Category

Teaching

This category shares my life as a middle school teacher, and also other information on work and careers.

This Teacher’s Top Resources To Help Your Child Keep Learning Throughout The Summer!

Yay- we have made it to summer vacation!!!  As a teacher, I know that the first thing in order is to rest for at least a week!  After that, it is definitely time to establish a routine to keep those students learning through the summer!  Summer learning loss is a serious thing, especially for low income families.  The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) states that these students are losing between 2 and 3 months of math and  reading learning  each summer!  This regression is keeping the achievement gap wide open!  Even if your family is not considered low income, summer learning loss is still cause for alarm.  To help with this, I am sharing the methods that I use with my children to keep them learning throughout the summer.

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, but all opinions are my own.*

1. Find an online summer program for your child to enroll in.

My county has a free program available online for students, but parents must register their children by a certain date.  Check with your school district to find out if they offer any summer programs for free.  If this is not an option, check the below sites:

  • Scholastic Study Jams.  This site is one that I personally use, and is available for math or science.  You choose the topic that you want your child to practice, they watch a video, and then take a quiz.  This site is free, and, if you have your child study one math and one science topic per day, very helpful.
  • PBS.  PBS has an education tab, and includes topics ranging from math to music.  I favor this site because it also includes hands on activities that you can do with your child to supplement the learning.  This is another free site, so definitely worth checking out!
  • Moby Max  is available for grades 3-8.  If your child’s teacher has assigned them an account, you can continue using it for most of the summer.  If not, you may be able to register for a homeschool account to use.  I like Moby Max because it diagnoses children based on a pre-test, and assigns work based on that.  Students are able to work on math, reading, social studies, or science with Moby Max.  There is a free version, but some features are limited on it.
  • Time 4 Learning.  Time 4 Learning is a paid site available for K-12th grade.  They offer a summer program that can be tailored to fit your child, and a 14 day money back guarantee.  K-8th grade starts at $19.95 per month, and 9th-12th grade is $30 per month.  I have not used this site before, but it is one being offered by my district.  Math, reading, science, and social studies are available subjects.
  • IXL.  IXL is well known in the teaching community, and many of us use their free services.  You are able to practice a topic for about 5 minutes per day on their site for free.  They also offer a paid membership for parents for $9.95 per month.  What I do not like about their paid membership is that they charge per subject.  That means if you want your child to study math and reading through them, you would pay $9.95 per subject…
  • Prodigy.  Prodigy focuses on math, but is another popular site amongst teachers.  I have never used Prodigy, but have heard about it from other teachers.  A free version is offered, and also a paid version for $8.95 per month.
  • There are numerous printed resources that provide a guided curriculum for your child.  One of my favorites is Summer Bridge Activities, because it is available for most grade levels.  They also provide answer keys for your to check your child’s work.  The prices for these range from about $8-$10.

Only one program is necessary for you to join, and it should target the subject(s) that your child struggles with the most.  I require my children to work on the program for about 30 minutes per day, Monday-Friday.  Of course, you could make your own schedule for your child.

2. Make Reading A Priority

Have your child read for at least 20 minutes per day!  Also, hold them accountable for this reading.  Laura Candler has a wonderful reading log that can be used, or you could simply have your child track their reading on a sheet of notebook paper.  This Reading Mama has a reading log for the younger students- one that they can color.  I also assign my children book reports for after they have completed a book.  This helps with their writing/summarizing skills, and handwriting/typing skills.

Find new resources for reading, too.  I do not buy many books during the summer, because my daughter would have me broke!  Instead, we take trips to the library twice per week.  We also frequent thrift stores and yard sales, which usually have AMAZING book prices!

3. Make Learning Hands On

 

STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) are major themes in education, and in job markets right now!  Help your child develop the mindset necessary to succeed in this type of environment.  STEM/STEAM activities are super easy to implement!  Most of them use everyday items (paper towel rolls, tape, cardboard, etc.).  Some of my favorites are:

  • Egg drop (design and build a container that will house an egg and prevent it from breaking when dropped from a certain height).

  • Catapult (design a catapult that will launch a ping pong ball through a hula hoop from a distance).

  • Bottle Rocket (Use a 2-liter soda bottle to build a rocket that will actually launch).

The possibilities are endless with STEM/STEAM.  Search the topic on Pinterest for more ideas!

4. Start Coding

Computer coding is another of those topics that are recurring in education and the workplace.  Help your child become interested in this high-demand field.  Code.org allows students to practice coding, and progress as they learn.

