5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School

Tuesday, July 17, 2018 / Leave a Comment

5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School

It's coming. The first day of school. Like the bad guy in an 80's slasher film, he might be lumbering slowly through the woods of the summer camp, but sooner or later...he's going to catch up to us.

5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School
Hey, it's me, the first day of school! You didn't think summer would last forever...did you?

As we start to think about heading back into our classrooms, stocking up on #2 pencils on Amazon, and finally, getting our Back to School lessons planned out and printed it's way too easy to feel like we're being pulled in a million different directions.

Anytime I find myself in the midst of starting the third or fourth project of the day before I've finished the first or second one I know that I'm suffering from some major "Shiny Object Syndrome."

5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School
Ok, I'm going to plan out the first two weeks of lessons, then I'm going to make name tags, then AMAZON PRIME DAY!!!

But we can beat Shiny Object Syndrome and get our Back-to-School To-Do lists accomplished without feeling like ping pong balls if we follow some truly easy steps. 

1. Create Your Massive To-Do List

5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School
Sometimes we just need to get every little thought down on paper before we can begin to process it. So do it! Write down every single thing you'd like to accomplish before the first student arrives in your classroom. It doesn't matter if it's unlikely that you'll get to it all at this point, just write it down!

2. Organize!

5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School
Now take that massive list and begin to sort. For me, it usually breaks down into categories like "getting the house ready for me to go back to work," "buying school stuff for the kids," "buying school stuff for me," "setting up my classroom," "lesson plans," etc. You can do this right on the original list with different colors or labels (i.e. 💙 = stuff for my kids, ⭐= stuff for my classroom, etc.).

3. Prioritize!

5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School

Once your list is chunked, you need to really look at each item in each category you created and make some tough choices. What things on your list absolutely, positively MUST get done before the first day of school and which items would you like to get done...but life will go on if they don't? I know, for example, that I really wanted to get the garage completely cleaned out and organized this summer...but on my "things-to-do at home before the first day of school" list, this one is really low on the priority list. "Make sure all my school outfits are cleaned and put away neatly in my closet/drawers," however, is really high. Give each item on your list a number from #1 - MUST DO to a #whatever - IT CAN WAIT. And make peace with it! We can't do ALL THE THINGS! (Well, not and keep any of the sanity we hopefully regained over the summer break!)

4. Make a Plan

5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School
Ok, this part isn't nearly as much fun as making the list of things you want to do (or even putting those things in order of most-to-least important). Here's where we actually have to face the reality of how much time we have left and what we can reasonably fit into each day. Look at your calendar. Which days can you get into your classroom before your teacher in-service days begin? Which days do you know you'll be spending with your family?

When you know which days you'll be able to work in your room, go back to your prioritized list. Starting with the most important task, how many of them can you accomplish each day? Repeat this with each category of your list - stuff to-do at home, with your family, with your lesson plans. Again, you probably won't be able to fit everything in. It's ok - because you know that you'll finish everything that must be done.

5. Be Present While Working

5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School

If you're anything like me, accomplishing as many things as possible on your to-do list is going to be massively beneficial for your mental health as you head into the upcoming school year. There are so many things we can worry about at the start of a new year that we should take the opportunity to lessen our anxiety as an opportunity for some vital self-care.

With that in mind, treat the time you have planned to get your to-do list items completed seriously. Be productive. Don't waste 30 minutes chatting with the custodian about their summer when you know you have to wipe down all the desks and create 30 name tags before you can start organizing your classroom library. Be polite, but focused. Value your time so you can chat without stress later.

I'm certainly not ready to head back to the classroom just yet, but with a little planning and focus - I know we can make this the best start of the school year ever! 

Enjoy the rest of your well-deserved break and let me know any tips or tricks you use to get ready for the first day of school in the comments below!

Not quite ready to face the reality of the To-Do List? Check out my 

10 memes that capture how teachers feel about heading back to school for a few giggles.

Looking for some fun, fresh new ways to start the school year? Head over to my TpT store to look at my 14 Awesome Back-to-School Activities Bundle!

5 Easy Tips for Being Productive as You Head Back to School

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018 / Leave a Comment

Want to Marry a Teacher? Take this Quiz First!

