Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Reading: Eoin Colfer

My books are stacked sky high, waiting for me to pull them out and read all summer! Actually, I do have a few hard copy books waiting, but I have been doing the digital and audiobook thing since school ended. I noticed that the last two books I read had something in common: Eoin Colfer.

If you are up on the world of Juvenile Fiction, you have likely heard the name. This brilliant Irishman is the brain behind the Artemis Fowl Series, among other accomplishments. Here is a rundown of my favourite Eoin Colfer books.

The series is coming to its conclusion in book eight, to be released in July. Since my copy is already on order, I decided to read book seven again. As a general synopsis, the series is about a teenage genius who has put his brains to use in the criminal underworld. He discovers that many of the creatures we thought were legend are in fact real and in the first book he sets out to catch one in order to ransom it back to "The People" for lots of gold. The fairies, goblins, trolls, demons are nothing like the traditional creatures of literature. It is also refreshing to see how Artemis changes through the series, helping the People and the world at large instead of himself only. Only two weeks until the next book! Oh, and the audiobooks for these are FANTASTIC! Great voice acting on the part of Nathaniel Parker! So many accents, one voice!

Perhaps my favourite stand alone book by Colfer is "Airman". Set in the 1800's, this is the story of Conor Brockhart, a young inventor and scientist who is falsely accused of murder and thrown in jail, forced to mine diamonds in extreme conditions. His plans for escape and revenge keep him alive and create a way for his mind to stay sharp. The book is filled with flying machines and explosions, yet it never gets too dark for young readers. There is always hope in the background and the ending is not what expected, but still satisfying. Amazing adventure and, as always, a great sense of humour.

If you like humour, you have to try "Half Moon Investigations". I don't know how many times I literally laughed out loud as I read this as a read-aloud to my grade five and six class. Fletcher Moon is not like other twelve year olds. It is not just his plastic detective badge, but his training at the Bernstein Academy to get that badge. He usually solves small mysteries, like stolen lunch boxes, but when an investigation lands him first in the hospital, and then in a file on the police detective's desk, he knows this is the most important case he has yet to solve. He teams up with an unlikely ally, the notorious criminal Red Sharkey, and they both try to clear their names. Filled with huge personalities and quick wit, this book is sure to please. Another great audiobook, by the way.

Lastly, I just finished reading "Plugged", Colfer's first and only novel for adults. The humour was the same. The plot twists kept me on my toes. The unlikely scenarios that worked their way out were very clever. BUT I wonder if he threw in "adult" humour and language just for the shock and awe factor, dropping F-bombs and sexual jokes on every second page. I think it is because I have been reading youth fiction for so long, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. If that doesn't bother you, then try this book. It was very funny. 

Daniel McEvoy is a bouncer at a seedy casino in a small town in New Jersey. His army past helps him read people and keep everyone at the establishment safe. Suddenly his best friend goes missing, his girlfriend is murdered and his apartment is ransacked. He has no idea what he has gotten himself in the middle of, but he knows he has to find out who wants him dead before they succeed.

 I hope that leads you to some entertaining summer reading. I am off on my next adventure, Rick Riordan!

See you soon!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Closing a Chapter

So many emotions. This past week has been FILLED with strong emotions.

Relief at finally being finished the school year and the chaotic activities of the past few weeks.
Sadness at saying goodbye to my students, their families and my colleagues.
Hope for the changes to come and our move.
Uncertainty as the "for sale" sign is put on the lawn.
Excitement for the coming trip home to meet my new nephew.
Trepidation at the uncertain future of my career, as I have no job lined up for the fall.
 So many emotions.

I spent most of two days packing up my classroom. Sorting out my personal belongings from those staying at the school. Passing on the books and curriculum to the new teacher (overwhelming her I am sure!) Packing my "teacher stuff" as organized as possible so it is ready for the move and I will be able to find what I need whenever I will need it next! My husband would have made me leave everything (he hates my "stuff" and thinks I hoard everything...not quite true...).

