Sunday, December 10, 2017

9 Holiday Gifts for Students from Teachers

Need holiday gifts for your class? Look no further-- one of these 9 ideas will surely suit your students!
This post contains affiliate links.

1. I bet your students would love a personalized water bottle!

2. These playdough snowmen could not be cuter!

3. Or make personalized snowmen mugs! 

4. I would make the tags say "Happy Holidays" instead, but chapstick is a great idea!

5. These tootsie roll pop reindeer are sweet and simple if your school allows sugar.

6. Glow sticks are always a hit!

7. A pair of gloves is an always-needed gift.

8. I love these sweet bracelets! You could make your own or buy them to save time.

9. Just tape a pencil onto these free tags and you have a simple gift ready to go!

Looking for more gift guides?

10 Gifts for $10 and Under for Paraprofessionals and Aides
Self Care Gift Guide for Teachers
Trendy Teacher Gift Guide

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Help! My student has bedbugs!

This post contains affiliate links.

You notice a student has red bites, you find a tiny reddish brown bug crawling on said student, and a few google searches later you realize it: your student has bedbugs. The word "bedbugs" can send even the most stoic teacher into a panic. But take a deep breath-- I got through it, and so will you!

First of all, alert your administration and social worker. They may already have steps in place, such as sending home a letter to the class and calling an exterminator.

In the meantime, protect yourself. Because no one is sleeping in your classroom (hopefully!), it's unlikely that your classroom itself will become infested. However, that doesn't mean you couldn't pick up an actual bug from the student and transfer it to your home. When I consulted with an exterminator, he had a couple recommendations for teachers exposed to bedbugs. As soon as you get home, take off the clothes you wore at school and place them in a sealed bag. Don't wear or touch them again until they've been in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes-- I did an hour to be safe. Don't put anything on your bed, ever! You can also pull your bed away from the walls, making it an "island." Place the bedposts in steep bowls (or buy these). This way, no bugs can get in your bed unless you yourself transfer them there. Which you won't do, because you're not putting anything on the bed!

Okay, back to school. Bedbugs prefer fabric, so pack up any excess pillows or curtains for the time being. Put them in the dryer for 30 minutes plus, and then store them until your student is bedbug-free. 

Bedbugs don't live on humans (they just bite them while they're sleeping), so while you might find a bug or two on your student, it's more likely that bugs would be on their backpack or clothes. You can have all students place their backpacks and coats in separate trash bags when they enter the classroom, and keep the bags sealed until it's time to go home. If one student has them, it's likely that bedbugs are going through the community, and more students may have them as well. 

Keep in mind that having bedbugs does not mean the home is "dirty" or the student is uncared for. In big cities particularly, apartment buildings become infested and are very difficult to de-bedbug. Your student may be tired due to being woken up by itchy bites, so be patient. 

If worse comes to worst, and you do get bedbugs, remember it's not the end of the world! If you catch them early and follow the advice of your exterminator, they should be gone within a few weeks. You've got this!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Making Vocabulary Memorable with Mrs Wordsmith

This post is kindly sponsored by Mrs Wordsmith. All opinions are my own.

We all know vocabulary is an important part of both reading and writing instruction. But at both schools I've worked at, I wasn't provided with any vocabulary curriculum or even guidance. There were some old basal texts with glossaries lying around, but that was about it! As a kid, I remember having a vocabulary workbook, but it was a pretty lifeless thing, black and white and with no illustrations. Vocabulary instruction should be vivacious and engaging if we want it to be memorable. So many of our students are highly visual learners, and reading definitions just isn't going to cut it. So what if vocabulary instruction could be quick, fun, and memorable?

Enter Mrs Wordsmith. This UK-based company has narrowed down the 1 million words in the English language to the 10,000 that best support reading and writing. Even 10,000 sounds pretty daunting, but what about the first 1,500? By introducing just a few words a day, your students could learn hundreds of new words this year.

The first thing that grabs you about the Mrs Wordsmith kit is that it's GORGEOUS. The pages are thick and sturdy, every illustration is in full color, and the categories are all color-coded. As I was exploring the kit, SO many ideas popped up into my head about how to utilize it in the classroom. The Mrs Wordsmith site offers plenty of ideas, but here's how I'd go about using it:

Introduce the word or words of the day.
Project the full-page illustration for your word of the day up on the board, or just post it up if working with a small group. These illustrations are so colorful and funny-- your students are going to love them! They're actually designed by the artist behind the Madagascar movies-- how cool is that? Students can study the image and read the definition.

