Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sick Days

  I'm out of them. The state I live in dumps whatever days you have accumulated when you use FMLA. Being on maternity leave earlier this year means that I don't get to be the one that gets to stay home when one of the little one's is sick. Working Mom guilt to the max. Not doing to hot on giving up on the TV for lent. Tried to make loopholes by telling myself that Netflix isn't TV, but it is. Anyway, here is something decent that I did do, even though it was months ago. This is our nursery.
copywrite Mrs.PJ 2013
The reading and rocking corner. The two hampers on the changing table sit on the floor usually. 
copywrite Mrs.PJ 2013
Little dude figured out how to get in there with her pretty quickly. Gotta watch that boy close.

copywrite Mrs.PJ 2013
Here you can see more of the feature wall. I love hearing our son say, "That my octopus."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Well, what do you know?

      Most people in education have heard of the KWL chart as a way to establish prior knowledge. Don't worry I'm not about to explain those self explanatory graphic organizers.

  • What do you Know?
  • What do you Want to know?
  • What did you Learn?

      Unfortunately so have the kids,  and the sight of a KWL chart just makes them groan. So as teachers we have to be sneaky sometimes to figure out what those kids already know. Why bother you might ask? I know sometimes it seems like those little angels come into our rooms as blank slates, but that is far from true. They have been in many classrooms sitting in front of many teachers long before they came in to our classrooms. Plus everything they learn form each other, television, and those smart phones growing out of their arms.
     I digress, back to the importance of prior knowledge. If we can connect what we are teaching to something that they already know then they understand it better and retain it longer.  As if the brain is a giant spider web of knowledge. If you don't find something to stick it to, then it just escapes. It can be tough finding that prior knowledge. At the first whiff of new material some students will fake ignorance to avoid being called on. But if they are confident that they already know something about the topic, then they are excited to expand that knowledge. 
     Questioning helps. My general rule of thumb is that I need to be asking the students just as many questions as they are asking me. For example at the beginning of the school year we study physical geography. Before we even start I tell the kids, "Okay, you guys are going to ace this next unit because you already know all of this stuff. Physical geography is just like the physical science you learned last year. Let's see, do you remember what the different layers of the earth are? Oh, that was easy, what about the movement of the plates? What are the different types? Show me with your hands. What does that movement create?" and so on and so on. They get so excited telling me what they know. 
      Another way to find out what they know is to hand them the dry erase marker or chalk. You will always have shy kids, but if you make everyone take a turn it eases the embarrassment.  Just put a starter topic up and have the kids web everything they know for you. Teach high school and don't have enough board room for six classes? Just snap a picture with a digital camera and erase the board.  Remember, while they might act like it sometimes, they weren't really born yesterday. So, be creative, be sneaky, but do whatever you need to do to find out what they already know. You will see improvement in your retention rate. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The World Like You've Never Seen It

Women's Income

    Here is map of the world based on women's income world wide. Looks a little different from the map that we typically see. It is from an impressive website, www.worldmapper.org

"The total income of women is highest in the United States, and second highest in China. Women in the United States have a high total income because on average they are some of the highest paid women in the world. Women in China earn below the world average, but they have high total earnings due to the large population of China."

      If you teach Geography or Social Studies then you can find a map on this website for your classes. They have distorted maps based on just about every topic that you can think of. They are great for including in presentations or handouts, so students can make comparisons. 

    If you like that, then you might want to see my list of other resources for teachers, here. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Church Lady

student: Hey Miss! Hey, are you one of those church goers?
me: What do you mean by"church goers"?
student: Do you go like every week?
me: I try to. Do you mind if I ask you why you asked me that?
student: Cause you know, you are like those people that go to church a lot, always happy.
me: That is an interesting observation.

     I wasn't always as happy and content as I am right now. A big part of that has to do with finding a church home that was and still is a good fit for me. I enjoy going and taking my kids. Everyone there seems to be there because they genuinely enjoy it. Nobody tries to sneak out early before the service is over. When it is time to share a sign of peace you get a hug or handshake from half the congregation (that can take a little while). Our church does a lot of mission work and community projects. People give and help because they want to, not because they feel guilty or pressured. Listening to the scripture and sermon help me kind of mentally check and balance myself as the week begins.

