Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Teacher Week Tuesday: Make Ahead Meals

During my first year of teaching my idea of a "Make Ahead Meal" was ordering a $5 pizza from Little Caesars and picking it up on my way home from work.  Awful idea!!  In addition to a very much needed "chocolate drawer" to get me through that first year, I'm pretty sure I'm still working off the 15 pounds I gained from my lack of creativity and will power.
14 years later I still do Thai takeout and the occasional Panera stop after work (a big YUM to their shortbread cookies!), but I've also attempted to master the art of crockpot cooking.  Knowing something is cooking all day and all I have to do is go home, take off the lid and eat it, is the BEST feeling during a long day at school!
My go to site for slow cooker recipes is: 365 Days of Slow Cooking (365daysofcrockpot.com)
She has tons of great ideas for crockpot meals that don't require too many steps.  They're not all 3 ingredient meals, but once you have the basic spices (basil, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, bouillon) and extra random stuff (powdered milk, instant tapioca) you don't typically have to buy that many items to have an entire recipe ready to go.

These are two of my favorites:
Recipe for Slow Cooker Vegetarian Quinoa Mexican Bowls with Creamy Avocado Sauce #healthyslowcooker #quinoa
#Crockpot #GlutenFree Beef Stroganoff Recipe.  Flavorful, easy, creamy, comforting...a perfect winter evening meal.
My hubby and I have been feeling in the mood for fall recently (I've already made and consumed my allotment of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for the entire season and don't even get me started on my all consuming excitement for a pumpkin spice latte), so we started looking into some simple casseroles we could make and freeze for the days we don't have time to throw something in the crockpot.  So far this breakfast casserole is our fave.
We add peppers, mushrooms, and onions to the recipe and then watch Netflix while we eat it in our living room and give Lily pets (Fact #1).  This is my definition of a perfect night.  Does that mean I've become boring?  If so, I care not.  Casserole, Netflix, dog snuggling, what could be better?! :)

See you tomorrow for a Classroom Tour! :)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Teacher Week Monday: 5 Fun Facts

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week.  This means a blog post daily for a week! A WHOLE WEEK! Gah!  This is a challenge for me as my blogging has been sporadic at best this last while, but I wanted to challenge myself, plus the little pictures they provided for the linkup are just so darn cute I couldn't resist!
Fact #1
My minpin, Lily, has a fuzzy winter coat, a pumpkin costume, a CU hoodie, an Olivia the Pig dress, a teddy bear sweater, and a car seat (really just a hundred dollar foam cube covered in fabric).  I think she is the cutest dog in all the land.  We adopted her when we lived in Denver.  She had been given back to the same shelter TWICE!  I have no idea what those crazy people were thinking because she is truly the best, quirkiest, little doggie ever!  
Fact #2
Last year I had to give up on my bathroom pass sanitizers because I had children in my class who attempted to pump out at much as they could and spread it all over their bodies.  We're talking slathering this stuff up and down arms, on faces, and the cracks between their toes. One might think - How could you allow this Katie?  This is not a very Super-Teachery thing to have going on in your classroom. Do you need to read blog posts about classroom management?  What exactly were you doing while your children bathed in sanitizer?!  The answer: focusing on the child who was seeing invisible bees, throwing over desks, and jumping on top of my air conditioning unit.   Yep!  It was just that kind of a year!
Fact #3
This summer my hubby and I went to Europe!  We've been planning this trip forever and soaked up everything we could over our 13 day trip to Manchester, London, and Paris.  I love that he loves museums, libraries, guided tours, and afternoon tea.  It makes traveling so much more enjoyable when you both enjoy the same things!  The pic below is of us in a little town in England where they filmed scenes for Godric's Hollow in the last Harry Potter movie.  Gah!  I totally had an HP freak out there!  

Fact #4
I can link any two celebrities Kevin Bacon style through people they've dated and/or movies/TV shows they've been in.  Try me.  :)

Fact #5
To celebrate the end of every school year I always watch Dazed and Confused. I will never tire of this tradition.  Last year (see Fact #2 sanitizer bathing story) was an especially exciting Dazed and Confused showing as I had MADE IT TO JUNE!  I still don't know how that happened without therapy.  :) 
  See you tomorrow for Make Ahead Meals!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

40 Bloggers Amazing Giveaway for B2S!

Just in time for Back to School 40 bloggers are giving away tons of classroom items in Daisy Designs Blog Launch Giveaway!  I'm giving away $10 to my TpT store.  You can enter here, but make sure you go tell Amanda how awesome her new blog design looks and a big THANKS for all her hard work on this giveaway.  I just get to ride her cute coattails.  :)

This is the last week to enter, so get those clickin' fingers ready!



