Sunday, February 18, 2018

My Debt-Free Journey, Part 1

Part 1

This has been a long time coming.  The idea of becoming debt-free has become something of a reality for me.  Five years ago, I was $200,000 in debt, and I had NO idea what I was going to do about it.  The years kept passing, and all I could do was make minimum payments on the enormous number of bills I had because it was inevitable that something always came up.  Not to mention, five years ago, I was still trying to get out from under bills that weren't even mine!  (I made some stupid decisions along the way. Maybe one day, I'll share those. It wasn't pretty.  If stupidity was an Olympic event, I would have taken ALL the medals, not just the gold!)

So two-and-a-half years ago, I was still probably about $170,000 in debt.  I didn't make much progress at all!  But in October 2015, I learned about Dave Ramsey and his book, The Total Money Makeover(For the record, I am in no way affiliated with Dave Ramsey, and I do not receive any kind of kickback for you purchasing his book.  You can get it from Amazon if you want to, too.)  I bought the book.  I put it on the shelf.  I forgot I had the book.  *facepalm*

Fast forward to May, 2016.  I opted to take on a new endeavor in life.  I became a Team Beachbody Coach.  I didn't do it for the income, though.  I had many reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with actually coaching.  I'll save that for another time, though.  But through coaching, I met some pretty amazing people.  I befreiended some pretty amazing people!  Mostly badass #bossbabes who took control of their financial situation!  Then, like it was supposed to happen, they started up a conversation about Dave Ramsey.  I remembered I bought that book!  So I read it right then.  And everything about it made getting out of debt seem so ... ... doable!  It was like a no-brainer!  Why didn't I start doing this sooner?

Not going to lie, that first $1,000 was rough.  How was I supposed to save $1,000 if I couldn't even pay more than the minimum to my debt?  Talk about overwhelming!  But I found ways.  I spent some extra time that summer working my Beachbody business and gaining some extra income.  I sold stuff in my apartment and storage unit that I didn't use or need.  I chose not to go out with my friends for a few weekends and saved that money instead.  Once I got going, I couldn't be stopped!  That $1,000 came faster than I thought!

Then came the part that started a great debate among my friends and family... 

The funeral for my plastic!  I shredded what I thought was my only lifeline "in case of emergency."  The funny thing about emergencies, though, is that they follow Murphy's law.  Once I got rid of my Visa card collection, I basically convinced myself there would be no emergencies.  And come Hell or high water, I wasn't going to have an emergency too big for the amount of money I had (which wasn't much). After all, I live in an apartment where maintenance is covered, my vehicle is under bumper-to-bumper warranty... What else could there be besides my dogs needing emergency surgery both at the same time? And that's not likely.

So there it was. I was onto Baby Step #2.  I wrote down all of my debts, which put it in the front of my mind because it was visible.  I'm still working on Baby Step 2 after a full year and a half, but remember. I said I was $170 THOUSAND in debt..!

Well, as of today, I'm down to below $96k.  I have one credit card, my grad school loans, and my BMW.  By my calculations, I will be out of debt by the end of 2019.  Stay tuned to hold me to that!

In March, I'm going to hold a 31-day challenge to help you get started on your debt-loss journey.  And to kick it off, I've got a gift for anyone who commits to the group by February 23rd.  I want to buy you Dave Ramsey's book, The Total Money Makeover.  It's like my Happy Birthday to Me gift to you!  Comment below if you're in!  The group will be hosted on Facebook, and you can request to join [HERE].  I can't wait to see you reach your goals!

Friday, May 26, 2017

First Day of Summer Vacation!

Summer vacation!! Today marks Day 1, and I've managed to accomplish absolutely nothing! Haha!  Just kidding.  Last night, without the stress of the end of the school year looming over me, I managed a full, uninterrupted 8 whole hours of SLEEP!!  Hell, yes!! Then I got the dogs to the vet and took them outside for a bit.  It's been a great, stress-free Friday!

