Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Crayon Monogram

I am really, really, really procrastinating here on a major grant proposal!! It is due online tomorrow and I am not even half way done :( 

So, this afternoon I got a little crafty with a Crayon Monogram! 

I plan on making one for my assistant too. 
Mrs. Misenheimer will have an "M".  Shhh....don't tell her!

I am going to hang them outside of our classroom door.

The shadow box was $6 at Hobby Lobby and the crayons cost mere pennies at a yard sale.  Thanks, Mom!  The ribbon was leftover from a baby shower diaper cake.  I hot glued the crayons and ribbon and printed out my name!

My inspiration came from this picture I pinned on Pinterest.  This picture is linked to the original idea.

I like the ribbon I added to mine- gives it a little *sparkle*! 

What I'm Loving Wednesday!

Link up here and be a part of  "What I'm Loving Wednesday" 

Here is what I'm loving on this last beautiful Wednesday in June........

I'm loving the Wednesday edition of USA Today.  It's my favorite because that's when Craig Wilson's column appears.  Today, "The Final Word" is all about happiness.  Do we choose it or just get caught up in pursuing it? 

I'm loving that I got to go into school today and be a substitute for Camp Invention!  This is the coolest summer camp ever!  The children are there from 9:00-3:30 this week.  The room I subbed in allowed the children to completely take apart an item they brought from home.  With a small group, they will be creating a ball rolling machine from all the parts.  Pretty cool!  I may have to go back at the end of the week just to see how it all turns out.

I'm loving all my favorite new blogs!  And, I'm loving that I started all this in the summertime when I have plenty of time to stalk them!

I'm loving that I just got to talk with Uncle Rob on the phone.  He was down visiting last week, took a trip even further south to Myrtle Beach and called to say that he made it safely back home to PA last night! 

I'm loving that I have the entire afternoon to run errands and hopefully sneak a little "teacher shopping" in there as well! 

I'm loving  that the Moutain Dew slushie machine is back up and running at the Kangaroo Express!  I bought this cup at the beginning of summer for $7 and I get free refils until Labor Day!

What are you loving today?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Kindergarten Closet Edition

So, I was a tiny bit spoiled in my move to Kindergarten last year. 

You see, every two Kindergarten teachers share a very large storage closet between their rooms.  Last year, there was not a classroom beside me and I kind of, well, sort of, "spread out" a little in the closet. 

And, although I couldn't be happier to welcome my friend into the classroom "through the closet", I have been less than eager to get it cleaned up.  Sweet Harding has been so patient with me! 

So, I began today with the help of Supermom, Mrs. Claire B!

Here are some closet before pictures:

What a mess!

This would be the OTHER side of the closet that I have taken over!

I could lie and say that I have no idea how it got like this, but let's be honest, I do.

And it's called: The Life of a Busy Kindergarten Teacher!  I plan on doing a better job of staying organized throughout the year next year and by putting things back in their place right away! 

Claire and I worked for hours!!  I had to turn my head as she did what was best for me and the closet- threw lots of useless and old and ratty junk away.  Why do we have this nagging feeling to cling to the weirdest things and say to ourselves, "But, I might use this one day......"  

We ended up with a very large bag of trash, piles of old workbooks left by the teacher in my room the year before, 4 loads of stuff to donate and a table full of odds and ends for the new teacher on our team!  I feel so much better! 

There is still work to be done, but now, it's not so overwhelming to go into my closet.  I can actually see and know what's in there! 

Here are a few pics from after:

All my thematic tablecloths are on one shelf!

All my letter tubs, together at last!

Books on the bottom shelf.  These still need to be organized in some way.  However, now I can reach them all!

It may not look like much to you, but this closet has come a LONG way, baby!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Bucket List and Great Deal!

A few weeks ago I was inspired to create a Summer Bucket List.  And then, I posted an update about the "strides" I was making towards each item!

Well, I am happy to report that I can finally cross a few more items off the list! 

1. Trip to the beach
2. Read a book, or two, or three (finished Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner.  Just decided what book #2 will be)
3. Start a new tradition at home
4. Give a heartfelt surprise to someone (purchased said surprise, in search of the receiver)
5. Give a good report to a manager about an employee
6. Extreme Makeover: Kindergarten Closet Edition (starts THIS WEEK!)
7. Begin writing a children's book
8. Clean out all 4 3 closets (one down, three to go!)
9. Try Yoga again (my friend Kristy invited me to go...I have been a slacker, but am still hoping to go soon!)
10. Write a letter to the editor
11. Write a letter to a friend
12. Go on a picnic
13. Start a blog
14. Learn about Guided Math Groups (professional book in hand!)
15. Go to a concert (looked up ticket prices, thinking about Rascal Flatts)
16. Finally beat my husband at a game of Clue: The Office edition
17. Complete and mail in Foundation Grant (letter of rec received from principal. Now onto finishing touches)
18. Complete and mail in STAR Teacher Application

Quite a long ways to go.....

