Monday, May 12, 2014

Saying Goodbye...

"And Pooh gave Christopher Robin the biggest Pooh hug
 he could because he knew that goodbyes were not Far Away." 
- A.A. Milne -

Field Day 2010
I've gone through this post in my head more times than I can count and have been putting it off for days now. Some big changes are happening around here, and I wanted to share them on the blog instead of leaving everyone hanging.

I have loved every minute of writing this blog and sharing our classroom story with you. This blog has given me a platform to invite readers into our world to see all of the amazing things my students are doing on a daily basis. If you know me well, you know that I feel very strongly that we should be even louder with our accomplishments than we are with our behaviors. My kids are incredible people who do their personal best and inspire me to do the same. 

That having been said, it's time for me to share that my last day as a middle school lifeskills teacher will be this Wednesday, May 13. My family is relocating out of state, and, while I am left feeling incredibly excited for this new adventure, I am simultaneously sad to say goodbye to my students and staff. 

Feeling nostalgic, I went back through the last eight years of pictures to find some of my favorites to share with you. 

Here we go!
 My first year of teaching...Love this memory! Our fun custodian donned a leprechaun costume and scared the ever-loving-you-know-what out of my entire class.
 Here we are taking a group photo with our high school peer buddies after a holiday party back when I taught elementary lifeskills. We paired my class up with high school lifeskills kids and had the best time getting together for fun activities.
 Striking poses with this sweet boy who I adore...
 This kiddo is a high school student now; he brought so much joy to my first years of teaching, and I am endlessly proud of him.
Check out my buddy, all grown up now in December 2013!
A group pic from my first years in my current position. You may recognize some familiar faces looking super young!
Field Day fun with my sweet former IA, Mrs. K. Mrs. K. is now an elementary lifeskills teacher down the road.
Bears fans in the Hoosier state! So pregnant in this pic! 
Can you believe my sweet girl is already 3?!
 Some fun pics from my current group. No matter what we're doing, we always enjoy being together.
Love these girls more than I can say!
 Here are some party pics!
 I've always loved a good lunch date...
 One of my favorite memories from the past few years. Awarding the Isaac Beeson Memorial Award to our bus driver extraordinaire, Ms. T.
 I've always been a big fan of the school-bus selfie ;)
Over the past eight years, these kids have brought an incredible amount of joy to my life. I think it's fair to say that I have learned just as much from them as they have from me (if not more!).  
I will not miss the assessments, the data, the paperwork, the meetings, but I will most definitely miss the moments of learning with my students, both quiet and loud, that have left an indelible mark on my spirit. 

I plan to take some time off from teaching to be home with my little girls as we begin our adventure in a new state. I will think of my Lifeskills friends often and fondly and will hope to continue this blog in some capacity down the road. 

Thank you so much, sweet friends, for following our Lifeskills story.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

April Showers Bringing May Flowers!

This week in science we have been talking about the life cycle of plants. It's a perfect time of year for this lesson since all of the beautiful flowers are starting to bloom, and it's finally warming up around here! 

We started by reading "A New Plant" from ULS on our iPads with our sixth grade peers. The kids enjoyed enlarging the pictures to check out the different parts of the plant.
Next we moved on to our comprehension questions to check for understanding. As many of you know, one of my favorite things about ULS is that it provides differentiated materials to address different ability levels. Worksheets like the ones below used to take me an ETERNITY back in my pre-ULS days. I would have to make all of my own worksheets, adding pictures from Boardmaker. Now I just determine student levels and print the corresponding worksheets. Easy peasy.
Here's a Level 3 worksheet for my readers:

Then it was on to the super fun, hands-on part of our lesson: planting!
Lakeshore Learning makes these awesome mini-greenhouses that we are able to stick on the classroom window.
The kids wet some paper towels then carefully spread their choice of seeds (we had sweet pea and tomato seeds).
After folding their seeds into the paper towels, our peers helped us place the little seed packets in the greenhouses.
Everyone hung his or her labeled greenhouse on the window, and we are excited to watch our plants grow!
Here are all of the mini-greenhouses. How cute are they?!
Definitely feels like spring in our room now!


Monday, May 5, 2014

Equine and Feelin' Fine

On Friday, we had another much anticipated visit to Agape complete with me taking incessant pictures of the fun! In a crummy coincidence, the weather on Friday was as gloomy, cold and damp as it was during our last visit.  Despite the chill in the air, we had a blast! I just can't say enough positive things about Agape and its awesome staff and volunteers.

We started our visit by getting to know some sweet ponies. The kids led their ponies around the arena using the prompts we learned at our visit last week ("walk on", "whoa"). It was really wonderful seeing how eagerly the kids jumped into to this activity and how much information they retained and were able to apply from last week's horsemanship class.
 Pony close-up!
 We had a chance to get outside and lead our ponies around cones in an adjacent lot. Fun!
 Ms. Rachel was our instructor and is incredible in the way she naturally prompts our kids, helping them gain confidence in their ability to interact with the ponies.
 Next we headed back to the barn to review our grooming procedures. The kids completed a review of the cut and paste activity we worked on last week. They remembered all the different brushes and their order with few prompts from the adults!
 Finally, we spent some time with Jitterbug, a sweet horse that lives at Agape. The kids practiced using each of the different grooming tools.
 Here's one of my favorite pictures of the day: this kiddo worked so carefully using the hoof pick to dislodge dirt and debris from Jitterbug's shoe.
 And then there's this beautiful girl. It took some coaxing, but she did a great job gently brushing Jitterbug.
We're loving this experience and are so thankful for the opportunity to spend time interacting with these sweet horses! With each visit the kids become more confident in their interactions; it's a joy to see them leading and grooming the ponies. Thank you to Agape for welcoming us!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Making Connections: We Put the "Fun" in Functional!

I just couldn't help myself on that title. 
Sorry, friends. 

Our class loves a good hands-on activity! Unique Learning's curriculum give us LOTS of great activities accompany each unit and are designed to reinforce the concepts presented in each chapter. This month, we're studying Life Science and recently introduced a chapter exploring how living things are made of cells. The supplemental activities for this unit make functional connections between the concepts presented in each chapter. This morning we spent some time getting to know the different jobs people can have in a school and how these roles allow staff to work together to help others in much the same way that different cells, despite having different roles, work together to help the body function.

Here is one of my students choosing the correct response from a field of two options. She was explaining the role of the school librarian to the class.
 One of the nice extras we added to this lesson involved naming the people in our building in each role. We talked about the ways we have personally interacted with each staff member listed in the activity.
 The kids participated in matching the jobs with their respective descriptions.
 The kids love using the overhead for activities like this!
The peers and my awesome assistants prompted the students perfectly!
 Here's the finished product! It's always nice to see my students make connections between concepts and their daily lives. Note that, according to our group, the role of school teacher appears to help the fewest number of people at school. Ha!
 Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!