Thursday, July 20, 2017


I had planned to do a lot this summer.
  1. I was going to wake up at my normal school year time...
  2. I was going to go and work out to lose the standardized testing pounds I gained from March-May.
  3. I was going to work on my TPT ideas.
  4. I was going to print out centers, laminate, cut, and store them.
  5. I was going to make cute things for my boards.

Instead, I have slept in until 8 everyday. I have watched Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. I have read books... and they WERE NOT school related. I have been to the West Coast, Alaska, and Canada. I have gone fishing. I have gone to the park. I have hung out with family and friends. I have played video games. I have just been. Sunset, Midsummer, Lake, Orange, Finnish

My house is nice and clean. My shopping bill is a bit up from taking advantage of the summer deals. Do I regret any of it?


No, I don't regret a single second.

Last year was a rough year. The last three years have been hard on my family because of illness. My father-in-law passed away this summer. It made me think about all the time and effort I put into my job. Don't get me wrong--I love my job. I really do.. but it's hard to balance life and work.

So this year, I am making a promise to myself to make things easier on myself. Here are my school year goals:

1. Work on saying, "NO!" After all, in this time and age--employers expect you to be on 24 hours a day it seems. Sometimes our parents think that as well. This year, I'm telling my parents after 5, I probably won't answer if you message me on the Remind App or through my e-mail. I am telling my principal that I cannot do four meetings a week during my planning. I have to say no, even if it makes me look like "that teacher."

2. I am going to have fun at work. Last year, I took all the fun out of my room. I was afraid that the kids wouldn't do what I expected. Sometimes their behavior wasn't the best and I took away. This year, the ones who want to keep us from having fun can go sit in another area and work on book work or something while the rest of us is grooving and learning!

3. I am not going to feel bad about what other teachers are doing. I always feel like I need to one up someone or that I need to be doing what everyone else is doing. Why? I guess I want to be the same as what everyone "thinks." This year--NO! If everyone is drinking shakes for breakfast and lunch then that's great for them! I might not be able to do that because those things are gross. They made everyone cute little gifts to welcome them back to school. Oh that's nice. My kids are getting a smiling face and a bunch of stories from things I have done over the summer.

If you are feeling stressed out about starting the year, or from seeing so much about teaching online...please don't be stressed. I mean it. Everyone puts their best things online. It's not to make you feel bad or's to inspire you or to get you to purchase something. Instead, know what you need to make yourself happy. After all--if you aren't happy now, then you aren't going to be when school starts back. You have to be ready and rejuvenated for the first day of school!

If you need to vent or you need to know that you aren't crazy...then email me or comment below. The teaching community is huge, and we are here to support each other. We aren't here to make others feel inadequate. Promise!

Remember to take time every week for yourself. Follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see what I do every week to make sure I'm making the most out of this school year!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summertime is Wondertime :D

Anyways, I am back at it, and am already back down the 8 of the 20 lbs. I've put back on in the last month and a half. Slow and steady ya'll, slow and steady.

Glacier, Alaska, Blue, Ice, Fjord, Nature, WaterI have never been so glad to have the summer off! After having a really rough year, the summer has been a roller coaster. I just got back from my Alaskan Cruise with my mom, and it was really amazing. I learned so much, and finally got to LEAVE the good ol' USA. During the trip though, we got some devastating news--my father-in law passed away. Suddenly, all I could think about was getting home.

Remember those previous posts about doing better, and getting healthy? Well--is it bad that I haven't totally fell off the wagon, but I haven't progressed any? Do you ever say, "This summer I'm going to work out, and lose all this testing weight?" Yea, me too. I had done really well and had lost 15 lbs. Then the BBQs started. If you are from the South, you know that when you go to someone's BBQ you have to try a little of everything they put out, and you go back for 2nds. :)

Bbq, Cook, Fire, Eat, Burgers, FlamesOther than those setbacks, this summer has been way more relaxing than the previous two summers. Even though we are getting a new principal, I am getting a new team, and everything around me seems to be changing. I feel at peace. I feel ready for a new year.

Now to pick a theme for this year...

