All The Sales!

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Here it is, early July. I should be enjoying some well deserved time off, yet I can’t stop prepping, reading, researching, and thinking about how to make next school year even better. It doesn’t help that on many social media platforms, teachers are posting pictures of classrooms, libraries, and resources. Then, there are the ones that post about sales and purchasing items. This is where I get a bit uncomfortable.

I have been teaching for over 20 years so I know all too well the amount of money a teacher invests in their classroom. I was a beginning teacher who spent more money than I ever should have fixing up my classroom, investing in books, and supplies. No beginning teacher earns enough to do that, yet we buy these items.

More recently I have adopted the attitude of, “Naw.” As in, “Naw, I’m NOT buying pencils, notebooks, lined paper, folders, etc. for my classroom.” I have not moved schools or districts. I still teach in a Title 1 district.

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So what changed? I changed; my attitude changed. Maybe I’m a bit more enlightened and less naive than I use to be. Trust me this is a new thing for me. I have students who can’t afford back to school supplies. I have students whose parents choose not to purchase supplies. I understand that it’s not the child’s fault. But, when did it become MY responsibility to purchase said supplies? If I have 30 students and purchase 2 folders per student (1 for classwork and 1 for homework/home communication) at a cost of $9.99 for a box of 25 (according to Office Depot), that means I need to purchase 3 boxes (I need 60 folders). That means I just spent $27.97 (plus tax) on my classroom out of MY OWN POCKET. What?! That wasn’t even for the ones with prongs. Then there are essentials like pencils, pencil sharpeners (that NEVER last), bulletin board border (gotta make the room look pretty), organizational tools, and other basics. Then if you want to do flexible seating in your classroom, most districts won’t pay for that so there’s more money out of your pocket (yep, did this one last year). Some of the costs might be minimal. I bought bed risers for raised desks for around $10. Not a big deal, right? Again, when did THIS become my problem?

Teachers, by nature, are generous and nurturing. The system has totally exploited our kindness and has, in some cases, come to expect that we will purchase what we need out of our own pockets. We need to STOP this! I know what you’re thinking: “Schools aren’t funded properly”, “My students can’t afford ____”. And you’re right. Schools aren’t funded properly. Many families can’t afford supplies. However, why should schools be funded properly when we continue to fill in the gaps? Why should schools offer to buy the folders when we happily do it and then feel great when we hit a sale (yeah, hitting a sale and saving money feels great, not gonna lie)? But we need to step back and realize that we are part of the problem.

So, I am trying VERY hard NOT to spend any money in my classroom this year. I will ask my site to purchase needed materials: folders, crayons, markers, pencils, etc. This is not going to be easy, but there really aren’t any other professions (we have bachelors and masters and doctorates; we ARE professionals) that spend their own money to make their environment better and successful. Yes, there are certain items that a professional, such as a nurse who buys her/his own stethoscope, but do they need to purchase paper, folders, pens? No. And neither should we.

I know this was a long rant and most likely not so popular, but I hope it made you think. Until we demand to be treated like professionals, we won’t be. Until we stand up for ourselves and demand districts spend their money on students rather than admin, buildings, etc. nothing will change. If you can’t pay your electric or heating bill will your district do that for you? Most likely not. So why do we pay for things that the district should be paying for?

NOTE: I am fortunate enough to have an administrator who will pay for the basics out of site funds. However, many are not as fortunate. This post was spurred by ALL THE SALES that I see being shared ‘for teachers’.

Kindness Coin

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Ben's Bells Kindness CoinAt some point last year at a Google Innovator event I was given one of these. I liked the idea of passing along a note to recognize kindness in others.

I recently ran across it again and incorporated it into my classroom. I introduced the idea to my students telling them that when they saw someone being kind, it could be passed along to that person.

Fortunately, my students have really taken to the idea. Each day I see this being placed on someone’s desk. I love that my students do it without making a big deal about it. At one point it was missing for a few days. One of the students asked where it was and what happened to it. I reminded them to keep it going and it showed back up later that day.

A little kindness going a long way!

Size Matters

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Yesterday, Friday, I had 5 students absent. When everyone is present, we have 26 students in our class. They are an awesome group of kiddos. I’m really enjoying them, but when I had 21 yesterday in class, it was so nice!

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Let me explain. First of all, it had nothing to do with which students were absent. It had everything to do with the number of students physically present. I know 26 isn’t a bad number to have (last year I had 31 – THAT was too many). However, 21 students made it so much easier to squash undesired behaviors before the student had a chance to fully commit to the behavior. It allowed me to target individual needs more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, we had some name calling and general playing around but it was easier to manage.

So when school officials, politicians, or policymakers say that handling 31 is the same as handling 21, they clearly have either never been in the classroom (as a teacher) or have been out of it for far too long. There is a difference. I felt so much more productive and impactful than I have in a long time. I felt as if I really was making a difference and reaching all students.

If you are in a position to make a difference in your community, I urge you to do so. Go to school board meetings or talk to teachers. Because in the end, size really does matter!

