Sunday, July 31, 2016

TpT Back to School Sale Giveaway Extravaganza

With all of the planning and purchasing and craziness we teachers have getting ready for school, the last thing we need to worry about is our wardrobe. GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Prize: $50 Stitch Fix Gift Card Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher), Co-hosts: An Apple for the Teacher, Mrs. Roltgen, Teaching Ideas For Those Who Love Teaching, Momma with a Teaching Mission, Sliding Into 1st, Minute Mommy, Peas in a Pod, XClass to the Rescue, Kovescence of the Mind, and Pam's Place. Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 8/7/16 and is open worldwide. Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media? Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 29, 2016

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back

Please excuse the Welcome Back, Kotter title, I am from Brooklyn after all.  I like to start off the year with an nice, easy welcome activity and this has always worked well.

My student are brand new to junior high when I get them in September.  Everything is very overwhelming.  Their first homework assignment for me is to research their name.  Why was the name chosen? What nationality is it?  What does it mean? If you could change your name, what would you change it to?  The next day, we share our stories.  Since I usually have 5-6 different nationalities in my classes, this gets the ball rolling that even though we’re all in the same class, we are all special and unique. BTS Welcome Activity

Then for Thanksgiving, I have a potluck party.  If a student wants to bring in food, it has to be a dish from their culture.  It’s always a big hit, and there’s food from all over the world; Muslim desserts, pierogis, samosas, taquitos, macaroni pie, and even jerk goat one year (which was delicious by the way).

Names and food are two icebreakers that work well with everyone.  Everyone likes to talk about themselves and everyone likes to eat.  It’s an easy way to highlight what makes us special individually and what makes us awesome in a group!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Oh No, We Got Ms. Xavier

Yes, I'm the mean teacher.  I am very strict and have no tolerance for misbehavior in the classroom. When my kids hear my high heels clicking down the hallway, they all start shushing each other and warning each other I'm coming.  Kids do not walk up to me in class and ask me questions, they also do not walk over to my desk during home room and give me papers.  I must have been a Roman Centurion in a former life, order and rules are my happy place.

But you know what?  Even though my rooms sounds like a military barracks, it works.  My first class was very tough.  5 of my boys that year got the cops called on them for stalking one of my girls home. They cursed out the cop, who then offered me his gun when he returned them to my class.  My second and present school was even worse. We were a Bloods school when I first got there.  Bloods, as in the street gang.  I had to be tough to get respect.  The good kids always appreciated my ability to keep the bad kids in line so they could learn.  The vast majority of the bad kids, respected the fact that I was the alpha dog in the class.  Like I said, it works.

The population in my school has drastically changed in the 10 years I've been there.  Nowadays, I'm more apt to get a kid who cries because he or she didn't do his or her work and is failing.  They think the tears will help.  They won't.  6th graders need consequences.  Yes, everyone screws up every now and then, but continued transgressions need a consequence.  That's how we learn, we make a mistake, we get an outcome we don't like, and we learn how to not get that outcome again.  That's growth.

I'm no longer as scary as I was 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago.  I'm still strict and expect all of my students to work, to their own level of course.  And guess what?  My kids are respectful, hard working, and achievers.  We work in groups regularly and every one understands that everyone is equally important.  They vote (or rock, paper, scissors) their disputes away and get right back to work.  I have very few kids who don't do homework.  I have very few kids who get into fights outside of the classroom.  We have real conversations, not just about school work.  They appreciate the autonomy they are given and I appreciate the effort they put into their work.

What do they get in return for being so responsible at such a young age?  I take my kids on constant field trips into the city (Manhattan).  We do lots of art projects.  We walk shelter dogs and create websites to try to get them adopted.  We learn to code and use our 3D printer.  I trust my kids to do the right thing.  I don't hover over them. I give them the space to explore and learn from each other and they come to me only when they truly can not figure something out.  While the other classes on my grade are still very elementary, my students are becoming middle schoolers. The 7th grade teachers always know which kids were mine the year before.

So as we return to school, I'll get the usual,  "How do you get your kids to listen so well?" questions  from the new teachers.  I usually joke and say it's because the kids know I'm not a nice person. It's really because they know I respect them.  And they,in turn, respect me as well.  So after my joke, I tell them to be who they are.  Kids have built in BS detectors.  If you try to act like someone you're not, they will not listen to you.  I'm a Roman Cemturion at heart, so order and rules work for me.  Go with who you are, kids appreciate honesty and will respond in full force. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Mrs. Thomas' Teachable Moments

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Teacher' Summer Vacation

So yes, it's true, I have the WHOLE summer off. And I won't lie, it's fabulous.  But I don't sit around all summer on my butt, on the beach, drinking pina coladas. I read books I want to read with my students next year, I work on my TpT products, I plan lessons for September. But yes I do sit around on my butt a decent chuck of time, reading books, at the beach, doing jigsaw puzzles, and lots more relaxing, fun stuff.

Every summer I take a few vacations.  This year, Cape Cod, Killington, Montauk, and Gatlinburg. And the annual trip to Wildwood with the family.  When people hear the Jersey Shore they cringe.  They probably should, I do.  Wildwod is different though.  It's a family town, lots of 1950s motel with a gigantic beach and a boardwalk.  We've gone every year since I was a kid, and my mom has gone every year since she was a kid!  It's a tradition, starting with my great grandmother and now down to my niece.  

Me and dad waaaaaaaay back in the day.

Can you see how long that beach is?  

Surrey riding by the beach.

With the nieces at Lobster House.

Dinner with the family, Lobster House style.

Beach time fun.
As I get ready to go down the weekend,  I know it'll the same old, same old Wildwood, and that's exactly the way I want it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Your Next Book

Book Time

So now that it's summer, I have some time in my hands again.  And my favorite hobby has always been reading.  I can get lost in a book quicker than anything else on the planet.  Oddly enough, not the reason I became an ELA teacher, but that's a story for another blog post.

Everyone knows I love to read.  I always thought it was a shame I don't work in a DEAR school.  It's well known I can be found outside, on a free period, in warm weather, reading a book.  My kids get me book marks as gifts.  And I have the best library in be school (yes, I'm tooting my own horn) thanks to Donors Choose. I try to read 1-2 books a month. Sometimes, I sadly fall far short, but the summer is my time to shine.  

Last spring, the Resource teacher at my school recommended a book to me.  We have similar tastes; historical fiction.  Usually we tend toward Ancient Rome, but this time he recommended a WWII novel, The Long Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.  It's the story of an Australian soldier in a Japanese POW camp in WWII. It's told before, during, and after the war.  It is amazing.  It is graphic both in terms of sex and violence, but it is the second best book I have ever read, and I have read A LOT of books.  I had a mani-pedi appointment as I neared the end of the book. I took it with me and bawled in the pedicure chair as I finished it.  It's that good.  I also got about a dozen people to buy it in the London Heathrow book shop as I was looking for All the Light We Cannot See, another great book. 

Please do yourself a favor and pick this book up, you will not be disappointed. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

TpT Advneture

So a few months ago, I was talking to a teacher who told me she works with a guy who makes enough on Teachers Pay Teachers to pay his rent!!!!!! Of course, I wanted in immediately. Like most teachers, I've gotten lots of products from TpT over the years.  Now I've set up my own store and am busy adding products.

It's A LOT of work.  A LOT.  But it's a fun experience.  I made the mistake  of starting my store first and joining the forums after. BIG MISTAKE.  I had to redo all of my products less than a month after putting them up.  But it's summer so I have the time.  

So far, I'm obsessed and in love and I hope to see you in my store.