Saturday, July 12, 2014

And thus ends the year…

I moved to NJ on Tuesday. As I mentioned in the previous post, I moved home earlier than expected because I had an interview in VA on Thursday. They offered me the job on the spot, exactly 365 days after I first got my previous job! I will be the new instructional assistant at a school in northern Virginia. I will be helping the special education team deliver services to its students and will be assisting classroom teachers in grades K-6. I'm excited about the opportunity to do something that I feel like will lend itself to my strengths and get to work in a more diverse environment. The principal also seemed very supportive of my desire to start grad school soon in either speech pathology or special education. He is even going to let me get into the Autism classroom as well as observe the speech teacher! Living in VA I will definitely be able to see Wes more and get involved with his church, which is very exciting. It is a scary transition as well because the area is unfamiliar and I am still looking for a place to live pretty cheaply. Hopefully I will be able to live with a family from the church. Pray that everything will work out for my living situation and that this new job will be a better fit. This will be my last blog post, so thank you for following me through my first year of teaching. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


School ended less than a week ago. How have I been spending my time? Applying for jobs in both NJ and VA and reading the Divergent series (which I recommend) on the beach. Today I got a call to come interview for a school in Alexandria, VA for an instructional assistant position! Please pray that it goes well :-)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Last day

Today was my last day teaching 5th grade. It's a weird feeling being done: I'm relieved, sad, but also just tired. We had a "moving up" ceremony at school today in the hot humid gym. Students were given awards, certificates, and some advice for middle school. It was a nice ceremony!

Even though it's been a challenging year, I'm going to miss my students and their ability to make me laugh. God had a plan for me through this year to pour into my students, and now he is bringing me back to New Jersey (or Virginia?) to be near family and friends. I'm excited for my next adventure, but also hate this feeling of uncertainty about what September will bring. Now that I have more time, I can focus on finding a job and figure out which classes to take at community college next year as prerequisites for a masters (possibly in Speech Pathology). I pray that God will give me guidance on what happens next. Join me in praying! Thanks for following me through this year!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Reading Buddies

The highlight of my Thursdays is Reading Buddies time. Each 5th grader is paired with a 1st grader and they sit around the room and read together. The 1st graders get to practice their fluency/reading and the 5th graders get to practice being good role models. Even though my class can be rowdy and very mobile in class, during reading buddies they are so engaged and take on personas that I don't get to see every day in the classroom. Today one of my shyer boys was reading a book with his buddy and they each took the roles of different characters and even had voices to go along with the characters! Another student read with great expression and clarity because he was excited about being able to read to his buddy without having the other 5th graders "judge" his reading ability. A third student who can sometimes be in her own world and not necessarily interact with her peers all that positively was so patient with her buddy. It is amazing to see how they transform when they are surrounded by a different audience. Seeing them doing something that they are enjoying is encouraging and brightens my day. It also gives the first grade teacher and myself a little break during our long Thursdays with no specials. :-)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Retrospection about the Future

You are probably reading this title and wondering if I know what retrospection is. The answer is yes! It is looking in depth at the past. Today my mom showed me this video.

It made me think about the generation of which I am a part, which my students are a part. What happened to the days where creativity and critical thinking were essential? Running around town, hanging out on the box (my friends and I used to spend hours talking by an electrical box at a friend's house), building sledding hills from the staircases, and reading a book on the porch because we only had 40 channels (most of which were the news).  I remember being faced with difficult problems in school and not being told the answer, but having to use what I did know to figure it out. There are glimmers of this creative and critical thinking still: in the student who draws and writes, in science class when students have to figure out for themselves how to build simple machines and get excited when they finally figure it out, in the student who tells me about playing school at home. For the most part though, we have become a lazy generation.  Why aren't we trying to make a change and seek human interaction? Why do we submit to the trends of technology even if we think the latest apps are dumb?

What has happened in the last 10 years? I have students who see a slightly unfamiliar math problem and give up immediately because they know eventually we will go over it. I have students who told me that they were looking forward to vacation because then they could play extra video games or spend the day laying on their beds texting their friends. What happened to going on vacation and experiencing the world?  I have students with attentional issues, who are rude, who feel lonely and cannot get along with peers. Could these things stem from the influx and availability of technology we have at our fingertips?