    I went a long time in life not attending church regularly. My thinking was, if I have faith in God, then  it should not matter where I pray. Now I understand the difference between just having faith and acting out that faith. Finding the right church was an important part of that for me. I believe that every person has their own relationship with God and will develop it in their own time. Right now I am thankful that I have a place that my kids and I enjoy going to and learning at.

    Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. -Isaiah 40:31

Copywrite Mrs.PJ 2013
Feeding ducks at the park this afternoon. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lessons I learned this week.

     School isn't just for the kids you know. It is finally Friday, so I thought I would reflect on a few of the things that I learned this week.
1. It is not a good idea to watch films that you have not previewed. We got stuck watching a film to wrap up a lesson about religion in the Middle East because I borrowed the lesson from someone else. It was the most boring film ever. I mean the narrater.....talked.....like.....this......the .....whole ....film.  I just wanted to shout "Spit it out already!"  The kids were not impressed either. It could have been worse. Once when I was subbing the teacher left a video and a note that instructed me to stand next to the TV and censor it with a piece of cardboard when anything obscene came on.  Seriously.
2. Some kids can be reformed. One of my students used to skip class every time I let her go to the bathroom. I didn't let her go anywhere for three weeks and I called her mom when she skipped after school tutoring that she was supposed to attend. Today she asked to go to the bathroom. She really did look like she was about to have an accident, so I let her go and she actually came back this time.
3. Listening to gossip is lame. I know, the short term thrill of getting the latest dirt is entertaining, but in the end I find myself losing more and more respect for my peers and supervisors.
4. The best lessons are the ones you take time to develop yourself. I came up with a mapping activity that I used last week. It took me three days to get the whole thing together because I had to find a bunch of maps, print and laminate them. It went really well and this week four other Geography teachers have borrowed it. They all gave me positive feedback. I wish I had time to develop lessons like that all of the time. A teacher workday once a grading period would be nice.
5. Don't give a test on Valentine's Day because the kids will be too hyped up on sugar to focus on the task at hand. This is year five, so you would think that I would have figured that one out by now. Speaking of Valentine's day, I hope that you had a nice one.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A few words

Here is my word wall for the unit we just did on Southwest Asia.

  I'm assuming that most school districts require word walls now. I figure if I have to do it then it might as well be a good one. Unfortunately our curriculum bundles only allots ten days for this unit, so this is coming down tomorrow. Then I have to figure out how I am going to do the wall for Africa.

  "Mom..I mean Mrs.PJ. OMG Miss, I can't believe I just called you that." It is quite alright. Actually I consider it the ultimate teacher compliment. It must mean I am nagging my students just right. 

   Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. We are supposed to forgo something for forty days to remind us of the suffering of others. I had a hard time deciding this year, but I finally settled on TV. I probably wouldn't have picked that if we had already started watching this season of Walking Dead, but since we haven't, it will just have to sit in the DVR for a month. Wish me luck. Last year I gave up gossip. That didn't exactly worked the way I had hoped. Right now I pretty much watch TV after the kids go to bed and my time would probably be better spent sleeping. We will see how it goes. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pictures my two year old took

The title of this post says it all. Mister little PJ is our guest photographer for this post.   
He finds my camera no matter where I put it and really enjoys taking pictures. 
Hey, he is two. It doesn't matter what he is doing, he really enjoys it all. 

This is the back half of a beagle, not ours.

 At one point my camera had about thirty pictures of feet. Here are his looking super cute in footie pj's. My husband thinks my toes are webbed, but they're not. They are just weird. Little Miss PJ has the same toes and I couldn't be more proud. 

 This one is a little fuzzy, but I'm impressed with how well he centered it. So, this is basically the best seat in the house. If you are siting here then that means you are reading a story, rocking a little one or nursing the baby. That last job is pretty much reserved for me. 

