Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stress Relief

It's that time again...  State assessments are here!  Some of my students begin testing first thing Monday morning and the rest will begin Tuesday morning.  I'm sure they're going to do well, but there's still that stress that always comes when this season arrives.

As assessment coordinator(ish) for my school, I've been working on getting treats together for the 3rd through 5th grade classes for assessments.  That was pretty much what I spent most of my Friday doing.  The last hour of the day my students helped me label, count, and distribute assessment treats to all of the classrooms.  I'm pretty sure without their help it would have been a 7 hour job!

(I need to remember to take pics of our assessment treats for the kids...  We have a little something for them each day.)

Anyway, I decided this weekend is devoted to taking care of me and not stressing out.  With conferences and going out of town last week I've been feeling very sluggish and that's not helping the stress.  These are my top priorities for my weekend...
My Weekend Companions

  1. Workout - I love working out.  I love putting on my headphones, reading a fun magazine, and dominating that elliptical for an hour or so.  I love how I feel after a good workout, especially when I'm stressed out.
  2. Paint my nails - I'm one of those girls that pretty much refuses to pay to get a mani / pedi (I've had one pedi and that was a gift and 2 manis only because I was a bridesmaid and wanted to look nice).  I have a serious nail polish addiction though, and stupid Pinterest hasn't helped to curb that addiction AT ALL! (Check out my "Stuff That Makes You Pretty" board on Pinterest.)  Personally, I think it's fun to paint my own nails and pamper myself while watching some TV.
  3. Sleep - I love sleeping so much.  Who doesn't?!?  I'm so much more motivated to get things done when I'm actually well rested.
  4. Spend quality time with my TV - I used to not understand my mom's addiction to her DVR...  Then, I got one myself.  I love that I don't have to worry about when things are on TV and I can just watch them whenever.  I also do Netflix DVDs one at a time and have a movie to get caught up on.  
  5. Color my hair - I haven't colored my hair since last summer and I've noticed that when I pull my hair up it's two colors.  I don't really have to color my hair (yet), but I like switching up my color every now and then.  (This round's color is going to be Garnier Nutrisse Soft Mahogany Brown 415.)
So, how do you recover from the craziness of teaching on the weekends?
How do you pamper yourself?
Did you do anything special this weekend?
Please share! :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fashion Friday: Electric Blue

I'm going to begin this post with a little 80's awesomeness...

Icehouse - "Electric Blue"

Yup, that's totally on my iPod.  (And maybe another Icehouse song or two...  Wonder whatever happened to Icehouse?)

I will wear pretty much any color.  Not to sound totally conceited, but I'm blessed to have a skin tone that looks good in pretty much any color.  Obviously some color look better than others, but I can pull off a lot of colors that others can't.  (My mom has pretty fair skin and is one who can't.)  

I'm trying to get more adventurous with colors and I've been loving all of the brights and neons that are popping up with spring collections.  

And then, there's blue...

I don't really like wearing blue and hardly buy blue clothes.  Here's why:  1.)  Many shades of blue are hard to pair with jeans.  Some just don't look right.  AT ALL.  2.)  Black pants are my go to for work and a lot of shade of blue don't look good with black.  (I might add that navy is well represented in my closet, but I'm talking about blue blues.)

<Might I mention that I don't even decorate my house in any blues?  I'm shocked that I actually want a bedding set that is mostly a grayish blue.  Yeah, I really don't ever get drawn to blue.  Maybe it's partly because it's one of KU's colors?  I HATE KU!  >

I inventoried my closet and aside from turquoise and navy blues I had only three blue items in my closet-- A cardigan from AE that's at least 5 years old and probably hasn't been worn in at least 2 years (time to take that to the resale shop), a blue AE hoodie from college that has been retired to sleepwear, and my Rabies Fun Run t-shirt (based on this episode of  "The Office").

