Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sunshine Committe - Social Committee - Ideas for Fall

Are you on the Sunshine Committee this year?  Some schools call it Social Committee. Whatever the name, it serves the same purpose.  Usually there is a little arm twisting at the beginning of the year to get staff members to pay their dues.  If your school normally doesn't allow the staff to wear jeans, you might ask your administrator if your committee could give people who pay dues a "Jean Day Coupon" that allows teachers to wear jeans on one day of their choosing.  It's like a "get out of jail" card.

Through the years, there has been some grumbling at some of my schools about our committee.  I think this happens when there are not clear cut guidelines.  There needs to be guidelines in writing and transparency with the finances.  Here are a few topics to discuss when you are ready to write some guidelines:
  • Leadership:  officers and their duties
    • I highly recommend the treasurer giving a report at the faculty meetings at least quarterly.
  • Boss Day in October:  Will the committee purchase the gift?  If so, what is the budget?
  • Appreciation Day/Week:  Which staff members do you recognize?  How and what is the budget?  
  • Morale booster activities:  when and budget
  • Staff parties:  When, where, budget
  • Showers:  baby/wedding - Does the committee provide anything for the shower, if so what is the budget.  Is it for the first baby and first wedding or other?
  • Death:  Does the committee send something from the faculty? If so, what and what is the budget?  What relationship to the staff member should it be when you do this?  I.E.  Immediate family member
  • Holidays:  
    • Does the committee purchase holiday gifts for any staff members?  If so, who and what is the budget? 
I typed up a few things that I have done at some of my schools that you might like, too.  These are fun activities that boost morale.

Do you have a staff member that is your PTA representative?  If the PTA ask you for suggestions, you might suggest that they organize food during your conferences.  I helped organize this at my daughter's middle school.  Her school had a week of Parent-Teacher Conferences.  Students had school for half a day and then teachers met with parents the other half.  Our PTA organized food the first three days for the teachers.  We knew that the teachers had conferences at different times and wouldn't eat at the same time so the food had to stay fresh for a long time.  We organized a salad bar one day, a nacho bar another day, and heavy appetizers the final day.  This was the most popular thing that our committee organized. 

Click HERE to download this freebie.

Looking for more tips?  Check out my Beginning of the Year Pinterest board.  Click on the picture below.

Fern has a few tips to share with you, too.  Be sure to hop over to her blog!

Each week, Fern and I will share a teacher tip. We love to read teacher blogs and the latest teacher idea books and hope you do, too!  Stop by Fern's blog and my blog each week for our latest tips.  We hope you will share your ideas, too.  

Each week we will choose one person who shared a tip on our blog who will get a $10 shopping trip.  We will announce the winner on the following Tuesday's post.  

Click HERE to read Melinda's tip.

Do you have a staff morale booster tip to share?  Be sure to include your email so I can contact you if you're the winner of the $10 shopping trip. You must leave your email address in order to win.

Looking for more ideas?  Click on the pictures below.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Behavior Management: No More Monkey Business

Is this the year that you got “that” class?  Sometimes it is a matter of personalities that are put together that shouldn’t have been in a class together.  At times you feel like they couldn’t get along with their own shadow.  There are days when you feel like they shouldn’t be in the same school, let alone one tiny classroom. Individually, these students are very sweet, but as a group, the chemistry is wrong, very wrong.

Other times, the issue is not knowing the students ahead of time when the classes are made.  Maybe the students are new to your school this year so they weren’t placed in the right group. 

Ask any kindergarten teacher and she or he will tell you that they have anxiety until they meet this year’s class.  Teaching kindergarten is one big case of the unknown.  These classes are usually made by birthdates and sex of the students. Kindergarten teachers often have to live with the “you get what you get and don’t throw a fit” policy.  Rarely are students moved to other classes after school begins to balance out discipline issues.

I taught kindergarten for a number of years. During that time I had classes that were cohesive and others that I knew as soon as I met them that I was going to gain weight that year.  Those were the year I stocked up my closet with Coke and my favorite sugary snacks.  It took energy to keep up with them.  Can you relate?

