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!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Self Care Gift Guide for Teachers

Pretty much every teacher you know could use some more self care in her life, am I right? Check out these self care gift options for a teacher friend or yourself. You can even buy a few and bundle them together to make a self care kit!
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1. Detox Balt Salts Sunday night bath is an institution that all teachers need in their lives, in my opinion! Fancy it up a little bit with detox bath salts.
2. Floral Notebook Set Journaling is one of the simplest and most powerful forms of self care.
3. Self Care Posters Download and print these free self care quote posters-- perfect to include in a self care kit.
4. Sunflower Puzzle Puzzling is the perfect calming evening activity. 
5. Crystal Zen Garden 
6. Yogi Tea 
7. Glass Water Bottle Hydration is key! A pretty glass water bottle can't hurt.
8. Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Plants have a calming effect on most people, and are way easier to take care of than a pet!
9. All Natural Candle
10. Cozy Throw Blanket You can't go wrong with a cozy blanket.
11. Bath Tray Take that Sunday night bath up a notch with this bamboo bath caddy!

Looking for more self care ideas? Check out my post 40 Acts of Self Care for Teachers!

Friday, November 10, 2017

5 Ways to Encourage the Spirit of Giving This Holiday Season

While our students may belong to different religions and cultures, most winter holidays share a common theme of kindness and giving. As winter break approaches, try out these ideas to help encourage a spirit of giving and kindness.
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1. Reflect and write about the gifts students have given and have received. This could be meaningful literal gifts, as well as metaphorical. What gifts or talents have your students been given? How do they give back their community? You can make up your own writing prompts, or use my Holiday Reflection & Coloring Journal. With 5 pages of reflection and 5 pages of detailed "adult coloring book" style coloring pages, this journal will keep students engaged for hours.

2. Brainstorm ways to give back together. Create a cute anchor chart with different gifts, and have students come up with ways they can give back to their class, school, community, and world. They can record their thoughts on sticky notes and place them on the respective gifts.

3. Count down with kindness. If you or your students find yourself counting down the days until break, try counting down with kindness instead! Each day, have a new act of kindness for the students to try out. I love this Classroom Kindness Challenge from Blair Turner!

4. Create a "Season of Giving" display. Students can each determine a way they will give back and record it on a gift-- this makes the perfect festive, but secular, display for your hallway bulletin board! You can snag the Season of Giving Bulletin Board Kit here.

5. Read The Wish Tree. This beautiful book has holiday cheer and highlights the spirit of giving without religious themes.

Have a warm and wonderful holiday season!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

11 Magical Harry Potter Ideas for the Classroom

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1. Read from the illustrated versions of the books. Even if students are reading the original version on their own, it's great to have an illustrated copy on hand.

2. Give out personalized Hogwarts acceptance letters when Harry finally gets his from Hagrid.

3. Play magical bingo during a classroom party or as a classwide reward. If you want to get really crazy, use Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans as bingo chips.

4. Make a Hedwig costume out of fleece and ribbon. Wear it for Halloween or just use the cape as a classroom prop!

5. Integrate magic into other subject areas. Magical alphabetical order, anyone?

6. Make golden snitches and give them out as holiday gifts for your students. Or have the kids make snitches themselves if you don't mind glitter everywhere! You'll need small styrofoam balls, toothpicks, and glitter.

7. Give out Hedwig Homework Hero brag tags. Students can earn them by turning in their homework every day for a month.

8. Make and give out chocolate frogs as valentines. You'll need chocolate frog molds, melting chocolate, and this printable template.

9. Or, if you're not up for using chocolate molds, print these free valentines. 

10. Draw a friendly reminder from Dumbledore on the whiteboard when it comes time for standardized testing. 

11. Give out Harry Potter-themed awards at the end of the year.

Mischief managed!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

9 Gifts for the Trendy Teacher

You can spot the trendy teacher by her teacher tee collection, constant scouting of the Target Dollar Spot, and her Pinterest-worthy classroom filled with bright colors. If you need a gift for your trendy teacher friend, I'm here to help!
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1. Rainbow Tassel Garland This festive banner will look great hanging in her classroom!
2. Pencil Pillow Save her a trip to IKEA by gifting her this adorable pencil pillow that's all over instagram.
3. Mug with a Quote You would think that teachers get enough mugs, but you would be wrong. 
4. Felt Letter Board She can spell out inspirational quotes in her apartment or classroom with this trendy letter board.
5. Mr. Sketch Scented Markers Your trendy teacher friend definitely already has these, but she ALWAYS needs more.
6. Emoji Pillow She might NEED this emoji pillow for her classroom library.
7. Cactus Pens Some of these pens might go in the prize box, but she's keeping the rest for herself.
8. Lightbox A trendy teacher stable-- make sure she doesn't already have one!
9. Tropical Flair Pens See number five. She can't have too many! 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Teaching Past & Present Verbs with -ING & -ED

Just stick -ing on a verb to make it present tense, and -ed to make it past tense, right? While the rules aren't quite that simple, luckily adding the affixes -ing and -ed is pretty straightforward for students that understand basic phonics. 

