Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 2016

Since I am home, guess I should do a better job of keeping up with this here ol' blog :)  I love following the ones in my sidebar and even if *I* don't have any followers, it's a super great diary for me to look back through in my melancholy moods. . .

Have you seen the My Social Book that you can get on Facebook or Instagram?   I have ordered two now and really, really like them.  I post a Picture of the Day almost every day so I have a nice record/diary/scrapbook from Facebook (I've never gotten on the Instagram bandwagon. . .).

(PSA:  Most pictures are un-edited. . .if I took the time to do that. . .well. . .it could be another month - ha!)

June 1st Picture of the Day - Frederick's first Junior Team Tennis tennis match!!  I think he won in singles 8-0 and then he and his partner won their doubles match too.  Great way to start the season!
 June 2nd Picture of the Day - Off to Cedar Lake Camp for a few days for Staff Training Week.  Thomas had already been there to staff a retreat the week before, now it was his training week. . .Marie is a CIT (counselor in training) so she only had to go the 2nd half of the week.  They asked me to come and work on the staff bios again.  I love this camp, I love their mission. . .and I especially LOVE how much my kids love it!!! 
Because I'm a nerd, this is truly what I enjoy doing. . .going through their profiles, editing and changing. . .I believe there were 45 staff members this year!

June 3rd Picture of the Day - My finished product
Turns out I overlooked 2 staffers so they have to change some of the fliers out as the weeks go by (they don't have all 40+ every week) and I have noticed as I've gone back this summer that they write the name of the cabin they are in on top of the plastic sleeves and then erase at the end of the week.  This was a FUN project!!!  (Yes, I spaced out and hung them all too :)  They are attached with velcro to the wall so the camp can take down and change/replace as they wish.)

June 4th Picture of the Day
Anna, Margaret's friend (and a neighbor who is moving very soon -- boo!  At least they'll still go to the same school), wanted to do something but if it was up to Margaret, she wouldn't leave the couch (I know, not MY kid!).  Anyway, we loaded up bikes and went over to a trail I had spotted in the spring.  None of these people wanted to go much further than this point but, truth be told, we're not huge bikers and the seats are pretty bad for any lengthy trips.  This was fun though!  I bribed Margaret with Big Ed's pizza afterward -- yea!

I took this picture while we were waiting for a table and texted Anna's mom saying, "yea, these girls are ready for High School". . .ummmm. . .I think???

June 5th Picture of the Day - I tried the popular FB recipe for foil-packet Shrimp Boil on the grill but decided to put it all together in stoneware and put that on the grill.  It was so good everyone asked for it the next night too!!!
June 6th Picture of the Day - This is Chelsea. . .almost every day (no matter the temperature) that we take her to this particular dog park
She won't jump off unless chasing something -- a stick or a ball.  We don't even have to go to the end of the dock with her anymore. . .we just stand in about the location I shot this picture and she runs around and off the dock by herself!!

June 7th Picture of the Day - this project (Margaret's Room)
That grey paint looked green over the purple so it was a double coat of primer, followed by 2 coats of grey. . .just that wall and the one opposite.  She's keeping the turquoise wall to the right.   And her closet wall will be chalkboard paint.
Ummm. . .the grey walls are done and new curtains up. . .still have some work to do (but she is sleeping in there again -- this only took about a week.  I know.  A week.  Sigh.  I didn't work on it every day though.)

June 8th Picture of the Day - real life. . .our shopping list (it really wasn't my Picture of the Day -- just the only picture I took that day -- ha!)

June 9th - I love this one!!!  It wasn't my Picture of the Day. . .just one I "snuck". . .my girlie driving!  All the way to camp (about 1.75 hours).  Yea for her!  First long-haul.
THIS was Picture of the Day for June 9th 
Cedar Lake Camp 2016

June 10th Picture of the Day - I posted this one because I just absolutely love it.  She is so. . .I don't know. . .everything.

June 11th Picture of the Day - We finally, finally made it out!!!

June 12th Picture of the Day - Pool time in our neighborhood. . .that is my foot (lounging and reading -- my favorite thing to do at the pool!) - Frederick and Tom are tossing a football at the far end and Margaret is along the wall in the pool (back to me) talking to a friend sitting on the deck.
No big deal - just "real life" (a real GOOD life)

June 13th Picture of the Day - Day 1 of Margaret's "Project of the Week". . .before and after.  We didn't end up leaving the set black. . .this was just a compare/contrast after she primed a couple chairs with the rust-blocking primer.

