Another Indie Bookstore for the WIN!

Remember that post from San Francisco about all of the beautiful little bookstores I found? Well…I FOUND ONE AT HOME!! I’m so excited to tell you about this amazing little place my hubby found right down the street from us called Little Readers Bookstore.

Little Readers Bookstore on Hampton Ave. in South City

Yesterday’s grand opening meant an air of excitement, brightly frosted cupcakes and lots of money spent on new books to add to my ever-growing collection. I mean, come on—is it possible to have too many books?

The inside of the shop is small, but nicely decorated and clear on who’s important here: the little readers who fill those tiny chairs and spend time finding a new favorite book! There is definitely a South City vibe, which is great. And the best part? I can walk there! (Although I guess that does cause some trouble in that it limits the size of my book haul to whatever I can carry! 😆 Oh well, I’ll figure it out. Maybe a wagon??)

Speaking of “book haul,” let me show you what we bought!

I found two new titles I am excited to share with my kiddos, and one that is an old favorite—but in paperback!

I hope to be able to visit this little gem of a store for years to come and that they get to grow and grow, putting books into the hands of Little Readers all over town! Visit them, will ya?!

Gather in the Library

I have been busy in my new room, and yesterday I made a breakthrough! Have been working on getting the library–which is all around our meeting area rug–put together and the rough draft of it is pretty much done. I’m so excited to share what’s starting to take shape. There are many small details I have to fix, but I am so excited for our new class to gather in the library every day for learning!

Check it out! And I’d love to know what you think–leave a comment below! 🙂

3rd Grade is Kindergarten Again

I was thinking about a suuuppppeeerrr cute shirt that was delivered today:

Our team shirt for this year! Like it—order one for yourself from @MapleAndHen on Etsy! Love it already. ❤️❤️❤️

Of course, the first thing I thought was about how I already miss my old team, but also how excited I am about the prospects of a new one and what we will accomplish together this year. I thought of all the young teachers and learners that will start with me next month—and how I get to tell them all I’m their teacher on Monday!

And then I thought about how weird it feels to say “3rd grade strong” or “I’m on the 3rd grade team.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am totally on board with the strong and the team part, but the 3rd grade part feels very strange in my mouth. Saying it doesn’t yet roll off my tongue.

I’ve taught primary for lots of years, and always felt perfectly confident claiming the “1st and 2nd teacher” title, I knew exactly what the meant: I teach kids to read, lots of kids loose their teeth, I encourage independence and problem solving rather always looking to the teacher for help, there are still sometimes tears because we’re not first in line (this is of course not an exhaustive list 😀). If I heard someone else claiming the title also, I could immediately commiserate or celebrate with whatever story they were telling.

The same thing happens with “4th and 5th grade teacher.” I spent almost a decade on that end of the elementary spectrum, building on what had happened in primary—extending learning and challenging kiddos to do great things with those basic skills they had developed early on. I knew that being an “intermediate teacher” meant dealing with new hormones and drama, but also being able to be more sarcastic, have deeper conversations about books and current events, and teach a really great unit on multiplying and dividing fractions (really—I still miss working through that one with 5th grade mathematicians!).

That same thing doesn’t happen now. I know some of this comes from not actually haven’t been a 3rd grade teacher yet, but I think some of it is also the “between” nature of third grade. It’s not a primary grade anymore; I’ve heard all about how this is the year we begin to read to learn, since we’ve already learned how to read. It’s a year of great transition and growing, both socially and academically. Thirds graders are still little enough to really love their teacher and love school, but are old enough to push a little further, so harder things. But it’s not yet a true “upper grade”, and all that comes with that.

That brings me to the title of the post. I wonder if 3rd grade is a little like being in kindergarten again. Just like when kiddos bring their preschool suitcase with them to the primary grades—ready to be big kids and do “real” school—3rd graders are doing that same thing as they begin their intermediate journey. Their bags are fuller now: stuffed with reading and writing strategies, lessons they’ve learned about how to be good friends and have a growth mindset, math skills and memories of their “firsts”—when they did great things for the first time and were really surprised.

