Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snow and the treadmill of the holiday season

Today was the first real snow of the season up here in Massachusetts. I've decided that snow makes people crazy, whether it is waiting for the car to heat up/defreeze or children acting like they have never seen snow before. Every few minutes today it was like, "It's snowing!" My response: "Yes!!!! It is winter and we live in Massachusetts…now let's move on." It's extremely distracting and it doesn't help that I am missing blinds in my room so can't even cover up the windows. 

However, it is also inspiring. My students are starting a writing project called "If I was stuck in a snow globe." They are so excited about it! They are going to write a first person narrative in which they describe how they got into the snow globe and how they are to escape, and everything in between. Using figurative language, they are going to try to make me want to read more! Some of my students even spent some of their indoor recess brainstorming and starting their rough drafts. It's good to see them so excited about school!

In other news, I feel like this November and December has been like a treadmill. When one thing finishes, another thing begins. First it was my observation, then it was conferences, then a bunch of assessments, then report cards, and meanwhile there are birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I feel like I have not even been able to start thinking about Christmas and the holiday season because I can't keep up. However, I did do my Christmas shopping online (even though two of my packages went missing and I spent too much money). I have incorporated listening to Christmas music while I do my daily lesson planning. 

There is so much to do in the next week and a half. However, next week students are not going to be focused on school because they'll be thinking about winter break. 

It's a crazy time of the year, but I'm trying to incorporate activities into my day that are not related to school: reading, watching a tv show, blogging, and this weekend I'm going snowboarding!  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Fever

Hello faithful followers,
I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving and are getting ready for Christmas. The last 2 weeks have been the hardest for me in 5th grade, ending in a breakdown in the principal's office today. Last week, the students were all focused on Thanksgiving and therefore a little rowdy. This week, coming back from Thanksgiving, I thought they would be back into school mode, but I was wrong! I feel like the atmosphere in my classroom has been really off this week. In some ways, I feel like we are back to how things were in September. I have just been more on edge with my students recently and frustrated that it is December and I still have to go through what a quiet classroom looks like. I'm hopeful that eventually I can maintain a quiet classroom.

In the meantime, it is time to reestablish routines and set my expectations higher than I have. It came to my attention today that some students have been disrespectful and inattentive. They figure that if they don't raise their hands, I will not call on them. This is something I can change easily, by calling on people randomly and having students repeat what other students say. I am the type of person that usually ignores people when they are disrespectful, but I can't ignore it anymore. I wrote it off as holiday fever and being unmotivated, but it is more than that. It is time to teach them how to talk to adults and how to be respectful, even when they do not want to do something. This is a skill that they need to have in life.  I need to be more stern with my students and let them get away with nothing. I am still learning how to be an authority figure. Please pray that I have regain patience and consistency with my students.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Thanksgiving is one of my two favorite holidays of the year (the other being Christmas Eve). I think this is partially because it is more low key than other holidays and includes cooking and baking! More importantly though, it is a time to reflect on the gifts God has given me. I have now been graduated for 6 months, and even though post grad life in a lot of ways has been hard: being further than 10 feet away from my best friends, being in a long-distance relationship, paying bills and rent and having a stressful job, I am still so thankful because I have friends and family who support me, encourage me, and genuinely care for me.

I know that even in the midst of a lot of work, my mom will still talk to me on the phone. When I'm having a bad day, I know that my conversation with Wes that night will end the day on a high note. I know that my apartment mates will listen to story after story about my students. God gives us relationships as a gift and for this I am so thankful. I am also thankful that I got a job right out of college and that it is a job that I enjoy (most days)! I get the opportunity to know kids and be a role model for them. I get to love them day after day. They are fun to be around and never fail to make me laugh. Working with children can be so rewarding. I also work with a supportive staff, who understands that I am not a perfect teacher and still have a long way to go this year (and they are there to help me be a better teacher).

Lastly, but most importantly, I am thankful for a Savior that is ALWAYS with me and loves me unconditionally, even when I mess up. His mercy is new every day and for this I am so grateful. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)    

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


When I was younger, I asked "how can people's cars get so dirty?" "why don't you just bring in your coffee cup and the McDonalds bag on the floor?" Now I understand. This whole week (I realize it's only Wednesday) I have gotten to school around 7:15 and gotten home between 5-6 pm. That's about 10 hours at school every day (+what I do at home in terms of grading and planning). Mind you, the school day is only 6 hours. My car is a mess, my bedroom is a mess, and my classroom is a mess.  Now, I've never been a "clean freak" but usually I have my stuff slightly organized (my parents might disagree with me regarding my room at home). Sometimes I am a little messy, but I can find everything. Today I'm past that point. I just have no energy to clean up after a full day of teaching and planning.

