To Those Who Inspire Us

Do you ever think about how you got to where you are? Next school year will be my fifth in my school. Five. That's like a milestone. With the exodus taking place at the end of this school year, I'll be considered ancient - not as ancient as some, but an oldie.

When I started teaching I took little tidbits of wisdom from people here and there - 'close the door and teach, ignore the people outside', 'get 'em fed and get 'em home' -- but the actual nuts and bolts (the plans, the lessons, the putting it all together), I don't think anyone prepared me for how hard that would be. I'm, shall we say, a flyer by the seat of my pants person. I can wing it with the best of them. In many ways, that's a great quality for a teacher to have, and in many ways it can be a major flaw.

Last year some of my flaws became exposed. I couldn't keep up with everything. I needed help. I was overwhelmed and in my mind there had to be an easier way. Right?! To say I began receiving help is an understatement. I received not only help, but also coaching, mentoring, and friendship in the process.

The person who gave me this is absolutely amazing. She's genius. No, really. I'm sure we all have coworkers or friends who we think are smart or who we can turn to for help, and while I know I can do that, there's just so much more. The funny thing is, I'm pretty sure she knows it, but never in an 'in your face' kind of way. Her classroom management skills rock. Her literacy knowledge is impeccable - need a book or an idea and she has it. Want to try something new? She'll talk it through with you and help you figure out how to get started.

She doesn't work with 2nd grade anymore (and she didn't really last year, I just got lucky). The loss is mine. I'm pretty sure I've been cheated. I tried to soak up as much of her knowledge as I could last year. But, the wealth is too great. It kills me now because there's still so much to learn from her. There's so much she could have taught me.  Believe me, there's definitely so much I still want to know. The year has been crazy though. I hardly see her, let alone have time to ask or have her fully answer a question.

In spite of that, I've somehow managed to receive numerous compliments from others this school year - on items I've created that she and I began doing together last year (items I learned about from her); on how I've become a leader on my grade level (something I only used to hear from her); so many things I do correctly because I learned from her. Don't get me wrong, this year is not easier. I've worked hard to get to where I am. More often than not, especially on a Friday, I catch myself in a moment and think "this was so much easier last year with her." It's not because she did it for me - we did it together. We collaborated. We complimented one another. At times I get sad because I know those truly were the 'good 'ole days.' It may never come again. I miss it tremendously. I know I'm fortunate though. When I find myself in a bind, or in the midst of a rough day I think, 'what would she say or do?' She'd keep it real - to an extent. I'm not at her level of awesomeness, so I try.

Does she know who she's created? A teacher who wants to be better every. single. day. Because of her, I have learned the type of teacher I want to be - and trust me, I still have a long way to go. How do you thank someone like that? - someone who pushes you, and challenges you, and encourages you, and makes you better. Because of her, I am the teacher I am today. I could not be more grateful.

Five for Friday

Where'd spring break go?! Where'd winter go?! I haven't blogged all winter - but we've been busy in my 2nd grade room. I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for this week and then I'll continue to catch everyone up.

It's been nice to be on spring break, but it will be a tad easier knowing I have some sweet students. Right before we got out one brought me this sweet piece of happy. 

My brother who works  for Georgia Power was able to come do a presentation for 2nd grade about electricity. They loved it!

Since I am on break, I am allowed an indulgence or two. Have any of you seen or tried these? If not, you should!

Though, if eating healthy is your thing - you could also try this: 

Yep, I actually drink that. I must say, I can't believe I do. But they don't taste that bad. Check this out this website, Simple Green Smoothies

Last but not least, it is Autism Awareness month and I LOVE my items from Stella & Dot. The proceeds benefit the HollyRod Foundation. Aren't they cute?!

Check back soon to see what else we've been up to. 

What's an Inch?

Since we've returned from winter break my 2nd graders have been learning about measurement. Ironically, the metro area of Atlanta received approximately two inches of snow on Tuesday of this week.

