Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy New Year!

This year has been a busy one.  I have lots of good memories.  
Here are a few that I would like to share with you!

Getting up a 5am on the weekends sounds like such a silly idea.  Don't get me wrong it is tough at times but if I was still in bed I would miss these beautiful views!  These are just a few of the beautiful sights that I was able to see this year.  And with each and everyone I gave thanks for all that I have and looked forward to the new day.

Well I can't say enough how much I LoVe my fur babies.  With all the bad things going on in the world I'm so thankful for all the good my pets do for me.

Friendships are special, especially the friendships who let you be who you are and help you get to where you need to be.  I can't thank them enough for their support.  My friends and I have had fun adventures and many never ending laughs this year.  I'm looking forward to many more to come from all my friends near and far!!!  NYC here we come! 

Well I like to make others laugh and I love my Kino Sandals!  That's how I live my life silly and simple.  In the New Year I look forward to many more laughs with the family and my friends and of course some new additions to my Kino collection!

My resolutions for 2016

More Kinos
More Laughs
More Traveling
More Kitty Kisses
More Healthy Foods
More Beautiful Sunrises and Sunsets
More of what makes me and mine HAPPY

Monday, December 21, 2015

Finding the Wonderful: Teaching and Learning

This year I am job sharing. It has been amazing for all the obvious reasons, it is easier to balance my many roles (mom, wife, friend, teacher, teacher-author, etc.), but there has been an unexpected benefit from sharing a space, students, and all aspects of teaching with another person. It is what I have learned about life, teaching, and everything in between from my teaching partner Shelley (from Lolly’s Locker)

This spectacular creation below pretty much sums up the greatest lesson I have learned from her. 

This picture, of course, does not do it justice! This banana bread is legendary. For years I heard about it and the rumor was no one’s husband or family had ever tasted it because it was gone before they got home from work. This year I finally got a loaf of heaven!

Shelley is able to take mushy “useless” bananas and make something wonderful. 

Most people tend to throw bananas away when the blackish-brown begins to overtake the yellow and they become slack and mushy. Shelley on the other hand sees the possibilities in them. Instead of sweeping them into the trash and regretting buying so many, she gets out real quality ingredients (I assume butter, flour, sugar, eggs, and something that I am pretty sure is magical), spends the time, and does the work to make this into something amazing. She does not try to “fix” the bananas, she works with them to make them into something spectacular. She sees the potential in the mushy bananas, the value and the usefulness in something that most people would dismiss.

In a world full of packaged mixes, “just add water” cooking, and microwave recipes, this bread stands out as what you can do with time, effort, and quality ingredients. 

In my early years of teaching I had a principal that said it was not the program or method you used (all  of them work or don’t work to some degree), but the passion and heart of the teacher that really makes the difference. I was fresh out of graduate school and rolled my eyes at this. Now I see that it really all comes down to this. This is what matters. 

When I come into our classroom (she teaches in the morning and I teach in the afternoon), I see kids engaged with “real ingredients”, not hollow quick fixes, or “just add kids” programs designed to help children to move “upward” on an arbitrary metric on some arbitrary scale that we have begun to pin our hopes on so much in education. She knows which children are the readers, the artists, the introverts, the athletes, or the ones that just need love at that moment. She celebrates them and takes true delight in who they really are. She can look past daily grind of teaching in a world filled with data points, curriculum maps, and targeted interventions and transform the things most of us dismiss into something wonderful! 

I am going to keep this picture of the banana bread to remember to slow down, not rely on a quick fix, and most of all find the wonderful and usefulness in the things people sometimes overlook.

Authors note: Shelley has agreed to join our Planning in Paradise blog group. She is a true fountain of knowledge of practical ways to make a classroom work and I have learned so much from her. I can not wait to read her upcoming blogs! 

Monday, December 7, 2015


If, just if the principal hung a WANTED sign in the window of a classroom when needing to hire a new teacher, it might go a little something like this:

1. Must be able to hold bladder for a minimum of 3.5 hours.
 2. Must have rockstar like qualities: able to spontaneously sing about EVERYTHING; coming to the carpet, cleaning up, or how to use a glue bottle.

3. Must be able to eat a portable lunch, WHILE sending an email, making copies, laminating and phoning a parent - in no more than 20 minutes…there will not be time for the bathroom (hence, the need for #1.)

4. Must be able to look at an empty yogurt cup and INSTANTLY think of 10 different ways to use it in the classroom or as craft with students.
5. Must be good at multi-tasking; because there will always be 10+ things that need to be done at the very SAME time…while 20 or more children are standing in front of you.

6. Must be an expert at parenting, artistry, music, mediation, schedule keeping, record keeping, psychology, nursing, physical fitness, planning ahead, oh and yes….TEACHING!

7. Must be able to LAUGH at yourself misleading verbiage like "Teachers' lounge" and "Summers off."
8. Must be willing to spend more money on SCHOOL STUFF than you do on your own children.

