Recipes for Busy Teachers

I always call the first few weeks of school "Boot Camp" because students are learning my rules and procedures.  Many days I felt more like a drill sergeant than a teacher because I felt liked I drilled, drilled, drilled procedure all day rather than taught academics.  When I came home I was on a verge of losing my voice and was exhausted.  The last thing I wanted to think about was "what's for dinner".  When you are that tired, going out to eat doesn't even sound good because it takes too much effort.  So, what's the solution?  Have a few simple recipes ready to go, plan out your week's menu ahead of time, and if possible freeze a few meals for those days when you had a "Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day."

One easy recipe to make and also is freeze-able (is that even a word?) is Tater Tot Casserole.  It doesn't have very many ingredients which is another plus. There are several different recipes for Tater Tot Casserole.  Here's the recipe that I like.  Click on the recipe below:

A crockpot is a teacher's best friend.  There is nothing better than coming home after a long faculty meeting to the smell of a yummy meal in your crockpot.  One easy meal to make in a crockpot is Pork Roast.  Click on the picture to get the recipe.

Do you have an easy recipe to share?

I am joining Miss Squirrel's @ Going Nutty's linky party.  The theme is Easy Peasy as Mac & Cheesey.  Be sure to hop over to her blog to find more easy recipes which are perfect for busy teachers.

Oh! No! Kit for Teacher

When you are out shopping for school supplies and new clothes, don't forget to organize a teacher survival kit.  These come in handy when you have those "oops!" and "Oh!  No!" moments at school.

These are perfect gifts for the new teacher at your school.  Your child's teacher would appreciate this gift, too because it is the gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.  If you are involved in your PTA, suggest something like this as a "welcome back" gift.  The teachers will love it!  You can make mini-versions of this for co-workers, too.  

Shoes and socks are for those days when little Joey throws up on your brand new pair of shoes or you step in an icy puddle of slush on your way into school.  This has happened to me more than once!  I always keep an extra pair of shoes and socks at school for those occasions.  

If you have an outdoor duty such as recess duty or bus duty, you need an umbrella and jacket.  An umbrella is useful on sunny days as well as rainy days.  An extra jacket at school is for those days when the weather takes a turn for the worse in the middle of the day.

Yes, I know your custodian probably has a bunch of orange extension cords.  But, it sure is nice to have your own extension cord when you need one in a hurry.  Plus, they are inexpensive.  I bought a 6 foot cord at Target for less than $2.

Tylenol is for the occasional headache.  Cough drops come in handy the first few weeks of school when your students are going through "boot camp" (learning your rules and procedures).  

The other things in the survival kit are self explanatory.  Can you think of something else I should add to mine?

These make great gifts for new staff members.

Freebie Fridays

Looking for more Back to School ideas?  Click on the pictures below.


Tips for Professional Development

'Tis the season to sit in meetings, fa la la la la . . . .

The beginning of a new school year always means meetings . . . meet for this, meet for that, at times it seems like you have a meeting to say you had a meeting.  Through the years, I have had some interesting professional development meetings.  Yes, I know,  I may be in the minority of teachers who can say I have sat through some interesting professional development meetings.  Here are a few things that my principals did that made the meetings worthwhile.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone:

We all love to sit by our buddies when we go to a meetings, but I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone.  Why?  Throughout the school year, you will work with more staff members than the ones on your team or your small group of buddies.  Mixing it up with regards to where you sit, gives you the opportunity to "chit chat".  Many times informal communication helps build connections (a.k.a. relationships) so you will feel more comfortable to approach a staff member when you have a question or need help.  Just like the old saying about it takes a village to raise a child, I think it takes a school, all of the employees in a school, to educate a child.  I can't tell you how many times I've gotten helpful insight about some of my puzzle kids from staff members who weren't a member of my comfort zone.  There was the time my custodian observed my student's lack of interactions with classmates at lunch, the librarian who noticed my student has a love for dinosaur books which I used to motivate him with dinosaur stickers, the computer teacher who noticed my student is my class "tech expert", and many other helpful insights.  Getting out of your comfort zone and getting to know more staff members will help you and your students.

If you are in charge of planning your P.D. meeting, you can mix up your seating chart with this fun activity.  The only glitch with this activity is men.   If you have men on your staff, they won't be able to do this activity, so tell them to split up and sit at different tables.  Have ladies with the same lipstick style sit together.


