Parent Communication

Parent communication is nerve-wracking in itself. Parents are trusting you to instill a year’s worth of knowledge in their student while keeping them safe, but allowing them to build relationships and skills (not only academic by socially as well). But, hey! Let’s go ahead and add in the first-year teacher jitters – where you want to make sure you at least look like your ducks are in a row – when in reality they are spread out in the pond, some bills down and tails up, without a care in the world.

Too much? Maybe.

 

Well, here is how I solved my parent communication troubles this year.

Open House Time

You all know it. The night where your cheeks hurt from smiling and your brain hurts from contemplating the many family make-ups, questions, concerns, and your seating chart. On the night of, start with a newsletter. This was the only newsletter I sent home last year. It was a struggle in itself having students pass home their Friday Folders, adding another sheet of paper onto it just felt like it was a waste of time. BUT, by giving them this newsletter face-to-face, I at least knew they received the information.

Here is an example of the newsletter I sent home with my parents at the Open House:

 

Email

Make sure you obtain a parent e-mail list. I added each email to a spread sheet, which I then printed off along with their phone numbers and names – easy to contact when needed. I emailed my parents every Friday giving them a run-down on the following week. At the top, I included things that were important for them to know (upcoming dates, assignments, tests, etc.) Then I went through and wrote day-by-day when they should expect HW, important information, all of that great stuff.

Remind

Using the “Remind App” was something my parents told me time, and time again that they really enjoyed. Remind is a great website/app that allows you to send out group messages to whoever joins your class. It is simple to join and only requires text OR email to receive notifications. Plus it’s FREE! I would send out a Remind each night with that night’s HW assignments or things to remember for the following day. Parents told me this was a great resource because they did not have to rely on their student to tell them whether or not they had an assignment that night.  The downside to Remind is that you are not able to send more than one picture at a time – something I would like to do with field trips and class activities.

Questionnaire

Using GoogleForms, I wanted to make sure that parents were okay with how they were being notified. Like I said before, you don’t really know what you’re doing as a first year teacher. For me, I needed to be reassured. I created a GoogleForm that I sent to my parents asking how they preferred to be updated. This showed me that the weekly email and daily reminds was something that worked for them and for me. It wasn’t too overwhelming, but they enjoyed keeping updated with their student and our class.

Bloomz

Bloomz is something that I have heard of and have thought about implementing this year. It is somewhat like Remind, but is also able to share multiple pictures, and even incorporates a classroom management tool. Like Remind, parents only need e-mail in order to receive notifications.

Facebook

There is a lot of worry about incorporating social media within your classroom. What are you able to share, etc. I do see the pros: easily communication, quick responses, and using something that is already well-known. I know teachers who have created a separate, private profile in order to keep parents updated. This way, our privacy is in tact and a line is still drawn. I have also heard of creating private Facebook groups that allow parents to see all classroom information in one spot, but not necessarily “friending” you (or any other parents) and seeing what you personally post.

 

Like all things in teaching and education, it’s what works with you and your style the best that matters most. The best thing about teaching is that you can try different things until you find something that works. The other great thing about teaching is that you can take as many ideas as you want and change them to fit you. With that being said, please feel free to comment how and what you use to communicate with your families.

I’d love to know!

 

 

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The Classroom Reveal

Long time, no posting. Last time I left you with my fears of whether I would find a teaching position I love and where and when it would be. Fast forward and here I am writing a blog post about revealing my classroom.

I do apologize for not keeping everyone updated with my life over the summer of 2016 – I know you all have been patiently waiting for the next ‘ding’ in your email from “Perks of Being an Educator”. BUT … I was offered and accepted a Third Grade teaching position within Grand Ledge Public School district. I grew up not only a human being, but a student as well within the walls of Grand Ledge Public Schools. Coming back to teach here was scary and nerve racking – caring if people would think less of me for coming back to my hometown, what would my past teachers think of me being their new colleague – eek!

After last week’s professional development, my fears and nerves have faded because Grand Ledge is truly home. I am excited to get this year started with the amazing staff I have come to love in our short time of knowing each other.

Okay, okay. On to the good stuff. HERE IS MY CLASSROOM!

