So, I totally have mixed feelings about this months currently... I LOVE my girl Farley, but it is also August, which mean school is right around the corner.  I have had an amazing summer, so I really can't complain too much.  Any-who... lets get to Currently!
Listening:  I am way too happy that I am back at my house and enjoying some peace and quiet.  I have had people working in the back of my house all week.  I appreciate them being here, but sometimes you just need a little peace & quite, right?

Loving:  I have also spent the last 2 days getting to hang out with some of my favorite #htxteachers.  They made my weekend.  Between going to an Astros game to bowling, we had a blast.  Every time we get together I know I will leave with a smile on my face and a full heart.  If there are hangouts or meet-ups in your area, DO IT!
Thinking/Wanting:  Around Memorial Day, the addition to my house got flooded in the big storms we had in the Houston area.  My house has been in disarray since. I am so glad that they finished yesterday.  Now all I have left to do is clean and move the furniture back.  It will definitely be getting done soon.  I am ready to have my living room back. :)

Needing:  I have started prepping for back to school.  From making and printing word walls to typing out my scope and sequence for the year.  I feel as if the summer has gotten away from me.  I'll get it all done... I hope!
Theme in a Snap! - ELA Everyday
B2S RAK:  I know that the first few days and even weeks back to school are tough.  Information overload really gets to me.  I plan on emailing or giving my fellow teachers positive notes.  A little goes a long way... as long as its genuine! :)
Enough of my rambling... Head over and check out Currently!

Today I will sharing with you several big ideas that resonated with me while reading this section of Unshakeable.  I must say that this chapter is one that will definitely be something that I look back over this school year.  It is something that I find myself forgetting to do and I believe it is extremely important in any classroom or even life in general.
When I read through the section, I kept having glimpses back to last year and thinking - WOW, I missed that.  I know that I am a good teacher, but this section was life changing for me.
Let me give you an example:
Last year was my first time teaching 8th grade.  I was totally out of my element.  The students and curriculum were new and scary to me.  (8th graders are a different breed-just fyi.) At the beginning of the year I felt like I needed to prove myself.  The principal had asked me to moved up to her campus because she had heard great thing about me.  This put a lot of weight on my shoulders because I pride myself in the job that I do.  Was I focused on my students or was I focused on how well I was completing my job each day? To be honest, I was focusing on how well I was doing my job.  Thankfully I snapped out of that pretty quickly, like within a month, I started to get back to my usual self.  
Now you ask... why all of this rambling?
 Get to the point, Sandy! 
I wasn't focusing my attention where it was needed.  I worried about too many things and had too much on my plate.  As teachers, if we are in the present with our students, we will be much more patient and will be much more productive.
It also made me realize how high my standards are set for the students in my classroom.  Am I saying that I need to lower my standards? Heck no! I do need to make sure that I am a cheerleader for my students no matter how small the accomplishment.  As teachers, we usually focus on the bigger picture or the light-bulb moment for our students.  I challenge you to really take the time to look deeper and find more things your students accomplish.  All students love praise no matter how small - this will help push them to achieve more.
Lastly, always be willing to deviate from your lesson plans.  Yes, I know I have a state test my students are expected to pass, but I would be happy to have a conversation that facilitates their love of reading too.  Some of the most memorable things that students learn are those that are authentic.  You CAN'T find them on the lesson plans.  They happen through purposeful conversation.  Am I saying to get off topic? Nope, you are the teacher and you know when it has gone too far left.  Just know that you don't always have to follow the lesson plan.  :)
What are something you do in your classroom or help you be more truly present and look for those light-bulb moment?  Truly challenge yourself to try these things next year in your class.  I'd love for you to come back and share what you discover.
Check out Chrissy's blog for the next section of Unshakeable!
Also, today is the last day of my birthday giveaway... click the image to take you to the previous post where you can find all the details!

I am very passionate about the next section of Unshakeable that I get to discuss with you today.

