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A Day Full of Surprises

A Day Full of Surprises

Fridays are tough days for a teacher to be out sick….. we are often short guest teachers to cover classes.  Today our district was short 60 substitutes.  Each school has to have a plan in place in case they don’t have someone to cover a classroom teacher.  When that happens at my school, I am often the one who gets called to fill in.  That being said, all day today I had the pleasure of covering the 4th grade class of a dear friend at work who has been really sick this week. I’ve known most of her students since kindergarten and have a good relationship with them. It was a fun day! We made Cubism portraits this afternoon (guess which is mine?!) and wrote poetry.

This poem titled “Ms Sauer” by one of the kids had me 😂😂 “sweet like a purple plum”( I mean I am kinda round and I wear purple a lot?! Lol) “kind like an angel but mean like a lion”? Wth?! 😂😂 They’ve got me. Lol. Kids

Later when Walking the kids out to the bus after a good day and there waiting to surprise me was a dear former student ( now 9th grade) that I have known since she was in kindergarten. She visits me a couple of times a year, but it is always a surprise when she will come.  I love her surprise visits so much!! We spent a long time catching up and reminiscing. These relationships make a difference and I always strive to be a teacher they look up to and remember 🙂

Oh, and because it is St Patrick’s Day I need to share a pic of my littlest Leprechaun

Please Lord, let me make it through this week!!

Please Lord, let me make it through this week!!

Nothing happy and exciting to post today. My job’s got me down.

I am in the midst of assessing all the kindergarteners at my school for identification for gifted services.  The Powers that Be in our district are having us use a new assessment to hopefully identify more kids of color.  The test is long (6 hours total for each class, including the practice test), grueling, and in my professional opinion…. inappropriate to use at this age for our population of students.  I am frustrated and exhausted and my throat hurts from having to talk so much.  Most of the kids just don’t get the test at ALL.  I know the point is to identify the gifted kids, but why put them all through this?? It is painful to administer and painful to witness.  Not to mention that when all is said and done, I will have missed a month of teaching my own students because I am pulled to do this testing. Ridiculous!!! I miss teaching and I miss my GT students.  This test has become the only part of my job that I don’t enjoy.  I enjoyed the previous test that we used soooooo much more.

I am trying to be positive and give this assessment a try, but if you were to witness how it is going with 90% of our kindergarten kids, you would see why its hard to stay positive.  In honesty I was ready to pull my hair out today.  I will continue testing the kindergarten kids all week and then I get to move on to the 2nd graders.  It should go much better with them.

So that’s my Debbie Downer of a post for the day!!

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On this date I have blogged about:

Twin Day {We’ve Got School Spirit}

Twin Day {We’ve Got School Spirit}

Today was Twin Day at school, so my friend/colleague Janet and I dressed up as twins!

We are the Women in Black
Kristi Janet Twins 2012
Fun stuff!
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On this date I have blogged about:

Staff Holiday Party 2011

Staff Holiday Party 2011

The week before Christmas we had our staff holiday party at a giant restaurant/bar near our school.  It was a party that started during Happy Hour and there was an appetizer buffet set up, courtesy of our school’s Sunshine Committee.  I stayed for a couple of hours before leaving to meet some of my HS girlfriends for a late sushi dinner (separate post on that coming up next!).  I

Some pics from the party….. I work with a bunch of really great people 😉
Kristi and Haley
Vickie, Heidi, Megan, Megan and Janine
MRC Girls and Jaminie
Todd
Bobbie, Sarah, Teresa, Todd, Cynthia, Haley, Jill and Cindy
Barn, Lynne, Judi, Melissa, and Lynnell
Myrna and Heidi

Lego Robotics {My Team’s First Year}

Lego Robotics {My Team’s First Year}

Now that I have a week away from work, I have been relaxing a little as well as reflecting on the past year.  This school year has especially been off to a good start and we ended the week before Winter Break on a total high (IMO anyway, other teachers might have a different story to tell! lol)

On Saturday, Dec 17th, was the BIG DAY that my Lego Team had been working so hard for these past few months.  Before I get into the details of the day, I better explain about the program.  I was approached last spring by both my principal and our district’s Technology Coach about starting up a Lego Robotics program at my school, funded by 3M.  It would be 5 hours per week on top of the 45 in my contract, which is a pretty long week but a small stipend would be included.  I obviously decided to go for it!

