May 1, 2013

The Famous Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper!

Hi guys!  This is Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper!  
I am so honored that Tina asked me to do a guest post!!  This is my first ever guest post so Tina gave me a set of questions that I could answer (thanks, Tina!).
So, here goes a little bit about me:)

Where do you teach and what do you teach?
I teach 4th grade general education in a small, rural school district in Western New York.
How long have you been teaching?
I started teaching in 2000, so it has been 13 years!  eeeek!!  People always look twice when I say how many years I have been teaching because I got my job right our of college just after turning 22. I am 34 now but still feel like I am 25:)

What is the hardest part of your job and what do you do to get through those hard times?

The hardest part of my job has been to try and not take things personally.  I am a slight perfectionist and pleaser by nature and have slowly realized that it is impossible to please everyone.  Teachers work so closely with students, colleagues, parents, and administrators and sometimes I feel like I never have time to decompress.  There is always someone or something that needs my attention.  When it all gets overwhelming, I tend to dwell on the negative and take it personally.  It could be a comment a colleague made, an angry parent, a student who is having difficulty with a concept, an administrator that seems to have it out for me...whatever!  To get through these times, I try to relax, focus, and pray about all the positive aspects of being a teacher.  I also have an amazing, supportive husband and close family that will always listen when I have had "one of those days".  

 What is your favorite thing about teaching?
My absolute favorite part about teaching is working with the students and watching them learn and grow throughout the year.  I LOVE the academic part of teaching and really try to instill the love of knowledge in my students.  I have high expectations for them but I think that they don't really question these expectations because I make it clear that I know they can do it!  It is amazing what students will produce when challenged.

Why did you become a teacher?
I have always loved school for as long as I can remember.  When I was in third grade, I recall getting homework for the first time regularly and it was my favorite time of the day.  I had this little table in my room that had 7-Up designs on it.  That was my homework table and I would SAVE work to do from school just so that I would have some homework!  

I know that schoolwork was something that I took pride in and was good at.  Some of my fondest memories of my dad who passed away at the age of 41 from a massive coronary were on report card days.  He would just sit with a huge smile on his face and study my report card for a long time.  He just couldn't believe that someone could get such good grades.  Teaching was something that I felt destined for and I knew I could share my love of learning with others.

What grades have you taught?
I taught sixth grade (mostly social studies and math) for eight years and this is my fifth year in fourth grade.  If I had it my way, I would rarely change grades.  It is impossible to ever "perfect" a grade but I feel I make positive improvements with each passing year by making small changes (thus, my blog name, Fourth Grade Flipper!).  I just want to stay put and keep working on improving without having to change curriculums!  I am resistant to change but only if I feel that the change will not bring positive benefits.  Moving to a new grade all the time doesn't really fit in my schema of being a positive benefit for the students since I have NO idea what I am doing for at least the first two years:)

Speaking of not changing...I had the same job all through high school and college because I became a master of working at McDonalds!  I would go back and forth between my hometown and college town McD's and could work front, grill, drive-thru, open, name it!  Haha!!  My hours on most weekends in college were 4am to 1pm.  I still don't know how I survived that living in the dorms all four years!

Which grade/subject is your favorite?
This is easy!  My favorite subject is math!!  I have always loved math and taught sixth grade math departmentalized for five years.  If the opportunity ever arises to departmentalize in fourth, everyone knows that I would take math!  Sometimes I wish we could explore departmentalizing with the new core standards coming out.  It has been such a whirlwind this year to prepare and teach math, ELA, science and social studies lesson plans with new standards.  Whew!  

Does your state use the Common Core?
Currently, districts are deciding whether to "adopt", "adapt", or "ignore" the Common Core.  I am still not sure what our district has decided but I think we are "adapting".  Our 4th grade state tests in ELA and math that the students just took last week and the week before were aligned to the new Common Core standards.  