Now, onto the Great Deal! 

I love a Sunday morning when my hubby and I can just sit and enjoy each others company, hot coffee, and the newspaper.  I knew I had to make a trip out later to pick up a new ink cartridge so I was browsing the circulars for Office Depot and Office Max to see if anything else caught my eye.  And something did!! 

If you are anything like me, you love for sets of things in your classroom to match.  I am this way about many things in my classroom, especially the take home binders.  I dread buying these each year because it's usually the biggest purchase I have to make with my own money.  To me, however, it's worth the sacrifice when I can look over to my counter and see all the lovely, matching binders sitting in a neat row!

And what do you know?  Office Depot has these beautiful white, clear view, 1 in binders on sale!  A set of 12 for $14.99.  I got my whole class set for just $30!  The ones I got last year were not nearly as good quality as these and were falling apart by the end of the year. 

So happy to have that taken care of! I love a good deal and hope that if you were looking for binders that this helps you too!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bad Teacher

I'm not talking about me!  Or you.  I'm talking about Cameron Diaz! 

Or, at least the character she plays in the new movie that came out this weekend: "Bad Teacher."

I don't know about you, but I wanted to see this movie from the minute it previewed.  Since the costs of actually going to the movies has risen dramatically in the past few years, my husband and I typically wait for movies that we want to see to come out on DVD.  We use Blockbuster online and RedBox.  However, I just had to see this one right away! 

I'm sure there are plenty of teachers out there who have no interest and some may even be refusing- but let me tell you, it was worth it! 

There was MUCH more to the story than you see in the previews.  I hate it when all the good parts are given away in all the previews that you see!  And, there are some funny (and true) stereotypes portrayed too.  I will admit that I laughed out loud more than once. 

I won't be a spoiler, but let's just say this film will remind the world of how little we are paid for what we do!

So, have you seen it?  Are you planning to? 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Donors Choose

Please Please Please....tell me that you know about Donors Choose!

This is a website that I have been using since 2006.  I have successfully written over 25 grant proposals that total over $6000 worth of materials.  Just from this website!

Hard to believe, right? 
Must be really hard right?
Must take a lot of time, right?

No, no, and no!

It is by far the easiest grant proposal I have ever written! 

You begin by creating a title for your project and then shopping online!  Sometimes, I do the shopping before I create the title!  What you ask for can range from water bottles to notebooks to sets of books and classroom furniture. 

If you have a classroom need and are tired of spending so much of your own money, this is the site for you! 

When you're ready to shop, you are sent directly to the vendor's website so all products and prices are well represented. My favorite is Lakeshore.

What sets this site apart from all the rest is their effort to advertise FOR you! The staff at Donor's Choose works hard to make connections with a variety of companies that will partly fund grant proposals.

 A number of my grant proposals started off on their site already half way funded by Perishing Square, Piggly Wiggly and even The Hootie and The Blowfish Arts Foundation.

I try to keep as many proposals active as I'm allowed.  And, I try to have one in each subject are too.  You never know what a donor may be looking for. 

And, speaking of these donors, they are REAL people!  So, in your write-up, you can "speak" honestly about your needs without educatioinal jargon and fluff.  The donors are regular,everyday people that just want to give what they can to public education.

I hope you'll visit the site today and get a project started!

Happy Grant Writing!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kindergarten Rocks!

I've been working on a special project to give to my team members that agreed to meet at school this week and begin working on our Long Range Plans for next year. 

I am going to be our Grade Level Chair next year and really want to focus on our "team" mentality.  Since we all work with an assistant teacher, it's easy to fall into a habit of 5 separate two person teams.  Our time together today got us all on the same page.  It was a good bonding experience, plus, I like to get ahead and have a plan. 

So, just for coming, I had a special surprise for those teachers.........

I had to mix the sets to spell this out, but you can see all the different rocks and colored stickers I used. A set includes all uppercase and lowercase letters.