Believe me, this is a measurement they are not likely to forget. As any good teacher, I will take this experience back to my classroom and actually create an educational moment out of it. Between my personal photos and the ones all over the internet of the snow, the cars piled in lines for miles and miles, the amount of time it took people to drive from point A to point B the actual lessons I can teach in my classroom are numerous. That's not even mentioning real-life lessons.

I dare say the same for the powers that be. Fear not, I will not turn this into a political debate. I'm not even an extreme political person. I'm actually a somewhat simple person. Think smart. Treat people with kindness. Accept responsibility.

I saw most people do this. Most people, except people in charge.

I heard the reports with the rest of this city and nation. My principal even had our school have a fire drill on Monday afternoon because the weather was only supposed to be nice that day and perhaps snow the very next day. She was correct. Monday afternoon was gorgeous. 

On Tuesday morning, despite reports that the storm was going to come earlier than expected, I bundled up and headed on my way to school, not quite knowing what my day may hold since it was only 6:30 in the morning and I was scheduled to teach all day and have class until 8:30 at night.

As every teacher I work with arrived at school in below freezing temperatures you could tell something about the day was slightly different. By 8:00 in the morning, as students were still coming into my classroom, my principal had come on the loud speaker telling teachers to double check all of our students' backpacks and be sure every single one of them had a legible bus tag and were ready for dismissal. Yes, she does this from time to time, but not at 8:00 a.m. Being one of the largest elementary schools in Gwinnett county (approximately 1970 students) we don't like for students to miss the bus. On Tuesday morning though, I knew the underlying message behind the announcement was, "Do this now, because we may have to dismiss early!"

Thank goodness - thank goodness someone was preparing some type of plan, any type of plan.

As the day went on, I was unaware as to how the weather conditions were growing. My job is to teach, and that's what I did. We learned about fables and fairytales. We learned about opinion writing (discussing what we may wish to change in our State and Country and what would we write to the President). I even told my students that the State of the Union would be on television that night and that maybe they should watch for some ideas <-- how little did I know? I keep thinking about my student who asked if it would be on channel 5 because that's the channel he watches to find out if we have school when the weather is bad.

It was lunch time and while my students were in the cafeteria I finally had a moment. I glanced out the window - snow flurries. I checked my email - the teacher of my night class had cancelled it long before Gwinnett ever decided to. I picked my students up from lunch, the flurries were larger and now coming down harder. Around 1:00 my principal sent an email to find out which teachers lived south of our school. She allowed us to leave. I did not abandon my students. Of the 12 teachers on my grade-level, I am the only one who lives south. So, I left my students in extremely capable hands. My county never closed school early. We were one of the only counties without any students stranded on buses or at schools. Perhaps it was the right decision. Maybe it wasn't. Teachers and staff spent hours and hours trying to get home, some never making it and having to sleep in hotel lobbies or their cars (my 2.5 hours seemed like cake). I commend my principal in this instance. She didn't wait. She looked out for her teachers and staff. The people in charge did not. Maybe it was just a catch 22. Had I waited to leave, I very well could have been stranded too.

Then I watched the news. Our Governor said this was unexpected. Should I alert him to a teacher's alarm schedule? I saw the report when I got ready for school, not to mention the day before. However, what the city of Atlanta's Mayor said hurt the most, claiming that the "interstates are not [his] responsibility". And that my friends is the problem. That's what's wrong with our society, with education, within our schools, and sometimes our students. If it is not our responsibility why should we do anything? Don't look at me, it wasn't my job! It's like when there's a crayon or piece of paper on the floor in my classroom and everyone just looks at it rather than picks it up because "it's not mine". <--- that's exactly what happened in the city of Atlanta.