I have done color themes, and I think I will stick with that. I would love to do Harry Potter, but I think I would spend a large fortune--money that I don't have--to make it look like a RCA classroom. The kids would love it, but my wallet wouldn't. I'm thinking more of a homey feeling. I wonder if I could get someone to come in and paint my classroom. My neighbor got hers painted last year, and it was the most beautiful shade of light blue.

Make sure you check out my Pinterest account to see what themes I'm browsing! @XplorewithCindy

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Teaching Season is Here!!

Books, Student, Studying, Learn, ReadI got an e-mail Monday during our planning day. I about freaked out. It said "Tentative State Testing Schedule."

Holy Moly.

I whipped out my Erin Condren planner and said, "13 days? That's it??"

Ya'll-- I had 13 days left to re-cram everything I have ever taught this year into my lovely little ones. UGH.

Then I got to thinking about this saying I heard last week--"If you think you have to hold on to it, then you are doubting yourself as an educator..." we were definitely talking about the hoarding problem that plagues all teachers...but I got to thinking...

"If I think I have to reteach everything, I am really doubting myself as an educator."

Why do we feel like we have to help students cram for the test? I mean that's stressful on us as well as them, right? So, what should we do instead? I HAVE TO RETEACH THEM EVERYTHING. Ha! It's game show time. It's individualized center time. It's conferencing time. It's not stress time.

There are a bunch of books that help with anxiety and testing. Every year we do a bunch of things that help our kids relax because after all they are 8-10, and they need some ways to release the relax themselves. One of our classroom favorites is Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook (purchase yours through this affiliate link)

One of my favorite activities to do is one our guidance counselor did with us last year. We all (even the teachers) got a piece of lightly colored paper after reading Wilma Jean. We were asked to close our eyes. Imagine the most peaceful place for you. Is it the recess yard? The library? Your bedroom? The football field? Where do you feel the most peaceful? Now on your paper you can do one of two things...

1) Draw it out. What you saw--draw it! (I even let them use my awesome smelling Scentos markers to do this activity)

Kid, Hands, Picture, Pen, White, Children, Child
2) If you don't want to draw, write it out like a Wordle. What words come to mind? What do you see? What do hear? What do you smell?

After they got done, we asked for people to show their special peaceful places off. We made a special place in our binders for them. When kids got worried or overwhelmed, they opened their binder and took a look at their peaceful place. It was awesome! The kids loved it--even my kids who are so not worried about anything #catchthesarcasm !!

That brings me back to my instruction. I still have to teach, but I don't want them to be stressed. So, what's a teacher to do? Here is what we are doing! You can follow my Instagram @exploringiselementary to see us in action in the next few weeks:

1. Task cards. The task cards we are using are old state tests paired with stories. I have them laminated and in a scoot position. We are going to each read the story, analyze it, and carry it with us as we enter our answers into our technology--and if they are doing our EL testing still good ol' pencil and paper action will be happening!

2. Kahoot is gonna be our friend!

3. Game shows with are testing books. We have Coach books that we are to work out of because they cost us a lot of money. -.- So, we are going to get the answers on our own. Then talk it over with our tablemates using accountable talk. Finally, it's game show time. I got these awesome buzzers a few years ago. I have kids start in the back of the room and do something physical or STEM related before they run to the front and hit the buzzer to answer the question. If they are correct they get a point, if not they have to go back and start the challenge over before they can answer again. I have music playing in the background and it's the F-word!! FUN!!!

4. PLINKO. Ya'll the kids love to play Plinko. I use my equity sticks after the kids have discussed their answers, and if they get it right they get to drop the disk! If not, they get to pull the equity stick of the next person who gets to go. If that person doesn't get it, then it goes back to the original table. It goes on until the questions are complete!

5. Finally-- our very own triathlon! Our whole team gets in on this one. Each of us takes on a tested subject. We set up centers based on the biggest testing strands. In our homerooms, we begin with the lighting ceremony. One of our standards is that the kids have to create a working circuit. So, we create lighted torches. Then we parade around the school with our torches.

We get back to class and the "Olympic triathlon" begins!!

Students have 30 minutes to get through the centers in the classroom. For every correct answer, for every leader-like moment they exhibit, and for good sportsmanship the class gets a point. (Enter Class Dojo!) At the end of the 30 minutes, we rotate classes and do another subject area. At the end of the games the classes will be awarded the Gold, Silver, and Bronze (and maybe some other prizes too!)  It's so much fun!

