**I can NOT believe it is already time to pen another one of these.  Wasn't it just yesterday that I was writing my first Dear Class entry for last year's crew??  Goodness, time flies when you are having fun!**

This year has been the same as the each of my 9 years in first grade in many ways.  First day jitters, hilarious stories to tell, teaching stresses, and a piece of my heart stolen by each of you...

Yet, this year has been different and challenging too.

This year has been filled with pressures of data.  You may not have noticed.  Then, again...you probably did.  After all, first graders are quite perceptive.

I know you noticed...because many of you wrote awards for yourself at the end of the year based on your data growth on our MAP tests or in guided reading.

I know you noticed...because there were a few tears from 1 or 2 of you when you didn't meet your growth goal.

And I hate that you noticed...because that means that, at times, I fell into the trap of pressuring you too much...even though I tried my very hardest not to.  Even though I knew better.

So here's my "I'm sorry."  My sincerest apologies.  Because despite my every effort to fight off the pressures of data scores...that was our reality this year.  And it's a shame.

Because you are more than a piece of data, sweet first graders.

Listen to me, child.  Listen to your teacher.

Data does not define you.

Data does not give me or anyone else the whole picture of you.

Despite the many pressures to "get better scores" from you and "reach your growth goals," I know that, even if you don't meet the magic score, you are still an amazing class of firsties.

Don't you forget that, sweet class of 2015.  My data for the year has been turned in for each of you.  Many of you soared.  Your data speaks to that.  Lots of you soared...And your data does not speak to that.

But for each of you, your data gives information to me and others who analyze it about you as a first grader.  It tells them your grade, your reading level, whether you "grew" enough in math or literacy this year based on norm referenced data...

But there are a lot of missing pieces to that data.

Your data doesn't tell them how kindhearted you are.  So many of you befriended Michael and went above and beyond to help him feel comfortable in our classroom and on the playground.  And he learned from you because of that.  The love and "I miss you"s sent to Ryder when we saw him at the stick horse rodeo were unforgettable.  He had moved to a new school just 4 months earlier and his face beamed with pride when he heard you screaming his name!  He stood taller and prouder because of you, sweet first graders.  No data can tell that story.

Your data doesn't tell them what great thinkers you are.  From Zander and Jackson inventing ways to solve math problems with negative numbers to Nila's interpretation of the Wizard of Oz that knocked my socks off.  And Sydney's determination to solve each math problem in at least 3 different ways.  And Carlos' lightbulbs that went off on his sweet little face each time he remembered something he learned.  And Ethan's quiet little, "Oh, I think I've got something" remarks during our class discussions.  No data can tell that story.

Your data doesn't tell them how concerned you were for each other.  You each welcomed new students into our class with open arms.  Zoe volunteered to show each of our new students where to go.  Andrea gently woke Nayeli up when she fell asleep at her desk.  Sydney worried about kids who had moved away from our classroom and how they were doing in their new room.  Konnor took it upon himself to teach Michael how to do things he didn't understand.  And when Kelly returned from missing several days of school, she was swarmed with classmates asking where she was, if she was okay, and telling her how much she was missed.  Each of you felt at home in our classroom, as if you were a family...and you were able to learn and grow more because of that.  And that's because of you, class of 2015.  No data can tell that story.

Your data doesn't tell them how safe you made our classroom feel.  From Carlos breaking out his {{amazing}} secret dance skills the last few months of school, to Samantha and Mayra feeling excited about volunteering to share their ideas because of your patience... You each felt safe and confident and were given the wait time you each needed to blossom.  And blossom you did, my sweet first graders.  No data can tell that story.