What does that mean for me as I embark on this journey with them, as a first time traveler as well? I’m at the same transition stage as my students, only I know both what has been and what will come a few years down the line. I wonder what this “between” time will do for me as both a teacher and a learner. What tools will I add to my own toolbox? What skills and strategies will be in my suitcase at the end of this year that aren’t there now?

You know what? Not knowing is kind of the best part. I’m heading out on a new adventure, uncharted territory of sorts, jumping into the deep end of a pool in which I’ve never swum (or is it swam?? Sorry grammar police 👮). I am going to do new things that I know will be hard and might feel impossible. I’m going to attempt things that will fail, but also accomplish things I never thought possible. Just like my students will. And they will be there to celebrate with me, cheer me on along the way and pick me up when I fall. And I will do the same for them. We’ll do it together. 😀

San Fran is for (Book) Lovers ❤️❤️❤️

I know, I know. That’s really a Virginia thing. But yet, I didn’t just take a vacay to Virginia. So San Fran it is. 🙂

If you’ve spent time around here–either as a long-time blog reader or a new reader who’s been getting their feet wet–you have hopefully noticed that I am a reader. Books are kind of a big deal around here: at home and in my classroom. And so, it seems, books are a big deal for me on vacation, too.

We went to lots of fun places on our tour of San Francisco. Some places I can tell you about by the name of the neighborhood, and some I can tell you by the name of the books stores I visited while I was there. 🙂

I think in the end we found three cute little independent book stores, and bought something at all of them! Cuz what’s a better souvenir than a book. Or ten? LOL

The first place we ran into was The Book Passage, in the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. Besides being easy to get to, it had great views of the bay. We went here more than once, just because we could.

If only I’d have thought about how I’d write about this–I’d have taken a better picture! Hopefully you get the idea. 🙂

On one of our dinner adventures, Grant and I were walking around after our visit to Burma Superstar (YUM!) and came upon this little gem:

I could have spent all night here. Seriously.

Besides being lovely and cute and small and independent, they also had a sale bin. :). Found many things I was excited for some good finds, but especially for the book about the Golden Gate Bridge I had seen in other stores at full price. Here it was over 50% off! WIN!!

The last one was so good we visited it twice: Browser Books.

On our first visit we ran into one of those “blind date with a book” sale boxes and bought almost the whole thing!

Do you have guesses for what those books might be? Are you dying right now? Should I show you what we ended up with? Oh, ok. :). Here’s what was inside of those packages. Be sure to leave me a comment to let me know if you guessed right. I actually did guess one of them correctly!

Pretty great, right? What a super selection, all books I wouldn’t have picked on my own. How did you do on your guesses? I was right on the Trevor Noah one, in case you were wondering. 😉

I think I mentioned that this was our first trip to this store? On the second trip I found two more great books (not on sale, but sooo great it didn’t matter) that I’m excited to incorporate into my classroom this year.

WHEW! What a great trip with such great little bookstore finds. What a special part of traveling–the bookstores come home in my heart and the books come home in my suitcase!

Behind the Mask

If you read my last post, then you know we were just on a family trip to San Francisco. Yesterday was a really long day of flying home (from San Fran to Burbank, then Burbank to Phoenix, and then Phoenix to St. Louis, because I know you were wondering 😉).

As I began each leg of the flight, I listened as the flight attendants (who are amazing group of people, I should add!) explained all of the safety protocols and what to do when and how and all of those essential things. It made me chuckle each time as they said the word “mask,” as I thought of how our understanding and use of that word has changed soooo much over the course of this last year and a half.

Yes, originally when that safety spiel was written, it referred to the yellow plastic cup with the rubber strap that I’m supposed to put on myself first and then on my child in case of a sudden drop in cabin pressure (which, thankfully I’ve never had to do!). I was further reminded during one presentation of the possible confusion when the attendant closest to me actually pulled down his fabric mask to demonstrate how you’d have an extra step now of removing one mask for the other mask to work appropriately.

Also there in my memory is how the word mask used to be relegated only to Halloween, something that I hated to wear a child because they were so hot (and you don’t really need one when you dress up as Laura Ingalls Wilder or Jem—shout out or anyone old enough to appreciate that reference 🤣), and that now I also know you’re not supposed to bring to school for the classroom parade but instead save for “real” trick-or-treating at home later that night.