Pray that I can find the motivation to stick it out just 4 1/2 more school days before Thanksgiving Break (which I am much looking forward to and I know my students are looking forward to). I have to administer 2 tests, grade a project (and other work), and hold 4 parent-teacher conferences in the next week. It's going to be busy! I am however mixing it up with a few fun activities: game night at one of my co-worker's house and a "fall feast" at another friend's house.

I really am starting to enjoy teaching and getting to know my students. I also have had 4 good parent-teacher conferences in the last week. I am thankful for my 4th grade supervising practitioner (from student teaching) who allowed me to sit in on conferences. It helped me know what to expect.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

All nighters and Ice Cream

Last night, with my youth group, we had an all night event. We left after school (aka after my personal day) and drove to Maine. There we saw a minor league hockey game, heard a speaker, I got to pray with some girls in the youth group who came to Christ, then we drove some more, went roller skating, drove even more and then had an open gym where my team dominated in soccer! Finally we got home at 8:30 this morning, resulting in me taking a 5 hour "morning hibernation." Here is a picture of the shirt logo for the night: "Play Drive Sleep Repeat."

What stood out to me though on the trip was that people naturally yearn for a relationship with Jesus Christ, our savior. The two girls who I got to pray with had always known about God, but never knew God's grace and forgiveness. The smiles on their faces and the support of the staff at Word of Life proved that God is at work. Jesus died not just because the religious leaders of the day hated him, but because we deserved death for our sins and Jesus said (paraphrased by me) "I will take the punishment for them so that they can have this gift of life and grace. THAT is how much I love them." God loves unconditionally. This was the message the kids took with them.

Also, in our car, which was me and 4 junior high girls, the songs that got the biggest reactions from the girls were the worship songs we played. We played White Flag and Our God about 20 times each. It was great to see them excited about worship music. The songs that were chosen had the theme of nothing being able to separate us from God, which I thought was interesting. Going back to the speaker: the message was about Jesus's mercy, which ties in nicely to this idea of nothing being able to separate us. Jesus closes the gaps we create between God and ourselves (aka sin) by his mercy, making it impossible for sin to separate us from the love of God.

The second part of this blog is about ice cream! Today there was a fundraiser for the 5th graders at this really good ice cream place in downtown Danvers. My students got to work behind the counter at the cash register and by scooping ice cream. It was so cute to see them behind the counter working in their matching Great Oak School shirts. They were excited to see me and I was excited to see them. :-) I love my students. I also got to meet my twins' mom who responded to me introducing myself as, "You're their teachers? I didn't expect you to be so…young!" Welcome to my life as a 22 year old teacher. (Also, I looked like a bum when I met this parent in my T-shirt, jeans, and my "tired from lack of sleep" face…cool)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Life is Good

We had a 3 day weekend last week. It was much needed after my stressful last week, leading up to my observation. I went to Northern Virginia to spend time with one of my favorite people. We spent time going to the falls that Falls Church is named after. It was really beautiful and we got to see extreme whitewater kayaking through rapids. We also got to partake in a great game of catch with the frisbee and had a nice little picnic under a tree. :-)

Coming back after a long weekend is always a little stressful because so quickly students get out of their routine, but the week was pretty good! I finally feel like things are starting to flow naturally and I have control of the class (although they still have their days when they are so chatty). The substitute today (I had a meeting) said my class was great! Best compliment ever! Hopefully my sub tomorrow (taking a personal day) will say the same.
In other news, two of the students in my class have crushes on each other, so that is a total mess. They are my two brightest students and when the hormones kick in, they act silly, unfocused, and slightly annoying. They stop being able to do simple math and forget how to sit properly in school. Ugh. I do not miss being at the awkward 5-10 grade stage. Later in the year, they will watch "the movie." All I can say is that I am glad I am in my twenties and living a good, fulfilling life.

My youth group is going to an all night event tomorrow in Maine and I am chaperoning! I am very excited to be able to connect with the youth at a new level.

Finally, I wanted to put a plug in for Compassion International. Yesterday, I made the decision to "adopt" (aka become a sponsor for) a second child. Franchesca, my first child of 2 years, is 11 and from Nicaragua, and my second child is Sarai. She is 7 and from Mexico.  I think that it is important to tithe regularly, and I can't think of a better way to give back some of God's financial gift to me than by supporting young girls living in poverty and building relationships with them.  We lose track of how fortunate we are in the U.S. where in so many other places, children go to sleep hungry.  Supporting Compassion is also a way for me to put to use my Spanish. I write these two girls letters in both English and Spanish, and love receiving letters in their native language because I can understand them!

