Saturday, August 27, 2011

Our Private Tour of Fire Station #3...

Ron and I were out running the usual Saturday errands today, when we passed Fire Station #3. It is a little station about 4 blocks from our house here in Temple. 
 I happened to glance up at the parking lot and saw Scott's VW sitting there.
I said to Ron, "Is that Scott's car?  Is he working today?"  (We can't keep track of his work 24 hours, off 48 hours schedule.)  We agreed it was, because after all, how many silver VW bugs are there with a carved hummingbird hanging from the rear view mirror!  I told Ron that  we needed to bring back a gallon of ice cream back to the station when we were finished with our errands and on our way home.

Scott's helmet...

The fire department has a policy between the guys, that if you get your picture in the newspaper or are shown on TV you have to bring in ice cream for the guys on your next shift.  That happened to Scott during the first few months he worked for the TFD.  So, I figured it would be a nice surprise especially since it is so blasted hot outside!

Fire Station #3, Temple, Texas...

Anyway, we finished up our errands and stopped by to drop off the ice cream.  Lucky for us, Station 3 is the HAZMAT station, so they don't get a lot of calls for fires.  Just mostly cleaning up spills or answering 9-1-1 calls.  It was pretty quiet at the station so Scott got to show us all around.
  I didn't have my camera, and if it wasn't 107 degrees, I would go back and take pictures.  Be that as it may, I did find a few either in iPhoto or online that I can use.
But back to the tour; it was great!  We got to meet Scott's captain and the other firefighter on duty.  Then, Scott showed us the HAZMAT trucks and the regular engine.  The truck was unbelievable! Totally 
self-contained with anything anyone would ever need to clean up any crisis situation imaginable.  I told Scott that whoever designed it, must have been a genius.  He said they are pretty expensive and thought the price of the one we were looking at was around 1.5 mil.  The regular engine itself runs around $650,00.  
We also got to meet his captain, see the kitchen, the lounge, their bunk area, the gym, the picnic area, and the work area.  
What a great treat!

Yummy deliciousness!
We didn't stay long because we didn't want to be a bother, but I am sure glad we stopped.  Your Mommy is very, very proud of you Scott!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kidisms so far...

One of the greatest things about working with second graders is conversation.  Every day one of them will say something that either confuses, amazes, or entertains me.  I have always wanted to record the things they say; but, the crazy pace of the day often leaves me with good intentions and a blank tablet.  So, I thought I would at least begin this year following through.  Here are are a few of the best from this week.

Blake:  "Mrs. Searls, this is the best school I have ever been to in my entire life and it is because you are the best teacher I have ever had... in my entire life!!"  My response, "Now Blake, you know you said the same thing last year to your first grade teacher, and to your kindergarten teacher before that, and you will say the same thing to your third grade teacher next year."  He grins and says, "I know.  But, I really mean it this year."

Justin: "Mrs. Searls, what's forty?"  I say, "Forty?  What do you mean?" Justin than says very loudly,  because obviously I didn't hear him; "You know, FORTY!"  Dumbfounded, I reply, "Uh, ten, twenty, thirty, forty?  Four tens?"  Confused, Justin says, "NO, 4-D! You know, like 3-D!"

During a math lesson on the addition strategy doubles, I say, "Okay, help me decide if each card is the sum for a double or non-double."  I show the class an Ace.  Everyone shouts, "Non double!"  Except for Daniels, who says, "No, that's a double."  Confused, I ask him to explain.  "You know, 1/2 plus 1/2 makes 1 whole!"

Dominique, who is a former student that is now in 5th grade saw me at the end of school.  He asks, "Mrs. Searls, have you been promoted yet?" Startled, I ask, "What; you mean to third grade?"  He nods his head yes, so I say, "No.  They won't promote me."  His face is crestfallen and he says to me, "Man, I was really hoping they would promote you to middle school before I go there!"

Kathleen, who happens to be half of a set of twins in my class, reads her "All About Me" information to the class,  "One of the things I absolutely hate is playing cars with my brother."  Her brother, the other twin pipes up, "Well, it is a lot better than playing Barbies with you!"