I popped into Gap recently when I had a 40% off coupon and tried on quite a few items.  I picked up a super cute pink cardigan...  Lightweight, dark pretty pink color, great length.  I just couldn't justify getting another pink cardigan.  Then I spotted the same cardi in a pretty bright blue (take a look right here).  I took it back to the dressing room and tried it on with a black skirt and black tank that I was already wearing and it amazingly looked good against the all black outfit.  Now, I COULD justify getting a color that was not already represented in my closet.  Plus, when I got it home, it looked good with my favorite dark jeans from AE.  Win!  

I've been having some fun finding ways to make my cardigan work with what I already have.  (Yay me!)  I'm thinking I may attempt some sort of color blocking outfit with this cardi.

(Disclaimer:  If you're looking into buying this cardigan I thought I might share I sized up in it.  I typically go first for a L at Gap and then sometimes size up or down from there.  The day a bought this cardi I was wearing a M sweater from there and it was very slouchy fitting.  I tried on both a L and XL and ended up going with the XL.  It's a little more loose fitting and gets a little looser with wear, but I liked it more for layering and it still looks neat and polished buttoned up.  Don't you love sizing?  I own items in every size from XS to XL from Banana Republic!  LOL)

I shall leave you with some blue (p)inspiration...

bright blue!     Bright blue     love the bright blue    Turquoise and Blue      blue nail polish is necessary.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dr. Seuss on Pinterest!

This is gonna be short and sweet...

Dr. Seuss week is just around the corner, so I'm sure many of you are looking for ideas and lesson plans.  I've stumbled upon several great boards of ideas on Pinterest that I wanted to share.


Happy pinning! :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How To: Conferences

I mentioned in a few earlier posts that we had conferences this past week.  I actually enjoy meeting with parents and kids and getting to know the families in our school.  I'm blessed to work in a school that has a lot of involved parents who truly care about their children and support the school.

My student teacher sat in on most of the conferences this week and I think everyone should have this opportunity before they're thrown into it on their own.  I don't run conferences exactly the way my cooperating teacher did, but I did get a lot of great ideas on how to make everything run smoothly.

I wanted to share some of my conference tips and I'd love for you all to share your own comments and suggestions on how to make parent-teacher conferences successful!

  1. Be organized - I have my students create a little construction paper folder to keep of the handouts in.  That way everything for each student is in one place and I can easily stack the folders in order and have them ready to go when parents arrive.  The last thing I was is to be scrambling through papers while parents sit and wait.  The kids help me organize everything, so they get involved in the process too!
  2. Let the students provide their input - In the past I've had the kids write letters to their parents telling about how the school year is going.  The parents love hearing things straight from the kids (I let parents choose if the kids come or not to conferences) and it allows the parents to see a sample of the student's writing.  This semester, I had the kids complete this awesome self-reflection that I found over at Lesson Plan SOS.    I typed up my own backside and had the students write three things they're good at and three things they would like to improve.  This was pretty much identical to the sheet I fill out on the students to share as well.  I always have the student's input be the first thing in the folder.  Usually the kids are pretty on target as far as the good and bad and it's a great way to lead into the rest of the conference.
  3. Don't overwhelm - I've never been one to save a lot of work samples to share at conferences.  We do Wednesday folders each week, so graded papers and all that kinda stuff goes home on a regular basis.  I know some teachers like to share work samples with parents and that works for some, but I also know of a lot who said this seems to bore a lot parents.  I have a sheet of test scores that I go over with parents (STAR, MAPS, AIMSWeb, state assessment prep, etc.)  It really helps to pace things and gives the parents an easy and simple explanation of the tests we give the students.
  4. Share the positive...  And the negative - Like I said above, I have the kids write about the things they're good at and what they need to work on.  Almost always, I end up sharing the same items.  I write out three goals for each student in my conference report.  Every student, no matter how high or how low has three goals.  Here are the most common goals I had for these most recent conferences:  Meet yearly AR goal, meet standards on state assessments, memorize multiplication and division facts, work on organization and responsibility, bring back homework each morning.  Going through these things pretty much always covers any questions or concerns that parents have.  I try not to sugar coat things (which can be hard for me sometimes), but I try to focus on how the child can improve and not focus on what they're doing wrong.
  5. Call in reinforcements - By this I mean, if you're afraid of meeting with the parents alone, ask a trusted colleague ahead of time to sit in on the conference with you.  Our principal (both the old one and the new one) have always made it known that they're available to sit in on any conferences that we're nervous about.  I've only called in the principal once in my five years...  I had what may possible be my most difficult behaviorally-challenged student EVER during my first year.  Even though the parents were actually quite supportive of the me and the help the school was trying to provide, I felt it was a good idea to have someone else there just in case.  
So, there are my tips for running successful parent-teacher conferences.  If you have any of your own tips, ideas, and suggestions please share them in the comments!  I'd love to hear how the rest of you wonderful teachers run your conferences!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Teacher Bag Linky Party!