Please be praying for Franchesca and Sarai (and maybe even support your own Compassion child).

Have a wonderful weekend!

P.S. The word "wicked" is becoming part of my vocabulary slowly, such as "wicked stressful"

Friday, November 8, 2013

My observation

I had my first formal observation yesterday. It was an ELA (Reading) lesson on using the text to answer comprehension questions. It went well. My class was dead silent! It was incredible (I could basically hear myself echo)

The lesson itself went well, but as always, there is room for improvement. I was told to do more with my objectives (as in tell the students what they are at the beginning and review them at the end) and to DEFINITELY have a closing/summation of my lesson. I apparently circulate well and did a good job modeling how to answer the questions (but should have included a visual aid).

I realized that all of the things Gordon made us do on our lesson plans, that I sometimes did not fully do (or made something up for) are actually valuable concepts that principals are looking for, like having a closing, using the Universal Design for Learning, and making accommodations/modifications for different types of learners. *If any current Gordon students read this, make sure you take the time to figure out ways to accommodate and support the universal needs of your students.

Thank you for your prayers and hopefully all can go up from here. Conferences start next week, so onward I go in my teaching career and crazy life :)

P.S. I also got my staff ID card (which hopefully I left at school…) so now I'm official!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I am getting observed on Thursday. Usually when I got observed by my Gordon professors, I wouldn't get nervous. Now that I'm the only teacher in the room and my principal is doing a "formal observation" to evaluate me, I'm a little more intimidated. Other teachers have added to this stress telling me everything the principal will be looking for: student engagement, lesson planning, accommodating for the needs of all types of learners, and how my classroom is set up. My mentor came into my classroom after school and we spent about 2 hours reorganizing my room. I like it! I have a reading corner, my materials section is labeled and I freed up some board space. Here is a picture of my reading corner. Now all of my ELA (reading) stuff is together and all my math stuff is together.

Pray that my evaluation goes well on Thursday. Luckily, I have a great weekend planned spending time with Wes in DC, so once Friday comes, it is free sailing…except for parent teacher conferences starting next week.

Side note: One of my students moved today, and 2 more are moving before 2014. I'll be down to 19 next semester, unless a new student comes to our school.

Monday, November 4, 2013

I love Mondays

Mondays are great! I think I wrote about them once before, but I used to hate Mondays. Now, they are my favorite day of the school week. I feel refreshed after the weekend, and my kids are usually pretty well behaved on Mondays. The day goes by quickly, and I don't usually have meetings after school, so can spend as much or as little time as I want in my classroom after school. I left school today thinking, "Wow! I love days like this. It makes me happy I am a teacher."

On Thursday I get observed for my first formal evaluation. Please pray it goes well. I'm nervous considering that my class is only starting to behave (as of the last week or two) and now the principal will be in my classroom for an extended amount of time. She has very high expectations, which is good, but also makes me nervous. The other teachers have been giving me hints on how to impress her though, so we'll see what happens.

I am attaching a short article for you who have some extra time. We were given this article at my last OTAGS (Off to a Great Start aka the first year mentorship program in my district) meeting. It is scarily accurate about how I emotionally feel at this time of the year. Apparently it is the cycle that all teachers go through during the year (according to my 5th grade team who says they still go through these stages)

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Notes of encouragement from my students

Today was a long, but actually really good day. Library got cancelled, which meant I was with my students for 5 1/2 hours. However, they listened to me today and I feel like they are really starting to understand my expectations. At recess a few of my students wrote me notes of encouragement on the board. They made my day! Knowing that my kids like me helps motivate me to keep working with them and pushing them to their full potentials.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Outside of school

Happy Monday everyone!
This post shockingly is not about school, but about life and especially about life on the weekends. In August I moved up to Massachusetts. Yes, I went to school up here, but "going home" was always talking about NJ. I still have not made the full transition to calling MA my home and I sometimes still refer to going home as to NJ, but I am so happy to be living in Massachusetts. It is approaching winter up here, but it has been a beautiful fall:

This past weekend I was able to visit with some family at the Harvard v. Princeton football game. It was fun to meet up with them and watch Princeton defeat Harvard in a triple overtime (when I was little I wanted to go to Princeton). I also noticed some similarities between my dad and his brothers which I had not noticed before. 

I also have been to DC a few times to visit a few of my favorite people, and boy was it weird during the government shut out. Totally deserted.

