Friday, May 27, 2016

The End of an Era

Another year has come to an end.

The kids have gone home, desks and chairs have been stacked, and the classroom has been torn down.

But this year it was different.

About a month ago, I made the decision to give up teaching.

It wasn't an easy decision.

I spent months discussing it with my husband, often in tears, trying to figure out if it was the right move for me. I talked to family, friends, and a couple of trusted coworkers. As much as I knew that it was what I wanted to do, I needed to hear from others that it was what I should do.

I agonized over this. Part of me felt guilty at the thought of leaving. I know that I'm good at what I do. At the same time, I wasn't happy. Sure there were days that made me think, "I can do this another year." But those days seemed to be the exception, not the rule.

I know you've all read the rants about the teachers who had just had enough and wrote a letter of resignation outlining all of the issues that we, as teachers, deal with on a daily basis.

I'm not going to be one of them.

Were there issues? Absolutely. Was this last class the easiest group to work with? Absolutely not.

Did those ultimately end up being the determining factors in my decision? Nope.

For almost as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. At the end of 3rd grade, my teacher had leftover worksheets and told us that we could take some home for the summer. Obviously, I jumped on the offer. I was determined to teach my sister (who was going to be starting kindergarten in the fall) how to multiply. I was going to do it. (Spoiler: I failed.)

My senior year of high school, I served as a peer facilitator and spent time tutoring and assisting in a kindergarten classroom and a 3rd grade classroom.

In college, I would spend summers and weekends scouring garage sales for books and games and furniture for my someday classroom. By the time I graduated, I had acquired tubs and tubs of resources for lower elementary.

When I was hired on as a literacy coach the fall after I graduated, I jumped at the opportunity to move to a 6th grade position when one opened up midyear. With the help of family and friends, I gutted and completely redecorated my new classroom in 3 days.

But, there was something else.

When I was about 9, my grandma bought me my first camera, a little point and shoot Nikon film camera. It wasn't anything fancy, but I was obsessed. (Somewhere there are prints from my first roll of film which included lots of shots of her wicker furniture and other exciting subjects.)

In junior high, I was the queen of the disposable camera. Any trip, any concert I went to, I had a camera.

My junior year of high school, I joined the yearbook staff. I loved taking photographs for my spreads, and because I was am one of those overachieving, "it has to be perfect" kind of people, I wanted my pictures to look great. I started begging my parents for a digital camera for my birthday. Apparently, I went a little overboard. I found out later that they had gotten it for me for my birthday, but I had bugged them about it so much, that they didn't give it to me until Christmas. Oops.

As graduation drew near, I debated what my major would be. I loved desktop publishing, but it didn't seem like a career with high demand (Good call.). In one of my classes, we took career inventories to see which jobs best fit our skills. Photography was suggested, but hardly anyone makes money taking pictures. Teaching was something that I loved, and teaching was a "normal" job, so teaching it was.

When I graduated from high school, I had one goal with my graduation money: a DSLR camera.

It was everything.

When I finally bought it, I was so excited that I carried it around in my purse everywhere I went. (Which in retrospect, was a terrible idea.)

I started shooting everything.

In 2008, I had my first paid shoot, an engagement session. I was so proud of myself. (Looking back, it was awful.) Gradually, family and friends began to contact me for shoots, but still, it was just a hobby.

Over the next few years, I came to the realization that I had a business and started treating it that way. I worked out of my home on weekends and over summer vacation. While it was a nice source of additional income, it wasn't my job and it would probably just remain a work from home business.

Then, in the fall of 2013, I got a call from my uncle. He had been in town visiting and had been wandering around the property of his old grade school (which had been sitting abandoned for several years). He told me that he met the guy who bought the building and that the new owner was going to turn it into an art center, full of artists and their studios. Knowing that business had picked up, he told me to get in touch with the owner and set up a meeting. A studio seemed completely unrealistic, but curiosity got the best of us, and we decided to at least check it out. About a month later, we signed the lease and became the first official tenants of the building.

The studio opened in January of 2014, after several months of serious renovations. It was an incredible feeling to see my name on the wall of my studio.

For the next two years, I balanced life between the studio and school. About a year ago, we bought a new house, which put me farther from the studio. As a result of the distance and trying to have a work-life balance with school, I started spending more and more time running my business from home, and less time at my beautiful studio.

Which brings us back to present.

I can't keep doing both. It's too much.

And as much as I hate to say it, my heart isn't in teaching anymore. It may be a passing phase. It may be that in a few years I'll find myself back in a classroom, but for now, when I introduce myself to someone new and they ask what I do for a living, I won't answer that I'm a teacher. Instead, my answer will be that I'm a portrait photographer.

