Monday, April 4, 2016

Dear Spring Break,

Dear Spring Break,

You came! And yet, I never thought you would. The two weeks leading up to your arrival felt like 1,000 years; I didn’t think you would come!  But once you were here, you gave me a lot to reflect on. 

It all started on March 24.  You see, Spring Break Eve can be a dreaded time in school.  It’s a test run for June 22, 2016, anticipating when the second hand will strike the “11” on the clock and the bell rings at 2:25pm.   Kids don’t want to do ANYTHING; teachers don’t want to do anything either, so it seems like the day could lead to mass chaos.  Only, you were quite the opposite.  While no, the kids didn’t want to do anything, they were still cooperative enough to read for the 30 minutes that I requested from them.  I asked each student how many post its he/she wanted – and the average was “2”.

Okay,” I thought to myself.  Students are getting into the habit of doing post its."

I decided back in January to give students 2 post its each day.  If they didn’t independently complete a post it or track their thinking, I would stop them 15-20 minutes through our reading, half way, and remind them to be jotting an idea, not a summary.  While we still have some work to do in that department, I was still impressed that when given the choice, students didn’t say “One please!” J

What I realized twenty-four days into March and upon your arrival is that kids need time to read.  I know my students – I know that the majority of my 50 kids will NOT go home and read whether I assign it or not.  That’s why I don’t assign reading and I don’t assign reading responses for homework.  Kids aren’t genuine in putting forth the time.  Reading and reading responses are more hassle than they are fun and reflectory (let’s make up a new word).

I nearly fell over during my first class.  A student who has not enjoyed reading found the right book, picked up The Outsiders earlier this month.  He picked it up underneath the desk he was sitting in.  He had nothing else to read, so he went with it for the 30 minutes of reading that day.  And yet, the next day he was reading it.  And the next day.  And by the time I knew it, he was 100 pages in.  Then he finished it, and I panicked because he enjoyed the book and I needed wanted him to read something else!

What am I going to do?!” I thought …

 I reached out to a friend, one who had experience with middle schoolers and more teaching wisdom than I have acquired, and she recommended more books by S.E. Hinton. I sent the kid to the library and he checked out another S.E. Hinton book. 

Then a week later, he finished the second book.

So, he took it upon himself to go back to the library to get a third book.  And he walked into class on Tuesday and told me he read at home. 

What?  Did I hear you correctly?

I slowly stood up to look around my classroom.  I was no longer looking at it through the lens of “Who-isn’t-reading?” But it became the lens of “Who-is-reading?”

I noticed three things:

1)   students were reading
2)   students were writing on post its
3)   students were sketching in their notebooks

also known as ...
I approached another student.  “Can I interrupt your reading?”

“Sure,” she replied with a smile across her face.

I hesitated. “What did you do last year?”

“Well, my teacher gave us ______, and we had to do _________.  I didn’t like it though; it made me feel like a third grader.  This year is better.  You give us time to read and you let us write about our reading.”

We were three weeks into the month of March and I came to realize the impact of setting a goal and staying faithful to that goal.  I had set a goal to do stop and jots, and I had set a goal to have students RECORD THEIR READING.  I didn’t care how much they hated it, but I did explain why I needed it recorded.
  •       I know how many pages you are getting through in the time that you are making for reading during class.
  •       I know how long it’s taking you to get through a book.
  •       I notice when you are into a book.
  •       I notice when you abandon a book – and how far you are into the book when you make that decision.
  •       I know your genre preference. J
I didn't want reading to just be something that they did.  Rather, I wanted it to be enjoyable.  I didn't want a reading log filled with lies.  I wanted honesty.  I wanted to know the genuineness of my classes.  With that said, I realized I had accomplished something.  I had won a battle.  Students were doing what I asked them to do – reading, stopping/jotting, and recording.  Hopefully they do grow to analyze the world a little more than just superficially.  Hopefully they transfer what they learn in the classroom and learn how to apply it to their world.  And for some, hopefully they learn that it’s not that they don’t like reading, but that they haven’t found the right book.  Who knows, maybe I’ll grow more readers like T -

“Eww! Miss Snyder, I’m turning into B [another student in the class]! I’m reading too many books! I just read a book in 3 days!  I only read 3 pages when I was in 4th grade! I don’t know what to do with my life!”