Phones, computers, and televisions all have a way of holding our attention for long periods of time (to watch a movie, to watch 5 episodes of House in a row, to play a video game always having to get to the next level). What suffers because of this? Students do not know how to focus on the things that are PRESENT and REAL, whether that is people or schoolwork. They spend more time texting or snapchatting their friends than actually talking to them! No wonder they are rude, no wonder they are lonely, no wonder they have problems getting along with peers. They are in need of human interaction! We can be emotionless with technology. It is easy to communicate with technology because we can disconnect, really think about how to respond inoffensively to someone, or say things that are just plain mean and follow up with a "jk." How is this ok?

Everything is at our fingertips: no need to do real research, no need to learn how to spell because spell check does the work for us, no need to learn interpersonal skills/nonverbal communication, no need to think for ourselves and solve problems. Have we become slaves to our technology? Have we become like robots, relying on technology for our every move?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The home stretch

I can't believe it is May 4th! April passed by much more quickly than March did. In April, I had a nice spring break visiting friends and family and then it was right back to the groove of things up here in Massachusetts. Spring decided to arrive fashionably late up here. This week it finally arrived with rain, weird New England weather, and this weekend some plants came out of their hibernation. I participated in a run for Colleen Ritzer, the teacher who passed away in October, today and it was beautiful! Over 3000 people participated in this fundraiser for the Colleen Ritzer scholarship. We ran through a bird sanctuary and there were inspirational quotes throughout the 5k. It made me reflect about the kind of legacy I want to leave behind, what I want to be remembered by. "No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind" -Colleen Ritzer

Spring is my favorite time of year, but it also seems to be a time of stress, transitions and good byes. Tonight I had my last youth group, and had to announce to my students that I would not be returning next year. I've grown to love these kids, especially the girls in my small group. It is hard knowing that soon I will have to say goodbye to friends, who I have lived close to the last 5 years, and say goodbye to my students who are funny, creative, and interesting kids, and who I have invested so much time into this year.

I know the next 37 days of school will go by quickly, and I am excited to be done with MCAS mid-May and excited for all the end of year celebrations. Pray that I can have a smooth transition back to NJ and that I would be able to get a job that I love, working with a unique population of students.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The job search begins

Around this time last year, I was applying to teaching jobs. I was open-minded, excited, and maybe a little naive in my expectations. Now, a year later, I am back to the drawing board applying for jobs again. This year, I have an extra year of experience under my belt with figuring out the education system and knowing my strengths. 

This allows me to narrow down my search to what I feel called to do. I am looking for a job in special education that could be either part-time or full-time (part-time is actually preferred so I can take some classes). I am back on schoolspring (a website specifically designed for educators applying for jobs) and have amped up my resume to send to schools. Once again, I am open-minded, excited, and hopefully a little less naive in my expectations. I am also hopeful for this next chapter in my life and career. Pray that God would provide a job for me next year that would be a better fit for me and allow me to be closer to family and friends.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Blessing in Disguise

Today my principal and I met and mutually decided that teaching 5th grade was not a perfect fit for me. It has been a very difficult year, but I have learned a lot about my strengths, my weaknesses, and about education in general. For a few months now, I have been thinking a lot about the future (if you read my last post about living in the moments, sorry for the irony of following it with this). Back in February, I decided that I was going to move back to New Jersey, get a job in special education, be closer to Wes, and take some pre-requisites for grad school (maybe in Speech Pathology).  Today I was able to discuss this with my principal, and both of us are excited about the prospects for my future. I now realize that my strengths are working with small groups and I tend to have more patience with special needs students than with highly capable students, who don't apply themselves. Even though not working at my school next year means that one door is closing, I know another will open. I feel a sense of relief knowing that I can just enjoy the last 3 months of school with my class, and start afresh next year.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Countdown

March has been a crazy month! It started with some intense review for the MCAS (standardized test). Then we had the actual MCAS test (2 days of Reading Comprehension testing). Now, we have a month to review everything you could possibly want to know about Science (aka what the students learned in grades 3-5 including electricity, magnetism, solar system, simple machines, habitats, plants, etc) and everything we learned in math so far this year (multiplication, division, graphing, fractions, decimals, order of operations, geometry, etc). It is amazing the quantity and depth of information these students need to know. Everyone is counting down the days first to April Vacation (which is much needed and will be even more needed after 8 full weeks with no breaks). After that it will be the countdown to when MCAS are finally over mid-May.  Then it's a little over a month to the end of the year.