Your data doesn't tell them how much immeasurable growth you actually did make this year.  One of you went from 2 word sentences to full academic conversations in English at the end of the year.  You learned that constructive criticism is okay and makes us better.  Some learned that there is a difference between addition and subtraction and were able to work each problem type independently by the end of the year.  Some of you learned that whining just makes hard work harder--and not fun!  One of you learned that bullying isn't a good way to get attention from friends.  And each of those life lessons made you better people and better students.  Were it not for those important teaching moments, most of you would not have had the great "data" you had at the end of the year.  No data can tell that whole story.

No, dear class of 2015, you can not be summed up in a number, a piece of data, or a grade.  Because at the end of the day, you are human.  A six or seven year old human.  Not a trackable piece of merchandise on a shelf at Wal-Mart, but a God-designed, God-breathed, God-created human.  No number can encompass the magnitude of that.

And while I will soon forget your exact MAP test scores in the months to come, and I will not be able to recall what reading level you were on in December or even each grade I gave you on your report card...I will remember YOU.  Because each of you is unforgettable.  You each hold a special "forever" place in my heart.

With love from your "forever" first grade teacher,

Today was our class awards party~~LUAU style!

Last year I kept with our classroom theme and did a western awards party.  Read about that HERE!

But this year, we decided to brighten things up with umbrellas, lemonade and leis! :)

Here's our setup...before cookies were added and lemonade was mixed and poured!  I had back-to-back specials in the morning so I got set up and took pics before our afternoon party!

Even Jingle celebrated with a graduation cap!

When I think about partying with my firsties I always think of simple and CHEAP.  Let's face it: I'm not a rich teacher {who is??}...so I have to be resourceful.

So, I think space fillers!

Space Filler #1: Don't stack the cups...set them all out and add a few drink umbrellas and lemons for decoration.

Anytime fresh food can be used as decorations it's a plus visually and for the pocket book!  I had 40+ cups set out and only used 3 whole lemons for the cup decor and 1 lemon sliced up in the lemonade. Lots of bang for the buck right there!

The one thing I did "buy" were the grass arm bands from Hobby Lobby.  There were 4 in a pack for $4.99.  I got it for less than $3 with my handy dandy coupon!  It took 2 of them to tape around my drink dispenser so you could even split it with a teammate and it'd be even cheaper!  I also loved that they were the *perfect* length.  I didn't have to cut anything!  Then I just untaped and packed away to reuse another time!

I bought a pack of 144 umbrellas for 6 buckaroos on Amazon.  I just used a few here and there so that's a long life that pack will have!

Space Filler #2: I brought over the countdown chalkboard we've been using and Jingle's palm tree to take up a bit more space!  And I had one lei left over that perfectly fit around my cookie platter!

Space Filler #3: These lei's were so fun and colorful!  And in a random pile they added a punch of color and took up a good about of space!  Hobby Lobby was my friend again here.  (But Oriental Trading has some leis that are solid colors and cheaper though, if you're really looking to go cheap.)

A quick label on these made them the perfect gift!

We had a great parent turnout this afternoon and the kids really enjoyed our celebrations!  Of course, I didn't get any pics of our actual ceremony and celebrations because we were too busy celebrating! :)  But for the 2nd year, I had the kids write their own awards {included in the Elf Packet.}  I loved reading their awards and the kids just beamed with pride!  And I'm kicking myself for not taking pics of their finished awards.  We copied them on card stock and the kiddos did such a great job cutting them out! They turned out so cute!

P.S. Our last day with Jingle will be tomorrow {kids still come on Monday though!}.  We are ending our celebration with Jingle with a Summer blockbuster party.  Movie theater and popcorn and drinks! Each teacher on our team plays a movie in their room and our kiddos get to choose which movie they go watch!  So much fun and a perfect ending to our year!
As I blogged last week, we've been having a blast counting down summer with our class elf, Jingle, who happened to resurface late in the year to help control the summer crazies! :)

Here's what Jingle the Elf has been up to since I last blogged about him.

On the 8th day til summer my elf brought to me....Sunglasses!
 We got these in the same packet with the beach balls and water guns from Amazon.

