Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I have had the most wonderful past couple weeks. Things are really falling into place at school, I'm leaving on time, and I'm feeling like my students are really becoming invested in learning.

Yesterday we took a walking field trip to the library. 50 kindergarteners walking to the library after a month in school? It was amazing. They did so well! I wanted to share some of their wonderful thank you notes to our chaperones. I love these pictures, because we have been practicing drawing pictures that are big and detailed.
This is by one of my students who still tries to answer my questions in Spanish. All of my students are English Language learners, and most after a week realized they needed to answer my questions in English. I adore this student, and I am still working with him to speak more in English. I was so proud when he shared "My favorite part was when we read a book" and didn't need a prompt to speak in English. He really is showing courage by continuing to speak in English.

Big? Check. Detailed? Check. Love this.

I love the label...but even more so I love that this student drew another student who has some rockin' spiky hair in the picture. Her details really helped us understand what her story!
So now here's the nauseous part:
Child Struck, Killed Near Chase Crash

How is it possible to process this? I have a friend who works at the school the girl went to, and I feel so nauseous about it. This girl, a 2nd grader, was hit...and she died in front of her mom. I just can't even process it at all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My new planner came today!

I was inspired by The Inspired Apple...

and I love my new planner!

Wow do I love how it makes me feel GOOD about being OCD. It's such a pretty and functional planner. I'm in love. With a planner. For real.

In other news, tomorrow I actually want to post a teacherly blog post. Keep your fingers crossed I leave work again on time (yup! 4:30 today!) so I have time to share.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

8 hours of teaching down, and I feel like Jack Bauer. Give me 16 more.

Well, friends, I survived day 1 of teaching from 7:50 to 3:50! I even am feeling pretty great! Last night I had a horrible time falling asleep, terrified at the prospect of teaching for so long. As most of you may know, I taught kindergarten the past two years...but I taught HALF day kindergarten. From 8:20 to 11:40. So I went from 3 hours and 20 minutes with my students to 8 hours with them.

When I finished teaching today, I felt like it should be about noon...but it was 4 o'clock! Craziness! Somehow I made it, and we did everything we had planned, with the exception of our math cut and paste. One of my goals this year is to be more self-aware so I can improve my practice in the classroom. One way I plan to do this is OUT of the classroom: reflecting daily! I have a great journal that I am using when I have time, but some days, like today I am going to opt for my blog.

For those of you wondering, "What on earth do you do with 25 4, 5, and 6 year olds from 8 hours?" well, allow me to elaborate.

7:40-7:55 a.m. Family Literacy--Right now, students quietly work at their tables on an activity. Next week families will come in and work with students.

7:55-8:15 a.m. Morning Meeting

8:15-9:15 a.m. Phonics/Centers/Guided Reading--We need to work on the rotations a bit more, but given how new this was to the class today, they did a great job!

9:15-9:35 a.m. Read Aloud--I was so pleased with how much Think Pair Share my students were able to do today.

9:35-9:50 a.m. Recess

9:50-10:20 a.m. Reading Comprehension--Our strategy for the next two weeks is making predictions. I need to do a better job modeling this, but overall, students did great today!

10:20-11 a.m. Writing--Success! Students used white boards, walked around the room without talking, and wrote down words they saw.

11-12 p.m. Math--Definitely a focus of mine tomorrow. How do I make math whole group more engaging and paced well?

12-12:05 p.m. Naptime set up (oh yes, we have naptime! woohoo!)

12:05-12:50 p.m. Lunch! This is my first break in the day from students, and today I actually ate some lunch!

12:50-1:15 p.m. Naptime. Right now, the sticker fairy is loving coming around and putting stickers on the shoes of students who fall asleep.

1:15-1:35 p.m. Message Time Plus--This is like Morning Message amplified...way more intense and far more purposeful than anything I've ever done like this.

1:35-2:15 p.m. Art/Spanish

2:15-2:35 p.m. Calendar Math--My calendar is up and looking snazzy! Will have to take photos of it.

2:35-2:40 p.m. Snack

2:40-3:05 p.m. SS/Tech--Right now this has been practicing a new center. Today we practiced Poetry center.

