October 30, 2014

New Lifestyle Blog!

Notice something new???
 Well, I wanted to share with you all that I’ve decided to begin a new sister blog to this one that focuses more on my everyday interests and life. It’s called Primarily Inspired. With things slowing down now that I’m in preschool and *hopefully* will be returning to the elementary classroom next school year, I wanted to have my own little space to share all of the other things I love outside the classroom such as my Stitch Fixes and other style topics, cooking and recipes, beauty, family, etc. 

Be sure to like Primarily Inspired on Facebook and stay up-to-date with my musings and join the discussion!

October 28, 2014

F is for Fish!

This week we are moving right along with our letter knowledge and identification! We finished up F last week and are moving on to G this week. I wanted to pop in and share with you the CUTE art project we did!

I’m learning very quickly that paint is a major part of preschool and we use it practically every day! This is definitely something I’ve had to get used to since in second grade I keep paint for art class- not in mine, haha! That and glitter are the two things I loath working with ;)

However, paint with three year olds has been a lot of fun and it’s awesome seeing their work come together in these little projects. Plus, they get so excited to see their work displayed in the classroom. Here are our final fishes in celebration of the letter F!

To make these cute guys first you need:
- foam poster board cut into fourths
- brown paper bags
- tacky glue
- black yarn
- goggly eyes
- paint(!)
- twine
- hot glue gun, scissors

The background was the easiest part: just had them paint the foam boards blue. Once those dried I just painted the white waves myself. To make the fish, first I grabbed about 2-3 kiddos at a time to paint the paper bags orange. This step alone took about 2 days since I had them paint one side on one day, let it dry, then finished it up the second day. Then, I showed them how to stuff their fishes with crumpled paper (great fine motor activity!) and tied them with the twine to make the fish bodies. The following day we put their eyes and yarn mouths. The final step was to hot glue the fish to their ocean backgrounds! And I have to say just how cute these turned out!

October 23, 2014

Creating Your Own Teaching Portfolio

Hello! I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve been able to actually write a post and share something! I’ve officially (almost) finished my first week in preschool and wow, what a game changer it’s been....but a pleasant one!! Three year olds are a different breed than my seven year old second graders but it’s a fun new experience!

Tonight I wanted to quickly share with you all about something that I feel doesn’t get too much attention but is extremely helpful when you find yourself in my position: needing to find your next teaching job! What do you do and what do you need in order to be prepared? How can you stand out? These are a few questions that I’ve asked myself when transitioning from one school to another and I’ve found that keeping a Teaching Portfolio is a fantastic way to showcase your talents and expertise in one convenient binder. 

A Table of Contents is a necessary tool to have in your binder because lets say you’re waiting in the office to be called back for your interview and you give your portfolio to the principal. During this time it can be assumed that they have a moment to look through ALL the wonderful info and documents about you. The best thing is to be super organized so they can find the info they’re looking for quickly because we all know interviews are scheduled and typically last between 15-20 minutes.

This component is important because it summarizes your purpose as an educator. What experiences brought you to teach and what values and beliefs shape your approach to instruction? This is a good place to reflect on your practice and share those experiences and how they’ve shaped you as a teacher today.

Your resume. The most important pieces of paper that somehow has to tell your future employer ALL about you. I mean, I always have difficulty writing my resume only because the longer you teach the more you put into it! However, with that said its good practice to keep your resume up-to-date with the most recent experience, duties performed, start/finish dates, etc. about every employer or position you hold. There’s a lot of different formats to use when writing a resume so take your pick and use something simple and to the point.

One tip: include your volunteerism both in and out of school. This shows your commitment to your school and community!

These are important and every employer is going to ask for them. Have them on hand and not only do you appear professional, you appear prepared! A number of times I’ve been complimented on my portfolio having references included so they can quickly read over their letters. Other times principals will ask for emails or phone numbers. Have those ready in your phone in case they ask. Also, it’s important to promptly respond with that contact information for references. Again, it’s professional but it also kickstarts your process of getting hired ;)

When it comes to references employers also like having a couple of personal references too. This lets them figure you out on a personal level and see if you would be a match to any grade level team. I always include references that could be personal AND professional (those work relationships pay off in more than one way!).

