Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Surviving Student Teaching v1

I have survived two days of student teaching in third grade and I still want to be a teacher, so that's good, riiight? I think I will try to check and recap how things are going periodically and share the stories I will undoubtedly gather over the next 3 1/2 months.

The first two days really were great and I feel so fortunate with the school I was placed in and the mentor teacher I have. Both are fantastic and I am loving every second, but with the anxieties of a new "job" I am feeling a little stressed and cannot place my finger on why exactly. Before I get into that too much though, I wanted to recap the days.

Day 1:
The first couple weeks are meant for observing and slowly taking on responsibility. I am not interested in slowly taking on responsibility and I really want to start doing things right away so that when I do get to "bell-to-bell" teaching, I am not completely wore out by the end of the day.

On the first day the kids went around the room and introduced themselves to me and asked me questions about myself. For the most part the questions were things like, do you have pets? What's your favorite football team? Are you a Cyclone or a Hawkeye? (our in state college rivalry) and then I got the best question EVER .... Are you Nikki Minaj?


Yes, this girl has a wild imagination and an enormous amount of confidence (she boldly announces when she has a crush). I had to stifle a laugh (as I have had to do several times so far!) and said, nope! I'm Miss Johnson, your new student teacher!

I cannot wait to see what else this imaginative little girl and the rest of her classmates have in store for me.

Day 2:
The day started with a team meeting of the third grade teachers. All of the teachers are so nice and welcoming, and I really enjoyed sitting and listening to them plan!

The rest of the day went very much like the first day and it flew by! I helped several students one on one and did a little note taking/data collecting for my mentor teacher. It already has begun to feel like I have been there much longer than two days (in a good way!)

The school was buzzing a bit because there is a big winter storm coming and overnight we are supposed to get a bunch of snow. So, you know what that means... a possible snow day or late start! I was a little bummed about this storm because I had a feeling it was going to sabotage my Tuesday night plans which is the weeknight I usually get to spend time with Bill. I really look forward to these nights, but we live about 20 minutes away from each other on opposite sides of town and I did not want to skip my evening workout and I did not want to drive over there just to drive right back... all in all, it was really bumming me out because I hadn't seen him since Thursday. As I type this out I feel a little silly for letting this get to me, but I suppose it is pretty valid.

So, I here I am, 8:30 on a school night (smile) and I am typing this out in bed and will probably be asleep very soon. I have a feeling this is my new normal. :)

What time do you usually go to bed? Do you remember having any student teachers in your rooms as you grew up?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I'm here!

:::wind blowing:::

That is the sound of me blowing off the dust on my blog! I don't know if I will be back regularly - which, let's face it, I probably won't. Life is just too busy and I am beginning to think I am outgrowing this space.

But, in regular blogger fashion, how about I update you all via everybody's favorite method? Bullets.

  • Last week I turned 31. Which is just weird. I am still not used to being 30 and now I am 31? Just weird. My birthday was great though and I was definitely spoiled with giftcards from family, new boots from the boyfriend and charms for my Pandora bracelet from friends. I definitely feel loved! 
  • My New Year's resolution of working out even more is going great with the help of GymPact. Last week I upped my commitment to five days a week for at least 30 minutes. Each workout I miss will cost me $5. Since I am cheap, I refuse to let that happen! Today I needed to get in my fifth workout (they have to be done by Sunday evening) and as I left campus at five and headed to the gym, I realized I forgot shoes. Ugh! So, I got home and decided to go on a walk for 30 minutes with Zeke... in the drizzling freezing rain. Ha! It was about 37 degrees, so it wasn't too slippery, but here is how I looked... It's a little dark, but I've got on my new boots (love them!) running tights and a running jacket. Oh, and a hat, since it was drizzling a little bit! If it wasn't for GymPact, that walk would not have happened AT ALL, I am sure of it.
  • Tomorrow I start student teaching. It is crazy to me that this journey is almost over! I have begun the application process with two districts and had a very short preliminary interview on Saturday. It is all so surreal and I know this semester is going to fly by and then I will be done with my Master's degree! 
  • I have been a reading fiend this month, which is exactly what I wanted to do. Right now I am reading Off Balance which is Dominque Moceanu's memoir and I am LOVING it! 
So, tell me something new! What is going on in your life these days? 

PS: If you want to join GymPact with me and get $5, ask me how! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Don't worry, be happy (and laugh!)

I saw this on Facebook last night and just cannot resist sharing... 

