The Best Gifts for Teachers

the best gifts for teachers

What Are The Best Teacher Gifts?

It’s that time of year, and gift buying is in full swing. What are the best gifts for teachers?  I have zero expectations of receiving gifts. It is always nice to receive a gift from a student, but it is by no means necessary. Trust me when I say that teachers are not in teaching for gifts. The most memorable and best gifts I’ve received have been so small but so meaningful.

I’m not a parent, but I can imagine in some communities gift-giving is a huge stressor. I have spent hours scouring Etsy in search of the perfect gift for my assistant teacher or teacher friends only to find nothing that fits. Here are the most memorable gifts I’ve received.

Two Hershey Kisses

One year, it might have been my first year teaching, a child came in with two Hershey kisses. He handed me the first one and said this is for taking care of my brain and helping me learn. He then gave me the second one and said this is for taking care of my heart and helping me grow. Well! My little teacher heart melted, and that gift has stuck with me all these years later. Teachers LOVE stuff like this. It was so simple but so meaningful. I teared up just writing about this story again. Sometimes the best gifts come in the smallest packages.

Tall Caramel Macchiato

Parent-Teacher conferences are an intense time for teachers. Not in a bad or good way, but it is exhausting to connect with every family on the same evening. I remember my dad once commented that it was odd teachers had to write down notes like they didn’t know the student. That isn’t why teachers write down notes. Can you imagine having 20 intense and detailed conversations one right after the next? It’s a lot, and I want to ensure that I explain all that I need to about each child. I want to have a powerful and meaningful conversation. Anyway, my toughest year of teaching so far started with a tall caramel macchiato. A mom walked in for her conference with two. She happened to be my first conference of the evening, and caramel macchiatos are my favorite. This was another kind, but simple thank you.

A Homemade Card

I love it when kids give me homemade stuff. One year I happened to have the daughter of a teacher at our school. For weeks she had been warning me that I was in for a real treat with my gift. Her daughter had been carefully planning it out and working on it for weeks. The morning finally came when I was to receive this magnificent gift. She came in to let me know that her daughter was a little emotional because some of the glitter didn’t stick the way she wanted it to. I was so excited to finally see what this little gem was working on for almost a month.

She walked into our classroom with a huge smile on her face and handed me a card. It was three large sheets of construction paper taped together to display a winter scene. There were cotton balls for clouds and so many stickers. The glitter looked beautiful. The class gathered around us as she explained in detail each part of the card and why she made it the way she did. It was a true labor of love. Any homemade card is a great gift!

A Portrait

Sitting on a shelf in my classroom right now is a portrait of me drawn by one of my previous gems. I received this magnificent drawing as an end of the year gift. He spent so much time sketching out my face and then determining what best represented me. There are hundreds of tiny hearts all around the border of the picture. His mom did say she was recruited when he couldn’t draw any more hearts but needed more! There are little books drawn on my face, and there is a lot of hot pink because that is my favorite color. Each part of me as a teacher is represented in his drawing. It’s something that students always marvel at in the classroom and get excited when they know why a detail was included in the portrait.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

This is my most recent addition to the list. As an expat, macaroni and cheese is hard to come by. A family went back to the US for a short trip. I jokingly said that they needed to enjoy their trips to Target and eat some delicious macaroni and cheese for me. I was so surprised when they came back, and I received a small rectangular present. When I opened it up to find a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, I died. I was so excited, the American students and I explained macaroni and cheese to students who had never had it. We even wanted to plan a macaroni and cheese party, but it never happened. I went home and made it for dinner that evening and could not have been a happier teacher!

Don’t add more stress to your life, worrying about the best teacher gift. The most meaningful gifts are from the heart and based on the positive relationship between you, your child, and the teacher. One of my teacher friend’s sons insisted on giving his teacher chapstick because she wears some everyday! These gifts might seem small or silly but they are the greatest gifts a teacher can receive.

 

What was one of your best gifts?

