Raising Awareness through Public Speaking

imagesYesterday I did something that scared me, I spoke out. We often have so much knowledge about a particular topic and want to share the things we know, but are too scared. It is easier for me to sit down in front of my computer and write about it, and then post it to my website. I am able to hide behind this screen, most of the people who read my material don’t know me personally. When I make the decision to verbally share my knowledge in a pursuit to educate others I become face to face with an audience. They are right in front of me and everything I say will have an impact on them.

A few weeks ago my district asked for presenters for our upcoming workshop. Knowing that this was something that I had been wanting to do, I filled out an application. About a week went by and I didn’t hear anything. Then one day, in the midst of heating up my lunch, running around to prepare for my next class with only 7 minutes left and knowing I had to scarf down my food, my principal walked into my room. She told me that the district was interested in my workshop on Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. I was thrilled that I had been picked, I had been chosen to spread my knowledge. First there was excitement, then the next thing that hit me was fear. I had to speak in front of my peers!

Public Speaking!!!

Public speaking is most people’s biggest fear. To be able to stand in front of a room full of your peers and speak to them is overwhelming to think about. It is important to discuss this topic and ways to overcome this fear. Here are some things I did to prepare myself for my workshop and to ensure I had a successful session with my audience, pushing through the fear.

Use what you know

As teachers we are constantly on stage, demanding our students attention and drawing them into what we have to say. A part of our job is public speaking to an audience with seats filled with children. While this is quite different, I can say that it was a great way to prepare myself to speak to my peers. I am on stage everyday with my students, therefore, I have developed tactics to get them to listen and pay attention. I have systems in place when it is time for students to have discussions or transition from one activity to the next. These simple tactics are what helped me during my workshop.

downloadI was able to incorporate the things I use in my classroom on a daily basis with my audience. For example, at the beginning of my workshop I went over some expectations that would ensure we had a smooth session and open forum to hearing others’ ideas. Instead of creating a new anchor chart with new rules I directed everyone to the G.R.O.U.P.S poster I use in my room with my students. I explained that we were sitting in groups and would be working in groups, so these were the expectations. Also, to cue discussions in groups I used the count down system. When I counted down to zero they began talking, while this put smiles on some of their faces it ensured that the room was on task.

Using what I already know allowed more time to prep for my presentation and prepare meaningful material participants. Coming up with new material is unnecessary. If we do some reflection on what works with our students and in our daily classrooms, we will find that those same things will also work on adults. 

Allow others to encourage you

We often shy away from people giving us compliments. It’s true, most people are uncomfortable when someone gives them a compliment. Instead of saying, “thank you” or smiling back the person who complimented us we like to respond with something negative such as, “No I didn’t” or “I really wasn’t that great” or “I actually look a little fat in this.” This is no way to treat ourselves!

Let others compliment and encourage us to be great. Have conversations with your love ones about your fears or feelings about presenting to an audience. Find someone you trust and value their opinion to share some of your material with. Getting feedback from others will help strengthen your presentation or give you new ideas. Allow those same people to lift you up and give you the encouragement you deserve. Inviting encouragement and praise into our lives is something that we all can work on, because we are typically our own worst critics. Its time to invite this positive energy into our lives, rather than turn our backs on it. In the end you will find that this energy, positivity and encouragement is what will get your through your presentation. 

downloadLet it go

The night before my workshop I took time for myself. I spent time with my family, read a book and did a little self-care routine. Rather than stay up all night practicing my speech and creating note cards, I let it all go and focused on myself. I found that this really helped me once I woke up the next morning. I was well rested and a few hours removed from my workshop materials. Now, I was ready to focus on my presentation and do some last minute finalizing. If I had done this the night before, I would have been exhausted and worn out the next morning. Instead of feeling fresh and renewed, I would have felt drained from overthinking thoughts. Using this tactic helped me to focus on other things that mattered and letting the presentation go. 

When we let things go we create space to invite other things in. Letting go of expectations and worry the night before a presentation will allow you to rest your brain and focus on the present moment.  

I can say that doing these three simple things are what helped me get through my first workshop -a presentation that I created from scratch, that I designed through my own research and knowledge. In the end I received something far greater than I could have imagined; praise, thoughtful words, celebration for my session and a feeling that I had never experienced. Maybe the thing you want to take a leap on isn’t public speaking or presenting something. Maybe it is something else. Regardless, you should do it and never look back. Its time to learn how to face our fear and do the things that scare us the most. Only then we will begin to change.