The class chuckled.  I replied, “Idk T.. maybe pick up another book like the last two you picked up after you cried the same story when your 5 book series ended?” ;)

Middle schoolers … What am I going to do with them? J

Monday, March 14, 2016

Struggling to Blog

This past school year I have had the privilege to teach 8th grade reading and writing - English Language Arts.  But I not only changed grade levels, moving from 3rd to 8th, I also changed school districts.

Teaching 8th grade has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced, and I know I am the better for it.  There have been some rough days where I wondered, 
“Am I really going to make it through this?”  
How many days until June?” 
But when I look at the calendar, I see the reflection of how much stronger, how much wiser, how much more patient I am.  I see the progress of how far I’ve come. How many mornings I’ve woken up with the anxiety of what the day would bring, what kind of shenanigans would happen, and even worse - the success I could have. 

The last few months of teaching 8th grade and the lack of finding resources has led me to think that I need to come back to my blog.  I had abandoned it because I wasn’t passionate about it.  I started a blog for all the wrong reasons: 
  • because it seemed like what I was supposed to do.  
  • because other teachers had blogs, other teachers made connections, other teachers were so happy – it seemed – with roses and rainbows and pots of gold and little leprechauns dancing around the screen.  
That’s what my eyes and my mind were seeing.  I felt like I wasn’t living up to that.  I was tired.  I was tired of not being surrounded by the teachers I was reading about on computer screens.  If teachers were blogging, then surely I just needed to find a new school where I would certainly find teachers who wanted to blog and create and try new things in their classrooms. Right? Of course those teachers were out there, they just weren’t in the one school that I was in. . . 

So I got tired.  I had mentally exhausted myself.  I didn’t love my blog. I was jealous of what others had.  I wanted it for myself but it wasn’t being handed to me, as if I deserved it on a silver platter brought to me by Shemar Moore (Derek Morgan on Criminal Minds) [insert emoji heart eyes face] ;)  I even paid for a blog design thinking that would inspire me to blog more.  

[Anybody familiar with Psalm 23:5? “Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies” ? … yea, I’m my own worst enemy.]

Even after spending all that money, I haven’t blogged much.

Then I began researching how it was going for others in middle school.  I was having such a hard time adjusting that I felt like I was doing something wrong.  But I wasn’t coming up with what I wanted.  I wasn’t finding the support I thought I was looking for.  Eventually, after a few weeks of searching, I had an epiphany – there isn’t much from middle school teachers because it just doesn’t exist.  Here I am, looking for support for middle school when I needed to step up and voice what I could on the subject.  If there’s something I’ve learned from taking Lucy’s (Calkins) classes, it’s this: 
you have something worth sharing with the teaching community.  
I need to be writing.  And so, today, my imaginary goal/wish list that exists in the confines of my brain needs to be relayed to one of the flair pens chillin’ in my agenda and become a reality.  I’ve been mentally telling myself that I should aim to blog once a week; that’s manageable.  Yet, it wasn’t happening.  I wasn’t making it a priority.  There were times when I had the mental fortitude and motivation to blog, yet actually sitting down, typing, and actually – hold on, I might choke – publish such thinking, such words, might kill me.  Or so I thought.

Which has brought me to this post.  This post is a start of a reflection on all the things I think about during Lucy’s fieldwork class.  How inspired I am to write and actually think through my thoughts, organize them to be ready to share my knowledge with the greater education community.  I have something worth sharing.   Doesn’t matter if anyone listens.  It will fall on the ears of those who need to read it.  I need to be faithful, though, to what I want.  [Side note: now accepting any and all applicants for keeping me accountable.  Being my fairy blogmother.]

