Archive for the ‘classroom’ Category

Thought I was finally gone, didn’t you?

Well, I’m not gone yet, just very very busy.

I also think I’ll start adding new things, especially during the school year.  For example, here’s something I would like to do more of . . . Scenes from the School. 

Scene from last night’s school dance.

Mr. Cates, our music teacher on the mic: Okay, here’s a classic to dance to!

(Starts playing “Eye of the Tiger)

(My 5th grade Students start running over to me)

Students: You need to dance to this, it’s a classic!!!

Me: Wait, I have to dance to this because “it’s a classic?” So when you think “classic” you immediately think of me?!

Students: Yes!

Me: Is this because I’m old?

(Students start laughing)

End scene.


I’ll exit stage left now.


Summer is Here

I’m regretting the fact that I stopped writing on this blog somewhere in September.  I wish I could have kept posting in terms of the progress of the classroom and how it ended up as we closed on the 2013 – 2014 school year.

I’ll definitely miss this group.

They were “maddening” as I once mentioned, not focused, and didn’t understand the concept of perseverance.  To a certain extent, they still haven’t mastered these skills.  But, they are so much better than they were at the beginning of the year.  

There was a point, when we got back from Winter Break, where I asked the classroom “to become legendary.”  I meant that in the sense of not only achieving a great deal academically, but more importantly, learning to become better students and people along the way.  “Level 5” is something we mention constantly in the classroom, a philosophy that states “I am considerate of others.”

With that in mind, this classroom was legendary.

I already have a number of great memories created out the of the everyday grind of the 2013 – 2014 school year, but I’ll just write about the two that are standing out in my mind at this point.

1)  The students decided to throw a surprise birthday party for me, once they learned the date of my birthday.  Working in coordination with my colleagues and the school counselor, they ended up pulling it off 🙂  I thought that was an incredibly thoughtful gesture on their part and it made me extremely proud that they whole class could come together for something like that.

2)  There is a girl in my class who wants to become an astronaut and the exchange we had at the end of the year will be something I remember.  It reminded me that we, as teachers, have a great impact in the lives of our students, and if we are wise in how we use this impact, we can definitely change the lives of the children of the communities we work in.  I told this girl, as she left for the year (though I’ll see her, hopefully, on our summer Art Club field trip) that if she “ever launches, I’ll be there.  Just work hard and if you become an astronaut, I promise I’ll be there when you go up.”  The smile she gave told me all I needed to know.  And there will be nothing to stop me from fulfilling that promise, when she goes up 🙂

With that, we’ll see if I can keep this up for next year.  It’s interesting to re-read some of the things I wrote at the beginning of the year and to see the classroom as they grew and matured into the class I was hoping they would be.

That was legendary 🙂

Categories: classroom, Education, Teaching


August 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Thought I’d open up with this video.  I just finished Tennant’s run as Dr. Who and find myself rather sentimental at the moment.  I’ll definitely miss Tennant’s Doctor, all elongated and elastic, both in body and in thought.  I am, however, looking forward to Matt Smith’s version, though as I said before, I’ve already had a taste of what he brings in “Vincent and the Doctor.”

Anyway, it’s been a rough week at work.

No, that’s actually inaccurate.  There were two days, out of the five, where I felt the class start to come together.  However, most of the time, I’ve found myself sighing and raising my voice more often than actually teaching and “finding the fun” within the flow of the day.

It’s maddening.

We’re three weeks in and I still feel as if I haven’t made any true progress with the classroom, both academically and as a community.  Here and there, I’ll see a ray of light, but more often than not, something comes along and does a proper job of snuffing it out.  Whether it’s an inconsiderate action or a lack of effort, those little things seem to pile on and gain a momentum of their own.   I find my patience is growing short, ready to be lit on a moment’s notice lately . . . and I absolutely hate it.

But, I have to move on.

And in order to solve these issues of the classroom . . . I need to start with myself again.

This weekend (a three-day weekend, just at the right time) will be a time for reflection.  I have to look to myself if I’m to ever get this classroom where I think it can be.  That hope still burns for the students of the class and I’m sure it’ll never waver, but arriving at the location I’d like to be may take some time.  I’ve also understood one essential component in order for me to make this work.

I have to be better.

I have to be better in the way I carry myself.  I have to be better with my emotions.  I have to be better with how I’m setting up each and every student in that classroom.  I have to be a better person.

I have to be better.

I’ll take this weekend to figure out the logistics and the strategies involved.  I’m definitely a believer of choice and fate and it’s no coincidence that this weekend is here and that I’ve got to take some time for myself.

That is why I’ve got the video at the front of this post.  When I get back to work, I feel as if it’s my time to say . . .


Small Victories

August 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Sometimes I ask myself . . .

. . . what’s more important?

This applies to a lot of things in life.  Obviously, it shouldn’t be taken as concrete life advice, especially from someone like myself, but I’ve been asking myself this question quite a bit lately.

