Decorating a New Room on a Budget

I finally got to see my new classroom, and to be completely honest, I was less than pleased.  

 No windows. A very unattractive shade of yellow which also happens to be the same shade as Purdue University (rival college).  Compared to my previous classroom, where I had clean and sterile tile, a beautiful view of our green field, and a sink, this room felt like a claustrophobic ugly step child.  It was a let down. At first.

I went home and instantly reached out to my teacher community on Instagram.  

 Through them and the miracle that is Pinterest, I came across several amazing bee-themed classrooms. 

 Many were pretty primary, but overall I had a theme and a vision. I knew from there that I could easily adapt these decorations to a middle school classroom. 

The Fabric

After visiting both Hobby Lobby and Joann Fabrics, I was able to get some beautiful and creative fabric for my bulletin boards, as well as scraps and ribbon to create a wreath for my door.  

     

I also picked up a few other things, including picture frames, scrapbook paper, and some wooden “paintables.” 

The wreath 

I bought a styrofoam wreath from Joann’s (these can be found anywhere) and picked up a variety of ribbons. I also scoured the fabric scrap section and found some gray, yellows (with bees!), and black patterns.  

   
I was going for a shabby chic look based off this Pinterest pin.  

 

I cut and ripped the fabric into strips to achieve a shabby look.  

 Then I cut the ribbons into similar-sized strips and tossed it all together like a salad.  

 From there I began randomly tying and knotting strips onto the styrofoam.  

 I kept pushing all the pieces together so they looked super shabby and there wasn’t any styrofoam showing through.  

   

I also found these little paper coasters on sale for $0.96 for six. I picked up six packs along with these medallion wall mounts for 30% off $9.99. 

The picture frames 

Once I finished the wreath, I used my scrapbooking supplies and trimmed down the colored paper to be 4×6 and 5×7 sized. I then put them into the picture frames that I had bought from Joann’s. The paper was 10 pieces for $2 and the frames were 50% off each!  

 

  The picture frames hang out on top of my filing cabinet. You can see that I attempted to print onto one of the yellow papers, but ran out of ink. Luckily this ended up looking okay as the paper and faded ink give the print a vintage/aged look. Look for a tutorial on this Queen Bee printed creation later!

The extras

Lastly, I wanted to include my last name, which begins with a B, into the mix. I found a wooden B and used gold spray paint. I found little wooden bee-themed accessories at Hobby Lobby and a crown at Joann’s.  

 I wasn’t crazy about the hive or the crown’s color. So I adjusted accordingly using some acrylic paint and little gemstones!   

    

Lastly, I the leftover fabric scraps from the wreath to make a fabric garland. I found the inspiration in this picture on Pinterest.  

 Mine is below.  

   

Target, as well, had these black and white bunting banners for $4.99 each. I picked up two to accent my white board.  


Stay tuned for some more detailed classroom decor as I put the finishing touches on the bulletin boards and add in the science curriculum!   

No Longer Fashionable in Fifth Grade?

Well, my blog readers, I am no longer a fifth grade teacher.  Yes, I have officially moved up to a real middle school, specifically sixth grade science.  With this new and obviously exciting development, I will heretofore need to revamp my blog subtitle.  I am no longer fashionable in fifth grade!  Luckily sixth and science are both s’words.  Ah ha!  My teacher mind has kicked in and I am definitely digging the alliteration.  Staying stylish in sixth grade science!  Insert thumbs up emoji here!   (more…)

Your Favorite Staff Meeting Attendees

Staff meetings. An educator’s favorite time of the week. A quick scan of Pinterest gives a sense of what teachers really think of staff meetings.

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And my personal favorite…20150107-215350.jpg

But, honestly, every job has meetings. Every job has pointless meetings on a regular basis. Teachers aren’t any different in this aspect and educators have to realize this.

What makes us different is that we work with children and deal with, on a daily basis, the fact that there really are stupid questions.

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So why is it that, without fail, one of the educators in the room will ask the dumbest question ever?! Why is it that an educator will speak just to summarize what has just been covered? Sound familiar? Here are a few of the coworkers you are likely to see at every staff meeting.