I, for one, am ashamed. I hope none of my students heard him. I hope my students saw the kindness. In the midst of this crisis what arose was a glimpse of humanity, a glimpse of people helping people and strangers helping strangers. I don't think any of them said, it is not their responsibility. Yes, Mr. Reed, you may be correct, the interstates aren't your responsibility. But you're supposed to be a leader. While you are warm in your North Face jacket being defensive, some of us are helping people whether it is our responsibility or not because you and many other leaders made mistakes. So let's learn about 2 inches and ace the next test. We've failed this one miserably.

Oh, and if any of you would like to come to my classroom I'll be happy to show you how we pick something up whether it was ours or not.

1 for ME.

Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics shared a big truth this morning. Well I don't know if you'd call it a truth, but it wasn't a free teaching product, or a link to a product for sale on TpT, or a lesson plan, or even about anything in her classroom. It was about how when school had started in the fall she felt like maybe she had lost a small piece of herself - that part that we as teachers seem to put first. Aha. I felt so validated reading this. Maybe I am not a bad person. Maybe I am not a bad teacher. Maybe I just, somewhere along the way, lost a little bit of myself.

I've thought a lot about it this year - the stress, the exhaustion, the physical pain. I can't say I used to be calm. I don't know that me and calm ever mixed. However, there were things that made life calmer - walking, swimming, yoga. What happened to that? If I'm to make excuses I can answer that - time, money (gym), etc. We could go around in circles. The truth though is that it is all just a vicious cycle.
So we tell ourselves, maybe tomorrow. Well, tomorrow is here. And if I'm to be honest, I couldn't tell you the last time I've gone for a walk, or swum a lap, and sadly I can tell you the last time I took a yoga class (it's far to long to be mentioned because I know the month and year my friend who taught it moved away). 

Yet, if I took an hour or two out of every afternoon (or even just two or three times a week) to go do one of these things, might I feel better? Maybe. Maybe the 25 pounds I've lost would be for healthy reasons and not other reasons. Might a little bit of my creativity come back to me? Goodness I can only hope!

Gosh I miss my creativity.  I used to say I was going to create so many items for my classroom. Now I look at all of yours and have no clue where to start. Seriously no clue. 


In terms of other years, emotionally, financially, and physically 2013 hasn't been too bad. True there have been some moments that could have been better. There've been a few months where I have still lived paycheck to paycheck (not nearly as many as in the past - and the point is, I'm doing it). In the grand scheme of things, even my dr. visits have been far and few less. Even the doctors visits come with taking care of yourself and being your advocate. I sit there with my paper full of medications and questions - I am not ashamed. Goodness knows we pay enough to insurance these days that we all deserve more than 5 minutes. 

We can use new year's in whatever ways we see fit - December 31st, or birthdays, or school years, or the beginning of football season, or baseball season (this obviously depends in which part of the country you live). It doesn't have to wait for a certain time or just one time a year, but we can't put it off either. The point is we have to take care of ourselves. No one else is going to. You can't put it off til tomorrow or the next day. Before you know it you're almost a month away from turning 32 and still renting a one bedroom apartment ;) 

So my 1 for ME is 1 hour just for me every day - taking a walk, watching my General Hospital (guilty pleasure - love me or leave me), being crafty, spending time with friends, but absolutely nothing school related. It will be a challenge for sure. Maybe y'all can hold me to it. 

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13 in '13

I look forward to this Linky party every year. So without further ado: 

13. Favorite article of clothing:

My Lizzy zip up sweatshirt from Evy's Tree. I actually have two other sweatshirts from her as well. A lot of her items are now sold out, but her spring items are supposed to become available in January. I could live in them. They are so unbelievably soft. 

12. Favorite movie you watched:

The sad thing is that I cannot even remember going to any movies this past year (oh, I did think of one from this past spring - The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy) - 
two weeks ago I took my nieces to see Frozen (cute) and last night I saw Philomena (very good). 

11. Favorite TV series:

My friend got me into this show, and Schmidt absolutely cracks me up. 

My other show is Parenthood. I took a step back from it last season, but I am a big Joel and Julia fan. 

