It's {almost} a Wrap! 2014-2015 Top 10 Highlights

2014-2015 is about to be a wrap!! We have 9-1/2 more school days, but I'll call it 10 since I still get to wake up to an alarm clock each of those days. This year has been a BIG year of changes for me. I changed jobs, sold my house, got engaged, got married, and just moved into a new house! For the first year ever, I get a long summer break and I have been making mental lists of all the things I want to accomplish!

I thought that a countdown of our favorite classroom highlights from 2014-2015 would be a great way to close out the school year and to launch my new blog. The countdown will be a mix of MY and my students' favorite activities and routines.

So, my number TEN highlight of 2014-2015 was my decision to quit my job. This really should be my #1 for 2014-2015, because well, it changed everything. I know some teachers have moved around a lot for different reasons, but for me, this was a big deal. After nine years of teaching at the same school (starting as a 5th grade teacher and then looping a few times from 4th grade back to 5th), I made the decision that it was time to move on. I knew that I had worked my but-tootie off as a work-a-holic, super-excited and energetic (read "no life") beginning teacher, and I knew that it was time to reset my work-life balance so that I could have more than just a teaching career. The move allowed me to not only change perspective and begin anew in another environment, but it also allowed me to shirk many of the responsibilities I had piled on myself over the years. I have to say that where my mental state was last year at this time and where I am now is much improved. My teacher burn-out has turned into renewed passion for being in the classroom, and I now have the wisdom of more experience and new priorities keeping me from over-extending myself.

For the 2014-2015 school year, I transitioned to a K-8 charter school where the elementary only has one class per grade level AND the classrooms are capped at 20 students (although I had 21 because we can agree to having more students). I am the lone 4th grade teacher. The school recently set out on a mission to become a nationally recognized STEAM School (STEM with the arts) and has a Project-Based Learning focus. With this in mind, I immediately interpreted this to mean that as part of our school climate, “we expect our students to often learn through hands-on, creative methods.” 

We do not have a district creating new mandates for us. We have a board and a principal with a vision and we have the will of the teachers. We have the opportunity to be innovative and try new things without the fear of making mistakes or being told "no" to hold us back. I have felt more free to take risks and try new things. I have not felt guilty implementing projects and lessons that take a little more time. I have pulled out math manipulatives more often this year than in my entire teaching career put together. I have integrated art into writing, math, and science. I have implemented project-based learning and I have found opportunities to add a little engineering to my lesson plans. I have allowed my students to teach one another and I have integrated a ton of technology. I haven't worried as much about "covering all the standards" as I have teaching rich, deep, and for understanding. To top it off, I have just closed the book on the LEAST STRESSFUL environment during state testing I have ever experienced.

So, one of my best highlights from the 2014-15 school year is my transition to a new school and all the opportunities for growth, work-life balance, and sanity it provided. Stay tuned each {school} day for the next 9 days as I countdown the rest of my 2014-15 school year highlights. I promise the next nine will focus on classroom activities that topped my and my students' list of activities and routines.

Thanks for stopping by!

Want to skip ahead to my next highlights?

#9 Spiral Math Homework

#8 "One Thing" Goal Setting Strategy

#7 School Budget {Govt} Project

#6 Bill Peet Author Study Projects

#5 Poetry Workshop

#4 {State} Travel Brochure Projects

#3 Classroom Read Alouds {Chapter Books}

#2 Ecosystems Museum Projects

#1"Teach Me How to Teach" Projects

BONUS: Top Math Highlights