November 29, 2011

Being my Best Self

Or, "Why nobody likes a tired, stressed, crabby teacher"

I am EXHAUSTED tonight.  And, for the second night in a row, I'm skipping my workout.  But I'm okay with that.  Yesterday I just wasn't up to it after a rotten day at school (the only cure for which was Mad Men and falling asleep on the couch at 8:30...), and today I think I just need a mental health night after another long (but thankfully not rotten) day.  Oh, and my IT band is HELLA TIGHT again--sweet.  Sometimes I think skipping a run makes it tighter, but I'm hoping a night of foam rolling and icing will help!
It seems like I have a consistent trend of having just plain sucky Mondays at school.  Yesterday was one of those, "And WHY am I a teacher again??" kind of days...the kind of day when I pause and think, "Is there any possible way that I can keep doing this job for the next 30 years?"  Thankfully I don't have those days very often anymore.  You guys, I love teaching.  I love my students.  But the pressure is ridiculous.  I feel more this year than I ever have before that if my kids don't make their projected growth targets, it will be 100% my fault.  It's just a lot to handle sometimes.  Add a nutty group of kids on top of that pressure and it's easy to lose sight of what really matters (and lose my patience...).  I should probably have taken a deep breath and read this sign that I have hanging by my desk a few times...
Adapted from Quantum Learning
Today was MUCH better.  Before the bell rang I committed to giving the day ENERGY.  I forced myself to let go of the stress and worries and frustrations and gave it all I had.  The difference in my kids in comparison to the day before was ridiculous--in an awesome way.  See, when things are breaking down in the classroom it's easy to blame it on those crazy kids, but some times it helps so much to look at your own actions and think, "What can I be doing differently?"  The thing is, when I let the stress GET TO ME, I forget to enjoy teaching.  When I don't enjoy teaching, my kiddos don't enjoy learning.  And of course when my kiddos aren't enjoying learning, they check out.  Give up.  Quit.  And inevitably find one million and one ways to derail my lesson.  This is no good for anyone.
Maybe I need this sign hanging by my desk too!
But when I bring energy to my teaching?  It's amazing what they can get excited about.  A few of the kiddos were even talking about how interesting our nonfiction guided reading books about women's suffrage were.  *love*  Really, there's no question that it's worth it.  So, here it is:

Consider this my personal commitment to being my best self every day at school until break (and beyond...).  My students deserve it.  They are worth it.  That means that no matter how stressed and tired I am, I WILL be bringing a high level of energy to every single lesson--even the boring ones on fractions. :)  WHO'S WITH ME??

After a successful day teaching, at 3:00 I found myself staring at....A PROJECT.  I don't know about you, but I'll be in the middle of a task that actually needs to be completed when suddenly I have an overwhelming urge to clean out my closet, rearrange my furniture, or alphabetize my files...(go ahead and mock.  I embraced this psycho part of my personality LONG ago!)  This happens CONSTANTLY in my classroom!  I've reorganized my cabinets and rearranged the furniture more times in the past 3 years than some teachers do in their whole careers.  (Usually when I have stacks of grading or lessons to plan!)  Anyways, I digress.  Last year I shared the simple system I used to keep desk clutter at a minimum...
This worked GREAT for me last year, but to tell you the truth, this year it's done nothing but collect dust.  Well, let me clarify that--I still dumped papers in the "to file" and "to grade" bins, but never emptied them.  "To copy" papers were being stored in piles on my desk.  Why?  No clue.  Consequently the "file" bin help math handouts and random literacy sheets from September that still needed to be filed.  On a high from my high-energy day, I decided to tackle this project.  Of course it evolved to a total reorganization and inevitably a big old mess in the process...
But hallelujah everything is in its place now.  I can rest peacefully tonight. :)  Don't know why I didn't think to take an after picture!  After that project, spending far too long stressing over the formatting on a math test, and stopping at the library to pick up picture books for a literacy lesson, thoughts of running were far long gone, having been taken over by two clear thoughts: GET FOOD and GET OUT OF HEELS asap.  