I made some tough choices and left a lot more than I had originally planned. I only had my pickup truck and didn't want to make two trips, so I was limited, especially in the furniture department. I left my rocking chair (which matched the curtains I left). I left behind my plastic kid chairs (that I picked up for $2 at walmart last fall and the kids used during Daily 5). I sifted through my art supplies, telling myself that would be the easiest to replace. As it was, this is how my truck looked when I got home.
Two boxes are removed already. It started to downpour right after this picture.

Kind of sad to see it all stacked up in my basement like that!
On the last day of school, I decided to start the day with our carpet meeting and then pulled out my guitar and we sang our favourite songs together, as I knew it would be our last time. A lot of moms were hanging around the halls. They stopped in and sat to watch us enjoy our music time. When we went back to our desks, the kids asked if they could give me their presents. I said sure, pulling up the chair into the middle of our ring of desks. The moms all stayed, pulling out their cameras, which should have been a clue. My EA handed me the first present. I unwrapped it and the tears started to spill. My class had been secretly making this beautiful tablecloth with their handprints on it. Each child signed it. They had pulled in the other teachers, hiding it in their room, distracting me on field day so I wouldn't notice that my entire class was missing!  It was really touching how much work and love went into this.


A few more homemade gifts and cards were shared. Lastly, one of the students handed me a card and all the cameras went up. Inside was this little printed photo. I recognized it immediately, as I had posted a link on my facebook about a month ago, talking about this site. They are called "Litographs" and the artists use the text of an entire book to make a print that can be hung on the wall. I thought it was such a cool concept and had said I loved the print for Jane Austen's Emma. One mom saw it on my facebook and all the moms chipped in and ordered it for me. I had to try really hard not to sob at that point. The fact that these women had taken the time to get to know me and knew this was something I would love, be able to bless my new house with, and remember the class every time I looked at it, well, it was overwhelming. The print is on its way and I can't wait to see it!

Later in the day, we had our Grade Eight graduation dinner and ceremony. The grade eight class was my first class that I had for a full year, all to myself! My principal always says that your first class is like your first love. There are many reasons, sometimes good and sometimes bad, that you will always feel connected to them. This was my class. I taught them in grade five and six. We knew each other well. We continued to work together when I bumped down to grade one and two. I had all of the girls from grade seven and eight in my choir for the last two years. Needless to say, we are close. This graduation was the toughest for me. It was great to hear all of the memories and see the pictures and how they have grown. I even sang a goodbye song with the grade eight girls at the graduation ceremony and we made it through without tears! I didn't even cry until two of my girls were hugging me goodbye at the end and they were bawling into my shoulder. That got me! 
The Grade 7/8 class made me two very special gifts. They each recorded a video message for me of their favourite memories and blessings for my move. That was sweet! They also made a memory book with letters from each of them and room in the back to add my new memories. To add to the personal nature, they made it in a notebook (I have a slight obsession with cute notebooks) and glued buttons to the centre of the flowers (Daisies are my favourite flower and I have a more than slight obsession with buttons!) Super sweet that they knew and remembered those details!

Overall, it was an emotionally draining week, but things are looking up. We have our first house showing on Wednesday! I am finishing my straighten and clean of the house and can now enjoy the sunshine with my long awaited summer reads. In about two weeks, we will be headed east to see my family and have a break at the beach!


Friday, June 15, 2012

A Cautionary Art Tale

Oh Pinterest. Oh Art Blogs. You give us such high hopes. Such lofty dreams. Sometimes the ideas I find online are gold! They work great, my kids love them, everything goes as planned. This is not one of those times.

I found this fabulous art blog called "Art Is What I Teach". I really do love this blog. She comes up with some really creative projects to teach basic art skills. Really outside the box.