And yes, I will be happy to see all 26 of them Monday morning!

Classroom Podcast

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I have decided that we should start a classroom podcast. I’m always looking for new and exciting ways to bring the real world to my classroom. Each year, my students become more and more consumed by their devices and apps. Most of what they do is consume, text, or snap; very little creation occurs. I want to help change this and show my students that you can produce more than just YouTube videos. They all want to be YouTubers…

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So why Podcasting? Well, it’s not something most, or any, of my students are familiar with. They all know about YouTube, but there is so much more to the creative world than becoming a YouTuber. I began by having my students listen to a podcast: The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel. Warning, this is addictive! This is a well-done podcast that the kids, and I, really got in to. I only had my kiddos listen to Season 1 – and bonus, we Sketchnoted each episode. However, I wanted to hear the rest and listened to it on my own. I was not disappointed!

After listening to Season 1 of Mars Patel, I proposed the idea to my class. They seemed up for it. We talked about what we could do. At first, they wanted to do one like that of Mars Patel, but I felt that might be too ambitious for our first go at it. I encouraged them to do stand-alone episodes. They came up with the idea of focusing on the history of our school and town. I was in!

As a class, we posed questions about our town and school that we could research and report out on. Now, I have a group of students who are taking one question at a time and doing the research. We have reached out to school and community leaders to interview. They will begin interviewing leaders soon. They already have questions ready for our school leaders for one episode.

I’m not sure how it’s all going to turn out. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing and am learning right along with my students. Once we publish an episode, I’ll share far and wide!

My Word – 2019

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My word for 2019Another year means another word! This year I chose ‘Do‘. It seems simple enough but packed with so much meaning.

For me, this will help me to follow through and DO what I intend. I have a habit of becoming overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of me. This leads to anxiety, which leads to me shutting down and ignoring everything. Yeah, that’s not working so well.

As they say, I’ll need a plan. I have one. I need to list my tasks (I hate writing things down) and prioritize. It will also include me DOing things that scare me and take me out of my comfort zone. The loss of control on that coupled with all the negative ‘what if’s’ generally keep me from taking drastic actions. I need to learn to trust that everything will work out -it always does.

So this year, I will DO more!

Fail Forward

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Today ended the first week of the 2018-19 school year. For the most part, it was a great success. I had fun, the kids had fun, and it was low pressure. I did have the option to give a reading test this week, but I thought, “Who wants to take a test the first week of school?” And honestly, it won’t do any harm to wait until next week (but that’s another blog post altogether).

Along with all of this week’s successes, I did have a few failures. The biggest one was when I, ambitiously, decided that we would do two mini-reports (created by Jon Corippo). I thought two short articles on cats would be doable for a quick mini-report in one day…done as a group…Oh, how wrong I was.

I quickly realized while reading the first article with the class that it wasn’t going as planned. And for some insane reason, I powered on with the second article. What? Yeah, not sure what I was thinking (well, clearly I wasn’t thinking!). I did, however, extend the cat mini-report for a second day and scrap the dog report for next week. I also realized that I need to work up to two articles.

So…Next week we will read one article on dogs. We will take notes together. Together we will begin writing our mini-reports. I will have them do a portion of it on their own. Yeah, I’m learning. All it takes is one painful mistake for me to remember where to start. THEN, the exciting part is watching how far they will grow!

Pinterest Classroom

It’s summer and I”m doing what most teachers do; reflecting, researching, and preparing for the upcoming school year. Yeah, I know it’s still June, it’s what I do. Recently, I joined a teacher Facebook group. It’s great. Teachers are asking questions, looking for ideas, gathering resources, and the like. Then there was a run on teachers asking about classroom themes and names. This got me thinking.

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You see, I don’t ‘pimp out’ my room with a theme or a cutesy name. I never have. I’d like to say that it’s because of some philosophical reason but sadly, it boils down to sheer laziness. I mean, that’s a lot of extra work. I”m am definitely NOT the type of person who is all on board with creating more work for myself. And so seeing all these teachers being enthusiastic about themes and names (i.e. Ms. N’s RockStars) had me reevaluating my thoughts on the subject.

I came to the conclusion that I’m STILL not going to do that. Why? a lot of the same reasons: I don’t create extra work for myself. But looking at it deeper, why would I want to? Personally, I like to focus my creativity on lessons. I rarely do the same lesson twice. I don’t reinvent the wheel each year, I tweak or change up lessons based on latest research, tools, and needs of my students.

I’m not creating a ‘Pinterest Classroom’; it doesn’t help my students. It might make me feel good to have a cutesy room and others might look at it and think it’s cute too, but that’s not my job. My goal is to help my students learn and succeed. That’s not to say that I don’t try to create an organized classroom; I do. I try to create a safe, calming, relaxing, and a caring classroom. So if your looking for a cute ‘Pinterest’ classroom with a fun name; my classroom isn’t for you. If you’re looking for innovative lessons with successes and failures; look no further.