"That Student"
As educators, I know that you understand what I mean when I say "that student". 
I have had several of "that student" in one class at a time. 
I have been know to be able to build rapport with "that student".
And I have to admit that "that student" is the one that I've learned the most from in my 10 years of teaching.
"That student" is the one that I will have grown the closest with by the end of the school year.
If I'm around town, "that student" will run up to me and say hi or give me a big hug, even after being out of my class for several years.
1.  You, as the teacher, are the one who is in control of the climate in your classroom.  The way you handle situations, no matter how big or small, will determine how your students respond and react then and in the future. I'm not going to lie and say that I was always the best teacher at handling things thrown at me.  Are there times that I have raised my voice? Yes! Are there time that I went back and forth with a student and let them have all the power? Or course!  It happens to the best of us.  Every year that I have taught has helped me learn how to control the climate of my classroom better.  I now know that if they come in dragging, I might have to be overenthusiastic to reel them in.  Or if they come back from lunch a touch to active, I am the calming effect.  This also goes along with how you react to "that child".  If you react with anger, you will get anger back, but a lot of times if you react with love--they will learn that you care about them. Just know that you have that control.  You are the thermometer of your class!
2.  Get to know every student.  Yes, even "that student".  Often "that student" is the one that would benefit from it the most.  Am I saying spend all of your time getting to know "that student" and not the others? No way! I am saying get to know all of your students- like, dislikes, hobbies, their triggers, etc. If you do this, you will be able to understand why they choose to do certain things, but you will also build a better relationship with them. I say hi every child, whether they belong to me (are in my class) or not.  I want them to know that I notice them, that they are important, and that someone cares.  I am often drawn to "that student" because I want to know more about their triggers and what they care about.  If I know these 2 things, there time in my class will be much easier for me.  I can stop something that might trigger them or even teach them a coping strategy for the next time.  If I know they accelerate in sports, you bet I will be on the sideline cheering them on. I can see some of you shaking your heads-no, not EVERY game or event - I don't necessarily have to stay the entire time.  I need to make sure they know I am there supporting them. This has been a game changer for me.
3.  Redirect and reteach instead of punishing.  This should be common sense to most of us, but I knew I needed to add it to my list.  If a student make a mistake or a bad choice, you do not always have to punish them.  Shocking.. I know!  Often if you review the procedures/rules and have them practice them, the problem can easily be fixed.  And woohoo- NO discipline referral!! Will this work every time. No!  Will this work for severe in fractions of rules, like fighting, cursing, etc? NO WAY!! Use it wisely.  I have been thanked by assistant principals for not writing my kids up for every little thing.  I probably have a lower discipline referral rate than most teachers I have worked with.  Is it because I get all the "good kids"? Nope.  Its because I heed the advice I just gave you.  Even though I teach 8th grade, my students will make bad choices occasionally. Most of the time I can redirect their attention back to where it should be OR I can reteach the procedure that is in place.  Most of the time "that student" will get it after a handful of times.  Does it always get corrected that quickly? No way! But every student if different.  I also firmly believe this has helped me build rapport because I handle it in my classroom instead off giving the responsibility to someone else.  (I have written up discipline referrals, but that is after redirecting/reteaching, conferencing with them, and conferencing with their parent.) 
Hopefully, you will be able to take my top 3 thing to remember and apply them to your class next year.  They work with all students and not just "that student".
Do you have any tips or trips that you use with "that student"? Comment and leave them below... I am always looking for new tips and tricks to add to my teaching.
Tomorrow, I will be back with the next section of
Unshakeable - be truly present & look for the light bulb moments.  And it is going to be good... see ya then!

If you missed my post about the previous chapter, which was over creating a positive school culture, you can check it out here.
I have to admit that I cringed when I saw that I had to share my reaction to this chapter.  I mean who enjoys professional development... I DREAD most PDs that my school district requires me to go to.  I can either be found doing 2 things if  it is not engaging or interesting...
Doodling in a notebook
or completely zoned out
Image result for bueller anyone
Fortunately this chapter was filled with lots of ways that you can take PDs into your own hands.  They may not be "official" hours, but as teachers we are always looking for ways to grow and learn.  I am going to leave you with my personal favorites that every teacher can incorporate and they are absolutely free! 
(You know we teachers love a great deal)
  1. Teacher friend get-togethers - I have been able to network through social media to find some great teachers in the Houston area.  They are an amazing resource.  Often, we are struggling with something.  Maybe a lesson just didn't work or you have policies at your school you disagree with.  Teacher friends some your area are great people to talk about these things with.  They may have insight with something that has worked for them or maybe their district does something a certain way that works.  They are an outlet to question and explores with.  ( I have to add that you do not want to just have those negative conversations, that could hurt your group. Also, make sure you have like minded teachers.  You want other teachers who are driven and want to grow.)
  2. Ed-Camps - I haven't gotten to attend one yet, but my good friend Dailene who blogs over at Not JANE sent me a blurb to share with you. "EdCamps are innovative and unstructured meetups, where professional development is chosen and led by the attendees.  Teachers come together to share what is working in their classrooms related to STEM and EdTech.  Organizers group interests and questions attendees have to create the session topics for the day.  Each session is self-led and gives everyone time to share and ask questions.  It is an exciting way to experience professional development. I really appreciated the enthusiasm all attendees showed. There was no judgement, only sharing and collaboration. I met teachers from all over the greater Houston area who are great additions to my personal learning network. I'd highly recommend attending one of the free #edcamps in your area. I'm even road-tripping to @edcampdallas this fall it was such a great experience. "   I have actually signed up to go to @edcampdallas and can't wait to experience this awesomeness for the first time.
  3. Social Media- I have grown so much as an educator by following some pretty inspiring women.  Whether it be through blogs, instagram, facebook, or twitter -- you can find others who are like minded and have the same values as a teacher.  Instagram is the easiest for me to use on a daily basis.  I can scroll through and if I find a post that catches my eye, I can go to their blog post to learn more about it.  One of my favorite people to follow on instagram is Stacey over at Literacy for Big Kids.  Even though I am a secondary teacher, every. single. one. of her posts speak to me.  She is truly passionate about reading and shares that passion freely with her readers.  You should really check her out if you teach literacy or better yet, if you just want to feel inspired.
Those are just a few ways to take your own professional development into your own hands and really make it what you want it to be.  PD doesn't sound so bad now, does it? 
Do you have any other ideas for your own professional development? Leave them in the comments for myself and others to explore.
Tomorrow, Brittany over at
will cover the next chapter titled
 "Let your Vision Define your Value and Measure of Success."

