Teacher Work Room Tips

Your school's work room can be a source of help but also a source of frustration.  One of the benefits of working at different schools, is seeing what type of procedures the administrators set up for the work room.  I was lucky enough to work at some schools that had happy, functional work rooms.

Parents are often an untapped resource.  Back to School Night is the perfect time to ask for volunteers to help you with all of your time consuming tasks.  I've had the best luck when I had 4 volunteers.  When I ask for volunteers I explain that I am asking for someone who can commit to one day a week per month for a couple of hours plus a training session. Most parents who have time to volunteer can commit to coming in one day per month for an hour or two to help. 

I like to have one volunteer a week come in on a Thursday to do the tasks I organize for them in a tub.  I found Thursday is the best day for me because school is not in session on some Fridays.  I meet with the four volunteers before or after school for a training session. At the training session:
  •  I show them how to use the copier, laminator, and other equipment in the work room.  
  • I show them where I keep the tub of work that I organize for them.
  • I ask them to let teachers have first priority on the copier or laminator.  If they run out of time that they can volunteer and a teacher was using the copier, to leave me a note showing me what needs to be done.  I assure them that it is more important to keep faculty harmony, than for them to finish the work I have left for them to do.  I can finish the incomplete tasks on Friday.

Copier can be a hot button issue at schools.  If they are managed properly, copiers can be valuable tools.  I have been blessed to have worked at schools that had procedures in place that made the copier a tool rather than a big lump of metal that everyone cursed or cursed those who were using it without common sense.  These are the procedures that I felt helped keep faculty harmony:
  • There was an assigned "go to" person who ordered, checked, and changed the toner.  This person was also the contact person for the repairman.  She knew the copier's history which helped get it fixed quickly and correctly.  We were told who the "go to" person was at our inservice meeting the week before school.  Everyone being on the same page was key.
  • Priorities were given for who got "first dibs" on the copier during school hours.  When school was in session, the teachers who were on their prep period had first priority.  Teachers (not on prep period) had second priority.  Volunteers had third priority.  Teachers who had volunteers making copies for them were responsible for the volunteer understanding the procedures.
  • (Peak times) The 15 minutes before school and the 15 minutes after school any teacher could use the copier, but he or she was limited to making one class set. This was NOT the time to copy what you needed for the week.  This is a high stress time when teachers are coming in needing to make last minute copies.  One teacher should not dominate the copier.
  • Before or after school (non-peak times) if there is more than one copier at your school, one grade level should not be using multiple copiers to make copies/packets for the grade level.  This is a common problem during test prep season.  Administrators usually reminded us of this after winter break.

It is hard to work in the work room without supplies.  If you have a volunteer help you, put some supplies in your tub in case the work room runs out of what your volunteer needs.

Many times your PTA will ask your teacher representative what the faculty needs. Stocking the work room with supplies should be one of the first things that goes on your faculty's wish list.  Suggested supplies:
  • Large paper clips
  • Binder clips
  • Rubberbands
  • Scissors
  • Staplers
  • Staples
  • Highlighter
  • Sharpie markers
  • Paper hole punch
  • Tape

I found that forms like the ones below save time when I am prepping my materials for my volunteers.  You can also use these forms if your PTA staffs your work room with volunteers.  

Click HERE to download this freebie.

Looking for more tips?  Check out my Beginning of the Year Pinterest board.  Click on the picture below.

Fern has some tips to share with you, too.  Be sure to hop over to her blog!

Stop by Fern's blog and my blog each week for Tuesday Teacher Tips.  We hope you will share your ideas, too. Each week we will choose one person who shared a tip on our blog who will get a $10 shopping trip.  We will announce the winner in the following Tuesday's post.  The winner of this post will be announced on next week's post.

Click HERE to read the tip that Melinda shared on last week's post.