I've also taken on some alternate personas at the youth group I help at every week. I love being able to just hang out with teenagers and not have to worry about disciplining them but just getting to know them. We had a fun youth leaders dinner a few weeks ago where we just enjoyed the company of other adults with a common mission: to love kids and show them who God is.

I have also gone on a few walks to catch up with friends, gone out with new friends from work, gone to the gym to release stress, watched a few movies, and eaten lots of pizza. Monday nights there is this place down the street that has "beat the clock" prices meaning if you call at 4:10 your large cheese pizza is $4.10. BEST DEAL EVER! Monday night is pizza night in our apartment. It is fun to have dinner with my two apartment mates, who I am enjoying getting to know. We have had many deep conversations and funny conversations over food. It's great!

Overall, I can't complain. I have a great support system up here among my friends, church family, co workers, and even through the long phone calls I have with my family and Wes. This week has been hard, but I know that God is always with me and I have people who love and care about me. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Please Pray

Today I was awoken at 5:30am by a phone call. It said "School will be closed today for an ongoing police investigation." I was very confused, but glad for a day off I suppose. A few hours later, I came to find out that school was cancelled because a teacher at the high school in my district was murdered yesterday at the high school (the number one suspect is a 14 year old boy). When something like this or like Newtown happens, people think "That would never happen here." Sure enough, it does. We live in a broken world full of sin, tragedies, anger, and unnecessary deaths. Please pray for the Danvers School District and the family of Colleen Ritzer.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Bells, Timers, Books, and Geography

I had to cave and buy a bell for my room to get the students' attention. They still really like to talk, so I thought an instrument sound would be better than me raising my voice. Today was day 1 of using it. Some kids thought it was hilarious that our class is so loud that I needed to buy a bell and others were like "oh man! we are really too loud. she had to buy a BELL to get our attention." Some students find it irritating and some want to test my musical abilities to play Jingle Bells on the bell (I got the "jingle bells, jingle bells" part down). We'll see if they respond to it tomorrow.

I also have gotten a timer. I now time the students when they are in transition or they start getting rowdy. I time them for each subject to see how quickly they can quiet down. This actually has worked some. They like the competition of "beating the clock." My students see me look at the clock and say, "Guys, she's timing us!" We're on day 2 of that strategy.

The noise meter has not been super successful. If you don't know what I'm talking about see entry entitled "Friendly Competition." Most days we stay on the 3rd level (chatty), so no one gets stickers. Keeping the noise level down so we can actually get work done remains to be the hardest thing about being a first year teacher.

However, I really like the girls in my class. They are wonderful! They draw me pictures and say "hi" to me when they see me outside of class (like when I pick them up after lunch). They also listen (for the most part).

Now for the books. I LOVE 5th grade books. I have started reading some of the books my students are reading: Hoot, Chasing Vermeer, The Penderwicks, Out of my Mind, and now The Lightning Thief. Each week my students write journal entries to me about the books they're reading. I love seeing what books they choose. I do have a problem getting them ALL to write to me though. In addition to their free choice book, we have started a class book, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This was a book I enjoyed when I was about that age. However, even though it is at a 4.7 reading level (so students in the 7th month of 4th grade should be able to read it), I was informed that it probably is too hard for some of my students. Part of my students' responsibility is choosing "just right" books, which apparently I need to work on too (choosing just right books for them). Figuring out how to differentiate lessons and tasks is another thing I am figuring out and have a long ways to go.

One more thing: I showed this video today and my kids asked me if the guy was on drugs/drinking and driving...

Thank you for reading. I'll try to get pictures or something up soon. Pray for continued patience and perseverance for me.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Some samples of student writing

My students just finished a project in which they wrote memoirs. Some of them came out really well! I was very impressed. Others could have tried harder and focused more. The hardest part of writing for the students is revision because once they finish typing their work, they think that spell check is the only thing they need to do in order to edit and revise.

Here are some lines from the really good memoirs:
"I was overlooking the stunning panorama of red and brown volcanic rocks, glistening pools, and crystal clear waterfalls."
"People in ragged clothes were sitting on large granite slabs"
"I threw my Reeboks on and off we went"
"He took a picture of me holding the chubby, slimy, disgusting, and humongous fish"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New Bulletin Board

I put up a new bulletin board for writing. Currently my students are finishing their memoirs (writing in lots of details about a specific memory) and starting a creative project in which they are writing their own tall tale (having a hero with exaggerated features save the day). I love reading what my students come up with because many times their ideas are great and funny!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

List of Thoughts

-I've been in school over a month! My students are starting to realize that they need to be quiet: YAY!

