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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pairing Christmas and ELA

I have always believed in the importance of making my classroom feel warm, inviting, and homey. During the holiday season, a Christmas tree is essential. In the past, I have decorated the tree and not given the ornaments much thought. They matched my classroom decor and they were pretty. But this year, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to find a way to put my two loves together...Christmas and reading. So I created an ornament for my students to create that allowed them to suggest a book that they loved. The ornament included a student decorated book cover and a book recommendation / review on the back.

Here is one student's completed ornament:

Once students completed their ornaments, they placed them on our classroom tree. Here is our tree with all the student created ornaments.

Students will be able to take their ornaments home with them and place them on their family trees on the last day before Christmas break. Many of them have said they are excited to share them with their families.

If you are interested in doing this activity with your students, the free "Reading is a Gift" ornament can be found by clicking here.

Thanks everyone and breathe through the last few days before break!

Friday, July 31, 2015

I Challenge You: Turn Your BELIEFS Into ACTION

Hey everyone! So my teacher friend Whitney Alexanderson from With Love From Texas gave a challenge to some Facebook friends to turn our core teaching beliefs into actions. In other words, strip away all your teacher layers and get to the core of what your teacher beliefs are. After reading her explanation, I knew this was something this veteran teacher needed to do...I pretty much couldn't shake the ideas that Whitney had shared with us from her preacher's Sunday sermon. Such a simple idea and such an idea that shook me to my core. So here's what happened...

Whitney's preacher asked "Do you know what you believe in? And if so, do you live by those beliefs?" This resonated with Whitney and she challenged us to apply this message to our teaching beliefs. 

Simple idea, right? Ummmmm yeah it's easy to give a quick response. I had done this before in college so I pulled out and dusted off my Philosophy of Education. Then I read it. Some was still right on the money but a lot of it had changed in my 10+ years as an educator. But I still felt I knew what I believed.....but did I really? Nope. Until I sat down and took the time to look inside myself. To peel back those layers of me. To throw off the insulation and the walls and get down to my core teaching beliefs.  And it was one of the hardest things I've ever done but that's what I did. 

So with an open heart, I share with you what you would see in action if you came to visit my classroom.

So now it's your turn. Take the challenge. You just might be surprised what you peel back. Let me know in the comments below what you found when you peeled back. 

Then continue on the Beliefs to Actions blog hop by visiting my friend Whitney Parlin from At Whit's End by clicking here

Monday, July 13, 2015

Viva Las Vegas!! My First TpT Conference

 Click to go back to Elementary Entourage LINKY Party

I survived my first TpT Conference in Las Vegas and I came home excited about developing my store. I have finally taken a moment to catch my breath and reflect on it all.  The one thing that I felt to my core was this palpable vibe...a collective heartbeat that thrummed through all of the events. Amazing!! Teachers were generous with their advice and opened their toolboxes of success. I was in awe of them all.

For this introvert, I was so nervous about going to this alone without knowing anyone. So completely out of my comfort zone, which is not a place I like to go. But the anxiety diminished once I found a few wonderful ladies that I connected with at the Cool Kids Meetup on Wednesday night. I am grateful to them and thankful that I found part of my tribe. Tiffany, Brandi, And Tamra!!!! 

One of the first products I purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers was from Erin Cobb at I'm Lovin' Lit and what a symbolic way to start off my conference by having her as my first session. The magnitude of advice this woman gave was a testimate to TpT. The one thing that stuck with me was "Take off your teacher hat and put on your business hat." This is not a hobby and I realized I had been treating it as such. Erin's success showed me where I could be in the not so far off future. She started selling on TpT because she was tired of never making ends meet.that resonated with me because I struggle with this every month. Again, it was time to see myse,f as a business owner and put on that business hat and work on my business.

New Seller Success School was the other session that blew me away. Lindsay Perro explained in detail TpT 101. It helped to have someone spell it out and speak about what it takes to be successful as a TpT seller. The one thing I kept hearing was be yourself when creating your products. Don't try to be something that you aren't just to try and replicate someone else's success. I must figure out what that niche is for me. 

In the Friday keynote, the speakers gave us a challenge. They pushed us to set a goal for ourselves and capture a moment during the conference. My goal is to acknowledge that this is a business, not a hobby, and to start treating it that way. That's a difficult goal for me because over the years I have lost so much of my teaching confidence for many reasons.The on,y reason NOT being ability. I am a great teacher...I just have lost sight of that fact. Instead of looking for approval from other teachers, admins, parents, students, media, and everything else, I should look inside of myself. Not an easy thing for me to do but I will try every day.

The one moment that I captured in my mind also happened during the Friday Keynote. I had a revelation. It was said that the room was filled with people who were making the largest contribution to education. That blew me away when I heard that. I never thought of TpT that way and I sure didn't think of myself that way. Being a teeny tiny seller, I never felt that I had much of a chance to make a difference but I was missing the most important's all about collaborating with my tribe. Like Aristotle says..."The whole is better than the sum of its parts." 

What are my take-aways from the 2015 Vegas Conference? Be yourself. Don't try to replicate someone else or their journey. I have my own journey to follow. Work hard, be authentic, and find your tribe

I will find my niche and go for it. I will see myself as a Teacherpreneur and I am not on an island alone. I have a great support system in TpTers. I will be proud of myself for traveling alone all the way to Vegas and putting my fears and social anxiety aside. It was terrifying but I did it!!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

I Made It...Finally!!

Welcome to my new blog and my first blog post. It took some teaching this "old dog" some new techie tricks but I think I have started to get the hang of it (slightly). 

My name is Stephanie but most who are close to me or think they are close to me call me Steph. I called my blog The Marvelous Middle because I am in the middle for a variety of reasons. Most days being in the middle is pretty marvelous...but some days "bleh...not so much".

     1. I'm a MIDDLE school ELA teacher and have been for over ten years.
     2. I'm in the MIDDLE of the country (Illinois).
     3. I'm in the MIDDLE of my life...okay it's not that dramatic...I'm in my 40's!

I still love my job, even on the days where I have yelled, given detentions, and swore under my breath. I totally believe that if you can't love your job on those days, you are in the wrong place. 

Many times over the last few years, the "I should start a blog" idea has popped in my head but like many teachers, I didn't think I had much to say. I knew I wanted to share my classroom with the world but...anyway I decided a year or so to begin sharing my classroom creations on Teachers Pay Teachers and that journey has led me here. It's still an experiment of some sort and I am jumping in with both feet. It's easy to do that in the summer because both feet tend to be in the same place recovering from the past school year. 

So here it is and I hope you like it (and come back often). I've never been one to have a filter so this could be interesting. I look forward to sharing my teacher life and my personal life with you all...and I hope you too will see how marvelous the middle really can be.