Saturday, September 13, 2014

Find me on Teachers Pay Teachers

Teacher friends,

I am so excited to launch the grand opening of my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Happy Apple! Right now all of my products are FREE and I would truly appreciate if you could share and rate my products and follow me on TpT. I'm just getting started but I have so many exciting ideas 'in store' (pun intended) ;) If you have any suggestions or requests for products you'd like to see in my store, please let me know and I would be more than happy to make them for you.

Thanks so much!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sitting Still Like a Frog: The Importance of Mindfulness Practice in Schools

A frog is a remarkable creature. It is capable of enormous leaps, but it can also sit very, very still. Although it is aware of everything that happens in and around it, the frog tends not to react right away. The frog sits still and breathes, preserving its energy instead of getting carried away by all the ideas that keep popping into its head. The frog sits still, very still, while it breathes. 

My first year of teaching was absolutely incredible but it was also very exhausting. I got to work early and stayed late and spent most of my free time working on lesson plans or thinking about how to improve my classroom. The first semester, I left no time for myself. My life was a constant stream of Go, Go, Go. During winter break I had the major realization that in order to be the best teacher I could be, I had to make time for myself. I had to relax. I had to find time to just be still.

As a full-time dream chaser, this wasn't easy for me. I found that it was difficult to do nothing--I felt like I always had to be doing something. That's when yoga became an important aspect of my life. I made a commitment to myself to practice yoga more often and I soon began doing it every single morning. I noticed such a huge change in my energy and attitude. I was able to focus better, teach better, and sleep better. I soon started practicing yoga in the morning with my students with the hope that it would help them prepare for their busy days. I wasn't sure what to expect but they ended up LOVING it and it soon became part of our morning routine. 

This summer one of my friends introduced me to a very special book: Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel which emphasizes the importance of mindfulness exercises for kids. Eline writes "The practice of mindfulness at any age is both simple and profound. Above all, it involves learning--learning how to cultivate greater self-awareness and greater awareness of others and the world."

"Because mindfulness is really about attention and the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, it is at its core universal. It does not belong to any culture or tradition or belief system. And, as we have seen, it is basic to learning anything. For this reason, and especially given the growing evidence of its efficacy in different domains, more and more teachers...are bringing mindfulness to K-12 education"

Last week I introduced my new second graders to yoga and this week I am going to introduce them to mindfulness using helpful exercises from Sitting Still Like a Frog. My goal is to practice yoga three days per week and mindfulness exercises twice per week. I am confident that integrating this into our morning routine will help calm and prepare my seven-year-olds for the busy school days ahead of them. Do you practice mindfulness or yoga with your students or children? Comment below to let me know! 


Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

Usually I'm good with words but when thinking about what to write for my end-of-year wrap up, I was speechless. I can't do this year justice with my words but hopefully this video can help...

Warning: if you're emotional (like me) you may want a tissue box close by ;)

I never knew it was possible to love a group of children so much and I will truly never forget them. As Dr.Seuss said, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." This year was beyond amazing and so much more than I could ever ask for as a first year teacher. I'm grateful for the endless support I received from parents, co-workers, and administrators. Being part of the Claxton family is such an honor! I look forward to many years to come.

Until next time, have a wonderful, relaxing summer!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The School of Hope

This year my students are learning all about global citizenship through our Social Studies project called GOAL Getters. We are fundraising this year to sponsor a year of school for a child in rural Nepal. Another second grade teacher is sponsoring a student in Uganda. Our classes collaborated to produce our first "film" titled: The School of Hope. This narrative is about a young Ugandan girl named Thea who faces a tough challenge. She dreams of going to school but doesn't have the money and her family needs her help at home. (Did you know that only ONE in five girls in the developing world finish primary school?) Watch our film to find out how children can help each other, even if they live on opposite sides of the world. This is what global citizenship is all about..realizing that we are a global family and that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can always help make a difference. ;)

