Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Teacher Burnout

Even the most enthusiastic teacher may experience teacher burnout.

Burnout is that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach when you feel you want to run from the school, you struggle to get excited about anything related to teaching, you resent the constant feeling of being overwhelmed.  Teacher burnout is often a standard hazard of the job in the months of late October and November which coincides with shorter days, setting our clocks back, report cards are due, and flu and cold symptoms abound, students begin to get an attitude, more emails appear each day, and more parent conferences.

A deeper, more troublesome teacher burnout may occur when the teaching assignment requires that every 5th grade teacher must teach the same story at the same time, the same unit in math, schedule tests on the same day, which leaves little time for one's own curriculum passions.---No time for core novels, no time for problem of the month, no time for poetry.  Experiencing this rigid curriculum lock step, a teacher's spirit is broken and burn out occurs.  There must be a balance that allows time for teacher's  curriculum creativity. In addition, burnout occurs with new teachers to the profession when they find their ideas are not appreciated by their colleagues; they are left to fend for themselves; they lack even the most elemental supplies to properly run a class.  Teaching is so selfless, exhausting, demanding, complex that teachers need a great deal of support from one another to revitalize their spirit.

Excellent educators hold our nations success in their hands; we can not let burn out draw them away from the profession.  So what can a teacher do to hang on when they are in the pit dip?

* Brain Breaks aren't just for students!  Teachers need them too!   Instead of going to the teacher's room every day, maybe put on some quiet music in your classroom and spend the lunch period in your own quiet space rejuvenating your spirit.  I love the spa music channel on my Pandora App!  I also stash a few of my favorite magazines in my desk.  Flipping through the pages of O magazine is a nice brain break.  Sometimes I take the testing offices my students use and put it up on my desk. Then I literally put my head down on my desk and take deep breaths.  Privacy and Zen!
*  Give yourself permission not to grade everything.
*  Take your most disruptive student and pledge to spend 5 minutes each day talking with him/her for 5 days and see the positive results.
*  If you have a long commute, try to car pool, decide to move closer to your  school site, listen to a funny audiobook.
*  Once a month or more schedule time to pamper yourself, a massage, a hike with friends, frozen yogurt with bright colored sprinkles, improv comedy night!
*  Keep positive affirmations in your desk that will help boost your spirit.  I have Don't Sweat The Small Stuff For Women  right by my computer!
* If your grade level colleagues are not supporting you, reach out to teachers in a higher or lower grade.
* Listen to people around you; if they are saying you look tired or you are always getting sick, take their advice and schedule a day off to revitalize.
* Just like your Mom said: get plenty of sleep, eat your vegetables and get some exercise.
             This too shall pass.
*Your first year of teaching and a masters?!?!?!  I see it all the time with new teachers.  Pace yourself.  The masters will come LATER.
*Close the pinterest app! Step away from the computer and hours spent stalking teacher blogs!  You can quickly get overwhelmed by all the amazing ideas, possibilities, cute classrooms and veteran teachers doing amazing things in their classrooms.  Step away!
*Set the reminders app on your iPhone or alarm clock.  Have the alarm remind you when to leave your classroom!  No more late night holed up in your room.  Get out of there!


Friday, December 13, 2013

Saturday Sprinkles

I'm sprinkling up some Saturday classroom magic all over the blog today.  Most certainly, I am a HUGE sprinkle fanatic.  If I could sprinkle glitter on EVERYthing, I would. 

 Colorful sprinkles on frozen yogurt and cupcakes?  ALWAYS!  

I figure weekends need sprinkles, too!  Why not sprinkle some teaching magic on our blogs?!??!  If you have some time feel free to link up.  What was your class up to this week?   Use pics from Instagram or camera/phone snapshots.  Add a quick little caption and sprinkle away.  

Color By Product Elf Fun. Thank you, Young Teacher Love!  Our window is decorated for holiday fun thanks to your great TPT products. 

My second Problem of the Month with students.  The language arts and math connection is critical!  Students use sentence stems to write down the steps of their problem-solving.  

Hard at work on our opinion posters.  This poster sprinkles facts, pictures, and proof.

Blown away but the effort students are putting into their Paul Revere posters.  The details on this belfry tower are unreal! 

I rolled with laughter at the question marks above the chicken's heads.  I would have been confused, too, had Paul Revere stormed through my sleepy town. 

