Monday, December 21, 2015

Learning from Failure

This is the 5th installment of an awesome blog hop on Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci.  If you haven't already, you might want to check out the first four posts.

How do you handle failure?  What do you do when failure is possible or may even be imminent?  In all my deepest honesty, I avoid failure at every possible cost.  I will shrink away from responsibility or even avoid an activity all together if I know I won't be successful.  Learning that "...failure can be a reward, for it is through failure that we can learn the most," has not been something I have been personally willing to accept as of yet.

While students with a growth mindset try to learn from their mistakes and approach new tasks in a new way or with more effort.  Those with a fixed mindset often give up and give in to stereotypical phrases, such as "I'm dumb," "I'll never get this," "I'm not good at x."  

What is needed is for educators to develop an environment where failure is accepted and even celebrated, so that students can learn how to reflect on their learning and redirect themselves in new ways.  Take for instance this great scene from Meet the Robinsons.

Hand in hand with a discussion of failure is one on motivation and effort.  It is an examination of these attributes that were a precursor to that of growth mindset.  The book reminds us of that study and that effort and success are usually brought about by internalization of actions and beliefs, while failure is attributed to skill difficulty and sheer luck.

To help bring about that internalization of actions and beliefs, students must be trained to accept intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards.  Praise and positive feelings about effort and persistence do much more for the development of the child than money, certificates, trinkets, or prizes ever could. Giving students autonomy is another catalyst in growth mindset as well.

Overall we must change how we look at failure.  We need to teach students to see it as feedback and data, not as a judgment on their person.  We need to allow kids to fail so they can learn how to deal with it, make adjustments, and move on.  Failure can build resiliency, but only if we look at it as a means to a new end, and not as the end.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

TpT Sellers are Giving Back

Last week we had quite the fright for our family.  One of our fur babies, our bulldog, Peyton, became very sick with a digestive disease and then she developed pneumonia on top of it.  Next thing we knew she couldn't use her back legs for long periods of time.  Our veterinarian was doing all she could, but she told us to be prepared that it was Peyton's time to go.  We weren't ready to say goodbye.  We've only had her for 2 and a half years.

Peyton has lived a long, hard life.  She was kept as a breeding dog by a puppy mill in the mid-west and wasn't rescued from their deplorable conditions until she was five years old and had birthed multiple litters of puppies.  That's when the National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR) from Peyton, Colorado went in and rescued her and dozens of other dogs and brought them back to Colorado to be bathed, groomed, vetted, and eventually adopted to loving families.  We found her through their organization and named her in their honor, for all the wonderful work they do to free dogs from puppy mills and get them into warm, caring, and loving homes.

Amazingly, Peyton has recovered and is almost back to her old self.  Despite her hard life she has never stopped fighting to keep going.  Her story is inspiring.

This Sunday, I, along with many other sellers on Teachers Pay Teachers will be giving back a portion, or all of our earnings for that day, to a charitable cause of our choice.  I will be giving 100% of my earnings from December 13, 2015 to the National Mill Dog Rescue so that they can continue to rescue and care for puppy mill victims.

I encourage you to look for sellers on TpT with the following logo on their store, as they too will be giving to charity on that day.
Not only will you be getting a quality lesson plan, but you will be further helping an organization in need.  You can also visit Nitty Gritty Science's blog for a list of many of the participants.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December Already?!?!?!

I can't believe December is here already, but it's time to link back up with Farley and celebrate what's happening Currently.

I'm Listening to some retro music tunes from the 70's and 80's as I link up this month.  I didn't get to link up in November because my computer was down and out for the count, but now I'm Loving my brand new machine my husband built for me.  It is super fast and ultra quiet and has tons of memory for all my new and upcoming projects.

Birthday plans are on my mind as my birthday is two days after Christmas and I've been challenged to come up with something special to do for the day.  Usually my birthday stinks, as everyone is all pre-occupied with Christmas and their budgets are maxed out from the holiday, but I'm determined to not have a crummy day again.  Now I just have to decide what to do which will leave me feeling happy and content with the day.