I love a good mash-up. Like Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and The Doors "Riders on the Storm," sometimes two great things go together just as well (if not better?) than they do on their own.

No, seriously, check this out. I'll wait...it's worth it.

In honor of truly awesome mash-ups, I've joined forces with the brilliant Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog to bring you a hysterical post on what it truly means to marry an educator. Give yourself a chuckle and check it out!

Mashups AND cat videos...omg this is awesome!

Kristy is a full-time middle school teacher and curriculum designer. Her blog is her creative passion where she hopes to help teachers gain ideas for their classrooms. Check out her other teacher humor blog posts below.


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Saying Goodbye to a Difficult School Year: 5 Super Effective Ways to Put the Year Behind You and Prepare for the Next

Thursday, May 31, 2018 / 2 comments

Saying Goodbye to a Difficult School Year: 5 Super Effective Ways to Put the Year Behind You and Prepare for the Next

Teachers often find the last few days of school to be bittersweet. Are we eager for the break? Of course! But also just a bit sad to see the school year end. It's just the way we are...

...But what happens when we don't feel sad to say goodbye? What if what we actually feel on the last day of school is... reliefRelief that a particularly challenging, difficult school year is finally over.  

Most teaching programs don't prepare us for the years that leave us wondering if we made the right choice, if teaching is truly our calling...and without support, our summers can be spent worrying instead of relaxing. 

With that in mind, here are 5 super effective ways to say goodbye to a stressful school year and begin enjoying your well-earned break!

Remember You're Not Alone

It sounds cliche. But when it comes to teaching, it really isn't. There just isn't a lot of places where a teacher can talk about having a challenging school year without facing judgement or recrimination. People who have never taught are quick to tell teachers who are tired that they are burned out or should retire if they aren't "in it for the kids" anymore and this view can make us hide our feelings rather than deal with them. 

But you're not alone. Every teacher has good years. And every teacher has years that are challenging. Difficult. Lonely. Frustrating. Really really hard. And being glad that these years end does not make you a bad teacher!

Choose Not to Place Blame

As teachers, we tend to be natural people-pleasers. We care about our students, we care about our fellow teachers, we care. Professionally. For a living. So when we find ourselves at the end of a challenging school year it can be hard not to feel like we've done something wrong. As summer starts, take a breath and make peace with the year. It happened. It wasn't the best year of teaching you will ever have. It might not be the worst (sad, but true). Nothing will be gained by blaming yourself. 

Nothing will be gained by wasting your time blaming others either, students, administrators, parents, colleagues. Could they all have played a role? Sure. But stewing about it won't help you move on.

Put it Away for Awhile

Emotions always run highest during or right after an experience, so give yourself the gift of distance. Make a conscious effort not to think about the past school year until several weeks of summer have gone by. It's not going to change how the year went, but the challenges you faced will likely look a little bit less awful while sitting someplace warm and drinking something with an umbrella in it. ;)

Express Yourself and Reflect

Once you've gotten some distance (and some Vitamin D!), take some time to really reflect on what happened over the course of the year. 

Were the problems beyond your control? Give yourself permission to let them go and look ahead with hope and optimism. 

Were they problems you think you could avoid in the future with planning or different choices? Instead of dwelling on what mistakes you may have made, start planning for how you're going to ensure they won't happen again.

Were the problems with administration, colleagues, or others? Ask yourself the tough questions about whether or not you can continue working in that environment. These tough choices are best made when you're calm and relaxed. Can't move to a different job? Spend some time reading up on how best to deal with challenging coworkers/work environments.

Plan for Next Year With Optimism

As teachers, we all are aware of how important breaks can be for recharging and being emotionally and mentally ready to face a new school year. We also know, however, that we're teachers...and sometime during those weeks off we're going to start planning. As you do, be conscious of doing so positively. One of the greatest aspects of being a teacher is that we do get to "start over" each year. Celebrate that aspect of our profession by planning with optimism and hope.

A rough school year can shake a good teacher to their core. I hope that if this school year was like that for you this summer can be a relaxing and healing one!

Have you survived a rough year and have other tips to share? Let me know in the comments!

