The one written through song lyrics

birthday flowers from my Awesome Coworker

Today was hard. I didn't think it would be this hard. I thought I had made it through the hard part - I had seen my kids off, I had taken care of them, I had moved everything out of my classroom and back home, I had said (or written) what I felt I needed to to my Awesome Coworker(s). However, apparently nothing could have prepared me for how emotionally drained I would feel by 2:30 this afternoon.

Heart-shaped Valentine Donuts for my 15 teammates.

It's so hard to say goodbye, but my wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to, your dreams stay big and your worries stay small. When the road looks rough ahead
And you're miles and miles From your nice warm bed just remember what your old pal said
you've got a friend in me, when you're down and troubled, and you need a helping hand Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. We are the lucky ones, some people never get to do all we got to do. Now and forever, I will always think of you. Will you remember me? Don’t let your life pass you by Weep not for the memories. I've heard it said That people come into our lives for a reason Bringing something we must learn And we are led To those who help us most to grow If we let them And we help them in return Well, I don't know if I believe that's true But I know I'm who I am today Because I knew you...

Like a comet pulled from orbit As it passes a sun Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good

It well may be That we will never meet again In this lifetime So let me say before we part So much of me Is made of what I learned from you You'll be with me Like a handprint on my heart And now whatever way our stories end I know you have re-written mine By being my friend...

I will miss them more than words can say.


A Handmade Classroom, Part 2

Another item from my classroom people were asking about was my rocking chair. I am so happy to share about this. My rocking chair received comments whenever someone new came into my classroom. Even with just two weeks left of school when all of the 1st grade broke up into different groups for the Science Fair I had one of my Awesome Coworker's students in my room and the first thing she said when she walked in was, "You're rocking chair is so pretty!"

Okay well, I have a confession: I'd love to be able to take credit for this wonderful chair, but the credit goes to my mom. I had the white rocking chair. It had lived with me on the balcony of my apartment. I got it on sale the end of one summer at Lowe's. When I finally got my teaching job this past fall my mom asked if I wanted her to paint the chair. Of course I did! If I haven't impressed you with any of my art yet, then you need to at least be prepared to be impressed with my mom. I don't have anything on my mom!

She's very methodical

I mean who would've thought to get a stencil/ruler thingy like that? (excuse Dancing with the Stars in the background)

I told her I wanted it to be colorful, but not so in your face rainbow. I loved the idea of the spindles being crayons. Then just some simple circles so it wasn't too busy. The back was left blank except for a Dr. Seuss quote that I chose (though of course it was hard to narrow it down). I Hope you feel inspired. :)


Summer Reading List - Blog Hop

I interrupt the Handmade Classroom posts to bring you this great blog hop. Teaching Happily Ever After beat me to this one because I definitely wanted to do something like this since I already started doing some of my reading last night. Soooo, what's on your summer reading list? Here's mine, but be sure to hop around and check out some of these great others.


The Daily 5 and The Cafe books (read both of them as part of professional learning but now really want to go back through them)

Teaching with Love & Logic

The Excellent 11

Guided Math

Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market

and just for fun:

The Help

The Book Thief


A Handmade Classroom

I know many of you are already thinking about how you want your room to look next year. 
I'm not quite there. Mainly because I don't know what or where my room will be. As far as how I want it to look, I have a pretty good idea because I LOVED my room this year. I didn't love the actual room (it was a trailer), but everything in it looked good (and that's not just me saying so, that was everyone who came in it - my AP, my coworkers, etc). It felt cozy, and homey, and except for maybe lack of space I tried to keep it from feeling cluttered. One of the ways I did this was I rarely used store bought products. Yes, I had pocket charts, but other than that, anything hanging was from a craft show or a store online, or an artist I know, or a creation of my own hands. I'll post a few pictures, you can let me know what you want to know more about and I'll do my best. Then today I'll share with you how to create 'The Rules' canvas everyone was asking about from yesterday's post.   

