First week back

We’re two days in to the school year. I’m feeling a little nervous, a little hurried, a little over-whelmed and a little grateful.

It’s so nice to be back with my colleagues. I’ve missed them over the summer and I’m happy to be able to see them again. Unfortunately, my next door neighbour moved one door down, leaving an empty class between us so I’m all alone on my part of the wing, a little isolated from everyone else, but it’s a short hallway so it’s not hard to go visit. There are only four teachers in our wing now.

We’ve spent a few hours the last two days in meetings and workshops on various topics. Yesterday was about common language and common practice for working in teams. Today it was reading records, beliefs and practices when it comes to discipline and some basic “how does our school work” discussion. Very useful and informative stuff. It’s hard to sit that long though. Another reminder that I need to get my students up and moving because they must find it hard to sit so long as well.

In our non-meeting time, I’ve continued my classroom preparation. It’s looking better. Yesterday I heard I had two new students. I was very concerned about fitting those two extra desks into my already crowded room. At the end of the day I took this picture:

I’ll admit, I didn’t go home in the best of moods. I’m not sure why those two extra desks made me feel so much more nervous but for some reason they did. 24 sounded like a lot; 26 sounded impossible. But today I was feeling much better about it. I know that with a large class, routine is crucial. I know that I need to give lots of responsibilities to my students to help the class run smoothly and I know that we can all write our class vision statement, values, rules, and make them meaningful so that 26, while a little crowded, is not chaotic and learning will still happen.
Today I found out I have one or two fewer students. But I feel like even if my numbers go back up, I’ll be okay. 
What made me feel even better today was we worked out our schedule for the 3-5 wing. Last year the schedule was a nightmare. We had to juggle me teaching my homeroom, and three other classes of French. We had to make it work around the gym and music schedule, we bargained, bartered and begged to switch other times around to somehow come up with a schedule where we were all getting approximately what we needed. It took us 7 hours of meetings and in the end, the result was so complex that even by the end of the year I was not always sure whose class was where. 
One of the other teachers, when I brought up doing our schedules, was not at all happy and I don’t blame him. I swore to him that it would be easier this year. It had to be. Nothing could be more complicated than last year’s. And it wasn’t. About an hour of easy talks and simple fixes, I have the most lovely schedule I could ask for. Whereas last year’s, my students’ schedule and my teacher schedule looked nothing alike, this year’s the difference is very minor, only that when they are in math with another teacher, I am teaching pre-intensive French to one of two classes. And when they have music or gym, I have a prep. I get to take them to library. My Intensive French block is unbroken and beautiful all morning.
It could still change, but for now, it is golden and perfect.
My classroom time I spent today on my French library. Almost all of the English books are out of my classroom now. I’m storing them next door until February. Last year I had a hard time keeping my French book boxes organized. I sorted them by category and labeled the boxes but the students didn’t always put the books back in the right boxes. You all know the drill. Then on Fridays when we cleaned the classroom I would assign a few students to organize the library. But they didn’t always know which books went in which box and in the end, I would do most of the organizing.
So this year, each book box has a number, and all the books in the box have the same number on the front cover. So for example, this is box number 14 – Robert Munsch books. I also have an ‘F’ in the corner for fiction and all the Robert Munsch books have a 14 on their cover.

 This book box has hockey books, both fiction and non-fiction, hence the F & NF in the corner.

This is the end result – at least so far. I finished 25 of the boxes today and I’ll hopefully finish the rest tomorrow or the next day. 
That’s how my first two days went. One week from today I will have had my first day back with students! So much to be done before then but I know I’ll get what I need to have done finished. How are your days back going? Are you focusing on one specific area you want to improve for this year? How do you get yourself organized and ready?

Free for all Friday

This is the last Blog hoppin‘ post for the week. The subject for today was to post a printable freebie. This was a little difficult as last year I only taught French so all of my printables were French. And as this website is English I don’t know how useful my French stuff would be. So I have one printable that could be used in any language.

I used this puzzle piece black-line to do a project on pass-times with my students. They wrote what their favourite thing to do was in a full sentence and then drew it. I told them they had to colour every inch of their puzzle piece.

The end result looked something like this: 
But it looked better once the rest of the students finished. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of the final product for some reason, probably because it was the end of the year. Anyway, you could use the pieces for just about anything. They could be used for a great first of the year art piece where they draw about themselves and then show how they all fit together to make up their class.
It’s been a great week! Thanks for all the ideas.

Priorities

I spent quite a bit of time in my classroom this afternoon after buying my school supplies this morning. (Note: buying duotangs for a whole class is mind boggling!) But I did decide to go with duotangs over binders for this year. I’m expecting 24 students so with about 10 subjects each that works out to 250 duotangs! It was insanity. I went to buy some last night for 0.10 cents each. That was great but they didn’t have many colours, mostly just this odd navy blue/grey colour, and when I got to the check out (with about 150 of them) the poor girl had to count and scan them all!

I met up with a few other teachers from my school this morning. We bought our supplies (more duotang craziness), went out for lunch together and then headed back to school.