June 14th Picture of the Day - Frederick (on left) and a couple of his friends wanted me to take them fishing.  In 95 degree heat.  In the middle of the day.  I didn't mind. . .only they were surprised they didn't catch anything -- hahahaha!!!  
I wanted this to be my June 15th Picture of the Day but my husband said his dad would "freak out" if I posted it on social media that they were out of town.  Good point.  And a great picture so I'm including it here (since they are now home, safe and sound).
Nancy - June 2016 - Maine
June 16th Picture of the Day - more paint!!!
The spray paint were the last cans we needed to finish Margaret's project, the can was to finish her room (I took in that almost-empty can and asked for another -- I only needed < one tray more!! -- and only after everything had dried and I was putting outlet covers back on did Tom and I notice:  the color wasn't the same!!!  Ugh!!!  Lowe's did this to us in Marie's room too. . .last time I buy custom-mixed paint there.  Grrr.  I'll have to eventually re-paint that wall. . .but not now. . .), and the samples are for our bedroom.

June 17th Picture of the Day - We needed something other than the van to haul the boat over all these East Tennessee hills. . .
He's been on the look-out for months and months and has had his eye on this one for weeks.  He's really happy with it (although it needed about as much work done on it that it cost us!!) but should last another 100K miles?  We have really become big fans of Toyota over the past 3 or so years. . .

PICTURE OF THE MONTH - I couldn't even caption this one on FB because. . .well. . .I don't believe there are words in the human language to describe it.  This man has been surely blessed by the Lord!
Father's Day 2016
Luke 12:48b - "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked"  NIV
We are privileged to serve the Lord!!!

June 19th Picture of the Day - his turn!!!
Camper - June 2016
June 20th Picture of the Day - Margaret's completed project -- we love it!

It looks like I haven't downloaded any other pictures from June since then. . .stay tuned. . .


Monday, June 27, 2016

My 2015-16 School Year

Things have been lean for me and this blog this school year.  Tom calls it my "lost year". . .I wouldn't go THAT far since I really was thankful for the opportunity to work in my new town and the job was something that I had always dreamed of doing.  In the end, though, there were so many things that it took away from us, our family, that when my contract wasn't renewed in April I wasn't as sad/upset as I think I should have been.  Again, it was a DREAM job.  I worked with GREAT people. . .I know the Lord had me in that place for that time for a reason and then He took me out.

So. . .to re-cap. . .we moved in March to an apartment because house-hunting (and house-selling) had not been as easy as we had hoped.

And, since I was a teacher and left my job in our old town at Spring Break, I had all the time in the world to unpack in a timely manner :)

I spent that last 9 weeks of school in our new town being a "mom", house-hunting practically full-time, volunteering at the kids schools (!!!), and looking for a job a little more than part-time.  I wasn't sure I wanted to go back into the classroom but I also didn't know what else I would do -- teaching had always been my "life" -- sometimes too much of it, according to Tom..
Some days I just took the show on the road. . .nice to get out and work!
 Because of a grant I had gotten from the state in 2014-15, I had made some connections in our new (much larger) town.  I spent a lot of time applying for jobs in the local public school system as well as some of the private schools in town.  I had been on one private school interview and one public interview -- the former I was very interested in, the latter I hoped wouldn't call back.  Over the summer I was invited to a "administration training" or something like that, meaning that I qualified to take the next step in that arena. . .although I really don't think that's the direction I want to go anymore, it was worth a day out of my summer.  While there I got a random phone call from a principal across town for a technology job.  My dream!!!!  I was so excited -- she called Friday and asked me to come in Monday!  I had always, ALWAYS wanted to run a tech lab -- the drawbacks were:  it was going to be a 35 minute drive and it was an elementary school -- and I am a middle school teacher through-and-through.  Still. . .Monday came and I went :)
I had an "interview outfit" and took my first selfies ever to send to Tom, asking for prayers and God's guidance.

The interview went well -- there were lots of people there. . .the principal, librarian, music teacher/encore team lead. . .maybe the VP. . .and it lasted quite awhile.  Mainly, they had decided to drop a 4th/5th grade teacher and instead hire a certified technology teacher because our state was going to online state testing this (last) year and they didn't feel their students had enough exposure to technology.  This was a rural, Title I school and I was PUMPED to be asked to lead this endeavor.  Technology is not something that our schools *have* to have in their curriculum but this principal felt that it was important for HER students in the 2015-16 school year.  After the interview she asked me to apply for the job (ha!) so everything was in order. . .she had gotten my name and resume from a connection I had made on the previous year's grant.  I love how all things seem to connect together. . .

