Thursday, December 14, 2017

Teacher - You REALLY DO know what you're doing!

I'm here today to remind you of that.

Yes, YOU!

I'm getting ready to make sure you remember that you...

1.  Went to college and spent a lot of years studying to do what you do best - TEACH

2.  Have probably wanted to be a teacher since before you hit puberty - I know all about those stuffed animals you spent hours "teaching".  You started honing your craft long, long ago!

3. Might have tried a different profession and realized it wasn't for you and made a VERY conscious decision to become a teacher.  You worked your butt off to get yourself there.  You have tenacity and grit - and know exactly what's what!

4.  You spend hours upon hours on social media...
Watching Facebook Lives about guided reading
Watching Insta-stories and taking notes
Pinning anything and everything "teacher"

5.  Talk shop with all of your teacher friends - yes, we run in a tight circle, and we pretty much "talk teaching" whatever chance we get.  

So, despite what mutterings you hear from whoever you might hear them from, 
you REALLY DO know what you're doing.

I know you might doubt yourself.

I know you might question if you are reaching ALL of your students.

I know you might think that teacher over there is a rockstar and you aren't.

But I want you to listen and I want you to listen good.

All of that self doubt that you let creep in.

That, that right there.

That is your clue that YOU are the best darn teacher out there.


Because it shows how much you care.

It shows how much you care about whether or not you REALLY DO know what you are doing.

And you do.

And that's a fact.

Rock on!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Classroom Setup in First Grade

Hi Folks!

So, I've been thinking a little bit about classroom setup.  One thing you MUST know, right out the gate, is I am no Chip or Joanna Gaines...I set up a "cute enough", highly functional, fairly comfortable, exudes love, kinda classroom.  I choose the theme "colorful" every. single. year. because - c'mon - it works {for me}!

I am one of those people that walks into my classroom and I set it up almost identical to how I set it up the year before {then I tweak}.  Occasionally I'll do a major overhaul and just go crazy and put almost everything in a different spot...but mostly, I just stick with what works.

I can set up my classroom in no time...I work up a sweat though! Good golly do I work up a sweat.  I get into school, do the obvious hugging and chatting that one has to do when they haven't seen their colleagues in a few months and then I'm in it...I mean, you better not walk in front of me because it's likely I'll just plow you down because I'm doin'.

Typically, I start with my furniture. I like to get things just where I want them.  If I'm really lucky, the custodians will understand my weak, weak map of where I want things to go...but I must be a horrible map maker because rarely is my furniture even remotely where I thought I told them I wanted it.  

So, yeah, I'm that person that you hear squeaking their tables across the newly waxed floors.  Don't worry, I cringe too and I feel really really guilty - and at first, I DO try to be ever so gentle but then I just gotta get things done so I move things with a little more gusto.  

Once my furniture is where I want it - I use my tables as different command centers.  I start pulling all the stuff out of the cabinets that I basically just crammed into them at the end of the school year. {Like the furniture placement - I start the take down process with care and precision and then I throw in the towel and just start cramming}.  Anyway, one table will hold my electronics, another table baskets, another table "decor" get the idea.

Then I just start working on each at a time until they are each empty.

After that, I like to work on my bulletin boards.  This year I decided that the green that they "came with" was actually very calming and not too shabby looking so I decided to opt for just borders.  I don't know...that might sound lazy. Yeah, it really does sound lazy - especially when I think about the cool papers that look like bricks or boards.  Hmmm - well, when I made the decision it didn't feel like a lazy one.  So, I did it and asked my friends what they thought, and they said it was "genius" and it "looked great" but now I'm hoping they weren't just being nice.

By now, the furniture has been rearranged, decor and tchotchke has been tackled, my tables are empty and my bulletin boards are all put up. 

Next comes odds and ends, miscellaneous "stuff".  This is what takes me FOREVER.

Now it's time to label all the things, print all the things, laminate all the things, organize all the things, fine tune all the things, rearrange all the things. THIS can take me DAYS.  


If I can answer the question "Could your kiddos walk in tomorrow and be none-the-wiser" with "yup, I guess"....I feel like I'm in good shape and my anxiety level goes wayyyyyy down.

