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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

How my First Week of School is Going

Well, the new school year is certainly starting off interesting.
It finally got me.
Or perhaps, it got me a second time. My symptoms this time around are almost identical to the flu symptoms I got in March 2019. Horrible sore throat, fatigue, etc. Only this time I am not dehydrated thank goodness. That was miserable in 2019.

I hope that you all had a wonderful summer. Ours consisted of a lot of outdoor time, some kid camp time, and our last trip was one to the Big Island of Hawaii. Amazing summer days with our kids. 

On Monday, (when I thought I was just "tired" from the flight and still testing negative) I did get to visit my classroom and set up/organize a little so at least I did get to have that. Here's a "BEFORE" how my classroom looked at the beginning of last year, and then the "AFTER" is the set-up for this year.

I reconfigured the desk because I found it was hard to work with students on a 1:1 basis the other way (and virtually impossible in the classroom like near their desk because of the size constraint of the actual room).

Also, when people drop in to have check-ins or meetings, they will have a place to sit.

Due to my COVID positive test, I am standing by to see if I am actually able to attend the first day of school. The last time I was unable to really hold class on the first day of school was in 2017 when I walked up to campus and all of my things were outside of my room like a mad ex had gotten angry and hurled everything outside, lol. It turns out that my room had FLOODED due to a faulty AC. Definitely a teacher nightmare that lingered for weeks (I had to hold class in the library).

Luckily, because of Zoom, I am able to listen in on some of the department affairs going on which I think is so extremely important. 

As I await the first week of school, I do like to spend this time to think about my goals for the upcoming school year. Here they are...

1. Teach by "Surprise". For the last two years, I have learned so much about how the element of surprise can delight and engage students. I've learned this from my co-teacher and also my daughter's piano teacher. Simply having something new on their desk when they walk in, or trying a wholly new strategy of learning is a creative way of teaching that I haven't tapped into as much. I would like to focus on "surprising" my students as much as possible this year and I hope to document this here.

2. Quarterly Assessments, Writing Benchmark, Writing Conferences. Say no more. The Writing Conference is such a powerful be able to sit 1:1 with a student and discuss their writing with them individually is invaluable and also helps build rapport.

3. Send good emails to students. Praise students in my own way by sending kind notes, and sending kind notes home about student progress

4. And then, a goal that is always on my list from year to year is to build trust and routine with the Instructional Assistant whom I work with. I am very challenged with delegating (don't like to burden others...I know this is a common teacher feeling). But I want to get better at it for the sake of efficiency and teamwork. 

What are your goals for this upcoming school year? Would love to hear what you as an educator are working on, whatever stage you might be in. Teacher journeys are the best kind.

Talk soon,

- Kristine

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Distance Teaching: Week 2 Reflections

We just ended week 2 of Distance Learning in Santa Clara County.

I’ve learned a few more pros/cons:

Pro: I’m able to collaborate more with other professionals more than I have ever been able to. I’m able to meet 15 minutes before class to discuss progress with my IAs (unheard of in a school day). 

Pro: challenging behaviors can be managed more creatively. The other day, a student put inappropriate music on in class. It was easy to mute the student’s audio and then either go into a breakout room to discuss or discuss after class.

Pro: I enjoy Canvas as a platform. It allows me to do more with curriculum planning and it migrated my grades to our school platform. It also emails me when students submit work.

Pro: I have much more time in the day to call parents, students, and to document case management notes.

Pro: I feel like lesson plans can be more dynamic with the technology available. I can switch from sharing my screen to speaker view, put an online timer easily, and show student work easily since I have dual screens. It’s also easy to model.

And, some Cons.

Con: it is harder to help students with special needs. Typically I can sit down next to a student, engage in light conversation, and steer them to do an assignment with me. Now, I have to go in a breakout room, share my screen (which expands onto theirs), and hope that they’re following along. 

Con: I feel the tech gap. Students have connectivity issues. Their chrome books heat up. You name it. I feel fortunate that we were able to get a used iMac for my daughter. Working on a chrome book is hard. The screen is small and the connectivity can be slow. 