How do you control the chaos?! Every classroom is different and therefore every classroom needs different and differentiated classroom rules and discipline plans. At the beginning of each year I usually give a copy to my parents in their welcome folder so they become familiar with how I run my classroom and how their participation is key to reinforcing the behavior. At the end of the day, a well behaved class gets to spend more time learning! 

It’s a good idea to include your discipline plan in your portfolio because another famous question you’ll be sure to be asked would be about how you would handle a particular behavior situation or to state what classroom management tools you use or would use in your classroom. Be sure to include how you would reward students who are on track and use their example for those little guys who can’t seem to get it.

This is seriously the biggest and most often asked question at an interview: 
How do you use/would you use technology in the classroom?
Most school districts are beginning to get on board with using iPads another devices in the classroom. I remember just a few years ago having to pitch this idea to my principal and him not seeing it as an effective use of school money. Nowadays most classrooms are equipped with at least one iPad, which is awesome to see. 

Anyways, technology is only going to continue to keep advancing and it’s up to teachers to find cool new ways to implement technology into their curriculum. Pinterest alone has a billion cool and interesting ways to use technology!

And this should be a no-brainer but including a couple sample lesson plans is a huge plus to any teaching portfolio. It demonstrates everything you just wrote about and included in your portfolio BUT actually shows it in action! Remember to attach any standards or objectives and PICTURES! I can’t say enough how much principals love, love, love to look at all the pictures of your kids engaged in their learning. It really backs you up!

Walking into an interview can be frazzling especially once the questions start firing, but when you come prepared with your portfolio you’ll not only be ready to share, you’ll have a visual that backs up everything you say :) I’ve done interviews without a portfolio and there’s a huge difference in terms of their impression you. 

These are just the items I have included in mine and I hope you find this helpful. Be sure to post a comment about what you include in yours if it differs from mine! There’s a lot of different things you can put in your portfolio and I’d love to hear about yours!

October 20, 2014

Survived My First Day {Yay!}

Phew....OMG was this a whirlwind day! As many of you know I just started my new job as a preschool aide and it was an overall great experience! There’s definitely something to be said for private schools vs public and I’m seeing a few of those already. This particular school has an amazing group of teachers and the administration is as well. I mean, I’ve never been to a school where you can just tell that the staff climate, and the school as a whole, is positive and genuinely so.

Since I’m coming in once the year has already started, I am assisting in a 3 year old classroom and my lead teacher is awesome. Her and I got along instantly and it was a click. Her teaching style and expectations for the kids is right along with how I ran my classroom- and that’s important since it will help us teach collaboratively. I remember having an aide when I taught kindergarten and now I’m gaining that experience myself and aides are truly a gift to any teacher. So if you’re an aide or you have one...they’re amazing!! :)

I am part time (which puts me at about a 4-5hr work day) but my commute is about an hour (and I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a drive with NO TRAFFIC and along the coast of the Pacific?!). I’m definitely enjoying the no traffic aspect, but in order to make it worth it both with my time and simply the cost of gas for the trip each day to and from, I was interested in working extra hours at the school or tutoring. 

Luckily, as if my admin isn’t already cool enough, my director gave my contact info out to a family looking for extra help with their three kids after school. Today I got to meet them and not only are the kids darling but the parents are the sweetest ever and so flexible with my schedule and responsibilities at home. So, in the end it’s as if I am working full time but I get to spend more one-on-one time with each kid. 

Today was, indeed, a long one but I missed it. and the best part about this is that I get to continue to work with these amazing kids in the classroom and gain new experiences along the way. I wasn’t anticipating everything that has landed in my lap but I am truly grateful. I look forward to the craziness that comes along with this new job of mine but I am finally, once again, feeling fulfilled.

I hope everyone else had as good a Monday as I!!

October 15, 2014

Off to....Preschool?