Early in my career, I learned that it is important to reach out to my colleagues for advice.  If this is your year, there are some things you can do.

Do you have a student that is emotional, angry, prone to fits of rages this year?  With a little preparation, you can make your year less stressful for your student, the rest of your class, and you!  

If possible set up a small cool off zone in your classroom.  It usually works best if it is in a corner away from where your other students are working, maybe in a corner near your desk.  I usually set it up on the floor.  When a student is in an angry state, he or she has a tendency to kick over chairs and desks.  I put a couple of pillows (if lice and bed bugs aren't an issue) in a corner along with a small tub of cool down tools like the ones in the picture above.  The cool down tools above are all squeeze-able types of things.  The egg timer - for whatever reason - seems to help with the calming process.

Once the student has gained control of his or her emotions, you can give your student paper and crayons to write about his or her feelings.  I know there are a few of you who are thinking "what about his or her schoolwork, Michelle?"  My response is, do you really think your emotional student would have been productive with his or her school work when he or she was feeling these strong emotions?  No, I think they have to get their feelings back in control before they can begin to focus on school work.

You will gain valuable insight from what your student draws and writes after one of these episodes.  Often times, I was beginning to lose my patience with the student before I read what was upsetting them.  I think it is easy to lose sight of fact that some of these children live in some really stressful situations which they bring with them to school.  

Every class I think I ever had, had at least one or two students that didn't understand the proper concept of boundaries.  They had trouble keeping their hands to themselves, they sat too close to their classmates, they lined up too close to the other students, they walked in line too close to the other students, and the list goes on and on.  I'm sure you have a few space invaders yourself this year.

I love to introduce the concept of boundaries by reading the book, Personal Space Camp.  It explains boundaries in a way that children can understand.  Afterwards we talk about how it makes us feel when people invade our space.  Next, I set up some personal space places in our classroom.  I put an extra desk in a corner with a book shelf near it to give it a little privacy.  I keep a box of school supplies in this extra desk.  This desk is the "office".  Students who feel like they need some extra space or students who are invading other students' personal space can work in the office.  It was interesting to see how the space invaders knew when they were doing it and began to self-regulate.  They would quietly get up while I was teaching reading group and go work in the office.  The rule was anyone could work in the office, but only one student at a time.  There was a timer that students set.  Students could work in the office for 20 minutes at a time.

I also used colorful tape to define spaces in other areas.  If one of my teams, that sat at tables, had trouble with space, I used the space to divide the table into equal parts.  I made 2 colorful boxes near my chair where I taught whole group lessons on the carpet.  Sometimes students could choose to sit in the box and other times I invited them to sit in one.

At the beginning of the year, it may look like your class has ants in their pants. No, not every student has caught a case of the wiggles.  Some of it could be anxiety about the new school year.  Look at the birthdays of your students, if you have a large percentage that were born in the summer, it could be due to immaturity.  If those are not the reasons, then you have an energetic class this year.  Then it is time for Plan B.

Using exercise balls as chairs have worked wonders with my wigglers. Talk to your local gyms to see if they would be willing to donate their old balls to your class.  Be sure to take a tax id. form with you when you go to speak to the manager.

In the pictures are different types of fidgets.  These work with students who like to drum on their desk, tap their pencil, or other ways of fidgeting.  Ask your O.T. if he or she has some that you could borrow.  

Have you run into one of your students at Target or the grocery store and he or she stands there shocked that you don't live at school?  I found my students seem to enjoy some of my personal stories.  It is a great way to build relationships. I can usually find a way to connect a personal story to current classroom management issues or a lesson.   

These monkeys are a example of connecting childhood experiences with classroom management. My mom used the term monkey business to describe my brothers' and my behavior when it was less than the best.  I like to use visual cues so I would have a stuffed monkey to sit beside me while I shared my story.  Then we would discuss some of the monkey business that was happening in our class.  We would then brainstorm strategies to improve our behavior.  