Friday, August 21, 2015

Five for Friday: August 21 !

Happy, happy FRI-DAY !

Happy, happy Fri - day !

At this time in two weeks, I will be starting only my *second* day of school.  I'm having a lot slight anxiety to ... yah know, setupandgetmyroomreadyandyetIhavenoideawhenthatwillorevencanhappen. yah know?

So, as a little pick-me-up, here's my Five for Friday with Kacey!

To get things started:
I have registered for graduate classes at Teachers College, Columbia University.
I repeat:

Yes, I was already working towards a Masters in Reading Specialization; however, I am a very big Lucy fan.  So I decided to leave my current university and pursue Teachers College. 
With my background, and my story, and my current situation, my advisor recommended taking Lucy's advanced writing class. While I know this will be no joke, and I will have work to do for the rest of my life a lot of work to do, this is what I'm paying for and working towards - a teacher who is pushed out of her comfort zone much like she does with her students.

It all started last Saturday afternoon.
After spending two hours at the gym then going soul winning and doing bus visitation with 2 of my sisters, I sat at the kitchen table and waited as we all got ready to go school shopping.


The doorbell rang twice -

One sister got herself off the couch to answer the door and receive a package from the post man.

"OH! IT'S MINE! IT'S MINE!" I cried while I leaped through the hallway to retrieve it from my sister's hands. :)

And this is how the rest goes down ...

I realize "Middle" is ... missing the "I"
This was a gift, and unfortunately I didn't realize the spelling error until last night! 
I have already thrown away my little invoice paper, so I can't double check the paper if the spelling error was done during the order or not. :(
. . .
My mom, my sisters, and I ended up going shopping. And I bought supplies for my classroom like all other good teachers do when they are working their way onto Santa's "Nice" list. ;)

Would you like to hear what I have to say about this?
I knew you would. :)

So, I'm standing in line with one of my sisters while the rest of the tribe was .. MIA.
Well, one of the Wal-Mart attendants came up to us and said "You can come to lane 6."
So off my sister and I trotted the 40 feet to the 20 items or less lane.
Well, the tribe comes back and gives me grief for being in the 20 items or less lane and buying 150 items when the lady TOLD me she would ring me up !!!
Bless her heart, she was such a trooper. Patient and Pleasant.
I digress ..
Well, then a family stood in line behind us. 
I saw the mom start to eye me as the attendant (cashier) started counting all the 60-something spiral notebooks I was purchasing after she had counted the 90 black, 3-prong folders.  Her family quickly moved to the next line that was not 20 items or less, yet the mom continued to stare me down. :(
First of all - the Wal-Mart attendant offered her register to me to ring me up.
SECONDLY - to the mom who eyed me: I hope your children have teachers who go out of their way and spend money OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKET to make sure EVERY child has school supplies.  And I hope you have a teacher, that if he/she chooses to use community supplies, that the teacher doesn't neglect your children from using supplies since you, mom, gave me a stank eye for purchasing supplies so that all students in my classroom could be prepared and have a successful 8th grade year before graduating middle school! 


I created these place value puzzles for working with my incoming first grade tutor student. I am still figuring out how to work this into a product, but this was a start of practice for him to understand place value, bundles of 10, and that 10 is a friendly :) number. 
 Red and yellow make orange, so hence the chosen colors. 

Momma Dukes, sisters, and I all went Monster Mini Golfing.  I had never gone while the rest of the tribe had been before a few summers ago.  It was quite chaotic the first 4 holes since a 4-year-old day camp was at EVERY hole. However, I guess they gave up quickly since it was no sooner quiet along the "course" and we got to move quicker from hole to hole to hole.  It was quite fun! I'm not sure who won though ... that's a good question. 

And last but not least!