Teachers, what is the best gift you’ve ever received? 

How to Plan Seesaw Posts

How to Plan Seesaw Posts

Using Seesaw

Seesaw is one of my favorite new tech tools in the classroom. It makes communication between home and school seamless. I started using it a few years ago, and I have improved so much! Let’s talk about how to plan seesaw posts to enhance your parent communication. 

I initially began using Seesaw as a first-grade teacher. Our kindergarten program was Reggio Emilia inspired. A large part of the Reggio approach is using pictures as documentation to show learning. Parents received a file folder filled with photos that documented each week’s learning. I couldn’t compete with that! The grade one classroom was structured differently, and while we took pictures, we no longer took as many photos as they did the year before. Our documentation of learning happens differently. I had to bridge the expectation gap somehow, and that is where Seesaw saved me. 

My assistant teacher took pictures of the students in one class period every day and shared it on Seesaw. As we got into our school year, the kids began posting messages about their learning. Parents loved it! Homework used to be the way that parents kept up to date with their child’s education. Today, as we follow the research, there’s less homework sent home. Parents still desire that connection to school; Seesaw helps fill in that gap. 

How to Plan Seesaw Posts

Reflect

First, reflect on the learning in your classroom. Each week I start with a simple reflection that I am already doing- this isn’t extra work just for Seesaw. What are my instructional goals in each subject? How could I use a post to teach parents about something? What do parents want to see? What might be some useful posts for the week? When planning seesaw posts, I don’t like to go out of my way to make Seesaw posts. I want them to be natural parts of our learning or meaningful extensions of the work we’re doing. Let’s take next week as an example.

In reading, we’re working to envision our stories. We’re working to make a movie in our minds about what is happening on the page. I know that many parents and students believe that if they read the words and can do a quick retell, they understand and comprehend the book. As a teacher, I know that the level of comprehension required in my grade level is much deeper than that. 

Possible Posts: 
-Students can share a stop and sketch by taking a picture and recording how the stop and sketch helped their understanding of the text. 
-A student could do a digital stop and sketch. They could draw out what is happening in their story and record themselves reading the paragraph that led to this stop and sketch.

In writing, we’re working on publishing personal narratives. I always like to use Seesaw to document the editing and revision process. It is simple and a great reflection tool for students to show what they started with, what changes they made, and why those changes were made. This way, when parents see the final product, they know a bit more about the work that went into making this piece. As a teacher, I also know that parents can sometimes expect perfect finished pieces. Adding the editing and revising process to Seesaw would show just how much the student improved their writing.  

Possible Post: 
-Have students take a picture of their story at the end of a writer’s workshop lesson and explain what changes were made. We write in black pen and edit in green pen so new changes will be visible.

In math, we’re working to understand the distributive property of multiplication. I know that many parents were raised on answer-getting math, just like I was. We memorized definitions of different properties, and that was that. I know that adding a post with a deep understanding and description of the property can help parents see why connected learning is so important in math. 

Possible Post: 
-Perhaps I could create an activity where students could solve a problem using the distributive property on Seesaw and then could record themselves explaining how they solved it.

In science, we’re working to understand forces. Science is always such an easy one for me to share. I feel like science lends itself to sharing so naturally. Kids LOVE to take pictures and videos of experiments as we engage in the scientific method. As a teacher, I know that science has shifted with the NGSS. Using Seesaw could help parents see how science class now intertwines science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. 

Possible Post:
-Recording of an experiment with an added caption about the experiment

In word study, we are studying long and short e. We’ve worked on sorting out different patterns and are working to incorporate this spelling pattern into our writing. I know that word study is another large shift for teachers and parents. No longer are we memorizing a list of words we’re studying that patterns in words. 

Possible Posts:
-Create an activity where students sort words into different categories.
-Have students find long e and short e words in their writing and double-check that they are spelled correctly or explain which pattern is used. 

