Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Teacher Tote-All Review and Giveaway

Ask any teacher, and they will tell you it is a necessary part of the job to bring work home and tote around books and supplies. So, every teacher needs something to carry all that stuff between home and school. Many days, a simple bag of some sort will do, but when the items you need to tote are big, bulky, or plentiful, you need what I have always called a "roly cart." 

Even subs can use one. When I do a long-term job, it always feels intrusive to set up my own things in the classroom since it's only mine on loan. The cart becomes my mobile classroom, helping me keep from getting my things mixed up in things that belong to the teacher or to the school.

I have had a very inexpensive cart from an office supply store for several years, and it has done its job. But it's nothing fancy, and although it hasn't broken, it is certainly very flimsy.

The Teacher Tote-All, manufactured by Educational Insights and found on Homeroom Teacher, is similar but different in a few important ways. First of all, it is a good size... not too big and not to small and holds up to 75 pounds, although I personally would not put that much weight in it just because I wouldn't be able to lift it into my car. It collapses down to store easily when not in use and assembles very quickly. I did learn the hard way that you really should keep your fingers away from where it snaps together. It's quite a tight snap. Ouch!

Different from the inexpensive version, the Teacher Tote-All comes with side rails that snap on the top of the collapsing walls, making them much more sturdy. And the color is a happy blue and yellow, which makes me happy.
My two "complaints" are minor but worth noting: 1) The handle telescopes up and down, but it does so sticking just about every time. It gets there, it just takes a bit of shaking and shimmying; and 2) The wheels are a little small making it slightly difficult to take up and down curbs and steps.

Here's the really exciting part of this post. Together with Homeroom Teacher, I have one Teacher Tote-All to give away to a lucky fan. To thank Homeroom Teacher for their generosity, please be sure to visit them at their website and on Facebook. And, of course, if you absolutely can't wait to see if you've won and want one right away, you can order a Teacher Tote-All directly from Homeroom Teacher.

To enter the giveaway, simply follow the steps and fill out the form below. A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, May 1 at 5 p.m. CST.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I Am a 5-Star Blogger

Thank you to Charity Preston of The Organized Class Blog for issuing the 5-Star Blogger Challenge. As a reader of blogs myself, I know I get frustrated when I see blogs with only sales promotion and contests. While I do buy products and love to win things, I would also like to see more types of things when I visit a blog. That has been a goal of mine since I started Sub Hub, and I hope that I am coming close to meeting it. According to Charity's 5-Star Challenge, I think I am... at least for now.

5-Star Blogger

For Challenge Number 5, here is my newest teaching tip, and it even comes with a freebie... lapbooks. I love them! The students love them! I feel they are a great alternative assessment and way to compile a large amount of material in one place.

My most recent lapbook is one to go along with our biography unit. The district where I am long-term subbing added quite a few people to the science and social studies curriculum this year. The way my team chose to cover them was in a two-week biography unit where we are reading books, watching movies, and discussing 10 people important in science and social studies. I was looking for a creative way for the students to keep all the information in one place and serve as an assessment at the end of the unit. The lapbook was the perfect solution for me and my class!

Of course, I couldn't find the perfect one, so being a blogger, I made one. My team loved it... several of them are using it as well. Included in my Biography Lapbook Template is an explanation of how to make the lapbook with the foldables inside, a guide as to how all the foldables fit inside, reproducibles for the cover nameplate, the shapes of foldables, and images of all the people we studied. I know, you are probably not studying all the same people, but can add and take away images as necessary. Or use the template for another topic altogether... just use the shapes and the template for how they go together, and add your own content.

I hope you find it useful!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Caution: Rant Ahead

OK, I normally do not do this. But it has been a rough three weeks... not with my class or the school... just rough overall. Plus, I have a migraine and am grumpy. I am telling you this because maybe I am overreacting here, but I just betcha that I have some other sub friends who have experienced similar things. My beef? The way subs are generally treated and talked about.

From what I have seen, we are often treated as second class citizens by students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Now, I have been lucky enough to be in some schools that do otherwise (I am in one right now), and I have made some teacher friends who certainly don't treat me that way.

What drove this home recently? I heard a comment from a student. I saw this student (whom I had subbed for last year) in the hall and he asked me, "Are you a real teacher now?" I have also had a parent ask something similar on meet the teacher night. She shook my hand, and the first thing she asked me was, "Are you a real teacher?" Now, the student I can easily forgive, but what I really wanted to say to the mother was, "Are you a real parent?" Of course, I was nice and polite even though she treated me like dirt.

Over and over again I hear things like "she's just a sub" or "that happened because there was a sub." And it just irks me. I enter the teacher's lounge in some schools and subs are relegated to the other end of the table. We are not talked to at recess unless we force the issue. It really does feel like a form of segregation.

Now, I completely understand where this sentiment has come from. I went through the "training" my district provides, and it was really no help at all. And the requirements to work as a sub are very low (to match the pay and nonexistent benefits), so of course, you don't usually attract the best of the best that way. I have witnessed some scary subs in action too and heard the horror stories of the ones I haven't seen, so it's no wonder that others have these opinions of subs.

