Civics Project Success

This past week we rapped up a culminating Civics Project. The first week back after break we read, in the Wonders reading series, a story about a girl named Clementine who used her talents to help others. Since one of our civics standards focuses on our civic duty to help others, we decided we would do just that. Here is how our project unfolded. 

1. I introduced the big idea -- we would be working as a non-profit business to collect canned goods for the local food pantry.

2. I revealed the four departments of our business.

  • Inventory Managers - Talented Mathematicians 
  • Communication Directors - Well Spoken/Outgoing 
  • Customer Relations - Talented Writers
  • Graphic Designers - Talented Artists/Creative
3. The next step was one of my favorite parts -- instead of my kids giving themselves jobs. Their classmates anonymously wrote down what talent went with each student. I was amazed at the thought that went in to this. Their lists looked very much like my list! Also, the kids felt very special after I revealed what their classmates thought their talents were. 

4. The first day of "work" everyone had a job. 
  • Inventory Managers - Made a chart/Organization system for all of the food that would be donated. 
  • Communication Directors - Made a list of possible donors to contact
  • Customer Relations - Wrote a blanket thank you letter to go out to all donors
  • Graphic Designers - Worked on a flier to be sent to all possible donors 
5. After the initial jobs were complete we worked every day for two weeks doing the following: 
  • Inventory Managers -- Collecting and graphing food 
  • Communication Directors - making announcements and delivering fliers 
  • Customer Relations - writing thank you cards 
  • Graphic Designers - Designed thank you cards to give to customer relations team
6. On our last day we reached out to an affiliate at the food bank to come accept the donation and planned our presentation. Our inventory managers worked on a final count, communication directors worked on speaking parts, our graphic designers worked on a welcome poster, and our customer relations team finished last minute thank you cards. 

When all was said and done it was a HUGE success. I strongly believe that students retain things when it's real world and meaningful. I hope they remember this project for years to come. 


Girls Night In: Clothing Swap

So, since my sweet pea was born I haven't done much for myself, mainly because I'm typically in bed by 9 p.m., however, when I received an invitation to a "Clothes Swap" I had to accept! What an awesome concept! 

The gist -- everyone brings in clothing and accessories that they are tired of, have outgrown, or under-grown. (I wish.) You have snacks while browsing through everything and then pick a number when everyone is ready. When your number is called you go and get one item you want. You do that until everything is gone -- or in our case for about five rounds. At that point we all agreed we could just have a free for all. Below are some pictures of how everything was set up by our hostess, Hannah. 

There was even more, I was just too busy shopping! 

So my mindset going in was to find clothes that I can wear right now (16 weeks postpartum) to work in while working on losing my baby weight. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

7 pairs of dress pants, 13 shirts, and 1 dress -- most Ann Taylor or The Limited

As if the free wardrobe wasn't enough, all the leftover clothing was sent to a local charity. Thanks to these lovely ladies for a wonderful girls' night and to Hannah for hosting! 


Post Maternity Leave -- Advice from Real Mommies

Well, it’s been almost two weeks since I went back to work after maternity leave. I can honestly say that first day my heart broke. Three things, however, helped immensely – advice from other working mommas, being passionate about my profession, and Jesus – a whole lot of Jesus.

Advice. During my first week of work I received some of the most encouraging advice from mothers of all scenarios. So whether you have to go back to work, choosing to stay home, or making a decision either way I hope these women encourage you like they did me.

“I would say: prayer, a support team, extreme organization, checklists, lots of pictures of your babies and a little piece of clothing that smells like them!” – Teacher & Mommy of 2

“My advice is to really not think about it being a bad thing to go back to work. You are setting a wonderful example. Don't beat yourself up because now, 2 years later, I see it all worked out after all the worrying! Also, I suggest keeping a routine. Kids need structure and they pick up on this fast. Dinner at a certain time, bath, story, & bed. They will know what to expect and not fight you AS much.” -- Part time RN & Mommy of (soon to be) 2

“I wasn't prepared for how hard it would be. I thought it would be simple. A break. I never ever wanted to be a stay at home mom. I always wanted to work. Then I went to work. And it was hard, extremely hard. People kept telling me it would get easier and it never did. I cried every day. Finally, I was able to only work 3 days a week. I didn't survive being a working mom. I guess my only advice would be to understand it’s going to be crazy hard. It's going to feel foreign and wrong, because maybe if everyone realizes how hard it's going to be it won't blind side you. It's really, really hard. I couldn't believe how hard it was. How taxing and exhausting. I would just come home everyday hold her and cry. I just kept telling myself that I needed to be strong for her.” – Social Worker (New stay at home Mom) & Mommy of 1

“After every baby my answer would be different: My first baby was born 2nd year of college. My advice to those going back after maternity leave: Don't take a semester off, keep a full schedule, you need insurance. 2nd baby same circumstance, same advice. Baby 3 I was teaching and in grad school. My advice: Continue to focus on your career, it will all be worth it in the end. Baby 4: same circumstance same advice. Baby 5: I was teaching but had my eye on a career jump. My advice: You can juggle career and family. Late nights at office mean bigger reward/payout in the end. Schedules with the kids are tight but it will be worth it. Baby 6: Special Ed supervisor (One step away from where I wanted to be working at the board office). My advice: My degrees, my career, my job does not matter, my children matter. If I could rewind I would've stayed home with them in their earlier years. My baby is going to be 16, and time flies. The phone calls, the late nights at the office, preparations for meetings can wait. Enjoy your babies, enjoy your profession, find a balance. I spent so much of my time being dedicated to other people's children, which I loved, however, I learned I couldn't fix everyone’s problems, and when I couldn't I would be devastated. I have 6 people here that need me to help fix their problems and I couldn't do both, nor did I want to as time went on.”
-- Currently part time teacher and realtor & Mommy of 6 (Can we just start a slow clap for her?!)

