Thursday, August 14, 2014

Challenge Accepted?

So.... Let me fill you in on the craziness that has been happening since school started.

First of all, our school district got a new electronic system for everything. Attendance. Scheduling. Gradebook. PTO. Payroll. All that jazz. The best part about it, though? No one knows how to use it. Seriously. I wish I was joking. They've held "trainings" for the new system, but the "trainers" know just as little about the program as the rest of us because sat through "trainings" where they were taught nothing of significance.

Besides that, students have been in and out of my class for the past week while add/drop happens. Yep. I teach at a high school, but we still have add/drop as though it were a college. I've never seen so many kids complain about their schedule before becoming a teacher. I mean, when I was a student, I never in a million years thought, "Hmm, I don't like this teacher, let me switch." Or, "Hey, I need to change my schedule so I can eat with my boyfriend, or else I will die." I never knew I had the option of changing my schedule when I was in high school. Maybe, once we've all learned this new system, we can get scheduling done way early in the summer, send schedules out to students 2 weeks before school starts, and tell them they have the remainder of summer to fix whatever they don't like about their schedules. If they don't make the effort over summer to change things, then it wasn't that important to them to begin with.

I know. Wishful thinking....

But, the kicker to all of this is that I've been assigned a new course/prep. Not at the end of last school year. Not in the middle of summer. Not the week before school starts. But a week after school starts. Yep. And to top it off, its an AP course. In a content area I've never taught before!

Of all the social studies class, World has always been my least favorite. Probably because I had crappy World History teachers growing up, and I just never learned to love it. I've been spoiled these past 5 years with having nothing but US History. I'm going from teaching about 500 years of history to over 5000!

So, if you can imagine, when I found out Tuesday that all of this was happening, I entered into panic mode. My department head started looking up online resources for me, and the other teacher who teaches WHAP on campus gave me all of his files/resources. So I've had help. I seriously don't even want to think about what it would be like without their help. But it's still overwhelming. I feel like I'm a first-year teacher all over again....

But, you know what? I can do this.

I meet my little sophomores this morning. I hope they're up for the challenge too!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Just One: Periwinkle

"Lazy Days"

Summer has brought with it a lot of lazy days. And no one does lazy days better than Periwinkle. She has officially claimed the bed in our guest bedroom as her "spot" and will lay there for hours. Nothing we do can make her leave the warm, sunny spot on the comforter. Unless, of course, we grab our jar of treats.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Nearly a Decade

8/9/05. Second day of school. Senior year. This boy.

Student parking lot. Waiting for the line of cars to clear. Wraps me in a hug. Whispers in my ear. Girlfriend?

I cannot believe it's been nine years since we started dating! 

A lot has changed since high school. But one thing has remained the same...

You're still the biggest pain in my butt! But I wouldn't have it any other way! :)

Love you hun!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

First Day of School: Grey's Anatomy Style

Didn't sleep much. Get up before alarm goes off. Eat breakfast. Take shower. Get ready to leave.

Arrive at school. Check email. Check mailbox. Get classroom ready. Give yourself a pep talk.

Stand at door. Watch freshmen walk around lost. Feel sorry for them and help them out. Remember what it was like to be a freshman.

Watch upperclassmen run when the hear the tardy bell ring.

Greet students. Take roll. Introduce myself. Ask what they've heard from other students about the course. Reassure them that all the rumors are true.

Except the one about this class being easy.

Discuss classroom rules and procedures. 

Distribute three-page course syllabus. Wait for it...

Distribute homework list for the semester. Wait for it...

Then a kid raises their hand...

"You mean to tell me we have homework every night?"

"And we actually have to read our textbook?"

Yep. Welcome to junior year. And they all look at me like...

Promise that it won't be as bad as they think it will be. That these are things they will be required to do when they get to college. And that no amount of whining will change it.

Decide it will be fun to play a "get to know you" game. Some kid makes a snippy remark. It's decided...

A kid from last year stops by to say hi. Wants to tell you all about their summer and how bummed they are that they didn't pass their AP exam.

Is it time for lunch yet? No? Okay. Quick snack?

Another bell. Another class. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Tell students I graduated from UCF. Some kid decides to challenge me and says that [insert any other Florida college] is better.

Forgot to drop off copies in front office. Ask if a student wants to run an errand.

Another kid thinks they can hide their cell phone under their desk and text a buddy - after being asked to put it away twice before. 

