Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Thousand Words

Note: this a completely unhelpful post, but amusing to me nonetheless.

This is an older photo from back at the beginning of the semester, but it captures the moment perfectly. Here is my cat, "helping" me with grading:

Yep, that's exactly how grading makes me feel, too.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The End is Near...

This weekend held my last still-trying-to-clean-out-my-classrooms-Saturday of the year. We have one more weekend left before the last day of school, but I'll be out of town then so this was it. Good times:

Yep, over 20 #10 cans of random food. No dates on the cans, but the careful observer might notice the OLD food pyramid printed on the label of one of the above. Frightening. And there is a label on the tray holding the mixers declaring "Broken Mixers." Why, why, why keep them when they have obviously been replaced? Questions that will never be answered. Back to the cans, check out the bottom of one:

Um, ewwwwwwww.

My other task for Saturday was to begin packing up that which needs to be locked up over the summer. I'm thinking it best to box up my pretty colored kitchen equipment and to store it in one of my many (now empty) cabinets.

Lots to do before the last day of school, June 3rd!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May '75

Another invaluable find from my classroom:

The writing on the masking tape reads "May 75 - Complete." This was found in a cabinet stuffed - and I mean STUFFED - with Singer accessories and supplies. 

There is not one Singer machine to be found anywhere in this building.

The silver lining of course being that I now have another completely empty cabinet that can be put to good use.

Happy Almost Friday!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Few More Kitchen Tips

One of my pet peeves is when measuring cups and spoons are thrown pell-mell into a drawer; it's messy and it takes the kids about ten times longer to find the tool they need. Because of this I have them put these items back on a ring after they clean up. I highly recommend to them that they take them off of the rings to begin with so that they don't have to wash all of them, but at the end they need to be hooked together again, in nested fashion.

The problem with this is that the rings that measuring cups and spoons come attached to are usually difficult to work with. You have to struggle to get them to open wide enough, and to keep them open as you add things on or take them off. Hence, I toss the plastic rings and replace them with book rings... much more user friendly!

I couldn't find any yellow ones, but they are available in colors, if you'd like them to match your kitchens. Check out the pretty green book rings:

I also have all measuring equipment kept together in one crate; that way again we're not searching for random tools. As long as they pull out the "measuring crate," they have everything they'll need to measure. A few years ago WalMart had these mini crates for sale in a myriad of colors, a perfect fit:

Finally, I just found these baskets in the $1 bins at Target about a week ago:

I load these with dish towels and dish cloths before the first lab of the day and place them in the kitchens; the students are then responsible for refilling them as part of their clean-up at the end of the lab, so that the next class will be set up. One less thing I have to do myself, and prevents later classes from running back and forth to the laundry baskets.

Simple little things like these can make all the difference, don't you think?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sewing Tool Box and More!

Here is one of the greatest purchases I have ever made for my sewing classes:

 A sewing tool box! All of your notions in one portable container - perfection! Every one of the yellow compartments is removable, so you can lift one out to pass out safety pins, take one out to put in a slightly larger object (like the scissor sharpener in the lower left), move them around without emptying and refilling... or you can take the whole thing with you somewhere. At the end of class, just snap the lid shut, place on a shelf or in a cabinet, then pull it back out when needed. I seriously love this tool box! It also has a support for the top shelf when you open it all the way:

I wish I had purchased something like this years ago, it has been so beneficial. Under $30 at Lowe's, worth every penny.

And while we're on the subject of sewing, a few of you have asked if I have done away with machine sewing since I drilled shut the cabinets. I still do a machine sewing project, but I rotate the kids through only two at a time. Here's my little sewing station at the back of the room:

Life is sooooo much easier when only dealing with two early teen melt-downs at a time. I have a third machine ready to go on the filing cabinets in the background, so if there are any machine issues that arise that would take more than 30 seconds to fix I just swap 'em out on the spot and deal with it later - should've thought of that forever ago!

And speaking of the filing cabinets in the background, I did more makeover work. Have you seen the idea on Pinterest for turning file cabinets back to back and making them a magnetic bulletin board?

This was of course brilliant. I had two cabinets that I wasn't even using back in that corner, so I turned them back to back, covered them with patterned contact paper, threw on a border and added a few signs (measurements for our current project, and a few of my "famous" sayings - now I can just point instead of always repeating myself).

Looks a heck of a lot nicer, and comes in handy too!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


There's been a running joke at my house for several months.

Back in late fall, several classes went on a field trip to see the movie "Lincoln." When they returned, naturally the other students asked how it was. One girl replied,"Well, there were parts of it that were funny, but I wouldn't recommend it." Clearly, she missed the entire point of the movie.

So our joke is "Parts of it were funny, but..."

Well, finally, finally, "Lincoln" arrived via Netflix this past weekend so finally, finally, I got to see it.