Coworker 1 – doesn’t realize that we are all chomping at the bit to go… yet still raises hand just as people are packing up to leave

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There really isn’t much that hasn’t already been said about this coworker. We’ve all been there and have inwardly groaned, “Just ask your dumb question after the meeting so the rest of us can go!” Unless the question is truly relevant, and chances are it isn’t, the staff meeting leader really needs to step up and dismiss everyone else before getting to this person’s pointless question.

Coworker 2 – needs step-by-step clarification for every. single. directive

I have one student in my class who I have to literally spell out every single step in any given process. Half the time it’s because she’s not listening, but honestly homegirl just does not comprehend on a “with a quickness” speed. Sound familiar?

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Unfortunately these traits carry into adulthood and you’ll most likely have one next to you in a staff meeting. Go ahead and be proactive by drawing pictures before the confusion sets in.

Coworker 3 – shares stupid story that nobody cares about

My fifth graders do this all the time and I’ve become quite used to interrupting with, “We are doing ________ right now, not telling stories.” As adults we really should start employing this for our work colleagues. Better yet, be direct. Apparently they’ve yet to receive the message and you’ll be doing us all a favor.

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Coworker 4 – asked to share information that could’ve been disseminated via email

Did you really need to take up my time with something that could’ve been put in an email that I could skim, disregard, and eventually delete? I didn’t think so.

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So the next time you have a staff meeting, keep yourself occupied not by listening and actively participating, but by pointing out how your coworkers are so much like your students. It’ll make the time go by much faster.

Students and Dogs: How Discipline Among the Two Aren’t Much Different

I’ve had a theory for a while now. Bear with me before passing judgment and believing that I’m crazy. Here it is…

Disciplining children is not so different from disciplining pets, specifically dogs.

What? Children and animals are nothing alike!

Aren’t they? Think about it.

1. Both have an underlying drive to please the parent/master/adult

2. Both have little to no self-control and must be trained/taught to learn expectations

3. Puppy dog eyes, they aren’t just for puppy dogs

Because of the various similarities, I believe that children have to be disciplined in a similar manner to dogs. That is, the discipline must be immediate, to the point, and then put behind us.

When Oakley (one of the three large dogs we own) was a puppy, he was very destructive. He ate everything: a razor, a full package of chicken that included the Saran Wrap and styrofoam, a couch, and so on. When we came home and found the destruction, usually Oakley was hiding under the bed. He already knew he’d done wrong and was caught. After providing an appropriate punishment that was immediate (not given 36 hours later) we had to move on. We couldn’t hold a grudge and still be angry three weeks later. We had to put the incident behind us and hope for better behavior.

Children need the same things. They need immediate consequences, not punishments handed out days later. Punishing after a day is utterly useless. The child has forgotten and has changed mindsets. It’s over in their minds. After providing an immediate consequence, they need to know that the teacher will not continue to hold a grudge or use the incident against them at a later date.

Finally, as a dog owner I have to realize that dogs are dogs. They are going to do dog things, like sniff butts, eat weird stuff, and bark incessantly. This is what dogs do! Children are the same way. Children are going to talk. They’re going to play too rough and be weird. It’s what they do! Providing an appropriate consequence (like telling your pet “NO!” sternly) or giving a time out is an appropriate punishment. You cannot overdo it and give your dog away simply because he jumped on your aunt at Thanksgiving. You cannot write off a child and give up simply because s/he talks in the hallway.

Obviously there are exceptions and nuances to this theory. But, at the end of the day, we all knew what we were getting into by “adopting” a pack of students. Now we all just need to start being more effective trainers.
Casual Friday:
Sweater: Jcrew Factory fair isle
Leggings: Levi’s Legging Jeans
Boots: Diba for DSW

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Transitions and What Teachers Hate Most About Teaching

I came home from work today steaming. I was so angry, so frustrated, so pissed. Why? Because of parents. Yes, parents. The worst part of teaching.

