Monday, July 29, 2013

SmileMakers!!! (Product Review)

Howdy, howdy!

I'm here today to tell you about a company you may or may not have known about- SmileMakers!

SmileMakers is a Staples company that provides a variety of products and some great things for your classroom- plus, they love teachers!

When I was contacted by SmileMakers and asked to do a product review, I jumped at the opportunity!! To be honest, I had never heard of them, and my curiosity was piqued!

The first thing I did was visit their website. They have lots of great things to choose from including office supplies, business products, even dental supplies!! As interesting as those things are, you know I was headed straight to the education section!!

If you're looking for treasure box fillers, this is your site! They have stickers and prizes galore. They have classroom decor, storage and organization, motivational products... you name it!

As I was browsing around, I discovered this wonderful tab: Smile Scholars!

When I clicked this tab, I was excited to see that Smilemakers has got it goin' on!! They have a panel of teachers who write product reviews, get together and discuss issues in education, and even contribute input to help make the catalogue more teacher-friendly! They call them their Smile Scholars. Just look at this lovely bunch of ladies!

While on this page, you can click on this tab to go to products that have been rated and reviewed by the Smile Scholars.

It was on this page that I found the product I wanted- mini Judy clocks!

Time is always an issue with my third graders and I knew these little clocks would be perfect for extra practice.

The clocks came in a set of 12. They are made of sturdy particle board so they'll survive those rough and tough boys- always a good thing! Each clock comes with its own little stand. While I model using my large Judy clock, the kiddos can play right along with me and show the correct time on their clock as well. The clocks make it easy for the students to see exactly where the hands are pointing, something that you don't get with a traditional clock.

These minis do not have the working gears, but they are still great for practice and perfect for my math stations. I'm very excited to add these to my instruction!

If you haven't checked out SmileMakers, head over and have a look around! You're sure to find something that you can't live without! ANDDD if you sign up, you get teacher perks!! Another great reason to go explore!

Thanks again to SmileMakers for putting a smile on this teacher's face!

Happy Monday!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Pass Along

Hi, guys!

As I was doing my usual Sunday morning blog reading, I came across a few things that I wanted to pass along. I figure you may or may not follow the same blogs I follow, so in the case that you don't, you might find something new and useful!

First up, Kelley at The Teacher Idea Factory is hosting a Pen Pal Pair Up! I have always wanted to have pen pals for my class, but was never really sure how to initiate it. All you have to do is sign up using the Google form on her site, specify what kind of pen pals you want (same grade, younger, older), and if you would be ok with having pen pals outside of the U.S.! And the best part- you don't have to have a blog to participate!
If you are interested in having pen pals from around the country (or world, apparently), head over and sign up! Who knows, maybe I'll end up as your pal!! ;)

Next up, Donna over at Math Coach's Corner shared a great game for developing math fact fluency- and it's FREE! Head on over to her blog to read all about it and pick up your own copy! If you haven't ever been to her blog before, you'll probably want to stick around for a bit and explore. She has lots of great stuff!

The girls over at Collaboration Cuties are hosting their weekly Mentor Text Link-Up, and this week's topic is science! Lots of good books to check out and Amazon cart-filling to do! If you've never read a Mentor Text Linky blog post, you are in for a treat!!

 Michelle at Teach 123 shared a great resource on magnets that integrates language arts and science. Score!

Shannon at  If My Calculations are Correct shared what could just be the BEST math warm up idea EVER. My wheels are turning and I'm almost giddy with excitement thinking about how I can implement this in my classroom. She calls it the Rev Up Your Grey Matter Binder. If you teach math, you MUST read about it. Be ready for the "why didn't I think of that's" to kick in! You may also want to have your credit card with you- just sayin'. :)

I wish I had some of my own creative genius ideas to share, but hey- what can I say? I'm a beg, steal, and borrow kind of girl!!

Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's All About Relationships- A Dedication to Dr. Rita Pierson- This One's Personal!

Today I want to take some time to talk about what I feel is THE most important aspect of teaching. No products, no pins, just my own personal thoughts and feelings.

Fair Warning- I’m going to get personal. What I’m sharing today is coming straight from my heart.

Recently, the world of education suffered a significant loss- Dr. Rita F. Pierson. This is a dedication to her. This is also my story.

Here we go…

I taught my first year in a school where things were just “peachy” for me. The majority of my kids were white and upper-middle class. I had tons of support from parents, the students were well behaved, I only had ONE student who gave me any major problems, and everything was… like I said, just peachy!

Second year- I moved back home to Houston and to a new district. I had a new demographic of kids and a vast majority were Hispanic. This proved to be a challenge. I didn’t speak Spanish, which meant I had to have someone translate for me sometimes when I needed to speak with parents. It wasn’t exactly difficult, just a bit more challenging.

