Saturday, June 25, 2016

8 #GIRLBOSS Quotes for Teachers

In a nutshell, being a #GIRLBOSS means you're focused, competent, and confident.  And, I think we can all agree that these are qualities that are beneficial for teachers too (even if you aren't a girl)!  The following quotes will hopefully motivate you to be a boss, a #teacherboss.



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Teachers love to teach. They also love to learn.  Sometimes we learn from professional development books, trainings, conferences, or even quotes. Yes, quotes.  Sometimes, quotes serve as powerful reminders and open our eyes.

As I recently reread #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, I realized that there are several quotes from her book that teachers can learn from.  She may be a self-made business mogul, but much of her down to earth, straightforward advice can be applied to any person, in any profession.



How true this is! We don't always see immediate results in the classroom but that doesn't mean that the wheels of learning aren't in motion. We have to remain confident that what we are doing will turn into something huge, eventually.  We have to.


"Remember: Don’t ever grow up. Don’t become a bore. Don’t ever let the Man get to you."

If you've read this blog for a while you know that I'm just a big kid at heart. Please don't ever grow up. I mean, yes, you are an adult and adulting is inevitable, but that doesn't mean you can't still love Hello Kitty, Care Bears, or whatever. How else do you expect to identify with that classroom full of littles? And as for that Man. He seems to be knocking on our door all the time. Don't mind him. Play the game, but do what you need to do for your students.


"You combine hard work, creativity, and self-determination, and things start to happen."

Teaching is hard work. And it demands creativity.  A few years back, my nephew was on track to become a teacher.  He earned his degree and everything, but ultimately he chose another profession because too many of his professors convinced him that creativity was dead in teaching. What?!? Clearly these people are out of touch with reality. It takes creativity to integrate your subjects, modify programs to meet your students needs, plan engaging lessons, and fit everything into a week, let alone one day. Creativity in teaching is not dead. It's alive and well, my friends. When you're willing to put in the work coupled with creativity and a belief that it's all worth it, you will see results. Your students will respond and you will see growth.



Enough said. This quote basically applies to every person, anywhere.


"You don’t get taken seriously by asking someone to take you seriously. You’ve got to show up and own it."

Talk is cheap. Show up and do your job. People don't need you to tell them how good you are, they will see your dedication, determination, and drive. They will see you are committed to your craft. They will know how awesome you are simply by you doing your thing. You don't have to tell them. 


"No matter where you are in life, you’ll save a lot of time by not worrying too much about what other people think about you. The earlier in your life that you can learn that, the easier the rest of it will be."

This quote reminds me of something my mom repeated throughout my childhood, "Worry about yourself."  This saying has become my life's mantra.  Focus on making yourself the best teacher you can be. Who cares what the teacher down the hall thinks.  She doesn't know your students and their needs, nor does she necessarily know what's best. Just do you. 



"Focus on the positive things in your life and you’ll be shocked at how many more positive things start happening."

There are so many negatives to this job, like an overwhelming number of negatives. But dwelling on them won't get you anywhere. With that said, you're human, go ahead and vent.  It's natural.  But then, get proactive. Find a solution that turns it into positive. Make it work for you the best you can.

"When your goal is to gain experience, perspective, and knowledge, failure is no longer a possibility."

I like to think that as teachers we are always looking to do these three things. I equate them to being the best teacher you can be. I like to think that if you're being the best you possible, you won't fail. Sure, you might encounter a hiccup or stumble a bit along the way, but you won't fail.

Whether you're a new, or a not so new, teacher, there is always room to gain more experience, perspective, and knowledge.  I fear teacher burnout.  I fear becoming the teacher that does the same thing every single year. I fear losing my passion.  If I allow these things to happen, I will fail. So, I do whatever I can to make sure that doesn't happen.  I read books and articles to expand my perspective and knowledge base and I collaborate with my peers to have a deeper understanding of my craft.  

I wish I could say I have a favorite quote from above, but they all resonate with me. They are all straightforward reminders to just go out and do my job, like a boss. ;)

Do you have a favorite? Did one quote resonate with you more than the others? Leave a comment below.  I'd love to know!

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Work Smarter, Not Harder {10 Tips for Teachers}

Sometimes people ask me how I get it all done. When they ask this, they are referring to the work that has to be done outside of the actual act of teaching.  The planning, the grading, the prep, and so forth.  The truth is, I make it look easy because I've learned to work smarter, not harder.  

