Friday, December 2, 2016

Special Deal Reopened - Over 100 Resources!

Update October 26, 2017: And yes, extended again! There is still work to be done to fight blood cancer!

Update November 2, 2016: Believe it or not, we've already begun for Fall of 2017, so this is open once again!

Update Aug 4, 2016 - Yes, this is still going!

As promised, the special deal I have offered the past two falls is again available! Well over 200 Nearly 300 FACS teachers have taken advantage of the deal, from 38 42 states and 3 Canadian provinces. Altogether that's $5,600 $7,555 FACS teachers have raised for blood cancer research, go FACS! Here's your chance if you missed out before!

For those of you who donated previously: Thank you again! Please pass this on (I'm hoping to break into California this year, I didn't reach anyone there last year! 8/4/16: As of two days ago, California has jumped into the fight!).

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!

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 bit.ly/CAP4TNT18 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 bit.ly/CAP4TNT18 today, and thank you so much for helping in the fight against blood cancer!





Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gingerbread Houses!

Here's a throwback post describing a fun end-of-the-(calendar)year project, gingerbread houses! Enjoy! 

Second quarter of my Foods I class is dedicated exclusively to baking, and the culminating project I like to finish out with is the creation of gingerbread houses. This was my sixth year implementing this lab, and I think that I've almost got it down pat - close enough to share, anyway. So, here we go!

OVERVIEW
Each cooking group creates a gingerbread house (or another imaginative structure that will fit within the given dimensions for the project). Completed gingerbread houses are displayed at the district Christmas get-together (an after school event), where ballots are available for all faculty and staff to vote for their favorite.

TIMELINE
I begin seven school days before the Christmas party (including the day of the party). This year the party was on Dec 18th. Here's how I worked out the schedule:

Dec 10th - Make the gingerbread dough. Chill over night.
Dec 11th - Cut out and bake pieces.
Dec 12th - Make the icing. Glue pieces together. Let dry over night.
Dec 13th - Begin decorating.
weekend
Dec 16th - Finish decorating.
Dec 17th - Super clean the kitchens.
Dec 18th - Party!

Learning Experience #1: The first couple of years I did this, I tried to go too fast. I wanted them to bake and make icing the same day; only gave one day for decorating; my first year I think I even tried to have them glue and decorate on the same day. Crazy. GO SLOW TO GO FAST!

LE #2: Leave at least one if not two class periods in between when you plan to end the lab and the day of the presentation. The first year I timed this so that they would finish the last day of the semester before Christmas Break. Yup, wound up being a snow day. Crap. Also, allow time for REALLY GOOD CLEANING. The icing can be really hard to see and gets everywhere, so they will need to re-clean the kitchens at least once after their final preparation day.

DOUGH RECIPE

This recipe will actually make enough dough for nearly two houses of the size I have the kids make. It's a good amount, because a) you'll have extra dough handy in case disaster strikes, b) kids can make little extras to decorate their houses with, and c) it's still a small enough amount that it will all fit in a cereal bowl, so will not take up astronomical amounts of room in the fridge.


LE #3: My first year I wanted to make sure they had enough dough for do-overs and such, and had them make a recipe that was twice this much. Big mistake! This is more than enough!

Note: It's fairly likely that the shapes will not finish baking by the end of the period, unless you are on a block schedule or have super efficient kids. This isn't a terrible nuisance; since these won't be eaten, you don't need to worry about keeping them fresh. In fact, once both classes finished baking and the ovens cooled, I just put all of the cookie sheets back in the ovens overnight. If this won't work with your schedule, consider adding another day to the timeline: roll/cut and bake on separate days.

PATTERN
The pattern I use comes from the website Gingerbread House Lane. If you follow the link, you can download a free PDF. I created this short video to demonstrate rolling out and cutting the dough pieces - I show it in class right before it is their turn to roll out and cut.


LE #4: Again my first year, I let the groups design their own house and make it as big as they wanted as long as it fit on the board I gave them. Oh, youth! This turned out to be a just plain stupid idea. I do give them the option of altering the pattern or getting other ideas approved, but they cannot exceed the dimensions of the above. The photo of the first year houses below portrays the ugliness but (thankfully) hides most of the insane mess created!