Third year- everything came crashing down.  I was moved to a new school within the same district but with, again, a different student demographic. This time the vast majority of students were African American, and as luck would have it, in my class the vast majority were boys- boys who had already failed a grade level once before, boys with major attitudes, boys who weren’t afraid to hit the wall, throw things, and talk back, boys who couldn’t read, boys who were as tall if not taller than me, you get the idea.

That year I was faced with many difficult behavior situations and had student personalities that I didn’t understand and was ill equipped to handle. I felt like a wall was standing firmly between my students and me. I didn’t understand them and they didn’t understand me. And honestly, I was miserable- completely miserable. I felt so unprepared, so helpless, and I would cry almost every day. I would only listen to the radio on the drive home and turn it up as loud as I could stand it just to drown out my thoughts.  I realized that I was not the good teacher I thought I was. I would yell, I would argue, I handled situations in the worst possible way. I had very supportive colleagues, don’t get me wrong, but no one understood what was really going on and exactly how I felt when I was behind closed doors with a class that was out of my control. Why did this have to happen to me? I don’t deserve this kind of mistreatment! Don’t these kids know how disrespectful and inappropriate their behavior is?

I was drowning.

I went on like this, clawing my way through, day by day by day, through Christmas.

It was that spring that I was lucky enough to attend a workshop put on by Aha! Process, a company that was founded by Ruby Payne (another post on that coming soon). During that workshop, I had the privilege of hearing Rita Pierson speak. I was at my lowest point emotionally and was on the verge of a breakdown. The video below is not the exact speech she gave at the workshop I attended, but the message is the same. I realized I was missing the most important piece of the teaching process. It was an eye-opening experience for me.

 If you have time and are in a quiet place, I hope that you will turn up the volume, make the video full screen, and listen carefully to what she has to say.

After hearing Rita, I realized I was doing everything wrong. I was not forming relationships with my students. Instead, I was arguing, defending myself, and in turn escalating situations that could have been easily resolved. I realized that I was constantly in defense mode, taking students’ behavior personally, and allowing them to hurt me. And the worst part for me to admit, I barely knew who my students were. I couldn’t have told you their favorite colors, who their brothers and sisters were, or if they had pets. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was so wrapped up in my own shock over their behavior that I never had taken the time to truly understand them and where they came from.

It was then that I realized I had to make a major change. I made the decision to get to know my students, hold my tongue, get a handle on my emotions, and try harder. I took Rita’s words to heart and apologized to my students for my behavior and actually sought to understand their feelings toward me.

I remember one student told me he was upset with me because he felt like I had treated him unfairly. It broke my heart to hear him say that, but it broke my heart even more when I realized I actually had treated him unfairly by rushing to an inaccurate assumption. I knew nothing about my students. I knew nothing about their lives, their daily struggles, or the hurt and pain they were carrying. I had been completely and utterly selfish.

The rest of that year was never “peachy,” but I learned a lot about my students and myself. At the end of the year, I felt a deep sense of remorse for the amount of time I had wasted. I vowed that I would never make the same mistakes again.

This past year (my fourth year), I was lucky to stay in the same building with the same team members. I had an amazing colleague who is a true master at forming relationships with students. From watching her, applying what I learned from Rita, and practicing, practicing, practicing, I feel like I had the best year ever. I had changed from within and it made all the difference in the world.

Teaching is not easy and students will always present different types of challenges. As Rita says, “the tough ones show up for a reason- it’s the connection, it’s the relationships.” It doesn’t matter who your students are or where they come from, the single most important thing is the relationship you have with them.

This part of her speech still rings in my ears. She says:

“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be. Is this job tough? You betcha. Oh God, you betcha. But it is not impossible. We can do this. We are educators. We were born to make a difference.”

Rita passed away a few weeks ago, but her legacy will live on. She stands as a guiding light for all teachers, especially those who are struggling to find their way.

I have grown exponentially from my first year of teaching. I think it is hugely important that as teachers we share our battle scars. My battle scars have molded me into the teacher I am today and serve as a constant reminder to push myself to be better and to hold myself and my students to a higher standard.

Do you have your own battle scars? Have you been through situations that have made you the teacher you are today? I hope that you will share your experiences with others- you never know who out there might be feeling exactly the way you felt.

Have a great weekend, everybody! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

IKEA Surprise

Hey guys! 

I wanted to pop in real quick and tell you about something that I found today while i was doing a little online shopping.

Did you know that you can order things from IKEA ONLINE?! Some of you may think I'm crazy for being excited about this because you have known about it for a long time, but I had no idea!!