In the picture above are bendable sock monkeys.  I thought those would be good as fidgets.  One of the monkeys has a hook that can hung on a backpack.  Maybe it go home with one student a day that was extra helpful that day.  Having your students brainstorm for ideas will help them buy into the plan.

Positive and hands-on always seem to work for the majority of my students.  Banana bucks could be copied on colorful cardstock  or laminated if you want to reuse.  It is part of my new Monkey Business packet.

Have you used the traffic light system before?  This is a Jungle themed version.  I like to set up a dot station so the students are taking ownership for their behavior for the day.  At the end of the day, students take their folder to the dot station, take a BINGO dauber, and put a dot of the correct color on their traffic light.  Working in partnership with parents is important.  Plus it is great documentation for conferences and RTI.  I did find that the BINGO daubers at Dollar Store which are a little bit smaller work better than the Dot Art daubers.

A two or three minutes commercial is so effective.  Look at all of the stuff in your house that you've purchased that you didn't really need.  You can do something similar in your classroom.  No, I'm not saying that I want you to get your students or parents to buy stuff that they don't need.  A commercial is short which is like most children's attention span and it is trying to get across a message to influence the person's behavior.  You can do the same thing by integrating your behavior management with your lessons.  

Look at the picture above.  This is one of my Trace, Write, Draw writing centers. There are 3 of these included in the Monkey Business packet.  Each of the lessons are about rules at school.  This one is about hall, in, and walk.  Students will use those words to write a sentence.  Have your students share their writing, then you can expand upon what they wrote and throw in a little mini-commercial about your expectations for hallway behavior.  Little blurps throughout the day, I have found, are more effective, than one long speech.

The best way to start your day is with a mini-commercial about your expectations.  There are also 3 Morning Messages about behavior management in the Monkey Business packet.

Every teacher needs a toolbox full of ideas to use for behavior management.  I shared a few of the tools I have used through the years.  I am going to give away the tools listed above (see graphic) plus my new Monkey Business Behavior Mangement packet that is also integrated with writing and Morning Messages to one lucky teacher.

All you have to do to enter is leave your name and email address in the rafflecopter below.  I will choose one winner the evening of September 5th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teacher Work Room Tips

Your school's work room can be a source of help but also a source of frustration.  One of the benefits of working at different schools, is seeing what type of procedures the administrators set up for the work room.  I was lucky enough to work at some schools that had happy, functional work rooms.

Parents are often an untapped resource.  Back to School Night is the perfect time to ask for volunteers to help you with all of your time consuming tasks.  I've had the best luck when I had 4 volunteers.  When I ask for volunteers I explain that I am asking for someone who can commit to one day a week per month for a couple of hours plus a training session. Most parents who have time to volunteer can commit to coming in one day per month for an hour or two to help. 

I like to have one volunteer a week come in on a Thursday to do the tasks I organize for them in a tub.  I found Thursday is the best day for me because school is not in session on some Fridays.  I meet with the four volunteers before or after school for a training session. At the training session:
  •  I show them how to use the copier, laminator, and other equipment in the work room.  
  • I show them where I keep the tub of work that I organize for them.
  • I ask them to let teachers have first priority on the copier or laminator.  If they run out of time that they can volunteer and a teacher was using the copier, to leave me a note showing me what needs to be done.  I assure them that it is more important to keep faculty harmony, than for them to finish the work I have left for them to do.  I can finish the incomplete tasks on Friday.

