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 (;

 

Advertisements

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.

 

A Day in the Life of Ms. Briggs

I cannot believe this is my seventh week at Wacousta Elementary.

It has also been close to seven weeks since my last blog post – but let’s not focus on that – life has been busy!

Since I accepted the position as a Reading Specialist at Wacousta Elementary, my job has taken on many roles. My day includes working one-on-one with students who range from 2nd to 5th grade. I work with multiple reading groups in second and third grade to increase reading levels. We focus on phonetic skills by understanding vowel sounds and word parts. I also have two second grade groups where we specifically focus on reading with fluency – expression, appropriate pace, and accuracy. For these two groups, I have incorporated Reader’s Theater to increase these skills and display their importance (blog post to come).

I then jump over to 5th grade where I teach the “Reading Rewards” program. This reading program shows students how to read unfamiliar words that are often “long” and “intimidating”. This is a whole-class instruction that has been a lot of fun to instruct! I also work with various reading groups within fifth grade to address vocabulary among the anchor text, how to identify cause and effect, and the main idea along with supporting details.

Reading instruction is about 80% of my job, but the 20% remaining is mathematics support. I work with three, small, fifth grade groups working with them on the program “AutoSkills” that assesses students’ specific needs and scaffolds instruction. These three groups have been a great time. One group calls me mom – which I am not quite ready for. I also help with math instruction in two 2nd grade classes focusing on a group of students who need extra assistance.

After Wacousta, I head out to East Lansing to work at Sylvan Learning Center. I have been a teacher at Sylvan for four months now. Adding a second job onto my plate has been hard work, but super rewarding! At Sylvan, I work with three students at a time who all vary in ages from 5 – 55, academic needs, and grade levels. I have three, one-hour sessions a night where I might find myself trying to re-learn the basics of calculus or how to balance a chemical equation.

It is a busy day, but every time I leave the school I am smiling. Although this is not my perfect position as a certified social studies, mathematics teacher with a middle level focus – but I would not trade this experience for the world. It is a great feeling knowing that you found what you love to do and be able to do it everyday.

Not many people can say that they do what they love

but I get to 🙂

Started from [Wacousta], Now Back Here

*cue Drake’s inevitable wisdom*

I am very thankful for this Saturday Morning. I am finally able to wrap my spinning head around this past week. All I can say that life is definitely a rollercoaster which can be terrifying at times, but overall – exciting.

For the past couple months, my income depended on which substitute teaching positions I landed that week. I knew this was not something I wanted to do all my life, but I had accepted the fact that one must start somewhere! Last Friday, I was playing the role of substitute teacher in one of my old high school classrooms when I was emailed by a previous teacher  – who now works in the Human Resource Department at my hometown school-district. The email was about an open Reading Teacher position at (go figure) my old elementary school.

Now I was hesitant with this position because of my limited reading instructional background since my degree is focused in mathematics and social studies. However, he was very confident that I would fit well within this position and wanted me to apply regardless. So I did.

I applied.

I finished the school-day.

I checked my voicemail.

I had an interview the following Monday.

Talk about a whirlwind of emotions! After my wonderful weekend, I showed up at the interview ready to go. I apparently knocked it out because the next day I was walking into Wacousta Elementary as the new Reading Teacher.

This past week has been a jumble of emotions. My position had not been completely finalized so they were unsure what specifically to do with me. There were schedule changes, location changes, and duty changes. In the wrong atmosphere, this would have been a nightmare. HOWEVER, the staff at Wacousta Elementary has been AMAZING – just as expected. I could not have asked for a better support and friendly faces that welcomed me back this week.

After a few location changes within the building I finally have my own space! The great thing about Wacousta is that they have moveable walls to create and modify spaces as needed. There are even rumors I will be getting my own desk (!!!)

As of right now, I will be working on reading skills with 2nd, 3rd, and 5th graders. I will also be doing some skills in remedial math with 5th graders. I have already met some amazing students and I am so very excited to be working with them for the rest of the year.

Also, how cool is it to be teaching where it all started?!

Wacousta Warrior for life ❤

“Priorities”

I found this in a high school classroom. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

Priorities

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They Thagreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things— your faith, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else— the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. “Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness”. Play with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. Take care of the golf balls first— the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple cups of coffee with a friend.”

Sub Life 🤘🏼

Alright, y’all. I am officially at that awkward stage in life where I have the Golden Teaching Certificate, but not a place in sight to put it to good use. What does one do in this stage between graduating college and walking into that perfect classroom you can’t wait to call home?? – substitute teach.