Hello friends and happy hump day! It’s at least still Wednesday here in CA ;)

I wanted to take a moment and share some exciting news with you all. But before I do here’s a little backstory...ALERT: LONG POST AHEAD!!

Just a few days ago I was sitting with my husband in our living room roaming the interwebs for open teaching positions that were available...of course with no luck. I mean, who is hiring in October??? I’ll tell you...no one! After doing a few searches my anxiety level was beginning to increase and before I knew it I was in tears. Of course the hubs turns to me and wants to know what has me upset and it was this...

{let’s be frank...}
I am a young, eager, and educated young woman with three years in-classroom teaching experience and due to reasons beyond my control I had to turn down a great teaching position and move my entire life out to a state I’ve never lived in before that happened to be 3,000 miles away from home and in a different time zone. Knowing I would be turning down said teaching position I knew that getting my license transferred to CA would take some time and lots of paperwork and fees but I didn’t anticipate the many MANY speed bumps I would encounter along the way.

I don’t know if anyone has ever had to go through such a process but California has to be a state with more requirements than any other! I spent D-A-Y-S calling and emailing whomever I could find in order to answer my questions about credentialing with an out-of-state license. Finally I got the answers I needed but alas another set of speed bumps:

1. I needed to get a letter from LCPS stating I indeed worked full-time in the classroom for the three years I stated on the application form.
2. Need 2 satisfactory or higher performance evaluations from 2 separate teaching years that are signed and dated. Yeah, easy right? Wrong. My school district switched from hardcopies to online formatting last year and therefore there are NO signatures on the evals. 
Oh, and when I left my school district, I no longer had access to those evaluations.

Ugh...and the list goes on. You can imagine the frustration I was feeling at this point because in my mind this shouldn’t be that difficult. Nevermind all the CA based tests teachers need to pass (but that’s an entirely different post, haha)! I was feeling like this whole process was turning out to be a much bigger pain than I ever anticipated.

So, back to me crying on the couch to my husband. 
I honestly felt that the mix between not getting the necessary paperwork (so therefore not being able to transfer my license) and a dead end to my online job searches, I felt as though the universe was against me. Now, sitting here now reflecting I’m sure I was just being overdramatic but at the time I felt defeated. Here I was just trying to get back on track after our move and it seemed impossible.

This is my passion and purpose in life! I’m paying for students loans for a degree I’m not using! Maybe this is the universe’s mean way of telling me I shouldn’t be teaching!? Ahh!

Then a little lightbulb went off. Private schools. I know very little about how they operate but I figured they had to have their own set of requirements, which could work with someone in my position; i.e. not having a teaching credential in CA. So, then I hit the ground running searching for private schools near me and began personally emailing my resume to headmasters and principals everywhere. I got a few returned emails explaining their vacancies were full for the year and that they’d keep my info on file for the future. Then the clouds parted and I received a call that would ultimately change my outlook on everything.
The call was from the headmaster at Calvary Christian School, which was about an hours drive from where I live (not so bad when you’re used to the horrific traffic of DC or Northern Virginia!). He also explained to me that he looked over my resume and was very impressed, however, he was fully staffed for the year. So, as my excitement grew it also quickly diminished when those two words came from his mouth: fully staffed. We spent a couple more minutes talking about the school and such and then went our separate ways. He also told me he’d keep my resume on file and contact me around March/April when they’d start thinking about staffing for the following year.

Although it wasn’t the call I was looking for, to me, it was a step in the right direction. At least I got a call!, I told myself. Then a few moments later I received a follow up email from him telling me how nice it was to speak with me. And then he did something that was so generous and something so small that actually impacted my whole day: he explained to me that he had cc’d the director of the preschool and that I should contact her for any openings; that sometimes it’s ‘getting your foot in the door’. I immediately contacted her and before I knew it we set up a time for me to come and meet her and visit the campus. All within 24 hours.

I wasn’t sure how to interpret such a meeting as I was so excited for the opportunity! Was it an interview or not? Should I presume it is and be prepared or what if I do and look like an a$$ because it was simply just a meet-and-greet? Ugh! So, I decided to prepare as if it were an interview: got my cute outfit ready and teaching portfolio all set with all my updated resumes and important documents. The drive wasn’t difficult at all and before I knew it I arrived and I just have to say that the campus is beautiful and only a couple blocks from the beach. Yeah.

