Saturday, December 17, 2016

Teaching, Observations, and no knitting!

This week marked two months back in the classroom, as well as my first formal observation as a non-tenured teacher.

After the hell I went through with my last principal and receiving my first poor evaluation in 21 years, which I believe was his retaliation for calling in the union on him, it is understandable that I was a little nervous.

I chose to be observed during the first hour or so of our day as this part of our day is coming along nicely, and it usually before any of my students begin to have meltdowns.  Thinking about it now, I think any other teacher would think I was crazy.  During my observation period:

  • Students finished up breakfast/morning work
  • Students transition to lining up
  • Class took a walk in the hall to deliver items to the office (two months ago, they could NOT walk in the hall appropriately)
  • A stop by the bathroom for a potty, and wash hand (another thing that was a nightmare two months ago)
  • return to the classroom to sit on the carpet on their "assigned spot" for Calendar
  • THEN, scoot up to teacher while I read a and discussed the book A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julie Cook
  • Discuss the book, specifically what's tattling vs. reporting, and place pictures on an anchor chart.

How many transitions was that!?

As we were lining up for our walk, one student refused to leave the classroom, "Students are earning bonus points during our morning walk, you can't earn them here, I hope you choose to join your class." and the class left -- student decided to join us on our walk.

While waiting outside the bathroom, some of them wiggled and wobbled and chatted.  "Remember, bonus points are being awarded to students who are showing us appropriate hall behavior: calm bodies, hands, and feet to selves, zero voice level."

After returning to the classroom, during our Calendar/Morning Meeting, I had one student who refused to join us on the carpet, and another who kept leaving and returning to the group on the carpet.  One of these students spilled milk on herself/himself and was removed from the class to change clothes.

Our team continued doing what it is we do every day, with me trying not ignore the fact I was being watched the entire time by our principal.

At the end of the day, our principal came in and stated she wanted to talk to all of us before we left for the weekend.

Are you ready?

She stated we were the most well-oiled team she had ever seen in a classroom.  That we were all positive, we gave the same message, when there were other issues, the TA's handled it seamlessly without interrupting the lesson.  That the TA's supported me so well that I was free to do what I needed to do, which was teach the students!

I think my observation went well!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Lesson Plans on

I hope you all had a enjoyable Thanksgiving.  We had my family over.  Mr. FiberJewels got a Traeger Wood Stove so we had a "turkey cook off" of sort.  I tossed the 25 pound Butterball turkey in the oven.  Popped fresh thyme and rosemary in the cavity, sprayed it down with olive oil and basted it once it started to get a lovely brown.

His turkey required more prep - under the skin he put about 1/4 inch of a mix of butter, garlic cloves, fresh rosemary & thyme, salt and pepper.

The reviews from the family is that both were great and no one had a favorite between the plane oven roasted and the wood oven roasted.

Yesterday, after post-Thanksgiving clean up of the kitchen, we took a trip to urgent care -- I'm fighting a sinus infection, but as I have no fever, they will not give me antibiotics, but I did manage to get drugs to help me deal with the symptoms.

Early in the morning, I fell into the rabbit hole that we call Pinterest!  I was looking for information about Daily 5, and ended up stumbling on is an online planner, you can access it from any computer, I believe there are also apps for smart phones and tablets (but I haven't researched that).

taken from page
I have been struggling with lesson plans.

We are a new team, and one of my Teaching Assistants (TA's) is very new and YOUNG.  I think the best way to explain this TA is that she has the attitudes of her generation.  In a word, she's a millennial!  She needs a lot of guidance and positive reinforcement and I'm finding I have to have EVERYTHING written out for her.  Recommendations to her are frequently met with her telling me why she does it a different way.

So, in addition to writing lesson plans for the students, I need to write expectations of the adults in my room.  This is not something I've had to deal with as I've been lucky, and the TA's I've had are my age with a wealth of knowledge.

I was using a word document.  When I worked on it at home, I'd save and email a copy to work. At work, I'd save and send a copy to me at home.  I had several copies with the same name, and it was getting cumbersome.  Additionally, I have to hand in my lesson plans at the end of the school year.