See, we have an IKEA right here in Houston. Every summer I have always had to pep myself up to make the trek to the store, wind my way through that never-ending aisle and search (and sometimes dig) for these magazine files that I buy every year. The traffic, the parking, the crowds, the self-checkout... it's a LOT and I just have to be in the right mood for all of it. So far this summer, I have NOT been in the mood! But to my surprise, I realized I could by them online and have them shipped right to my door! Genius!

I guess this is what I get for my lack of research! The last time I tried to order these online was two years ago and I wasn't able to do it. Since then, I've just forced myself to go to the actual store and buy them. I cannot tell you how much it excites me that I can just order them from home! If you have ever been out and about in Houston in the summer, you understand, too!!

These little babies are irreplaceable for me. I don't know what I'd do without them! In my classroom, we call them our "book boxes" and they hold all of our language arts supplies. Because I have team taught for the past three years, they are the perfect solution for storing the students' materials without filling up the desks. I love them.

Last year I even added some simple ribbon and star cutouts to them last year. The students' names were written on the stars and surprisingly, most of the students still had an intact star at the end of the year!

Moral of the story: if you aren't lucky enough to have an IKEA store close by, just know that you may be able to order some products online!!!

And if you haven't checked out the Teacher Talk Forum yet, head on over and join in the conversation! Tell us all about yourself and your must-haves for back to school!

Have a great day!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Winner!! & Introducing the Teacher Talk Forum!!

Congratulations to Katie S! You have won the awesome prize package from my 100 follower giveaway!!! 

Thanks, again to all the amazing bloggers who contributed to this giveaway. I am so lucky to have such met such a wonderful and supportive group of people!

Now, on to something else exciting:

I cannot even contain my excitement right now! 

First of all, my husband is an absolute genius. Seriously. No sarcasm intended!

I was in bed reading, he was ironing- you read that right- HE was ironing- and he just came up with this idea right out of the blue- embedding a forum in my blog! I told you- he's a genius!

Introducing- The Teacher Talk Forum!!!

Now, I know that forums are nothing new. People use them all the time. But what makes this idea GENIUS is that now there is one embedded RIGHT HERE on this little ol' blog of mine! Did you notice the new page tab at the top of my blog that says 'Teacher Talk Forum?' Of course you didn't! But you will now!

When you click on that tab, it will take you to a new page and there it will be in all its glory- the Teacher Talk Forum!! It acts just like a traditional forum. You can read discussion threads, reply, and even create new topics.

What I am MOST excited about is that fact that this forum can basically serve the same purpose as a linky party! Instead of adding your link the traditional way in a linky party, you can embed your link in your forum post, along with an image! If you can't tell yet, I am SUPER PSYCHED about this!

If you have a question, you can ask it and someone can reply immediately- just like a comment on a regular blog post, but creates a continuing discussion in a much more organized format.

All you need to do is register an account with Nabble- and you can do that right from the forum! No need to go to another site!

Another bonus: You don't have to be a member of Blogger to join in. So those of you who enjoy reading blogs but don't have one of your own can still be a part of the ongoing conversation.

I was blown away by how easy this forum is to use. The graphics are user-friendly and if you can post on Facebook, you can post in this forum!

So, let's get this party started! The more people who join the discussion, the more fun it will be!

The first topic thread is just for introductions. If you are comfortable with a forum setting and you see yourself posting frequently, or even if you're unsure, introduce yourself and link up to your blog (if you have one)! This is a great chance to meet other bloggers and have the "directory" easily accessible. Tell us about yourself, your blog, your products- whatever!

Or, if you're ready to dive in on a more focused topic, you can join in the next topic which is "Back to School Must-Haves" Tell us about the things that are absolute necessities when it comes time to get ready to go back to school- room decor, welcome back letters, organizational tips- anything!! Are you a new teacher? Are you moving grade levels? Do you have questions? Ask them here!

OORRR- if YOU have a question or topic that you want to discuss, create a new topic!! I love the versatility of this forum- and I hope you will, too!

I'm hoping many of you who have advice to offer will help out those in need. I see this as being a unique place for teachers to collaborate.

This is the first time I will have ever tried this whole deal, so I apologize in advance if there are some growing pains or technical difficulties. We can learn this thing together!

So- if you're feeling adventurous, head over to the forum and let's get this party started!!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

***100 Follower Giveaway!!!***

 Woo hoo!!! Hooray!!!! 

I am so excited to have reached 100 followers! It's hard to believe that less than a year ago I was just reading blogs and felt too afraid to have one of my own. Taking the plunge and entering the world of blogging has been an absolute blessing and I am so glad I did it! I have met lots of amazing teachers and bettered myself and my teaching in the process! 