Let's all look for happiness in the little things, ok? :)


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Healthy chicken nugget recipe

Today I am sharing a simple, healthy recipe for an old favorite. Chicken nuggets! Sometimes I crave chicken nuggets or chicken tenders that are likely one of the most unhealthy, fried plates on a restaurant/fast food menus. But, there is a way to make this tasty dish healthy at home! The key is the panko crumbs...


1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
1 egg and 2 parts egg whites (or 3 eggs)
2 cups panko breadcrumbs (you could also add salt and pepper for more taste, but I don't)
Cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Get a cookie pan ready with cooking spray. Set up a bowl of your whisked eggs and a bowl of panko crumbs.

Cut your chicken into chicken nugget sized pieces. Dip chicken into egg mixture, then roll in panko crumbs, making sure that the entire piece of chicken is covered. Then place on sprayed cookie sheet.


Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Find your favorite dipping sauce (mine is BBQ!) and enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Get paid for those workouts!

It's no secret that in the past year I have spent a significant amount of time working on my fitness level and I am extremely proud of how far I have come. Thank goodness I decided to take PE Methods early to "get it out of the way" because it was a huge wake up call for me!

Since then, moving on to training for long distance races has really been the golden ticket for me and has kept my motivation level high. Now that it is cold out and I am a wimp when it comes to running outdoors in the freezing cold temps, I have been hitting up the gym pretty regularly. I've always had a gym membership, but sometimes I would go weeks without visiting the gym because I would either run outdoors or do a workout at home.

It's been nice going to the gym and I have realized again what a great deal I have. I pay $32/month to go to any of the five gyms in our area, which includes a wide variety of group fitness (my favorite!) including Zumba, Body Pump, yoga and spinning. Plus, two of my close friends are instructors. The fact that I have been ignoring this great advantage is just silly.

My friend, Manon mentioned this great app she has been using to keep her accountable to her gym trips, called GymPact. To join this club, you commit yourself to going to the gym a certain number of times (I chose 3) and if you don't go - you pay! The user sets the amount that would have to be paid out and I chose $10. So, basically, I have $30 on the line each week (and they have my debit card info, so it is not like I can just "forget about it") and since I am living a lifestyle where I cannot allow that to happen, I am now motivated by the thought of "losing" money if I do not work out. Win/win, right?!

Next comes in my favorite component.... If you complete your gym pact, you get a payout from all the people that did NOT complete their gym pact! Nice, right? I mean, if you're already working out regularly, WHY NOT get paid for it?? It is not a lot of money, but hey, money is money!

The great thing about Gympact is, it also connects with Runkeeper, so you can still run or bike outdoors and have it count towards your weekly total! This week for example, it is supposed to be really nice out so I will probably only make it the gym once or twice, but all my runs will count towards my gym pact and I will not have to pay for missing a trip to the gym.

I have only been using Gympact a week, but I can see this being a great motivator for me and lots of other people, too! If you decide to join, use my referral code, frontAmber and you will immediately get $5 to start off with it!

Have you heard of Gympact before? What keeps you motivated to keep up with your workouts?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Date night of the year!

I am adding a goal to my list of New Year's resolutions and I think you're gonna like it ...

I resolve to blog more about the goings on in my life. My friends, family, Bill and I are always doing fun stuff and I always take pictures and I think about blogging about it, but then ... the blogging about it just doesn't happen!  So, in an effort to share more with you all while also creating a virtual memory lane, I will write about the shenanigans we find ourselves in these days!

First up: Date night of the year.

Bill and I's first date in 2013 was Friday night. We originally planned on him coming over to my place and watching movies or something before I had to go to my work overnight at 10:30 (ugh).

Instead, around 4pm he calls and asks if I remember when he told his best friend and his friend's 4 year old son that we would go to Monster Jam with them on the 4th. Monster Jam is a .... Monster Trucks Rally! I laughed, and usually being up for anything, said sure, let's go!


So, for the first date of the year we attended a monster truck rally and watched loud, ginormous trucks jump over cars, flip over, lose wheels and, in general, be really obnoxious. But, you know what?

It was AWESOME! I would definitely go again. :)

What is the best or most memorable date you have been on? 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Club Friday

Happy Friday!

I have to agree with Lisa, this has been the longest short week ever, but not for reasons you would think...

My semester does not start until the 28th, so I planned on substitute teaching everyday in January, but I did not get a single job this week. Not one between Wednesday and Friday. I hate that feeling of having nothing to do and not making any money! I think after this first week back, things will go back to normal (I even have a multiple day job lined up for later this month), but this week was kind of rough for my anxiety levels. I am already concerned about not working this semester due to student teaching, so making as much money as possible in January is crucial!