While at the bottom of a rabbit hole, I learned how one teacher was using  A quick search on youtube lead me to this video, Walkthrough ~ Teacher Organization Tool, and set up my own account.  I spent most of the day yesterday setting up my schedule, adding notes I want to stay with the various lesson times in my own account.  The vlogger also has a part two video, Additional Features ~ Teacher Organizational Tool.  In the videos, she shared a discount code for a free six months!  So check them out and grab the discount code and explore!

Today?  I'll be leaving for school shortly - I have an IEP meeting Tuesday that I am NOT ready for (have to write the IEP and to do so, I have to be on a school computer, on the school network).  I'll also finish up this week's lesson plans!

I hope to finish my LazyKaty Shawl tomorrow; I have a row or two to complete.  The "bind off" will be crocheted.  Pictures to come.

Edited to add: keeps getting better.  At school right now working on an IEP for a student.  Feeling very rusty after 18 months away from school.  Can pull up my state's standards and am using them for goals and objectives!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Hard to believe that only four months ago, when a friend asked me, "Do you ever think you'll return to the classroom?'  I quickly, without a thought, responded with, "Probably not!"

Three months ago, on my way home after visiting with a friend, I picked up a substitute teacher packet--it took me a month to fill it in and gather all the necessary information and update my resume.

Two months ago, I hit "submit" on my online application, and delivered the remaining documents to HR.

Last month I interviewed and was hired for what I thought was a long-term sub position.  If I had started this position only two working days later, it would have been a long-term position, but it wasn't.  A big jump in pay, as well as full benefits, and all the responsibilities!

As I stated post, I'm tired.  I often come home, eat dinner and go straight to bed.  The students drain me.

During our language rotations, the students were working in various groups, while I pulled students to my table to help cut up vegetables (thanks to my Pampered Cheif chopper, no fingers were near sharp objects) the principal entered our classroom.  After chatting with various groups, she walked over to my table, asked the student what we are doing, he proudly announced, "We're making STONE SOUP!"  She looked at me and simply said, "Amazing!"  and walked out!

I LOVE this little group of kids.  It both breaks and warms my heart when various school staff will stand at my door and just watch the class and share comments with me such as, "I love watching your class and seeing that the chaos is gone and they learning and laughing."

I'm so thankful that things have changed so much from August when I never EVER thought I'd ever return to the classroom, and now, though always tired, I have the BEST class in the world!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

I. Am. Tired.

Friday marked my 23rd day in my new classroom.

I am still waiting for the time I no longer feel like I'm behind the 8 ball!

The Special Education process is SO different from the other district I was working at, I almost feel like I'm in a different state and not just a neighboring district!

Completed my "Mandated New Teacher Training" today, one week late!  oops!

Still spending more time on behaviors than on academics. We are getting better each day!

I'm still doing lesson plans daily ~ every time I think I can do a week's worth of lessons, something happens on Monday, and I'm back to writing plans for the day each and every day.
Each. And. Every. Day!
Every morning, I look at our daily schedule and fill it is.
Did I tell you I do this EVERY day?!

I have my first Three-year re-eval and IEP on a student Tuesday.
SURPRISE! Exiting teacher did NOTHING for it!
It is what it is -- I'm attempting to let it go.
I'm to OCD to let it go, but I'm trying!

I have been asked here, as well as other places:
With the huge Special Education Teacher shortage, how could they let one go?

The teacher was on a plan of improvement and wasn't making improvements.
The teacher had ZERO classroom management skills.
I've seen the videos of her in action.
I'm dealing with the fall out of her lack of control!

Yes, it was bad enough that this teacher had NO business in a classroom!

The students ran the classroom -- First and second graders RAN the classroom!
First and second graders with behavior issues ran the classroom!
The classroom was not safe.
I continue to deal with coping behaviors from the chaos of the first 40 days of school!

Three days, that's all I have to survive this week.