Sooo after that rambly post, I'm off to eat my effortless dinner, curl up on the couch, and enjoy some mindless Glee.  Oh, and there might be some peppermint ice cream in my near future... (That is, of course, before I start digging into my leg with my foam roller... :)  

Teachers: How do you keep a positive attitude and a smile on your face despite the incredible stress and pressure of the job?

Who's with me on my commitment to being my best self and bringing ENERGY to the classroom??

November 28, 2011

Division Fun...with cookies!

Do you hate teaching division?  For me, it is second only to fractions (aka my personal math teaching HELL).  My students really struggle with the concept of division at first because in general they are severely lacking in their number sense foundation, not to mention their basic facts.  To help ease into division, I like to kick off the unit with a fun, hands-on lesson each year featuring, wait for it, COOKIES!  Well, Cookie Crisp cereal to be exact.  Still good.

For this lesson, I give each kid a small cup of Cookie Crisp cereal, a dry erase board, and an expo marker.  I then read aloud the book The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins.
In this simple picture book, kids have to continuously divide up a batch of cookies as more and more friends ring the doorbell.  We start with 12 "cookies" out.  On the first page, the cookies only need to be divided between two siblings.  We first divide the cookies, then write the division problem to answer the question, "How many cookies does each kid get to eat?"  12 / 2 = 6. Easy!  I pause after each page to have my kiddos solve the next division problem after more kids have arrived.
The kids love this amazing activity, and it is a great way to explain the concept of division with a real-life connection.  Everyone can relate to sharing something with friends!  After finishing the book, I have the kids take different numbers of cookies out to help solve other simple division problems.  It's also easy to make the connection back to multiplication at this point by skip counting each group of cookies to get back to the total.  

Oh the best part?  Afterwards you will likely have half a box of Cookie Crisp in your supply closet to help fight your after school munchies... ;)

November 27, 2011

Tofurkey Day Happenings

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!  I don't know about you, but I've spent the past few days catching up with old friends, napping, reading, and working my way into a stuffing-and-green-bean induced short, it's been BLISS.  As much as I love Christmas and the festivities that surround it (not to mention the two glorious weeks off of school...), Thanksgiving break is always the most wonderful, much-needed relief from school stress.  By mid-November, in my classroom at least, the kids are showing their true colors, and I'm finding it harder and harder to keep a smile on my face.  Report cards are due, we're gearing up for round 2 of MAP testing, and the weather's starting to turn which always means less recess (read: squirrly kiddos).  Enter Thanksgiving, aka 5 days of student-free, food-full happiness.

I kicked off my Thanksgiving break Tuesday evening when I decided to abandon all previous plans of staying late at school and prepping for the following week...instead, I made a stop at the library, picked up a teen book I'd been dying to get my hands on, and settled myself in front of the fire at Caribou with some tea and yummies.   I didn't move for about 2 hours.  Perfection.
If you are wondering, the book is Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.  It. was. amazing.

Wednesday I spent the afternoon wandering IKEA with a friend.  Oh IKEA...How I love pretending I live in the amazing rooms, especially those featuring 2-story closets, libraries, and (wait for it) wine racks...I bought a new desk (thank goodness because my shabby old desk is older than I am and NOT in the stylish, antique-y way!), and spent the afternoon putting it together with the help of my tool-savvy friend.  Voila!
(Just so you know, we couldn't manage to get my old desk apart so it's currently sitting out on my balcony until my dad can come rescue it...)

Wednesday evening my book club and I saw BREAKING DAWN!!!!  So exciting.  You better believe we were sporting our Give Blood tshirts! Those were WELL EARNED!  Where to even begin with this was...AWFUL!!!!  And yet, so wonderful.  I really felt this movie was more awkwardly horrible than #3, but I loved it anyways.