3:05-3:40 p.m. Values/Choice/Art/Spanish--Depending on the day, students may go to a class,  someone may come to us, or they may have more time in centers. Today we had a 2nd dose of art!

3:40-3:50 p.m. Values Circle

3:50 p.m. Dismissal

Phew. What a long day! I am starting to feel exhausted now (and will probably be asleep by 9), but I am feeling so much better about tomorrow!

My goals for tomorrow are:
1. Deliver content whole group more explicitly and clearly.

2. Make sure I am getting 100% participation and engagement so that the content actually is being processed!

3. Practice Poetry Center and Library activities to ensure students are actively participating during centers.

Where I need your help:

The paper trail! I have never had so much paper! For each day of the week I have (and we lesson plan a week at a time so there's a LOT of paper!):
1. GP materials for each lesson
2. IP materials for each lesson
3. Homework
4. Lesson plans

Here's what is most crazy about all this--I have lessons (so GP and IP materials for 25 students PLUS LPs) for:
1. Math
2. Writing
3. Reading Comp.
4. Phonics
5. Small Group Literacy

How do you manage it? I just brought in my stackable drawers, and they seem to be helping already, but I would love any thoughts you have!

Hoping everyone is having very wonderful starts to the school year!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pienso que comiendo ceviche durante mi visita de casa mejoro mi español.

Hola Profesora,

No estoy seguro si Ud. me recuerda, pero yo estaba en dos de sus clases de español en Pepperdine. Me gradué en 2009, y comenzó a enseñar a kinder en San José. Yo quería escribir una nota, porque he estado enseñando a los estudiantes los últimos dos años que en su mayoría hablan español en casa. Este año, regresé a Los Ángeles, y estoy enseñando en una escuela en la que tengo que hacer visitas de casa. Estoy tan feliz que me llevó a sus clases en la Pepperdine, porque he ido a las visitas de casa sin una otra maestra para traducir. Mis estudiantes y sus familias son muy importantes para mí, y yo estoy practicando mi español todos los días para que pueda comunicarse mejor con ellos.  Sólo quería decir lo mucho que mi español me ha ayudado a ayudar a mis estudiantesYo sé que mi español no es perfecto, pero estoy trabajando duro para aprender! :) Si he hecho algún error, por favor, perdóname!

Muchas gracias, y que tenga un buen día!

How do you communicate with your families who speak a language other than English? I have been working hard on my Spanish, and I love to be able to communicate with my families, even though my Spanish is not perfect. I often don't know words, but I am trying really hard, and I think because I am trying I feel more connected to my students and their families. Any thoughts??

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The First Day...

Hi all, I've of course been MIA as summer school started up this week. I did post the following for friends and know, a typical first day for a teacher. Would love to know how your first days have been going!

Let me walk you through what the first day looks like for a teacher...

All throughout the night: Wake up and think that it's time for me to get up to go to work. Go back to sleep at 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m., and 4:30 a.m., until...
5:00 a.m. Wake up exhausted but excited--all the prep from the previous weeks is going to be put into play today! Try to make myself look nice even though I showered last night so I could sleep in a little today. (N.B.* The day almost started off exactly as planned, apart from waking up earlier, which really isn't a terrible thing.)

5:25 a.m. Walk to my car...sit down...put the keys in my car...


Oh wait, I'm being overly dramatic. Something did happen. My car made this nice clicking sound. Yup, the sound a car that won't start makes.

5:30 a.m. Call my dad, if only because I know he is one of few people awake at this hour since it's 8:30 in Florida, and I just need someone to tell so I don't burst into tears (or burst into a string of swear words...which if you know me, swearing is a rarity, but in stressful situations (ex. when my car's tires basically broke last year, and then my bike's pedal fell off too), I do.

Mental note: Next year, take my car in for service BEFORE school starts. Just to be on the safe side.

5:35 a.m. Call a wonderful teacher from my school, and she and her husband pick me up to head to school.

6:15 a.m. Arrive at school with lots of stuff in my hands, unsure if I really grabbed everything I needed from my car. Hope that I really did get what I need. Prep my classroom, prep my classroom, stress.

