Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Staying Connected

My favorite picture from my last trip

I recently traveled home to visit my parents. The five-hour drive from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to Canyon, Texas (in the Panhandle), is one of my favorites. It is a time for me to reflect and catch up on my thoughts, as I am forced to disconnect from social media. The 355-mile drive takes me through the many small towns that are sprinkled along 287. 

This time, I found myself thinking about the special bond that educators share, and how much I appreciate my colleagues at ATPE. Please check out my post on the ATPE blog!

Irving ATPE's Back to School Mixer in September.
By the way, this blog post was sponsored by ATPE, but the words and opinions are 100% mine!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Staying Organized with Calendars

I recently had a chance to write an article for a magazine (and I am forever thankful for great editors!) You can check out the article here with the ATPE News Online Magazine.

Number 4 on the list was staying organized and keeping up with important dates.  After getting a few emails I made this quick video (now.. don't judge too much as the video quality is not the greatest..but I will share all my links!)  Now, I want to preface this whole blog post.. I am a technology addict! I have almost every app on my phone for listing and calendars.. and I still go back to actual pen and paper.

For the past 2 years I have been using the Uncalendar.  I am a HUGE lister so I loved all the space that the Uncalendar gave me.  The price was fantastic as well.  There are 2 different sizes. I bought the small size the second year, but ended up buying the full size as well (have I mentioned that I love making lists?)  But, if I am going to be organized, I am going to have space to make different notes on the items that I need to do.  Check it out here
Reasons I loved the Uncalendar:
-Had monthly calendars along with weekly calendars and lots of pages for notes and other important information.

This year I jumped on the Erin Condren bandwagon.  This is a great company and has lots of different things you can add to your calendar.  I chose to get the lesson planner (but it was really because I couldn't wait for the Life Planner to come out.. apparently patience is not one of my virtues)  In hindsight.. with my position the lesson planner was probably not the best option.  You can check out Erin Condren here.
Reasons I loved the Erin Condren:
-I do like the size
-It does have space for listing.. and I think that if I had waited for the Life planner it would have been a much better fit for me
-It does have monthly calendars along with the weekly calendars.

Those are the 2 main ones that I have used.. and then a sponsored post for the Happy Planner came up in my Facebook feed.  Guess what.. you don't have to order it online! You can of course.. but it was so nice to actually pick it up and feel it before spending the money (little secret.. I love organizing)  You can get this at Michaels and Hobby Lobby.  I knew that the planner I had was not the best fit for me.. so I decided to go ahead and grab this one.

I have had my Happy Planner for a week.. and I LOVE IT!
Reasons I love it:
-The size is great and I bought the expanders so it fits even more items
-It is easy to organize- I bought the extra folders, notepads and stickers
-I think that it goes back to my #makingofamaker where it offers me a chance to be creative when I am listing
-The price is fantastic! I ended getting mine at Michaels and had a great coupon.

Do you have a favorite planner?  How do you stay organized?

Sunday, September 20, 2015


We just celebrated International Dot Day at school.  If you have not had a chance to read The Dot by Peter Reynolds, it needs to be on your list!  It is all about making your mark and seeing where it takes you.  Every year on September 15th ish people around the world celebrate International Dot Day!

To prepare for Dot Day this year we made Dot Themed shoes. Super easy! Found my shoes at Wal-Mart (just need canvas shoes) and used puffy paint.  I also bought circle dobbers, but you could also use a ton of different dot shaped items.

For the past 3 years we have celebrated Dot Day at school.  There were a ton of awesome dot themed shirts that came to school that day, and our event was a success!
We had several stations that students could work through:

Participants grabbed an old cd and a paperplate.
Put the cd on the paperplate and painted both the plate and cd
Once dried participants could take off the cd and there would be negative dot on the paper plate

Participants took a die cut plain dot and decorated it in the style of
Van Gogh or Piet Mondrian

Download the Quiver app (android and iphone) and print off the Dot coloring sheet
participants were able to color their own dot and then have it come to life by using the Quiver app

-Dot Photobooth
I mean, how can you pass up a photobooth!
-Pasta Jewelry
Our amazing art teacher dyed a ton of pasta! (and got everything set up for this event!)
Participants had a chance to rotate through this station and make necklaces or bracelets that had dot shapes in them

I love watching students and parents create together.  What better way to do that then with the reminder that we want everyone to make their mark.