I attended some brief training and I was told I could have up to ten students in grades 4-6.  I selected 15 of my top math students in grades 5-6; kids who are smart, hard-working, fun, problem-solvers, and committed.  A big team, but they were all super excited, I couldn’t say No! Two kids left the group early on for various reasons but the other 13 were with me all the way.  I was in close contact with all of their parents throughout the season because parents were required to provide transportation.  (Thanks so much to my Hmong interpreter!! My team spoke a total of 5 languages).

After I selected my students, we downloaded information on this year’s theme and missions.  Each year First Lego League has a theme which drives the Robot Game and Research Project, two of the big things that happen at each Tournament.  This year the theme was Food Factor.  For the Robot Game, we use the Food Factor course, which includes a mat 8ft long x 4ftwide and several playing pieces, all built out of Legos.  The kids then built three different Lego NXT Robots, which they programmed to follow a set of commands using Lego MindStorms Software.  The object of the Robot game is to program your robot to successfully complete missions on the course to score the most amount of points you can in 2min30sec.  The kids get three attempts at the Tournament.  Over the past month is when my kids were able to really take off with the programming and getting missions completed.  As for the research, I had a group of the kids working together researching how cheese is made from farm to table.  The had to pinpoint a problem or contamination issue involved with any food item.  They researched cheese and discovered Listeria can be a major issue in cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.

Anyway, the week of the Tournament was very busy; we practiced until 6:30pm M-W and for several hours on Friday.  Saturday morning, I met my kids at school at 6:30am and the bus picked us up shortly thereafter.  It was a long day at the Tourney but we had a ton of fun. The kids passed around the Flip video cam and other cameras and had a great time.  They did really well for a first year team! They came in 6th place overall which I think is great!

Here is a slideshow of pics from the day followed by a (very shaky) video taken by one of the kids of our final (and best!) performance at the table.  We scored 98 pts!

Dog Herding {at School!}

Dog Herding {at School!}

You know how black labs get really excited sometimes???

Imagine how excited a black lab can be when surrounded by a bunch of excited children….

INSIDE THE SCHOOL.

I stand near the front doors in our main hallway every morning and greet students as they head to class.

Imagine my surprise this morning when an adorable black lab followed some kids through the front door of our school and decided he was going to see where all the action was!!

I quickly caught this feisty cutie pie by his collar (luckily he was wearing one!) and herded him back out the front doors.  He didn’t want to leave but eventually did once the kids were out-of-sight 😉

I wonder what other excitement today has in store for me! There is never a dull moment around here, that is for sure!

Thoughts for Thursday: How Much Do You Like your Job/Career?

Thoughts for Thursday: How Much Do You Like your Job/Career?

Work.  Nearly everyone’s gotta do it, right?

Some people are truly blessed to have jobs/careers that they love.  I am one of those people 😉

I haven’t always been so fortunate to be doing what I love so I understand what it is like to wake up each day, dreading what your day at work will be like.  I worked a few minimum wage jobs in HS and while I was in college I worked in group homes and as a Personal care Attendant for some bad-ass special ed kids for $8/hr.  I rarely talk about those jobs because they still conjure up disturbing situations that I was put through.  You will read about them someday in my future book 🙂

After graduating with BS in Special Ed and teaching a very difficult group of 7-8th graders for just a few years, I was ready to throw in the towel.  I came home and cried every night and I was absolutely miserable.  Not to mention my paychecks alone were small enough to cry over…. I was getting my butt kicked for what?! I felt like I had too much to offer and none of it was appreciated, whatsoever.

Fortunately I started a graduate program during that second year of teaching that would allow me to move out of special ed to the other end of the spectrum…. to work with kids that were very bright and loved to learn.  It took two years to earn my Masters but it allowed me to move into the field I was meant to work in, with students I was meant to teach.  My salary also jumped up significantly with the extra schooling.  This path has not always been the smoothest and I have endured many changes in placement and with instructional leaders, but I still wake up each day feeling blessed that I am doing what I am doing.

How about you??  If you were to rate your current job on a scale from 1 to 10, how much do you love it?  Do you consider it your career or just a stepping stone along the way?  Are you working in the area you went to school for?  What do you do? What do you consider the best/worst thing about your job??