Overall I don't want much of anything for Christmas this year, but I sure would love a maid for the new year.  My husband said that they're 100% tax deductible, maybe because I work from home or something.  I definitely would love to get in on that deal.

Most of all, what I need are healthy pets.  We have an 18 year old cat that is semi-incontinent and is driving me bonkers.  I've even considered putting diapers on the cat, but I value my life too much.  And now our bull dog has some digestive ailment as well as pneumonia.  Not only does it put a huge strain on our heart strings to be dealing with these crises, but it's also putting a huge strain on my Christmas budget right now.  I just need to pick up the dog from the doctor today and have everything be on the way to mending.
And lastly, our tree, when we finally get one, will be real.  We always buy Frasier Firs because they have nice short soft needles.  We had to use a fake tree for 3 years when our last pup had an allergy to pine, and it just didn't feel the same.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Wishlists and Carts are at the Ready....Now Go!

I must confess, I've done zero shopping for Christmas this year.  Zero, zilch, nada, nothing.  That's pretty typical for me, however.  I don't like shopping early because then I have anxiety that minds will change or people will buy it for themselves in the meantime.  And I absolutely can't stand the craziness of Black Friday.  That scene is not for me.  So me, I'm waiting for Cyber Monday.  I love being able to click my way peacefully through a computer and have my deliveries show up at my door.
This Cyber Monday I have an extra sale to shop as TpT is having a sitewide sale.  I'm so excited!!!  My wishlist has been getting lengthy, and I can't wait to move some of those items over into my cart and enjoy creating with them.  The top three items I have my heart set on buying are

Danielle Knight's Interactive Google Toolkit - so I can learn how to make my Interactive Notebooks truly Interactive on Google Drive.

Illumismart's Ancient Mesopotamia Clip Art set - so I can finish up my newest Interactive Notebook on Ancient Mesopotamia.

Glitter Meets Glue's Money Bank: Dollar & Cents - which I have a couple projects in consideration for.
 As for my store, here are what people seem to have their hearts set on

 I hope you'll check out my store - The Colorado Classroom - while you're shopping this Monday and Tuesday, and maybe check out Teaching in the Tongass.  She's our host for this link-up and she has a ton of adorable clip art.  We'll both have everything 28% off when you use the promo code "SMILE" at check-out.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Be Brave! Be You! - Winding Down Bully Prevention Month

October, as many of us know, is Bully Prevention Month, where we once again try to eradicate this need in our society where people feel like they have to be mean to those that they don't like or understand.  It's a painful, disgusting act of cowardice, and one I hope we can put an end to in my lifetime.

With that being said, once I got the chance to work with a great bunch of kids who wanted to do something about the bullying problem, we put our heads together and came up with the idea to create a video.  The kids designed the video, choreographed the dancing, and came up with all their own posters.  I simply filmed everything and edited it together for them.

Overtime it became apparent who had and who had not been bullied before as the video slowly morphed into something different, but the kids still wanted to share it with the world.  The kids wanted others to know that it's okay to be afraid or to have fears, or that even if you are being bullied, that everything will be okay, that things get better, because we are all in this same boat and we all go through the same things; we all have fears.  We need to learn to love and accept ourselves and others just as we are, to have fun and enjoy life to the fullest instead of compromising who we are to fit into someone else's ideas of what's right.  That's why at the end they say - "Be Brave! Be You!"

So, I hope you'll use the video and share it with your class and encourage them to be brave.  And if you would like a video guide to go along with it, you can get one for free here.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Back at it...October

I'm listening to a wide range of musical choices today as I just have our whole music library, all 12,000 songs, set to random.  

I'm loving all my daughter's homecoming festivities, but it's not cool for her mom to be involved so I
have to talk about it here.  All week long I made sure she participated in the dress up days, but there's no way I could get my theater loving nerd to go to the football game tonight.  But that's okay, we have a busy day tomorrow with theater tech day and then the homecoming dance with pictures and dinner beforehand.  I already think she looks beautiful in her dress.

I am thinking that I feel so blessed with my wonderful family, my incredible job, and my amazing husband.  