Happy Sunday!  I hope it's relaxing and the Sunday blues are minimal.  :)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bachelor in Paradise and Blog Resolutions

August is halfway over!  How did this happen?!

I've noticed as I look at my Blog Archive that I used to be a halfway decent blogger.  I wrote 67 blog entries in 2012!  Then my poor blog started getting neglected.  I did OK in 2013 with at least 2 entries a month, but then I started to suck it up.  Have you noticed that life maybe started to get a little stressful in 2014 with a move and a new school full of craziness?  Yep, I'm pretty sure the new job last year may have sent me into a burnout tailspin.  It's August 16th and I'm looking at all the Pinterest pictures of B2S Night extravaganzas, beautifully decorated classrooms, and Washi Tape goodness, and all I can do is pin teacher clothes and watch Bachelor in Paradise On Demand in my jammies.

I am finally working on a new TpT Math Challenge Product, but most of the time I end up clicking over to read The Teeny Tiny Teacher's blog or thinking of inappropriate math challenges like:

Tenley has kissed Joshua, JJ, and Michael in the first three days in paradise.  If she continues this pattern, and is in paradise for 21 days, how many different men will she smooch?
or
If Ashley I. cries for an average of 42 minutes each day and spends three full weeks in paradise, how many hours and minutes will she spend crying in all?
or
If Katie reads Reality Steve's blog for an average of 30 minutes a day 3 times a week, and watches his 45 minute live Spreecast weekly, how much time will she spend with Reality Steve rather than doing something that is useful for herself or humanity in general?

I cannot include things like this in a Math Challenge product for grades 3-5, so you see my dilemma. Not only have I turned into a blogger that is the polar opposite of prolific, I have been spending my non traveling (Jess and I did quite a bit this summer!) days on some fairly questionable activities.

I am hoping these last few weeks before I go back to school will be enough downtime to shake off some of that jet lag and teacher burnout (I'm hoping it's not full blown burnout, but more of a flicker situation) and go back to something new after Labor Day.

My blog posts might not have too many pictures in the near future (as this is one of the reasons I have resisted posting lately) but at least they'll exist.

If you're already back to school - good for you and I hope the Sunday Blues aren't too rough,
If you've got a few weeks - congrats let's enjoy them together,  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Interview Questions, Tips and A Picture Portfolio