After tutoring, mini golfing, tutoring, and picking up Adirondack chairs for class library, I headed to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale! I knew I wasn't going to be able to make Friday and Saturday, so I drove as fast as I could safely did the speed limit to get to the book fair for the last 50 minutes and grow my measly little middle school library.  I ended up grabbing just about 1 of everything, then I saw I had time, so I started using my Scholastic Book Wizard app to make sure the majority of what I haphazardly grabbed was level and age appropriate.
It was.
$150 later, here is the newest addition to my library!

When I got home, guess what was waiting for me ?!?!?!


Seriously ?! I don't care what grade you teach, you NEED The Day the Crayons Came Home. And if you don't already have The Day the Crayons Quit, you need to purchase that one as well.
The Book with No Pictures is good. :)
Fish in a Tree ??
I started reading it IMMEDIATELY when I got home. I'm a little over a third of the way there.  I plan on finishing it ASAP! 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Brag Tags in Middle School ???

After much debate and consideration between me, myself, and I, I thought, "yah know, Jenn, you've been thinking about this for quite some time now. you're in a spiffy mood. why not write a blog post and have teachers give feedback via comments on your blog?"

And so, here it is - I'm putting this post out there in hopes of receiving feedback and comments about using Brag Tags in the MIDDLE SCHOOL classroom.

My one-in-a-minion dollar question : 
Could brag tags be used in the middle school classroom?

[click any picture above to be taken to the respected blogger/creator's post]

These are all so stinkin' cute !!! 

I feel like I have seen so many posts this summer about Brag Tags. I began to think and consider using them in my classroom, had I still been teaching 3rd grade.  But with moving to 8th grade, teaching 3 sections, and approximately 90 kids - ughhhh....... *insert blank face emoji*

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

I could see it working ... in it's own unique way.  But I feel like it would also be too much of a hassle, managing giving out brag tags while still wisely spending a 80-minute block period teaching literacy - reading AND writing. It would also require A LOT of brag tags. Did I mention I'm teaching 3 sections? Did I mention that it'll be like .... 90 students ??

Would middle school students even care to receive a tag?

How much paper will this cost since it's 90 kids?

Will kids steal each others' when I'm absent?

Would kids be considered "cocky" for receiving a Brag Tag? I do NOT want to be the cause of that ...

So bloggers, what are your thoughts? I'm going from 3rd grade to 8th grade ... and I've got NOTHIN'! :( *insert crying emoji*

H E L P ! ! ! 

please. :)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Five for Fraturday!

HAHA ! I never thought I'd actually post a "Five for Fraturday" much like others have. :) But this week has flown by too quickly, much quicker than other weeks! So while I'm a little late for linking up on Friday, I still hope you enjoy the adventure of my week and feel free to leave a little love at the end. :)

My week started with one of my best friend's wedding on Friday night.  I was blessed to be asked to be a bridesmaid, and the dresses were absolutely gorgeous! They were from the Eva Mendes collection from New York and Company.  The color was "Harmonious Pink" and it was just the perfect dress to wear as a bridesmaid and still have fun for the night. :)

The *following* morning, my boyfriend and I had ANOTHER wedding .. this time for my aunt. :) She got married in a church then had her reception outside at a park pavillion.  It was such a nice time with family! <3

Oh yea ... and one of my sisters made my aunt's wedding cake

I finished reading Wonder this past week.  I ordered the book last year, and after reading it, 

This summer, I've tried to be more conscientious about going to the gym .. yah know, since I'm paying for a membership and all. I seriously love spin/ride classes! There is no option to just "take a break"! No matter what, your feet have to keep pedaling even though you can cut back on the gears.

I actually used to be an instructor at the gym, but once I started teaching full time [in March 2013], I struggled to find balance.  I get asked when I'm going to come back and teach fitness classes, but I don't know that it's in God's plans for me right now.

I spent yesterday at Six Flags Great Adventure with my mom, sisters, and my sister's boyfriend.  Even at 25, I wanted a picture with Tweety.  I loved Tweety bird!
I have scoliosis, so when I was in middle school, I had to wear a back brace for 16 hours of the day [insert crying face x 10!].  But, to make my pain a little more bearable, I had a picture of Tweety bird on my back brace :)  It was like a wanna-be-tattoo. LOL!