Copier can be a hot button issue at schools.  If they are managed properly, copiers can be valuable tools.  I have been blessed to have worked at schools that had procedures in place that made the copier a tool rather than a big lump of metal that everyone cursed or cursed those who were using it without common sense.  These are the procedures that I felt helped keep faculty harmony:
  • There was an assigned "go to" person who ordered, checked, and changed the toner.  This person was also the contact person for the repairman.  She knew the copier's history which helped get it fixed quickly and correctly.  We were told who the "go to" person was at our inservice meeting the week before school.  Everyone being on the same page was key.
  • Priorities were given for who got "first dibs" on the copier during school hours.  When school was in session, the teachers who were on their prep period had first priority.  Teachers (not on prep period) had second priority.  Volunteers had third priority.  Teachers who had volunteers making copies for them were responsible for the volunteer understanding the procedures.
  • (Peak times) The 15 minutes before school and the 15 minutes after school any teacher could use the copier, but he or she was limited to making one class set. This was NOT the time to copy what you needed for the week.  This is a high stress time when teachers are coming in needing to make last minute copies.  One teacher should not dominate the copier.
  • Before or after school (non-peak times) if there is more than one copier at your school, one grade level should not be using multiple copiers to make copies/packets for the grade level.  This is a common problem during test prep season.  Administrators usually reminded us of this after winter break.

It is hard to work in the work room without supplies.  If you have a volunteer help you, put some supplies in your tub in case the work room runs out of what your volunteer needs.

Many times your PTA will ask your teacher representative what the faculty needs. Stocking the work room with supplies should be one of the first things that goes on your faculty's wish list.  Suggested supplies:
  • Large paper clips
  • Binder clips
  • Rubberbands
  • Scissors
  • Staplers
  • Staples
  • Highlighter
  • Sharpie markers
  • Paper hole punch
  • Tape

I found that forms like the ones below save time when I am prepping my materials for my volunteers.  You can also use these forms if your PTA staffs your work room with volunteers.  

Click HERE to download this freebie.

Looking for more tips?  Check out my Beginning of the Year Pinterest board.  Click on the picture below.

Fern has some tips to share with you, too.  Be sure to hop over to her blog!

Stop by Fern's blog and my blog each week for Tuesday Teacher Tips.  We hope you will share your ideas, too. Each week we will choose one person who shared a tip on our blog who will get a $10 shopping trip.  We will announce the winner in the following Tuesday's post.  The winner of this post will be announced on next week's post.

Click HERE to read the tip that Melinda shared on last week's post.

Do you have a work room tip to share?  Be sure to include your email so I can contact you if you're the winner of the $10 shopping trip.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Freebie Fridays

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interruptions, blurts out, and other distractions

There are many procedures that you teach at the beginning of the year.  Some of them you know by heart.  But, it seems like there are always a few that you forget to teach until you have an "oops!" moment.

Phone calls are one of those procedures that I forget to teach my class until I get my first phone call.  Then it is the big "Oops!  I really need to add that to my procedures list next year".  Somehow I forget to do that because you know what the beginning of the year is like, crazy busy with a big dose of overwhelm-ness thrown in for good measure.  Learn from my mistakes and add what you want your students to do when the phone rings to your procedure list.  The next time the phone rings, you'll be glad you did.

At the beginning of the year, there is always a larger percentage of your class that blurts out.  For some students, it takes them a while to get back into school mode.  For others, it can be a matter of:
  • ANXIETY:  Beginning of the year can be a scary thing.  Think about your last job interview did you ramble on more than you normally would?  This is how it is with the nervous type of blurters.  They are anxious.  With time, they will adjust to the expectations of your classroom.  Sensitivity and patience works best with these type of students.  Heavy handed discipline or laying-down the law does not work with an anxious blurter.  All that does is make them more anxious and prone to blurt more.  Try to ignore their blurting as much as possible.  Making connections with them during work time or recess will help make them more comfortable with you and at school.  The smallest comment like "I noticed you working really hard on your journal today" can pay the biggest dividends with them.
  • IMPULSIVITY:  Some students are impulsive and excitable by nature. It could be also be a matter of maturity.  Check their birthdate.  Were they born between May - August? Whether it is their nature or a matter of maturity, there are strategies that you can use.  
    • The parking garage is a strategy to use when you are teaching a whole group lessons.  
    • Some students that blurt respond well to a visual reminder.  I made small stop signs and kept them everywhere that I kept one at my reading table, carpet time, white board, and all the other places that I taught. I didn't stop what I was teaching when one of my students blurted, I held up my small stop sign that I put on a popsicle stick.  The student quickly learned what the sign meant and without any verbal directions from me, stopped interrupting the lesson.  Here is a freebie for you.

