First Year Teacher No More

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything on here…sorry!

I can’t believe my first full year of teaching is over. Since being hired to teach last January, I feel like time has just flown by!

I remember my first day of teaching like it was yesterday. I was scared, not knowing anything I was doing, and I went home not sure I even wanted to go back. Considering I had no teaching experience or prior want to even be in that profession, I wasn’t sure it was for me. I believe the whole first two weeks I was there I didn’t know if it was really for me. I was determined though not to give up. I don’t think teaching ever gets easier, I think you just get better and eventually I did.

Now, a year later, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything different. I have learned so much over the past year thanks to amazing colleagues and my never give up attitude.

Teaching has taught me so much patience and has made me a better person overall. I honestly feel blessed to work with kids all day…even on the tough days where I doubt myself as a teacher completely.

I have learned so much about teaching that I never knew went into this profession.

Like, how to mange 21 kids. People who don’t know better often will say things like, “Oh you’re a teacher? That’s like the easiest job ever!” or “I bet you always have fun at work.” I want to take these people and show them all the difficult moments of teaching. How you you have to learn to calm kids, deal with behavior issues, get the attention of these kids, provide engaging activities, constantly monitoring and adjusting your day, and so many other things. I promise a teacher’s mind has about a billion things going through it every minute.

Teaching is exhausting, but worth every second of it. I put so much of myself into my teaching and so much time outside of the classroom. Anyone who ever says teachers don’t work over time needs to visit a school after hours or on the weekends. They’re always there. Even in the summer. YES! Teachers still are working in their rooms, planning, doing professional development, etc. even during the summer. So no, teachers really don’t get summers off.

Teaching will break your heart. I see kids from all walks of life that come through my classroom doors or just around school everyday. I talk to these kids and get to know them. I know their stories and the life they live outside of my four purple walls. They often have difficult lives. They are faced with choices and situations I, as an adult wouldn’t even want to deal with. A kid shouldn’t have to especially, but these kids are facing these issues everyday.  I’ve even had students who want to stay at school over the weekend. School and being their teacher is often the only stability they have in their lives. To know that you may be making such an impact on the life of a child simply by being there everyday means so much to me.

Teaching is the most rewarding career. I start my day with hugs, high fives, and catching up with my kids. I see my students growth academically and watch them mature. I get to see their personalities continue to develop. I get to know that I got to play a part in their lives and hopefully make a lasting impact on them.

If you notice, everything I just mentioned has nothing to do with the CONTENT that I teach. That’s because teaching is so much more than just teaching your subjects. I teach reading, writing, phonics, and grammar. I have in fact learned so much about what I teach. I have struggled with switching to Guided Reading (which I love by the way). I have had to learn how to create engaging centers during Daily 5. I struggled to write lesson plans, and trying to constantly make lessons that kids will get the most out of. However, like I said earlier, in teaching you only get better. I honestly feel like I get better with each week that passes. I am much more confident in my teaching this year and feel like I have developed my own teaching style that I love. I love (and I want to emphasize that) the subjects I teach and I hope to make my students love them.

I still face difficult moments all the time, but I absolutely LOVE my job. I would never trade where I am for anything. I know accidentally getting into this career was a gift from God. He put me here and his plan was so much better than anything I had in mind for my life. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this school year goes and I’m ready for many, many more years!

 

-Miss Layfield

 

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Flexible seating

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If you walk into my classroom at any given time during the day, you’re going to see a classroom unlike traditional classrooms. You will see kids sitting on exercise balls bouncing, sitting on crate seats, leaning on pillows on the carpet, sitting in scoop chairs, laying on mats, and even sitting on stools.

The only desk I have is a pink one seen in the above photo and it isn’t really a desk like you would find in traditional classrooms. Flexible seating has taken over my classroom.

If you’ve read my blog for any given time, you know I’ve been teaching since this past January. The other second grade teacher at my school and I started incorporating flexible seating back in March. It was successful, but our rules/expectations weren’t like they are this year because we were new to it as well.

We wondered how our year would go starting with flexible seating and how the kids would react. You don’t know how excited they were back at Meet the Teacher night. They continue to be excited every day about their seating options.

Our classroom rotates through centers the majority of the day allowing each group to sit at every option every day. This eliminates any sort of arguments like, “I want to sit there!” Everyone has the opportunity to sit every where.