From this quick reflection, I have so many possible Seesaw posts that tie into our learning. Now I have to figure out which ones would be most meaningful for students and parents. Remember that Seesaw allows students to share their learning, but it also creates a story and sends a message to parents about what’s happening in your classroom. 

Plan Your Seesaw Post

Types of Posts

https://msnatashatheodora.com/classroom-community/friday-five-student-centered-classrooms/

Now that we’ve reflected, it is time to plan. The screenshot above shows the different types of posts students can create. 

    1. Photo- A photo uses the device’s camera to take a photo. Once the picture is taken, there are so many great tools that a student can use to demonstrate learning. They can add labels or a caption. Kids can record themselves talking while the image is displayed. They can take another picture and layer that on top of the first image. They also have drawing tools available to demonstrate learning.
    2. Drawing- A drawing presents the student with a blank page and all of the same tools available on the photo. They can use the drawing, labeling, and picture tools while creating a drawing. 
    3. Video- Creating a video uses the device’s camera to record. Just a fair warning that depending on the age of your students, you might want to do a quick lesson on camera stability before letting them record. I’ve been taken on quite a few motion-sickness inducing videos before! 
    4. Upload- Here, students can upload something they already have. Maybe they are working on a google doc that they want to share. Or perhaps the picture or video they want to upload is already on the device. This is the one for them. 
    5. Note- When posting a note, students have access to a sort of word processor. They can type up what they want to share and later can record.
    6. Link- The link is where students can paste in a URL, and it will display the link. Students then have the option to record and discuss the link.

Think about which tool might best slide in with the learning already happening in your classroom. Which one is the best choice for your students? Remember that you don’t want to overwhelm parents with a bunch of things that aren’t meaningful. Which ones are the most meaningful? What is the story you’re creating and sending home to parents? 

Assign an Activity

When you assign an activity, you can choose from already created and shared activities, or you can create your own activity. To be honest, I rarely just assign an activity from the activity library. Usually, I need to make a few tweaks to the activity to make it seamlessly fit into our learning.
I usually create activities for all the posts we share. This is because I have a large number of students in my classroom whose native language isn’t English. Strategies for non-native English speakers are suitable for all students. I think it is helpful for students to see the directions after I have given them, so I try to always create an activity for whatever we are going to post. When I create an activity, it stays in my library. That means I can look back from year to year and reuse activities instead of having to generate new ideas each and every year.

Action!

It’s time to take action and plan out your first post. Click on the picture to get a free Seesaw planner!

If you’re not already on Seesaw head over to Seesaw’s youtube channel to learn more about getting started on the platform. You’ll need parent permission before students start posting. You will also want to connect with all of your families. Seesaw just rolled out a new option, which makes connecting families easier than ever!

Please know that Seesaw is extremely responsive. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or Youtube for more information. Seesaw is really dedicated to listening to teacher feedback and making sure that using their platform creates the best experience for everyone!

Best of luck!

Are you a Seesaw user? How do you plan out your posts? Do you have any other tips to offer up? Leave a comment below to share some more pro tips with us!

If you’re new to Seesaw comment below about how your first post went!

Switching Schools? 7 Tips to Help You Settle In

Switching Schools? 7 Tips to Help You Settle In

7 Tips To Help You Settle Into A New School

I’ve switched schools four times over the course of my teaching career. I think that each switch provided me exactly what I needed next in my career. I’ve also seen many other teachers enter into a new school. Some have transitioned seamlessly while others have quite a hard time. I think part of that comes down to personality but some of it comes down to actions and mindsets. Here are 7 tips to help you settle in when you switch schools. 

Tip 1: Keep an Open Mind and AN Open heart

Remember when you interviewed something about this school stuck with you and that is why you chose to move there. Be open minded. This school will not be the same as the one you just left. They might have different rules, routines or procedures. They might have traditions or things they’ve always done that don’t make any sense to you. Enter with an open mind and an open heart. Part of changing schools is learning from new ways of thinking and new ways of being. Listen in as people talk about the school. Listen to understand not to criticize or put down. Listen to truly understand. 