I have been in product revamp mode all summer long.  From May to October I spent all my time rehashing some old resources and regrouping some old bundles.  I really need and I really want to get back into product creation mode now and part of me worries I may have lost my mojo in all that time.

This weekend is my daughter's tech weekend for the fall play and because it falls on Homecoming, we are going to assist her with her hours so she can leave early and get ready for the big night.  It's been far too many years since I worked on the tech side of theater back in my high school and I'm pretty sure I have forgotten everything there is to know about building sets, so I'm really needing my set building skills to come back to me in a hurry and these four plus hours to pass quickly so we can get home and prepare for the dance.

Since my husband just spoiled me with a trip up into the mountains on a whim to see the leaves changing, I think that's what I have to say is the most "boo-tiful" thing right now.  I love the gorgeous fall colors here in Colorado.  

What's currently up with you?  Stop by Farley's blog and participate with your own Currently post.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Taylor Swift - Talking Truths

I saw something pretty incredible on Saturday night.  It was stunning.  It was beautiful.  It was fun, and crazy.  And it was awe-inspiring.

It was Taylor Swift in concert.

I've been to a Taylor show before.  This was actually my third.  The first time I went, I honestly had no idea who Taylor really was.  I simply went to chauffeur and chaperone my daughter.  By the second concert, I was a closet fan.  This time I was fully engaged - ogling at the souvenir tables, dancing in my seat, and singing lyrics at the top of my voice.  She has won me over.

Yet this time, she was different.  She was more human.  She was more vulnerable.  And she talked to the girls (& boys) in the audience about something she has never done before and it struck a chord with me.  She said, "You are not the opinion of someone else's choosing."  She spoke a lot about making mistakes and allowing those mistakes to make you stronger, not tear you down.  She talked about not beating ourselves up inside with words of self-doubt or self-hate.  

Yes, she may have a lot of songs about break ups and love stories gone wrong, but she also sings about being strong, not wallowing in that break up, not being all emo and falling into a pit of despair over a boy.  She teaches young girls that it's okay to lose at love, because self-love is better than any other love that is out there.  That you must get to know yourself and love who you are and who you were meant to be, that you can't let a man control your world.  And this concert, she actually told the young girls, like my daughter, that.  It was beautiful the way she talked to the audience and admitted her own doubts and self-realizations.  I only wish I had gotten my phone out sooner and captured more of this moment.  It was truly beautiful.

I know I have some friends and mothers who don't like Taylor Swift.  But if this young lady can come out on stage and wear the modest attire she wears, not shake her tongue, twerk her butt, flaunt "f" bombs and do what else is considered "hip" now a days, she has a vote from me.  If she can speak to my daughter about real world issues like self-love, self-doubt, confidence, and more and help bolster the messages I try to send then she has my admiration.  And if she can do it all while singing a catchy tune and dancing out a story, then that is one awesome female role model and I'm all for her having a piece of influence in my daughter's life.  In my honest opinion, we need more strong females, having more honest heartfelt discussions with our girls, just like this one.  I'm not one to turn that opportunity away.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It's Currently September

It's the beginning of September and that means it's time to check back in with Farley

and see what's currently happening, as well as complete my own "Currently" post.  I sure hope you'll check out her blog and get in on the fun.

Here's what's currently up with me...

Listening & Loving - I'm listening to my 80's playlist and loving the quietness in the house now that my daughter has gone back to school.  She was starting to get really restless those last couple weeks.

Thinking - Although it ruined our annual Labor Day camping plans, I am taking my daughter to see Taylor Swift this weekend and I am almost as excited as she is, although I'm not allowed to show it.  We've got floor tickets up close to the stage so it should be a great night.  I'm thinking brief blog post with pictures afterwards, so look for that early next week.

Wanting - We could use some more rain at our house.  Our sprinkler system is broken and our lawn is dying as I'm not willing to shell out the money to keep it watered like it needs to be for this arid desert climate.  We're starting to look like "that house" on the block and I hate it.  So rain would be nice, or an early, heavy winter - although I hate the cold and snow - would be good.