For the first time in the last 23 years, my life won't be bound by the school calendar. We're taking a vacation at the end of September. That's never been an option. This is the first time that I've left school at the end of the year and didn't start feeling the mental countdown to the start of the next school year.

It's also the first time that as I left the school on the last day after packing up my classroom, I cried. I cried the whole way home. I cried when I got home and then again when my husband came home. I'm crying again now as I type this.

It is hard.

It is so much harder than I thought it would be.

But I have to do this for me.

We always tell our students they can be anything they want to be and we encourage them to follow their dreams, but do we follow that advice ourselves?

I need to start practicing what I preach.

There are many things I love and will miss about teaching, but ultimately, I need to follow my dreams and fully explore my own potential.

Life is too short to wonder, "What if?"

It's time to actually find out.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pencil Sharpener Giveaway!!!

You guys.

You know I love my pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies. (If not, see my previous post)

Well, lucky for you guys, Troy, from Classroom Friendly Supplies is letting me give away a pencil
sharpener to one do my readers! How awesome is that?!

The giveaway will run for two weeks, and at the end a winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter. What's in it for you? If you win, you'll get a sharpener in the color of your choice (green, blue, red, black, or pink). If it were me, I'd totally go with the pink.

Oh, and if you're outside of the U.S., you'll have to sit this one out-maybe I'll do a TpT product giveaway sometime soon that you guys can participate in!

And if you can't wait to win one, because you realize that your classroom is incomplete without it, you can order your very own at www.classroomfriendlysupplies.com!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 11, 2013

Best Pencil Sharpener Ever.

Yeah, I know, I completely disappeared again.

Maybe someday I'll become a consistent blogger again. Sigh.

Quick school year update: Things are starting to look up. Minus Friday. Friday wasn't a great day. Here's to hoping it was a fluke.

Overall, my class is starting to finally settle down and it has been incredibly welcome.

In other news, my photography business is really taking off and I have some incredibly exciting stuff headed my way. I'm beyond giddy!

But more on that later.

On to the real point of this post-The Best Pencil Sharpener Ever.



Ok, I'm sure by now you've heard all about the awesome pencil sharpeners over at Classroom Friendly Supplies. And let's be honest, if you're anything like me, you're a little skeptical about it.

I mean, how great can a pencil sharpener be, right? It's a pencil sharpener.

First of all, I just checked out the website, and it now comes in pink. Hello, classroom decor coordination!

So I've had my sharpener for about a year now (and because I'm a terrible blogger, I'm just now getting around to reviewing it), and I love it. No joke, I think our custodian just about fell over when I asked him to take the old, crappy pencil sharpener off of the wall (apparently no one ever asks to get rid of a pencil sharpener...except me).

Things I love most about this sharpener:

-It's quite. Enough said.

-The kids can't stand there and sharpen their pencils until they turn into little nubs because they're stalling and trying to avoid work. You know what I'm talking about.

-If we sharpen 20 pencils in a row, it doesn't smell like melting plastic. I'm talking to you, Mr. Fancy Electric Pencil Sharpener.

No joke. This bad boy is so amazing that one of my coworkers (who thought I was nuts switching to a manual pencil sharpener from an electric one) came to my room to try it and was so amazed that she went to her computer, ordered one for herself, and threw away her electric sharpener the second this one arrived.

It is that good.

Trust me on this one, if you don't have one of these already, go order one. In fact, order two. You won't regret it.

Here's the link: http://www.classroomfriendlysupplies.com/

Monday, July 29, 2013

Well, hello there.

Now that I've had a little "me" time to recuperate from the 2012-2013, I'm a whopping TWO WEEKS from the new school year! Umm, I don't know what your thoughts are on this, but I'm not ok with it. The first day back for teachers is August 12th, our Open House is the 13th (which completely blows my mind!), and the kids start on the 14th.

So I'm sure that if you've been a long time reader of my blog, you're probably thinking that I've already been working on new supplies, and that I've probably already spent hours in my classroom. I mean, come on, who doesn't love getting back in there and setting up for a new year?!

Yeah, not me. I haven't set foot in our building since the last day of school.

Don't get me wrong, I am excited about a new school year. My mind is trying to forget the troubles from last year and is trying to convince me that this year will be the best yet. And, you know, it might be. But after last year...well...let's just say I'm a little guarded.

I did finally start back-to-school shopping today. FYI-Amazon credit cards are pretty much the best thing ever. You see, my hubby and I use our credit card for pretty much everything, and then we simply pay it off at the end of the month. And you get credit on Amazon. So this girl just got $128 worth of supplies for the school year, and I only paid a whopping $19 out of pocket. Bam.