7:00 a.m. Team Pow Wow--Getting ready for all our lovely kinders, the class of 2028, to arrive. Fortunately I do get to take two deep breaths at this point.

7:20 a.m. Have the teacher who taught in my room last year show me where BOTH light switches are. No joke. I couldn't find the second switch and was prepared to start class with half the room kind of in the dark (there was a little sun streaming through our windows at this point).

7:25 a.m. Students will be starting to arrive...I'm even MORE anxious!!!!!! Don't send them to me just yet! I'm not ready! Head down to help at breakfast, and I do love greeting all the wonderful students as they arrive. They are smiling and happy, which makes me feel less nervous about the potential for apocalyptic crying.

7:40 a.m. Realize I was supposed to be in my classroom five minutes ago. Head up hoping no families have arrived just yet so I can take a deep breath all by myself.

7:50 a.m. Summer School Begins!!!! At this point I am talking, moving, and sweating (no joke. My face is probably super red, and I am unaware of how much my body hurts, because I just keep moving.). I am smiling until my cheeks hurt and making everything super exciting, because it is! 

In my initial post I wrote: I am forgetting all my stress and just having fun with my students, teaching them our routines and procedures, singing songs, and enjoying learning!

...Well, that's what I want tomorrow to look like. Today I felt stressed...and then I reminded myself it's silly to be stressed. I still have hair. I don't have cancer. WIN. 

I try to use the whole cancer @ 19 thing as an advantage in my ability to have perspective. At the end of the day, I don't have a picc-line in my arm, I have all my hair on my head (even if it is a little darker, yes I'm still the teensiest bitter about my "dark" hair), and no one has offered me a wheelchair, because I seem so tired.

11:40 a.m. Drink half a diet coke. Sufficient lunch indeed.

1:45 p.m. Students are dismissed. I am still smiling. Greeting parents. Answering questions. Saying "I'll see you tomorrow!" to my wonderful students.

2:15 p.m. Exhaustion hits. Eat a peach, some fruit snacks, and finish my diet coke. Yum.

2:30 p.m. All staff meeting

3:30 p.m. I definitely laid down on the beanbag chair in our library and cried a little. Or a lot. I talked with some friends and family...and felt a little better about life.

5:00 p.m. Start to pack up to leave school. Realize, oh wait, yup, I forgot to pee all day. I told you it would happen.

6:30 p.m. Stop at Lakeshore. Purchase two books, Hands Are Not for Hitting and Words Are Not for Hurting, and the best part of course is that they're in English and Spanish.

7:00 p.m. Stop, jumpstart my car (woohoo!), drive over to my friend's place where I'll be spending the night.

7:30 p.m. Realize I'm kind of hungry. Fruit snacks + peach=not tiding me over. Also realize I have some text messages and phone calls to respond to from parents, but as I've been dealing with my car's sad state I have missed them. I return some phone calls. I leave a message for a parent in terribly broken Spanish, and I hope she understands me. I'm trying, I really am.

8:00 p.m. Call California Chicken Cafe, my comfort food in LA. One California Chicken salad with no carrots, please. Yum yum yum.

Somehow during the day, I also spoke with several friends, answered some emails, and now I'm ready to go to bed, hoping by no means to repeat today tomorrow but also hoping that I can keep the good things going and build on the things that weren't so great.

I realize this all seems very dramatic, and in some ways, it is. I definitely did not fail as a teacher today--and I think my tears after school are just a reflection of my investment in my families and their students from day 1 onward. I don't cry about many things, but man I cry about teaching. I am just so emotionally invested in my job, and I think it's probably one of my greatest strengths (but can also be a weakness for me) as a teacher.

So there you have it, the life of a teacher.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Message Time Plus

I am so tired and have so much to share! I started my new teaching job, and it is FABULOUS. Let's just say the teachers at my school are some of the most wonderful women. Ever.

Since I'm about to fall asleep, however, I just want to share two things with you.

First, I had a brief PD today about Message Time Plus, and I'm obsessed with it. It's Morning Message in the most effective amazing way I've seen presented. Lots of time for students to think and to talk and to learn. Love.

Check it out:

Second, I hope you enjoy the following:

KSS 2011 Gala Video from KIPP Foundation on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In the meantime...

