Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom

Teachers Are A Treasure

Teachers are a treasure, and we need to make sure we’re taking care of them.

-Bobby Burke

Did you watch Queer Eye? I cried so hard in the episode with Jonathan’s teacher! Bobby Burke came out with this little gem. I had to hit pause straight away and jot it down. Teachers are a treasure. Do you feel like you’re being taken care of? What do you wish people understood about teachers? 

Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom

Masterpieces & Works IN Progress

You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously. 

-Sophia Bush

Sometimes as teachers we don’t like to admit that we are works in progress. This Sophia Bush quote describes exactly what we are as teachers. We are both a masterpiece and also a work in progress. That’s what teaching is all about it. It’s about being a great teacher and looking to become even better at the same time. 

Our students are the same. They are both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously. That is what makes teaching such difficult and rewarding work. 

Don’t forget the value in being both a masterpiece and a work in progress!

New Years Resolutions for Teachers

New Years Resolutions for Teachers

Happy New Year!

Well, teacher friend, we made it to January! It’s time to look forward and set some new years resolutions for teachers! My teacher life in 2019 with such joy and a renewed passion for teaching. I am approaching the second half of the school year, feeling so refreshed as an educator. My teacher resolutions will look so different from ones  I’ve set in the past. 

There have been years though where I haven’t hit January feeling the way I do now. We all go through different seasons of teaching. A lot is coming up for us in the second half of the school year. Here are a few new years resolutions for teachers to help us thrive in 2020!

New Year's Resolutions For Teachers

Take Time For You

“A good teacher is like a candle- it consumes itself to light the way for others.” -Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

I’m sure that Mustafa had the most excellent intentions when this was said, but we as teachers are too often candles. The problem with being like a candle is that they burn out, and teacher burn out is real. I have felt it; I know so many teachers who have also felt it and some who leave teaching altogether because of burnout.

Once you’re burned out, you’re of no use to anyone. So, let’s agree not to listen to this quote and instead act like trees. A tree gives off oxygen, which is very useful for us, it provides shelter for animals, and it helps fertilize the soil. A tree doesn’t consume itself to provide for others. It is strong and stable. If a tree could, I’m sure it would take time for itself. Invest in yourself. You’re of no use to anyone if you’re burned out. 

Ideas:

Leave your school bag at work over the weekend. I did this a few years ago, and I am telling you it was magical! I didn’t do the work I brought home anyway, and it just stressed me out. Reclaiming my weekends meant I was investing in myself and wasn’t putting all my energy into school. 

Read for fun. When I taught grade 3 in the US, I was experiencing all sorts of burn out. One day a student asked if I did my 20 minutes of reading the night before. I hadn’t because I was trying to survive, but at that moment, I realized maybe I should read. So I got myself a reading log and started reading for 20 minutes every night, just for fun, like I asked my students. Invest in yourself and take time to read. 

Take a trip. Anytime teaching gets a little too stressful; I take a quick weekend getaway anywhere I can. In Poland, that often meant going to the mountains in Zakopane. In Wisconsin, sometimes it just meant going to my sister’s house or going to a spa. It’s amazing what a little weekend away can do for you. In Oman, I try to take a trip to the beach.

A little retail therapy never hurt anyone. While my bank account may beg to differ a good trip to Target, Zara, TJ Maxx, or Sephora could be just the reset you need. 

Be Present

If you’ve taught the TCRWP Units of Study, there’s a lesson in the grade 3 reading curriculum that got me one year. You teach the kids that sometimes readers fall into the trap of reading on autopilot. I sometimes think as teachers, myself included, we get stuck in the trap of teaching on autopilot. We go through the motions and teach the most beautiful lessons, but we are not present in the classroom.

Start with just celebrating small moments of joy in your classroom and work from there. It could be taking that moment to laugh alongside your students instead of immediately redirecting attention back to the lesson is just what’s needed. One year I was having a hard time, so I jotted down three joyful moments each day. These three moments were sometimes simple (like no one complained their dry erase marker was dead) and sometimes were meaningful moments (all those lightbulb moments we live for).

Notice when you check out, and autopilot begins. There are days I feel checked out during morning meeting. So, I acknowledge that and work on my active listening. Sometimes I find myself in writing moving from writer to writer conferring without really being in the moment as much as a could be. Notice when it happens, because it happens to all of us, and check back in.

Plan with Intention

This is an excellent resolution for teachers- including me! Use your prep times to your advantage and plan out your teaching. I find that the moments that I am the most stressed out as a teacher have also been the moments I am the least prepared. Click HERE to read more about structuring your prep time. 