These rocks were really easy to make!  I bought the river rocks at Michael's.  They were only $1 a bag!  I got the stickers there too, and plan on using the extras in my classroom.  I bought a sealant type of glue and brushed it over the stickers.  It dried clear and glossy.  These rocks are ready to be used! 

I also typed up a list of quick and easy ways to use them with the children. 

Kindergarten Rocks!
10 Quick Ideas To Get You Started
1. Put the rocks in ABC order.
2. Match all uppercase and lowercase letters together.
3. Sort all uppercase and lower case letters.
4. Sort letters by tall, fall, or small.
5. Sort letters by open/closed.
6. Sort letters by straight lines or curvy.
7. Pull out a rock and ask children to name the letter and/or sound.
8. Pull out a rock and ask children to name words that begin with that letter.
9. See how many words you can spell.
10. Transition children by pulling out a rock.  They may line up if their name starts with that letter.

Harding said these rocks made her happy!

The professional conversation we had was GREAT!  We follow the Writer's Workshop approach and study Katie Wood Ray's professional books. We've got our LRP's set for the year and are excited about our soon to be Kindergarten writers! 

The teachers loved the rocks!! 

         Yours Truly,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lunch and Learn Day 2

I'm back again for Day 2!  I was amazed at how fast the first day flew by yesterday!  We didn't get nearly as much done yesterday as I had planned so I had everything ready for today.

Sticking with my ocean theme, we started off the morning with a couple more of my favorite read alouds. 

The Clumsy Crab was great for conversation because of how the main character changes from beginning to end.  At first he hates his big, clumsy claws.  By the end, when he saves his friend Octopus, he sees just how helpful he can be. 
Over in the Ocean allowed the children to participate because it's a counting and rhyming book.

Then we moved onto a glyph!  I sent the children around the room to different centers so that I could work with a small group on this project.  It had many steps! 

First, the children painted their paper half blue if they had been to the beach before.  This group then got to paint the other half with glue and add sand.  Girls did a green hand print fish and boys did orange. 

Then, the children added gems as bubbles; one for each year of life!  The seaweed represents how many people are in their family. 

Glyphs are a great way to get to know more about the children.  Before I knew it, we were talking all about their families; brothers and sisters and cousins, oh my!  You can create a glyph for any theme and with any questions you wish to ask. It's not just any old art becomes a representation of who the children are!

Sadly, I was given a reminder of just how important this program is today at lunch.  I watched as a little boy stuffed an extra sandwich in his pocket to take home.  I didn't ask questions or even let him know that I noticed.  It makes my heart ache that there are children that go hungry.  I'm glad we can do this little bit to help.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lunch and Learn

I couldn't have been more excited to get back to school this morning!  I will be leading a program called "Lunch and Learn" this week.  Funded by a grant, I get to teach a group of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students for two hours and feed them lunch.  Oh, but don't worry, I don't have to actually cook or make the lunch...the school district does that!  Thank goodness...

The main goal of the grant was to provide lunch for a group of 50+ children in need at our school.  We added on the "Learn" part, and it is, as Amber calls it, just icing on the cake!

During planning, our group of teacher leaders decided that it was ok to have a little fun too.  I got to thinking about this and decided that this "opportunity" may be the closest thing some of these children will ever get to a summer camp type of experience. 

So, the crafty, artsy side of me is coming out!  I am planning on this week to be a complete "Ocean and Beach" theme.  Here is a little of what we did today:

I started off by reading one of my favorite ocean books, Commotion in the Ocean.  Then, we sang some songs from this "What's In The Sea" CD. 

I recopied these three poems from the read aloud.  The children helped me by reading along!
Then, they had to choose their favorite one to create a handprint picture of. 

Here are two of them:

Handprint Octopus

Handprint Crab

I can't wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us! 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Un-Reality Check

Reality for me is those 180 days spent planning and teaching and assessing in Kindergarten.

Un-Reality for me is the other 185 days that I can spend dreaming about what to do when Reality comes back around.

And lucky for you, because you get to see what my Un-Reality is all about! 

Last week I went searching on Amazon for some new professional books to read.  My first objective was to find a book about Guided Math. Check! But then, I just got carried away with all the other exciting possibilities.  I ended up getting 4 professional books in the mail today and began poring over them immediately. 

One book I flipped through pretty quickly had a few good ideas, mostly organizational type stuff.  But the second one I picked up, oh goodness, I couldn't put it down! 

Page after page filled my mind with so many new ideas to try.  I am thinking of daily sign-ins and graphs and letter games and interactive homework books and so on and so on.  I got a little overwhelmed and had to put the book down and walk away.  After I composed myself, Reality kind of started to sink in for a moment. 