I came across this awesome looking "Jellyfish Art" project a few months ago and thought my kiddos would love it. I Pinned it and moved on. I went onto my boards to find a nice art project for our last one of the year and was reminded how awesome this one looked. My kids have been one of the best classes I have had for using paint and not making big messes (just the regular residual mess, but no fooling around mess). So I decided to give it a try.

I decided that we would do this outside on the cement sidewalk behind my classroom door to lessen the mess. We have slanted desk tops and not much in the way of group tables in our room. We have done art outside before and it worked perfectly.

My art volunteer and my summer student got the tables set up and covered in newspaper. I mixed the paint (watery) and cut the bristol board. I brought the supplies outside and called my kiddos out, six at a time to keep thing orderly. The other stayed busy inside the classroom with their end of the year puzzle books.

Not even five minutes in, I hear yelling and turn to find two cups of paint had tipped onto two different art projects and were running all over the table, onto the cement, but thankfully, not onto my kiddos, who jumped out of the way. I grabbed the sudsy bucket, wiped down what I could and we covered the top with more paper.

I then came up with this little gem of an idea. I put the paint cups into any old plastic tubs I could find in my classroom (most are empty right now as I am cleaning the room out).

It worked perfectly. My summer student sarcastically asked why I couldn't have thought of that earlier.

For this project, the kids paint sloppy, wet paint circles and then hold their paper up to let it drip and make tentacles for their jellyfish. A few kids got a little too enthusiastic with their papers and were shaking/flapping them in the wind, getting paint on their clothes, arms, faces, shoes. Ug. We used my sudsy bucket and got most of it off, but it was a logistical nightmare, even with only a fraction of my class outside at a time! I didn't even attempt to do the final "splatter paint" at the end. I figured the fish were enough!

In the end, it made for a memorable last art project and they turned out really cool. The moral of the story is, beware of projects that may seem simple, because they probably aren't!

A few more days to go. On Monday, we are going to the Waterfun park for the day. Tuesday is pack up and sort day combined with Water Fun Afternoon with the Student Activities team. The we have a half day on Wednesday, Grade Eight graduation in the the evening. That's it! Of course, we have meetings on Thursday and other duties to complete, but my career at this school is coming to a close much too quickly for my liking.

See you soon!

UPDATE: When we made our end of the year memory books, I couldn't believe how many kids listed this as their favourite art project of the year! Go figure!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Professional Teaching Portfolios - Educational Documents

Welcome back to my series on Professional Teaching Portfolios. This is the third post. If you missed the first two, you can go back to learn about the "Introduction and Philosophy of Education" and "Resume and Reference Letters".

Today we will be delving into the "Educational Documents" section. This is a great place to keep your professional certificates and documents in one place. As with the rest of my portfolio, these pages are places in plastic sheet protectors. As a safety precaution, always use copies, not original documents. This is going to be traveling around with your to interviews, etc. and is far to easy to misplace. Keep the originals in a safe place, filed away and put a copy in your portfolio.

Here is a list of the documents I have included in my portfolio:
-my University Diplomas
-my Teaching Licenses (I have four for different provinces)
-Criminal Record Check
-University Transcript
-A List of Teachable Courses
-Dean's List Certificates
-Teacher Evaluation Reports from my Principal
-Certificates from PD Workshops

Keep it organized so that you can find it if you need to show a particular document. If you didn't get great marks on an exam, don't include it! This is supposed to show off your assets.

Have fun! 
See you soon!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Professional Teaching Portfolio - Resume and References

I am back today to continue walking through my Professional Teaching Portfolio. If you missed this introductory post, you can see it here. 

Today we are going to take a look at the Resume and References section.

 My Resume:

Over the years, my resume has changed format a few times. Here are a few general pieces of advice I like to give.

1) Make it look professional. If you have a template that you can plug in your name and contact information as the header, great! It means that your are front and centre at the top of every page. Make sure the font is a standard, legible type (no comic sans or "fontmoochers")

2) Keep it simple. I tend to ramble and can get pretty wordy. So I limit myself to bullet points. Less clutter on the page allows readers to find the information they are looking for more quickly.