Madelyn asks,  "Mrs. Searls, when is lunch?"  I answer, "Lunch is at 11:20." She responds, "No, when is it?"  Again I say, "Lunch is at 11:20."  Madelyn attempts to explain, "No, I know what time lunch is, I need to know when it is."  Confused (again) I ask, "What do you mean?"  She explains, "I can't tell time on that clock, (analog) so I need to know when lunch is!"  I tell her it is in about 45 minutes and add, "You know, you better know how to use that clock by the end of the year!"  Her response, "Man! I wish you had a microwave in here!"

In the middle of putting supplies away, and getting everything labeled, I tell the class that their 1 box of markers will last them all year if they keep the caps on them.  I explain that they are water based, and if they leave the cap off the water inside will evaporate.  One of my little friends, Tyler, says to his neighbor, "Huh.  I wonder why the air isn't the color of the marker."  Luckily, his friend is confused and asks, "What??"  Tyler than says, "You know, evaporation!  When water turns into air!  So when the water in my blue marker dried up last year, the air should be blue!"  His little friend then says "Huh" but this time with deep understanding.

Just a sampling of why I love teaching second grade!!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

A new school year is about to begin...

Setting up my classroom gets easier and easier now that I don't try to think of something new and exciting. Several years ago, when I started teaching 1st. grade, I bought a bunch of stuff and created a garden/bug theme.  I have loved it and haven't changed since then.  The borders are starting to get a little worn and the bugs are getting sort of dog eared, but I figured I could get 1 more year out of them.  Next year, I will probably have to change decor themes.  Anyway, here are some pictures I took on Friday.  I still have a few finishing touches to add during inservice week, but for the most part the room is ready for my new class.
This is my job chart & schedule.  I will eventually add cards with student names beside each job. Those will rotate so that everyone has an opportunity to be responsible for each job.  On the schedule side, I will put 3x5 cards with the time for each subject or activity.  
This keeps the question, "When do we go to .." from coming up a lot during the day.

This rocking chair belonged to John McWhirt.  He was a wonderful man that lived next door to my parents.  He was a character and I think it would make him happy to know that his rocking chair has been part of my classroom for many years.  The pillow on the rocker was made for me by one of the students in my class las year.  I love the easel.  It is one of the best IKEA purchases I have ever made.  It is dry erase on one side, chalk board on the other.  I usually use large clips to attach chart paper tablets for shared writing activities.

This is is the classroom library.  I found it is easiest to keep books sorted in plastic tubs or baskets with a label on the outside.  Students' taste in books changes from year to year so I try to keep a good selection of books of my own in the library.  They also love magazines like Ranger Rick, High-Lights, and NG for Kids. 

This is another view of the library.  The curtain hides my storage boxes.  The bulletin board will eventually have posters and anchor charts about different reading genre or skills that are introduced throughout the year.  

This is a picture of the word wall, students cubbies, and mailboxes.  The mailboxes were built for my by Dad & Scott for my first classroom.  They are as heavy as can be because they are actually made from wood, but they have outlasted the cardboard kind hands down!  The pocket chart on the left is the system I use to rotate tables through literacy stations during my guided reading block.

This is my word working station.  I am going to try something new this year.  In the past, students might get to word working 1 time each week.  Therefore, they never really had much exposure to building & practicing new words.  This year, there are tasks listed in the pocket chart that can be completed using supplies on the shelf.  The students will be told they must complete all tasks by the end of the week, choosing a minimum of 1 per day.  Hopefully, this will give them more exposure to building & internalizing new words.  The blank bulletin board beside the center will be used for science and social studies posters and anchor charts as new topics are covered throughout the year.

These shelves hold my literacy tubs.  I have gone through several systems for literacy stations and eventually settled on this system.  Literacy stations are used during the time that I work in small groups with reading students.  Therefore, the work they do needs to be practice of skills previously introduced so that they can work independently.  I tried setting stations up around the room and having the kids move to stations to work.  But, that constant roaming around the room drove me crazy.  I would catch myself worrying about whether or not little Johnny was working at his station or visiting with someone else at another station.  This way, each table takes a tub to their own area, works on the task in the tub and it is a more controlled environment.  The only stations that are not in tubs are the independent reading, word work, listening, and computers.  For obvious reasons, they wouldn't fit inside a tub.