 
Once upon I time, I had a different career.  I had many different tasks to accomplish each day.  I had daily deadlines to adhere to and people counted on me to be knowledgeable, punctual, thorough, and prepared.  The demands of this job required that I work smarter, not harder. Many of the work habits I adopted back then followed me into my teaching career, and along the way, I've added some strategies to my repertoire that are specific to teaching.  

While I'm no expert in efficiency and work productivity, I hope that the tips that follow help you to make better use of your time as a teacher.

Make a list.  Every day. Identify what needs to be done and write it down. Then, prioritize it. 

It doesn't matter what you use to write your list on. Like sticky notes? Great! Prefer a pretty note pad? Super! Don't give two hoots and prefer to use scratch paper or whatever is lying around? Fabulous. Just write it all down!

I like to write my tasks down at the end of each day.  This way, I know exactly what I need to do when I get to school in the morning.  I try to write my tasks in the order they need to be accomplished, but I have also been known to write them down and then number them to the side.  This is just my way of making sure I tackle the most important tasks first.  And, I'm flexible about my tasks. Anything I don't get to one day (because it was low priority) gets bumped to the next day and prioritized with the next day's tasks.


Get it done. Once you've identified the tasks you need to accomplish, and you've prioritized them, do them. Get to work. Quit dilly dallying.  Put your phone down, stop chit chatting with your neighbor and get to work.  Confession: this can be hard, but you'll have time to stalk your phone and chit chat if you get your work done first.  

Think of it this way, if you don't get your work done you run the risk of being unprepared, stressed out, and ineffective as a teacher. And our job is too important to chance that! Force yourself to focus and get things done as quickly as possible. If this is super hard for you and you need some external motivation then reward yourself each day/week that you get stuff done. Before you know it, it will become a natural work habit.


Establish a daily work routine. Yes, there will be interruptions and disruptions, but you can still create a framework for what your work time will look like each day. Decide which tasks you will attend to each morning before school starts and each afternoon when the students are gone. 
Write down your thought bombsYou're a teacher, you probably have 25 random thought bombs a day....when you aren't at school. 

Sometimes I get random ideas or remember small things that need to be done when I'm not at school. To help me remember these things, I carry a small notepad in my purse. And I keep one on my nightstand as well. Sometimes, I email myself from my phone!  This way, I can easily record those little reminders and ideas as they come to me and I won't have to waste time trying to remember my thoughts and ideas when I'm back at school the following day.


Establish an email schedule. What I mean by that is, pick a time of day that you will read your emails. 

I tend to read mine first thing in the morning. We don't have a "desk job" so checking email periodically throughout the day is not always practical (or smart). Maybe you opt to check it first thing and immediately after school. Great! The point is, create a routine that works for you and your situation. 

I also have a policy of responding to emails within 24 hours. Keep in mind that you don't need to respond to every email you get. So many of the emails we get as teachers are FYI type emails. Don't bother with responding to those.
Finally, I also have a policy of never checking my email from home.  You never know what's lurking in that inbox, so I err on the side of caution and refuse to even log into my email from home.  Work emails get read when I'm at work.  End of story.


Collaborate. Whether it's with a like minded individual or your grade level, collaboration can make your job so much easier. 

Keep in mind that collaboration isn't dolling out or splitting up responsibilities. It's discussing and evaluating the material you plan to/are expected to teach your students. 

The point of collaboration is to help you perfect your craft and effectiveness as a teacher. So, make sure you confer with people who will help you achieve this.


Set limits. Leave your work at school. Teaching is demanding. It demands your energy, focus, and your time. 

Time is the biggie. And let's be honest, there isn't that much time in the day. How do some teachers cope with this? They take their work home. Even I have fallen victim to this, but in the past several years, I have set limits on what/when I take work home. See, I'm not just a teacher. I'm also a mom, and a wife, and human being with interests outside of my job. When I'm at work, that is my priority and when I'm at home that is my priority. It has to be. 

Now, as I said, there are times when I bring work home, such as when I am *seriously* behind on grading (it happens, friends) or need to work on report cards. This is something I need to do free of distractions (and on a computer that works more efficiently than my ancient desktop at school). I can bust out more report cards at home, once my little one has gone to bed, than I ever could at work. Other than that, my work pretty much stays at school. 

It all boils down to prioritizing your workload at school and sticking to a routine. When you find what works for you, you won't feel the need to regularly bring work home and when you do bring it home on occasion, you won't feel as guilty. 


Grade like a boss. Say what?  What I mean by that is, know what you're going to grade. Mark it in your lesson plans, or put a sticky note on those materials to remind you so that when you give that assignment you know you're planning to use it for a grade.  Then, set aside a day or two each week to enter grades. This way, you are able to enter them without spending huge chunks of time doing so (and parents knocking on your door pestering you as to why you haven't entered grades in the past month). 

