The First Day of School

I know what you’re probably thinking. “I’m still on summer vacation!”, and you’re right, but if you’re anything like me, the first day of school can give you nightmares.

Now, if you don’t already know, I’ve taught a wide variety of students at different grade levels and ages. I’ve taught most grades between 6-12 at one point or another throught my 6 years of teaching.

I know that I’m definitely not a veteran teacher by any means, but I’ve learned a few things during my time in the classroom.

My piece of advice about the first day of school: DON’T READ THE SYLLABUS!

I did this my first few years of teaching and reflecting back I feel so sorry for my students. At the time I was just doing what I thought was normal, and you know what? I was right. The students would come in, (There would always be a little bit of chaos as they tried to find their assigned seat) from there I would hand out my syllabus, and I would read it to them AND if I was feeling super innovative I would ask students to read it to the class.

This would ways leave me with so much time left at the end of class that I wouldn’t know what to do with my students. (During ny first few years of teaching I struggled to figure out my pacing, but it’s all good now.)

This was my norm for the first two years and I was just dying (not literally), but it definitely set the tone for my students. They would always expect class to be mundane, and every day the same, and I felt like a lot of them would set their mind on autopilot.

After searching high and low one year for an idea, and idea, of what to do on the first day of school it finally came to me — group work!

Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit that I hate icebreaker activities where you have to go around and say something that you like that has the same letter as your name, or come up with two truths and a lie, or anything else you could think of. I figured that I was scared and felt like I was in survival mode so maybe my students felt the same way.

I came up with a survival game for the first day, and it’s what I’ve been using ever since it was born via PowerPoint.

I break my students up into groups, I hand each student a list of supplies (all students have the same list) and they, in their group, have to decide what is the most important to surviving in the Sonoran Desert.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous the first time I did this, I mean, this could have gone either way in my eyes, but to my surprise it worked! The students are loved it!

This type of activity gave my students the opportunity to engage with each other after a long summer break, and it also showed me who my leaders and strong personalities were, and who my more quiet voices were. This worked, because it wasn’t a threatening environment, it was fun, and they truly enjoyed working together.

After the students were done organizing their list of 18 items we discussed what they “used” and “didn’t use” while being stuck in the desert. This was a great ice breaker because after each group had shared their picks our classroom discussion drifted into a deep thoughtful talk about perspectives. It was really cool to see students reach that level of discussion on THE FIRST DAY!

For this upcoming school year I’ve been mulling over what to do. I thought about switching from this activity to something else, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Will I switch eventually? Most likely. As for right now, I’m not going to fix what isn’t broken.

Thanks for checking out my blog. To see what activity I’m talking about click here.

Have a great day and rememeber, be you, be confident, be amazing!

Thanks again,

Kelsey

Why I Teach.

I teach because I struggle.

I struggle with mental health. I struggle with balancing all the chaos that is life. I struggle.

Starting out in school I was never a good reader. I jumped from resource room to resource room until I was in about 5th grade. Reading just wasn’t my thing. It was hard and I never got it. During the spring of my 5th grade year I remember that my ELA teacher gave the option to attend a writing conference in a nearby town. My mom pushed me to “apply” for it; we had to write a letter explaining why we thought we should go. I reluctantly wrote my letter, thinking nothing would come from it. Little did I know I woukd be accepted and attend with my ELA teacher and another classmate.

I don’t remember much about the experience, unfortunately, but it must have had quite an impact because since then I’ve struggled to put both books and pens down. I love reading and writing. My mind is filmed with stories and ink runs in my veins. Without words, I’m not sure what I would do with myself.

When the time came in high school when the questions of “Where are you going to college?” and “What will you be majoring in?” became the sound track to my life I wasn’t sure what my response was supposed to be. I knew that I wanted to attend a local-ish university, but I had no idea of what I wanted to do. I had decided that I wanted to major in writing because being a writer had been my dream. My dad poo-poo-ed that idea in an instant. “Why? There are millions out there that try to do that. Do you know of anyone who does that successfully?” I was crushed. Truly. Little did he know that I would grow to know many published authors in my adult life; many are friends and former teachers, one is even a former student.

Again, I found myself in this horrible cycle of trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life, but yet I had no idea. It was like a whirling tornado of doubt that I just couldn’t click my ruby slippers out of. Seriously, where’s Toto when you need him?

My best friend in high school, Sarah, wanted to go into education; specifically English, and because high school is that time in our lives when we want to fit in the most that is what I decided my future would be; I wanted to be an English teacher. It didn’t take long after our high school graduation for us to loss touch. We separated ways after high school and we attended different universities. Her major changed. Mine didn’t.

As the new school year inches closer, week by week and day by day I find myself reflecting on why I do what I do.

I teach because I want to have an impact. I know that sounds cookie cutter, and cliche, but it’s true. Teachers tend to be givers, and soft hearted, I mean how can you not be when teaching is such an eye-opening experience? There are so many things about society and people that you are exposed to that other occupations just don’t get to see or experience.