Tip 2: Ask Questions

There will no doubt be a lot of information thrown your way. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask enough questions. And, once again, listen to understand. The responses you get might not be the ones you were thinking of. If you don’t ask questions then you’ll never know. I remember when I switched schools a teacher came in and told me I wasn’t asking enough questions and he was worried about me. Truth was, I was asking questions but just not to him… BUT I do sometimes feel the same sense of concern when new teachers don’t ask a lot of questions. Oh, and, don’t make assumptions. It probably won’t end well. 

Tip 3: Find A Mentor

Like I said in tip 2, I was asking questions. I found a teammate who I felt I could trust and who I felt understood me as a teacher. I popped in and out of her room all year long asking many, many questions. Find someone who you can trust. Someone who will take time to explain how things work or what goes where. My first year teaching I was assigned a mentor and it didn’t go very well. She didn’t want to be anyone’s mentor and I was left to seek out a mentor on my own. I think natural mentorships are the best. Don’t force anyone to be your mentor just see where things go and find one naturally. 

tip 4: Build Relationships

Build relationships with everyone at your new school. Just like you build relationships with your children build them with the new staff around you. Know that some teachers are weary of newcomers and might take a while before they open up to you. Some people will jump right in. Be cautious of using gossip as the foundation of your teacher friendships. Relationships built on gossip almost always turn negative and end up becoming toxic.

Tip 5: Practice Positivity

Be positive! Like I said, gossip is one of the worst ways to build relationships. Something I dread as a teacher is the person who is a drain. If you don’t practice positivity you might become a drain yourself. You don’t want to suck all the energy out of every room that you enter so be cautious when you criticize and try to practice positivity in regards to your new job.

Tip 6: Go With THe Flow

Be flexible. So you thought that you needed to decorate your whole classroom only to find out that all classrooms are left blank and are designed with the students. Or you didn’t realize that you had to take your kids to snack at 10:00. You are going to make mistakes. You need to give yourself a learning curve and allow for those mistakes to happen. Go with it. So maybe you have an assembly the first day of school that lasts for 60 minutes instead of 30. Go with it. There isn’t much a negative attitude or reluctance to change will do other than stress out both you and the kids. Go with the flow! 

Tip 7: Share Your Ideas

You were hired for a reason. You said something that people liked and people wanted to learn from you. Share your ideas openly. Remember that maybe not all of your ideas will end up working out at your new school but don’t be afraid to respectfully share new ideas! 

Do you have a tip for a teacher who is changing schools this year? Leave it down below in the comments! 

Weekly Wisdom

It does no good to teach a child to FIX errors if they don't know how to FIND them. Fountas and Pinnell

Friday Five: Back in the USA

Friday Five: Back in the USA

This is my first summer back in the United States since before I moved to Poland. I am excited but I am going to miss my laidback European summers. I won’t be jetting off to Spain for time on the beach and I won’t be walking down the street for ice cream everyday… although maybe that is a good thing! I am excited to be back for the summer though. I am excited to spend time with my family and visit all of my friends. It’s a summer full of transitions and fun… and one small rant about airports! 

One

Welcome Back- O'Hare Chaos

They need some teachers' help

I have landed in many airports over the years and I have gone through passport control in so many places and O’Hare is terrible. To be fair, O’Hare is the only American airport I’ve landed in after an international flight- maybe all other airports are better. I’m about to go on a small (ok…🙄medium) and very justified rant about this now.

The directions aren’t clear going through. The employees are yelling these directions and if you aren’t in the right place at the right time, you miss out. Non-native English speakers are confused and instead of answering any questions, the employees just continue to yell directions. There are like 2 signs with directions and only in English and then you are expected to know what to do. It is like a lesson in the classroom gone horribly wrong.

I am a native English speaker, I am an American, I have been through passport control at O’Hare several times and it still stresses me out to the max every single time.