Enter 2020 and COVID-19 and of course that word has a completely different definition and as well a different connotation depending on the wearer. (And no, dear reader, I am not going to spending time here on any political statements or judgments of right or wrong. I am simply going to tell stories about masks. Stories that I am sure will be highly entertaining, so I hope you stick around. 😉)

I remember the beginning of the pandemic when the whole idea of masks came up and my friend shared with me a tutorial on how to make one out of a dish towel or a t-shirt and how silly I thought that was. She was of course over-reacting, we were never going to need to know how to do that. Right?

Ha! Of course I was so very wrong. Let me stop a second here to show you how wrong I was. And when I say “wrong” I mean let me show you the first versions of masks we wore around my house, which were made of strips of fabric and ponytail holders. Please be kind as you enjoy this picture:

This photo was taken in April 2020. It was my daughter’s first outing, and our first need for masks in public. Those are terrible, right? At least they did the job. And since you’re wondering here, too–she had to go to the dentist to get a tooth pulled. Ugh, right?? We know how to have fun around here! 🙂

Instead of Halloween- or airplane-related, scarcely worn and foreign, mask is now a term that has become common place to all of us. But to me it’s also become an opportunity to express my creativity and also a bit of a fashion statement. Or at least an opportunity to match a new accessory to my clothes!

We went on like that with those strip-and-rubber-band masks for a bit.

Once we knew we were going to need more “official” masks, I had a choice to make. And since I’m definitely an “I’d-rather-make-it-than-buy-it” kind of person, I knew that meant I needed to figure out how to make some better fabric face coverings. Then I remembered the scrap fabric pile in the basement and decided we needed a little bit of an upgrade. The second iteration of the Bearden family mask stash was a little better than these, and at least has some sewn elements, thanks for a PLETHORA of YouTube videos on the subject. (I’m not kidding, check it out, I am pretty sure EVERYONE has posted a video on how to make a mask as home! When you find out how many there actually are, leave me a comment and tell me the number, will ya? 🙂 ). Eventually we had a small stash of masks that were at least presentable in public, but that were mostly adult sized. My husband was the only one leaving at this time, since we were all doing school at home and we decided it was best for the rest of use to stay in as much as we could. He and I shared these first masks, and of course washed them after each wearing. At that point no one besides him was even really needing them, so we had only a few through which we rotated.

This basically got us all the way through the summer, as we tried to steer clear of places where we’d even come in contact with people. Our kids stayed at home, and we really only went on short trips to the grocery store–as were most others, too. We even managed a beach vacation, where we stayed in our condo and played on the beach by ourselves and again only ventured out a couple of times to pack our fridge or sneak a quick ice cream treat from a stand nearby. It took me all the way to June to even find a picture in my albums of someone wearing one of those masks I sewed. Seems like by that time we at least were willing to venture out a bit, I think mostly because it was summer and we could be outside.

The big turn came when–gasp!–the decision was made to return to school in October. Now, not only did A and I need a mask for every day, we also needed ones that we were willing to be seen in. LOL.

That began my search for a better design as well as prints and fabrics that were more fun. I mean, hey, if you have to wear something you may as well enjoy it right? I think by now I’ve gotten this whole mask-making thing down to a science, and can hand-sew a mask in 25 minutes from 8″ X 8″ square to complete mask with straps and pleats–like these that I just added to the stash tonight:

25 minutes from start to finish. Great while-you’re-watching TV work! 😊 If I use my Serger, the time is only like 10! But then I have to move off the couch, so sometimes hand-sewing wins. LOL

As I’ve been working on this post, going back to find pictures to use, I’ve realized how FEW I actually have! Some of that, I think, is because of how little we actually left our house over the last year, hence we weren’t places where we’d both be wearing masks and taking pictures. The other thing is that when we were outside, we tried to stay away from others, therefore not wearing masks. But that makes our picture documentation of the pandemic and quarantine look a lot like others years–I wonder if that will be something I will miss in the future when I look back on 2020. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. 🙂

I mentioned earlier that the return to school meant that we all needed more masks, and so I needed to get busy. My first pile of additions were made with scrap fabric, but were inspired by some of our favorite colors, characters and prints.

