Showing posts with label Back to School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Back to School. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Next Year: Past Years

Yesterday I wrote about thinking ahead to changes in procedures and routines you'd like to make for next year, and I gave a couple of examples of bigger issues I tackled in this arena. Because some of you asked, here are three of my favorite "next year I will" promises I made to myself that made a big difference when I implemented the changes.

  1. I removed all pencil sharpeners from the room and just left out a box of sharpened pencils by the door. We've all dealt with the pencil fight. Students should bring their own pencils. They do not. We want them to learn responsibility. I get that. But one year there were three staff meetings in a row that I had to lend a writing utensil to a co-worker. You know what? Even in the "real world," a great many people don't take responsibility for their own pencils, and I am not going to fix that problem with my own personal classroom war. Also, I hate pencil sharpeners. 99% of them are total garbage. And they're an excuse for students to walk around, talk to their friends, create a distraction, etc. Just accept that part of your salary will always go to pencils and move on with life.
  2. I refused to accept any individual assignments. Students love to throw assignments on your desk, in the wrong tray, in your hands, in their friends' hands hoping they will somehow get into your hands... enough. I had students keep all of their work in their folders, and only graded what was in their folders. That way it was completely on them to keep track of their papers, and completely the end of "you must have lost it," which was never true anyway. (More about my folder system here - I. LOVE. IT.)
  3. Students received two hall passes per quarter, no questions asked, but no more than that. It really ticked me off when a kid would decide that my class was their bathroom class. Or when one kid asking to go somewhere set off a chain. So, at the beginning of each quarter I stapled two passes into their folder (again, love the folder system). They could use them for whatever and almost whenever they wanted, but once they were gone, they were gone, and if they had an "emergency" they would owe me a detention. At the end of the term unused passes could be redeemed for some teeny tiny reward. Excluding medical conditions, no one should need more than four passes a semester, and in fact after implementing this most kids didn't even use one. Problem solved!
What "Next year I will" promises have been big successes for you? I'm sure others would love some suggestions!        

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Next Year: I Will...

Continuing on with the what you can do at the end of the year for the beginning of the year ideas...

What Didn't Work This Year

As you work on your classroom cleaning and organization, this is a good time to think over what didn't work this year. Specifically, what do you wish you had done/hadn't done/had done differently the first week or two of class. So many of our procedures and routines become so entrenched by the end of those first two weeks (whether intentional or not) that it's really difficult to hit the reset button and start over. 

Many of the ones that come to mind for me were lessons I learned starting in a new district. About two weeks into my third teaching assignment I desperately wished I had instituted a purse policy. This had never occurred to me because at my previous two schools hardly anyone carried a purse and for those who did it was just not an issue. At this school, however, not only did most girls carry purses but they carried ENORMOUS purses. This caused endless headaches. Purses on desks took up all the writing space, while purses on the floor blocked walking paths. Girls would spend half of class digging through these cavernous items trying to locate a writing utensil, and the other half "covertly" texting inside the purses. Fast forward to my second year: purses were to be placed on the back counter (in full sight of everyone in the classroom), and if you didn't take out everything you needed at the beginning of class too bad, you weren't going to the counter to retrieve something. Might sound harsh, but that alleviated everyone's fears of theft, eliminated constant disruption, and prevented texting trips. (BTW, same rules applied to backpacks - gender neutral policy!)

Starting at my fourth school, I noticed there were hand sanitizer dispensers by every classroom door but thought nothing of it. Mistake. Should have had a sanitizer procedure in place from day one. Especially because at some point the school stopped purchasing sanitizer and just put foaming soap in it instead (and this was a junior high - come on people, think these decisions through first!), so kids would get giant handfuls of foam when walking into the room and well, you can guess what happened.

