Ta-Da Tuesday: Why I Connect

I don’t do a ton of these blog link party things but I’ve really enjoyed the heart behind 180 Days to Happy so here we go…


The theme for the week is: Why I Connect

Here are 3 reasons I connect:

1. Inspiration – I have found, read, followed and been so inspired by the teachers and others I have found on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, other blogs, etc. Hearing about the amazing things others are doing motivates and inspires me to continue pushing myself further in the profession and in what I create and do with my own classes. When the day has been long or tiring or had it’s frustrating moments, seeing posts, tweets, etc. from so many great people keeps me going and reminds me it’s all worth it and it’s FUN too.

2. Classroom Impact – The hashtag #GeniusHour (on Twitter in particular) has literally transformed how I teach. When I came across it early summer last year I was intrigued and embarking on a new journey making my global studies class yearlong with a section of students in 7th and a section in 8th. I’ve always enjoyed the creative/innovative side of teaching and giving fun projects to students related to content but the idea of letting students take learning into their own hands, learning and creating within parameters THEY make, and inspiring and motivating themselves and each other – I couldn’t pass it up. It’s made me a better teacher, forced me to continue to think outside the box, given students who thought they didn’t have a lot to offer the confidence to believe they do… Connecting on twitter one Thursday a month with others for #GeniusHour talk, following teachers who use #GeniusHour – I can’t quantify the impact it’s had. Going into the second year of implementing Genius Hour it is only getting better.

3. PLC/PLN – That might sound like it goes with what I shared above but for me following the blogs and Twitter accounts of other teachers, teacher leaders, etc. really makes me think and reflect. Sometimes there’s that post that makes me think about something I haven’t considered before, a new technique or idea for how to handle that student that gets on your last nerve, an overview of a new web tool and how it could be used… I soak up that kind of thing and it stimulates growth since it makes me in turn think and reflect on my teaching.

Thanks for the link up!



We’ve finished a full week of school and moving forward!

After spending a lot of August thinking and planning I’ve been excited to put things into action. I want to be more intentional this year across the board both with school stuff and the rest of my life (hello, teachers have personal lives too!).

So what do I want to be intentional about this year?

1. MY Morning Routine – I set up for myself a specific morning routine that I hope to keep up with throughout the year with specific goals for reading, exercising, blogging/writing and just some time to breathe and wake up with a cup of coffee before feeling too busy. I attributed that previously to having reading What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. Each part of that routine I’ve set up has a purpose that reaches beyond just my physical health, professional life, being something I just enjoy or want to do – it’s helping me set up a better day and getting in the right frame of mind before I head out the door.

2. Set up of my room – As I am sharing my room with two other teachers when I do not have classes, this is important. I got a few extra storage containers and bought some super fun classroom labels to put up in the room so that I know where things are and my students also know. Below are a few pictures – you might notice a theme.

10600450_787053227163_6936515045868811633_n 3. ISNs (Interactive Student Notebooks) – I decided to dive into ISN territory mid-late summer this year. I’ll do a longer post at some point about why and how but I like the organization and what the end result should be for both myself and my students. It’ll keep me on track, keep us all organized and hopefully be a keepsake that shows student accomplishments. Here are the pictures of my 8th grade and 7th grade notebooks. Again…a running theme in there somewhere. 🙂

10612893_785015680423_467666731524791280_n10600615_791661562023_7204521443238324421_n4. Bringing the fun – I love what I teach and have had the chance to create and adapt a lot. I am already taking it to new levels with the chance to use the ISNs here and there (not every day) but also in subtle ways like what I’ve put up around the room, student creativity, etc. At some point you have to make the little things fun not only for the students but for yourself too which is why I likely ended up with a more Doctor Who themed classroom this year. 🙂

995605_782718648693_4889919761394396761_nYou have to bring the fun personally too so I did a fantasy football draft. Done a little trading, adding and dropping. Still a work in progress but I’m quite happy with the QB (go Pats!!).

10645316_791823252993_4530896318761634420_n-1**If you’re curious, the fictional location signs, classroom labels and planner I printed came from TeachersPayTeachers.

Later this week I might post on why the word “intentional” has been my personal buzz word of sorts lately not just with school but in my life in general.