Needing - I NEED SLEEP!  Plain and simple, I need more sleep.  This getting up at 6 thing to get the family off to school and work is killing me.  I haven't gotten into the groove yet, and I have some anemia issues that make me more tired than normal, so sleep is highly desired about now.  Can't wait for the weekend so I can catch up on some Z's.

3 Goals - I've been working on a major revision of my math coloring pages so I can offer some interesting bundling options.  It's been about a month long project so far, so I need to get that completed so I can move on.  Secondly, I want to get out of the office once a week or so and volunteer or visit places, just to stretch my legs, see some new sites, get some new ideas, etc.  I start tomorrow by returning to my former school to help two of my former colleagues in their classrooms.  I'm nervous but hope it will be fun and helpful for them.  Finally, I am trying to break my addiction to Pepsi.  I've gotten it down to just one or two a day, which is a big improvement, but I need to get the willpower to finally end the addiction once and for all.    

So, that's what's up with me for now.  How are you handling the move into fall?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Opinions Desired

I am thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to the followers of my TpT store.  I finally have a way to connect with you and know just what you think and want from your resources.  Plus, even better, there's a chance to win prizes as well.

If you follow my TpT store, all you need to do is check your Inbox.  Where's your inbox, you may ask?  Well, it's located on the drop down window you can get to from any TpT page.  Here's a picture to help.

Read the message in your inbox, inside of which is a link to a Google form.  Visit that link and answer the 5 quick questions I've provided for you to let me know what you think about my resources and what you'd like to see in the future.  It shouldn't take more than a minute.  Once you're done you'll be registered to win a resource of your choosing from my store.  I'll be picking three lucky winners, so hurry, the deadline ends on September 30th.

Thanks for participating.  I can't wait to hear what you have to say.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Look Back at My Classroom

Almost all my friends headed back to their classrooms today to get ready for school starting next week.  It's a busy time getting classrooms ready, sitting through endless professional development, learning the latest trends, completing data analysis, meeting new teammates, and prepping curriculum.  I always found it hard to sit through those meetings when all I wanted to do was be in my classroom prepping for my newest students, so I usually went in a week early.

I would spend a week, usually by myself, sifting through the things I shoved in my closet and file cabinet before I left.  I'm not one to sort and organize in May or June when I am burnt out and exhausted, so I usually pile and hide and wait until I'm fresh to conquer those messes and see what I really care to keep and reuse.  It might take me covering every desk in my classroom with a stack of papers and buying up file folders from office stores like they're going out of business, but I would soon have every paper in a folder in a file in a drawer.  Well that, or in a trashcan.

Next, I would get to decorating my walls and prepping my bulletin boards.  Unfortunately, where I live, the fire marshall is a bit strict and so a lot of the cute things I see on other blogs and on Pinterest boards would never be allowed here.  Fabric?  No.  Rugs?  No.  Plants?  No.  Lots of wall coverings?  No.  You get the idea.  In fact I only had one bulletin board, and I used it for my behavior plan, so it wasn't much to look at.  I did, however, decorate some of the other walls with character posters or content posters, so I had a little bit more to do than just one bulletin board.  But as you can see, I'm not the world's best decorator.

One thing I would do before school starting, and it might be something you noticed, is to get my system of organization into place.  I teach the kids a lot of routines and habits of organization to help them adjust to middle school, but also to help with my sanity.  Probably the most helpful system I have used over the years is my use of color to organize and track classes.  Every class is assigned a color for the year and I use that color for everything I do with that class.  Whether it's writing on the whiteboard, passing out papers, managing their rewards, storing their portfolios, etc. everything I do is in that class color.  It's also a technique I recommend to the students when they go to organize their supplies for each class and many who follow my advice come back to thank me for it later.