Congratulations. My phone now. Pick it up at the end of the day.

Lunch time! Quick! Scarf down food so there is time to check a few more things off my to-do list.

One more class period to go!

Finally, 3:30 rolls around. You watch as students head to the bus loop. Back inside. Clean up desk. Lay out stuff for tomorrow. Turn everything off. Head home.

Too bad I don't drink....

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Classroom Tour (Round Three)

The past couple of years I've shared photos of my high school classroom (which you can see here and here), and I thought, why break the tradition now? 

I didn't change a whole lot this time around. Everything was working pretty well at the end of last school year, so I set the room back up in the same configuration. Since the last classroom tour, I lost two of my bookshelves and gained one large bookshelf in return.

That shelf got moved from the middle of the room to the front of the room (was tired of kids leaving drinks/food/phones on my shelves). I really like having everything condensed into one unit.

I also gained a small tabletop podium and inherited a round table. Although I tend to move around the room when I lecture, I like having a spot to lay out papers each day. And, it gives students a spot to stand when giving presentations.

The majority of the changes in my classroom revolve around my desk.

In the past, I've had my two desks connected and had to walk around them to access my computer. This time, I've separated them and added my filing cabinet to the mix. I'm not exactly thrilled that my desk blocks some of the white board, but I typically only use that side for announcements, so hopefully it won't become too much of an issue.

The large desk is where I like to spread everything out.

I like to keep a couple of binders on my desk that I use frequently: seating chart/grade book, junior class sponsor information, and FFEA sponsor information. The magazine holder has color coded folders that hold makeup tests and assignments when students are absent. The little basket in front of all of that holds my remotes and other techy stuff. The wood box has a bunch of dry erase markers that were picked up at a yard sale. Then, of course, are the two textbooks for each course that I teach. On top of them are the things I'm currently working on with each particular course. The black bins are where students turn in their work. And the striped folder is my "to be copied" folder that I use to take papers up to the office.

The remnants of my bookshelf are still holding in there...

I think this might be the last year for this guy. It's barely standing - having to lean on both walls to keep straight. But, it works for now. It holds all of my binders that I use to file back parent contact information, financial information, and curriculum resources.

I added some more picture frames to the mix last year. Updated some of the photos of our nieces and nephews (will they stop growing already?!) and added a pic of the Hubby from our trip to Savannah last summer. Decided to frame my teaching certificate and display it with my college diplomas. It drives me crazy that the frames on the wall aren't centered over the bookshelf, but my back is to it most of the time, so I don't think about it too much.

The biggest change for me is my computer table.

It's a little on the small side, but it gets the job done. We moved my filing cabinet beside the table for a little extra space to put my lamp, stapler, tape dispenser, and fan. Still not sure what I'm going to put inside the cabinet yet, but I might move some of my writing supplies out of the larger desk and into that top drawer for easy access.

Like I said, its a little on the small side, but I find that when I have a smaller space to work with I tend to keep it more organized. There's just enough space for my work calendar and a notebook to jot things down on. The two photos of me and the Hubby are there to keep me sane :)  The computer monitor is on top of a filing system that I use to keep disciplinary slips, post-it notes, CDs/DVDs, etc. There's also a small blue cup that holds all of my paper clips attached to it. To the right of the monitor is my document camera. I don't use it as often as I use to, but it's nice to have for those few occasions when I do use it.

My printer and computer tower are still in the same spot. Some might think its weird or inconvenient to have a printer right at your feet, but honestly, it doesn't bug me. Sometimes I even use it as a foot rest (shh! don't tell our tech department!). The thing that makes me most happy? The fact that all the cords are corralled into a basket!

Even though they still aren't pretty to look at, at least it's not rat nest it was before. The Hubby came out to the school one day and organized all of cords. Even though I'm totally capable of hooking up my own computer, I still prefer for him to come out and do it for me. When I do it, I just let the cords lay where they fall. When he does it, he makes a point to wrap up the excess cords and zip tie them together. I picked up the basket for $1 at Target, and thought I could attach it directly under the desk. Didn't exactly think about how I was going to do that. So until I figure that piece of the puzzle out, the basket is resting nicely on top of the computer tower.
You may have noticed in the picture above that my college wall has expanded since the start of last school year! Here's a before:

And this is what it's looking like now:

I've added quite a few more pennants and magnets in a poor attempt to cover my a/c system to my college wall! Whenever I visit a new college or town, I try to make it a point to stop by the bookstore and pick one up. It's sorta becoming my "thing." Some people collect fridge magnets. Others shot glasses. Me? Christmas ornaments and college pennants.