LE #5: Due to storage issues, next year I will slightly reduce the size of the pattern from above. The explanation is in the next section.

STORAGE
Obviously you're going to need a reliable place to store these while in progress, as they're going to be around for a week and you don't want to attract critters. In the past I've only had one class at a time doing these, so once I reduced the dimensions after the first year (seriously, what was I thinking?) storage was pretty easy: I simply kept them in the ovens and/or microwaves. Worked like a charm. This year I had two classes making them, so that wasn't going to work. I realized that they would fit in cake carriers - brilliant! Airtight and easily portable!


A few weeks before beginning this project, I started asking my kids to check if they had one of these at home and if they could get permission to bring it in. Several kids came back saying they could bring one. Perfect!

LE #6: Two kids actually followed through and brought them in. Sensing this impending disaster, I sent out a plea to my co-workers. Three came through for me on such short notice, which was really awesome. Next year, I will ask the staff for loaners earlier, and possibly purchase some for the classroom. They're only $5-$6 at WalMart, after all.

LE #7: Oh, brilliant plans gone awry! The assembled houses fit PERFECTLY in these. Until the kids put rows of Hershey's kisses or gumdrops along the top of the roof. Hence, next year I will slightly reduce the pattern to allow clearance for roof decorations.

ICING
For the icing, I use the Wilton royal icing recipe with meringue powder. It works extremely well and does not involve separating egg whites!

LE #8: Cut this recipe in half to start. Several groups will only need one batch. For those who need more, after they've made it once the second time they can put it together really quickly.

I use Wilton disposable decorating bags; these work fabulously, and you get 100 for $15. No need to invest in anything fancy.



LE #9: The first year I refrigerated the icing. This turned out to be an enormous pain, because of course it hardened and needed to be thinned out and all in all was a terrible idea. I now seal the individual pastry bags in gallon-sized freezer bags and toss them in a box with a lid for the next day(s).

LE #10: I used to give them decorating tips to use with the bags. This was a big ol' mess. Unless you've got a more advanced class or you have taught them to use these ahead of time, you will also wind up with a big ol' mess. They can fancy it up with other decorations. Just have them clip the points of the plastic bags and go.

Untested tip: One of the ladies that lent me a cake carrier said that she melts marshmallow fluff to use for "snow." She says it creates the perfect effect and will harden just like icing. Gotta try this one out!

LE #11: Be prepared for meltdowns on gluing day, both physically from a house or two and emotionally across the room. Keep a special eye on your perfectionists and the students who are used to being good at everything; this is challenging and at least a couple kids will get pretty upset. Before beginning this step I show them photo examples of houses that have "gone wrong" in the past and how those students came up with creative solutions (for such an example, see "The Bowl" below).

DECORATIONS
Typically, there are three items I buy for the decorating, all of them generic brand cereals in the really big bags: generic "Golden Grahams," generic "Fruit Loops," and generic "Fruity Pebbles." Those three bags provided enough decor for nine groups this year, and I had about half of each leftover for next year. I tell the kids in advance what I'm going to provide, and tell them that they are allowed to bring in any non-perishable items that they would like to add. Usually they wind up bringing in quite a bit of stuff, and surprisingly they're almost always really good about sharing with other groups - even when the other groups have nothing to "exchange." So nice to see kids being nice to each other!


EXTRA DOUGH
On the first day of decorating, I provide a limited number of cookie cutters for the kids to bake shapes out of their leftover dough (gingerbread men/women, Christmas trees, stars, that kind of thing).

LE #12: If ever you have letter cookie cutters out for some reason, explain the expectation that nothing inappropriate should be spelled out with them, and never leave the cutters unattended. My second year of teaching I left a pile of letter cookie cutters on a table when I left for lunch duty (my classroom door didn't close due to the fire escape in the room). When I returned I found some really nasty words spelled out on my table. Super. Luckily they weren't viewed by the wrong eyes before I could destroy them. Morons.

FINAL STEPS
Each group needs to come up with a title for their house, and produce a short story introducing it (just a paragraph will do, nothing extravagant). This will be part of the final display. I also take a picture of each group holding their gingerbread house. I then make a page for each house with a border, their photo, their title, and their story.