You see, Un-Reality dares me to forget about collecting lunch money and writing field trip reciepts.  Un-Reality allows me to forget about fundraisers and fire drills.  Un-Reality encourages me to forget about tired feet and early mornings. Reality says, "You just won't be able to do it all!"  And, while that's true, I can't help but continue to dream some more.

Yep, I'll keep dreaming.  I'll keep dreaming because it's those dreams that take teaching from ordinary to extraordinary.

So I say to Reality, "I'll see YOU on August 10th."  Until then, I'll continue reading and thinking and dreaming about what all I want to try in Kindergarten next year. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Making Strides

It's amazing to experience how setting goals can really motivate someone to do, well, most anything!  All I had to do for myself was create a little Summer Bucket List and it's all I can think about!  I want to cross off those items!!  The bad part is, every time I think about crossing one off, I can think of at least two more to add.  I guess that's the thing with "personal" to-do lists; they really are never ending. 

That's how it is for me in the classroom too.  Everyday I feel like there are endless amounts of things that I could be doing.  I could stay in my classroom until 9:00pm each night and STILL not get it all done!  It's those nagging feelings of "If I could just get ahead" and "I know there is a way to do this lesson better."  But, at some point, we all just have to say, "I've got to find some kind of stopping point because in truth, it will all be here waiting on me tomorrow!"

I made a quick trip up to school yesterday to see how my new neighbor was coming along in her classroom and to see the disaster that is my closet.  We got to chat for a while and I actually filled up an entire bag of trash to be taken out. I got a few things reorganized in my room and ended up just sitting and looking at it for a while.  I was envisioning and reminiscing all the fun and learning that took place last year and hopeful for the same in years to come.  I'm also thinking about rearranging things.  I love being at school and in my classroom.  It just makes me happy.

So, while I can't cross off anything else officially yet, I am making some strides on the Summer Bucket List:

1. Trip to the beach
2. Read a book, or two, or three (half way through my first one...Book Club is July 2)
3. Start a new tradition at home
4. Give a heartfelt surprise to someone
5. Give a good report to a manager about an employee (kind of went backwards here as I had to call and actually complain about someone yesterday)
6. Extreme Makeover: Kindergarten Closet Edition (took out one bag of trash)
7. Begin writing a children's book
8. Clean out all 4 closets (in-laws coming soon...better start with that closet!)
9. Try Yoga again (my friend Kristy invited me to go to a class with her next Tuesday)
10. Write a letter to the editor
11. Write a letter to a friend
12. Go on a picnic
13. Start a blog
14. Learn about Guided Math Groups (professional book ordered!)
15. Go to a concert (looked up ticket prices, thinking about Rascal Flatts)
16. Finally beat my husband at a game of Clue: The Office edition
17. Complete and mail in Foundation Grant
18. Complete and mail in STAR Teacher Application (I haven't picked up either of these items since beginning them a few weeks ago.  Somehow, putting them on this list WILL keep me accountable for them, I hope!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I didnt even make it to the pool gate...

That's right.  I didn't even make it to the pool gate before hearing...

"Mrrrssss.  Looooochellllll!" 

The second day of VBS was great!  I had the children each make up their own dance move during our music class "warm up".  The catch was, it had to be a move you could do in the kitchen.  Some of them "stirred the cake mix" and some of them "tossed the pizza dough!"  I had some errands to run right after for a special project I'm working on, and then I decided it was too pretty not to spend the afternoon at the pool!

It has become a running joke between my friends and family that I can't go anywhere without knowing someone.  Partly because of growing up in this small town and partly because of being a teacher. 

Well, it's one thing to be a teacher in the town you live in, but I also live in the community that I teach in!  And, I love it! 

Yes, that does mean that I pretty much have to be "Mrs. Lochel" wherever I go, and I'm ok with that.  I actually kind of enjoy it.  It makes me feel a little bit famous sometimes :) 

Being a teacher isn't like many other professions where you can just leave your work on your desk each day.  My work is constantly on my mind and in my heart.  My work lives next door, and down the street, and meets me at the pool in the summertime.

So, that's probably where you'll find me tomorrow.  With my towel, book, and sunblock on hand...

I'll be waiting to hear those sweet voices as I reach out for the gate....just being me...Mrs. Lochel.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Weekend Getaway

Toes in the water? Toes in the sand?  YES, please! 