I think I wanted to write this post to help new teachers, experienced teachers, any teachers that might feel overwhelmed by the idea of putting together a classroom understand that it can be what you want it to be.  It can be months of work, it can be weeks of work, or simply days.  Whatever it is - just enjoy it and feel really good about it!!!

Happy new school year!  Enjoy your students...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sixth Annual Pay it Forward Giveaway

Update:  The winning organization is Team Joseph  - a nonprofit organization whose mission is to fund Duchenne muscular dystrophy research.   Good news - a parent from my school matched the donation so that means 200 dollars has been donated.   Thanks to those of you who entered.  If you happened upon this post and have the itch to "pay it forward" - check the comments below for wonderfully deserving groups that need your support.  

The holidays are here!  I'm not sure when they came - but they did and I can't believe it.
I couldn't forget about my annual "Pay it Forward" giveaway.  It's my favorite and I hope you'll participate.  Here's how it works.  You're blessed. You know you are.  It might not always feel like it - but you have so many things in your life that you're thankful, beyond measure, for.  

This has been a tough school year for me - in a lot of ways.  I'm generally a person who tries to focus on the positive and push down those negative thoughts.  That's been hard to do this school year because the negative are so in my face.  I know you know how I feel. You've been there or maybe you're there as we speak.

Even with that, I'm reminded that I have it REALLY good.  Teaching might be a super crazy profession to be in right now; but good golly I have a job and I have kids that come into my classroom every day eager to learn and they love me more than pizza and I love them just the same.

Then there are my family and friends who fill my soul with so much happiness. 


I know there are people going through trials. I know there are people going without.  
This giveaway is  all about thinking of those people {or animals - whoever - WHATever!} who might need a little extra somethin' somethin' to give them what they need.  Because, they deserve it.

Here's how it works.
I want you to think of an organization that is near and dear to your heart.  
Tell us about it in the comments.  If you have a special story that you'd like to share - maybe in honor of a special someone or to create awareness - please feel free to do that in the comments as well.

Enter your information in the Rafflecopter and that's it.

Thanks so much!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Donations can be given in honor of someone special and will be given in YOUR name.

Donations have been given to the following organizations in years past...

Year One:

Year Two:

Year Three:

Year Four:

Year Five:

Thank you SO much!

Hugs to you all!!!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

How I Stay Positive {and you can too}!

Our profession is HARD!  There's just no denying that teaching is stressful, heart wrenching {at times} and tiring - emotionally, physically and intellectually.  Sometimes you just want to throw in the towel.  

I don't want you to think I'm Miss Polly Perfect and that I walk around my classroom with twinkle toes and happy dust every minute of the day.

I'm overwhelmed too.  I cry over my strugglers.  I worry about my kids who need to be challenged. I feel buried under data.  I get frustrated with legislators who seem to have it all figured out and know just what our profession needs.   I feel torn in every single direction.  

But something happened to me.  I don't know when, actually - I just know it happened. I'm positive more than I'm negative.  I'm happy more than I'm sad. I love what I do more than I don't.

And I want you to feel that way too.

So, how did it happen?  

What did I do?

I found my tribe.

I did, I found this wonderful group of teachers all over social media.  You might call them teacher-nerds {my 8th grade son does} and to that, I say, thank you.  Nail hit right on the head.  So instead of posting article after article of how teachers are being mistreated {I did that}, reading articles about this teacher who threw in the towel and why she did {I read those}, and seeking out memes about how hard teachers work and how devalued we are {because I did} I found a tribe of people who  focus on the good that can still be found in this admirable profession of ours and because they do -
- so can I.

I found my locus of control.

I was so focused on what was going wrong in teaching.  I was consumed by it.  I was living in the past rather than embracing what good still exists in my today. I was stuck in mourning the glory days when supplies closets were full {ish}, teachers were respected and left to work our magic.  So, I decided if I can't directly change the negative that might exist outside of my ability to impact - than I won't worry about it {Or TRY really hard not to}.  Won't give it psychological air.  In a nutshell - I'm learning to just brush it off.  Sounds so simple. Right? It's hard - but I'm doing it more often...
... than I'm not.

I found my why.

