Summer Finds

It’s inevitable that every teacher will think about their classroom during the summer. Even the teachers, like me, who told themselves they wouldn’t. While I did better this summer to relax and recoup for the upcoming school year, I still came across a few things I couldn’t pass up.

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I found this bookcase on the Facebook marketplace. I’ve seen bookcases like this selling for $50 and I’ve always thought they were adorable. I knew when I found this one for $15 (actually $10 after she found out I was a teacher) I had to snatch it up. The lady even threw in a matching standing bookshelf for free.

Below is a picture of it in my classroom.

*My classroom is not set up yet for the new school year. I just moved some stuff around and put some things in their place because I had to move some furniture out of my room to repaint it.

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I’ve also had my eye on these garden tables (pictured above). I finally purchased them when I found them on sale at Big Lots for $12. I just think they’re so cute. I know I can find a use for them in my flexible seating classroom.

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Last, I’d like to thank generous people who willingly give to classrooms. I didn’t purchase the books or markers in the photo above. A friend from college asked me to create an Amazon wishlist of books I’d like for my classroom. She then purchased and had these books (and markers) sent to me. I’ve wanted these books for so long for my kiddos to enjoy and now they can.

Teachers spend so much of their own money to keep their classroom running and to provide students with necessary things (or just things we think will make their learning environment more enjoyable) so when someone gives back to us it makes our job so much easier. It also reminds me that there are people out there who “get it” and know how much we as teachers do.

I head back to work Wednesday for our first teacher workday. I know the 2018-2019 school year is going to be a great one!

 

-Mrs. Kaldahl

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What I’m Up To

Hello there again!

You’re probably wondering what I’ve been up to this summer.

I know what I haven’t been doing and that’s obsessing over school. Usually I’d spend most the summer getting my room ready, over preparing for the year ahead, and stressing myself out before the year even started.

This year, I’ve decided to go with a different approach. One where I actually recuperate during the summer and I must say, I’m loving it.

This summer, I’ve picked back up on a writing project I started awhile ago. I’m about 30,000 words into my first novel. It’s a new adult mystery. It’s also has some romance, with some witty humor here and there. So far, I’ve received good feedback from those reading it as I finish chapters.

Writing is something that comes easy for me, but it’s also super hard. Especially when trying to write a novel. If you ever meet an author, give them a pat on the back because they deserve it. Writing a book is hard and courageous. Authors deserve more praise than they receive.

I also have a few children’s books I’m working on.

I’m hopeful I will get one of my projects published one day.

I was born to be a writer and it feels good to finally be writing again.

-Lauren

 

I’m a hot mess teacher and that’s okay

I’ve been MIA on here for awhile, and I thought I’d get on here to explain a little bit of why.

First, the good. Life got crazy. I got engaged and then I got married. We took a trip to Disney World, and are creating our life together. Understandably, life got a bit busy and overwhelming…therefore, I haven’t been able to write on here like I was before.

Now the not so great.

Teaching is a stressful job. If you know my backstory into how I became a teacher, you know I never planned on teaching (and before I started teaching, I never wanted to teach).

I found teaching accidentally, and despite the fact that yes, it is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, I still love it.

I have been a perfectionist my entire life. I always feel I need to be perfect, or have things a certain way. What people also don’t realize, is that perfectionists often procrastinate a lot too from fear of failure or doing something wrong. Of course the fact that I am a teacher doesn’t always help my behavioral tendencies because of course things in a classroom cannot be perfect. I am extremely hard on myself. Harder when it seems I have 50,000 tasks to complete and not enough time to complete them.

Teacher anxiety is real. Especially if you already know you have tendencies towards anxiety.

I’m not writing this post for sympathy or anything like that. It’s simply because I think non teachers often look at teachers and do not understand how our job can be so stressful.

We do not just shape a child’s mind. We shape their lives. There is a lot that goes into it. Worrying, encouraging, disciplining, coaching, serving, listening, speaking, creating relationships, and then teaching. On the academic side, we worry about failing students, how to push our high learners, how to get all the content to fit into one school year, planning, making copies, testing, accommodations, modifications, differentiation, putting kids in groups, creating stations, and so on.

When a teacher leaves school, our brains don’t just shut off. We think and worry about our “kids” because we know not all of them go home to perfect houses with people who love them. We worry about the ones we know may not have food, or if they’ll get a good nights sleep. We wonder how we are going to get our never ending to-do list done. Teachers are faced with so many tasks, it’s almost actually impossible to get them done.

Teaching second grade, I do not teach a grade that’s tested by state tests (STAAR), but I know those teachers face another type of scrutiny as does their students because of a test. Testing season does a number on a teacher’s mental health.