About ten minutes into the movie I turned to my husband and said "There is no way that those 8th graders understood any of this," to which he exclaimed "I know! Did any of the teachers actually see this before taking them??" There were so many reasons this movie would have been difficult for them to enjoy:

A: The language was very different from today, obviously.
B: You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about the Civil War.
C: You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about the people other than Lincoln (Seward, Willie, Mary, etc).
D: You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about slavery/states rights/emancipation/etc.
E. You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about racial attitudes of the time.
F. You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about social conventions of the time.
G. You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about how an amendment to the Constitution is passed.
H. You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about U.S. political geography of the time....

And on, and on, and on, and on. While watching this movie most of those kids were literally sitting there in the dark having no idea what was going on.

Which leads me to wonder, how many of them experience that at school every day?

Seriously. While it's understandable that many 14 year olds wouldn't have the background knowledge needed to fully appreciate "Lincoln," there is an enormous amount of knowledge that they should come to school armed with at this age yet they are lacking.

Some are easily fixed. Take, for instance, food groups: when I give them grocery store ads, very, very few of them can pick out three veggies, three fruits, three proteins, etc without a LOT of help. While it saddens me that they don't know what fruits and vegetables are, I can help fix that, in relatively short order.

However, there are others that cannot be easily fixed. Like conflict resolution skills - hence the frequent fighting suspensions. Face-to-face communication skills - thank you Facebook, Twitter, and cell phones. BASIC READING SKILLS - the crux of everything we do in school, so many students are lacking.

These ideas are not new to any of us; it's just that every once in a while you have an experience that gives you a hearty dose of perspective and you feel the need to share.

And by the way, "Lincoln" was awesome! If you haven't seen it, go watch it. Now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Poster Storage

I have soooo many posters (thank you Learning Zone Express for your amazing sales), but before I had a good storage method they very often just stayed piled up in their poster bag.

Incidentally, this is a great bag for moving posters or long-term storage. It just isn't convenient to have to sort through a big pile to find what you want... or worse yet, forgetting what you have.

The border storage bag, however, I find to be all-around useful, and highly recommend.

Here's how I have tackled the poster monster.

Shopping list:
-a few packs of cheap hangers from WalMart
-big pack of small binder clips
-pack of colored (color not necessary, but I love color-coding!) round key tags

I sorted my posters into subject areas (foods, child development, etc), then into smaller subgroups.

From there, I clipped the smaller groups together onto hangers.

I assigned a color to each subject area (foods-blue, child development-yellow, etc).

Using the proper color, I numbered each key ring and then slipped them over the hangers.

I created a poster inventory sheet to hang on the door making it easy to find what I want. I just slipped the list into a sheet protector rather than laminating it so it will be easy to swap out whenever anything new is added.

So there you go, about 70 posters plus borders hanging flat in a closet space less than a foot and a half wide. Can't beat that! Also, there's enough room below to hang a second bar and another row of posters. Great way to take advantage of unused space!

You can't see them but I have also created "Property of" labels and slapped them on the back of all of my posters. Just in case. Here's a sheet that came out of the printer misaligned, but you get the idea:

Also gives me a way to add more Snoopys to my life.

One of the (many many many) items on my school to-do list for this summer is to put together a collection of bulletin boards so that I can have all of the materials ready to swap in and out quickly and easily throughout the year. I get so tired of looking at the same old thing for so long because I don't have time to create!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Extras and the Finish Line

It's all the "extras" that really get us, isn't it? Sure there's the lesson planning, the grading, the meetings, etc. But the other things... I think that's the black hole into which our time really disappears. For me, last week it was hollowing eggs. This week:

Basket one of two; the dryer at the school isn't working. Yay for bringing home a week's worth of school laundry!

I think that one of the reasons this time of year is so tough on a lot of teachers is that we become acutely aware of all of the extras, especially since so many are added on right now. Additional planning because the kids are super antsy, filling out inventory forms and checklists, packing away what we don't want to have "disappear" over the summer, putting together little thank yous for our support and custodial staffs, the send-off gifts/thoughts we give to our students... a few minutes here and there add up to hours pretty quickly!

All of this while we have our eyes on that glorious finish line... I think to teachers it's not the break that's such a big deal; after all, we all know that summer "break" should always be in quotation marks for us, due to our overly optimistic to-do lists (c'mon, you know yours is huge!) along with our have-to lists. But that line of demarcation, where we can feel that we have finished, that we can breathe and gather our wits and prepare for the next start - that's one of the truly great things about teaching, that we have that finish line that once crossed allows us a clean slate and a fresh start. There are plenty of other professions that cycle as well, but very few that allow that very definite and very clean end date. A release from all of the "extras"...

And then there's setting up the classroom in August... 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Currently May

Forgot to do last month's Currently - I'm back on the wagon!

Listening - my hubs is on break (community college professor), and is indulging in a little well-deserved R&R. He's been looking forward to Skyrim for weeks!

Loving - 15 more school days - I can make it! I know it!

Thinking - Just completed the last wave of "egg babies" - no more hollowing eggs this year! And since I'll be rotating a two year curriculum, no egg hollowing next year, either!

Wanting - I've been working so hard all year to get these rooms organized! I do not want to go into year two without finishing the job!

Needing - These last few weeks of school really push us to the edge, just have to hold on a little longer.