-Many people over the past month have assumed I want to go by Beth. Sorry, that is my mom. I would like to be known as Bethany (or Bot in casual settings) :-)

-We had a meeting on students who struggled to meet the fall benchmarks. The majority of my class are slightly struggling readers. I also have a good amount of students who are getting extra services for math

-I now have help, which I complained about not having before. Now that everyone has the data and their schedules work out, I have the special ed teachers in 3 times a week, the Title I math teachers in 2-3 times a week, the reading specialist in a couple times, and the ESL teacher in a few times a week. It is hard to keep track of.

-I love working with the other 2 5th grade teachers. We spend more time laughing than actually planning

-My students, although talkative and not great listeners, make me laugh every day. Usually something I say sets them off into a stream of jokes. For example, the other day I said "crumb" instead of "crime," so now bread crumbs are criminals and deserve to go to jail. Also, I have a rule that when I pick partners, the students have to have straight faces (so they don't make their partner feel bad if they don't actually want to work with that person). This has turned into a student announcing to have straight faces while walking down the hall. Not sure how that interpretation happened.

-Even though I am exhausted by the weekend, I enjoy going to school and am starting to roll with the punches more
I am especially excited for this coming weekend because it's a 3 day weekend and I'm going to visit some great people in D.C. :-)

-Tonight is back to school/open house night. Pray that it goes well.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Trends seem to hit hard. A few years ago it was the silly bands. When I was little it was Tomogachis. These days, there are three trends: rainbow loom bracelets, which are rubber band bracelets that you can make using a pick and "loom." They increasingly become a distraction to the kids as they make more and more of them. They have all sorts of patterns. Here is an article on them if you are interested: http://www.fastcompany.com/3016092/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/how-a-diy-dad-took-the-toy-world-by-storm-with-rainbow-loo

The second trend is singing, "What does the fox say?" song. Here is a youtube link to that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jofNR_WkoCE Throughout the day I hear students going "ring ding ding da da ding ding ding..."

The third trend is reading "graphic novels" that are novels written like comics. I really don't like these because I feel like they are confusing and not "good writing." However, my kids like them and can follow the plot more easily than I can. I just want them to read more and love reading!  (*Some other popular series are the Percy Jackson series and the Warriors series)

My students are amazed when I know what these things are. I think this is hilarious because they think I don't know anything about their culture (even though I'm only 12 years older) because I'm a teacher.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Friendly competition

So it has been an interesting week in 5th grade. In the past week I have gotten a new student, a student has had to leave the room (he threw a fit so the principal intervened), a student in my class got suspended, and I have found a plan that works for keeping my class quiet! The secret? A little friendly competition and stickers. Each of the 5 table groups has a clothes pin. On the board there is a chart that monitors noise level: "Good working level" "Focused with a little buzz" "Chatty" "Noisy" and "Way too noisy." If the group is able to keep their clothes pin in the top two levels, they get a sticker at the end of the day. It's the little things that count. So far, mornings are great under this plan, but usually things unravel the last hour of the day. Regardless, my mornings are productive (and in terms of preparing students for the MCAS test in the spring, the morning is more important). I can't complain this week! Now I just have to pray that this plan continues to work.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Today was a great day! My students were listening and there were fewer interruptions than normal. I did have to make a phone call home, but it went well. After school I went with the other 5th grade teachers and some other people from the school to a restaurant. It was interesting to talk to the teachers outside of school. It dawned on me that being a Christian in a secular world is an interesting position to be in. The conversation turned to religion, and many people shared how they have been hurt by the church: weren't able to baptize their kids because they weren't married in a Catholic church, weren't able to get married in the Catholic church because they were living with their partner before getting married, and being told that they're going to Hell if they aren't regular church goers. How can I be a witness to the Truth when so many have been hurt by Christianity and want nothing to do with it? It was also interesting because every so often one of the other teachers would make a comment toward me like "don't judge me" or "you probably have such a negative view of us after this." What is it about me that people feel the need to apologize for who they are and what they say? I hope it is not that I come across as judgmental. That is never my intent. Maybe it's because I am young and "inexperienced in the world." Whatever it may be, I hope that people notice that there is a difference in how I approach things because of my faith. I pray that God uses me where I am, to reach some teachers and students.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pulleys and Levers

I am in charge of teaching a unit about Pulleys and Levers. My experience with science is minimal. I really started to learn science in high school: physics, chemistry, biology, and environmental science. Then in college I took one general science class. Now I am responsible for teaching about pulleys and levers. We have these kits that have all that we need in them, but I still had to sort through all the extra copies and materials to get to what I actually needed. Luckily, I had the help of another 5th grade teacher, who spent about an hour after school helping me sort through all the material and coming up with an example.  She is not even teaching that unit.  She did not have to spend that time with me, but she did. I was so thankful. All of the people I have encountered in Danvers have been very helpful. I've shared before that the other teachers have been scouting books for me and getting me extra resources to help me start building my own collection of resources.  What a great community in which to start my teaching career.