Just… WOW!

Would love for you to link up.  Let's sprinkle teaching magic all over the inter-webs. 

Cheers hot chocolate style 
Link Up Below:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monthly Q & A The Sprinkle Teaching Magic Way

Questions regarding my Classroom Management techniques come up often.  Classroom Management is a HUGE topic!  I will cover parts of my classroom management techiniques here on the blog and over on my Teaching Youtube Channel.

Today, I will talk about CEOs.  What are CEOs????

Years and years of scrapped behavior management ideas have led up to a system that is working magic in my upper elementary classroom. Student's desks are separated into groups of 6.  In years past, I used table points as a group incentive.  Teams would receive tally points for following classroom rules, productivity, transitioning quickly etc.  My table point tracking system was on the white board.  Each week I felt frustrated.  Was I giving too many points to one specific team?  Some days we were in such a frenzy I would forget to give team points altogether.  By the end of the week, I wondered if the system had meaning.  I felt pressure.  The system felt broken.  Whenever this feeling comes over me I know it is time to revamp.  I scrapped the table point system.

This year my CEO system works much better! My students apply for jobs each month.  This year I have four CEO job openings (one for each table group).  Just as the name implies, a student chosen for CEO is Chief Executive Officer of their table group.  This is a coveted job, so students must prove they are responsible to be considered for CEO.

CEOs are responsible for table points.  At the beginning of the month they make weekly tracking index cards.

Each group member's name is written on the index cards.   Throughout the day, if a student is showing exemplary behavior and effort I may say, "Johnny, point."  Quick and targeted response.  When the CEO at Johnny's table hears this, a point is immediatly tallied by Johnny's name.  Each point means the student will receive one raffle ticket.  I may also say, "everyone at Table Three receives a point for _________ (insert positive behavior)."  If a CEO hears, "Johnny, check" a check is placed by Johnny's name.  A check means two tickets are owed by the student.  For example, if a student blurts out, they recieve a check.  This happens fast, and then we move on.  We do not dwell on a negative check.  It is just a quick notice from me to adjust behavior.

At the end of the day, CEOs tally points and distribute the correct number of raffle tickets.  At the end of the week, CEOs tally points for the entire week.  The team with the most points wins and receives extra tickets.

Students collect tickets to participate in the end of the month raffle.  Students also need tickets for the bathroom and drinks of water.  Raffle tickets are the incentive and classroom curency.  I have tried a money system and decided it does not work for me.  I also tried Class Dojo.  No luck.   Raffle tickets work great!

CEO's are also responsible for making sure their team is running smoothly.  I meet with CEO's through out the month. We talk about leadership techniques such as the following: giving compliments, listenting, how to stay organized, how to talk with a peer that is frustrated or disengaged from the group.  CEO's learn and practice skills to lead small groups.  Some of my brightest students struggle with leadership.  Often, their bossy side surfaces or they lose patience when working with a struggling student.  The CEO position is an effective way to grow leaders.  Students are role models and lead by example.  The other members of the group respect their CEO.

On pay day, at the end of the month, CEO's receive a set number of tickets for a month of hard work.

I love this system and it works like magic for fifth graders.

What do I love about having a CEO at each table?

-I can be anywhere in the room or on campus with my class and give out points.  CEO's remember everything! No white board needed.  I can sit and work with a small group and give out points from where I am sitting.
 -I glance at the tally cards at the end of the day.  The cards provide instant data.
-I keep the index cards for my records.  Before a meeting with a parent I have instant behavior data to use in my notes.
-Student leadership skills are encouraged
-Students are capable of taking charge and running parts of our room.  Students take ownership, which builds community.
-The system is hands off and runs itself.  What a treat!  Current CEO's will train the CEO's for the following month.
-Students want to fit in and impress their peers.  When a student suggests a classmate should do something or encourages them,  the benefit of this interaction is the gold standard.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Currently and 500 Subscriber Giveaway Announcement

Happy Saturday teacher friends!  What are you up to today?  I am snug as a bug at home.  Brrrrr it is cold and rainy here in California.  I love it!  Time to enjoy the twinkling lights of the Christmas Tree and watch Elf.

I always love participating in Farley's monthly Currently!

I am excited to announce my 500 Subscriber giveaway winner!  Congratulations Karyn Wilber.  Be sure to email me at!

