Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Years Resolutions and Downtime

So I decided to take a little vacation from doing anything productive.  It has been nice.  I wrote lots of blog posts in my head, and then never published them.  I have had lots of fun reading everyone else's posts though.  There have been some great linky parties, so I am going to do a little catch up.

Okay, I want to link up with two linky parties about resolutions. I always have lots of personal goals.

Personal Resolution and Downtime

My primary personal resolution for this year is to keep working toward balance.  That was my goal for 2012.  I did much better the first half than the second half.  I actually started blogging in Feb. 2012 as part of that effort. 

Source: via April on Pinterest

Balance for me is about making choices that are healthy for me.  I am a very serious individual and tend to be overwhelmed and get tension headaches.  I love yoga.  I find it healthy and a good release of tension. I would like to consistently do yoga 3-4 hours a week.  Eventually, I would like to even do training as a yoga instructor to make a more lasting commitment to make yoga part of my life.

I really want to start a personal blog to track more of my personal journey toward balance. (It even has a cute name.  I just haven't done anything with it yet. It will be called "Balancing the Backpack.")  I would like to use this blog to track my progress toward making more consistently healthy choices and even track more of my gratitude.  I started my gratitude list in 2012 after reading 1000 Gifts.  I stopped doing it in the second half of 2012 and would like to pick it back up.

I also want to plan a trip to Hawaii for our 10 year wedding anniversary.  Jan. 2, 2013 is our 9 year anniversary.

Blogging Resolution

I think I just want to be more consistent and take better pictures.  I have a nice camera.  I just don't really know how to use it.  I would like to take some photography classes to get a little more familiar with lighting and composition, besides just learning the camera itself better.

Maybe this would help me?

Source: via Heather on Pinterest

I would love to more consistently post and comment.  I do consistently read other blogs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Using Glogster Edu for Digital Anchor Charts

So a couple weeks ago I purchased a Glogster Edu account.  It is like a cross between a blog and a scrapbook.  I want to try to start using it with my students as another fun way for them to apply what they learned on a topic in a way that utilizes technology.  I also want to use it recap topics and show assignments.  I may use it almost like a digital anchor chart.  I can have student accounts under my account. I finally played it with it myself to try it out.  We are talking about Point of View this week, so I created a glog on point of view.

I am going to use it in January to post assignments for our novel study.  I am thinking about using it as a way to list what we have to get done for the week.  Right now I am playing with the uses in my head.  If we can finish our Science lesson, maybe on Thursday we will make glogs on the Planets.  Either that or on Midwest Landmarks for Social Studies.  That is a project we still have not finished. 

Here is my glog on Point of View:

Have you ever used glogster?  How did you use it in your classroom?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts from a Heavy Heart

As I get ready to go back to school, I, like most of you, am saddened.  It's hard to find the balance between allowing yourself to enjoy the festivities of this time of year and coping with the sadness of such a tragedy.

As I read the stories of the teachers who protected their students, it made me proud to be an educator. I left the business world to become a teacher because I wanted to do something that allowed me to have a greater impact on the world.  Being a teacher is an overwhelming and chaotic job.  There are no extended lunch hours or frequent bathroom breaks.  The demands for paper work and peformance only keep growing.  On top of it, I see an entire generation of children who need love and a sense that someone cares enough to really see them as people.  Parents and society are busy.  Teachers are busy.  Life is busy.  The best thing we can do for our students is to take a moment to pause, breathe deep, and just really see them.  The teachers who impacted me the most are the ones who took the time to talk to the lonely, overly mature kid that I was.

I find that I have to constantly remind myself to focus on what really matters. It is so easy to be caught up in the endless to-do list. My goal is to try and smile more, talk with my students individually more, and find small ways to show them I care.  Hopefully, none of us will have to be in that position to take a bullet for our students, but we can show them in infinite ways that we care.

There is so much talk going on about how to prevent tragedies like this from happening.  Discussions of gun control, security, lock down drills, and right to bear arms are all valid discussions. I think the one discussion that people need to address is what do many of these shooters have in common.  The answer to that question is usually mental illness. As a society, we will walk, run, and advocate for diseases like cancer and heart disease.  The type of mental illness that causes someone to become a sociopath to the point of having no conscience or empathy for others can be present at a very early age.  It is often caused by trauma in utero or early childhood trauma.  Children need to feel loved and secure in order to properly attach, build meaningful relationships, and develop a healthy respect for others.  When trauma causes children to never really attach, the consequences can be frightening. 

My mom always wanted more children and adopted three more kids when I was a teenager.  All three were adopted as babies, but they were all born addicted to drugs.  Two of my three siblings despite all of my mom's love, nurturing, and advocating to get them the right help have severe mental health issues to the point that safety has been a concern.

Our foster care system is broken, and many people with mental illness end up in prison or creating more children with similar issues.  Our quest as a society to always be busy and get rid of God and any sense of moral compass is not helping us raise loved, well-attached children with a strong sense of right and wrong. As a society, we need to make spending time as a family more important and have some authentic discussions about providing more affordable and available public and private mental health services for both adults and children.

As teachers we don't always know what our students' home lives are or their background, but we still have unlimited potential to make a difference.  We can't make up for parents, but at the same time you never know when you might be the most consistent and loving thing in that child's life. I hope you find some time this week and through the holidays to hug your students and your family, smile and laugh, and be thankful for the blessings in your life.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Praying for the victims' families in Connecticut

Praying for the victims affected today and their families in Connecticut.  In times of such tragedy and loss, my heart aches.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Great Technology Resource for Tutorials

I am back for a quick second post today.  I wanted to share a great link for Technology Tutorials.  Ms. Jessica at A Turn to Learn does a Technology Tuesday post every week.
A Turn To Learn

She has some fabulous topics there from the last few months.  Here is the link to all of her Technology Tuesday posts.