The Purpose of Testing

The word, “Test” has a negative connotation in the school environment. Students cringe when the word is mentioned and teachers stress. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be like that because there is a purpose behind it all. A purpose that will help you become a better teacher and children to become better students.

imagesWhat is a Test?

Testing is a key component in the education field. Test mandated by federal and state legislators measure students based on their overall knowledge. These test have provided administration with data that helps them make decisions about the districts next steps. While state testing can help districts make decisions on a district level, ongoing classroom assessments can help teachers determine their next steps in instruction. These assessments are given in the form of quizzes, tests, writing assignments, homework or classwork. Assessments given on an ongoing basis in the classroom can be formative or summative, while mandated test are only considered summative. Either way, these assessments serve a purpose inside and outside of the classroom. 

The Reason behind Assessments

Classroom assessments given by the teacher are the focus of this article. Let’s look at the reason behind assessing in the classroom daily. Knowing our students’ ability level is a staple for making change in the classroom. The results educators received from assessments (whether they are required by the federal government, state or on a classroom level provide) us with relevant information. Here are 3 key components to the importance of assessing student knowledge:

  1. Making changes to instructional practices 

    Data trends from assessments over time provide teachers with information pertaining to their own instruction. For example, data could shows that over the course of three years students struggle with author’s point of view. Then this information is vital to instructional changes. Content area teachers will then collaborate to identify ways to make changes to the way they are presenting the material to students.

  2. Making decisions

    Once the information is received and analyzed teachers are able to make decisions on curriculum and formative assessments. Educators are able to identify which curricular aims are effective in the classroom. If something isn’t working for a group of students then the teacher is able to modify or differentiate materials for those students. Making decisions on the type of curriculum used in the classroom and formative assessments given can only improve student learning.

  3. Measures comprehension and growth

    The purpose of any assessment is to help educators determine what they need to do next; to ask themselves, how can I help my students learn what they need to know? Assessments provide teachers with information that leads to teacher reflection. For example, the results from an exit slip may show that 90% of the students didn’t comprehend the lesson. This evidence is a clear measure of how much students are processing the lesson being taught. In this case the teacher will then reflect on their own teaching and determine what changes they will need to make in their instruction to ensure students understand.

Assessments come in the form of exit slips, homework, class work, quizzes or tests. Once one of these type of assessments is give to students it is important that the teacher analyzes the results and reflects on the lesson. If information from assessments are used properly they can help educators make sound decisions that will enhance the quality of education being provided.

downloadUsing Assessments to our Advantage

Testing students is key to a teachers instructional practice. An effective teacher understands that multiple forms of testing need to take place in the classroom in order to make sound decisions. The results of these test will then lead us to drawing inferences about student understanding. Teachers will identify curricular aims that will need to be addressed in the future or retaught. Results from testing will force teachers to ask themselves questions about their instruction and direction.

Using these results to our advantage will require educators to make instructional decisions. These decisions could lead to adjusting current activities in the classroom if students are performing. Or, the results could present evidence that shows the curriculum, assessments and instruction are aligning to improve student understanding. Another advantage of assessing is using the information to reflect and evaluate on our own teaching style. Assessments provide us with pertinent information on what is working and what isn’t working.

Overall, assessing students on a daily basis is vital. An effective teacher uses this information to adapt instruction to their learners. This insight is valuable, because it provides educators with a sense of direction by giving us a clear path to walk down. 

What assessments are most effective in your classrooms? Comment below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

 

3 Quick Ways to Distress from the Busy School Day

A typical school day for a teacher consist of constant noise throughout the day, papers everywhere, children who expectations are for you to serve their every need, and time that flies without you even knowing it. A day like this will cause anyone to be a little stressed out. As a teacher it is vital that we take the time to unwind from the day and distress. Here are 3 things that you can incorporate into your everyday routine to ensure the stress from the day sheds away:

downloadTake a moment to pause

With the fast pace of the school day and the ongoing demands from teachers throughout the day, it is important to take a pause. When you get home from work take a moment to sit down and just breathe. You don’t have to do a full meditation session (you can if you choose) all you have to do is be still for a few moments and listen to your breathe. Taking this moment to yourself will help calm your body and your mind. The gas in the car eventually runs out if it is not refueled, so does our bodies. By taking this moment to stop, pause and breath you are recharging your body and your mind.

downloadDrink Tea

Another thing you can do to unwind from the busy school day is sit down and enjoy a cup of tea. Tea has been known to help calm the body and mind. Tea hydrates the body and reduces stress levels. There are many benefits to drinking tea, such as;

  • Tea reduces the cortisol (stress hormones that age the skin and increase the midsection) levels in your body.
  • Tea can increase exercise endurance. After a cup you may feel like your ready to move your body through a series of exercises.
  • Tea can reduce free radicals in the body.
  •  Tea can improve your overall health. It supports your skin and body composition with 2-3 glasses a day.

