polka dots

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Day in My Shoes...

It’s another linky party! A Day in the Life of a 6th Grade Teacher is asking us to link up and tell what a day Is like in our shoes!

So, here goes:
4:55 alarm goes off. I stay in bed 5 more minutes before getting up and letting the dogs out. Then I ring breakfast up to my room and eat while reading for about 20 minutes it helps to wake me up! Then I start changing into my clothes, and usually three oufits later I am finally in what I will wear for the rest of the day!

6:00ish leave for work
7:00 I get to school and start getting ready for the day. This involves putting any grades into my electronic grade-book on my computer, copying, putting out morning work, and getting all computers and the smart board turned on.
7:55 students start coming into the room. I am usually in the hall talking with my old teamie across the hall. Students come in and take off all their snow clothes, and go about their morning routine which includes signing up for lunch, handing in any money or notes, and starting their morning work.
8:00 announcements begin with a 6th grade students leading the school in the pledge. Then the principal gets on and announces lunch, birthdays, and anything else needed. While this is going on my students are *supposed* to be working quietly, however I am busy getting them to stop talking, taking milk and lunch count, and taking care of the million or so papers that seemed to have been thrown on my desk since the kiddos arrived! In a few minutes I will have also taken attendance, checked my email, taken lunch count, and sent the cafeteria and office helpers on their errands.

8:20 ELA whole group starts. We begin the day on the rug (not usual in 3rd grade but a left over from my days as a 2nd grade teacher). We go over our focus skill and any other review skills. Then we move to our seats and read from our reading books.

9:15 Grammar. We begin with our daily language, and then move on to the week’s focus.
9:40 Special (PE, Computers, Art, or Music depending on the day) This is when I run around like crazy! I stop and talk to one of my friends for a few minutes before getting to work! When I get back to my room I do some grading and then run downstairs to copy any papers that should be filed (for RTI backup). Then I walk to down to check in with my teammates.

10:20 pick the kiddos up and start spelling.

10:45 lunch I know, how unreal is this?!  I walk them down to the cafeteria and then wait with them till they are through the kitchen line. The aides stay with them in the cafeteria and then to the playground. I wish I could say that I take this time to sit and relax, but of course I don’t. I read the news on my phone for the whole 10 minutes it takes me to eat, and spend the rest of the time working. Why do we do this to ourselves??

11:30 Math. We start by going over our daily math. Then we move on to a quick graded review, whether it is a fact test, a problem solving sheet, or general skills review. Then they take out their math practice books and do the page that reviews what we did the previous day. At 12:00 I start the new lesson for the day.

12:45 snack! It has been a big adjustment for us eating snack in the afternoon, but with such an early lunch, it’s a necessity! I would rather do it a bit later, but can’t because of other scheduling. We usually eat and play a math smart board game at the same time (the kids actually beg to do this makes me so happy)
1:00 AIS reading. I have two groups of students that go to AIS. They rotate every other day. While they are gone I hold my ELA small groups. They love this time of day, because they get more attention in the small groups, and I like getting the chance to interact with them.  
1:40 writing this is anything from a journal prompt to a new process lesson.

2:00 science/social/math lab depending on the day, my class rotates between myself and my other two teammates. I teach social studies to the whole grade level, another teaches science, and the third provides an extra hit in math with centers and games in the math lab. They feel so grown up, since this is their first experience in switching classes!

2:30 get ready for dismissal
2:35 send walkers into hall another teacher is assigned to walk them downstairs
2:40 walk bus students to their buses  - then I go back to my room and clean the whirlwind that is left behind! I do some more copying, planning, and whatever else needs to be done in the room.
3:25 teacher dismissal. If I don’t have practice, I will practically run out the door at this time J However, I have practice 1 or 2 times a week. On those days, I stay till practice at 6:00 and work around the room, pausing for a quick dinner around 5:30. Sometimes I’m lucky and my other coach will pick me up around 4 and we will run cheerleading errands before practice!

If I have practice, it is over at 8, and I don’t get home till 8:30, which leave me exhausted! Just typing all this, and I am glad I have one more day off today! And, what makes it better is that I have a 3 day work week! I am taking Friday off, since I am going to a Kelly Clarkson concert Thursday night and won’t be home till late! I can’t wait!

So what is a day in your shoes like?

+ Laura +

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To merge, or not to merge...