Saying Goodbye to a Difficult School Year: 5 Super Effective Ways to Put the Year Behind You and Prepare for the Next

Saying Goodbye to a Difficult School Year: 5 Super Effective Ways to Put the Year Behind You and Prepare for the Next

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10 Ways the End of the School Year Is Like Planning a Royal Wedding

Friday, May 11, 2018 / Leave a Comment

10 Ways the End of the School Year Is Like Planning a Royal Wedding

Is anyone else a bit obsessed with the royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry? If so, check out my latest article on WeAreTeachers to see just how much we have in common with the people who are planning this event!

Hang in there, everyone! Summer's almost here!

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21 Vocabulary Words that Only Teachers Understand

Friday, March 23, 2018 / Leave a Comment

21 Vocabulary Words that Only Teachers Understand

Guys, I had so much fun writing this piece for WeAreTeachers, you really need to go check it out! Come back and tell me which new word is your favorite!

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Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 / 2 comments
Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

Hi Betsy,

I know that this really hasn't been your week...weeks...year??? 

Anyway, I know that you've been struggling to convince educators that you are truly invested in education for every child, that you trust the skilled and experienced teachers working in our nation's public schools, and (let's not pull punches here) that you actually understand pretty much anything that happens during an average day in a public school classroom in the United States of America. 

It must be rough to tweet something or say something in an interview that you think makes perfect sense and conveys all those ideas only to be pilloried by people on social media who "simply misunderstood" what you were trying to say. 

With this in mind, I thought I would write you this quick note. In it, I want to discuss your most recent Twitter tempest:
Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweets: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos
Yes, all teachers today stand in the front of classrooms full of just white children who all desperately want to politely participate in whatever that teacher is talking about...

You have actually been IN a public school since you accepted this position, right Betsy?
I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt (a big challenge, because the tweet is really, really bad, Betsy) and assuming that you were attempting to convey that schools today need to be continually striving for innovation. We must do this to meet the needs of our changing student population and the changing world they will be entering after they leave our schools.

Did it surprise you that teachers were upset by this tweet? 

I'm asking honestly because I am struggling here. Your job is to advise the President of the United States about the programs and activities related to education in the United States. How can you meet those responsibilities but still think that this stock photo is an accurate depiction of what teachers and students experience each day? How is that possible, Betsy? 

I mean, I'm sure some intern in your office picked it out for you...but surely you have some oversight on what goes out with your name on it. So you must have looked at that tweet and thought..."Yup, looks good. Send."

This tweet even had its own counter hashtag movement: #myrealclassroom

Just a quick tip, if they create an entire hashtag to debunk/disagree with your tweet...you're doing it wrong.

Here are just a few photos from #myrealclassroom, Betsy. I teach 9th grade and 12th grade English in an actual classroom in this country. 

This is what was happening in my English classes the day you tweeted about what you believe most of our classes look like in 2018.

Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVosBetsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

Let me begin by apologizing for the low lighting. Many of my students dislike the harsh fluorescent lights and find lamps more inviting. Some are students with disabilities that find the sound the regular lights make distracting or even painful. Mostly, it's because it makes my classroom feel more like a home. And that's what it becomes for many of my students...a second home. A safe space. A place they want to spend time in. 

Did the teacher in your stock photo spend hundreds of dollars to make that classroom feel like a home for her students? Because most of the teachers in this country do, Betsy.

I won't lie, though, the ugly "old school" desks are still there. The intern in your office got that part right. They aren't in rows, however, because that isn't the way we teach anymore and...most of us hate rows. They aren't conducive to the kind of collaborative, integrated teaching we're doing. (And if we have rows, its often because we have so many students in our classrooms, Betsy, there's just no other way to arrange them...but we'll save class sizes for another day)

But, you know...things like buying more modern, innovative classroom furniture cost money, don't they Betsy? 

And the students? Like the students in the stock photo, my students are also engaged and participating. But again, my classroom (and the classrooms of so, SO many other teachers) diverges from the ones in your tweet because my students aren't engaged in answering MY question, Betsy. They're engaged in the discussion they're having with each other. They've taken the instruction I've given them and are putting it to use in a collaborative discussion.