Beyond bizarre examples like these, there are probably some daily annoyances you have to deal with that you could knock out by establishing a procedure right off the bat. 
  • Are there areas of your classroom that experience too much congestion at the beginning or end of class, when assignments are handed in, or when students are collecting supplies? 
  • Does a lot of time get wasted by dealing with minor needs (pencils, tissues, trash can)?
  • Do the same kids always ask to go to the bathroom, their locker, etc?
  • Does your desk fill up with random crap students toss onto it?
  • Is the end of a class/lab/lecture/video/activity complete chaos?
  • Is taking attendance/lunch count/whatever a headache? 
Those are just a few prompts to get your mind going. What isn't working for you? What could you fix with a little training or change in routine? Think about it now, while you're still in the trenches and aware of the aggravations. By August you may think "That wasn't really such a big deal," and you'll probably be sorry by September that your judgement was clouded by New Year Goggles!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

FACS Teachers are Cancer-Fighting Super Heroes!

Wow! Check out what we have been able to do!

Since I opened my FACS fundraiser, all of you have helped me to double my fundraising goal! 
Some quick stats on the donors:
  • Total of 127 donations
  • 120 cities
  • 33 states
  • 2 countries
See how amazing this looks on the map!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! It's really inspiring how many teachers have been willing to give to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; people really DO care.

I know there are still a lot of districts out there gearing up to start after Labor Day. If someone you know could use a bundle of FACS goodies in exchange for helping to fight blood cancer (and a charitable tax donation!), be sure to pass this on. Especially if your state isn't on the map yet, you don't want to be left out. It's win-win!

Hope everyone if off to a good start this year!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Anonymous Donors

Hi everyone!

If you have donated and not yet received your bundle... did you donate anonymously? Some of you have chosen to remain anonymous - perfectly fine - and then contacted me separately with directions for where to email your goodies. That has been working really well! But for those of you who haven't contacted me, remember, as I stated in the directions, if you donate anonymously they don't give me ANY of your info, including your email address!

If you are an anonymous donor, PLEASE send me a message at so I can send your resources out to you!

Thank you again to all who have given to the Leukemia and Lymphoma society!

Friday, August 7, 2015


AMAZING! Thanks to all of you wonderful FACS teachers who have donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, yesterday morning I hit my goal after less than 5 1/2 days! You guys rock!

I will continue to keep the special deal open, so if you have any teachers you could pass it on to please do - every single dollar makes a difference in the battle against blood cancers! 

For those of you have already donated and received the bundle, please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions as you begin to stroll through the files. I do hope that they will be of help to you and that your students will benefit.

Thank you again to all who have joined the cause, and to those who spread the word!

p.s. We're now up to 42 states and 3 Canadian provinces that have been donated from - make sure you check out the map!

2017 Map

2016 Map

2015 Map

Monday, August 3, 2015

Using Social Media for Good!

Social media is definitely like The Force - it contains enormous potential for good, but also has the Dark Side. As teachers we all know how everything from Facebook to Snapchat can used for evil  (oh, sophomore girls... sigh...), which makes us wary of its power.

But then, something good happens! This weekend I started a fundraiser offering a huge bundle of FACS resources in exchange for a $25 donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and just look at all of the cities FACS teachers have donated from so far! Thank you so much to all of you!!!

The fundraiser is of course still open, and I will continue to update this map - check back here to see the new locations added. Better yet, consider taking advantage of the special deal and have your own town added to the map! Not only will you gain an oodle of new classroom resources (there is an itemized list included with the details you can view before committing), but you will also be joining the cause of fighting blood cancers!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Special Deal - Over 100 Resources!

As promised, here is the special deal I alluded to earlier in the week!

This deal includes:

  • 24 weekly bell work sheets
  • 39 skeleton note forms with corresponding PPTs
  • ~50 resources for various activities
  • 24 recipes, most in lab plan format, many with self-evaluation forms and video demonstrations
  • 3 sets of lab task cards
  • 35 video links used regularly in class
  • an oodle of additional resources not easily categorized
  • everything you see in my TPT store (which is not a ton, but a decent amount)
  • Please click here to see a much more detailed list of the items here
On TPT this would cost you a small fortune. For the next few weeks all of this can be yours for... $25
Nope, not a typo! Why? To fight cancer!
Note: short link in image is outdated; visit  for this year's fundraiser! 