If you've never been over to Clutter-Free Classroom you're missing out on an awesome site for organization in the classroom.  In a perfect world I'd be organized in all areas of teaching, but that's not quite the case.  It's a great site for those of us who occasionally need some motivation and inspiration to get organized! 

Anyway, they're hosting a "Let's See Your Teacher Bag" linky party and I thought this would be a fun one of join in on.

I'm pretty much addicted to tote bags.  I have wayyyyy too many even after selling some in my garage sale last summer.  I rotated out some of my teacher bags, but I've finally found a winner that is here to stay.  

I bought this bag last summer from Thirty-One.  This bag was on special that month, so I decided, "What the heck, I'll buy ANOTHER bag!"  I loved this pattern with the pink and decided to add a fun little lime green C to make it unique for me.  

I must say, this is my favorite school bag in my collection.  I've stuck with it all year long.  It's structured and sturdy and the pockets on the outside are perfect for sticking my computer mouse, pens, notepads, cans of pop, or anything else I need to shove in there as I'm running out the door.

One of my amazing paras sells Thirty-One so I had a party with her last fall.  I bought this super cute lunch tote that is also pretty awesome.  My district started charging teachers for fridges and microwaves a few years ago, so I decided to be cheap and sell mine.  The thermal tote keeps everything super cold all morning without having to go in the fridge!  (You can see I also have my little pink Pocket Bac from Bath & Body Works...  I'm more than addicted to those little things!)

So, what's in my bag?

I'll spare you the picks of some of the papers waiting to be graded / recorded / entered into the computer over my long weekend and just show you a couple things that are always with my bag.  

On the left is my PINK laptop sleeve from Victoria's Secret's PINK collection.  I'm pretty sure it was $5 on one of their promos right around the time school started last year.  It's perfect for my school laptop and stretchy enough for me to put the power cord in there as well.  (Is it weird that I have the coordinating tank top?  Yes, my tank and laptop sleeve match.  I'm just that awesome!)  I have another super cute pink polka dot laptop case from VS PINK, but I usually only carry that when I just need my laptop and I don't carry my entire tote with me.

On the right is my little file organizer from the Target dollar section.  It's all pink, but it's got a little zebra print to it making it kinda fun.  It's good for random papers that I don't want getting mixed up with my student work.  It's great for when I go to meetings and need to stay organized on the go.  

Do you see my little Justin Bieber notepad there?  Yes.  Another thing that makes me totally awesome.  Funny story...  I was at the state assessment conference with my old principal last fall and somehow mentioned to her that I liked Justin Bieber (not in a creepy way, of course).  A few days later I got an inter-school mail envelope from her (she work in admin now) with this little notepad!  LOL  She wrote a note "from Justin" to me and put it in there.  It's actually stayed with my bag ever since and has come in handy quite a few times.  I get some funny looks / comments about my Justin Bieber notepad, but I like it and it's useful!  :)

So, what does your teacher bag look like?  Link up and show us what you've got!

Fashion Friday: Dressing for Conferences

We had conferences this week, which can make for some very long work days.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we had full school days and then met with parents until 7 p.m.  The kids didn't have school Thursday, but we had parents coming in for conferences until noon.  After that, I kicked off my 4 1/2 day weekend with some errands, a nap, and some quality time with my couch and DVR.  (It's amazing how I fell behind on my shows just stay at work 'til 7 a few nights this week.)