There are several other benefits to drinking tea, these are just a few to help you start incorporating it into your daily routines. Tea is a great way to distress from the day as you sit down to take a moment to yourself as you sip on your beverage. Let’s not forget the endless amount of mugs that you can choose from to make it even more fun!

downloadLeave it behind

Leave the work behind, do not bring anything home! I know this may be challenging to do for most teachers because we often bring our work home, such as grading and lesson planning. However, you have to find time to do those things at work before school or after school. I would suggest that you choose one day a week to stay after school for an hour or so to get everything done, such as, copies, grading, admin things etc.

Bringing your classroom home with you does not disconnect you from the day and can add more stress to your plate. It is OK to learn how to leave the work that has to be done for the next day. If you feel like you have to end the day with nothing left to do, then you are sadly mistaken because “A teachers job is never done.” Leaving everything behind will guaranteed that you can come home and truly unwind from the day.

It is important for us teachers to take some time each day to unwind from our day. As crazy and fun as the school day is at times we have to find a way to come down from that. Take these three quick tips and incorporate them into your life today! I promise you will feel much better as you recharge your mind and body. This will only make you a better teacher because you were better to yourself.

What are some things you like to do to distress from the day? Share you ideas below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

 

Programs Designed to Forgive Student Loan Debt

downloadAre you letting money hold you back from going back to school? Do you have a large amount of student loan debt? Is there a passion you want to pursue in the education field but your district won’t pay for it? Well, you don’t have to let those things hold you back any longer because there are programs out there ready to help you take that next step!

The idea of student loan debt has haunted so many people to the point that they don’t make anything happen. Several school districts are moving away from their tuition reimbursement programs or financially supporting their employees to further their education. As upsetting as this may be, do not let it stop you from making a decision. Several federal programs exist for public service workers and most importantly teachers. I have done the research for you and have listed some of these programs below:

downloadPublic Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Teachers can apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness if they have qualifying direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, dire PLUS loans and direct consolidation loans. To determine the type of loans you have, visit the Department of Education Federal Student Aid to find out. You have the option to consolidate all of your loans into one huge payment or keep them separate. If you have already started making payments under this program consolidation is not suggested because it will start the clock to loan forgiveness all over. Therefore, decide before you make your first payment under this program whether or not you want to consolidate. Once you have identified the loans that fall under this play for forgiveness you are read to apply. Here are the steps you need to take every year to ensure your loan payments are being count under this payment:

  1. Complete the Employment Certification Form every year:

    Your loans will become managed by Fed Loan Servicing and you will receive a confirmation letter each year of your qualifying payments.

  2. Complete paperwork for the Income Driven Repayment Program:

    Each year you have to submit proof of income to Fed Loan Servicing, who will then calculate your monthly payments based on your income under one of the following programs:

    • IBR (Income-Based Repayment)
    • ICR (Income-Contingent Repayment)
    • PAYE (Pay As You Earn)
    • REPAYE (Revised Pay as You Earn)

After 120 qualifying payments have been made under this program the remaining balance of your loans will be forgiven. Please keep in mind your payments have to be made on time and in full each month under this program. This program is a great opportunity to get ride of your student loan debt and swipe the slate clean. To ensure that this happens it is imperative that you keep track of every payment that is made, yearly deadlines and all paperwork that you receive.

Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers

Teachers that have direct consolidation loans or federal consolidation loans may be eligible for loan forgiveness. The loans have to be Stafford loans and subsidized or unsubsidized loans in order to qualify. Requirements for this loan are:

  • Outstanding balances that qualify are loans distributed after October 1, 1998.
  • You must be a full-time highly qualified teacher for five consecutive academic years, at least one of those year has to be after 1997-1998.
  • Employment must be at an educational service agency, elementary school or secondary school that is a considered low-income school. Click on the link to check the data base to see if your school qualifies.
  • Loans must have been distributed before the end of five academic years.