I wish you could have heard their conversations. I wish you could have seen the looks of frustration, determination, humor, and interest in their faces. They don't always have the right answer. But in our classrooms, Betsy, they work together with their teacher and with each other to find it.

That is what your tweet ignored. That is what your tweet belittled. That is what made your tweet a lie.

Your teachers, Betsy (and we are yours whether we like it or not because you are our Secretary of Education), are struggling to believe you care about our students, our schools, and us because you put out messages like this one. And it isn't ok. And you can't make it right by following tweets like this with a bunch of corny, little inspirational ones about "being bold," or "rethinking education."

Come into our classrooms, Betsy (even if we grumble and protest about you being there). Come see what we're doing, how hard we work every day to meet the needs of our students in this ever-changing world. See how much our country's educators do with so very little and while facing so very many challenges, roadblocks, and obstacles.

You are welcome in my classroom at any time, Secretary DeVos.

But if you can't or won't truly educate yourself on what is going on in the public schools in this country...please do just one thing:


Most Sincerely,

Meghan Mathis

Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

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Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!

Thursday, March 8, 2018 / 1 comment
Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!

Teaching is a profession with lots of serious challenges and many, many wonderful rewards. But today, I don't want to talk about any of those. Instead, I want to focus on five of the little annoyances teachers deal with that make us want to tear our hair out!

1. Pencil sharpeners 

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!

For being such a vital part of a classroom for so many years, you'd think someone would have come up with a design for one that isn't obnoxiously loud, or completely ineffective. The old-fashioned ones kill your knuckles, the new ones work beautifully for two hours before only sharpening on one side or dying completely because a student used it to sharpen colored pencils. We can send human beings to the moon and are actively working on getting them to Mars...could we maybe figure out how to create a pencil sharpener that can handle regular AND colored pencils for less than $500 in the mean time???

2. 1-Ply Toilet Paper

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!
"Teacher Bladder" is real. Having trained ourselves to only go to the bathroom once every 6 hours or so means that when we DO have time to visit the facilities we really need to go. Additionally, we're usually trying to fit in a visit to the restroom in the middle of a To-Do list a mile long, giving us about 2-3 minutes tops to do our business. With that in mind, there's not much that is more infuriating than having to fight with a massive roll of 1-ply toilet paper in order to get the amount of tp needed for the job. Every time I search for the end of the roll, pull and feel the paper give way after only 1 or 2 squares the white hot rage that fills my body could power a small town for weeks.

3. No-Show Snow Days

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy! 

While there are many times we'd rather not have a snow day, nothing is more annoying than waking up to the news that the storm you were sure was going to at least warrant a 2-hour delay fizzled out and you have to be at school on-time. Going to sleep all excited about what you're going to get done on your snow day ("Maybe I'll even find the floor of the laundry room!") and then having those plans ripped away by the storm moving too far to the east makes you grumpy, your students are grumpy, and the day feels longer than any normal school day. Come on, weather! Get it together!

4. Technical Difficulties

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!

Teachers aren't nervous about standing up in front of students. In fact, most of us are completely comfortable making total fools out of ourselves if it helps our students learn whatever we're trying to teach them. That being said, not much raises my blood pressure faster than standing with my back to my classroom fiddling with cables, cords, speakers, blocked websites, or poor internet connections when I've planned a lesson that requires technology that is refusing to work. The students' chatter grows louder and louder and I feel embarrassed and exposed as I try to figure why the hell the video that played perfectly this morning is now refusing to load up. It's enough to make me nostalgic for the days of the gigantic TV/VCR cart.

5. Fluctuating Room Temperatures

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!
Most teachers go to great lengths to make their classrooms feel comfortable and engaging. We put up colorful decorations, amusing posters, engaging bulletin boards, and even bring in cozy furniture or make cute reading nooks. Our classrooms become our mini-home away from home (after all, we do practically live there). So not much is worse than having your comfy classroom feel like the Arctic tundra or the Amazonian rain forest because the thermostat can't decide if it wants to make your room a freezer or a sauna. Even more annoying are the classrooms that can't make up their minds - leaving you sweating one day and shivering the next.

So there you go, the five little annoyances that occasionally make me feel like throwing things during the school day. What did I forget? What are the little bothers that make you crazy? Let me know in the comments below!

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!

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