Thursday, August 18, 2016

My First Week Back

Our first week of school accomplishments - what really happened during the first week of school in my 3rd grade classroom - from Raki's Rad Resources

Last week was my first week back in the classroom, so I'm in exhaustion mode. This is particularly proven by the fact that I wrote this post four days ago and haven't found the time to upload pictures to it until today. Isn't it funny how we always forget how exhausting the first week of school can be? I'm lucky to have taught more than half of my students last year when I supplied for a teacher on maternity leave. Even though I knew my students, it is different for the students to walk into a classroom that is "mine". In addition, we are doing flexible leveled groups with the students, which was a major procedural change to teach to the kids. But overall, it was a great week. Here are a few of the highlights from the week:

On Monday we created lists of the books that we were interested in reading during this school year.
Our first week of school accomplishments - what really happened during the first week of school in my 3rd grade classroom - from Raki's Rad Resources


On Tuesday we saved Fred! This is a great problem solving and cooperative learning activity where students try to put a gummy worm (Fred) into a gummy life saver (his life preserver) without using their hands. This is an activity I learned about at a conference last year. You can download the free graphic organizer sheet from Perdue University.
Our first week of school accomplishments - what really happened during the first week of school in my 3rd grade classroom - from Raki's Rad Resources


On Wednesday we began using our Calendar Books and put together our Interactive Math Notebooks.
Our first week of school accomplishments - what really happened during the first week of school in my 3rd grade classroom - from Raki's Rad Resources


On Thursday we created made up characters for the first realistic fiction stories we are going to write.
Our first week of school accomplishments - what really happened during the first week of school in my 3rd grade classroom - from Raki's Rad Resources


On Friday we chose the countries that we will be using for our Year Long Country Study.
Our first week of school accomplishments - what really happened during the first week of school in my 3rd grade classroom - from Raki's Rad Resources


Of course we also worked on classroom expectations, which are centered around the four levels of respect with this anchor chart:
Our first week of school accomplishments - what really happened during the first week of school in my 3rd grade classroom - from Raki's Rad Resources


And we learned procedures for lining up, transitioning, using supplies and working in groups. I hope that your first week was (or will be) calm and productive.



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Having a Cute Classroom is NOT Necessary


Having a cute classroom isn't necessary - one teacher's opinion on back to school decorations - from Raki's Rad Resources.

It's back to school season and Pinterest is blowing up with all of the cute classroom set ups and decorations. While I love Pinterest for finding innovative ideas and management tools, I kind of resent Pinterest too. As both a parent and a teacher, Pinterest ups the pressure to be "cute". 

I noticed this as a parent a few years ago. With the advancement of sites like Pinterest, the level of expectation as a parent has increased. Suddenly you're supposed to take monthly pictures of your kids with cute little signs and have perfectly organized birthday parties and knit your child the perfect Halloween costume. At first you do might do it to see if you can or as a way to show off on Facebook to your friends. But then slowly, it seeps itself into our society that it's a requirement. That somehow in order to be a good mom, I have to make a 4 tiered birthday cake out of cupcakes because if I don't then my child will be deeply disappointed and scarred for life. Seriously? My kids are happy with cake and ice cream because it has a lot of sugar in it. They don't care how fancy it is. But we've trained ourselves to think they care. 

Now if baking fancy things is your specialty, great! Share that gift with your kids if you'd like. I personally love to experiment in the kitchen and get an especial kick out of making something from scratch that I had to buy prepared before (cheese sauces, bread, pasta, granola bars, etc.) and I love sharing this with my kiddos. But I don't knit or sew. I don't make fancy halloween costumes. I don't plan over the top birthday parties. I don't use Pinterest to decorate my kids' rooms. And guess what? My kids are fine. They are healthy and happy and they know that mom loves them. There's no need to get into this "I can do everything on Pinterest" mode in order to prove you're a good parent.

The same is true as a teacher. Themes in particular seem to have taken over the world of Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers in the past few years. Teachers, especially in elementary, seem to think that they have to have a cute, color coordinated theme in order to teach their students. There suddenly have to be multiple, professional level bulletin boards and all of the baskets in your library center have to match or the kids just will not learn. Today I even saw a post in a teacher's forum on Facebook that said "I feel so bad. I'm a first year teacher and I can't afford to do a theme in my classroom." Seriously? This will be my 12th year of teaching and I have NEVER done a theme. EVER. My books are in mismatched baskets, labeled by genre, but not matching colored labels. I have no beautiful colored duct tape on my teacher's desk. My bulletin boards are neat and organized, but not fancy. And guess what guys? My kids learn, a lot, every single year. 

And none of my students have ever said "Mrs. Raki, why isn't your room pretty?" Why? Because the kids don't care. They could care less what theme you've chosen. They care whether you care about them. They care about how you treat them. They care about the activities you do. They don't care what color your book baskets are.

Of course there are a lot of teachers who LOVE doing classroom themes and that's fine for them, just like knitting a Halloween costume for your kids is fine for those parents who just love to knit. My worry is the pressure that this puts on other teachers, who don't love it and especially teachers who are on a budget. Teachers already don't make enough money. We spend way too much of our own money already on books, storage, curriculum, and other things that help directly impact our instruction. Adding cute themes and bulletin boards requires teachers to spend more money and more time on things that aren't helping us do our job better. They're often just a way to "keep up with the Jones'" that is disguised as "necessary".

In addition to the pressure having a "cute" classroom puts on teachers, it is also a time drain. There is always so much to do and so little time as a teacher. More and more is being added to our plates every day, taking away from the time we have with our families and our personal lives. Designing super cute classrooms is something you can take off of your plate and still be a great teacher!

For another blog post I've written that go against the grain of "cuteness" that is invading our classrooms, check out: The Purpose Behind Bulletin Boards.