About 45 minutes later we concluded my meeting and after all that, all the BS I endured and stress I put myself through, it made me realize that in a moment things can always get better with the right attitude and eagerness to push beyond the challenges. Its the most comfortable I’ve felt in a long time, the people and administration were amazing and sweet, the different programs offered were equally as great, and this would be the stepping stone I desperately needed. For so long I had been made to feel like I wasn’t adequate or that I could be doing something better and it was reassuring to be wanted and to be told how impressed someone is about your work and experience. It validated something in me that I knew was always there but hadn’t heard in my last teaching position.

So tonight I sit here having accepted a preschool assistant position to start and I couldn’t be more excited! Is it ultimately the position I wanted or even inquired about in the first place? No. But having met the admin and even the headmaster (that awesome guy who called me in the first place!) told me that more often than not many teachers go on to have their own classrooms or transition from preschool to the elementary school on campus. I am grateful for this opportunity and am open to learning and continuing to grow as an educator- no matter what age I teach. I see this as my ‘foot in the door’ and am excited at the possibility to once again have my own classroom! 

Long (long!) story short...it’s a reminder to me that no matter what challenges life throws at you and in those moments where things don’t go your way- have a moment to be upset and have a good cry but eventually pick yourself up and figure it out. There’s always more than one path to take and it’s such a rewarding feeling to know how quickly things change...often by the goodness in others.

I have a lot to be thankful for and that also includes my followers on this blog. I have an opportunity to share my thoughts, ideas, products, and adventures and I’m happy to have such an amazing community to share it with. So, thank you! 

October 10, 2014

Five for Friday {Oct 10}

It’s Friday again and I’m linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for their weekly linky party!
Here’s my five randoms from this week!

1: Stitch Fix
This week I received my first Stitch Fix in the mail! After hearing great things from friends of mine about the service I thought to try it out and I loved everything I got in my first box.
Click [here] to read my post on everything I got and how I styled it! 

2. 1,000 Facebook Followers

YAY! I am so proud that my little Facebook page hit my 1,000 followers milestone! It’s a very rewarding feeling and I’m so happy to have made it! 
Thanks to all my followers and I’m so appreciative of the support :)

3. 3rd Place in Trivia!
Every Wednesday a local bar near our house hosts trivia and my husband and I have been going pretty much every week since we moved to the area. We haven’t been that successful lately...until this week when we placed third! We were so excited and we won free pint glasses. Next week we plan to take home first place!! Hey, it’s the little things in life :)

4. Lunar Eclipse
This week we had the lunar eclipse occurrence and out here on the west coast provided us with a great view and it was really cool to check out. We did indeed set our alarms for 3:30am (yes, you read that right) and my hubs must love me for waking up that early to look at the moon on a work night. 
(apologies for the political ads that run before the video)

5. My Sister’s Wedding in NH
Lastly, this week I just returned from NH celebrating my sister’s wedding! And as I’m sure many of you know, I just love fall and here’s my one snapshot of fall while visiting the venue. This was the first time I traveled by myself (hubs couldn’t get the leave starting his new job) and I was quite proud that I was able to navigate myself through Boston, get a rental car, and make it to NH in one piece :)
FYI: On a random note: I can never sleep on planes...I don’t know what it is but it never seems to happen. Well, due to back and forth with the time zones I was out like a light on my 6hr flight home!

That was a peek at the randoms from my week! I hope everyone enjoys their Friday!!

October 9, 2014

Stitch Fix {#1}

Today I received my first fix from Stitch Fix!! I was so excited to see what my stylist picked out for me this month and I wasn’t disappointed. So, let’s take a look at the goodies I got this time...