I will be running in the Chicago Marathon this fall, and I am running with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training! This is a cause very important to our family, as my husband lost his mother to multiple myeloma when he was still in high school. 

What does this have to do with FACS resources? Here's how to redeem the special offered above:
  1. Visit my fundraising page at and make a $25 dollar donation. 
  2. Use the word "FACS" somewhere within the message box.
  3. Receive the full bundle within 48 hours! 
That's it! The only caveat is that if you select the option to remain anonymous, I won't receive your email address to send you your goodies. You can still keep your name from being visible on the fundraising page by selecting this option:

Benefits for me:
  • You will be helping me to reach my fundraising goal!
  • 100% of your donation will go to Team in Training!
Benefits for you:
  • Lots of great resources!
  • You'll receive a receipt that you can use for a charitable tax deduction (it won't count toward the paltry educator expenses limit!)!
  • You will be fighting cancer!
Benefits for patients and their families:
  • Donations to blood cancer research means more lives saved!
Visit today, and thank you so much for helping in the fight against blood cancer!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Food for Thought: Bell Ringers

I do like using bell ringers - you know, those little writing prompts or activities at the beginning of class that get kids thinking about what they'll be doing today (while you're taking attendance and juggling 4 million other things); but it took me a while to find a system for them that I really liked.

I started out with the students writing them on notebook paper. This was useless. Either you have to collect a million pieces of paper a day, or they lose them. Even if you say "Keep the same paper all week; put it in your folder" or whatever, it's doubtful that will help. Then of course the paper itself is torn, crumpled, spilled on, chewed on, whatever.

So when I moved to binders, I placed a little packet of bell ringer sheets in with everyone's syllabus, etc:

This worked so much better! Clean, hole-punched paper that stayed in the rings. Beautiful.

Downsides: It wound up taking a good bit of room up in the binders. I was confined to boring lines and three sentence responses. I had to keep track of how many should be recorded every time I graded. I had to keep a list of the prompts handy for weeks after they'd been used. 

Then I moved to folders, and decided I wanted a weekly sheet that they would keep in their folders. I would graded folders every week, and this sheet would be removed from their folders every week. And I didn't always want to be confined to boring lines and three sentence responses. So I came up with these:

Each week had a different little food icon at the top, different shapes throughout the page, and the variation allowed me a variety of prompts. I would give the students blank ones like the one above, add the prompts to the page and project one each day:

Love this system! I used them in every class, not just Foods (though I of course changed out the title of the class). It provides a lot of flexibility, and is fun to boot. Check out these happy guys:

I know, I know: you're now irresistibly drawn to these and are thinking "Man, I've gotta make some awesome bell ringer sheets like that." Awww shucks, thanks! But don't. I'll be putting over a semester's worth of these bad boys up along with a ton of other new stuff as part of a very special bargain by the end of the week. Stay tuned!

Update: Packets of these bell ringer sheets are available in my TPT store if you're interested.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kingsley's Got Your Back

For all of you who are feeling a little overwhelmed/anxious/stressed/unprepared/in need of a break from this end-of-the-break-period-of-time, here is a fabulous video in defense of teachers - I could not stop laughing! I did a little editing work to erase any profanity so it is good to go to share with colleagues, if you should so desire.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Back to School Shopping Finds & FOLDERS!

So by now you must have all seen something like this:

It is that time, my friends - put on your game faces! I've received many requests to purchase the documents that I use with my folders (see related post); I've been working on it, and now nearly all are available from my TPT store. All items are either $1 or free - not looking to use my profits to retire early, just a little pocket change to help hedge the costs of the folders!