The USF Bulls pennant was picked up while in Tampa for an AP Summer Institute. Funny story: the college kid working at the bookstore asked if they could help me find something. I told them I was looking for a pennant, and they had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. The three smaller ones - Ole Miss, Texas, and Florida State - I picked up at a local flea market for a few bucks. Which reminds me that I need to go back and see if they have more!

I've started to realize that pennants are expensive! So, when I can't find one that I like for the right price, I try to buy a small magnet from that college to help fill in the gaps on the wall. My parents picked up the Indiana and Kentucky magnets; I bought the Georgia College magnet while visiting for my Papa's funeral; and the Florida Gator magnet was a gift from another teacher.

Still, my favorite part about my classroom is the painted map.

That's pretty much it for this year's classroom tour. I'm still trying to figure out how I want the student desks configured. Rows? Paired? Groups? Circled? Half and half? I better figure it out soon though. Students come back tomorrow! It's crazy how quickly summer flies by!

Any other teachers out there working on putting their rooms together? Or are you still soaking up the summer sun and refusing to think about work? That was me up until last week!

Here's to another school year!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Just One: Twenty Six

"Happy Birthday to Me"

Yesterday we spent time with both sides of the family celebrating my birthday a day early. I was spoiled with gifts, gift cards, and balloons. Not to mention red velvet cake. Yum! We nearly burned down the back porch with all those candles! I should add, though, that my niece and nephew were in charge of decorating, and they decided I was going to be twenty-eight instead of twenty-six. They just wanted to use all the candles in the package. I swear, if they had only used twenty six, it wouldn't have been such an inferno. :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

One More Thing

We thought that after the water heater was fixed it was going to be smooth sailing to closing on our first house. Yeah. That was wishful thinking... Should have known better.

I got a call from the Hubby while I was out of town confirming what we hoped we wouldn't have to do. 

You see that lovely truck? Want to guess what's inside that tank? Gross, right?

Our lender insisted that we have a septic inspection done before moving forward with the loan process. But, you can't really have a septic inspection without first having the tank pumped. So, another early morning and $200 later, our first home now has an empty septic tank and a little piece of paper stating that it's safe. Or functioning. Or not ancient. Or whatever it is that the lender specifically wanted to know about the thing that holds every bit of waste that comes out of our house.

Even though it kind of sucked having to shell out more cash, and it delayed closing more, there were some positives that came out of this.

First of all, I think we officially have a plumbing company that we can rely on and trust. We called them for both the water heater fix and the septic inspection, and were really happy with their customer service. Both of the guys who came out really knew their stuff and even told us what things to look out for in the future that would indicate something going wrong.

We also know that we need to keep an eye out on how efficiently our plumbing works during the rainy season. When the tech opened the tank, there was a lot of water. Obviously there should be some water. But, considering there was absolutely no smell coming from the tank because there was so much water between the surface and the smelly stuff, that's a lot of water. The current owners had a new drainage field put in less than 2 years ago, so even though it should be fine, it's something the tech advised us to keep an eye on. We're super grateful to have a heads-up on potential problems rather than being surprised by them later. (Truthfully, we think it was caused by the amount of laundry a family with 3 young kids does on a weekly basis.)

Also, the neighborhood we're moving too has trash service! Growing up in the suburbs, I never really realized how many people have to take their trash to the dump rather than simply dragging a trash can to the end of a driveway. Guess I took it for granted. Living in a more rural area means garbage trucks can become a luxury. So seeing everyone with their trashcans on the side of the road that morning made me happy. #itsthelittlethings

Oh, and now we know that our three surrounding neighbors are all elderly and retired. Nothing like having strangers your future neighbors watching from a distance, wondering who this young couple was standing around watching the septic tank get pumped in the back yard.

The septic inspection was the last thing our underwriter requested, so once we get final approval from them, all of our paperwork will be sent off to its final destination. One step closer, and yet still so far away. We're told that USDA (who we're getting our loan through) is backed up on requests, so it could be a few weeks(!!) before we hear anything back from them.

So that's where we are currently with the whole house situation. And since I can't leave you with just a picture of a truck with a tank full of crap, I thought I'd leave you with this gem:

Happy Friday y'all!


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