some students would inevitably feel like they were doing work for nothing.

So, here’s how I set up RRL’s now:

Students always know that their reading response letter is due on Friday. This allows them to manage their time, and complete it throughout the week. On Friday, they come in and trade notebooks with a partner to respond to their classmate’s RRL in at least one paragraph. By doing this, students get to peek at another writer’s work, and also get ideas for their next read. They write for about ten minutes, and then it’s silent reading time. During this time, I walk around to read and grade each of their letters on a check scale. While it took a lot of trial and error to come up with this, I’m really happy with the way it worked out. It’s a great way to check in with every student, and it also allows them a good chunk of quiet reading time. We talk frequently about what it feels like to be in the reading zone, and what you should do if you don’t like your book. Also, keeping in line with Nancie Atwell’s stress on teacher feedback, I collect a few journals each week to respond more thoughtfully to students letters. I did this for the first time last week, and it is amazing to see how eager they are to have their notebooks collected. They really do, just as adults, crave feedback.

So far, I feel really good about reading response letters, and I think the students do too (secretly, of course, they are middle schoolers).

Click the picture to purchase my RRL product on Teachers Pay Teachers

Share

Hitting the Reset Button

At orientation a few weeks before school started, the speakers showed us the graph below to say295x201xphases_2.jpg.pagespeed.ic.GChG1LsPKS, “You’re not alone, this happens to everyone.” Most of us shrugged it off, feeling like October was years away, but now I’m realizing just how accurate this graph is. In what felt like a few days, I went from being really positive and on top of things, to feeling unmotivated and completely stressed. It’s all a bit overwhelming!

That being said, I’m starting to understand that while it’s important to focus on work, it’s equally important to take time for yourself. I know it’s hard to step away from your desk when you have so much to do (I’m very type-A), but sometimes it may actually be what you need to be productive. I’ve found that doing things that are good for my body and mind leaves me feeling much more rejuvenated and ready to get back to work, rather than a marathon of reality TV. So, here’s a list of relaxing, but productive, ways to reset.

IMG_9386.JPG

  • Read a book, the newspaper, a magazine – anything!
  • Go to the gym or take a short walk (consider walking to the store instead of driving). You’ll be amazed at how even a small amount of exercise will improve your mood.
  • Create a blog, start a diary, or write that story you’ve been keeping in your head.51WAhDYHNcL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ Need some ideas? I love the book “642 Things to Write About“!
  • Browse travel sites for a mental vacation. Become inspired to start saving money for your dream destination.
  • Meet for coffee with a friend and allow yourself to get lost in conversation for awhile. It may be a good idea, however, to give yourself a time limit, so that you don’t get carried away.
  • Paint, draw, or color – remember how good it feels to think about nothing more than staying inside the lines.
  • Yoga is always a good way to relax. Try the app, Yoga Studio, it’s my favorite!cid1217_2
  • Bake that dessert you’ve had pinned since last year.
  • Clip magazines and make an inspiration board. I update mine every time I need a long break, and I always end up feeling refreshed.

 

Share

3 Things I Love This Week

1. “Like a Book” Thermal Mug by Kate Spade. I just ordered this, and I can’t wait for it to get here! How cute will it look on my desk!?Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 5.04.21 PM If you sign up for Kate Spade’s mailing list, you’ll receive a code for 15% off your purchase (yay!).

2. “19 Socially Awkward Situations For People Who Are Always Early”. This buzzfeed article really hits home. I’m always early to everything, and when I’m not, I feel awful for being late! I especially love number 13…the struggle.

3. Michelle Obama dancing to Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What”. I know the First Lady is probably going to get some negative backlash for this video, but I think it’s great; I love how relatable the Obama’s are. Aside from her recent vine, the First Lady has also made appearances on numerous children’s shows, like Sesame Street and iCarly. According to Daily Mail, Michelle Obama is “the most televised first lady in history”. Though the vine is funny, it was made for a good cause – healthy eating. The First Lady is behind the campaign, “Let’s Move!”, which is working to end childhood obesity by encouraging kids to exercise and eat healthy. You can find out more at letsmove.gov

 

Share

Princeton, New Jersey

It was the perfect day for a mini road trip, so my friend Claire and I headed to Princeton. We had planned to go apple picking, but the line was so long we went to Princeton University instead. The campus is beautiful, and the weather was just right! We wandered around for a bit, then grabbed some hot coco and pumpkin bread from a nearby Starbucks (delicious!) for a picnic on the lawn.
IMG_9364.JPGIMG_9325.JPGIMG_9357.JPGIMG_9358.JPGIMG_9361.PNGIMG_9363.PNG
P.S. My shirt is from Lauren James, it’s so comfortable! Perfect for fall!

Share