Once my hubby finally went back to in-person school in January, he needed another set of new masks since he’d now need them every day of the week.

Eventually, we just started finding cute fabric and making more masks not because we needed them, but because they went with clothes we have, or just because they were cute.

Like I said, I’ve learned somethings that might be helpful if you’re making your own masks. There are many, many tutorials online–and heck, you could probably figure out how to do it on your own if you already know how to sew. I used several different versions. The first looked like this, with a filter pocket and long straps so that they could fit both me and my husband. We just tied slip knots in the ties if they needed to be a littler smaller.

The style I’ve landed on–both because they are easiest to make and also because they fit the best are basically like what you can find on this post by Diary of a Quilter. We use 8″ X 8″ squares a little bigger if they’re for my husband’s face or a little smaller if they’re for my daughter), scissors, needle and thread (for hand-sewing), and nylon stretchy loops like you made potholders with when you were a kid. I found this pack of 288 of them on Amazon and will have plenty for a long time to come. You cut them in half and use one for each mask. These have been our favorite straps by far because they are soooo comfy and soft on your ears. 🙂

Whew. Wow–who knew there were so many words to write about masks? I certainly didn’t. Especially last year when masks weren’t even things I even really ever wore. Now they are everywhere, and despite what you think about their health benefit, they definitely keep people from knowing if I have coffee breath in the morning or if I had onions on my salad at lunch. LOL And that, friends, is definitely a win-win in my book.

Happy Masking!

How Could I Have Forgotten?!

I know, I know. I promised in my “hey, world, I’m back” post a couple of weeks ago that I’d stick to a schedule, but I just remembered something that is totally with a two-post day: we missed my blog’s anniversary! I started this little blog baby on July 11, 2011. Wow—10 years!

In July 2011, I had a 5 month old baby. Now that baby’s gonna be a 5th grader. During that summer I was also doing lots of laundry. That part is actually similar to now, only back then my laundry was diapers! I shared this mask pic in my last pair, but it reminds me so much of this one I took back at that time.

In July 2011, that cloth-diaper-wearing baby had a 4YO brother, and this fall he’s going to high school! In July 2001, I lived in the suburbs. Now I live in a right-next-to-my-neighbor, on-a-dead-end, park-on-the-street city house and LOVE IT! In July 2011, I had just started teaching 5th grade. Since then, I’ve taught 4 more years of 5th and then made an unexpected move back to primary! And just because he’s such a big part of my life, I should mention that I’ve been with my husband for 10 more years since then and we will have our 23rd anniversary later this year. Wow! What a decade its been!

And since a crazy decade requires so looking back—and I am sure you have nothing better to do today than walk down memory lane with me—I’m going to link to some of those early days of the blog that you may have missed. Hope you hang around and read (or reread) a few!

Can Out-of-Towners Become Regulars?

Some might say that my family and I are creatures of habit. I don’t know why….every Wednesday we order dinner from La Catrina (and most weeks the bag includes 2 chimichangas, a cheese quesadilla and an order of carnitas); every Thursday is raid-the-bakery-at-Russell’s day (although this may or may not happen now on any day that they are open, cuz it’s all so good!); Friday night is pizza-and-a-movie-or whatever-is-new-on-steaming night; and we’ve been to Disney World as a family close to 15 times. Some would say my family are creatures of habit. I think I’d just call it “searching for regular status.” Or maybe “people who wish to be regulars.” You know, like when you’ve been somewhere so many times they know what you want before get there to order it. Or like at Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

I’m sure that I’ve given some thought to the “why” of the whole thing tons of times; I am by nature a reflective person and probably ask “why” about far too many things.

One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that some of my fondness for familiar things comes from having so much change and uncertainty as a child. Without getting much into the details, we moved a lot and I went to several different schools, which made making solid friendships tricky. I often longed for the things I saw on TV (and then eventually in families around me)—big families, living in the same house you were born in, returning to the same beach for vacation with your cousins year after year. Don’t get me wrong (especially if you’re reading this, mom 😊)—I don’t have bad memories from my childhood, I just didn’t really form any memories. Or at least not the Hallmark-movie kind I had always wished for.