$5,000 or $17,500 will be forgiven based on the subject that is taught under this program. Teachers that teach math, science or special education can received up to $17,500 of loan forgiveness. While teachers who teach all other subject matters can receive up to $5,000 forgiven.

It is always important to read the fine print, or to understand everything about these programs. One stipulation that you need to understand is the role that the public service loan forgiveness plays in this situation. You cannot have both of these services working with you simultaneously. If you are currently having loans forgiven under this program and apply for the teacher loan forgiveness program then the payments you have made for the last 5 years will be disregarded towards your 120 payments. Therefore, it would be ideal to wait until you have made your 120 payments under the public service loan forgiveness program and then apply for the teach loan forgiveness in order to maximize the benefits of both these services.

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Federal Perkins Loan Forgiveness

Cancellation for the Federal Perkins loans may qualify up to 100% of the loan disbursed. Those that qualify are:

  • Teachers who serve full-time in a public or non-profit elementary or secondary school system.
  • Teachers who serve students from low-income families.
  • Special education teachers.
  • Teachers that teach math, science, foreign languages or bilingual education.

To apply for eligibility you have to submit an official position description of your duties to support that you provide direct services to students. To qualify for this loan you do not need to have a certifications or licenses. Although, you have to work with children full-time.

Aside from reading this post I do encourage you to choose a program that interest you and do some further digging. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask questions. This is your future you’re talking about, don’t shy away from it!

How has this article helped you in making the decision to go back to school? Do any of these programs interest you? Let’s start a conversation. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

Implementing Cultural Responsive Teaching into the Classroom

In my previous post I discussed an important topic in the educational world, culturally responsive teaching. Being responsive to our students is imperative as a classroom teacher, administrator and staff member of the school. The students are the reason we do this job, it is up to us to guide them down the right path. We can’t just throw lessons and work on children and hope that it sticks. Instead, we have to learn how to develop meaningful relationships with our students. We have to learn how to use who they are to create engaging lessons that they can learn from. Understanding the different faces in our classrooms will help in setting our students up for success. Being aware of the differences among our students and their culture will help educators implement strategies and lessons that are meaningful.

downloadBecoming Culturally Responsive

Raising awareness in the classroom on culturally responsive teaching is the first step. It is not enough to just know what it means. It is the educator’s responsibility to take action on the issue. We constantly talk about knowing our student behaviors in the classroom in order to meet their needs; knowing who they truly are outside of the classroom is important as well. Taking the information learned in a professional development, discussion or collaboration among team members and implementing it into daily instruction will enhance student success. Educators have to be culturally aware and sensitive to the students in their classrooms. Some of the things teachers can start doing today include:

  • Treating each student as an individual and respect each student for who they are.
  • Be mindful of the language patterns used among students.
  • Be sensitive to terminology.
  • Discuss differences among students, how they feel about the cultural  climate and discuss ways to make everyone feel included.
  • Develop lessons that are inclusive.

Lesson Design

Teachers need to design lessons that are meaningful with a clear purpose. Creating lessons that are culturally relevant with the intention to accelerate learning can increase student engagement. Now this does not necessarily mean you have to tie each of your lessons to a famous person of color in order to spark an interest. It just simply means you may have to become a little more creative with how you get the information to stick. Culturally responsive teaching is about mimicking their culture to create a learning style they can understand while giving them tools they can use. These students process information orally and actively through movement. Using a form of dancing or song in your lessons can enhance student understanding. The key is to design lessons where students can make real world connections and relate it to their own lives.

Some of the ways to do this are to make the lesson into a game, social activity, song or story.

  • Games: This is a great strategy to use to get students to memorize content or solve a problem. Games are vital because they get the brain’s attention as students actively process the information. 
  • Social: Making your lessons social where students have to rely on their classmates to learn will increase engagement. Organize collaboration among students that will promote student growth and healthy communication among diverse groups.
  • Song: Using lyrics to teach a lesson can improve your lessons. The language being used in the classroom has a direct impact on student engagement. Using words or phrases that students use in their culture and outside of school will help them relate to the content.
  • Story: Every culture has creation stories and folktales that have been passed down. Through history many cultures have used stories to communicate important information. Using stories in your lessons or having students create their own will help the brain better obtain the content.

downloadThe next step

Once students have learned some of the content through these examples the teacher can then begin to build. Educators will begin to see the confidence level of their students increase because students are comfortable with the material. Using these strategies in the classroom will force teachers to think outside the box and foster their creativity. Eventually the teacher will become comfortable with designing lessons with their student needs in mind and it will become easier to implement on a consistent basis.