Moon Rocks {Real Lunar Samples}

Moon Rocks {Real Lunar Samples}

Did you know there have only been six missions that landed on the moon, all of which took place between 1969 and 1972??!!

Each of these missions allowed two astronauts to take a smaller vehicle from their space shuttle, land on the moon, get out and walk around.  So in total, only 12 human beings have ever walked on the moon!

During some of these missions, the astronauts took samples of rocks and soil from the moon so that we could study it here on Earth.  There are very few of these samples around.  You can see Lunar Samples at the Smithsonian, Field Museum and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston.  There are also a couple of samples that  travel with trained professionals.

These moon rocks are so rare (PRICELESS) that they are highly safeguarded.  There is no atmosphere on the moon, therefore the rocks are contained in special pressurized cases that are extremely thick.  Many are also stored in nitrogen

Each night these traveling samples must be locked up at a local police station to ensure their safety.

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to have a specialist bring moon rocks to our school and visit one of our 6th grade classrooms. Here they are!!  According to Wikipedia, the value of these Moon Rock samples is at least $.5 million USD or more!

 

Year 13 Day 1

Year 13 Day 1

Wow, I know I am dating myself when I say this, but yesterday was the first day of school….

of my 13th year of teaching in St Paul Public Schools!!

That doesn’t even count the entire year of full-time student teaching I did while working on my Bachelors Degree.

Hard to believe, it has gone so fast.

I am so excited about the possibilities of this school year.

We have nearly 700 kids in our school, at least 100 of which are newer arrivals to the USA and speak very very little English (if any at all).  Our school has been designated a “Language Academy” so they come to us to learn English and all the other wonderful things we teach our students.

The day was a little hectic but overall it went well.  One snafu that we had was a small student who arrived at school but wouldn’t speak a word…. in any language!  He couldn’t tell us his name and had no siblings.  The admin walked him around to every room to see where he was missing but to no avail.  I am not sure but I think they ended up calling the police, we weren’t even sure if he got on the right bus…. every corner in St Paul has kids waiting every morning to go to any one of our 45+ elementary schools (we offer citywide busing).  At the end of the day it was discovered that the child’s mother spoke no English and that morning had handed the bus driver a letter with child’s name & bus stop info but the bus driver never gave it to the school when he dropped of the kids in the morning.  The letter stated the student was in our pre-k program which doesn’t start until next week!!

These days are going to be mighty long, leaving home before 7am and getting home after 5pm (7pm on the nights I coach Lego Robotics).  Hopefully I will still have time for my other job eating & blogging for Twin Cities Restaurant Blog!

 

Rhubarb Potluck

Rhubarb Potluck

It is tradition at my school to have a Rhubarb Potluck every year when the rhubarb is ready to be picked.  It is the best potluck if you like rhubarb!  We had our Potluck on May 25th this year.

This was the first year that I made something to contribute.  I made Betty Crocker’s Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars.  I took pictures of nearly everything, we had quite a variety! See album here.

Rhubarb Bundt Cake
Biggest Snow Storm in 20 Years = 2 “Snow Days” from School

Biggest Snow Storm in 20 Years = 2 “Snow Days” from School

I still can’t believe how much snow we got, something like 21″? There was so much snow that even now, 3 days later, the streets in the city of St Paul are still in rough shape.  Both Minneapolis and St Paul cancelled school on Monday and Tuesday out of safety for the kids.  We bus 90% of our students district-wide and the bus routes were not clear and they didn’t want kids waiting in the near-zero temps for buses that couldn’t get to them.  Better safe than sorry

Part of me was excited to have the extra-long weekend, but missing two days of school before a two-week break is hard to make up.  So much to do, I might actually have to go in over break to work a few days.

I spent my free days off reading, lounging, baking cookies and calzones, Christmas shopping, and eating.  Very little blogging!

Back to work tomorrow, looking forward to it 😉

Staff party at Shamrocks Irish Pub after work!

Fun in Kindergarten! {Thanks to Ed Emberley}

Fun in Kindergarten! {Thanks to Ed Emberley}

Do you remember a few months back to the beginning of the school year when I was seriously wondering if I would ever survive teaching kindergarten??? I had a month-long break from them (to teach 1st and 2nd grade)  and then was hit with a quadruple whammy last week with a new rotation when I had to start seeing FOUR KINDERGARTEN CLASSES BACK-to-BACK (25 minutes each). Ay Dios Mio!