 

The Book Nook

I always enjoyed a cozy book nook in my classrooms. It made it seem more comfortable to curl up with a good book and I want my students to feel that comfort as well. It also separates the library from the classroom for books to remain in their designated places and for students to separate enjoying reading from the academic setting.

In the Book Nook I added pillows to *not all shown* and a tree to give it more of a homey feel.

Bookcases and Organization

I raided multiple Dollar Tree stores to find these green bins in the right size. They are perfect for the size novels are for third graders. They are long enough to fit series in, but not too tall to cover the books so it makes searching for the right book easy.

I organized my library by Guided Reading Level. I downloaded the free app, Book Wizard from Scholastic to scan the barcodes of each book to easily level them. I then stuck a sticker on the back of each book labeled with the appropriate level. This makes it simple for students or my classroom librarian to put them back where they belong.

I found these Library Book Bin Labels on Teachers Pay Teachers for FREE. They organized my library by Guided Reading Level in a fun, adorable way. They also included many series that students often read so they can find their favorites quickly.

Speaking of FREE stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers, I also found these Genre Posters that I added to my book nook as well. It gets students familiar with the different kinds of genres and gives examples of books from each genre that they can find in our library!

 

Classroom Management

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A part of every classroom in my school building is a T-Chart that shows students the outcomes of the choices a he/she may make. This also allows the teacher to keep consistent with giving rewards or consequences and avoid being flustered.

As you can see, my consequences of not making a great choice are; a ‘flip down’, missing recess, a disappointed team, a sad call home, a discussion with Ms. Briggs.

My rewards for making a great choice are; a thumbs up, a high five, a ‘Comet Catcher’, a smile, a ‘flip up’, a happy note home

 

Flipping Up and Down

My Flip Chart was made out of Target’s Clear Adhesive Pockets that I found in the heavenly Target Dollar Spot for $3. I labeled each pocket with a kiddos’ name. Inside, I put in laminated colored strips of construction paper. The colors represent what behavior level the student is on.

Purple – You’re going above and beyond (if a student flips to purple, they then write their name on a slip and place it into a bucket on my desk. Then I draw names for prizes out of this bucket)

Green – Ready to Learn

Yellow- Check Yourself

Red- Oop. You’re missing recess and a note home is appropriate.

I am also using this system for my lunch count and attendance as well. Each student has their lunch card in their pockets. When they come in the morning, they will take out their lunch card and make their lunch choice. If they have cold lunch, they will move their lunch card behind their colored slips of paper. Then, every student will put the GREEN slip of paper in the front. This tells me that they are Ready to Learn and should be held accountable to that. It also gives those who had a rough day previously a fresh start today! I can easily glance at my Flip Chart and see who is not here by seeing who has not switched to green.

** shout out to Abraham Lincoln who surveys this all 🙂

Table Trophies

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I also wanted to incorporate working together as a team. I have my tables in six different groups. I have them labeled 1-6 with a hanging pom-pom from the ceiling so there is no confusion of which team is which. Throughout the week, tables earn points by being the first table team to be ready for the lesson, who is working together, who is abiding by the voice level rules, etc. At the end of the week, the points are tallied up and whoever has the most, their team gets the Table Trophy! The following week, that table gets to line up first to go to specials, lunch, and recess. They also are the “role models” for the other students the following week. This keeps them doing their best so other tables are looking up to their example.

Procedures

Team Jobs

Team Jobs are self-explanatory. Here are two explanations that go with two roles that I have implemented into my classroom:

Team Leaders: One person from every table team who is responsible for picking up supplies and managing the behavior of their table.

Caboose: The person in the back of the line. I would like to do something with this job that holds other students accountable for their line-walking behavior. I might have this student silently keep an eye on a student of my choosing and then give me a report of if they were able to walk in line appropriately. If that student does, they get to flip up. If they don’t there will be a discussion with me.

All of the other classroom jobs are self-explanatory.

Table Bins

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At the front of my room is where my table bins are stored. These keep student notebooks and work books safe and in good condition. I don’t want them in students’ desks because I would like to keep that separate nightmare more organized than the usual.