And speaking of folders, be sure to buy your supply FOR THE YEAR NOW! This is the only time of year that the price is reasonable; it will skyrocket in mid- to late-September. 

The ones I used last year were three-pronged, two-pocket paper folders. They are currently available in a variety of colors at WalMart for 15 cents (soon to be 50 cents!). Again, buy for the year, not just the semester (and if you'll recall, I did need to replace all of them at the semester - totally worth the expense, though!).

If you'd like something a little sturdier, Target is selling the same folders with a coating (not the polypropylene ones, just coated) for 15 cents as well:

Think through how you're going to use, store, and distribute them, because a coating will make them a bit slicker.

I personally would not go with the actual polypropylene folders, for a couple of reasons. One, they are MUCH slicker, and since I fan them out for students to retrieve they would constantly get knocked on the floor (if you don't know what I'm talking about, read my folders post). Two, even though they are WAY more durable than the paper ones, my bet is several of them would still need to be replaced at the semester mark, due to losses, dog bites, teenager bites, etc. Buying two folders per student at 15 cents each is still cheaper than one poly folder at 50, let alone two polys at $1. But enough with the math!

While at Target, if you teach anything child- or reading-related, you may want to swing by the dollar section and pick up some of these kid-sized totes with images from the hungry, hungry caterpillar! 

Back at WalMart, I'm happy to share that they have the crates that I so adore in more colors:

I have used these for color-coding class binders (back when I used binders rather than folders): 

After moving to folders I began using them to organize class materials (again, through color-coding).

My final find was this canvas tote with a "Periodic Table of Text Messaging," in the accessories department at WalMart. In my communication unit in Adult Living I do a lot with the advantages and pitfalls of texting as a communication method, and this would make a fantastic prop!

Those are some of my finds - what great things have you been stumbling upon the past few weeks?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Folders Again

Over the summer I was trying to decide between student folders or binders; I went with folders this past semester and really liked it. I also made some modifications on how I managed the folders, so here is a summary of what I've set up for this semester starting Tuesday (school has already been canceled for Tuesday!) Wednesday:

WARNING: This is a long one...

I provide a folder for each student. The folders are color-coded by class. The front of each folder has the student's name, the class name, and a pawprint (for our mascot).

Inside the folder on the first day of class is:
1) Bell work sheet for the week
2) The copy of the syllabus they take home to have signed
3) Grade labels - every week when I return their graded folders, I write their current percentage in the class in the space for that week. Not only do they know exactly what their grade is, but they can tell if they're going up/down and at what pace. Takes care of the kids/parents who tell me "But it was an A- last week - how can it be an F now?" This was the first semester I tried this - the kids LOVED it.
4) A copy of the syllabus to be kept permanently in the prongs of the folder for future reference

Attached to the take-home syllabus is the form for the parent/guardian to sign, and instructions for how to sign up for remind101

Back page of syllabus, plus Folder procedures and expectations. Instead of passing out papers, I tuck them into the folders. Sometimes I put in everything for the week, sometimes just the day - depends on what makes the most sense for that particular lesson.

Students keep work to be graded in the front of their folders, notes/handouts go in the prongs. The day they are due I take about 5 minutes out of class to make sure they know what order their papers in the front pocket should be in, what papers should be placed in the prongs, and allow them to prepare their folders for grading. If they just sit there, ignore me, and turn in a great big mess, I do not treasure hunt; I will not grade it. Now obviously not everything we do is paper-based; a lot of what I return are project rubrics, feedback forms, etc. I grade the folders every week, staple all of the work along with a copy of the itemized grade report together, and place it in the back of the folders. I also write their current percentage on the grade labels.

On Mondays, I take the first few minutes of class to have them look over their grades and their work. If they have any questions or see any errors I may have made, they have that week only to question it (that way they still have the work in question; eliminates the accusations right before report cards that I "messed up" their grade).

