Welcome to Rm. 202!

Welcome to Rm. 202!

I am so excited you’re here!

Please proceed with caution, and read carefully….

The following letter contains 2049 words that will begin to shape your fifth grade year. Be sure you have time to read them all carefully. You may like to have your parents sit and read with you so you can all be excited about fifth grade together.You should also have dancing shoes on (true story) and a video camera handy (extra credit).

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are about to become…

Fifth Grade and Fearless!

I am excited for the year ahead – but first, I need your help in knowing what next year is going to look like.


Yes, your help!

What next year holds, is, in large part up to you. I have my plans, my ideas, my goals….what about you?

I know some of you may have sneaked a peek at the letter I sent your parents, or may already know me, so this next part may be a bit of a review.  Too bad.  Keep reading anyway. 🙂  I have been teaching for 12 years and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching there long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home–which is in St. Peters–I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Wentzville.  He is starting in 3rd grade this year, but has taught 4th and 5th grade like me, too.  Fun, right?  We have a 5YO, Riley, who will be at Robinson, too.  I am sure you’ll get to know him really well as we got through the year together.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 19-mo-old.  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  We also just like to hang out together at home (or anywhere, really) and spend time with each other.  So that’s me.  What about you? Can’t wait to learn more about YOUR family!

Like I said, I have been teaching for 12 years, and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don’t let other people tell me who I will be and I don’t just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.

Who Will You Be? (This is a big question – take your time to think about this!) Will you be the kid who has brilliant ideas? The kid who loves math? The kid who looks to help other people? The kid who……? Fresh start. Clean slate. We all get one (that includes you!) and we all get to begin fifth grade as the person we want to be.

What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you?

There are lots of things that are important to me: my husband and my kids, sharing ideas, reading, writing, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry.

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU!:   You’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know you, and know you well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what you like, what you don’t like, what makes you tick.  Who you are.  That’s ok, right? 🙂

* Respect: If you’ve been around Robinson for longer than 5 minutes you know that respect is a HUGE part of our culture.  It’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect you, and I expect you to respect me, as well as everyone else in our community.  This counts when we agree and even when we don’t.  I have a saying that I learned from my good friend Mrs. Ford years ago, that is really important with this whole respect thing.  It’s this: You are not the sun.  In other words, the world does not revolve around you, and there are lots of other people in our classroom that have needs, wants, likes, dislikes, etc., that we need to take into account.  I love you, but I love everyone else, too!

* Mistakes:  I expect you to make them.  Yep, I said it.  I want things to be hard for you.  I want you to struggle.  If you need more than one try or lots more practice with a concept, you’ll get it.  If you need to show me what you know in a different way, then we’ll figure it out.  If  you need me to repeat something or explain it for you in another way, I’ll do.  If you need a big, fat challenge–watch out, you’ll get one! No, I’m not crazy, I just want you to try things that may be tricky at first.  I want you to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want you to feel the joy and success when you learn something new and it’s because you persevered!  Not everything will be easy here. And that’s ok. We’re in it together and I’ll help you all along the way. 🙂

* Collaboration: I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I love to work with other teachers to figure things out and find new solutions to old problems.  But just as much as working with adults, I love to collaborate with students.  I love to hear what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling about things, what you think would be the best way to learn something.  Even when you don’t agree with me, or have a plan that is completely different than mine, I want you to share it!  It’s our classroom, and often your ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with you about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, you’ll be collaborating with each other!  You will have lots of opportunities to share with your classmates, to give your ideas, ask questions, prove your reasoning and challenge each other.  I expect that we will work together to help EVERYONE in our class be the best they can be.  Together we’ll achieve much more than we would if we tried to do it on our own. 🙂

* Questions: I found a quote I love by a guy named Tony who loves learning. “No one cares what you know. What the world cares about is what you do with what you know.” Think about that. Chew it over. We can all google and find stuff out – but then what? After we know stuff, what we do with it = inquiry. And that is what the world cares about. Me too. You?

* Time is precious: So are you. I don’t like wasting time and I especially don’t like wasting your time. That means I try to come to school ready, fired up, and prepared to make a ruckus (I like to think that a ‘ruckus’ is the sound your brain makes when it is challenged to be creative, thoughtful, inquisitive and world-changing – it is a beautiful sound).  I hope–and expect–that you will come into our classroom every morning ready to learn, ready to work hard, ready to put your very best foot forward.  We only have so many days together, and we need to make the most of every single one of them.  We’ve got so much to do! 🙂

* Technology : I  love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you. We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You’ll be blogging, using iPads and laptops, working on the ActivBoard, making videos of your learning and trying out many new things that we may not even know about yet.  Whatever we do, though, the goal is always learning.  We will use technology in meaningful ways to better create new knowledge.  Excited?  I know I am!

* Community: our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. I bet you can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people’s stories. Your mom and dad should be on that list. They are awesome. (Assignment one; email me List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don’t happen to live in your house or share your last name).

* Taking risks: I like to take risks.   I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Usually when you do something scary you do things you never thought you could.  You surprise yourself.  And then you want to do more! Someone smart once said “Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color”. Cool, huh?


OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you are a rockstar. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance.  No really, go ahead.  Dance.  I’ll wait.  Better yet, have someone video tape your dance and send it to me!  I’ll even post it on our blog!

So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of fifth grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This’ll get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about being who you want to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.
  5. Look around your house (or your computer, maybe) for a picture of your family.  I’d love to be able to decorate our room with us–pictures of all the people who help make us who we are and who encourage us to do our best.  If you want to email it to me, that’s great (I’ll add my contact info to the end of this post), or you can print it and bring it to school on the first day.  And if you don’t have one, don’t worry!  We’ll take your picture!