What is your process in creating lessons that are culturally responsive? Share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

Culturally Responsive Teaching

downloadCulturally responsive teaching is a new buzz word in the education industry but has been around for years. Culturally Responsive Teaching is a simple awareness of including student culture in daily instruction. One of the first vocabulary words we learn in social studies at a young age is culture. “Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a group of people” (Zimmerman, K.A. 2017). We may do a few activities and take a vocabulary test then push the word aside to learn some more. The word culture has so many aspects to it that it can’t be pushed to the side. It should be acknowledged in everything we do and the way we connect with people. Understanding how to respond and interact with others needs to begin in our education system; in the classroom at an early age.

Why Does this Matter?

The increasing diversity of our school system range from socioeconomic status to language barriers. “Research determined that 47 percent of children younger than five belong to a racial or ethnic minority group. Significantly, the report discovered that nearly 20 percent of the students aged five and older speak a language other than English at home” (Brierton, Graham, Tomal and Wilhite 2016). Although this research is fact and it is being widely communicated through the internet, books and professional development most school districts aren’t talking about it. Race and ethnicity is a sensitive topic for most people and may cause discomfort or unease for some educators. The truth of the matter is that the faces in the everyday classroom are changing. These children may fall through the cracks if educators do not adapt to this change. 

Becoming Aware

In order for an educator to make a change among their staff or in their own classroom, they have to be aware of their own stereotypes and bias. Having stereotypes and bias does not make you a bad person; it makes you human. Accepting this truth and becoming aware of the way we are thinking will help us become better teachers if not human beings. Developing an understanding of personal views and beliefs about groups of people will lead to cultural competence. Cultural competence is having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference towards other cultures. This awareness should lead us to build on the community norms of our students and their parents. Being cultural competent means that you understand the differences within your students and the things that make them unique.  

The truth of the matter is that American classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse. Becoming aware of your own stereotypes towards others will help you construct lessons that are meaningful to your students. Simply because you would have created an awareness that you can now recognize. This will in fact make you become a better teacher, if not a better person.

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Effects on Student Learning

Student engagement and motivation is directly correlated to student performance. Therefore, the teacher has to guide students and engage them in the instruction being taught. Knowing your students strengths and weaknesses isn’t enough anymore; you have to get to know your student as a whole. The first place to start is their culture. So, to build an environment that is aware of diversity and cultural differences school leaders need to follow these ethical practices:

  • Professional development-training on a consistent basis is vital. In order to meet the needs of all students staff members have to develop an understand of cultural differences. They will learn how to work with children from different backgrounds and find ways to relate to them.
  • Collaboration and team building-discussion among staff members will help strengthen relationships needed in order to share ideas and strategies ways to meet the needs of each student.
  • Building consensus-It is essential that all stakeholders have empathy towards these students as the they work with them closely. 
  • Parent support-teachers should invest their time in getting to know the parents of their students. Developing a healthy relationship will foster the success of the child and enhance the learning environment.

With the increasing requirements of state and federal standards it is imperative that districts gain an understanding of cultural effects on student learning. It is the school leaders responsibility to create a school environment that will foster student achievement and success.

What experiences do you have with learning about Cultural Responsive Teaching? Comment below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

 

References for this article:
Brierton, Graham, Tomal &Withite 2016). Ethics and politics in school leadership.  Laham. MD: Rowman and Littlefield
Zimmerman, K.A.. “What Is Culture?” Live Science Contributor. July 12, 2017.

First Day Jitters!

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This weeks post is a series of questions I found online about the first day of school. Students are not the only ones who are excited and nervous about the first day, the teachers are too! Answering these questions inspired me to reflect on my own first day of teaching which is in a few weeks. I am a 6th grade literature teacher and this is my 8th year teaching but my 3rd year in middle school. I am very excited about this year because I feel as though I am ready to conquer middle school. Below I have answered the questions to the tag so that I can share my experience for the first day of school. Enjoy!

1) Did you pick out your first day of school outfit?

I did not have to pick out an outfit because the staff always begins the school year in uniform with a school-wide t-shirt. This year we will wear a charcoal brownish tan color with purple letters with our school name on it along with black bottoms. I will wear some black dress pants and some purple Sketchers. 

2) What are you looking forward to the most in regards to the upcoming school year?