Consider synonyms and word pairs.
One of the things I love about Mrs Wordsmith is that it focuses on how the words are used. After all, we want our students to be able to read and write these words in context, not just in isolation, right? Every word comes with a worksheet with synonyms and word pairs (called collocations) for students to sort. This would make a great morning work activity! Write the words up on the whiteboard or on an anchor chart, and then students can copy them down in their notebooks. They circle the synonyms and draw a line to the word pairs, like this: 

Post the pictures.
The kit comes with a full-page illustration for every single word! Tear them out and post them on a wall for a super engaging word wall! Encourage students to use the words in their writing. This would also make a great fast finisher activity-- have students pick a few words from the word wall and use them in a sentence or short story!

Engage with the cards.
In addition to the full-page illustrations, the kit also comes with cards for each word. These are perfect for all sorts of activities and games. Since I use centers and tasks in my resource room, I would pop a set of cards in a bin along with instructions. Students can take turns showing each other the illustration (covering the word), while other students guess the word. For a more active center, one student can also act out of the word while the other students guess.

By introducing a few new words every day, and continually reinforcing the words through games and daily use, you'll be setting your students up for success.

Mrs Wordsmith is offering my readers $45 off the kit with the code DESIGNERTEACH45. Let me know if you try it out with your class!

Monday, December 4, 2017

7 Tips for Teachers with Anxiety

If you're a teacher with an anxiety disorder, you're not alone. After I shared that I am a teacher with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I had over a hundred teachers comment or message me that they too had an anxiety disorder. I am not a mental health professional-- I'm just a teacher who's been through it. These tips are what helped me personally, and I hope you find them helpful too.
This post contains affiliate links.

1. See a therapist regularly. If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, you probably know this is something you should be doing, but might not be making the time for. I waited over 5 years after being diagnosed before I started weekly therapy. It's a game changer. I really urge you to go ahead and make that first appointment!

2. Tell your colleagues. Sure, it might not be something you want to pop into your very first conversation, but I do recommend letting colleagues that you work with closely know that you have anxiety. I know I was hesitant to do this because I didn't want to be seen as weak or incompetent. But, for better or worse, my anxiety is part of who I am. Once I shared this with some of my co-teachers, I felt like they were more understanding. This is a very personal decision, but it was a big relief for me once I did decide to share.

3. Say affirmations. Anxiety can make you feel like you're never doing enough. Daily affirmations (affirming words you say to yourself) can help counter this. I recorded some of my favorites on my phone and would listen and repeat them on my way to school every day. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook has a really comprehensive list, and you can also find some of mine here

4. Practice self care. Your anxiety might be telling you that you don't have time to take a break, ever. Chances are, you're working hard all day long at school, coming home, working some more, going to sleep, and then repeating the cycle day after day. Sound familiar? This isn't sustainable. You have to make time for some self care or you're going to burn out, and soon. You can check out some acts of self care here to get you started!

5. Exercise. I'm not an athletic person-- I never played sports as a kid, and I'm really not motivated to go to the gym. But exercise can be really, really helpful in combatting anxiety. For me, I found getting into a regular schedule was critical to making sure I actually exercised. My first year of teaching, I trained for a 15k, and I was surprised by how helpful I found it. I followed a strict running schedule, and it felt really good to be getting faster and stronger, no matter how stressful my day was. Yoga is also so beneficial for anxiety, and something I practice regularly as well.

6. Prioritize sleep. Between lesson planning, paperwork, and you know, your non-teaching commitments, you can find your bedtime creeping later and later. But not getting enough sleep is only going to make you more strung out and anxious the next day. Whatever benefit you might gain from that extra hour of work or two, it's not worth your wellbeing. 

7. Use your sick days. Teaching is already a notoriously hard profession to take a day off from. Having anxiety can make it even harder. I know I've found myself seriously ill, still thinking that I HAVE to go to school because I have an IEP meeting, or they won't be able to find a sub, or I need to provide accommodations for testing. In my second year of teaching, I went to school sick and passed out on the floor. Don't do that to yourself! It's unfortunate that there isn't a better system for allowing teachers to take their sick days guilt-free, but you ARE entitled to them. I made certain rules for myself so that I wouldn't be stuck making the decision at my most anxious. Fever = staying home. Throwing up = staying home. Strep = staying home. Can't speak = staying home. To some, this probably sounds ludicrous, but I KNOW I'm not the only one having trouble using those sick days!

Teaching with anxiety isn't easy, but it is possible. Thank you for the work you're doing, and please remember to take care of yourself!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

10 Gifts for $10 and Under for Paraprofessionals and Aides

You want to gives your paraprofessionals or aides something nice for the holidays, butttt at the same time, you don't want the gift to break the bank, especially if you have multiple aides. I've got you covered with 10 gifts for $10 or less, most of which can be ordered online!
This post contains affiliate links.