And, of course, the teacher in me couldn't help but collect a bag of free manipulatives to take back to the classroom- seashells!  I am always on the lookout for that kind of stuff; free, that is!  I love getting shells, and maps, and postcards of any kind to share with my children that don't ever have the chance to travel.  I take for granted the many opportunities I've had to see the beach.  I am always surprised at the number of children in my class each year that have never been.

The minute my hubby left work on Friday, we hit the road for a weekend trip to the beach!  Our dear friend, and my sorority sister, Nicole, got married! 

Her destination wedding at the beach worked out perfectly for us too because I had been holding onto a free 2 night stay at Springmaid that I won back in September.

Cheryl, Roxy, Nicole, Lynn, Crystal, Katy, and me!

It was a great weekend with friends, one that we promised to repeat!

Summer Bucket List: I've got quite a ways to go!!
1. Trip to the beach
2. Read a book, or two, or three
3. Start a new tradition at home
4. Give a heartfelt surprise to someone
5. Give a good report to a manager about an employee
6. Extreme Makeover: Kindergarten Closet Edition
7. Begin writing a children's book
8. Clean out all 4 closets
9. Try Yoga again
10. Write a letter to the editor
11. Write a letter to a friend
12. Go on a picnic
13. Start a blog
14. Learn about Guided Math Groups
15. Go to a concert
16. Finally beat my husband at a game of Clue: The Office edition

This Teacher Just Can't Carry A Tune

If you know me, you know I LOVE to sing!  I am that girl that you pull up next to in your car at a stop light that is belting out a song with hands drumming on the steering wheel! I am always worried that someone really will catch me one day :)

But if I'm being honest...this teacher just can't carry a tune.

And of course, the one thing I always end up leading at Vacation Bible School is: MUSIC!

This morning was the start of a very busy and exciting week at church.  VBS is during the day time this year, so from 9-12 this week, I am singing and shaking my groove thing in the "Wok and Roll" room. 

Since the VBS theme is "The Shake It Up Cafe", I decided to let the children pass around a whisk to lead the rest of the group in a dance move of their choice to the most upbeat song on our CD.  It is so funny to let children just have the control like that to lead!  Some just passed the whisk onto the next child and some were so funny!  Let's just say, disco may never die!

Being comfortable around children and comfortable leading and teaching them, I always let the coordinators of VBS know that they can save me until last and fill me into a position that no one else wants to do.  For some always seems to be music.  I guess I'm not the only one who can't carry a tune!

Even though I can admit my less than stellar ability in singing I can't help but love it.  What I've learned is, that in the faces of 150 children, it doesn't matter what your strengths and weaknesses are.  If you love it and own it and are enthusiastic about it- they will be too.  The other good thing is- they aren't judgemental!

I can't really explain my connection to and love of music.  No musicians or singers or instrument players in my family.  I think it just amazes me that one person though, can memorize the words to hundreds of songs. Take a minute and think about all the songs that you could just sing along to if they were playing on the radio right this minute.  When I think about this in terms of teaching, I can't help but wonder why we don't put everything to music!

This past year I had a 10 minute "Music and Movement" block of time.  That wasn't the only time we played or listened to music during the day, but that time was solely devoted to it.  The schedule went like this:

Monday: Rhythmic music and scarves (the children's favorite)
Tuesday: Favorite songs (lots of Raffi and Dr. Jean)
Wednesday: Yoga (yoga cards that went through the alphabet)
Thursday: Multicultural songs
Friday: Patriotic songs (also a kindergarten standard!)

I am constantly on the lookout for more multicultural music and ideas.  A goal for me this next school year will be to also bring in  more music throughout the day! 

So, a question to end this blog today.  What song do you know by heart?  What song could you sing to me right now?  What song could win you the $10,000 on Singing Bee?  Happy Singing!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Bucket List

Ok, so I am totally inspired! 

After reading this blog, Creative Spice, written by my friend and future teacher, Lyndsey, I wanted to make my own "Summer Bucket List!" 

It's important that no matter how busy we get professionally, we remember to take care of our own souls! It's important to have a little fun and make life more interesting. I've definitely "grown" in that regard.  As my family and friends can attest, I am and always have been, a homebody!  It's just recently that I've felt more comfortable traveling and really experiencing new adventures. 