On Thanksgiving morning, I met one of my bestest friends who was back in town from grad school to run a 5-mile Turkey Trot.  When I say we ran this race together, I mean we drove there together, lined up at the start together, then wished each other "Good Luck!" before he took off at a pace almost twice as fast as mine.  So goes the life of a Slow Runner. :)  This was a really nice race about 5 minutes from my parents house.  We ran 3 laps around the campus at a community college, which meant that the lead runners were lapping me before I was even halfway around!  I don't find that irritating or depressing, though--it is kind of awesome to watch such super fast runners!  Obv my IT band started giving me grief at mile 4, making the end of the run a little *uncomfortable*...I have been slacking big time on my foam rolling lately, which I know is why I can't seen to shake this tightness.  I am committing to foam rolling twice a day for the time being, in hopes of loosening this bad boy up.
 After the Turkey Trot, you better believe I ate my weight in stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, and, yes, tofu.  No, I did not have Tofurkey, but my wonderful Dad marinated some tofu for a side dish.  YUM!  The only thing missing from Thanksgiving was one of my older brothers, who lives in Florida.  :(

Many of my close friends have moved out of state in the past few years, but holidays usually bring everyone home!  Love it!  I had brunch with a college friend Friday morning and hosted several close high school friends at my apartment Friday night.  Because my friends and I are SUPER cool, we usually end up playing Catch Phrase or some other silly game that is a throw back to our lame high school past.  Friday, however, we were disappointed to find that the timer "beeping" wasn't working!  After I insisted that a stopwatch wouldn't work as a replacement because "the beeps need to get faster in catch phrase!" my computer geek (read: GENIUS) friend decided to write a quick program on my computer to play beeping sound that would progressively increase in know, just a normal Friday night...

After a busy and exhausting few days, I spend basically the entire day Saturday curled up under a blanket, reading and napping on and off.  Perfection.  I peeled myself off for a 3 mile run at some point, then promptly returned to the blanket for more reading.  LOOOVE quiet days.
Nothing like new Brooks to get you out and moving!

In other news, my brother and sister-in-law texted me from the Space Coast Marathon in Cocoa, Florida this morning.  They were spectating as sis-in-law's friend ran the 1/2 marathon, and they sent me a picture of her medal:

OMG!  BEST MEDAL EVER!  (To fully understand my excitement, you should know that my family has a major geek obsession with the space program and NASA.  This obsession has gone on my whole life, and only got worse when Older Brother got a job at NASA in 2004...)  I better convince my brother to stay in Florida again next year for Thanksgiving so I can come down and run this race...

What made your Thanksgiving wonderful?
What is the coolest race medal you have ever seen/gotten?

November 17, 2011

Everyday Endurance Giveaway Winner!

A big thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway!  I'm so glad you guys think this stuff is as awesome as I do.  The winner of the $100 Everyday Endurance giftcard is...
#91 Lauren @ The Running Cook!
Lauren--email me at juiceboxesandcrayolas AT gmail DOT com to claim your prize!

November 16, 2011

Will Give Blood for Twilight

If you've been reading for awhile, you might remember a sort of not-so-secret guilty pleasure reading addiction...
Oh yes, I caught the Twilight bug last year after swearing that I was NOT interested in these books.  But I read them at my book club's request...and then I reread them...and then I read them again...What can I say, I'm hooked.  Why even fight it?  I love Twilight.  Luckily my book club girls LOVE Twilight  (Just to be clear, I love Twilight but I HATE Bella.  Read my thoughts on Bella's annoying-ness here...)  Sooo, you can imagine my excitement last week when I got this email from the blood center I sometimes donate through...
Ummm sign me up!  Luckily the Book Club girls were game too.  I used to donate blood frequently in the past, but it'd been awhile, and this was the perfect extra incentive. :)
One hour, one pint of blood, one gatorade, and one I-think-I'm-gonna-pass-out moment later, and I had my tshirt, not to mention an ultra-processed cosmic brownie.  Score.  Oh and of course it's always nice to help out. (BTW I didn't pass out, but it was a near miss!)  We ended the night with some pumpkin pie ice cream...YUM!
While this wasn't the most exciting evening, it was a fun way to see friends midweek and do something nice for others at the same time.  And of course, who can go wrong with ice cream and Twilight apparel?  ;) You better believe I'll be wearing this shirt when we see Breaking Dawn next week!

