Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why can't I comment?!?!?

Can someone PLEASE explain to me why it doesn't show that I'm signed in at the top of my blog and why I can't comment on other people's blogs no matter how many times I sign in?!?! It's incredibly frustrating!!!! Does anyone else have this problem?! Booooooooo! :(

What Should I Read Now? :)

I'm still trying to decide about what I'm going to do next year... but in the meantime, I'm chomping at the bit to start creating some units since I need to be writing maternity lessons plans anyway! I feel like I have a pretty good grip on reading... so I'd really like to focus on writing. However, if you have an amazing suggestion for a reading book don't hesistate to let me know!! I listed professional books about reading I've already read a few posts down... Does anyone have any suggestions of good writing books to read??

I'm happy to take suggestions for "fun" books as well... I've already read several books that have nothing to do with teaching to help relax after such a crazy end to the end of the school year, but I'm definitely always open to suggestions because I absolutely love love to read... it's how I unwind. :)

My reading list so far (at least that I can remember...):
1. Something Borrowed (was a re-read before I saw the movie)
2. Something Blue (another re-read... I just love the books!)
3. Steven Tyler: Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?
4. Carnal Innocence (Nora Roberts - re-read before the Lifetime movie, haha!!)
5. I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell (high-larious!!!! however, very raunchy... read with caution, lol!)
6. Water for Elephants (soooo good!!! and no I haven't seen the movie...)
7. Vanish (Tess Gerritson - Rizzoli and Isles novels)
8. Midnight (Dean Koontz)
9. ????

Monday, June 20, 2011

Trying to Get a Feel For Things... So Overwhelmed!!

A lot of stuff has been going on here in Texas regarding education. Basically, our legislature isn't looking at the needs of kids - it's looking at money. Gotta *love* politics, right?? Yuck. On Thursday, Texas passed a bill saying that teachers salaries could be reduced to below state minimums if it was deemed necessary, teachers could be furloughed up to 6 days without pay, class sizes will probably be raised, and basically there is no such thing as being a "tenured" teacher. Layoffs will no longer be based on years of experience - they will now reserve the right to get rid of seasoned teachers just because they get more money. On Saturday, a district nearby (that several friends work for) tried to pass a tax increase to help out with their districts financial woes, and it didn't pass. Now teachers in their districts are facing more layoffs, no bus transportation, loss of fine arts and librarians, among other things. Seriously?!

Right before school got out, my district sent out a memo basically saying that they may or may not lower our salaries to the state minimum (which would mean a $10,000 pay cut) this next school year but will not be able to tell us if they're doing it until basically next school year - so August/September. We had to sign a paper saying that we received the memo and everything, which basically means they're thinking about it pretty darn seriously!! I'll be honest, missing 12 weeks of the beginning of the year, in a new school where I don't know anyone, won't know my kids coming in, with a new state test looming over my head AND the potential of losing $10,000 of my hard earned salary has just about taken away any excitement whatsoever I had mustered up about this next school year. Plus factor in this new mess with our state legislature and I feel like our states education system is going down the drain super fast. I mean what guarantees I'll even be able to still have a job when this next school year starts? If they can't figure a way to make financial ends meet they can still move me wherever they want, which is kind of ridiculous considering I'll be out on maternity leave anyway... It's a little scary to have so much uncertainty hanging over my head with my son so close to being here.

We spent the majority of our weekend (after hearing about another local districts woes as well as the this new mess created by the state legislature) discussing possibilities for our little family. When we moved, we had to make a split decision because we had to be out of our house by a certain date... and all of our options fell through at the last minute. So we are now living 45 minutes away from where we were living previously (which means at least 50+ min from my job). We've been looking at options to be able to buy a house (which we can't do until at least August) but we're both leery of that choice because we don't know where we would like to live. We love the area we are currently renting in, and while it's closer to my husbands work it's much further from mine. And I have to be at work at 7:30 vs 10:00 for him. We also finally finally have some money in savings (that we were going to use for a down payment) but with a baby on the way and so much uncertainty, we'd really like to keep that money there. Which makes it seem like the obvious choice would be to stay right where we are for awhile. However, I have NO desire to drive so far to work... so I need a back up plan. I can't just be a stay home mom... my husband is still building his realtor base at his mortgage job so he's still trying to build consistency so I've got to be bringing some money home. So basically, I'm trying to figure out what my options are before I decide to resign.

