10 memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school

Thursday, July 20, 2017 / Leave a Comment

10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school

What type of teacher are you? Have you been planning for the upcoming school year all summer long - coming up with new ideas, retooling lessons, and looking forward to the first day of school? Or does this blog post make you angry because you've managed to go the entire summer without thinking about school and now you remember that it's almost time to go back! Wherever you fall - there is a meme for you below.


10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school


10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school


10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school


10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school


10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school


10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school


10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school


10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school


10 Memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school


Have a great first day of school everyone!

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Why I'm Starting This School Year with a Get-to-Know-You Curation Project...and You Should Too!

Monday, July 17, 2017 / 16 comments
Why I'm Starting This School Year with a Get-to-Know-You Curation Project and You Should Too!

Ah, Back to School activities. Those wonderful ice-breakers, games, questionnaires, and activities we use to try to make the first week of school tolerable as we introduce our new students to the expectations and procedures of our classroom. Yeah...I hate them.

My students are always surprised when I tell them about my secret (well, not so secret now) loathing of ice-breaker games. I'm a talkative, friendly person, but the moment you tell me to come up with two truths and a lie about myself I start to feel queasy and wonder if I could sneak off and hide in the restroom while everyone else "circulates and finds another person who has traveled to another state recently."

Why I'm Starting This School Year with a Get-to-Know-You Curation Project and You Should Too!
Why yes, I would love to create a "personalized license plate" that personifies me and then explain it to everyone 
in my group. That sounds awesome! I'm just going to run to the bathroom super quick...don't wait for me!

Don't get me wrong. It's crucial to get to know our students. That first week is vital for building classroom community, for establishing the tone your classroom will have for the year, and for making sure students know that they're in a safe place to make mistakes, grow, laugh, and learn. 

That's what makes it so damn difficult! 

I know full well that every other teacher they have will be doing similar, if not the same, things this week. How am I supposed to stand out, make them sit up and pay attention, get them excited about entering my room each day with the same old get-to-know-you activities?

Enter CURATION. An awesome idea for all sorts of project-based learning in the classroom (you can read more about that here), but one that I'm planning on using to get my students to introduce themselves to me (and each other!) in a way I bet they haven't seen before!

Why I'm Starting This School Year with a Get-to-Know-You Curation Project and You Should Too!
Yep...I'm that excited about this idea...

Curation is the process of collecting a bunch of high-quality materials all related to a similar theme, topic, or idea. The curator of a museum might curate a collection of artifacts from ancient Greece, a librarian might curate a group of the latest and best young adult novels for a start of the school year display in the library, and so on. And using the free, online tool elink, I'm going to have my students curate a collection of photos, links, videos, songs, and whatever else they can think of, that will teach me and their classmates all about them!

Here's a screenshot of the collection I've started for myself. I'm going to share it with my students so they can learn a bit more about me as well.

Why I'm Starting This School Year with a Get-to-Know-You Curation Project and You Should Too!

The two items you can see in the screenshot are things I want to share with my students. One is an article about "stunning viewpoints" on the Appalachian Trail. elink then gives you the option of writing a note underneath each item you've collected. I've written "I love to hike. Someday I hope to hike the entire Appalachian Trail." The other is a collection of funny teacher memes. Below it I tell the students that I love memes and that these made me laugh. So right away, I will have shared a little bit more about me with my students than I might have if I used a different type of activity.

Here's my plan. During my first few days of class, I'm going to have my students curate a board all about them. Then, we'll do a carousel activity where we move from one desk to another, taking the time to look through each other's boards. Each person will have a sheet at their desk where their classmates can leave them positive notes (things they liked, thought were interesting, have in common, etc.).

By the time the carousel is complete, all the students will have gotten a few minutes to get a much more personal introduction to their classmates than any activity I could have come up with, and each student will have a bunch of positive comments about their board to start off the year! I will have gotten to know each student more deeply than any questionnaire could have told me and I will have gotten my students using a new technology tool right away. So many wins!

 tv reaction reactions win winning GIF
I may not like ice-breakers...but I can get nerdy teacher excited about Back to School with the best of them!

I'm (obviously) crazy, excited about this idea - so come back in September for an update post on how it went. And if you think you might want to try this idea out yourself, check out my screencast below for step-by-step instructions on how to do it!

