Friday, September 4, 2015

A Little Less Teacher and a Little More Crafty!

This summer, I was so fortunate to be able to throw a baby shower for my younger sister who was expecting her first little bundle of joy!

For those of you who know me, and my crazy sisters, we immediately jumped in feet first with themes, ideas, and cuteness to adorn our soon to be neice or nephew!!

Being that I am a lover of all things crafty, I was tasked with the decor for the party.  So to Pinterest I went landing upon our inspiration and guiding piece from Kara's Part Ideas..

Kara had the perfect idea and theme with thinking about a gender neutral baby shower! We loved everything about this photo and used it as a guide for our party decor.

To begin the process, my wonderfully talented husband cut the pieces for me. He was able to cut the boards and stake for my creative idea. I can take no credit to the design  as I showed him the above picture and he was able to help with the measurements and cuts!

After the pieces were cut to my liking, I began painting and preparing for the distressed look. Using Folk Art Acrylic Paint  I painted each board with white paint, brown paint, and then the specific color of coral, light blue, semi light blue, and navy.
Once the paint had dried I used a tradition sand paper to distress the board.
Hopefully you can see the different layers of paint!! This is definitely one of my favorite stages of the process.

After the paint had dried, it was time for the letters.  Using sharpie paint pens, I was able to recreate the saying from our good friend Kara's picture!

Once the words were places and the sign was complete I was able to add a little flair...

Every scrapbook-er loves the extra flair, ribbon, flowers, and buttons!

Once the sign had enough time to settle, I was able to glue it to it's post and it was ready to rock!!

And... there you have it! A great theme and jumping point for what was a fabulous shower!!

Stay tuned to more teacher and 'not so teacher' crafty ideas!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Our Home Away from Home

In my opinion (take it or leave it! ) a classroom environment, how it looks, feels, and smells, is essential to a solid year with learning and fun.  That is why it have always placed  a lot of emphasis on creating a classroom that students enjoy being a part of.

This year, the challenge, was a little trickier than I thought.  I left my friends and family of PHES to travel to Cure' of Ars, in Leawood, KS!

 So with some tears, laughs, and a month long journey of loading boxes in and out of my car.  Seriously.. not joking,  I made it to my new home away from home.

 Check out my new pad....

 After I got everything loaded into the room, I really enjoyed the full wall of cabinets and storage.  But you know what they has to get worse, before it gets better.. so a mess was made.

 I probably should mention that I am totally one of those people that starts one project, destroys that section of the room, and then destroys another.  But, with that in mind, there was always a vision, it just may have taken me some time to get there!

So without further suspense... here comes the final product, full with polka dots, love, and soon 25 wonderful third graders!   I can't wait for them to enjoy some learning and fun, in this colorful space.

"When we learn, we grow" - a Welcome bulletin board to begin our year together.

Made the paper flower wreath last year to adorn the classroom door.

Our hallway entrance, needed to add a little color, and of course a Office Max poster! 

I am fortunate to have tables again this year! I also have enough room for my end of the table crates that I have always wanted!

View from the front of the room! 

Reading nook for my cozy readers.

Calendar and birthday chart.

My desk and carts for students extra workbooks and journals.

Flowers and stripes, a must have on my teacher desk. 

Another reading nook coupled with a great test taking strategies bulletin board. 

A part of the library and prayer center for our Religion class.

The rest of our classroom library! 

A new addition to my room, Our favorite Picks (get it?)... My vision for this piece of the room is for students to eventually pick the books that will be featured here based on their recommendations as readers.

Our Word Wall ready to be filled with new and important words throughout the year. 

Another new and exciting addition to my classroom, my Maker Space!  

The bins and containers are full with items, supplies and tools for students to create, learn and develop new ideas! I can't wait to see what they create! 

Plan to use this space as my 'class meeting' space to have team meetings, complete anchor charts, and participate in many learning opportunities. 

Our Tech Cafe is equipped with two ThinkPads, and 5 tablets.  We can't wait to put these to good use.  

The 7 Keys to Comprehension, these will be essential for our Guided Reading Groups.

Our reading center table for small groups, with our independent reading chart behind. 

Cubbies for our student books, and our school wide PEACE program. 

Reading Center rotation boards and of course more polka dots!

Writing Center

 Whew!  The room is amazing and everything I could have hoped for in a classroom. I hope that my third grade students will enjoy and feel safe and comfortable in their 'Home away from Home."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Dreaded, 'Teacher's Chair'

I first must say, the reason I am calling this post, the dreaded 'Teacher's Chair" is because this project was less than simple, mostly due to my crafting errors, but at any rate, I completed the project and am, well, satisfied with the finished product.

The task itself was to redo a chair that I scrounged from my parents house in 2006 when I was desperate for some classroom decor.  At this point in my teaching career, I was fresh out of college and wanted to redo everything in the room.  So, I decided it would be fun to spray paint this old bar stool in different stripes of colors, completing the project with the different stool legs being different colors.

So here is the beauty...