I've thought about working in a preschool setting, tutoring (which I haven't the first clue about how to get some clients...), TpT... I'd really like to keep whatever I do in the education setting since I do plan on teaching again in the future and I'd really like to start on my masters degree. Any suggestions?? :)

I know my posts have kind of turned into rambling, but there's a lot going on here in our personal lives (which is affecting my professional life!) and I'm just trying to get it all under "control". Especially before our sweet boy gets here and that's getting closer and closer and closer!! Thanks for all your support and suggestions!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Meet Our Little Man!!!

Our lives have been absolutely crazy for the past two weeks, which is why I haven't really been posting. I had to pack up my classroom and move it to my new school (which really isn't an easy feat almost 8 months pregnant...), and then turn around and pack up our house, and move to a new one. The timing was awful, but we know there's a bigger plan in play we aren't aware of so we are just rolling with it as best we can. I'm happy to say that my classroom has been moved (but not set up... oh well!) and our belongings are in our new house (still in tons of boxes... I'm slowly working through them the best that I can!) so I don't have too much to complain about I guess! :)

We were supposed to sneak a peak at our little man last Thursday night, but had to cancel because a) all schools in my district closed(for the entire summer) at 5 pm and we thought we had later (plus we had some other issues that prevented us from driving 45 min from our new home to my old school to finish packing...), b) our appointment was at 4:30 and my dr was 20 min away from my school, c) our sonographer had to be at the airport by 6 pm (which is close to an hour away from the dr office), and d) we were still moving at 4:15. :( Luckily, my sweet, amazing hubby got on Google when I started to break down that we were going to miss our 4D window (my dr cuts it off at 32 weeks and I was almost there!) and found a place close to our new house that would give us pics of our little prince as well as a DVD of the entire session so we could share with family later. Woo hoo!!

We got to go to our appointment last night and... *drull roll please*... here's my absolute most favoritist picture of our little guy from the whole sesson!!!!!

He was so incredibly active I'm surprised we got so many good pictures! He kept chewing on the umbilical cord, playing with it, with his hands, sucking on his fingers, yawning, and drinking. It was crazy! We even got to see him a couple of times with his eyes wide open!! :) The sonographer kept joking with me that I must have eaten something he really liked because he was drinking so much, and all I'd had in the few hours before the appointment was a Del Monte Strawberry Chiller. If you've never had one, they are totally amazing when it's 100 degrees outside and you're feeling like a human oven!! ;)
Hope everyone is enjoying their summers!! Stay cool!! :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review: Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys

To be honest, I've never written a "true" book review before, so y'all are just going to have to wing this one with me. ;)

About the book:

I'm going to make this short and sweet because I'm going to give you more detail in the section where I give you my take on the book! This book is written literally with boys in mind (in case you didn't pick up on that from the title)... and how to get and keep them engaged in literacy. The first several pages are meant to give you a background of why she wrote the book, along with some statistics about how literacy (or lack thereof) affects boys. She gives a few real world classroom examples, discusses using the READ model to help encourage reading without making it a chore, and then takes about 10 pages to answer some FAQ's about boys and reading. For the majority and remainder of the book, she has an incredibly extensive, annotated list of books grouped by emergent, developing, and maturing readers as well as by subject. Some books even include a "Talk About It" section that gives you ideas on how to pull your boy readers into a conversation (since children are social readers) about that particular book.