Super close up of his pajama leg. Somehow he managed to get this one pretty clear even though when I use the camera on anything closer then three feet away I get nothing but blur. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The comeback

"Your kids are f***ing s***heads. Good luck with them."

        That is a text I received before returning to work from maternity leave. Really made me excited about going back you know? Some of my kids were rough around the edges, but what can you expect when you leave them with a sub for so long? One of my administrators even warned me not to smile at my kids for the first several weeks back. He had apparently had several run ins with my kids. Anyway, I knew I couldn't do that. I'm human and if I wasn't able to have some sense of humor in the classroom then I would probably crack and lose it. Besides, I like to believe that they are all good students, just some of them make not so good choices. 
       Last Friday they really got to redeem themselves. My students and I had to sit in the auditorium while the counselors called students up one at a time to prepare their schedules for next year. I knew there would be a lot of down time and we don't have any time to waste, so I brought an activity for my kids.  For those of you interested I will tell you about the activity in just a minute. The important thing was that it kept them busy. At the end of the day the counselors pulled me aside and said, "Mrs. PJ your kids are the most well behaved and most respectful students we have had in here all week." They went on to tell me that it had not been that quiet the entire time they had been in the auditorium and that I was the only teacher that had brought something for the students to do. I was so proud of my kids that I was beaming the rest of the day. On Monday I told them that the counselors had nothing but nice things to say about them. 
       So what did we do with our down time? I split them into six groups. Each group was given a deck of cards. Each deck had forty cards with a term and picture and a corresponding card with an explanation. That's right, my high school students played match. They loved it. With that many cards it took them almost the whole period to match them all up, but they competed to see which group could match them all first. When they finished I got them all to play a game where I called out something and they had to find and hold up a card that fit the description. "Which two cards are opposites of each other? Find a card that is one of the five themes of Geography. Do you have one that is a physical feature?" You can easily make your own deck of cards by making a table in a blank word document or pages file and filling it in with your own vocabulary and pictures. These vocabulary decks are great for a throw down review lesson. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

keeping it together

student: Oooooh Mrs.PJ, you are looking good today.
me: Thank you, but I wish you would pay more attention to your work.
student: Awww Miss, you know I will take care of that later. Why don't you let me take you out this weekend?
me: Um, no thanks, I am happily married. Why don't you do that work now?
student: Miss, haven't you ever heard of divorce?
me: Not in my house.
class: Ooooooooooh, she shut you down!

     As you can see, some students have no shame in kissing up to try and get out of work. If I took all of the monetary bribes I was offered I could have retired by now. That's not what this post is about though. I want to tell you about the happily married part. Just don't tell Mr. PJ because I don't want him to get a big head, but he is an awesome partner and I want to share why. So here is my top three list.

    3. Share the workload. When we were dating I was super impressed at how clean Mr.PJ kept his apartment. We are talking laundry, dishes, vacuuming, the whole package. He still pitches in whenever and wherever he can. You all know how much work there is in housework. In my eyes there is nothing more attractive than a man that voluntarily washes dishes.

    2. Support your spouse. When I'm trying to get our little dude to do something necessary, like brush his teeth, and he is resisting, my husband will tell him, "you need to listen to your mother little dude." It sends a strong message, that we are a team and we work together. He doesn't just stop with the parenting bit, he supported me when I was finishing school,  he supports my decision to be a working mom, he has no problem with me doing things I want to do. For example he occasionally gets up early Saturday mornings to hang out with the kids so I can volunteer at a thrift store for a few hours.

    1. Affection. He let's me know he needs me as much as I need him.

    I think some of the best advice I ever read about marriage was that love is a verb, not a noun. It was in a Stephen Covey book, but I don't remember which one. Anyway, the point was that love is an action, something you have to actively do and demonstrate. You can't just expect that spark to exist without stoking the fire. I have found that it is not just doing things for each other, but also truly appreciating what you do for each other. I was thinking about writing this post and then during the sermon this past Sunday I was reminded of some other important advice about love.
     4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  Corinthians