Hopefully these ideas got you jumpstarted with summer education.  Even if your child is an all A student, summer learning is beneficial to them.

 

 

From “Teacher of the Year!” to “Teacher for Another Year?” Dealing With Teacher Burnout.

Yes, you read that title correctly.  I, Mrs. Teacher of the Year for my school this 2017 school year, am BURNT OUT!  I can’t even explain how it happened, but I know that the term burnt out is something serious that many teachers face within their career.  According to Wendi Pillars in her article “Six Signs of- and Solutions for- Teacher Burnout“, burnout can be recognized through these signs:

  • Exhaustion
  • Extreme Graveness (not smiling or laughing as much as you used to)
  • Anxiety
  • Being Overwhelmed
  • Seeking (losing creativeness, enthusiasm, and patience)
  • Isolation

Please be clear: all teachers will feel these things at some point of time in their career.  However, the term burnout is used to describe an intense feeling of these things over a long period of time.  So how did I go from winning Teacher of the Year to feeling like I may not last for the rest of this year?  Let me start from the beginning…

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links but all opinions are my own.

I have been with my current school since I began teaching in 2013, and have definitely grown to love it.  I went to this school as a student, and my parents both graduated from this school (it was a high school back then).  Being able to work somewhere that I was vested in was a huge deal to me.  It also worked in my favor that many of the students that I taught were children of the people that I had grown up with.

However, as the years have worn on I have started to feel burnt out by this place that I love so much.  To begin with, I drive 35 minutes each way to  school.  Dismissal is at 3:36, and if I stay for tutoring or to catch up on work, I am not able to get home until almost 7pm!  This may not seem like a huge deal, but I have a husband and 3 children of my own.  And as all teachers know, once we make it home we continue to work until bedtime.

So here we are, 19 full days away from summer vacation and facing three weeks of standardized testing and I am all of the things listed above!  Not only am I exhausted and overwhelmed, but my students are too!

The internet has diagnosed my condition and now we must do something about IT.  That burnt out feeling.  That feeling that you cannot get out of bed and contribute what you should to your school.  That feeling of not being able to muster enough energy to make the copies for that exciting lesson, better yet actually teach it with enthusiasm.  Are you feeling it too?  If so, what can we do about that feeling?

First of all, do not give up.  We have worked extremely hard to be the teachers that we are.  I endured 8+ years of college to earn an educational specialist degree.  Some teachers have put in even more time than that- and we have to include the time that our families put forth to help us reach our goals.  Giving up is not an option- for me or for you!

Secondly, put teaching on the back burner.  I do not mean stop doing our jobs.  I mean, only do our jobs for awhile.  Let’s not stay after school to tutor.  Let’s not take papers home to grade.  Let’s not spend our weekends planning our wonderful lessons.  These things are what have led to us being  burnt out to begin with.  Let’s pack up our stuff when the bell rings at the end of the day and go home.  And leave all of our work related items at school.  We will not think about work once we are home. One of my favorite quotes is “you cannot pour from an empty cup”, and, my fellow burnt out teachers, we are empty cups right now!

Thirdly, relax at home and just be you.  We are so much more than teachers, but teaching can easily consume every part of us.  Once we get home, let’s just be us!  Get a bottle of wine (or 15), run a bubble bath,  and catch up on Netflix.  We have been dedicating more time to our school and our students than we have to ourselves.  While that is definitely one of the wonderful traits of a great teacher, it is also a contributing factor of great teacher burnout.  We need to spend a little (or a lot) of time on ourselves.  Take a mental health day if you need to…the point is we have to deal with this burnout before it gets any worse.

Fourthly, talk with your team.  My team is amazing!  When I am having a particularly bad day, or a tough time dealing with a student, my team helps me with solutions.  We are also able to laugh about some of the issues that we have faced, and laughter is another remedy for teacher burnout.  So we, (my fellow burnt-out friends) must turn to our teams in this time of need!  We need laughter and adult conversation, and our teams can help us here!

Fifthly, Exercise.  You don’t have to go to the gym and work it out for an hour if you don’t want to.  Walking around your neighborhood serves the same purpose.  Another teacher and I meet at the track behind the school once a week and really walk it out.  I have a Fitbit (y’all have heard me talk about this before) that I use to track my steps and my heartrate.  This helps me monitor and keep track of my stress level.  So let’s add walking a couple of times each week to our prescription!  Preferably with a Fitbit!