Despite having now used about two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here’s To Being Fifth Grade and Fearless!

♥ Mrs. Bearden

PS. If you didn’t get up and dance before and are now wishing you did, there is still time to do it. Anytime. Send me that video with your best moves (extra credit).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your fifth grade brain tuned up, I would love for you to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.

I look forward to hearing from you before the end of the summer!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4214 (after August 15); Twitter: @jbeardensclass

**Thanks to @terSonya and Mrs. Hong for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**

It’s My Blog-i-versary!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to me!  I cannot believe it’s been a while year already!  Ok, actually it’s been a year and a week or so, but I was on vacation for the actual day.  So let’s celebrate now, how ’bout it? 🙂

I’m sure you were around since the beginning, but if you haven’t checked out the early days of 20somethingkids, here are a few posts from way back then–here, here and here.  It’s so funny to look back at the beginning of a journey, because it’s then that you realize how far you’ve come.  I laugh out loud when I read the first posts I wrote, because they’re really crude.  Not really written about anything.  But then, at that point I wasn’t really sure where my blog was going.  Or even where I wanted it to go.  And what’s funny is that it has gone places that I wouldn’t even have expected.

I’ve learned and shared things about myself over the last year, shared learning with my families, my colleagues and the world, and experienced so many new and exciting things with my class.  Even though I didn’t really have any expectations back then–expect that I’d try out the whole “blog” thing–I have to say that they’ve been exceeded.  I’ve had fun along the way and welcomed many new readers.  Hopefully one of those is you!

So as I begin another year in cyberspace, I welcome you to join me on the journey.  If you read and like what you see here, please share with your friends.  Invite them over for a read.  If you’re a reader, and you haven’t followed or commented yet, please do so!  I love to get feedback on what happens here, and I reply to every comment I get. 🙂

I’m excited to see what happens during the next year, as I begin another exciting learning year with another great bunch of 5th graders!  This year will also bring a whole new team of colleagues, a smaller class than I’ve had in YEARS (I’m starting out with only 20–nice, right? 🙂 ), Masters classes for me, and the beginning of incorporating Common Core standards.  I have many new technology ideas to try out, and I know I’ll have lots of lessons from kiddos that I’ll learn and will want to share.  You’ll want to be here for that, right?  Can’t wait to share it! 🙂

What’s been your favorite post from the first year of 20somethingkidsand1kookyteacher? What suggestions do you have for me? Leave a comment and share your thoughts! I really appreciate it!

I Love Jerry Spinelli!

…but don’t worry, my husband’s totally ok with it. 🙂

Remember when I told you about me as a reader?  And as a writer?  Well, as #10 on both lists (which is a strange coincidence!), I mentioned that Jerry Spinelli is one of my favorite mentor authors.

I was introduced to Jerry Spinelli’s work via my good friend Michelle Simmons, and her love of his book Crash.  We taught together many years ago, and she introduced me to it as one of the first read-alouds of the year.  But not only did we read it to enjoy it as readers, we incorporated it into our writing unit on Reading Like a Writer.  We’d reread parts of the text that we’d already heard, this time digging for nuggets and craft moves we could use in our own writing, teaching our students to do the same things.  You can find amazing things in that book if you pay attention.  And because Crash is such an amazing book on so many levels, it is a must-read every year in my class now.

The reason I write about this today, though, comes from inspiration of another colleague of mine.  I have a new teammate, Bridget, who shares my love for Spinelli and his many great stories.  We were talking about some of our favorites, and I had to sheepishly admit that while I was aware of, and even own most of his books, I have only ever actually read Crash.  I know–that’s just silly.  So they became the majority of my to-be-read pile this last month.  Only makes sense, right?  On so many levels.

First I read Eggs–one I’d actually started at the time I first bought it, but never finished.  Just today I finished Maniac Magee.  I know–how could I have never read that one?  It’s a classic.  And it won the Newberry Medal.  Sorry!  I’m lame.  But I’ve made up for that now, right?

I have Loser and Wringer here in my pile, still waiting for their turn.  I hope to get to them soon, as well.  And while now my list of Spinellis-I’ve-read is only 3, my initial opinion on his writing holds true.

I know–you wonder, “What is it that love so much about his writing?”  It’s many things, really.  I love the way his writing sounds.  I know that’s hard to explain, but I’ve heard it many more times out loud than in my head, since I read it to my students, and every word just has such a great ring to it.  Like he chooses each and every one specifically to be there together.  I like that he seems to break every established rule of grammar and mechanics and still ends up with an amazing story that makes sense.  He writes sentences that have only one word, chapters and paragraphs with only one sentence.  But because he does it on purpose, it works.   I like how the characters in his stories have real conversations.  They actually sound the way that kind of person would sound in real-life–not some sweet, idealized, sugar-coated way because they’re in a book for kids. Raw and real.  Sometimes saying things that shock you, because that makes sense for the character.  I like that he writes about things that matter, things that both kids and adults can relate to.  Bullies. Friends. Racism. Families. Things that aren’t so pretty.

So like I said when I started, I love Jerry Spinelli!  I learn from him every time I pick up a book he’s written, and he’s a mentor even though I’ve never met him.  That’s pretty cool, I think.

How ’bout you?  Who are your favorite authors?  Who do you have as mentors for your writing?  What books are your favorite to read? Share with me. 🙂