Do you have a work room tip to share?  Be sure to include your email so I can contact you if you're the winner of the $10 shopping trip.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Freebie Fridays


Interruptions, blurts out, and other distractions

There are many procedures that you teach at the beginning of the year.  Some of them you know by heart.  But, it seems like there are always a few that you forget to teach until you have an "oops!" moment.

Phone calls are one of those procedures that I forget to teach my class until I get my first phone call.  Then it is the big "Oops!  I really need to add that to my procedures list next year".  Somehow I forget to do that because you know what the beginning of the year is like, crazy busy with a big dose of overwhelm-ness thrown in for good measure.  Learn from my mistakes and add what you want your students to do when the phone rings to your procedure list.  The next time the phone rings, you'll be glad you did.

At the beginning of the year, there is always a larger percentage of your class that blurts out.  For some students, it takes them a while to get back into school mode.  For others, it can be a matter of:
  • ANXIETY:  Beginning of the year can be a scary thing.  Think about your last job interview did you ramble on more than you normally would?  This is how it is with the nervous type of blurters.  They are anxious.  With time, they will adjust to the expectations of your classroom.  Sensitivity and patience works best with these type of students.  Heavy handed discipline or laying-down the law does not work with an anxious blurter.  All that does is make them more anxious and prone to blurt more.  Try to ignore their blurting as much as possible.  Making connections with them during work time or recess will help make them more comfortable with you and at school.  The smallest comment like "I noticed you working really hard on your journal today" can pay the biggest dividends with them.
  • IMPULSIVITY:  Some students are impulsive and excitable by nature. It could be also be a matter of maturity.  Check their birthdate.  Were they born between May - August? Whether it is their nature or a matter of maturity, there are strategies that you can use.  
    • The parking garage is a strategy to use when you are teaching a whole group lessons.  
    • Some students that blurt respond well to a visual reminder.  I made small stop signs and kept them everywhere that I kept one at my reading table, carpet time, white board, and all the other places that I taught. I didn't stop what I was teaching when one of my students blurted, I held up my small stop sign that I put on a popsicle stick.  The student quickly learned what the sign meant and without any verbal directions from me, stopped interrupting the lesson.  Here is a freebie for you.

Do you have colleagues that pop in when you are teaching?  Sometimes there is a reason why it is necessary to ask you a question during your instructional time.  But, many times questions could wait until you have a prep period, or before/after school.  If you have co-workers that are making a habit of popping in at the wrong time you can handle it different ways.  
  • Talk to them, privately, if it is becoming a problem.
  • Shut your classroom door during the day when you are teaching and don't want to be interrupted.  This works as a visual cue for most people.  If you don't want to be interrupted after school when you are catching up on paperwork, close your door then, too.   It works as well after school as during the day.
  • Did you hang a marker board outside your dorm room in undergrad?  People left you notes if you were sleeping or not in your room.  I have seen teachers used this same type of method.  They kept a marker board or even a small table with a pad of paper and pen outside their classroom door.  People can write a note and leave it in the basket.  
  • The first school I taught at was a Catholic School.  Students were taught to stand up next to their desk, face the person who enters their classroom, and greet them with either "Good Morning Mr./Mrs. ___   or Good Afternoon Mr./Mrs. ____".  It was to show respect and greet the person when he or she came into a classroom.  People rarely visited other classrooms during the instructional time, because the greetings clearly demonstrated that you were interrupting our class.
Looking for more tips?  Check out my Classroom Management Pinterest board.  Click on the picture below.

Fern has a few tips to share with you, too.  Be sure to hop over to her blog!

Each week, Fern and I share a Tuesday Teacher Tip. We love to read teacher blogs and the latest teacher idea books and hope you do, too!  Stop by Fern's blog and my blog each week for our latest tips.  We hope you will share your ideas, too.  

Each week we will choose one person who shared a tip on our blog who will get a $10 shopping trip.  We will announce the winner on the following Tuesday's post.  