“Where do they store their stuff?” This is another question I get. We have community supplies with bins around the room containing crayons, glue sticks, pencils, scissors, etc. to eliminate kids having to get up and retrieve items. Library books are stored in bins. The kids have binders that are stored in a crate unit when they enter the classroom. They take these to their other class when we switch. We have had no problem with supplies at all this year so far.

Another pro of flexible seating is the fact that my classroom is less cluttered. I couldn’t stand the amount of papers, etc. that would be kept in student desks. They just looked messy after awhile. They took up a ton of space too.

Flexible seating allows students to utilize their individual learning styles. Before with desks, there is always the unconscious mindset that the kid has to be seated at all times. If they stood up, there was something wrong. With flexible seating, if a kid prefers to stand, he can at the tall table. If a kid wants to lay down and use a clip board, GO FOR IT! It never bothers me to look up and see a kid just chilling on the floor and working away.

I know I can’t stand when I have to sit still for too long. Classwork I did for college online classes was done on my couch. I never sat at a desk, so why should we ask kids to do that ALL day long? I know for certain I feel much more tired at the end of a day where I sit all day than one I am up moving the whole time. I’m sure it’s the same for kids.

The combination of doing stations and having kids rotate with flexible seating to me is a winning combo. You’re giving them movement and comfort all day long.

The only cons that I have had with flexible seating is the initial stages of teaching rules/expectations of how to use the flexible seating. I even added where I can take a dojo point on ClassDojo if a child continues to misuse flexible seating. This has helped tremendously. I make it a point to give positive immediate reinforcement to kids who are using the seating correctly so that other kids notice and do the same. I also immediately ward off any misuse. Modeling at the beginning of the year helps as well. It takes time to make sure everyone understands the expectations on how to use flexible seating, but you also have to remember that these are kids and they will make mistakes. The pros of flexible seating outweigh the cons all day in my book.

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I can say for sure that the kids act a lot more motivated and excited to be at school. They’ve told me they feel lucky to have the seating options that we have provided for them.

In my heart I feel like flexible seating is best for kids and that’s why I’m such a big fan of it.

-Miss Layfield

Kids Deserve It

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Tomorrow is the beginning of the new school year! The above photo captures my personal motto for this year. KIDS DESERVE IT!

Deserve what, you ask?!

Kids deserve:

-The very best from me (their teacher).
-To feel safe at school.
-The basic necessities (food, water, etc.)
-To be in an environment with a positive and happy classroom culture.
-Flexible seating that allows them to be comfortable while learning.
-Lessons that are both engaging and top notch for them to learn from.
-To feel important.
-To have a voice in their learning.
-To be in a student-centered environment.
-To be encouraged to grow no matter what level they’re at.
-To feel loved.
-To know that their teacher cares for not just their learning, but them as a whole person.
-Someone who always looks for the best in them.
-Someone who is also tough on them when needed.

This list could go on and on and on and on and on. You get the picture. Kids deserve our best. They don’t always come to us at school from the best environment or the best home life. We spend eight hours a day with these kids and they deserve something really great in their life that they look forward to.

My goal is for my students to wake up each day and say, “I can’t wait to go to Miss Layfield’s class!” Not, “Why do I have to go to school today.”

I am also the tennis coach as I’ve said previously. My motto extends to those kids as well.

My tennis players deserve the best from me as a coach. I look at them like they can succeed in this sport. If they aren’t learning something, I’m not a very good coach. They deserve to have a coach invested in them and who cares about them. They deserve someone who knows the game they want to play and who loves it enough to be just as motivated as they are for this year.

So no matter what kids I interact with throughout the school year, they deserve IT! Hopefully I’ll be something positive in their lives.

 

-Miss Layfield

Classroom Reveal

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My classroom is officially DONE being set up for the new school year. While I am savoring every last bit of summer I have left, I am excited for the new year to begin. This will be my first full year teaching (seeing as I started back in January, I’m still a newbie). I cannot wait for all that lies ahead.

I wanted to use this post to share a few photos of things around my classroom. I am sure that if you follow me on Instagram (talesofanaccidentalteacher) you have probably seen most of these photos before, but I’ll try to add a little more commentary here.

In the photo above, you can see that I am as I have said before, taking on flexible seating. I believe it empowers our children in the classroom. It allows kids to utilize their unique learning styles, be more comfortable and increase their motivation for learning. It can also improve behavior and the atmosphere of your classroom which is a big plus.