LE #13: While it would of course be better to have them do this themselves, computer lab time is EXTREMELY limited during this time period. Next year I will sign up extra early, and create a template for them to use to make their own display signs. That way they do the actual work, but all of the signs have a uniform look.

DISPLAY
I purchased two cheap Christmas-y tablecloths to cover the tables in the library that I used for the displays. A few students helped me set the houses around the tables, and their story pages in front of the houses. For the ballots, I simply printed out slips of paper with the titles of the houses, and asked the adults to circle their favorite, based on whatever criteria they chose. I set out a green tin and a red tin - one filled with red and green colored pencils to fill out the ballots, and one to hold completed ballots. To make sure this idea caught on, I folded up a blank ballot and put it in the empty tin, so that others would know what to do.


LE #14: Next year I am going to create categories to vote for: best construction, best story, most creative, etc. 


Next year they'll all be displayed on round cake carrier bases!

SAVING SUPPLIES
As I mentioned before, I had quite a bit of the Malt-o-Meal decorations left over, so I put them away for next year. First they went into Rubbermaid containers. I also put leftover decorations that the students brought in and donated (mostly because they didn't feel like taking them back home) in Ziploc baggies. All of the sealed decorations along with the tablecloths went into a copy paper box ( I LOVE copy paper boxes!) lined with a heavy duty trash bag (notice the many layers of defense to protect against attracting unwanted critters!). I labeled the box, and put it with its other box friends. All ready to go for next year!



LE #15: When reusing supplies from the previous year, be sure to unpack the box in front of the kids so that they know you're serious when you tell them that the decorations are a year old and they shouldn't taste test them. Soooo many kids learned to believe me the hard way. It really won't hurt them to eat year-old Frankenfood, but it will be quite stale and disgusting-tasting. And a couple of them will probably act like they're dying, drama queens.

RESULTS
And finally, here are the nine gingerbread houses and accompanying stories from this year's classes! Aren't they wonderful?










CONCLUDING REMARKS
This is a big, time-consuming project that takes a considerable amount of work, organization, and tight adherence to cleaning rules. BUT, the kids (girls and boys alike) are always highly enthusiastic and work really hard on them. The staff (and school board members, ahem) really enjoy the display at the party, so it is a good PR bump for your program. In the end it's pretty awesome to see their creativity at work. And, it's a terrific way to end the term right before the holidays. For me, it's a keeper!



Friday, November 18, 2016

Paper Plate Turkeys!

One of my objectives in Child Development is to get my students to realize that early childhood is not always the blissful, easy experience that they now remember it as - childhood is hard work! To address this, I pepper the semester with various activities to help them develop empathy for their younger selves.

One method is to make them complete "simple" tasks with their non-dominant hands, like coloring. They get so excited when I pull out coloring pages and crayons, until they find out they have to use their "other" hands (by the way, I'm very careful to determine everyone's dominant hand well before any of these activities, so I won't have any cheaters).

From coloring I move on to more difficult tasks, such as creating a paper plate turkey! This involves not only coloring, but also cutting, gluing, and stapling. Fun, but very difficult to do with your opposite hand.

To make the project go smoother, I assemble their supplies beforehand (yep, there are those formula cans and copy paper box lids again!). In the cans (which double as their personal trash cans while working on this project) I place a little baggie of crayons, a glue stick, and safety scissors. Then in gallon-sized Ziploc bags, I place 2 paper plates, a small square of yellow construction paper, a small square of red construction paper, and two googly eyes. Then the cans and the baggies are placed in box lids, making them easy to store until I need them, and easy to pass out when we begin.


For the instructions, I play the video demonstration I created. This frees me up to help frustrated students - and also to catch the cheaters who are using their dominant hands!

When we are finished, I have a volunteer walk the big trash can around so students can empty their mini trash cans. Then someone else collects the now empty baggies, and a third student collects the cans with the scissors, glue stick, and crayons. Having only three students taking care of trash and collecting supplies is WAY LESS chaotic than having twenty-something high schoolers running around returning items.

And of course, there is also written component to the project, in which among other things students need to describe the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional benefits a child would experience from this activity. Feel free to use any and all of these resources!

Gobble Gobble!




Tuesday, November 15, 2016

To Continue the Thanksgiving Theme... Thank YOU!

A big, heartfelt thank you to all of those who have donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through my FACS fundraiser over the past year and a half!


This year's donors live all across the country - take a look!


And if you think this was impressive, here's the previous year:


Even Canada pitched in!


It's been a really tough month, and I know an awful lot of us are worried about the future and where our country is headed, but this just goes to show that people who care and work together CAN make a difference!

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead


Thank you for being a part of my small group of thoughtful, committed citizens working to change the world!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Another Thanksgiving Activity

While discussing all things Thanksgiving in class, I always mention the Butterball hotline (also known as the Turkey Talk-Line®). If you're unfamiliar, you can call 1-800-BUTTERBALL any time in November and December and receive live assistance with your turkey questions.

To jazz up the Thanksgiving talk a bit I started calling the hotline on speaker phone during class. The kids have always LOVED this! It's a short, fun activity that demonstrates how to use your resources (as well as appropriate telephone etiquette).

For your viewing enjoyment, here's a clip from when President Bartlet called the hotline on The West Wing.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Thanksgiving Project - StoryCorps: The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Ever hear of StoryCorps? It's a fantastic repository of recordings of ordinary people interviewing each other about ordinary to extraordinary events in their lives. Via the Story Corps website you can search by topic, then link to or embed them. There's even a StoryCorps podcast!

In addition to providing great supplementary content to your lesson planning, you can even have your students participate in this project. They have a StoryCorp app that can be used to record interviews and upload them directly to the StoryCorps repository. 

How is this related to Thanksgiving? StoryCorps has an initiative named The Great Thanksgiving Listen, encouraging teachers across the nation to assign their students to interview a relative over the holiday to capture an entire generation's worth of stories (free Teacher Toolkit available!).  Is this a FACS project or what?? (Or history, English, speech, math, science... You could work it in for any subject!)

Here's a short intro to the initiative, followed by a couple of examples from the last year's Great Thanksgiving Listen. I think you'll immediately be hooked, just like I was!


Drive-In Proposal





Bucky the Mailman




Governor Clark & Mother



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What I Wish My Teacher Knew & Mandated Reporting

By now most of you who have even the most fleeting of relationships with social media have probably seen the "Finish this sentence: What I wish my teacher knew..." assignment that went viral a while back.

First let me put aside the book controversy: the teacher who created the assignment is publishing a book of the finished sentences. That doesn't feel right to me, but I don't know enough about i (permissions received, etc) to broadcast a real opinion yet.

I'm curious about the groundwork laid before this assignment, and if other people really thought this through and laid their own groundwork before giving it out thinking "Oh this is great I'm using it tomorrow!" Because that question is a land mine. The value of it is immense, no doubt. But you are going to learn things that you are going to have to, going to be required by law to, deal with.

So the questions I have for people who have used this assignment: Were you ready for that? Did you prepare your students for that? Because if you just had them fill it out and hand it in with no disclaimer, you are seriously putting their trust in you at risk. You are opening the door to their most painful secret, and potentially will be forced to share it beyond the walls of your classroom. Do they know that before they begin writing?

I start addressing the issue of mandated reporting from Day 1 of the semester. I give out this getting to know you sheet:


And then my patter and explanation while they are working on it opens the discussion. For instance, when we get to "One thing you should know about me," I tell them "Now don't tell me that your parents lock you in a basement all summer chained to the wall, because then I have to deal with that." They laugh, then ask "Really?", and I go into my spiel about how it would be against the law for me to keep it to myself, and give a few other examples. When they get to "My favorite (legal) things to do in my free time," they all laugh. I laugh too, but then say "But seriously, if you tell me that you like to sell drugs to elementary kids and beat them up when they don't have enough money, I have to do something about that." And so on and so forth. And then I work in little reminders on the topic throughout the year.

I do not do this to discourage them from talking to me - in fact, I do this because I encourage them to come to me when they need someone to talk to, and because so many of them take me up on it. I just want them to know from the outset that there are certain topics of conversation that will absolutely not be kept confidential.