So, there is how we set our kids up for the BIG TEST! What do you do to get your kids pepped up for the test??

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Teaching Life

Weight Loss, Scales, Young WomanI'm on my 2nd week of a "better life" plan. I can admit, I was irritated at the beginning of the week. I got on the scale... and NOTHING changed. My weight was exactly the same. So, I went out and got some doughnuts. I went to school, and snacked on some left over chips from our Homework Club Party. Went to a meeting during planning, and was told ALL of the this STUFF that just had to be done during my 20 minute guided reading groups. (Counted it up, and the time it would take would leave me about 6 minutes to "teach.") Then my lovely angel of a student decided it make goose noises the whole time we were taking a practice writing test. Cue the candy bar!

                                     It was only Monday...
                       ....and the tone was definitely set for the week....
I didn't work out... not once... I didn't drink enough water...not one single day...I ate so much bread... and I liked it...until I was thinking about my goals. Then I was disgusted.
The rest of my week I spent dealing with books flinging at my head, evacuating my class because of a child's meltdown, and reading that everything is happening becausBank, Wooden Bench, Spring, Naturee I'm probably not doing things a certain way. Phew! I thought it was because the children had a hard life and really didn't like when they were asked to do certain things. ::EYE ROLL EXTREME::

Ya'll when I say, I can't wait for this school year to be O-V-E-R I mean I CANNOT WAIT!! Ever have that year? I've heard they come every 5 years or so, and I've had 2 in the last 3 years.

Anyway, enough of the venting.... IT HAPPENED. I stepped up on the scale on Friday morning. It said, "Good Morning! You have lost 10 lbs.!" I couldn't believe it, so I stepped up on it again and it said, "I'm not lying!" In 2 weeks, I have lost 10 lbs, even with one week sucking pretty badly. I spent 2 hours this morning meal prepping. Here's my plan for this glorious shortened week (SPRING BREAK IS COMING!)...

Quiche, Pastry, Crust, Food, HomemadeDay 1: Mini Quiches (5) for breakfast, Tuna and avocado (seasoned like guacamole) for morning snack, Stuffed bread (left over from last week), hummus and raw veggies for an afternoon snack, and then for dinner stuffed chicken breast with roasted asparagus.
Day 2: I made my own Quiche, so I'll have 4 oz. of it, tuna and avocado with some crackers, almond flour coated chicken tenders, raw veggies, and stuffed chicken and asparagus.
Day 3: 4 oz of Quiche, fresh fruit and honey lemon dressing, chicken sandwich, and we are going out to a co-worker's house for dinner.
Day 4: (Ya'll spring break is here!!) So, after sleeping in... I'll probably eat my chicken nuggets because it will be lunch time (LOL!), then some fruit salad from the day before, and finally end on a peanut butter sandwich or La Torta Loca (If you ever come to Nashville, this place is better than Mas Tacos!).
Day 5: I'm off to Indiana. So the food will consist of car ride food (lunchmeat and cheese most likely)

Look at these two baby deer that walked up to me while I was walking!
We are going to our annual Teacher Retreat hosted by some wonderful women Mrs. Ehle and Mrs. Banister, plus some of their amazing friends. If you haven't hear, Principal Gerry will be there. OMG IS HE FUNNY OR WHAT! I'm sorry if you are missing it, but here is how you can see some of the shenanigans going on....Sign up for LIVE! From the Red Carpet. You will get to see some of the fantastic things happening and see who is sponsoring the event like ESGI and GoNoodle.

Back to the exercise routine this week! Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I will be walking the track and doing the bleacher climb. I get some great stair steps in on those bleachers. It counts as something like 8 flights of stairs. It sure does wear me out, but it's worth it.

Post below what you did this week to help yourself become a better you!

Shoes, Footwear, Runners, Sneakers

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Better Life

The jacket fits! The jacket fits! The jacket fits!

I bought a 3x jacket 6 months ago. I tried it on, but it couldn't zip up. Back and forth I went...should I buy it...should I wait. 

