~118~ Pencil Sharpener Review

Being that my last post was about my first year teaching, I thought that it would be fitting to do a review on a pencil sharpener that I got for my classroom.
I first discovered this pencil sharpener while looking on Pinterest for ideas to use in my classroom. The blogger posted a video showing how it worked and I knew that I had to check it out.  It’s from Classroom Friendly Supplies, a company run by a fellow teacher.  This handy pencil sharpener comes in various colors, of which I chose this pretty purple. This is not your conventional manual pencil sharpener. The design involved pulling out a metal bracket which adjusts to the size of your pencil and grips it while you’re sharpening it - there’s no need to hold on to your pencil while you’re sharpening it. 
As any teacher knows, a good pencil sharpener is a must in any classroom.  Previous to this one, I had an electric sharper, that while it did a pretty good job, it was extremely loud, often got jammed, and did not work on every type of pencil. 

My sharpener arrived very quickly - so already, I was impressed. I was so excited for it and brought it to my classroom the next day.  The first time I tried it out, I was blown away by how quietly and quickly it sharpened my pencil - 3 turns total.  And the point-oh my goodness! And this was a super sturdy point. I’ve had many pencil sharpeners that make a nice point, but as soon as you start to write, the lead breaks off.  Definitely not the case with this sharpener.  Also, although it works great free-standing, it is easily mounted to any shelf.
My (4th grade) students immediately noticed that our old sharpener was gone and were very excited about our new one.  They loved it so much, that they affectionately named her “Patricia”.  As they started arriving in the morning, I showed them how to properly use the pencil sharpener one at a time.    Some were able to get the hang of it, but many had a hard time with the mechanism of pulling out the  metal part, inserting their pencil, and then getting their pencil out. 

As with almost anything that’s new, my students were a bit too excited about trying out the sharpener and shortly after lunch it got jammed with pencil tip that broke off in the mechanism.  It seems that colored pencils don’t sharpen as well as regular pencils.  Luckily, I was pretty easily able to “perform surgery” on our beloved “Patricia” and get back into tip-top working order.  Sadly though, she is off-limits to students.  However, I still love how well and quickly it sharpens pencils for our classroom! I even brought it down to our building secretary to show her how well it works in case we were in need of buying new sharpeners for the building (which is being expanded and renovated this summer).  She is currently looking into ordering them for our associates to have in their work space.

Final Grade: B+
 This pencil sharpener definitely does it’s job.
The quietness, quickness, and quality of sharpening that it does is top notch and really unmatched by any other pencil sharpener that I’ve used in my lifetime (which is a lot!).  

The reason that it didn’t get an A is because it is not really built to be used by kids. I know that a lot of teachers don’t let their kids use their pencil sharpeners, but it’s one of my classroom jobs so that I’m not spending time doing it each morning/afternoon.  Considering that the 10 year olds in my classroom struggled to figure out how to properly use it (and semi-broke it in a matter of 4 hours), means that there’s no way students in younger grades would be able to use it well, particularly 2nd grade and below. 

Bottom Line: This pencil sharpener is the best I’ve ever used, but in terms of classroom use, it is best for adult use, and isn’t really suitable for kids under 10 years old. 

Disclaimer: I received this pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies in exchange for this review.  However, all words, thoughts, and opinions are my own. 


~117~ Surviving My 1st Year

Believe it or not, this post is actually not about surviving my first year as a mom (though they may be a good one for a future post).  Instead it’s about surviving my first back in a regular classroom.

At the end of last school year, while I was on maternity leave with Ethan, I received a call from our district’s HR director letting me know that my position of Title I Math had been cut. They decided that there was a greater need for an additional Title I Reading teacher instead.  Not exactly my favorite call to receive, but I had known that this was a possibility.  Luckily this did not mean I was out of a job, just that I would have to take on a different position.  Back to the full classroom it was! I decided to take on 4th grade at one the buildings that I had already been working at.
I’m not going to lie, but after 6 years working as a small-group specialist teacher, I was a bit scared about going back to the a regular classroom! My very first teaching job out of college was 4th grade in St. Paul, MN but that was 8 years ago! Despite this, I decided to take on the challenge head-on.

I’m not going to say that this year has been easy-because it hasn’t.  In many ways, I felt like a 1st year teacher again even though this was my 8th year of teaching. But looking forward to next year and the years to come after that, I can see the mistakes that I made this year and want to change for next year as well as the positives that I want to continue replicating and mastering.

There are a few things that definitely made my life and job easier this year:

1. Erin Condren Planner
I decided to treat myself at the end of last year to help me get excited about changing jobs and took the plunge when I saw that they were on sale in May. Some of my favorite things about this planner are how colorful and pretty the design is, and the large blocks for writing in my weekly lesson plans.  I also really like the notes pages that go with each monthly calendar. It made it easy to find notes that I took from various meetings (staff, PLC, PD) and have it all in one place.  The checklists at the back of the planner were also very handy.   And, I loved the super durable, clear page protectors (I ordered an extra one) to keep my class list/parent contact info and master schedule in.
The only things that I would change are to put the zip-lock pouch in the front instead of the back and make it a sliding ziplock instead. I didn’t use it as much this year because it was a pain to get in and out of.  The absent pages were also unnecessary. I had planned to use them instead for keeping track of parent contacts, but I didn’t do a very good job of that past October.
I’ve already received my planner for next year and I’m excited about a couple of the changes that they made to the planner.  There are fewer notes pages that correspond with each month calendar, which I’m okay with-because it makes the planner slightly less bulky.  They did make the monthly calendar spread slightly smaller and added in a column on the right side with an extra “notes” section and small 2015 and 2016 dated calendars.   One thing that I want to utilize more this year are the graph pages. I hardly used them last year. I started playing around with it in the last month of school this year to track weekly reading test data, but I’m not sure that I’ll have enough pages as they made the grid squares larger, meaning that there’s fewer squares per page.
I've already filled in all of the dates, and started putting in things that I want to remember for next year (one of the many reasons I buy my planner so early).
Want one of your own? Grab yours using this link and save $10 off your order!

2. Deep Desk Drawer Organizers
I bought two at the beginning of the year to put one in both top drawers of my desk.  While the top of my desk is almost always a cluttered mess and I’m constantly losing that one piece of paper in some pile, my drawers are very neatly organized and it’s easy for me to find what I need in a pinch.

3. Weekly Drawer Organizer
I saw this idea on Pinterest before school started and knew that I needed one in my classroom.  I bought two 3-drawer organizers zip-tied them together.  I then labeled each drawer Monday-Friday.  The bottom drawer is labeled “print”.  It’s been vary hand to have items printed out a week ahead and be able to file them in the drawers based on what day I’ll need them.  Then when the day rolls around, I can easily find and grab what I need. If it weren’t for this, a lot more papers would get buried and lost on my desk than already are.

4. A Good Teaching Partner
I’m extremely lucky to work in a building with some exceptionally amazing teachers! Included in this cohort is the other 4th grade teacher, who really did a great job of showing me the ropes this year! Had I been left to navigate this transition on my own, I’m pretty sure I would have floundered.  It was also really nice to be able to talk with and collaborate with someone who teaches the same thing as me.  When I taught Title I, I was the only one who taught that exact class in the entire district. While I did love my job, it was very isolating in many regards. Unfortunately, my teaching partner will not be back next year, and I will miss her a lot!  At the same time though, I’m excited about my new teaching partner, who is also a friend of mine.  I just hope that I can do as much for her next year as my current teaching partner did for me this year.

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