You see, building a classroom culture or climate is always a struggle.  For myself, I think I’ve lucked out more often than not through the years.  I’ve been blessed by having a few great classrooms, especially in terms of the “community” we try to build.  It’s always great to walk into a classroom and just have it feel “right,” knowing that whatever you’re going to teach that day is going to flow and do so beautifully.

Of course, it doesn’t happen all the time.

You’ll have your “rough” days, where it feels like an invisible wall that conveniently places itself right in front of you, teasing and frustrating you to no end.  For some reason, it made me think of this scene today:

(Yes, it does worry me a little that I’m at the end of the second week and already compare the experience to “hitting the wall.”)

You’ll have those days where it often feels “wrong,” especially when it comes to the actual content, knowing that some of the students aren’t getting your best.  Honestly, that’s one of the worst feelings to experience.

This year, so far, we’ve had more “rough” days than good.

As I said before, this class is taking longer to adapt to the vision I always try to create for the classroom.  I know they’re still on their way.  Honestly speaking, this is perhaps the longest I’ve had a class not get to that “level” that I always seek for ourselves.  Am I disappointed by this?  Frustrated?  Driven to the point of buying a new bottle of Scotch?

Yes, yes, and no.  Well . . . I’ll just buy the Scotch anyway just because I enjoy it!

Anyway, despite the frustration, despite the lack of “speed” in which I hoped they would pick up the classroom climate, there are always the small victories, the tiny shifts of momentum that gain a positive force.  I saw students slowly pick up the ideas I talk about constantly in the classroom, the idea of consideration to others, to help our fellow students when they need the help.

They’re getting there.  I just have to be patient.  I have to believe this class will build itself into something more than even they thought possible.  As I said above about the video, it does worry me (just a little) that I’m already thinking I’ve hit a wall.

But I also realize, I know I’m going to keep on going.  Just like Simon Pegg’s character in the video.

So what’s more important?

That I keep on going with the vision I have in mind.  I’m sure I’ll adapt it as we go along, but the idea of consideration and community, I need to keep that as an important factors as I keep “building” this class.

In the meantime, I just have to learn to relish the small victories.  It’ll be enough to keep me going . . .

Classroom Hacks

August 2, 2013 Leave a comment

As I’m gearing up for the new school year, I’m always scouring the internet for things I could incorporate into the classroom.  There are a few sites out there that does this (I’m told Pinterest has bunch of these) but I also wanted to share a few things I try to do to make life easier in the classroom, especially the set-up.

First, I teach 5th Grade so working in an elementary school does influence some of the choices I use in the classroom.  I’m thinking a few these could work with any grade level though.  I also don’t go “cute” too often in the classroom, but I do think trying to brighten the room helps keep the environment lively.

Now, I don’t have a lot of “hacks,” but I can share what I always use in the classroom.  I actually might add more to this post as I’m continuing to set-up the classroom next week.

1)  Fabric for Bulletin Boards

I know a few people already do this, but if you don’t, I highly recommend it.  A few places, especially fabric stores like Jo-Ann’s, will give you a discount as a teacher.  Instead of using monotone butcher or chart paper for your walls, you can actually get different patterns or designs, or even get sport-themed fabric to hang up on your walls.  Of course, you can still get the monotone colors for fabric as well, which I also do!


Here is one example from my classroom.  This will eventually be my Language Arts/Writing Wall

2)  Different Color Whiteboards for Displays

This is something new I’m going to try this year.  I was walking by a few “back-to-school” displays and saw purple, green, orange and blue whiteboards being sold.  Now, one of my bulletin boards is for school information and short of installing some digital display that would show the students school activities, I thought I could just thumb-tack a few of these colored whiteboards to the board and use fluorescent dry erase markers to write out messages weekly.  We’ll see how well I keep going with these!


Here’s the School News Board.  They’re easy to take down and the fluorescent markers show up pretty nicely. 

3)  Student numbers for easier filing.  

I think a lot of teachers already do this, but it also makes it easier for the students to file work.

4)  Equipment Checkout list

I created this as a job for our class economy, but it definitely works out well in terms of teaching responsibility and maintaining the quality of the equipment we have in class.  The equipment checkout person is responsible for signing out the equipment to students in the class and must make sure the equipment is returned properly.  If there are any issues with the equipment, then the student will report that to the teacher.

Those are a few things for now.  I may keep posting on this subject, but there are a few places you can look for any sort of classroom or teaching hack.  In fact, I just saw this website which gives you a few other things you can do as well.

As I said, I may continue posting on this topic next week.  I also decided to try to post twice a week, with a Tuesday/Friday schedule going (in case you wanted to know ;).  Now, if there are other teachers out there who may happen on this post, are there any other “hacks” you use within your own classrooms?  Please share with a comment below! 🙂

And teachers, don’t forget to have fun, be nice and work hard!

Elan Mudrow


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