SOLD!!

I was trying to figure out how to break the almost-3-month hiatus (what??)  I’ve had on this blog, and wasn’t sure how best to do that.  There are obviously LOADS of stories I need to tell about what has happened since February when I was last here (and by the way, I had to go back and look at when I wrote my last post–whoa!!  It was way longer ago than I had remembered!).  But…I figure the best way to come back from a long absence is to explain what I’ve been doing, right?  Hence the title.  Can you figure out what it is??  Let me start with a picture. 🙂

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It has really been unbelievable to me how much time and energy it takes to get your house ready to go on the market and then to actually work to sell it!  I have figured out in the weeks since February 16 (when I last posted here) that I must only have “free” time to accomplish one thing at a time. So that thing became house projects, and not running or blogging or reading, or really anything else!!  Man.  But, even though we’re not officially across the finish line yet (don’t close for another 6 weeks or so), we’ve crossed some hurdles and are hopeful it will all work out. 🙂

As I come back and hopefully settle back into a regular routine (which is funny considering that there are also only 18 days of school left!), I will start with some stories about things I’ve learned through this getting-your-house-ready-to-sell process.  It was a lot like what happens in formal learning at school–some ups, lots of downs, hard work and many lessons learned along the way.  And even though I have had many frustrating moments, I’ve come out on the other side in one piece, relatively unscathed. And with more appreciation for the process and new knowledge about lots of different things.

The biggest project I’d say I undertook was tiling my bathrooms.  Right now we live in a 25 or so year-old ranch house, with builder-grade bathrooms (something we just had never gotten around to updating the 6 1/2 years we’ve been here).  Well, buyers these days don’t really love those, so we had to do something about it.  That required a new floor, new vanity, new mirror and paint touch ups.  As I do with most things, I was determined to figure out how to do-it-myself (rather than pay someone to do it), and began the necessary research.

While I know that there are people who do masterful things with tile in bathrooms, my job was just 12 X 12 squares in a 6 X 6 room, which was relatively (at least in my mind!) easy.  In my reading, I found out all about the cement board base (and how to cut and attach it), as well as the do’s and don’ts of how to lay out the tile, attach it, grout it, etc., and so I gathered my materials and got to work.  Ok, not really.  I probably took about 10 trips to Home Depot as I realized something I didn’t have or didn’t have enough of to finish a particular part.  Pretty sure my new friend’s name is Robert.  He waited on me at least 3 or 4 of those times. 🙂

For those of you who know about tiling, this next part will be really boring, so feel free to skim. For those of you who don’t feel free to keep reading (and learn how!) and see what my process looked like.

The size and shape of that bathroom should have been an easy job.   And if you know what you’re doing I guess it is.  Instead, it took me 5 times longer.  Mainly I’d saw I learned how important having the right tools for the job are; if I’d only driven to get the wet tile saw in the first place, and not tried to use the cheap tile-splitter thing (that didn’t work!), I would have been done at least 1 day and a half sooner!

When we were putting the bathroom back together, there was some toilet drama (did you know that’s a thing?) because the height of the floor had changed,  I found some hidden wallpaper that I had to remove (add another day), and the vanity was a little trickier to level than we’d thought it would be.  But goodness, can I tell you how grateful we both are for YouTube?  I mean there really is a video out there to teach you how to do ANYTHING!!

I finally finished and was so proud of the work I had done.  There were many times I had to dig deep and push myself to figure out a problem or redo a part that didn’t work out teh way I first wanted it to.  I had to be really gritty (and not just because of the tile grout LOL) and have a growth mindset.  I’d say that in addition to having a great bathroom at the end of the process, it was also really rewarding just the next weekend when I had ANOTHER bathroom to do and it was SO MUCH EASIER than the first.  The second one was probably 2/3 bigger but took much much less time because of the mistakes I’d made and things I’d learned from the other one.  What a great example of how to take struggles and hardships and use them for good!  And after I had TWO tile floors to tiptoe around on, I felt twice as proud!

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I think the best part of this whole house process has been how it reminds me of what it’s like to be a student.  There were times when I didn’t know what to do, and I had some choices: I could quit, I could cry, I could ask someone for help, or I could try to find out the information for myself and try to solve the problem.   I love those times that help me remember that being gritty and being a problem solver is sometimes really hard.  But being able to do that, use my positive self-talk and come out with a “win” in the end makes it all worth it!  And what a great story to share with my students!

So anyhow, I figured I should explain where I’ve been and say thanks for being here for my return!!  Can’t wait to tell you more stories about what’s been happening lately in the world of Rm. 202!  Please stay tuned! Talk to you again soon!