Finally, my last step in setting up my classroom is to prepare my own little space.  I figure that since we spend more waking hours in our classroom than we do at home during the week, that we ought to have a little slice of home while we are away.  So I set up a corner, behind my desk, that makes me feel calm and comfy.  It helps me when I'm having a rough day, and it helps the kids to connect to me and see that I really am more than just a teacher, that I am a person with a whole life around me.  
So that used to be my middle school classroom set up.  I used to do some more when I taught sixth grade at an elementary school, but not too much; they are sixth graders.  I'm kind of missing it this year, but not enough to go back into the classroom...maybe just enough to offer my assistance to a friend.  We'll see.  Good luck to those of you headed back.  I wish you the best with your students.  I know what you do isn't easy, and I commend you for doing it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Currently it's August 2015

Welcome back!  I can't believe it's August already.  Here's what's currently up with me thanks to Farley at Oh'Boy 4th Grade.

Listening, Loving, & Thinking - As my husband watches original series Star Trek episodes out in the living room, I'm working in my office enjoying the warm summer night, researching, planning, and altogether trying to figure out how to get better at Pinterest.  I started off with those annoying pinning parties and they had me thinking cover pages were what you did and how you did it.  I've learned so much over the past year, but I have so much to change, so much ground to catch up, and it seems like a never-ending uphill battle.  I'm not sure I'll ever fully get there, but I'm going to give it a try.

Wanting - Lately I've been wanting some more TpT connections to talk with and really make some friendships with.  It's hard to figure out where I fit in sometimes.

B2S RAK - This is my first fall that I'm not preparing a classroom and it feels really weird.  I used to love bestowing random acts of kindness on my teammates as the school year approached, so I think I'll continue the tradition by visiting my old school with goodies as well as splurging on my daughter's teachers.  I know how much they all deserve it.

Before I go, I wanted to make sure to let you know that if you have previously purchased my Ancient Greece Interactive Notebook, make sure to go in and redownload it again.

I just uploaded a new version with over 150 new pages, a new Bingo game, readings, foldables, and so much more.  I think you're really going to like it.

Thanks for reading!  Have a great day, and if you're going back to school shortly, enjoy those kids! :)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Making My Masterpiece - The TpT Seller Challenge Week 3

I'm back to the #tptsellerchallenge being put on by the wonderful Third in Hollywood, Sparkling in Second, Peppy Zesty Teacherista,  & Teach, Create, Motivate.  This week's challenge was to Make Your Masterpiece.

They actually gave us a week and half to make a product and exchange it with another seller for feedback before blogging about our experience and our results, and I am thankful for the extra time.

I actually finished up a product that has taken me awhile to put together.  Writing word problems was really stymying me, but in the end I think I was just overthinking the whole thing. After all was said and done, I finished up my Whole Number Operation Task Cards for grades 5-8.  This product features more than just task cards, however, as it includes 4 operation word posters, a worksheet for practicing operation words, and the 32 whole number operation task cards, which feature problems in the hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands.  It's become a habit for me to make sure my task card products include more than just task cards, and I like ensuring there's a little bonus in those products.  
Once finished, I traded products with Chloe Campbell (her store has the same name) and got to take a look at her Dividing Fractions Board Game.  I've never made a board game before, so it was neat to see what one looked like and what all went into one.  Chloe seems to make a lot of these games so if you're interested, please check out her store.

All in all I got some great feedback, made a couple worthwhile changes, increased my TpT circle by one, and learned some new things about board games.  I'd say it was a pretty cool experience.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Currently it's July 2015

It's the first of the month and time to link back up with Farley to talk about what's currently going on in my life.

I'm currently just listening to the hum of a fan because it's 4:30 in the morning here and I don't want to wake up my family.  I'm not usually up this early, but I had a migraine and couldn't sleep, so I figured I would try to do something useful.

I am loving the Women's World Cup Soccer Tournament.  I've watched every U.S. game and most of the other games as I am obsessed with soccer.  I played from the time I was 7 up into high school, until we moved to a town in Wisconsin that didn't have a soccer team.  I also tried out for Teams USA when I was 17, but that's a story for another day.  I'm not excited to play Japan in the finals again, but I believe we can win this time.