In my area, the hot topic is a school merger. My school is in the middle of a merger study with 3 other local districts. This 4-way merger is well on its way to becoming history making. We have heard that all eyes in our state are on us. If we were to merge with the other 3 districts, our student body pre-k-12 would be about 4,700 students! We would have one elementary school in each town for grades pre-k-4, an “upper elementary” building with grades 5 and 6 in one town (one of the former high schools), a middle school with grades 7 and 8 in another town (another former high school), and high school grades 9-12 in the largest of the four current schools. The fourth current high school would only be used for district offices and alternative ed.

There are many people on either side of the debate, and it is getting very heated. Personally, I have only told my view to a few people. I can see benefits and challenges in both situations (merging or staying as stand-alone districts), however I am leaning in one direction. But, I am afraid of stating my opinion and having people attack what I believe. So, I will take part in discussions, ask questions, etc, but not state my opinion. A select few know how I really feel!
I am terrified of next school year, whether we merge or not. Our state continues to cut educational funding, and our budget for next year looks bleak. If we merge, the new district will lose about 40 teachers, and this doesn’t include any other positions, like aides, secretaries, etc. If we don’t merge, each school will certainly lose people as well. When I was hired, I was hired with a group of about 15 new teachers in one school year (luckily I was the first hired in the bunch). Each year we have slowly lost a lot of those teachers to budget cuts, so I am pretty low in the seniority totem pole. Hopefully the cuts don’t go as far as me!

Each town has had a couple of community forums in November and December. Our 3rd forum will be next week. We have a community “straw vote” in January to decide if we will continue on. If it is positive in at least 3 of the 4 communities, the process will move on to the final community vote in February. If the merger is voted on, our new district will begin on July 1, 2012! I can’t believe how fast it will all happen.
My questions for you: have any of you had experience with a merger? What are your thoughts or opinions on schools merging?

+ Laura +

Monday, November 21, 2011


I can’t believe the holidays are right around the corner. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted! The 1st quarter just officially ended with report cards going home last week. Conferences were taken care of 3 weeks before that (please don’t ask me why we meet with parents 3 wks before the report cards – we don’t even know why!).

On Saturday, I was able to spend some time with 2 of my nephews (I have 12 total nieces and nephews – I know, crazy, right?!). Anyway, we baked 6 kinds of cookies during the day (we have huge family get togethers at the holidays, and the desserts – and baking them as a family – are always a big deal. We were also able to hang most of the outdoor Christmas lights, even though the wind was so cold I felt like my fingers would fall off! J

That night I had a movie night with my parents and after the movie is when I got the bad news…. I found out a week ago from a friend that one of my best friends from high school was diagnosed with leukemia. Well, Saturday night I got a text saying she had passed away. I was shocked. 28 years old, married with a little boy… how do these things happen to people so young? This has hit me really hard in the last few days. I feel guilty that I hadn’t talked to her since high school – once we graduated, she moved away and we never talked to each other again. We were so close, and I guess I didn’t realize what I was missing until now, when she is really gone. L I feel terrible that we haven’t had more time together.

I also get thinking about other people I’m not as close to that I don’t want to lose – like my college roommate – when I graduated and moved back to my home town, it was hard to keep in touch. She has a family now, which makes it hard to find the time I guess I’m not really happy with the way my life has gone. I have a great job (that I LOVE), but I feel like I’m missing out on so much more. I want what everyone else seems to have, but can’t seem to get it for myself.

For all of you out there that might actually be reading this, call that person you’re thinking about – take the time, because you never know when that time will be taken from you. Life is short, so just go for it! Whatever makes you happy, do it, because you don’t want to live with regrets and “what-ifs” – trust me, I know. L

Sorry for such a long post – I guess I just needed to get some of this out. It’s been a rough couple of days, but hopefully with Thanksgiving this week, things will turn around a bit.

+ Laura _+

Sunday, October 9, 2011


It has been WAY to long since I have posted! I feel like I have neglected my blog that I worked so hard to create over the summer. I appologize for being MIA! I haven’t even had time to really check out everyone else’s blog either! L I am so exhausted between school and coaching, that I collapse in bed when I finally get home at night. The first month of school is now officially over, and I feel like I have some time to breathe now! Anyone who has been here before knows that I looped up to 3rd with many of my students from last year. I can’t say how much I already love this experience! My 13 lovely friends from last year have been able to continue right where we left off from! And, although we added 10 more new friends this year, they have learned the ways of the classroom from watching the kids who have been with me! 

I can’t believe how much my kiddos have grown up 3rd graders are so much different than 2nd graders! Even though I didn’t choose to move, I am definitely excited to see where this journey takes us! I am already thinking of asking the principal about the possibility of looping again in the future.  