Anyway. Rewind a little... The last day of school this year was quite the adventure.  Five years ago, I got my first group of kids here in Alaska. It wasn't really a big deal. It's not like this was my first year teaching. I just got my first job in this state... after A LOT of stress because of the hiring situation here.  Long story. Maybe I'll tell it another time.

So five years ago...

I got this classroom with these kids... These FIRST GRADERS... I had no idea what to do with first graders. None. Nada. Zip. But this particular group of first graders did a TERRIBLE job of preparing me for future first graders!!  The classes to come weren't nearly as independent or kind.. Haha!  These kids, though, were so well-behaved. So independent. So kind. So respectful.  I think I only had one "challenge" in my class that year, and that was okay with me because he wasn't even really that bad.

In fact, my principal walked into my classroom one day early in the year to do an informal observation, and she turned and walked out because she thought she made a mistake putting me in first grade. (My previous five years were in fourth grade, and I did second before that.)  But my kids had my back! They told her exactly what we were learning, and they used my "fancy" words (Fancy Nancy was the sh*t back then! And she had some ~fancy~ words!) and our academic vocabulary.  My first graders were bomb dot com, fo sho!

I knew they were going to be top notch kids, but I didn't know I would get to see it first hand. This year, I was moved to fifth grade. I got to see my babies all grown up!  They were just as amazing as I remember. Still so kind. Still so respectful. Still so obedient.  I am so glad I got to meet them when they were tiny because seeing them all grown up really made my year this year!

So.. fast forward back to last Wednesday. The last day of school for students.  I put on a real dress, and we did it up at our Fifth Grade Celebration as the kids transition from elementary school to middle school.

My "real" dress

Our celebration was definitely one for the memory books. The kids practiced relentlessly for almost three weeks. My coteachers stressed over this a little, but I was lost in the sauce since it was my first year in fifth grade, so I just spent my time just trying to make sure I didn't tell my kids the wrong things. Haha! (Story of my year, seriously!)  Our Title I teacher and our interventionist decorated the stage for our students' performance.  The whole thing was so fitting for these students. (Hashtag love them!)

Kids performance for their families before they sat down for the ceremony.

Our ceremony was just as you'd think.  Certificates for students' completion of elementary school. Parents crying and smiling over the whole ordeal. Teachers trying to hold it together as they say farewells and wish-you-wells to the students.  This celebration was a little different for me since I have a longer relationship with these kids.  I didn't cry, but it was hard to keep it together. 

Then, of course, a student's dad came up to me at the end... "Ms. Dawley. I just want you to know how much I love you. You have been there for [my son] all year, and you've helped him so much.  You have so much patience, and I'm glad you were his teacher. I love you, and I know [my kid] has grown so much this year because of you."

Seriously, Dad?? Ugh!! Enough of that!! Haha. No tears!

At the end of the celebration, it is a tradition at our school (one that the students so look forward to) for all of the younger students to line the hallways and clap/cheer/high-five as the fifth graders walk through the school.  We call it our Clap Out.  It's so amazing to see how happy everyone is and to hear the teachers comment to the students on how proud they are.

Clap out through the 3rd/4th grade hall and the Kindy hall

Then, we kick the kids out because they don't go to our school anymore! HAHA!! I am so proud of all of the fifth graders, especially those who I got the privilege of having five years ago as well. Unfortunately, as we all know, families move and students don't usually stay in one place.  But I am so glad to have been able to watch my first graders walk that line and celebrate their accomplishments.  I am so proud of them!  These kids will always have a special place in my heart!

My first graders all grown up and moving on to middle school!  I had a small first grade class that year, but these ten represent almost 2/3 of them.  I love them all, and I wish them all well wherever they are right now.

And so it ends. I close the books on my 11th year teaching and head into the summer knowing that these kids have left footprints on my heart more than they will ever know.  So one more time... I pack up my classroom.  I turn in my keys.  I walk out on this year knowing I've made a difference in the lives of so many children.  Not just the 19 students in my classroom who can now say they are published authors, movie actors, lovers of books, phenomenal mathematicians, and curious scientists, but the 39 other students in fifth grade as well.  My coteachers and I were able to provide these students with such an amazing experience, and these students will never forget their end of elementary school.