Anyway, I've seen a few other teacher bloggers post about what to wear for conferences, so I thought I'd show some Polyvore examples of outfits that I wore (or thought of wearing) for our conferences this week.  I try to keep my conference week outfits somewhat dressy, but also very comfortable since I have to be in them ALL day long.  

(BTW...  I've been having trouble pasting the Polyvore codes so I had to pin the pics to Pinterest and link them from there to my Polyvore page.)

Pinned Image

This first outfit is a pretty close replica of what I wore on Monday.  We ended up getting our first decent dumping of snow on Sunday night so I knew in planning my Monday outfit I needed to go for warm, easy, and comfortable.  (I'm not a morning person at all and my normally 20-25 minute commute to work has taken up to an hour and 45 minutes on snowy days.)  I bought the Bright Ponte Blazer from Gap a while back and wanted to wear it on Valentine's Day Eve.  This outfit was super comfy and kept me warm, but still looked polished for meeting with parents.

(I won't share my Tuesday outfit...  We normally wear bully shirts with jeans on Tuesdays, but I have a purple K-State Valentine's tee that says "Be My Wildcat."  Yes, I totally rocked that tee and jeans for our party and conferences.  Not dressy at all, but it was appropriate for the holiday and I'm pretty sure none of the parents thought twice about it.  They know how hardcore I am about my Wildcats.  Heck, I still wore that tee after they'd lost to nasty KU the night before!)

Pinned Image

This wasn't my actual Wednesday outfit, but I did consider rocking this sweater with black pants.  I came across this skirt at Target the other night, but didn't have time to try it on.  It was a great thick knit material, but would be really nice for all seasons.  I don't wear a lot of skirts to work (I'm more into dresses if I do go that route and that's pretty much only when it's warm outside), but I wanted to share a comfy look that is also very polished and professional.  I read several blogs of other teachers and I'm sometimes shocked by how dressy some of them are!  I know some schools have much more strict dress codes than we do, but I can't imagine spending my day in heels and pencil skirts.  Don't get me wrong, I love that look, but it's just not really my thing.  

Another one of my Polyvore creations...  I'm finally figuring out how to wear this sweater from Old Navy.

I have to admit something...  Pants are not my strong area as far as work apparel.  I pretty much only wear black pants.  I have a few others, but I just struggle with finding non-black pants that flatter me and fit my budget.  Since we were only working until noon on Thursday and I had errands to run in the afternoon I decided to rock one of my favorite pairs of jeans.  These are the Straight Jeans from AE and they're pretty awesome.  They're very flattering, a great price, and easy to roll up and wear cropped during warm weather.  I'm on my second pair in the dark wash because I wore the heck out of them!  I bought this "dalmation print" sweater at Old Navy last month and had only worn it once.  It's a size bigger than normal, so the first time I wore it I felt a little sloppy and awkward.  I never dry my sweaters, but I did for this one and I was super happy to see it fit much better.  I decided to tone down the print my pairing it with my beloved black AE blazer (pretty sure it was my best purchase with my employee discount) and topped it with some gold accessories and some comfy boots.  Dressy enough for conferences and comfy enough for running around later in the day!

I was once told to never dress nicer than your dressiest parent...  Has anyone else heard that?  I'm not sure what to think of that concept.  I feel like I was dressed up more than most of the parents I met with, but I'm pretty sure most of them weren't wearing their work attire.  Just normal people clothes and stuff that you throw on after work.  

What do you think?  How do your dress for conferences?  Is it any different than what you'd wear on a normal school day?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I've been horrible about blogging over the past several weeks.  I feel like my days have been crazy busy and my evenings have been either busy or I've just been super exhausted and unmotivated to do anything.  

Anyway, this week was conference week.  I actually enjoy conferences quite a bit, but they do wear me out.  We opted for three late nights and half a day tomorrow.  I don't think I like the extra late night (normally it's just Monday and Wednesday), but oh well...  

Moving on...