The kindergarteners themselves have learned a lot in the past month as far as rituals and routines of school so they are easier to manage, but I have also had a few tricks up my sleeve.

Have you heard of Ed Emberley??  He is a famous children’s author who specializes in How-to-Draw Books, showing a set of simple steps for each drawing.  A colleague of mine handed me a few of his books, which I in turn brought with me to kindergarten.  THEY LOVED it!!!!  I have never seen a better-behaved group of kindergarteners in my life as when we work on these activities and I now have 4 classes of them!!  Even the naughtiest little kids were engaged and having a good time.  I was very impressed with their drawings, I will have to take pics and post them here eventually! I have a bunch of little Picassos on my hand…… who knew?!

These ones we will get to eventually…..

Thanks Ed Emberley, I never knew I could enjoy working with mainstream kindergarteners until I started to use your books with them!

Teaching Kindergarten {Will I survive??!!}

Teaching Kindergarten {Will I survive??!!}

This school year has gotten off to a shakey start, to say the least!  My position has not changed with the merger of the two schools, although how I deliver services HAS changed.  No more pull-outs for the Gifted/Talented program, no more giant classroom to call my own.  Instead I am working on a rotational schedule (every ten days), working with students directly in their classes.  This means I will be working in all 30+ classrooms at different times throughout the year.  I have delivered services this way in the past and it is no big deal but  I honestly think I get more accomplished and get to spend more time with my G/T kids when I can pull all from each grade together at one time.

The biggest change to my job this year (and definitely the most challenging!!!) is that I am now in the Specialist rotation for kindergarten and 1st grade.  Our teaching contract gives all teachers a 50 minute preparatory period each day, so during this time the students rotate through our specialists: Science, technology, music, phy ed, and G/T.  Our school needed an extra specialist to cover two periods each afternoon and lucky me (not!) was appointed the job.

I knew teaching kindergarten was a very special job for a very special person but I HAD NO IDEA just how tough it is until I had to experience it on my own!!!! Especially the first few weeks of school.  MANY of our students have never been to school before in their life! No preschool, nothing.  They have no idea what to do!!!! And they are all in kindergarten full-time, all day long, every single day.

Want a peak into what 50 minutes of my day looks like at work??

12:15 Go to kindergarten class #1.  Spend 5 minutes trying to get their attention as 6 little ones all need to go to the bathroom and another 14 who need drinks.  Successfully get the attention of  all but maybe 2-3.  Remind them how good listeners sit, and model it for them.  Try to start a story while Three (or maybe seven?) students roll around on the floor, complaining how tired they are.  Remind them again how to sit criss-cross applesauce with their hands in their lap or on their knees.  Stop story to move a couple of students.  Read a few more lines.  Stop story to remind students we need to face the teacher and that we cannot talk to our friends during story time. Read a few more lines.  Stop story to tell a student that it is not okay to bite others.  Or pull their hair.  Remind students how to sit up.  Check the clock.  Read a few more lines.  Stop story a few hundred more times.

12:38  Half way done! Exhausted yet??  Time to switch classes (we do this only with kindergarten because they are too squirrelly to sit for 50 minutes straight).  Have kindergarten students in class #1 line up.  Model what standing in line looks like.  Check bathroom really quick to make sure I didn’t leave any kids behind.  Make our way down the hall.  Stop three or four times in 50 feet to show students what walking in a line should look like.  Meet kindergarten class #2 on the stairwell, music teacher and I make the switch.

12:43 Begin the process of walking kindergarten class #2 back to their room.  Stop 100 times to get students back in line, or detach them from hanging on the stair railing.  Console crying child.

12:45 Finally make it into room of class #2.  Show students how to sit and be a good listener.  No less than six students are wanting to use the one bathroom all at one time.  Stop a few fights about who is next for the bathroom, then make sure there aren’t kids out in the hall getting a drink.  Try to start story. Remind them again how to sit criss-cross applesauce with their hands in their lap or on their knees.  Stop story to move a couple of students.  Read a few more lines.  Stop story to remind students we need to face the teacher and that we cannot talk to our friends during story time. Read a few more lines.  Stop story to tell a student that it is not okay to bite others.  Or pull their hair.  Remind students how to sit up.  Check the clock.  Read a few more lines.  Stop story a few hundred more times.