Hey all!  I know you have been joining my friends (Cassie, Jessica, Chrissy, & Brittany) with their insight in the  Unshakeable  book study, but just in case you haven't --click on their name to get yourself up to speed. 
Image result for unshakeable book cover
I must say that I am excited that I get to talk about this chapter.  I know negativity can be a problem at most workplaces and schools, so I hope you feel inspired after reading this. :)  
Who has sat in their lunchroom or been in their work room at school and heard other teachers gossiping?  It could have been about another teacher, a student, a parent, or even an administrator.
Who has coworkers or has even found themselves complaining about things at school?
Image result for teacher raising hand
We all know someone or have been guilty  ourselves at some point of these things.  At least I know I have been.  The crazy thing is that when we do these things or let others suck us into their negativity, we have made the conscience choice not to be positive.
That's where this chapter will come in handy for the next school year or even life in general.  It was all about creating and spreading positivity.  Most of it was common sense, but was definitely a good reminder to have.  I had 2 big takeaways that I will share with you.
Image result for spread positivity quotes
 1.  Always be positive or find the positive in a situation. - I know this sounds easy, but for me it always seems to be a hard thing to do.  I am type A and always critical of myself & others.  I am going to work on this by - recognizing the negative (in my head) and adding the positive out loud.  So no matter how bad the situation, I can get the negative out in my head & share the positive with others around me to help them
feel at ease.
Image result for spread positivity quotes
2.  Redirect from the negative. - Let others share their concerns quickly and then move to something else.  Such as changing the subject or letting them know that you can pick up the conversation later.  This would work brilliantly in a meeting setting.  Tell them you can revisit the topic at the end of the meeting (knowing you won't have time). Or excuse yourself to copy papers or answers emails.  So basically if you can't redirect, remove yourself.
 Image result for spread positivity quotes

 You are in charge of your happiness.  No matter how much negativity is around you, you ultimately choose your mood.

Comment with one thing you can do next year to spread positivity at your campus.
Come back tomorrow to hear about the next chapter - Take Charge of Your own Professional Development.

I am excited to join my buddy Farley for this month's currently.  I have been meaning to link up the past few months, but the next thing I know the month is over!  Let's jump right in...
  • Listening - I must say that I am a little disappointed with this season.  I didn't sit and binge watch it all in one night. (no judgment, but that is how I watched the last 2 seasons)
  • Loving - I bought a season pass to the water park that is like 45 minutes away from my house and I am loving it.  I have gone twice this summer and would probably go like everyday if it were closer. 

  • Thinking- Vegas is a WEEK away.  I can't wrap my mind around the fact that I am actually going this year and am not just going to be lurking on Instagram.  I want to make sure I pack everything I need, which will mean that I will over-pack.  {Deep Breath} I will get it done by Sunday, so that Monday and Tuesday can be full of sun, relaxing, and pedis. :)
  •  Wanting - I am about an hour from the coast.  (not the pretty blue water coast, but the Gulf of Mexico)  I LOVE the beach and haven't gone once since school has been out.  The beach is where I do my best reading, so I have to make sure and take a few trips this summer.
  •  Needing - Back around Memorial Day, the Houston are got massive amounts of rain, the addition to my house got flooded.  It has been sanitized and gutted, but needs to be put back together. Ya know, all the fun stuff... dry wall, painting, baseboards, new floors, etc.  I have been working this week on getting estimates.  I want it completed before going back to school. My living room and extra room have been invaded with extra furniture and it is trying this type A person nuts!
  •  All-Star: I am definitely an all star at sticking my foot in my mouth.  Words come out quicker than they are processed in my noggin.  Luckily, that is something I have been working on.  Here's to hoping it works in Vegas! :)
Enough rambling... head over and link up!