Every year the teachers at my school get to complete a wish list of items that we would like for our classrooms.  They typically tell us to assume we have $100 - 200, but this year we were told that it's probably going to be $100 maximum.  I happened to be in the office today (I'm hanging out there a lot now that I have a student teacher) when one of our secretaries happened to be opening up a box of the new Lakeshore catalogs.  

OMG!!!  Soooooooo many great things!!!

I don't live near a Lakeshore store, but I'll be near one this weekend and plan on making a stop.  I figure I haven't spent hardly any money on school items since last summer, I have a coupon, and I just got my tax refund.  I'm probably going to limit by budget to $50 or less, but I figure this might be a good time to check out some new items and pick up a few new goodies to use here in these last few months of school.  I love their materials for reading work stations and math centers as everything is very kid-friendly and easy to use without a lot of help from the teacher.

So...  Here are my current picks for my possible $150 budget ($100 from the school + $50 of my own).  
(All images are from  Click the picture to be directed to the item on their website.)

It’s a Mystery! Comprehension Readers

"It's a Mystery! Comprehension Readers" - These look very similar to the fluency partner scripts I have from  Lakeshore.  I love how they have the questions right there and I think the mysteries would be fun for the kids to read.  ($49.95)

Interactive Graphic Organizers

"Interactive Graphic Organizers" - This is the one item I'm really hoping they have in the store this weekend, though online it says it won't ship 'til March 1st. It's a CD-Rom of all sorts of cool graphic organizers to project and use with your Mimio (that's what we have) or SmartBoard.  I've been finding all sorts of cool graphic organizer ideas on Pinterest, but this would be way less work for me and all ready to go whenever I want to use them!  ($19.95)

Month-By-Month Fluency Practice Kit - Gr. 3-4

"Month-by-Month Fluency Practice Kit" - This isn't a new arrival, but it's something I have wanted to add to my collection for a while.  We do about 10 minutes of fluency practice during whole group reading each day as well as a fluency station each week.  One of our second grade teachers has the lower grades version of this kit and it looks pretty cool.  I always try to insert seasonal activities whenever I can, but I always forget. I love that this is all organized by month and all ready to go!  ($39.95)

Before, During & After Reading Fiction Prompts

"Before, During, & After Reading Fiction Prompt Cards" - We have to do a lot of read aloud aside from our regular reading series and I think these cards would be a great way to insert in some comprehension into our read aloud time.  I like that these can be used with any book.  There's also a set for nonfiction literature, which I would also like to get my hands on as well.  ($19.95 each)

Well, that pretty much gets me to my budget.  It's not a ton, but it's all stuff that I think I would use a lot.  Lakeshore stuff can be a bit pricey at times, but there's not a lot of comparable resources out there.  In my opinion, it's usually worth the money if you know you're going to use it.  

I'll be sure to share my purchases from the weekend soon!  I'm giving myself a little "fun money" to spend out of town this weekend.  My mom and I are hitting a new outlet mall and then some other stores that we don't have in town.  (It sometimes amazes me all the great stores that we don't have here in town.  We're driving nearly 3 hours to a city pretty much the same size to hit up a handful of stores that we don't have!)  

I get 4 1/2 days off!  I totally need it!

5 school days 'til assessments begin!  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Crazy week...

It's been one of those weeks where almost anything that could go wrong did...  Well, that sounds a little extreme, but it was kinda rough.

Without sharing too much detail, I will tell you that I had a student injured in an accident yesterday.  Things weren't looking very good yesterday afternoon (nothing life threatening), but I spent some time with her and her parents at the hospital last night and she was released today.  They even brought her by the school this afternoon so that the other kids could see that she was going to be okay.  It was so sweet to see how much everyone cared.  Several kids brought cards for her today and my principal and I made a special trip to the store today to get her a teddy bear, balloons, and her favorite candy.  We truly have a great, caring community of parents, staff, and students at our school!

So...  I haven't quite been on my normal blogging routine this week, but hopefully the weekend will provide me with some time to get caught up on things.  I realized at the end of the day I hadn't had time to check my Google Reader page today and I was way behind on my reading!

For now, it's time to relax and enjoy a movie night with some friends! :)