Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back to Life, Back to Reality...

I'm officially back to work.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my class and have really enjoyed getting acclimated to third grade.  My book bag is packed with lots of work for this weekend and I intend to get started on it soon.  However, my first order of business is getting organized here at home - starting with meal planning and grocery shopping.

I wrote a lengthy post about my meal planning process/procedure here,Recipe Linky Party.  My friend and I never got around to making casseroles before school started, but have it on our calendars for next month.  Last Monday I sat down and mapped out meals for September - all easy things that I can cook (mostly) from memory and don't take a lot of ingredients.  I needed to check one thing for my enchilada recipe and stumbled upon the coolest thing for a meal planner, like me.  Check out Meal Planning Made Simple.  I didn't have a whole lot of time to play around on it, but was able to plan out my month of meals through their calendar system.  It looks like I can browse their recipes, add them to future calendars and link up the recipes to a shopping list.  Time will tell, but just to have the neat calendar was enough to rock my world.  The best part is the whole thing is FREE!

Since I mentioned enchiladas and have the recipe pulled up, here's the link to get to Campbell's Kitchen.  Search for Easy Chicken Cheese Enchiladas for a quick and easy recipe this week!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Advice to a Newbie

My top three advice nuggets for a newbie teacher:

1. Classroom management. 
What are your expectations and how are you going to make sure your students understand them?  Research the age level you're working with and take time to understand the social and emotional characteristics associated with it.  Model what  you expect - it will take more than once.  Check out The Responsive Classroom for a wealth of information related to children, classroom conduct and good teaching advice.  I became familiar with the RC philosophy last year after my teaching partner attended a week-long training.  It has changed my teaching life in so many ways!

2. Read new books.
Stay current with children's literature.  Browse bookstores and visit the library - often.  Visit blogs about children's literature to find out about new reads.  As you become familiar with what is out in kidlit land, you'll have a wider variety of books to choose from for mentor texts.  Here is my favorite blog to check out for information about books, A Year of Reading.  

3. Take time for YOU!
Teacher's put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect.  Don't loose sight of why you went into the profession in the first place.  If you're worn down and tired, you won't be at your best for your kids - and kids can pick up on it.  Eat right, get enough sleep and make time to do something FUN for yourself each weekend.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher

Check out this Meet the Teacher for a great chance to share a bit about yourself and to learn a bit more about other bloggers out in bloggy world.  Click here Teacher Week 2011 for all the info.  How appropriate that today is my first day back to work and Meet the Teacher is from 4-6.  

Tell us something about you...
I have lived in Columbus, Ohio for 15 years.  I grew up in a small town about 45 minutes northeast of Cleveland and went back home after graduation, but moved to Columbus two years later.  I went to Ohio Wesleyan which is only 20 minutes from Columbus and was desperate to get back to being with my college friends.  The opportunity to move down fell into my lap so I quit my first teaching job to try my hand at finding a better job here in central Ohio.  I subbed for a year and lucked into a great entry position with the district for which I currently work.  While transplanting myself to a "new" city and quitting my job was a huge risk, it was the best thing I ever could have done for myself.  

How long have you been teaching?

After graduating in 1994, I was able to get a gig "teaching" summer camp with a preschool in a great district in suburban Cleveland.  This job led to a full-time position teaching pre-K.  After two years it was apparent there weren't going to be any grade level openings for a while, so I took a risk, quit and moved to central Ohio.  I subbed for a year and landed a great entry level position with an outstanding district and haven't looked back.  I have taught reading intervention,  5th grade, 1st grade (for 10 years) and am making the change to 3rd for this coming school year.  I think, if my math is correct, today marks the beginning of my 18th year in education.

You might not know...

I have had worked for 18 different administrators.  My district is the fastest growing in the state of Ohio and the 11th fastest growing in the United States.  Because of the growth, we're constantly opening new buildings.  When I started we had 3 elementaries.  Yesterday our 15th opened.  Constant change brings a lot of turnover, so I've learned to be flexible and just roll.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I'm excited to try third grade this year.  I'll be working with one of my dearest friends - who is retiring in two years.  This will be a great opportunity to share all the time she has left together - not just in passing or when our lunch overlaps.  