The last "first day" page is a summary of the procedures/expectations for when a sub is in the class. These have helped tremendously over the years. This is the last piece of paper that I place in their prongs myself; the rest of the semester they are in charge of placing their notes/handouts in them. High schoolers are much better at operating these prongs that junior high students, but the first few times it's a REALLY good idea to explain how they work AND walk around and make sure they do it right. Seriously. And again, I designate time for them to do this the day the folders are due, so no excuses.

The last thing I set up in their folders are their hall passes. Every student is given two hall passes per quarter to leave the room for any reason (bathroom, water fountain, locker) - that's it. Unused passes can be redeemed at the end of the term, the "rewards" vary. I'd say about 95% of my students this past semester didn't use any of their four passes, so this is very reasonable, at least at my school. 

Folders are kept in a labeled file crate in the classroom. Before class I spread them out on this table which is directly in front of the door as they come in. I write a number at the top left of each folder, so that students can easily find their own without knocking everyone else's on the floor.

When they leave, the kids drop their folders in the crate. I pick up the stack on my way out to hall duty, and put them in numerical order as I rule the halls with the iron fist of justice. I keep the crates below the table, so they're easy to switch out.

If I have a smaller class or two, I combine crates to save space.

This may seem like a lot of work, but here a few things to consider:

1) The first time you assemble the folders, it will take a long time. It will go significantly faster subsequent times, especially since you will obviously recruit students to help you : ).

2) The whole grading/printing grade report/stapling/writing grade percentage routine probably sounds time consuming. I've found it actually saves me a TON of time, and extra hassles.
-I never have to take time out of class to pass out/collect things.
-I never have to worry about keeping track of papers for absent students, because I've already put them in the folders.
-Since all student work is kept in the folders, it has completely eliminated the student claim of "I turned it in! You lost it!"
-Giving the weekly printout eliminates "I didn't know..."; also, it's easy to catch if I make a silly data entry mistake (like when you accidentally input a 20 point assignment as 200 points...).
-I never have kids pestering me to see their grades because they know they will see them the first day of every week. I do have the occasional kid who wants to argue during the last week of the quarter, but they don't have a leg to stand on.
-Filling in the percentage on a weekly basis forces me to stay on top of my grading so I don't get behind.
-More than that, I am ready at a moment's notice for a surprise parent meeting or a last minute invitation to an IEP meeting, because I can just grab the student's folder and show numerical progress over the quarter (since I teach home ec, that's all the parents want to know from me - the grade percentage, nothing about their actual learning). Sad, but true.

Some Random Details
-So far I've only used paper folders, which really only last a semester. Since they only cost 10 cents a piece in August, I don't mind this - I just make sure I buy enough in July/August for both terms, because the price goes up to almost 50 cents a piece the rest of the year.
-There will be kids who somehow manage to completely tear theirs up, even though they never leave the classroom. I make sure the kids know at the beginning of the semester that should such disaster strike, it will be their responsibility to fix the folder or replace it. In the correct color.
-Be prepared for artwork to appear. Perhaps stress that any added decor needs to be school appropriate.

So, that's my folder system. I love it - hopefully there was something in all of this that can help you out!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Feeling Like a Rock Star

Not gonna lie, I am feeling like a rock star this weekend! For one, it was a GREAT first week of school, fun even! Two, my readers are definitely making me feel loved. I got a shout out from M over at Teenagers Are Ridiculous. If you don't currently follow her blog you simply must check it out - she is HILARIOUS! You can totally picture all of the absurdity that she reports from her classroom. Also, Mrs. S over at The Crafty Raider offered to send me a Snoopy flag that she is not using. You know I love me some Snoopy flags! (Not so much grammar, apparently, but it's Sunday!) So thoughtful!

I've got lots to share, but for right now I've gotta make sure I have everything ship-shape ready to go for tomorrow - the half-hour preceding 1st period is booked full of 504 meetings, so there will be no time for any foolishness in the morning. More to come about back to school adventures in the following days!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

And That's My New Philosophy!