November 14, 2011

A Case of the Mondays

Some teachers dread Fridays every week.  Not because it's the last day before the weekend (duh), but because of the crazy kiddos.  Well, I feel like it takes my kids until about Friday to get back into their routines every week!  I'm 99% sure that most of my little friends run wild all weekend long with zero bed times and zero structure.  Mondays are always a bit...trying.  It's not all them either--I'm definitely not my best on Mondays.

Today was especially frustrating.  I think I used up the majority of my patience during my oh so special PLC (team) meeting at 9:45am, thus making for an interesting rest of the day.  Working collaboratively as a PLC ideally means less work for everyone and better quality everything, but some days it just means arguing, differing opinions, and zero productivity.  Today was one of those days.  Ugh.  I'm still recovering.  Oh, and the clock in my classroom was broken.  Sweet.  Did I mention I don't wear a watch?  And keeping an eye on the clock is kinda important in the classroom?

After a frustrating day, I dragged myself to my tutoring job and scraped together any last shreds of patience I'd managed to cling onto.  Thankfully, my after school kiddo was ready to learn.  If he hadn't been, let's just say it wouldn't have been pretty.  I then dragged myself home.  After majorly failing at cross training all last week, my plan for the evening was to start the week off right by going for a swim around 8 or 8:30pm, giving the pool at the gym a chance to clear out a bit after the evening workout rush.  When I walked in my door, I knew that if I didn't IMMEDIATELY change into my swim suit, there was no way in hell that my planned swim was going to happen.  So I changed.  And sat around in a swim suit and yoga pants writing report card comments.  (While changing early was good for my motivation, it wasn't so good when I inevitably had to pee an hour later...oh the challenges of a one-piece suit...)
Several report card comments, way too many Pinterest pins, and one whiney phone vent to College Friend later, I dragged my crabby self to the gym and hopped into the *empty* pool.  Bliss.  I'm a terrible swimmer (in fact, I kind of panic in the water any time I swim a stroke other than breast much for the years of swimming lessons as a child), but I love love love a nice easy swim workout.  While running will always be my true love, swimming is a close second.  Nothing like a bunch of methodical laps to clear my head.  I feel so. much. better now, and am DETERMINED to track down my positive attitude in time for school tomorrow.  Maybe I need to make Monday night swims a weekly thing...this could be good for my soul.

How was your Monday?

Late night workouts--love or hate?  

November 13, 2011

Trick or Treat Trot 10K Race Recap

Have you entered my Everyday Endurance giveaway???  You could win a $100 gift card for this super awesome active clothing site!  

Hi friends :)  It feels like it's been years!  I have been in a big time blogging rut.  I plan posts, take pictures, and then sit down to write...and nothing.  I end up reading or watching tv or working on school work instead.  Life's been busy, but good.  And the time that hasn't been busy has been a good kind of lazy filled with new books and much needed couch relaxing.  I'm planning some catch-up posts about both running and school, but I realized that I am about 2 weeks late with a race recap!  So here it is...
On Sunday, October 30th I ran the Trick or Treat Trot 10K.  This was both my longest race and longest run since my July injury debacle!  Also, it was my first 10K race--love that automatic PR. :)  I registered for this race ages ago with an early registration discount through my that time, I thought a 10K would be no problem!  I had just run my first half marathon and already had my eyes set on a second one (or two).    Well, after the injury nonsense, things kind of changed. :) As the race got closer I realized that 6.2 miles was going to be a little more challenging for me than I'd anticipated months ago!  I have been increasing my distance and building up a solid running base, but had been stuck in a rut of 3 and 4 mile runs.  During the week of the race, to make things more interesting, my hip flexors became the most tight, painful muscles ever thanks to a couple particularly grueling strength training and yoga classes.  Then, the temperature dropped and the winds picked up.  Yikes!  I was determined to run this race though, mostly because I have already wasted over $100 this year in race registrations, and damnit I am not wasting another dollar!!!  The night before when everyone I knew was out at Halloween parties, I curled up in bed with True Blood (my latest TV addiction) and pasta...
To be followed by dairy-free chocolate ice cream with bananas.  The ultimate pre-run dessert. :)