Lego Challenges With Mrs. Sisul

We had an amazing 1st-day-back-from-Spring-Break today!  Our principal, Mrs. Sisul, has been learning about engineering and STEM with Legos, and volunteered to come set us up with some Lego challenges if we were interested.  Well, yes, of course, Rm. 202 friends were interested!  Luckily she was free this afternoon and came on up with her big ‘ole box of Legos!  Check out what happened! 🙂

She started with a quick reminder of what STEM means (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and then introduced what we would be doing: every kid would get a card with a challenge and they would work to do that challenge with Legos.  Pretty straightforward, right?  Well, they she led us through a great line of thinking about how we work best, and how kiddos would have the choice of how they tackled the challenge: alone, with a partner, a group of 3, a group of 4–whatever worked for each kiddo.  She shared her example that she knows that as a learner she likes to be able to bounce ideas off of another learner, and so she’d focus on finding another person to work with.  She asked me to share my strategy, and I talked about how I knew that that plan would DEFINITELY not work for me.  I am the kind of learner who needs to process and plan by myself first, and then I might want to work with someone else to blend ideas, get a critique or ask a question.  I know that if I went with a partner right off the bat, I wouldn’t have anything to share with them–so if I was Mrs. Sisul’s partner, I wouldn’t be a very helpful partner!  Right off the top I could tell that Rm. 202 kiddos were thinking about what would work for them, and they knew what would be best.  We had all sorts of groups–singles, partners and groups of 3.  Some kiddos worked alone, but right next to another friend so they could get feedback that way.

Ok, once teams were developed, Mrs. Sisul gave the guidelines for how kiddos would get their Legos.  She walked them through a planning session where they were to really think through what kinds of Legos they’d need.  She would call names of kiddos 3-4 at a time, and they’d have 30 seconds to “block shop” and then get started.  Once everyone had an initial visit to the pile, they were free to come back for more.  And since it would be virtually impossible for me to explain the amazingness with which these kiddos followed this protocol, I had to record it.  Check out what it was like when Mrs. Sisul dumped the Legos:

Once we got started, I roamed around and got some footage of them working. I know, kiddos wanted me to do the challenges, too–but I couldn’t document it to share with you if I did that!  Maybe next time. 🙂

Here are some videos that share more of their thinking while they got started:

This one has some great thinking about what happens when things are hard (which this was for some of us!):

There’s one more, and it’s really the one I’m the most tickled about.  It’s an example of what happened in our room when we put 20 kids and 2000 Legos together.  I want you to think about what you see first, but then I’ll tell you why I liked it:

As I watched this video, I noticed these things:

  • quiet voices
  • pleases and thank yous
  • kiddos finding pieces for others
  • sharing
  • everyone just taking what they needed
  • no one grabbing, hogging or arguing
  • kiddos respectfully letting others into the circle
  • focus
  • engagement
  • motivation
  • laughter
  • encouragement
  • respect for self, learning, others and the environment

What did you see? (Please leave us a comment and let us know–Rm. 202 kiddos would LOVE to hear what you thought and would LOVE to know you watched their super hard working!)

Ok, I know you’re wondering what some of those challenges looked like, and how they tackled them.  Here are some examples.  And yes, they told me I could. 🙂

This was definitely one of those touchstone moments in our classroom that we will return to for many days and weeks to come (darn, I only wish we’d done it earlier in the year!).  I know that we walked away with many things (and I hope to share what those were in THEIR WORDS soon), but one of them definitely was that there is not one way to solve a problem.  We could each access each of these challenges in our own way, and use whatever skills, ideas–and Legos!–that we wanted to in order to achieve our goal.  One friend even decided to do the same challenge twice to make it even harder for himself!  We are builders and thinkers and problem-solvers in Rm. 202 and this was definitely right up our alley!  Come back any time, Mrs. Sisul!

So I Have This Thing…

So I have this thing where I can’t write about something on the blog until after it’s finished.  Like the whole thing.  Even if it’s a Writing unit, a Social Studies project that takes 6 weeks or a Math investigation that is 10 days long.  I guess part of the reason is I want to make sure I have all of the parts to tell the full story–the beginning, middle and end–as well as to make sure that I’ve figured out the angle, the focus or the Big Idea I want to make sure to highlight.  I want to have identified the problem and then share the solution.  I want to have taken all the right pictures (which I have now learned the hard way have to be compressed before I upload them!) and figured out just the right words to write so that the most people want to read–and then comment on!–the post.  You get it the idea.  I want it to be perfect.

