Sunday, August 29, 2010

What do teachers do?

As I begin this third year of teaching, I realized that I forgot to do something I promised myself I would do at the beginning of my first and second years of teaching!  When I walked into my classroom two(ish) weeks ago and looked around at the blank bulletin boards...

 stacks of desks and chairs...

the stuffed closet...

and I wondered,

"Where do I start with all this?!"  

What should I do first?  What all do I need to do?  I know I'll need to buy new stuff...but what all do I need to get?  Wouldn't it be nice if I had a pre-made To Do list for all the beginning of the year things that need doing?

"I should make a list as I go," I tell myself.  Then, next year I'd have that To Do list!  Unfortunately by the time that thought crosses my mind, I've already unloaded three boxes from the closet, put up half my calendar board, organized some desk supplies, and several other things that I can't quite remember.  So the Beginning of the Year Master To Do List has been postponed yet again.  Oh, well!

Sometimes people ask what I have to do to get ready for a new year (or a new week!) of school; or why I go in to school so early (I usually start back about a week before the official teacher work days start).  They can't fathom what in the world could take so much time.  I won't tell you everything that I do (obviously--I can't remember everything anyway!), but I will tell you something I did this weekend that took hours (even with Matt helping me for part of it).

At the beginning of the year, we get a huge shipment of new workbooks for the kids.  Each kid gets a spelling book, a phonics workbook, and four (yes, four) math workbooks--one for each quarter.  All the pages come in a bound, paperback book.  We don't give the books to the kids (too much for a 1st grader), so we tear out the pages.  Then we can hand out just the page they'll need for the day's lesson.  

Let's do some math, shall we?

Each student gets...
4 workbooks...
each workbook has 150 pages...
and we have 26 students this year.

So that equals...?

15,600 pages

That is a lot of pages to tear.  Now, I'm not crazy.  There is no way on earth that I would tear out that many pages and file them.  I hand off most of the work to eager parent volunteers.  However, we begin using the math workbooks on the fourth day of school, so I need to have several pages ready to go.  I also don't want to start the year with an email to parents asking for a huge favor right off the bat.  So I worked on tearing and organizing pages from just the first of the four workbooks.  It's enough for the 1st quarter.  But even with just one book, it's 150 pages for each of 26 students.  That's still 3,900 pages to tear out.

I tore out all the pages on Saturday afternoon.  Matt helped a little bit with this part, but...well, he's not the best with tearing along perforated lines.  So I told him he could help with step two.  After I was finished tearing, I looked at my big stack of papers.  26 stacks of pages for 26 students.  Now I needed to organize them--because I'll be handing out all the page 1s for the first math lesson.  I needed stacks consisting of all the page ones, all the page twos, all the page 100s, etc.  Matt helped me make stacks of the pages and paper clipped them together.  

In total, it probably took us about 3 hours to tear, stack, and organize all these pages.  Now they're sitting in my blue crate ready to be taken back to the school on Monday and filed into my filing cabinet.  All nice and neat.  

So that's one of the things I get to do at the beginning of the school year.  It's a lot of work, but it all ends up getting done :-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Year, New Plans, New Faces

Yesterday I went back to school for our first official teacher work day of the 2010-2011 school year.  It was great seeing everyone--I love the people I work with!  Everyone's so friendly and happy--best work environment ever!

I got quite a bit done yesterday--we only had meetings in the morning and over lunch.  The afternoon was free to work on whatever needed to be worked on.  Today, I was in meetings until 2:00 and I only stayed until 3.  I wanted to stay later and work on a few more things, but I needed to go to the teacher store (i.e. the "Oh-my-gosh-I-NEED-everything-in-here store") before heading home.

I'm excited about this school year, but it will be different.  Me and my 1st grade co-teacher (see this post for an explanation) sat down Wednesday afternoon and started outlining how we wanted the classroom to be run.  The kids were divided by the admin into 1A and 1B, so we decided that the morning welcome time (morning meeting), read alouds, and dismissal could be done separately in our own rooms.  The rest of the day we split responsibilities.  I'll be teaching math, Bible, social studies, and doing the small group activity for Language Arts.  She'll be teaching the rest of Language Arts, science, computer lab, and handwriting.  We had to think through where they would keep things like incomplete work folders, pencil boxes, books, etc.  I think we've got a good system figured out.  We'll see how the kids do with it when they get here next Wednesday!