Are you following me on Instagram?  I had two $25 winners.  My kitties helped make the big announcement! 

Have a wonderful weekend!  Did you participate in Farley's Currently?  Leave me a link down below in the comments so I can go check your Currently out.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Report Card Tips

Click Below!

Today On Sprinkle Teaching Magic!

 Report Cards---Testament to Your Teaching Artistry

Report Card Day descends and a feeling of dread builds.  The hours spent on report cards is often perceived as anti-climactic, less than scientific, and final.  Teaching to the whole child is critical, and yet the report card does not adequately represent the whole child.  Doubt surfaces  as  grades are entered. A teacher realizes that the grade may demoralize the student, cause the parent to question one’s teaching practice,and act as the gatekeeper, restricting a student from moving to the next math level, honors English, etc. Maybe the teacher dismisses the exercise with a quick reminder to themselves that the student earned the grade and with that the teacher feels justification for the grade. OR  Maybe for a fleeting moment a teacher realizes that the skills needed to report authentic grades was not emphasized during pre-service, that district  professional development never touched on grading or report card guidelines.  With that, teachers are left to their own devices to fill in the report card and move on.  It is time to breath new life into this out dated reporting system and put the heart, creativity, humanity into the reporting process, so reporting becomes a celebration and a motivational tool for academic success.  Can this be done without creating more work for the already stressed, and overworked teacher?  Yes.  Will the changes blend with the current system of reporting?  Yes  Will the dread change to desire? Yes 

What will the reporting process look like that increases student competence, confidence and courage?  How will the reporting process become part of your teaching artistry? When students read what you write on the report card, the message will become one of their vivid memories of their year with you and it will help them define their next steps? There are three changes that will put you on the path of profound reporting.  First, infuse report card comments with data that emphasizes student personality traits, eight ways to be smart, and the 42 developmental assets .  Second, set aside time through out the semester for student reflection after assessments. Student reflection (written or oral) will include analyzing the rubric results, realizing their misconceptions, comparing essays to see progress, setting goals etc. The student understands why he/she received the final report card grade.  Third, provide a system that allows the student voice to become part of the reporting process and empowers the student.  

Following are examples of specific traits to observe for ample data to include in the report card comments. Consider observing student personality traits, which will serve students well both socially and academically.  During the semester gather anecdotal notes about the following personality traits: competitive, active, cheerful, friendly, courageous, curious, flexible, resourceful, innovative, generous, helpful, honest, self-reliant, persistent, liked by peers, self-controlled, sensitive, considerate of others.  Another layer of student data is Howard Gardner’s 8 intelligence. At the start of the year provide the student with a survey that assesses their strengths in the eight intelligences.  Students analyze the results of the survey, understand their intelligence strengths and realize that their strengths will be the building blocks to improve the weaker intelligences. By highlighting the specific intelligent assets in a report card (musical, spatial, linguistic, logical-mathematical, etc.), the student receives a motivational message that he/she has an expertise to build academic success and build confidence. With confidence comes resiliency, and the Project Cornerstone 42 developmental assets provide a gateway to help students thrive.  Keeping the 42 assets in mind as you assess students will provide a wealth of good data to include in the report card comments.  

The next important consideration is the actual grade on the report card and how to make that grade meaningful for the student.  Providing time for students to reflect on their test grades, essay scores is time well spent.  Students may set goals and track progress.  The student is aware of the grade outcome and takes ownership.  In addition, consider this simple system which provides students with an opportunity to contribute their voice to the report card process.  Distribute a blank report card template to each student and have them fill out the report card with grades and comments.  If students have collected their reflections, you may want to ask them to include some quotes from the reflections as testimonials to his/her academic success.  

Here are some examples of report card comments that I wrote this week for my students.  Names have been changed! Enjoy!


Ways To Go:
-Suzy is successful in all academic areas
-Concepts and classwork come easily for Suzy because she focuses when directions and instruction are given. 
-Suzy performs well on assessments.  Her short answers on assessments are always well thought out and she uses proof from the chapter in her answers. 
-Suzy raises her hand to participate!
-Suzy is a delight to have in class.  She is such a dear soul who always tries her hardest.  She aims to please and is well liked by her peers because of her kind disposition and her willingness to help.
-Suzy is neat and careful.   