"Lord, may I always remember... There is nothing more important than to make a difference in the life of a child."
-Teacher's Prayer as written on a picture frame my mother gave me many years ago.

I wish you well, my teacher friends. Those of you still finishing up your school year, you've got this! Those of you already on summer vacation, relax and spend time reenergizing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

More Personal Development..?

This one was a little more difficult to admit to reading.  I mean, I read 5 Love Languages Singles Edition not long ago, and I was ashamed at first to admit to purchasing it.  Then later, I was so glad I did and wanted to share it with the world!

You can read about it {HERE}.

The book I just read is by the same author, Gary Chapman, and he does reference those love languages in part in this book.  This one is When Sorry Isn't Enough.  

It's honestly just as eye-opening as the 5 Love Languages book, and I am glad I read it (although still a little ashamed to admit that I needed to). I had no idea that people were so different in how they give and accept apologies.  I've only ever done it my way.  When I sincerely apologize, I admit to being wrong, and I try to fix what I did.  (People that know me know that if I simply say "I'm sorry," it's just an effort to make the problem go away because I probably have no idea what I did wrong or I don't know how to fix it. Haha!)  

This book talks about five different ways people hear apologies.  Gary Chapman also says if people don't hear the apology in their "language," they won't think you're being sincere.  So what if my attempt at a sincere apology (I know what I did was wrong.  This is how I want to make it up to you.) is falling on deaf ears because that's not how you want me to apologize? Holy cow!  Talk about enlightenment!

I've been trying to learn as much as I can about effective communication because that is something that I'm not particularly good at.  I can communicate facts, I can teach you how to read, I can talk about how my day was, I can even chat about workout programs and nutrition guides... but I truly struggle to communicate in the areas that matter.  I don't know if you're like me, but this book definitely taught me a thing or two about communication.  Not just how to apologize to anyone, but about how to address a variety of situations with any number of people (be them coworkers, family members, friends, spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, etc.).

I don't really have much to say on this topic because I haven't been granted the opportunity to really practice with this yet.  However, even if you think you are great at this kind of thing, the information here is definitely well worth the $9 I paid for this book!

Here's the little blurb on the back:

"Even in the best of relationships, all of us make mistakes.  We do and say things we later regret and hurt the people we love most.  So we need to make things right.  But simply saying you're sorry is usually not enough.

"In this book, #1 New York Times bestselling author Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas unveil new ways to effectively approach and mend fractured relationships.  Even better, you'll discover how meaningful apologies provide the power to make your friendships, family, and marriage stronger than ever before.

"When Sorry Isn't Enough will help you...
  • Cool down heated arguments
  • Offer apologies that are fully accepted
  • Rekindle love that has been dimmed by pain
  • Restore and strengthen valuable friendships
  • Trade in tired excuses for honesty, trust, and joy"

I have no affiliation with this author or his products.  I am not paid to endorse these books.  I make no profit from this post.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Made-It

You know what time it is... MONDAY MADE-IT!!  Haha!

Okay, so maybe I was a bit too excited that time.  But I finally put my printer to good use.  Might as well... I have a free month of HP Instant Ink!

So here we go...

This is the first time I've made contact cards, but I think I'm going to like it.  This will make sure there is no excuse This will make it easy for parents to find my contact information and get in touch when they need something!

I just picked up some Avery business cards and printed the information on them.  I made my little character using the Build a Teacher clipart set created by Melonheadz.  I still need to laminate them and put a magnet on the back.  To be honest, I don't even think I'm going to laminate... I don't want to cut them out again. Haha!  I figure the magnet on the back will make it easy, and I'll pass them out at Meet the Teacher night.  (The families that don't come to Meet the Teacher Night will just have to wait until the first day of school.)

Post cards.  I usually don't do this so early, but hey.. I had labels.  I have a printer.  Why not?

I will address them when I get my class list (so the night before school starts), and I'll put them in the mail before work on that first day.  Easy peasy; already done. ;)

These bookmarks aren't quite finished yet, either.  I will laminate these once I get back to school.  After they are laminated, I'll add a short stack of Post-It notes to the bottom there, and voila!