When I moved to Michigan two years ago I had no idea how difficult it was to get a job in a public school.  I had to get serious!  I looked a tons of blogs to get ideas and am hoping to pay that back as the advice of others helped me so much in my own job search. I'm now at a public school in Michigan with an amazing principal and colleagues I very much enjoy. Hooray!
Phone Interview:
Although talking on the phone isn't as ideal as talking in person, one nice thing about these is you can do the interview with no makeup in your jammies!  You can pace around and have notes in front of you the entire time.  I always have highly specific notes I keep in front of me for phone interviews and my laptop handy to type the questions as they are given.  These questions are great for reference, not only for this interview, but also as you prepare for interviews in the future.  All of the interview questions I've mentioned below are ones I've typed during or written down after an interview.    
My interview notes are divided into a number of sections:
*Introduce self - Personally and professionally
*Why am I interested in this school?
*Teaching Philosophy
*Classroom Management
*Difficult child - what do you do?
*Professional reading and development (include specific titles of books and presentations)
*Strengths and weaknesses
*Good reading instruction - what does it look like?
*Good math instruction - what does it look like in your classroom?
*RTI and assessment experience
*Parent involvement
*What sets you apart from other candidates?
*What can you add to your team?
For a phone interview I had that was a final interview as it was out of state, I sent a picture through their online application system as an attachment.  I like to visualize who I'm talking to and figured they would as well.  I learned after I got the job that they had my picture up as I interviewed, so this worked for me.  I've heard arguments against this as well, but I wasn't attempting to send a Glamour Shot.  I just wanted them to have some idea who they were talking to.  For the record, I would NOT send a Glamour Shot.  :)
In Person Interview:
For every question that deals with the classroom, think of a student you have had in the past that demonstrates that particular part of teaching.  For example, instead of simply talking about working with struggling readers generally, say something about your classroom practices and then add the student example like: "One example from my own classroom was when I helped Terra who was unable to find motivating just right books by doing some emergent publishing.  We spent 15 minutes a day during the literacy block typing up her own stories as she told them to me aloud.  She loved her personalized stories and used these as a supplement to her just right texts.  She also used them during our writer's workshop block. This was one way I've tried to individualize instruction for one of my struggling readers."
Try to frame your answers using the question at the beginning and end of your response.  I have a super hard time doing this, but I know from friends who have been on a crazy amount of interview committees that this is one thing that sets candidates apart when they have a number of qualified applicants.  An articulate speaker is someone you hire! I always try to use the question or part of it as I begin and finish the answer to every interview question.  Using something like "In short, those are a few examples of how I organize the math block in my classroom." as the end to a response helps your interviewers to know you're done rather than waiting for you to trail off and then look at them awkwardly as a signal you're finished rambling.    
Possible Interview Questions:
*Tell us a little about yourself  (this is not a question) :)
*What could you bring to the position?  What sets you apart from other candidates?
*Tell us about your teaching experience as it pertains to the position.
*What is your background as it relates to classroom management?
*What is the most recent professional development you've participated in?
*What is a professional development book you've found useful in your classroom, and give examples of how you've integrated what you've learned into your classroom instruction.
*Give an example of one of your favorite children's books and how you'd use this for instructional purposes in your own classroom.
*Describe a lesson in your classroom that went well and how you knew it went well.
*Describe a lesson in your classroom that did not go well, how you knew it did not go well, and what you did after the lesson.
*How do you differentiate for students on different academic levels?
*What assessments are you familiar with?  
*How do you know that your students are learning?
*You notice a student crying at his/her desk – what would you do?
*You notice your whole class is not engaged in a lesson – what would you do?
*How do your students know they can depend on you?
*Do you do anything outside of school to further your learning?
*Do you consider yourself a reflective teacher?
*Your whole class fails an assessment – what would you do?
*Why did you decide to become a teacher?
*What would you be if you weren’t a teacher?
*How do you involve parents in your classroom?
*How do you effectively communicate with parents?
*Have you ever changed course due to the needs of a teammate?
*Have you ever gone above and beyond for a student?
*What are your strengths and weaknesses as an educator?
*Why do you want to teach at this particular school/district?
*Do you have any questions for us?
What to Take:
These are the items I always take to interviews:
Resume (5-6 copies) 
Picture Portfolio (3-5 copies of stapled packets)
Letters of Recommendation (5-6 copies of stapled packets) 
My iPad (to show how I used Class Dojo and the Confer app if asked)
My interview notes (pictures of pages shown above)

A Word About Portfolios:
I do not like the giant binder portfolios.  I find them cumbersome and don't want to wade through them as part of an interview committee.  There's always only one which means you don't have time to pass it around and it's awkward to have someone leave a copy since it usually gets shoved in a desk or sits with the secretary while the job candidate slinks back to retrieve it three days later.
I do like to show as much personality as possible and have something extra to set me apart.  I am a super visual person and have tons of pictures of my classroom due to the blog, so I decided a picture portfolio with some fast facts about me would do the trick.  I always make at least 3 color copies of my picture portfolio to take and leave at interviews. If I am super excited about a position I also e-mail these as a PDF to the principal/contact person when the job is listed.  This is one thing that could set you apart.  Not everyone will like it, but you only need one person to find it engaging and call you back.  Another plus about having this with you at the interview is you can work it in to the curriculum questions you are given.  I used the writing page to show my current principal/interview committee when I was asked a question about what I would change about their current writing curriculum.  I was so happy I had the pictures to back up my thoughts
The second page of my picture portfolio includes Fast Facts I want to make sure the interview committee knows about me, plus it's a nice way to show a little personality.  It's always a bummer when you leave an interview realizing you wish you had said something, but forgot or didn't have an opportunity.  The Fast Fact page is a good way to get the basics in you are hoping to say, plus since it's short, there's a better chance the interview committee will actually look at it
I make all of the picture pages in PowerPoint and then save them as a PDF before I print them.  If you save them as a PDF then the document can be easily sent by e-mail.  
I hope some of this info is helpful to you job seekers out there.  When on the hunt for a job, there is so much you can't control, but one thing you can control is your degree of preparation.  I always figure I'll prepare as well as I can and whatever happens happens.  