Not only that, I think it actually increases the number of students who privately approach me for help. One, that bit of honesty I give them up front builds trust. Two, some of them desperately need real help and just don't know how to get to it - when I tell them that if they tell me certain things I have to get other people involved, they come to me when they need other people involved. I can't begin to count the number of students who have come to me and confessed they've been thinking about or have attempted suicide - that is an immediate hand-off. I know that, they know that, they are coming to me to make that happen.

My advice: if you invite this kind of information, please, do know what you may be getting yourself into. And do take care to make sure your students know what they may be getting themselves into.

I've shared one of the ways I do it - how do the rest of you address the issue of mandated reporting with your students?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

It's August - You Know What That Means!

Update October 26, 2017: This deal is still going on! Click the link below for details!

It's game time everyone! Just a reminder that I am still running a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society wherein you can receive a big bundle of FACS resources I've created in exchange for a donation. See the post "Special Deal Reopened - Over 100 Resources!" for details. Check out the map of FACS teachers who have contributed to the fight against blood cancer so far this year!


If you choose to join in the fight, please remember that if you donate anonymously I will not receive any of your information and will not be able to send you your bundle!

Good luck preparing for your students - make it an awesome year!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cell Phone Polling

There are oodles of web-based Audience Response apps available that students can use their mobile devices to respond to ("oodles" is in fact a scientific quantity). In this post we'll take a look at Poll Everywhere (yes, it's free!).

Poll Everywhere allows you to create polls or surveys, then provide your students with an access link. The polls can also be embedded within Powerpoint or Google Slides, a nice touch to any presentation. Here's a short survey example so you can get an idea of the different types of questions available:



Trouble accessing this poll? Try accessing it at pollev.com/denisec573, then think of the possibilities!


Friday, July 8, 2016

Another Cell Phone Idea

Continuing with the idea of using cell phones in class for good and not evil, how about a backchannel? Today's Meet is an easy to use (and free!) service that allows users to post to a feed remotely, using desktop or mobile devices. You create a free account, set up a "room," provide the link to your students, and they can add their thoughts, questions, or responses to the feed. There's a nice projector view you can use if you'd like that option, and you again have moderator control (you can even mute specific students without them knowing they're being muted).

You can give it a try right here! Just enter a name (or alias) where it says Nickname, click Join, then type in your thoughts. How about something you're reading this summer?



Thursday, July 7, 2016

Using Cell Phones for Good Instead of Evil - Padlet

Cell phones. They are permanently attached to our high school students' hands (although a lot of adults aren't much better!). Dealing with mobile distractions during class is now a routine part of the job, so how about some routine ways of using them for learning?

Over the next couple of posts I'll share a few fun ways to incorporate cell phones into lessons. The first is Padlet - think of it as an electronic Post-It note board. After signing up for a free account, you can create customized boards then share the link with your students. When students pull up the board, they double click and a "sticky note" appears. They can enter text, images, hyperlinks... all sorts of fun stuff!

As the owner of the board you have the option to moderate the posts, so that something doesn't appear to everyone that shouldn't. You know what I'm talking about.

You can use this for all sorts of activities: brainstorming, asking questions, sharing resources, adding feedback. You could revamp activities you did using physical Post-Its like this one.

Give it a try here! You can visit the full-screen board to participate, or double-click on the smaller embedded one below. How about sharing something fun you're doing for yourself this summer? And yep, I'll have to approve your post before it's visible to others - gotta look out for the spammers!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Don't You Miss Having Summers Off? Part 2

It's now been two full years since I left high school teaching and transitioned to the community college. And still the question I am asked most often by far: "Don't you miss having summers off?" And still my answer is an emphatic NO. Because,

TEACHERS DO NOT HAVE SUMMERS OFF.

For the full explanation of this, see Don't You Miss Having Summers Off? Part 1. But simply put, teachers have a lot of work to do over the summer. To replace 1,000 words with a picture, here is what my hubby and I were reading on the flight to our summer vacation in August a few years ago:


How wild and crazy can you get?



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!


Friday, April 29, 2016

Next Year...

While stressful, the end of April is also a wonderful time for teachers as you begin to develop hope and interest in the possibilities of "Next Year..." Over the next few posts I'll go over a few "Thinking about next year" tasks that I found to be indispensable. We'll begin with:

Clean and Organize!

I know that amid all of the grading, flurry of special activities and schedules, prom, and other hurdles along the track toward the finish line, cleaning and organizing is not high on the priority list. It's definitely one of those "in a few weeks I'll have all the time in the world..." for to-do list items. Here's why it's important to jump on it now:
  • No matter how good your intentions, by the time the last day comes around you will be completely drained
  • And completely drained means that your end of the year cleaning is going to consist of cramming items into any cabinet, drawer, etc that gets the job done with the promise that not only "I'll take care of it in early August" but also the perennial classic "I'll definitely remember where I put everything in August." Riiiiiiiiight...
  • Just a little bit at a time will make the end of this year - and beginning of next - so much nicer
  • This is the perfect time to purge! You know you're storing a bunch of stuff that you're never going to use, and the clutter it causes and space it takes up is a big stressor. Sneaky tip: have the tossables all ready to go by locker clean-up day, so when they roll the big trash cans into the hallway you can quickly and easily dispose of them!
  • Clearing out all that stuff you don't want will make storing everything else for the summer so much easier.
  • Purging and organizing will help you see what you really need for next year. 
Do not forget to enlist help! 
  • You know those kids who are always eager to help? Give them something to help with! They'll be delighted!
  • The bored kids who have "nothing to do" in study hall, after tests, etc. These kids are almost always super grateful to be given something to pass the time.
  • The kids that you have to win over time and again. Ever notice that when you ask a kid to help you with something they seem to start to like you better? That's a real thing, it's called the Ben Franklin effect. Google it. Then start building relationships by asking kids to do things for you. Bonus if you can involve kids you don't currently have in class but know that you will next year. Don't forget the positive reinforcement. (NOT reward, positive reinforcement. They are different. I'm looking at you, PBIS.)
  • Steal kids who are in detention, nab kids who are killing time after school before extra-curriculars, borrow kids of co-workers who are waiting for their parents to finish grading something so they can go home. Seriously, they're everywhere, help them be productive!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Cookie Monster and FACS

FACS teacher friends, this commercial was made for us! I don't know about you, but I have seen my kids do everything in this video (well, I haven't seen anyone actually swallow a wooden spoon, but definitely some gnawing). Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2016

A List: Places I Want To Go

Oh goodness, what a long list this could be! I'll try to focus on my most-wanteds.

  • Italy
  • Paris
  • London
  • the Grand Canyon
  • all Major League ballparks (a journey in progress!)
  • Philadelphia (been many times, but haven't been in a long time and there's family there I miss!)
  • New England in the fall

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A List: My Favorite Albums

This was a hard one - I can't remember the last time I purchased a whole album! As such these are pretty dated, but they're the ones that come to mind!

Billy Joel: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II

Soundtrack: Walt Disney's Beauty & the Beast

Soundtrack: West Side Story, Original Broadway Cast

Soundtrack: A Charlie Brown Christmas
And here's the album that plagued my classroom for months on end:


We never got past three. And that time included Memorial Day weekend. >Sigh<





Friday, February 19, 2016

A List: Things That Make Me Feel Healthy

Another weekly list! (I promise I'll get back to the marathon recap soon, for those who have been asking!)

  • running
  • sleep
  • dates with my hubby
  • girlfriend time
  • good habits
  • helping students get excited about fruit salad!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A List: Ways in Which I Can Love Others

And this week's list...
  • listen
  • remember their stories
  • send a note - snail mail!
  • share pictures
  • accept them as they are
  • start each day fresh
Student connection tip: have you tried Remind? This is a double-blind texting service tailored for education. You set up a class, provide your students with a link, and they sign in to your class with their phone numbers. You can then send them reminders and other messages, without you seeing their number or them seeing your number, and you have a record of all exchanges in one place. It's a great service!

How is this relevant to this week's list? Occasionally I send out a "Throwback Thursday" message to my former students, to connect with them and show them I still think about them and care about them. Often it's just a photo to remind them of fun times past!


Friday, February 5, 2016

A List: Things I Am Grateful For

Taking a pause in the marathon talk for this week's list and a classroom management illustration!

