Old Year, New Year

Happy New Year background on wood

Happy 2017! We survived 2016! Woohoo!! I actually didn’t realize that people were hating on 2016 until like, yesterday. Apparently it all started with the death of Carrie Fisher and her mother, then spiraled down hill from there. I am not really sure.

Looking Back

For me, 2016 wasn’t actually all that bad. Don’t get me wrong there were some horrible days. Like the day my best friend/soul sister moved far, far away. The day I quite my job, then my financial situation talked me down from the cliff (fortunately I hadn’t spoken to my boss yet). The day that my husband didn’t get the call back about the dream job. The day the mortgage company told us we needed another $4,000 two days before closing on our house. 2016 had it’s really, really bad days.

But it also had it’s really great days. My husband and I went on a real, multiple-days kind- of vacation for the first time in years. My sister graduated from college and my other sister graduated from high school. I opened a store on Tpt and had sales!! I grew as a teacher and a person. My husband and I bought a house and had a little money leftover in the bank (last minute negotiations to the rescue!). We redesigned our laundry room and bought a *wonderful* and *working* washer and dryer. My college-graduate sister got engaged. Yep, 2016 was pretty great.

Looking Ahead

2017 is this bright, fresh and scary clean slate. With all of the great things that happened in 2016, I almost wonder if it is even possible for 2017 to go well. But I am going to look beyond that fear and press on.

Some of my goals for the year include:

  • Improving my command of the French language. Right now I have the grasp of a 1st grader in an American school… the first week of school. It isn’t pretty.
  • Being present in life rather than consumed by work. Making an active choice to stop working. You know how it is… as a teacher, yes, you can put the work aside until tomorrow, but I still need it to be done and ready by 8 am.
  • Reading two books a month. This is a goal I make each year. Some years I fail; some years I squeak in as mildly successful; then some years, like 2016, I smash my personal record. 53 books in 52 weeks.

Applying this to the Blog

Have I apologized yet for the radio silence? I am so sorry! When I started this blog in the fall, I had no idea that my free time was literally going to fall apart. We spent two months in this painfully intense house-buying mode, but finally closed right before November 1. Shortly after that, we began planning and preparing for our first DIY renovation project, which we could only do on the occasional evening that we were home. Which led us right to Christmas break, at which point, I just gave up until today. Life moved in and took over.

This year I have many of my blog posts planned. They range from education & my classroom, to history, to the life of Kristen, to things that I am just passionate about and want to talk about. To start January (one of my busiest months of the year), I plan on faithfully posting twice a month at minimum, but hope to grow that quickly as I get into the routine.

I look forward to being a part of the great internet community. Thank you for sticking with me through today and I hope that you will graciously allow me to start again.

Hope you have a wonderful 2017! Happy New Year!

~Kristen

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Do You Do Math?

Today I am starting an occasional thread of posts called “Confessions of a History Teacher.”

I am responsible for a daily study hall. My students know that they are expected to work hard and unless they are studying for an upcoming test or quiz cannot talk to their neighbors. I do not want to encourage an environment where students could get away with helping too much and thus accidentally cheating.

Students regularly ask me – the teacher, “Do you know science?” “Do you know English?” “Do you know math?”

I always answer “No.”

The confession – I tested out of my college English class and passed Advanced English with high marks. And I am a math minor.

Do I know English? Do I know math? Yes, but I am not telling you that!!!

Wanted: Refreshment

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While I absolutely love teaching, it can be hard. I don’t mean the extra three hours of work at home (on top of staying late at school). Or the grading. Or the hours of adapting lessons for the students who are struggling, while keeping the same lesson interesting and challenging for the advanced learners. Or incorporating technology. Or differentiating learning styles. Or communicating with the parents. Or everything.

I mean the drain. Every job has it’s areas of difficulties, but education seems to be one of those fields that drains you on every level – physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually.

Because of the challenges of my particular school, I face a lot of struggles with discouragement and weariness. On top of it, while we are instructed to be fun, new, exciting, and fresh, we aren’t really guided in those areas. After several years, I have learned that I need that inlet of fresh ideas, words of inspiration and encouragement.

Blogs are great! I love reading helpful, inspiring, insightful, and refreshing blogs, but I don’t always have the time to filter through everything that is out there. Pinterest is awesome! But it can be complete information overload and quickly becomes overwhelming.