10. Favorite restaurant:

I don't have a favorite restaurant because my appetite comes and goes like nobody's business due to medication. I just eat when I'm hungry. One of the places I have tried this past year, and I am fortunate enough to have one in walking distance from me, is called Farm Burger. 

9. Favorite new thing you tried:

Chopping all of my hair off! I've done this before from time to time, but it had been about three years or so since I had done it to this magnitude. Towards the end of September I just really needed something that was going to make my life a little bit easier. Everything else had been so stressful, I needed a timesaver. Knowing I had the appointment scheduled, I just told K to go for it. She normally doesn't like to because she knows I always try to let my hair get long and never wind up making it, but we did it and everyone loved it. It's already grown out so we'll see what happens next. 

8. Favorite gift you got:

In my family we don't do huge gifts. We never have. If there is something we absolutely need throughout the year, we find a way to make it happen (like my car down below). My mom still asks for wish lists and sometimes I give her one and sometimes I don't. The truth is, there is nothing I need. Chanukah this past year was right at Thanksgiving. A lot of places were having mattress sales, so I happened to start looking (it seemed only right since I had had the same full size mattress since graduating college and moving to NYC 10 years ago). I kinda decided it was time to grow up. So with a little contribution towards a new mattress, I am proud to say I now sleep on a queen size pillow top.

7. Favorite thing you pinned:

I love this quote from Amy Poehler because of all it entails. It is everything I have learned about myself as an educator and person in the past year. Ever since this past January I allowed myself to open up to the idea of coaching and collaboration. Everything that has come after has made me and my days better. I have become a better teacher. I have gained an amazing and true friend. Best of all, I am continually challenged. There is no greater gift. 

6. Favorite blog post:

I couldn't decide between two. The one above I wrote for myself and my friend. I grew a lot last year and this speaks to that. 
The below is about my journey as a teacher and also how I had grown to where I was then. They were both written last school year. I wish I had known then how much I would miss what I had. Those were the good days - in both posts. 

5. Best accomplishment:

Going back to number 7, when my friend L and I began collaborating, we began teaching Science and Social Studies Fridays. For any of you who may have paid attention to the few blog posts I have written this school year, she and I are no longer allowed to work together this year (I feel the need to clarify - she coaches the upper grade levels and things have gotten strict, so our time has been limited). Likewise, in the beginning of the year I was also not given permission to continue with Science and Social Studies Fridays. Again, towards the end of September I went an pleaded my case. I was given a few days to prepare and do one completely on my own (which I knew I could do, though I hadn't in quite a while, let alone at all with this group of students). Despite getting slightly sick towards the end of the day sue to nerves and stress, I did it - and well. I've been allowed ever since to continue doing it and I am so glad!

4. Favorite picture:

This is me - fun and unfiltered. My friend and I had walked 5 miles on a nice spring afternoon and then decided we had earned a Krispy Kreme donut - that one was cookies n' creme filled. 

3. Favorite memory:

The above is professionally, from one of my students at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. That class was truly amazing and I still miss them dearly. 

Below is personally, my first huge purchase of my adult life - a brand new car. I had been driving my mom's old 2002 Acura MDX since I had moved back from NYC. While it had done it's job well for 11 years, the transmission was beginning to go and we would be putting more money into it than it was worth. I picked out a very pretty 2013 Honda CRV. People still tell me she smells brand new, though I don't smell it. I absolutely love her. 

2. Goal for 2014:

Budget. Budget better!

1. One Little Word:

12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. It's a long time. A lot can happen. I used to have the greatest memory. I used to remember everything. Now, even writing this post was difficult. I couldn't remember what movies I had seen, what blog posts I had written. What I do remember are the times that were a little bit hard and the times that were a lot of fun. I remember the people who were there for all of it - the ugly cries, the loud laughter, the coffee, just silent for a minute, the dinners, the occasional hug. 
I don't remember it all. But I'm going to trust in the process, and trust in the people who accept me just as I am. 