Decisions, Decisions, decisions.

I still bought it, because I thought that it would be warm enough when I had to do car duty. I don't normally zip up my jackets, so I figured it would be ok.

This week I saw my husband walking into the room, and thought dang! He has lost over 250 lbs. in the last year. He's looking really good. I thought to myself, he's been over there losing weight, and I've been here barely dropping anything. When I goes on back up again.

On the right is what I fixed for my meals, and the left is my hubster's!
I began to prepare my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks a couple of weeks ago. That seems difficult and hard, but it's really not. This week for breakfast I'm eating sweet potato hash. Lunch is a Mediterranean chicken salad with fresh tabbouleh and tzatziki sauce. My snacks this week are simply hummus with raw veggies and honey/lemon fruit salad (cantaloupe, kiwi, strawberry, banana, and mango). I spend up to 2 hours on Sunday prepping, cooking, and packing. It's one less thing I have to worry about.

Next, I decided that just changing my eating habits wasn't enough. I needed to get up and move.  At school, they began this group for Fitbit wearers. I felt a bit left out, because I couldn't be apart of the weekly challenges--I didn't own a Fitbit--but I changed that! I went and found one that would get me into the "cool kids" group. 🤣 I began by putting 10k steps on my Fitbit. wasn't enough to just do 10k. I passed the track at the high school down the street. Hmm.... I wonder...

Should I stop? Can I get on the track? Is it trespassing?

After 30 minutes of walking, I had put another 2k steps on the tracker. While I was walking, some other people had come to walk. A lady walked up to the bleachers and started up and down. Hmm, that's easy enough I thought. So, I tried 3x..and I thought I was going to die. So, I went back again the next day...and the next... and I did it again today! Since Monday I have walked 53,525 steps.

I feel better...I mean...I'm so friggin' sore...but my spirit is feeling better. I'm hoping to keep up with this. It's been an uphill battle, but I feel like I can do it...and with the support of my work family (and my own family) I can do this!  

After 5 days... my jacket that didn't zip up...zips up. I was so excited. I am still smiling!

Want to learn more? Come back next week!

Post a comment about what's holding you back or what inspires you to do what you do!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Keeping the Germs Out!

Allergy, Cold, Disease, Flu, Girl, Handkerchief, Ill
This year, I've only had 2 kids out because of the flu/stomach bug. Only 2! My partner teacher had 4 that was out, while the other teacher had a whopping 5 out last week. I am wondering if what I'm doing is working.

So, two years ago, I decided my janitor shouldn't have to really come into my room that much. I decided that my kids would be in charge of our classroom. They clean the room everyday. They sweep, wipe the floors, clean the boards, clean the sink, and even brush off the classroom rug. Once a week we do a disinfectant day, which I think might have helped keep my kids at school (which keeps them learning!)

Have you gotten this flu/strep/virus thing that's been going around? I haven't...yet...I've been struggling breathing.

Broom, Ragpicker, Mop, Picker, Toilet, CleaningDown here in the South, we struggle anyways because of the amount of constant humidity...but this winter it's been a roller coaster of temperatures. By now we would have had nearly 8 school days out for snow, instead their are districts closing down for the flu! Yesterday, it got down to the mid 30s, and tomorrow's high is 70! My sinuses are dying... like they are ROCK hard.

It made me wonder, what do you do to keep germs out of the classroom?

Years ago, I had read an article that talked about how Japanese schools don't normally employ janitors because the students do most of the cleaning. What an idea! I mean they make most of the mess, they make a bigger mess because they don't have to clean it. Why not give it a try?

Here is what I do...

We have a Lysol day. We take Lysol or Clorox wipes and everyone cleans. We start with our tables (EVEN UNDER THE TABLES--gross) and chairs. They throw those away and clean their cubbies and backpacks. Then we divide and conquer. Some kids clean the bean bags, some clean the door handles, some clean the common areas and counters, some clean the sink handles, some clean the markers. Then there is one child--you know who to pick-- you tell to wipe off everything they have touched that day. 🤣
Lysol Disinfecting Wipes Value Pack, Lemon & Lime Blossom, 320 Wipes (4 Packs of 80 Wipes)

You can even pick up some Lysol wipes from Amazon pretty cheap right now! (They have a $2.50 coupon to apply!) Check out this affiliate link to get yours today.
I noticed that our vents haven't been changed a while at school. I'm wondering if I should climb up there and unscrew it to give it a cleaning and change the filter myself. I'm sure that's a part of the air quality in my room.