But unfortunately what happens when I work like that is that often time gets away from me.  I wait too long and a whole list of things occur: a teachable moment goes uncelebrated and the story goes untold, I forget the best parts of the story because too much time passes, I lose momentum, or even worse I end up with SO MUCH to write that then I can’t do it.  And then my blog sits untouched since mid-December, with many amazing learning experiences not shared.  And the funny thing is it’s taken me what seems like FOREVER to figure out that maybe that’s not working.  Yeah, I guess I’m kind of a slow learner.

So I’m not sure where that leaves me then.  I could go back and (with the help of the pictures I’ve taken) catch up on the 1,000 things that have happened since a month ago (ouch!); I could just shared the “finished” things that have occurred this week and celebrate the amazing things my students are learning–as well as what they are teaching; or I could just start writing about things in a new way and not worry so much about making sure that every post, every “story” is complete before I tell it.  Often, it’s the middle, the messy parts, the while-it’s-happening stuff that is the most interesting anyway.  It’s the things I learn when I’m not expecting them that are the most enlightening.  It’s the lessons that don’t go the way their supposed to that often have the most impact, and it’s when I stretch myself out of my comfort zone and try things a new way that often I find I wonder why I didn’t do that a long time before.

I guess I just made the decision then.  I am resolving to try something new this year (but I still say I don’t make New Years’ Resolutions), and tell stories at whatever stage of completion that they are in.  I pledge to share the ugly parts of learning as well as the well-planned, perfectly-executed, went-just-the-way-I-wanted-them-to parts (yeah…there’s much more of the previous than the latter anyway, so it’ll give me lots more to write about!).  I guess I already try to share the whole story anyway, but I’ll try to make sure I am ok with just little bits at a time instead of just the final product.  It’s the process not the product anyway, right?

Thanks for listening to my rambling, especially if this is the first time you’ve been back to our blog in a while and were expecting something different (which makes me wonder–what do you expect when you come here?  I’d love to know! Leave me a comment. 🙂 ).  I hope to make this a time to turn over a little bit of a new leaf and start the year with a fresh commitment to share the amazingness that happens in Rm. 202 every day.  I hope you stay around to join us for the ride.  It will definitely be fun, and probably pretty messy.  Great combination, I’d say! 🙂

Halloween 2015 (a little late…)

Yep, I know.  It’s Thanksgiving week.  And you know what?  If I remember correctly, I posted about Halloween on Thanksgiving last year, too.  And this year, too.  Man.  Oh well, it’s true that it’s better late than never, right? 🙂

I don’t have much to say about it, except that we had SUPER 2nd grade costumes, a SUPER party thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Gordhamer (it even involved an obstacle course in our room that TOTALLY worked, even among the other stations with games and a snack.  Kiddos totally ROCKED being respectful and appropriate!), and a SUPER parade around the grounds of Aberdeen Heights next door.  The residents love to see our smiling faces and fancy costumes and we waved at SO MANY PEOPLE!

Yep, it was great!  I don’t have many pictures because I was too busy having fun, but here are a few:

Ok, and since this is my blog, and so I can be a little bit indulgent sometimes, here are two more from my own Halloween at home (you know you were wondering!!):

Hope yours was fun!  Here’s to posting Halloween pics in October next year! LOL

 

Pictures of the Day: April 28, 2015

Ok, I feel like I should give a warning before I start this one: this post will be a little bit indulgent.  And it will explain why I couldn’t post this update last night.  Here. Maybe this will help:

It’s been a long time coming, but I graduated with my Masters of Science in Education. The focus was on Curriculum and Instruction.  While in some ways I wish I could have finished this long ago, I am actually super excited that my kids and hubby got to share the night with me.  He shared the whole program with me, too, he’ll have his own graduation night later on. 🙂

Wish I could have gotten a better picture of me with this super smart guy (that’s a LONG story I won’t bother you with), but I had to post it anyway, because it means so much to me. This is my baby brother, who is in most ways smarter and wiser than me. I love that he’s proud of me, though, and that he was there to share this important night with me. LOVE YOU, CHUCK!!  

What important life event in 2015 isn’t documented with a selife? Pretty sure they all are. So we had to do the same. There is something that I LOVE about this picture. Mostly the people in it, but also because we are all so happy, and also just the fact that it’s a little off-center (because I probably am a little like that, too). 🙂

Why I Blog

As I was rereading my copy of Classroom Blogging by David Warlick today in preparation for work this week with my class, I came across a suggestion I could not resist trying: write about why you blog.  I am have written many times (on this blog!) about why I write, as well as facts about me as a writer, and even what I write about in the summer, but I had never thought to share the reasons why I’ve spent so much time and energy (and I’d say a generous dash of love!) on keeping this blog for the last 3 1/2 years.  I think it’s a great idea and I’m excited to share my thinking!  Hope you enjoy reading it! 🙂

Reasons Why I Blog…

1) REFLECTION

Writing in general is a way to slow down, step back and reflect on how things are going.  For me, my blog allows me a venue to do that with what is going on in my classroom, just like I might do in my Writer’s Notebook about something in my personal life.  I find that as I am planning posts, and am thinking about how best to share my story, I figure out the parts that went right and the parts that could use some improvement.  And honestly, it’s the “not-so-right” parts that I value–it’s in these that I learn the most and grow for the next time.  Plus, as I share them in a public forum, I am hopefully sharing them so that someone else can learn from them, too!