So I have turned to podcasts. I know they have been around for ages and this is probably one of those moments where you are reading this and thinking “Duh, Kristen… everyone already does this…” But I didn’t… so maybe there is someone out there like me who needs the same encouragement.

The whole podcast library can be a little much, plus you have to actually listen to the podcast to find one that works for you. To save you that pain, I am going to share one that has been amazing so far.

For starters… Download a Podcast app on your phone and subscribe. The podcasts will auto-download whenever new ones are added to the library. You will get a notification to let you know it is available. It is that easy! No digging through a library or searching for something to listen to. It comes to you.

As far as time (because that honestly was my biggest concern)… I plug in my head phones and listen while I am grading or straightening up my room at the end of the day. I am going about my regular responsibilities at school, but also getting encouragement when I could otherwise be frustrated. I could just as easily listen to a podcast while cooking dinner, doing the dishes, or folding laundry.

I stumbled across Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers a few days ago then was directed to it by some teacher friends the next day. You know it is a winner when that happens.

Watson has this sweet caring voice that is joyful and honest. She can be firm and understanding all at the same time and all of the podcasts that I have listened to so far were off-the-charts practical, applicable, refreshing, encouraging, and inspiring.

Here is the link to Watson’s website: http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/truth-for-teachers. You can read more about what she does and quickly access her podcast.

Enjoy listening, growing, and being encouraged!

 

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Back-to-School Teacher Essentials

2016-09-16-bts-teacher-essentialsSo it is definitely that time of year. My school has been in session for a few weeks now, and we are all still getting into the swing of things. The teacher in the room next to me is shared by two brand new teachers. They have come by my room a number of times looking for suggestions on what they need for their classroom.

The reality is that all teachers new or experienced know the basics. We all know that you need bulletin board borders, punch out letters, sticky tack, post-it notes, a pencil sharpener, red pens, file folders, and on and on the list goes.

As my new neighbors were asking a few questions, it reminded me of those first few days of school when you realize you are still missing a few items.

Here are sixteen totally random items that you absolutely need for back-to-school. This is for new and experienced teachers.

  1. Scotch Titanium Scissors – Every teacher is going to spend a substantial amount of time cutting things. Don’t ask me why, but we all do it. I teach high school history and I still manage to spend a substantial amount of time cutting things. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself some great scissors! These babies can slice through hundreds of pages without going dull. They also work really well for thicker types of paper, like laminated posters, labels, cardstock, and more.
  2. Adhesive Dot Magnets – This was one of those items that I totally splurged on because I was trying to reach a spending goal for a decent discount. (That makes it a savings, right?) I don’t use the magnets all the time, but they are so handy. I love putting these on the back of posters to stick on my chalkboard. I have put magnets on bulletin board borders to outline a door frame or my desk or the chalkboard. There are a million unexpected applications for the magnet dots.
  3. Good Pens – Teachers write a lot. Whether notes to our students or parents (or administration), or grading and rubrics, a pen is likely going to spend a lot of time in your hand. I am personally a fan of the cheap medium Bic Round Stick pens, but I know teachers who prefer to use only G2 Gel Pens. Whatever you like to write with, stock up on those pens and have them handy.
  4. X-acto Knife – This is one of those items that I didn’t expect to need, but once I started using it, I was so glad I had it. These knives are necessary for the ultimate teacher art-project: our ever-changing classroom decor. I build my own bulletin boards because of financial restrictions and I like them to look sharp. As a result, I put a lot of time and effort into them. An x-acto knife has been a lifesaver on multiple occasions.
  5. Water Bottles – No, I do not mean the refillable kind. I mean the cheap plastic water bottles that you buy in a 32 pack at the grocery store. I know they aren’t very environmentally friendly, but when your refillable water bottle is empty and class isn’t over for another twenty minutes and you have a meeting immediately after, you NEED water and you NEED that water now. I always have a stash of two or three bottles in my desk. Not only I am prepared for my own emergency, but if something outrageous happens with a student, I have water in my desk. It makes me feel more prepared.
  6. Spare Cell Phone Charger – It’s gotten to the point where I had to label mine because my fellow teachers kept borrowing my iPhone charger. This is a lifesaver. I do attendance on my phone, check emails, take notes on student behavior, manage my to-do list, and scan multiple documents daily. There have been days when I thought my phone was fully charged and it very much was not. That could be a disaster! An additional benefit – my cell phone charger also charges my iPad. 🙂
  7. A Spare Tote Bag – Every once in a while, I need to take an unusually massive load of books and papers home. I have my regular day-to-day bag for my laptop, grade book, and a few other items, but this bag won’t hold multiple textbooks, dozens of papers, or a desk-full of Christmas presents from my students. A spare tote bag has helped with those rare occasions and made it a little easier to carry all the extra stuff.
  8. Snacks – Along the same vein as the water bottles, sometimes lunch time cannot come soon enough. A few nutritious snacks are just an encouragement. But the reality is I just need something to get me through until lunch or dinner so I don’t get all hangry on my students. I have a problem… I know. 🙂
  9. Hand Sanitizer – No need to expound on this one. We all have that one student.
  10. Clorox Wipes – Just like the hand sanitizer, we all have that one student.
  11. Sharpies – Things need labeled. Pens don’t cut it.
  12. Cords to Hardwire Technology – every school is a little different with their technology requirements or expectations. My school provides TVs, Apple TVs, and iPads and expects the teachers to use these items regularly. The only small problem is that they want us to connect the iPad to the Apple TV using the school’s wifi. But with multiple teachers using the same router to access the internet, results in terribly slow internet. Not to mention all of the student’s devices that are pinging the same router, even if they aren’t connecting. I can’t rely on the wifi to stream a video in class or even play through a presentation. So no matter your situation, I strongly recommend you have any necessary cords and adapters to hardwire your devices. Trust me, you do not want to plan on using the device for an entire class period only to find out it isn’t working.
  13. Blank Cards for Birthdays, Thank yous, etc. – Sometimes I just forget that it was a co-workers birthday or that I still haven’t written that thank you card. Sometimes my fellow teachers are having a really bad day and need a note of encouragement. Having a little stack of cards stashed in my desk is just useful.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now. Hope you are enjoying your school year and now you feel a little more prepared.