In addition, after school I was told that I am getting a new student on Wednesday! I don't know if I am excited or stressed about this change. We'll see how this new boy changes the dynamic of the class. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Listening and Meditation

My students are crazy! It is a daily struggle to get them to quiet down so that I can give instruction, and a bigger struggle to remain patient after repeating the same thing day after day and question after question. Constantly I hear, "Miss Schundler, what are we supposed to do when we're done?" and my response is usually "I've already said 2 times already AND it's written on the board that after you are done, you should take out a book and read independently." Then at the end of the day "Miss Schundler, do we have homework?" "Every day I write the homework on the board, I tell you when I assign it, and I review it when I tell you to take out your agendas to write it down." They still miss many homework assignments.

My students are learning to listen, but somehow I feel like by repeating myself I am teaching them that listening is not important because instructions can always be repeated, so why listen the first time around? Some days are better than others.  Yesterday was especially bad, but today after a little pep talk, the day ran more smoothly. The class just enjoys being with each other and wants to socialize. It's that age when friendship takes priority over schoolwork.

The special ed teacher came in today to talk about meditation and stress and how those two things were related. It was very interesting. I learned that the brain works best when it is slightly stressed, but also relaxed: a kind of paradox. Thinking about how our brains are designed makes me think of how creative and genius God was in creating us. The brain itself is so complex, and this makes up just a small portion of our body.

Because of my chatty class, I have incorporated a time of complete silence, where the students literally do nothing for 5 minutes. Sometimes it is during a lesson when I can't get them to focus and other times, like today it is scheduled for after lunch to get ready for the last hour of school. Today after the 5 minutes were up, students asked for another 5 minutes because they felt so relaxed when they were quiet. I wish this desire to be silent would transfer over into SILENT reading, but we still have approximately 170 days left for that. I have also incorporated more prayer time in my morning to focus myself for the day. On my drive to school I put on worship music and pray for patience and productivity. Each morning I am reminded that I not only teach to get a paycheck or even to teach students important information. I teach for the glory of God and I teach to love kids with the love that Christ had for us on the cross. Although I will never be able to love as much as Christ, I can show unconditional love (a fraction of God's love), and show mercy and forgiveness as he did. I am in a unique situation where I have the power to influence kids because I get to work with them for 5 1/2 hours a day!  I pray that God uses me to reach these 21 students of mine.

 I have to remember that it is still the beginning of the year, and nothing will run perfectly. It is a time to set expectations and routines so the rest of the year will not be as exhausting as these first few weeks. It is a time to pray for my students and learn from my teaching (and failed lessons). It is a time of great transition.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reflections on the past week

Happy Sunday! Here in Massachusetts, weeks seem to go by slowly (because so much happens in a week in 5th grade) and weekends seem to go by all too quickly to get everything done and still have time to spend relaxing.  It seems like the work never ends.

Looking back on the week, I feel like I'm getting a sense of who my students are and what their strengths are. I also realize that I need to work on my verbiage. There were times this week when I misspoke and confused my students or when I talked to quickly for them to understand. I am working on figuring out how to get students to come up with the answers on their own rather than telling them the answer.  I also need to work on being less casual in my approach to teaching. Coming from working at camp all summer, it's easy to slip into being slightly sarcastic (which high schoolers understand) or trying to "be friends" with my students. I have to remember that school and camp are not the same! I need to amp up my professionalism.

Outside of work, things are good. I got to spend time with a coworker this weekend painting pottery, I ran to the post office (about a 2 mile run total), I caught up with Christa and Audrey some, and watched a movie! I cooked some decent meals for myself while Skyping with Wes :)  It was a good weekend despite having to grade an assessment and student journals.

I've also been spending a lot of time thinking about questions like "Why, as Christians, are we hesitant to bring up Jesus' name?" We can tell people that we believe in God without it being taboo, but once we bring up Jesus, it's a whole new ballgame. Even when I pray I realize that I pray to God the Father, rather than Jesus. Jesus is the reason we believe what we do, so why don't we give him more attention?