I subbed back in June while the kiddos were still in school, but after being thrown into the classroom atmosphere for 40+ hours a week, this time is different! I am less scared going into a random classroom or worried about what the day might bring. I find it more exciting this time around that I do not necessarily know what I will be teaching or who I will be teaching. As long as this girl has her sub plans waiting for her and the students are not arranging a spit-wad militia attack against you – it is smooth sailing.

Things to remember while subbing 💭:

  1. Introduce yourself! I always ask if they’ve heard of CMU. Depending on how old the students are, you may only get a few, but right then and there you are making connections!
  2. It might sound like common sense, but write your name on the board. It alleviates awkward encounters of students forgetting your name or them resulting to talking to other students to ask a question when they can simply ask you!
  3. Set your expectations right off the bat. I go with one rule. RESPECT. I explain that respect to me is not speaking when someone else is. That means me or a peer. I even throw in a joke saying, “If you came up and asked me a question and I turned and talked over you, would that be okay?” That gets a laugh, but probably because I do a weird accent when I act out talking over them. (You gotta do what ya gotta do 💁🏻)
  4. Seek out the kid who will not lie to you – BE THEIR FRIEND. Ask them what the teacher does to get their attention, how do you know when to be quiet, what are class procedures (listening to music, phones, hall passes, etc.) It might sound like you’re trying to utilize the teacher’s pet, but there is at least one student in a classroom who lives above the influence where he/she knows being a help to the teacher isn’t AT ALL a nerd-alert.
  5. Use these same procedures. Showing the students that you know your stuff helps them put their faith in your teaching. It also makes the day’s routine stay generally the same. Students live on routine and any little change could make the whole day go haywire. Keeping consistency is key 🔑
  6. Stick to your word. If you tell students that you need it to be quiet, stick with it. Just because you’re the sub doesn’t mean you do not know how to put your foot down. One time I did this and a student goes, “It isn’t going to work. They talk all the time over our teacher and she tries to get them to be quiet and it never works”. Well if that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, I don’t know what does. My reply? Well, I got the whole class’ attention and asked if they did this with with Mrs. SoAndSo. Of course they said that they did. So I simply said, “Well I am not Mrs. SoAndSo. This might work for her, but it does NOT work for me. When she is in here, that is her prerogative – but not mine” and then I went on with my expectations.
  7. Leave your business card for the teacher and a note of students who were really helpful and those who needed reminders on their behavior. Be specific of what activities students needed help with, where you left off, or activities you accomplished.
  8. HAVE FUN! The last thing students want is a boring sub. Of course you might not be able to fit in Heads Up, Seven Up EVERY time, but at least joking around and being personable is always an option.

 

Be Like Mary Poppins and Pack a Bag 👜:

Giant teacher bags are your friend so utilize them! Ones with pockets, thick straps, and one that is really deep so you can stuff all our tricks and secrets in it 😏 I was fortunate enough to get one for graduation – let’s just say, Vera and I are are besties.

264605_2_1.jpeg

 

  1. Stickers! No matter their age, everyone wants a sticker. One time I asked for students to get out a worksheet and only three people paid attention. Once I gave those three students stickers, EVERYONE wanted a sticker. Within 30 seconds, students had the assignment out and ready to learn. These kids were in middle school …
  2. Sticky Notes, pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, Sharpies, mini stapler, paper clips, basically a mini staples store. You shouldn’t rely on using the teacher’s supplies. Bring your own so you aren’t accidentally walking away with his/her favorite pen.
  3. A pack of MadLibs. You’d hate to walk into a class with subplans that only take up half of the hour. Bringing a silly activity can keep kids occupied where chaos may result without.
  4. Business Cards! VistaPrint is amazing. There are so many styles and layouts you can choose to make this scary task of adulting super easy. Leave these behind for your teacher to have for future reference AND so he/she can share with friends!
Business Card.jpg
Leave your business card for the teacher. They’ll share it with their friends!

The best thing about subbing is that you never have to come back. If you have an awful, awful day. All you have to do is count down the hours and never step into that classroom again. It might be the only plus to not having your own classroom. You’re like the fun aunt. You get to help out when needed, but you can just hand them off to the parents when their acting out.

Overall, subbing is a great experience. You’re getting a first-hand look of different classrooms, different routines, and different grade levels! Walking away from every sub experience you make a mental list of what you liked, what you didn’t, or even a grade levels you enjoy teaching more.

The more you know about what makes you successful, the nore