We also planned out the first three days of school together.  The first day, we're going to keep the kids separated for most stuff, but then starting the second day we'll introduce them to the other classroom.  It took a long time to plan those three days!  But I think once we get into regular planning for regular days, it won't be so involved!  It will be nice only to have to plan for half the subjects, though!

I keep looking at the names of the kids who we'll be teaching this year.  They're not my kids yet.  The group of kids I taught in kindergarten and 1st grade are my kids.  I know them inside and out:  all their little quirks and habits, how they'll react to different stuff, what they'll love, what they'll hate, how they learn...all that.  I know I'm not a parent, and I'm not pretending like I know exactly how they feel when they hand their kids over to a new teacher,  I so want to sit down with the 2nd grade teachers and tell them everything about these kids.  I guess I feel like I can identify a little better with parents who want to tell you everything up front about their kids.  But I know the teachers in 2nd grade are amazingly talented and wonderful and my kids will do just fine. 

OK, so I get a little attached to the kiddos in my class.  I'm with them nearly 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, nine months a year!  Sorry that I grow to love them so much ;-)  I'll miss my kids from last year a lot.  But I know in a couple months I'll be completely smitten (most days, haha!) with this new group.

So bring on the new year and new faces!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Tiny Hummingbird

I was going to include this in my posts about the shooting match in West Virginia, but in the end, I thought it would be better as it's own post.

While we were waiting for the rain to pass, several of us sat on a beautiful porch in front of the house.  It had a roof and off of the roof, over the sides, hung long green vines.  On the other side of the vines, under the eves, were three hummingbird feeders.  As the rain came pouring down, we waited to see if any of the hummingbirds would come around.  We were assured that when it wasn't raining, there were sometimes 10-15 hummingbirds swarming around the feeders.  As the rain began to slow, we began to see things darting about just beyond the feeders.  Soon, five or six hummingbirds were buzzing past the feeders, hovering just briefly to drink.

[Please note, this bird did have two wings, but even shooting at 1/500th of a second, I couldn't catch it!] 

I took more pictures of these birds than I did of the shooting match!  The birds would so briefly fly near the feeders, it was difficult focusing and getting all my settings right before they flew off again!

If you look closely at the last two, you can see their tiny feet!  It was so fun watching them--I've never been that close to a hummingbird before and I've certainly never seen as many as we did in one setting!  We must have watched for at least half an hour.  Sorry my pictures aren't any better--photographing them was a bit beyond my amateur photographer talents!

Anyway, all that made me kinda want to invest in some hummingbird feeders...maybe next summer!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Champion Grocery Shopper

Well, folks, I've done it again.  I have fought and conquered the grocery store.  I am pretty much getting awesome at this.

I decided to make two weeks worth of meal plans since school is starting up and going to the grocery store every other week is better than going every week.  Right?

My budget for one week is $50.  At least, I'm trying to make that my budget.  Some weeks it happens, other weeks...not so much.  I'm a little over this month.  However, compared to what I had been spending each month at the grocery store, I am way, way, way under.  Anyway, since I was shopping for two weeks, I figured I would be spending close to $100 (because $50 x 2 = $100!).  So this morning I made my two weeks' worth of meal plans.  I looked at what we already had, what could be made from that, and what we would need to cook everything else.  I made my grocery list and Matt went with me to the store.

Aldis was up first.  This is what I bought:

2 lbs ground turkey
4 lb. whole roasting chicken
pork chops
ice cream
green peppers
hamburger buns
2 sour cream containers

How much did I pay for this bounty?  $29.34!!  Amazing.

I only had to pick up a few things at Safeway:

Onions, fried rice spice packet, and pizza sauce only cost $4.24.

So my total cost of groceries for the next two weeks comes to........$33.58! 