Another idea I've been thinking of is the concept of time. So often we say "there are not enough hours in the day to do everything we need to do," but I think God created the 24 hour day because it IS enough time. We just spread ourselves thin and get involved in too many things, including spending hours on the computer. Then we ask the question, "where did all my time go?" If Jesus could heal, teach, and spend time with people during a 24 hour day, we can too.

My goal for the next week is to spend less time on the computer and more time on journaling and really investing in teaching and reaching my students. This is more important than looking at the latest pictures on Facebook or watching a show on Hulu just because it's there.  I hope you all have a good week! Continue to pray for me as I get used to the routine of school and that I become an effective teacher. I want my students to do well, but I'm still learning how to get them there.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Feeling old-remembering 9/11

Today we remember the 12th anniversary of 9/11. I remember the day clearly. It was a Tuesday about a week into the school year. I was in 5th grade, and shortly into the day teachers kept running in and out of the classroom making phone calls and were highly stressed. No one would tell us what was happening. All we knew was that something bad had happened. Confusion loomed throughout the day. We were told to walk directly home.  They might have even required that we get picked up by/walk with an adult. I walked home with my friend Caitlin and her mom.  When I got home, my mom was glued in front of the tv and images of the planes and World Trade Center filled EVERY channel, even Nickelodeon. We attended a church service where darkness, shock, and sadness filled the sanctuary. For days, the images of the World Trade Center falling were on constant repeat. Stories of bravery, courage, and divine intervention were common.

Today, on the 12th anniversary, we had an extra moment of silence in school to meditate. During this time I came to the realization that I was in my 5th graders shoes 12 years ago, and that none of them were alive yet to experience that day which changed history and will forever be in my memories.

I pray a special prayer today for all those whose lives were changed 12 years ago, and all those who are still mourning. I pray for the protection of this country in a time where the tensions of the world still fill our news channels. Remembering days like 9/11 reminds me that we live in a fallen world and that one day Jesus will return and restore Creation as it was meant to be: Beautiful and Perfect.

Monday, September 9, 2013


So everyone always complains about how the weekends go by fast and then comes Monday, the worst day of the week. Waking up this morning was definitely difficult, but after I had my cup of tea, I was ready to go! Today was my first full day of school and even being a Monday, it went by fast! I accredit this to getting into real content and actually teaching! One of the things my students did was write autobiographical poems, and some of them added a creative component to it, which was fun to see. It's exciting that in 5th grade students are more likely to make projects or assignments unique and creative because they have their own unique personalities and talents.

On a sadder note, my ESL student had a really hard day today. She cried for the majority of the day because she was overwhelmed. I tried to tell her that I understood how hard it was because of my time in Argentina, but that just made her cry more :-( This aspect of my job is one of the hardest because I have no aides in my class, so it is hard to find the time to explain things to her when I have 20 other students to worry about. If you know any ideas on how to reach ESL students, let me know!

I pray for patience, not only with my students but with the process of being a first year teacher. I haven't built up my repertoire of activities and strategies yet, which I know will come in time, but right now it just seems like I'm behind.

Thanks for reading about my thoughts on teaching! I would appreciate any prayers for my transition year, as I am still getting used to being an adult. (Side note: I felt very adult-like today when I received my very own health insurance card in the mail, worked at my desk (which I have actually never done-usually I do work on my bed) did some grocery shopping, and went to the laundromat--REAL LIFE!)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Day

Today was my first day as a teacher! I got to school and was surrounded by people asking if I needed anything and if I got sleep last night (which I did). On my desk, a bowl of candy awaited. It had a note attached (but no signature).

Then the kids arrived! I have 21 students: 9 boys and 12 girls. It was a little overwhelming knowing that I was in charge and the way the day ran was dependent on me. There was no one telling me what to do or when to move to the next activity.  Pacing is something I will need to work on.

I will also need to keep my eye on a few of the boys. I will also have to find ways to reach my ESL student and my students on learning plans.   Hopefully leading the class will start to come more easily as time passes and I get to know my students. Another half day tomorrow!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Professional Development

So the past 4 days I have been at a professional development class. The focus: The Literacy Common Core. Talk about overwhelming! We spent the first few days learning about various strategies for incorporating literature into our lessons Reading Workshop, Word Study, Literature Circles, close reading (of non-fiction texts), and text-dependent questions. It was all really helpful, but also a lot of information! Today we got to spend time with our grade level across the district to come up with an action plan in which all of our standards are addressed in various units. After doing that I feel much more at ease.