We are doing a mini unit on Stone Soup!

I am managing to get some knitting in evenings - it's been my saving grace each day.

Spent today printing a million and one things from Teachers Pay Teachers, ordered book bins, and completed the last of my "mandated training".

Now I can focus on the training I NEED -- the Special Education training for the district!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Busy Saturday

Seven Sweet Pumpkin Pie Pumpkins.
Freshly washed with Clorox Wipes to removed some of the mold found on these.
Gotta love produce shopping in Alaska!
After two weeks in the classroom setting up routines and getting my students to understand that I am the adult in charge and that I say what I mean and mean what I say, last week I began academic assessments and activities.

We did math activities with small sweet pumpkins.  At the Fred Meyers in Anchorage, these little beauties were priced individually at something like $2.49 each.  But they didn't have 7 pumpkins, and the few left were in sad shape (such is the story of buying produce in Alaska).

When we dropped by the Fred Meyers near our home, they had a HUGE box of small sweet pumpkins, with no price listed.  I was a bit shocked when I learned, at check out, they were per pound!  There was no way I was going to let these expensive babies go home with the students!

Friday, I hauled the seven pumpkins home, bruised from falls off desks and out of students' hands, some with bandaids from being poked and explored by busy fingers.

Before I could deal with the pumpkins, I fulfilled my commitment to my mom and the knitting group at the Senior Center by helping set up their booth at the Senior Center craft sale.  A retired teacher donated a bunch of earrings to the knitting group, and I had to grab these for my friend who often dresses like Miss Frizzle from Magic School Bus.

Upon my return home in the early afternoon, Mr. FiberJewels assisted me in cutting pumpkins, carving out bruises and bad spots and in the oven they went.  

While in the oven, I began cleaning the seeds.

Many of my students haven't seen the inside of a pumpkin, tasted raw pumpkin, or even sampled a bite of cooked pumpkin.  We reserved a pumpkin half, with seeds still inside for them.

Monday we will be:

Sampling roasted pumpkin seeds;

and baking pumpkin bread - the rest of the pumpkin puree is in the freezer for Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pies, and other goodies over the winter.

My house smelled of roasting squash pumpkin.  While it was cooking, I got to sit down and knit.

Please excuse poor picture quality.

I was worried if I'd have enough yarn to finish the bind off!

Falling Leaves Lace Shawl completed!

Luckily, I had enough, just enough. I cut off only about 6 inches before I started to weave in ends!

Today will be spent doing weekend chores, getting plans completed for my classroom for the week. Baking a loaf of pumpkin bread while preparing what I'll bring to class for the students to help me mix up another loaf of pumpkin bread.

Maybe I'll be able to squeeze in some more knitting!

POST PUBLISH UPDATE:  My pumpkin bread recipe made two loaves, so the students will not be baking pumpkin bread, but will be able to taste it during pm snack!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Quick Update

Friday, October 21 was our first snowfall of the year,
leaving all the  trees covered in a thick layer of snow!
(Picture for your viewing pleasure - because I read blogs should have lots of pictures!)
Yes, I was hired, and I have been in the classroom for a total of six days!

Setting up a new classroom in a new school is hard work.  Stepping into a new classroom on day 39 of the school year is exhausting!  (Read: no time to knit!)

The previous teacher was "on a plan of improvement" and wasn't making those improvements.  She was asked to resign.  She didn't have very strong classroom management skills; the behaviors have been problematic, but each day is better!

Last week I awoke every day in the middle of the night (3 or 4 am) to complete that day's lesson plans.  I've been told to just work on creating a classroom community and work on getting their behaviors under control.

The first weekend I went to school and spent 6 hours just cleaning and organizing the teacher area and trying to get a handle on things.

Schedule cards printed from Teachers Pay Teachers
Magnets on back for my white board
The second weekend I created class schedule cards (all the ones I found in the classroom were just words - I have 1st & 2nd graders, some not yet reading).  I managed to draw up a week's worth of lesson plans AND pulled all of my teacher things out of the attic.