She had said that a decision would be made, sent to the central office and it would be a few days whether I got a phone call from them offering me the job or an e-mail saying that the position had been filled.  Obviously the former happened within a day or two, I quickly accepted, and I was excited to get involved in our county school system.
Besides the usual teacher days before the first day of school, I also had an additional "New Teacher Training" three days before that!
 The thing is, we had also found a house a week or so prior and were waiting to see if our loan would be approved. . .a closing date days before I was to start my new job!!
(OK, I've spent 1/2 hour trying to get one of these pictures to turn the "right" way. . .I give up.  This was a picture I took at the corner from my car when I wanted to show someone 'this is the house we are looking at'.  I didn't end up being around for moving day so this is all I have -- the other Bells in my house don't take pictures -- ha!)

So. . .I went back to school on Monday and my wonderful, terrific, awesome in-laws went back to our old town on Wednesday and Thursday (they were down visiting for the week) to supervise the movers/packers there.  We had moved into this house with our apartment stuff a week or so prior, but the other 2/3 of "stuff" needed to be hauled here.  Tom's company paid for that part of it, which was nice.


More stuff???
Leaving for school in the early morning, looking in at all the boxes!!!

As the rest of my family was moving into our new home, I was setting up my new technology lab!!

This was the first day I saw it:

 Not much there!!!  Not even a desk. . .

Margaret came back a few days later to help me set up, and I was confused because it seemed there weren't enough tables -- but once someone showed me how it had been set up in the past it made sense.

We worked hard and put together what we could before Open House. . .which is the night or so before school starts. . .

Probably one of my *favorite* things to do for school is plan and organize.  I had decided that all the stations should be labeled and spent a couple of nights at home putting together these monitor covers.  This system ended up working really well.

I would lay their folders out on their floor spaces when they came in so we were ready to hit the ground running!

These were my "classroom colors". . .with all grades color-coded also :)
Finally. . .the first day of school!!!  As a teacher, it ranks up there with Christmas Morning.

Students being picked up by teachers from the gym in the morning.

Morning duty - my view from the outside gym door

 I had morning gym duty all year.  It was an interesting set-up. . .all grades came in and sat in their grade-assigned rows.  They immediately got out a book to read or we (the three teachers in there or some of the safety patrol) gave them a book to read.  It was completely silent and well-managed.  Students knew the expectations and it was consistent. . .even on the first and last days of school.  Luckily EKCE had an extremely supportive administration who would follow-up with us if we had a student not abide by the standards.  I would do the job again in a heartbeat -- it was great to see all of the students every single morning.

 Lesson plans are a part of every teacher's life. . .whether you are encore (or specials or whatever) or not.
A common site in our home during the school year - especially on Sunday nights!

My mother's "I love you gift" - an Erin Condren lesson plan book!!

The downfall of my job -- the part I hated (and the reason I was hired) -- was the testing aspect.  Our state decided that it would test all students, grades 3-12, on the computer this year.  We already do too much testing. . .data is important, but so is authentic learning that cannot always be measured.  Anyway, because it was the main reason I was hired, I was required to do keyboarding work and test prep every single day and I just didn't like it.  The kids were rockstars and did their best, despite the fact that the company the state hired to do this was unable to follow through and make everything work.

The tide turned in February, when our Director of Schools, and then the state, suspended ALL online testing for the year.  The kids were still going to test, just not online.  That gave me the FREEDOM to do what I love -- teach!!!

I immediately ordered some things (my husband asked about one of my Amazon orders, "is this so you can teach?" -- and my enthusiastic response was "YES!!! - Finally!!!")

 I worked with some of the classroom teachers to complete reports for their classrooms (teaching students formatting and such in Word, and then later when we received our Google Accounts, in Google):

Finishing up rough drafts before heading to their workstations
 I got to do a neat project with the kiddos where I would read a chapter or two from a Black Lagoon book and then they would speculate what comes next. . .incorporating writing, keyboarding, formatting, and the school mission of "read about it, think about it, talk about it, write about it" in my encore classroom.

Kahoot! is always a favorite. . .in my classroom or my kids' middle school classrooms!!  (BTW, this is something that we have also played at home together -- it really is fun.)

Getting iPads out for the little guys and enjoying watching them learn and explore (of course PK-2 only did STAR testing -- universal screeners -- so we hit the ground running with instruction for them!)

I love, love, love watching students collaborate and work together:

We were fortunate -- not only did I have a lab with 32 computers, but we also had an iPad cart that anyone could check out and use (24 of those) and eventually, toward the end of the year, classroom teachers had access to 90 Chromebooks!