I’ve learned this year that I do have anxiety (even though I’ve known it my whole life), but it got to an all time high. I’ve been extremely stressed, emotional, and not easy to be around sometimes because of it. I even tried anxiety medicine for a week (it gave me terrible side effects and therefore, I decided to stop taking it). I was willing to try anything to make my mental health feel better because I knew I did and do LOVE my job.

Considering I made the decision to not take medicine to help me feel better, I’ve had to try to figure out ways to take care of myself. I realized I rarely was taking anytime for me. Weekends were also taken up by a lot of teaching stuff (ask any teacher, it can consume you because we CARE SO MUCH). I had forgotten stuff I loved to do.

So I started focusing more on ME. I make sure I workout (which is like therapy to me), I do something for myself each week (paint my nails, watch my favorite movie, spend time reading, writing…just SOMETHING). I actually rest on the weekends, and if I absolutely have to do any sort of work I make sure I absolutely do nothing related to teaching at least on Saturdays.

My husband also deserves an award. I couldn’t take care of myself if it wasn’t for him. He makes me relax and do what’s best for me mentally and physically. He steps up and helps me always when needed. He’ll spoil me completely. If you ask him, I’m sure he’d tell you sometimes it’s not easy for me to even let him do things for me because yes the perfectionist in me. I feel like I need to do stuff. So I’ve learned thanks to him to allow someone else to do something for me for a change. He’s truly the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

So again, I say I don’t write this for sympathy. I write it because the next time you hear or see a teacher take a mental health day off, they deserve it. More teachers than you know deal with anxiety or depression. If you wonder if your child’s teacher is a superhero, they are. Teachers deal with so much more than the outside world sees. That was and still is my biggest eye opener when I became a teacher. There’s so much more to it than standing in front of kids teaching them stuff. Teachers need to learn to take care of themselves, but our society also needs to learn to respect teachers more. What a teacher does in a year helps shape our society.

Give them some respect. Stop trying to take things away from teachers like sick days and retirement. Maybe one day, teachers won’t be thrown so many responsibilities that the legislature keeps putting on us and then wonder why more and more teachers are leaving the field. Maybe one day the endless testing will stop and we teachers can do what we love to do…TEACH and not be so stressed doing it.

I do indeed, LOVE my job. I love my kids. I’d do absolutely anything for any of them.

I just wanted other teachers out there to know…you can be a hot mess and be a great teacher.

-Mrs. Kaldahl

 

 

How to use DonorsChoose.org

One of my favorite discoveries as a teacher is DonorsChoose.org. It’s a free site to teachers in order to raise donations for supplies or materials you need for your classroom. There is even the option for you to raise funds to attend professional development conferences if you choose.

I have successfully had two projects funded over the past year. The first one I asked for about $400 worth of new books. I received those donations very quickly. New books were important to me being a new teacher building her classroom library up.

My second project that was just completed and we just received our materials this past Friday was for six hokki stools to add to my flexible seating classroom. That project totaled over $800.

So how easy is DonorsChoose to use? That’s what I’m always asked.

The answer is VERY EASY! You simply sign up for free. Add your teaching information, a photo, a photo of your classroom. You will need parents to sign photo permission slips if they are in any photos for your page or for the thank you package upon a completed project. Your page will look like the photo below. This is a screenshot of my last project.

The essay can be intimidating at first to type for each project. However, just be honest. DonorsChoose is also good about guiding you step by step on writing your essay and what to include. It’s broken up into sections to make it simpler for you.  As teachers we know why we need these materials and how we are going to use them. So pour your heart out. Tell them about your students, what you need, why you need it, how important it is, and how it will benefit your classroom. Let your donors know why this project means so much to you. If you are invested in it, nobody will invest in it.

Watch out for matching offers too. I believe any project under $400 is eligible for a matching offer that your donors can use to have DonorsChoose donate the same amount they do. There are also several promotional offers through certain companies you will be notified of if your project meets their requirements.

Another thing I always do…I am the firs to donate to my project. Even if it’s $20 or $25. I make sure I donate. Some people may say that defeats the purpose, but I want my donors to know that the project means something to me.

Once you’ve typed your essay and find your materials you need, you submit your project. DonorsChoose will review it and let you know if it’s approved or if you need to fix anything first. Which is no big deal. It’s happened to me before.

Once your project is live….SHARE, SHARE, SHARE! I post it on my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even e-mail it to people. I ask others to share it. Get the word out as much and as often as you can. That’s the quickest way to get donations. Let everyone know how much it means to you. Share each time someone donates and thank your donors on your page.

