I love when I decide on a new theme for my classroom and begin the planning process. Our school is studying places in the world and each classroom chose a country to focus on. It was an easy choice for me since I love Egypt.
Once I decide on my theme, I then go all in searching for hands-on activities that would integrate the skills I am teaching, be developmentally appropriate for my students, and teach my students fun and interesting facts about the theme. My activities are based on finds from internet searching, my personal experiences, and children's books. Often ideas come to me when I'm driving to school thinking about my students and when I'm actually working with my students and see what they are excited about.
After planning, its time to begin prepping. This means shopping for materials, making templates, examples, and center activities, writing books, etc. However, the prepping increases my excitement for the theme.
It takes a lot of planning to create a new theme but as long as it is a theme I'm excited about, then I know my excitement will spill over into my students and all my hard work will pay off.
Remember back in July when you began thinking about this school year - the plans, the things you were going to do different, the fun activities, etc. And then came August and it was time to get ready for your sweet angels. You spent time and money setting up your classroom getting it ready to welcome your new students and parents. Some of you kept it simple, while some of you created a classroom Pinterest worthy.
Well, now its that time of the year. The time when even though school isn’t over, our students, along with ourselves, are DONE! Why? Well, lets see… while we are supposed to continue teaching and maintain classroom discipline, we have assessment to complete, EOG’s to oversee/proctor, field day, end of the year programs and gradation, parent meetings, IEP meetings, end of the year celebrations, and so much more! Plus, our students are busy with ball practice, ball games, and recital practices. And with the nice weather they want to stay outside and play in the evenings, so they are staying up later. Therefore, they come in tired, grumpy, and half asleep. Even our classrooms are done! The posters and charts that were so carefully hung at the beginning of the year are now falling off the wall. (My saying is, “When things fall off the wall then it time for the school year to be over.”)
However, it’s not completely over yet. So, we will continue to greet our students with smiles, continue to pile unexpected things to our already overflowing plate, and do what we must to get what seems impossible completed. And, on that last day of school, after the students leave, we will collapse – exhausted and thankful. But we all know that in just a few short weeks (or maybe even in a few days) we will begin preparing for the next school year and do it all over again.
A teacher’s life isn’t easy, nor is it always rewarding, but it is our calling. And, even when we are “done” we continue to the end, never stopping, never giving up, and never forgetting the lives we are touching.
There are literally tens of thousands of children’s books published each year. Taking a walk through the children’s section of bookstores gives you a glimpse of the wide range of books now available to children. You can also browse Amazon and quickly realize that there are more books out there for our students than they could ever read or have read to them. However, as the industry booms, let’s not forget about those oldies but goodies that are timeless and bring so many teaching opportunities to our classroom.
One of my favorite themes to teach is fairy tales. We spend lots of time with the stories of The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Gingerbread Man, and Little Red Riding Hood. Students love these stories, and they perfect for retelling, acting out, sequencing, and my favorite: compare and contrast.
There are so many versions of these books on the market today, plus the spin-offs are terrific! I am currently teaching the theme on buildings and construction. What better book to use than The Three Little Pigs! However, since I am presently teaching abroad in a Muslim country, I needed to find a spin-off using an animal other than a pig. So, I wrote my own spin-off, The Three Little Camels. I wanted to incorporate the culture and heritage of the UAE in with the story, so the three camels leave their large family which live in a Bedouin tent and build their homes out of palm branches, sticks, and mud bricks (traditional building materials for this area).
Now, I have a book to use anywhere I teach which I can pair with The Three Little Pigs and teach my students about the heritage and culture of another country.
Check out my list of various versions and spin-offs of The Three Little Pigs under the tab Let’s Read.
Students built the camel's houses in one of their centers using palm leaves, sticks, and blocks. Since we were also learning shapes, they built their houses in various shapes.
I often hear people say they hate going to work or they don't like their job. I am one of those fortunate people who loves their job. I can't imagine not teaching in some capacity, even after 33 years in the classroom. Sure there are days when my students get on my nerves, my administrators throw something else on my already too full plate, the district directs me to implement something that is not developmentally appropriate for my students, my parents are blowing up my phone with texts, and I'm having to sit through meetings when I really need to be in my classroom preparing for the next day. Yes, I'm one of those teachers who spend their own money to provide my students with the materials they need to work in an hands-on environment, get to school early, stay late, work on weekends, holidays, and summer breaks. Of course there are days when I leave school feeling defeated, exhausted, frustrated, and wondering if I'm really making a difference in my students' lives. However, even through all this, I still love teaching. The rewards outweigh all those difficult moments and the sacrifices I make. The smiles and hugs from my students, the moment I see the light bulb come on when one of my students finally get it, the growth my students show from the beginning of the year to the end, the relationships I form with my students, and the lessons that I myself learn are just a few of the awards of my jobs.
Along with teaching, I have enjoyed being a leader in the schools I have worked in. I have mentored teachers, provided professional development to colleagues, developed curriculums, and completed research projects. I have been lead grade level teacher, supervisory teacher of student teachers, and team leader. These opportunities, along with my love for teaching is now taking me to my next adventure.
Along with teaching, I am now taking on the role as educational consultant for my company Kindercaraven. Kindercaravan is a place for teachers to find resources and to get support. I will be writing for Teachers Pay Teachers (teacherspayteacher.com), developing professional development, working in classrooms, mentoring, and consulting. I look forward to this new phase in my career and helping teachers reach their students.
After teaching in North Carolina for 30 years, I moved to the UAE to teach. Over my teaching career I have seen the classroom go from being an engaging hands-on environment, to one filled with worksheets, testing, and data. Let's get back to making learning fun!
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