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My cousin wrote my name on my pencil sign I picked up at the Target Dollar Spot. I think it’s one of the cutest things and this was the perfect place for it. I love the inspirational signs I have underneath too (they’re from Glitter and Glue 4 K-2’s Teachers Pay Teachers store).

I hung my spelling words pocket chart over here as well. I wanted my spelling words near my Word Wall so all my word work items could be together.

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The above photo is a closer look at my Word Wall. As you can see I already have some words on there. I know most people start the year with no words. I did this because these words as Saxon Phonics words that my kids will be introduced to throughout the year. I truly believe if they start the year using these words, they will learn them much better and they will already be familiar with them improving their performance using and recognition of the words.

I also have index cards that I will write high frequency words, commonly misspelled words and words that students as for help spelling throughout the year. It will be an ever growing Word Wall.

My Word Wall is also mobile. I believe in empowering our students to take control of their learning. Have a static Word Wall to me doesn’t allow that. If it’s something they can go grab with their own hands, work with the words, know when they need help and seek the words they need, they are learning much more. At least that’s my philosophy I suppose.

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I will most likely be doing more like a Daily 4 because of time constraints, but I am utilizing the Daily 5 mindset/centers during my Guided Reading time every day. This board allows me/students to know where everyone should be during that time.

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Being a book lover and someone who loves learning about people, I wanted my kids to have an Author Study section of our classroom. I took a bin I will have books in each week by a specific author. The area will also include posters and other materials for them to learn about that author.

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I love my trunk in my classroom. I’m using it for seating and storage. Inside I have my Rooted in Reading units and Guided Reading units for the whole year.

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Since I am using Rooted in Reading, I took one of my bulletin boards and turned it into a RIR focus board. I have our focus book, vocabulary, posters and anything extra related to our story for that week here.

My classroom library is also now completely labeled.

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This is just a photo from my teacher space in my classroom. I love quote signs. I also added a tennis ball coin bank because I will also be coaching tennis this year. YAY!

Below are just a few more photos…enjoy!

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The above are Saxon Phonics crates that I just added Duck Tape to in order to make them cuter.

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I wanted to end with this photo because my brother said this was his favorite area in my classroom. I love how colorful it is!

I have had so many people tell me that they’d love to be in my classroom and they love what I’ve done with my room. That makes my heart so happy and to me these kids deserve the best. It is well worth all the hard work.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing photos from my classroom!

-Miss Layfield

How to: Crate Seats

The first time I saw someone post about crate seats, I knew I needed them in my classroom. After switching over to flexible seating, I’m always on the lookout for any new seating options. I especially love if something can double as storage.

I recruited my mom as I always do for most of the DIY projects I take on for my classroom. So give her a round of applause for helping with these!

Let’s start with what you need to make your own crate seats:
-Crates
-Fabric (I bought two yards for four crates)
-Ribbon
-Scissors
-Stapler (the heavy duty kind, not what you have in your classroom!)
-Plywood (sizing will vary depending on what crates you are using)
-Cushioning of whatever kind you choose (I used an old memory foam bed topper)

Step 1: Measure and cut your plywood to fit the inside of the crate you are using. We literally DIY’d this with plywood and other wood we had from other projects. However, you can take your crate to somewhere like Home Depot and they will measure and cut the plywood for you.
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As you can see it fits perfectly inside the crate!

Step 2: Cut your cushioning to fit the tops of the wood.

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*Tip: We used spray adhesive on top of the wood before adding the foam to help it stay put better.

Step 3: Cut your fabric to fit allowing for some overlay to staple the bottom. There’s no need to cover the entire wood top and bottom since nobody will see the bottom.

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Step 4: Cover seats with the fabric and staple bottom securely. Cut and fold corners if needed.

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Step 5:  Add ribbon. I do not have a photo of stapling the ribbon. All you need to do it make your ribbon into a loop however long you want it. Staple it to the bottom of the seat where it will stick out of the crate. This allows you to easily remove the seat top from the crate at any time. You can clearly see the ribbon in the photo below.

Step 6: Admire your adorable new crate seats!

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I think these seats are some of the cutest things EVER! Seriously. I also personally tested each seat to make sure kids will not fall through them and that they are secure.

Below are what they look like in my flexible seating classroom.

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-Miss Layfield