I do know that this year was a hodge podge of teachers trying to pull from here and there to find resources to prepare the students for the new standards on the tests.  I did teach everything that was on "the big math test" but I don't feel great about how it was presented or how well the students were prepared with tough questions one after another with what appeared to be no break.  Next year, the curriculum modules (which have only had a small portion released so far) are going to be our "textbook". I have a lot of work to do this summer! What are some of your “go to” blogs? My #1 go to blog is 4th Grade Frolics. Tara is amazing and has been so helpful since I began this blogging journey. There are many other upper elementary blogs that I love to read and some of these include Love To Teach, Collaboration Cuties, Ideas by Jivey, Looking From Third to Fourth, Fun in Room 4B, Head Over Heels for Teaching, Fifth in the Middle, Oh' Boy 4th Grade, Joy in the Journey, and, of course, Crofts' Classroom! I have really made some great bloggy buddies and there are so many wonderful blogs out there. I wish I had more time to spend reading them. Why did you start blogging? I started blogging because I wanted to be able to collaborate with the other blogging teachers out there. Having my own blog allows me to get so many more ideas and suggestions to improve my own teaching. I also love how it naturally makes me constantly reflect on my own teaching. Do you sale/buy on TpT or another site? Yes! I first found TPT when I moved to 4th grade in 2008 and put a few of my DBQ's from 6th grade world history on the site. I have sold very little compared to most people and am just learning the marvels of clip art. I wish I had more time to create products but I usually buy products to save time. With two small children and a full-time job, there is not much time left over for creating products. My goal is to someday reach the $20K Milestone Monday:) How many students are in your class? I have 20 students in my homeroom and 23 students in my ELA (6 of which are also in my homeroom). How many teachers are on your grade level/subject team? Each grade in our elementary school has three sections. I love my team of three and we work together A LOT! Do you do PLC’s? Kind of? There has been like four voluntary meetings after school to discuss the reading program and then it was named "PLC". I went to the meetings but I still don't know what is going to come out of it. We have basically discussed the positives and negatives or our reading program and read some chapters from The Reading Coach.

What is your schedule like for your classroom?
Our school day is 7:40-2:45 (we load the buses at 2:55). Here is the Monday schedule from my board:
7:40-7:55 The students arrive and go to lockers.

7:55-8:25  As students arrive, they turn in homework and get started on their math morning work, sharpening pencils, and math centers.  I work with students on math corrections, late/absent work, and do miscellaneous duties like attendance and pass back papers from the day before.  

8:45-9:25  We have our math meeting at the SMART board (students worked on it during morning work) followed by the math lesson.  I do the math lesson whole group style but use a lot of partner work and hands-on activities.  I am hoping to explore the math workshop model next year.

9:26-10:06  Specials (Gym on M, W, TH; Library on T and Music on F).

10:09-10:49  Specials on M, T, and TH; science or social studies time on W and F.

10:52-11:05 Snack time.  Students who owe work do not get free time at snack time.

11:05-12:25 ELA block.  We group the students into three groups among the three fourth grade classes and switch during this time.  I have 23 students in the above average/average group the average/below average group has 21 and the well below average group has 12 with a reading teacher for extra support during one hour of the 80 minute block.

12:25-12:40 Recess-Students who owe work stay in the "work room" and the other two teachers take the rest of the students for a short recess.  We can go outside on the playground, go for walk in the school, play games in the classroom, or go to the gym for a quick exercise.

12:40-1:10 Lunch

1:10-2:00 Academic Intervention Services (AIS) on M, W, and F.  I teach math AIS in two blocks to all the 4th graders that qualify for intervention in math, another teacher teaches ELA AIS in two blocks, and the third 4th grade teacher teaches "Topics of Study" (TOS) to the rest of the students (about 40) who alternate with a "Study Skills" (free time reading).  In TOS students receive more science or social studies instruction so there are 20 students in TOS and about 20 in study skills.  They switch locations alternating every M, W, and F.  It is confusing to explain but it is what we came up with since we started having to provide our own tier 2 AIS.
On Tuesday and Thursday, we have D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) after lunch, followed by science and social studies at 1:40.

2:00-2:45 Science or social studies

So, that is a little bit about me!  Thank you so much for reading to the end and thank you to Tina for the honor of being your guest blogger!!

1 comment:

  1. What a cool guest to have! Great post Holly and great idea Tina! :-)

    Craft of Teaching