Meme-tastic Start to the School Year

Well, 2 days down, 178 to go! A new school year began on Monday. I’m glad I started thinking through my thoughts, ideas and plans for the year ahead of time. Although we had a week of workdays, one was full of off-site professional development at schools around the district, a couple of hours in the morning for two days and then both 6th grade Panther camp and 7th and 8th grade open house on Wednesday and Friday respectively.


This was for 7th and 8th open house. I set up a quick “photobooth” area with props.

With a variety of shifts we’ve also added a number of students and added a teacher here and there. I now share my room with 2 other teachers so it’s literally being used all day. Glad to do what I can to share the love. The three of us have tried to organize ourselves to the best of our ability to keep make it work for the rest of the year.

Monday went well. I’m excited yet again for my yearlong classes. My 7th and 8th grade global studies rotation classes are good. I’ve got a set curriculum to go through with them while they are with me and I really enjoy the topics I cover with them (culture, perceptions/stereotypes, human rights, refugees, revolutions and terrorism). The yearlong classes – look to be a blast again this school year. After doing a global studies/Odyssey of the Mind hybrid(ish) class for the first time last year, I learned a TON since it’s not one set curriculum the entire time they are with me. We find a balance between the global and the creative. I did a lot of thinking, planning and have tried take what I learned from last year to make this year even better (ISNs, better student project proposal forms, etc.). That’s a post for another day…

I found a really fun idea for using the “Someecard” meme in a back to school activity on TeachersPayTeachers and used it with my students. They had to come up with a school related statement, saying or something of the sort to add to a card that had an image on it. Some went with the infamous “…said no one ever.” Others used “That awkward moment when…” Some blended the humor and slight sarcasm very well.  The yearlong kids got very clever with what they came up with.  Here are several that made me laugh.1544515_793215717483_445389715663162315_n


10606565_793215433053_3198773681614198258_nIf you can’t read the top of this one it says, “Maybe I should pack  breakfast for lunch,” said every 7th grader ever.  (They have lunch at 10am or so!)




I wholeheartedly give my stamp of approval on that last one for the use of Doctor Who (ok and maybe Jensen Ackles too).

Pretty entertaining.  They seemed to enjoy doing it and hearing what everyone else came up with.

So far so good!  On to day 3!  Working to remind myself slow down…slow down.  It’s the first week of school!  Slow down.  (I tend to get a little over excited about diving into what we’re covering.)

I might post some pictures of the room, what I’m adapting/planning with the ISNs and how I’m attempting to be more intentional with my mornings (both at home and at school) this year.

I’m Back (and with a plan to be more consistent)!

It’s kind of funny that my last post I said that I did still exist and was going to do better about posting. Then the end of the school year happened and it was just madness. I do have a plan now though! Thanks in part to some great posts from 180 Days to Happy and reading the book What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. I’m hoping to set up a morning routine 2 days a week that will involve blogging a bit before the crazy of the day begins.

But let’s back up before we go any further. This looks long, but there are a bunch of pictures. 🙂

Right around the time that I claimed I still existed we had three OM (Odyssey of the Mind) teams at my school compete at the State competition in North Carolina. We were fortunate to have 2 of the 3 teams place 1st and get invited to World Finals in Iowa! I’ve coached OM teams for 8 years and this was the first time I’d coached a team to World Finals. Add to that the fact that the middle school I teach at has only done the program for 2 years and that’s an accomplishment! I’d previously coached for 4 years at an elementary school. We had a blast in Iowa competing, hanging out, meeting teams from around the world, trading pins… The Driver’s Test team (yep, they had to build and design a car that completed various tasks) I coached placed 4th in the world out of 46 teams and our How We Rule team (creating a fictional royal court with some specifics from historical courts) placed 8th out of 48 teams. Top 10 in the world! Blown away.

10428646_10203206365177267_264368785360934860_nRight before performing at World Finals


Pin trading!  We had pins made for the kids and they wanted a zombie theme. 🙂

10334417_766710778593_5807256804479828294_nI traded for a Doctor Who pin. I was quite pleased.

All of the planning, preparing, financial stuff in getting ready for World Finals (which was at the end of May RIGHT BEFORE EOGs) made things crazy and hectic. I needed a break by the time school ended. I needed summer. It was a choppy kind of summer. Busy and unusual in some ways.