This year I am teaching gifted classes and I am very excited to embark on this new journey. My district is starting a new gifted program with self-contained classrooms instead of pull out. Teachers had to interview for the position and I was chosen at the end of last school year. After a four-day training over the summer and certification standards met I feel like I am highly qualified to teach these students. I am ready to intrigue these future Einsteins. 

3) What are you most nervous about in regards of the upcoming school year?

I guess what I am most excited about, teaching a gifted class, is also what I am most nervous about as well. Although I feel like I am prepared it is still going to be a challenge. The students that I will be working with have tested into this program through an assessment, teacher recommendation and GPA. Therefore, they have high expectations and so do their parents. I have no doubt in my mind that I can exceed these standards; I just need to work extra hard to make sure they are learning and most importantly growing. Every teacher knows that the students that are at the top of the data charts are typically the ones that are harder to grow. I have always been successful with making sure my students were proficient and meeting growth targets. This year is a new challenge I am looking forward to!

4) What is one area or thing you would like to improve upon this year?

One area I would like to improve upon is time management. In the past I have overwhelmed myself into thinking I needed to get everything on my “To Do” list done that day! This only led me to stress and feeling defeated. After six years of teaching I now know that it is impossible to finish everything in a day! A teacher’s job is never done so it is fine to leave things for the next day. This year I plan on writing down my top three goals each day and other tasks beneath it. The three goals will be the things that I NEED to complete before I leave that day and the other tasks are things that can wait if I don’t get to them. This strategy will minimize stress and will make my to do list attainable. 

5) Do you feel prepared for the first day of school?

Yes, I am prepared. We stay with our home rooms the first day of school. So, we will mostly go over school-wide procedures and expectations. I will also do several getting to know you activities with my students.

6) What will you miss most about the summer?

I will miss the flexibility I have during the day to be productive in the mornings and then by noon creating time to play. This typically included doing something fun with my kids. 

7) How do you plan to improve your work/life balance this year?

One of the ways I will improve work/life balance is the top three goals for the day at work, which I mentioned above. By doing this it will also guarantee that I don’t bring any work home. When I am at home that is the time for me to unwind and focus on my family. This year I plan on focusing on home at home and focusing on work at work! That way there will always be a balance. 

8) What is the biggest challenge that comes with the start of the school year?

The biggest challenge to me, next to memorizing 100 students names, is teaching the routines of the classroom. I do not like this part of teaching but I know that it is necessary. I am so excited about teaching and doing that I just want to dive right into the content, rotations and strategy groups but I can’t. There is a process and I have to teach it to each of my classes.

I learned that jumping into things without teaching students the proper way to do it will only set myself up for failure later on. So, taking the time to reiterate classroom expectations daily for the first month of school takes energy, teaching students how to work in groups and switch rotations takes time. I am prepared to do this just knowing that it will pay off in a couple of months when my classroom will run itself because I took the time to teach my students how to do that. 

9) Did you work hard or play hard this summer?

To be honest, outside of the four professional development days for the gifted certification and assignments, I didn’t do any work. There were a few days where I got inspired to create a map of my classroom and schedule out my reading workshop model this year. Other than that I watched YouTube videos, edited my novel, organized several fun days with my kids, went to yoga, swim lessons and relaxed. I saved all my energy for the school year and I think I am more motivated because I did take the time for myself. 

10) Are you a new teacher or an experienced teacher?

I would consider myself a new teacher to middle school but overall an experienced teacher to the profession. Either way I am a lifelong learner. The education field is continually changing. Therefore, I will adapt along with it so I will always be learning something new and growing. 

I hope you enjoyed this fun post! If you found it interesting please comment below. If you are a teacher yourself then feel free to answer some the questions below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel 

Back to School: Parent Edition

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It’s that time of year again!!!!!

Back to school is the best time of year next to Christmas. New school supplies, new school clothes, shoes and a new teacher! The beginning of the year is a new start for everybody in the household. I am not only getting ready for the school year as a teacher but most importantly a parent of young school aged children. I have a few tips to make the transition from summer mode to back to school mode run smoothly.

