Friday, August 14, 2015

Classroom #ReadyTour

Yesterday I completed my classroom makeover that began Memorial Day weekend! If you've ever stepped foot in my classroom, you'll notice some major changes! I guess I was eager to get started, because I didn't take "before" pictures. Oops!

Near the end of last school year, I felt like I needed a change of scenery, so my husband and my mom helped me put a fresh coat of paint on the walls! It is amazing what a huge difference paint makes in a room! That lead to (almost) all new decor to match my new color scheme. I searched this summer for the perfect fabric for my cabinet curtains (which my MIL helped me make!) and scoured all of the local Dollar Tree stores for specific storage bins for my games and manipulatives.

In the past, a large portion of my room was dedicated to my students' storage cubbies. While necessary, they took up a lot of space and made my classroom feel cramped! This year my school is installing hallway lockers for all K-5 students, so I'm finally able to get rid of the cubbies! With them gone, my classroom feels more spacious and functional! 

The bulletin boards at the front of the room will be home to student awards (charm bracelets), word wall, morning meeting, and vocabulary words. The other large bulletin board will showcase our Great Expectations Magic Triad.

Right now I have my tables set up for Meet the Teacher night. There are 8 stations for the families to rotate through: sign in/parent info, transportation, social media contract, all about me poster homework, parent-teacher conference sign up, sorting supplies (my favorite station!), a parent survey, and ways to help. This method has streamlined Meet the Teacher night and helps ensure that everyone gets all the important info they need (including me!)

There were changes in the hallway outside my classroom too. The good news: My bulletin board had to be moved to make room for the lockers (yay!). The bad news: The hallway has been painted since they were hung, leaving a *lovely* two-toned rectangle in the middle of my wall (ahh!). The bulletin board was horizontal and now it is hung vertical, which will take some getting used to. Student work will be displayed for all to see, because our class is "One in a Minion!" 

I still have a few more minion items to use outside on my makeshift bulletin board (aka: the butcher paper I'll be using to cover the outline of the old bulletin board), but for now, it is presentable for Meet the Teacher night on Tuesday! 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What I learned in Vegas isn't staying in Vegas!


I recently spent 4 days at the Staff Development for Educators I Teach K! national conference in Las Vegas. I have attended this conference previously in 2007 and 2013, both times with my teaching teammate at the time, but this time I was flying solo. I was able to attend this year thanks to a special program offered by Donors Choose that allowed teachers to write proposals for professional development opportunities (you can see my proposal here) I have to begin this post by thanking those that made it possible for me to attend! Big thank yous to Donors Choose, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Johnathan and Rebecca Lundin (parents of one of my kinder students!) Rita Cox, Cindy Salyer, the Limestone Technology Academy PTO, and Nancy Boomershine (my mom!) for donating to my project. Without their financial support, I would not have been able to attend this national conference! My sweet husband and in-laws accepted the challenge of helping my 5 year old daughter get through a mommy-less week. Though it was tough at times, everyone survived thanks to lots of extra cuddles and a little FaceTime!

FYI: I encourage all teachers to utilize Donors Choose! They help projects, big and small, come to fruition, and it is FREE for educators! If you need help getting started, please contact me and I'll be happy to help you!

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Though I thought was the only one attending from my district, I was pleasantly surprised to run into two more Kinder teachers from Sand Springs at the airport! It was nice to have familiar faces to talk to and bounce ideas off of, and it helped us all get to know each other better! Even though we teach in the same district, our time together as a grade level is quite limited to scheduled meetings to discuss curriculum and the ever dreaded report card revisions. It was an absolute joy to spend time with Britta Hartman and Stephanie Dunn!

Of course, a conference trip wouldn't be complete without my Oklahoma Science Framework partner-in-crime, Megan Veldhuizen! We've experienced so much together in such a short time of knowing each other! She is a passionate educator with a heart for science! You should definitely check out her new science and technology classroom blog!

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One of the best things about attending a national conference is that you finally get to meet the people that you've been following on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or blogs! Sharing ideas through social media has been such a blessing, but there is nothing quite like talking face to face with some of the best early childhood teachers out there! When I attended I Teach K! in 2007, I was first introduced to HeidiSongs. I fell in love with her math songs and I've been using them in my classroom ever since! Heidi Butkus has developed fun, catchy, songs that teach academic concepts ranging from math, procedures, sight words, and more! My class LOVES Ms. Heidi and her sight word songs, and we sing them every day to practice and reinforce the sight words we are learning in class. We received the entire set through (you guessed it!) a Donors Choose project! When I attended I Teach K! in 2013 I was disappointed to find out that Heidi wasn't presenting that year. Then earlier this year, she announced that she was presenting in Las Vegas, but it wasn't a Kinder session because she's moving up to 1st! Thank goodness SDE is flexible! I attended Heidi's 1st grade session on using iPods and iPads in the classroom and was able to finally meet her! She was gracious enough to take a picture so I could prove to my kinders (and my daughter!) that I met THE Ms. Heidi!