Lastly (I know you are tired of the -lys), Be positive.  Negativity is contagious.  If you are the negative person, you will bring others down.  If others are negative, they will bring you down even more.  As teachers, we have a bad habit of focusing on the things that we cannot change and letting them become irritants.  You have to realize when you are doing that, and work to change your mindset.  Focus more on the things that you are able to control, and work to change those.  So let’s challenge ourselves to listen as we speak, and change those complaints to something positive.

Most importantly, do not give up!  We are facing a serious teacher shortage because so few people recognize or appreciate the struggles faced by classroom teachers.  Seasoned teachers are walking away for greener pastures, and green teachers are realizing pretty quickly that teaching is not what they signed up for.  But really tap inside and remember why you became a teacher in the first place.  Think about that student who felt irrelevant before they met you, or the one who could barely read before you stepped into the picture.  If we can touch that 1 kid, our jobs are done!  What we do matters!

 

Taking the Pain Out of Standardized Testing….For Teachers At Least!

 

Here we are again…the end of the school year.  We see the light at the end of the tunnel…it is almost time to leave the building never to return again (until August).  However, like everything else in life, the pain comes before the pleasure.  For teachers, it is in the form of state standardized testing.  Imagine if you will, being trapped in a classroom (you can’t even go to the restroom) with 25+ students as they test as if their lives depend on it.  The students must leave everything they own in their lockers or at the front of the classroom.  They are not even allowed to get up to sharpen a pencil or get a tissue.  The teachers must actively walk around the room (but better not even glance at the test).  Teachers cannot even turn the computer on.  And books, notebooks, cell phones, and anything else except breathing is strictly forbidden.  How do we survive, you ask?  Wonderful question!  A few years ago, my wonderful 7th grade team member printed out a list of what activities teachers are able to do to survive the dreaded test.  I cannot remember the points of the list, so I got creative instead.  Below is a list of activities that will not disrupt the kids during testing, but will help you survive the longest, most boringest time of your life!

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, however, all opinions are truly my own.

  1. Imagine you are a dancer.  I let classical music play in my mind as I drift skillfully up and down the rows of desks.  I even put in a few head whips when I am feeling really adventurous.  I also like to pretend that I am Jennifer Gray in that final scene of Dirty Dancing.
  2. Racecar driver.  My personal favorite!  I speed up and down the aisles with the wind whipping through my hair.  I pick up speed going down the rows, but I have to slow down around the corners to shift gears.
  3. See how long you can walk on your tiptoes.  This one can become a personal challenge.  We test for days at a time, so I always try to beat my prior day’s top score.
  4. Pretend you are frozen but trying to break free.  This will be an awkward walk, but those students should be concentrating on testing, not on you!
  5. Give the students superhero (or villain) names.  I also enjoy this one.  I tease one student because she always loses her glasses so she would be Blindelocks.  She would also be a superhero because she is so sweet.  I have another student who reminds me of a Golden Lemur…he would be Ringtail and definitely a villain.
  6. Make bets with yourself on who will finish first or last.  I know, I know, all of the students will do their very best on this test.  However, I also know that the young lady by the door will most likely be finished with all 1000 questions in the first 20 minutes.  If I am correct, I treat myself to something nice.
  7. Track your steps.  I have a Fitbit, and the other teachers in the school do as well.  We challenge each other to see who will make the most steps in a day.  The winner could buy lunch or bring snacks the next day.  I also like to see what my unit rate of steps is.  For example, if I walk 100 steps in one minute, I try to guess how many steps I will be at after 10 minutes.  Of course, I have to match what the monitor says to get my daily dose of self satisfaction.
  8. Do mini exercises.  For example, high step five times.  Other good “non-disruptive” exercises are butt clenches, side twists, sucking in your abs, and mini lunges.
  9. Be a cowboy.  You have to walk around with spare pencils anyway.  Put the pencils by your hip and stalk around the room like a cowboy.  When a student raises their hand for one, whip it out like a weapon.
  10. Be a ballerina.  This goes along with dancing, but oh well.  Walk on your tiptoes and repeat in your head “I’m a beautiful flower, I’m a beautiful flower”.
  11. Be a zombie.  If you are a walking dead fan, show some spirit (did you get my puns?).  Pretend to be the walking dead…or better yet, let the children be the walking dead and you be the hero.
  12. Subway Surfers.  Be the little boy from Subway Surfer.  Jump (lightly as to not disrupt anyone) to collect coins and duck (slightly) to avoid overpasses.
  13. Be the Queen (or King).  You are the only one standing in the room so it is easy enough to pretend they are bowing to you.  Also do your best high and mighty walk.
  14. Walk a tight rope.  Use the lines on the floor as your tight rope and try to keep yourself balanced on it as you walk up and down the aisles.