Once your project is funded you will receive an e-mail with instructions as to what to do next. You have to approve your materials again and then they’ll be shipped to you! You will type a thank you letter to your donors that will also be posted on  your project’s page.

A thank you package is required for every project. Once you receive your materials you have a certain date to complete this by. The packages always includes an impact letter as to how the materials have impacted your classroom and how you’re using them. You also need to upload six photos of the materials in action (make sure if you have student faces to have permission slips signed). Some thank you packages require your students to make thank you letters to mail to your donors. This is not hard either if you are required to do so. They give you the names of the donors that chose to receive them, you put them in one large envelope and mail them to DonorsChoose. They do the rest to get them to your donors.

It honestly is a simple process that a lot of teachers avoid thinking it is more work than worth it. DonorsChoose is definitely worth using and using often if needed. It’s one of the most valuable resources to teachers because it allows you to give other people an opportunity to help your classroom. I know how much us teachers spend out of pocket on our classroom each year…it’s a ridiculous amount! So take the opportunity to allow others to help you when needed.

Below is a few photos from our hokki stool project the day we received our materials.

As you can see…so much joy! My heart is overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness. Your students deserve the materials they need, and believe me there are other people out there willing to donate who believe the same thing. So take a chance, make a project, and get it funded!

-Miss Layfield

First Year Teacher No More

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything on here…sorry!

I can’t believe my first full year of teaching is over. Since being hired to teach last January, I feel like time has just flown by!

I remember my first day of teaching like it was yesterday. I was scared, not knowing anything I was doing, and I went home not sure I even wanted to go back. Considering I had no teaching experience or prior want to even be in that profession, I wasn’t sure it was for me. I believe the whole first two weeks I was there I didn’t know if it was really for me. I was determined though not to give up. I don’t think teaching ever gets easier, I think you just get better and eventually I did.

Now, a year later, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything different. I have learned so much over the past year thanks to amazing colleagues and my never give up attitude.

Teaching has taught me so much patience and has made me a better person overall. I honestly feel blessed to work with kids all day…even on the tough days where I doubt myself as a teacher completely.

I have learned so much about teaching that I never knew went into this profession.

Like, how to mange 21 kids. People who don’t know better often will say things like, “Oh you’re a teacher? That’s like the easiest job ever!” or “I bet you always have fun at work.” I want to take these people and show them all the difficult moments of teaching. How you you have to learn to calm kids, deal with behavior issues, get the attention of these kids, provide engaging activities, constantly monitoring and adjusting your day, and so many other things. I promise a teacher’s mind has about a billion things going through it every minute.

Teaching is exhausting, but worth every second of it. I put so much of myself into my teaching and so much time outside of the classroom. Anyone who ever says teachers don’t work over time needs to visit a school after hours or on the weekends. They’re always there. Even in the summer. YES! Teachers still are working in their rooms, planning, doing professional development, etc. even during the summer. So no, teachers really don’t get summers off.

Teaching will break your heart. I see kids from all walks of life that come through my classroom doors or just around school everyday. I talk to these kids and get to know them. I know their stories and the life they live outside of my four purple walls. They often have difficult lives. They are faced with choices and situations I, as an adult wouldn’t even want to deal with. A kid shouldn’t have to especially, but these kids are facing these issues everyday.  I’ve even had students who want to stay at school over the weekend. School and being their teacher is often the only stability they have in their lives. To know that you may be making such an impact on the life of a child simply by being there everyday means so much to me.

Teaching is the most rewarding career. I start my day with hugs, high fives, and catching up with my kids. I see my students growth academically and watch them mature. I get to see their personalities continue to develop. I get to know that I got to play a part in their lives and hopefully make a lasting impact on them.

If you notice, everything I just mentioned has nothing to do with the CONTENT that I teach. That’s because teaching is so much more than just teaching your subjects. I teach reading, writing, phonics, and grammar. I have in fact learned so much about what I teach. I have struggled with switching to Guided Reading (which I love by the way). I have had to learn how to create engaging centers during Daily 5. I struggled to write lesson plans, and trying to constantly make lessons that kids will get the most out of. However, like I said earlier, in teaching you only get better. I honestly feel like I get better with each week that passes. I am much more confident in my teaching this year and feel like I have developed my own teaching style that I love. I love (and I want to emphasize that) the subjects I teach and I hope to make my students love them.

I still face difficult moments all the time, but I absolutely LOVE my job. I would never trade where I am for anything. I know accidentally getting into this career was a gift from God. He put me here and his plan was so much better than anything I had in mind for my life. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this school year goes and I’m ready for many, many more years!

 

-Miss Layfield