Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday Sayings: Mental Gratitude Journal

Thinking coherently at the end of the first day of school is a challenge, but I know I hit the pillow realistically thinking, I'm going to earn my keep this year. I woke up the next morning and stumbled across a strategy that provided some perspective. While camped out on my couch with a class list in my lap, I thanked God out loud for each of my kids, naming specific gratitude regarding each one. 

I felt bad along the way about those names that made me pause, like the shyest ones who hid within their quiet walls or the ones on the other end of the spectrum who stood out for all the wrong reasons. I attempted genuine gratitude for them all, but I admittedly relied on "I'm thankful for their smile" a few too many times. Granted, I had spent less than seven hours with them, most of that being a blur, but regardless, I felt like I had let some of them down. I purposed that day to teach with a radar awareness for those who are easy to miss as well as for those who need to be seen in a different light than the one their behavior screams for.

On the morning of day three I sat down on my couch again and talked to God about my kids, thanking Him specifically for each one. I recalled moments the day before when I'd smiled in realization about my discovery of gratitude regarding a shy one. Uncovering the positive in a challenging student was just as rewarding. Granted, I still thanked God for some smiles, but I felt the growing gift of knowing my students more and more.

I've daily repeated this mental gratitude journal throughout this first full week of school. Even when I've frustratingly finished a long day, my mind eventually returns to those nuggets of gratitude. They both ground me and provide perspective. They help me figure out who all these little people really are. To be thankful for them is to know and love them all the more and helps me be the teacher they need me to be today and every day.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Wordle on the Wall

I probably shouldn't try and blog at the end of my first day of school. I believe I've already used up all my coherency. Anyway, I thought I'd share how I use Wordle to display my class list outside my door. It's nothing fancy but it does the trick, and it's super easy too.

Is it time for bed yet?

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Sayings: What Do You Want to Teach?

This week I experienced my first official day back to school. Like many other teachers around the nation, I spent the first hours of that day in a meeting. I don't think I thought once about my classroom or lengthy to-do list while sitting there though. I actually sat through the morning with a smile on my face. I attribute that marvel to the inspiring new leadership at my building.

My principal began the morning with a Kid President video. It's the one where he asks, "What are you teaching the world?" Immediately after, my principal asked us to consider this question. "What do you want to teach your students this year?" We gathered into small groups and listed our ideas on charts that were then displayed around the room. I don't recall seeing any standards on those charts. Every item was focused on the heart and character of the learner.

What do I want to teach my students this year?

You are full of greatness.
I believe in you.
You can change the world.
You matter.
It's smart and cool to ask questions.
You can't live without books.
Your writing is a powerful tool.
Math is your world.

What do you want to teach your students this year?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Newest Toy

Check out my newest toy. I accidentally came across this little guy when I was googling retractable pointers. I wasn't expecting anything this fun and inexpensive. I bought it on Amazon for under $7.00. I'm guessing it will turn out to be a popular item in my room, so who knows how many I'll end up with eventually. :)

P.S. I believe it stretches out to 24".

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Sayings: Be Great


That's what I wrote next to this quote in my copy of Teach Like a Pirate. Admittedly it's an odd response, but Burgess made me stop and take a breath with that thought. I've been striving for personal greatness in my classroom since I first had one, and yet I'll willingly admit to embarrassing and sometimes haunting shortcomings. Sometimes the even bigger challenge though is wondering how my striving is perceived by others. If I were a coffee drinker, I can imagine the conversation Burgess and I would have in a cozy Starbucks' corner.

Dave: Tammy, your greatness in the classroom doesn't negatively impact or inhibit anyone else's opportunity to be great.

Me: (momentary silence) Yeah. (Insert sigh.) You're right.

He is right. I can pursue greatness without the fear of negatively impacting others. I can, but sometimes it doesn't work that way. I feel the pressure. I worry about comparisons. I wonder if some feel intimidated. As crazy as it may sound, at times I even sense a responsibility for the greatness of others. These are unnecessary burdens and why the Burgess thought brings me to a sigh. 

Instead, may it bring me, and anyone else who understands where Burgess is coming from, peace and perseverance, knowing that if we continue to gracefully aim for the highest of standards our impact will be an inspiring one. Let it go and be great!

P.S. This was a difficult post to write. I don't want to give the wrong impression about how I view myself. I'm far from building myself a pedestal. "Embarrassing and sometimes haunting shortcomings" says it all.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Great News, Not-So-Great News

Not-so-great news: I'm up to around 28 first graders, and it doesn't look like there's relief in sight. That's a whole lot of little people. This could be an adventure.

Great news: An activity of mine is featured in Scholastic's Instructor Magazine. That almost cancels out the not-so-great news. Almost. :)

Click on the graphic to read the article. It's only two paragraphs.

Cool, huh? I'd love to get my hands on a real live copy. Let me know if you subscribe to this magazine or know where a copy is available.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Saturday Sayings: Math Immersion

Reading Recovery training taught me to be mindful of the print-rich environment I surround my students with. They need to see, hear, and experience words at every turn. Cambourne calls it immersion, and that's exactly what I hope my young literacy club members experience in my room. I've never thought about immersing my students in numeracy though. I'm not even completely sure what that looks like, but I'm interested in finding out.

If the same principles for literacy apply to numeracy, then these are some of my guiding questions. 

Are students surrounded by math?
Do they constantly hear the language of math?
Do they see math in the room and on the walls?
Is math something that is addressed throughout the day or is it isolated to a specified time?

Honestly, I'm left with more questions than answers. How will these questions transform the look, feel, and language of my room this year? If I'm mindful, they'll help me navigate my way into a classroom where math is not separate from but is an authentic and natural part of the world of my classroom and of my students. 

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015


It seems there are a million things I need to say on the first day of school, but I save only the most important for day one, knowing I'll get to the rest as soon as I can. For sure though, my kids will get the my-name-isn't-teacher talk. 

Granted, this isn't a life or death issue, but learning names is a life skill. And seriously, no matter how young, I think students should be expected to use their teacher's name. Hearing the word "Teacher!" is about as annoying as that poking finger in my side from a little person who's trying to get my attention. (That would be another vexing problem that's worth addressing.) 

"Teacher!" is a lazy habit, but it can be fixed. Our kids are capable. It simply takes an adult who notices and then respectfully and consistently addresses it. I think all teachers should be that adult. 

Guaranteed, by mid-September, my name will officially and thankfully be Miss McMorrow once again. Hopefully that poking sensation will go away soon after. :)

P.S. Anyone else annoyed by this?

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

July Reads

My summer reading slowed down a bit in July. Here you go.

This one was so-so for me.

This book surprised me. I had no idea it was a graphic novel.

I really enjoyed this read. There's speculation that there might have been a woman pope back in the day.

This is a helpful read for those looking to know more about guided math.

This book was great. I feel like I can use literature in a more authentic mathematical way now.

Here's one I hope to put into use once I have a classroom full of little readers. I believe it will come in very handy.

I really didn't like this book. Sorry.

This book had its ups and downs, but overall I liked it.

I've come to really enjoy WWII historical fiction, and this book, though at times intense, did not disappoint.

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