My husband is amazing and without him I don't know where I would be.  I had a really trying day yesterday with a distant relative and a difficult living situation, and it really made me question a lot of things, and he was right there by my side last night to answer questions, hold me, and let me know that we will never be in that type of situation.  Plus, he lets me work from home on TpT, so that right there is incredible. :)

Vegas is coming up next week, and I can't wait.  I am so excited and so nervous at the same time.  I want to have a great time and make friends and be confident like I can be around my family and friends I have here, but I'm worried I'll be shy and introverted like I can be around strangers and that I'll have a miserable time because of my own stupid self.  I'm going clothes shopping later today and to get a couple other essentials I've heard about, but then I think I'm set.  My husband is joining me for a mini-vacation, and I am so eager to get this party started.

Every year, twice a year I pretty much go through every nook and cranny, closet, and drawer  in my house and pull out unused stuff to get rid of things.  I hate clutter.  I hate hoarding.  I hate stockpiling things for what if scenarios.  My husband might call it my Achilles' heal, but to me it is my all star quality.  Now, if I could just get him on board.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Differentiation & the Brain - Chapter 3: Curriculum

I've been doing a lot of reading lately and one book I've been reading with my Tools for Teaching Teens Team is Differentiation and the Brain by David Sousa and Carol Tomlinson.  I'm here to talk about chapter 3, Curriculum & Differentiation, but if you haven't read Chapter 1 yet head back to Ellie's blog.  And Chapter 2 is on Brigid's blog.

Chapter 3 spends most of its time defining what qualifies as quality curriculum because the quality of the curriculum not only communicates to the student our regard for them and their potential, but also without quality curriculum we fail to really teach our students no matter how much we differentiate the material.  In defining quality curriculum the authors lay out 5 key characteristics.
1. The curriculum should be organized around essential content goals.
2. The curriculum should be aligned with the content goals, assessments, and learning experiences.
3. It should be focused on student understanding.
4. The curriculum should be engaging for the students.
5. It must be authentic.

Through further explanation of these characteristics we learn that two key questions must be answerable for students when they are given material to learn and digest.
*** Does this make sense?
*** Does this have meaning?

When learning both makes sense and has meaning for a student, it is more likely to be remembered and retained in their memory for recall and use later.  Therefore, if we can integrate the curriculum more, rather than compartmentalize learning, it will help to establish meaning and thus increase learning.

Who hasn't had a student ask, "Why do we have to know this? When am I ever going to use this?" The quality curriculum that has meaning and makes sense, answers these two questions.  If a student is asking these two questions, they clearly have not reached meaning or sense of the information as of yet.

Along with this is the idea that learning must be relevant to the student to enhance their understanding of the material.  When learning is relevant, it increases student motivation, which develops neural circuitry, which in turns increases student achievement.  Thus the most important tasks are those that ask students to take their basic knowledge and skills and use them to explore and extend their understanding, not simply recall facts and figures.

Something that struck me in the reading and is very different than how I was taught to differentiate curriculum in college is that the authors do not believe that curriculum should come first and then be differentiated to meet student's needs.  Rather they believe that differences in students should be anticipated and incorporated as the curriculum is being developed.

This chapter points us towards a better outcome by encouraging the use of meaningful, appropriate lessons based around how we lead the students to reach an objective of attaining expertise in a content goal. We do this by applying what we know about the students to the lesson, rather than simply applying a hard curriculum to the students. The lesson should be molded to the students in order to let the knowledge sink in.

Now, to read on and learn about chapter four and Assessment and Differentiation, visit Leah's blog.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Daring to Dream - The TpT Seller Challenge Week 2

Thanks to the TpT Seller Challenge being hosted by Peppy Zesty Teacherista, Sparkling in Second, Teach, Create, Motivate, & Third in Hollywood, this week's topic is Dare to Dream.  In consideration of this topic I have chosen to dream about my life thanks to my store and about where I would like to see my store go as well.

Continue TpT Full Time - Thankfully, due to the most amazing husband in the world, last October/December I got the chance to stop teaching and work on TpT full time.  It has been life changing for me.  It has meant the end of almost daily migraine headaches. It has brought a sense of joy and creativity back into my life that had been missing for many years. And it has allowed me to be available for our daughter whenever she needs me.  I would hope that my store continues to do well enough that I can continue to work from home on TpT and reap the benefits it has brought to our family.