I feel so terrible for the people who don’t know what to do, try to ask for help, and just have the same directions they didn’t understand the first time screamed at them.

Then the little electronic check-in or whatever is completely unorganized. There is no one directing traffic and machines that are open when you leave the line and walk over aren’t still open when you arrive. Then those machines are very tricky for older people to use and understand which creates more chaos. AND why is there no expedited line for Americans? I am always envious of EU passport holders going through so quickly in Poland or UK passport holders zipping right through in England and I never get to zip through a passport line.

What O’Hare needs is a few teachers who have handled indoor recess duty for days…maybe weeks in a row. Teachers who have had to repeat the same directions over and over in the same way and rewording the directions different ways. Teachers who understand how valuable a meaningful anchor chart can be on the wall. Who know the value of pre-teaching and laying out clear expectations for what is going to happen. They need some teachers who understand that you don’t need to yell louder at non-native English speakers you need to explain things clearly, simply, multiple ways, and allow for wait time. A few teachers in there and the whole mess could be care  straightened out. 

You know what they need, you have the safety video at the start of your flight you should watch a customs video at the end of your flight while the plane is heading to the gate! See, this one teacher figured out a way to calm the chaos. Let me just run this idea by someone in charge of airport security…

After passport control there was a hilarious luggage situation. Several people, myself included, didn’t see their luggage come out. I had 1 out of 4 suitcases! 😲😧Then the baggage employee started… wait, guess what he started to do! YELL! At everyone! Then he called down and announced these exact words…. that I wrote down because I found them so hilarious! “Everyone! Stop talking to me! I AM TRYING TO TALK TO YOU!!!! They have magically found a luggage thingy that wasn’t unloaded. Your bags will be here soon! I don’t know. It is magical! MAGIC!” That last magic was screamed so aggressively I jumped a little! 😂

Once I got outside and saw my mom and brother I was relieved. So relieved I almost broke down in tears. One I had made it back into the US. Two I finally had someone to help me with all of my luggage… and there was a lot of it. 

Two

Adjusting to America

I will not lie and say I have completely adjusted back to being in the US. Reverse culture shock is real! I’ve heard from many expats that re-entry can be just as difficult (or sometimes more so) than leaving. The biggest shock I’ve had to readjust to is how cold my parents keep our house! I haven’t been in air-conditioning in years. My parents don’t actually even have air-conditioning but they have so many fans. The fans are always on and I am always in a sweatshirt under a blanket! I can assure you in a few weeks I will not be complaining about the chill. It’s all about readjusting.

You know what else I have to adjust to? Being so close to a Target. I cannot even tell you how much I miss Target when I am abroad. The times I miss it most are when I need a specific item for my classroom and I know the exact location of it in Target and have I have no idea where to even begin the search for it in Poland. That is the worst! Although I have to admit I am now able to find lots of things in Poland. I have only been to Target once since being home and I have a new personal mantra for when I think about going to Target. “You are poor. You should not go.” It’s working so far but a girl can only hold off for so long! 

A third adjustment is living with my parents again! I’m almost 30 and moving back home after being so independent is an adjustment to say the very least. People (aka my mom and dad) want to know what I am doing at all times. Where I am going? How much money I am spending on things? Why does it take you so long to get ready? 😂The questions just don’t stop! I absolutely love my parents and I am so glad to spend time with them but it’s weird after being so independent.

The good thing about living with your parents is that my mom makes me coffee every morning and brings it to me. AND… you’re not going to believe this! My dad offered to give me his credit card to go to Target… what a brave man! Then immediately told me, just as he did when I was fifteen, that he expects receipts and I am only authorized to buy an HDMI cable. 😂😂Don’t worry, I only purchased the authorized item! 