Con: it is very, very hard to juggle teaching with having your children at home. My eldest daughter is in distance learning and has questions or challenges throughout the day. My toddler wants to sit on my lap the whole day. As a family and as a Mom we need to plan for lunch, cleaning the kitchen as we go, and random house errands since the house seems to get messier since we are all at home. 

Con: I need to remind myself to strike a balance between students mental health and curriculum demands. I think I assigned way too many assignments the first week (we did a daily assignment and they had an assignment to do for homework “on their own”). Many students couldn’t complete the work and they have missing assignments in the grade book. Yet at the same time, sometimes I feel like I’m jipping them because we only meet twice a week and consequently there is a huge content limitation. I absolutely cannot get through all of the curriculum that I have deemed “essential” in my head. I have to be okay with that. I know everyone is a little stressed with learning a new platform and also attempting to do most of the assignments on their own. But I also want their education to be “quality” so I’m always trying to make a rational decision as to what we will do that day. 

What leaps or hurdles have you encountered in distance learning/teaching? I would love to hear them. 

- Kristine 

Digital Literacy Unit: Intro to Google Docs Lesson Plan

For the last 5 years, I have been starting the year with a digital literacy unit. It is my shortest unit, 1-2 weeks, but it sets the ground work for all of the tech assignments we will be doing for the rest of the year.

I decided to go this route because I found that many of my students didn't know how to write an email or how to bold a text - simple commands that are very teachable. I'm sharing my lesson plan from this week about Google Docs, which I do with all of my English classes as we move them toward using MLA formatting when constructing a paper.

Lesson Plan Duration: 50 Minutes

1. Energizer: Digital Charades. 

We started class off with digital charades. I asked for volunteers and private messaged the volunteer a word. The student acted out the word in Zoom and we all guessed what it was. It was the first time I tried it, and it was actually a riot. Here are some terms that you can use if you do the same in your classroom: 

Virtual Charades List:

Getting married




Raking leaves


Playing hide and seek


Planting a garden

Ironing clothes

Rowing a boat

Changing a diaper

Snowball fight

Make a campfire




Riding a rollercoaster

Riding a carousel

Visiting the zoo

Building a sandcastle

Having a food fight

Riding a motorcycle

Feeding ducks

Flying a kite

Delivering mail

Playing baseball

Making a pizza

2. Announcements/Review HW.
Made announcements and asked students who finished their "About Me" slides to share out.

3. Google Docs Pre assessment.
I gave students a Google Docs Pre assessment and allotted 10 minutes for students to complete it. Here are some of the questions on the pre assessment:

My class was very small yesterday. Here are the frequently missed questions from the class:

I am glad that I have some data so that we can review these answers in class when we meet again.

4. Google Docs Tour. 
I shared my screen and did a quick tour of Google Docs. To spice it up so it wasn't so arbitrary, I watched a couple of Google Docs Tours on Youtube so that I could follow some of their format. 

5. Intro to Google Docs Assignment.
Students were given an Intro to Google Docs Assignment so that they could utilize some of the most common commands. Then we went out into Breakout Rooms so that myself and an IA could go over it more 1:1.

Then we ended for the day! I love this lesson plan because it's a great follow-up lesson plan to teaching the students keyboard shortcuts, with the worksheet: Use the Keyboard like a NINJA! 

At our next class meeting, we will be doing the same process with Google Slides, since students will be making presentations in class. We will also be going over best practices when making presentations. Stay tuned....

Take Care,


Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Coexist Disability Awareness Sticker - my journey creating a bumper sticker!

Today I thought I'd write about an art project that I have been working on for some time now.

It is a COEXIST Disability Awareness sticker.

I started thinking about it when I was first sitting in our Back-to-School kick off. I really wanted to put together a bumper sticker that promoted disability awareness and has the vibe of inclusion and the multitude of disabilities that exist - especially hidden disabilities or disabilities that are not always apparent to the naked eye.