9. Must be able to keep a stash of emergency CHOCOLATE behind your stash of emergency chocolate.

10.  Must be willing to go CRAZY - because, just because the job of teaching could possibly make you that way!

So that is how it might look - any one of those signs could easily hang on the window of a classroom. Each of them TEACHER TRUTHS. I love that so many of us have stopped and filled out that application anyway. It is a journey of many words, many truths, many laughs and many rewards. But in the end, it remains one of the best jobs EVER!

Thanks for stopping by. I do hope you found a few moments of humor and laughter here …in Paradise!

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Cut Above The Rest!

Christmas is in the air. I love this time of year. Christmas carols, Christmas lights, Christmas bargains, and Christmas Spirit all over.  I love to spoil my kiddo's teachers with cute little partially home made gifts. (Let’s face it, I said partially because I am not the DIY Queen that I think I am!). I love most of these because they are SUPER easy but still SUPER cute! Any who, if you are looking for a cute little gift for your child’s teacher(s) than this post is just what you need.  Here are a few gifts that I have done over the years:

1.) A Cut Above The Rest - Purchase some cookie dough and wrap it. Attach a cookie cutter and a sweet little note about how much you love and appreciate them. (I copied mine onto cute Christmasy stationary.)

2.) Thanks for all you “Dew” - Purchase a 6 pack of Mountain Dew and a Tervis Tumbler. Wrap it and attach the tag with ribbon.
3.) You Make Me “Sparkle” - Probably best suited for women (but you never know......) Purchase some sparkly nail polish. Put them inside a cute little bag. Attach the tag with ribbon.
4.) Seeds of Knowledge - Purchase a small plant or some seeds. Wrap it and attach the tag with ribbon. 
If you would like to use some of these tags, you can download them here:
Teacher Gift Ideas and Tags

Here are some other great ideas that I found on Pinterest! (If you are one of my children's teachers close your eyes for the next line!) I plan on using the wrapping paper idea along with the Starbucks gift card this year!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Heart of Gratitude

Gratitude is a practice. It results in positive thinking. In a difficult time and world, the one true factor that can make the most impact is exercising gratitude. It is complex, yet very simple. The cause of resentment and poor behavior is a direct result of feeling undervalued, not worthy, not heard, and not cared about. When we focus on the things in which we do value and are the most grateful for, we can change resentment into gratitude and love. Recognizing and expressing gratitude towards children can change everything. Expressing gratitude is a simple answer for a complex problem. We need to stop thinking about gratitude as an emotion, and begin to live it as an action. Living your life as an expression of gratitude is the greatest gift you can give a child and yourself.

Gratitude Journal for Kids

When children thank while they think, they think better and deeper. Thankfulness teaches children to be in the present, and they want to give back. This journal is meant to help children begin to walk in gratitude. Remember that gratitude practices are not about smiling more and being positive, it is about recognizing the hard part and focusing on the things for which we are grateful. 
How can we start? We can live by example. We need to thank our students more. We need to share specifically what we are thankful for about them on a daily basis. If not, we are missing the daily practices that can change EVERYTHING.

I’ll start. Thank you for your interest in this blog. Thank you for the job you do each day. Thank you for making it your life’s work to change the world one student at a time. I am grateful for your support. I am grateful to work among you.

Trina Deboree 

Meaningful Mama has a great list of books that help teach generosity and giving.
Meaningful Mama
As a thank you, here is a freebie from the Gratitude Journal for Kids.
Freebie from Gratitude Journal for Kids

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Black Friday Shopping list

If I were going to venture out shopping here are a few items that would be on my list.  You may notice that I have more than one printer listed, I didn't want you to miss checking them out!!  There are so many more fantastic deals for your classroom, something for everyone for sure.  HaPpY Shopping!

Free $10 gift card with purchase of $30 iTunes Gift Card Multipack
(Perfect gift for my middle school helpers) 
Buy 1 get 2 free when you purchase Foster Grant or Walgreens Reader Glasses 
( Who doesn’t need an extra pair of cheaters?)

Play-Doh 4-pk only $1 (Perfect for your making words center)

Brother P-Touch Label Maker $9.99 (Help me get organized Santa!)

Don’t Spill the Beans, Trouble, Sorry, Connect 4, Perfection 
and more  $4.99 
(These are a must for indoor recess and my after school group)

HP Deskjet 2545 All-in-One Printer $19.99
GE Mini Blender $4.99 (For making my Smart Smoothies at school)

HP DeskJet 2541 All-in-One Printer/Copier/Scanner $19
Sharpie Permanent Markers Limited Edition, Assorted, 30-Count now $12.43 on sale $10
Scotch Thermal Laminator, 2 Roller now $19.97 on sale $12.88 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.  
Happy Shopping
for more sales

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

So This Is What People Think Teachers Do All Day...