This Made-It was inspired by 4th Grade Frolics, and you can get the template from Joanne Miller's TPT Store {here}.

As you guys know, I'm not going to be teaching First Grade next year.  I'm moving on up. :)  Still not sure what grade level I'll be teaching, but I know it will be some form of 3rd, 4th, and/or 5th grade.  In any case, a traditional word wall just isn't going to do.  Instead, I decided to go with personal word walls.  (I'm a bit disappointed in my titling skills, though.  I literally *just* had the thought to make these "My Pocket Word Wall" notebooks, but they're all printed and labeled already.  Oh well.  I like them anyway.)

The first however-many pages are blank.  Students will use those pages to create their word study lists.  The last 26 pages each have a letter on them.  (I just used my old scrapbooking stickers.)

On these lettered pages, students will collect commonly misspelled words and words they have asked me to help spell for them.  Also, any words that are misspelled in their writing will go in this notebook.  It will be a very tailored word wall specifically for each student.

Lastly, I made folders for the different independent activities students will be doing.

Mastering Math Facts is a program for which I attended training several years ago.  The program is great if it's done correctly and with fidelity!  I just hadn't (until now) found a way that I like for students to keep track of their data.  

The program is copyrighted, so I won't share more of what's in the folder.  However, you can do a quick Google search of your own and find the information.  (I didn't tell you that! Ha!)

I also needed a way to individualize students' reading fluency.  AIMSweb is sort of a big deal in my district, so I need students practicing as much as they can.  

Obviously, without knowing my students' current abilities (let alone who my students are Lol!), I can't put the materials inside the folder yet.  However, I did find these tracking sheets and rubrics.  I will include them in the left pocket of the folder along with the week's fluency practice in the right pocket.

I don't know the original source, but you can get the tracking sheets {here}.

And finally, the Writing Portfolio.  My students will have a writer's notebook, so I didn't need anything elaborate as far as a portfolio goes.  However, they do need a place to keep their drafts and final copies ready for publishing.  Enter:  The folder.

The only thing left for me to do is add labels for "Works in Progress" and "Ready for Publishing" on each of the pockets.

For each of these folders (and the Personal Word Wall notebooks), I used the School Subject Kidlettes by Melonheadz.  Everything was printed on Avery labels.  I accidentally bought full-sheet labels because I wasn't paying attention, so this is what I used them for!  Then I went back for the half-sheet labels when I decided how I wanted to add the 6 + 1 Traits to the writing folder!

So there you have it.  I think I'll spend the rest of July outside!  Once August hits, I know it's all going to go by so fast!

What have you been up to?
And what are your plans for the rest of the month??

Take it easy, and enjoy the rest of summer!  We deserve it!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

I just finished reading Mindset by Carol Dweck.

My principal bought this book last year for a group of teachers wanting to do a book study/PLC group.  That group unfortunately (or fortunately, if you think about how much time it would have taken) never took off.  But I took the time to read it now that I've got nothing but time.

It started out as a really slow read because it wasn't giving me much new information.  I had already taken a class two semesters ago on fixed versus growth mindset, and it was based a lot on Carol Dweck's research.  However, after the second chapter, all I wanted to do was finish the book.  Luckily, I had two 9-hour plane rides to get it all in. ;)

I definitely lucked out... The left is my flight to the Lower 48, and the right is my flight back home.
No neighbors for either trip!  Score!!
Red-eye flights for the win!

So anyway.  This book.

Guys.  There are so many great stories regarding people you will recognize!  Both fixed mindset and growth mindset.  People like Michael Jordan and Alex Rodriguez.  Or John McEnroe.  Also some stories regarding classrooms and students.  And about relationships.  It's just so much information on such a broad range of topics related to mindset and how having a fixed or growth mindset affects any given situation.

As I was reading, I was thinking about so many things.  My classroom, of course.  But then my Team Beachbody business.  And my personal relationships.  This was definitely something I needed to read at this time.  I've been on this personal development journey for a while now, and I am glad this was one of the books I brought home from my classroom.