Ways To Grow:
-Writing is a focus area for Suzy.  Revising her first draft.  Looking up spelling words in a dictionary. Keeping each paragraph focused on the topic.  Adding details, opinions, and vivid words will continue to be an area I will support. 
-Now that Suzy is comfortable speaking in front of the class, I want her to practice speaking in a louder voice with more confidence and expression.


Ways To Go:
-Brent is filled with smiles and has a fun loving spirit.  His classmates enjoy his energy and want to be around him.  
-He participates in class discussions
-Brent is putting more effort in his short answers.  He is using proof and responding with more details.
-Brent works hard to complete his class job and responsibilities.  He aims to please me and his classmates!

Ways To Grow:
-More consistent neat handwriting and desk organization
-Brent needs to work on planning out his time better both in class and at home.  When given quiet work time in class, Brent will choose to read a book.  I try to guide him to complete assignments with an upcoming due date.  Also, he will spend time on trivial items instead of seeing the bigger picture.  For example, he spent lots of class time coloring the ocean over and over again on his explorer map.  I eventually stepped in and assured him it looked good and to move on.  He had a hard time realizing coloring the ocean once was enough and working on the explorer speech was a top priority.  He tends to procrastinate and then is left frustrated by the workload.  Brent is very capable and can work independently.  I hope as the year goes on he realizes just jumping in will make the assignment easier.  My goal is to prepare him for successful study habits next year in Middle School.  


Ways To Go:
-Julie is successful in all academic areas
-Concepts and classwork come easily for Julie because she focuses when directions and instruction are given.  
-Julie performs well on assessments.  Her short answers are always well thought out and she uses proof from the chapter in her answers. 
-Julie loves to participate in class discussions.  She is such a deep and critical thinker that her participation really helps shape and advance our learning.  
-Julie digs deep into learning with resilience and problem solving skills.  Her brow is always furrowed and she is able to make connections and understand.  I have noticed this skill during our persuasive unit when we researched our pro and con topics.  Dense informational text does not phase her.
-Julie works well in teams.  She exhibits leadership roles and is able to listen to others while having her voice heard.
-Julie is very intuitive and picks up on critical pieces of information.  She is a problem solver.
-Julie is such a creative and vivid writer with a strong voice!

Ways To Grow:
-My goal is to help Julie foster successful girl friendships.  Help her discover ways to express her thoughts and frustrations when it comes to friends.  Cool off and take a break when there are disagreements, misunderstandings, or hurt feelings.  To adapt to changes in friendships and have resilience.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

HUGE 500 YouTube Subscriber Giveaway! Lots Of Chances To Enter!

My Teaching YouTube channel has grown to over 500 subscribers!  This is such an exciting milestone.  I want to celebrate with you.  Everyone is invited!  Let's have ourselves a giveaway!

First Part Of Giveaway is on INSTAGRAM! 

INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY! I am giving away 2 $25 Gift Cards To Amazon.  Have you bought the book Teach Like A Pirate?  What about Falling In Love With Close Reading? Maybe you just want to buy something fun for yourself?  The possibilities are endless.  I love AMAZON!

How To Enter?
1. Follow me on Instagram @shesparkletv
2.Find the photo above and hit the LIKE button
3. Repost the picture above and tag me in it.  All you have to do is take a screen shot with your phone.  Then go in to instagram and crop it!  Tag me!

Viola!  You are entered!  Enter as many times as you like.  Just keep reposting the picture and tagging me in it!  I will choose two winners randomly from the tags!

I will announce the winners on my blog December 7th!

1 Lucky Winner Will Win A $50 gift card!  Just in time for the holidays!

Fill out the rafflecopter to enter.  You have TONS of chances to win.  For example: subscribe to my Teaching YouTube Channel! Follow Sprinkle Teaching Magic on Facebook, Follow Sprinkle Teaching Magic on Blog Lovin, Follow me on Instagram, and Follow me on Twitter!  Enter to win  by December 6th! The winner will be drawn and announced here on the blog December 7th! Good LUCK!  Make sure to leave your email for each entry.  I will email the gift card straight to the winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!  Thank you for your support and enthusiasm.  I love this community of bloggers and I love giving BACK.  Every teacher, every blogger, every comment, all the blogs I follow and read, all the love brings so much joy to my life!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Choice Board Linky, Cells, Currently October and My Photo Wall!