The trees Saturday - it was so pretty outside
I was stuck inside printing, cutting, and laminating
another break from the words, just for you!
Today is the last full day for this week as we have Parent/Teacher (P/T) conferences.  I'll be meeting with my Special Education supervisor to come up with grades, and make sure IEP progress reports are done!

Yesterday, I managed to pick up some knitting - I have only one more pattern repeat for Falling Leaves Shawl (no picture, sorry, I want to get this post up published).

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Despite thinking I completely and utterly blew the interview for the position I wanted, I was offered it this evening!!! WOW!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Weekend Get Away - Alyeska Resort

This past weekend, we ran away to Alyeska Resort. (a knitting update at the bottom)

Seward Highway

The drive down was BEAUTIFUL, and we had two days with not a cloud in the sky.  Alyeska is our biggest downhill ski resort located at Girdwood, Alaska.  Addition to winter sports, there are great hiking trails, disc golf course, and other activities that keep visitors busy in the summer.  My husband and I make a weekend trip between summer and winter when prices on the hotel drop.

Seward Highway
This week was also "PFD Season" - every year Alaskan residents receive a Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) Check, so the hotel was pretty busy this time with people spending their extra $1022 (per man, woman, child).

Road towards the resort
I left my knitting at home, and I often left my cell phone (camera) in our hotel room, so I didn't get a picture of momma moose and her calf wonder near the pond after breakfast Saturday morning.

We had dinner and cocktails  in athe resort's Bar & Grill.
I loved the Raven fireplace screen!
Mountains behind the hotel.
To the left is the building that holds the tram.
We didn't take it up to the top this trip.
The hotel in the background.
Tram building front right.
The Tram going up (or coming down?)
In the winter, this is part of the ski slope.
In the summer, this is part of the disc-golf course.

That's ice -- it was below freezing both nights we were there.
The pond behind the hotel - and where momma moose and her calf were seen,
and my camera (phone) was left in our room, so no pictures!
Yesterday was my first day substitute teaching. It went well.

I didn't get either position I interviewed for, and I am so totally fine with it!

I was under the impression that (because every district I have knowledge of did it this way), because the positions were being offered after the start of the school year, they would be long-term sub positions to the end of the year.  These were contract positions that would require me to leave my district.  There are many questions that would need to be answered before I would resign my current school district this point in time.

Before I leave you, a quick knitting update:  Falling Leaves Lace Shawl is coming along nicely and I'm to the point where I had my temper tantrum with the pattern and frogged the entire lace pattern.  I am back to virgin yarn!

The updates to the pattern give periodic stitch counts, and are great after the lace pattern shifts and added YO on the wrong side.

I have two more pattern repeats (14 rows) and will be done!

I hope that's enough yarn!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Updates - Job Search AND Knitting

After returning home from the trip to Fairbanks, I've been busy tracking down references, updating my resume, and the like to begin my return to the classroom.  One week ago I delivered all necessary documents to the local school district.  I was told it would take two weeks to hear back from them.

There hasn't been much time for knitting.

Less than 24 hours after delivering my applications documents, I was approved to substitute teach for the district.

Two business days after dropping off the application packet, I received a call for my first interview (which is today).

Four business days (yesterday), my information was sent out to all principals for review for open positions.  Two hours later, I received a phone call from another principal.  This classroom sounds like it was created for me!  I'm to "drop by" after my first interview today.  Drop by!?

If you don't hear from me for a while - I will once again be in the classroom!  One of the positions is available immediately.  The bonus of being an approved sub, I can be in my own classroom tomorrow!

Okay, and now knitting, because that is why most of you join me.

I've been drooling over knitting bowls ever since the very first one I saw.  This little one is nothing super fancy, but it works great and looks nicer than the glass bowl I borrowed from the kitchen.  It is not only made in America, it is also Alaskan made!

Update on the Falling Leaves Shawl.  The above picture is where I was before.  I wrote a rant on this shawl here.  Quick recap: there were issues with the pattern and every 10th row or so, stitches were NOT matching up correctly.  I contacted the designer and she sent me an updated version!

