On Thursday evening I got a call from my sister informing me that my grandpa had passed away. I thought I would be ok to go into school. I knew that he wasn’t doing well and his passing didn’t come as a surprise. Plus I had already missed two Fridays in a row. First for a personal day and then because I was so sick. My assistant teacher was out and I just felt like I had to go in. I also thought I would be fine.
I sat down at my teacher table and that is when it hit me. I started to cry and then I couldn’t stop. I was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t breathe. The teachers at my school rallied around me to support me throughout the day. People took my subs and someone took my group at the assembly. Teachers made me coffee and looked after my class when I just needed a break. My class of first graders was wonderfully understanding and so kind to me all day long. Together we made it through.
I could not be more grateful for the teachers at my school and so today’s Friday Five is all about our teacher friends! There is no better friend than a teacher friend. Here’s to all my teacher friends present and past who have supported me and helped me become the teacher I am today!
My First Teacher Friends
I look like such a baby here! It was pajama day at school and we decided to continue our pajama day festivities out at a bar after school. Only teachers would find this perfectly acceptable behavior.
My first teacher friends can take a lot of the credit for guiding me to become the teacher I am today.
My Teacher Friends Who Tolerate & Encourage My Love of PD
This is my teacher friend Lindsey. She teaches ELL and I constantly email her for advice. She supports me with ELL strategies and I support her with Literacy and Math strategies. This photo was taken one weekend where I decided to bring literally all of my literacy resources to her house and put on a full professional development session so she could understand the workshop model classroom and better support ELLs in a this model! Seriously, it takes a teacher friend equally as devoted and crazy to tolerate this sort of endeavor.
Teacher Friends Who Celebrate
Teacher friends can uplift and celebrate with you in ways that your other friends just don’t understand. I’ve only worked with teachers who celebrate each other successes and take time to celebrate together. These were the teachers who encouraged me to go for it when I mentioned teaching internationally.
International TeachinG Friends
Your international teaching friends are a little different than regular teacher friends. These people go through so much with you. I would not have made it through the day if it wasn’t for all of their love and support. Thanks to all of them for supporting me.
Thanks to all of the teachers who have been a part of my teaching journey. To those who have supported me through the toughest teacher days and celebrated my biggest successes with me. Thank you so so much!
What’s the best thing a teacher friend has done for you? Let me know in the comments below. How do you uplift your teacher friends? Teacher friends are just the greatest!
When I was in fourth grade we went to PE and when we came back the classroom smelled so bad. It smelled like nail polish. I tried to figure out why and when I looked over to Mrs. Ryan’s desk I saw a bottle of red nail polish and then noticed the color on her fingers. Her nails were not that color that morning. As we worked through math class Mrs. Ryan couldn’t touch anything because her nails were drying. Can you even imagine? She did her nails during her prep!!! As a fourth grader I thought it was so cool that she did her nails in the middle of the day. As a teacher I just wonder… how?
Now, I love Mrs. Ryan with all of my heart and I have nothing against her doing her nails while we went to PE. She was such a nurturing, kind and compassionate teacher. Nothing like another teacher who shall not be named. Every time my mom runs into Mrs. Ryan at the grocery store she asks about me and tells my mom to tell me that she is so proud of me. Teaching was so different when I was in elementary school.
What DO I Accomplish During Prep Time?
- As teachers we have so much to get done! Prep time (aka that time when your students go off to specials) isn’t a break to do our nails. It isn’t a break at all. It’s work time to get stuff done! Here are all the sorts of tasks I accomplish during prep:
- Plan for teaching
- Whole Class
- Small Group
- Word Study
- Social Studies
- Adjust instructional plans
- Go to the bathroom- this might seem strange to list but it is almost always the first thing I do during prep
- Answer parent emails
- Answer emails from other teachers
- Make copies
- Connect and plan with grade level peers
- Collaborate with assistant teachers and paraprofessionals
- Meet with learning support teachers- interventionists, ELL, special education, speech…
- Meet with instructional coaches, literacy coaches, math coaches, principals, assistant principals… whoever
- Visit storage and retrieve necessary teaching materials
- Set up for the day’s lessons
- Read professional texts
- Write report card or progress report comments
- Track student progress
- Plan field trips
- Write class newsletter
- Analyzing student work
- Approve posts on Seesaw
- Observe other teachers
- Put away guided reading books
- Sub for other teachers
I probably missed a few things but that seems about right.
Schedule Out Your Time
Teaching in Poland I have a lot more prep time than I did when I was teaching in the US but I still schedule it out. In fact, at first I was so surprised by the amount of prep time I had that I didn’t use it well and wasted a lot of time. Now that I schedule out my prep time I am able to get a whole lot more done. Each period lasts 40 minutes.