Freebie - Story Map Lapbook

Today I have a freebie  for you.  I created a little foldable/lapbook based on the traditional Story Map with some analysis questions built in.  You can get a copy here.

We are going to use it with the book The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco. This is a really sweet story on Hannukkah and helping others. This would also be a great story for discussing theme or moral of a story.

Earlier this week we watched the video version of My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother on Storyline Online.  While reading the story, we discussed character traits and examples from the story on why they are that trait. This is also a great book to discuss character development and how a character can change through the course of a story, as well as how characters' views of other characters can develop throughout a story.

Both stories involve the same characters.  Next week we are talking about point of view, and we will refer back to these two stories.  My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother is written in 1st person point of view and The Trees of the Dancing Goats is written in 3rd person point of view.  Since both stories involve the same characters they make a good contrast for the different ways stories can be delivered.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2013 Calendars and a Year of Writing Prompts

Last night I created a file to use with my students the next 2 weeks.  We are making a calendar as a parent gift.  I created calendars for all of 2013 and several writing assignments for each month.  They are going to write one paragraph for each month of the year.  I may also let them to choose to draw some pictures to add in for some of the months instead of just writing.  I am proud of this product.  It was a lot of work, and I actually finished something.  I like it because it also continues to reinforce paragraph writing for my students.  In the end, there were over 40 writing assignment topics.  The ones we do not use in the calendar I will use next year as monthly writing assignments.  Now, they are already made!  Not to mention calendars for projects and whatnot.

You can get it at my TpT store.  It will usually be $4.00, but I put it on sale for now for $2.00.  So if you are looking for a student gift for parents, calendars for next year, or a year's worth of writing prompts, it's a good deal.

On another side note, I finally got to try out Picasa to create the preview collage.  I searched my google reader forever trying to find the post that talked about this great tool to create photo collages.  I finally found it.  Here is the link to the post at A Turn to Learn for creating photo collages with Picasa. This time I actually pinned it. It was so easy! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas for Parents from Students

I have been absent again for a few days.  I have still been sick.  From Friday night to Saturday, I slept 17 hours.  I am feeling better today though.  We finished the Christmas lights on the outside of the house this afternoon.  Yay!

I still need to finish planning for the week.  I always seem to spend too much time researching and not enough time finalizing. Anyway, I always struggle with what gift to have my students make for their parents.  I have always taught older elementary students.  They are too old for the "babyish" crafts, but young enough I feel we should do something.  Here are some ideas I found via Pinterest and blogs:

1) A 2013 Calendar (I have always wanted to make a calendar.  I think I will have them draw a picture or write something for each month.  We can glue it to larger contruction paper and laminate it. Then just fold it in half and staple it.)

Here is a link to a calendar on TpT.

2) Cookie mix (This is a fun way to incorporate measurement. I knew a Math teacher who made these last year and it came out super cute.  The kids all got to bring their holiday aprons for the day of the measuring.  They loved it!)

3) Coasters - (These look fun.  Might consider this for next year.)

4) Dinner Conversation Starters - I read about this on the Clutter Free Classroom, which is the absolute best blog resource for ideas on anything.  This seems like such a fun idea to encourage kids to spend time with their family.

5) Christmas Word Cloud - I was thinking about having the kids make a word cloud with Tagxedo about Christmas.  They could write words about the holiday, a poem, family names, etc. We could print it out and frame it. I guess you could even make multiple ones and print them out and laminate them as placemats?  Not sure...just brainstorming.

6)  In the past, I have bought plain glass ball ornaments.  The kids decorated them with Sharpies and glitter. 

What do you do as Christmas gifts for parents?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thankful...just thankful

I am thankful for life and energy to keep going...

This weekend was supposed to be super productive.  Saturday morning I did some cleaning and some shopping.  I decided to take a nap and woke up with a full-blown cold.  There was nothing gradual about it. I wasn't sick and then I was. 

Friday night had been a little more eventful than I planned.  I got a call from a co-worker that night to tell me she had been robbed at gunpoint, while unloading her groceries at a really nice suburban apartment complex.  Thank goodness she is okay.  A few months ago my 14 year old brother was mugged on his way home from work, and he lives in a small town. The world is a scary place. In so many ways when I get too busy to remember God and to be thankful, he gives me reasons to remember why He is needed.

This weekend I was supposed to accomplish lots of grading and getting my Christmas decorations up.  This would have been one of the few Christmases I did not have graduate school to blame on the delay on putting up decorations. Well, we got lights up on the tree outside. I am thankful we accomplished that much.  We have never decorated the outside of the house before.  We will do the roof this weekend...hopefully. The inside as well...maybe.

Anyway, I took a sick day on Monday.  I went to the doctor and got steroids for the congestion. I wish I was one of those amazing bloggers who actually finishes a product on a sick day.  I slept, but I needed it. Yesterday, I was exhausted when I got home and sat like a zombie watching HGTV. Tonight I ran errands until 8pm and figured if I just keep moving I might have enough energy to catch you up on why I have been absent. 

So for now I am thankful for this little outlet, that my friend is safe, that I can remember that this is a season for Hope despite all the stress, and that I have oatmeal cookies waiting because I went to the store. 

Goodnight and many blessings!
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