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Another amazing SDE presenter (and former Sandite teacher!) I was able to learn from was Kathy Griffin (the teacher, not the comedian!) I was able to learn from Kathy early in my career and have been to many of her presentations, always leaving with several new ideas that I can implement right away. She emphasizes the importance of setting up procedures and expectations right away to ensure a smooth and successful school year!

Aside from hearing from presenters I follow on social media (such as Jack Hartmann, Kim Adsit, Kurt Schwengel, and Pat Pavelka to name a few) I was introduced to several new educators to follow; Julia Lee, DeeDee Wills, Lori Elliot, and Jessica Priem. Jessica's session on STEM and NGSS was absolutely amazing! I could feel her enthusiasm for science and it was contagious! I overheard several attendees having ah-ha moments, realizing that they really could do STEM with their kinders! I was inspired by Jessica's session, as I will be presenting on a similar topic in February at the SDE Regional Conference for Oklahoma Kindergarten Teachers. My session is "STEM and PBL in K? Yes!" I hope to show those that attend that science is easy to incorporate into lessons and units they are already doing in their kinder classrooms. If all goes well, maybe one July I can be sharing my love for kindergarten (and science) in Las Vegas with thousands of other kinder teachers! I'm officially putting that in my 5 year plan!

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It is difficult task to process four days (15 sessions!) worth of learning. I'm still downloading handouts, TPT freebies (yay!) and looking over my pages and pages of notes. I think it is important to prioritize ideas, because when I leave a conference, I'm so excited and I want to start using everything I learned the very next day! That has proven to be successful at times, but taking on too much change all at once has proven to be difficult for not only me, but my students as well (if we've already established procedures). I'm currently working on a list of things I want to implement immediately, and things that I want to try at some point this upcoming year. And yes, both lists are long!

I firmly believe that when teachers stop learning is when they should stop teaching. I'm a lifelong learner, so it looks like I'll be around for quite a while!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why do I teach?

I'm Mandi Cloud; amateur blogger and veteran teacher. I'm beginning my twelfth year of teaching this year, and I consider myself blessed to have taught my entire career (11 years in kindergarten and 1 year in 1st grade) at Limestone Technology Academy in Sand Springs. I'm proud to teach in a district that puts kids first, respects teachers, and is leading the way in advocating for public education.

I'm asked all the time by those outside of the education profession, "Why did you become a teacher?" For me, there is no short and sweet answer to this question. First, I firmly believe that everyone is called to do something specific. For me, I've known since I was little that I wanted to be a teacher. My love for learning began at an early age at home. My mom has always put an emphasis on education and lived by example. She became a single parent before my 1st birthday, and without her nursing degree, our lives would have turned out quite differently. The most important thing my mother instilled in me was that my education wasn't the school's job; it was our job. It was up to me to be a good student, and homework and studying were not just a priority, but an expectation set from my very first day of kindergarten. Those high expectations have fostered a lifelong love of learning for me. I still attend conferences, professional development, and share and learn from others. It is my goal as a teacher to promote a lifetime love of learning to my students!

I've been inspired to teach by the many amazing teachers that I've had growing up. Mrs. Susan Comfort, Mrs. Louise Pond, Mr. Loren Stephenson, and Mr. Frank Cooper (to name a few...the list goes on, and on, and on!) taught me so much more than the required academic content. They encouraged me to be creative, think outside the box, and helped me to come out of my shell and develop self-confidence. To my teachers, I wasn't a student identification number or a test score; I was an important individual with unique talents, interests, and abilities. In today's testing climate and data driven society, it is more important than ever to make personal connections with students. I've been motivated through example to build relationships and connect with my students!

Conversely, I've also been inspired by the few "not so amazing" teachers that I've had through the years. Although unpleasant at the time, those experiences have proved invaluable. Knowing what an ineffective teacher does (or doesn't do!) allows me to learn from others' mistakes. No one is perfect, but I strive to bring my students my very best effort each and every day!

I hear it all the time; "You know you'll never be rich being a teacher." 

They're right. Well, somewhat. 

I'll never see a six-figure paycheck from teaching in a public school. I'll never see my name in lights, retire at an early age, or own a vacation home on the beach. 

I will however, be emotionally rich; much richer than those that mock my choice of profession. They don't get to listen to a 5 year old read for the very first time. They don't see the smile on their face or experience the excitement and celebration that comes with giving a child the gift of literacy. I am rich because I make a difference in my students' lives, just like my teachers have made in mine. Sure, there are other professions that allow you to impact a person's life, but none quite like a teacher. 

Poet and former educator Taylor Mali nails it. This is what teachers make, and this is why I teach.