What do you do to keep out the germs? Leave a comment below to tell what is working in your room!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I'm a bad teacher...

I've been beating myself up for weeks months. I've dreamt about office jobs, where I look at a computer screen all day and not worry about the lives of others as much. I've dreamt about picking up my backpack, grabbing my small non-teaching related personal belongings, and walking out the door one afternoon and not coming back. I've sat in my room, car, bathroom stall and have cried my eyes out. Screamed inside my head, and again out loud in my house when my husband wasn't home to hear. I've cussed, argued, and demanded for my school kids as well as my own professional sanity. I've been a bad teacher.

Image result for inspirational teacherI've neglected the better parts of my craft. When people ask me how I like teaching... I have said, "This year has been God-awful...and I don't want to come back." I've dealt with chairs being thrown, threats, screaming, crying, hollering, fighting, stealing, and the worst home stories you can imagine this year. All I can think about is how bad a teacher I am.

These tests we take keep coming. They keep coming, and my kids still perform BELOW average. The kids don't get it. The kids' grades are horrific compared to kids on the other side of town. My scores scare me, they scare my administration... I'm a such a bad teacher.

I'm not staying as late as I have in the past. I'm not coming as early as I have in the past. I'm not coming home and working as much as I have in the past. I feel like it has taken a toll. My grading isn't done as timely. My paperwork is slacking sometimes. I haven't spoken to as many parents as I have in the past. See how bad a teacher I am?

I sit in meetings and am told don't try to win the power struggle as it only hurts your pride... you won't ever win...let it go...walk away. The child that's screaming in the corner and disrupting class will stop if you ignore him/her. I try it. It doesn't work. The kids cover their ears. I try to talk calmly. It doesn't work. I lose my cool, and raise my stops... for awhile. I am a totally bad teacher.

We don't always get through the lessons I have planned out, because we really need to have some quiet time for all of us--me included-- to regain our sanity. I leave the lights off most of the day with the music playing, even during tests so they can stay focused. Sometimes I don't go over their graded work, after I grade it. I don't update my word wall. I have the SAME "I CAN" statements up since we got back from MLK day. I haven't checked homework or binders. I don't know where their go home folders are some days. I forgot to pass out the flyer for the event that's tomorrow night. I didn't do a single running record during guided reading this week. Dang, I still haven't typed out plans for my guided reading groups this week...or next week. I make up lessons on the fly sometimes, because I didn't get to the copy machine before the ink was all used up--or I ran out of copies for the month. I am a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad teacher.
Image result for inspirational teacher
This is ridiculous.

My kids are hungry, their clothes are dirty, they don't have the correct kinds of clothes for the weather. They have no hats, gloves, or scarves... they don't eat the school food because it's not like the fast food they are used to. There is no salt or seasoning in their food. They don't eat whole wheat honey buns or soft shell whole wheat taco shells. I mean...would you? I keep their leftover breakfasts and let them eat those throughout the day, but I'm not supposed to. I am a bad teacher.

I listen to the stories they have to share. How their house was burnt down, they were evicted, they were made to leave... or how they were touched wrongly, or how they aren't allowed to eat, or how they couldn't sleep because they live with so many other people that are up all hours of the night. I hear how they are scared of the gun shots, the sirens, and the knocks at the door. I hear how there is not one person at home until after 10 PM, so they couldn't read their book to an adult or get help with their homework. I'm a really, really bad teacher.

