Monthly Advice–April

For the most part, this year, spring break is in April; therefore, I must advise you:

Enjoy your spring break.

Take more than a day, or a weekend, away from work. Enjoy more than a weekend’s worth of time off.

No lesson planning, no grading, no time in the classroom–absolutely nothing work related–for as much time as possible during this break. Take an actual break.

You have earned this time off, you have earned this break, so please, please make sure to enjoy spring break.

 

Monthly Advice–March

This month, a bit of humor, and a bit of truth:

Spring fever is real.

March 20, 2019 is the first day of spring.

Spring fever is defined as: restlessness and excitement associated with the start of spring. It is further defined, and known as mood, emotional, and behavioral changes that result from the arrival of spring.

With record breaking cold and rains, with a polar vortex that made parts of the US colder than Antarctica, with my own sentiments that winter weather has lasted much too long, I most assuredly anticipate spring fever.

There’s nothing I can offer to help alleviate concerns, or ward off this illness, my advice is only to remind you, or tell you, that it exists.

Spring fever is real: either you will feel it, or your students will feel it, or your co-workers will!

Whoever catches it, just be kind–this too shall pass . . .

Teacher Tip #6

It’s just a test.

It seems that the end of February we start entering a delightfully misunderstood and stressful season: testing season.

There’s quarter tests and WIDA about this time of year. These are followed by state-standardized tests, which are then followed by the next set of quarter tests.

These state-standardized tests and quarter tests, if you’re in secondary, may overlap with PSATs, and special subject exams (think AP). There’s also, of course, every other normal test sprinkled in between all of these *big* *important* tests.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in elementary or secondary, there’s this near two-month testing window rapidly approaching and I’m here to remind you: It’s just a test.

I have fallen victim to the stress and I passed it onto my kids. Don’t do that. They’re already stressed, they already know that these things are a big deal. So, I implore you–remind them: It’s just a test.

  • It’s one day out of 180 this year.
  • It’s one day out of however many they have accumulated over the years.
  • None of these tests are measuring their kindness, their dedication, their hard work, their perseverance, or any number of far more important qualities and traits they possess as human beings.
  • Tests can be taken again.
  • Tests are singular snapshots; they do not measure every aspect of learning and growth.
  • Tests are subject to human and technological error.
  • Tests are like every other assignment–there will be multiple opportunities to show just how much they have learned; today, and this test, are not the only opportunity to demonstrate learning and growth.

Tests–state tests, district tests, exit exams–are important, but they’re not the most important determinant, measure, or indicator of educational excellence. Remember that, and remind your students too.

 

 

Monthly Advice–February

Don’t eat too much candy.

February is a short month, but it has two massive candy-inducing possibilities: Valentine’s Day and the 100th Day of School.

So, just a reminder: take it easy on the candy.

I know the level of stress right now, I know some of that candy is delicious, and I know that the days are long. However, cold & flu season is coming to an end, New Year’s resolutions are hopefully still at play, and eating well is paramount to your health.

Therefore, I urge you to put some candy aside for friends, family, or the teachers’ lounge. It’s okay to have some, just don’t have it all–trust me, a few makes for a sugar rush, but too many makes for a stomach ache–a stomach ache at work? Nobody wants that.

So take all that candy, and pick out a few, and giveaway the rest, you’ll be happy in the end, I promise . . .

Teacher Tip #5

Beautiful classrooms can be expensive. I’m here to tell you:

Quit breaking the bank.

Don’t spend money on making things pretty.

There’s definitely pressure in the elementary world to have cute, imaginative, vibrant classrooms. I understand it. Kids are cute, so we want their learning environment to mirror their cuteness. Nevertheless, I’m here to let you know, there’s no pressure to spend money on making things cute, or pretty, or fancy.

Why?

Well, let me remind you that a beautiful classroom does not equate to rigorous teaching, or an abundance of learning. Teachers are great because of how they teach, not how they decorate their classrooms. Secondly, as students get older the decorations get more and more minimalist, if present at all. If secondary teachers feel no need, or receive no push, to decorate their classrooms neither should elementary teachers. Finally, you earned your money, spend it on you. If you want, and can spend hundreds, or thousands, of dollars on a new theme with bulletin boards, posters, bins, and chairs to match, go for it, but most people I know have tighter budgets–and that’s okay.

In fact, here are some tips and ideas for creating a great learning environment without going over budget:

  • Paint. If you can get permission, and if you plan to stay in your room for awhile, invest in paint. Hire a student for a mural, or simply sponge paint the walls. Choose colors carefully (think calming colors). If you paint your room, it looks happier, brighter, and more spacious–and you only have to spend money once.
  • Make your own posters. Fancy posters are great and durable, but they can add up quickly. Handmade posters are not only cheaper, but they can also be transformed into living documents that promote student participation and an ownership of learning–added bonus!
  • Skip the teacher store. Teacher stores are magnificent; however, even with a discount, they’re pricey. Instead, try the Target dollar section, Dollar Tree, the 99 cent store, or a craft store for items that add color, or provide other sources of classroom decor. You’re spending money, but it’s a lot less money.
  • End of the year swap. Instead of throwing things out, exchange items with other teachers at your school. You get new items, you get to clean out your closet, and you don’t have to spend anything!
  • Craigslist. My first year of teaching I wrote a post letting people know that I was starting my teaching career and needed supplies. You would not believe the response! A couple of places I had to drive a fair amount of time (60-90 minutes) but I received so much in return. I even found a retiring teacher who gave me a ton of primary supplies. Only one person asked for money–$20 for a mountain of books and stuffed animals. People are generous, especially to teachers, seek them out, especially at the end of the school year (think retirement).
  • DonorsChoose: a platform for teachers to write grants to receive much needed supplies, or supplies for augmented and/or special learning. Over the course of 5 years I received over $5,000 worth of items through DonorsChoose. I received markers, colored pencils, 10 sets of primary books, a bookcase, playground equipment, math journals–you name it! It’s a little bit of work–you have to write a proposal, thank the donors, and send pictures, but it’s more than worth it. I mean people are donating to you, you should send them a thank you note and a picture, right?

This is just a sampling of great ways to save money and still manage to have a little pizzazz in the classroom, or a great way to get some basic supplies without breaking the bank.

Teaching is an incredible profession. It is rewarding, dynamic, and always an adventure. However, it’s incredibly difficult work too. Therefore, I advocate finding creative ways to bolster the learning environment while still keeping that hard-earned cash. 💵💵

 

 

**On secondary classrooms: I want to note that I have seen some insanely beautiful secondary classrooms; however, the bulk of what I have seen, and the driving experience that has been shared by every secondary person I know, is that classroom decor is not nearly as rich and the pressure to have thoroughly decorated classrooms is non-existent in comparison to elementary folks. I want to make sure my earlier comment doesn’t offend; my lens is overwhelmingly elementary and I can speak to my experience that the pressure or the push feels grander than what I have heard or noticed in the secondary world.