 

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High School Classroom Reveal: 2016

T-2 Days! Back-to-School Night is two days away and my classroom has to be completely ready to go for the parents. As if I wouldn’t want it that way, anyway?

Personally, I have perfectionist tendencies. But I live in reality and understand that not everything can be perfect. Like the lighting in these photographs. This is as good as it gets. So I apologize for some dark or glare-filled photos.

I also want to apologize for my lack of theme. All of the best classroom reveals on Pinterest are these amazing color-coordinated, perfectly-themed, high school appropriate classrooms, but not me!! I am just happy that the room is acceptable looking.

This is the reality of high school. Students want a balance between super-colorful, fun rooms and a place of serious study. In my experience, they vary by the day. So I do what I can to strike a balance and make my classroom the best that I can make it.

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The Door: Obviously “Welcome” in Scrabble letters is the most exciting Back-t0-School door ever! Actually I like it because, you can’t tell in this picture but our hallways are tiny! The kids cram into the hallway and backpacks scrap along the walls. Think… Black Friday at Walmart! Many an amazing door has been ruined by book bags and bodies, so I have given up and decided on a simple door this year. The Scrabble letters are heavy duty and laminated. They should survive the year.

 

2016-08-18 Classroom Reveal4Entering the Room:When you first walk into my room, this picture is what you will see. I only have one bulletin board in my room (for which I am grateful). I really like information for the students, not all decoration, so my doors serve as both – information & decoration.

Door #1 (on the left) covers the current candidates for the election. Just having this bit of information is a great start to grasping all of the names and faces of the upcoming election.

Door #2 shows several pictures of our current government officials including the President, VP, Supreme Court, State Governor, and US Senators. Also a list of things to pray about for our officials. We are allowed to do that sort of thing in my school.

Door #3 is my missing homework board. I will show you more about how I do all of that another day. It works!

Door #4 is my success chart door. I have way more students that you can see here, so I also use the inside of my doors.
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Above: To the left of this photo is my homework station. I will cover that on another day as well, but this is where students turn in homework, notebooks (in the basket), and where they can pick up any handouts they missed. On the walls I have a few motivational posters that I found on Pinterest. Above the chalkboard is my verse of the year. 1 Peter 1:27. I feel like it is very appropriate for this election year, when most people are dissatisfied with both candidates. Then my desk to the right.