To get our administration ready for Dot Day we had some Dot Day shenanigans in their office!

This week I had a fellow teacher bring me this beautiful piece of artwork.  She told me that she watched my #summerofcreating and decided to do her own.  She did a few pieces, but after doing this one she wanted me to have it. (not going to lie.. had a few tears.. and I now have it displayed in my room!)
Have you celebrated Dot Day?  What are your favorite things to do?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Champion for Educators

New routines, new students, new teachers… can only mean a new year!  I recently began my 14th year (oh my goodness... only 14!) in a school district. At the beginning of the summer I chose my word for the upcoming year. Champion.  I blogged about it here I rewatched one of my favorite Youtube videos by Rita Pierson: Every Kid needs a Champion, and I started my school year.
And, I just published a new blog post about how important I think the word, “Champion,” is to our students on the Association of Texas Public Educators (ATPE) blog. Check it out!

By the way, this blog post was sponsored by ATPE, but the words and opinions are 100% mine!

The first week of school I reminded myself to think about my word for the year, “Champion,” as I worked with new teachers.  I wanted to be a Champion for them and help them realize how important they are to our school.  I wanted to be a Champion for the returning teachers to help them see their value to the students and the classroom.  I also wanted to be a Champion for myself and do things that were going to make me perform better and feel better. While I am working on being a Champion for those people around me, I know that I am a part of an association that is being a Champion for Texas Educators.
Fourteen years ago I began my teaching career in a small school district.  I joined the ATPE because you are supposed to make sure that you are covered by a professional association… right?  I made sure that I signed up every year knowing that if I was ever faced with a need to be covered legally I would be.  As I have grown in my profession I learned that ATPE was so much more than legal coverage.
Here are a few of my favorite ways ATPE is a Champion for Texas educators:
· By always having Texas Educators in mind.  ATPE advocates for Texas Education! Check out the ATPE Advocacy page http://www.atpe.org/en/Advocacy.
· By keeping us informed.  Have you checked out teachthevote.org to research the education stances of candidates for the State Board of Education and the Texas Legislature? (Even better? There are no endorsements--just information!)
· By having a huge amount of resources availabe.  This includes online trainings and book studies.
· By having amazing benefits and discounts for just being a member (did I mention there are matching funds from DonorsChoose.org available too???)
ATPE encompasses the word Champion in so many ways, but it also consists of Champions.  
ATPE is a member-owned and member-governed association that is full of passionate educators.
When people hear the word Champion many automatically think of sports or winning a competition.
I prefer: Champion: a person who fights for or defends any person or cause. My word for this year is “Champion.” I am going to be a Champion for myself and others and know that ATPE is my Champion everywhere else!

Are you a member of ATPE? Do you have a power word each year?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Finding Me through #summerofcreating

The summer days are slowly slipping away.. and I have learned so much about myself through my #summerofcreating
These are only a few of the pictures from my #summerofcreating
I made it through 37 days (continuous days) of my #summerofcreating plan.  I created anything from new cooking items, sewing projects, blog posts and so much more.  What I discovered about myself through this summer:
1. I LOVE creating! Figuring out how to upcycle items, create new things and share what I am doing made my brain and my heart SO happy!
2. I LOVE where my life is right now.  I am grateful for the opportunities that I have to do the things I want to do.
3. I can't wait to continue this through the year #makingofamaker I know that my schedule will be busy, but I don't want to stop what I am doing!

