Monday, July 27, 2015

My Best Back to School Tip Linky Party

Hi all! I'm linking up with Christina at Hanging Around in Primary and Katie at Pop Into Primary for a Back to School Linky.

I hope I'm not veering too far off course when I say that my tip is more of a whole year thing, but is definitely something you'll want to start at the beginning of the year to make it a habit.

Last year, I struggled big time with balance. I felt like I was just getting by at work and at home. I wanted to be the best at both and that just wasn't happening. I was drowning in work.

My tip is to use your preps wisely. I understand that there's a need for socialization and camaraderie with other teachers. Our job is tough. We need support. But I find that often devolves into social hour or, for me, a venting session. That may make me feel better in the moment, but ultimately doesn't make me a better teacher or wife.

So, my advice is to use your preps to grade, copy, or plan and make plans to meet with your positive colleagues outside of work. Or use your preps to visit their classrooms while they're teaching to get ideas to become a better teacher. With Option A, you'll bring less work home and with Option B, you'll be bettering yourself professionally.

Both options serve a purpose and they'll both help you find a little balance.

What is your Best Back to School Tip?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Organization Advice?

Hey all!

I need some help and thought I'd reach out to the tribe to see what advice you can offer.

Since summer break started, I've been putting off organizing my school stuff. The school is moving this year, so it was a good opportunity to bring everything home and get it set up in a logical and easy to access way.


I am a procrastinator and get overwhelmed easily and I have no idea how to start this project. I have nearly reached the fetal position stage.

I started with the two easiest tasks and organized my supplies.

I finally got to put together the world famous teacher toolbox! Don't think I'm a weirdo for taking a picture of it backwards. Kittenface thinks pushing all the drawers out from the back is the MOST FUN GAME EVER!!!!! so I have to keep the front pressed to the wall. #kittyproblems

I also organized my task cards.

My before situation did. not. work.

Ziplocs, third graders, and task cards don't mix.

I got 13 section coupon organizers from Target on clearance! They were about $1.50 each.

I plan to make covers for each organizers and a label for the top so they're easy to pick out. So far, I have one organizer per domain (Operations & Algebraic and Geometry have separate organizers, for example) and in each little spot inside, I'll label specifically which standard the cards focus on. But. This is all I did for today.

I can't figure out to begin to get the rest of this stuff organized, though.

I also have two file cabinets in the garage, containing a majority of files that aren't mine, so I'm not even sure what they are. I returned to teaching last year after a 5 year break and took everything the previous teacher had.

I think my priority project is to switch from files to binders for documents. Other than that, I'm lost. I function best when there's a plan and I have a comprehensive list of things to do. Otherwise, I don't get started. It's all or nothing with me.

If you have any suggestions, please share them! Or if you happen to know an organizational powerhouse, please direct them to me.

**A huge shout out to Sheila at Sheila Jane Teaching and Megan at A New Box of Crayons for sharing on Periscope. I wouldn't have been motivated or inspired to blog if not for them. It's scary and lonely to be a little guy and they gave me just the push I needed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Stress Free Giveaway!

I am beyond thrilled to be joining up with other amazing 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers to bring you this stress free giveaway!

This time of year (trying to keep the kids sane, testing, fitting in the last of your standards, trying to keep yourself sane) can make even the most zen of us a little frazzled. There couldn't be a better time for a giveaway that doesn't require too much effort.

Other than entering awesome stress-free giveaways, another way I find to calm myself and my students' anxiety, especially during testing, is to participate in daily morning meditation with my class. We use the Stop, Breathe, and Think app on the iPad, but the program is also available on Android or the web.

What I Love About This App:

*it's FREE!
*the voice on the guided meditations is soooo soothing
*you do a mental and physical "check in" before each meditation
*most meditations have options for a variety of lengths of time, so if you only have time for 5 minutes, you can save the 10 minute version for another day
*it's mindfulness at a kid's level

My class is able to choose a spot around the room in which they can be still and silent for the allotted amount of time. Some grab pillows and sit on the floor. Some stay at their seats. It's their choice, depending on what they're comfortable with. I also choose a spot that works for me that day. We settle in with the lights off and begin our meditation.

I have noticed a dramatic difference since we began this calm start to our day. Kids are more focused. Kids are less anxious. Everyone has been a little bit kinder. I 100% recommend this app if your class is experiencing any stress. If your class isn't, please contact me and share your secrets!

Now for the giveaway! There are 4 prizes and 4 winners.

1st prize: $75 Amazon giftcard
2nd prize: $40 Target giftcard
3rd prize: $25 TPT gift certificate
4th prize: $20 Starbucks giftcard

Just scroll through the Rafflecopter to access each of the prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and let me know if you have any tried and true stress-reducing tips to share!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Scoop: 4/12/15

I'm excited to begin my foray back into blogging by  linking up with Teaching Trio for the Sunday Scoop Linky!

Have to Do:

I must must must get some chores done. I have been off for two weeks for Spring Break and have been cleaning regularly, but I'm still not satisfied. At the very least, I have to take care of the kitchen floor so my feet don't feel dirty every time I'm in there. The sheets also have to be done. I don't feel like I ever washed them so much until I had a husband and a dog. Huh.

My nails are embarrassing. Before I head back to school tomorrow, they need to be cut and painted.

Hope to Do:

I always have mild panic when going back to school after a break. I usually have school-related nightmares after taking forever to fall asleep. I'm going to have a bath, tea, and do a few minutes of meditation tonight to help ease me to a restful sleep.