I have some parents who are amazing. They follow through, help their child without actually doing the work, and support me 100% by just being on my side. Most parents fall into this category. They realize that teaching is a job, and for many, a job they’d admittedly never be able to do and stay sane! I love these parents and truly hope that I am in this category for my own son’s teachers.

But then there are the other parents. Those breeders who copulated with some other human and created an offspring whom they could care less about. Those mommies who still wipe their little darlings’ butts. The helicopter parents who want so much to be the “cool parent.” These parents drive me to consider leaving teaching multiple times a year. They are, by far, the worst aspect of being a teacher.

Last year’s students were rough. At six years, four of which were severely inner-city, they were the hardest class I’d had. The parents were a little rough too. I had the anxiety-ridden tweaking kid who, being in my “high” math class, lived under the same roof as Mr. and Mrs. Military. Their child would literally incapacitate himself with anxiety if he was unable to grasp a concept. After one quiz, I wrote on his paper, “Did you study?” I received an email from his Corporal Mother asking how dare I write such a thing on her child’s paper when it should be obvious that he did study. Rather than inquiring if I could offer some suggestions on how to better study (because apparently the chosen method had failed miserably) I was considered in the wrong by the Squad Sergeant. Compared to the parents I have this year, this instance was tame.

Another parent was absolutely certain that her precious little cabbage patch child was being bullied and I was doing absolutely nothing to stop Precious from being emotionally scarred for life. In all honesty little miss Priss was an instigator and Mommy Dearest couldn’t bear being wrong.

This year I’m seeing more and more of the latter parent. Parents who swear their child is a victim. Innocent. Can do no wrong. Is that really how we are raising children these days? By telling them they are perfect and are to be trusted over adults?

I don’t think so.

Today my son was placed in timeout for throwing mulch at his teacher. Did I question the punishment? No. Did I question the teacher’s story? No. By choosing to send my kid to the day care, I have chosen to trust in the teacher’s ability to educate, discipline, and care for my child. While at school, my child is expected to treat his teachers as he would treat me and his father.

So why do so many parents assume that the teachers are the bad guys? Do they expect that I treat each child as though they are the only one in the class? Should I spend my teaching time dealing with each child’s personal issues. Let’s get real! As adults our bosses do not coddle us, and we can’t start coddling our youth as they transition into middle school.

Teachers must be tough and parents must be tougher. It’s that simple. Parent your child so that I can teach your student.

What types of parents have you encountered as a teacher? Share your horror story below!

Fashion Tip
An outfit to keep you sane during the transition from an Indian summer to a true autumn:

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Warm up a summer dress with boots, frilly boot socks, and simple (pearl, gold, silver) versatile jewelry. Orange is a great transition piece to pair with brown! Add a pop of teal or purple to brighten up the colors.

What’s Really Important

Apparently I am no longer a Type A personality. I swear I used to be. I used to fit the Wikipedia definition to a T. I was status oriented and wanted to be the best of the best. So how did I go from A to B?

To be honest I think I grew up a little. Now that I have a family that needs me, I don’t have the luxury of worrying about abstract ideas like perfection and popularity. As a neophyte teacher I was more self-absorbed and, as my husband worked on his career goals, I too strove to be the best of the best. And that was okay for me at that time in my life. But having a child, and really relying on only my husband for any kind of help, turned me into a definite Type B.

Do I still do a great job at work? Yes. I take home work once in a while. I arrive much earlier than required in order to accomplish the necessary tasks. I care about my career. But, at the same time, I leave work right at 4:15, the end of my contract time. I go home and play and enjoy my evenings without a single thought for work. I don’t really care about teacher rubrics for effectiveness or any number that’s tied to my abilities. I let this attitude guide my teaching.

My students know that they are more than a test score. I also know that they are more than students. They are softball players, actresses, little diplomats, gamers, basketball players, caregivers, chefs, maids, little mothers, big brothers. At the end of the day, they leave the student hat on the desk and go on about their lives. So I have to be compassionate enough to understand that they, too, have lives that should not revolve around perfection and popularity. I have to care about the other hats each child wears which involves listening, talking with, and being silly with the students. Teaching and being a disciplinarian are only small portions of my job. The rest is maintaining a bunch of personalities and pushing each to succeed for a short time during the day so that they can succeed at wearing many other hats throughout their lives.

