Monday, May 4, 2015

What Works! A Teacher Appreciation Linky and Giveaway!

Whether your school fills the week with non-stop fun, or your biggest gift is a child's smile, you can always count on your friends in BlogLand to bring join in the celebration. The bloggers at Inspired Owl Corner and Pawsitively Teaching have put together TWO amazing giveaway packages that will warm your heart during this special week. Nothing like a chance to win a whole bunch of fabulousness to start the week off right!

On top of that, a group of bloggers have put their heads together to share some teaching secrets. (To be honest, my ideas are neither secret nor particularly spectacular, but I'm always excited to participate in any event that celebrates teachers!)
Strategy #1: Stay connected. Even though I work at a very small school, I know the importance of staying connected. I could easily work through every recess lunch, and after-school afternoon (and still not be caught up!). But that would be counterproductive. I am blessed to have some truly wonderful teacherfriends who I know I can count on. Whether it is to explain a math standard, lend me some copies, problem solve my technology problems, or just to listen, I am surrounded by some truly wonderful women. We manage to find time to check in with each other almost daily.

Second, I make it a habit to celebrate everything. It is easy to become discouraged if your goals have to be "meet standards," "be proficient," "read at grade level," etc. In many classrooms, there are a few (or more!) kids who may not meet those goals during your year together. I tell my students that we celebrate moving "forward." I try to recognize kindness and good character whenever possible.

But I also try to recognize those "moments" that matter in a different way. Whether it is having a pencil two days in a row, finishing a book, remembering 8 x 7 = 56, or using a "lovely language" or the word of the week in written or spoken language. I keep a supply of "sweet notes" on hand... but just as often it is a quickly written note that highlights a personal goal. In many ways, the encouragement buoys my spirits as much as the students'!

I have some good organizational skills in some areas... and then there are areas that could be considered a deficit. One of the biggest challenges for me as a teacher is staying one step ahead of the never-ending piles of papers.

Here's our work basket. As you can see, there is room for one more set of papers before it will be overflowing. So I had to  make a rule: No double basketing! I can't re-box, re-pile or re-hide the papers. I need to check them in--or do whatever is required. I pretend there is a silent alarm that only I can hear... telling me to do something with the papers--since we all know more will be added to the basket soon!

Nothing stellar. Nothing surprising. Just three things I've tried to work on this year. What are YOUR secrets? You can whisper them... I'm listening!

There is some more great news just waiting to be shared!

There's a GIANT giveaway going on!

You have a chance to win LOTS of great stuff! And the more times you enter (by doing different tasks through Rafflecopter), the greater your chance of winning. And these prize packages are worth almost $500... each!

Here are the details of Package #1...

Just take a look at everything you could win...
One lucky reader will win this entire prize package!!!

Prize Bundle #1 Includes

PLUS....a Gift Box of Fabulous Teacher Supplies valued 
at $140 sent to you from Amazon!

And, as I mentioned... There are TWO prize packages!

We aren't finished yet....take a look at everything a second lucky winner will win!!!

Prize Bundle #2 Includes

PLUS....a Gift Box of Fabulous Teacher Supplies valued 
at $140 sent to you from Amazon!

Be sure to enter both Rafflecopters for a better chance at winning one of these amazing prize bundles!

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #1 Here

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #2 Here

You won't want to miss out on all the other great secrets being shared by successful teachers!  Be sure to check out all the other great posts below.

Sending you good wishes and lots and LOTS of appreciation...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Calming the Chaos

Once again, my BlogFriend, Kristy, from Two Peas and a Dog, has linked up some bloggers to discuss their strategies for Calming the End-of-the-Year Chaos.

In reality, this blog post ended up being rather therapeutic for me. We still have six weeks of school left, and my sixth graders seem oddly certain that summer is already HERE. We haven't even finished testing yet, and I am having to hang on for dear life just to keep the peace among thirty-five tweenagers.

I've been staring at a blank computer screen for the last hour wondering about the answer to this question: How WILL I survive until June 15th?

After some reflection, I have narrowed things down to three basic tenets...

First, I have to stay healthy. This includes getting enough sleep and expanding my food intake beyond items that consist primarily of sugar and/or caffeine. I'm not sure about your school, but in the past few weeks it seems like a conveyor belt of treats has been shuttling non-stop through school. Those yummy snacks leave me tired, which sends me in search of more caffeine... which rarely keeps me alert (or even awake) and more often leaves me feeling grumpy--all of which is counterproductive!.

A good attitude (made more likely by a healthy diet and enough sleep) gives me the reserve of energy I need to fight off the blues (theirs and mine!). Besides, every time, I don't follow through with better eating and sleeping, I get sick. And we all know how that affects the process.

Yesterday, I planned four math mini-lessons, a review of the elements of a narrative, a comparison of two texts, and a brush up on using context clues to decipher unknown vocabulary... all before lunch. By the time, the second child said, "Wait. Which one is the narrative?" my patience was ebbing. Add to this: sibling-like squabbles and broken rules and lost pencils and unfinished/misplaced/I-never-got-that-page homework, and the smile was quickly fading.

I've settled on a two-part approach to this problem. The first is forgiving myself. If I am going to reflect endlessly on the lessons that fell flat, I'm not going to be successful when I have to return to school the next day. I'm going to have to let it go (which is very hard for me--with or without the song) and focus my energy on a different approach. Today it was rotating through stations with fewer math problems but in a way that seemed more somehow more accessible. Not perfect, but better!

Even more importantly, I am going to have to pick my battles in terms of behavior. Obviously, there are problems that must be addressed. (And maintaining my routines is the next item on my list). But I think the kids are getting tired of having yet another "serious discussion" about sharing and honesty and trust and respect and, and, and... Sigh. Time to replace the lost pencil, apologize, forgive and move on. Time is precious.

This last pledge is based on the previous one. While I need to change up my lessons and plan some fun activities and let the small stuff go, I still have to navigate through twenty-nine more school days. I need to keep some constancy in terms of routines and expectations and schedules... or we will never make it to June!

At some point this week, I confused letting it go with letting it all GO. That was a mistake. I think, at least for my kids, there needs to be enough predictability so that the fun activities are novel and stand out. When there just a few days (or hours) remaining, I can let things unfold with less direction. But with weeks still yawning ahead of us, I let the hot weather convince me that we were almost done. In reality, it's not summer yet. There is still plenty of teaching and learning (and fun!) ahead of us.

So those are my three hope-fors. I recognize that many teachers are, truly, just days away from the year's end. But if you're like me, there are still days and days to fill...

That's why Kristy pulled some teachers together. You can click on any of the blog buttons at the end of the post to read about other approaches to beating the End of the Year Blues and finishing strong.

How are YOU calming the chaos? I'd love to hear your strategies for finishing the year on a good note. Leave a comment below so I can also add your ideas to my list.

And whether it is a few days or few weeks until your countdown is complete, I am hoping you have enjoyed a wonderful school year!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

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