Okay, so onto 'The Rules' - way back in October when I made them I wrote about them on my other blog. So, these real artsy fartsy people who mean big business with their scrapbooking materials own the most amazing supplies like Cricuts and Silhouettes. Well I am here to say that I think I am pretty artsy fartsy. Also, I take pride in my scrapbooking. However, I just have never been able to afford those awesome gadgets. Oh my gosh could you imagine the possibilities for my classroom then? Anyways, I digress. If you want to do it like theirs and actually use a stencil for the words and paint around it, then go check out the link I gave you there cause I link to the Master. But when you get a week's notice for a job and to set everything up you don't have that kind of time. What you do have is a teacher's salary. Who's with me? That's what I thought. 

I had a canvas lying around (see I told you I'm artsy, who just has that lying around?). Even if you don't, make Hobby Lobby or Michael's your friend. They always have sales and a 40% off coupon. Also from my scrapbooking I had a bunch of letter stickers, and it just so happened that I knew I was going to stick with a blue and green kind of color thing going on in terms of baskets and stuff. 

First, I had this "old school" - no really, double click on the pick to get a close up - I'm talking like school from years ago looking papers. Some of it is from a scrapbook line by Jenni Bowlin. I got mine at Archiver's (that store is like a trap, don't say I didn't warn you!), an online resource for some great stuff is Two Peas in a Bucket. Now again, Hobby Lobby and Michael's or wherever it is you prefer are just as good (I just like to have variety, especially over the summer). I used scrapbook adhesive and maybe even some spray mount (Elmer's makes some, just know this stuff is sticky, and you should maybe use it outdoors) - there is no wrong or right here- to adhere the background paper. 

Next, I started with my words. I kind of planned out my words so that I knew I had enough of one color for that word. You can see in some I didn't mind mixing upper and lowercase. After each word I used stickers or embellishments to create a line or divider under each word so that it had some definition. 

I added a few personal touches. I had a sticker that had 'date,' so I put 10/4/10 because that was the day my job started and it will be there forever. I even covered that with a clear tile piece (you can use a product called Dimensional Magic for that). 

For the finishing touches, instead of trimming the paper off the edges, I sanded it. I feel that this makes it look a little more loved and not so maybe store bought. I inked the edges of the canvas so they weren't plain white. In hindsight I maybe would have used a little acrylic, cause the ink got all over my fingers. When everything was dry, I took it outside and added a few coats of a spray coating. So even now a few stickers don't stick down perfectly but I know they aren't going anywhere. 

Let me know if you have more questions and if you make one, I would love to see it!

My Goodbye Speech

 180 days of school. I was with them for 135 days. Yesterday on the final day I had eight students absent for a total of 11 present. One of my boys looked at me and said, "we're not going to learn anything today?!" At that point it was 1:00. So I looked at him and said, "quick, what's 8+2?" It took him longer than it should have, so I smiled and said, "I guess you need to learn that fact!" He laughed. 

After having them help me clean, and eating lunch in the room while watching a movie and giving them a bunch of stuff that I didn't want to take home with me we had rolled up one of the carpets and they all sat down on it. Then I began: 

"You all were my very first class of my own. I taught other classes but there was always another teacher there. You were the first class where it was just you and me and for that you all will always hold a very special place in my heart. I said this to you a lot before but even if you learned nothing else in this room, I hope you learned how to treat people. You treat people kindly, you speak to them kindly. You treat people with respect. (those were all really big things in my classroom and they always will be, especially within the population I teach). You treat people the way you want to be treated, because if you can't do that it won't get you very far in life. It doesn't matter how much you do or don't know, but you have to be kind and have manners -that will take you so much farther in life."

I continued to tell them that, "almost all of you read above first-grade level, even at a second or third-grade level. That is not just because I was your teacher, it's because you worked hard. Don't lose it over the summer. Read. Practice math. Be ready for the fall. You all are very smart people and can do anything as long as you try!"

Our school then has a tradition where the 5th graders have a parade through the halls, a bunch of kids get teary from there until dismissal. Then bus call begins and on the final load all the teachers walk their last load of kids out and wave goodbye to the buses. Of course the first grade teachers were the ones singing, "nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, good-bye!"