Become Debt Free - My husband and I were high school sweethearts.  I was engaged at the young age of 16, married at 20, and we had our first child when I was 22.  This summer we will celebrate our 23rd anniversary.  Although I wouldn't change my life for anything, we were very unprepared for all the responsibilities that married life and parenting required, and as such we racked up a lot of debt that we are still trying to pay off after having learned our lessons.  I would  love to finally have those debts off our shoulders once and for all.

Renovate the Backyard - One of our projects we've been slowly saving up for is to renovate the backyard.  It would be nice to be able to pay for that project next summer and finally have our backyard oasis we have always wanted.

Vacation - During my first twelve years of life my family always took two vacations every year - one every summer and one every holiday.  I loved traveling and have always loved road trips.  Unfortunately, in my family, we rarely get to vacation, and I would love to take my husband and kids on trips like when I was a child.  I would love to visit the national parks, go on a cruise, check off the rest of the 50 states I haven't been to, and see a couple amusement parks while we're at it.

Consistently be in the top 100 M.S. Sellers - I joined TpT in the spring of 2013, but didn't do much with my store until the summer of 2014.  Since then I have made it to the top 50 in my state and I sometimes make it on the top 100 middle school sellers list, but I am often towards the bottom of the list.  I would like to consistently be in the top 100 sellers, and preferably strongly in the top 100 sellers.

Reach my First TpT Milestone this Year - This one is a longshot, but it's not called Dare to Dream for nothing.  I would really like to have a strong Back to School season of selling and finish the fall well so that I can hopefully reach my first TpT milestone late this year.  It's going to take a lot of hard work and lot of prayers and luck, but I hope with my work over this summer, what I learn in Vegas, and my increasing presence on Pinterest I can gain the momentum I need to get there.

So there you go...there are my dreams.  I hope to push through, dare to really go there, and that I get to see at least some of them come to fruition.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Making Over my Character Certificates

I, along with hundreds, if not thousands of others, joined the TPT Seller Challenge to raise our stores to the next level.  Over the coming four weeks we will be given different challenges to complete, and I am eager to see where it takes me and my store while I am on this journey.

This week's challenge was to makeover a product cover or an entire product itself.  I chose to go for the entire product and it has taken me most of the week to complete, but I also became obsessed and went a bit overboard, just to say the least.  The product I chose to makeover was my 75+ Character Certificates.  

You can see from my before images that my cover is attempting, but failing miserably, at being cutesy, and my title is small.  I also have another TpT author's logo on my cover because way back when I had no idea how to do credit pages and the only thing I used of hers were the kids on the cover so I put her logo on my cover ( so stupid...)  

The biggest problem with the product itself is that I tried to make it editable as a PDF which just didn't work for people as it was too hard to line up the text and too hard to match the fonts.  I had no idea how to use PowerPoint back then and had only used Publisher, so I changed it to be editable in Publisher, using Microsoft graphics, which wasn't very cool of me either.  It was just a big hot mess and needed to be updated.

So now I have a whole new design with real graphics and a real thank you and credits page, all completed in PowerPoint.  And now that I know how to use PowerPoint I have made it editable in PowerPoint.  I also added 22 more character traits to get the product up to an even 100 character awards.

What really got me into trouble with my re-design this week, however, is that once I got into it, I just kept going and I didn't just stop at gold.  I actually made 5 versions of the certificates and was going to bundle them all together as one gigantic certificate offer - 100 certificates in 5 fun versions.  Unfortunately, when I went to upload them to TpT though, I discovered my bundle was 500MB too large.  Not 5 MB too large - 500 MB too large.  I was so stupid to not even think about the monstrosity I was making.  So in the end I had to unbundle my certificates and offer them all as separate colors. 