I think that's pretty darn good.  I will have to pick up some fresh produce and bread next week, but that should only be a couple bucks.  Here's what Matt and I are having for din-din over the next two weeks:

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Pizza (homemade)
Aglio e Olio (Pasta and Oil) with tuna
Fried Rice
Sloppy Joes
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Pork Chops
Roasted Herb Chicken Breast
Tuna Cakes
Rotisserie Style Chicken

and a smattering of leftovers when necessary.

What good deals at the grocery store did you find this week?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back to School

Wednesday, August 25th is the first official teacher work day for the 2010-2011 school year.

Didn't we just have the last official work day for the 2009-2010 school year, like...a week ago?

The summer has flown by.  F L O W N by.  I'm pretty sure we just finished school last week and someone pulled off the July page from the calendar and is trying to trick me into thinking it's late August.

I did do a lot this summer.  Including, but not limited to, the following:

•Babysat for some awesome kids who liked to play "Goldfish," lightsaber battles, and Pokemon.

•Went to Florida and visited my Grandma.

•Attended the wedding of two amazing people.

•Figured out that I can save a ton of money on my grocery bill by going to Aldi's and using coupons.

•Saved $30 on our cable bill by switching from Digital Cable to Economy Cable.  [P.S. there is no obvious difference between these two packages.]

•Took part in a shooting match in West Virginia.

•Spruced up our bedroom, my bathroom, and the laundry room.

Not a bad summer.  Just a fast one.

So even though official work days don't start until this Wednesday, I went in a couple days this past week to start getting stuff ready.  I went in early for a couple reasons (I'm all about bulleted lists today):

•There was nothing to do at home but watch Food Network and "forget" to do dishes or laundry.

•I get antsy thinking about all the prep work there is to do before kids come into the classroom on September 1st.

•I like setting up and decorating the classroom.

•Why cram everything into a week, when I can spread it out over two weeks?

I didn't get a ton done--mainly just arranging furniture where I want it and putting up my calendar board and some other decor.  This year will be different (again).  I don't mind different, but I also like the idea of having the same year back-to-back.  Let me recap my first two years of teaching and what will be my third year (yay, more bullets!!):

•Year 1:  Taught Kindergarten with two T.A.s (one morning, one afternoon).  Super fun.

•Year 2:  Moved to 1st grade (because of enrollment issues, not because I was a terrible K teacher).  I had to move to a new classroom and learn a whole new curriculum.  It was almost like starting over except for the fact that I knew a little better how to manage a classroom.

•Year 3 (this year):  1st grade!  I don't have to switch grade levels!  This is good!!  However, due to more enrollment issues, me and the other 1st grade teacher will be doing a pseudo-team teaching thing.  Don't get me wrong, I worked with the same teacher last year and loved it--so it's not the working together thing that's a problem.  It's just going to mean that I have to change things around again and it will just be another different year.  I can deal.  I'm just sayin'.

At this rate, I'm thinking I won't have two back-to-back identical years until Years 4 and 5.  They told me in college that by Year 3 I would have things sorted out and be somewhat sane.  But since I've moved around so much, I feel like I haven't had a chance to really get good at anything.  Oh well.  Maybe one day...

Monday I'm going to run some errands and maybe go in to the school.  Tuesday I certainly will be there and then starting Wednesday, I have to be there!  Ooo, boy.  So much to do.  I can feel the pressure already.  So if you notice these posts getting fewer and farer (more far?) between, that's why.  We'll see what happens to this space once school really starts going ;-)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mud, Guns, and a Sore Shoulder, Part 2

[N.B.:  I added some pictures to the previous post--check 'em out!  And if you haven't read Part 1, do that first.]

After having trudged to the top of a hill for a shooting match, those who had brought their own guns started getting everything out of the cases, cleaning things out, and setting up sandbags on the shooting bench.  Matt's uncle stapled targets to a large plywood board...

...and walked it 100 yards away from the shooting bench.

Whad'ya mean you can't see the target?!  It's the small yellow thing right in the center, of course!  And that's why the first round is rifles with scopes.

We got protective ear muffs on (those guns are loud!) and the shooting started with last year's winner (who is a friend of the family).  He had brought his own rifle and took his sweet time getting everything set up just the way he wanted. 