I know it's been a while. I'm coming back this week, so I figured I would start by linking up with Farley. Hope everyone had a nice and meaningful Thanksgiving.  

I Tried Carrying the Weight of the World (a photo dump, stitch fix, and randomness)

...but I had to let that go!

Here I sit, inputting grades. Rather, avoiding inputting grades. Tomorrow is a teacher workday. We have reached the end of our 1st 9 weeks. Where did they go? Report cards go home at the end of this week. I can't believe it. Nine weeks. In a little over two months I am 20 pounds lighter, less a lot of tears, down one student (so my total is 25 at present), and down one intern. Shockingly the latter two losses actually have me breathing a tad easier this weekend. It has definitely been a stressful 9 weeks, and this culminating week was no exception.

I had been feeling a pain in the side of my stomach. I didn't say anything about it. Probably because in my heart of hearts I knew what it was. Just in case though, they sent me for a CT scan. I thought I'd make it to school for half a day, but my veins don't like to cooperate so after being poked and prodded and drinking nasty stuff, I took the whole day, came home and tried to rest.

from my mom after I got home from the dr. 

Another fun pick me up was that my Stitch Fix arrived while I was resting. Do you know about Stitch Fix? If not, you should. At first I was skeptical. My friend tried it and after seeing some of the cute items she got, I gave it a go. Here's how it works: 
1. You fill out a style profile
2. You pay a $20 styling fee, which if you keep an item (they send you 5 items) the $20 goes towards what you decide to keep. *if you keep all 5 items you get 25% off. 
3. They mail it to you (with a prepaid shipping return for anything you don't want). You have 3 days to decide. 
4. It's that easy. It comes right to you. You try it on at home. 

So I did one last May and I will say I was not impressed. I wanted to be, but nope, I didn't keep anything. I didn't do it again for a while. My friend did another one right as school was starting and she said "I can't wear this top but you can." She was right. I kept the top and get compliments every time I wear it. So I did one for myself again. 
Here are those pieces that came last September: *disclaimer, my apartment has terrible lighting, so please forgive me*

I loved this top when I saw it. But, I also knew it was okay if it didn't work on me, because it was super perfect for my friend. 

A little too big in the arms for me. I kept it because, I was correct, my friend wanted it. 

I wanted to like this, but it was a tad too tight if I moved my arms. It went back. 


This was cute and I has pinned something just like it. The material, however, was too clingy - and in all the wrong places. It went back. 

 Red wrap dress from 41 Hawthorn. I love this. I was nervous because wrap dresses are sometimes difficult on me but it worked on my smaller self. Kept it.  

This sweatshirt is NOT stitch fix, it is from Evy's Tree and it is the softest thing ever! 
 And now for this past week's (October's) Stitch Fix: 

Loved this, though I did go back and forth, but I kept it. I even wore it to school on Friday with jeans, and had to be somewhere nice for dinner and dressed it with nicer shoes. 

I wasn't so sure about this dress at first, especially since it is October and it is a tank top dress. However, after my medical stuff and getting the news that I will have some medication to make me hot, so I went with the dress. Kept it. 

I wanted to like this. I did like it. I asked for an aztec print cardigan. BUT - it's acrylic = itchy. It's heavy = bulky. Unfortunately it's October here in Atlanta and some days are still in the 80's. I couldn't justify something this heavy right now. I did ask them to try again but lighter weight. 

If you like some of what you see, you should give it a try (I'm not being paid to say this). It gets better with each one, but you are not committed to any length of time or any amount of "fixes".

And as far as the rest of school and life goes, I'm grateful for coworkers who provide these reminders. Here's to a better 9 weeks ahead. They'll definitely be more stylish.

Lessons Learned
I'm not perfect. It's okay. 
Not everything gets finished every day. It's okay. 
There are bad days and good days. 
Things could be worse. 
It's the friends who love you at your worst that are everything. Honor them. Keep them. Appreciate them. 
At least you can look good every day, and if not - LAUGH.