My classroom is… I’m not sure what to do about it. I worked for about two and a half hours this afternoon. First, I dumped all the supplies I bought. There are a few more bags than that off to the side as well.

Then I set up the desks. I have a small classroom, very small to fit 24 students comfortably. I decided on rows for the first little while. I’m not sure how many other groupings I’ll be able to fit in there. I also had to give up my beautiful big table at the back. There wasn’t enough room for it. I’m sad to see it go but it was that or have the kids way more crowded. So this is what my classroom looks like now.

My library is still a mess. After I got my desks sorted out, I talked to our new principal and asked if I could store my English books in the empty classroom next door. She agreed and so I spent a long while boxing up books and carting them next door. I still haven’t sorted them. They came from the other grade 5 classroom. Some of them are sorted already but there are a lot of books that are just random. There are still two bookshelves worth of English books in the classroom. Some I’ll store in my classroom and some I’ll store next door. Plus there are all the ones I have stored at home from my class the year before. February will be a very busy month.

When I got home and washed my hands, the soap suds were black. Classroom preparation is dirty work. I also started a new to-do list. I don’t want to be going in to school on the weekends and next week is full of meetings so I need to get as much as possible tomorrow. It’s a long list. It’s a daunting list. It’s a list I’m afraid I won’t be able to get done.

I’m trying to prioritize and tell myself that I’ll get to the important things and the rest will fall into place. But everything seems important and everything seems to take much longer than I think it should.

I’m excited about school starting up. I’m excited about trying new things and meeting my new students and guiding them and the satisfaction that comes when you know that you’ve made a difference. I’m excited about working with my wonderful colleagues and getting to know my new principal and new parents. I’m excited about sorting through the new supplies I bought and handing out new beautiful pencils and paper.

But I’m also scared and nervous. What if I’m not ready? What if everything isn’t perfect on that first day?

When I need some inspiration, I head on over to twitter and my PLN (professional learning network). I have connected with many educators on twitter and they always inspire me when I need it. Someone in my PLN is starting school tomorrow. He wrote this post To be a teacher about his first day of school. His post touched me and the video he posted brought me to tears. To be a teacher is a very heavy burden and also a great joy. This post put the important things into perspective. If my classroom isn’t perfectly organized but I still show my students that I care then I’m still doing my job correctly.

Three for Thursday

The topic for today was three favourites – three specific favourites.

Favourite Font:

It’s pretty boring but my favourite font is Comic Sans MS because it is easy for students to read. Capital ‘I’ looks like an I and lower case ‘a’ looks the way we teach students to print. When not using Comic Sans I tend to use whatever is default, Times New Roman or Arial generally.

Favourite Blog:

My favourite blog is http://ifbyyes.wordpress.com/ but my favourite teaching blog is probably http://mrcsclassblog.blogspot.com/ because he is one of the reasons I decided to start having a class blog in the first place.

Favourite on-line resource:

Well I’m going to cheat a little with this one and say that TWITTER is my favourite resource. Any time I need something or just want some inspiration, I hop on there for about an hour.

Look for a post about my classroom preparations soon.

Where it All Goes Down Wednesday

This is my third post for the Teacher Week at Blog hoppin’.


Today’s post is about showing off our classrooms. Mine isn’t finished. At all. It’s frightening how much I have left to do actually. I went in today again for another couple of hours and got three bulletin boards covered with the fabric I bought yesterday. I was excited to have more fabric covered walls. Our school is being closed either next year or the year after and then we’re getting a lovely new school after that. But in the meantime, they aren’t painting or upgrading our current building at all so I’m trying to make do with what I have. So this is what I came in to last week.

The janitor was dealing with my floors so I couldn’t do much but measure for my fabric and come back another day. Today I went in again as I said and my floors are done so it looked more like this.
Better, but as you can see, I still have a lot of furniture to move around. I didn’t get around to that today. Instead I focused on putting up fabric. This was the first one I tackled. The wall is cork board that’s been painted over a few times and is so full of holes it’s hard to have anything stay up there. This is where I keep my calendar and calendar related words which I’ll put up tomorrow. Next to it I have my one chalk board in my room. Last year I covered it with a red plastic sheet, the kind you use as table clothes. It worked well. It was thin enough that it was easy to use as a magnetic board for my schedule and responsibilities board. But the plastic got picked at and marked up easily so I took it down at the end of the year. I don’t like the look of the chalk board, so I covered it with some more fabric I found – 75% off sale at Fabricville = win!

I think this is a very nice colour. I’m planning on covering behind the world map and bookcase in the same green as behind the calendar.

This is one of my bulletin boards outside my classroom. This fabric is so lovely. The colour doesn’t show up well here. In real life it’s darker but has a nice shine. It was a little stretchy too so it was very easy to use.

Here are some other shots of my classroom. That’s my teacher corner though my desk isn’t back over there yet. I also have a filing cabinet that goes over there. I love my SMART board. I also have numbers around my clock to help the students tell time using an analog clock. Over on the left you can see my birthday chart.