2) INFORMATION

Originally I started my blog for myself, and maybe to share with a few others who could care (probably members of my family! LOL).   Very quickly, though, I began to see it as a tool to highlight the things going on in the little slice of heaven called Robinson School.  And since the families of my students don’t get to be there with us every day, the blog would (and did!) become a sneak peek into what we were learning–and also how we were learning it.  See, more than just the what, I strive to include the thinking behind the why of what we do.   I am hoping to share the methods to my madness and help parents (and other interested readers) understand why I make the educational choices I do.  I have heard from MANY a parent that these tidbits I share with them are priceless and useful conversation starters with their students.  Rather than just asking “What did you do at school today?”, the question can become, “Tell me about….” or “What did you learn when you were…?”  For 5th graders who chose not to share, and for 1st graders who sometimes have already forgotten what to share by the time they get home, the benefits are clear.

3) COLLABORATION and CONVERSATION

Aside from desiring to share information with families, I use my blog as a platform to share information and reflection with other teachers.  I strive to write in a way that is both interesting and inviting, and in a way that will spark a conversation.  It doesn’t always happen, but my hope is that a thoughtful conversation can be started in response to something I write, and that knew knowledge or understanding can be gained by those involved.  I am pretty active on Twitter, and have been throughout my blogging journey, as well.  Honestly, some of the greatest lessons I have learned as a teacher in the last 3 1/2 years have come through collaboration and conversations that stemmed from a connection made either on Twitter or through comments on this blog.  Reading others’ blogs inspires me to try new things or think about something in a new way, and I strive to be that same catalyst for change for others.  I am energized by working with and learning from others, and I especially love when I can add something to a conversation that might result in a new or improved learning experience for both a teacher and their students.

4) RELAXATION

Like I mentioned in the post about why I write (in general), writing is fun for me!  When I started my writing journey as a teacher in 2005, it was to be able to have a resource with which to teach my student writers (i.e. using my Writer’s Notebook entries as mentor texts during mini-lessons and conferences), and to better understand exactly what the act of writing entails from a learner.  What I found out along the way is that I really like it, and it is kind of my go-to stress reliever.  Everyone has that one thing they do when they are worried, stressed or uneasy–for me it’s writing.   And just like the words I put in my Writers’ Notebook, I enjoy writing the stories I tell here.   For some, the idea of spending countless hours outside of school writing about what they did while they are at school seems crazy.  I’ve had many teachers tell me they don’t even think they’d be able to find time to do it anyway.  For me it’s a necessity, and actually makes the work I do while I’m in my classroom a little better.  Well, and ok, I’ll admit that I’ve been called crazy before, so maybe there’s a little bit of that thrown in there, too. 🙂

Thanks to @dwarlick for the inspiration for this post, and for you for reading it!  Now I ask you–why do you blog?  And hey, if you don’t, why not?  I’ve love to hear from you and start a conversation! 🙂

 

 

 

Ten Black Dots

One of the great things that happens at the beginning of first grade is a series of Kingore lessons that Mrs. Berger comes to do with all of our classes.  We gather together 6 times, doing a variety of different types of thinking over the course of the lessons.  The first one was related to the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews.

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In short, the lesson asks kids to think outside the box, and create a picture using 10 black dots (or in our case they were red or green circles!).

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First Mrs. Berger read the book to us.

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I had to try it out first. And man…it’s hard work thinking like that on your feet in front of a rug full of kiddos! She didn’t tell me she was going to ask me to do this, so the “thinking face” I have on is a real one!

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I started by putting my dots all in a group, and suddenly an idea came into my head.

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Mrs. Berger challenged me to add some details so that my audience could tell for sure what my picture was. I added some lines on my circle. Can you tell what it is yet?

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A few more details…

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My finished Ten Dot picture: a pizza! I know–kind of an obvious choice. This was a HARD job! Wait til you see what our kiddos came up with….:)

Kiddos were then asked to count out 10 dots from a bag, and get to work on their own Ten Dot creation.  I’m excited to share their CREATIVE thinking:

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How is that for a showcase of some AMAZING thinking?!  I’m trying not to be embarrassed that I made a pizza….:)  GREAT job, Rm. 202 kids!