My husband said, after listening to this for the past 7 months, if you are such a bad teacher--why do you tell me about every single kid, every single night? If you are such a bad teacher, why are you spending our vacation money on making sure those kids have pants to wear during the winter? If you are such a bad teacher, why does the administration keep asking your to do things for them or for your co-workers? If you are such a bad teacher, why are you showing me their work--wasn't it a few months ago they couldn't even write a complete sentence and now they are writing essays? If you are such a bad teacher, why do they come in and work so hard for you while giving the other teachers such a hard time? If you are such a bad teacher, why do you brag on the chapter book that one kid is reading when he came to you barely knowing the sounds? Are you thinking you are a bad teacher because of a test the state gives your kids every year? The tests that your district keeps sending you? Why are you so worried about that, when your kids were on a second grade reading level and now they are on or above grade level? They come to you to tell you what's bugging them? They come to you for hugs, even outside of school? They try to add you on social media? You are not a bad teacher.

Image result for inspirational teacher
And... you know what...he's right. I'm not a bad teacher. My class has worked their butts off to get to this point. At the beginning of this year they HATED each other, they HATED school, they HATED life. They came in 2 years behind, and even though they aren't 100% caught up, they have made amazing strides. They are working together more. They are talking more. They are helping each other. They are mostly getting along. Out of the 64 kids I started out with this year... pretty much all of them are on board with school now. They really couldn't even write a sentence on their own in August, and we just published our first 5 paragraph essay. They wouldn't even pick up a book this past August, and now they are begging for better books. They are asking for more homework to better themselves. They are trying.

I've been beating myself up, because I'm not following the "model classroom approach." I'm not chanting and whole brain teaching. I am, however, being the school momma for my kids. I've been hard on them, like really, really hard on them. It's been rough, tough, and dang near impossible...but it's working.

I know this has been an extremely long post...probably THE longest I have made--ever. To all the teachers who feel like I have been feeling, who are overwhelmed, who are working their butts off everyday and night to make sure their kids are loved, educated, and prepared for the world--this is for you...


Know that you are touching lives around you--not just your kids' lives, but your coworkers, family, friends, and more. The kids really aren't going to remember what you taught them, but they are going to remember the love and caring heart you had for them. Make the connections with them. Keep them accountable. Work with them until you can't work with them anymore. Go ahead and scream and cry sometimes. Just know-- you are not alone. Image result for inspirational teacher

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Have you tried these?

I have to tell you about these new Kwik Sticks!

Do you want your anchor charts to really pop on the walls and not fade? I created an anchor chart for my students using the new Kwik Stick-Thin Stiks, and they commented on it right away. They couldn't believe how much brighter the charts were. They asked how I made the colors brighter, and I showed them how the paint sticks worked. Of course they all wanted to use them after that!

Look at the wall! The chart in the middle and on the easel I used the Kwik Sticks too! On the ends, are just markers. :)

When you use them be prepared to be amazed. You don't have to worry about getting ink--or in this case paint-- on you. They dry very quickly, so there is no worry about  messy smears.

Get yours here! (*affiliate link)
Comment on how you use yours. :)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Communicating with Parents: Teacher Lingo

I hope your week has been fantastic!

In today's blog, I wanted to talk more about communicating reading levels with parents. Last time, I talked about sending a nice little letter home that explained everything and gave hints to parents on what to do at home. This week, I want to talk about teacher lingo.

Have you ever gone to the doctor and leave not knowing what half the things s/he said to you? I know I'm not alone. You are an educated person. You don't want to look dumb by asking them to explain their lingo! Parents feel a similar way.

Make sure to take a second and explain the ins and outs of everything. Yes this takes time, but remember you have been trained to teach kids reading... the parent receiving the info...probably not!

Check out this list from Scholastic about some lingo that you might need to explain some to parents. Your goal is to not intimidate, so you might have a list of words printed so parents can take for some more information. You can break down the words and add definitions in the sentences too. However seems more natural, but make sure you do it! Be very specific. Explain what you need the parent needs to know, don't go into the nuts and bolts unless you really need to.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Welcome to the New Blog Series: Communicating Reading Progress to Parents

I was talking with my sister-in-law, who has a boy in the second grade, and she asked what she could do to help her son in the area of fluency. Apparently on the report card, that's the comment she received, "Work on Fluency." I got to thinking, well.. I mean... there's a lot of things to do. Then my mind started in critical problem solving mode...
Why did the teacher not elaborate?
Did she just put a random, generic report card comment? <--You know you've done it!
Is he struggling with decoding?
Is he struggling with rate?
Is he struggling with meaning, visual, or structure features of words?
Does he know his sight words?
Without really sitting down and read through some stories with him, how can I help her the most?