Have you ever noticed how we always are looking forward to the next thing? Something better coming down the road? I want you to join me in praying to be thankful for the present, although it seems really hard to be joyful now when I am exhausted and feel there is "better coming".   I didn't give anything up for Lent this year, but from now until Easter I am going to try to be thankful for the present and not look longingly down the road 3 weeks or a year from now. Join me!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring is near (poem)

Wind rushing past me:
not the type that freezes to the core,
but the type that comforts.
Mud and puddles surround me.
Spring is near.

Birds chirp!
Signs of life are everywhere.
Rushing water down the stream;
Children on the beach.
Spring is definitely near.

Soon, the mud will be filled with flowers.
The trees will start to bud.
The thaw has started.
When 55 degrees feels like a summer day.
You know spring is near!

Sunday, March 2, 2014


My students are very good at projects! It is definitely a strength for many of them. Today I worked on a model to show them for our upcoming book report on Fantasies.

Here is what happens when I spend most of Sunday afternoon working:
Pretty proud of it, but I feel like I'm back doing book reports again. Luckily, I've read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at least 7 times

The rest of the project will include taking notes on the story and writing what is called a biopoem about one of the characters. Here's mine:

Caring, Honest, Open-minded, Loving
Sister of Edmund, Peter, and Susan
Lover of animals, justice, and family
Who feels teased, scared, and protected by Aslan
Who needs affirmation, friends, and confidence
Who fears the White Witch, death, and rejection
Who gives love, healing, and care
Who would like to see her family united, Mr.Tumnus saved, and the White Witch 
Resident of England and Narnia


It's fun to be able to share some of my favorite stories with my students.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Time Machine

I wish I had a time machine! Then, I would be able to go back in time, to the beginning of the year, using the knowledge I have now, to make some changes. I would have started practicing for the statewide test sooner, introduced more math games to be used as review games now, and spent more time establishing and maintaining classroom rules and routines. I've been talking more and more with my mentor, who has great ideas! It was hard to know what to ask and what to figure out on my own earlier in the year. In hindsight, I would have talked to her more sooner. Some of the things she and I talk about, I did not even know that I had to think about, like how to provide extensions for accelerated learners, what to do when a student is extremely far behind or disruptive, what happens if the class won't stop talking? These things now are like "duh, why didn't I plan for that?" I also should have challenged my students more, through what I was asking them to produce in writing and in terms of holding them accountable for homework.

All I can do is go on from here and try to make changes as I am able. I guess that is why they say the first year of teaching is the most challenging.

Monday, February 24, 2014

a much needed break

I just had February break. For those of you, like me, who never experienced February break in NJ, it is a second winter break, so that people up here in the cold New England weather don't go crazy in the never ending winter. I was able to travel to sunny, warm California to visit my brother. Luckily I got out before the snow storm that covered New England.

Yeah, I do look like his younger sister, but the truth is: I am 4 years older. I was mistaken for a 17 year old prospective student at least 4 times over the weekend. Andrew and I spent time together in Hollywood, at Santa Monica beach playing frisbee, and at the Getty Museum (shown in the picture above). I also got to see his campus and meet his friends. It was a good few days!

The next stage of my February break journey was to visit Wes in D.C. We were able to go to an NBA bball game, go swing dancing (the picture below is after swing dancing), watch some Olympics, and just spend some time together. It was nice!

Coming back on Saturday was a great decision because it meant that I could sleep all day on Sunday, which was much needed.

Today school started up again in full swing! There is so much to do in the next few weeks! MCAS (state standardized tests) are in 3 weeks, we have the trimester ending in 2 weeks (report cards to do, testing to do, etc), and I have many meetings and opportunities for professional development coming up as well. Outside of school, I have a weekend retreat with my youth group coming up in 2 weeks! Then Wes will be here in 3 weeks (unfortunately just for a very short amount of time)! BRING ON THE CRAZY!!!!!

Please pray for sustained energy and stamina for me, as well as patience. Thank you for following me on this journey!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

This is happening

I'm showing this as a culminating video of a week working on figurative language:

Watch it! You may learn something.