For more information about GOAL Getters, please check out my "work-in-progress" website ;)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Letter to My Second Graders

This blog post was featured on Huffington Post Good News 
To my sweet, second-grade students,
I have some very important things to tell you. I mean, super important. You ready? Turn on your best listening ears. Open up those learning eyes nice and wide. Get that brain warmed up. Because what I'm about to tell you is something that I hope you'll always remember.
In fact, if you leave my class at the end of this year and forget some of what I've taught you except for this, that's okay. I know you won't remember everything.
But always remember this: You matter. You are loved. And you are a gift to this world.
Wait, I'm not finished. Not even close. So keep those learning eyes wide open and keep reading, kiddos.
You know how in the mornings we sit in our circle spots and talk about our days? We talk about the ups and downs, our dreams and our accomplishments. We talk about what we're excited about, scared about, happy about, mad about. We talk to each other. We listen to each other.
We've come a long way since the first day of school and now we are a family in Room 203. Anyone who visits our classroom can easily see that.
You are leaders who show love, compassion, kindness and bravery. I love you all so much, and that's why I do my best to be brave for you.
You know how every now and then you have days that just don't go your way? I'm talkin' about Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day kinda days. Yeah, those days. We all have them. Guess what? I do, too. And this week, I had a lot of those days.
On Monday, I was so sad that I just wanted to lay in bed all day and watch Food Network. But then I remembered that I had 17 beautiful faces waiting for me, and I smiled through the tears.
Every morning when I come into work I leave my worries at the door and put a smile on my face because I know that I have to be strong for each and every one of you. I know that you need me, and I'm always here for you. And you know what helps me smile? YOU. You turn my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days intoThe Hungry Caterpillar's Saturdays -- you know, the day where he gets to eat cupcakes and candy. You guys know how much I love cupcakes!
So when you have those Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days, hop out of bed and find something to smile about. There is always something to smile about.
Remember the first week of school when we read Have You Filled a Bucket Today?We talked about how everyone carries around an imaginary bucket filled with good feelings. And when someone does something nice for you, it fills your bucket (and their bucket too).
We spent days brainstorming ways that we can fill buckets through acts of kindness. I was so proud of you for coming up with so many great examples. Did you know that you fill my bucket each and every day? And because of that my bucket is now overflowing. Thank you for filling my bucket. Especially this week. I really needed my bucket filled this week.
All this time, I thought I was teaching you, but what I've realized throughout this tough week is that you've been teaching me. You guys remind me how to be a good friend, how to dream big, how to enjoy the little moments in life and how to make the most of any situation.
You see, I've wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. And I've been practicing since I was four. Of course, back then my students were stuffed animals, dolls and if I was really lucky -- my little brother. (I promise -- you are way cooler than any stuffed animals or dolls). I was practicing so that when I met you, I'd be ready to teach you to the best of my ability.
In college, I learned even more about being a great teacher. But what my professors never taught me is that I'd get to experience the greatest gift of all: life lessons from you. Sure I'm your teacher but you teach me, too. I learn from you every single day. If I could make a list of all the lessons I've learned from you so far, I wouldn't even know where to begin.
Because of you, I have the greatest job in the world. Thank you.
You matter. You are loved. You are a gift to this world. You are a gift to me.
Thank you for making my days so much brighter. Thank you for being you. Never, ever forget how important you are to this world and to all your teachers along the way.
Ms. Wertheim

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lead By Example

It's almost January...which means I'm half way through my first year of teaching! What!? How is this possible? I truly can't believe how fast this semester has gone by. 

It seems like just yesterday I was standing in the parking lot of my favorite coffee shop, locked out of my car--at 6:30 in the morning--on the first day of school! I had accidentally left my keys in the ignition as I excitedly went inside to get my cup of joe. 

While on the verge of tears, I prayed it wasn't a sign from the universe of how this year would go for me. Not exactly how I envisioned starting my day. 