Have an awesome Back-to-School Week, everyone, no matter what get-to-know-you activities you use!

P.S.  A huge thank you and shout-out to Jennifer Gonzalez at Cult of Pedagogy for her awesome Jumpstart: A Technology Course for Thoughtful Educators where I learned about curation and screencasting and SO.MUCH.MORE! If you have the ability to take this course at some point in your career I highly recommend it! 

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How to Create Awesome Anchor Charts (when you're creatively challenged...)

Thursday, June 29, 2017 / Leave a Comment

You see them all over Pinterest. Anchor charts. Charts for English/Language Arts, for science, music, classroom management, for working well in groups, for not annoying your teacher (well, ok, I haven't seen that one on Pinterest yet...but I just might make one!). They're awesome and lots of teachers will swear to how useful they are when used appropriately. 

But what are those of us who are...less than artistic supposed to do if we want to use anchor charts in our rooms? What about us teachers for whom stick figures represent the height of our creative abilities? 
Yeah, I didn't draw this. This is way better than anything I can draw.

Thankfully, once again the Internet comes to the rescue. Below are several fantastic sources that show us creatively challenged teachers how to make anchor charts that will have our students saying "Ooh!" and not

Start With a Solid Template

If you think the idea of having a visual representation of the thinking or work you expect students to do somewhere in your room for them to refer to but have no clue how to create one, this template is for you. Rachel Lynette breaks down the poster into manageable chunks so you don’t forget anything. I especially like her inclusion of a student model at the bottom of her post so students know exactly how their work is expected to look.

Tips and Hacks

The wonderful thing about teaching is that incredible educators can come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are able to take some markers, paper, and glitter and create hundreds of amazing looking projects, posters, and other classroom decorations. Others, myself included, look at those people in awe and wonder – How the heck did you learn to do that?! If you’re like me, then this post is perfect for you. It shows multiple ways to make your anchor charts look AMAZING with nothing more than some markers and the ability to doodle.

From here - the possibilities are endless. Anchor charts for classroom management or essential questions, working well in groups or what they're finished work should look like before they turn it in. Pinterest has examples of all of it - but now, you can get out there and make some beautiful anchor charts all on your own!

Questions Demand Doubts Psychology Fear Insecurity

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The 10 Best Things That Happen on Summer Vacation When You're a Teacher

Monday, June 12, 2017 / 2 comments
The 10 Best Things That Happen on Summer Vacation When You're a Teacher

Here's an awesome list of all those little things that happen to teachers over summer break that just bring a smile to the faces of teachers everywhere!

1. You accidentally forget to turn off your alarm that first week, and when it goes off you get to giggle and go back to sleep.

 nap GIF
Ugh, I so wish I didn't have to get up tod...Oh, wait...I DON'T! Hehe...zzz zzz zzz....

2. You have a whole list of things you want to get done…but then you decide you’re not going to do them today.

Braxton Family Values  reality sisters nah braxton family values GIF
When I said I wanted to clean out and organize my closet when summer started
I meant later in the summer...

3. A friend, family member, or total stranger makes a snide remark about how nice it must be to only have to work nine months out of the year and you're just too relaxed to care.

 chill sloth relaxed GIF
Yeah, it IS pretty awesome. Have a nice Tuesday!

4. You have to write the date on something or someone asks if you're busy next Tuesday and you realize you have no idea what day of the week it is.

Iliza confused idk shrug uncertain GIF
Is it Monday? You look sad and tired, so I'm guessing Monday.

5. You read for no other purpose than your own entertainment.

 college magazine how reading read GIF
Absolutely no one in this book is talking about state assessment scores, growth mindset, or common core.
This. is. awesome.

6. After a week or two, you remember you have more than 10 minutes to eat your lunch.

 jessica chastain GIF
Did you know that if you slow down and chew you can actually TASTE what your eating?!?!?!

7. You spend time with your loved ones without a stack of grading between you.

RJFilmSchool yes school celebrate done GIF
Which is good, because my kids have totally caught on to the "Let's play the GRADING game!" trick.

8. Since you don't have to arrive at work as the sun is rising and leave after it has set, you actually get to spend some time in the sun.

 hot sunny sunshine bright sunlight GIF
The brightness and heat take some getting used to after living under the fluorescent lights for so long...