Do you have a interruptions, blurts, or other distraction tip to share?  Be sure to include your email so I can contact you if you're the winner of the $10 shopping trip. You must leave your email address in order to win.

Looking for more ideas?  Click on the pictures below.


Back to School: Ice Breaker & Idioms

When you go to a party and don't know very many people, how do you connect with people?  Do you try to find something that you have in common?  Shared experiences?

You can give your students that same experience and incorporate figurative language at the same time.  Introduce the "I've been in your shoes" idiom to your class.

Next your students will need a partner or you will need to put them in small groups.

Give each partner or groups a discussion card.  This card has topics that your students will share about their experiences with their group or partner.  They may not have experienced every topic, but they should share their experiences about at least 2 of the topics.

When your cooperative groups finishing sharing their experiences, students will go back to their tables or desks and write about one of the students in their group that they have been in their shoes.  Students should tell who they shared a common experience with and how these experiences are alike.  When students finish writing, have them share their stories with the class.

Would you like to do this cooperative activity with your class?  It is a free download.

Fern and I have been in your shoes, both literally and figuratively!  We would love to help one lucky follower's feet - the literal kind.  One of the hardest things about the beginning of the school year is coming home to aching feet.  We thought it would be fun to do a giveaway for a $50 Zappos shoe gift card.  You can do a little retail therapy!

Read the directions on the rafflecopter below.  Tell your friends because they are "in your shoes" right now, too!


Teacher Inspiration: Bright Ideas

Who inspires you?  Do you ever have those one of those days, months, or even a year when you just don't feel it? 

If you were in high school or college in 80's, more than likely you saw the movie Top Gun once or twice.  At one point, Tom Cruise is questioning whether he should continue to be a fighter pilot. He had lost his co-pilot and questioned his skills as a pilot.  He had lost his edge.  While you may not lose your students the same way that Tom Cruise lost Goose, you may question your abilities as a teacher when you fail to reach a student.  Maybe you have a new administrator or a particularly challenging parent this year that questions your skills as an educator.  Any of these situations can cause a teacher to lose his or her edge.

Teaching is a job that requires you to give, give, give and give a little more even if you don't think you have anymore to give.  Is it any wonder that there is a high burnout rate with teachers?

You give emotional support to the ones who are needy.  You give of your time, not just the contract hours from 8:00 - 3:00 but often your family's time, too. At times you give every ounce of your patience - or so it seems - with the ones who are crying out for attention but in the wrong way.  

If you teach long enough, you will eventually have a time when you hit one of these bumps I illustrated above.   If you are lucky, it will only be a little bump and you will have a quick recovery.  But, what do you do when you lose your passion for teaching and need some inspiration?

When I've had times where I questioned my ability, had others questioned it for me, or I felt drained and had no more to give, I knew that it was time for me to find my passion again.  One way I do this is finding a little me time on the weekends.  I pop some popcorn and watch a great teacher flick.  Two of my favorites are Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting.  They are the perfect movies for teachers to find a little inspiration.

How many times have we overlooked the bright student like Will Hunting because his behavior overshadows his gifts?   I can't tell you how many times after I have watched this movies that I listed the gifts that I had been overlooking in my students with challenging behaviors.  When I went in the next day and really focused on the gifts, my attitude changed, my approach changed, and quite miraculously the student's behavior changed.  Such an easy fix, but it is so easy to get in the power struggles that ensue in the day-to-day life of a classroom and forget what is at the core of the behavior.

Click HERE to see the clip.

The scene in the courtyard of Dead Poets Society is my absolute favorite because it deals with conformity.  This scene has been the starting point of many lessons.  I love to see the little cogs spinning in some of my students' heads after introducing this topic to them.  There is nothing like delivering a high quality lesson to remind you why you became a teacher.