Teaching is a lot of planning, but ensuring that your teaching is intentional means that you’re doing what’s best for your students. Taking your prep times to intentionally plan out each lesson to guide your students where they’re going next means that you’ll not only be more prepared but also more effective as a teacher. 

Show Appreciation

Who doesn’t like feeling appreciated? At one school I worked at, we took time at the start of every staff meeting to honor someone. Everyone needed to show up with an idea of a staff member they would like to acknowledge and why. You never knew who was going to be asked to honor someone and who was going to be honored. This little 5 minutes of appreciation set the tone for our work together.
How else could you appreciate someone? One of my teacher friends used to bring treats to a weekly meeting; another one popped in with Starbucks after a rough day, one principal would write little cards of appreciation, one principal would sneak into your classroom and tweet out something great you were doing. The ways of appreciating each other are endless.

Get Moving

This year I am working to incorporate more movement into my classroom intentionally. We use GoNoodle, and sometimes we use Adventure to Fitness. We have a cool Spark bike in our class, that is great. It’s not unique to my classroom, and many other classrooms at our school have one. I also intentionally plan movement breaks into my schedule to engage students in moving, not just sitting. 

I have worked to get moving during the day. Sometimes that means taking the long path to the staff lounge, and other times, it means taking a walking break around the school during prep to keep moving. Moving throughout the day is so important. I find myself able to focus much better after a little movement session. 

Reignite Your Passion

Listen, there have been moments in my teaching career when I’ve just thought I was done. I’ve had to work hard to remember I even had a passion for teaching at some points over the last nine years. It happens to all of us. Reigniting your passion won’t look the same as other teachers, but it is necessary to keep your sanity and stay in the game. This was one of my teacher new year’s resolutions last year. 

Sometimes I read professional books to reignite my passion. I read the book Thrive one year to help get myself back in the game. This year I’m read the book Onward to renew my teacher spirit. 

Many, many years ago, I created a teacher twitter account to connect with educators who were also passionate. That was extremely helpful when I felt I was stuck. I could see the hope and passion of so many other educators. That pushed me to push myself and do better as a teacher.

One year to reignite my passion, I separated my teacher Instagram from my personal Instagram. I made a new account so that I wouldn’t have to see teacher stuff continually, and I could see more of my friend’s posts. While it might seem counterintuitive to want to see teacher stuff less, it was what did the trick. I found myself constantly feeling like I wasn’t enough as a teacher when scrolling through Instagram. Once I separated the accounts, I was able to only look at my teacher Instagram when I wanted. It helped me focus on my own life but sometimes look for great ideas when I needed to. 

One time I paired up with a motivated colleague, and we took classes together on literacy. We were in it together and pushed one another to try new things. It was so fun; we met up once a week to discuss our success and our failures to support one another’s learning.

There are so many different ways to reignite your passion for teaching. Some ideas that I’ve used in the past wouldn’t work out for me now, so figure out what works best for you at this moment in time and go after it. 

Try Something New

Yup! Trying something new as a teacher is so important. In September of this year, I found myself sitting on the floor of my classroom (because I was making an anchor chart down there), thinking that I hadn’t tried any new strategies for a while. I went to my computer where I had a list of new things I wanted to try (because I am a nerd like that) and I chose one and tried it out the next day. It was so fun to do something I hadn’t done before. Trying something new can reignite that spark you had for teaching, it can take you off autopilot, and it can just be fun!
When’s the last time you tried something new in your classroom?

Take Credit For Your Success

This last one is deep: why not go out strong?
Once I was sitting with my assistant principal during my toughest year as a teacher. She complimented the fact that all of my students who began the year on a behavior intervention had graduated. I no longer had any students on check in check out. Graduating from check-in check out did not happen at our school. I deflected the compliment and put it back on my students. They were doing such hard work, continually trying out new strategies and working to change their behaviors. She stopped me immediately.
“Natasha, don’t deflect the compliment. You need to recognize that this may not have happened with another teacher. You’re the reason your kids have made this growth. It is because of you, and you need to realize that. You’re a great teacher, and you work so hard. You deserve to take the credit for your successes.”
It was that little speech that made me realize how often I attribute my success to others. I think that’s just the way we are as teachers. Of course, this student grew so much because of their efforts. But also because of the time you took to teach them what they needed. Take credit for your success. It feels uncomfortable at first, but then it just feels great. Don’t forget to recognize everyone else who helped with the success yet also remember it was you who did that too!

What Are your Teacher New Year's Resolutions?

What are other great new year’s resolutions for teachers? Do you have any resolutions for your teacher life? Have any other strategies teachers could benefit from? 

Leave all your thoughts and ideas in the comments below! 

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! 

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!