1:05 Kindergarten teacher #2 comes back to class and I run as fast as I can to get out of there! LOL

Seriously!  Will I survive this?? It isn’t like I haven’t ever worked with kindergarten before, (testing these kids in December for G/T is a nightmare!!) but I usually only start working with them in MARCH (besides testing) and only with the handful of kids that are identified G/T.  Whole different ballgame there!

Would love to hear from anyone who has taught kindergarten or preschool……… what tricks can I use?? (Besides a special clock to speed up time!).  Books kids this age love to hear for story time?  If you have no tricks for me, maybe you can just sympathize a little? These little ones are stressing me out to the max!!

PS 1st grade has gone soooooooooo much better than kindergarten 🙂

A Warm Fuzzy

A Warm Fuzzy

I am feeling pretty good right now and wanted to document it here.  I had just arrived to work a short while ago when a woman I had never met came into my classroom to introduce herself to me.  She is a tutor who works in the classroom directly next to mine, and our rooms are divided by a partition with a  2 ft opening at the top.  The school was built with an “open” design so we have no doors.  I can see and hear everything that is going on in the 5 other classrooms in my wing and vice versa.  Anyway to make my long story short, this woman came in today because she wanted to let me know that she loves the way I teach and relate to my kids and how positive I am with them.  She told me I inspire her to be a better teacher.  Made me feel proud and appreciative to know that others can see how hard I try to reach these smart but often needy kids.  Times are tough and we are expected to do even more with less resources.  As teachers we often do not feel appreciated enough. Hearing those words made my day 🙂

Is anyone besides Sam interested in knowing more about my job as a Gifted Education Specialist?  I know I don’t often talk about my job on here, but maybe when I find some time I will try to write more about what I do.

MN Timberwolves Library Dedication

MN Timberwolves Library Dedication

This past Monday was a very special day at one of the schools I teach at.  Last spring our school was selected by the Timberwolves' Fastbreak Foundation to receive a library makeover.  Over the past few weeks several members of the Timberwolves office staff spent hours and hours at our school, painting the library and putting together the new shelving and then re-stocking the library books on the shelves.   The walls are the blue, green and white of the Timberwolves plus we got giant wall decals with the current Timberwolves players.  Everything looks amazing!

Monday was the big celebration, with the Timberwolves people (along with school district administration) coming out to help us celebrate.  A couple of the Timberwolves players were supposed to be there also but
were running late from that morning's practice.  They finally showed up
after it was over and signed a few autographs.  The organization has promised to bring the
players back when they can come, but with the start of a brand-new
season, it may be awhile before that happens, we'll see.

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Crunch, the Timberwolves mascot was also along for the fun and even helped act out the book that was read aloud, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. It was great!! 

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After the celebration Crunch insisted he have his picture with me. Too bad I was in the middle of saying something when this photo was taken, I look like a big dorkis.

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If you'd like to read the Timberwolves article about the project, read here.

Thank you Minnesota Timberwolves!!!!

It was a HOT one last week

It was a HOT one last week

Warning: Long post ahead!

To say last week was hot is an understatement.  Especially when its 90'+ and you go a week without A/C in your house.  The condenser blew and it needed to be replaced with a whole brand-new unit.  An expensive one (of course!), which we were not able to have installed immediately.  I am grateful to have great neighbors with cold houses who gave us refuge from the heat in the evenings up until bedtime.  There were way too many sleepless nights with having a bedroom on the third floor and afternoon sun beating down on it, making it at least 100'.  Fans didn't do anything but blow hot air around.  I was so dang miserable and exhausted from lack of sleep,  I swear living without a/c  is detrimental to my health!  The last few nights I slept in the basement, which helped some.   The good news is a new unit was installed Saturday and my house is cold again.  Yay! I will appreciate it forever and ever 😉

This past week was also the first week of summer school.  I am teaching 5th grade reading to my class and the other 5th grade class.  Its going great so far, my kids are all very well behaved and the room is nice and cool.  Summer school takes place in this building (taken on a rainy morning last week)

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This is the view out of my classroom. I had been waiting for a clear day and the right lighting to get this photo all week!