My first fix consisted of:
Kensie Jeans
Splendid Knit Navy Striped Shirt
41Hawthorne Herringbone Vest
41Hawthorne 3/4 Pop Over Blouse
Mavi Denim Jacket

The Herringbone Vest is my ultimate favorite fix item! I had been dying to get one since I’ve seen them in J.Crew and various people have been wearing them and rocking it! I had pinned an outfit with the vest and I seriously wanted to cry when I saw it was in the box....seriously.

Photo: Necklace [J.Crew Outlet-mine] | Vest [41Hawthorne] | Shirt [Splendid] | Jeans [Kensie Jeans] 
Shoes [Tory Burch-mine] | Fitbit

Here’s another way I could play up the vest using the other fix items. Unfortunately the blouse was a bit too snug up top (if you know what I mean...). But, this vest seriously goes with everything!

You’ve got to play up your look with a statement necklace. Mine is from the J.Crew Outlet

And finally out of all of my items these are the ones I’m purchasing from box #1. I would have loved to keep the denim jacket and blouse but they didn’t fit as well as I had hoped. Possibly another size up with those items due to my large bust :/ 

However, this entire Stitch Fix experience has been fantastic and it offers a little something, something to get excited about each month. I look forward to what my stylist has for me next time!

If you’ve never heard of Stitch Fix before or you’re considering on getting your first fix here is some info about how it works:

1. For a $20 styling fee you receive items that are personally styled for you based on a little survey when you sign up and you can even link a Pinterest board to your account. This way your stylist knows exactly what you love and can get an idea on what your personal style is.

2. You can choose to receive a fix once a month or every other month. So it fits with your finances!

3. Return it all, keep it all, or just keep a couple things! You get more of a discount when you purchase all of your items, too. You have 3 days to decide and each fix comes with a prepaid shipping envelope for you to send back the items you don’t want.

Use my referral code for your first fix! 
Anyone you refer you get $25 in credits, which goes towards your styling fee!

October 7, 2014

*Updated 5 Senses Packet*

Today I have a special updated version of my Super 5 Senses download! With fall in full swing many classes are beginning to teach all about apples and pumpkins. Back when I was teaching kindergarten my class and I spent about a week or so discussing our 5 senses and how they help us make choices but also how they help us observe and describe things around us. Keeping in tune with all the apples and pumpkin fun...here's my 5 senses packet!

If you have already purchased this download: be sure to redownload this version at my TpT store!

Let's take a look at what's included:

Now introduce your class to the senses using this bright and easy-to-read posters for your classroom! Keep them posted year round or display them on your focus board :)

Use these accompanying coloring pages for your class to color and label the appropriate body part! This teaches word knowledge and content vocabulary.

These handouts have students practice their vocabulary by having them label and match the name of the sense to the correct body part. The other handout is a color, cut, and match worksheet. So many skills these cover!

Labeling is always a fun skill and practice for my little guys! 
These worksheets come with word banks too :)

Something new that's added to this download are seasonal writing prompts that students can use to practice their handwriting and writing skills. Take the class outdoors on a  nature walk or have them creatively write in the classroom!

Last, but not least, is our science observations using our 5 senses! This, again, is one of my kids' favorite parts of studying the senses and apples (or pumpkins!). Set up observation stations or do as a whole group activity. Bring in different colored apples and compare them!

I've always loved teaching the senses because there are unlimited ways to approach the material! Plus it's always fun to get the kids engaged with different hands-on activities.

October 6, 2014

October Currently

Hello! It's been a little while but I am happy to be back to blogging! Last Thursday I jetted off to New Hampshire for my sister's wedding and it was absolutely beautiful! After spending 4 days away I am happy to be back in CA with my boys!

Today I am linking up to Oh' Boy 4th Grade for her monthly linky CURRENTLY! Be sure to link up and share your October Currently!!
I'm about 6 days late on my Currently but I have a good excuse! My sister got married this weekend in New Hampshire and I flew out there all by myself (hubby couldn't get time off from his new job) and I have to say that I'm quite proud of myself for navigating the airport, managing to get a rental car and drive through Boston and New Hampshire, and arrive at my hotel with no issues! You can imagine that I was a bit nervous to do all that especially considering my hubs takes control of all that when we travel...so definitely a growing experience ;)

Anyways...here's my currently for October!
1. Listening: I'm currently listening to Hungry Investors playing in the background on the TV. I love this show! We watch Bar Rescue and love Taffer and his crazy outbursts but he's smart and it's cool to watch him help struggling restaurants.