This is the other front corner of my classroom. So much stuff that I have to sort through and store. I’m also going to cover that wall, possibly in blue, I haven’t decided yet, because that wall is like the one under the calendar. It looks pretty terrible.

So that’s my room so far. It’s not finished at all, but it’s mine and I love it 🙂

Teacher Talk Tuesday

Here’s my second blog hoppin’  post for the week. Today’s topic is giving advice to new teachers. I will qualify that as giving advice to teachers who are in their first year of teaching because I am still a new teacher. So here’s my little bits of advice.

1. Don’t take on too much at once. It’s very tempting when you first start teaching to join all the committees, to start all the extra-curricular activities, and to implement every good idea you’ve ever heard. It’s not possible. You still have to teach full time and have a life outside of the classroom. Focus on a few key things that are very important to you and don’t be afraid to cut things out if you feel you’re getting overwhelmed.

2. Ask for advice and help from other teachers but reserve the right to ignore it if what they say doesn’t fit with how you want to teach. Listen respectfully to what they have to say, use it if it’s a good idea, store it away for later if you don’t want to do it.

3. Have fun! Teaching can be a very joyful career. We are so lucky to be surrounded be children who look up to us and we can get in there and play from time to time. If you enjoy what you do, share that joy. Your students will pick up on that enthusiasm.

4. Try not to get bogged down by the negative things other people say. Whether it’s about a student or a new program or the weather, some teachers (and people in general) just vent all that negativity to whoever will listen. As teachers we sometimes have more than enough emotional strain in our lives and don’t need any extra. Let it be like water off a ducks back rather than taking on that negativity.

5. Be your own advocate. This goes even more so for substitute teachers who are trying to get full time teaching jobs. Don’t be afraid to let administrators know how wonderful you are and what you are willing to do, what extra special things you bring to education. You are special and you are caring and you are amazing at many things. I know this because you are a teacher and only special, caring and amazing people are called to be teachers.

Have a wonderful first year!

Meet the Teacher Monday

This is something I found over at Blog hoppin’ a website that links up teacher blogs. This week they’re doing a teacher week with different topics each day of the week. Today’s topic is “meet the teacher” so here’s a little about me.

Tell us a little something about you…
My name is Jeannie Chiasson (Mme Chiasson or just Madame to my students). I teach Grade 5 Intensive French in New Brunswick, Canada. I’ve been married for just over a year and we have three cats. I started this blog about a year ago after a technology PD. It started off as a classroom blog but has developed into a teacher blog. I love to read. I’m a compulsive reader, especially since I got an e-reader in June. An endless supply of books at my fingertips is a dangerous thing. I have one week of summer vacation left before it’s back to school and then another week after that before my students return!
How long have you been teaching?
Starting in January of 2007 I was a substitute teacher for three years, mostly in elementary. Then in December 2009 I got my first long term contract teaching Intensive French in grade 5. Last year was my first full year of teaching, again at grade 5 Intensive French, but this time I was also teaching grade 4 Pre-Intensive French. This will be my third year of teaching full time.
You might not know…
I’m also an aspiring writer. I’ve written a few novels and short stories. Over the summer months I’ve been working on a novel I wrote two years ago for NaNoWriMo geared towards late elementary children. I haven’t been published yet but I would like to get published one day, possibly soon.
Also, French is not my first language. I grew up speaking English and didn’t go into French Immersion until grade 7. I stuck with it all through school but decided to take German in University instead of French. But I did theatre in French and English through my BA degree and managed to get my French level up high enough to teach. I love languages and I’m proud of my Acadian heritage. 
What are you looking most forward to this school year?
I’m looking forward to teaching 3 classes instead of 4. My schedule last year was very hectic and I’m hopeful that my schedule this year will be a bit more sane. I’m also very excited that I will be teaching in the same school, in the same classroom and even some of the same students I taught last year! And for sure I’m excited about working with the same wonderful staff. I am so blessed with having such amazing co-workers though there will be a few changes to our little family. In February, instead of switching classes like last year, I will get to keep my students and teach them in English for half the year. I enjoy teaching the grade 5 curriculum and am very happy to be able to keep the same group the whole year.
What do you need to improve?
So much. I’m a new teacher and every day is a huge learning experience for me. I would like to work on my organization this year, both of my materials and my time. I would like to work harder not longer so that I can keep a good balance in my life. I would like to improve my classroom management techniques. 
What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?
I can’t live without my SMART Board and internet. We had a few days when it went down and oh boy did I find that hard. Also makes planning lessons for supply teachers difficult.
My planning binder. Even if I totally change my plan mid-stride I need it there and ready for me in-case my brain falls off the train.
Positive Participation tickets. I’ve tried teaching without them. I won’t go back.
My laptop. By far the most useful tool in my classroom. I am so grateful that our province provides one for every teacher. 
So that’s me. If you’re interested in participating in this teacher week over at Blog Hoppin’ click this link below and join in.