So which personality type is better? I’m definitely going with B… For now!

Some recent outfits to transition to fall:
Old Navy striped waffle-knit sweater (bought in three colors)!

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Anthropologie thrifted dress (I got so many compliments on this one)!

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Old Navy white waffle sweater and Old Navy Rockstar fit pants (also bought in three colors)!

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The white waffle sweater over a plaid J. Crew Factory button down!

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My Beef with Teach for America

Although my current school has zero TFA members, my previous school was a revolving door for the “brilliant” TFA movement. At one point it seemed we had more TFA members than legitimate teachers.

I have maintained friendships with several of the TFA members, but their personalities and capabilities aren’t what turned me away. It’s the whole model and idea behind the company. In case you’re unfamiliar with Teach for America, the gist is that recent college graduates are fast-track trained to work in the nation’s worst urban school districts.

The process is simple: realize you don’t know what the hell to do after graduation and decide that teaching can’t be that hard. Plus, changing the world is a great résumé builder. Apply and gain acceptance, especially if you are a male or a minority. Then spend the summer (approximately 6-8 weeks) working with inner-city kids in a highly supervised environment. Finally, get “hired” at a school district where most of your salary is paid for by the TFA corporation.

So let’s summarize: you aren’t adequately trained but you’ll get hired over a fully trained teacher because your salary is subsidized by a corporation. Fair? Not exactly.

We all know that the most qualified isn’t necessarily the one hired. It’s all about the money.

Within the four years I worked at my previous school, we had TFA members for three. That totaled at least fourteen teaching positions that were given to TFA over highly-qualified educators.

However, this isn’t even the bubble-bursting piece of information that ultimately turned me off of the corporation. TFA members are only required to work in the schools for two years.. Yes. Two.

After two years, only 3/14 were still educators in an urban environment. The other 11 were scooped up to work for TFA doing recruiting and other operational duties. After their two year stint a new cycle of members come in and the process repeats itself, never allowing continuity, consistency, or teacher retention for the already at-risk urban school.

On top of all this, I personally find it demeaning to lead others to believe that, after a mere two years at a job, one would be considered an expert, enough to recruit, train, and lead others into this profession. I’m currently in my seventh year of teaching just intermediate elementary and I learn and change daily!

While the fact remains that urban areas need good teachers, TFA belittles the struggle by allowing administrators to hire long-term temps who are then swooped up by the corporation rather than being encouraged to remain in the teaching field.

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Women…

Prior to working at my current charter school, I was employed for four years at another charter that was considered legitimate inner-city. Our charter was held by a company and run by a man who knew how to fundraise. He was a pro. I don’t know who he talked to or how he managed to get our little place the big bucks, but we did pretty well.

The whole fundraising idea was never even brought to our attention. As teachers our job was to do just that… Teach! What happened in the “back of the house” wasn’t anything for us to stress about. If we needed something, we asked and poof! It was there. I know that this isn’t very realistic for every school, but it was certainly nice to be pampered so much with new textbooks every few years and free school sweatshirts for the entire staff and student body.

When I left that school I was quite naive in assuming that all charters ran the same way, with lots of fundraising. I assumed there would be old white guys in suits trolling through the school to gawk at us teaching the little unfortunates. Very Oliver Twist. I could not have been farther from reality.

So, when my current employer hired a fundraising liaison, or whatever you call a glorified begger (haha), I was completely taken aback when we teachers were approached to make donations. According to her, our “business” would be at a severe disadvantage without 100% teacher participation. To me it seemed shaky at best. Not once had my previous employer even mentioned employee participation in fundraising. What was this lady talking about?!

I could see the uncertainty and wariness in my coworkers’ eyes as they listened to this newcomer. Not a single one was overly impressed or eager to cough up our hard-earned dollars, least of all me. When speaking about it later with my husband, he was adamant that, should I feel harassed for not participating, I should take action.