I started researching the different disability icons, and began drawing in my journal. It took me 2 weeks to come up with the final design, and then another 1 week to draw it in Google Slides by free drawing and tracing. The biggest challenge was coming up with the correct shade of blue.

From there, I went to my print shop and showed the design and talked about different dimensions, sizes and he printed out a proof. For this project, I decided to use the 3 x 11.5'' dimensions.

I'm pretty happy with the end result. We have it on the back of our van and I love how my daughter points out the van in a parking lot by saying, "look, Mom it's our car! It has the Coexist sticker."

C = closed captioning - Deaf or Hard of Hearing
O = Orthopedic Impairment
E = Autism
X = Crutches for Orthopedic Impairment
I = Visually Impaired
S = Speech and/or Language Impairment
T = Invisible Disability

In the midst of this, I also created another bumper sticker based on a common saying: "Not All Disabilities are Visible." I used 3 x 9'' for this design. Also done on Google Slides.

Here is it on Etsy:

Creating bumper stickers was a new venture for me, but it was really fun. When I put it up on Etsy, I wasn't expecting many bites, but the reception has been great. I hope to keep improving it and coming up with new designs in the future. For now, I'm happy that I was able to start the project and complete it from start to finish.

This is something else I created on Photoshop that I threw on a black-T through my print shop. I wanted to wear it at a Back-to-School Kickoff or something. :) It was just for fun.

Would love to hear your opinion/suggestions/etc. or any bumper sticker designs you'd love to see! It was a fun project. If you are thinking about creating a bumper sticker, I highly recommend that you find a reliable print shop that you feel comfortable working with. I work with Vietnam Printing in San Jose. Henry, the owner, has been an amazing mentor to me! If you are in the area, I highly recommend his services.

Stay well,

- Kristine

Friday, August 21, 2020

Distance Teaching Reflections: Week 1


Sedona (4) and I, after she sat on my lap for an entire Zoom Department Meeting

The overall purpose of this blog is to memorialize my teaching memories so one day maybe I can go back to see how much energy I once had, lol. 2020 is a teaching year I will never forget. In Santa Clara County, we were mandated to go into Distance Learning on March 13, 2020. Originally, we were slated to come back on my birthday - April 13th. However, as everyone knows, that was extended until the end of the school year. After the events of the summer, our Governor Gavin Newsom decided to begin the new school year on Distance Learning for all counties on the "Watch List." Counties need to be off the Watch List for 14 days to go back to in-person instruction.

I can say, that I was a zombie for most of the Spring 2020. Both parents in this household are teachers, and our daughter was on Distance Learning as well. I am on a group text with other Moms in my daughter's elementary school. I was truly in awe of their regimented schedules for their children, some of which incorporated music, Spanish reading and English reading. (My daughter attends a Spanish Immersion school.) Our schedules were anything but that. The reason being, my youngest is still a toddler and very much Mommy-centric and stuck-on-Mommy...which absolutely melts me every single day, but does complicate things work-wise.

What stressed me out the most in the Spring was our case management. We were not required to hold in-person classes, but I did 30 minutes 2x a week anyway for my English class, because I couldn't muster the faculties anyway to record an engaging video, and it just felt like that is what I needed to do. For our caseload, however, we were required to have 2 x 15 minute check-ins per week. Because I wanted to torture us, I ended up scheduling my check-ins all on 1 day - Mondays and Thursdays. This meant that my Zoom room was basically back-to-back appointments from 9:30am to 3pm. I had a couple breaks for lunch.

I didn't have Apple Airpods, so I basically had my Zoom room open continuously and had to listen for the doorbell to ring in the Waiting Room. When students didn't show up, I called them or would call their parents. After each check-in, we had to fill in it in a Master Google form to the district to record the services we delivered. 

Our schedule was essentially this on those days:

8am - get the kids up

8:30-9:30am - "Kids PE" walk to and from the park, listen to Frozen/Katy Perry/Miley Cyrus

9:30am-3pm - Kids are intermittently on Distance Learning, or on the screen, or playing ball with Dad outside, or having lunch, or having snacks, or drawing/painting/chalk, etc.