3) Emphasize the experience that matters. If you are applying for a teaching job, each individual date that you worked those retail jobs in the summer are probably not going to catch the principal's attention. Lump them together as "Various retail positions" and list the specific stores in the bullet description. Potential Employers are far more interested in seeing the type of experience that shows you are a good fit for that job.

4) Sell yourself! Include the outside experiences, training courses, volunteer jobs that you have completed. This time around, I decided that listing my Community Experiences chronologically didn't make sense. So I lumped them together into categories. (For me, Music, Drama and Community Work). 

5) Include your Professional Development. It is important that employers see your dedication to your field, taking extra workshops, and the topic or subject you have pursued. Below you can see that, again, I put the list into categories for ease of viewing.

 6. Last, but certainly not least, PROOFREAD! Do it yourself at least 3 or 4 times. Ask a good friend or your mom to give it a look. Check and double-check your email and phone numbers. It is even more important for teachers to avoid grammar and spelling errors.


There are two categories of references: Personal and Professional

Professional References should be people who can speak directly to your teaching abilities. This could be your Practice Teaching evaluator, your mentor teacher, your principal or vice-principal, an Education Assistant working in your classroom, or a close co-worker. If you don't have a lot of teaching experience, choose a reference from another job that has relevant experience (summer camp, tutoring, etc.)

Personal References should be credible people who have known you outside of a work setting. This could be someone you volunteered for or with, a pastor, a choir director. Avoid family members, as their close relationship makes them seem biased. It is nice to find someone well spoken that you know can give you a glowing recommendation.

I recently asked a number of people involved with my school to write me recommendation letters to include in my portfolio. I had one parent write the most beautiful recommendation letter! She is also a supply teacher and dedicated volunteer at the school, so she is in my classroom a lot. She highlighted everything I could have asked her to!

I also asked a co-worker, my principal, my E.A., the Occupational Therapist that works in our school (we have worked closely together for three years with four different students), and a couple of Grade Eight students (who I taught in grade 5/6 and continued to work with in choir). It feels really nice to have these beautiful letters to look back at, as well.

 So there you have it. I hope these guidelines help when you create your own resume.

On the job update, I have only been called for one interview and it is a 30% part time position. I am doing the interview tomorrow, but I am disappointed I didn't get called for any of the other positions. I am hoping more might get posted (or re-posted) over the next few months. I am starting to wonder if I should just trust that I will get enough supply days to compensate for my salary (going from private school to public brings a pay increase. I would only have to supply 2.5 days a week to bring in the same amount as my current salary!) So more waiting!

See you soon!

Monday, June 4, 2012

June Currently

Well, we are linking up to "Oh Boy 4th Grade" for the last time this school year with the June Currently. Here's what's up in my world right now.

The last category this time is about travel:
Wish you could go- Newfoundland: So close to my NS home, but still never been.
Went this year- Nova Scotia: home to see family and soon to be moving home!
Want to go this year- Mexico: A close friend is getting married there in November, but the travel plans are just not coming together....want to be there so bad!

Well, the time has come for some rest. So tired after a long day outside cheering on my crew. It was a great day! It's my last Sports event with these kids so I went all out on my Blue Attire! Hair, nails, toenails, earrings, eyeshadow, school shirt...yup, rocked it!

See you soon!


Saturday, June 2, 2012

My Classroom Obsessions

I am back to tell you about my OBSESSIONS. I am linking up with "Living a Wonderful Life". 

 I decided to go with the classroom side of things, but if you link up, you can share any of your obsessions.

1. Colourful Pens and Sharpies. This is the caddy on my bookshelf at school. My desk had gotten WAY ahead of me, so I recently did a big desk clean up that included going through all of the pens and markers in my turn-about. I threw out about 12 that no longer worked and organized the rest. I am LOVING having them so nice and tidy. It also showed me that I have a TON of coloured pens! I have more pink, green and purple pens (purple is my signature colour!) than I did red, blue or black! They make everything so much more fun!