Below: My lone bulletin board and signature American flag. I always have an American flag hanging in the room. I teach American history, so it is a must. As you can tell I don’t have a huge classroom. I can fit 16 comfortably, but I have taught 22 in here before. That was a tight fit! One of the benefits of teaching at a smaller private school is a high teacher-to-student ration. Our class size averages 15 students per teacher.

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Well, that’s it! It’s a small room. I’m sure you will get to see some close ups in the future. For now, more than anything, I wanted you to know that some classrooms don’t look exactly like Pinterest. 🙂

~K

 

 

Encouraging Success

Today I started back in my classroom decorating and sorting papers, tests, etc. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (Not really…)

As much as I love going back to school, I have a severe love/hate relationship with decorating my classroom. Because I teach Middle School through early High School, my students are at a really odd age where they love the super-decorated classrooms, but they don’t want them to be childish. Last I checked teacher supply stores don’t carry said classroom decor – you know what I mean. Woodland animals, insects, even the hippest chalkboard themed decor can really be a turn off for a 12-17 year old.

As a result, I have started making *most* (not all) of my own classroom decor. It was out of necessity. I will give you a tour of my classroom when it is finished, but as of right now, it is not.

One of the items that I was forced into making was a fun system to reward the students for Encouraging Success1_edited-1doing well and encourage them to keep pushing forward. As long as it is not overdone, every single teenager loves getting a sticker. Trust me, they do not love getting a sticker on every single assignment. That borders on embarrassing! But my 12-17 year old students absolutely love being acknowledged for a job well done. They like letting their friends know in a passive-aggressive sort of silent way. Something else I have noticed about 12-17 year olds is they love any excuse to get out of their seats.

Alright, MS & HS teachers, remember those old sticker charts that you used in elementary school for good behavior? Well, I have revamped them for high school!

Introducing… drum roll, please… the Success Chart!! These babies are great!

Every time a student gets a certain percentage on a test, quiz, or project grade, they are awarded a sticker of their choice to add to their success chart – which is of course, located in the front of the room. At the end of the year, those who make it to the final row of their charts receive a small reward – like a lollipop. Those who complete the charts by the end of the year – get a candy bar of their choice! It’s a big deal. 🙂

And the stickers… There is delightful mayhem when it is comes to these stickers. I have boys in my class who regularly request that I shop for certain types of stickers. (The 16 year old crowd is particularly fond of the bees and penguins.) My students make patterns with their stickers. They try to make all of the stickers on their chart blue. They try to get all of the stickers to be the exact same turkey for all 42 slots. And competition is fierce to see who has the most stickers.

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Adding a sticker to their chart is seriously something they look forward to! It is a bad day for me if I forget to announce the recipients of the stickers or run out of the current favorite sticker.

Encouraging Success2Yes, I know the students enjoy getting out of their seats. I know they enjoy maybe “wasting” a few minutes of class and getting some candy. But I also know that my students study just a little harder because they want that sticker. I know that my students are a little more disappointed with their lack of studying when they miss a sticker, and it encourages them to work a little harder next time.

I have also seen this inspire students to encourage those who don’t get stickers as frequently. Some of the students have studied with those who don’t do as well, so they can get a sticker next time. There are cheers and high-fives for those who do well, and the thrill of finishing a chart at the end of the year.

Overall, the Success Charts have been successful in my classroom. 🙂

 

If you really love the Success Chart idea, check them out at TeachersPayTeachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Success-Charts-2733227

~K

 

Welcome!

Hello dear reader,

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Thanks for visiting 422History! My name is Kristen (that’s my super-awesome husband in the picture) and I am a high school history teacher. Next week begins my 6th year as a full-time teacher, and my 3rd year in a history classroom. I am looking forward to another wonderful year at my school, and just a little overwhelmed with all of things that still need done. (Isn’t that how it always is?)

A few friends asked why I chose the name 422History as my brand. Well, it was a no-brainer to be honest. My classroom window looks out onto a Pennsylvania highway, locally known as 422 (pronounced “four-twenty-two”)…. and my back deck looks out onto the same Pennsylvania highway… and it’s my birthday. You could say my life revolves around 422.

As far as things you will see on this website, you are going to see a lot about my classroom, teaching methods, activities I dreamed up or discovered online, bulletin boards (because history boards are REALLY hard!), and basically anything that peaks my interest -education-related or not.

I hope that you will be able to come here and find refreshing ideas that you might not see elsewhere or have been tailored to the high school history classroom. I also hope that you will find a refreshing place that balances school and life.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back soon!

~K