In my unexpected extra time off, I have found myself working on rebuilding my resume to reflect a qualified educator, instead of someone successful in the corporate world (so intimidating!) and also watching endless episodes of Parenthood on Netflix. You guys, I am HOOKED. That show is phenomenal and I adore it! In addition to resume building and Parenthood watching, I have begun applying to the local districts and working on their enormous application process. Whew! I spent several hours on just one district yesterday!

Well, anyway, for Book Club Friday this week I am following Emily and Kelly's lead and succumbing to peer pressure with this book meme all about the books I read in 2012! I made reading an important stress reliever for me in 2012 and I was sure to include reading in my daily life no matter what (even if it was just for a few minutes) and it really paid off for me!

Amber's Stats:

How many books read in 2012? Seventy-one

How many fiction and non fiction? 9 non-fiction, 62 fiction. Most of the non-fiction was tradebooks for grad school, but I fully enjoyed most of them! My favorite being Multicultural Manners, for sure. I fully recommend flipping through that book to learn more about how other cultures communicate, and what is considered rude or appropriate.

Male/Female author ratio? 20 male, 51 female. I do tend to read more female authors and I am sure that is just because I am female myself, but this year I thoroughly enjoyed the John Green, James Patterson and one Stephen King book I read!

Favorite book of 2012? I will have to go with The Fault in our Stars by John Green. I have recommended it the most and this book spurred a love for John Green's writing. I also really enjoyed Sarah Jio and read everything she had available, and Loving Frank was a huge standout for me that I continually recommend to others.

Least favorite? I will have to go with Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov. We read this for my local book club and I just did not enjoy it.

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why? Nope, I have done a much better job at finishing books that I start and finding something about them that I like.

Longest and shortest book titles?  11/22/63 was the longest at 849 pages and the Diary of Darcy J. Rhone was the shortest at 68 pages. 

How many books from the library? I am going to agree with Kelly and say I got about half of these from the library. I belong to all of the local libraries in our area and have completely worked their hold system so I can get new books right away (or close to right away). It's pretty ridiculous, but whatever!

How many books read did I purchase? I purchased quite a few, but most of them were used and I followed a book budget of $25-$30 per month and did pretty well with that. I like to pick up books for my classroom from Half Price Books, so completely holding off from buying books would be hard for me. 

How many were gifts? None of the books I read were gifts, but I did receive some good books for Christmas! My boyfriend got me the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and his parents got me the second two. I hope I can get to them soon, because I won't watch any of the movies until I've read the books!

How many were given to me for reviews? Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. I am now ANXIOUSLY awaiting the final book in the trilogy. 

How many books read on kindle? Zero, but I have a Nook. I think I read probably 3-4 on my Nook. I did not use it very much this year, although right now I am on a Nook reading spree. The last few books I have read and the one I am reading now is on my e-reader.

Any re-reads? I re-read Forever and Speak for an adolescent lit class. I also re-read The Hunger Games in anticipation of the movie coming out.

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading? Hmm... I am going to add "and other places" to this questions because I went to a lot of made up places! The settings in The Hobbit and Ella Enchanted in particular. I read a lot of books for my ESL (English as a Second Language) endorsement so I spent a lot "time" in Central America and Asia. I went to Poland, the South Pacific islands, India, Mars (twice!), and Germany.

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation? Probably Loving Frank. If Lisa hadn't urged me to read it before heading to Chicago last January, I probably would have never read it. Now I think about that book all the time and know that I will re-read it in the future!

There you have it! I have set a goal for myself to read 75 books in 2013, but I think this will be difficult because I will not have any required reading this year. I would say about 25% of the books read in 2012 were required reading for me. In 2013 I want to focus on some younger reading and read books that I know my students will be reading, so I am hoping I can breeze through many of those early on and in the summer. We'll see! I am not going to put too much pressure on myself because I hope this is the year I begin teaching full time.

What books were your favorite in 2012?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dreams with deadlines

Ohhh, yeaaaah. It is *that* time again. New Year's resolutions and goal makin' time! Dreaming about what I want to do and making a plan to make it happen, right?

Before you think, whoa! Cheese, much? You should know I was not always a fan of these long term goals. They seemed uber cheesy and cliche and I was just negative about the whole goal setting process... but, in the last couple of years I have had some very positive results once I set a firm goal and I am officially a believer! However, I am not a firm believer in setting super rigid resolutions such as "Stop drinking pop completely!" or "Lose ____ number of pounds this year!" My goals are much broader than that and it works for me!