At the end of the last chapter, Dr. Dweck gives you this diagram by Nigel Holmes.

She says to print it out and tape it to your bathroom mirror along with a few questions.  These questions are designed to get you into the growth mindset starting from the moment you go into the bathroom to brush your teeth in the morning.  It's a great idea!  Definitely something to spend some time developing.  Who wouldn't want to "reach ever-higher levels of achievement" and have higher self-esteem and a sense of free will?  

I have a couple more books regarding mindset in the classroom that I ordered last school year.  I plan to put them to use at the start of the school year.  Once I develop a plan, it may become a blog post later. Ha!  The books I ordered were Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindset in the Classroom and A Mindset for Learning.

I'm also going to start a list of picture books and other resources to help launch a growth mindset culture in my classroom from the beginning!  (If you're interested in seeing what's on my list, click [here].)

What do you think?  Do you have any resources that you've used regarding teaching a growth mindset?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Monday Made-It (on Tuesday)

Hi, all!!

I'm a little late this week, but I'm linking up with 4th Grade Frolics once again for the Monday Made-It!  (Definitely go through some of the other blogs that are linked up.  All of these teachers have amazing ideas!!)

I have to admit... I didn't actually "make" this.  I told you last week that I probably wouldn't do much because I was out of town.  It was a great week catching up with family and friends.

My niece and nephew with me

Now that I'm back home, I guess I should start thinking about what I need to do to ready myself for the year.

Earlier this summer, I decided that I am going to find a way to make parent conferences more student-centered.  I'm going to make student-led conference work this year!  So naturally, I started looking for things to put in a portfolio or something so students can have something to share with their families during these conferences.

I came across The Curriculum Corner and their student data binder.  I think it was originally intended for me to keep up with student data, but I'm absolutely using it for the students to do their own tracking!

I already have binders for each student.  Thankfully, The Curriculum Corner has provided an editable document, so I can type students' names on the cover page.

Then, I can choose the forms that I want to include.  I can also edit the existing forms to be able to label forms with assessments that I'm using or to create a graph for students to track their growth based on what we actually use in my classroom.

I love this form because students can begin the year by telling me what they are already good at.  The next page that I'm including is a sheet for goals so I know what they think they need to work on, but starting with the positive is going to help build that rapport with the students.

We use AIMSweb in my district for benchmark assessments.  I edited the original form to include one for R-CBM, then M-COMP, M-CAP, and Lexia (a reading program that my district pays for).

Students will also be able to monitor their own growth as we do progress monitoring activities.  

I have one of these charts for each of the assessments that have a goal sheet.

I also included a few different self-assessment pages to help students reflect on their journeys.

I'm pretty excited about having this all ready to go.  I don't plan on using sheet protectors in students' binders.  I just put these pages in sheet protectors so the pages don't have holes in them when I go to make copies. (Pardon my OCD.)

Well, that's it for me this week.  I'm looking forward to getting a little down time later to check out some others' blogs that have already linked up!

What are you working on to get ready for the new school year??

Monday, July 4, 2016

Monday Made-It

Here I am joining up with 4th Grade Frolics for the Monday Made-It.

Today, I wanted to share with you two items that I worked on over the last week.  My Reader's Notebook and my Writer's Notebook.

The Reader's Notebook is one of my favorite things to use with students.  It really gives them an outlet to "talk" to their books.  I teach them how to use Post-It notes to write notes in their books, then they use the notes to write in their notebooks.  There are a lot of resources out there regarding readers notebooks.  Founts & Pinnell got me started with this work, thanks to some trainings that I was a part of several years ago.  Aimee Buckner wrote about using notebooks in her classroom, and Notebook Connections is a great resource for getting started.  Also, if you haven't read The Book Whisperer, please stop whatever you are doing and go get yourself a copy!

When we start the school year, I give everyone a plain old composition notebook.  (I got some at Office Depot last week for $1.50/3-pack because they price-matched the Walmart ad for the colored ones priced at 50 cents each.)  The students' first homework assignment for reading is to find photos and images (I do let them use Google images.) that describe them as readers.  These images can be just about anything, as long as they describe the students as readers.