I teach because I want to be the stable force in someone’s life who may have an unstable past or home life.

I teach because I want to be the silver lining to someone’s day.

I teach because I want students to now that it’s okay to struggle.

I teach because I want students to know that it’s okay not to be okay.

I teach because I love what I do.

I teach because I want to open minds.

I teach because I want to connect with youth.

I teach because it’s my life.

I teach because…well, I just do.

Teaching may not have originally been a part of my original game plan, or my end goal, but I honestly can’t imagine life any other way.

My name is Kelsey and I’m a teacher. I love what I do. Do you?

#TeacherMoms

Happy Mother’s Day! Teacher moms are one in a million, no matter if you have children in your life at home (biological, adopted, bonus, or heavenly) we have our children at school.

Being a teacher allows you to get to know youth on such a different level. It’s hard not to connect with them. Teaching and mothering are exhausting, but they are easily two of the most rewarding jobs ever.

Best,

– Kelsey

Fourth Quarter Never Ends!

Why does the last portion of the year feel like it’ll never end? The rest of the year flies by, but the last few weeks and days drag on FOR…EV…ER.

While school demands fell never ending it doesn’t help that students are getting antsy. Needless to, the struggle bus is real.

A few things that have been working very well for me in the last few weeks is that I’m having my students work on a research paper. I get what you’re probably thinking, Omg, why!? But it’s actually been very successful.

I was toggling back and forth between ending the year with a novel, and I couldn’t decide. As simple as it sounds I just asked the students for their input, and…(drum roll, please) they picked to work on a paper, which I was SUPER excited about because they had just mastered the art of writing a five-paragraph essay. Whoop! Whoop!

I started teaching my brain even more, and finally it came to me, CONSPIRACY THEORIES! So, for the past few weeks my students have been working on their papers in my “coffee shop”, and it’s been a dream!

We’ve slowly been working through the research portion, and I was surprised at their lack of skill in this department. (I’m not blaming them or my colleagues at all, I mean they are 7th graders and I’m used to working with seniors.)

THE PLAN

So after evaluating their skills before our researching began I scheduled my weeks like this.

WEEK 1: Intro assignment, discuss credible sources, begin researching PROS

WEEK 2: Review sources, begin researching CONS

WEEK 3: Review sources and pick out the good stuff from the extra. Begin writing if haven’t already.

WEEK 4: Write and work on citing sources, but in-text and works cited page.

– – – – – –

What has been very helpful is that the students are coming up with great topics. We are currently coming into week four and the whole process has been surprisingly easy.

TOPICS

Some of the topics that have come up are:

  • Tupac
  • JFK
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Amelia Earhart
  • 9/11
  • Area 51

TOOLS

What had also been a HUGE help is Google Classroom. Because of how the access is set up, or can be set, it makes my students’ lives, and mine, easier. I’m able to sit with students on five them individual attention on thrir assignment. Whether a student has questions of how to create a thesis, transitions, organization, etc., I’m able to jump on to their assignment and show them an example. It’s so great! I can’t imagine what I was doing before Google Doc and Google Classroom.

I’ve had a lot of fun with this assignment, because not only have the students truly had a say in their education, but I’ve enjoyed learning about their conspiracies and finding out what intrigues them.

** If you would like more posts about lesson plans, or anything else, drop a comment below!

Best,

– Kelsey

Work Week Wrap Up

This week has been chaotic! Seriously. It always feels like the spring semester always goes by the fastest.

One thing I really enjoy about my middle school team is that we, as a teaching unit (there are four of us), feel like it’s a huge part of our jobs as educators to instill a philanthropic mindset into our students. As part of our mission to do this, we are gathering our students up and having them, and some parents, help assemble food packages for developing countries around the world.

While we have been focusing on this all week long we have also been dealing with an abundance of student absences due to activities, which is bittersweet. It’s great that our students are involved, but it can be a challenge to plan around it sometimes.

Everything at the MS Teacher Lady house has been equally as crazy. Sometimes it can be hard to deal with all the constant go, go, go! I have a 3.5 year old who is proving that terrible twos was a breeze, and a 2 year old who just lives life to the fullest, dirt and worms included.

Only a few things are helping me make it through this week: caffeine, the fact that we have around 3 weeks left of school, and that it is my weekend to sleep in. 😉

Hello! Hello! Hello!

Hello, and welcome to my blog! My name is Kelsey and I am a middle school teacher in NE North Dakota. I teach 7th grade English, and I will soon be completing my fifth year of teaching. I took a year off between the spring of 2016 and the fall of 2018 so that I could be more present for my two kids and my husband, and I am LOVING being back!

Since returning to the classroom I have a new sense of excitement, enthusiasm, and creativity that I can’t wait to share! I look forward to sharing the struggles and successes of juggling all that life plans on throwing at me with you.

So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy sharing in the good, bad, and ugly with me as I navigate the life of a teacher-mom.

Best –

Kelsey