Have you ever taught in a school where you felt like you were a square peg in a round hole?  You feel like you need to conform to the teaching style, behavior management, and other norms of the school but these aren't your philosophy.   In fact, if asked, you could write a 5 page paper, researched based, why you think the norms of the school are not student based or effective teaching practices. If you are in one of those square peg situations this year, you may want to bookmark this video to watch when you come home frustrated.  

The best advice I can give you is, nothing in education is permanent.  The running mantra in your head should be, this is just a temporary situation. Talk to any teacher who has been around for a while, education is a pendulum that swings back and forth or maybe the better way to look at it is like the weather.  If you don't like what is happening now, just wait, it will change.  When it will change can depend upon different factors.  

If you don't like the direction that your school is going, get involved.  Volunteer to attend training of something that does align with your core beliefs and then give workshops for your colleagues.  Be the "go to" person for this subject.  Join committees, take on leadership roles, share your knowledge, and your resources.  Change takes times and with someone leading the way, it will happen faster.  You will feel less stressed if you take on an active role.  

When I was in grad school for educational leadership, I took a class called Change.  It was one of my all time favorite classes EVER!  I think all undergrad students should have to take this class because we all go through many changes throughout our life. After attending this class I felt like I understood how I was reacting to change and also understood my co-workers' reaction better.  Although change is still a stressful situation, it is manageable when you understand it.
  • Do you have a new administrator this year?  How are you and your colleague reacting to the change in leadership?
  • Have you recently adopted a new curriculum?  How are you and your team members handling the change? 
This class helped us see how different people react to change.  I found a resource that has some of the information that we covered in my class.  This is a good starting point for those of you who are going through change.  I recommend googling change management to find other resources, too.  The more you understand, the less stressed you will be this year.

Click HERE to see Andrea Wenger's slideshow.

Where do you find your inspiration?


Transitions at School

Transitions during the day can be a source of chaos and waste valuable class time.  With a little thought and planning, you can improve your transitions.  It will feel like you've added minutes to your schedule when you improve your transitions.

Adding a little music can make a big difference.  One of my favorite things to do is to find a song (or two) that is age appropriate for your class and has a catchy tune.  Warning, you will be playing this song everyday, so make sure you really like it.  When it is time for your students to stop working and begin cleaning up, play your clean up song.  

Your shining star student will quickly figure out that if the song is 4 minutes long and he or she only has 1 more problem to finish, then your student has enough time to finish the problem AND clean up before the song is over.  It doesn't take the other students long to figure out this, too.  This is why it is important to play the same song.  For your sanity's sake, I highly recommend choosing different songs as the clean song for each subject or time period in your schedule.

I personally prefer songs that do not have words.  I think it is easier for students to concentrate on cleaning up or finishing up their work if there aren't words.  But, I think this is a matter of preference.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Click HERE to download this.

Arrival can set the tone for you day.  Dismissal can set the tone for how your students go home and what they tell mom and dad about their day.  It helps when you have a routine for both times of the day.   Some students may need a visual schedule to remind them of the routine.

One year we were told our school was too big to allow group restroom breaks.  I was teaching in a school with over 1,100 students in a building that was built for 600 students.  Yes, there were portables classrooms, at the time there weren't portable restrooms.  

It was the best thing that ever happened.  Who knew?!!!  I had always taken my class on group restroom breaks until this happened.  After doing a little brainstorming with my teammates, we decided to make the 20 minutes before we needed to leave for lunch as our singing and chant time.  I sent two boys and two girls at a time to use the restroom and wash their hands.  I think there was actually less playing around this way than when we went as a class.  

Sometimes when you line up your class, you notice that "oops!"  it's not quite time to go to P.E., lunch, or the library.  There are a few fun things you can do:
  • This is the perfect time to practice a little mental math.   "1/2 of 36 is __"  "22+16+51=___"  
  • You can also review reading skills, too.  "I'm thinking of a word that has two syllables, is orange, and you see it in the fall.  What is it?"
  • If you can hear me, tap you right elbow. This is a great listening activity.