That is all I have.  I think the biggest one for me is being sure to wear my Fitbit.  I am usually at 10,000 steps by 10am.

I am sure I left some pretty exciting ones out, so please leave a comment and let me know what you do to get you through testing!

Why ALL Teachers Should Blog For Money!

 

I began teaching in 2013, and was so excited about the endless possibilities!  I was taking a pretty large salary increase leaving my job at an insurance agency, and I was going to have holiday breaks and the entire summer off!  Veteran teachers are reading that first sentence and laughing their butts off!

The truth of the matter is that teachers spend a good part of their holiday breaks catching up on grading or getting ready for the next unit they will teach.  The summers are spent on Pinterest trying to prepare for the upcoming school year and make sure you are able to be better than you were the year before.  Before I was a teacher, I left the house around 7:30am and returned by 5:45 each day.  As a teacher, I leave the house at 6:40 and usually do not return until 6:30 in the evening.  Not to mention that I bring work home with me EVERYDAY.  That was something that I never did in my prior profession.

Money is a completely different story!  At my previous job, I was compensated for every minute that I stayed past 5:30.  As a teacher, there is no overtime, just a constant need to be better than you already are.  Money is also something that most teachers are quick to say they do not get enough off, considering the amount of work they do.  Many of these teachers are working a second job or spending their summers working for extra cash.

This brings me to my reasons that teachers should really pick up a hobby- blogging for money!  Follow along in this list, and if you are able to compare yourself to the things I am saying in the post, click the Bluehost link below so that you can start blogging today!

*Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate ads but all opinions are mine and mine alone.

 

 

Reason #1- Teachers are interesting!  The school that I work at now has one teacher who was a body builder in her former life, another who knows everything from video games to WWE, and another who ate a ghost pepper as a dare from his students and recorded it!  This is all within one hallway of my school!  Teachers really are a group of creative and interesting people!  All of those special characteristics that you have could be your niche!  Let a blog be your creative outlet!

 

Reason #2- Time.  As I mentioned before, many of these teachers leave school and go to a second job.  Some of them make extra change for coaching a sport (and it really is change).  A blog is VERY time consuming in the beginning, but eventually it levels out and is less consuming.  Working a second job is investing in someone else’s business.  Your blog would be you investing in your own business.

 

Reason #3- Money.  Yes, you are able to make extra money working a second job.  The more you work, the more money that you make.  Well, blogging is more time up front for little to no money, but if you stick with it and follow the advice of others before you, the money could surpass your wildest expectations!  What would you do with $2,000 extra each month?  That income and much more is possible with a successful blog!

 

Reason #4- Meet new people!  As a teacher, I have gotten so used to interacting with students that interacting with adults is a challenge!  Blogging allows you to interact with tons of people, and the best part about it for us introverts is that it is all done via the web!  To become a blogger is to become a part of a community of people who are all striving to help you meet your goals!

 

There you have it- the reasons why all teachers should be blogging for money.  The best part of all is that this inspiration in the form of a post comes right before summer vacation!  This means that you are able to go ahead and start your site through Bluehost, and you have this summer to put in the work necessary to make your blog a success!  Click the Bluehost link below to start your site, and then follow my Blogging Board on Pinterest for ideas to help your blog become successful.  After setting up your Bluehost account, hop over to Marie Mwimba’s “Ladies Make Money” page to see how to gain followers and really promote your page.  Don’t worry if you are a male- these tips will work for you too.  Thanks for reading and hope to blog with you soon!