1. Travel Mug Even if they already have one, they can always use a spare when one's in the dishwasher... or when they know they're going to need two mugs of coffee to get through the day.
2. E.L.F. Nail Polish Set This set of pretty polishes is only $10 at Target!
3. Reusable Bag This cute reusable bag folds into a neat little pouch... perfect for storing in their purse or car.
4. Sheet Mask Encourage your paras to pamper themselves over break with a trendy sheet mask.
5. Thoughtful Ornament Show them you've been paying attention by gifting them an ornament of their favorite food, hobby, or pet!  Just search Amazon... there's an ornament of everything.
6.Cute Plant My go-to gift for just about anyone is an air plant or succulent. You can order them online or pick one up at your local nursery.
7. Burt's Bees Holiday Gift Set Can't go wrong with chapstick in cute packaging, am I right?
8. Fun Slippers How fun are these unicorn slippers? They come in other animal styles too!
9. Starbucks Gift Card They're easy and always appreciated. 
10. Wine If you want a gift you KNOW they'll appreciate, get yourself to Trader Joe's and buy a $6 bottle of wine and tie a ribbon around it. Or if you want to get really fancy, try making a champagne + chocolate pineapple!

Need more gift ideas? Check out the Trendy Teacher Gift Guide and my Self Care Gift Guide!

Monday, November 20, 2017

My Favorite Winter Classroom Resources

While no one likes not seeing daylight for weeks on end, at least winter has lots of fun holidays to celebrate! Here are some of my favorite seasonal resources:

Get your room decked out for winter with this build-your-own banner kit. Perfect for bulletin boards or a celebration.

Make a festive, but still secular, bulletin board display with the Season of Giving Bulletin Board Kit

The stretch between Thanksgiving and winter break can be both long and hectic. It's great to have a couple low-prep activities on hand, like these Holiday Notes & Cards.

My Holiday Reflection & Coloring Journal is also a great activity to keep students engaged during the last days before break. 

Want to spruce up your classroom or hallway for the holidays? Check out my Merry & Bright Printable Posters. They would be super cute displayed using clipboards, or just stapled on a bulletin board!

After you come back from break, encourage students to set new goals with this New Year's Bulletin Board Kit.

Keep the goal-setting going with my New Year's Growth Mindset Reflection Journal!

Switch out some of your centers or task boxes for winter-themed activities, like this Winter Alphabetical Order Activity or this Hot Chocolate Prefix Sort.

You can find even more winter resources in my store!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

5 Tips for Making it Through a Tough School Year

So you're having a tough year. You might already be thinking about how to avoid the same situation next year-- but what do you do now? Unlike most jobs, quitting mid-year isn't really an option for teachers. During the 2016-17 school year, I seriously considered not coming back after winter break. However, I knew they wouldn't be able to replace me (my school already had unfilled special education positions), so I decided to do whatever I needed to in order to make it through the year. Having come out on the other side, here are a few tips:

1. Treat yourself. You are in survival mode. Now is not the time to deny yourself a second cup of coffee or new shoes. If you can afford it, buy yourself a little present. It's not a long term solution, but it might help you make it through a tough day or week.

2. Schedule self care. As teachers, we're always going to have plenty of "buts" when it comes to making time for self care. So go ahead and schedule that time in to make sure it happens! For me, that meant taking at least a short break every day after school, yoga on Friday nights, and a bath on Sunday nights. You can find more self care ideas here.

3. Say no. We all know there are plenty of tasks outside of teaching 8-3 that make a classroom and school function. I'm sure you're on a million voluntary committees and maybe even run a club or two. These things are necessary, but if you're on the brink of a breakdown, say no. 

4. Remember your "why." Why did you become a teacher? Was it for good test scores, or to make your principal happy, or to fill out endless paperwork? I'm going to guess not. Remember that you're there for the kids. I would recite
"I am here for the kids" (along with other affirmations) when I started to get overwhelmed.

5. Talk it out. If you don't want to break down crying in the middle of a lesson, you need to find someone to talk to. As much as coworkers can be great venting buddies, I actually recommend talking to someone who doesn't work at your school. Your coworkers are likely facing the same issues you are, and those conversations can sometimes get so negative as not to be helpful. I always recommend seeing a therapist to everyone, but family and friends are great too.

Everyone has a tough teaching year at some point. Whether you make a change after this year is up to you, but for now, be kind to yourself. You can do this!

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