What is Your Personal Style When Working in a Group:

When you are a teacher, you are not an island, although you may feel alone when you close your classroom door.  Think about how many times a day you interact with other members of the staff . . . the cafeteria manager when you forgot your lunch count, the nurse when your student who is a member of your "frequent flyer" program ask to go the nurse for the fifth time in an hour, the speech pathologist who needs to reschedule due to a staffing . . . my point is teachers are not an island, we are a cog in a system.  All it takes is one member of the cog to get "out of whack" and the system breaks down.  This is why this activity is so beneficial.  When you understand how members of your school work within a group, you will work better together.



Fashion for the First Day of School

I'm sure you've been visiting Target and Wal-Mart for their back to school sales.  Have you visited the mall to buy some new clothes and shoes ?
The first day of school is just as exciting for teachers as it is for students.  Who gets a good night of sleep before the first day of school?  Not me, that's for sure. One thing you may want to consider is saving your new outfit for the second day of school.  As a person who has been the new kid on the block, as a parent and as a faculty member, I can't stress enough how helpful it was when school employees wear their school shirts on the first day of school.  Parents can easily identify an adult if they need to ask for directions.  If a child gets lost during the day, he or she can find an adult with a school shirt to get ask for help.  New faculty and staff members can also see who the "go to" people are for help.   Yes, many school employees wear name tags, which are nice, but they are small so they are harder to see.  Many employees forget to wear them, too.  Trust me, matching shirts are the way to go!

Let's help out the new teachers!   What is your favorite brand of shoes to wear when you're teaching?  I have several that I like . . . Dansko, Merrell, and Clarks, are some comfy ones to check out.   Leave a comment below and help the newbies out.  What is your favorite brand of shoes?

Looking for more Back to School ideas?  Click on the pictures below:
An InLinkz Link-up

Tell me more

I am linking up with Amy Lemons's Tell Me More linky party.  

When I was in elementary school I was often told I looked like Melissa Gilbert, Laura on Little House on the Prairie.  My third grade teacher, Mrs. Taylor, read that series of books to us.  This was the book(s) that turned me onto reading.  Up until then, I was a reluctant reader, in fact I hated reading.  I could easily relate to Laura.  She grew up on a farm, I lived on a farm, she had an older sister than annoyed her, I had an older brother than annoyed me, she had a baby sister, I had a baby brother, and the list went on and on.  Did you notice how Laura seemed in get into trouble quite a bit in these stories?  Me, too!  She often felt like people didn't understand her or listen to her.  But, she could always count on her dad to make things right in her world.  My dad was the same way for me.  I often felt misunderstood, too. When I was in 3rd grade, I was a little spunky, independent, and somewhat misunderstood like Laura.   Mrs. Taylor introduced multiplication to our class one day.  It was not love at first sight for me.  I personally didn't see a need for it, I was perfectly happy with my addition and subtraction facts and I told Mrs. Taylor this.  I had no plans to learn multiplication or division, I would just stick with adding and subtracting, thank you very much.  I guess Mrs. Taylor could tell by the stubborn look I was giving her that arguing wasn't going to do any good.  But, she found a way around it.  It just so happened that I lived in a small town and Mrs. Taylor saw my Grandma at the grocery store.  She conveyed the story to my Grandma and Grandma told her she would take care of it.  I spent every Friday night at my Grandma's house when I was growing up.  So, the next Friday night, Grandma had a new game for us to play.  She had this new fangled gadget that was all the rage back then called a calculator - a hand held one!

Grandma said we would start off by her giving me multiplication problems and I would push the buttons on the calculator to get the answer.  After awhile, we switched it where Grandma would push the buttons and I tried to give the answer before Grandma got the answer on the calculator. Surprisingly, Grandma was very slow at punching in the buttons.  I loved to race so in a short period of time I was learning my multiplication facts.  Sneaky Grandma!  Don't you just love it when a village raises the child?

I remember buying my first Little House on the Prairie book.  I finished it in a few days.  I quickly bought every book of the series and then went back and reread them.  I made a freebie for you in case you plan to share the Little House series with your class this year. I aligned it with 2nd grade Common Core Standards, too.  I hope your students learn to love reading as much as I do.

Click HERE to get your free copy.


Reading Center

Have you been browsing through the new school supplies at Target?  I found a great deal on colored composition books today.  They only cost 50 cents!  I love all of the bright colors . . . the colors just scream - do something with me!