Choice Boards/ Choice Menus------ Differentiation at its BEST!

Meeting the needs of all students in the classroom is a challenging proposition. Teachers do not teach to the middle, as some parents think.  Rather we understand that each child's learning DNA is different.  Learning modalities, strengths in particular intelligences, content passions, prior knowledge all play into a child’s path to learning.  An easy way to accommodate these differences is to offer a child choice.  Choice Boards/Choice Menus may be used K-12 with any content.  Next time you decide to assign a project consider giving your students some options for how to show content understanding.  

In the case of the cell project, I asked students to choose a 20 point task and an 80 point task.  A student might choose 3D cell representation or a city design using their imagination to create city features correlated to cell features.  One choice requires building; the other is an artistic endeavor.  For the researcher, a summary of a recent article on cells could get them 20 points.   Two 20 point options were included and four 80 point options.  Student buy in is immediate because they feel empowered and in control of their learning.  Parents are happy because the child is engaged.  A twofer! 

Some teachers worry that students may choose the easiest options. To avoid this concern, consider the challenge factor when creating the board of choices.   The first column of choices may be the most challenging, second column a bit easier, and the last column the easiest.  Students choose one from the first column and one from the other two or maybe they are asked to make choices in a straight line, like a bingo card. The challenges are controlled and the learning is deep.  

With any project that is completed at home over a two or three week block of time, students may procrastinate. To avoid a family melt down the night before due date, have students fill out a step by step planner to spread out the work and to anticipate the scope of the work.  You may want to type up the steps, and the student writes the date next to each step.  Also discuss the rubric, which often is the same for a number of the choices. You may create a separate rubric for the project presentation.   Periodically, I check in with students on the progress they have made. The project is completed and the excitement is palpable when the projects arrive in the classroom.  Students talk about what they have learned and emphasize the intricacies of their creation. I often have the table groups share to accommodate the time crunch. 

Part of the teaching MAGIC is creating curriculum.  Let your creative juices flow; create a choice board to enliven the learning!  OR check out Teacher Pay Teacher for choice board options.  Learning at its BEST!  DIFFERENTIATED learning!

Link Up With Farley!

I am really loving my black and white photo collage going up my stairs.  I made a very short video tour!  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fall Decorations, Bucket Filling, And Book Recommendations!

Fall Decorations--- A Cozy Classroom---- Sets the Mood for Learning!

Stimulating student imagination often happens via the senses.  Colors, smells, texture are exciting when the seasons change.  Fall has the smell of cinnamon, bright gold, red and yellow hues of the leaves, round orange pumpkins, the texture of straw, nuts and burlap. Owls, scarecrows, squirrels also add a fall touch.  

Fill the classroom with fall treasures to enhance the classroom ambiance.  A  candle will provide the cinnamon sent.  A garland of leaves brings nature into the classroom and lots of color!  Gather a few woodsy animal friends and you have a cozy fall classroom. A few things added can go along way to bring your students into the magic of the fall season.  Have Fun!!!

Here are two of my favorite art projects for fall:


Bucket Filling ------ A NEW Twist-- Take it to a NEW Level! 

 Reading Incentive Bucket Filling!

A Teacher’s smile, pat on the back, an encouraging note will do wonders for a student’s self esteem.  When a student does the same for another student, wonderful endorphins are released inside the child’s brain and joy happens.  Memories are made with a simple compliment scratched on a piece of paper and lovingly delivered to a classmate.  Why wait until Valentine’s Day to spread the love in the classroom?  Get started with a Bucket Filling system this week.  I know, some of you have already incorporated the bucket system because it has been around for years, SO I have something NEW for you!  You will LOVE the new twist to my bucket filling system.  

Bucket Filling System--- Getting Started
Student buckets are located on the front of my desk.  Each cup is attached with velcro and the name plates for each student is a magnet plate.  Fortunately, my desk is a metal desk!  Students write notes to fellow students on Friday and these notes put smiles on their faces, ending the week on a high note.  

Here is an example of a bucket system I used in 2nd grade.  The side of the air conditioning unit was magnetic.  Perfect!

NEW Use for Bucket Filling:  Surefire Reading Incentive- Double Duty System 

After hearing from a good number of parents at Back to School night about their concern that Johnny does not like to read, I developed this plan that has worked magic!  