I came home from Six Flags - at 10:30 PM, mind you - to 3 hefty packages of books! 
Since my library can no longer consist of Magic Tree House, A to Z Mysteries, and Junie B. Jones books, I have had to mature my library.  I've been on a hunt to do this, and so I've purchased the majority of books from Amazon Marketplace.  
Slowly but surely, my middle school library is growing. <3

Don't ask me what else I've done for my classroom because it's hardly anything! :( Going from teaching 3rd grade - elementary - to middle school and ONE subject ?? !! 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tell All Tuesday ... On Friday ;)

I'm </3 .. heartbroken! It's the last Tell All Tuesday of the summer. :(


Jaime and Diana have mentioned doing a monthly linky, so I'm looking forward to what they have planned. :)

For this Friday, I'm a little late to the last Tell All Tuesday party. [better late than never?] 

Head over to Jaime and Diana 's blogs to check out what others are saying!

a goal.
a wish.
a  d r e a m  .
here are mine :)

If you haven't heard by now, I'm switching grade levels ... and school districts ... and graduate schools. #InOverMyHead
The nice thing about switching grade levels is that I'm only responsible for teaching one subject - English Language Arts. ahhh, my forte! :) Which is what I'm going back to school for - Literacy Specialist at Teachers College Columbia University.
This year, with my planning load being lighter [I hope since it's one subject!], I hope to find balance in what I do:
- plan for one subject
- grade papers for 90 students
- complete my graduate homework
- tutor a few hours a week [$$$]
- spend time with family
* spend time with Jesus and continue to grow in my walk with Him! *


I'm going from teaching 3rd grade for the past two years ... to now 8th grade.  Without a doubt, I am *super* excited! But I am also extremely nervous.  I student taught 5th grade; otherwise I just have experience "people watching" middle schoolers.  You see, my student teaching building and my first teaching job building serviced kids in grades K - 8.  I also was blessed to coach 6th - 8th grade cheerleading last year, so I have some minimal experience with middle school classrooms and what they should look like.  I know, I know. I'm buggin' - I'm overanalyzing and overthinking.  I'm making it harder than it will be.  I need to relax and just do what I do best - LITERACY!


My dream is that I'm going to  l o v e  teaching middle school.  I was told by my previous coworkers that I would make an excellent middle school teacher.  I would agree.  Not being cocky at all! I just think that while I love teaching 3rd grade and my heart will always be there,  I will thoroughly take advantage of teaching older students ..
- debates
- writing
- posing questions
- laughs
- jokes
- responsibility
It was a pleasure to student teaching 5th graders, so I am really looking forward to teaching 8th graders. I hope that I find success as a middle school teacher.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Made It: August 3

Happy Monday! 

I can't believe it's already August 3rd!!

What did I do this summer ??? :(  I report to my new district for "New Hire Orientation" in 3 weeks. ahhhhh! :) I'm so excited!

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming - Monday Made It with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics.

  My first Monday Made It is my only Monday Made It today.  I haven't gotten around to too much since I've been tutoring like crazy this past month! I can't promise myself I'll up my game this week because I have tutoring, a rehearsal dinner, and two weddings this week! Busy week! But I'm so looking forward to it! God is good, so I am just enjoying what He has blessed me with.

So for my Monday Made It, I have finished my   F I R S T  E V E R  product that I posted on TPT! :D  Though I will be teaching middle school language arts this fall, this product was inspired by a first grade student I am tutoring.  I put this together to help him practice his addition and math skills - encouraging his fluency in his addition facts.  This set concentrates on adding up to 10.  

Of course, in honor of posting my one-and-only-but-not-lonely-for-long-product, I get to join in on the fun and post a SALE !! Be sure to head over to TPT and enter the code "BTS15" at checkout!