Do you have colleagues that pop in when you are teaching?  Sometimes there is a reason why it is necessary to ask you a question during your instructional time.  But, many times questions could wait until you have a prep period, or before/after school.  If you have co-workers that are making a habit of popping in at the wrong time you can handle it different ways.  
  • Talk to them, privately, if it is becoming a problem.
  • Shut your classroom door during the day when you are teaching and don't want to be interrupted.  This works as a visual cue for most people.  If you don't want to be interrupted after school when you are catching up on paperwork, close your door then, too.   It works as well after school as during the day.
  • Did you hang a marker board outside your dorm room in undergrad?  People left you notes if you were sleeping or not in your room.  I have seen teachers used this same type of method.  They kept a marker board or even a small table with a pad of paper and pen outside their classroom door.  People can write a note and leave it in the basket.  
  • The first school I taught at was a Catholic School.  Students were taught to stand up next to their desk, face the person who enters their classroom, and greet them with either "Good Morning Mr./Mrs. ___   or Good Afternoon Mr./Mrs. ____".  It was to show respect and greet the person when he or she came into a classroom.  People rarely visited other classrooms during the instructional time, because the greetings clearly demonstrated that you were interrupting our class.
Looking for more tips?  Check out my Classroom Management Pinterest board.  Click on the picture below.

Fern has a few tips to share with you, too.  Be sure to hop over to her blog!

Each week, Fern and I share a Tuesday Teacher Tip. We love to read teacher blogs and the latest teacher idea books and hope you do, too!  Stop by Fern's blog and my blog each week for our latest tips.  We hope you will share your ideas, too.  

Each week we will choose one person who shared a tip on our blog who will get a $10 shopping trip.  We will announce the winner on the following Tuesday's post.  

Do you have a interruptions, blurts, or other distraction tip to share?  Be sure to include your email so I can contact you if you're the winner of the $10 shopping trip. You must leave your email address in order to win.

Looking for more ideas?  Click on the pictures below.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back to School: Ice Breaker & Idioms

When you go to a party and don't know very many people, how do you connect with people?  Do you try to find something that you have in common?  Shared experiences?

You can give your students that same experience and incorporate figurative language at the same time.  Introduce the "I've been in your shoes" idiom to your class.

Next your students will need a partner or you will need to put them in small groups.

Give each partner or groups a discussion card.  This card has topics that your students will share about their experiences with their group or partner.  They may not have experienced every topic, but they should share their experiences about at least 2 of the topics.

When your cooperative groups finishing sharing their experiences, students will go back to their tables or desks and write about one of the students in their group that they have been in their shoes.  Students should tell who they shared a common experience with and how these experiences are alike.  When students finish writing, have them share their stories with the class.

Would you like to do this cooperative activity with your class?  It is a free download.

Fern and I have been in your shoes, both literally and figuratively!  We would love to help one lucky follower's feet - the literal kind.  One of the hardest things about the beginning of the school year is coming home to aching feet.  We thought it would be fun to do a giveaway for a $50 Zappos shoe gift card.  You can do a little retail therapy!

Read the directions on the rafflecopter below.  Tell your friends because they are "in your shoes" right now, too!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Teacher Inspiration: Bright Ideas

Who inspires you?  Do you ever have those one of those days, months, or even a year when you just don't feel it? 

If you were in high school or college in 80's, more than likely you saw the movie Top Gun once or twice.  At one point, Tom Cruise is questioning whether he should continue to be a fighter pilot. He had lost his co-pilot and questioned his skills as a pilot.  He had lost his edge.  While you may not lose your students the same way that Tom Cruise lost Goose, you may question your abilities as a teacher when you fail to reach a student.  Maybe you have a new administrator or a particularly challenging parent this year that questions your skills as an educator.  Any of these situations can cause a teacher to lose his or her edge.