The first thing we do is cover the composition notebook.  Usually, I have them choose colored construction paper, but I might give the kids access to my scrapbook paper this year.  I have a bunch that I need to get rid of.  Once it's papered, they put the images on the front and back covers of the book.

My photos on the front are of my niece reading to my dog, my niece and nephew during their first trip to the library, my sister reading to me when I was a baby, and my Fourth Graders several years ago reading together.  Of course, I am always ordering books and visiting book stores.  On the back, I have the first library I visited, my Masters degree, some of the books I've read recently, and photos of James Patterson and Gary Paulsen because I like their books.

Students will decorate the notebook covers, and I will affix a label to the top corner with their name.  Once the notebooks are decorated, I will ask parent volunteers to help cover the notebooks with clear contact paper the way mine is.

Inside the notebook, there are four important parts...

Students need a place to keep up with the titles of the books they've read.  One copy of this page is stapled into the front cover of the notebook.  Students list the title and author.  Then, they make a note to show they either completed (date completed) or abandoned (just the letter A) the text.  The last column is reserved for labeling the book "easy," "just right," or "challenging."  As students read (or attempt and abandon) more and more  books, they will staple a new sheet on top of this sheet.  That way, all of the books they've read will be recorded in the notebook by the end of the year.

On the first page of the notebook, students glue the tally chart.  This tally chart will help students track books they complete to meet the requirements of the 40 Book Requirement for reading.  I used the same list found in The Book Whisperer, but I plan to keep record of students' interests as well as make sure the requirements fit the standards.  This year will be a sort of social experiment. ;)

At the bottom of this page, students will glue a chart that we will make together to describe how we choose "good fit" or "just right" books.  (We will make that chart together, so I don't have one yet.)

Stapled into the back cover of the notebook will be a wish list.  Just a list of books students want to read based on their own desires or the suggestions of their friends (or their teacher).  Again, as students' wish lists grow, they will staple pages on top of the previous pages.

As for the pages of the notebook, students will write their responses to reading, of course!  They will also glue anchor charts into the book starting at the back.  (I'm sure there will be more explanation on this in a later blog post once we get going.)

The Writer's Notebook won't take too much explanation.  The concept is the same.

Some resources to think about as you are getting started with your writing notebooks... Fountas & Pinnell's Guiding Readers and Writers, Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How, and let's face it... Just about anything by Ralph Fletcher, Lucy Calkins, and Ruth Culham.  (Another suggestion... If you haven't read The Writing Thief, what are you waiting for??)

Students will find photos or print images to decorate their notebooks.  Again, they will start with the construction paper or scrapbook paper, add their images and photos, then parents will (fingers crossed) help cover the notebooks with contact paper.

There are some authors out there that suggest waiting to give students the notebooks until they start questioning why you keep writing in yours. (I can't remember if that was Aimee Buckner or Lucy Calkins or Ruth Culham or who, but I read it somewhere.)  I don't do that with older kids.  In my opinion, they need to start writing as soon as possible, and they can't use a notebook that I just haven't given them because no one is questioning me.  I like the concept because it helps create ownership, but... ain't nobody got time for that!)

I blog, I Facebook, I text, I email, I write...

I didn't decorate both sides of this notebook for two reasons.  First, I didn't want students to feel like they have to have a ton of images.  Just a few would be fine.  Also, I just couldn't really think of much else that describes me as a writer. Ha!Ha!

Inside the notebook, students will use the writing strategies that we learn in class.  Anchor charts will again be glued into the notebook starting on the back page, and the writing practice will happen within the notebook daily.  

Well, that's it for now.  There probably won't be much happening for next week's Monday Made-It because I'll be visiting my family for the week.  I won't get back home until just after midnight on Sunday.  No time for making anything... Unless I can get something going with my niece and nephew this week.  Of course, that wouldn't be made for my classroom. ;)

What have you been making?  Go link up your post!