Also on this bookcase are two hand sanitizers, one boys and one girls. When students use the restroom, they grab a bottle of hand sanitizer and place it on their desk. It reminds me of who is in the bathroom and reminds them to keep their hands clean when they come back.

Headquarters

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Students’ HQ is where they can find their table’s supply kit (the pencil boxes), the turn-in tray, the pass back tray, and the no name tray. Their supply kits are labeled with what should be inside the pencil box and is the responsibility of the table manager to keep these items in order.

This is also next to a ‘milk crate’ with a hanging folder for every student. I did not want to purchase cubbies for this year, so I have this system in place. Each student gets a Friday Folder that goes home with them on Friday with papers to go home or papers to sign and come back. The paper passer’s job is to pass back papers and once students see their work, they file it in their own folder to go home at the end of the week.

Welcome Board

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This is at the front of my room right when you walk in the door. This is where my calendar and classroom rules can be found. BOTH found in Target’s Dollar Spot!! I laminated both and Velcro-ed the dates onto the calendar so it is easily changeable. My classroom rules is still empty because I am going to incorporate student input to create those for our team.

Learning Targets

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My Learning Targets all change at different times depending on the subject. I found the easiest way to do this was put them in plastic sheet projectors and staple them under each heading. This way I can print them out and then slip them in and out without too much trouble.

The Rest

I am a huge quote-sey person and I definitely brought that into my classroom this year. I also am trying to keep my lights off all year and use lamp lights to create a more comfortable environment. I also want to incorporate music as much as I can throughout the day. I want my Spotify playlist to play during work time and get students comfortable to their surroundings.

When you walk into my room, you can definitely tell who is teaching, what my interests are, what my background is, and that I am a very colorful person.

This room has definitely became my home away from home and I just hope that I can share that notion with students as well ❤

A Little Help From My “FRIENDS”

 

If you know me well, you know that I am a planner. With this in mind, you can understand that as I sit here with my last days at Wacousta Elementary dwindling down, I am a tad freaking out about what my future may hold. School starts up again three short months and I just want to know that I too will be along for the ride.

It is not like I have been preparing. I have thrown my resume and applications out for all to see. I have applied to jobs that would be the dream, I have applied to jobs that would be a nice back-up, and I have applied to jobs that I could not see myself teaching – but practice is practice.

With this job hunt obsession, I have had some amazing opportunities to interview for some outstanding districts and teaching positions. So far, I have interviewed for six school districts. This includes two phone interviews, five in-person interviews, and one second interview. Out of these interviews, some I have yet to hear back from, some have told me that have moved on to other candidates, and the others I still have the hopes of someone saying, “Yes, we will help you. You’re poor”.

I hope that the first stage of this interviewing process is over. From the past two weeks, my cheeks hurt from smiling and talking about myself too much. I want to know that come Fall I will have a classroom I am happy to call my own. This process has been tolerable strictly because of the amazing support I have been receiving from family, friends, and the teachers within Grand Ledge Public Schools. Past teachers of mine have been looking out for me with constant positivity and advice. Present teachers, who I have come to know and work with daily, have also given me good words and have connections with some amazing people and school districts.

Through this process I have had some interviews that did not go as well and some where I left feeling really confident in how I portrayed myself. It all comes down to the fit you have with the school. You want to give them the best of you, and if they want that – THEN GREAT! If not, why would you want to be working for a school district that does not value your extraordinary personality?

I can say one thing, I might have once closed with “this teaching position would be the bomb” – but I have never accidentally kissed an interviewer and/or wrongfully accused them of potential harassment.

At least not yet (;

 

Teacher Appreciation Day

Like most “National Recognition Days”, appreciation for teachers should happen not just one day of the year – but 365. Unless you have put in the labor or have witnessed it first-hand, you really do not understand what it takes to educate the world’s future generations.  I will keep my soap box off to the side and not get into the gripes and grievances towards those who still consider teachers as “glorified babysitters”, or how we are fairly paid, or how vacation days are not needed seeing as “THEY HAVE THE WHOLE SUMMERS OFF”, etc., ect.