After taking his six shots, Matt's cousin was up next.  He also had his own gun:

Matt's uncle was third.  He had yet another gun:

Matt was up fourth. 

He decided to use the first gun:

Yours truly was fifth.  I was nervous about this round because last year, the gun I used kicked something awful.  So bad, that by the time you take your fourth or fifth shot, it's hard to pull the trigger because you know it's going to punch you in the shoulder!  Self-inflicted pain isn't really my thing.  Matt said the first gun really didn't kick bad at all and that I wouldn't need a "sissy pad" (extra padding for your shoulder).  So I gave it a shot:

Not too bad!  I didn't need a sissy pad, but my shoulder was still a bit sore afterward.

The last shooter took his turn:

After we had all taken our shots, we trekked up to the target board to count up points and move it closer for the second round.  Matt had only scored 2 points higher than me.  Certainly not insurmountable by any means.  However, I had beat him in the first round last year, so I wasn't too pleased.

The second round is my favorite.  I love the old .22-cal rifle they have everyone use.  It was Matt's grandfathers.   I was determined to outscore Matt and give him a run for his money!

The targets were moved in to about 35-40 yards since the .22-cal has iron sights instead of a scope.

We went through the same order as the first round.

We collected targets after the round was over, and Matt's uncle added up the points again.  I had outscored Matt by 7 points!  Splendid!  I even tied his uncle at 56 points a piece.  That meant that collectively, I had 5 more points than Matt.  All I had to do was hit some good shots in the last round to secure victory!

The last round is pistols.

I hate pistols.

Last year, they were my downfall.  This year, though, I knew which pistol to use and I was ready.  The targets were moved in to about 15 yards and we took our shots.

The targets were taken off the board.  And the points were totaled.  In one round, Matt had outscored me by 11 points.  That meant overall...he was five points ahead of me.  FIVE points.  So close.  He wiped some proverbial sweat from his brow, barely having dodged a humiliating defeat.

The final results were as follows:

1st place:  Matt's uncle, 131 points
2nd place:  Matt, 119 points
3rd place:  Last year's winner, 115 points
4th place:  Me, 114 points
5th place:  Matt's cousin:  103 points
6th place:  Family friend, 70 points

I improved my standing from last year's 5th place, but I'm not satisfied.  Next year, I'll be back and beat my husband.  That's a promise.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mud, Guns, and a Sore Shoulder, Part 1

The main reason Matt and I traveled to visit his parents this particular weekend is because there was a family reunion in good ol' West Virginia. 

Yea, that kind of West Virginia.

We went to the reunion last year, too.  We have to drive about an hour and a half to get to his uncle's house which is half way up a mountain.  There were several family members there who had all brought various goodies to eat.  Eating is the first event.  But the real event--the MAIN event--comes after the eating is over.

The main even is a shooting match.

Last year, before we went, Matt had told me about this shooting match.  It takes place up on a hill overlooking his uncle's house and they've been doing it for over 15 years.  There are three rounds and blah, blah, blah...I didn't really care.  The only gun I've ever shot (besides a BB gun) was an old shot gun.  And you don't really aim with that.  I figured I probably couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, much less a small target 100 yards away.  I thought I'd just go watch, since there wouldn't be anything else to do.  We got up on this hill and they started setting everything up, got out guns, and cleaned things out.  Matt's uncle laid out targets and started labeling them with names.  He looked at me and said, "You shootin'?"  I said no, I'd just watch.  He said, "Nah, you're shootin'," and put my name on a target.

Long story short, after the first two rounds, I was ahead of Matt in the points.  I couldn't believe it.  Matt couldn't believe it.  His uncle turned to me and said, "Have you been practicin' or somethin'??"  The last round, though, was my downfall.  I had the worst pistol ever and I think I only managed to get a few points.  Matt shot several bullseyes and overtook me in the points, and ended up in 3rd place.  I finished in 5th (out of 8).

While this was certainly not a bad result (seeing as how I'd never really shot a gun in my life), I was not happy losing in the last round.  Just to clarify, I didn't care about winning the whole thing--I don't think I could ever beat his uncle.  But if I could beat my husband in a shooting match?  That would give me bragging rights for centuries, people.  Centuries.  I was determined to return next year and get those rights.