Monday, February 10, 2014

student teachers

Only last year I was student teaching. It seems like a long time ago. About this time last year, I had taken over about half of the teaching in 4th grade. I thought I was overwhelmed then, but I have learned that I can handle more than I thought I could. Although it is very stressful knowing that MCAS are a month away, I have a good support system at school and I pray that my students will show progress on their MCAS scores. Please join me in praying for progress.

Yesterday, I was informed that I am getting student teachers! They are juniors at a local college studying ESL education. I have two ESL students in my class, so the college girls are going to be joining me for 2 hours every Monday. It's weird knowing that a year ago I was in their place and now I'm "in charge" of them. I'm not exactly sure what my responsibilities are with them in the classroom, but hopefully I will soon find out.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Flexible Planning

I have always been a planner: not in the sense of making the plans, but with making sure the plans were implemented EXACTLY how they were supposed to. When my friends and I would go into the city, I would be the one who knew the plan: where we needed to be, when we needed to be there, and how to get there. Sometimes this caused me to be stressed and not enjoy myself because I wanted to keep us on our tight schedule. If the plans changed or didn't happen as they were supposed to, I got anxious.

Yesterday, I spent at least 5 hours planning for the week. Going into school today, I felt good about my plans and the day went by quickly because I over-planned. However, in our common planning time today, I got so many other ideas that I could do this week that were better than my plan. Therefore my plans are once again changing for the week. This should have stressed me out due to the aforementioned characteristic of myself, but instead it is exciting. I now have a better lesson plan than I had on my own.

I am learning to be flexible. Usually I'll plan something, but then end up doing something else, or spending more time on something that I did not anticipate would be a problem for my students. Today, I had a "great" Social Studies lesson planned. We were going to read The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (Longfellow), and then read another account of Paul Revere's ride from Revere's perspective and compare the two. However, we only got through the Longfellow poem because it was a much more challenging poem than I was anticipating. It is chock-full of vocabulary and very long! However, it taught me to anticipate problems more than I have been. I'm not sure what I would have done differently with the poem, but it would not have been what I did in my "great lesson."

This idea of flexibility is freeing. It reminds me that God has a bigger plan than I do. Sometimes I get frustrated when my "life plans" don't go as planned, but because God is the greatest planner, His will always prevails. If God had a plan for the Israelites when they were wandering the desert, He has a plan for me.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


A few good things happened today:

-My ESL student who started the year with very limited English led the school in morning exercises (the pledge, announcements, etc), so it was cool to see how far she has come since the beginning of the year

-I got my Unit 2 grades back and 16 of my 20 students improved their overall percentage in reading comprehension! One stayed the same and 3 decreased, but overall PROGRESS!

-I was reminded of my Gordon classes and how much more I could be doing (to be more effective) without a lot of extra planning or time

-I was able to take a step back and because of this realized that ultimately my students are just kids and they are starting to look like middle schoolers (the boys are starting to catch up with the girls in height)

-I got paid!

-I feel content and happy about my life at this point. My kids are listening more and I'm actually really enjoying teaching Science. *side note: We switched classes for Science, so I have a different 5th grade class for this trimester in Science

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Hello followers,
This will be a short post:

Before teaching, I didn't know how sticky tape could be. I had name tags for the students and in Science, we use tape to connect our lever arms to our desks. It leaves nasty, sticky, gooey residue on the desks. The desks look horrible. I asked the other 5th grade teacher if they had suggestions. Their response: Windex (let it sit). It worked like a charm! Windex is now my new favorite cleaning product! Now I am going to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding to learn about the other uses for Windex!

Monday, January 13, 2014


There is a lot I could talk about under this title, but I am going to focus on two things: the challenge of making students feel connected and the way in which I connect with others and God.

Last week, at one of my monthly new teacher meetings, one of my professors from Gordon spoke about students with social-emotional disabilities. This could range from anxiety to Autism. One of the things that struck me was this: he said that students need to feel connected and wanted in school. Feeling wanted comes down to my job as a classroom facilitator and mentor. My students come in and I greet them at the door with a smile on my face. I laugh with them and even listen to some of their anecdotes. However, I want to do a better job with communicating to those on the outside. There are a few students in my class that I know very little about because they are more reserved or do not initiate conversation. Feeling this sense of "being wanted" is something that through years of being a camp counselor, I know is an important part of a child's experience in a place. They want to feel important and CONNECTED. This leads into my next segment.