Instead, I would like to recognize the teachers that have made an impact in my life specifically. When asked who my favorite teachers are, these few never fail to come to mind. They were not always the nicest or the easiest, but they each stand out to me in a particular way.

Mrs. Hansbarger:

If you graduated from Grand Ledge Public Schools, chances are you know Mrs. Hansbarger. This lady was the grandma that you never had. She was my kindergarten teacher that showed me play time was crucial to learning. Her classroom was a massive space with a playhouse that – with her imagination – was often changed between a country house, to a pizza parlor, to a local grocery market. The fact that Mrs. Hansbarger showed her compassion and her love for her students made her approachable with good news and bad news. When I was in kindergarten, Garrison was born and I was a new, big sister. Mrs. Hansbarger took a special trip to my house to meet my new baby brother because she knew how special he was to me. The love and genuine care she showed to her students is something I will never forget.

Mr. Helmic:

When a young Alexandra entered the crazy world of middle school in 6th grade, she was scared and intimidated. However, I feel that this is where my charming personality and phenomenal sense of humor developed. This can be directly related back to Mr. Helmic, my 6th grade ELA teacher. Mr. Helmic was a new teacher, handsome, and also SUPER funny. He made learning one of my least favorite subjects fun. He introduced projects that displayed our creativity and humor instead of forcing us to write essays on essays. He shared personal stories with us of his adventures and his schooling experiences. He made himself human and showed that teachers were not just people who sat behind a desk grading papers, but enjoyed getting to know his students and joke around with them. He showed that teaching and learning was fun and became the inspiration that brought me to this career.

Mrs. Janes:

If you know anything about me, you know how important American History is to me. I have a passion for teaching social studies which developed from my 8th grade U.S. History teacher, Mrs. Janes. Talk about making history come alive in her class. When we learned about the pirates and early explorers of the Caribbean, she turned our desks into pirate ships. When we embarked on the Civil War, we each became soldiers of either the Union or Confederate army and competed with the other side to see who would win the war. Mrs. Janes not only made learning exciting, but she displayed why it was important and how it impacts us today. She made U.S. history meaningful and amazing – which has clearly stuck with me 10 years later.

Mr. Beauman:

Science has never been my forte. I have this mindset that, if someone has already figured out why two hydrogens and one oxygen makes water, then I do not need to understand why this works. I know this isn’t the best of thinking, but my opinion. Mr. Beauman understood this. He knew that not everyone would get the importance of science, but still made his instruction more interesting and exciting. He wanted to make sure that you understood the basic concepts and then have the minor details come later. He was easy going and he took your opinions into consideration. It wasn’t “his way or the highway”, he simply valued hard work – which is something I admire.

Norma Bailey:

“Hello, hello, hello!” Every week, Dr. Norma Bailey would start that week’s lecture the same way. With arms wide open, she would then take 15 minutes of her lesson to hear her kids’ thoughts of good news, bad news, or any news. For a college professor, this is a rarity. Norma brought me under her wing, like all her little ducklings, and showed me my potential. She not only helped me grow as an educator, but as a human being as well. As a college student, I thought my views and ideas were set. She challenged my beliefs and made me look at the world in a different perspective. To say that this had an effect on me is an understatement. She changed the way I handle difficult people (students or colleagues), how to address social issues, and how to embrace the diversity of our world. Norma is one of the few people in my life that I can email my grievances, my worries, or silly questions to without the fear of being judged or embarrassed. Only those who have had Dr. Bailey understand why we do things in life; to simply find our starfish.

 

I have had many great teachers in my academic career. It might take me awhile to remember all of these teachers, but these few will never be forgotten. They each stand out specifically for one reason – what they did, not what they taught. I do not remember for what state standards they taught me. I remember them because of the life lessons I gained from each one. I found my passions from these teachers and each one has shaped me to be the person I am today.

This is why teachers need to be appreciated not just one day a year, but every day. Great teachers do not teach to simply check off the standards each year, we teach to shape lives.

I will bet my high-ranked salary on the fact that each and everyone of us are the person we are today because of one or a few teachers. It is about time more and more people realize this fact.

Appreciate your teachers. They undoubtedly deserve it.