Now we are jumping into the acronym PIRATE... P stands for Peer Collaboration.  I pride myself on what I thought to be peer collaboration, but after reading this chapter I realized that it was more like glorified group work.  I am hoping to change things up next year to try this out.
Top 5 things I learned while reading this chapter:
5. "Give me 5!" - I had always seen this as an attention getter to be primarily used by the teacher.  I hate to admit this, but in the past I would use it when group work got too loud.  While reading this chapter, I discovered that it is a tool for not only the teacher to use, but also for students.  I am really excited for them to be able to ask for help from their peers and share the tips/tricks they figure out while working.  While it will take a lot of modeling, I know that my 8th graders would be able to pick it up.  My only concern would be them overusing it, but Paul gives ways to correct these behaviors.
4.  Spaces that encourage learning - Seating arrangements that encourage collaboration work best when learning like a pirate.  Also, letting students choose their own seating lets them feel empowered and can also lead to them monitoring their behavior on their own to keep that privilege.  The best part of it all is that you don't need expensive furniture to do this!   I think that I have done a pretty good job about this in the past.  In my classroom students can be found sitting at tables, in desks pulled together, huddled on the floor, or even sprawled out in the hallway.  I want my students to feel comfortable with their they are learning and working.  Who am I to say that laying on the floor isn't best for them and that they should be in a desk? My principal is quick to question me when she walks in my room and sees the students sitting in their perfectly rows quietly.  She knows that is not the norm in my class.  The only requirements I have are staying on task and putting things back where they were before leaving the class.
3.  The right kind of competition - Competition can be detrimental to student growth.  We want them to work together instead of trying to be better than one another.  Although internal competition in good for self-reflection.  From asking themselves how they can do better next time to how they can help with their peers better.  Towards the end of the school year I started having my students self reflect on certain days.  They never knew when I would have them reflect and that seemed to help with honesty and corrections being made the next day.
2.  Dealing with conflicts - Conflicts are to be handled with care and in nonconfrontational ways.  I LOVED the three strategies he gave for students to handle conflict.  They were: rock-paper-scissors, compromise, and choose kind.  Rock-paper-scissors is a great way to handle conflicts no matter how big or small.  This was a go to decision maker for some of my hardheaded students this year.  It definitely recommend it. :)
1.  Responsibility partners - They are used when completing individual products.  Students have someone to bounce ideas off of, but will use their own ideas to make their products.  They also have: someone to check in with to make sure they are completing their assignment correctly, answer each others questions, and hold each other accountable.  They are responsible for each other whether it is good or bad, which will make them become invested in their partner's success.  The benefits are overwhelming: learning empathy, develop patience, and adapt to different ways to encourage others.  I LOVE this idea.  Too often when you have students do something individually they will not ask questions or will overwhelm you with questions.  They have someone to confer with first.  I had never thought of having a partner when not working on a group product.  This is ingenious and a strategy that I cannot wait to try next year.
Here is my favorite quote from this chapter. I plan to hang it up by my desk to remind myself and my students of this.
{Click the picture to download for free!}
Next week I will be discussing the next chapter which covers "improvement focus vs. grade focus".  Head on over and check out what my fellow bloggers have to say about peer collaboration until then. :)