Create a routine and put it in motion BEFORE the first day of school

imagesA routine is key when you have children. It’s important to create a night time routine that will set your child up for success the next day. Make your schedule consistent and realistic to fit your lifestyle. Schedule a set time for dinner, homework and other activities leading up to your child’s bedtime. I personally like to end the night with story time shorty after I put my youngest to bed and give my nine year old a half hour of quiet time. During this time he can do something that doesn’t involve electronics such as read, draw or play quietly before crawling into bed. I feel that this winding down time sets the pace for the rest of the night and helps them sleep better. I think it is important to cut off electronics and TV’s at least an hour before bedtime. Once the schedule is in place it is a great idea to get your children acclimated with the new times before the first day of school. Start your new schedule a week before school starts!

Get your shopping done early

I typically wait to school shop when I register my kids for school in August. With the beauty of technology I decided to do it in July this year just because I did not want to wait. Oh wow! What a difference it made when August hit and everyone was scrambling to the stores to “back to school” shop at once. It felt great to walk through the aisle with no stress knowing I was done. Registration was the final thing on my “back to school” to do list and if felt amazing to check it off! You might be wondering if I was able to catch the shopping deals and discounts in July, the answer is yes. The stores actually start promoting back to school after the Fourth of July holiday, therefore the sales are going on a whole month before school registration even starts. I found this tip to be convenient and a game changer to starting my year off right!

Get your appointments out of the way

Aside from school shopping early, it is a great idea to book your children’s dental, vision and doctor appointments early in the summer as well. Again, when you wait for August along with everyone else you will find yourself in crowded waiting rooms or on the waiting list to see your doctor. By booking your appointments as early as June will help save you time later on.

Meal prep

downloadMeal prep your family dinners and lunches for the kids before the week begins. When you have meals prepared in advance then your week will ideally run smoothly. When it comes to school lunches, whether your child eats hot lunch or cold it’s good to have your plan in place. I like to prepare all my kids’ lunches in advance by organizing the dry foods in sandwich bags. This will make it easier to distribute them in the lunch bag each day. I found that this cuts time and stress in the evenings after work and school.

Stay organized

Create a binder! Store all the papers from your child’s teacher and administration throughout the year. Binders are a great way to keep track of important papers received and distributed during registration. Using tabs to divide the paperwork into sections would also help make it easier to find what you are looking for. You will find that everything is organized and in one place.

I hope you enjoyed these amazing tools that will help start the school year off right in your household. What are some things you do to stay organized at the beginning of the school year. Comment below! We would love to hear from you.

Zsnel

Back to School: Teacher Edition

Are you walking into your local Target or clothing store seeing “Back to School” signs posted everywhere? That’s because it’s that of time of year again!

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For teachers it is time to put up the beach bag and towel, the endless naps and time spent doing whatever you wanted. Whether your district starts school at the beginning of August, the middle or the end of the month it is time to get mentally prepared because summer break is over.

Now this not a bad thing, it is a good thing because you should be well rested and ready to start the new school year with a new set of eyes. I love the beginning of the school year because everything is fresh and new! As a teacher you have the privilege to educate a new set of young minds and reinvent yourself all over again. I use the summers to rest and at the same time brainstorm new ways to perfect my instruction. It is true when they say a teachers job is never done!

Whether the beginning of the school year is your favorite time of year or not there are a few things as a teacher that you need to do to make sure you are prepared and ready to start the school year off on the right foot!

Create a morning routine

Having a routine in the morning before work is the most important thing you can do for yourself. It will help ease your mind and minimize stress throughout the day. Begin by setting your clock to a time that you are comfortable waking up at each morning. Be realistic when you are making this decision; but also leave enough time for some self-care. If you give yourself 10 to 15 minutes of time to yourself before you start getting dressed then that will be enough time.

Waking up at the same time everyday will minimize groggy behavior and feelings when you first wake up. After you are awake use the morning time before work to set intentions to having a successful day. For example, I love waking up early to exercise, meditate and journal which gives me a little bit of time for myself before I begin getting ready for work. I find that this time helps me visualize the day I would like to have and I am better prepared for any outcome. You can create your morning routine to fit your needs, there is not right or wrong way to do it. The key is to make time to nurture yourself in the morning before you begin work.

Meal plan

Whether you have a family, live with a roommate, boyfriend or by yourself, meal planning is a useful tool when it comes to creating a successful day. When you have all your meals already planned for the day then your day is guaranteed to run a bit smoother. Why would you want to stress about what to bring for lunch a few minutes before you have to leave out the door?

Instead plan out all your meals for the week and prepare them in advance. For example, I use Sunday’s to create a meal plan and grocery list for the week. I make sure I have all the items in the house and prep all the meals for Monday thru Friday. This way I have one less thing to worry about during the week. If you have no idea where to start, begin brainstorming a couple of meals that you or your family love to eat or scroll through pintrest for recipe ideas. Begin with that list and you will find that the more you do it each week your meal prep list will begin to grow!