Even Jingle wore his own pair of shades!

The kiddos got their shades right off the bat and got to keep them as long as they weren't used for toys and they stayed on the "nice" list.  ...Boy, I should really try this more often.  They were the cutest and SO well behaved!

Brain breakin' with our kool kid shades...

What makes writing time even better??? SUNGLASSES!

Jingle, left a dress up page for my firsties to fill out to give him some ideas of how to dress for summer.  We brainstormed ways to dress Jingle and still keep him looking "elf-y."  They had so much fun with this and they turned out adorably!

...check out Jingle chilling on a beach towel!

Gotta love the umbrella with *jingle* bells on it!

Oh...wait a sec...is that Jingle the Elf or Where's Waldo?? :)
I loved the elf's bathing suit on this one.  And only one thing on his bucket list for the summer: rest.  Because, in the words of this sweet firstie: "He's gonna need a lot of rest to get ready for the next Christmas season!" #lovethosefirstiebrains

On the 7th Day Til Summer, my elf brought to me...WATER WARS!

Unfortunately, it was raining this day, so the kiddos just took the mini water guns home for their own water wars!

On the 6th Day Til Summer, my elf brought to me...OLAF!
 We did frozen time capsules the first week of school {read about that HERE}.  And lo and behold, Olaf kept them safe all year just as he promised!  He and Jingle returned them in the *cold* ice chest.  We filled out the end of the year time capsule printables and then compared our handprints, heights, writing, and drawing abilities from beginning to end.  Lots of "whoahs" from my firsties about how "messy" they were in August!  I love first grade for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones is all of the growth they make in 9 short months.  It's amazing!

Here's the end of the year printables you can find in my Frozen Time Capsule Packet.

On the 5th Day Til Summer, my elf brought to me...BOOKS!  I Always get my firsties an end of the year book.  This year, Jingle brought them.  I added labels inside each book with the kids' names and signed by Jingle.  Once again, I forgot a pic of this one! :(  They have been glued to these books though...reading them all. day. long.  I just love inspiring young readers!

On the 4th Day Til Summer, my elf brought to me...ROOT BEER FLOATS!

Jingle brought the Root Beer and left a clue as to where the rest of the "frozen treat" was.  Luckily...after much searching...we found the ice cream in our cafeteria freezer! #Phew {Note, in the Summer Elf packet, the letter is written as a "frozen treat" so it can be as simple as a pop ice.  We just voted for floats this year!}





I'm so stinkin' excited about summer that I can't even contain myself!

And, clearly, I've had summer brain because I haven't even blogged about school in May...must. do. better.

We have 9 more days left until summer...and I'm feelin' it.

And the kiddos are feelin' it.

Like...big time.

Last year, on our last inservice day, we were reflecting on the summer crazies and decided that our class elf needed to make a special appearance for the last few days of school.  And then I had to wait a whole year to try it out on my firsties.

...and it's been SO. MUCH. FUN.

We are only 4 days into it and the kids are having a blast!  Here's a peek into what Mr. Jingle has been  up to for the last 12ELF days til Summer...

On the 12ELF Day til Summer...Jingle brought an "I'm BAAAA-AAAACK!" note along with a countdown chalkboard and a sunny palm tree.

On the 11th day...Jingle brought mini-beach balls for a beach ball party!

Love the tags and they make it so real for the kids!  They keep talking about how lucky they are that Jingle chose them to come back to!
And I really wish I'd taken pictures of the adorable beach balls blown up.  They were about 4 inches tall.  Perfectly elf-sized!  The kids thought they were totally adorable, because, well, they were!!  I also loved that they were easy for my firsties to blow up on their own! *wink* I set a 10 minute timer for our "party" and let the kids sign their beach balls with sharpies and play with them.

On the 10th day til summer...Jingle ended up with a sunburn {Errr...red dry erase marker} all over his face.  So we stayed inside and had a paper airplane party.  At Jingle's suggestion of course!
 Poor Jingle and his sunburn!
He even folded his daily letter like an airplane!