Summer Bucket List - Once school kicked in back in August, it was adios to making changes to the new house. I am determined to replace the curtains this summer! I also have materials for plenty of sewing projects ready to go. And, of course, I'm hoping to get that second year curriculum (first edition) pounded out before school begins, along with the first edition supplementary materials I'll need. We've also got a lot of fun things planned for the summer that I am excited about!

C'mon summer!

Friday, May 10, 2013

What the Friday?

So as you've seen before, I've found some pretty odd things while cleaning out my classrooms. At the suggestion of one of my colleagues, a few weeks ago I began a Friday game for the staff called "What the Friday is this?" I email a photo of something odd, old, or interesting to the entire building staff, and they try to guess what it is. Some are obvious, some not at all. What makes it entertaining are all of the amusing guesses, stories, and heckling of each other that gets emailed back and forth throughout the day. It's become kind of a staff bonding opportunity, and gives people a little something extra to look forward to on Friday. It's really fun now when throughout the week people will ask me "What the heck was that last week?" or "What's it going to be this week?" As we all know, it's the little things that make the days a little brighter, so it's fun to provide this.

Here's what we've had so far. Week one:

Week Two was pretty obvious, but interesting (and somebody volunteered to take this off my hands!):

Week Three, a little gross; the pic on the right is what was under the can (#10 can, ~ 100 oz) when I lifted it):

Week Four (somebody took this one, too!):

And today's:

What little things do you do to help brighten your co-workers' days?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fabric Storage

Here's another Pinterest theft that - not kidding - has been life-changing. Okay, that's a bit dramatic; let's say uber life-enhancing.

Here's the Pinterest photo:

Admire the beauty of fabrics all folded the exact same size? The answer? Comic book boards!!!

This pack of 100 cost me less than $12 on Amazon (with free shipping, of course), and completely transformed my fabric storage world. They are 6 3/4" x 10", and are perfect for creating mini bolts of fabric!

The teacher before me left a very generous amount of fabric, but it was all piled into an enormous box that came all the way up to my chest, not kidding. Without time to unpack this GI-NORMOUS box I had no access to any of it other than what was at the very top. I finally got around to emptying the box onto some shelving, but even with folding it was still pretty unruly. Enter the comic book boards.

Again, how I wish I'd taken more before and after shots (you really should have seen The Box!), but I was so excited once I started I just couldn't stop folding!

And now you know one of my secret shames {blush}. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week

This was in my mailbox yesterday morning:

Gotta admit, this was pretty creative! Hooray for teacher appreciation week!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To-Do List Scrapbook?

I found these in the bargain bin area of Michael's for $3 each, and had to share:

Tear-off notepads! I don't know about you, but I start a new "list" everyday that I keep on a clipboard close by to write down to-dos that come to mind, things I need to pick up, phone calls to make, etc. At the end of the day I snap a photo of the paper with my cell phone so that I can have the info with me and toss the paper.  I usually just use whatever's handy, but these are fantastic! It'd be easy to make something like this for yourself, but once you covered the cost of the colored ink I think the $3 pre-mades are the better deal. How fun would it be to use one each day, keep it when finished with it, then bind it at the end of the year as a kind of behind-the-scenes scrapbook? I'm thinking I'll try it out these last few weeks!

Monday, May 6, 2013


Here's a fantastic idea that I totally stole from Pinterest!

AMAZING! Keeps dice from rolling everywhere, or getting lost, or being thrown at someone's head... you get the idea. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Flag Storage

I've mentioned before that I love using Snoopy flags for classroom decorating - thank you eBay, for providing me with such an extensive collection. Here's how I store them so that I don't have to spend time ironing every time I change them out:

The large one I attach to a cheap-o wire hanger with binder clips. The hangers aren't quite wide enough, but come close enough for my purposes. The flag is a little too wide for the depth of the cabinet anyway, so it helps to have the corners curve a bit.

For the garden-sized ones I clip several to one hanger:

Skirt/slacks hangers would of course work well for these and eliminate the need for clips, but that gets expensive when you have a lot of flags!

Over on the far left of the closet I have some of my computer cart covers.

Seasonal Snoopy fabric makes everything more fun!

The wire hanger/binder clip combo is also part of my poster storage, but that's for another post. If you're in need of something to cheer up some wall space, go get yourself a couple of flags!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Refrigerator Security

One of my pet peeves is when kids open the refrigerator to "just see what's inside;" hence, one of the first rules we go over starting the very first day of class is that no students are allowed to touch the fridge or the freezer! There's always one or two that want to test this though, and when there are so many things going on during a lab it can be difficult to catch them in the act. So, a couple of years ago I began installing these in my refrigerators:

Refrigerator alarms! You can pick up a two pack at WalMart for about $10. You install them so that the two pieces are less than half an inch apart, and then they are activated when they are separated. I install them on the inside so that they are hidden (and can't be slyly turned off or "borrowed"). You can choose either a chime or an alarm sound, both of which are loud enough to easily hear from across the room. And it scares the crap out of the first kid who tries to sneak into the fridge! It is hilarious - and even better, mucho effective at keeping the little rugrats out. Definitely a worthwhile investment!