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!
This post contains affiliate links.

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

This post contains affiliate links.

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!
This post contains affiliate links.

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!
This post contains affiliate links.

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!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

3 Subscription Services Reviewed By A Teacher

I don't know about you, but I'm a huge sucker for subscription services! Stitch Fix, Blue Apron, and Daily Harvest are three of my favorites-- and I've tried a lot!

1. Stitch Fix
The best part of Stitch Fix is that it's so FUN to get your "fix" in the mail! I seriously get so excited. So, the concept behind Stitch Fix is that you have a stylist that selects 5 articles of clothing for you according to the preferences you've expressed in the quiz on the site and any notes you leave for your stylist. When the fix arrives in the mail, you decide which ones you want to keep and mail back any you don't want (in a pre-paid envelope). If you keep all 5 pieces, you get 25% off, so often it's less expensive to keep all 5 rather than say, 4. You do pay a $20 styling fee up front, but that $20 is subtracted from your order. So basically, if you buy any item from your fix that's at least $20, the styling is free. AND if you use my referral code, you get $25 off your first fix, so it's basically zero risk. You can set it up to get a fix every month, but I certainly don't do that. I do it more like once a season. I think Stitch Fix can be especially great for teachers, because you can indicate to your stylist what style of dress is expected at your school and she'll deliver! 

Here's a fix I got late last winter and loved! From left to right, it included a long-sleeve navy boho dress, olive skinny jeans (which I definitely wore to work despite technically being jeans!), a quarter sleeve patterned blouse, a quarter sleeve striped top, and a olive green anorak style jacket. 

2. Blue Apron
I've been subscribed to Blue Apron for a few years now, and I love it! Each week (or whichever weeks you choose), they send you the recipes and ingredients for the number of meals you choose. I do the "family" plan every other week, so that we get two different meals that feed four people each. Even though my family is just my husband and I (and our pug!), the four meals allow us to eat the meal two nights in a row or bring the leftovers for lunch the next day. We do every other week so that we don't get burnt out on cooking. The meals aren't meant to be super quick-- some of them take up to an hour-- but they are a fun way to learn how to cook and motivate you to stop ordering takeout. The meals come out to around $8 a meal (as in, per person). So, while I wouldn't want to be paying that much per meal, every meal, it works out well for us for a couple of dinners a week. You can get your first delivery free if you leave your full name and email in the comments-- unfortunately I don't have a link for the free delivery, so I'll need to invite you manually from the Blue Apron site. You can also email me at if you prefer.

A post shared by Blue Apron (@blueapron) on

3. Daily Harvest
Yes, this is the smoothie subscription service you've been seeing on your Facebook sidebar. I originally signed up with someone else's referral code to get three free smoothies, thinking I would just do it once. But they're so good I've become a semi-regular subscriber! The smoothies are NOT cheap, but as a special treat to keep in my freezer, they're great! I also get random sugar cravings, so these are a great substitute for a milkshake or ice cream. My favorite is the almond +  cold brew! The ingredients come in the cute little cups (I'm a sucker for nice packaging) and then you just pour the liquid of your choice in (I do milk because that's what we always have in the fridge, but you could do a milk substitute or coconut water), and then blend everything up for 30 seconds! You can get three free smoothies with your first order with my referral link here

Have you tried any of these subscription services? Please note that I'm not sponsored by any of these companies! I get the same thing you get if you order through one of my links-- $25 to Stitch Fix and three free smoothies from Daily Harvest when/if you order a full-priced box. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

5 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude in the Classroom This Thanksgiving

I like Thanksgiving. It's a holiday centered around gratitude-- hello social emotional learning! Plus, it's not religious, so most students and schools can celebrate it. There is that unfortunate aspect of the Thanksgiving origin story being totally made up, but that doesn't mean we can't take some time in November to reflect on things we are thankful for. Let's just stay away from construction paper headdresses, shall we?
This post contains affiliate links.

1. Create a thankfulness display. 
Kick off November by introducing the idea of gratitude to your students. Taking time to think about what you're thankful for is proven to have a positive effect on your mental health. Ask students to reflect on one or more things they are thankful for and write it down. You can create a beautiful bulletin board display or a festive anchor chart.

I created this anchor chart using the leaves from my Thankfulness Bulletin Board Kit. I printed the smaller leaves two to a page (just select this under the "Layout" option when printing) to make them the right size for my anchor chart tree! 

2. Read a book about gratitude.
Rather than perpetuating the fictional Thanksgiving story, take time this November to read a book about everyday thankfulness, such as Thankful by Eileen Spinelli. You could also read The Thankful Book by Todd Parr or The Things I'm Grateful For... by Arnie Lightning.  

3. Reflect and write about gratitude.
The week before or of Thanksgiving can be a challenging one for students. If you have a half week, it can difficult to find meaningful activities. This is a great time to have students do some more in-depth writing on what they are thankful for! My Thankfulness Reflection Journal has 5 journaling pages and 5 zen-style coloring pages that will keep students engaged in meaningful activity for hours. (Seriously... those detailed coloring pages can take a long time!)

4. Model thankfulness.
As Kid President says, "Grown-ups: it's scary, but true. Kids are learning how to be people by watching you." So take time to model gratitude to your students-- telling them what you are thankful for in your life and that you are grateful for them! You could even sport a Thankful Teacher tee!

5. Write a thank you note.
Have students write a note of appreciation to someone at your school. I've had whole classes do this for our cafeteria workers and custodians, and these staff members are always so touched. One of the cafeteria workers came in to speak to the class and told them she had never gotten a thank you note in all her years working at the school and how incredibly touched she was. It made a huge impression on the students! You can use notebook paper or snag my Thankful Notes if you want to make it a bit more festive.

Here's hoping you and your students have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

5 Self Care Quotes for Teachers

Self care is absolutely vital to your survival as a teacher. And most of know that deep down... but that doesn't mean we don't all need a reminder sometimes. 

1. Take care of yourself first. If you're not taking care of yourself, you can't take care of your students.

2. You can't pour from an empty cup. You need more to nourish your soul than work! Even if you love your job, you need other ways to fill your cup.

3. Self care is not selfish. So many of us went into teaching because we care deeply about others. It can be really hard to take time for ourselves without feeling guilty. So repeat after me... self care is not selfish!

4. Make time for what makes you happy. What hobbies or activities do you really enjoy? Were there things you loved before you became a teacher that you've stopped doing? Making time for those things is important.

5. Be kind to yourself. We are always telling our students that kindness counts, and I'm sure that you model this kindness for them as well. But, we also have to make sure that we're being kind to ourselves! Treat yourself as you would a student.

Want to print these out to hang out at work or at home? You can download them for free here. I recommend printing them on photo paper or cardstock. 

If you need more self care inspiration, check out 40 Acts of Self Care for Teachers!

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