Lesson plan your first week

The first week of school typically consist of classroom procedures, school wide procedures and teaching students routine. Although these items seem to be repetitive to the teacher each year it is important to have a lesson plan this week. This will only set you up for success the rest of the school year.

Decide what procedures you want to teach your students throughout the week and repeat them every day until it becomes ingrained in them. My classroom has one on one chrome books.  Therefore, I have to teach my students how to use them responsibly. I explain the expectations on how to carry them, when to turn them on and their proper use. Continue to go over all your classroom procedures and routines until your students are blue in the face! You will thank yourself, and me for it later on in the year. I promise.

Be prepared for the first day

I’m not talking about knowing what you’re going to wear. What I’m talking about is be prepared to meet your students for the first time. You want to give your students the best first impression you can give. They are going to see you almost everyday for the next nine months. Greet every student that comes into your classroom with a smile and a warm hug. This will help to ease your students nerves by making them comfortable. Continue to do this everyday to let them know that you care.

Smile through it all!

The beginning of the school year is the most exciting time of the year for kids, parents and teachers because everything is changing. Whether you like change or not this is the only time of year that you are forced to face it! It may not be easy. Things might get tough and stressful. Staying positive and keeping a smile on your face  is going to set you up for a successful year. I am a strong believer that what we put out we get back. Make sure that you are doing everything with a smile because there is always someone watching. We want our students to be excited about the school year, then we have to be excited about it too!

These are just a few things that you can do to set your school year up for success. Share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

Preparing for back to school

downloadIt’s that time of year again! That exciting time of year. It’s time for you to start preparing for back to school. I don’t know about you but I have a lot to think about! I love writing everything down in a fresh notebook with new pens. It always gets me excited about the upcoming year because it is a fresh start. I’ve learned many lessons in my eight years of teaching; when it comes to planning for back to school. There are several things that you need to consider. You don’t want to wear yourself out before the school year even begins. There are ways to make this process easier and less stressful. Here are my top suggestions for preparing yourself for back to school:

Plan Ahead

Before you set foot in your classroom you want to make sure you have a plan. How are you going to arrange your desk? What will your bulletin boards look like? How will you set up your teacher desk? It’s important to have an idea, a foundation to where you want to start in your classroom. The worst thing you can do is go into your room the first day feeling scatter brained. You won’t get anything accomplished. Instead, make a list of things you want to do in your room before you get there. Draw a picture of your desks arrangements and room set up. You can even have your bulletin boards already planned with material and letters already punched out, so all you have to do is set them up. Planning ahead will save you time.

imagesMake Changes

It is the beginning of the year, I’m sure there are things you want to change from the previous year. This is the time to do it! Start by making a list of the things that worked in your classroom last year. Then make a list of the things that did not work. Review both of these lists and decide what you are going to keep on the “worked” list and what you may want to restructure on the “did not work” list. At this time you can decide what you are going to trash as well; maybe a strategy you implemented last year that didn’t work for your students. That’s OK! It’s important to reflect so that you start the school year with an idea of the strategies you are going to use. Knowing this ahead of time will only strengthen your instruction and ultimately benefit your students.

Prepare for the first day

I used to be the teacher that had to have everything in my classroom perfect before I could even think about the first day of school. This is no longer the case. I have found that preparing my activities, PowerPoint discussions and having copies ready to go were beneficial. Don’t wait for your classroom to be picture perfect or you will run out of time and before you know it the kids will be walking through the door. Sit down while you are planning for your classroom and plan your first few days of school.

The beginning of the school year typically consists of teaching routines, procedures and expectations. Your school building may require you to cover specific information aside from your classroom routines. Make sure to over plan your activities so that students don’t get bored. The first few days of school can be redundant as students learn new things. Think these things through ahead of time. How would you introduce yourself to your students? What activities will you use so that they can get to know each other?

imagesHave Fun

The first few days of school can be stressful if you are not prepared. Instead, think ahead and plan every step you will take. Even if it doesn’t work out the way you planned have fun with it! Taking it easy the first few days of school is key; you have the rest of the year to stress and run around like a chicken with its head cut off. Most importantly get to know your students on a personal level so you can begin to build those relationships.

How do you like to prepare for the beginning of the school year? Share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel