Wednesday, January 27, 2016

10 Reasons You Need Teacher Friends

Teaching is not a “go it alone” proposition. I am often advised to “shut the classroom door and just teach”, but to me that feels like a recipe to wither on the vine. A recent trip to New York City with a few of my Planning in Paradise friends, in the midst of an epic blizzard that brought the city to a complete standstill, made me realize why teacher friends are important.

Seeing New York in winter will be FUN, we thought. The city won’t be as crowded in January so it will be PERFECT, we thought. Flights and hotels are so much cheaper so we are being THRIFTY, we thought. 

This was the thinking that brought a few Florida natives and teacher authors, to New York City in an unprecedented blizzard that brought the city to a complete, bone-chilling, stand still. In the end, despite the challenges it was PERFECT. 

This trip also made me realize just why having a great set of teacher friends is important to surviving the land mines and pendulum shifts in education. 

I am so grateful to my friends Robin (Class of Kinders), Cara (Kindergarten Boom Boom), Elaine (Kitty, Kitty Kindergarten), and Cristina (McCrone Love) for this once in a lifetime trip. I still have not stopped smiling!

10 Reasons You Need Teacher Friends

(Everything I Need to Know About Teacher Friendships, I Learned in New York City)

1. When plan A fails, they help you remember that there are 25 other letters in the alphabet.

Things in life (and teaching) don’t always go the way you thought they would. Good friends can help you see the blessing in them. Instead of lamenting that the whole city shut down and there was a total travel ban, we took this once in a lifetime opportunity to dance in the empty streets of New York City!

2. They make their own weather.

In the midst of a storm, you can still have sunshine on the inside.

3. You help each other live your dreams.

A rising tide lifts all boats. When you work together you can make something amazing. 

4. You come together to celebrate victories great and small.

Teacher friends are each others cheerleaders. No. Matter. What. 
In this picture we are celebrating getting tickets to see the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon!

5. You share the belief that attitude is everything.

You can not control the ups and downs on life’s roller coaster, but it helps to ride with people who will face it with a positive attitude.

6. You celebrate and encourage each others passions. (Using jazz hands whenever possible.)

We had the privilege of visiting the Teachers Pay Teachers offices in New York City! We all knew that this is a special place, but visiting the offices took it to a whole new level. They are truly passionate about supporting teachers, building a community that encourages and uplifts everyone who is a part of it, and helping connect teachers with resources to support them.  It is synergy at it’s finest! We all walked away feeling honored to be a part of it!

7.  You all bring your talents to the table to make it work.

This picture shows our friend Cristina who is “in the know” about all things technology and NYC and our friend Elaine who makes us laugh (sometimes until we can not breathe). We needed both of these gifts during our trip. 

8. They know how to laugh and make the best of any situation.

When the city closes, laugh and make the best of it! 

9. You combine your resources to make it all work.

Individually, we can not always make it work, but when we combine resources, the possibilities are limitless. Who knew 2 halves of a sled from the trash could make a “whole” sled?

10. You help each other imagine the possibilities and inspire each other to be your best selves!


Monday, January 18, 2016


This is not breaking news if you are a teacher! But attention can be a difficult thing to capture…especially in a Kindergarten and First Grade classroom ! Teachers need a big gigantic bag of "tricks" to grab their students'  attention.  Here are some of my "tricks" - tried and true!

The Magic Hats Bell:

Yes, it's a little (counter) bell. It sits near my table out of the reach of little hands. I affectionately call it the magic hats bell. It is nothing fancy to look at. But something AMAZING happens when I tap it just once.  My students stop working in their center, put on their magic hats and look at me for directions.
Magic Hats = both hands on your head and looking at the teacher.

Tried and True. Really. It works. It's like magic!

The Clicker:

Yes, it's a little (dog) clicker. It sits on my teacher table. One side looks like a soccer ball and the other side has a metal plastic piece that you push. When you push it, it makes the BEST clicking sound ever…because when my students hear it during center time, they immediately look at me and know to lower their voice to a whisper. I never have to say a word - the clicker does the trick. 

Who knew a little piece of plastic and metal could be so VALUABLE? Believe me when I tell you it is! I know, because mine just broke! 