  • a wonderful marriage
  • a safe, comfortable home
  • good health
  • great friends
  • happy pets
  • a job I like
  • the electric kettle in my office
  • memories like the one below
As we all know, towards the end of the school year there are "one or two" students who like to start trying to play it fast and loose with the rules. This door in the back of my classroom opened up onto a fire escape. Students were not allowed to be on the fire escape, so they were not allowed to even open the door. A few decided that rule wasn't applicable in warmer weather. So, I posted this sign:


Suddenly it was no longer a problem. How about that?


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Things I Learned about Team in Training (or "Why if you're going to train for a marathon you should RUN with TNT!")

I'll admit it, the idea of running with a charity and having to meet a fundraising requirement scared me. A LOT. I thought I had nowhere near the social capital needed to raise that kind of money. So I first entered the lottery for the Chicago Marathon... and I wasn't selected... and I was devastated.

It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me, because it gave me the push I needed to join Team in Training. This wasn't just a random charity choice to gain a bib - my husband lost his mother to multiple myeloma while he was in high school, so raising money to fight blood cancer was personally meaningful to us. And hey, their jerseys are purple, my favorite color :).

Here are some things you should know about TNT:

1. It IS a TEAM.
While I joined before the training season began, I wasn't able to attend any of the group runs until more than a month after they began. As you can probably imagine, I was pretty nervous walking up to a group of strangers I'd never met to join them during their sixth or seventh week. But from the very first moment, I was part of the team. I have never been part of an organization with that kind of immediate acceptance, it was amazing.

2. You have oodles of fundraising support.
The Chicago chapter is divided into four teams: City, North, West, and South Suburbs. Just for our team we had two mentors dedicated to fundraising help. They worked with you to draft letters and come up with ideas, and even posted links to team members' fundraisers on their personal Facebook pages. Other team members also offered lots of helpful advice and shared their ideas, and some would even offer to join up if they were doing something they could use help with. You are not alone!

3. The running support is unparalleled.
Oh boy, where to start? First of all, you are given a training calendar with distances and workouts for the entire season. All of the long runs are planned and coordinated for you. The routes are planned out, with water and gatorade stops along the way. Each team has two coaches (and alumni coaches who join in here and there) who pop up constantly along the trail to run alongside, check in on you and talk you through all sorts of running strategies.  Four of the long runs are "All-Team" runs, meaning all four teams meet and run together (meaning you don't get very far at all without running into a coach!). And note, these coaches KNOW what they're talking about. In addition to fluids there are all manner of fuel and supplements provided along the way for you to experiment with at the all-teams, and there is always food at the end of the run. You also receive regular emails from your coaches with tips and advice for running strategies, nutrition, injuries, various "what to expects," etc. there was a private Facebook page for team members to encourage each other, post tips, plan parties and social events (yep!), and so on. Plus everyone of course cheers each other on and encourages each other during the runs. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that I cannot imagine doing this on my own after experiencing this incredible level of support. And as for the marathon itself... well, I'll have to write about that in a separate post!

4. Running for a cause, with a group, takes the experience to a whole new level.
Training for a marathon under any circumstances is amazing, but knowing that you are making a real difference by doing it is an entirely different thing. Each week before the long run there are "Mission Moments," when someone shares their story of why they are/who they are running for. As you fundraise you see your amounts and the team's amounts go higher, every dollar another dollar to fight cancer... and you and your new friends did that together!

5. Your involvement doesn't end at the finish line.
Whether you choose to run again the next year or not, you become a TNT alumni. The events and social outings continue after the season. In December alone we chartered a bus to Lincoln Park for Zoo Lights, and had a Christmas Eve morning run and breakfast. Team members train together for other events, or just meet up for a casual run and coffee. And of course, the fight against cancer carries on.

Want to support me in fighting blood cancer, and gain resources for your classroom at the same time? Check out the fundraiser I'm currently running!


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Things I Learned Training for My 1st Marathon

Somehow four months have gone by and I still haven't written about the Chicago Marathon! This ends now. I'll break it down into a few shorter posts; I'm more likely to get it done that way :).

