Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Teacher Emergency Baskets!

We've started a "Welcoming New Teachers" Group at my school for both brand new teachers and teachers who are new to our school.  You can read more about the start of that group here:  Welcoming New Teachers  And, I'm always open for more ideas for our meetings if you have a great mentoring program in place at your school!
For our first meeting a few weeks ago, I made each teacher a "Teacher Emergency Basket" Starter Kit.  This basket included deodorant, hairspray, Advil, thank you cards, lotion, hand sanitizer, toothbrush and toothpaste, q-tips, dental floss, Kleenex, and cough drops.  I thought it would be a great start and they can add to it as needed to fit personal needs.

My own basket is pretty full, and not photo-ready, but it's very useful!  It has a bit of everything in it, but these are the items that I use most often!  Here is a (partial) list of its contents:

What are some more good things to add to my stash?!  Let me know your must-haves!!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My first Blog Hoppin' Teacher Week!

So, I participated in #bhteacherweek16!  Look at me!!!!!  Two blog posts in two days!  It's a record!!! I kept up every day and it was fun to see all of the different posts!
This was the layout for the week. 

Here are my posts from the week:
Meet Me Monday...I shared a picture of me and the new hubby, Jabar!  Love this pic!  Need to go through all of my wedding pictures and get them ordered!  I'm also a 1st grade teacher in Nevada, I LOVE my Oregon Ducks, and I'm a huge animal lover!  I think college football is the greatest thing on the planet.  Ducks coming up tonight...GOOOOO DUCKS!   I have 2 awesome cats, Spencer and Princess Leia, and a crazy dog named Betty.  They're on Insta quite a bit if you follow me!
I've become much more of an introvert in my old age, although I've always kept to myself pretty much.  Not much is more exciting to me than just having a nice, peaceful weekend at home working on whatever I please!

Teaching Tuesday...I haven't taken a ton of pics yet this year.  We just finished our second week of school.  I shared a pic from the past of kids during our Magnet Science Unit, which is one of my faves to teach!  I wrote a grant many years ago and was able to buy a ton of different types of magnets and activities for my classroom.  Kiddos always have such a great time with magnets and science in general!  So much fun and good for my students, too!

Where I Work Wednesday...I work in the great state of Nevada, in Henderson, which is like a suburb of Las Vegas, I guess. I love this place!  I love sun and we have 300+ sunny days every year.  Being a native Oregonian, I was sick of the rain and I'm so glad I made the move here in 2006!  Now, I LOVE rain, because it's rare and beautiful in the desert.  The flash floods are another thing....  We love to get to Oregon a few times a year to see my parents and I do appreciate the green and trees more now than when I was growing up!  I enjoy my school here as well, have a good-sized classroom, and started flexible seating this year, which I am loving!
Threads Thursday...So, I'm not a clothes shopper.  I hate trying things on and going to stores....
However, I had to post this adorable shirt worn by one of my first graders this week.  I'm fluent in cat as well!

Friends Friday...A picture of my First Grade Team (along with a twin of one), my Principal, and my husband at our wedding.  That night was fun, but went by so fast!!  I had three tables of teacher friends there from my current school and my old school here.  Lots of family, too.  Such a great day and night!
This was a fun week and I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to keep up and figure out the fancy apps that I'd never tried before!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Flexible Seating...On a (very tight) Budget!

After seeing all the cool posts and pics about Flexible Seating, I decided I wanted to change my room up a bit as well.  I've always been pretty "flexible" on seating.  I don't use desks...For years, I'd had five long rectangle tables with community supplies (pencils, crayons, scissors, etc.) in the center.  Each table had a bookcase at the end for Data Notebooks, book boxes, dry erase boards and supplies, and folders.  Kids were able to stand and work, work on the floor with clipboards, sit on a pillow for reading, etc., but they still had a home base seat with a name tag.  I liked this set up, but all the shelving at the end of each table took up a bit too much space for me.  I wanted to downsize my furniture a bit.

I was ready to start something new this year after seeing lots of great setups in other elementary classrooms.  I wrote a Donors Choose funding request, but it wasn't funded. :(  I was still set on trying this out...However, I could not go spend a bunch of money on all the fancy things because I was getting married and taking a honeymoon this summer.  That's where ALL of my extra money went this year!
I sat down and listed what I wanted, how it would work/look, and worked with my awesome neighbor teacher (who has always done "working areas", long before "flexible seating" became so popular) on arrangement ideas and logistics for things like backpacks, supply storage, and such.
I bought a few inexpensive items and used other items of mine from past years or that we already had at school.
Our "kneeling" table and Ikea pillows
The kneeling table is the most popular area in our classroom and my personal favorite as well!  This was one of my long rectangle tables from last year, with the lower half of the legs unscrewed and taken off, so that was free!  I bought three different types of pillows at Ikea (six pillows total).  They were $3.99 each!  Students kneel or sit on the pillows.  This table can fit 6 kids easily and more, depending on what they are working on.
Total spent on this area:  $24.00  If you already have suitable pillows, then this would be FREE for you!