What could a teacher do with colored composition books?  Colors would be a great way to organize a reading journal center.  Each reading group could be assigned a different color.  There would be an assignment sheet hanging where the journals are kept so students can see that day's assignment.  Here are a few examples of assignment sheets for you.  They are aligned with Common Core Standards.  There are a couple of assignments for grades 1-5.

There are also labels for the journals:
Click HERE to get a FREE copy.


Back to School: Middle School Beginnings

From my Facebook page, I found out that I have quite a few followers that teach older students.  So, I asked my friend, Sandy K., a 6th grade teacher, for some ideas to share with you.   When I write about Sandy K's ideas, I will call these posts Special K tidbits so you'll know I'm passing along someone else's great ideas.

One of the activities Sandy does at the beginning of the year is actually a writing assessment.  Sandy begins with a letter, a letter from her to her students.  She tells her students about her personal interests such as favorite movies, a word that describes her, and what she enjoys doing in her free time.  This helps her build a personal connection with her students.  Sandy then tells her students she would like them to write her a letter so can learn a little more about them.  They can use some of her ideas like their favorite movie or write about their own topics.  This activity is dual purpose.  Sandy gets to know her students on a personal level and also gets a glimpse of their writing skills.  

I made a graphic organizer that you can use for this activity and a page for the letter.

Click HERE to download this freebie.

Looking for more Back to School ideas?  Click on the pictures below:

Motivating Students

I have a special friend named Sandy, who is a 6th grade teacher, which is middle school in California.  She was actually my daughter's sixth grade teacher.  We got to know each other through my volunteer work in her classroom.  Yes, teachers in middle school do let parents volunteer in their classroom.  I had been told it was quite the opposite of that.  With the move to California and my daughter beginning middle school,  I had planned to take that year off from teaching to help my daughter adjust to our move.  Little did I realize, that it was going to be a bigger adjustment for me not working (the first time in twenty years) than it was for my daughter to go to middle school.  I give my daughter's teachers all of the credit for her smooth adjustment.  This is a school full of amazing teachers!   Not only did Sandy let me help, but other teachers "adopted" me that year, too.  I volunteered about 10 hours per week in 2 sixth grade Core (lang. arts/social studies) classroom, helped the librarian, was a "copy cat" - copy materials for teachers, and assisted the reading specialist with the Read Naturally program.  I absolutely loved my volunteer work and by the end of the year I felt like I had been through a year of student teaching.  Although there are similarities with teaching elementary and middle school, there are more differences.  One of the first ones I noticed was motivation.  Motivating a first grader (which is the grade I was teaching before we moved) was so much easier than motivating a middle schooler.  First grader want their teachers approval, middle schoolers on the other hand want their peer's approval.  How many times a day does a first grade teacher hear, "Does this look OK?" (when they show you their work).  There were many middle schoolers that would take the path of least resistance - turn in work that you knew was less than their best because it was easier.  I remember one day I was working with a 7th grade boy with the Read Naturally program and discussing his fluency.  I told him to pretend he was reading the story to a group of first graders.  He read the story again with little improvement.  So, then I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  He wanted to play baseball professionally.  I asked him what his plans were after baseball because they don't play the game very long.  He planned to be a sport newscaster after that.  I asked him what he thought his chances were of getting hired to read the sports news if he read the words like a robot. Suddenly, the light came on and he began reading with inflection.  He was capable of reading fluently before, but he lacked motivation.  It seemed to motivate them more if you showed how it affected them.  I found motivation to be one of the biggest challenges a middle school teacher dealt with on an hour by hour basis.  I thought I was tired when I taught kindergarten, but I think being a motivational cheerleader-teacher in middle school would be tiring, too.  Middle school teachers have my admiration and sympathy.

Here are some happy notes you can copy, cut apart, and staple on students' papers or handout when you catch your students working extra hard.  Maybe these little notes will give your students a little extra boost.

Click HERE to download the happy notes.


First Day of School Linky Party

First day jitters aren't just for kids!  I think I get just as nervous as my students.  I'm sure you do, too.  You can plan, plan, and overplan, but there are always those last minute glitches that come up every year.  What do you do with your students when they first arrive?  You know those 15-30 minutes when parents want to talk to you, yet you need to supervise your students, and you are getting pulled in every which direction.  I found it helpful to get my students engaged in some type of high interest activity.  This makes it easier for them to say goodbye to Mom and Dad which makes the transition easier.  When I taught kindergarten and first grade, I had  playdough and cookie cutters on the students' tables waiting for them.  HINT:  new cans of playdough are hard for the students to open.  Use koolaid playdough instead of playdough from the store.  It is cheap to make and I love its texture.  I store the playdough in these type of containers because students can easily open them:

Students will happily play with playdough and cookie cutters for a LONG time - or at least long enough to answer parents' questions.  You can also gain some valuable insights with this activity such as who wants to take too many cookie cutters, who can share, who likes to collaborate, who adds an academic twist to the activity such as making patterns, who creates elaborate stories with the shapes, and many more skills. 