So as I got married, moved into adulthood and became a mom—and therefore in more control of my life—I made a decision to do some things differently.

Back to my question up there at the beginning….it seems that one of the major ways the whole “searching for regular status” manifests itself (besides that long list of dinner choices I mentioned before!) is in the way we vacation. I already mentioned our penchant for visiting Disney World; my oldest kiddo is 14 and has been there 11 times. When answering the questions of why we return over and over, it’s hard to nail down exactly one thing. I guess I could sum it up by saying it feels like home away from home (or insert the other oft-given answer of “Disney magic” 🥰). We know the way to get to all the things, we have our favorites, we know which parks to visit and when (and what restaurants to eat at when we get there)—there’s no map reading, wandering around with confused looks on our faces, no uncertainty about what to do or when or why to do it.

We do the same thing with our visits to the beach: same hotel/condo, same part of town, same ice cream shops same general daily routine. We know our favorite restaurants but are willing to branch out to new ones each time to add to the list.

Which brings us to now. As I write this, I’m standing in a longish, Sunday morning line for a yummy San Francisco breakfast spot. The restaurant is new, but the street I’m standing on is one we’ve walked over and over. It’s next to a park in which we’ve eaten dinner and dessert and smiled at all the cute dogs and babies. It’s on the way to Chinatown, to the bakery we’ve visited four times (and is on the list for today!), and is on the way to many of the other neighborhoods and hidden places we’ve been discovering for the last week. Since we’ve walked it over and over we know where many things are, which direction to head when we leave the hotel, and also what to expect up around the corner. We are by no means experts (of course 😉) after 8 days, but we’re familiar.

And so to answer my own question, I’m not sure out-of-towners can become regulars, but they can become familiar enough with a place that it feels like home, calling them back from wherever they may roam in the meantime. And that’s good enough for me.

Change of Plans

A plan is a great thing, no? I’ve learned over the last year that a plan is often just a suggestion (COVID, am I right?). Just as soon as I think I know what I’m going to do next, something–or someone–comes along and messes it all up. Or at least changes it up. The thing you thought was your next right step becomes differently prioritized. So instead of writing about my favorite past posts, I will tell this story instead.

I met with a friend today, to catch up over coffee after not seeing each other for a couple of years. We talked about our kids and what we’re learning about being moms of teenagers and how there’s just no instructional manual for those things (or if you have one that I don’t know about, will you share it with me?!). We used to work together and so the conversation eventually came around to what we’re doing now and what’s up in the education world. She told me about some amazing things she’s been doing in her program that were recently in the newspaper and how much she’s loving what she’s doing (which I hope that I can someday soon link to right here in this blog!). I shared about what’s been going on with me over the past year, and brought up how frustrated I have become with the pace at how fast everything is changing around me. Of course, change is inevitable (there’s a quote about something about change being the only constant, right?), but it seems like change is my only constant these days.

Because I am the only part of the equation I can control, I have had to think through the things that I might be able to do to get me back to my version of normal. Or at least to try to head towards that place where I am fulfilled and inspired enough that maybe the changes around me bother me a little less.

One thing that has disappeared from my routine of the last few years in this blog. Starting Over is evidence of that, right? Beyond the fact that I haven’t blogged for a bit, I haven’t been writing in any form at all. For me, writing (whether it’s in my notebook for me online for you), it’s how I process my world. It’s not that I haven’t stopped to think or reflect on anything since 2019, but I can definitely see how NOT working out my thoughts and feelings in writing has changed how I move through the world. I am less aware, less thoughtful, less likely to look for a new or innovative way to problem solve. Somehow for me the absence of that ritual has meant missing out on slowing down, stopping to really notice what’s going on around me and think about my place in it.

Another thing that’s been missing for me are my connections on Twitter. If you’re new around here, then you might not have heard the story of how I use Twitter to improve my practice, make connections and share my thoughts with other educators. Because I haven’t been doing that, I have missed so much of what has been happening in the world and seeing what others are doing. This one is a little trickier than the blog, though, because if you’ve spent any time on Twitter you know it can be a pretty vile place, depending on which threads you wonder into or who you read and follow. While I know that there was much YUCK that surely lived on Twitter in 2020, I also have no doubt I missed out on some really smart insight from a fellow educator that would have benefited me as I worked through that last year.