I attended a State Teacher Forum last February and nearly fell out of my chair laughing at one of the speakers.  Matt and Jenny Reeves are the founders and directors of Frazee Dream Center in Greenville, SC.  Matt and his wife began this center as an afternoon hang out for underprivileged children that needed role models, a safe place to be, and a snack. They have worked hard to turn their dream into a reality at the center and now offer free resources to these children in the community. He spoke very charismatically to us, a group of 80+ teachers, as a leader in the community that spends hours each afternoon with our students. 

His biggest advice?  "Just be interesting!"  He encouraged us to live our lives to the fullest, because through that, we will bring so much more to the table when teaching these children day in and day out.

So, even though my summer is pretty much booked up, I decided to start thinking of what I could do and put on such a list to be, well, more interesting!

A trip to the beach?  Read a few books?  I don't know, these seem a little safe.  But, what teacher doesn't love having a list and crossing things off- so on the list they go!

Summer Bucket List
1. Trip to the beach
2. Read a book, or two, or three
3. Start a new tradition at home
4. Give a heartfelt surprise to someone
5. Give a good report to a manager about an employee
6. Extreme Makeover: Kindergarten Closet Edition
7. Begin writing a children's book
8. Clean out all 4 closets
9. Try Yoga again
10. Write a letter to the editor
11. Write a letter to a friend
12. Go on a picnic
13. Start a blog
14. Learn about Guided Math Groups
15. Go to a concert
16. Finally beat my husband at a game of Clue: The Office edition

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Continuum

I attended my third and final day of Mentor Training yesterday and much like the last two days I feel as those I've learned a great deal about mentoring, but also about myself as a professional. 

I was introduced to a document called a "Continuum".  You automatically think of the words "continue" and "continuous" and you can pretty much infer what this is.

In relationship to teachers, it's a big chart that lays out all these specific dimensions and qualifiers.  The dimensions and qualifiers range from planning and instruction to environment and professionalism.  The Continuum ranges from Beginner to Innovative.

We were all challenged to turn to a specific page and self assess; place ourselves somewhere on the Continuum.  I will not lie- it was a hard task to do!  I went back and forth from being overly critical, to overly generous!  I could see how I'd changed through the years; I could see how I'd changed through one year.  On some dimensions, I could see how I changed throughout the week.  Some days are better than others, for sure. I moved up and I moved down; back and forth.  It's a good thing, too, because the idea is that you never stay in one place.  We don't want to be stagnant, but always moving (hopefully forward) on this continuum.

This activity did get me thinking about all the roles we have in our lives whether or not a continuum exists there too.

Do you have an idea of what the innovative friend looks like? 
Do you have an idea of what the innovative wife or mother looks like? Sister? Daughter? Aunt? Neighbor?

Where are you on the continuum of life?  (oh goodness, that's deep!) 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My First Year

Seven short years ago, blissfully unaware of many of the demands/roles/hats I would have as a teacher, I was hired to, and began doing what I love. 

For a moment today, I was brought back to that first year as we discussed feelings that first year teachers have throughout the year from August to May.  We discussed the range of attitudes they experience from anticipation to survival to reflection.

I have a particular memory that I will keep with me always. 

It was the first day of school.  I was so eager, so nervous, so anxious. 

In through the door I saw many students and parents with new book bags and supplies.  Through the crowd and over to where I was standing came a mother and her son.  With a huge grin on both of their faces, Mrs. Paula Schumpert handed me a potted plant and said, "This is for you.  You'll never have another first first day." 

Although at that moment, I don't think I truly realized the magnitude of what she was saying, it made my smile grow even larger and calmed my nerves.

First year teachers don't always get the respect and support they need from parents or other staff members. That's why this training has been so valuable to me.  I've been able to hear experiences from other teachers, not so similar to mine.  And, I'm learning how to offer the support that was so valuable to me.  

One of the lessons I think I'll share with a new teacher this year is that even though you'll never have another first first day, you can treat each day with that same enthusiasm!  

Each day, remember the eagerness; it'll keep you open minded.

Each day, remember the anxiousness; it'll keep you on your toes. 

Each day, remember the nerves; they'll keep you humble. 

Each day, remember the smiles; those are the children that depend on you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Just One More Degree

Our first day of Mentor Training was thought provoking and inspiring.  Seeing just how many teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years is astounding.  Our work over the next two days will focus on what we can do as Mentors to better prepare and better support teacher candidates and induction year teachers so that they don't experience the same pitfalls and not want to teach anymore.

Teaching, and all that goes along with it, is a lot harder than most people could ever imagine!  This makes me think of a quote I once heard, "From the outside looking in, you can never understand it.  From the inside looking out, you can never explain it."  But, our jobs here as Mentors from the "inside" will require us to explain it.  Explain what we do each day and more importantly, why.