As you can see, she was quite the gem... well measured stripes... and the legs, well they were fabulous. I think at one point I ran out of paint and just gave up.  This beautiful chair has been a loving part of my classroom for the last nine years and felt that it was time to give it a makeover. 

In this decision, I wasted approximately three days of my productive classroom time, redoing this chair.  To start, I spray painted the entire chair purple.  Then, took the leather and padding off.  

Some of you may not know this about me, but I am a big picture girl.  My vision with this project included a beautiful purple chair, with a green fabric cover to sit perfectly in my new third grade classroom.  What you also may not know about me, is that I dive head first into everything, many times without thinking about the process, having a plan, or determining the steps that I must take to accomplish the project.  Well, friends, this was one of those time. 

While my vision included a beautiful new fabric with a nice cushion underneath, I ran into some slight problems.  God Bless my husband, as he problem solved through this project with me, the fabric didn't make the cut, and we landed on a solid purple chair.  

The chair itself, while still not perfect, looks much better than it did before, and through this project I learned many new techniques, tools, and what not to do when it comes to redoing furniture! :) 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Home Depot to the Rescue!

I was very thankful today to the helpful and kind employees at Home Depot who helped me stock up my Maker Space with supplies for my future inventors.  Teachers, I highly recommended their staff and products for your spaces too!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Technology and Leadership, Challenge Accepted

August 14, 2014 is Leadership Day in Technology and Education.  What better day to celebrate Leadership day then just before many educators embark on a new school year.  Many of you have either just begun school or will be starting in the last few weeks.

I am taking on the challenge to blog about Technology and Leadership in the P-12 school system and want to talk specifically about some of the changes we have faced in our community of Pleasant Hill.

Roughly about 2 1/2 years ago, on a cold snow day, I received an email informing me that my district would be partaking in a Connect ME Grant opportunity, in which several teachers across the district would be given 15 iPads for their classroom.  In addition to the iPad grant, we would partake in professional development related to the iPads, and then transfer our learning not only to our classroom, but to our building teachers as well.  My prayers were answered that following May and I was able to take on the challenge of iPads in education.  As I continued through my journey last year, I definitely got frustrated, excited, nervous, and scared and various points on my journey, but definitely feel that all of those experiences allowed me to become a more innovative teacher and leader within my building.

I owe this opportunity to the leadership in my district.  I am fortunate to be a part of a district that allows teachers a voice and an opportunity to grow professionally.  More specifically, it was our Assistant Superintendent and our Technology Director who made these changes across the district happen.  They have put technology in the hands of their teachers, which in turn put technology into our learners hands.

Unfortunately, I feel that our administration faces challenges on this journey. Those challenges are our teachers.  While I don't mean to call anyone out or put anyone down, I feel that in Pleasant Hill, our administrators are supportive and eager to allow technology into our students hands, but many of our teachers feel nervous, scared, or unable to find ways to incorporate these devices into classroom instruction.

I hope as we continue on this journey with the rest of the country, that I can help my district administrators inspire other teachers throughout our district.  More specifically, in my building, I hope to be a reference and a leader for teachers to use technology within their classroom instruction.

Again, I am lucky to be a part of a wonderful community and supportive administration that allows teachers to do whats best for students. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Letter From Your Teacher

Every year teachers spend their summers lounging by the pool, reading a book (that isn't required by their school district) and researching (or should I say pinteresting) new and exciting ideas to begin a new year.  Let's be honest, even though we have the summers off, our brains are always searching for the cute bulletin board idea or developing new lesson ideas to start the next year off perfectly.

I must admit that once August 1st hits (sometimes even before) I am pulling long hours in my classroom crafting, organizing and preparing for a new school year.  I always get so excited to get a new group of third graders to spend nine months with.  Every year, typically right around this time I also like to send out a friendly letter to my students.  I send a post card welcoming them to third grade, telling them how much fun we are going to have, and expressing my excitement to meet them at Meet the Teacher night in a few days.   But this year, my letter was crafted a little differently.

This past July, I had the opportunity to attend Podstock (read more about that here) and was honored to listen to the keynote speaker (Todd Nesloney).  In his powerful and inspiring speech he talked specifically about his students and the letter that he sent out prior to meeting his class.  He, like many teachers, also sent out a letter to his students before Meet the Teacher, but his was different.  Instead of welcoming them to 5th grade, he wrote about what he knew they could do, dream, and accomplish that year together.   "I know I haven't met you yet, but I know you can accomplish anything."  Wow.  How powerful.  To think, some of those students probably have never heard that, had the encouragement to do anything they want to do, and this teacher, never to have met them, believed in them.  Todd continued on with his story, ending with one specific student coming back to him at the end of the year with this same note in his hand saying, Thank you.  He told Mr. Nesloney, you believed in me, and you didn't even know me.  That meant something to me.

As I sat there (of course bawling) I thought about the impact that short note had on that one student in Mr. Nesloney's class and knew immediately that I wanted to have that same impact on my students this coming year.  So three days ago, I wrote.  I wrote 23 notes that went something like this....