Unable to convince anyone (icluding my parents) to wake up early on a nasty cold morning post-Halloween parties to come to the race with me, I drove myself to Big City and caught this glorious sunrise over the lake.  I decided to take it as a good omen for the rest of the morning!  Since it was chilly and windy out, after I picked up my packet I killed time sitting in my car watching The Office on my phone (thank YOU netflix instant!), having decided that staying warm was more important than stretching out my legs...I stand by my choice.
Unfortunately, that sunrise was the only beautiful part of the race!  The sky was gray and cloudy the whole time.  I've run several 5Ks on this lakefront course, and normally it is gorgeous running along and seeing the waves and boats on the lake (the closest thing we in the Midwest get to an ocean view!).  Today the lakefront path just meant extra winds!  Yikes!  I tried to start the race conservatively, knowing my legs weren't at their best still and that it would be a challenge to get through.  My legs just didn't want to go slow, though, so I set off quicker than planned.  The first 3.5 miles or so felt great!

Turns out most of the runners were running the 5K course, so after 3 miles the runners were really spaced out.  There were a few times I couldn't even see anyone else, which felt weird because this wasn't a small town race.  I kept plugging along though, slow and steady, until I felt that familiar pain on the outside of my knees around mile 4...yep, my pesky IT bands were awake and unhappy.  I normally run just three days a week, Tuesday, Thursday, and once on the weekend.  Because of those tight hips after yoga, I skipped my Thursday run this week, and anytime I take even a couple days of hiatus, my IT bands tighten right up--I should have known.  Oh well!  I stopped to stretch the ITs a few times during those last 2 miles, walked a little extra, but just kept moving forward trying to ignore the knees and how incredibly badly I had to pee.  (No woods to dive off into at a city race...)  

At mile 6 I found some energy left to sprint to the finish, and finished strong.  Somehow despite the IT band pain at the end and the extra walking, I managed to finish the race with negative splits.  Don't know how, but I'll take it!  I think I must have programmed my legs to, no matter what, speed up as I run.  I'm not sure how else to explain the accidental pacing!  I finished in 1:09:27, an average page of 11:03/mi.  (<--This is fast for me as slow as it might sound for most of you!)  I'm happy with how this race turned out, despite the pain--it just felt good to race a distance longer than a 5K again!  I really loved the 10K distance, and will definitely be looking for more 10Ks next season!  

 This has been a great fall of races, including the Girls on the Run Fall 5K yesterday morning which I "raced" with two of the girls I coached in Spring.  Loved it!  BUT, the season isn't over yet!  I am looking forward to running a 5mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving with one of my best friends from high school, and to sloshing through mud and snow at this awesome winter trail race with Miss R!  (I convinced her to run with me only by telling her that finishers get a stocking cap and a fried chicken meal...)
From the race website: This isn't a gimmicky, glamorous, trendy run through the woods with a couple man- made mud pits. The Challenge is an authentic, european-style, 4.9 mile cross country race featuring natural bogs, streams, open fields and rolling hills.

Mrs. Mentor Teacher ran it last year and told me that many runners duct tape their shoes on so they don't come off on the muddy trails!  Yikes!  Can't wait. :)

Any more races on the calendar for you this fall/winter?

November 7, 2011

Everyday Endurance Giveaway!

I have been lucky enough to host some pretty fun giveaways lately--I hope you're not getting sick of them, because this one is AWESOME!  I am so excited to have the opportunity to try out some products from Everyday Endurance, an apparel company that, as they say, "celebrates the active lifestyle."  When I first browsed the Everyday Endurance website, I picked out at least 5 items I wanted almost immediately.  I love the cute styles and subtle messages about running and fitness.  In addition to the picture, each shirt says, "It's a lifestyle thing," in small print.  That simple statement pretty much sums it up!  My favorites were the running and biking shirts (including pretty scenes of running on the beach and funny scenes of runners being chased by dogs...), but there are also yoga, hiking, and even triathlon-inspired designs.