My "Makeover Madness" of this week will benefit you however, as all versions of these certificates will be on sale for just $2.50 for the remainder of this week.  I hope you will pick up the color or colors you like best.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Love Isn't Always Easy

Things have been trying lately, but I wouldn't change it for the world.  See I'm married to my high school sweetheart as they call it, although I only knew him for a whole 9 weeks while we were actually in high school.  Our first date was June 2, 1988 (27 years ago), on his last day of high school and from that day on we were smitten.  We were engaged one month later, married four years later, and had our first child 2 years after that.  Twenty-three (married years) later we are still going strong, although now we sometimes have to work at it, to make things spark or sail or fly along.
Love isn't always easy.  Some days it takes works.  Some days we disagree and have to reach a healthy resolution.  Some days one of us might just wake up disagreeable and the other person has to realize it's nothing personal.  Some days, weeks, or months (in this particular case) our job pulls us farther and farther away from one another and we have to know that it's all for the greater good; that the work being put in now will benefit us in the not too distant future.  We have to understand that if we can weather a few storms today, we can find shelter together in a beautiful tomorrow.  Love isn't always easy, but if it's love, you're willing to endure some hardships for the beauty, togetherness, and happiness that waits on the other side.

When I'm left to fill the void left by husband as he ventures off to his job, I work on another love of mine, albeit one that is not as torturous to the heart nor as consuming as my own profession - gardening.  I love to get my hands dirty and dig in the dirt.  I never wear gloves when I'm out there.  I'd much rather feel the dirt between my fingers even if I have to jump and squeal from the occasional spider or centipede.  I love the peace and quiet (and shade of my favorite garden) as I sit and weed for an hour or two every week.  I love the beauty that comes from the blooming flowers and the compliments from the neighbors.  It just all brings about a peace and a serenity that I don't often get in my life.
What isn't easy about this passion is that every year I have to start over because I stink at gardening so badly.  Even my favorite garden, which is a perennial garden, somehow manages to need starting over every year.  They're perennials because they're supposed to come back year after year, but not mine.  This beautiful garden that my husband built me has about 14 plants in it, and usually each year I must replant at least half the plants as I have somehow managed to kill them by not properly preparing them for the Colorado winter.  The plant industry must love people like me.

Another thing I love but yet takes a lot of energy, heart and soul in doing so, is my Interactive Notebooks.  I love creating Interactive Notebooks, or living books as we used to call them back when I started teaching.  I love getting kids involved, making lessons that are creative, and figuring ways to teach something with a flippable, foldable, or spinnable activity.  I love putting my lessons out there for others to use and considering the idea that hundreds or thousands of students could be learning about something because I made it accessible to them.  That's a pretty awesome feeling.

With every Interactive Notebook, however, also comes a time where I hit a wall in my creativity, and I have to take a break from it before I explode.  I also find that it's not always easy to put my books out there.  With my own children being grown, these books are like my babies.  I'm invested in them and I've sunk so much of my time and energy, passion and creativity into them, it's like putting a piece of your soul out there to be criticized.  It can be hard to watch the reviews come in, but like everything you's not always easy, but if it's truly something you love than it's worth it to make it better.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mile High TPT Meet Up

Last Saturday I was able to partake in my first TPT meet up, and it was a great first experience.

Around 2 dozen Colorado sellers got together in southern Denver at Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant for some great discussion, fun exchanges, and lots of laughs.  It was such a thrill to finally meet Leah Popinski, Pamela Kranz, Jean Martin, and many other sellers, not to mention Ashley Cook of Teaching in Bronco Country who put our festivities together and did a stellar job.  I was really glad to meet some friendly faces before I head to Vegas for the big conference in July.

We had a delightful lunch and then partook in a school supply white elephant exchange.  I got giant post-it notes; I didn't even know they existed that large.  I gave away a package of my favorite flair pens, some post-it notes, and a bag of M&Ms.

Once the school supply exchange was over, we then had a raffle for great prizes donated by awesome companies.  A big thank you goes out to Learning Resources, Little Knits Studio, Lakeshore Learning, Scentco, BIC, GoNoodle, Learning Expeditions, Gifts By Gaby, Classroom Friendly Supplies, KristyBear Designs, and Plan Book.

If that wasn't enough we also got an incredible swag bag full of great items to use in our classrooms.  My favorites were the assortments of pens and pencils from Bic and the scented pen from Smens.  What can I say, I'm a office supply-aholic.

Now it's your turn.  You can win one of our swag bags too.
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