This blog started out being about something else entirely, but then I started to look for clip art and pictures to go with the blog. While searching for photographs, I had to switch topics. I could not help but write about - WHAT THE HECK DO PEOPLE THINK A REAL CLASSROOM IS LIKE?!?

Here is what my unscientific, kind of snarky, research revealed. This is what people think teachers do:

Copying from book to blackboard is a highly effective and satisfying teaching strategy. Clearly, this would be impressive if my principal came in my classroom for an evaluative walk-through. 

In fact, writing on the blackboard is not even necessary. Judging from these photos, just pointing at it is clearly effective and satisfying.

Forget writing or pointing. Teachers can just sit back and allow students to teach themselves by writing on the board! By the way, the 80’s called and asked for the blackboard/greenboard back since in this century every classroom has a Smartboard or at least a dry erase board!

If writing on the blackboard (or pointing to it) is too taxing, students will enjoy lectures directly from the textbook. Look at how engaged these learners are!

Forget about blackboards. The best lessons come from the fully stocked science labs in 2nd grade (as we all know, all second grade classrooms have a full science lab). The complex chemistry lessons are THE BEST.

And sometimes teachers can just look off in the distance and sit contently as students are engaged in learning. 

If a teacher is actually teaching the class, it might have less than 10 students. These students will all be engaged by lecture and eagerly raise their hands.

And maybe even applaud!

Clearly I am doing something wrong here because this is the drawing my daughter did in PreK. She explained to me she wanted to be a teacher just like her mommy! This is how I look at the end of the day.

That is right folks, the picture above was not from a clip art site. My real life daughter drew that gem when she was in PreK. Teaching is HARD! The struggle is real.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Who doesn't love hanging out at the mall, right?

Well, except when you don't have any money... then it's not fun.  Been there.  

When I'm planning a unit, I do everything I can to avoid death-by-worksheets.  I think learning should look like living, so I try to keep the connections high and the copies low.  As our first grade team sat down to collaborate around our economics unit, we brainstormed the idea of creating a real-life student economy within our own classrooms.  My intern took control of the project in our room and I marveled each day at the fun the kids were having not only learning about goods and services, but living as producers and consumers... earning money, designing products, establishing stores, creating ads, and more!

The ultimate plan was for the unit to culminate in the grand opening of our classroom mall.  (This was a lofty goal, but SO worth it... trust me.)  So one of the first tasks was to form teams of producers.  My intern and I researched dozens of kid-crafts, looking for 10 simple, low-cost items our teams could produce.  We had five student teams, but we chose 10 possible crafts so our production teams could choose from a variety of ideas.  Each team agreed on one item and then we began the work of learning about quality control, consistency, assembly options, collaboration, etc.  Here are some of our "producers" at work!  

This group is producing flowers using pipe cleaners and pom poms.

This team is making coiled pencil toppers using pipe cleaners.

Here, these producers are designing one-of-a-kind bookmarks.

And this group is making scented play dough using flavored extracts.

It was an extremely busy few days as each team remained focused on producing 50 quality items to sell later in the mall.  Plan to have each group elect a QUALITY INSPECTOR.  This person has the job of making sure each item is made well and has no defects.  :)

All along, we were integrating math as we coordinated our money unit with this social studies unit... it was a perfect fit!  Each child was given a brown envelope to decorate as a "wallet" and they earned small coins throughout the day for various behaviors.  This was a fun way to learn about the value of money.  As I began to run out of plastic pennies, I would ask the kids to trade with me so I could replenish my penny supply.  They quickly learned that five pennies were equal to a nickel, two nickels were equal to a dime, etc.  And, as you can expect, they were very motivated to earn more coins!

The progression of the unit had a very natural flow.  After learning about concepts like supply, demand, producers, consumers, goods, and services, we were ready to prepare our stores.  Each team brainstormed store names, designed signage, set prices, planned for special offers and sales, and considered display options.  (I can't describe how cute this was.  And you can soooo tell which children go shopping regularly with their moms!)

We opened our mall after about three weeks of hard work.  We let them design it using only what we had in the classroom... it was perfect in its simplicity. They rearranged the desks to make "stores" and set up the extra chairs in an area for people who got tired of shopping.  (They've obviously been shopping with their dads, too!)  Then, they split into shifts and took turns shopping.  We even had a small food court with just juice and cookies.  Here are some pictures of the culminating event:

"America's Cool Braslits" is open for business!

(In case you don't teach a primary grade, that's bracelets.)

It looks like someone out there is getting the hard-sell.
Her co-worker looks a little scared.  :)

Don't forget to provide shopping bags for your consumers to use.

The kids learned so much about adding numbers, counting on, and making change.

If you have done something like this in your classroom, share some tips or a story of your own in the comments below.  You just might inspire someone else to give it a go.  

Happy teaching!