Or maybe I should say, I remembered my why.  I teach because I love kids and I care about their future.  Our future.  It's really that simple.  So, I work REALLY hard to remember that.  Sometimes I'll even whisper to myself "Remember your why, remember your why, remember your why"...

I found my spirituality.

So, this might not be your bag - and that's cool.  The best gift I received for Mother's Day one year was satellite radio.  On my way to work I listen to Joel Osteen and again on my way home.  I pray constantly asking for help during my school day.   Works for me.  Keeps me positive and hopeful.

I found what I say really impacts how I feel.

I have this hidden in my date book and I start my day off by looking at it and peek at it every now and then; just as a reminder that what I say matters so put it out there...into the world, and you're likely to see it come right back at ya.

So, while griping and grumping might feel good at the time - I started to see myself living in that place of discontent.  Once I set that guard over my mouth - and chose to focus more on the positive rather than the negative in my life or in our profession - I started to see that I was better able to just deal.  I'm not even kidding. I know it sounds like a bunch of hooey - but it's true.  I mean, I didn't realize how true it was until I just started doing it and then all of a sudden I noticed that I wasn't on edge as much as I used to be and I can only surmise it's because of this.

And everything else.

So, while staying positive takes a concerted effort on my part. It's worth it to try.

I still have my moments.

I still grumble and mumble over this or that.

I still, occasionally, drag my feet on Sunday at the thought of a Monday.

But teaching is my jam.

I know it's yours too - you wouldn't be in the classroom if it wasn't.

You can find your smile.

I know you can.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Teacher Challenge - Just Sit Back and Enjoy...

...your students!

How often do you do it?  Be honest.  How often do you sit back and just enjoy those tiny people?

It seems that these days it's all about the urgency of things.  Teach with urgency.  Make every second count.  Rigor, rigor, rigor.

That's all fine and well - but what I want to challenge you to do is slow it down every now and then.  Set the urgency aside, ignore the data, stop taking notes and just sit back, watch the magic happening in your room, and just chat with your kiddos as they work and forget about the teaching point.

I hope you aren't taking what I'm saying the wrong way - I hope you don't think I'm discounting how important those aspects of our teaching are - because...they are important.

So, is enjoying your students as people.

If you don't enjoy them - they won't enjoy you or their learning.

So put down your pencil and your notebook.  


Laugh and love your students and your time together.

You might be surprised how much you learn about those little beings in your classroom - that you would have never noticed amidst the fervor...

So, grab a stool, lay on the floor - next to your students and bask in the the warmth of a day well spent - together, learning, smiling, ENJOYING your time together...

In that space...

...your classroom.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Perfect Teacher, Perfect Mom!

I had a friend email me the other day who was "bitten by the teaching bug" and is coming back into teaching after staying home with her own kiddos.  She's worried.  She's not sure how she's going to balance it all.  She's losing sleep over wanting to be everything to everyone...


Stop worrying, stop wondering, because I'm here to say...

You won't be everything to everyone...but you will find balance!

But wait, balance maybe isn't what you think it is - what so many people might believe it to be... 

Balance isn't doing it all.

Being the perfect teacher & perfect mom is what you make it.  If you expect to rise to the expectations that social media has perpetuated than you won't be happy in either role.  

If you set priorities that match who YOU are - you'll be surprised at how good you can feel about yourself and the job you're doing in each role that you may play...teacher, mother, wife, friend.

You need to also realize that your priorities ebb and flow they shift as the days go by.

Some days you are going to have to put school first.  Not all days. Just some days.  Report cards, planning that perfect lesson, worry about your struggling sweetheart will be in the forefront of your thoughts or consume hours of your time.  Don't worry about that because the village you've worked so hard to create for you and your family will support you and your children will be just fine.  You have to know that the stronger your village, the more people you accept into it and allow to help, the better example you are setting.  Not being in your own child's classroom helping out with the winter party, or being room mom, or there at pick-up each day, doesn't make you any less of a mom than the one who is able to be there.  Your own children will learn to reach out and accept other people into their world and will learn resiliency, acceptance & flourish in ways you maybe didn't realize they could - and it will make you smile when that mom comes up to you and says "Oh my word, your little guy is so {fill in the blank: kind, respectful, funny, sweet}" because they will -

Because your village cares!

