Sunday, June 18, 2017

Make Your Own Moscow Mule Teacher Gift

I love putting together gifts for my coworkers! As a special education teacher, I work very closely with my students' general education teachers as well as the clinicians and other special education teachers on my team. I like to show them how much I appreciate all they do at the end of the year with a gift. After weeks loitering around the Target Dollar Spot and scouring Pinterest, I landed on these cute cocktails-in-a-jar! I was heavily inspired by this tutorial, but I put my own spin on it with the tags, which you can snag for free here!


Here's what you'll need: (contains affiliate links)




Be sure to buy mason jars with wide mouths so that all your ingredients will fit! I'd also go with the narrowest ginger beers you can find, for the same reason!

Once you've gathered your materials, take the lid off each jar and remove the metal circle from the lid. Replace just the rings of the lids. Put a small amount of shredded kraft paper at the bottom of each jar. Slide your mini vodka bottle in first, and then your ginger beer. If you can fit your lime in the jar, more power to you! Wasn't happening for mine, so I slipped them in the gift bags later. Wrap your baker's twine around the lid ring a few times and tie it in a bow. After printing and cutting out your tags, clip them onto the twine with the mini clothespins. You could also hole punch the tags-- I just couldn't resist the mini clothespins! 

I hand wrote quick directions to make a Moscow Mule on the back of each tag: 1. Pour ice into jar, 2. Pour in ginger beer & vodka, 3. Squeeze in lime, 4. Enjoy your Moscow Mule!


Let me know if you make one and tag me on instagram @thedesignerteacher. I'd love to see!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

6 Tips to Thrive Through the Fourth Quarter

Between testing, rising temps, and squirrelly children, the fourth quarter can get rough for us teachers. That's why I asked a few teacher-friends to share their best tips for thriving through the fourth quarter!

1. Plan it out! It can feel like you have a million things to accomplish before the end of the year, so take some time to sit down and really plan out what needs to be done. Make a master list of your major to-do's, like IEPs, progress reports, and testing. Just seeing it all written down rather than as a vague haze of worry can help you feel more grounded and focused.

2. Be sure to add in FUN activities for the last few weeks of school. The end of the year can be stressful on us teachers AND students, so boost up the positives! Some of my favorites are scrapbooks, school year timelines, guided drawing, and dream boards. {from Allie of Miss Behavior}

3. Take time to out of your busy schedule to enjoy your students. When the end of year testing and procedures can make you absolutely crazy, put all of that aside and enjoy the last moments you have together because you'll miss those little boogers once when they're gone! {From Jessi of Cuties and Cooties}

4. Fourth quarter is a great time to conduct student surveys! Give students an opportunity to reflect on what they've loved about class and what they might change given the chance. You'll get some great information to use over summer when you're ready to start planning, and you're sure to also get a few sweet notes to add to your happy file! Bonus tip: I really love using Google Forms for student surveys! If you have access to technology in the classroom, I highly recommend trying it out. {from Cindy of Where The Wild Students Are}

5. Take time everyday to write down at least one thing that went well. You could write it in a journal, planner, sticky note, or even just a note on your phone. {from Becca of The Teacher's Passport}

6. The end of the year can be so stressful with all of the last minute learning that you want to fit in AND assessment on top of assessment. Find some time to do a fun class reward each day or several days a week if your students earn it! Some of my favorites are "use smelly markers day," play a favorite group game, have a "bubble" party (I bring bubbles for the kids to use at recess), or wear a hat in the classroom. It's motivating for the kids and it helps you to relax and ENJOY your last few weeks with your students! {from Nicole of Firstie Favorites}

Which of these will you be implementing to help you thrive this quarter?

Monday, May 1, 2017

I Am A Teacher With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

I am a teacher with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.


I was sitting in AP Psychology class, going over the DSM-V checklist for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, when I realized I have this. Not in the way people say they’re “so OCD” or “totally bipolar,” but in the way where I have every symptom on this list and I suddenly realize that these things aren’t normal. I went home and talked to my parents, and my Dad, who’s a doctor, agreed. I’d have the label confirmed when I saw a psychologist in college. After the initial surprise, I actually felt empowered. There was a reason I felt the way I did, and there were things I could do to feel better. For the uninitiated, GAD is what’s called “free-floating” anxiety. I can, and will, worry about anything that crosses my path. My anxiety has never stopped me from doing hard things. But, I can say with confidence that it has made those hard things harder. I want to share my story so that those who suffer from anxiety know that they’re not alone, and perhaps help teachers who do not suffer from mental illnesses better understand their co-workers who do.