Double Consonants + -ING
This is the first rule I teach my students when it comes to tenses. For words with a short vowel and one final consonant, double the final consonant before adding -ing, such as running, tapping, and cutting. While it might seem more intuitive to teach this rule after teaching when just to add -ing, many students are most familiar and confident with short vowel words, so I find it helpful to begin here. 
CVCe Words + -ING
For words that follow the CVCe pattern (consonant-vowel-consonant-e), such as drive and tape, drop the e before adding -ing. I find it helpful to compare words with and without an e here, such as tap and tape. Students should learn that the double consonant in tapping indicates that the a will be short, whereas the single consonant in taping indicates the the a will be long.
Adding -ING
After teaching the previous two rules, I teach students that we can simply add -ing to some words. These words are words that end in two or more consonants (melt, kick), have a vowel team (pay, sleep), or an r-controlled vowel (bark, turn). 

Double Consonants + -ED
The rule for when to double the consonant before adding -ed is just the same as for when to add -ing. For this reason, I sometimes teach these rules together, depending on the students. When the base word has a short vowel and one final consonant, double the final consonant before adding -ed, as in hopped and jogged. 
CVCe + -ED
Again, this rule is just the same as for when adding -ing. For words that end in a consonant and e, drop the e before adding -ed, as in voted and taped. 
Adding + -ED
When a word has a vowel team, r-controlled vowel, or two or more final consonants, we simply add -ed. Words such as dreamed, barked, and melted follow this rule.
A Note on Teaching -ED
 The affix -ED can be pronounced three different ways: /d/ (as in turned), /t/ (as in kicked), and /id/ (as in painted). I do teach this to students when we begin to learn about -ED, but I don't spend a ton of time having them differentiate between the sounds in an isolated way. Most students already know how to pronounce the past tense verbs correctly when speaking, so I work towards having them recognize the base word and then pronounced the past tense word accordingly. For example, most students know walked is pronounced "walked," not "walk-id." However, ELL students may struggle with this. I recommend just taking more time with this as needed, and perhaps teaching he /d/, /t/, /id/ pronunciations more explicitly. 

Irregular Past Tense Verbs
After teaching the rules for regular past tense verbs, I teach common irregular verbs. Most of these verbs just involve a simple vowel change, such as win/won, run/ran, and drive/drove. However, they do not follow any generalized rules and still need to be memorized. 
You can get everything you need to teach -ING & -ED, including all the resources shown above, in my Phonics by Design Past & Present Tense Bundle.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

5 Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Teachers on the Go

I've been following Cole of Cookbookish on Instagram for a while, and I am always so amazed by the delicious dishes she manages to whip up before and even during school! She's agreed to share 5 of her best breakfast ideas for teachers with us-- I'll let you take it from here, Cole!
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Teaching is such a giving profession. As teachers we give so much time and energy and brainpower and love to our students every day. And we get so much in return, yes, of course, but we also need to be super mindful of the way we take care of ourselves while we’re taking care of others. We can’t do well by our students if we don’t do well by ourselves. For me, a huge part of ‘doing well’ is feeding ourselves with foods that give us energy.

Everyone says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and say what you will, but it’s kinda true! Especially if you’re trying to fuel your body for a day full of teaching kids! I wanted to share five of my go-to quick and easy breakfasts for the school week – post photos of your #schoolbreakfast and tag me @cookbookish_ so I can see your creations! 

Happy eating!

1. Yogurt Bowl

  • 1 small container of yogurt of choice (I love siggis whole milk yogurt – so creamy)
  • 1 handful fresh berries of choice
  • 1 tsp nut butter of choice (I love any nut butter with no added sugars)
  • a sprinkle chia, hemp, and/or flax seeds
  • add everything to your yogurt, mix, and enjoy!
  • I suggest keeping a jar of your favorite nut butter in school along with seeds (chia, hemp, and/or flax) so all you have to bring in day of is your yogurt.

2. Smoothie Bowl

  • 1 ½ cup frozen cauliflower (or 1 banana if you feel weird about cauli in your smoothies, but it’s good I promise! Don’t knock it 'til you try it!)
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • 1 tsp nut butter of choice
  • ½ cup milk of choice
  • ½ cup water
  • a few shakes of cinnamon
  • optional toppings: fresh fruit, nuts, coconut flakes, seeds
  • if it’s the night before, blend all ingredients and put in temp controlled container/water bottle (I invested in a hydro flask and love it/use it everyday for hot and cold drinks)
  • if it’s the morning of, blend all ingredients and put in any bottle
  • if making smoothie bowl, pour into bowl, and top with things you love like fresh fruit, coconut flakes, nuts, and seeds

3. Egg and Avocado Toast

  • 1 egg
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 piece toast (I love Ezekiel’s – stays well in the school freezer and has more protein than most bread)
  • salt, pepper, and seeds
  • prepare egg night before (see my post here for ways to cook your eggs – hard, medium, or soft boiled)
  • lightly toast bread
  • mash avocado onto toasted bread, top with salt, pepper, and seeds
  • add (mashed) egg on top of toast

4. Adult PB&J

  • 1-2 pieces bread (Ezekiel’s!)- can be open toast or a sandwich
  • nut butter of choice
  • fresh raspberries
  • seeds
  • lightly toast bread
  • spread nut butter on toast
  • mash raspberries on top until jelly-like
  • top with seeds
5. Blueberry Honey Cinnamon Overnight Oats

  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice
  • 1-2 teaspoons raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup fresh blueberries
  • a few sprinkles of seeds
  • combine milk, oats, seeds, honey, and cinnamon in a jar (mason jars work well) with a lid and shake
  • add blueberries to jar and cover again
  • refrigerate overnight and take to school in the morning

Thank you SO much for sharing these awesome recipes with us, Cole! If you're looking for more healthy ideas, be sure to check out her blog.

You can also download these breakfasts as free recipe cards over on Teachers Pay Teachers!
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