9. You start to have conversations about actual topics again – not just grading, administration, and which students (or parents) are driving you crazy.

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Hey, you're really funny when you aren't stressed out beyond all imagining!

10. You think about how many days of summer vacation are still left and get all giddy.

 happy smile nice pleased hehe GIF
Maybe I'll even clean my closet!  Hehe, yeah right.

Enjoy your break, teachers! You've earned it! 

Have any other fun summer moments that only teachers understand? Share them in the comments!

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Summer Vacation Anxiety? 3 Ways to Improve Your Mood

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 / 5 comments

Confession time. I battle with anxiety. Sunday night anxiety, last minute change of plans anxiety, and, strangely enough…Summer Vacation Anxiety.

It’s almost perverse – but the weeks that are supposed to be spent recharging my emotional battery have often left me feeling drained and depressed. A mean little voice in my head continually scolded me for not doing enough. If I let the kids hang out at the house while I caught up on laundry, the mean little voice would remind me that I didn’t take them to the library or the pool. If I spent the afternoon at the pool the voice would whisper that I didn’t get in the water and play with them enough, or if I did, that the kitchen floor still needed to be mopped.

To be frank, it sucks – a tiny jerk in your head telling you that you’re doing it all wrong when you’re supposed to be serenely enjoying the “me” and “family” time so often missing from our lives during the school year.

If you put this on a triple word score square it's really awesome. 

So I started reading, and talking to people, about ways I could tell the little voice to bugger off. By the end of last summer I had a list of strategies I was starting to use and during the last weekend of the summer, sitting by a lake and watching my kids play in the water I breathed deeply and peacefully and truly felt calm, happy, and refreshed. Of course, it would have been nice if I had felt that way all summer long!

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the tips that work best for me…the ones that I’m already using to ensure that I enjoy more of my summer break this year. 

Make a To-Do List that Makes Sense
I use this one during the school year as well. My old to-do lists used to look like an epic poem.  It just went on and on, full of small reasonable actions and massive projects that could never be accomplished in one or two days. I listed them all side-by-side and then grew anxious as I saw how little of the list I was actually accomplishing.

The feeling of accomplishment from checking things off the list was great, but I needed to figure out how to create the list without setting off my anxiety when I didn’t get everything done. With that in mind, I read a bit about “Covey’s Time Management Matrix.” Basically, this method asks you to prioritize your tasks based on how important and how urgent they are. If you’re interested in learning a bit more you can read about it in this article.

I liked the concept, but the designations didn’t really work for me. Playing around with it, I came up with a system that better suited my needs. You can download it here if you’re interested. It allows me to put everything I want to on the to-do list but visually reminds me that not all of it needs to get done today.

Prioritized To-Do List (Executive Functioning Skills)

Make Mindfulness Part of Your Summer PD
Knowing that I always feel better when I’ve accomplished something, I decided that I would make learning how to meditate one of my summer goals. Luckily, there are tons of options available that make this a really easy and enjoyable part of your day. I find that taking 10-30 minutes, depending on how much time (and patience!) I have available to just focus on being present really reduces anxiety. And since I’ve made it part of my daily “to-do” list, I get to check an item off my task list too! Bonus!

My view when I meditate looks just like this - except I meditate in my messy bedroom. 
And half the time I'm interrupted by my kids. But other than that it looks pretty much exactly like this...

If you’re interested in giving this a try, there are lots of quick and easy ways to get started. YouTube has a lot of wonderful options that will get you started. Try searching for “guided meditation,” if you feel like you’d have no idea to do with yourself if you had to sit and do nothing for 10 minutes. There are also some excellent apps and podcasts like Headspace and Meditation Minis that will get you started.

Make Sunshine a Daily Requirement
The sunshine is the best way of getting vitamin-D into our systems, which naturally reduces symptoms of both anxiety and depression. So whereas in the past that mean little voice might have told me that the 30 minutes of sitting on the porch reading a book was time I could have spent doing something “more worthwhile,” now I look at it as a homeopathic treatment to keep me healthy and happy. If you can add in even a 20-minute walk, you’ll reap even more mood-boosting benefits. We might not all be training for our next half-marathon, but I can usually talk myself into a relaxed walk around the block.