The last couple weeks at our house have been ripe with taunts and jabs, hints at humiliating defeats, and plenty of (friendly-ish) fightin' words.  I wanted to beat him.  Bad.

Yesterday, we headed out late morning for West Virginia.  It was hot and humid, but not as bad as it's been recently.  We arrived and after some chatting and food fixing, we all sat down to eat.  About halfway through eating, it started to rain.  Just a drizzle.  "It'll pass," Matt's uncle said.  We could all see blue sky just beyond.  Well, the rain stopped.  Then started up again.  Then briefly stopped.  Then more rain--lots of rain.  Pouring rain. 

Half an hour later, it's still pouring down.  Hopes of a glorious shooting match are slowly dying and the rain keeps coming.  Some people leave, some people putter around waiting to see if the rain will let up.

After about 45 minutes, the rain slows...then comes to a stop. 

 Some of the men clamber up the hill to see if things are dry enough to get up there.  They come down and report that the top of the hill isn't muddy at all!  The trail up the hill...whole 'nother story.  Muddle puddles and ruts with mud are all along the hill's trail.  Matt's uncle tries to get his truck up through it, but no go.  Even 4-wheel drive doesn't do it in this stuff.  So in our sandals, we grab duffel bags, gun cases, and other paraphernalia and trudge up to the top.  We are shooting today; mud or no mud.

Finally, we're all up there.  There will be six shooters (down from last year's 8):  Matt, me, Matt's uncle, Matt's cousin, and two friends of the family.  The rules are as follows:

-In each round you have six shots at the target.  You must take one standing shot; the other five you can sit down and use sandbags to prop up the gun or your arm.

-First round is hunting rifles with scopes at 100 yards.  These things (for those of you who don't know), kick like a mule.  Not my favorite round.  Ouch.

-Second round is shooting with the family .22-cal rifle with iron sights at about 40 yards.  I love this round.  I scored better than everyone in this round last year and the .22 kicks about as bad as a BB gun (i.e. not bad at all).

-Third round is pistols at about 15-20 yards.  I learned last year that pistols are inaccurate and terrible and I hate them.  It's what ruined things for me and saved Matt from defeat.

-The winner gets the trophy (yes, there's a trophy) and a year's worth of glory over other family members.

And so we started.  The riveting story and stirring results are next!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Odd Happenings on Long Drives

Matt and I set out early this afternoon to drive to his parents house.  Tomorrow is a family reunion in West Virginia (more on that tomorrow!), so we're spending the weekend here.

We've driven down to visit his parents many times since we got married last June.  It's about a 4 hour drive and we usually end up chatting and dialing through radio channels.  We have radically different musical tastes (for the most part), so sometimes we have to suffer through songs that the other one likes.  I usually have to suffer through things like the Beatles, the Who, Genesis (*gag*), or *shiver* RUSH (*double gag*).  He usually has to suffer through dance/club/disco music or cheesy pop music.  Now, just to be clear, I certainly have wider (and more eclectic) musical tastes, but when I'm in the car on a long drive, I want something upbeat to keep me alert at the wheel.  I also enjoy dancing in the passenger seat.  Never dancing in the driver seat, though.  I would never do that...

Anyway, on these drives down to visit his parents, and through our channel surfing, it seems like we always, always, always end up on a channel playing a certain song.  I happen to love this song and promptly turn it up, start dancing and laughing, and generally enjoy Matt's misery and the amazing coincidence that we are hearing this song again!!!  Seriously, there's maybe been one or two times in over a dozen drives that we've not heard this song.  Each time we hear it, the coincidence is more and more hilarious (in my opinion).  In his opinion, it gets more and more annoying (but I think secretly he's starting to see the funny side).

So, are you just dying to know what this song is?

Are you?

Well, here ya go:

So, did you enjoy it?  Or are you like Matt and rolled your eyes and sighed loudly?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I have a beautiful pattern on my dishes.

Isn't it lovely?