Feeling connected. As you have been reading, you might have gotten the sense that my class has some characters in it. There is the student who only wants to talk about hockey, there is the student who only wants to talk about or read about cats, there is the student who just wants to talk about how excited he is to take a nap after school, and there are others who just want to talk about whatever. There is a large group of boys in my class who all have similar interests. However, about 3 of my boys have totally different interests. The girls are all so unique. There are mini cliques of girls in my class: the two girls who are "serious students," the two girls who only talk about cats, the 3 girls who just giggle, then there is a girl who wants to just hang out with the boys. There are however a few more that don't fall into these categories. I'm trying to figure out ways to get them connected to the larger class. I'm not sure how to do that though.

Now to talk about my second point of connectedness: how do I connect with others?
Since graduating college, I feel somewhat disconnected from my friends and community. In college, I lived with my 5 best friends and down the hall or down the hill from other friends. I went to church every Sunday with those friends. There were events at school to go to, and if not there was always a movie night to be found. Now, I live down the street from two friends who I see occasionally and usually end up going to church with one of my roommates. The weekends are low key and I have a lot of alone time, which I am learning to value. I have not done much getting involved in my community in the town, besides joining the YMCA which doesn't really count. I'm still helping at youth group, but want to find a young adults small group to join. It is a stage of disconnectedness, but also a stage of contentment and peace (about life, the future, my career...).

I have also felt in many ways disconnected from God. This could be because I have been stressed at work, but what it comes down to is that God was not my priority during the first part of the year. This caused me to feel…disconnected. I went to church once during the month of December (besides Christmas Eve) and would quickly read the Bible before bed without spending time thinking about its implications for my life. One of my New Year's Resolutions was to start the day off with some time with God. This started as reading the Bible when I woke up, but quickly I became tired and that time has transformed into listening to worship music on the way to school each morning. This music calms me down and when I sing along, I feel connected. It sets my day off right. Singing I've found is one of my main ways of communicating with God, whether at church or in my car.

Have a great week my friends! Thank you for following me along this journey of being a first year teacher.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


So far, 2014 has been an interesting year. My class was great all week! They were listening and focused. It was really amazing to see. I hope it continues like that because the days are so much more enjoyable when I don't have to yell all day. It was nice to start the year off with those two snow days in which I literally did nothing. I'm still getting back into the swing of planning.

This past week outside of school has been rough. I got into an accident on Tuesday (don't worry, everyone is ok) turning left. I was tired and hungry for Chipotle, which inhibited my judgment, causing me to T-bone another car. After writing up accident reports and talking to insurance companies, I think the only thing left to do is get my car fixed. Unfortunately this will probably be pricy even though the damage is not even that much.

Apart from that, I went on Thursday to get 3 cavities filled (I had a cleaning over break, and was told to find a dentist up here to get them filled). I went to the dentist, and found out that I have not only 3 cavities, but 6 AND I have worn down the enamel on two other teeth.  Luckily, when I got 2 of the cavities filled, I felt nothing! No pain. Best experience I have ever had at the dentist (besides the having twice as many cavities part)

This week was the first week that I truly felt like an adult who has to pay for things and figure things out on her own. Luckily, I have been putting aside money, since I started working, in savings. I guess this is what savings is for…the unexpected expenses in life. However, I am not super stressed about these expenses because I know that God provides and that I'll learn at least two things from this week: floss and be more careful when driving.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Finally some Rest and Relaxation

Winter break started on Dec. 21 this year. We were supposed to go back on Jan. 2, which was already going to be a fairly long break. However, thanks to the blizzard we got, my winter break was extended 4 days.

I finally feel like I'm ready to get back into the routine of teaching/working. I miss my students and miss my schedule (as crazy as it is). I am the type of person who does poorly without organization/routine. However, I was able to relax a good amount the last 2 weeks. I spent a week home in NJ with my family and then went on a "no-stress" weekend with Wes to Vermont. We snowboarded/skied one day and the other day watched 24 and football all day. :-) It was exactly what I needed. Then we were in Massachusetts for a few days, where I got to plan some for the coming week and spend some time with friends.

Going back to school on Monday poses the challenge of a fresh start. I will be reviewing my expectations and procedures with my students and will start "treating them like middle schoolers."I need to make a complete mental shift before going into school to a more professional attitude than I have had. I am fortunate that I have this fresh start where I can hopefully get my class together and "lay down the law."