I have always been passionate about social justice and working with kids, so as a senior in college I applied and was accepted to an alternate-certification program to teach in a Title I school. The summer training process was rough. I know it was rough for everyone, but I started to genuinely think maybe I could not do this. When I broke down crying to one of the trainers in the program, she told me if I couldn’t handle the training, maybe I wasn’t cut out to do this. Despite my concerns that she was right, I finished the training and became a teacher.


When I started teaching, I was also going to grad school 2-3 nights a week and living very much paycheck-to-paycheck. This was one of the hardest times of my life. While I firmly felt that the expectations placed on me by the program I was in were absurd, it didn’t stop me from blaming myself. Why weren’t the kids listening to me? Why didn’t I know how to teach phonics or sight words or fractions? I know that many teachers in our program felt the same way. But where GAD comes in is that I literally could not stop thinking about school. While I saw other teachers in my program partying and dating and winging their lessons, that was inconceivable to me, especially at the beginning of the year. Now in my fourth year teaching, I have more confidence in my teaching and I make an effort to have a life outside of school. But my GAD is still very much present, and I suspect that it always will be. I can’t speak for all people with GAD, but this is how I believe it’s affected me as a teacher.

1. I blame myself for everything. There are people who internalize and externalize the blame for problems. An internalizer blames themselves, and an externalizer blames outside forces. As a teacher in a Title I school that’s constantly underfunded and underresourced, I’m not exactly set up for success. But if my students’ test scores don’t go up or their behaviors don’t improve, I feel personally responsible.

2. I think every criticism is directed at me. My admin sends out a lot of blanket “friendly reminder” emails. And I’m convinced that every one is a response to something I’ve personally done. If I hear a colleague complaining about a service provider being late, I immediately start trying to figure out if I’ve ever been late to her class, and I’ll worry about it every time I go to that teacher’s class for the rest of all time.

3. I’m easily overwhelmed. I don’t know how much of this is GAD vs. another sensory issue, but chaotic classrooms can make me really panicky. I’m very precise about my own classroom, but as a special education teacher, I spend a lot of time doing inclusion. When many kids are out of their seats, and calling out, and there are papers everywhere, and kids are crowding me and touching me… I start to freak out. Now, that’s not an ideal classroom setting for most students, but some teachers seem to be able to take it all in stride or even thrive off it. I can last for about 20 minutes, and then I feel like crawling under a desk and staying there for the rest of the afternoon.

4. I can’t stop thinking about the kids at home. My husband’s a good sport, but he is so sick of hearing about my kids’ problems. We all care about our kids and worry about their home lives, but for a teacher with GAD you quite literally cannot turn the thoughts off.

5. Problems can feel insurmountable. When you feel like a task is impossible (finishing 5 IEPs in a week, testing all the students by the deadline, etc.), but at the same time you feel like you HAVE to do it and it’ll be 100% your fault if you don’t (see number 1), it can lead to anxiety attack. Some days or weeks are better than others, but let’s just say every co-teacher I work with this year has seen me cry.

If you’re a teacher with an anxiety disorder, do you find the above to be true? I’m planning on doing a future post about managing an anxiety disorder while teaching, so I’d love to hear your experiences or tips!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Why I Start Every Class with the Question, "How Are You Feeling?"


When a restorative justice consultant for our school suggested we start our classes with a feelings "check-in," I was a little skeptical. I mean, I think talking about feelings is great, but would having students just say one word to describe how they're feeling really make any difference? And wouldn't that take forever? 

Well, I gave it a try. At first, it felt a little awkward to genuinely ask each of my students, "How are you feeling?" When I began, some of my students would simply shake their heads "no." I had to coax one withdrawn student to just give me a thumbs up or thumbs down. 

Now, a year and a half later, the same group of kids eagerly engages in our check-in every day. The thumbs up/thumbs downer affectionately calls it "chicken" and is the most insistent student about doing it everyday. The day after the election, my most serious student (whose family is Mexican-American) came marching into class with his hand already raised and said, "I feel worried and mad and sad." It broke my heart, but I was also so thankful that this quiet and anxious student felt comfortable enough to express himself, and knew that we were all there for him, ready to listen. 