Looking for more tips?  Check out my Classroom Organization Pinterest board.  Click on the picture below.

Fern has a few tips about transitions to share with you, too.  Be sure to hop over to her blog!

Fern and I are adding something new this summer.  Summer is a great time to catch up on your reading.  I love to read teacher blogs and the latest teacher idea books.  Stop by Fern's blog and my blog each week for Tuesday Teacher Tips.  We hope you will share your ideas, too.  

Each week we will choose one person who shared a tip on our blog who will get a $10 shopping trip.  We will announce the winner in the following Tuesday's post.  The winner of this post will be announced on next week's post.

Do you have a transition tip to share?  Be sure to include your email so I can contact you if you're the winner of the $10 shopping trip.

Looking for more ideas?  Click on the pictures below:

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Back to School Hop

We've all heard that first impressions are so important.  This is why the Meet the Teacher can set the tone for your school year. Of course, you never feel fully prepared for when that day arrives, but there are a few things you can do to make a good first impression.

You don't have to finish every bulletin board. The ones that will be used to display students' work or anchor charts will look rather sparse.  But, what you can do is put background paper, title/caption, and border on them so they look like they are ready for students' work.

Your room should be free of clutter and trash.  Stash the clutter in drawers and closets if you aren't finished organizing.  Hopefully, you will have time to finish organizing after Meet the Teacher.  Custodians try to empty trash cans before this begins.  I usually keep a few large trash bags in my closet in case I fill my trash cans after the custodians have emptied mine.  Do you really want your parents to walk into a room that has a trashcan overflowing?

Sometimes your students bring their supplies to Meet the Teacher.  I love it when that happens because it makes the first day much smoother.  It helps if you have some type of slideshow playing at the Meet the Teacher that is giving the parents and students instructions.  I made a free and editable in Powerpoint one for you.

  • Do you have students turn in some of their supplies like tissues?  Where do they put them?
  • Do you want supplies labeled?  If so, which ones?  Do you have extra sharpies available for parents that don't have supplies labeled.

  • Is there a different arrival procedure the first day of school?
  • Where will you normally pick up your class?
  • Is breakfast served at your school?
  • What do students that eat breakfast do when they finish eating?

  • Do students need a lunch ticket?  Should parents put money on the account today or can they do it online?
  • Do you recommend students bring their lunch the first week while they are adjusting to school?

  • Dismissal is another important detail to find out at Meet the Teacher.  
  • Will the child go home a different way the first day, first week than the rest of the school year?

Click HERE to download this FREE editable file.

Have you found some things that have improved your Meet the Teacher?

Today, some of my friends and I have organized a Back to School blog hop.  We thought you would enjoy getting some new ideas and few freebies.

Next on the hop is my friend Michelle @ Apples and ABC's.  She has some tips to share about Back to School supply list.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Are you an inductive or deductive lesson planner?

++Disclaimer++ This is not an official term that you will find in your teaching methods textbooks.  This is one of my personal observations.  I found there are two ways to plan lessons.  While a teacher may find himself or herself using both methods throughout a school year, there is usually one method that is a preference.

Method #1 is what I call inductive planning.  Miss Green is an example of a method 1 planner.  If you teach next door to Miss Green, and peeked into her room after school when she is doing her planning  you would think a tornado hit her classroom!  You would see folders, tubs, files, library books, and various other materials scattered all over her reading table, floor, and any other available space to set things.  Miss Green is planning the next two week's unit.  Before she can begin to think about what standards, skills, or objectives that she wants her students to learn, she must first see what resources she has.  

Like many of us, she forgets from year to year what she has accumulated through the years.  Through her years of experience, she has found she works best if she plans at least two weeks at a time and prefers a month at time because it is time consuming to get out all of the resources, review them, choose which ones to use, and then put them away.  You will usually find her weekly or monthly plans organized in some type of tub system or drawer system.