There will be days that your heart and soul are with your own babies and you'll feel like you're short changing your students.  That's going to happen and it SHOULD happen!

You'll take a day off to help out at your kiddo's school, you'll miss a day to snuggle a sick one, you'll get to work right before the bell rings or leave "early".

That's what makes you the great mother and teacher that you are.  
It's your big heart and your desire to be your best.

You've worked so hard at creating a classroom culture that embraces hard work & kindness.  The parents of the students in your class know how dedicated you are to their children - so when your mind isn't 100 percent in that classroom - you'll see something wonderful happening in spite of that...your kiddos just keep doing their thing in the most magical of ways.  Or maybe they won't...maybe your day {or days - let's be real} will feel a little chaotic.  Oh well...that's a learning opportunity as well  Your students need to learn how to grow from situations that are less than perfect...because, c'mon - isn't that what this post is all about?  Life isn't always neat and tidy.

They WILL learn and WILL love you - no matter what!

So, don't worry!

You're going to drop balls...but you WILL pick each one back up when it's time. 

Balance isn't keeping all of the balls up in the air.
It really is knowing when to let one drop and feeling at peace with it.

You are doing wonderful things...even when you feel like you're not!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why I Won't Quit Teaching and You Won't Either

It's all the buzz - it's gone viral more times than I can count.  You know what I'm talking about.  The "Why I Quit Teaching" videos, public letters, blog posts.  Honestly, I absolutely, 100%, without blinking, understand where these people are coming from.

I really do.

I'm in complete support of somebody who needs to make life changes.  If something in your world is dragging you down to the the point where it's impacting your health and well being - I stand behind you doing something - anything - to better your situation.

If quitting is "that thing", I'm behind you.  Do it.  If that's what will make you happy.  Just make sure it's what YOU really want and not what some legislator has made you THINK you want.

Me, on the other hand,  I just can't do it. Quit.  Oh, I've wanted to, more times than a person could keep track of.  I've said to my husband a 1,000 times over "I just can't do it anymore", "I can't take the stress", "The pressure is more than I can bear", "I can't end each day feeling like I didn't do enough, that I wasn't enough".  

Then I remember that old oak.

I am strong - so I look for that strength.

I find it and I say "You won't quit". 

I won't quit and maybe you won't either.

You're going to feel like quitting.  I know you will because the added pressures of this job make us feel like doing it.

Here's why we won't...

1.  We were put on this earth to teach.  

I really believe that.  I think teaching is a calling.  Don't let anybody or anything rob you of that.

2.  Teaching is more than just something you wake up each day and go do - it's something you feel in your heart of hearts - it's IN you...deep rooted like an old oak tree.

I really believe that.  C'mon, you're reading this blog on your "free time".  It's deep rooted in you too.

3.  We love it.

I really believe that.  Dig down REAL deep and remember why you went into teaching.  Granted, it wasn't for the test giving and data collection; but if you dig deep enough you'll remember that you love those "a-ha moments", you love making your students laugh.  You just love it. We really do. So, spend time each week just enjoying your kids.  Put down the anecdotal notes, quit collecting data and just enjoy the hum of your classroom and the coolness of your students.

4.  Office supplies.

Yes, I even believe that it can be as simple as that - office supplies are one reason we teachers teach.  Seriously, that pack of new flair pens and Scentos markers don't make YOU smile?  I've loved crayons, shuffling papers, organizing things since I was a little kid.  I bet you can say the same.  Office supplies are another reason I won't quit and you won't either!

5. Making a difference.

I know it sounds like a cliche but it's not, right?  Our world can be so ugly but what we do with our students isn't.  Brush aside the stuff you don't like and allow the beauty of what we proudly do shine through.  We know that we aren't just teaching the ABC's and 123's we're mentoring & motivating. Somebody who might have been on a path to nowhere is now on a path to ANYWHERE...because of US!!!!!

So, if you need to quit I get it. I do, and I would NEVER make you feel horrible for it.  I get that you need to think of yourself and your family.  


If there's even a small part of you that feels like you want to stick with it.  Do.  Please do.  

I am.

Let's stick together and hold onto this calling.

Be an oak.

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