Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More classroom pics

Here are a few more updated pics of my classroom.
Student supply center
So Clutter-free (Thanks to The Clutter-Free Classroom!) 
I love my tree! 
Ignore the ugly dehumidifier...
New organized bookshelves!  
LOVE my SMARTboard! 
Update of the filing cabinet- now with labels! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School....

As always, I am sad to see summer go. However, after a day or two back in my classroom, the creative  juices start flowing quickly! You may or may not know, that elementary teachers are perfectionists, and I am no exception.  We often spend weeks throughout the summer, reorganizing, seeking better efficiency, brainstorming new ideas to help students succeed, investigate initiatives,  furthering our education, and try to decorate our classroom to make it a fun, stimulating learning environment for our students.  

Gone are the days of the lone blackboard.  Since I first started teaching, it has been the unspoken expectation that the walls should be used as much as possible to display not only student work, but should be used as an actual learning space. So we fill every square inch of it whenever possible. 

Normally, I am in and our for weeks preparing for the coming school year.  This year I got into my classroom much later than normal, due to my extremely busy summer and my room was one of the last to have the carpets cleaned. However, once I got in the door, my creative juices started flowing! 

Thanks to Pinterest, I got several projects done and I must say, I love the way my classroom is turning out this year!  Here are some of the projects I stayed in my room to create until the wee hours of the morning! Check it out... 

I was inspired by my friend Nancy, and I "refurbished" this filing cabinet by covering the drawers in material and using spray adhesive to anchor it to the edges and back of the drawer. (I didn't trust myself with spray paint and couldn't find any fun contact paper...) I think it turned out pretty well, and it beats the ugly brown eyesore!  I plan to attach labels on top of the material.  This worked better than trying to cut a hole for the label below.  It just didn't look "clean" enough for me.... 
I was on a roll... 
I got this idea from my friend, Marsha (Yet another teacher/Pinterest-addict).  I simply used borders to create a place directly on my whiteboard to write homework for students to copy into their planners and agendas everyday.  Thanks to my Smartboard, I find that I use my whiteboard very little anymore anyway... 
This is a cart that houses all of my board games and manipulatives.  It looked very cluttered, and I wanted to give it a clean, organized look.  I chose to "cover" the games with a curtain of material, anchored by Scotch heavy-duty double-sided tape and a border. It can easily be moved aside to allow student access. 
I also had these big ugly brown cabinets that are about twenty years old.  I got tired of looking at them and also wrapped them in material, adhering them with Elmer's spray adhesive.  Love it! 
Do not spray to close or you will get "wet" spots such as these... Spray evenly from a few inches away! 
I also had ugly brown sink doors.....  not anymore! 
I have very few places to display student work.  I have one bulletin board, which is already in use and my walls are concrete block so little to nothing sticks to them well.  After some thought, I decided to turn another section of my outdated whiteboard into a magnetic display board.  I did this by taping lightweight material to the board with clear packaging tape and then taped a border around the edge.  I plan to use magnets on clothespins to display student work on the board!  A creative use of resources! 
I have continued my camping theme for a second year in a row.  Thanks to a friend, I also rediscovered www.teacherspayteachers.com, where I found some awesome products from The Clutter Free Classroom, which is on the way.  I will post again soon with some of this awesome stuff and more pictures of ideas for the classroom soon! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

For every season...

As many of you know, we were saddened to learn that we lost our pup, Kona- very unexpectedly- while we were in Italy.  Our dogs are like our children and are a very large part of our life.  We do include them in many of our activities, from afternoon walks to snuggling in bed to gifts under the Christmas tree.  Our little Kona was always a bit quirky and different to say the least, but we embraced her originality.  She was my baby girl, and I had a particular fondness for her. She was only six when she passed, and unfortunately we will never know exactly what happened and why her time with us was so short.  
After she passed, Sam and I literally cried for about three days, both mourning her death and dealing with the many feelings surrounding the situation- mostly guilt.  We were also very uneasy about the fact that we did not get to say goodbye or ease her pain. As part of the process, we both wrote goodbyes to Kona since we did not get to say goodbye in person.  I was going to simply copy those letters here, but I struggled with that knowing that these letters were so personal. 
Due to this, I have been struggling for some time on how and what to write for the post.  I knew it had to be addressed, as she was such a huge part of our life.  It has almost been a month now since her passing, and it is time. Instead I have chosen to copy the words of a song that we all know.  It popped in my head, and I started singing it randomly a few days after Kona's death.  I think there must be a reason for that. 

Turn! Turn! Turn! 

To everything- Turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!

Thanks to everyone for your love and support. 

Day 14: All roads lead to HOME...

To be honest, by day 14 we were ready to get back to the comforts of home.  What we ended up coming home to was another story, but I will take you through the events of that day on our way back to the states. 

We woke up at 6:00 am thanks to Siri, showered, and packed the rest of our bags up, ready for our return journey home.  The day before we had decided to arrange to have a private car take us to the airport from our Rome rental apartment.  The owners of our apartment even called and set it up for us! This definitely was not the most affordable option at 50 Euros, but after two straight weeks of transportation coordination, we were really tired of trying to figure out this stuff.  It was nice to know that we could get to the airport in time for our international flight without any hassle or unknowns.  The other options would have been to take the train to Termini and then get on to the Leonardo Express train, which came out to be about 17-18 Euros per person or the bus, which was significantly cheaper at something like 3 Euros a piece, but both of these options would take significantly longer.  It was a Saturday morning so fortunately we did not run into much traffic.  The car ride was much further than I thought and took approximately 45 minutes to get to Fiumicino or Leonardo da Vinci Airport in very little traffic. It definitely was worth it to us, as we had absolutely no worries and it was a smooth ride. 

We arrived at the airport.  No one was staffed yet at the British Airways desk so we got our boarding passes for our first flight via the computerized kiosk.  It did not give us our second boarding pass from London to Chicago, but I just figured we were checked in and could get our boarding passes printed when we got to London before we boarded... 

We waited quite awhile before our flight, as we had arrived early just in case. I was so tired I slept the entire flight from Rome to London! Perhaps it was due to mental exhaustion? When we arrived in London, we quickly made our way towards security again since we were leaving the country.  Remembering that we did not have our boarding passes, we stopped by the British Airways desk to have them printed first.  Well, it turns out that we were never checked in for our second flight at all.  With it now leaving within an hour and a half, they had given our reserved seats away! I can't even begin to describe the pit in my stomach!  I was terrified we had just missed our flight back to the US, and we would have to buy another!  Luckily, on employee worked some magic and got us on the flight (BARELY), although we would have to sit apart from one another on the 9 hour flight.  Oh well, we were just happy to have seats! 

I managed to watch two movies and a TV show with some time to spare on our long trip home.  Why did this one seem so much longer than the flight there?  We arrived in Chicago and Sam's mom picked us up at the O'Hare airport in Chicago, and we started the three hour drive home to Muscatine. Little did we know that our little world was about to dramatically change.