A few days after school was out we had a big family event coming up! My sister was getting married! So I drove up with my dad and my youngest sister to New Hampshire (mom flew up). 16 hour drive both ways but worth it.


Wedding fun!


Hil and Derek

A few days after the wedding I went up to my family’s place in the mountains for about a week and a half. That turned out to be the getaway for the summer.


Right before heading home my OM team had planned a get together nearby in the Virginia mountains. They really got along and liked hanging out, being together and having fun. So I headed up there and we camped and went rafting down the New River.

10412034_748799375184484_7107577262014620324_nAfter we returned from rafting I got a phone call from my mother and sister to get back to them ASAP. My grandfather had passed away overnight. We can’t say it was a surprise but the timing was unexpected. My grandmother had been going downhill with Alzheimer’s after they had attempted living with both of my dad’s brothers and their families for a time. We’d convinced my grandfather she’d be safer and better off in an Alzheimer facility. He was always visiting her but I know he still worried about her. He’d lost a lot of weight over the months of living with my aunts and uncles. A few of them think he likely died of starvation. He also had diabetes and a few questionable changes his doctors made with that prior to his passing. Either way it was hard to hear. We drove back up to New England and despite the circumstances it was good to see my dad’s side of the family.


All of of the cousins together in the same place for the first time in five years!

I stayed a few days longer to help them start going through things at my grandparents’ house. The greatest blessing in the situation was knowing that just 2-3 weeks before his death my grandfather was able to be at Hilary’s wedding. I LOVE the picture of the two of them below and the one of them holding the picture of my grandmother who wasn’t able to be there.


After returning home from the funeral it was late July. I think I was home a total of 6 nights (mostly just to sleep) from June 16 to July 24. A couple of days after getting home we had LOVE Week scheduled at my church. I had a blast with it last summer serving at a camp Christ Our Shepherd ran for kids who come from single parent homes. I did it again this summer with a few people who had also served last year. We had a blast!

10530909_781163575073_444287125575795973_nNot long after LOVE Week we had a volunteer event and they had a photobooth they set up. It was a fun night.

10600404_786512101583_5162088201391566880_nAnd now here we are at the end of the workdays. School starts on Monday! I’m ready for the routine and structure again after this summer. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t terrible – just unusual, choppy, busy and emotional. It definitely had highlights and fun times.

I did a lot of thinking, getting ideas and planning (helped a lot by TpT, Instagram and Teaching Teens in the 21st) once August arrived so I’ll have to post about that and how workdays went soon. Here’s to hoping year 9 gets off to a great start!

I Do Exist

Hello world.  It’s been a while.  I’ve been pretty terrible at blogging for the past year, apparently.  I need to get back to it.  And yeah, I know I’ve said that several times in the last year.  It’s been a crazy one though.  2013 was a good year and 2014 is proving to be an interesting one as well.  Very, very busy.  In fact, the last 7 months have been pretty intense juggling teaching and coaching and Odyssey of the Mind team that is now headed to World Finals in a couple of weeks.  It’s been very fun but really draining staying on top of so much.  I wouldn’t trade it though.  There have been so many moments with the kids both when teaching and coaching that I wouldn’t trade for the world and in every way – I would rather than drain me than be concerned about maintaining a consistent blog.  Kids > technology.

But, that being said, I think I could easily do a picture update of the past year via my school Twitter and Instagram accounts and my personal accounts.  So let’s have that be the plan.  Next post is a picture update on life both at home and at school.  It’s been a good one and as the year winds down, hopefully I can get into the swing of things again and consistently schedule posts.  Someone hold me to that. 🙂

Look for a SLANTbox post soon too.  I’m very excited to be participating.

The Annual Holi-Birthday Wish List

It’s been FOREVER since I last posted and I’ve been telling myself I need to do better.  Lots of interesting things happening with what I’m doing in my classroom this year so hopefully I’ll get back on track.  All of that being said… It is coming.