Before school prep is when I set up my week for success. I answer any parent emails I received over the weekend, I make copies and get out guided reading text sets, I sip my coffee, I switch the class leaders board and take note of any special events coming up. I also greet each child as they come into the classroom and ask them how their weekend was. Parents also stop by and I chat with them.
Prep 1 is usually reserved for my assistant teacher and I to discuss different things. We look at student data and we discuss teaching moves for different students. We catch up on our weekends and plan for the week. We also take time to plan for our RTI intervention block on Friday.
Prep 2 is spent making copies and writing guided reading plans for Tuesday. I don’t write out lengthy lesson plans and we aren’t required to submit any plans but I still jot down my guided reading plans.
Prep 3 is when I breathe a sigh of relief! During this prep I usually plan out math for the week. This week I used that time to plan out science.
On day two my before school prep is a meeting every other week. This means my assistant teacher or another assistant teacher watches my class. I have no time to answer any parent emails before the day begins. I will say that Tuesday mornings are a bit more stressful than other mornings. Before school meetings are the worst for elementary teachers.
Prep 1 is when I answer parent emails and any other emails I have. I also clean and organize during this prep like there is no tomorrow. I put books away and I put up anchor charts that have fallen down. I go to town. I like to have my space nice and orderly before the kids come back during my second prep on day two.
Prep 2 I leave my classroom and find another place to work. Sometimes it can be difficult watching your kids with another teacher. This is a time when I find another quiet and peaceful place in the school to work. During this prep I typically plan out my social studies lessons. Until the end of April social studies is out because science fair is in. I also have a lot of meetings that take place during this time. It must be a time when a lot of other people are free.
Prep 3 on day 2 is sometimes peace and quiet and sometimes not. The class that is in my classroom will sometimes go to another classroom that doesn’t have flexible seating because the teacher wants everyone to have a desk. (That is one hard thing about sharing a classroom with so many people with so many different teaching philosophies and beliefs.) During this prep I also check and respond to emails. I make plans for word study during this prep period.
Before school prep is spent saying hello to my students, preparing for my mini-lesson, answering emails, sipping coffee, and mostly talking with my students.
Day three is a day where I sort of relax on my preps a little bit. That doesn’t mean I am not getting work done it just means I try to chill out a bit. I listen to an educational podcast or watch to a webinar during these two preps. A lot of times I meet with my principal to plan the meeting for that afternoon or the following day.
During my second prep I set the agenda for the meeting on Thursday and I email it out to all elementary teachers. I use this time to start to prepare anything that I need to prepare for the meeting. Sometimes I lead meetings on Wednesday after school as well so this prep is sometimes used to prep for those.
During my prep 3 I usually check in again with my assistant teacher. We chat as we prep various activities and lessons for the rest of the week. We check in on certain students and share ideas with one another.
Day four can be a bit of a doozy. While I do have a lot of preps I also lead our elementary curriculum meeting during lunch and recess. This is quite a task and it takes a lot of planning. For some reasons most of my meetings end up on Thursday.
Before school prep is once again spent making copies, saying hello to the kids, chatting and laughing with them, looking at the stuff they’re building. When kids enter our classroom they have free play until the bell rings and they create quite a bit of stuff.
Prep 1 is usually spent in a meeting. I meet with learning support to discuss elementary RTI plans for next year, I meet with the curriculum coordinator to discuss elementary curriculum, and sometimes I meet with our elementary principal to go over our plan for the meeting during lunch and recess. It all just depends on the day. Sometimes I have meetings in periods three and four and then rush off to lead a meeting. This teaching life is never boring. I also try to answer all of my emails during this prep.
I always plan to spend period 4 getting ready for my meeting. I review the agenda, I plan out what I am going to say, and I get materials ready. We don’t have a lot of time to meet and we have lots to accomplish during very short time periods so I have to be on top of my game.
My last prep on day four is spent getting student work ready for Friday Folders. I look at homework from the week, I grade our math spiral review, I prep the newsletter, I file all the work in abc order so it is easy to stuff into the folders. I also get everything I possibly can ready for Friday because I have zero preps until the very end of the day.
Day five is exhausting. It is hard to only have prep the last two periods. These two periods are spent writing our weekly newsletter and emailing it out to parents. I also stuff our Friday Folders and put them in student cubbies. Our grade 1-2 team meets on Fridays sometimes to plan our shared RTI periods. Sometimes we meet with our assistant teachers to plan our RTI time. It all depends.
Now I don’t want to fool you into thinking I always use my prep time wisely! Today I sat and chatted with my assistant teacher for two prep periods. I think it was a good use of my time because the relationships of teachers who work together are so important but it wasn’t my most productive day. It happens to all of us some times.
How do you make sure to use your prep time wisely? Let me know in the comments below.
Time To Share Another Resource!
I’m all about sharing the resources that I use in my classroom. Today I am talking about one of my favorite apps and a serious life saver… Epic! You might have heard of this one as several teachers I know use it. Epic! is totally free to classroom teachers and is a great resource for all readers.