I frogged all the way back to the beginning of the lace pattern.  I just completed the row(s) that were causing me issue, the new pattern is GREAT!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


It's been a whirlwind four days!
This little tiny mushroom has nothing to do with this post.
Just wanted a picture for you to look at!
Thursday, September 29: Submit online application and drop off "Substitute Packet" at district offices. I was informed it would take up to two weeks before I would receive my "welcome to the district" email which would provide necessary information to set up my various accounts.

Friday, September 30: At 6:39 am, I receive a strange phone call.  It is a computer voice offering me a job.  I hung up. (This was a call from Aesop - the program that manages absences in the district and notifies subs.)

The district welcome email arrives in my personal inbox more than two hours after my first unofficial call from Aesop . The email informs me that I will receive an email in my district email from Aesop with information I need to access my Aesop account.  I set up my district email account and waited.......

Saturday, October 1:  All district pages were down most of the day Saturday.

Sunday, October 2:  District web pages are up and running. I'm able to access my district email and the crucial Aesop letter is there.  I access and set up my Aesop account, sign up for three sub positions over the next three weeks.

Monday, October 3: Around 3 pm I receive a phone call for me to interview for a long-term substitute position to end of the school year.  I have an interview Thursday (had to cancel a sub job).

From drop off to phone call, less than 2 business days!  WOW!

Today I think I'll go get a hair cut, make sure I have an interview outfit, mail these socks to their new owner, and maybe knit!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Done and Done!

Yesterday I got my background check. You will be happy to know that this blogger has no criminal history!

About five minutes ago I submitted my online application to sub.

Later today I will finalize my application by dropping off my "Substitute Packet".  I will also ask how I can be considered for some of the positions that are listed as still open that I'm interested in.

I enjoyed subbing for the two years before getting my own classroom.  I do admit, I went home twice in tears--kindergarteners and me do NOT make a good match!

It is a totally different form of classroom management.

I'll have to research again what may work and pull from my brain some of the methods I used.

Generally, I bribed offered incentives.  YOUR teacher wants us to do this work, if WE work together, I'm sure we can shave time off each lesson, by the end of the day we could have 30 minutes to do........ 


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Stuck Inside

It is BEAUTIFUL outside today.

I am stuck inside.

Before March 1, 2017, I have to notify my district of my decision to return to the classroom,
or not.

I am not sure I will be able to work full-time and continue to assist my mom with doctor's appointments and the like.

I could return half-time, but have been toying with the idea of substitute teaching.

I've been told a good sub can work almost every day.  I subbed for two years before I was hired full-time.  It is a completely different classroom management style, but I enjoyed it, followed lesson plans, graded paperwork, and left notes about how our day went.  I was kept busy until I was hired.

Subbing would allow me an income and begin paying back the savings I've used up while on my Leave of Absence.  No medical, but I get that from my husband.

Daily pay is approximately half of what I would get full-time;
maybe I should just go back 0.5 FTE.

I am in the process of applying to substitute teach with a different school district than I am on leave from.  It is pretty much the same process as applying for a regular classroom teaching position!

This morning I sent out emails requesting Letters of Reference from 10 teachers, supervisors, and parents today.
Apparently, the teachers and supervisors are working as I'm awaiting their replies .
The parents stated they would LOVE to share how wonderful I was as their child's teacher!

Things didn't go well between the principal and me.
Short story is:
I was told to do something against our contract
I had to call union in to protect my rights
principal retaliated by providing me with my first poor evaluation in 21 years of teaching.

The union has stated I shouldn't bring it up while discussing future positions and if someone asks about it, I'm to simply state, "We had a difference of opinions."

I do not know what type of reference the principal gave me.
(union said he can't bash me, but he can share facts---his facts are different than my facts)
I am attempting to get as many letters of reference as I can to counteract any negative he may have stated.

I am  now at the point where I have to type replies to various questions.

Defining diversity.

How I encourage others to honor the uniqueness of individuals.