Now I can finally give a little something back to the community that has given so much to me! I am so excited to be throwing my very first giveaway! Several amazing bloggers have graciously donated prizes and goodies, and they can be yours!!!

Here is a look at what is up for grabs! I apologize for the pictures that are not centered! It drives me crazy, but I can't fix it!!

Nichole at The Craft of Teaching is donating a $10 TpT gift card AND her Quadrilateral Sorting!!

Jessica at Ideas by Jivey is donating any single math or reading unit from her TpT store! She has awesome mentor text units! 

Foreman Teaches is offering ANY single item from her TpT store! She has LOTS of great grammar stuff- plus math and reading things, too!

AMC from Looking from Third to Fourth is donating a WINNER'S CHOICE item from her TpT store! Lots of great stuff to choose from. She also has TONS of free stuff, so pick up some freebies too!

Lindsay from My Life as a Third Grade Teacher is donating her Conferring With Readers Kit and her

Corinna from Allen's Teaching Files is donating a WINNER'S CHOICE item from her TpT store! I've got my eye on those adorable customizable binder covers!!

Sandy from Fearless in 5th is donating a $10 Target gift card!!! Who doesn't love a good Target trip! Dollar bins, anyone?!


Erin from The Elementary Adventure is donating her Monkey Money Classroom Economy Pack! So cute and perfect for behavior management! 


Kristin from Teach N Tex is donating one of her Birthday Tag Sets- winner's choice!! She has 4 different color combinations to choose from! Adorable!! 


Mr. G from Teaching 3rd With Mr. G is donating his Classroom Reward Coupons! He includes 30- yes, 30!- different rewards to offer students. I love coupons and these are perfect! 


Meg from Third Grade in the First State is donating ANY item from her TpT Store!  

And for the cherry on top, I will be throwing in a $30 TpT gift card!!! 

I am oober jealous of whoever wins all of these awesome prizes!

I cannot thank y'all enough for all of the support and encouragement you guys have given me! And a HUGE thank you to all of the super amazing bloggers who donated items to this giveaway! This will be one lucky winner!

Enter below for your chance to win! You have lots of ways to earn entries!! A winner will be announced on Monday, July 15th!!

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, July 7, 2013

A HUGE Favor- Help, Please!!!

I don't mean to double-post today, but I am so excited!!! I just hit 100 followers!!! I can hardly contain my excitement!

I have been fortunate to connect with so many of you through this wonderful world of blogging, and I hope some of you can help a girl out!

I want to throw a big giveaway- a ginormous one!  I've never done one before, so I want this first one to be big!!

If you have anything you are willing to donate- gift cards, products, advice- anything that I can offer in my giveaway I would be greatly appreciate it!! Leave a comment below, or click on the envelope to e-mail me.

Thank you so much!!!!!!!

July Currently and Dan Brown!!

Well, it's July 7 and I am just now linking up for Farley's July Currently! Better late than never, I say! :)

So, to be completely honest,  I have been avoiding anything relating to school, which unfortunately includes this little blog of mine. So much has been going on in my mind right now that I just couldn't let my mind get wrapped up in school stuff. We all know how that goes- "I'm just going to read one blog and then I'll finish the laundry...." Yeah right. It's amazing how many HOURS I spend pinning, reading blogs, etc. Totally worthwhile! Totally fun! But I just needed a break!

I realize I did post a few days about about Word Nerds- but honestly, I had to do some major self-talk to accomplish that :)

To continue my "thinking about school" hiatus- on to what I really want to talk about!! Do any of you read Dan Brown?! He is most known for writing The Da Vinci Code, which has since been made into a movie, but he has a number of other books as well. To self-medicate myself from the side effects of my high stress levels, I have prescribed myself with lots of reading time . I wanted to share two books with you that I read and LOVED. Both very fast-paced, hard to put down, and thought-provoking.

First - Inferno

And secondly,

If you have never read any of Dan Brown's books, be ready for an adventure!! He uses the same main character in several of his books (I haven't read them all, so I don't know if they ALL use the same character), Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist who gets mixed up in some very interesting situations. If you love history, treasure-hunting, symbols, puzzles, riddles, etc, you will LOVE these books! They have been a great escape from the stresses of life!

I'm not going to tell you much about the books other than Inferno is set in Europe and The Lost Symbol is set in the United States- Washington D.C. to be exact. I read both of these with the book in one hand and my phone in the other so I could look up various things Brown referenced- paintings, buildings, symbols, etc. I enjoyed every second and I learned a lot in the process.  Thanks to my wonderful parents for recommending them!

Have you read any Dan Brown books? Have you read either one of these?? If so, what did you think? I can't wait to hear!

Do you have any other great book recommendations? I am always on the lookout for great books!