If you're a fan of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," you know that the title of this post comes from Sally's big number in the musical. It's been going through my head a lot this week, the reason for which you will soon read.

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY! Kids come on Tuesday! We had our first of two Institute Days on Friday, so it is GAME TIME, PEOPLE! I've been working hard at getting my room ready to go, as well as organizing all of my classroom materials - just like the rest of you. Unlike the very few of you non-teachers who read this blog either because you know me and I told you to, or you... well... I don't know why you would read this if you don't teach and you don't know me. Must be my winning personality! Anyway, here's a peek at what I've been doing.

First, a big scrub-a-dub-dub of all five of my new kitchens (thank you, mini shop vac!). God bless my new principal, who gave the okay for me to use the school's industrial dishwasher in the cafeteria to speed wash and disinfect everything!

What would have taken me DAYS to do by hand took about 90 minutes. Yes! So it wasn't long before my kitchens began to look like this:

Still have labeling, shelf lining, etc to do, but since we won't be in the kitchens until several weeks into the school year this was a good enough start.

I livened up my entryway, since it's the first impression my students will get of my classroom. My doorway is at the end of a hallway directly across from the stairwell, so they'll see this as they climb the stairs.

My Snoopy flag was of course a given, and will be changed out with the seasons - as will the apron. The red sign on the left is my daily schedule of classes, and the yellow is a sketch that a student from this school actually drew for me 5 years ago of a possible logo for outside of my door to replace that little chef guy - the sketch has Snoopy sewing and baking!

While the standing chalkboard in the classroom was charming, it was not nearly as practical as a whiteboard - especially since I'll be adding a projector to the room! Luckily there was a 4' x 6' whiteboard attached to the recessed wall past the flag (where no one can really see it, wha???), so the maintenance crew was extremely kind and moved it from the wall and attached it to the chalkboard at my request. It has of course been Snoopified with bulletin board border found at Joann's!

My desk has also been Snoopified in the same manner:

We're required to post a large display of our classroom rules (which I'm in the habit of doing anyway), so I took advantage of $1.60 engineering prints at Staples to make these:

After reading the "Whole Brain Teaching" book I added #6 - I love how it covers all of the loopholes you could argue for the rules! I made a really big schedule because I much prefer pointing rather than constantly answering the "When do we get outta here?" questions. In April. Hmf. On the back is our late start schedule, so I can just flip it over on days with a different schedule.

This year I've decided to also post "Class Philosophies" in addition to the class rules. These are the things that I say over and over and over again to the kids, to the point where I only have to start the sentence and then they finish it. I'd rather focus on these concepts than the rules, so they are much bigger in the classroom:

1. "Take Care of Self, Take Care of Others" is a phrase I learned through Link Crew, which I think encompasses the whole "respect" idea, as well as all the dangers that a FACS classroom has to offer - needles, scissors, knives, fire, etc. The language is a little less PBIS-y as well.

2. "Go Slow to Go Fast" is another tenet of Link Crew, but has been a mantra of mine since well before I encountered it there. I learned very early on that if you have students go too quickly nothing will sink in and you'll have to start all over. I say this every time a kid is rushing and will clearly have to redo or start something over, or when they complain that it takes us too long to get to the "good stuff."

3. "Say I can't YET." Gets rid of the whole "I can't" business.

4. "Make it AWESOME." I am still a huge, huge fan of Kid President's Pep Talk, so I think about this a lot. I've also found that "awesome" is a whole lot less subjective than you would think. This is my response every time a kid asks me "Is this good enough?" When I ask back "Is it awesome?" the answer is usually a pretty obvious "no" and it's back to work for him/her. I'll mention my sister thinks I should have made it "AWESOMESAUCE," but that's a lot of letters... : )

So this year I am going to try emphasizing these "philosophies" over the rules, in an attempt to make the classroom culture more positive.

And that's my new philosophy!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to School Goals

Yet another Linky - unusual for me, I know, but I was planning a "Back to School Goals" post already before I saw this and it was the perfect lead-in! If you want to join in, scoot on over to I {heart} Recess.