Three

Sibling Bonding

My youngest brother is the only one currently at my parent’s house. He and I have had a lot of time to hang out. So far we have gone on an adventure to Target (that was no fun because we didn’t even get to aimlessly wander the entire store to buy things we didn’t need) and the grocery store. We’ve watched a lot of Netflix together and have joked around a ton! I think we’re getting on our parents nerves a bit because we like to cause a bit of trouble but it is so great. I do miss the time hanging out with my siblings when I’m not in the US. We purchased an absurd amount of freeze pops (another thing to adjust to- things come in such large quantities) that we will enjoy together. We are currently in intense negotiations about chores at the moment because neither of us want to mow the lawn. But, just like when we were children, it it isn’t mowed when my parents get home from work we’ll be in trouble. 😂We are also planning on purchasing hammocks and putting them up in our parent’s backyard to chill outside! Should be a good summer for the two of us! 

 

FOur

The Cutest Old Lady

I CANNOT BELIEVE I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT THIS! This maybe should have been number one but here we are at four. 

I sat next to the cutest, old, Polish lady on my flight! She gives tours in Warsaw and part of one of her tour groups was coincidentally behind us on the plane. She must be a very good tour guide because she promptly put herself in charge of us and guided us through the flight. She pulled out pens when they handed out the border cards which I guess you don’t even have to fill out anymore because it is all digital. 

This is one thing they scream at you as you’re waiting in line.PUT THOSE BLUE CARDS AWAY! I DON’T EVEN WANT TO SEE THEM! SIR, I SAID PUT IT AWAY WE DON’T WANT TO SEE THEM. YOU DON’T NEED THOSE! Such high-stress! 

The cards were only in Polish so she helped the ladies behind me fill it out and asked for a card for me. They didn’t give me one because they thought her and I were flying together. Then they still didn’t give me one because I was American and they said I wouldn’t need it. That, thankfully, turned out to be true. 

During the flight she watched the flight screen for the whole trip. I cannot imagine watching that screen for nine hours but she did it. I only checked it when the little boy on the plane would yell out, “only 7 more hours.” Then I would check in on our progress and get antsy about sitting still for so long! She took a little nap and rested her head on my shoulder and I didn’t even mind one bit. 

When I asked if I could get out of our row she told me I had excellent timing. The man on the aisle was also up so I only disturbed her and she doesn’t mind at all. Then she complimented me because I ended up returning from the bathroom before the man on the aisle and she was so impressed with my timing. I explained that I was a teacher and quick bathroom breaks were my thing… she didn’t really understand that but it’s ok! Then every time the man got up she asked if I needed to use the toilet or if I needed a walk around the plane. She was so kind! 

When we landed I explained the electronic passport thing… what is that thing called? to the ladies. Then we stood next to each other in line and I explained how it worked again. They successfully made it through passport control and after picking up her bag she told me to have a wonderful time in the US and gave me a hug. She was heading to North Dakota. I hope she’s having a good time here in the US! 

 

Five

Next Up: Cousins Camping

The Rice family loves nature and the outdoors. My grandma loved birdwatching and the whole family enjoys being outdoors. Cousins camping started a few years ago. Now, I used to go camping a lot but I have not been camping in probably 5-ish years. My vacations have been a bit more glam than camping while in Europe. My sister made it very clear that we are NOT glamping but real camping. 🙄I hope I survive! While you’re reading this I am heading to go camping with all of my cousins. I’ve missed out on a few cousin’s camping weekends while in Poland and I am really excited to get to go to this one. I haven’t seen my cousins in so long and I miss them tons! I haven’t seen them since before I left the US for Poland 3 years ago. I know this weekend is going to be filled with fun shenanigans. I did pick up some Polish vodka in the airport just for this occasion. I have two cousins who are also turning 30 in July so I brought them each back a small gift (read: vodka and a shot glass) to celebrate! Watch out northern Wisconsin, the Rice’s are going to have some fun this weekend! 

How’s your summer vacation going?

What fun things do you have planned?

How do you feel about the airport upon re-entry to the US? 

Is it that stressful everywhere? Is there somewhere worse than O’Hare?