Remember, you don't have to grade everything. If you've completed an assignment together in class, don't even collect it from students. Send it home! If you want to look over class work (and you probably should), you could spot check certain assignments, depending upon what it is. Or, you could go over it in class so your students are able to see how they did right there on the spot, saving you time in the long run.


Take a break. Or two. During the school day.  No, I'm not suggesting you run out into the hall and hide from your students, but just like your students, you need a brain break here and there too! 

Last year, our second graders endured an extremely long afternoon in the classroom. Most of that three hour chunk of time was core curriculum. It was a challenge for all of us, but thank goodness for brain breaks! On most days it was obvious that the kids needed a break, and some days, so did I.  Go Noodle to the rescue!  After our brain breaks, we were ready to refocus. The brain clutter was gone and the students were able to move onto the next set of learning tasks with a fresh mind. More importantly, I was able to tackle the next lesson with a fresh, decluttered state of mind.
NOTE: While Go Noodle is a super easy way to facilitate brain breaks, I know that some people have extremely hard core firewalls and can't access this site. No worries.  Play a game of Simon Says, or lead your students in some stretching exercises.  You could even line up your class and walk a few laps around the school.  If anyone asks, tell them you're practicing your hallway procedures.  ;)

The point is, it's OK to take a break, it's natural! Doctors, police officers, and everyone in between take them. And, it's a well known fact that breaks refuel and recharge the the body and mind, and teachers shouldn't think that breaks are off limits.  You're the professional, use your judgement to facilitate breaks as needed in your classroom because you will all benefit in the long run.
Make time for you. Find time in your day to focus on YOU! Focus on something other than teaching. 

Yes, we love what we do, and yes, we are passionate about it, but it isn't healthy to focus on teaching all.of.the.time. Read a book, find a hobby, get your nails done, binge watch Netflix. Whatever! Just make sure you carve some time out for you to focus on other things. Otherwise, you fail to take care of yourself and run the risk of burnout and/or unnecessary stress.  Plus, you're worth it. ;)
Do you have any favorite "word smarter, not harder" tips to share?  Comment below!
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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Summer Reading List 2016

Where are my readers at?  I don't know about you, but summer is the season when I get into my reading groove.  There's nothing better than sitting around on a hot, lazy day with a book in my hands and an iced tea by my side.


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I'm joining my sweet friend, Molly, from Lucky to be in First to bring you my 2016 summer reading list.  Read on for some great recommendations as well as a list of books I look forward to reading!

Let's start with my recommendations.  These are books that you should definitely read!  I've read them, and I loved each and every one of them (otherwise, I wouldn't be recommending them-hehe).


Shopaholic to the Rescue (I'm a sucker for these books. They are so entertaining. I just finished this one and I am basically telling everyone I meet that they should read it.).
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  (She's funny, honest, and down to earth...what's not to love?)
Goodnight Nobody  (part mystery, part chick lit...need I say more?)
Apple Turnover Murder- A Hannah Swensen Mystery (I've been working my way through this series for years.  Each book is an easy read, yet entertaining and filled with tasty, interesting recipes.)
Mindsets in the Classroom (my class last year really responded to our mindset conversations)
The Reading Strategies Book (I finally got my hands on this book mid-year and found it to be a very useful resource! In other words, you'll read it more than once.)

I have a stack of books that I'm ready to read this summer. These are all books that I want to read because, well, I've already bought them and they are just waiting for me crack them open. Curious as to what's on my summer reading list?


Beach Town (because I love all things Mary Kay Andrews)
The Weekenders (again, because I love all things Mary Kay Andrews)
The Singles Game (It sounds like the perfect chick lit read...NOTE: it isn't available until July 12, but I've already pre-ordered my copy.)

Up until last year, I had a strict "no PD books during the summer" policy.  But, that is no longer the case.  During the summer I have time to read, so I read it all!  Here are a few PD books you might want to read (if you haven't already done so). 
Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading (This one is next in line on my nightstand.  I'm always looking for ways to be more effective and this book came highly recommended by friends.)
Dr. Jean's Reading Recipes (I got this book a while back and it's sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read.  I know she's more K-1, but her ideas are amazing and there are always enough of them that I can use with my second graders.)

You can check out more great summer reading recommendations HERE.


Do you have a great summer reading recommendation of your own?  Leave the title in a comment below and I'll be sure to check it out!

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