Tall/Standing Table with Ikea stools
The "standing" table is a rectangle table, but shorter length than my old ones.  This was something we already had at school and I had the custodian raise it a bit.  It's a great place for kids to stand when writing or playing a game.  Some of the taller first graders bring stools over and sit at this table as well.  This is a great place for about 4-5 kids at a time.
Total spent on this area:  $0  (stool prices coming later)
Good ol' desks with school-issue chairs.

A few of my kids love having their own private work space, so these desks work well for that.  The little table in the middle is something I used to have at home.  It works well for setting a supply tub in between the desks for two friends to share.
Total spent on this area:  $0 (and I used a piece of my furniture from years ago that I just didn't want to get rid of!)
Rectangle table with Ikea stools and school-issue chairs.
I kept two of my long rectangle tables from years past. (Three, if you count the kneeling table)  They both have a combination of Ikea stools and school-issue chairs.  Students can move seating around as needed.  This table regularly has 5-6 people working at it.  My other rectangle table has room for 3-4, because I have bookcases on one of the short ends and one of the long ends.
Total spent on this area:  Six Ikea (Marius) stools (throughout the room)-$30.00
Orange tiger and purple cow camp chairs
I stumbled upon these beauties at the grocery store last spring and HAD to have them!  I bought two tigers and two cows.  Kids sit in these to read or if they need to write, they grab a clipboard for a hard writing surface.  Always be on the lookout for cute seating choices that you can use in your classroom!  Easy-to-move seating choices for 4 kids.
Total spent on this area:  Four camp chairs-$28.00
Two Ikea rugs for floor work
I put two square rugs together in our Classroom Library area.  Super soft and cozy for kids who want to work on the floor.  Another great place for 3-4 kids to work.
Total spent on this area:  Two Ikea rugs-$20.00
Hooks for backpacks and coats
I almost forgot about this part when I was setting up!!!  Luckily, my neighbor reminded me that they wouldn't have an actual "seat" to hang backpacks and coats on, so I bought these Command Hooks at Walmart.  (I don't have a coat rack or anything like that...)  Then, I wrote a number on each hook, so they always use the same hook each day.  Each student has a number which is on their book box, data notebook, etc.  This has worked wonderfully!  They take their lunch boxes out in the morning and put them in a big tub, so the backpacks aren't too heavy.  These hooks are made to hold up to 5 pounds and we've had no problems so far!
Total spent on this area for me:  $28.00, but FREE for you if you already have a coat/backpack rack!

$78.00 if you already have pillows and a backpack area
$102.00  with cute Ikea pillows
$130.00 if command hooks are needed
And, that's it!  I'm so happy with my room.  I feel like I have so much more open space after getting rid of two big rectangle tables and moving my bookcases around.  The kids are champs at choosing and using their working spaces appropriately.  I may add other types of seating in the future, but this is working wonderfully well and the kids are happy and busy!  I'd love to hear about other budget-friendly options that you are using with your students, too!  I'd also love to answer any questions that you may have if you're ready to try this!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Welcoming New Teachers

The first week is finished and I'm soaking up football, sleeping in, and a three-day weekend!  I'm going to be adding pictures of my classroom to my blog finally, but I really wanted to talk about something I'm excited to start this informal mentoring group for new teachers at my school!
When I started at my current school in 2012, I'd been teaching for 10 years in several different settings and didn't need help in the classroom as much as I just needed to be notified and informed of school-based traditions, expectations, etc.  I work at a small school where most teachers had worked there, and only there, for 10-20 years, without many new people coming on board.  They're fantastic, friendly, and nice people, but I think they assumed many of their school traditions and such were commonplace.  So, often, the first few months, I'd be rushing to pick a student for this or that, invite a parent to something, or hastily getting prepared for something nobody had told me about ahead of time!  If you know me, you would know this did not make me all. 
We've steadily added one or two new people each year and we've tried to be sure they feel welcomed and informed.  Most of them were experienced teachers and it (mostly) went pretty smoothly.  Last year and this year, however, we've hired about ten new people and several of them were brand new, first-year teachers.  I know they have a lot on their plate...learning classroom management, figuring out curriculum, and many are currently taking college courses as well.  I didn't want to pile on, but I spoke to my principal about doing informal mentoring meetings, since we do not have anything formal in place at this point.  She thought it sounded great and I was so happy that the teachers were thankful and relieved rather than feeling like it was one more meeting they had to attend.  My goal will be to inform them of and explain lots of "the little things", so those little extras do not pile up and become a huge frustration.  Some of the things we will be covering at the first meeting will be Leader of the Week story and snack, Leader of the Month (Awards, Family Breakfast, and Activity), World Series of Reading, Monthly Habits and Kindness Lessons, Data Notebooks, Leadership Teams, and anything else they have questions about right now!!
We will be meeting every other week after school.  My plan is to make a list of upcoming activities and deadlines to talk about and the teachers will bring lists of questions or concerns that they would like to chat about as well.  And, I'll provide goodies.  :)  Any teacher will be welcome to attend, so I'm hoping to have teachers from across the grade levels to help answer questions. I'm very excited to get this started and I truly hope they will find it beneficial as they start this wonderful (and sometimes crazy) career!!
What are some programs you  have in place at your school for new or new-to-the-building teachers?  I'd love to get some more ideas!  Thanks in advance!