And keyboarding, too, was a huge part of my curriculum.  My little PKer's knew their home keys (one of their teachers was asking them to identify the letter F one day and the student said, "that's a home key" -- yea!)  This picture made it into the yearbook:
The project I was most proud of was doing a "what we love about" for each teacher (except K. . .they had a difficult time typing their names!).  Unfortunately, this is when we were still in "testing mode" and it was a rush-rush thing at the beginning of class and I ended up putting the final posters together.  I was evaluated one of these days (it took 4 days - 5 classes/day) to complete this and my evaluating teacher asked why I didn't just use it as the entire lesson that day.  ARGH!!!!  NO ONE (outside of this profession) understands how much testing takes away from our kids. . .or in my case, preparing them for testing (that we didn't even do). . .

I posted these all around the school -- these were the outside bookcases that made the "walls" of our library!!  All three wings of the school came off of these walls so teachers and students could see them each time they left their wing. . .

I eventually got to redesign the technology lab so we had pods instead of those long tables and all (teachers and students) seemed to like it more.

 (the orange station was the last to be re-configured. . .couldn't find pics once that was done)

The cubbies in the back kept the folders for students in each class -- these folders contained all of their usernames and passwords as well as any continuous work/research we were doing in the lab.  The floor space in the middle was so great -- I couldn't see all students over the monitors so they would come in and sit on the floor to do opening instructions and such, then head to their stations to work. 

The second graders worked week-by-week learning their QWERTY keyboard keys and coloring them in little-by-little.  I was able to laminate and give them all back so they could take them home with them at the end of the year:

I can't find pictures (right now) of the solar system projects the third graders did, but all I can say is "wow!".  They worked in Google groups, a student from each of the 4 3rd grade classrooms in each group.  Every day, the class that was in there would do another slide as part of the whole Google Slide presentation.  They learned to research and put together slides, work together to make suggestions, and be creative also.  Since these are county Google accounts they should have their presentations for as long as they are a student in this county -- they should be proud of their hard work!!

There are so many more things that I was a part of in this school and projects that were fun to do and engaging (I hope!) for the kids.  The end of the year was weird in the sense that I never really wrapped things up with the kids and told them that I would not see them again.  I finished up projects and such that they were working on, but because of field days, assemblies, etc., my last day with some of the classes was two weeks before the end of school --  much too early to be saying good-bye!  Plus, I was "just" an encore teacher -- someone they saw every 4 days (if they weren't absent that day) and most saw me in the gym in the mornings.  It would probably have been different if I had been there for several years (I wish!!!) and could have seen them grow over time.  I loved the year I had and got to know almost all of the 450 students and most especially had begun relationships with most of the teachers.
This was most of EKCE's teaching and support staff at a staff meeting -- this one in January 2016.  You can see how the libary "walls" are just bookcases!
This was my encore team (at a PTO lunch after the kids left on their last 1/2-day of school):
Joanna, Steve, Jack, Jenni, Kim, Aubrey
 I was BLOWN AWAY when one of my team members, Kim, gave me this beautiful framed cross stitch.  I could tell that they were a tight little group before I arrived on the scene and they were so welcome and warm and allowed me to "join" them on more than just a professional level.  As most people who work in these kind of team settings, this isn't always the case!
Kim, Jenni, Joanna
And then it was time to turn in my keys and pull out of the parking lot for the last time.  It was bitter-sweet -- I would have gone back to that school in a heartbeat, but only if I could be the teacher I was the last 1/3 of the year, when I was really TEACHING and connecting and feeling like I was helping students become life-long learners, not just test-takers.

And that is it, folks.  It was my Picture of the Day on May 20, 2016.
Yes, we get out early.
But we also start early.
This year teachers go back August 1st.
I still don't know if I'll be one of them or not.
I headed straight to a job interview at a private school right after this.  Unfortunately, I was not the person they were looking for.  It would have been a neat opportunity :)
I'm still looking. . .
Had a technology interview at an elementary school reallyclose to our house (before the school year was even over!), but they gave it to their gifted teacher.  That makes sense.
I interviewed at another private school that I interviewed at last year too. . .they never called last year and it's been over two weeks now and they haven't called this time either.
I have an interview tomorrow for another technology position but it's part-time which would be awesome.  Elementary. 
But maybe I'll go work someplace completely different.
I *love* being home with the kiddies in our still-new-to-us (haven't even been here a year!) home.
The one thing I've told the kids:  I'm not going back to school for any sort of degree -- ha!

I have been working on this blog post since the beginning of June.  Time to publish!