What do you need to improve?

Working with older kids means I need to make an effort to incorporate more technology.  I'm a technophobe and need a lot of guidance and support with tech.  I started a blog this summer in hopes of becoming more proficient with going beyond what I'm able to do with word processing, publishing and spreadsheets.  My goal is to have my kids writing student blogs by the end of the first quarter.

What teaching supplies can you not live without?

Books, books and more books!  I also have to say my overhead.  I know it's old school, but I use it everyday for a multitude of things.  I know about smart boards, but I have TONS of overhead manipulatives for math and love being able to use it to create shared writing together with the kids.  I have also found that because smart boards are more prevalent, the overhead has become "novel" and tends to excite the kids.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to School Give Away!

Like most teachers, one of the fun parts of getting ready to go back to school is "needing" new school clothes.  I admit to not being a fashion plate and at times find myself contemplating how to get on What Not to Wear.  When I started out teaching, I worked with pre-K kids.  My daily duds reflected the theme for the week - think Ms. Frizzle.  That was me.  I am part of the generation that LOVED wooden necklaces and didn't mind wearing appliqued apples on denim jumpers.  

Fast forward a few years and I was working with small groups of kids as a reading specialist and moved on from dressing thematically (thank goodness I saw the light on that one!) to being more business like with hose and heels. Next I moved into a regular-ed classroom and learned very quickly the need to be polished, but practical.  Then, before I knew it, I was in my thirties.  The years of being "fashionable" resulted in foot surgery to correct my toes from wearing cute shoes and practicality took a front seat to everything.  

A few years back I was walking through Sears to get to another store and stumbled upon the Land's End section.  The things were cute, practical, stylish and matched many different things.  It was almost like I had found adult Garanimals (If you're too young to remember them, here's a link Garanimals.  I was shocked to know they still exist!).  My closet is now full of Land's End pieces.  I swear by them, as they wear well, wash well and never seem to go out of style.  

Today I made my annual pilgrimage to Sears where I happened to find most Land's End items were 40-50% off!  I walked out the door with three pairs of crop pants, two pin point oxford dress shirts, two cardigan sweaters, a polo shirt, a cute cotton top and a pair of jeans for $207.00!  So, because I think every teacher deserves a little treat for themselves, I've decided to have a small give away.  When I reach 100 followers, I'll select one of you as a winner for a $25.00 gift card to...

If you're interested in winning, sign-up as a follower to The Cursive Z.  Make sure to leave a comment so I can count your entry.  A winner will be selected by random number.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Check this out!

Click the above link to go to Jodi's blog.  She is doing an amazing series on classroom management and routines right now.  Great stuff!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Check it out!

My friend, Jodi, over at Clutter-Free Classroom is beginning another series!  Check it out - she's awesome!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Traveling to the Abyss

In 20 minutes I'll be on the road to work.  I've not seen my classroom since mid-July. When I closed the door behind me, I remember leaving feeling quite satisfied with my progress and giddy at the thought of just having to "tie-up loose ends" in August.  With my schedule rapidly filling up with random meetings for this and that next week and a few obligations this week, I'm now in panic mode after realizing my time is slipping away.  I'm holding true to my mantra, "It all gets done in the end!" 

Friday, July 29, 2011


Tonight we're heading off to the beach for a week.  For most this would elicit joy and excitement.  For me, I'm somewhat indifferent, as I prefer the mountains and the woods.  I actually took up golf so I'd have something to do with my husband instead of baking on the beach waiting for him to return.  But, I'm armed with a grown-up book, The Help, and three knitting projects to complete.   I know I'll have plenty of things to occupy my mind. There are no professional books packed in my bag and the computer is staying at home.  The goal is to unplug for a week and to come back refreshed and ready to take on August with a vengeance.

Starting this blog was a huge step LEAP out of my comfort zone.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about, what I wanted to document or what I wanted to accomplish for that matter.  The biggest question I had was who would really want to read what I have to say?  I'm thrilled to pieces to have three followers!  This gives me encouragement.  While unplugging in the Carolinas, I plan to reflect on what I want this little piece of cyberspace to become.  So, look for more posts after August 7th.  I think I'm going to have a give away when I get back.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


It is 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

I have been up since 8 this morning.