I still haven’t figured out how to completely shut down my anxiety when it springs up. I have bad days where that mean little voice wins for a bit. But since I’ve started to pay more attention to what triggers my anxiety and making a concerted effort to find ways to shut that little voice up…my summer vacation is starting to feel like it should.

So what strategies do you use for taming the mean little voice in your head? Let me know in the comments below.

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3 Things I'm Going to do to be a Better Teacher Next Year

Thursday, June 1, 2017 / 2 comments

Next Monday will officially be the last day of the 2016-2017 school year for me. 

I can say with no hesitation that it was one of the best school years of my 14-year teaching career. I had students I really enjoyed working with, colleagues who are not only inspirational teachers but good friends who were there when I needed them, and (most of the time) I felt like my teaching was engaging and valuable to my students. 

PG Tips monkey hero superhero proud GIF
Well done, me!

Well…not so fast. If you’re anything like me, the end of the school year also means reflecting back on the things you could have done better. The lessons you want to change. The moments you wish you had handled differently. So while I am happy with how this school year has gone, I thought I’d share the three big things I wish I had done differently and will strive to do better next year.

1. Remaining Consistent
In my case, its consistency with the little things that really never bother me at first, when they’re small, but always seem to grow and grow until I look around my class and wonder how I got here. Food and drinks in class. Cell phones. Students using the restroom or water fountain during class. 

At the start of the year, I go over the rules – Water only, no food. Cell phones in pockets or book bags unless I give permission to have them out. Restroom/water fountain breaks during non-instructional time and definitely not in the first 5 minutes of class when I’m spelling out what we’ll be doing today. By May half my students were in the bathroom when the late bell rang, the other half were finishing their breakfasts while texting their friends (I’m exaggerating, but you get my drift)! Next year I definitely want to be a bit stricter with the “little things” that I know will get out of hand if I don’t keep on top of them.

2. Providing Meaningful (and Timely!) Feedback
I always start each year with the best of intentions regarding giving my students meaningful feedback on their work. Inevitably, however, I end up passing back papers with tons of comments written on them and watch as my students place them in their folders never to be seen again, or worse, turn in final drafts with the same errors I had pointed out in their rough drafts still present! And the fault is mine, really, because I didn’t plan for (or ran out of) meaningful time to sit down and give face-to-face feedback. I’ve decided next year I’m going to budget carefully for this time and protect it voraciously.

3. Watching My Sarcasm (No, really…I mean it this time)
I’m sarcastic. Really. Sarcastic. I teach high school so, for the most part, it’s a good thing. I use it kindly in class, rarely directed toward a student and only then if I truly feel a student and I have built a solid relationship where they know I like and care about them. During the last day of school this year I gave each of my students a fairly non-sarcastic, silly gift, an "Awesome Citation." They loved it. In fact, if you like it, you can download it here for free.

In the “Oh yeah, and:” section, I wrote a little personalized note for everyone.
They were kind, funny, and usually, about some positive memory I had of them in class.

For my class clown, the student who drove me crazy (and made me laugh) more times than I could count this year, I wrote: “I will miss your energy and enthusiasm next year!” Nice, right? For the student who sat next to him for most of the year and who dealt with his antics with grace and humor, I wrote “congrats on making it a whole year sitting next to <student’s name> without losing it!” Looking back, I’m already shaking my head. Why did I think that was a good idea

Now, it wasn’t as if the class clown broke down in tears or anything. We had joked around all year long and he had said almost the exact same thing to the other student numerous times before…but when he saw it actually written down on that card…it was different. He immediately went around and checked all the other cards to see if he was mentioned on any others and I knew I had messed up. I spoke with him about it after class and apologized. I think he’s probably fine, but I know I’ll always feel sorry for that mistake and I’ll always wish I could take it back. Next year, I’m going to try to a bit more mindful of my sarcasm.

This isn’t the exhaustive list of things I need to improve or want to change for next school year, by any means. I could have made this a list of 10-20 quite easily. Today, however, I just wanted to talk about my “big three.”

What about you? Any reflections or changes you definitely want to make for next year? Let me know in the comment section!

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Honoring Hispanic Heritage on Cinco de Mayo

Thursday, May 4, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Honoring Hispanic Heritage on Cinco de Mayo

Teachers in my district have spent a lot of time this year working on becoming better "students of our students."
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