Chapter 2 was all about common concerns most teachers would have about a student-led classroom.  I must admit that while I skimmed the chapter to read each reason, several concerns were ones I would give.
Here are the concerns that I could relate to:
  • Too much at stake - I teach in a high stakes grade level with state testing and actually in 8th grade in Texas, if they can't pass the reading test they are "supposed" to be held back.  This puts a lot of weight on my shoulders to make sure I am doing everything to help my students be most successful.  Student-led classrooms could actually help with the high stakes testing.  It helps allow the students to think deeper and problem solve without really any extra work on my part.  It is something that i will have to wrap my mind around, but I know it will benefit my students, especially those struggling because they will have even more peer support.
  • Too much work for me - As teachers, we feel like we have our hands full all of the time... between accommodations, paper work, meetings, & phone calls to be made.  Why would we want to add more to our plate.  With student-led classrooms, you give them the information they need and then step back so that they can practice the skills.  It is actually less work for me as a teacher.  I'll have time to walk around and talk to kids to monitor their learning and build rapport, which is a win-win for everyone.
  •  Not enough time to fit in curriculum - I have struggled this year trying to fit in everything my 8th graders were accountable for.  How on earth could I give them more freedom and fit everything in?  I could actually maximize my time with a student-led classroom.   I would be able to do more quick checks for understanding and application of skills.  A key point I loved with this was also give lessons ONLY the time they need.  Sometimes I spend longer on certain skills because they are my favorites.  I can definitely cut back on that.  Make sure I have covered everything and then revisit those that I love.
There were several more concerns that were dispelled in this chapter.  I really thought they were excuse killers as to why this wouldn't work in a certain classroom.
There were also 3 benefit to a student-led classroom discussed:
  • Increased retention - Students retain the most when they have to simulate, drama or lead.  With a student-led classroom, these are done on almost a daily basis.  They also learn the best by stating the questions and working towards finding the answer. You really need to make sure that they are able to transfer skills to real life, so that it will be useful to them.
  • More time for feedback - As a teacher you are able to walk around and provide guidance and spot the strugglers before they hit their frustration level.  Students will also be able to learn from their peers, which for most doesn't seems as threatening.
  • Teacher evaluation - All students are graded based on what administrators see when they walk through the classroom.  They are looking for student-led activities and learning to be happening.  This model will help out the teacher along with the students in the long run.
Head over and check out what my other bloggy friends are saying while you wait with anticipation for next week.

I am a little late, but finally have time to join in with my friend Farley for the June currently!
Head over and link up!

I am so excited to be participating in the book study this summer with The Primary Gal over Learn like a Pirate.  This is a must read book.  I am having to pace myself because once I start reading, I don't want to stop.

The first chapter is short and sweet, but had me hooked.  It went through and talked about what a student-led classroom looks like. 
Here are some key points I picked up on:
  • The classroom looks/appears as though everyone has equal power, for the teacher's word is final. (That is just understood.)
  • The teachers says or teaches what is needed and then gets out of the way.
  • Provide opportunities to practice skills so that they become habit.
  • Always give feedback.  Supportive feedback for negative choices and encouraging feedback for positive choices.
  • It will only be effective if students feel safe, appreciated, & connected to their teacher.
  •  Informal conversations help to build rapport with students and can begin before having them in your classroom.
While I was reading this chapter, I think I gave a whole hearted "Amen" several times a page.  There have been years where my classroom has resembled a student-led classroom and those were the BEST years in my teaching career. 
Things I can do next year to help build a student-led classroom:
  • Give up a bit of control to make it a reality in my room next year, which seems to be a hard thing for me with my type A personality, but will be beneficial for my students. 
  • Remind myself to give feedback no matter what.  It seems to be easier for me to give supportive feedback than encouraging feedback.  Don't let the "good" kids slip through the cracks.
  • Continue to be my outgoing self in the hallways and talk to ALL kids, no matter whether I have them in class or not.
I can't wait to continue to read Learn like a Pirate and share my thoughts with you.  While you wait for next week, head over and check out what others said about the first chapter.

I was super excited when I saw this linky go live last week.
As an 8th grade teacher, I, to the surprise of many, do not use many worksheets.  By the time students reach 8th grade, you would think that they have kind of leveled out. 
This is a very big misconception. 
 I have students who range from a 3rd grade reading level (ELLs) to a 12th grade reading level.  I have to be mindful of my instruction and assessing/checking for comprehension due to this.  Yes, worksheets do have their place (Standardized testing format), but they are much harder to differentiate, so I choose to work smarter and NOT harder.
I am always scouring TPT for open ended task cards that will work for my kiddos and recently found some that are amazing. 
Story Element Response Task Cards
Click image for TPT page.
They are from the fabulous Stephanie from Teaching in Room 6.  I know they say they are for up to 6th grade, but these worked perfectly as a scoot activity with my 8th graders after we finished our quick novel study of Freak the Mighty

 I gave them 5 minutes at each topic, so they had to stay on task and focused the whole time.  They even commented how much they enjoyed it.  Shaking things up causes student engagement to grow, which is always a plus when you have 54 minute periods.
This was also perfect "test prep".  The cards get progressively harder, but all require textual evidence.  This is a must for my 8th graders because the majority of the questions on the STAAR (Texas Standardized Test) are higher level thinking.  No more of those easy hunt and find answers.  I am excited to be able to use this earlier in the year for the next school year.
Here are some examples of student work:

I can't wait to check out these (which I went and purchased the minute I saw the engagement level the fiction cards achieved)...
Nonfiction Elements Response Task Cards
I can't wait to read about more non-worksheet options and continue to share mine on Wednesdays... Head over and check it out!


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