I have done nothing productive today. 

Well, I unloaded the dishwasher and ran a load of laundry. 

I showered.

And I did some work getting a knitting project up and going for something to do on the car ride to the Carolinas next week.

However, the most enjoyable part of the day was just laying on the couch watching a marathon of Parking Wars.  I didn't watch this because I wanted to, I really found it to be too much energy to actually go find the remote.  So I watched, for two whole hours, the daily grind of several parking ticket giver-outers (I forget the real title) and the antics of irate people who were ticked off because they just couldn't follow directions.  In the back of my mind I was thinking there are X amount of things you could be working on for school, several books you could be finishing up, and after gazing around the family room I noticed I have a cobweb hanging from the ceiling which should be taken down. 

But, alas, I couldn't move myself from the comfort of the couch.  I think this is the first weekend since before Memorial Day we've not had some obligation, place to be, person to see and the peace and quiet was just too enjoyable.  Perhaps it's because I know these lazy days are now numbered.  A month from yesterday we'll be back at work and as teachers we all know how fast this last month of vacation goes.  I think, too, teachers struggle with the guilt of not being busy 24/7 and I'm finally at the point of vacation where that mind set is starting to wear-off, just in time for it to all start ramping up again.

Anyone else feel the same?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Recipes! - Linky Party Day 4

I love to cook - when I have time, that is.  During the school year I have a schedule for doing my cooking.  I plan out a rough schedule for the month and plan my meals accordingly, taking meeting nights, sports of the n/n's (nieces/nephews), family obligations, etc. into consideration.  When I have those penciled in I have a better idea of what my time looks like and what I can accomplish, realistically.  I can also do one big shopping trip on a Sunday and then just make quick stops the rest of the month for perishables, produce and lunch items.  I purchase meat in larger packages, repackage into smaller amounts and store everything in the freezer.  I purchase fresh vegetables that are on sale, blanch them and freeze them in 2 person serving sizes.  Right now I'm going crazy at the farmer's market with the corn and green beans.  I would love to learn to can, but that is a project for next summer. 

I try to limit the amount of packaged and processed foods in our diets.  I do use cooking soups and bottled sauce, but try to pick the lower sodium or organic varieties when I can.  My husband still enjoys eating like a teenager and hasn't grown out of the conveinence food phase.  The one item I will agree to having is tacos.  I've "healthified" the dish a bit by using lean ground turkey and lighter dairy products.  Truth be told, I enjoy taco night because I know it is quick and easy + depending on the night before, I can usually cook up the meat part while something else is in the oven and get the toppings prepped. 

I don't start my meal planning until September, since school starts in late August.  However when getting ready to go back to work, one of my teacher friends and I always put aside a day to cook together.  We make casseroles and divide them into two 9X9 containers and freeze them.  That way most of our meal prep is already done and is one less thing to have to think about during this busy time of the year.  If you enjoy cooking and can link up with a buddy, I highly reccomend this idea.  We've even toyed with the idea of co-oping with some other teachers at school and doing a big share.  Depending on how many people are in the group, that is how many amounts of your recipe to make.  For instance if you have 4 people, make your recipe X's 4 and keep one for yourself.  Give the other three to the other participants and receive a dish from the other memebers.  Now you have 4 items in your freezer, but you've only cooked one day.  

Linky Party Day 4  over at asks for our favorite recipe for back to school.  Here is something my husband has coined "The Best Pasta Ever."  I have made this so many times, the recipe is ingrained in my head and I can make it from memory.  I think it was something I got through a Pampered Chef party.  Needless to say it is quick, low on ingerdients and freezes well.  

 The Best Pasta Ever

1 28 oz. jar of  your favorite pasta red sauce
3/4 box of your favorite dry pasta shape - penne works well
1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
2 T cream cheese
1 c shredded mozzorella cheese

add ins during the meat browning process: green peppers, fresh mushrooms, onions - any or all, depending on your tate.