On the days when me or Zeke didn't have many appointments or meetings, we could take a ride to the beach to get the kids outside. Most of the days are gray, but some days can be as glorious as you can imagine.

Pacific Grove, CA

Fort Ord State Park, CA

Even in Quarantine, there was never a question that we would still be taking our mini family road trips to the beach. It is truly our family's sanctuary.

The reason for this - on a glimmering summer day, we couldn't resist it. Plus, Zeke or I couldn't get much work done at home anyway. Instead, Zeke would stay up late doing work, or I would get up at 3 or 4am to complete work. That's just been our natural rhythm since we began our teaching careers.

Now that we've started Distance Teaching for the Fall 2020, I have some goals that I have going into this. I am so proud of our District and our District Administrator, who has put forth a manageable plan that respects our mental health. Wednesdays are completely set aside for asychronous classes, and it affords me time to work on paperwork, curriculum and collaboration. AND, I can't forget that my AMAZING mother-in-law has been staying with us and has been getting my toddler outside every day so that Mommy and Daddy can have 1-2 hours of quiet work time. It's a true luxury to feel like your child is taken care of and you can be productive in the time of Distance Learning.

My daughter's elementary teacher...deserves an award. Although it's a lot of screen time, she is on her computer from 9am - 3:30pm with breaks embedded throughout. The district said that they would cut back on those hours as students get used to the platform. I am so glad, because in the Spring, the school offered little to no distance learning and it wasn't mandated. Part of this was a mindset that arose due to the technology discrepancies in the district. Which I understand, but in a Spanish school, she wasn't getting the exposure we wished she had.

Anyway, here are our my goals for Distance Teaching this time around:

Personal Goals

1. Take time to run. We moved this summer, and we have the most dreamy running trails you can ever imagine. Although, when I wake up (ideal running time) my time is typically consumed getting caught up on work before the kids get up. I want to fit a run in from 3-4pm. This goal is currently put on hold due to our proximity to a California wildfire. Everywhere is covered in ash, it's raining ash, and the air quality is poor.

Photos of the smoke from the fires, as seen from the coastline in Pacific Grove:

2. Incorporate music into my kid's schedules. I didn't do a good job of it last Spring, but I want to continue fostering a love of playing the piano for my 9 year old. 9 is when I learned my first piece that I play to this day - Fur Elise. We are trying to fit a piano lesson in on Thursdays. 

3. Consistently follow a schedule for our kids. Here is Siena's schedule. Holding on to hope that we can follow this to some degree.


3. Drive to the beach at sunset. Because, it gives me life at the end of the day.

Professional Goals

1. Learn and master CANVAS. Our district switched to CANVAS, which I am actually appreciative of. In college, we used this platform and actually I have been very impressed by it's capabilities as a learning management system and Module builder.

2. Weekly Consistent Collaboration with IAs. IAs are our greatest resource, I frequently feel like I am crummy a at assigning tasks or giving them ways to provide consistent support. I would like to plan out more activities and help foster direct support for students.

3. Document Curriculum daily. From year-to-year, I feel like I am still piecing together curriculum. I would like to somehow find a way to create Units and refer back to them and not have to create the wheel. 

4. Timely assessment. One of the most important ones.

5. Fun icebreaker games.

6. Acknowledge student's birthdays over Zoom.

That's it for the time being. What are your goals for Distance Teaching??? Please tell me you are struggling with some of the things I am. 😆

Still wishing you well in these first days,

- Kristine

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

First Day of School 2020

 It was another late eve before the first day of school. 

No matter how hard I try to preplan the first day of school, the details never seem to be clear to me until the day before. As a teacher, it's hard to put into words the stress and anxiety that comes before the first day of school, which commingles with the assurance that you've done this many times before and have many more tools to pull from than you've ever had before.