In the supply bucket at each table group is a receipt pad.  Each receipt (NCR paper) makes two copies.   After a student reads a book from the classroom library, a receipt is filled out with a book recommendation.  I explain that a recommendation is like writing a short book commercial, which entices other students to read the book.  Students also rank the book from one to three.  Three stars is considered an outstanding book.  The white copy of the receipt is placed inside the book, so others may see the receipt.  The yellow copy is either given to another student by placing it in the bucket, or given to me.  Here are the great benefits of the system.  When I look at the library, I have instant data showing me which books are being read.  One group of boys read only Captain Underpants books, so I took the group aside I encouraged them to broaden their book reading experiences.  A group of girls, who are high readers, have started their own book club.  Girls that were not friends at the start of the year are now book buddies!  I can easily discover a student’s independent reading level. I see first hand that the struggling reader lacks the skill to reflect on what he/she has read, so I can give a mini-lesson on getting engaged in the story and what makes a good story.  The smiles at the end of the day on Friday are brighter and wider because they are excited about the complimentary notes, but also because they get a book recommendation!  Monday comes; the student is excited to find the book that a fellow student recommended!  Life is good!  Students are hooking other students to READ!  I discover what books have gone viral!  Book Buckets! Try it!


In non-teaching related news I have been redecorating and jazzing up my house like a mad woman.  Here are a few videos of my progress.  Be sure to subscribe to my shesparkletv YouTube channel!

My Garden:

My Pinterest yellow and grey guest room: 

Thanks for reading and watching all the way to the end! 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How To Get Ready Before You Head Out To Teach!

A key part of being totally present for my students starts a few hours before the students arrive in the classroom.  I have a “before school routine” that helps start the day on a positive note. I wake early enough to make time for breakfast, which is sooo important.  Starting your day with some protein is a must.  My standby breakfast is centered around eggs/egg.  Somedays I opt for an egg white omelet, other days I will have a soft boiled egg.  An egg is just enough protein to keep me going until mid morning or longer.  To have that extra time for breakfast, I often lay out my clothes the night before.  There are several default outfits that I rotate through the weeks because they are so comfortable. 

When I grab my clothes in the morning, I am looking for comfort; so my clothes are often soft knits, pants with stretch, and light weight sweaters.  Recently, I am shifting toward a scarf for added pizzaz to any outfit or a chunky necklace. A colorful infinity scarf can be used with many outfits. I always look forward to fall, so I can wear my boots with jeggings.  

For a couple of years I did not set aside time for putting on make up, but that has completely changed.  Now my make up routine has become a critical piece of my morning routine because I feel I am putting on my happy, pop of color, alive and energetic teacher face.  I don’t stop at my face.  Over the years I have my favorite go to hair styles that change up my look.  I have fine, thin hair, so I know how to compensate; maybe I’ll use a doughnut shaped form that creates an instant teacher bun (so professional), an alligator clip, a spunky low or high pony tail to keep the hair away from my face.  

Give your morning routine ample amount of time.   Leaving photo copying and science lab prep for the hour before school starts is a bad idea.   Many unexpected, critical must dos erupt in the morning after arriving at school, a parent conference that was not planned, a teacher rushing in with an emergency, and more.  So doing the copying the day before is the smarter way to ensure sanity and ensure lesson plan readiness.  Because I have a 35+ minute commute, I have time to contemplate what I am going to do as soon as my car lands in the parking lot. I am ready to have a great day with my 25 wonderful 5th graders!!!!

How do you get ready in the morning?  What are your tips?  I always need new ideas and love hearing from you!  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Teacher Story


I fought the idea of being a teacher.  Why?  All things pointed to a teaching career.  I loved my magical kindergarten teacher; I pretended I was a teacher at an early age, I loved playing teacher in my mother’s classroom.    I knew how hard she worked; I felt the respect for teachers was not what it should be, I wanted more! However, like a magnet, teaching drew me in.  Freshman year of college, my mother, the summer school principal, hired me as a teacher.   Other summer school teachers thought I was a credentialed teacher; I realized this was within my skill set.   Then my college roommate decided to get a teaching credential.  I caved.  I changed my major and now after 8 years of teaching, I reflect on my teaching journey.   