I'd also like to start a new book today. I'm currently reading a few that I just can't get into. I need some recommendations.

Happy to Do:

It's my birthday! Woot! Woot! Hubby and I went for a hike with the pup this morning, then we had a visit from my mom and stepdad. They brought over two milkweed plants so we can start attracting some butterflies up in here. After that, I went for a super relaxing massage and we're headed off to a family dinner tonight in a bit.

I hope everyone has a great week and I'm sending some extra special love out to those returning from Spring Break!

Let me know if you have any book recommendations. I could use them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Student Teachers

Maybe not the kind you're thinking of...

Mrs. Barr's been sick. Like, really sick. Lying in bed all weekend with a hundred and two degree temperature, tummy pain, headache, sore throat, rattling cough, watery eyes, aching joints sick.

Because of the disaster that was Friday, when I had to go home due to the dying, I went back yesterday. I couldn't stand to have someone else cover the class again. So, I rallied. The fever had broken, so I figured the kids were safe, but talking all day left my throat raw.

Today, I decided to take it easy and an idea born of necessity turned out to be something I'll use regularly in class in the future.

To save my voice, I had the kids teach. Multi-step word problems were introduced yesterday and I had planned to go over a practice set (from Front Row-are you using Front Row yet? If not, I strongly recommend you get on it!) with the kids. I was going to guide them through a few and then send them off on their merry way to complete the rest independently. Instead, the kids formed groups of three or four, were assigned one problem from the practice set, and spent 20 minutes solving the problem with their group and figuring out how to teach it to the rest of the kids. Then each of the seven groups taught the class.


Please excuse the blurry photo. It's a still from video. I recorded each presentation because I was so excited and wanted to share it with my teacher buddies at school!

I realize the idea is not super revolutionary, but I'd never tried it. I'm so happy I did!

My only slight disappointment was the learners' engagement. It's really hard to pay attention to someone who's trying to teach something they just learned themselves. The only thing I can come up with is to have the audience follow along with the work on the board on their personal whiteboards.

Otherwise, it was a great success and I just had to share it.

If anyone has any ideas for audience engagement, I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Sunday Scoop

I am so happy to be linking up with Teaching Trio for their weekend linky: The Sunday Scoop!

I've been caught in a whirlwind of work, so what better way to get back in the blogging groove than a super fun, low pressure linky?

Things I have to do:

All boring, domestic  stuff! I've been a workaholic recently and haven't been taking very good care of myself, so I'm going to make sure I prep everything for the week on Sunday so I have what I need at work Monday-Friday. That means healthy food and clean and cutesy clothes to make me feel good about myself.

Things I hope to do:

Ugh. This cold. I've been useless the past few days. Most of the weekend has been spent asleep or trying to sleep. I think it's the end of the illness, but I hope it's completely gone by tomorrow. Regarding the vacuuming, I really do hope I can find the energy to do it. Our bedroom floor is covered in a solid inch of dog fur right now. He's shedding like mad. California has not received the memo that it's fall!

Thing I'm happy to do:

Read something just for fun. I finished This Is Where I Leave You on the very first weekend of Megan's book club because it was SO good. So, I haven't read anything for fun since then. I'm going to choose a new book today to unwind with and get to reading!

I hope you all have a wonderful week!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Self-reflection 9/14/14

Each morning at our meeting, one of our discussions revolves around self-reflection. What went well? What can we work on?

Not everyone is required to participate, but if someone wants to share, they may. Daily, even in 3rd, we have kiddos who think they can do better. I should work on listening to the speaker. I did better yesterday, but I can still get better at raising my hand to leave my seat. I join the kids in self-reflection, but it's a kid-friendly version and I thought it could do worlds of good for me to actually be completely honest and self-reflect once a week. 

Here we go.

What went well:

*Our introduction to what characteristics a good citizen has to tie in with social studies and first week expectations. On the carpet, we talked about what a good citizen does. Partners shared, we added ideas to our chart, and each kiddo went back to their seat with two Post-its in the shape of a heart. They were to write one good citizen characteristic on each heart. 

While they worked, I hung up a chart split into three categories: Respectful, Responsible, and Ready to Learn. As they completed their hearts, they came up and decided what category their characteristic belonged in. Friends were at the chart at the same time, so discussions were had when individuals weren't sure. A couple kids came to me saying they just didn't know where to put their heart. I told them the class would help them decide and we did. 

As closure, we discussed how most good citizen characteristics belong in one if these three categories and that if we're to be good citizens, we try always to be respectful, responsible, and ready to learn. The lesson also led nicely to a paragraph writing sesh later in the week about how the kids have been good citizens by doing something in each of the three categories. 

The whole lesson went beautifully. 

A good citizen "makes as much peas as possible". Did you hear my heart melt?

*Multiplication! I am so amazed with my kids this year. Multiplication the second week of third grade! And they get it! We started with equal groups last week and are moving into arrays this week. 

What to work on:

*I'm struggling most with work/life balance. I'm giving about 95% of myself to work, 5% to home, husband, and pup and 0% to me. I'm a big "just one more thing!" lady and can already feel its negative effects. 

Any advice on finding time for your spouse and yourself when the to do list is so massive you need to organize your to do list? How do you take a moment for yourself or spend time with family when you're constantly thinking about what you need to get done for work?

Here's to a productive, healthy, happy week!