All the people I have met in and out of my grade level have all been excited about me starting my career. They are eager to help and give me resources, including a whole box of used books compiled by the librarians. The generosity I have been shown has been more than I expected. Everyone is enthusiastic about working in Danvers, creating a great work environment.

Even though I still have no concrete plan for the first few days of school, I am not alone because I have all of this support around me. Even the experienced teachers have told me not to worry about any of the curriculum yet. The time will come for curriculum, but right now the time is for setting up my classroom and establishing procedures/expectations for how my class will run.

School starts next Wednesday!

Friday, August 23, 2013

My bulletin board (aka 3 hours of my afternoon)

My theme is going to be "Discover the World" so I have my bulletin board there in blue and then a map of the world behind my desk, some globes, and a poster showing the wonderful country of Argentina, where I had the privilege of living for 5 months. I am hoping to choose a country a month to focus on (European and Central American countries in particular) and have the students research facts about that country and maybe even read some literature from/about that country. My room is starting to come together!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Classroom Needs Help

I got to see my classroom today! I am on the 2nd floor across from the other two fifth grade classrooms.  I have no classroom library, so I got to go to the fabulous used book store and thrift shop to stock up! Some of the books I got were Maniac Magee, Number the Stars, and Little House on the Prairie. I also bought bins to organize the books by genre. 5th grade is a year of many great books.

Tomorrow I have an all day new teacher orientation, and then I will be back in my classroom deciding the next steps to take to create a welcoming atmosphere for my 20 students.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why 5th Grade?

When I tell people I am going to be a 5th grade teacher I often get asked why I want to teach that age and not the "cute younger kids." Here is a short list of why I am excited to teach 5th grade:

1) Prerevolutionary War history (Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre, Intolerable Acts...super exciting part of history)
2) The students do not yet have the middle school attitude
3) Kids aim to please
4) They are excited about learning
5) They can work independently and with groups well
6) So many fun projects!
7) Students start to learn their academic strengths around this age, so they develop their own personality and interests
8) I get to prepare them for middle school!
9) It seems that 5th grade is the first year in school that many adults remember, so it's exciting to know that I get to be part of that
10) I get to dive into books like Number the Stars!
Most importantly: I get to be a light to these kids and love them

Here is what I remember from my 5th grade year:
-Marble jar as motivation
-"lots of homework" (which actually was not all that much looking back)
-Electricity jingles: "Eeeelectricity: where does it come from, how does it work and how does it get to me?"
-Building model rockets
-Being teacher of the day (where my desire to become a teacher solidified)
-First research paper on the state of Arizona
-Getting to participate in band and chorus
-Plays about the Irish potato famine
...and many others

Needless to say, I am excited to be a part of students' learning experiences and memory making :-)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Never underestimate the power of prayer...or connections

At the beginning of July, a month after graduating college, I was called down to Danvers, MA for an interview for a 5th grade position. It was scheduled for the same day I was supposed to lead a biking trip in the Carabassett Valley in Maine, but both the director of camp and the trip coordinator said I couldn't turn down an interview. They would find someone else to lead the biking trip. So, I made the 3 hour trek from Maine to Massachusetts on a Monday. Not knowing what to expect, I just prayed that my 4 years of teacher preparation at Gordon would pay off. Some campers even started praying for my interviews to go well, which was powerful.

I arrived and was brought to a room where I was greeted by not one but by 5 women interviewers: 2 fifth grade teachers, the principal, the librarian who happened to be one of my adjunct professors at Gordon for Children's Lit, and a fifth grade parent. "Great!" I thought, "There is no way that these five women are going to think I'm even old enough to teach (especially the fifth grade parent)."The interview lasted 15 minutes and went well, but as a recent grad I didn't expect to get a call back. I was wrong! Less than an hour after leaving, I got a call back to come for a second interview two days later.

Through the grace and flexibility of the leadership team at camp, they gave me permission to miss yet another day of camp to interview. After another 3 hour trek: the second interview (with the principal, superintendent, and assistant superintendent) lasted less than 10 minutes leaving me wondering whether that was a good or bad thing. I prayed yet again because this school seemed like a great fit and fifth grade excited me! As I was stopping for an ice cream cone on my drive home, I got a call from the principal offering me the position! She was as excited as I was, which was really cool to see. My hard work at Gordon had paid off (and Gordon's reputation/rigor proved helpful). I am thankful to all my professors, family, and friends for their support and encouragement in helping me follow my dream of becoming a teacher.

I am excited to start this new chapter in my life. This blog is a way for me to process and share everything I learn during my first year of teaching/real life: personal, professional, and emotional. I expect this year to be a year of great challenge but of great reward.