On the 9th day til Summer...Jingle is bringing a dance party!  And what's a good dance party without a hula skirt {made from brown craft paper... or you could use raffia} and a lei {the wrist bracelets from Hobby Lobby}??

I know the kids are gonna be pumped about this one!  Grab my Summer Elf Packet for all of the letters and bag labels, plus ideas for each of the 12 days and more elf fun!  I'll be blogging about the other 9 days later on {HERE} so follow me on Facebook or Instagram to check back in!
If you are just catching up with my Sunday Open House Series, then here are the links for the other posts:
1. Kitchen
2. Curb Appeal & Landscaping
3. Dining Room
4. Fireworks (4th of July)
5. Blueprints
6. Back-To-School Decor
7. Cooper's Bedroom
8. Football Season Decor
9. Fall Decor

Yes, this is a teaching blog...but since it's my only one {for now anyway}, I use it for personal blogs every so often.

A month ago yesterday, we moved into our new home.  The home we've dreamed about for almost 2 years now.  The home we've planned for over a year now.  And the home we built for about 5 months.  It's finally finished.

God. Is. Good.  His blessings are abundant.  While this probably is not the last house we will live in, we do plan to be here for a while.  And, God willing, it will be the house that our children remember growing up in.  And that has made this house building journey an extra special one.

Our first month in the house has been a slow one.  I had visions of everything getting moved in, hung up {hanged up??--that's one I never did quite master}, and unpacked in about a week or so....you know, like Mary Poppins gave me a spoonful of sugar and my house was just done???

But life happened and all that other stuff didn't...exactly.  We moved in major stuff one weekend and then stuff that has been in storage another weekend.  And for 3 of the last 4 weeks in the house, I've had bronchitis...which has made the move-in a little slower.  But it's finally starting to look like a house!  Slowly, but surely!

I thought and prayed about posting about our house for a very long time.  I've had lots of requests in person and online for pictures of the house when we finished.  And as much as I love my house dearly, I just didn't want to come off "braggy" or "showy."  The Lord has blessed our family with this house, but it is by no means a museum or mansion.  It's not perfect.  My amateur decorating skills are far from perfect.  But it is our home.  And I love it all the same.

So...after much thought...I decided to have an open house...blogger style.  I can't promise it will be every week, but I plan to blog on Sundays about a room or project we are working on in our house.  And you should know that since our house is FAR from being completely finished and decorated, this blog series may take several months or years to complete...I wish I had the money to decorate my house just like I want to immediately, but I'm smart enough and frugal enough to know that's not gonna happen.  Like ever.  So this blog series may not ever be finished...but I'll do my best to show you the journey of moving in and decorating our new house.

For my first installment...the Kitchen.  Inspired by...

1. Pinterest

2. My love for "less is more" {my husband wishes I wasn't so obsessive about having practically nothing on the countertops...but I just think it's so refreshing!}

3. And my favorite people, Chip and JoJo from Fixer Upper. {Okay, so maybe not my favorite people in the world...but they are pretty close.  Love. That. Show.}

Here's the view from our living room.

Wall color: Silver Mist by Sherwin Williams
Cabinet color: White Duck by Sherwin Williams
Island cabinet color: Silver Mist by Sherwin Williams
Granite: New River White

View from the dining room...sort of ignore the dining chairs for now.  Couldn't get a pic of the large kitchen without them in there {although, now that I think about it, I guess I could've taken them out...oh well!} I'm still not sure how I'm going to finish the chairs.  I haven't done anything to them...haven't decided for sure on what I will or will not do...

...without island lights on...

 ...with island lights on...

This is the view I see when I come out of our Master Bedroom hallway.

As part of the whole...decorating is a life long process...my handy hubby is going to build me an old barn wood beam to go by my sink dividing our kitchen and living room!  Can't wait and I'll update this blog when that's in!