Although being locked out of my car on one of the most important days of my life didn't foreshadow this semester, I do believe it mirrors the same types of situations I face on a daily basis as a 2nd grade teacher. 

Despite all the preparation, things never truly go as planned. If there's one thing I've learned so far, it's that I have to be flexible! 

For someone who's always been a planner (I'm an architect's daughter, how can you blame me?) it's been tough to learn how to think on my toes and deal with constant change. In and outside of the classroom, education is constantly evolving and just when I feel like I'm catching my breath, another wave comes and knocks me down. But, I'm learning and getting better at the whole "being flexible" thing. 

It can be extremely overwhelming to deal with all the responsibilities placed on teachers--especially during year one! I constantly stress out and worry about how to fit in all the curriculum and standards. It's no secret--there's literally not enough time in the day. 

Tonight I watched a TED talk 
by former teacher and coach John Wooden about the meaning of Success. He read a short poem that really touched me:

No written word, no spoken plea
Can teach our youth what they should be Nor all the books, on all the shelves. 
It's what the teachers are themselves.

This reminded me of how important my job really is. 

I may not be able to teach every standard perfectly and I can't be a perfect teacher. But what I can be for all of my students is a positive role model. When they leave my classroom and look back on 2nd grade, I want them to remember a loving teacher who believed in them and lead by example. 

These precious children look up to me and I owe it to them to be the best person I can be. 

Of course I want every single one of my students to leave my classroom as a better reader, writer, mathematician, scientist, and critical thinker. But above all I want them to leave as a better person. The best way I can teach them how to be good people is to model it each and every day--leading by example.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

GOAL Getters are Changing the World

Repost from my classroom blog:

Do YOU care about global citizenship education and wish there was more of it in schools? Join us and become a GOAL Getters classroom! Find out more here

I am so excited to share photos from the Claxton Holiday Craft Fair which was a huge success! Our kids made button bracelets, magnets, and scarves to raise money to sponsor children's education in developing countries.

 This educational project is part of our year-long Social Studies initiative called GOAL Getters (Global Opportunities, Awareness, and Leadership). The aim of GOAL Getters is to integrate Global Citizenship education throughout as much of the core curriculum as possible.

Students learn about global issues and then set goals to take action and help. Our main classroom goal this year is to sponsor a year of education for a girl in rural Nepal. As 21st century learners, it is important for our kiddos to be exposed to other cultures, service opportunities, and social responsibility at a young age.

These experiences help shape them into the wonderful future leaders that our world needs. The purpose of the craft fair fundraiser was to teach our kids that we can use our talents (in this case, making crafts) to help make a difference in the world.

My class teamed up with Ms. Adams's class to sell our crafts and I am beyond proud to announce that together we raised $350 for girls' education!

Now you may be wondering: Why girls? Why aren't we sponsoring boys and girls? Well, the answer is simple, and one that our kids agree with: girls in developing countries are not given the same educational opportunities as boys, so as global citizens we should help close this gender gap.*

In our classes we are learning about the differences between our culture and other cultures. Education in developing countries is not free and it is not covered through taxes. Therefore, families have to find money on their own if they want to send their children to school. If families do have money to send their children to school, they are more likely to send their sons instead of daughters. This cycle deprives girls of the opportunity to learn to read and write, which in turn leads to a lack of job opportunities later in life, and a wide range of other issues.

It is obvious that putting a girl in school changes her entire life trajectory, and it's incredible that our 2nd graders in Asheville can change the lives of kids on the other side of the world! *Learn more facts about girls' education, here!

I am so proud of all of our students for working so hard on these crafts! They love knowing that they are making a difference. :) And most importantly, thank you SO much to all of the parents who contributed to the craft fair fundraiser; from buying the materials, to volunteering in the classroom and the day of the fair-- none of this would've been possible with you! :) Enjoy the pics!

Making the crafts: 

The craft fair: 

Huge thank you to all the Claxton families for being so supportive of our initiative!