                               "I know I haven't met you yet, but I already know how amazing you are.  I know you can accomplish anything, learn anything and be anything.  I can't wait to help you on your educational journey.  You are awesome!   We are going to have a great year of learning and growing together!  See you soon. - Mrs. Pickett"

I hope that this note will help inspire that student who needs a little extra love and encourage my struggling students to keep going this year.  I hope to make the same impact that Todd made on that one student, that one year.

My challenge to you and other teachers is to do the same thing.  If every teacher across the country was able to write a letter like this.  Think about the impact we would have on kids.  The inspiration and culture that we could create allowing children to accomplish ANYTHING they want to... Amazing!

I know this time of year is hectic, stressful, and overwhelming, but instead of organizing that cabinet, or crafting that project, write a letter to your students.  Even if  you have already met them, it will still mean the world to them.

Thank you Todd Nesloney, for helping me inspire others.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Podstock - A Game Changing Conference

Almost 2 weeks ago, I was enable to embark on a journey, or shall I say experience that has changed my view of education completely!  My school district allowed me the opportunity to attend a National Conference held in Witchita, KS called Podstock.  Podstock was a great way for me to not only hear and learn from brilliant educators, but also allowed me to connect with real teachers, experimenting and trying new things!

I have taken the last few weeks to really reflect ( heal a sprained elbow..) and evaluate my experiences at Podstock14. I have walked away with several ideas, strategies, and thoughts that I hope to incorporate into my classroom as I begin year 9.

#1 The Flipped Classroom and PBL

     The keynote speaker at Podstock was Todd Nesloney (@TechninjaTodd)  who I was also fortunate enough to listen to in a break out session regarding flipped classrooms.  He spoke a lot about NO EXCUSES.  When adopting this way of teaching, we must except no excuses from students.  For me, strangely enough, this was very eye opening.  I have always been that teacher that is "understanding" or "accepts it late".  With a flipped classroom, this cannot be the case.  All students no matter the situation, economic status or family dynamic are responsible for watching the video before class.  If this does not happen, there is No Excuse.. and the student will need to be held accountable.  While this concept feels a bit scary for me... (what will the parents say, do?.)  I am eager to begin my classroom with these high expectations for learning.

    Todd also said, "When you let kids follow your passion, they fall in love with learning."  This quote is something that also stuck out to me.  Todd spoke about a Math Fair that he had his fifth graders complete.  The object:  take something you love and tie it to math, you need three visuals.  At home the students worked on these projects.  The result, a math fair in which students presented what they learned to both parents and peers.  Just listening to his story and hearing his passion I felt connected to these kids and their learning.  It is experiences just like Todd's Math Fair that will keep kids wanting and needing to learn.  Another great PBL that Todd shared with us was taking his classroom and turning into a hospital. Students came into a transformed classroom and learned the ins and outs of fractions, while also becoming 'certified doctors'.

      Listening to Todd and his experiences helped me see the benefits of PBL and the impact that it can have on students.  Todd also helped me understand the management and logistics of beginning my journey into the flipped classroom and PBL.  My main goal as I begin my new year is to tackle this head on.  I only expect to become frustrated, confused, upset, excited and energized as I begin and continue on this journey throughout the year, but am so excited to see my students light up and get excited about learning.

Goal #1: Embark on the journey of the #flippedclassroom and #PBL

#2 Connections

     I was so fortunate to have met and connected with Educational Guru Ginger Lewman (@GingerLewman).  In the brief amount of time I was able to spend with Ginger, I learned that she has a gift of  pushing educators to thinking outside of the box. (I also learned how to take a dueling selfie..picture should be inlcuded).

     In PodStock14 Pre-conference, Ginger held a break out session in which teachers were pushed to think outside of the box, outside of the norm, and discuss with peers.  What would school be like without bells?  What if we didn't have snow days?  Questions that make you ponder think and then ultimately change.  I loved everything about this session,  it not only allowed me to stretch my thinking, but I was able to talk and connect with new teachers, which in turn allowed me to walk away with new ideas.

     When I began teaching 9 years ago I knew the importance of collaboration and connections with colleagues.  I was always told the more heads the better.  It was not until Podstock that I realized that my connections and my collaboration does not have to be limited to my building or school district.  Thanks to twitter, teachers across the world are at my finger tips to learn from, talk to, and collaborate with.  Prior to podstock, I was an ameature tweeter.  I would randomly get on twitter, scroll through a few posts and move on.
    I am hoping as I begin connecting with more teachers I will expand my professional knowledge to help my students achieve success.

Goal #2:  Connect, expand and grow with my networking.

#3 FUN
     My final goal and reflection of Podstock is to remember to have fun while teaching.  "Teachers need to show students that adults can have fun so they want to grow up."  If I am not enjoying and loving my profession then how can I expect my students to enjoy and love the learning?

Goal #3:  Have FUN!

     Podstock was SO.MUCH.FUN. Connecting with teachers, late night converstations, selfies, and superheros will be in my memories of #Podstock14.  I can only hope to attend next year and continue on my new education journey.

Podstock isn't just a conference... its a GAME CHANGER.

    Thank you to everyone who allowed this newbie to feel apart of the family.  I look forward to the reunion next year... Podstock15