For 2013 here are my goals and resolutions....

Health & Fitness
Fitness was a big theme in 2012 and I am excited to continue that theme in 2013. It is extremely important to me to set a good example for my students and my own kids someday, so staying in shape has been something I want to continue keeping a priority in my daily life. 
  • Run 13 races in 2013. Yep, I am aiming for this one again. In 2012 I tried to run 12 races but I came up a little short - well, A LOT short. Races get expensive and since I am in grad school full time... well, you get the picture. In 2013 I would like to budget this better and achieve this goal! Today I am running race #1, Resolution Run in West Des Moines and I have four other runs planned - Drake Relay's Half Marathon, Dam to Dam 20K, Glow Run and the Des Moines Half Marathon. It is gonna be a GOOD year for running!
  • Run a sub 30 minute 5K. I am hoping I can knock this one out at the *beginning* of the year! (Not sure if it will be today during the Resolution Run though! Ha.) 
  • Participate in more group fitness. Which indirectly will help with my lack of strength training... Sort of. So, you see, I love group fitness. It began with step aerobics my freshman year of college 12 years ago (sob!) and my best friend Kristi deciding to become one of the group fitness instructors at the university's rec center. I LOVED step. Loved it! Since then I have dabbled in kick-boxing, body pump, spinning, yoga, and Zumba. Another good friend of mine, Chandra is also an instructor at the same gym Kristi is at, and I really want to make sure I make these classes a part of my regular work out schedule.
  • Stick to the Weight Watchers plan and track my points. This is vague, I know. But I have been using Weight Watchers for a couple months now, and I have been doing terrible. Sometimes I count and sometimes I do not. Basically, I still eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Let's try to change that in 2013, shall we??

This year I graduate and will officially begin my second career of my adult life. I am pretty nervous, but also really excited! I have loved living the life of a college student again, but I am really looking forward to living the life of an adult again. Mainly, looking forward to the structured schedule and work benefits - PTO, again? Yes, please. I have missed you. 
  • Find a job. This is the year I student teach and begin to look for a permanent teaching position. GULP. I am pretty nervous, to say the least and I am unsure what I want to do. In education, you are interviewing the school just as much as they are interviewing you and I really want to find a school that is a good match for ME. Through substitute teaching I have seen many different cultures among schools and I have strong opinions about what kind of culture I know will work best with my personality and teaching style. 
  • Continue work at the agency. I will need the agency for my summer job, but after that (and depending on if I get a teaching job) I will probably have to leave. Until that time though, I need to make the time to fit in as many hours as possible. While student teaching this will be difficult, so I want to always remind myself that this is an important goal to manage my time for.

Oh, life. What do I want to do this year? Travel? Yes, of course. Take chances? Yes, absolutely. Make new friends? Always! 
  • Read. In 2012 I read 71 books. SEVENTY-ONE  books! That is insane, but I know it happened because I was focused on it. I want to continue to focus on reading in 2013 and read more books that I know my students will be reading, or books that I would like to read aloud to my class someday. For this reason, I am going to raise my 2013 goal to 75 books. Many of those books will be elementary and middle grade level books so achieving this goal should not be hard. I want to make this a goal because I really want to be sure I read these books. I LOVE talking about books with kids and I love book-talking them to get kids interested, but to do so, I have to read them first.
  • Build relationships. In 2012 I made it a point to try and be a better friend, better blogger/commenter and surround myself with people that make me feel good and confident with myself. I want to continue that theme in 2013. I know I will be meeting a lot of new people this year and I want to be sure I make a good impression and always put my best foot forward. 
  • Travel. I would love to travel, I just do not know if that will be feasible this year. I would however like to plan at least a couple road trips, so I want to remember this goal and keep in mind how much I enjoy small weekend getaways. Despite having been to over half the fifty states, there are still a few states that I live very close to, that I have never been to (Wisconsin & Michigan, I'm lookin' at you!). I would like to change that this year! **EDIT** I just realized I have been to Michigan. We drove through there on our way to Niagara Falls in 2011. But, I would still enjoy spending more time there and seeing more than just the coffee shop we stopped at! ;) 
  • Savings. I am a terrible saver. As in, I don't do it. I am cautious with money, but I do not set money aside specifically for savings. It sits in my checking account and that is it (I know. Terrible). So, this year I would like to open a savings account and make a point to put money in each month.

So, to recap... This year I am running in 13 or more races, running a sub-30min 5k, finding a job, traveling to Wisconsin and Michigan, opening a savings account and being a good friend! Woot, woot!

What are *your* dreams this year?