Our leader closed the day with a clip from a company called Simple Truths.  To paraphrase the main idea, water is hot at 211 degrees.  Water boils at 212.  Just one more degree causes plain water to turn to steam.  And steam- well steam can power a locomotive.  Oh the power of just one extra degree.

The clip really allowed us to think of all the things we could accomplish and what MORE of a difference we could make if we just gave one more degree.  One more degree of hope.  One more degree of love.  One more degree of faith. 

What if I gave one more degree of friendship to someone.  Or maybe even one more degree of understanding to someone or a situation that I can't even begin to comprehend.  What a difference that would make in my attitude, and most likely the outcome. 

As Amanda was dropping me off she pulled her car into my driveway and we saw a special present on my doorstep!

A present from my sweet friend Hayden! 

Now that is one extra degree used to make this teacher feel extra special on her birthday! 

Back to my Alma Mater

Week 1 of Summer Break is here and this teacher finds herself traveling back to her Alma Mater! 

Now, don't get too excited, Winthrop University is just about 20 minutes away from my home.  I loved going to college, especially an amazing teacher training college, that was practically in my backyard! I felt like I was far away from home, but could drop the dirty laundry off and get a home cooked meal anytime I wanted.  Love ya, Mom!

My colleague and friend, Amanda, is picking me up today at 8:00am!  No sleeping in for these two teachers!  We are on our way to a three day Mentor Training put on by the NetScope grant at Winthrop.  We made a deal for Amanda to drive today's my birthday!!

Through this grant, Winthrop has restructured the way they organize internships in the College of Education.  Schools now have to apply and teachers have to go through an application and interview process to accept student teachers into their classrooms.  Also a part of the grant and acceptance of interns is this three day Mentor Training. 

Amanda and I, proving the fact that teachers are eager and over-achieving, signed up for the first training of the summer!  This way, we justified, we'd have the rest of the summer to let it all sink in and make plans for how we would handle student teachers in the Fall.

I was one of the very lucky students my senior year to be placed in an amazing classroom for my full time internship.  Not everyone shares in this type of experience.  Mrs. Pam McIntyre allowed me to come into her room, use her things, and try out new ideas- all the while mentoring me into the teacher I am today.

Now, being on the flip side, I begin to understand just how time consuming this is.  You still keep up with all of your regular tasks and duties and planning as a classroom teacher, but now you find yourself explaining and justifying each and every move you make.  A great reflection tool for sure! I am so very grateful for my positive experience so  here's hoping I can be that experience for someone else.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Applications and Proposals

Ever heard that quote, "A teacher's work is never done...?"  How true!  I am headed back to my classroom for a few hours today- by choice- because I have a few things I want to get ahead on. 

The first is an application to the STAR teacher program organized and put on by the Palmetto State Teachers Association.  The application is due by July 31st but involves much more on my part than I originally thought.  Both my principal and a colleague (thanks, Dorothy!) had to write a letter of reference for me and then I have to complete an application and answer an essay question!  I felt very strongly that this would be a GREAT professional development opportunity for me. 

Professional development of any kind has pretty much disappeared since budget issues began.  The kicker of this opportunity is that the Foundation for Professional Development pays for all the expenses!  Even for the substitute that will be required in my absence.  The conference is held in October at Seabrook Island near Charleston, SC.  I hate to be away from my classroom for any reason- but it promises to be a relaxing and renewing experience!  When complete, I've got to head over to the District Office.  I need Dr. Epps' signature too!

The second task I need to complete is a grant proposal to the Foundation for Fort Mill Schools.  This organization supports our schools in many ways and one of those is by offering $500 grants to one teacher at each school.  I tried for the first time last year and didn't succeed, so I am trying again!!  This time with a better idea!  I am hoping to purchase 3 Nooks from Barnes and Noble.  I can use these in the classroom, but more importantly, send them home with students that don't have a big selection of picture books or with those that have non English speaking parents. I'm going to call it, "Curl Up With A Good Nook".  I think that a catchy title is always important- kind of like a first impression. 

I have also got to give my classroom one more sweep and make sure it is in a "ready to use" type condition because starting next week it will be used for a special program taking place for 8 weeks this summer.  I'll be there for 4 of them. More details to come about that...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Coffee anyone?

You've just got to love a lazy Sunday afternoon! 

