Favorite Thing Friday: That New Start Smell

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A friend of mine loves this time of year because she loves the way a new box of crayons smells. I’m with her on this – there is nothing quite as wonderful as that waxy Crayola aroma. It means the crayons are perfectly sharp and that a new school year is about to begin.

At this time last year, I didn’t want to go back to work. My usual enthusiasm for teaching was buried under the huge weight of grief. Within days of losing a close friend to cancer I was expected to show up at work with a smile on my face and “get pumped” at professional development meetings. No amount of welcome back activities or fresh crayon smell was going to get me excited for a new school year.

Things only got worse as the school year progressed: Three more people passed on, including my Grandfather. I found myself pretending to be enthusiastic and happy, when I really  just wanted to go home and cry. Some saw through it, but many did not. It’s funny how you find out who your real friends are when you are stuck in a very black hole. Even when I folded in on myself, they never gave up on me. I credit them with keeping me afloat.

I walked away from the last school year knowing I could’ve and should’ve done better. I didn’t do a horrible job, but I certainly didn’t reach my personal standard. My inner critic wanted to harp on this fact, but when it comes down to it, I was in survival mode. I did my job and my students learned what they needed to learn, but I couldn’t connect to them in a way I’ve been able to in the past. Quite honestly, I couldn’t connect with anyone.

After a year like that, I spent my summer healing and rediscovering my spark. It’s been two months of exploration. Two months of renewal. Two months of learning to live again for the sheer thrill of it. I did the things I loved most, traveled, and spent time with friends and family. It was all about reconnecting to everything that mattered most to me. And it worked.

I am excited to go back to work this year. So excited, in fact, that I’ve been working on curriculum for the last two weeks. I decided it was time to give my arsenal of lesson plans a much needed refresh. Instead of rehashing the same old thing, I’m opting to experiment with the Flipped Classroom Model.

It’s a terrifying thing to suddenly shift gears, but I’m relishing in the challenge. Aside from the issues I had to deal with last year, I realized I was bored. The last thing I want is for my students to feel the same way, so it’s time to shake things up.

So far, I’ve got class websites set up for both of my content areas and two weeks worth of lesson plans/assignments constructed and uploaded. I am literally getting up early in the morning to have extra time to work on it. Everything is looking awesome and I can’t wait to try it all out on my students.

Next, I’ll be heading into my classroom, (four days early!). I’m giving the place a mini-refresh by getting rid of some furniture and clutter. Since I got new student desks this year (OMG, so thrilled for this – the previous desks were over 20 years old), I’m considering a new desk configuration. I’ve had the same configuration for ten years, and I think it’s run its course. For the walls, I’ve ordered some new posters and they should be here any day!

It’s a new start and it feels really good. The grief is still there, but it serves as a more of a reminder that I was loved and I know how to love. That’s a powerful thing. Far more powerful than sadness or self-criticism.

My first official day back at work is next week. The day before, I plan on buying a fresh box of crayons. In the moments before a long day of professional meetings, I’m going to open the box and enjoy that “new start” smell.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2015

Favorite Thing Friday: Summer Break

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Class dismissed
goodbyes said
Yearbooks signed,
hugs and tears
Grades are done,
pass and fail
Empty desks
silent halls
‘Til next year,
summer break

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Today is the last day of the school year! Yesterday, I said goodbye to my students and I can honestly say I will miss them. All that’s left to do is turn in grades and pack up my classroom for the summer. Despite the challenges of putting together a brand new class, it was a great year. I felt like I really connected with my students and it feels good to walk away knowing they learned something. When they left my classroom saying, “this was my favorite class” and “you are my favorite teacher,” I know I did something right.  I wish them all the best as the move into what I’m certain are very bright futures.

Now, it’s time for some serious relaxation, writing, and knitting! 🙂

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Posters

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The walls in my classroom are anything but boring. One wall is dedicated to the Lennon Wall (and is covered in student created art), while two other walls are dedicated to subject matter visuals like posters, maps, flags, and other cool things to get my students interested in history. The last wall in my classroom, however, is dedicated to all nerdy things I love that have nothing to do with school.

Over the years, my nerd wall has become a student favorite. I don’t know if its because it makes them laugh or if they like the fact that I’m making an effort to be decorative. On a deeper level, I think it gives them a way to connect with me on a human level. I’m real, I have interests, (we might even share a few things in common), and I’m not just some stiff teacher that has no life.

Every year, the nerd wall gets a make-over. I never hang the same array of posters two years in a row because that would be boring. For the last few years, Twilight has been the main feature on the wall, but with the end of Twilight’s run in the theater the nerd wall is in need of a major overhaul.

After going through my box of posters, I realized I had some shopping to do. All my superhero posters are so two movies ago, while the rest are of TV shows that are no longer on the air.  Before I even hit the stores, I knew finding new posters would be a difficult task. I don’t know why, but its getting tough to find cool posters that go beyond Justin Bieber and Angry Birds.

It took two weeks, but I think I’ve finally tracked down some fun posters for my nerd wall. Between Target, Wal-Mart, amazon, Michaels, and a few oldies but goodies in my poster box, I’ve got a solid line up of superheroes, sci-fi, TV, and London love to grace the nerd wall.

Here are a few of the posters that will be on my nerd wall this year:

The almighty Yoda is here to tell my students, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

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Target: $5.99

For the first time ever, Superman will be on the nerd wall. Henry Cavill is pretty hot, so he made the cut.

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Wal-Mart $5.00

Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory will be around to keep everybody laughing.

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Michael’s $6.99

The Avengers and Spider-man will be joining this flock, but I’m also adding a couple of posters that show some major London love.

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amazon $3.99

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amazon $2.44 + shipping

Last but not least, I’ve got a poster that goes with my life-size standee of Spock (the Nimoy version). Don’t worry Captain Kirk (the Shatner version) is also there to keep things under control.

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amazon $5.59 + 3.99 shipping

Now I just have to figure out what pictures will go on the sides of my desk. Between Robert Pattinson’s beautiful face and Grimm (great show on NBC) I think that will round out the nerd corner quite nicely.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013