While it never came to that, I did feel hounded, and I find that very unprofessional and hurtful from an employer who I have already given so much. As I thought more about the idea of giving and what would make me actually donate, we were “generously” given the opportunity to have a monthly jeans day if our building had 100% participation. I know of other schools that allow teachers to wear jeans if they donate a certain amount. It sounded like a plan to me! I donated anonymously (from my paycheck, haha).

So where is this story going, exactly?

Today, after our building has been stuck at 93% participation for the past week, a fellow coworker bravely approached me to inquire about my participation. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, 93% correlates to just two staff members who have chosen not to participate. She wondered if I was one of the two based on conversations we had had earlier in the month.

Nope. Not me. I do, however, wholeheartedly admire the two that are standing their ground. Am I upset that they are the reason we aren’t able to wear jeans once a month? Not at all.

As I sat and thought about the whole situation this afternoon, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. Was the purpose of this whole “giving” idea meant to turn us against one another as we conducted a witch hunt to find the two who are holding out? Probably not. But it is interesting that it’s landed here. Salem, part II.

Women have a tendency to be witch hunters. They want to sniff out the ones who aren’t conforming and then ostracize or act catty toward the nonconformists. Will they do this to the nonconformist’s face? Nope. Which is why I appreciate the coworker who outright asked me if I had donated. She’d heard rumors and wanted to come to me directly, like an adult, before the mob began their hunt.

This brings me to the moral of my long-winded post: if you want to know something, ask. Don’t start hunting witches until you know there are actually witches to hunt. Otherwise you’re just as bad as the ignorant, intolerant, judgmental assholes from the original witch hunt.

Oh, and all in all I really appreciate my former employer for not including us teachers in just another “thing” that takes us away from our actual job… Teaching.

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My Husband’s Pet Peeve

On Friday I received this picture message from my husband.

20140824-222806.jpg Okay, I thought. What are two measley little packages? And then I got this second picture.

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All right. I may have a slight problem.

My obsession with online shopping has gotten out of hand recently. Between back-to-school deals on clothing to thrifted items on Instagram (look up #shopmycloset), I am almost daily receiving packages.

Now, if I made it home first this would be a nonissue. But the fact is that I don’t. Every once in a while I’ll manage to sneak something in using my large purse, but it’s getting tougher. So, I guess that leaves me with my only option: find a friend who will let me ship things to her house…

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Top: JCrew Factory blue collared dress shirt
Bottoms: Rock ‘n Republic white denim cropped skinny pants
Bracelets: Mindy Mae’s Market and bangle handmade by moi

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I then proceeded to spill Starbucks on myself. Happy Monday!

The Sad Reality Behind Standardized Testing

Within the past few days my city has been rocked by the cheating scandal of an urban charter school. While I would never condone the actions of this school, I can see where the educators came from.

There is a huge amount of pressure on charters in my city. We are constantly scrutinized, poked and prodded until we begin to question our own ability to do our job. There are veiled threats of closing if certain impossible criteria aren’t met. It’s, ultimately, a horrible environment for the staff of any school.

For these teachers to sense that fear and know that they will never achieve the impossible can cause horrible choices. And let’s face it, the odds are stacked against most schools:
-attendance issues
-poorly trained support staff and a revolving door of assistants
-low teacher retention as they find more stable jobs
-parent empathy
-government empathy
-administrator empathy

We need to face facts. These schools are not going to succeed. Until the government realizes that nobody really wants to teach in that environment for such a pittance, we will be stuck in the same rut.

Do I have solutions? No. I got out of such a school because of these same factors. The revolving door theory worked both at the teacher level, student level, and administrator level as our principal was released shortly after. He had vision, but there were too many hands in the pot and he refused to be a “yes man.” Thus, he was outed.

So, do I agree with the cheating? No. But I think the deeper problem is why these adults chose to cheat. What would make you put your career, your livelihood, your freedom on the line? To me it screams of desperation and a lack of other options.

My heart hurts for those teachers involved and those who were unaware. To the administrators, for shame. This was an administrative directive, there is no doubt in my mind. But what other option did they have?