Then she text me back, "What exactly is fluency?"
Then it hit me. Teacher lingo is at play.

Sometimes as teachers, we get so bogged down with the acronyms, the test names, the strategies, and the lingo that we forget most of our parents are not equipped with the same knowledge we have about the jargon we use.

Don't get me wrong, there is always that parent that knows everything and how to help their kid the best.. but normally... if we get a call back from Johnny's mom we are floored! So take each parent on a case to case basis. 😉

For the next few weeks, I'm going to write a series of blog posts that will help teachers communicate what the kids need in reading to the parents. I want to offer some tips and tricks to give parents so they are not lost and will help them feel more empowered. As teachers, we have to remember that if they can get the support they need at home and school, their level of success will soar. We shouldn't be a one man team!

Parent Notes for Reading Help
So, for tonight, I want to start with just communicating the reading level your child is on to the parent. One thing that I do after our kids move up a reading level is to give kids a slip to take to their parents. I have several versions that I might send home (depends on the kiddo)! Some just explain some broad tips to work on at home based on their level, others might say they need more help in one of the reading strategies we are working on in class. Take a look at the pack by clicking here!

Along with these notes to the parents, I make it a big deal with the kids! We go through the whole process of talking about levels, creating goals for reaching levels, showing them what books are on their level and the next that they might enjoy most. After all, what I'm wanting is for the kids to go home and talk their HEADS off about reading levels and comprehension strategies until their parents go, "Okay, what is my kid talking about!?!"

Once I get the kids to bite, I know I will have the parents too! At Open House and Meet the Teacher Night, I do a similar spill. I show some data too! I explain to them that all I want them to do with their kids at home is to READ AND WRITE with them.

Read every night.
No. Matter. What.

Yes, there is always, always, always that parent that stands up and says, "Suzy is in competitive dance, cheer, softball, piano lessons, and Girl Scouts. We just do not have time for reading every single night on top of the other classes homework."

Count to ten, then ask, "Do you all talk or sing on the way to these extra-curricular events?"

Mom looks at you like you are crazy, "Well, yeah..."

Look back a bit more-so and say, "Well, instead of singing the new Adele song, just have her crack open her book and read out loud to you. You will know if she is struggling. Read the billboards as you go by them. Read the signs on churches or stores. Write the cheers out and then read them back. Read the Girl Scout handbook. Write out a to do list for the week. In the morning have your kid read the cereal box. It doesn't matter what they are reading and writing, as long as they are practicing and you are helping them."

Then Super Mom usually will back off for now.

Being open and communicating is the first step. Break it down to something the parents can do without them feeling like they have to do way too much EXTRA. You know how we all feel about doing EXTRA. 😛

I hope this helps start you off on the right direction with your parents in communicating the needs of the kids. Check back next week for some more tips and tricks, and hopefully a freebie!

Comment below on ways you help communicate with your parents!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The No-Meds Days

We all do it. We have those days where we can tell as soon as we see a child bouldering down the hallway, dodging every child in their path while hollering about what they did on the way home last night. They have pockets full of knick-knacks, fingers moving at the speed of light, and their seems to be no way to calm their minds down, to get them to sit quietly, and for them to leave the other kids alone. 

On our end, we brace ourselves, tell ourselves, "It's going to be one of those days...a No-Meds day." Sigh, and our day turns know what. What can a teacher do? You are defeated before you even start. Especially, if you are in a class like mine, where 5 or 6 students have the same situation. Everything automatically becomes annoying to you. You think, "Did they call each other last night and say, 'Let's go to school without our 'vitamins' and see the teachers freak out!'" You find yourself starting to raise your voice, have no patience, and ultimately feel like giving up.

Trust me... I feel like this to. We have these days fairly often, especially near the refill day. The students I teach are very vocal about ADHD, and that they are on medication, how many pills they have left, and feel like when they are not on it they have an excuse to just do. I stress myself out on some of the days, especially when I already feel behind and overwhelmed. I have started seeing a pattern though. If I become flustered, they become even more flustered and unable to have any control.

What is a tired, frustrated teacher to do?