This blog was posted Finding Me.  I ended my summer with attending a wonderful Bridging Ceremony for a group of girls that I have had the privilege of watching grow over the last 10 years. 
Amazing young ladies!

Friendship Circle

As the leader was talking.. it reminded me of my own Girl Scout memories with my amazing leader.  If you look up there at the #2 reason about how I discovered myself through #summerofcreating.. it is that I am happy where I am right now.  I have written before how my husband and I have tried off and on for the last 9 years to start a family.  I realized this summer.. that maybe I am not going to be a biological mother, and I am ok with that.  I have the opportunity to touch lots of lives through the various activities that I do. I like having the opportunity to travel, present, and overload my schedule (which I am very good at doing!) Watching that troop bridge to adults made me realize that I might not ever be a mother.. but I could easily have the opportunity to grow and help shape some young people.

My own troop leader growing up did not have kids of her own, but I considered her just as much a part of my family as anyone else.  She might not have had kids of her own, but Nuglet (Nancy) was a one of a kind woman.  A wonderful leader, person and friend.  My relationship with her extended outside of our Girl Scout meetings and into adulthood.  The opportunities, adventures, and friendship that Girl Scouts gave me made me who I am today and I am forever grateful for that.
A Troop 209 Reunion!

The bridging of Troop 1810 (shown above) had me thinking that maybe... just maybe forming my own troop of Daisy Girl Scouts that I could help mold, shape, and learn with would be the perfect thing for me.

Receiving the Gold Award

The day after the bridging I had a chance to attend a Gold Award ceremony for a young woman that I had the chance to nanny for.  At that moment.. I knew what my next adventure was going to be.

I am SO excited to be beginning a new journey of creating the 3rd Generation of Troop 1810.  If a child of my own comes along the way.. then great.  If not, I am okay with that too..because I know my next adventure is going to be helping some little girls grow into amazing young women through Girl Scouts.  I am thankful for my parents for raising me to be the person I am today, but I am also thankful for Nuglet in showing just as much love, pride, and understanding to make me who I am as well.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Extras of Podstock

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the extras of Podstock, but wanted to take a moment to give a little more information. If you are attending Podstock and have ANY questions hit me up on the twitters @akbusybee or email me! Do you have to do these extras.. you sure don't, but they are fun! Even if you don't complete them.. you get to meet new people in the process!

Monday July 13h- #mcdt challenges will be released.  #mcdt- Make, Create, Do, Teach.  There will be 8 challenges.  Each challenge has a special hashtag.  Not on Twitter- not a big deal! You can post to Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, Blogger, Youtube.  When you finish a challenge you just need to make sure to tag me in it.. or find me! I am flexible.  For each challenge completed you will get a gear for a steampunk style key chain. Complete all 8 challenges you will receive a special gear to add to your key chain.  Finish all 8 challenges you will also be entered into a drawing for a fun prize! IMPORTANT- #mcdt challenges MUST be finished by 9am on Friday!- Update- Release the Kraken- I mean.. #mcdt15 challenges

Thursday July 16th- NEW- Podstock Exploration
Podstock Exploration challenges will be released on Thursday morning.  These are for teams of 2 people to 6 people.  There are about 12 items to complete for the Podstock Exploration and teams will have until 10pm on Thursday to finish the challenges.  The team with the most points will win!

Thursday July 16th- Podstock Gift Exchange
All you need to bring is a gift that is $25 or less that represents you, your school, or your area.  It is highly encouraged that you actually make your item (you won't be kicked out if you buy it though too :)  This is one of my favorite parts, because it is so much fun to hear about all the different stories on why the items were chosen.  I am already working on mine!  If you join.. make sure that is an item that can travel back with someone that might be flying. This will take place after the last session on Thursday.  More information on exact location and time will be announced on Thursday.