Before I started working toward the full marathon, the longest race I had ever run was a 5K (3.1 miles), and the farthest distance I had ever run was about 4 miles.

1. Train with Team in Training
Or another charity that you have a strong connection to, but I'm obviously bias toward my own. The combination of running for a cause and the sheer amount of support you receive makes for a phenomenal experience! I can't imagine what it would have been like to do it on my own. In my next post I'll write about Team specifically.

2. Even if you follow all the rules, you still might get injured.
I suffered from some pretty serious hamstring issues throughout my summer training. Was it caused by overtraining, lack of stretching, inadequate recovery time? No, it was caused by weeding. Weeding, people. Seriously. Pay very close attention to your activities outside of running. Stupid weeds.

3. Having a running buddy is amazing!
Up until my first group run, I had always run alone. Then at the beginning of that first run I started chatting with another lady on the team, and we instantly clicked! Having someone to share all of your stories with over those long miles not only makes the run itself more enjoyable, it is extremely cathartic. Every issue or event you've had on your mind over the course of the week gets worked out on Saturday mornings, and you get to be on the listening end for someone else as well. Great mental health workout!

4. You can never have too much Body Glide.
Chafing. 'Nuff said.

5. You will be absolutely amazed by the number of cheerleaders you have in your life.
Regardless of the number of people you think you have in your social network (real life and otherwise), you will be absolutely floored by the sheer number of people rooting for you. People you see regularly but don't really interact with - people at work, people at church, etc - will come out of the woodwork with their good wishes. It's overwhelming. And then of course there's social media. People who donated to the fundraiser I offered through this blog were so kind with their comments, it was truly heartwarming.


Friday, January 29, 2016

A List: Current Dreams and Goals

Continuing with the listing theme...
  • tackle all of those WIPs (works in progress) in my sewing room!
  • catch up on our family vacation photo books
  • run my first half marathon in April
  • run my first RAGNAR in June
  • improve my marathon time in October******
  • write in my ten year journal every day this year
  • read a LOT of books
******I run the Chicago Marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training to raise money for blood cancer research. Last year as a fundraiser I offered a special deal of over 100 FACS resources in exchange for a $25 donation to LLS. That same fundraiser will be re-opening this weekend! So for those of you who missed out, be sure to check back on Sunday. Feb 2 Update: Fundraiser is open!

For those of you who did take advantage of the offer last year, I will be preparing another bundle this year. It won't be ready for a while yet, but I will let you know when it's available.

Thanks to all of you who have joined in the fight!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

A List: Things I Should Be Proud Of


  • Being a good friend
  • Learning to run
  • Fighting blood cancer as a part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training
  • My education
  • Taking risks

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

First World Problems: Reading Log Edition



NOOOOO! I have been a loyal Shelfari-an for years, faithfully recording my books read as well as back-tracking through my bookshelves all that time. I should have known; I had noticed over the past few months some of the features had begun to degrade and no one seemed interested in fixing it.

About a year and a half ago I looked at transitioning to Goodreads, as so many people seem to use it. I was even delighted to find that Shelfari had an easy export-to-Goodreads feature since they're both hosted by Amazon (should have known then!). However, upon exporting I discovered that all of the dates read were stripped out - kind of a super important detail! A huge part of the reason for keeping a log is to track when you read certain books, how many books you read in a given time period, etc.

And I had much better things to do with my time than to go through and add dates to hundreds of books.

Yet now I'm being forced to move. My fingers are crossed that the date issue has been corrected. I'm currently in the process of exporting, looks like it may take a while:


Anyone else out there devastated by the loss of Shelfari?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A List: My Current Podcasts

Inspired by another blogger (Little Mrs. Married) who is regularly posting lists to write more consistently, I'll share the podcasts I subscribe to:
And a new favorite reserved for the gym: 
The ones at the top are what I listen to in the car, and sometimes while cleaning or cooking as well. Though I heard a lot of buzz about Serial last year I never picked it up until a couple weeks ago, and was immediately hooked. I like having something specific to look forward to during my treadmill sessions, as they are sooo booooring otherwise. I'm only halfway through the first season, so no spoilers please!

What do you listen to? Any suggestions I should add to my list?