The words "team planning" has been known to give her an anxiety attack.  It's not that she's not willing to share, but only another inductive planner would understand the process of how a method 1 planner thinks.  You see, when the Miss Greens of the world have all of their stuff scattered, they are in a creative zone.  It is like a giant puzzle to them.  How many of the five senses can I incorporate in this week's plans?  Student A has been having trouble with r-controlled vowels, student B needs more review with ___ (you name the skill), and so on and so forth.  

The point is, the needs of Miss Green's students are not going to be like the needs of the other teachers on her team.  While administrators try to divide classes evenly, you and I both know, there is always some shuffling and it never truly turns out that way.  There is always one class that has more ESL students, another one that has a large percentage working above level, and another one with ___ (you fill in the blank).  

The best analogy I can give is to think of a man's suit.  A man can go to Kohl's, find a suit that is his size, and he won't be embarrassed to wear it because it will sufficiently cover him.  Purchasing a suit off-the-rack is the method for most men.  Or a man can go to another store pick out a suit in his size and have them tailor it to him.  While both suits looks nice, men who have had tailor-made want to continue wearing tailor-made suits.  It works the same way with teachers who have taught with lesson plans tailored to the needs of his or her class.

While you are still teaching the same skills, your group of students has different strengths and weaknesses.  Using the same lesson plans year-after-year or the same plans as another teacher would be like having off-the-rack lesson plans. 

Method 2 is the deductive planner.  Miss Brown is a deductive planner.  She is just as comfortable planning as a team, with a partner, or by herself during her prep period or after school.  The Miss Browns of the world typically have a neat and tidy classroom.  If they were asked in a job interview what you would see if someone peeked in their classroom Miss Brown would probably describe her class as the modern, minimalist look.  You won't see something hanging on every wall space in this class.  Everything in this class has a purpose.  Miss Brown has a clear purpose with her planning, too.  She couldn't imagine planning like Miss Green.  When she walks into Miss Green's room and sees stuff everywhere, it screams overstimulation to her.  Luckily, Miss Green's and Miss Brown's administrator realizes that different students need different styles of teaching and environments.  Their administrator places students with the teacher that suit them best.  This makes students, teachers, and parents very happy.

Miss Brown prefers her planning to be orderly.  She begins with the scope and sequence, one subject at a time, and then cross-references that with the textbooks.  If there is a skill a student or group needs to work on, she will find resources she needs in her neatly organized files.  Miss Brown plans during prep period or after school on a weekly basis.  It is easier for her to plan in short increments because her resources are textbooks and files.

The Miss Greens of the world will often go shopping when they are looking for some inspiration.  Sometimes they will find inspiration when they aren't even looking for it!  I was once at the Bass Pro Shop with my husband when I found this giant barrel of rubber worms.  The moment I saw the huge barrel full of rubber worms my creative juices began flowing.  It looked like something my boys would love and it turned out the girls loved them, too.  I used them in a literacy centers.  My students arranged the worms to spell words.  They really loved it when I sprayed the worms with water and made them slimy!

This week I was shopping at Hobby Lobby and found a few things that inspired me.

Hobby Lobby has huge packages of foam squares in bright colors.  You can cut the foam sheets with an Ellison Machine.  I cut the shapes with scissors with decorative edges.  Preschool and kindergarten teachers could use these as puzzles.  

I thought this would be a fun way to choose partners.  Put all the cut up shapes in a bucket and let the students pick a piece and then find a person with the missing piece. Cut the shape into more pieces if you want larger groups.

I found these foam shapes at Hobby Lobby.  This is a quick and easy way to add a seasonal touch to your classroom management.

Do you teach older students who need more of a challenge?  Using the same shape makes it more challenging to find a partner.  Tell your class that they must find a partner without saying a word.  Time them when they choose a partner using this method.  Do they become more efficient?  Are they finding ways to work cooperatively?

What do you do when you need some inspiration?

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.