This year I decided to go back to desks.  I was asked to take the gifted kids again this year, and they are very territorial.  They like having their own space.  With tables, space is pretty much community property.  I totally dislike desks.  Work disappears inside them, glue gets spilled inside them, their papers fall out into the floor, etc.  But, just to avoid the territorial disputes I switched back.  I'll see how long I can stand it!  I like this configuration of the desks because they still have the "table" feel.  Right now, I have 20 desks and am holding out a small glimmer of hope that I will only have 20 students.  Fat chance of that happening!

Here is a view of the room from my small group table.  I spend a lot of time here with small groups of students in guided reading, guided writing, and math groups.  The location provides me with an unobstructed view of the classroom so that I can keep one eye on the class and the other eye on my small group.  Last year I sat on an exercise ball.  I had to let the air out of it to pack up the room at the end of the year.  I just haven't aired it up yet so the rolling chair is at my table for now.  I got rid of my teacher's desk several years ago.  I never used it and it ended up being more of a toxic dump site that a useful piece of furniture.

This is a view of the classroom from the farthest corner, in the library.  The shelves beside the door hold the math manipulatives and next to those shelves are my math center drawers.  The denim covered shelves on the counter top hold storage boxes for literacy & math center activities.  The only storage cabinets in the room are the ones on that wall.  Whoever built this school obviously had no clue how much junk a teacher collects.  Hence, the many fabric covered shelves in the room.

And the last picture is of my corner.  In front of the metal shelf that sits under the flag will be my AV cart with my laptop and document camera.  We have a suspended projector that was installed in the ceiling last year.  I love it!  The document camera and my laptop both can be used to project anything and everything on the screen in the front of the room.  It makes teaching sooo much easier!

So that is my classroom.  Whenever I am asked to mentor a new teacher, I always tell my protege' that she needs to make sure her classroom is visually appealing and comfortable for HER; not just the kids. So much of a teacher's life is spent inside these 4 walls and it needs to be a place she is comfortable in.
 I personally think blue is soothing, the bugs, grass, and flowers in my room decor remind me of being outside, and my system of organization all work together to create an environment I can function well in.  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It has been a wonderful summer...

The summer is coming to an end.  In just over a week, I go back to work.  Honestly, I am looking forward to getting back to work again.  I feel like I have accomplished most of the things I intended to do and can go back to work feeling refreshed and refueled.  
Our trip to Alaska was the highlight of a lifetime.  But, before and after we left, I managed to get so many things done.
I discovered 2 new authors:  Michael Scott and Sara Rosett.  Michael Scott writes fantasy novels that are geared toward young adults, so they are profanity & sex free!  
Sara Rosett is an air force wife who writes fun and easy mystery novels.  The kind you can read in a day, or a few pages at a time and draw it out over a period of time.  It isn't deep or profound enough to forget any major plot twists.  
I made Mrs. Doubtfire; my dressmaker dummy.  That was an experience in itself!  Leslie came over and wrapped me in duct tape, cut it off of me, and helped me get her stuffed and mounted.  She is a little lumpy where the duct tape wrinkled, but she serves the purpose.  It is amazing how much easier it is to fit a garment!
I raided craft blogs and made some cute things for the house.  I found the fire crackers on ucreate, and the wooden plaque on justanotherhangup.  I know I should make hot links for those to truly give credit where credit is due, but I am in a hurry to get this blog done before midnight.

I spent lots of time sewing.  I made table runners for Valentine's day for the girls and myself.  I neglected to get pictures of the girls' runners; but, they are the same pattern as mine.  Becca's is pink and brown, and Leslie's is pink and mint green.  I used a couple of Charms packs & some coordinating fabric.  The Charms squares were perfect for the bow tie block.  They went together in a flash!
I also threw together some orphan blocks and made a throw sized quilt for Scott.  I also managed to get some more quilts for Mom done in the long arm, and hope to get at least one more finished before school starts.
In addition to the granddaughters' quiet books, I made some quilted coasters for myself and some of the women from church that I visit teach.  One of the ladies in the quilting bee that "adopts" me during the summer, taught me how to make these.  I can't wait to make some for each season.

And last but not least, I got to spend time with the most wonderful family on Earth... 
 watching the Round Rock Express...
 playing at the park...
and having family gatherings.  
I still have a few things I am working on, and hope to finish them before the school year begins.  But, even if I don't get around to them, it is nice to know that I feel so much better this year.  Knowing that keeps me hopeful that I will manage to be more organized and creative throughout the year.