My grandma had the pattern first.  Then one of my aunts loved it so much, she bought her own set.  Then mom decided she liked it and bought some, too.  After awhile, my aunt wanted something new, so she gave me her set when I first moved off campus in college.  Now, 4 years and only two broken dishes later, my set is still going strong.  It's good stuff.

The only problem with my dishes is that after you use them, you have to clean them.  Of all the household chores there are to do, I think doing the dishes is my least favorite.  It's not like laundry or vacuuming where you can do it once a week (or less).  Dish washing has to be done every day.  Often, multiple times.  And since our dishwasher is probably as old as me, you essentially have to wash the dishes before putting them in it. 

So I wash and scrub and get poked with a knife and pick at stuff that's gotten hardened.  And after awhile, I have a full dishwasher and a nice pile of clean non-dishwasherable stuff on the stove (because that's where you stack dishes to dry when you have a small apartment).

But no matter how many times I do dishes, there's almost always something in the sink.  A pot.  A pan.  A glass.  Or, usually, a pot, a pan, a glass, some plates, and some utensils.

I would totally invest in one of those giant dishwashing things they have in restaurants, where you stack everything under a huge cover, push a button and it does this high powered wash on everything in about 5 minutes.  Like this:
[courtesy of]

So if you have one of those lying around, I'd be happy to take it off your hands.  

In the end, though, I'm glad to have dishes.  Then I can bake things in the oven:

Things like this:

Which turn into this after about 7 hours:

Yummy pulled pork!

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some dishes to attend to...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shrinky Dinks

How many of you have made a shrinky dink in your life?

Remember, the things where you draw on special paper, cut it out, put it in the oven, then watch it magically shrink into a cute piece of colored-on plastic?

The thing that middle schoolers typically play with?

Matt and I decided to be middle schoolers last night and make shrinky dinks.  Matt had never made one (*gasp!*) so I showed him the wonder that is shrinky dinks.

We sharpened our colored pencils.

We colored super careful.

And cut oh-so slowly to make sure they would look awesome.

We put them on a cookie sheet...

...and slid them in the oven.

And waited.  Soon, they started to curl up.

And when they had flattened back out again, they were so cute and shrunken!!

It was so fun, Matt even made two.  Can you guess which two are his and which one is mine?  ;-)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary...

...How does your garden grow?

Well, up until the last week, it didn't grow very well.  Or rather, it was growing lots of leaves, but no veggies.  And really, the point of a garden is to have something to eat after a few months.

We began our little deck garden in April.  I found these cute little pots that came with seeds and dirt for only a dollar at Target!  They had tomatoes, different types of herbs, peppers, and various flowers.  I bought one for each of the kids in my class (we were studying seeds and plants) and then I thought, "They're a buck.  What the heck...I'll buy some for us, too!"  So I bought tomatoes, peppers, parsley, oregano, and strawberries.  Matt and I had visions of feasting on fresh fruit and veggies throughout the late summer months and saving money at the grocery store.

They started out very small and tiny.

And after several weeks, they grew...

and grew...

and grew!

We were so excited that our plants were growing and not dying!  We bought bigger pots for them to grow in and eventually set them outside on our deck.

They continued growing...but after several months, we still had no indication that any actual veggies or fruits were growing.  August rolled around and I had given up hope that we would ever see any type of return for all our work (and money). 

...until earlier this week.  What did we spy, but a tiny tomato flower!  And on the peppers, what looked to be the beginnings of peppers!  At this point, I'll be happy with just about anything.  We still have awhile to wait before anything is ready to be picked, but it's fun watching things grow.  Especially for me--I could kill a cactus or any other easily-kept-alive plants.

These are the peppers--the buds are right in the center.  I apologize for my lack of a macro lens.  If you'd like, you can buy one for me and then I can take better pictures!  Just leave a comment and I'll send you my address so you can ship it to me.  Thanks!

This is the tomato flower.  It's the star-like pointy thing right in the center.  Again, send me a macro lens and I'll take better pictures.

I'll keep you updated on our gardening endeavors!

[And in case you're wondering what macro lens would be acceptable for you to buy for me, check this one out.  Thanks!]