2. Laptop stickers. I discovered these last year at the dollarstore and FELL IN LOVE! You mean I can change the look of my computer any time I want? With colour and fun designs? Yes Please!
This is actually my IPad case, but it is just so cute! My students are always watching for new stickers. The first one to notice, I always say "bonus points for you". None of them really know waht that means, but they like to catch it first!

3. Post it Notes. This is one of my drawers at school. I LOVE post its and use them regularly. Especially the fun shaped ones. Lately, I have been using them to point thing out in books, while using my document camera. They love it! I knew I had a problem when I got the apple ones (in the corner) from my husband in my stocking for Christmas! lol He knows me well.

Well, there you have it. My confession of my little school obsessions. I think we all have them! Link up and share it with the rest of us!

See you soon!


Professional Teaching Portfolio: Intro and Educational Philosophy

Since I am waiting on phone calls from the applications I put in, I decided to update my Professional Teaching Portfolio. Our Education program had us make one for one of our courses. I have not kept up on it much since I began teaching, updating it last in 2008. But I am hoping for an interview soon, and the one time I don't bring it will be the time they ask! 

 In case you are unfamiliar with Teaching Portfolios, or looking for ideas, I thought I would take a few posts to run down the way mine if organized and what I have included this time around. 

 First of all, I am an elementary teacher (usually on the primary junior end, at that) so I include a lot of colour in mine. It also reflects my personality! I have a favourite paper I use for all of my section dividers and permanent pages. This time around, I wanted to change a few titles, and being a little bit obsessed with format, decided to redo all of the dividers. 

Here are the main sections in my portfolio:
 1. Educational Philosophy 
2. Table of Contents 
3. Resume 
4. Reference Letters 
5. Educational Documents 
6. Photo Pages 
7. Lesson Plans 
8. Teaching Aspirations 

*My portfolio used to include a goals page. I would like to put this back in, but since I didn't feel I have the time right now to update this, I didn't want to include one that was out of date. 

My first page is a copy of my binder title page. This includes both my name and the date I last updated my portfolio.

Immediately afterward is my Educational Philosophy. Our professors were adamant that this is the first piece of information that should be included in our portfolios, even before the table of contents. 

I am a very visual person and had to fiddle with the spacing of each line and section. I also have a tendency to be wordy, so I thought that breaking it into sections that were clear and concise kept things neat. It was interesting this time around to see what I updated and changed after teaching full time for four years.

Below is my Educational Philosophy. Feel free to use bits and pieces or just some inspiration if you are writing one of your own. Just a note, I have another on for my Philosophy of Christian Education for when I was apply for private school jobs. It is mostly the same with a few additional comments.

Educational Philosophy

Education is a process that involves many elements working together for a common goal.

I believe that…

Every child can learn and has the potential to succeed.
Every student is an individual and has their own learning style.
Every student should be assessed in the way that allows them to best express their abilities.

Learning should be student centred.
Learning should be authentic and interdisciplinary.
Learning should be interactive, engaging and creative.

The classroom climate is set by the teacher’s attitude.
The classroom creates a family of learners, working together.
The classroom should be a safe, inviting and stimulating environment.

Teachers are only part of a team.
Teachers should have high expectations.
Teachers should be role-models for their students;
both in the classroom and in the community.
Teachers must go above and beyond their teaching duties.
Teachers should be involved with extra-curricular activities.
Teachers must be adaptable, constantly evaluating their teaching practices and seeking to improve their methods.
Teachers work with students, parents, colleagues, administrators and community members.

After this document is my Table of Contents, which simply lists my section headings.

Everything is put into plastic page protectors which makes it easy to update pages as well as keeping documents from holes and damage when pages are flipped.

Stay tuned this week for a closer look at my resume and references.

See you soon!