And then, since I was so financially responsible in getting supplies for free, I got to buy fun stuff with my back-to-school budget. Two new bungee chairs from Target, a new fuzzy body pillow, a bean bag, and a 3-piece zebra print rug set. Hello, comfy reading spots.

I am pretty disappointed about our Open House being the day before school starts. On one hand, I love the idea. I think it's pretty great that we'll have the chance to meet parents before school starts. But, on the other hand, I have a lot to get done in addition to planning for an Open House.

Plus, I had this brilliant idea at the end of the school year. You see, last year's class was...a handful. There was very little that they responded to in terms of rewards or consequences and it made my job super difficult. I even went as far as to tear down my classroom. Twice. They lost all of the fun stuff. Not that it mattered to them.

So my plan for this year was to start with a bare-bones classroom and then let them earn all of the fun extras. The chairs, the pillows, the lamps, etc. You know, thinking that if they had to earn it, maybe they would take more ownership.

But come on. There is no way that I'm going to have parents attending an Open House and not have my room set up. So there goes that brilliant idea. Drat.



I'll keep you posted(ish) on that whole "classroom setup" thing. Fingers crossed.

Other life updates:

-My photography business has really been picking up speed. It has been super exciting this summer, and I feel like I've learned more in the last 2 months than I did in the first 4 years.

-I've discovered maxi dresses. Where have you been all my life?!

-The Mr. and I went to Gatlinburg over the 4th of July for vacation. I was an idiot and wore flip flops in the rain. And fell on a sidewalk in front of a bunch of people. And then I fell again about an hour later. Down a flight of stairs. And broke my elbow. And spent most of the 4th of July in the emergency room. Oops.

-In case you missed my last post, I'm teaching 5th grade this year. I was holding out hope that our 6th grade numbers would increase over the summer, but no such luck. On the upside, it looks like I'm going to have a pretty small class.

-I found out over the summer that our amazing technology coach managed to pull a few strings for the coming year. My (now former) grade level partner and I will each have a set of 20 1st-generation iPads to use in our classrooms. I must say that I'm pretty excited about that.

-Probably one of the most important moments of the summer was when we found this bad boy. We finally have a trash can that Charlie can't get into. I can't tell you how awesome it is to not have to hide our trash can in the bathroom every time we leave the house. The refrigerator is another story. We're still resorting to a bungee cord and baby gate for that one.

And lastly, thank you to all of you who left encouraging comments on my last post. I may not have replied, but know that I truly appreciated the support and words of encouragement. I still stand by the fact that I have learned so much more from the blogging community and my own teaching experience than I ever learned in college. I am amazed at the fact that despite my completely sporadic posts over the course of the last year, that my list of followers has continued to grow.

You guys are awesome.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

An update...

Ok, so here's the deal.

I haven't blogged in forever.

And to be honest, that's kind of been the trend this school year.

I'll be the first to admit, this school year has been a tough one. There have been countless rough days, nights when I've come home in tears-wondering if I can keep doing this, and some unexpected changes along the way. Blogging was something that I loved doing-and I'm sure that part of me still does, but this year has been different. I've really struggled with this class. I've had a ton of behavior issues this year and unfortunately, my class doesn't respond to much of anything, let alone appreciate anything extra that I do for them. Needless to say, it's been an incredibly trying year for me. It used to be that I found myself so inspired to try new things with my kids partly just because I was dying to share new ideas with you. But honestly, I have been so uninspired this year, that it just hasn't been something that I've been able to make myself do.

Throughout all of this craziness, the one thing that I have been really able to get excited about is my photography, so I've kind of clung to it lately. Don't get me wrong, it's not like this will be my last year teaching, but I've been really inspired to work on building my photography business lately. As some of you know, I've been doing photography for several years, but it's been more of a 'couple sessions a year' kind of thing. As of right now, I've shot three sessions this year, have 3 more scheduled for this month, one confirmed for next month, and one that's still tentative. This is huge in my book. My hubby upgraded my camera for Christmas, and ever since, I've been devouring anything I can get my hands on regarding marketing, sales strategies, technical skills, editing skills, you name it. And I love it.

So, I wish that I was providing you with all of these awesome ideas-I really do.

But for the time being, I've just really needed to take a few steps back and focus on separating myself from school when I get home.

That's not to say that I won't blog anymore this year, it's quite possible that I will. Heck, I just went to the Daily 5 conference yesterday, and it was amazing! And that pencil sharpener that everyone and their cat is talking about--I've been using it since the beginning of the year, and let me tell you, it lives up to the hype.

Oh-and did I mention that I'll be teaching 5th grade next year. Yup. That's happening.

So.

Don't completely count me out yet.

I'll be back...eventually.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Finally! A classroom post!

Hey! Remember me?!