In a large, deep skillet or dutch oven:
Brown meat with veggies
Drain meat.
Dump in sauce + one sauce jar of water
Add dry pasta 
Bring to a simmer and cover until pasta is done - at my house that is aldente.
Stir in 2T cream cheese.
Sprinkle with mozzorella cheese.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kevin Henkes

Here is a link to Kevin Henkes' website.  All his novels are listed and there are excerpts to read.  Upon further thought I am going to give all of them a good read before proceeding with my mini unit.  The blurbs make them all sound like they have some pretty heavy content in them - which might not be developmentally appropriate for some kiddos.

Kevin Henkes web site

To Bee or Not To Bee - my love affair with Vista Print

I've never used a classroom theme before, but my logo/trademark has always been a bee.  I don't know why, but for some reason I've always loved collecting bee related papers, stickers, stamps, etc.  From this little obsession I started calling my room Mrs. Nye's Hive and joked with the kids that I was the queen and they were the workers.  But I wasn't sure bees were "cool" for third graders and wrestled with letting go of my fondness for all things bee for this transition up the grade level ladder. 

But, I remembered my portfolio of custom made cards, stickers, stamps, magnets, etc. - all with some sort of bee on them, mind you -  living  over at Vista Print.  Then my friend, Jodi, over at Clutter-Free Classroom blogged about scoring the jackpot of all jackpots at Vista Print earlier this week.  Today I had enough uninterrupted time to sit down and work on getting an order ready.  Unfortunately I missed the free shipping deal, but this offer from VP was in my mailbox last night VP Clearance Sale.  The deals were too good to be true and I just can't let go of my bees.  Right now I'm up to $12.00 for shipping.  Here's what I've put in my cart so far:

The offer for these free things doesn't expire until the 31st, so I'm going to take my time finishing up this week.  

Linky Party - Day Three

Today's assignment is to pick my favorite author.  Like yesterday's task, this isn't easy either.  It feels wrong not picking Eric Carle, but for today's post I believe Kevin Henkes gets the honor.  I always started my first grade year with him as our author study and his series of mouse books are the best read alouds for the beginning of the year.  His storytelling is kid friendly and the students love to add his books to their independent reading boxes.  Henkes has also authored a few chapter books.  I may do a mini-unit using him, along with Cynthia Rylant, as examples of  authors who write picture books and chapter books.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Linky Party - Day 2

Today's assignment is to pick my favorite picture book based on illustrations.  Like most teachers, I'm a bibliophile and should probably find a 12 step program to help me with my addiction to purchasing picture books.  Being asked to pick my favorite is like asking me to pick my favorite niece/nephew impossible!  However, I'm going to share one of my favorite read alouds because I love how many teaching points I can pull out of it and the illustrations are darling, to boot.  The book I'm choosing for today's assignment is:

When I taught first grade I used this book for predicting, inferring, character traits, character development, story elements and I linked it up with science for our life science unit.  The illustrations are darling.  It wasn't uncommon to find two or three kiddos sprawled out on the floor of the classroom analyzing the illustrations for details they missed.  Having multiple copies for the bookshelf was a must.

This summer my book shopping/reading time has been spent on transitional chapter books.  However, I've also been sorting through my picture book library looking for mentor texts for reading workshop and writing workshop.  Thanks, Jodi, for giving this assignment.  I'm sure there are still some teaching points yet to be found in this book.  I just made note on my "to do" list to pull Too Many Pumpkins and put it in my October crate.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Late to the Party

My friend, Jodi, at Clutter-Free Classroom is having a week-long linky party.  I'm attending, fashionably late, but excited to participate.  If you've not done so already, click over to her blog to join in on all the fun!

How I Am Spending My Summer Vacation

Other than the summer I got married, this is the first time in my eighteen years of teaching I haven't done anything related to work for the summer.  Usually I tutor or teach summer school, or in my younger years would babysit.  I walked away from my classroom in June and have loved every minute of freedom.  I have no set schedule and have found myself being more productive than ever.  My goal for the summer months has been to work hard at taking back control of my house - cleaning out clutter and all the things that have accumulated over time - and I've been pretty successful.   