(I'm pretending to pack and get ready to in the meantime, enjoy some amazing summer music. Happiness in a song.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do you teach your students about kindergarten?

The past several weeks I've been finishing up my final project for grad school. I am writing about introducing college to kindergarteners, because I think it's absolutely phenomenal!

When I started teaching, I really didn't think my kindergarteners could wrap their minds around college. In fact, for the first semester of school, I have to take a lot of time teaching my students about first grade. We work very hard to get ready for 1st grade, yet for a lot of students they have no idea what it is, because they don't have older siblings. I realized that to make 1st grade a motivator for my students, I had to make it easy for them to we've visited 1st grade classrooms and met 1st graders.

So if 1st grade is such a tricky topic to tackle, it stands to reason that college might be equally complicated. ...and yes, college is not exactly the easiest thing to explain to kindergarteners. It takes time for them to begin to understand what college is and why it's important, but it's so amazing to hear students talking about going to college (and even saving money for college!). This year I even had one student ask another student who was moving, "We'll still go to college together, right?"

Here are some important things to know about a college degree...

 From the KIPP College Completion Report (2011)
  • Regardless of income, only 30.6% of Americans between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine have completed college and earned a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Only 8.3% of students from low-income families have earned a bachelor’s degree by their mid-twenties. 
  • "High-achieving, high-income students are more than 2.5 times as likely to graduate college as high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds. Even the lowest performing students from high-income backgrounds graduate college at a higher rate than the highest-performing students from underserved communities." 

See the following diagram from the report...

From the College Board Education Pays Report (2010)
  • "The lifetime earnings gap between those with a high school education and those with a college degree is now estimated to be nearly $1 million. And the differential has been widening. In 2008, median earnings of workers with bachelor’s degrees were 65 percent higher than those of high school graduates ($55,700 vs. $33,800)."
  • College graduates also are significantly less likely to live in households surviving on the Food Stamp Program, more likely to report being very satisfied with their jobs, and are less-likely to face health problems like obesity and smoking. 
  • Not only do college graduates pay taxes to federal, state, and local governments, those same governments benefit by spending less on programs, like Food Stamps and the National School Lunch Program, to support them. 
  • More money is spent on social support programs and incarceration for high school graduates than for college graduates, and volunteerism is higher among those with higher levels of education as well. 

From the Harvard Graduate School of Education Pathways to Prosperity Report (2011)
  • The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projected that between the years of 2008 and 2018, the U.S. economy will create nearly 47 million jobs
  • ...and it simultaneously projected that nearly two-thirds of the new jobs will need to be filled by workers with some form of post-secondary education.

The report from Harvard Grad School is super interesting as it explains that college degrees are not the end-all be-all for high school graduates. Lots of other options exist after high school, and the report explicitly discusses the fact that a college degree is not necessarily what students need to ultimately be successful, but post-secondary education is most certainly a must. 

...I'm still going to stick with college graduation as an end goal for my students, especially since they are in that bottom quartile, and so a college degree can open up doors for them that might never otherwise be possible. Regardless of the grade and/or class you teach, do you talk about college with your students and their families? Do you have fun ideas for teaching them about college? I'll have to post some of my ideas over the summer... :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

How much is too much?

Question: At what point does a teacher say, "I have too much stuff in my classroom"?

Answer: I'm not sure.

I am pretty sure I could stock an entire preschool. I just shipped 4 giant Fed Ex boxes to my new school.

...and then I took a 45 minute "break" to make an Excel spreadsheet of all the books on tape I have. (See previous posts about my slight OCD....) Conclusion? I have 60 sets of books on tape, totaling 298 books.

Granted I did not purchase a single one of those books, but still, that's quite a few! ...and those are just books on tape. I haven't even tried to catalogue all my other books, though I really should.

Anyway, I'm in love with all the books I have--I think a good classroom ought to have lots of books for students to read, because how can you learn to love reading without books?

However, I'm pretty sure I'm set for my's hoping I never become a hoarder and/or clutterer! I gladly and proudly embrace my organizational skills as they ensure I will never be the person who holds on to things "just in case."