Epic! is a website & app that has so many books for every kind of reader. It has audiobooks and read to me books. It has fiction and nonfiction. It has popular series like Fluffy! and it has new series to love! Epic! engages my students in reading. I know that there are studies about the benefits of reading paper books and this by no means replaces my classroom library but compliments it so well.
Before we really dive in this post is in no way affiliated with Epic! I just love this resource and want to share!
The number 1 way I use Epic! in my classroom is as the listening center. Each week my students take time to listen to stories. Listening helps them hear a fluent model and lets them enjoy stories that are still a bit too challenging to read on their own. The kids LOVE listening center. They can’t wait to go to listening center. Partially because it is pretty fun to wear headphones but I also suspect it has something to do with the selection of Read to Me texts on Epic! There is a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction books. All the books are of a high quality and the reading on the audiobook is fluent! What more could you ask for?
We also listen to a story during snack each day. Partially because snack is sandwiched into our day when we can’t add any more time to it and partially to grow our love for books. When the story is on the kids are happily eating and not chit chatting. Chit chat during snack would be fun but we only have 10 minutes before we have to be somewhere else so we have a listening snack. I much prefer that to a silent snack.
The kids can listen to books but they can also select books to read on their own. Again the selection of texts is quite high and very interesting to the students. I’ve used Epic! for several years now and can honestly say that I have never had a student who couldn’t find anything to read on the app. They always find something they love. When kids first log into their account they click on a few things they like and that helps Epic! recommend interesting books to each and every child.
There are also lots of videos on Epic! There are videos of different learning concept and then, then there are lego videos! Lego videos are a sure hit in grade 1. Sometimes during snack we watch a Lego video. In case you’ve never watched one of these they break down how to build different Lego stuff… I am not really a Lego expert. It is a great model for a how-to and they are super engaging.
No Levels... No Quizzes... Just Reading
One thing I absolutely love about Epic! is that it is simply just books. There are no levels and a child is never told, no they can’t read that book. There are quizzes after some of the books but my kids just think they are fun perks. They don’t automatically assume that we read to take quizzes. When there is a quiz they don’t have to take it but often do- a fun little surprise. This app helps to grow the love for books within my classroom. Often I hear students sharing recommendations with one another and our little community of readers keeps growing and growing.
This is the first step I ever took in teacher self-care. I was drowning as a teacher. I felt like nothing was working in my classroom and that I wasn’t good enough. I started staying really late at school and going in on the weekends and I was always at school! Always! This might be you as well. A good starting point for self-care is to leave school. Leave. Pick a time and don’t stay a minute later. Don’t go to school on Saturday and Sunday. Leave.
Take School Email Off Of Your Phone
The next step I took was removing my school email from my phone. At the time I lived with another teacher and we both took this step together. Too often we found ourselves in the middle of The Bachelor when we would get the email ping and get catapulted back into teacher life. Once we took our emails off of our phones we were able to enjoy our trash tv without worrying about school stuff. There is no need for you to be on your work email 24/7. It isn’t good for you. Take it off your phone so it isn’t always looming overhead.
Set Business Hours
This ties into the two above. Business people have business hours. My friends who work in non-teaching jobs have set hours when they work and respond to work emails. They set these hours and they stick to them. Teachers could learn a thing or two about it. Currently my business hours at 7:45-4:45. I check my email starting at 7:45 am and the last time I check my email is immediately after getting home from school. I check it one final time to ensure I didn’t miss any end of the day emails that could be important. After that check, I am done. I am no longer Ms. Natasha I am just Natasha. I also have no business hours on the weekend. I have taken my weekends back for myself. Parents, other teachers, and my administrators have respected these hours and they understand. I haven’t had any problems with them at all. Set yourself some business hours. Maybe set longer hours now and slowly ease yourself out of them. It will be a great change for you.
Get A Hobby
Last year I literally did a Google search for hobbies! I am not kidding a friend and I searched and we each made a list of hobbies we would like to try out. Then we had brunch and discussed our lists and set goals for ourselves. I now do yoga every other day and I blog more. Find a hobby that you love. Try out a new hobby. Developing interests outside of school makes you a more well-balanced but also more interesting individual.
Find What WOrks For You
I discovered so many different things that I love through exploring different self-care options last year. I do face masks all the time. I go for walks outside and explore the city I live in. At least once a month I try to have brunch with my friends. I say yes to more opportunities. I journal. I found out I do not have a love for baking and cooking. I learned so much about myself when I took the time to develop myself as a person, not just work work work as a teacher. Take some time and figure out what works for you.
First of all, I am nosey but second of all, I think we can learn from each other. So take a quick minute and let me know what self-care you like to do and how you build a balanced life outside of school. Together we can learn more!