So what am I to do with this? I am in a weird place as a teacher right now, wishing for some things of the past and trying to look positively at the future through “change-colored” glasses. The pandemic has laid bare some of the things I hold dear as an educator, one being connecting with others and also feeling like my ideas are being validated. I cannot control what happens to me, but I can certainly have some influence on what happens with and in me. I can decide that I am going to write more often (remember the schedule I planned?), I can make time for Twitter and also connect with people in my real life (thank God for vaccines!). I can share my worries and frustrations with those in-person friends and let them help me work through them. I can listen when my kind, smart, AMAZING friend, Kerry, tells me how it feels when she comes in my classroom: how it feels safe, comfortable and alive, and how I make learning fun but how it’s still rigorous and full of language. I can listen when she tells me of how she’s doing such innovative and exciting things with her high schoolers, and cheer her on as she changes lives and inspires the next generation. And most of all, I can remember that all that I do in my classroom day after day (and all the hours and hours I spend at night and on weekends) is for the 20somethingkids. And for them, I will always be willing to change my plans.

Starting Over

Here we are again. Yup. That place where I usually start with a long explanation of why I’ve neglected my blog and how I’m vowing to start over and do better and how we’ll never end up here again. HA HA HA! Like I said: here were are again.

But, since I am not insane, I will not do the same thing I’ve done in the past at this point. Instead of vowing to do better, I’m going to completely start over. Most of you who are here now are probably not even aware that I’ve been missing from the blogosphere anyway because you’re new! So…since you’re new here and I haven’t been here in a while anyway, let’s take a tour of this little blog, and take a few posts to get acquainted and start a new journey together. Maybe a fresh start is what I need to make this blogging thing “stick” again and get us back on track. Cross your fingers, hold on tight and let’s get moving!

By the way, that’s me. I’m Jen and I’m the Kooky Teacher mentioned in the blog title. I just realized that this little blog started 10 years ago, and I’ve had such a great time sharing my school stories and sometimes some family stories (when I’m feeling indulgent). Throughout the 10 years of blogging, I’ve taught 5th grade, 1st and 2nd grade, all of which have been included in these posts: those are the 20something kids. :). And as I mentioned the “fresh start” in the beginning of this post, the new journey we’re on features a new group of 20somethingkids–3rd graders! Also, this fresh start will mean I’m going to do some things differently.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Since so many of you are new here, I’m going to put up a few posts that acclimate you to who I am, what I’m about and what you can expect here.
  2. Speaking of what to expect, I think I’ve come to the place where I should finally set some guidelines and deadlines for when I will share my stories. In the past, I didn’t have a schedule for when I’d post; some weeks I’d post once and some weeks I’d post 10 or 12 new things! Needless to say, that made it hard for you, dear blog reader, to know when to check in with me, and also it made it so I often ended up with sooooo much content that I ended up not even writing it. There was time to do the things, but not time (or energy) to tell YOU about the things we did. This time around, there will be a schedule. 🙂
  3. In previous iterations of 20somethingkids, the posts have gone on and on and on and on. I have a tendency to use 25 words when you only need 3 and so often the posts I’d put up were so lengthy that I was worn out after writing them, and my readers were dead tired after reading (if they even hung around long enough to finish! LOL). This time I hope to be more concise with my storytelling and thoughtful in what I decide to share.

And so in a spirit of wanting to not overuse my words, I’m going to end this first post now, with an invitation for you to help me. If you are so inclined, would you take a little bit to leave a comment and answer these questions for me? I’d be forever grateful! 🙂

Here’s what I’m wondering…

  1. What you want when you read a blog? What are some features of your favorite blogs?
  2. What day(s) would you be most likely to read a new blog post?
  3. Since I’m new to 3rd grade, feel free to share any tips or advice you have and want to share! 🙂

THANK YOU for taking time to visit and comment, and hopefully I’ll see you around here again soon! I’d love if you went on this new journey with me!