Teaching is a job that requires you to give, give, give and give a little more even if you don't think you have anymore to give.  Is it any wonder that there is a high burnout rate with teachers?

You give emotional support to the ones who are needy.  You give of your time, not just the contract hours from 8:00 - 3:00 but often your family's time, too. At times you give every ounce of your patience - or so it seems - with the ones who are crying out for attention but in the wrong way.  

If you teach long enough, you will eventually have a time when you hit one of these bumps I illustrated above.   If you are lucky, it will only be a little bump and you will have a quick recovery.  But, what do you do when you lose your passion for teaching and need some inspiration?

When I've had times where I questioned my ability, had others questioned it for me, or I felt drained and had no more to give, I knew that it was time for me to find my passion again.  One way I do this is finding a little me time on the weekends.  I pop some popcorn and watch a great teacher flick.  Two of my favorites are Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting.  They are the perfect movies for teachers to find a little inspiration.

How many times have we overlooked the bright student like Will Hunting because his behavior overshadows his gifts?   I can't tell you how many times after I have watched this movies that I listed the gifts that I had been overlooking in my students with challenging behaviors.  When I went in the next day and really focused on the gifts, my attitude changed, my approach changed, and quite miraculously the student's behavior changed.  Such an easy fix, but it is so easy to get in the power struggles that ensue in the day-to-day life of a classroom and forget what is at the core of the behavior.

Click HERE to see the clip.

The scene in the courtyard of Dead Poets Society is my absolute favorite because it deals with conformity.  This scene has been the starting point of many lessons.  I love to see the little cogs spinning in some of my students' heads after introducing this topic to them.  There is nothing like delivering a high quality lesson to remind you why you became a teacher.

Have you ever taught in a school where you felt like you were a square peg in a round hole?  You feel like you need to conform to the teaching style, behavior management, and other norms of the school but these aren't your philosophy.   In fact, if asked, you could write a 5 page paper, researched based, why you think the norms of the school are not student based or effective teaching practices. If you are in one of those square peg situations this year, you may want to bookmark this video to watch when you come home frustrated.  

The best advice I can give you is, nothing in education is permanent.  The running mantra in your head should be, this is just a temporary situation. Talk to any teacher who has been around for a while, education is a pendulum that swings back and forth or maybe the better way to look at it is like the weather.  If you don't like what is happening now, just wait, it will change.  When it will change can depend upon different factors.  

If you don't like the direction that your school is going, get involved.  Volunteer to attend training of something that does align with your core beliefs and then give workshops for your colleagues.  Be the "go to" person for this subject.  Join committees, take on leadership roles, share your knowledge, and your resources.  Change takes times and with someone leading the way, it will happen faster.  You will feel less stressed if you take on an active role.  

When I was in grad school for educational leadership, I took a class called Change.  It was one of my all time favorite classes EVER!  I think all undergrad students should have to take this class because we all go through many changes throughout our life. After attending this class I felt like I understood how I was reacting to change and also understood my co-workers' reaction better.  Although change is still a stressful situation, it is manageable when you understand it.
  • Do you have a new administrator this year?  How are you and your colleague reacting to the change in leadership?
  • Have you recently adopted a new curriculum?  How are you and your team members handling the change? 
This class helped us see how different people react to change.  I found a resource that has some of the information that we covered in my class.  This is a good starting point for those of you who are going through change.  I recommend googling change management to find other resources, too.  The more you understand, the less stressed you will be this year.

Click HERE to see Andrea Wenger's slideshow.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I hope you have been joining us each month for our Bright Ideas Blog Hop.  My friends and I enjoy sharing ideas with you.  Don't forget to pin these to your Pinterest board so you'll have them handy when you need them.

I hope you will follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Bloglovin' so you don't miss out when I share more ideas and freebies!


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