Weekly Wisdom

All reading counts as reading. Graphic novels, audiobooks, poetry, wordless picture books, eBooks-all reading. No one kind of reading is better than the other.

Sharing a Classroom

Sharing a Classroom

I was recently talking to a teacher friend of mine and she was going on and on about another teacher who teaches a special in her classroom. She was beyond frustrated by what happens during that class and was hitting a breaking point. When another teacher comes into your classroom space to teach their class it can become frustrating. In the past I’ve had health, guidance, technology, German, drama, and Polish in my classroom. Iʼm sure any teacher who goes from classroom to classroom also has a hard time managing many different sets of expectations and rules.

Here's How I Navigate The Situation

Set clear expectations with teachers.

In the beginning of the year I clearly explain my expectations to the other teachers. Currently I have health once a week and Polish four days a week in my classroom. I explained to these two teachers that I donʼt mind sharing our supplies (markers, scissors, glue, etc.) as long as they are put back and taken care of. Other teachers in our school do not allow specials teachers to use supplies. I havenʼt had a problem with it so I allow it. I also listen to what their expectations are of me. I explain that I am willing to leave the classroom if they would prefer I was not there. 

Items to Consider

  •  Classroom supplies– Are you going to share? How are the supplies organized? What can and cannot be used by students? What are the clean-up expectations
  • Stay in the classroom or leave– Some teachers don’t mind if you stay. Others would prefer you leave. I try to cause minimal distractions if I stay in the room and sometimes I just need to get out myself and find a quiet space to work. 
  • Space– What space will be shared and what will not be? I have a cabinet in my classroom for Polish notebooks and workbooks but I can’t give up any wall space for Health. (We have very oddly shaped classrooms with limited wall space and lots of windows. It looks great but there’s only space for maybe 3 anchor charts on the wall.) 
  • Technology– I always keep my remote and pen for our interactive TV in the same place and I ask the teachers who use our space to put it back in the same spot. We also don’t have an HDMI cable in my classroom so teachers using my room need to learn how to cast to the TV using ChromeCast. 
  • Cleaning Up– I expect my classroom to look the same way that I left it. The chairs need to be pushed in. There shouldn’t be papers or markers all over the floor.  
  • Behavior Problems– This is a tricky one. Sometimes the teachers who use my classroom expect me to step in as the homeroom teacher and deal with behavior problems. This gets dicey and I don’t like it. I think it takes the authority away from the other teacher and I don’t like responding to behavior problems where I wasn’t the teacher. I explain this to the teachers using my space but at my current school it is sometimes an expectation to step in. 

Set clear expectations with students.

I sit my class down at the beginning of the year and explain the somewhat confusing situation of having two teachers (and sometimes three because of our assistant teacher) in the classroom at once. I explain that I am in the classroom but I am not the teacher. They need to treat the special teacher with respect and they need to follow our classroom rules. I teach them to pretend that I am invisible during another teacher’s class. They shouldn’t come over and ask me if they can go to the bathroom or go fill up their water bottle. Those questions need to be asked to the teacher. If there is an emergency I am always there but I have work I need to get done during that time.

Now, we all can set up clear expectations and things donʼt go according to plan. One year I thought I had clear expectations until I walked back into my classroom to grab something and the kids were going through all of the cabinets in a game of hide and seek! I cannot tell you the horror I felt as I grabbed my notebook and headed back to the meeting I was in. You never know…

When Things Don't GO According To Plan

Assume Positive Intentions- Talk it Out

If you feel that the other teacher isnʼt following your agreed upon expectations the very best thing to do is to talk to them about it. The teacher playing hide and seek figured it out all on his own after seeing my face. He was also a first year teacher and didn’t realize kids going through the cabinets wasn’t ok in our classroom. It was something I didn’t even consider explaining. Make sure to assume best intentions before speaking to them. Iʼm sure people might see snippets of my class and also get annoyed. It happens to all of us.

MYOB- Mind Your Own Business

This has been my most challenging piece this year. I see so many behaviors that I want to correct right away even though it is not my class. Sometimes I hear kids trying to pull things over on another teacher that they wouldn’t try with me or other teachers. It bothers me so much and I want to step in. The problem is that it isnʼt my class and it isnʼt my place to step in. Sometimes I just have to leave my classroom so I don’t overstep. Sometimes teachers have asked me to step in. 

Get Away

Sometimes when the stress and chaos becomes too much I get up and I leave my classroom. I find somewhere else to work. Sometimes I go to the library, the elementary commons, the chairs by the front office. I find a place I can work and I work there. Once last year I just worked on the window sill in the hallway outside of my classroom. If you canʼt handle being in the room, donʼt be in the room. I know this can get tricky because there are some things that we can only get done inside our classrooms but if it is causing you too much stress- leave, get out.

Additional Advice?

Have you ever had to share your classroom space with other teachers or have you floated from classroom to classroom yourself? What other tips and advice would you give? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below! 

Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom

Friday Five: Teacher Friends

Friday Five: Teacher Friends

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! 

One

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. 

Two

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. 

Three

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.

FOur

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. 

Five

THANKS!

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!

Prep Time: Are you using it wisely?

Prep Time: Are you using it wisely?

Red Nails

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
    • One-on-One
    • Reading
    • Math 
    • Writing
    • Word Study
    • Science
    • 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
  • Organize
  • Sub for other teachers

I probably missed a few things but that seems about right. 

Schedule Out Your Time

Times in blue are when students are in the room but it is also technically prep before school. Times marked in red are when classes are being taught in my classroom by other teachers. Duties are marked with an asterisk and our weekly elementary meeting is on day 4 during lunch and recess.

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. 

Day one

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. 

Day Two

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. 

Day Three

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

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

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.