Boy, oh boy, would I love to change those stereotypes! If fact, that's a big reason I started this blog. Even though my ultimate dream is to have my own classroom, I really do like most parts of being a sub. And I wanted to show other subs and teachers that we don't have to be just babysitters. Teachers, you can leave us meaningful lessons that require some actual teaching. And subs, we have to do our part too. If you don't feel trained, learn more! Don't treat subbing as a means to an end, but the end itself. Don't take the easy way out. I always try approach each sub job as if it were my own classroom (even just for the day). Maybe, just maybe, over time, we can start to change those opinions of subs.

Feel free to share your sub stories (good and bad).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Discover the Natural World for Earth Day

When I first started subbing, I was amazed when a student said this to me on the playground. Student: "Mrs. Friedrich! Look what I found!" Me: "Yes, that's an acorn. It will grow into a new tree." Student: "Wow! I have never seen one before!" I couldn't believe the student had never seen an acorn before. And this was not the only encounter like this that I had. When students realized I knew what some things were, it became a routine recess activity to bring me things to identify. So when I got my first long-term job and Earth Day came around, I created an activity hoping to widen their natural horizons.

I raided my own children's nature collections and set up Nature Exploration stations with the objects and hand lenses. I used objects such as a feather, a deer antler, fossil, seashell, bird nest, leaves, acorns and other seeds, and even a snake skin. I set each one up in its own station and gave the students Nature Exploration Recording Sheets. I explained to the students what they were going to be doing, and they were so excited. I even had a boy with autism in that class who was supposed to be leaving for a doctor's appointment. The only way we could get him to leave for the appointment was if I promised I would leave everything set up so he could do the activity the following day. The students loved being able to see, touch, and explore objects that had been previously unfamiliar to them. They recorded their observations and drew a picture on the Nature Exploration Recording Sheet I provided.

After all students had been to all stations, we came back together as a class and discussed what they had seen. What things surprised them? What was their favorite? And so on.

It was such a wonderful way for the students to see a few of the special things about the Earth and why we should protect it.

And go check out the Earth Day linky party at Sunny Days in Second Grade.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Are You Qualified to Fill in for the Easter Bunny?

During this time of year, there just doesn't seem to be much extra time for fun things. So when persuasive writing was the next writing unit that came up right around Easter with my current second-graders, I started looking around on Pinterest (where else?). And I was not disappointed. I found this fabulous Easter Bunny application posted by Welcome to Room 36.

When it was time for writing, I got the students settled down and ready to listen. Then I launched into my speech:

"Boys and girls, I have some really bad news. [It was dead silent in the room] I got a call from the Easter Bunny. He is really sick and will not be able to deliver all the eggs and Easter baskets on Sunday. [A few gasps of surprise mixed with a few mumblings of 'did he really call you.'] But, he did say he was looking for a replacement to substitute for him on Sunday... he needs a Substitute Bunny. So, you need to fill out this job application and draw a picture to go with it. And remember, you are trying to persuade, or convince, him that you are the best kid for the job."

Whether they bought it or not, I don't really know. But the whole class LOVED the assignment and got to work immediately. Even my student with special needs who always refuses to write, was trying this one. And I was so impressed with some of their responses. I mentioned that they should think about what qualities the Easter Bunny has, and the students were writing things like, "I will make a good Easter Bunny because I am caring and generous. I am also fast." Many were tying in the Pillars of Character... it was wonderful!

My favorite parts? Seeing them excited about writing something was for sure number one for me. And also hearing some of their conversations as I was walking around the room. The best one was, "Of course, Santa is real. But a bunny? How does he go all around the world?" The whole experience just brought a smile to my face and warmed my heart. I will definitely do this activity again next year!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Walking the Balance Tightrope

When I was younger and a gymnast, one of my strongest events was the balance beam. I thought I was quite the expert on balance... and maybe I still am... at least the physical act of balancing on a narrow surface or on one leg. But balance between home, school, and blogging? I am finding out I still have quite a bit to learn.

I have done plenty of long-term subbing jobs, but most were before I started blogging. And I even did a really long subbing job right after I started the blog, but that was before my fan base really started to grow and I was involved in several collaborative blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. When that job ended, I got used to having all day at home by myself to take care of all blogging business.

I knew my current second grade long-term position was coming, but I got surprised that it started a week earlier than expected... go figure! The teacher's baby had other ideas! I stepped into a classroom that the teacher didn't think she was going to be leaving so soon either. So there was a week's worth of ungraded papers and lots of things left when she had left the previous day. I felt like I started the position a week early, but already a week behind. Then I came in, had my own lessons to plan and assignments to grade. And (of course) the following weekend my family had already planned to go out of town for a school field trip. Not much teaching work was happening then... so now I am into my second week, but still two weeks behind.

This week, I have been trying to do little bits in the evening while still spending time with my husband and children. But that doesn't leave much time for blogging. I continue to work to find that secret sweet spot of balance between all the aspects of my life. I know this is not a unique problem for me... or even for teachers, but it is one I feel is important to solve. I just keep trying different recipes and hoping that I can hit on the perfect solution.

Currently, here is the plan. Grade little bits each night until I get caught up there. Plan on Sundays for the week ahead. Blog on Tuesday nights (my husband works every Tuesday so I have some time at home) for sure and additional nights as it is available. And spend the rest of the time with family. I think if I can get past the caught-up part that this will work. How do you find balance in your life?
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