The first couple of years I was consumed with being the perfect teacher; every waking hour was consumed by planning, prepping, perfecting every detail.  The teaching obsession was not healthy.  Fortunately, during those first couple of years, I had an amazing mentor, who supported me.  I cleared my credential with the help of the BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) mentor program.  I also had teacher colleagues who shared their ideas with me.  But soon my teaching world started crumbling around me.  The double whammy in my district was the economy and also declining enrollment. So I moved from one school to another school and then eventually got laid off, even with five years of seniority, tenure and outstanding reviews.  This tragic realization came with wounds: lost teacher friends, hurt feelings, loss of innocence around school politics, the realization that everyone is expendable.  I had not taken care of myself, put on weight, gave up precious work out time.  I was depleted.  The stress of moving every year from school to school, from grade level to another grade lever had taken its toll on me.  I was depleted.   Then fortunately, a new realization took hold, the next district that hired me as a kindergarten teacher had many wonderful qualities, change was good and I learned many things about my self through the forced change.  In addition, I realized I rocked as a resilient person, who would not be afraid of change.  My students were always the joy of my life.    So when my boyfriend decided to take a job two hours away, I decided to interview at a job that would mean I could be near him.  And when I was hired, it meant I was starting over AGAIN, new district, no credibility with parents, no teacher friends and going from kindergarten to 5th grade!  On the other hand I was teaching the gifted students and only 18 students. The stress accelerated when my mother had surgery and then my father died.  I was running on fumes. But I survived. My students took my mind off of the family hardships.  I had an amazingly supportive group of teachers at my grade level that looked out for me and supported me through this hard time.  

Teaching is not glamorous. I am not here to sugar coat it or be fake with you.  I want to make more money, more respect.  Teaching pushes all of my buttons.  I am a control freak, perfectionist, and competitive person.  I hate that a bell dictates my schedule and when I need to go to the bathroom.  There have been many times that I question if this is the right profession for me and when can I get out!  The politics, test score chasing, and overall bureaucracy make the job overwhelming.  Because of layoffs and jumping around I know that I am jaded.   Having the opportunity to teach a grade level for more than one year may change my mind completely about teaching!  I admit I  feel everyone is watching, parents, students, administration, the community, the world, test scores!!!!!!! 

The pressure is intense.  Every step could be a land mine  So why do I keep doing it?  My classroom. My students.  My classroom is my home.  I love decorating it, I love creating new curriculum, I love seeing an idea I have come to life with my students,  I love laughing with them, I love looking out at my class and thinking I did it----- the systems, the routines, the enthusiasm I had a part in this. I think back to my kindergarten teacher often.  She made teaching magical for me.  I have a drive to make learning magical for my students.  

(A special sign I had made for my first year of teaching!)

(My first year teaching kinder!  My mom helps go through the large book collection.  What a treasure...what a job!)

(One of my many moves!)

Sorry for the poor poor poor quality of this photo.  Just a little photo fun old school style.  Rainforest Open House.    I assembled a large Kapok tree in the middle of my classroom.  My first Halloween was dressed up as Tacky the penguin.  Ahhhhh yes, my old red ford focus.  This little sporty car took me to and from work.  When I taught my first year of kinder my mom came to school as Zero The Hero's wife for the 100th day of school.  Lots of great memories!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Classroom Cribs

Hello my lovelies!  How are you?  Any fun weekend plans?  How many of you have started school already?  School started this past week and I am in GO mode!  This weekend my plan is to catch my breath.  I hope you enjoy this post AND video.  Did any of you used to watch MTV cribs?  Ha!  I used to love that show!!!  Here is my version of classroom cribs...

Is it a myth or a must believe that a classroom environment will enhance student calmness and sense of peace? alleviate some classroom behavior problems?  create a sense of community? The answer to all of these questions is yes! BELIEVE!!! Your efforts to create a classroom environment that works for students and for you is time well spent and will enhance all of the above conditions.   What does a student remember from your classroom?  You!!!  Part of the road to being remembered as a special teacher is your unique classroom design.  You may ask yourself: is my classroom  functional, student friendly, pleasing to the eye/ stylish, teeming with good vibes and excites students to learn?   Some of you are ready for a complete classroom makeover, maybe you want only a few tweaks, or you just like change and would welcome some new ideas. Consider some of the following suggestions that match your style. Creating a learning environment that works for you and your students is FUN!