Need one like me? You can get one here.

The Mystery Walker:

Yes, it is a MYSTERY that keeps my line of 19 QUIET while walking to the lunchroom, the art room, the music room, P.E., recess or wherever we go! I mean super quiet! Sometimes I have to pinch myself because they are so quiet. How? Grab a bunch of crafts sticks and label with students' names and put them in a basket, or in my case a zippered (pencil case) shoe. It hangs right on my door. I just grab a stick before my class heads out.  I read the name (just me - the kids do not see it) and then I slip it into my pocket. I tell my students I will be watching "the mystery walker." And that is what I do! I watch that student all the way to and all the way from. If that student is quiet they earn the title "mystery walker" and I announce the name when we return back to the classroom! We all give this person a round of applause. I give him/her a little table top reward that sits on their desk until it is awarded to the next mystery walker. Now, if we get back to the room and the mystery walker was not quiet  - well, then I do not tell the class who it was…I slip it back into the shoe (REAL DISAPPOINTED LIKE) without telling (insert groaning) and the table top award does not get passed. Tough, but that is how it goes!

There you have it - 3 super simple, super easy - tried and true "tricks" to grab your students' attention.

What do you do? Please share… because there is always room for one more, in our bag of teacher tricks!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Choosing Kids or the Grade?

When asked "What do you do?" teachers will often say, "I teach first or something like I teach 7th grade math".  Well, I disagree with this. As the times have changed so has our job description.  The amount of differentiation that goes into lesson planning leads me to say, "I teach kiddos."  If someone wants to know a specific grade I will usually say "K-2" or primary. I believe this is the true way we should respond to this question. Teaching has become (or maybe it always has been and I am just now discovering it) more of an open ended profession. What I mean is that I have students come into my classroom from ALL different walks of life and scenarios. From homeless, to hospital bound, to helicopter parents, to lawn mower parents. Kind of like the cast in Willy Wonka......
No matter what the background of the child, my job is to teach THAT CHILD. My job is to get to know them, create an unbreakable bond with them, and teach them the way they learn.  This means if a few kiddos come into my classroom only recognizing a few letters, while some are reading sight words, and others are reading chapter books, then I immediately switch my teaching from the first grade standards to teaching the K standards and the second grade standards simultaneously. These bonds are critical to their learning and extremely tough to accomplish if you have more than 18 kiddos in your classroom. It reminds me of the old timey one room school houses where the teacher would teach everyone no matter what the age or developmental capacity that they were at.  That person would teach the child where that individual child was lacking or what that individual child needed to be inspired to grow. Everyone keeps saying RTI this, RTI that, chart this, chart that.  What I say is that not all kids (or even adults for that matter) learn the same way and everyone should just except that.  Yes kids may need remediation, yes kids may need extra support,  yes kids may need to be challenged, but why in the world are we trying to cram stuff down their throats if developmentally they are not ready for it??? Because some man or woman in a suit (who has never taught a day in their lives) decides that a "first grader" should be able to pass some test? I don't think so.  My point in all of this ranting is that as a teacher we should be able to teach the child the way WE as professionals learned to do.  Make those bonds with the kiddos, play and learn at the same time.  Albert Einstein said it best......."Play is the highest form of research". So how can we accomplish teaching the child? Smaller class sizes with stronger bonds and relationships between teacher, students, and parents. However, I am not going to hold my breath while the politicians make decisions over something they know little about (unless they were in a classroom teaching for at least 5 years in a row). For me, I am just going to keep "trucking along" making sure to adjust the needs of each individual student when and where I can.

What do you choose? The Kid or the Grade?

Monday, January 4, 2016

It's a New Year! Like Elaine said in her New Year's post, it has been a very busy year!

How do you recharge and prepare for the New Year? This year I zipped over a beautiful forest of trees and mountains in North Carolina. That was quite a way to ring out the old and bring on the new adventures.

One of the many things I love about New Year's and the beginning of the year of school is that we get a chance to start fresh. Both of these seasons of the year bring the hope for new change and possibility. How will you focus on 2016? What changes will you make?

Here are mine...
More time spent with God
More laughs and memories with my kids
More traveling
More adventure
More reflecting