The first month of school flew by, and we have had many changes and challenges. Our first day of school with students was on a Tuesday. Then Hurricane Lee decided to pay us a visit and we ended up having to cancel school on Wednesday and Thursday of the first week (who would have thought this would happen in central NY???). All the local towns were flooded, but most schools were only closed one day we however suffered damage to our high school, so we had to close an additional day. But, all teachers came in and we had a conference day so we didn’t have to lose a future snow day later in the year. We ended up getting training for the new Core Curriculum let me say now how scary this is for me! I also attended a teacher-to-teacher conference at our BOCES this month with all the other 3rd grade teachers in the area there are so many changes coming up with education, and it is overwhelming to say the least. 

On Friday we took our 1st field trip of the year. I say 1st, hoping that the PTO will still be able to fund the others that the grade level typically takes (the school is no longer able to pay for field trips, so our WONDERFUL PTO has taken on the challenge the last few years). Anyway, we took a trip to see the circus! It was a lot of fun, and the kids loved it. Well, they loved some parts more than others ya know, like when 2 of the 3 elephants decided that they needed to go to the bathroom right in front of us! (Oh yes, I can hear it now, “The best part was the elephant poop!”). When we get back to school on Tuesday, we will do some writing about our favorite acts (hopefully I can steer them around the elephant fiasco) and then some thank you notes to our chaperones (I had 12 chaperones for my 22 kids I was loving it!). 

I’m off to get some more work done now, but I wanted to at least make a quick post for those of you who actually read my ramblings! J Have a great additional day off tomorrow!

+ Laura +

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I remember...

On 9/11/01 I was a freshman in college. Because my classes didn’t start until the afternoon, I was working at my old elementary school helping two 6th grade teachers in their classrooms. They had hired me to help with the typical beginning of the year items that needed to be to be taken care of. I was sitting at the reading table in one of the classrooms sorting notebooks when there was a knock on the door. The librarian called the teacher in the hallway and they whispered for a few minutes. When the teacher came in she told me what was happening.  

The librarian had been going in to the classrooms seeing who would like a TV cart brought into their classrooms to witness what was happening. Being that the students I was with were 6th graders, the teacher said she wanted a TV immediately. While I thought they might be a little young, she looked at it a different way. This teacher explained to me that when she herself was in 6th grade her teacher wheeled a cart into her classroom for the class to view another sad moment in history – the coverage of the assassination of JFK. She remembered seeing this and being affected by it, and wanted her children to have this connection to what would certainly become a big moment in our history. 

When it was brought in, we all watched in amazement. I remember seeing the plane hit the 2nd tower – although looking back now I don’t know if it was in real-time or if it was one of those frames they kept showing over and over. After watching awhile the teacher and I had a great discussion with the kids. They said some things I never would have expected from kids their age.

I went home that day still thinking of the events. My brother had just moved home from living in NYC. His work site had been near ground zero. I was thankful he was home, and we knew exactly where he was – safe.

Today, I remember all this. As I read the paper this morning, I felt sick. At my football game today, while my cheerleaders and I stood at the 50 yard line listening to the national anthem followed by Taps and a moment of silence, I had the chills. While I wasn’t personally affected by that day, I still feel that I (and every other American) was affected in some way. My family members and friends went to fight in wars after this, and have seen many, many horrible things. I thank them for their courage, and everyone else who has had to deal with the aftermath of this tragedy.
But, this day shouldn’t be all about sadness. Look around and see all the red, white, and blue. See all the pride that is evident in our citizens. If anything came out of this, it is the pride Americans have in their country. Families have come together, the country came together.
Please take the time to remember those who were lost during the attacks and in the wars fought because of the attacks.

+ Laura +

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene = no power at home = lots of work done at school!

Hurricane Irene did us in!!

Sunday around 2 in the morning the rain started. It was a steady, heavy rain all day – our power went out at 2 in the afternoon Sunday when the heavy winds started. The rain kept up till about dinner time, but the winds were still getting worse. We decided to drive around and take some pictures, and then get ourselves some dinner, since we couldn’t cook. My neighbors lost 2 trees, another tree was laying across one of our roads. I even saw a tree on another neighbor’s house. Roads were flooded over, and some of the shoulders of the roads were gone. I can’t believe the damage we got, when we weren’t even near the coast! 18 hours of rain, 12 with heavy wind, and 19 hours without power (we didn’t get it back until 9:30 yesterday Morning)!  Living in the country is definitely nice, but when you lose power you aren’t really a priority in the eyes of the power company – why fix the problem with only 14 customers without power when you can help more in the towns??