My take on the book:

I've been a classroom teacher for 5 years now, which is realize isn't long... but I've spent that time reading tons of books on the subject of literacy as well as surfing blogs and other places to find ways to match my passion of reading and pass it along to my students. To be honest, the first 30 pages didn't really tell me anything I hadn't already read somewhere before, especially in books such as The Book Whisperer, Reading With Meaning, or either of The Sister's books (The Daily 5, or CAFE). However, like I've said before, I go above and beyond on my professional literature so for someone who hadn't read the previously mentioned books, this book has a goldmine of information waiting for you to help aide in pulling those boys in and getting them excited and interested in literacy.

The underlying message: Children need to take ownership of their reading and have choice in what they read in order to best benefit from the experience. They need to be comfortable with where they are reading, and they need a strong support system in place in order to be truly successful. We as teachers (and parents) need to listen to what they have to say and provide books for them in their reading zone (close to their level) as well as in something their interested in, and we need to constantly be exposing them to different kinds of literacy: computers, books, magazines, graphic novels, comics, etc...

The part that really grabbed me and will have me telling you right now to buy this book, is the annotated list of books she provides by approximate age of students and interest or genre. This is literally what takes up most of the book, and provides a wealth of resources right at your fingertips to help you plan your small groups, your read-aloud, or even to recommend to that student that you just can't seem to find a book they're interested in.

I, personally, think that teachers shouldn't be the only ones to read this book... I think parents would greatly benefit from this information as well. How many parents do you think realize that 80% of high school dropouts are boys? Or that illiteracy rates make it twice as likely that nonreaders will go to jail later in life?? Pam mentions the dangers of having kids read out loud (an unfortunate still commonplace practice in many classrooms - not mine!) and how it can emotionally damage them as well as cause them to hate reading. My husband is one of those people, and this is a battle we are going to have to fight after our son is bored - it's important to me that my son sees both of his parents as readers, not just his mom... his dad will make a huge impact on his whole life, not just his literate one. (Another thing Pam discusses in the beginning of her book.)

I also know several teachers that I'd love to wave this book in front of and scream and go "Hey look! It's another book that has statistics and encourages kids to read for FUN instead of doing whole class novels and worksheets!!" Of course, there's far more to this book than that message alone, but it's still a powerful one. If you teach, if you have a son at home... this book would be a valuable asset to own. Not only does it reiterate what you probably already feel in your heart about how you teach reading and view literacy, it provides a ton of books to flip through to help engage your kids in your class - not just boys. I know plenty of girls that like some of the books I saw listed as well. :)

Click on the picture below and it will take you straight to Amazon... put it on your summer reading list!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How Do I Tell My Class?!?! Suggestions please!! :)

Only 3 more days (well technically 2 1/2 more days now...) of school left for this school year. I'm packing up my room to make my move to my new school and I honestly think I'm in robot mode. I'm not allowing myself to be emotional about this at all. However, I think come Friday, I'll need to invest in some waterproof makeup because it's going to be awful. Children crying = Mrs. Brasher crying.

I still haven't told my kids I won't be back next year. Yes I know, shame on me... it's selfish and I admit it, but I know I have several kids that are going to be absolutely heartbroken. I know I need to tell them, probably tomorrow since I'll have some that won't show up on the last day - I always do. But how? How do I tell them that they won't get to give me random hugs in the hallway, or drop in and say hello to the little 3rd graders now that they're big 4th graders? HOW?!

I'm planning on bringing the baby up here to see the staff and kids after school starts while I'm on my maternity leave, so I know that will be a little bit of a consolation. I'm also keeping up our class website and posting over the summer so they can know what's going on with me and baby Liam, as well as giving them my e-mail so they can keep in touch. I have several that that's helped over the years. I also found a great idea somewhere (somewhere out there in blog land or possibly Pro Teacher...) that I'm going to print off a picture of the class, mount it on cardstock, and have them write notes to each other on it so they can frame it.

I'm totally open to any ideas that might make this news less of a blow... I hate to just gather them up and be like "Oh, btw, I won't be returning to this school next year because I'll be teaching 3rd graders at another school. Sorry!" Obviously I wouldn't be that cavalier, but you get my point. I'd love some suggestions!! Thanks sooo much!!! :) Y'all are always the best!!