My day started off with giggles and gurgles in the infant nursery at church.  We are blessed with so many loving arms that it is very rare that my time rolls around to rock the sweet babies.  But, today was my day and I enjoyed every second of it!  I got to have a little "Teacher Talk" too with the nursery attendant. 

Back at home I had to get started cleaning up somewhere.  The kitchen seemed like a good place to start.

That is what I thought until I opened the coffee mug cabinet. 

At the Hotel Lochel (what we jokingly call our humble abode) we do love our coffee, but this is ridiculous!

This is my set of everyday mugs we got as wedding gifts.

These are two sets of white mugs; one set tall, one set short.  Everybody needs a set of pretty white dishes!

I went through a palm tree phase...still love the natural, leafy look so I've got to hang on to these!

I got these at the Dollar Tree- years ago!  I have the matching plates too.  We use these on taco nights.

The Winter Collection.

Both of these pairs were gifts.  The clear glass mugs were a Christmas gift and the painted ones in the front a gift from my Mom.  They usually get a laugh :)

One for Matt.  One for Lauren.

We just got these on our anniversary trip. I guess we thought two more wouldn't hurt!

Two from Matt's scouting events.

And then the rest.  Some from places we've been; some we've won for free.  Some, I don't even remember how they ended up in my cabinet. 

Yep, that's about 54 mugs total in a household of 2.  Who in the world has this many coffee mugs?  Somebody?  Anybody?  Please tell me you have this many too!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Teacher Talk vs Mommy Talk

So it is actually my real first day of "Summer Break" today and I'm going to start it off right with a cookout party with my best girlfriends.  But my, oh my!  When I think back over the years, oh how our parties have changed!

After graduating college, our lives all took dramatic turns.  Jobs, new homes, husbands, and babies all started keeping us a little busier than we had ever been before.  But, because we have such an amazing bond, we vowed to make time for each other.  Through all the ups and downs; through all the jobs and boys and little ones, we promised to stay in touch.  And that, we do! 

We attempt for a monthly thing, but life seems to have a way of bringing us together more or less every two or three months.  But that's ok, because when we do get back together, it's like we've never been apart. 

However, our conversations that used to revolve around the funniest of sorority memories, now revolve around "Teacher Talk" and "Mommy Talk".  And yes, non-members of both of these groups lovingly limit the time spent on each.

Before all the babies graced us with their presence in this world, the majority of our circle of friends were, and still are, teachers.  Sweet Megan and sweet Roxanne would patiently listen and laugh at all of our stories about our students and boogers and the funny things they did and said in kindergarten that day.  But, after years of this, I believe their patience with our "Teacher Talk" began to wear thin.

When you love something- when it is an undeniable part of you- talking about it is just natural!  I don't even think we realize that we're doing it because it's just who we are.  As it should happen, those same two sweet friends I mentioned before were the first two to have children.  So began and so continues the "Mommy Talk" as well.

Tonight was no different.  Our conversations drifted from old memories to how our school years ended to teething and diaper rash.  As the Cheerios shook in the the clear, plastic container, I looked around the room and was ultimately thankful.  Thankful for friends.  Thankful for the love. 

Thankful for conversation- of any kind.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The First Day of Summer- Technically Speaking

It's the first day of summer, at least for the children that is!  180 days of learning in the classroom have passed, but it's one more day of work for the teachers.  I am joined here today by teachers cleaning up, organizing, looking back through the memories that were the 2010-2011 school year, labeling new baskets, filing away papers in the file cabinet or gently placing them into that infamous round file can- lined with a plastic bag and conveniently picked up each day by the custodian. 

Summer doesn't technically begin for us until after this workday is complete; after all our paperwork has been alphabatized and paper clipped together, furniture pushed aside, and keys turned in.  Our thoughts race from getting everything "just clean enough" and in a place where we'll be happy when we return- to already wanting to set up for a new group of children that will soon be there.  But alas, 2 and a half months lie between today and the start of a new year and they are called: June, July, and August.  More commonly known as "Summer Break."

Now, I am well aware of the perception many other people out there at home or in the work force have of teachers and their "Summer Break".  I can hear it now..."I"d loooove to be a teacher and get 2 and a half months off!" 

Well my friends, if you...or if they...only knew!  If I could put into words, or better yet, SHOW you what a teacher's life is like in those 2 and a half months "off work", you'd be singing somewhat of a different tune.

And, as a matter of fact, I think I will do just that!  Follow me, Mrs. Lauren Lochel, Kindergarten Teacher, over the next two and a half months and see what "Summer Break" is really all about!