{{EDIT}} My sweet Aunt Betty sent me these perfectly adorable spice bottles that match my new kitchen beautifully.  They are vintage and belonged to my great grandmother.  So special!  Ya'll know I've already admitted my minimalism and my disdain for taking up counter space....so I decided these were just the perfect size to sit above our refrigerator {and off the counters! :)}

Large bead board oven hood.  Double oven and herringbone backsplash pattern.

Fireclay Farm Sink with the beads to match the oven hood.
Rug: Target, current

Thankful for sweet people at church who donated some scraps of chicken wire for me to back some display cabinets with.  Love how they turned out painted with the cabinets!  Super easy {use a staple gun and pull, pull, pull} and super prickly too! ;)

...and I LOVE how clean and simple my white Mikasa dishes from our wedding registry look in the display cabinets.  And my pocket book loves that I could decorate display cabinets without having to buy anything!  Beautiful and practical all at the same time!!

Canisters: Happy Everything {about 3 years ago}

 Frame: Hobby Lobby {present}
Apples and Pears: Pier 1 {wedding gift...9 years ago}

The X detail on the ends of our cabinets are the perfect farmhouse detail I was looking for.

The island.  The center of our kitchen.  A month in this house and I can tell that our life will pretty much revolve around this island!  Also, ignore my nekkid windows...I have fabric for curtains, but I just haven't had a chance to sew them yet!  Anyways...here is the view I see as I come in from our garage looking into our dining room.  One dining room in this house.  That's part of what we "sacrificed" to get more bedrooms in this house.  But our kitchen and dining being in one huge open room is a MAJOR plus for me, so it's not really a sacrifice for us!  Plus...I don't have to think about how to decorate two tables anymore! {We had a small breakfast room and much smaller dining room in our last house}

Shelves for decorations and storage....cookbooks and room temperature produce. {Clearly, we are out of bananas, or "manas" as Cooper calls them.}  And once again, my minimalist personality loves that I can store produce on a shelf and not on my counter! :)
 Wire Baskets: Hobby Lobby {current}

X detail on the island too.  I put a glaze over then island to make it look more like an old piece of furniture.  I had originally planned to glaze the whole kitchen, but for now I'm really liking the white cabinets clean and not glazed. We shall see if that lasts...

And again, more wide bead board under the island.

Now for the showstoppers...in my opinion anyways!  Here's the maple wood countertop my AMAZING husband built.  The countertop is about 2 inches thick and heavier than a sumo wrestler...seriously.  And I told you our house is a work in progress...he still has to add a few more coats to finish it off and add a little more shine. #keepingitreal
 Stain: Special Walnut, by Minwax

He added a ton of character marks with his grandfather's woodcarving tools.  Super gorgeous and super special!  He worked so so hard on this and I am so proud and over the moon about how well it turned out!

As if one project wasn't enough, my Stud Hub also built our island light fixture.  Like made his own electrical plans and everything.  Yup, I pretty much showed him a picture from Pinterest and said make this with blue mason jars instead and voila!
Stain: Special Walnut
Light kits: Hemma black cord set from IKEA
Jars: vintage Ball mason jars in blue glass...some from local shops and some from EBAY 

And my favorite part of his design is that he screwed it into the wall with two acorn nuts...so clean and perfect!

And the simplest and one of my favorite things about our kitchen!  Our family prayer.  What started out as a simple visual to help Cooper build some Godly character and learn some teachable Bible verses morphed into the realization that everyone in our family should pray this prayer. Every day.  So we do.  And even though I despise clutter in my kitchen...I don't think I'll ever take this down.  It has changed our family for the better.  Funny how something so simple can do that, isn't it?

So in love with my kitchen...no, it's not perfect...and it's not completely decorated, but I love the life we are living in it and that makes it all the more beautiful in my eyes!

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