Needless to say, I ended up going to the school yesterday early in the morning, so I didn’t have to sit without power at home. I called the power company at 5 when I got out of bed (I couldn’t sleep anymore since I went to bed so early the night before!) and they told me to expect power back on at midnight – I was like, ummm…. Really? So I made the decision to go to the school and got there around 6. Ever had to get ready to go out in public in the dark, with only a little flashlight to help? I’m sure I looked pretty scary as I walked in the gas station to get a hot chocolate! I didn’t even do any makeup till I was at the school!
Anyway - I got a lot done once I got there, and I took some pics of the beginning of my centers.  These are what will stay all year, and then I will change out the other activities based on the skills we are learning about at the time. Let me know what you think!
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This is the accelerated reader center. Books are sorted by reading level – the buckets are color coded based on their reading group. So, my kiddos know what group they are in, so they know what bin to select a book from. I have some handy little reference materials in each bucket – I’ll have to remember to take share a pic of what’s in them another time!

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Here is my writing center! Most of my centers have these shelves that I bought awhile ago – not only does it keep things organized, but the kids know what order to work through with their things! On the first shelf there are 4 folders in my reading group colors. This is how I differentiate the centers - the kids pull their folder and do the work that I selected just for them. I do this for most of my centers. You will also notice the work buckets I have at the center. This has crayons, scissors, glue, pencils, sharpener, erasers, markers, and colored pencils. That way, they don’t have to leave to get any supplies! I also have a book of writing helpers and a beginner’s thesaurus for them to use. The signs are from Christie at Teaching in Flip Flops!

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Next up is the fluency center. The fluency station is from Lakeshore (I love them!). This is a piece that I have wanted for a few years, but couldn’t justify buying when it was so expensive. But, when I moved up to 3rd I inherited it! Can’t wait to use it! On the right are the high frequency word cards separated again by reading group color. They practice these as soon as they get here, then move on to the other goodies. I have a handful of animal puppets in the back left corner – these are fun to use when reading, and they get silly and have fun while they get their work done. They came from Dollar Tree a few years ago, and my kiddos loved them last year, and will enjoy them again this year! I also have a whisper phone here.  

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This is the comprehension center with tons of goodies! To start, I have my “egg-celent” comprehension eggs (thanks to Christina Bainbridge at Mrs. Bainbridge's Class),  some story dice I have had for awhile, some fun brain feeler sticks (from Miss Knight’s Khronicals), my supply bucket, and my FAVORITE story wands (from you guessed it – Lakeshore!). These are so much fun, and I love using them with my kiddos (except for a few boys 2 years ago that seemed to think they resembled light sabers and not fun learning tools)!

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Thanks for taking a look! Tomorrow (Thursday) is the first day for staff. I am hoping to finish up, and get the most current pics up for you to see before my kiddos come back next Tuesday.

+ Laura +

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teacher Talk Tuesday

Blog Hoppin’ is focused on Teacher Talk Tuesday today – advice for new teachers. So, here’s my advice for any of you starting out in the new world of teaching:

Don’t get discouraged!

I had a very rough first year with a class filled with challenges. I felt like crying almost every day because of some incidents that would happen. Find someone who you can vent to at the end of the day (someone who doesn’t mind you sounding a bit like your whiny little friends that you are complaining about!).  Once you get it all out, you can actually think about all the wonderful things that are happening too, and you will remember why you wanted to be a teacher in the first place! J

Enjoy every minute of it!

It goes by way to fast, and you want to remember the first year! Don’t sweat the small stuff – if you sit there agonizing over every little detail, you will miss all the other things that are going on in the classroom around you!

Document everything!

I took pictures like a mad-woman my first year, and I am so glad I did! I can look back and see my first babies, and funny thing is, you really only remember the good! The few “bad” things are actually ones to laugh about now! I wonder “Why did I ever think that was the end of the world?” I also have a file on my computer with the funny things kids would say to me throughout the year. It’s funny to sit back and remember these funny things once in a while when you are feeling a bit discouraged!

Learn from the kids!

Take the time to actually learn from your students. They have so much to offer, and can help you learn not only about student learning habits, but they can actually teach you about yourself!

Make friends with you colleagues!

My first year I was very intimidated and I didn’t feel like I was an equal to all the other teachers who had been teaching for years. I was so wrong! My colleagues truly valued my opinion, and made sure that I felt I was one of the team. My grade level quickly became my good friends, and I don’t know what I would do without them! We go hang out in each other’s rooms when we need a few minutes out of our own rooms. In the mornings when the kids are coming in, and after dismissal, we would all stand in the hallway talking, about anything BUT school! Sometimes you need a break, and that’s ok!

Click the pic below to see what others have to say over at Blog Hoppin’. Its Teacher Week 2011 -  join in on the fun!

+ Laura +

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