From the Everyday Endurance website:
Celebrating the Active Lifestyle!  
Everyday Endurance carries printed and basic Active Lifestyle apparel for all of your Endurance Adventures.  We are committed to the highest quality customer service available.  We believe in treating those in our community the way we would want our own families treated. Everyday Endurance guarantees our products 100% and will do whatever it takes to make sure you are happy with your purchase. 

Everyday Endurance let me try out the short sleeved tee, the long sleeved tee, and the premium performance tee (technical shirt).  I love them all!!  Get ready for some super awesome self-timer pictures...Disclaimer: I promise you will look less dorky in these shirts than I do...Don't be deterred by these photos.
(God, could I BE any more awkward? Can you tell it's been a long Monday???)
I thought it would be cute to pose with my bike (in my dining room...) because this shirt has a bike image on it, but you totally can't even see the front of the shirt now!  Oh well!  Here's what this shirt looks like...
The t-shirts are super soft and comfortable.  I chose the ladies' fit, but they also offer juniors' and men's fits.  (The mens' versions of these shirts have a male runner in the picture, sans ponytail ;)  At first I was uncertain about ordering a technical shirt because in my experience when I buy a printed novelty-style technical shirt, it usually ends up sitting in the bottom of my running drawer because cute as it is, it's just not as comfortable as my other shirts.  This couldn't be further from the truth for my Everyday Endurance technical shirt!  I love it!  It is super thin and exactly the fit I look for in a running shirt--not too tight and not too short, while still maintaining a feminine cut.  I wore it on one of my runs last week and it was great!  I love all of the shirts, but now I want another tech shirt in one of the other fun designs.

Here's the best part--Everyday Endurance is letting me give away a $100 gift card to a reader.  How awesome is that???  I'm so excited to share these awesome products with one of you. Here's how to win:
(Leave a separate comment for each entry)
  • Follow Juice Boxes & Crayolas (Mandatory)
  • Become a fan of Everyday Endurance on Facebook (+1 entry)
  • Visit the Everyday Endurance website and leave me a comment letting me know which item is your favorite (if you can choose just one!) (+ 1 entry)
  • Post about this giveaway on your blog, facebook, or twitter! (+1 entry)
That's up to 6 chances to win!  I know you will love these products as much as I do, so hurry up and check them out!  

This giveaway will end Wednesday, November 16th at midnight.  Good luck!

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Everyday Endurance was kind enough to provide me with the shirts pictured above to review, as well as a gift card for the winner of this giveaway.  I was not compensated to give a particular opinion.  All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own! :)

November 1, 2011

Anchors Away Linky Party: Language Arts Anchor Charts

Thanks to Frogs & Cupcakes for hosting a great linky party!  I love me some anchor charts. :)  I had been planning on sharing these anchor charts anyways, so I was excited to see this linky party!  Here's a reading anchor chart/graphic organizer we used for making inferences...
The rest of these are for Writing Workshop.  Because I always find myself lacking enough wall space to display my charts, this year I devoted a bulletin board just to writing workshop, and have thumbtacked the charts one on top of another onto it.  Then, I taught the kids to go to the board and page through them when they need to reference one.  They are really good about it, too!  Here are a few of our recent ones, most of which were made during a unit on narrative writing... 

Sorry for the messy writing. :)  I still haven't mastered the art of leaning sideways and writing on my chart from my teacher chair!  One of the many reasons I don't teach first grade... ;)


Sometimes, just when I'm about to go crazy at school, one of the kiddos will say something that makes me remember why I put up with it all.  Today was one of those days. :)

One of my students who needs a whole lotta extra help and love is reading about three grades below where he should be.  He struggles with learning disabilities and emotional disabilities, not to mention a challenging home put it mildly.  Today we were reading Freckle Juice.  After working his hardest just to get through a couple of pages, trying trying trying, he looked at me, smiled, and said, "I like reading now!"

And my heart melted.  I teach for moments like this.
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