Dailyphoto-stpaulviewlandscape 

Speaking of pictures, I bet you're wondering why your blog readers were filled with photo posts from me yesterday.  Well, I decided to import all of my posts from my Daily photo Blog into this Mi Vida Ocupada blog.  I just don't know if it makes sense to me to keep two different blogs when I post so many photos over here anyway.  I have a lot more traffic on this blog and sometimes it seems redundant to post my photos in both places.  Initially the point of the Daily Photo Blog was for me to challenge myself to take better photos more often and  I think I have proven to myself that I can do that.  Especially with all the interest in the Photo Hunt Challenges that I have been posting.  Photography has become my biggest passion in recent months, completely replacing scrapbooking (which I haven't done in a year now and have lost pretty much all desire).    I hope you all don't mind seeing more of my photography right here!

Now about the Photo Hunt:  On Tuesday, June 30th I will be putting up a new post with Mr. Linky so everyone who completed the Photo Hunt #2 can link to their entries.  I know summertime (and life in general) can sneak up on ya when you're busy, but I hope we have a good turnout of people who completed it.  I have just two more photos to take on my list, then I will be posting My Results.  FYI- I am in the process of creating a brand-new blog just for the Photo Hunts.  Stay tuned for more information and when it is ready, I will start redirecting all Photo Hunt related info to that site.

So much happened last week and it was just too dang hot for me to sit down and blog about any of it.  Biggest news of the week: Michael Jackson died.  I was a little shocked at first, but not really.  I guess I had a feeling he wasn't doing very good.  I loved MJ as a kid (didn't everyone?).  Thriller was my very first album and I loved, loved, loved every song.  He has had so many great hits over the years.  I never hated on him with all the drama in his adult life, although there is no doubt he had issues.  I don't know what is wrong with me that I didn't cry when I heard of his passing, I mean I cried when Crocodile Hunter was killed?! Anyway, thank goodness the music of Michael Jackson will live on.

Last but not least, I wanted to direct your attention to the Product Giveaway on the Twin Cities Restaurant Blog.  There are three things to choose from 1.  Lounge Shaker set 2. Bottle Holder  3. Salt & Pepper shakers.  Leave a comment on this post saying which product you like best and a winner will be randomly selected on July 7th.  Feel free to direct anyone in the USA to the site.  Blog about it, spread the word!

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Infinity 

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Student Project Fair

Student Project Fair

Oy! It has been a very busy week at work!
My day job is one that I absolutely love.  I am a Gifted Services
Specialist but the main portion of my job is teaching the High-Ability
students.  Every spring each of my students choose a topic to research
and then spend a couple of months gathering facts, taking notes,
finding photos and other graphics and then put everything together on a
display board.  Between my two schools, I have been working with about 80 students on these projects.  It takes a lot to help 80 kids get everything they need, especially when I work at a very low-income school and very few of them have computers at home. The past few weeks have been hectic as you can imagine.  Here is my wonderful group of 2nd graders who put together a group project on Mammals of the North Pole.  They each chose an animal and then were responsible for coming up with info and pics to add to the project.  Here they are putting everything together.  I was super impressed with how well the 7 of them worked together!
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Once all projects are turned in and graded, we have a
Project Fair and invite the school to come see the projects.  My morning school will have their Project Fair next Thursday but my afternoon school had theirs yesterday.  The boards were all set up in a U shape on tables in the library and the guests had to wind their way around them as they read.  Here is a  snap shot of the set-up, but you can only see the inside of the U.
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One down, one to go!

Bittersweet….

Bittersweet….

Today is a glum day around the school district I work in, especially at the school I teach at in the afternoon.  Last Friday was the deadline for Principals to notify individuals whose positions were eliminated due to budget cuts and at least 11 teachers from our building were cut (including several tenured teachers).  I can't even imagine how this will impact our building next year.  District-wide we had to cut $25.4 million from our schools in one year, the biggest hit of all time.  It is very likely that an additional $10 million will be cut due to an Education Bill that the MN House of Representatives passed next week.  If this bill gets signed into law by the Governor, all teachers in our state will have our salaries frozen for the next two years. (That majorly stinks considering I am now at the point where my salary jumps up significantly each year!!!)
This time of year is one that always makes me nervous because my position as Gifted Services Specialist has been on the chopping block too many times.  This year my prayers were answered and my positions are being kept intact.  That is wonderful news for me, but I am feeling very sad for my colleagues that have to move on 🙁