“Author Q & A from Carry On Warrior: Q: how do you balance work and home life? A: When folks ask me how I find "balance" what they are really saying is, "I feel so much tension in my life how do I get rid of it all and find peace?" I always say that I think we have the wrong idea of what balance is. Balance is not the absence of tension---it's achieved through tension. My yoga teacher taught me that balance happens when opposing forces press equally against an object. I have that kind of balance. I have marriage pressing in and kids pressing in and work pressing in, and church pressing in and friends pressing in and I think all these powerful, worthy forces work together to keep me solid, upright and balanced. When it feels like one is pushing too hard and I get wobbly, I just focus on strengthening the others up a bit. And I just make sure that everything causing tension is worthy of pressing on me. I think that we women must make peace with the fact that since we care so much and serve so much and assume so many roles and great loves, we will always feel tension pressing in. But maybe we can think of that tension as holding us up instead of tearing us down. It would be a great tragedy to have nothing important pressing at all.
That is my best advice... that balance is a myth. It took me a very long time to get there, about 2 years.”
Teacher Mentor & School Improvement Coordinator & Mommy of 2

“My best advice I can give you is to enjoy as much time with her in the evenings as you can. With {husband’s} new work schedule & my work schedule it's really hard for us to see each other everyday. We might go 2 or 3 days without even seeing each other other than when we wake up in the middle of the night. So another piece of advice I can give is if you & {husband} have a day off together just relax & enjoy being a family! I use to be that obsessive type over cleaning & going here & there, but that's all changed!”  -- Mother of 1

I thought these responses were so beautiful, so raw, and so different that I had to share with other mommies out there. So, while I’m no expert yet, here is my advice after two weeks post maternity leave.

Do what you love. I could not imagine leaving my baby girl every day to go to a job that made me miserable. Figure out what your passion is, even if you are 40 years old going back, and DO THAT!

Work at work. I get to school at 7:30 every day and I usually do not leave my room until 3:05 that evening other than for recess duty. I work through my lunch and through my planning instead of socializing (although I love my coworkers and miss that aspect of my job). I literally do not waste one minute of my day. This way I can leave at 3:05 and go home and focus on family.

Lean on family. My husband has been amazing – encouraging, helpful, and a rock. My parents have encouraged and made sure I was okay. My brother volunteered to spend his last few days of school break watching Lydia. My mother-in-law has watched & continues to volunteer to watch her. It doesn’t hurt that we had amazing family friends step forward to watch her during the day. She doesn’t suffer from lack of love and cuddles. God is good. Which brings me to my final piece of advice.

Find Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed in the past two weeks. I’ve prayed for peace, contentment, safety & happiness for my baby, joy for myself – and He hears me. Talk about comfort. He asks us to cast all of our cares on Him and if we will He will carry those burdens for us. What a friend & what a precious, precious Savior.


Friday Five.

Happy Friday. Here are my favorites from the past week -- my bright spots in a rather emotional week. 

1. Monday at 3:08 P.M. -- she didn't forget me. :) 

2. On Sunday I gave my blog a facelift & brought it back to life. 

3. Sleep -- Thank you,  Jesus & Lydia! 

4. Out Wayne Yogis -- Again, this will get its own separate post -- but I'm sold on Yoga.

5. Double Date - I'm wrapping up my work week by going on a double date! Friends, family, & sushi. You can't beat that. 

Happy weekend. 

The Good, The Bad, The Unsure -- First week back.

Well, I've almost completed my first week back to school after being on maternity leave for 14 weeks. I will say -- I survived. Details are for another post!

This week was filled with emotion, but when I got in my classroom and watched my lesson plans come to life I got that teacher high back! So, here is the good, bad, and unsure about my week.


  • Trust -- First thing Monday morning instead of setting our usual goals I let my kids move their seats to sit next to their friends. I SWEAR I'M NOT INSANE. This has always worked for me. I tell my kids that I trust them enough to make the right decisions when it comes to respecting me and they really try to live up to that expectation. So far, so good. It is so important to me to regain trust after being gone for so long.
  • Array Review -- Since we just came back from a long break I wanted to check for retention. I threw out some Legos on the desks and we reviewed arrays! The kids were super engaged and I was able to assess quickly. 

iPad on the run photo quality. 

  • Multiplication Showdown -- Talk about a blast. We about blew the roof off of our room shouting and cheering our teams on. I separated the class in to two groups and sat at the main table as they lined up across the classroom. Two students at a time would come up, I would flip a multiplication fact over, the first person to answer correctly gets the card. The team with the most cards at the end wins! B-L-A-S-T. 


Organization -- I. Need. To. Get. Organized. That is all. 


Conferences -- I have always loved doing conferences for reading, writing, major assessments. My experience has been that when students know you are going to be checking in with them and holding them accountable they will stay on their toes and strive to hit goals. However, I'm having trouble finding time to get to all of my students during the week. I need to get a more concrete schedule set to ensure I hit all my students during the week. 

As you can see, the good outweighs the bad and the unsure, as it usually does being a teacher. 

On a side note: One of my favorite blogs is starting a home organization challenge this Saturday. Who wants to join with me?! 


A New Normal


Tomorrow I go back to work after 14 perfect weeks with my beautiful baby girl. I have been so blessed to have this time with her. She makes me want to be better--actually the best. So tomorrow when I leave for work I will be strong and I will do my job to the best of my ability for her. I will make her proud. This will be my new normal.