Many of my feelings are like what Oprah said in her final episode just two days earlier:  

What I knew for sure from this experience with you is that we are all called. Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. 
In every way, in every day, you are showing people exactly who you are. You're letting your life speak for you.
[People] want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?' [They want to feel validated]. Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. 'I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.'"

And the perfect culmination was this email I received from a parent, which is rare in a school like mine:
Well Ms.Cohn, its finally the end of this school year. I want to take the time to say how honored I am to have such a wonderful teacher 
for my daughter. This was such a good year for her and I'm so proud of all her accomplishment. You have taught her to believe herself
and so much more. Once again Thank You!! I wish you all the best towards the future and have a great summer!!!!! Thanks for ALL your 
Best Regards,


The one with a little bit of everything...

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl Jung 

If you saw my post from Tuesday you know I was already on a little bit of a high from having received the most heartfelt gift from my students and two coworkers of mine. 

“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” Lilly Tomlin 

Yesterday morning, my awesome coworker and I (I hope by now you've put together that "my awesome coworker" is the same person each time I refer to her) took our classes outside together to the field. She had never seen the Mentos geyser experiment. I decided it was about time she did. Have you seen it. If not and you still have some days of school left, go get yourself some 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke and some Mint Mentos. The kids absolutely loved it. In fact the picture below is from last year when I did it with my third-graders since my awesome coworker didn't get a picture of the geyser this year, instead she got pictures of our kids faces, which believe me, are priceless!

Then yesterday afternoon I decided to put my kids to work - peeling the paper off of crayons! That' right, you heard me correctly. I was down to the last little bit of crayons and as I move everything back into my house I really didn't want a bunch of used, dirty, germy, and grimy crayons sitting around all summer. Aren't they beautiful?

I told my kids they would see them again, but in a different shape. Well you'll have to excuse the pumpkins (though I think they are really cute) it's the only silicone baking mold I had that I didn't mind using (not that it has to be silicone). My kids are going to be so excited tomorrow. (I baked them at 300 for till melted then popped them out once completely cooled). 

“Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.”  Chinese proverb 

Then today I was published! I knew this was going to happen but I kept quiet about it until it did. I was published on The Math Learning Center's blog (I hope you'll stop over there to see). I was published in a local paper earlier in the year around the holidays for "the gift of giving" that took place within my classroom walls. I'll have to post about that. However, this article on the MLC could not have occurred at a better time. What a wonderful way to culminate the school year.

I'm sure there is more I am leaving out, but tomorrow is our last day of school. I am hoping I can make it through the day. It's been a busy week of packing and report cards and paperwork and more eligibility meetings and heat in the 90s and just pure exhaustion. I haven't had time to focus on how bittersweet the goodbyes will be. I'm so glad my teaching friends/coworkers and my students have been able to have so much fun along the way. 


These Days

Budget cuts. Not enough points. Inadequate funding. These are all words that no teacher wishes to hear, and yet unfortunately they are all words that many teachers have grown too accustomed to hearing.

This wasn't always the case. I can remember a time not so long ago when if you wanted to become a teacher it was a welcomed decision and blessing. Teachers were needed and wanted. Now it feels as though there are too many of us and rather than learning from one another we're competing with one another for the job. Rather than working as a team for the sake of our children, it's who can find the job as close to when school starts as possible so you can have that full-year contract.

Believe me I know. I entered the teaching field four years ago, this coming fall will be my fifth. I have worked my way up and I still do not have a contract for this coming fall. I began as a kindergarten assistant in a private school for two years, stopped to student teach and then could never get back in. Teaching was at it's lowest. So I began subbing. I even long-term subbed, at the same school where I student taught. Nothing. In fact I don't know what the summers are like these days without job searching. Last summer I looked out of state (even though 5 years ago I moved back here to be home). This past October I was hired. Yes, we built it up as a good thing, there were overcrowded classes and now the class sizes would be smaller. By having me as another teacher there the students were benefitting. But was it really fair to them? Should they have had to go through that switch after nine weeks of school? Should they have had to have gotten used to a teacher to only have to relearn the ways of a new one? Should those teachers have had to have grown attached and developed a relationship with those students only to have to hand them over to a brand new teacher they didn't know? 