When you ask the question, "How are you feeling?" and listen to the answer with respect and without judgment, you're letting your students know that their feelings are valid. You're also teaching them HOW to express their feelings-- something some of them may not know how to do, or not know how to do appropriately. 

One of the best things about check-in (ahem, or "chicken") is that it's SO easy to implement! All you need to do is ask a question! That being a said, a visual can be super helpful for students who aren't familiar with the full range of feelings (my team calls them the happy-sad-mad club), or for nonverbal or shy students who would prefer to point. You can download a free feelings chart from my store right here!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

40 Acts of Self Care for Teachers



As teachers, we spend all day nurturing and taking care of our students, but sometimes we neglect ourselves! Here are 40 ways to practice self-care, starting with the least time-consuming and least expensive ideas. 

1. Take deep breaths.
2. Drink a cup of herbal tea.
3. Recite affirmations- try these or these
4. Light a soothing candle. 
5. Listen to your favorite song.
6. Do some light stretches. 
7. Use an essential oil. 
8. Wear your favorite outfit.
9. Think of three things you're grateful for. 
10. Take a bath.
11. Color for 30 minutes after school.
12. Call someone you love. 
13. Order your favorite food. 
14. Put on cozy clothes when you get home from school.
15. Write in your journal.
16. Try a face mask. 
17. Go for a walk.
18. Work on a puzzle.
19. Write down three good things that happened today.
20. Draw or paint without judging yourself.
21. Write an email or letter to a faraway friend.
22. Read a just-for-fun book curled up on the couch or in bed.
23. Buy yourself flowers- sunflowers are my favorite!
24. Bake or cook something special.
25. Garden or take care of your indoor plants.
26. Go to a yoga class.
27. Go to bed early-- or at least on time!
28. Meditate using an app or YouTube video.
29. Go on a bike ride. 
30. Buy yourself a present you can afford.
31. Spend time with a pet or volunteer with animals.
32. Look through an old photo book or scrapbook.
33. Knit or practice another hobby.
34. Get a manicure.
35. Get a massage.
36. Try acupuncture. 
37. Go see a movie.
38. Visit a museum or another interesting place.
39. See a therapist.
40. Take a mental health day.
Which of these have you tried? Are there any you commit to trying or doing more frequently? 

I had some help compiling this list! Numbers 7, 9, 12, 13, & 34 were contributed by my friend Allie of Miss Behavior-- she has her own post on self care here! Numbers 16 & 23 were contributed by Emily of The Mindful Educator-- check out more of her self care ideas here. Numbers 20, 29, & 31 are from Jessi of Cooties and Cuties, and number 36 is from Becca of The Teacher's Passport

Monday, February 20, 2017

7 Politically Active Educators to Follow on Instagram

Images from accounts below, clockwise from top left.

One silver lining to this nightmare of an administration has been seeing so many teachers become more politically active. I posted about 7 socially conscious teacher-instagrammers a few months ago, and now I'm back with 7 politically active educators! 

1. thewholewheatclass
"Sharpen your pencils and gather your books-- you've messed with the wrong professionals." Elsa sure knows how to write a call to action! Follow for political quotes & memes in addition to adorable classroom pics. 

2. _missbehavior
 Allie's a special education teacher who's not taking this administration's actions lying down. She's out there marching, calling senators, and volunteering with refugees!

3. sarahplumitallo
You've definitely seen at least one of Sarah's hilarious images about Betsy DeVos-- her brown bear, brown bear meme was everywhere! She regularly posts about social justice & political issues, particularly those relating to education.

4. unapologetic_educator
"Dedicated to all the SJW's out there in schools..." Can't go wrong with that bio! Follow for tons of social justice-oriented education images and quotes. 

5. notjaneedu
Daliene is just the kind of teacher you'd want down the hall-- optimistic, energetic, and not afraid to speak up!

6. cultofpedagogy
Jennifer is a solid must-follow for both her teaching ideas and political ideals!

7. amy.harris
Amy's feed is full of beautiful hand lettering that's always inspirational and timely.

Which other teachers do you follow for political posts?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

This Teacher Believes


As teachers, we're advocates for ALL our students, not just those that happen to fit into the president's narrow-minded worldview. It's clear from last night's events that the ACLU is going to be absolutely critical in protecting our students and ourselves for the next few years. Stand up for your students and support the ACLU with my latest T-shirt, inspired by my protest sign for the Women's March.


Get your shirt here-- $20 and all proceeds go directly the American Civil Liberties Union. Keep fighting the good fight, teacher friends!