 

 

 

 

Appreciate That Teacher! Gift Ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

As a teacher, I understand how great of an impact Teacher Appreciate Week has on teachers.  Imagine if you will, you have not had a day off of work since Spring Break, and your job involves you dealing with 95 teenagers each day!  You have worked from 6am-6pm each workday, and you spend your weekends trying to catch up on grades or reading your teaching administration manual (TAM’s) to prepare for the dreaded standardized testing.  And speaking of testing, you are super stressed because the next week of your life will involve being crammed into a room with 25 of those afore mentioned teenagers while they are tested as if their lives depend on it.  You also have to find time for the IEP, 504, BIP, and special review meetings in a day where you are not even allotted a planning period because of those stupid, I mean standardized, tests.  Parents who you have not been able to contact at all this year are all of a sudden calling and emailing to set up meetings with you to find out if their child (who has failed the other 3 quarters) has any chance to pass for the school year.  Even though you want to tell them that Jesus is the only one who can save them from failure, you instead schedule an appointment into your already booked day.  And all of this is before we even mention the spring fever like behavior being exhibited by these hormonal teenagers who are also tired and stressed!  AAAAAH!!!

As a teacher, I find myself dealing with hungry children who I keep a stash of snacks for, fixing hair (when I don’t even like to do my own), giving advice on all types of situations, bringing in school supplies for those who need them, giving medical advice (water is always the answer), and being a mediator between students so that my school does not turn into the next RHOA!

The point all of all of this is to say please appreciate your child’s teacher in any way possible.  As teachers, we are really not picky, we just want to know that what we do is not going unnoticed.  It is okay if you do not know where to start when trying to show the teachers in your life that you appreciate them- I have some insider information that could help out.

*Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links, and although I am compensated (with no extra cost to you) through Amazon if you purchase any of these, all of these opinions are truly my own.

  1. Gift Cards.  Teachers LOVE gift cards!  We do not care if it is $5 or $50, we get excited when we see that little card!  My favorites are for Starbucks, Subway, and Amazon.  The Subway gift cards are wonderful because they come in a pack of 3 for $10.  My son is in middle school and has 6 teachers, so I could purchase two of those packs and be finished with his teachers.

 

2. Candy or other food items.  Most teachers have a fondness for cupcakes, cookies, chocolate,  and any other sugary item.  The Dollar General near my home sells large Hershey (with almonds) bars with teacher appreciation quotes already written on the package.  You could also design your own labels and tape them to a normal sized bar.  My favorite food item that I have received this year was a large cupcake from a local bakery- Small Cakes.  Delicious!

 

3. Coffee Mugs or Monogramed Tumblers.  Teachers LOVE cheesy coffee mugs, such as this one from Amazon.  We also love items that keep our beverages cold or hot for long periods of time since we frequently work without many breaks.  I received this monogramed Yeti this year.  It has definitely made my favorites list.

Here is a Yeti from Amazon that you could monogram for a similar effect on a teacher!

 

4. Jewelry or other babbles.  We love trinkets that we are able to wear so that students know how much we appreciate their gifts.  This affordable leather bracelet from Amazon is perfect for any female teacher!  Key chains, necklaces, earrings, and other items are popular as well.

 

5. Scarves, ties, and socks.  Once again, we are cheesy and love to wear these cheesy items for our students!

 

6. Bath, body, and spa supplies.  As teachers, we work hard during the day and like to really unwind at night.  A long bath using relaxing bath sets like this , or lavender lotion like this really go a long way towards helping us unwind.  Bath bombs are another spectacular option!

 

7. School Supplies- We often purchase pencils, paper, tissue, and glue with our paychecks.  Buying for only one child is inexpensive, but buying for 90+ gets mighty expensive.  It is no wonder that we get so excited when parents buy us extra school supplies!

 

8. Books.  Teachers are life-long learners who read throughout the year.  Coloring books are also very popular amongst us.  Talk with your child to see what their teacher enjoys and purchase a book in that genre.

 

9. Coupons offering your time.  This time of year, teachers are packing up their rooms, removing items from the walls, and cleaning or reorganizing their spaces.  Your child could get creative and make a coupon offering their time to help the teacher with some of these tasks.  I love when my students do these things for me, as they are daunting tasks that take away from the many other things that I need to be doing.

 

10. Letters, Drawings, or Poems from the heart.  If your child has a teacher who has really made an impact on them, have them write their feelings down in some format (poem, song, letter, etc.) and present that to their teachers.  I have many students who draw or color pictures for me, or write me letters about the difference that I have made in their lives.  I hang every one of them up because they remind me of why I went into this profession and also make me feel as if I have accomplished my goal.

I hope that this list has helped you decide to appreciate those teachers, and also gave you some ideas for how to do that.  This list will fit into any budget, and if you are an Amazon Prime member, items purchased offer free 2 day shipping!  Please leave comments to let me know what your favorite teacher appreciation gift is!