If you're looking for more job hunt resources, here are some I found useful last summer. Enjoy!
So You Want to be a Teacher? Interview Tips from Beyond the Worksheet
Top 10 Tips for Landing a Teaching Job from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad
A+ Teacher Interview from Primary Punch
Teacher Interview Questions from Extra Special Teachingl
Job Interview Tips from The Cornerstone for Teachers

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Stuff #8 Collecting Mentor Texts for Writing

Holy cow I've been a slacker blogger!  I was so excited to get a new job last summer that I spent a whole lot of time working in my new classroom and hardly any time blogging.

But now it's SUMMER and I'm back to blogging and being a productive member of teacher-blogging society.  I have goals to be a much more prolific blogger during the 2015-16 school year.  I learned tons of things in my new classroom so I have lots of fresh ideas for blogging!

One of the first things I'm doing this summer is collecting new mentor texts for writing for next year.  If you fabulous teachers out there have more ideas I would love to hear them in the comments!  Here are a few I'm either buying or dusting off for next year.

love, love, love the book Me . . . Jane.  This is a excellent text to whip out during a nonfiction/biography unit.  The pictures are beautifully done and my kids love the ending where the author moves from illustrations to a photograph.  The combination of picture book story with nonfiction information at the end is so well done and is a great example for students of mixing genres, getting story inspiration from real people, as well as zooming in on a single event - like Jane's relationship with her stuffed monkey Jubilee.  This is a book we read and reread over and over again because the kids request it!

The S.O.S. File is great for emergency stories and/or scar stories!  If you read this during a personal narrative unit you can try doing a genre switch (using students' personal narratives as inspiration for a fictional story).
The Day I Lost my Class Hamster is a excellent text to model personal narrative and school stories.  I always read the Miss Cucumber chapter and then talk about bathroom accident school stories.  My third graders always find it thrilling to learn that Mrs. Smith had many-a-bathroom-accident by the end of second grade.  I had a very sensitive stomach.  :)  
I love 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny.  It's perfect for for a quick summer teacher read. I've also used it as a personal narrative mentor text in the classroom.  Try the chapter where he gets his tie stuck in the laminator. I also try to read the Picture Day chapter on (you guessed it) picture day.  Fantastic!
Be warned: He uses the word H-E-L-L so for sensitive/over-reactive students don't read it under the doc camera. I learned this lesson the hard way so you don't have to.


If you're interested in more of my Summer Stuff Series, focused on easy items to make or think about implementing in your classroom next year, check out these posts:
Summer Stuff #1 - The Birthday Committee
Summer Stuff #2 - The Service Station Freebie
Summer Stuff #3 - The Tooth Fairy
Summer Stuff #4 - Freebie Sanitizer Bathroom Passes
Summer Stuff #5 - Books for Back to School
Summer Stuff #6 - Award Awesome Students with The C.H.I.P. Award
Summer Stuff #7 - Crazy Easy Differentiation Folders

Monday, April 20, 2015

Testing Tips Posters

I feel pretty lucky that my Michigan kidlets don't have to take the dreaded MSTEP and NWEA until May - That's right - May!  This is way better than Colorado, where my third graders started standardized testing in February.  Gah!
If you need to make your room a testing haven, making Testing Tips Posters is a simple activity you can do to make your room a little more test friendly.  Students can hang up their testing poster around the room throughout your testing window and then testing best practices are all around them.  
I tell them the purpose of the poster is to motivate them, remind them of a testing tip, or relax them.  I always draw a giant beach with a sunset and tell them that when I'm stressed I like to visualize being at the beach, so my testing poster will help me relax if I'm stressed.
Here are some pics from years past.  We'll see what the little ones come up with this year.  Something cute I'm sure!
Happy testing season!

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