2. Loving: Something that I'm especially loving this month is officially breaking out all of my autumn candles! I'm in need of some more and I know a trip to Target is coming up soon ;) Now that we are in CA and don't really experience fall the way we did in VA I try my best to recreate the smells and feelings with my candles and pumpkin flavored coffee from Trader Joes.

3. Thinking: I am SO happy to have hit my 1,000 followers on Facebook this past week! Its such a little but amazing accomplishment and I appreciate my followers so much! I started this little blog as a fun way to share my adventures in the classroom and it makes me feel good to see my experiences or products be helpful to others in their classroom!

4. Wanting: I had to take some time to think about this because I feel pretty satisfied with everything right now, however, as I was thinking that, Murphy was beginning to chew on my curtains! Haha! So, needless to say, I am definitely wanting to work with Murphy on his obedience training and eventually get him started in Puppy Kindergarten. Today I am beginning to work with him on walking on the leash. Wish me luck!!

5. Needing: This is where I can say that I'm pretty satisfied and that at this moment I don't need anything. After being away from my husband and Murph since last Thursday and now that I have them both I'm pretty OK with everything ;)

6. Trick or Treat: Treat all the way! I love treating my followers so be sure to follow me on TpT so you can easily get all my freebies! I just posted some recently!

October 1, 2014

Red Ribbon Week {GIVEAWAY} & 1,000 Follower Freebie!

  A few weeks ago (probably about a month) I was contacted by the lovely Erainna from Counseling with Heart and she had asked me if I would be willing to read and share her book that she just published. I of course thought it was extremely nice of her to think of me so I said OF COURSE! A few days later I received Charlie and the Curious Club: Candy or Medicine

Erainna sent me this book in celebration of Red Ribbon Week. If you're not familiar, the Red Ribbon Campaign is an organization that provides education and resources to children and their families about drug prevention. This year Red Ribbon Week takes place on October 23rd-31st

This book tells the story of Charlie and his friend Dillin who are just curious about everything (as all young children are!). They have a little club where they investigate different wonders they have and learn along the way. Well, one day he notices an older woman, Ms. Shirley, and her pet parrot are moving into his neighborhood. So, of course they went off to investigate his newest neighbor. 

While visiting he finds her pill box and thinks it's candy for the parrot. They were about to take them back to their treehouse to taste them when Ms. Shirley told them it wasn't candy but her medication. Alas the lesson learned is how being curious is a good thing but it can have some negative consequences if gone unsupervised. Also, Charlie and Dillin learned a valuable lesson about the differences between candy and medication.

Here's a little preview of the book:

If you're interested in receiving this book, the author has given me 3 copies to give out for free! I know I've been crazy with giveaways lately but seriously....who doesn't like winning things??? Enter today so you can receive your book before the beginning of Red Ribbon Week at the end of the month!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Another exciting thing happened: I achieved my 1,000 Facebook follower milestone! It's the little things in life, people! :) So, as an appreciation to you I have included this {FREEBIE} for all the love and support I've received since beginning this little blog.
 Download {FREEBIE} on TpT

Similar to my Character I.D. handout featured in my Story Elements Pack, I have Charlie as our main character to focus on. Here you have students think about his actions in the story, how he feels, what he looks like, and familiar phrases or dialogue in the story.

The main lesson that Charlie learns is the difference between candy and medicine. This is a good discussion to have considering children can often mistake common medicines for candy. With this worksheet you have students investigate how candy and medicine look different and have different purposes. Then, on the line students can write a sentence about what they've learned.

Finally, this worksheet has students identify safe from unsafe choices. Given the different scenarios students must determine if it's a safe or unsafe choice and write it on the line.

I hope you enjoy this book and the free companion worksheets! Be sure to get involved with Red Ribbon week and enter my giveaway to receive a free copy of this book!!