Speaking of transitions, one of my former schools had the perfect solution for kindergarten parents.  It was called a "Boo-hoo Breakfast".  We gave parents a paper hand that had a tissue glued to it and a label with details about the Boo-hoo Breakfast.  Parents were invited to go to the library for juice, coffee, and donuts.  The administrators and counselors met with the parents to discuss common kindergarten adjustment issues.  

Another one of my tried and true activities is having students draw themselves the first day of school and write a sentence or two about what they hope to learn this year.  This makes a great picture to hang in the hallway.  I also have my students draw themselves the last day of school so parents can see the progress their child has made this year.  If you click on the pictures below, you can get a free copy of first day and last day for grades K-3.

You are invited to join my "First Day of School" Linky Party.  To participate please:

*Write a blog post telling about your first day of school.

*Link your blog post with my blog.  Be sure to click on the title of your post or you will be linking to your homepage instead of the actual post.

*You need to also add a backlink to my blog in your post.  You can do this one of these ways:
     -Write a note to your readers to let them know that you are joining my party.  Be sure  to hyperlink Teach123.
     -Take a screenshot of the graphic at the top of the page and add a link to it.
     -Get the code under the graphic below, insert it at the top or the bottom of your blog post   when you click "edit HTML" under edit post.

Please do not link up until you have published your post.


TBA's Ultimate Linky Party

Freebie Fridays


School Memories

How have your school memories shaped you as a teacher?  Through the years, I've heard the two extremes.  Teachers either had negative experiences when they were students which motivated them to be a better teacher or they loved school, had wonderful memories and wanted to share those experiences with the next generation.  

I was fortunate in that I fell into the later category.  Some of the activities that teachers did with my class, I used with my students.  One of my favorite activities in fourth grade was Friday Fun Day.  Our teacher, Mrs. Sexton, reviewed math facts and spelling words with chalkboard races.  I absolutely loved this!  I practiced my math facts, writing quickly, and legibly at home so I could (hopefully) beat my classmates.  I've taught for twenty years and every one of those classes has experienced Friday Fun day.  Many of my students learned their math facts through chalkboard / markerboard races.  

Who could forget playing "Around the World"?  This is another great game for teaching math facts.  It wasn't just our classroom teachers who used this game.  Our elementary music teacher, Mrs. Huff, used this game also.  She had flashcards with musical symbols that she used for this game.   Mrs. Huff also played a teacher's version of Twister.  She put masking tape on the floor to make the 5 lines of a musical staff. Then 2 students would stand at the bottom of the staff when she would tell us to do things like "right hand on A", "left foot on G", etc.   We all left with a firm grasp of music.

I am joining Jennifer @ Simply Kinder School Memory Linky Party.

I am also joining Debbie @ Rainbows within Reach's Linky Party.


Oh! How Pinteresting!


I am joining Michelle @ The Vintage Apple's linky party.  I think she loves pinterest as much as I do.  Here are a few pins that I found pinteresting . . . 

Click on any of the pictures below for the pin or site.

I am always on the lookout for new ways to organize.  I love this!

I hate having a "nest" of cords and unable to find what I need.  
This is such a quick and simple way to solve a frustrating problem.

Who doesn't love Schoolhouse Rock?  The tunes stuck in your head all day!
I dare you to watch the video and not hum it today.

Isn't this a great space saving idea?  
Check out the blog that gave this great tip.

Are you like me and have flipflops in every color imaginable?
This organizer is only $10.

I don't know why, but I hate doing the laundry.
I have done this more times than I care to admit.

I can totally relate to this!

This is hands down my favorite restaurant of all time!
If you're ever in San Antonio stop in and eat a crispy chicken taco for me.

If you are a teacher and love pinning, check out my pinterest boards.

Another pinaholic, like myself, that you should check out is my friend, Fern.  Fern and I are usually pinning at the same time and getting a timeout from Pinterest.  Yes, Pinterest will give you a timeout if you pin too much at one time.  Visit her blog, too!

Click to visit Fern's pinterest boards.

Click to visit Fern's blog.