Friday July 17th- Podstock Photowalk
The photowalk will take place on Friday July 17th. We will meet in the Old Town Hotel foyer at 7am.  Although this is early it is the PERFECT time to walk around and be a tourist.  Have you been a part of the photowalk before.. this year we are putting on an extra twist to those that attend!  I can't wait to use my new camera for this one.  It is a great way to be a tourist, meet new people and stretch your legs before the day of learning. Everyone is invited.  You don't need a fancy camera your phone will work!

I finished up my costume for the dance on Thursday.  I even created 2 shirts for during the conference itself.. and finished up my Steampunk top hat today! AND.. if you are interested in trying Jamberry I will have ALL of my stuff (plenty for you to try an accent nail or 2)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

#elemaker The Making of a Makerspace

For the past year I have been percolating how to get a Makerspace in my elementary school.  I am now READY to take on the challenge!

For the past 6 (well.. maybe it is 7) I have been a Team Manager and Co-Team Manager for several Destination ImagiNation teams.  Destination ImagiNation gives students a chance to create and solve a challenge.  The best part as a team manager is I can't interfere and the students have to come up with their own solutions.  What I have discovered; however, is that not all students have the opportunity to be on a team (now granted.. we are going to have 6 teams next year!)

I want to reach more students.. and next year my principal is giving me the space (AND more importantly the TIME!)

My parents posted this quote today on the Buffalo Bookstore page today, and I knew it was time for me to get my ideas on "paper"

In reading the Twitter feeds, Facebook posts and in conversations I find it interesting how varied the ideas on what makes a makerspace.  But the great thing about makerspace is that it really can be ANYTHING!  I work with so many kids that when they see a piece of construction paper they often wait for instructions on what to do with it.  They don't always have a chance to "think outside the box"  Makerspace can be building with electronics, but it can also just be seeing an item and thinking how you can use it differently.  Isn't that we want our students to do? To figure out how to see things in a different light?

Here are my beginning thoughts:
-I want everyone to be able to go through the Makerspace and have a chance to be a creator.
-Although I want all students to have a chance to create I also know how students in the elementary world need a little more structure (not step by step of course with expectations of what the end product should look like, but some guidance)
-I would love teacher buy in

Here is my "plan"- PLEASE remember that this is in the works.. and it is going to take some work.  I want to share my ideas so this way I can get ideas as well.
Best part of this "plan" so far- My principal is not only on board.. but she came up with this idea because she knows that kids need it!
-Since we have 6 weeks- The first week of the six weeks would be welcoming ALL the students into the room. The first week students would hear a book, then see the materials and have a graphic organizer to PLAN what they are going to do. 
ie- Read Where the Wild Things Are- students will then have the opportunity to plan either their own monster or a boat that has to do a certain task.  If those don't fall into what they would work on then they will be able to work on something that entertains them.  I want to do this type of structure because I want to make sure that all students can start seeing objects/items/materials in different ways.
-Weeks 2-6 each grade level will rotate through during a specific part of their day.  Week 2 will be 5th,  Week 3 will be 4th, Week 4 will be 3rd, Week 5 will be 2nd and Week 6 will be 1st and kinder.  Each class will have a certain day (ie 5A- Monday of the 2nd week, 5B-Tuesday of the 2nd week and so on) and to cut down on size A-M the first 30 minutes and N-Z the second 30 minutes during their slot.  The first six weeks everyone will rotate through, but after that it will be based on perfect attendance.
Now you might be saying.. 30 minutes! That is not enough time to create anything! BUT If you think about it.. this is a guaranteed 30 minutes each six weeks.  The makerspace room will be open at other times that will include before and after school. I am hoping to even have some teacher buy in so they can work on their projects at other times as well.  The first week of the six weeks as they all rotate through will be the time for me to get them started, the next time they come it will be for them to create.

Did I mention that I am a planner?

I am looking forward to Podstock next week as it is over Maker where I hope to gain even more ideas! I am very excited to start on this journey.  I also have lots of thinking, learning and collaborating that I want to do.  My #summerofcreating is now going to turn into helping students have a #yearofcreating I can't wait!