Personal - As I mentioned in my "Currently August" post, I am a recent C25K grad about to run my first race! I've really been enjoying running, so I want to make sure I keep up with it. I've been worried that going back to school might throw off my routine and/or dedication; I'm just going to have to establish a new routine that includes both work and running!

Organization - Every year I make one or two "New School Year Resolutions." The past couple of years one of them has been to make sure my desk is completely clear (meaning things are put away, where they belong, not stuffed in a drawer!) before leaving each day, and it has made a HUGE difference! This year I have a much longer commute, so in case there are any delays in the morning I want to make sure that everything is ready to go for the next day before I leave each day. I've always been really big on getting to work extra early each day (especially when I was coaching and staying after was not an option!) to set everything up and get caught up on grading, etc, but again with the commute I don't want to leave anything to chance!

Planning - My planning goal is stay at least one full unit ahead in each prep this year: activities, copies, supplemental materials, props, the whole sh-bang!

Professional - I have a lot of ideas for maintaining regular parent communication this year. I've done pretty well at staying in contact with parents in the past about their kids' performance, but with so much technology available now there are some things I want to try out to keep them informed about what's actually being accomplished in class. And after last semester I am completely in love with Remind101 and so I will definitely be implementing it for parents and students from the very beginning this year!

Students - My goal for my students is that they feel safe in my class and look forward to my class. This is an annual one, because of course how can they learn if those two things do not hold true? In some of my classes we have some pretty intense discussions (child development = conception is one that springs to mind) that require mutual respect across the room to be successful.

Motto - Make it awesome! If you still haven't seen Kid President's Pep Talk, watch it right now! My message to my students this year is that they have the choice to make their time awesome, or to make it boring. Awesome definitely seems preferable to me!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Please Explain

Looking at the "Back-to-School" supplies has raised a couple of questions for me. First, colored pencils. Now I understand why Crayolas are more expensive than other brands - those other brands are just plain not as good, we all know that. But how do you explain double the colored pencils being triple the cost? Is a pink colored pencil really that much more expensive to make than an orange one?

Then there's the safety scissors. A regular pair of safety scissors is $.50; safety scissors with the little cap will cost you about $2, four times as much. For that additional little piece of plastic. Which (and correct me if I am wrong here, elementary teachers) if not lost within the first 24 hours will almost certainly never be used to cap the scissors after initially removed in class, instead will just be thrown haphazardly into the supply box until it does indeed become lost. Or maybe it's the included stickers that inflate the price. And why the stickers?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Neon Rules

As part of my at-home preparation, I have been making posters of classroom rules/procedures/etc. Here are the two that are finished, minus laminating.

This is on posterboard cut down to 13"x18", and has the abbreviated schedule for the first two days of school on it. On the reverse side is the regular daily schedule, making it easy to flip back and forth between the two. As we all know, having a posted schedule greatly cuts down on (but, alas, does not eliminate) "When do we get outta here?"

Here is the remainder of the original poster board, brightly decorated with the class grading plan.

There are a few others dealing with classroom rules and procedures that still need finishing touches, but they are equally as bright and (you would think) hard not to notice in a classroom.

But, for now, I must prepare for sleep - Institute Day tomorrow, and my very first few precious hours to work in my classroom!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Course Syllabus

My first class at my new school begins at 7:40am this coming Tuesday. My very first opportunity to work in my classroom will be 3pm-7pm this coming Monday. Not even kidding. Due to some repair work being completed in the gym (right around the corner from my room), my classroom was sealed off this week, with all sorts of tubes and machinery and zippered plastic walls blocking it. It actually looked a lot like the house in ET after it was taken over. On the one hand, I really enjoy that analogy (I wish I had pictures!). On the other hand, this creates an enormous challenge.