Classroom function is a critical consideration. Function is about student friendly systems, easy access to materials, flow of movement, to name a few.  An example of a system is putting each student’s name on a strip of paper that has a magnetic tape strip on the back. A metal cabinet next to the door is all you need.  When the student enters in the morning the student puts the name plate under a heading that gives you information, such as “buying lunch”.  Students may also have a magnet with his/her number on it to be used to keep track of homework turned in on time.  If a student’s magnet is not removed from the class set of magnets because the student turns in  homework consistently, the student remains in the coveted homework club. Two systems on one metal cabinet that makes your life easier.  When students enter the classroom, they may be asked to pick up a text book or two.  Is your shelf of text books easy to access, close to the door and away from desks?  Which brings us to desk arrangements.  Straight rows can present problems when you want student proximity.  Desks arranged in pods of four or six give more aisle room and easy access to students and builds community.  Consider a chevron desk arrangement so chairs have plenty of room for chair movement. Also, a supply system is a design must!  Supplies placed strategically will save student time and energy.  Students even as young as Kindergarten will feel more empowered if he/she can access materials on their own.  A closet filled with supplies that are labeled will give a student a sense of ownership to the classroom and easy access. Supplies in bins that have wheels ensures even a heavy bin of supplies/toys may be moved by a couple of Kinder students. Supplies in a tote bin (erasers, stapler, pencils, highlighters, post-it notes, red pens, 3- hole punch), shared by four students in a grouping, will cut down on student questions, unnecessary movement and will provide  more work productivity.    Function in a classroom means less frustration and more learning fun. And a by-product is more student self-confidence and fewer behavior problems.  

Now you have an functional classroom, but what about your classroom colors? So your favorite color may be hot pink!  Be careful with color in a classroom.  Sociologists have done studies on the impact of color on human behavior.  Having every inch of the classroom in a red, white and blue theme to promote a patriotic flavor might be too over whelming for students who are hypersensitive to color stimulation.  Rather consider the mint color that is so popular now, which is soothing and calming, or a pastel blue, which receive the research approval.  Another color connection is the classroom ambient light.   Students may be sensitive to florescent lights, so consider turning off the over head florescent lighting and instead get some inexpensive lamps from Target with soft white light bulbs.  Leave plenty of white space on your white board to give the eye a rest.  Popular, small mirrored cut outs can be used as accents to words that you have on a white board. You can find these cut out mirrors at Target, maybe an owl, maybe a flower, add the fun factor.  The mirror glistens and catches the student’s attention. Spend a little extra for bulletin board paper that will not fade and consider fabric panels at Target to drape over a boring wood cabinet door.  Color done well shows students you care and respect the space.  So many classrooms are old and run down, so let color give the room some pizzaz!   

A kitchen has spices to bring the flavor forward; classroom supplies, furniture and possibly pets are the spice that flavor your classroom and ensure creativity!   Always keep a supply of magnet tape, velcro tape, painter’s blue tape in your closet. Maybe you will want to hang some framed pictures, consider velcro strips. Magnet tape can make any metal cabinet more functional.  Consider an ergonomic, comfortable chair that gives your back the best lumbar support.  Place your computer lap top or monitor high enough so your posture is not compromised.  Scrounge for some round tables that are best for small group conversations or parent conferences.  A visit to the district warehouse provides some unexpected treasures. Maybe you need some window curtains behind your desk to ensure some privacy.  Book shelves behind your desk are perfect for items that cheer you up, add a professional touch, and increase organization. Consider a few no flame candles, picture of your family, and some colorful containers or baskets. Two $27 bookshelves at Walmart can be assembled in an hour and a half.  Also, your curriculum binders will then be on a shelf at your finger tips. Now, every classroom needs more oxygen!  Buy a few no-fail plants to adorn your shelving unit or maybe a plant for each group of four/six desks.  More life in a classroom could mean a small or large fish tank with some inexpensive fish to add interest and spark conversation, or get a turtle or a bunny.  What fun!!!  When you give special thought to your classroom design, students will benefit from your happiness and organization and will eagerly enter the safe, cheery, student-friendly classroom.

Change it up and make the most of the space that you are given.  Have fun, and you will definitely reap the benefits of making your environment the best it can be.

Check out my classroom crib video below!  Are you subscribed to my teaching YouTube Channel?  Click HERE to subscribe and get notified when I post new videos.

Anyone know of a classroom tour linky?  Let me know!