ImageIt’s kind of like I’m going to be…


The big 3-0 is coming and along with it other fantastic things about fall are arriving…  Fall foods, weather, activities, football, and we near Christmas.  With that in mind…here’s the annual Holi-Birthday Wish List for 2013.  This is pretty tough considering the past 9 months have been pretty amazing with a trip to DC, a visit to Gillette stadium TWICE, seeing Patriots training camp, LOVE Week 2013, seeing Backstreet Boys in Boston, trips to the mountains…

  • Barnes and Noble gift cards (for my Nook and other such things)
  • Tickets/seats at the New England Patriots vs. Carolina Panthers game (seriously, let’s just keep piling on the awesome with the Pats training camp and add to it actually getting to a GAME)
  • Gift cards of all varieties are welcome (food – Carrabbas and Starbucks are always lovely, iTunes, any clothing/shoe gift cards are great as are Target gift cards…)
  • $$ to fix the paint sealant (not a huge deal right now but something that’d be nice to take care of while it’s only slightly peeling and would cost less now rather than later)
  • New MacBook?  (This one still runs but on an olllllld version of OS X with 2 GB of memory and I can’t upgrade to too much because stuff is so old…)
  • Carpet cleaning (Sounds crazy but it’s been a few years since it’s been deep cleaned.  I’ve done it on my own a few times.)
  • Tickets to the Nutcracker or Messiah through Blumenthal in Charlotte
  • $$ for my Keurig replacement (it died last month)
  • Candles
  • Anything Duke/Patriots
  • Going Solo in the Kitchen by Jane Doerfer
  • Guitar Hero for Wii
  • Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
  • $$ to pay off some of my college loans (always nice to make it go a little faster)
  • Small, new coffee table (dark wood/stain)
  • Garlic press
  • Nice set of measuring cups (mine are getting warped)

Photo Credit 1

Photo Credit 2


Somewhere Around the World…


In my previous post full of reasons why I’m full of a serious desire to travel and just GO somewhere, I mentioned that there were several factors that have really been pushing me lately.  There are the obvious reasons:

1. I’ve traveled abroad several times – once you go, you’ll have that desire in the back of your mind all the time.  Whether you do something about it or let it lie dormant is another thing.

2. My teaching degree and current teaching position lend itself well for being reasons to travel – I have a degree in Spanish education and teaching certification in Spanish K-12 AND middle school Social Studies.  Can’t get much more global than that.

3. I just want to SEE and experience more of the world.

Then there are the amusing reasons

4. I’m not getting any younger…but I’m not old either.  So, hello perfect age.

5. I’m at a stage in my life where I have the commitment during the school year but summer is wide open.  I just have to grab at it.  No strings attached…yet.  (One day??)

6. You’ve denied me twice, travel grants. You were RIGHT THERE.  And then you weren’t.  I’ve been ok with it.  I get it.  But that’s about enough of that…  You’re just fueling the fire now.

But then there are the “out there in the world” inspirations that are fanning the flame too.  For example…

The Young Adventuress – Been to over 25 countries and in Jordan right now.  She was an auxilar de conversacion in Spain for 2 years.  Essentially, she taught English in Spain, was paid (700 euros/month), got to live in a country I thoroughly enjoy and have great memories of AND got to travel all over.  Her blog is amusing – lots of pictures, entertaining stories and good insight and information.  The whole Spanish/teaching thing…  I get you.

BootsnAll – I can’t even remember how I came across this blog but it’s got a lot of interesting resources to help you plan trips and something called an “RTW”.  Round the World trip.  Wooo.  Craaaazy.

A Dangerous Business – She decided that she was going to travel when she realized Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand.  Geek after my own heart.  She’s been to more than 20 countries.  She’s also got a degree in journalism and has a penchant for being a grammar fanatic…er…police  which I also find myself being.

LandLopers – Reminded me of the curiosity I have about Iceland…  Love how he calls himself a “recovering cubicle dweller”.  He really tries to write from the perspective of an everyday person who just enjoys traveling and sharing what they learn.  It doesn’t all have to be about the “glamour” that is travel.

Twenty-Something Travel – Very relatable…not just with the age business (but let’s not discuss that changing to “thirty-something” in the next few months…).  It’s run by a girl who has backpacked in Europe and Asia, roadtripped in Australia, created an iPhone app (Eat the World), left her office job and though she’s in DC currently will be traveling again soon.

Adventurous Kate – She’s about my age.  Quit her job 2 years ago to travel and is still doing so.  She traveled for 6 months in Asia and now bases herself in London while still traveling.

Highly suggest checking them out – great stories and advice.  It’s like travel bootcamp – need inspiration?  Check.  Need advice?  Check?  Need a reality check?  Got it.  Get it into gear, traveler!

Photo Credit