But what can you do? Moving on, I'm focusing all of my effort on the things that I can accomplish at home. One thing that I'm really happy with is a revamping of my course syllabus/expectations to make it more "junior high" friendly. I must admit, it was pretty terrific to only have to create a syllabus for one prep, rather than four or five like usual. Here's what I created.

The one I used last year was a little text-dense - fine for high school, a little too much for the junior high attention span. It covers class content, materials, and my classroom management plan. Also, a page for parents to sign and include contact information, which we all know usually comes in handy at some point (amazing how often the phone numbers in the student data management system are incorrect, isn't it?). It's a lot of information to include in one document, but you know you've got to cover all your bases at the beginning of the year or face CHAOS. And chaos in a classroom with knives, fire, scissors and needles is a bad, bad thing.

Speaking of knives, fire, scissors and needles, at the beginning of both the sewing and foods units I do have an additional document with rules/procedures specific to those areas. I'm sure you'll find them on here eventually.

Good luck with preparing your classrooms!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer is... >GASP!<... ending!!!!!!

Well, fellow teachers, the end (or shall I say the beginning?) is near... time for Back to School! And before going any further, I just want to mention that I received my first B2S email ad, from Staples, on JUNE 19TH! Come on people, give us a break, eh?

Some big changes this summer... I have moved to a new city, and will be teaching at a new school. This year I'll be teaching junior high, 7th and 8th grades. Hence, LOTS of work to be done. Not the least of which will be re-starting color-coded kitchens. So glad I bought almost all of the smaller colored equipment for my last school with my own cash; however, of course very sad to have to leave behind my beautiful stand mixers and gorgeous colored pots and pans... sigh...

This Monday will be the first day I get to work in my classrooms. SO MUCH WORK TO DO. The kids start on the 21st, so I have one week to get as much as I can done. The good news is I won't start cooking for a few weeks, so I could hold all classes in the sewing room, giving me extra time to get the foods room in order.

I am also of course working on revamping curriculum - going from high school to junior high means big change! At my new school I get 7th & 8th graders together for one semester. Technically I suppose I could do the same thing with every class every day and only have one prep, a completely alien concept to me. However, I think you have to be a real masochist to want to run 6 foods labs in one day. My plan is to create a curriculum with four different units, and then stagger them among my classes. The first unit everyone will do the same, and then two of my classes will cook, two will sew, and two will study child care (from a babysitting angle); then they'll rotate every 4-5 weeks. This way only two of my classes get my first run in each of those subjects, and by the end of the year I will have taught the sewing, cooking, and child care units six different times - it's like combining six years of teaching into one!

My other challenge is that some of the 8th graders took this class last year, and they are mixed in with the 7th graders and the first-time 8th graders. I imagine that I'll be different enough from the last teacher that the veterans won't feel like they're doing the same thing again, but I need to plan for next year. I am tentatively sketching out a two-year curriculum, so that there aren't repeats. Like covering "cooking" one year and "baking" the next, alternating sewing projects between years, and swapping out child care for financial management or something else. 

One great thing about my new school is that they offer several professional development opportunities in the period before school begins. Yesterday I attended an all-day session on differentiated instruction, and I have to say it was the best workshop I have ever attended. Very informative, very useful, and immediately applicable. I'm excited to implement what I've learned!

One thing that I'm working on this weekend is "Welcome Back" postcards. I like to send one to each student the week before school starts. While it seems a little "elementary", a lot of students mention it throughout it the year (and it helps with the parents as well). I haven't been able to order my postcards with pre-printed contact info on them yet because I only just learned my contact info. So, instead, I'm using recipe cards!

I just write a very short message - welcome back, I'm your FACS teacher, see you on the first day, yada yada - then stamp and address on the other side. I don't have the greetings or addresses on these yet, as I'm still waiting for my rosters, but those'll be the last things I have to slap on 'em before mailing 'em.

Well, back to work for me! I'll keep you posted on any beginning of the school year ideas I come up with. Good luck with your own preparation!