My other activity for the summer has been learning how to play golf.  I've never played a sport, but my husband is an all-around athlete.  He lives for golf on the weekends and after our last trip to Hilton Head, I decided to make good on a ten year old promise to just try.  So, in April, he bought me a starter set of clubs and I've been taking lessons since June.  I've been pleasantly surprised at how much I'm enjoying the process of learning the basics and I've held my own on the course the three times we've played.  Don't ever say you're too old to learn something new!

I think giving myself permission to relax, take it easy and enjoy these precious days has been the best decision I've made in a long time.  The thought of going back to work in August doesn't give me a headache or drain me of energy thinking of what I need to get done.  I have truly spent my summer being on vacation. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Old Dog, New Tricks

Third grade will be a new adventure for me this fall.  I had the choice to go back to 5th, take on 4th or try my hand at third grade.  Fourth grade didn't really interest me.  I thought about going back to fifth since I was somewhat familiar with the curriculum and expectations.  But, I kept hearing all the teacher voices echoing in my head about how much fun third grade and third graders are to teach.  The one statement which kept "talking" the loudest was, "Third grade is the promise land."  So, after a few more T-charts and sleepless nights weighing the pros and cons, my decision was to take on third grade and all the potential enjoyment it has to offer.  

One of my biggest reasons for going to 3rd is the fact most of my professional books and resources span K-3.  One of my biggest questions is where does 3rd grade fit on a spectrum of elementary years?  I come from the era where Ohio teachers were certified to teach elementary grades 1-8 and Kindergarten with an endorsement.  Currently the certification is broken down into K-3 and 4-9.  I don't know the specifics for each and have heard the grade bands are changing again.  But, I do understand K-3 is considered early childhood.

I always believed third grade to be a primary grade.  However, the more research I do, it seems to be a gray area grade level with some feeling it is still part of a primary experience and others feeling it is the entrance to intermediate.  My newest outlook on third grade sees it as being a transitional year.  A year where a bridge is being built to get these kiddos transitioned from primary to intermediate.  I'm feeling like third grade might be "the promise land," but also quite magical, too. 

So, this week I intend to work on creating my vision for my third grade students and their families.  I'll be going back into my resources from The Responsive Classroom, digging through the RC website and Chip Wood's blog.  Here's a link back to a RC resource, - cross fingers it gets to me before leaving on vaca! 

I'm looking for feedback from any third grade teachers - especially ones who have taught third in addition to other grades.  What have you enjoyed the most, what has puzzled you, what are the sticky spots encountered along the way?

Friday, July 15, 2011


I've toyed with the idea of blogging for about a year or so.  Putting my words, thoughts, ideas out in public space is way outside my comfort zone, but I've decided to take the plunge and dive in.  Third grade will be a new adventure this fall, after living in first grade for ten years.  I thought blogging would be a great venue for reflecting on theory and practice related to third grade students, third grade curriculum and teaching in general. 

It seems to be common place for bloggers to share a bit about themselves, so here's a little about me.  I'm a lifetime resident of the Buckeye State, having grown up in a small town outside Cleveland and eventually putting down roots in Columbus after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1994. 

This fall will begin my 18th year in education.  Most of my classroom time has been spent working with first graders, but I have also taught pre-K, 5th grade and worked as a reading specialist.  I have enjoyed every stop along my teaching journey and I am thrilled to be taking on a new challenge at this stage of my career.

My husband and I live in a bustling suburb of Columbus with our two dogs, Max and Erma.  Together we enjoy playing golf, being an aunt and uncle to 4 great kids and traveling throughout the United States - I have an obsession with visiting National Parks.  Some of the activities I enjoy in my spare time are cooking, reading, knitting - all with a great glass of wine.

I guess that about does it for this post. 

Until next time,


Thursday, June 30, 2011

First Post

I hadn't planned on getting serious with my blog until the Sunday ads started showig school supply deals, but Erica's give away was just too good to pass up!  So, here's my first post which begins this new adventure in blogging and counts toward being entered into a great give away! 

Check it out:

See you regularly - in a few weeks :-)!