This year we started the year off with distance learning. We all knew what to expect to some degree as we met the challenge of distance learning last Spring. It didn't feel like a work-less summer as we all anticipated a possible distance learning return. 

Of course, we decided to switch to the Canvas platform this year, and I tortured myself with deciding to go "all in" and teaching myself the platform in the days before.😆

Here I am, at 4am to reflect on the first day of school. Here is a working Mom's teaching schedule on distance learning. This isn't typical, and this kind of day really only works for me, but it's nice to memorialize this time for a moment.

10-2am - Sleep

2am - 6:30am Prep for First Day of School

6:30-8:00am - Sleep

8:00am - Wake up, get my eldest daughter up for distance learning

8:45am - Ensure my daughter has breakfast/snacks for a couple hours of distance learning, recheck her work station, pack a snack bag extra clothes for toddler who is going on a playdate with grandma, get ready to start my day

9:30-10:45 - 1st Period SAI Study Skills. 4 students were absent. All students had their cameras off. :( I immediately missed meeting the freshmen on my caseload and seeing former students. 

10:45-11:00 - Quick Breakfast Break, check on eldest daughter

11:00-12:30 - 3rd Period SAI English. Everyone was there! 

12:30-1:00 - Lunch break, fort building with my 4-year-old

1:05-2:20 - 5th Period SAI Study Skills. A couple students were absent. Rowdier but fun bunch! I did an icebreaker where we showed pictures from our summer break and one of my students showed a picture of a gory, mutilated hand and then froze his screen. FYI I was being observed by a new coworker. Groan. Turned off the student's video. Eldest daughter comes in and needs help with her distance learning. Assign students to breakout rooms with IAs to check in for a second while I log her in. 

2:20-3:40 - Phone calls to parents for students who did not attend, answer emails, case management

3:40-5:30 - Nap with my toddler

5:30 - Costco 😂

Although this wasn't a typical first day of school, I'll take it! It's more of a juggling act, that's for sure. 

Here was my Canvas Homepage for the day.

Here were our lesson plans for the day. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Free Bitmoji Classroom Template!

This week, my daughter started her school year with Distance Learning. She has been enrolled in a Spanish immersion program since kindergarten. It's been pretty surreal to see her grow up learning another language and we are thankful to have that opportunity.

Her school has also transitioned to using CANVAS, as are we. The night before, we practiced logging in and I put a bookmark on her Google chrome. 

On the morning of the first day of school, she was starting at 9am and I had a meeting at 9am - it was a challenge to get us both online at time. Needless to say, I could not figure out how to access the WebEx link for the class meeting! Until, she pointed out (correctly), that his WebEx link was on his virtual classroom slide on his homepage. It was so brilliant that I decided to make one for my own class. Check it out below:

If we can't be in the classroom, at least we can have semblance of what our classroom looks like in the real world. Since then, I've shared this template with some coworkers, and thought I'd do the same here. 

Link to the Free Bitmoji Classroom template here! It is on Google Slides and will make a copy into your Drive.

I hope you enjoy decorating your classroom as I did! I plan to use it on my homepage on CANVAS.

Tips for Personalization:

- You can use any picture as a "poster" by copying+pasting the image, and changing the border to 4pt weight and the color: white

- When looking for classroom elements be sure to Google "_____ clipart". You want the background to have a transparent background. Sometimes, it looks like an image is transparent (i.e. when you do the image search it has this gray and white grid in the background), but when you paste it into your slide, it isn't transparent. True transparent images usually look like they have a white background, but when you click on it to view, the gray and white grid appears.

Checkered Pattern Seamless White And Gray Colors. Transparent ...

- Etsy has some great clipart to use if you wanted to go more in depth with this. (i.e. "plant clipart")

- TpT also has some bitmoji virtual classrooms for purchase and they are amazing!

Hope you are doing well in the first days of school!

- Kristine

How my First Week of School is Going

Well, the new school year is certainly starting off interesting. It finally got me. Or perhaps, it got me a second time. My symptoms this ti...