I don't blame you if you've forgotten all about my little blog. I've pretty much been the world's worst blogger the last few months.

But now that all of wedding festivities are done, I should be getting back into the normal swing of things. (I know, you've heard it all before.)

So.

What's new with my class, you ask?

Well, that's a loaded question.

A few of my kiddos are, quite frankly, driving me a little crazy.

While a lot of my kids are settled in to the new school year, some of them are still acting like it's the first week of school. I mean, come on people, is it that hard to raise a hand?! And seriously, I know that you can hear me talking to someone-last I checked, that wasn't an invitation for you to talk over both of us!

On a happier note, my kids are really starting to L-O-V-E reading! Within the last week, I've finally won over one of my last two reluctant readers-thank you, Rick Riordan for writing The Red Pyramid.

Unintentional bonus: I've been reading more, too!

Confession: I was a HUGE reader as a kid, but once I hit high school, I just didn't have time anymore. (The irony? I worked in a library from my Jr. year of high school until I graduated college. Oops.)

And truthfully, I've really missed it! Not to mention, I can totally feel justified buying those new tween books when I know I can let my kids read them (after me, of course!).

My kids were SO excited when I told them that I found a new Lemony Snicket book at Target! We started reading The Bad Beginning as our first read aloud of the year back in August. When we finished reading it and the kids realized that it was a whole series, they BEGGED me to read the next book, after that, they BEGGED me to read the book after that. We're now about halfway through book 5 in the series. I'm going to really have to pick up the pace if we're going to finish the series by the end of the year!

After I read the new Lemony Snicket (and Wonder, The Name of This Book is Secret, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel), my kiddos were dying to get their hands on them. Since I had technically purchased them for my collection, I didn't want to turn them loose in the library. And since SO many kids wanted to read them, I didn't want to hand them out, (especially knowing that I would forget who I promised the book to next) so I made some super-cute sign up sheets.

I didn't post the sign up sheets until I had read all of the books (I did buy them for me, after all!), but man, those kids were chomping at the bit! The day I was ready to put them up, I told the kids that morning that they would be posted some time during the day (you know, to avoid stampede). While they were at lunch, I posted them on the closet doors, and then opened the doors so that the sheets would be hidden. When they came back, I didn't say a word-I thought it would be more fun if they found them themselves. Half of the class was at glee club, so I didn't have many kids in the room. Most of them were helping me grade, or reading, or talking quietly. One of the girls came up to me and said, "So you didn't remember to put the sheets up while we were at lunch, did you?" (I can be a little forgetful, you see.) I looked at her, put a quizzical expression on my face and said, "Or did I?"

She bolted off to the closet with a pencil and went to work. Another kid saw her over there and figured it out. Then, they ALL rushed over to the closet. Now, normally I don't condone running in the classroom, but if there was ever a reason to let students run across the room, that would be it.

No joke, you guys.

My shortest waiting list had 7 kids signed up. The longest? 17.

I have 20 kids in my class.

I know. I was amazed, too.

(P.S. If you're interested, these are now in my TpT store along with a simile activity that my kids really enjoyed!

Another thing that they're super excited about?

Getting postcards from the Middle School Postcard Exchange. You would think that I was bringing them candy. They get SO excited about getting postcards! We've gotten cards from Japan, Germany, Kansas, and West Virginia (I think it was West Virginia) so far and they are ecstatic about finally getting to write their own postcards.

Their excitement about these postcards brought up something that I need your help with.

My kids would LOVE to have pen pals!

Because I have some behavior...issues...in my class, I was hesitant, but I had them write me persuasive letters to convince me that it's a good idea.

Well, it worked.






























You try to tell them no.

Anyone interested in being pen pals? I have 20 kiddos in my class, so I'd like to partner with a class at least that big so that all of my kids have a pen pal, but I'm not opposed to doubling up.

As a side note, I'm trying to get some extra technology for my classroom, and would LOVE to be able to Skype, but there's no guarantee that I'll be able to Skype, so there's that.

If you're interested, let me know! My kids would be giddy!








Monday, November 5, 2012

Well, hello there.

Hey guys!

Long time no see.

So.

How's it going?

Apparently it's been about a month since my last post.

I can explain.

You see, I got MARRIED on October 7th.

See? Proof.

After that? 

We may or may not have spent a week in the Dominican Republic.

And there was that trip to the pumpkin patch with some friends.

Top that off with report cards and parent-teacher conferences, AND moving-I've been swamped!

Somewhere in there I squeezed in a shoot for a pretty awesome senior and her senior pictures.

Charlie says hi.


To sum up, I plan to get back on track. But, married life is pretty great, and I just haven't been horribly motivated to sit in front of my computer lately. I do have stuff to share. Especially about the wedding. 

Rain check?