How I challenge stereotypes and promote sensitivity and inclusion.

And it is BEAUTIFUL outside.

My front porch is calling me..........

Monday, September 26, 2016

Anchorage to Fairbanks

Every trip from the Anchorage area to Fairbanks reminds me of all the other trips on this road.
For some reason, I always forget how horrible this drive can be!
It is a very long trip.
Once outside of Wasilla, the road becomes a narrow winding two-lane road.
Fost heaves cause frequent rolling bumps. 

I attempted to knit on the road, but the incessant bumps and turns left me a little car sick!

I did manage to knit at the hotel in the evenings and in the mornings
and was able to turn this...

LazyKaty Shawl - pre-trip
into this:
LazyKaty Shawl - post trip

Tourist Season is May 15 to September 15.
That means that all the little tourist stops are closed September 15- May 15.
It was hard for us to find a spot to stop for meals.  

I wasn't able to take a lot of pictures because I had a seat in the middle of the 12 passenger van.

We stayed at the Super 8 that may very well be the dirtiest hotel I've ever stayed in.
The sign out front should have been our first clue:

"Hiring Hosekeepers"
other side said
"ring hoekeepers"
Thursday we headed out to North Pole, Alaska
A cute little town that has taken the belief that Santa lives at The North Pole to heart.
The little town is decorated in Christmas year round.
The street lights are shaped and painted like candy canes
(sorry, sitting in the middle of the van does not make for good photos!).

There is a very strong Russian influence in Alaska.
I love Russian Nesting dolls, and like those that have different dolls inside.
The one I coveted was $69.95 -- maybe next trip
After North Pole we drove to Chena Hot Spring Resort - another long, narrow, rolling road!

My advice, if you should ever get up there, is to go inside the Ice House before the Hot Springs!
My camera is not waterproof, so no pictures in the Hot Spring Pool.
It was heaven and in spots the water was HOT.
I can't wait to bring my husband with me next time!

A "sculpture" made with moose antlers.
The "ice skating pond" that never freezes over because of the hot springs.
One of the massage cabins.
After Chena Hot Springs we had dinner at the Pagoda Restaurant that was featured on  Drive'Ins and Diners.  The meal was WONDERFUL!

Friday morning we drove home. Back down the long, narrow, winding, bumpy "highway".
I layed in the hot springs and allowed water in my ears.
I road home not feeling well and realized I had acquired an ear infection.

We stopped in the town of Nenana where, every spring, they have the "Nenana Ice Classic".

One can purchase a ticket for a couple bucks and guess the time the tripod will move.
Those that guess the date and time win the pot.

We also stopped by the general store, where you could get just about anything!  Even Beaver Pelts!

It snowed on our way home.

Yep, this from my seat!

Hurrican Gulch - a quick pit stop and picture taking.
Further south than the snow, rain was coming down pretty hard.
We had lunch at Trapper Creek Trading post.
I enjoyed our trip, but am glad to be home.

I am nursing my ear infection (thankfully I happened to have the back-up antibiotics my doctor gave me for a possible ear infection when we went on our Carribean Cruise last year!).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

And I'm off....

Falling Leaves Lace Shawl - Kit from Darn Good Yarns
I will be leaving Falling Leaves Lace Shawl at home.  UPDATE: I contacted the pattern designer and she has sent me the updated version of the pattern!!!  Next week I may (or may not) be frogging to reknit the lace pattern correctly.  Still waiting any reply from Darn Good Yarns (but it's a mute point now that I have the updated pattern)!

LazyKaty Shawl
I will be bringing LazyKaty Shawl with me on the road trip to Chena Hot Springs and North Pole, Alaska.  Six hours one way, so I could get 12 hours of knitting completed!!!!

Although I am not bringing the KOIm here Fishy Fishy yarn with me, I was able to find a pattern, Tip Down Mittens that are knit, as stated, from the tip, and are knit to size (I'm really at a loss as to the weight of this yarn).  They will be my reward when I finish the Falling Leaves Shawl!

See you all next week!