And now as the year comes to a close my students have had to adjust to the fact that their first-grade teacher they have grown so attached to will not be there in the fall to watch them flourish, to really see just how much they know! I have my students' best interests at heart, and I know my principal does too. Yet, somehow it gets lost beyond there and that just might be where the cuts need to be mended back together.

**if you would like to read more about this, please head over to Teaching Blog Addict to see what others are saying.


The MOST Important Thing

Before I go on with the rest of the topic at hand, I do have to share a few of the finished products from yesterday's painting. They came out great!

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand."

If you've paid attention to my blog, you may have noticed that in between some of the fun and creative posts, every so often there's some sweet and reflective posts. Today is one of those. 

Ever since I saw this post at First Grade a la Carte! using the basic idea of The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown (which, if you have not read it for yourself or to your students, you must go find it before the end of the year and do so!) I have been in a reflective mode about the most important thing about first grade. This book has long been one of my favorites. In fact I have used it for a couple of different lessons throughout the year. Tomorrow, since we have been doing little creative projects each day this week (go here to see yesterday's paintings, and today we started making homemade Shrinky Dinks, remember those?) I believe I will have them complete the page from First Grade a la Carte! and compile a book. 

However, if you remember from previous posts here and here as of now I will not be back at my school next year because of the way the hiring worked this school year and that two of my amazing coworkers had asked to borrow my entire class yesterday morning. Well, with three classes in the know of what was happening I was utterly impressed at the secret keeping that took place.

Today I was gifted with this:

They did this with my kids, had them each write why they love me, took the most adorable pictures of them, collaged it all with some quotes, and framed it. This is beyond anything I could have imagined. Yes, when I was an assistant in a private school we had room moms and they did wonderful things for us at the holidays and the end of the year. Even in the 2007-2008 the teacher I worked with, as her assistant took an art project I did with the kids and framed it for me as my end of the year gift. On the back of the frame each child wrote what they would miss about me. 

What I received today though was made for me from the hearts and idea of two teachers who I teach with on a team, but not with in a classroom. We support one another throughout the days and weeks, but we are not in one another's rooms. However, without them, I don't know if I would make it through. And it is true, they know my class best (it is even their names in my sub plans in case of an emergency saying exactly that). But what teachers actually take the time out of their days during the last week of school to do this? I have never been a part of something like this and while I am sad to leave it behind the fact that I got to experience it and be a part of it is perhaps the most important thing. 

from top going clockwise: "I like Ms. Cohn because she is cool and she is smart, but the thing she is really good at is teaching"; "I love Ms. Cohn because she takes us outside"; "I love Ms. Cohn because she goes crazy."; I like Ms. Cohn because she gives us math."

It's great to see what each child wrote, because those are the most important things to them. We never know how what we do will touch a child and affect them. 

Remember each day never to underestimate the most important things we do, sometimes without knowing it, whether it's for a coworker, a child, or a family member, and sometimes if we're really lucky we're blessed to experience the friendship as well. 


Kids CAN Kandinsky!

 How many times have we passed by a picture or poster of this Kandinsky piece?
Well I think this is such a great piece of art for kids to try to create. Now I know what some of you are thinking, geez lady, you're not the first one with this idea! I know! But, here's the thing, when do we ever have the time in the midst of our day-to-day teaching and assessing to truly provide the appropriate time for an art project? Today was the day. 

From the minute I displayed this image from my projector onto the whiteboard my kids thought it was the coolest thing (my class loves art). So once I provided the paper we did a little origami type folding to get twelve boxes on everyone's paper. I then explained that no square looked the same, and no circle was perfect. I did an example by drawing lightly with a pencil on mine to fill in two boxes. Then I set them free. You can see how their circles looked as some of them began to paint in these pictures: 

here are more as they progressed, before they began painting I explained the the same color cannot touch. 


this project took the whole afternoon and it was so relaxing in my room (for the most part, or maybe it had to do with the fact that 5 kids were absent) ;)

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