Remember, first of all, that you are there for the WHOLE child. You have to love and nurture them even more so on the days they are struggling.  Close your eyes for a minute (or two, but NEVER three!!). Take a deep breath. Put first things first.

Ask yourself what do they respond to?

To make these balloon balls, you will need:  2 Balloons per ball  Scissors  Funnel  Pencil or chopstick  FlourTa da! Made with flour these are lots of squishy fun and make good hacky sacks. You can also fill them rice or lentils, etc. for different textures.:
Photo Credit:
Mine, for instance, respond to dim lighting, light instrumental music (we love Two Cellos or Vitamin String Quartet on Pandora). I have just strung clear Christmas Lights that I got at Dollar General and Family Dollar for 75-90% off throughout my room. (I forgot to take a photo, but I'll post it when I remember!) Since we only have one window, and it's really tiny and the light is blocked by our cubbies, this was a task I was willing to take on. I love them so far!

Some kids just need extra structure. They need flexible seating. Some kids I allow to grab a clipboard and stand at my back counter to work all day. I took an old tri-fold board, wrapped it in wrapping paper, and they use it as a work station at their seat, like a cubicle.

Other kids might need some fidget toys. My first year teaching I made these stress balls out of balloons and lentils.
Know your kids.
Normally, we as great teachers know our kids. I have conversations with them. I know that if they stay with dad, they don't have their meds there, and they come to school hungrier than normal. Or that if they stayed at mom's house, the new baby kept them up all night long and they need to take a break in the quiet. I might have to bring a kid back to my room during specials, because they just need the quiet alone time, I mean--don't we all need that sometimes. I love talking to the kids and learning what's going on with them. I learn about their personalities, what they like, what they don't think is cool, and even what they hope and dream about. Sometimes, I get too much information for my own good...

"One day, my dad made love to another woman....and BAM! I had another baby brother at the same time as my baby brother that goes here." O.O I know. I know.

So here's a run down of things I do in my room to help curb the craziness...even when I'm the one making it more crazy:

1. Remember that you are the adult. They are looking to you for a safe, loving environment. Get yourself prepared mentally, and be ready to be on the move ALL DAY LONG.

2. Allow for brain breaks. Guys, seriously. I know that you know GoNoodle is DA BOMB. You can also do simple breaks. A quick game of Heads Up, Seven Up. Maybe they just wiggle freely for a bit. Have them sit on the floor and propel themselves upwards. Whatever it is, allow some time in the day, because everyone will need it.

3. Do quiet breaks. Allow kids to stretch out on the floor for 5-10 minutes and read, free write, create, or maybe close their eyes for a bit.

4. Play calm music in the background. It helps focus in busy minds.

5. If my kids can handle it, during work time, I might have an ocean view on the board.

6. INVEST IN SOME HAWAIIAN BREEZE SPRAY. When paired with 3, 4, and 5, all the teachers that walk by will even want to be in your room. Once, I had a principal stay way too long enjoying the Hawaiian vibe. Sometimes I just go around and say, I'm spraying thinking spray!

7. Time everything. Make the whole day a race. You have 2 minutes to get logged onto the desktop. You have 1 minute to get all of your things out and sit like a scholar. You have 3 minutes to pack up. Set the timer on the board.

8. Deck out a corner and have some things in it that help when kids get over stimulated. Stress balls, fidget toys, bands that go on the legs of chairs (this is my next DIY project for the classroom).

9. Give them extra, extra, loving attention. Let them sit with you. Let them work with you. Give them some kind of extra task to help you out if they complete X.

10. Remind them of strategies and goals you have been working on with them. Don't just say, "YOU KNOW HOW TO SIT UP." Instead, "Hey Johnny, remember that today we are working on being a scholar. What do we have to do to be a scholar?" Yes, you are going to have to tell Johnny that 100x...but it's going to be worth it...

I hope you can find these ten tricks I do in my room helpful. Leave a comment below if you have over ideas that will help out on days like this that I have dubbed the No-Meds Day.

(I named it after J.K. Rowling's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."  (I LOVE MY HARRY POTTER!) The witches and wizards of America call people with no magical ability "no-majs," and after my team saying "They aren't on meds today" over and over, I figured it worked!)