I am so excited to join an amazing group of secondary ELA teachers aka "The Literacy League" to share some great back to school information. Not only will I tell you about my absolute favorite novel to read with my class, but I will share an awesome get to know you activity as a freebie! :)
 
Let me introduce myself first for any newbies to my blog... 
I'm an 8th grade ELA teacher in the great state of Texas... Yeehaw!
(I have to admit that Texas almost feels like its own country.  It takes forever to get out of our state or to even go from one side to the other.)  I am going into my 11th year of teaching and have taught a variety of grades (from 2nd-5th & 8th).  I am so lucky to have found my perfect and hopefully forever fit in 8th grade last year.  8th graders are a interesting group, but keep me on my toes.
 

I graduated from Baylor University Back in December 2004.  I went to school for Education with a focus on reading.  I am so glad that I have been able to use what I learned way back when and apply it in my classroom. Sic em Bears!
 

My absolute favorite novel that I taught last year in 8th grade had to be Freak the Mighty.  It was amazing the amount of depth I could have in my conversations with the kids.  Characterization, theme, and the progression of the plot were topics we often talked about.  When we would be talking about those topics later in the year, I could easily refer to what we had discussed while reading Freak the Mighty and the kids would remember.  Also, the life lessons are countless that can be taught through the novel are limitless.  I even have my tough boys showing empathy towards the main characters.
I used these 2 products to help while teaching and discussing the novel with my students:
Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick: Interactive Noteboo   &   Fifth Grade Reading Unit - Freak the Mighty
 
Last but not least- my favorite get to know you activity  for back to school.  I love the game 2 truths 1 lie.  Since I teach in a small town, I usually know a little about my students before I have them in class.  This activity makes it so that I get to know a few unknown facts about that.  Basically, you have the students write down 3 random facts about themselves.  2 are true and 1 is a lie.  They like to try and make the facts and lie a little tricky to throw off their peers and myself.  Click on the picture to download your free copy that can only be found here.
2 truths & 1 Lie: Back to School Get to know you Activity


Head over to the other blogs for some great back to school ideas!




 
 



 
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!




 
I am so excited to be able to celebrate my birthday week by having an amazing giveaway!!
Some of my favorite bloggers/TPT seller friends are helping me out and giving away some
must-have products for back to school. 
Check them out and enter to win!
 
 
 

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This awesome giveaway will end Friday (7/24)
-my birthday- at midnight. 
Good Luck!
 



I'm linking up for the first time with Miss Decarbo. 
http://secondgradesugarandspice.blogspot.com/2015/07/wordless-wednesday-what-are-you-planning.html?m=1


On my way to professional development this morning I saw this...

I'll be enjoying the Frio River this time next week... It's my happy place!!

Comment below with what your happy place is.
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
https://iknitipurl.wordpress.com/52-books-in-52-weeks-2013/
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
 Button
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.
 
 
 
 



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