Tuesday, July 7, 2015

First Finish of Summer - The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Amazingly, I just finished my first book of the summer.  I am an avid YouTube viewer and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo was all the rage a couple months ago.  I checked the book out from the library, and it sat around forever - until I started getting emails that other people were on a waiting list at the library and I needed to return the book!

source: Amazon.com

I spent the majority of my day writing math curriculum, so I needed something mindless to do on the muggy New York day. So, I lounged on my couch with the breeze coming through the window (completely neglecting the dozens of other things I should be doing) and read.

I'm not entirely sure what I think of this book.  I chose it because everyone seems to have read it, but I also long to be that organized person - both at home and work.  I guess being told that my classroom is a giant mess because the cleaners stacked everything up also gave me some motivation to read this book.  I was tempted to go in today, but convinced myself that I need to take a break from school...even if my eyes are twitching at the thought of putting that room together!

I digress, I like the message - a tidy space equals a tidy mind.  I have been thinking about how much time I spend cleaning.  My classroom, my home, my car.  I also spend a lot of time putting away, shopping for, and picking out my clothes.  Is this time well spent?  The more I seek out a simple life, the more I think that it isn't.  Don't get me wrong, I love clothes and choosing unique pieces, but I want to spent my time differently. Or at least balance my time differently.

I did find the whole talking to your things to tell them how helpful or good they are to be a bit much.  I also have mixed feeling about only keeping things that you truly love.  I have lots of things that I like, especially clothes.  If I get rid of everything I just like or are just useful, I don't think I would be able to make any outfits.  I also like home d├ęcor.  Not that I love everything I have, but I put up/out things because they suit by design aesthetic.

While I feel the tone of the book is a bit too out there, I generally think that the author has many good points.  I am glad that I read the book.  I am also glad that it was a pretty quick read.  Am I going to begin the process, as the author outlines?  Probably not, but I am working hard to cut back on spending and clean out this summer!

A few of my favorite quotes:
"In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in."p. 190

"...pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life." p. 204

So, if you are looking for inspiration to simplify or get your home in order, check out this fast read!  What are you reading this summer?


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Classroom Improvements Linky

Well I have enjoyed my first real week of summer!  Our last day was on June 26th, but I needed an extra half day to finished moving my classroom.  It was a super quick move - nothing to box because I was only moving two doors down.  Last week was mostly devoted to recovering from a challenging year and spending some time getting my house into order.  It is amazing how many things get neglected during the school year! 

Even though I have been thinking about school as little as possible, I saw this link up and decided to join in. I'm linking up with Ashley and Angie for July's Together We Are Better.  This month is about what we are going to be improving this upcoming year.  I have been thinking about (Sorry no pictures, but I took very few last year and my room is completely packed for the summer!): 

1. Room Set-up
I am soooo happy to be replacing old desks with brand new tables and chairs! Part of me cringes at the thought of now having to deal with all of the kids' things that went in the desks and the fear that I can not regroup kiddos based on groups that work well together.  The other part of my knows that I will have more space and the classroom will be more streamlined with tables.

Generally, figuring out where all my stuff should go shouldn't be too hard since the set-up of the room is about the same.  However, now that I will have tables, I have to think about managing everything that went in the kids' desks. Here's what I'm thinking, based on how I used tables way back when I taught first grade:

  • Book boxes/Writing boxes - I had book boxes this last year and stopped using them around mid-year.  I did this because most of my students were reading a chapter book or two, making the book boxes a bit much for such small books.  However, I realized that I could not check up on what the kids were reading as easily.  Even thought the kids said they did not feel I should use book boxes when I poled the class at the end of the year, I think I will bring them back for teacher reasons. 
  • I would also like to add student writing folders and notebooks to these boxes. We started with Lucy Calkins this year and reading and writing felt very unconnected.  It may also be because I taught reading and my co-teacher taught writing, so they really were separated.  I hesitated to pull writing into reading time because the kids were on writing overload by the time they finished with their hour.  I would like to bring reading and writing back together when I begin to teach on my own again next year.
  • Table Baskets - I used to have a basket in the center of the tables to hold student Finish and WIP folders.  I am not sure if I can fit tool boxes in here as well or if I need a separate storage area.
  • Math Baskets - to store our two math books and folders.
  • Folder containers - I think that I will have specific containers for content area folders, since we use them so rarely.
  • Ugh - Spelling books - maybe another basket?  An cursive books?  Maybe the Finish Folders?  I have to think about this a bit more. It may come to me in the moment the first week of school.

2. Classroom Library
Ahh!  My long-suffering library.  Moving between grades and moving classroom has taken its toll on my poor book collection.  In first and second grade, I had a leveled library and a class library with picture books that I did not feel it was necessary to level.  When I first moved to third grade, I didn't have time nor did I think it was a good idea to level my books.  After bumping down to second grade, where I was again using level books, I had a different take when I returned to third grade this past year and leveled all the chapter books. This caused more issues that I ever thought.  Mainly, students and parents became *way* too focused on levels.  After poling the kids, I have decided to regroup my books by interest and remove many of the books that were either too young or were not of interest - the kids helped me with this during the last week.  I want to make book choice a strong focus the first week of school in the next year. Now, I just need to re-label the books and baskets and maybe decide on some different ways to store the books.

3. Daily 5 Update
I let go of much of D5 over the last two years and regret it big time!  I would like to restructure my classroom and storage so that it is conducive to this framework again.  I want to set up space for spelling materials, instead of relying on the spelling workbooks.  I want to set up a writing area instead of only focusing on Calkins. Most of all, I want to have my decor reflect the principles of D5 again - bulletin boards, center board organizer, student materials.

I could list so much more, but it is best to think small so that things stay manageable.  I am determined to keep my teaching life more simple this coming year!

What are your classroom improvements?  Check out this great link up!