Monday, August 3, 2015

DAILY TOP THREE: PRODUCTIVITY TIP

Like many teachers, I am a list maker.  I love making lists, especially "to do lists". However, I am what you would call an "over eager/overly ambitious" list maker.  When I make a "to do" list, I put every task I can think of on them.  Case in point, my spring break to do list. 



There was NO way I could have ever accomplished all of the things on my list of spring break.  No way.  My "to do" lists tend to be overly ambitious, and are never ever completed because I always put anything and everything I would like to accomplish on them.  

This summer, I transitioned to a Day Designer planner.  One of the things that I love about my Day Designer is that each day has a "top three" box.  This box is meant for the three most important jobs/tasks of the day.  It has made me incredibly more productive at home, because it has made me really reevaluate what I could realistic accomplish each day.  

Like most of you, I've been working in my classroom lately. I don't know about you, but sitting up my classroom can be quite overwhelming and there are many times where I feel like I'm not getting anywhere. Mainly because I'm walking around from task to task without a sense of purpose and never really accomplishing anything. 

This summer, I decided to implement the "daily top three" concept while working in my classroom, and it's been amazing!


Every day that I'm in the classroom, I create a "top three" list. I make the three jobs/goals realistic to accomplish, and I can only tackle a new task, one not on the list, if the other three are completed. 

This was my "top three" from my last classroom work session. 
1. Print, copy, and stuff my homeroom's welcome back letters. 
2. Arrange student desks into tables. 
3. Unpack, purge, and organize my personal office supplies. 

In about two and half hours, I completed my "top three" and I was able to add another task to my list, organizing my "I Can" Statements.  Here's some proof of my productivity!







I've only been in my classroom about three times this summer, never for a full day, and I've already feel that that having a "daily top three" has made me so much more productive and purposeful than in previous years! 

I plan to continue using the daily "top three" once school begins, because I love it SO much. 
I created a free printable this evening to use the rest of the summer and for the upcoming school year.  If you'd like to download my template, you can download it from Google Drive {here}


Once I pick up my desk calendar from our union rep, I might start putting my daily "top three" there instead.  You could also put your daily "top three" on a post it, notepad, phone, computer, etc. 

If you found using a "Daily Top Three" list helpful, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

COFFEE TALK: WHERE I'VE BEEN



Before I begin to attempt to get back in the blogging groove, I figured you guys deserved an explanation as to where I've been.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know I'm alive.  However, I neglected this blog for far too long.  

So I'm explaining what's been going on over a cup of coffee.  Just like I would if we were connecting in real life, rather than through computer screens.  

I started this past school year off with a blogging bang! I mean, I even had enough energy to blog a recap of open house, on the night of open house.  I was blessed with two classes full of the sweetest kids I had ever taught and I was SO excited to share our classroom adventures with you.    

Then it happened.  By it, I mean the stress induced headaches and occasional panic attacks.  Triggered by so many factors. Triggers that I'm being very open about with you, in hopes my post may encourage some of you who may have experienced, or are experiencing, similar things.

One of my triggers was testing. This year was a very stressful year for my grade level, as our students, and our performance as educators, were assessed with a brand new testing platform.  One that we knew very little about.   We saw a few practice tests, but that was it.  We had no idea how the questions would be scored, what was considered passing, or even when our students scores would be released.  Once my students were done testing in April, I felt like an enormous burden was lifted off my shoulders.  My state has since done away with the assessment we used this year, which gives me great relief in some ways and has me scared in many others, because next year will another year where I have no idea what students, or my teaching, will be measured up against! 

Another trigger was TTC. This past year, my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family. Months and months went by, without a positive test for us.  All our friends were announcing their pregnancies and that was hard, even though we were SO happy for them.  It was hard to see so many couples move onto the next phase of their lives as a family, even though you love them and are so genuinely happy for them, and we had to keep living in "the two week wait" window.  

As you can imagine, it was very difficult for us as a couple to go to baby shower after baby shower and even spend time with our friends who were pregnant/had babies because it was a constant reminder of what we, for whatever reason, couldn't have.  We often felt excluded from conversations because well, we didn't have/weren't going to have a baby anytime soon.  We began to feel like we didn't fit in, that our friends would forget about us, or that we had nothing to offer them anymore.  

Another trigger, was just being a teacher. Like many of you reading my blog, I'm still a classroom teacher.  I love blogging.  I love being creative and designing materials for TpT.  However, neither one of these things are my full time gig.  I still have students in my classroom that count on me for a nurturing, safe, and challenging classroom environment. I still have fifty-five spelling and reading tests to grade almost every week, lesson plans to write, parents to communicate with, coworkers to collaborate with, and meetings to attend.  

Like I mentioned earlier, I got headaches almost daily from October to December. Always during the week, never on the weekends, and I started to dread going to work.  A few times, I even had what my doctor later told me were panic attacks, because I felt my at times my heart rate/pulse were out of control for no good reason.  My doctor advised me to look for ways to cut stress out my life.  Not just because we were trying to have a baby but because my body was basically rebelling against all the stress.  My first thought was to get a massage.  The massage therapist confirmed what my doctor told me, my body was full of stress.  I knew that I had to change something because I hated feeling the way that I did.  

I prayed and prayed about what to do.   I obviously couldn't switch grade levels mid year or refuse to have my students take the new standardized tests.  My husband and I still wanted a baby.  I love teaching, it's my passion, and blogging/TpT has been an amazing blessing to our family.  I just didn't know what to give up or step away from.

Winter Break recharged and energized me.  My husband even told me, "I love how happy you are."  One morning while reading the bible, this verse spoke to me. 



My soul was burdened and weary and I needed rest.  I decided to take a step back from TpT and blogging for the rest of the school year. This was something I probably should have told y'all at the beginning, but I had no idea how long the break would be.  As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, I knew that the break would probably be for the rest of the year.  That thought was solidified when I went to a TpT Seller/Blogger Meet Up in the spring with some friends.  Rather than feeling excited about my blog or TpT, my heart raced the entire time that I was there, and not in a good way. I'm walked around a fog and probably didn't make a great first impression on the people that I met.  Sure enough, on the way home from the meet up, I got a migraine. So naturally, I decided not to go to Vegas this year.  

My husband and I also took a formal break from trying to have a baby.  It wasn't that we no longer desired to have a child, it's just the TTC process was extremely stressful and heart breaking, at times, for both of us.  We just needed a break and wanted to enjoy simply being married after months of living in the "two week window".

In late January, the daily head attaches and the far too frequent feeling like my heart was beating way faster than it should be started to go away. For the first time in months, I felt good.  I felt that 2015 would be an amazing year, if I just listened to my body.   

So, I cherished my time in the classroom with my sweet students and together we accomplished some amazing things, even though the odds were stacked against us with the whole testing thing.  I love my kids more than I could ever express every year but this year was different.  I cherished every single moment we had together and loved them like crazy.   They were truly a calm in all my crazy this year.  My students truly became a classroom family and we all cried on the last day of school.  The class of 2023, will always hold a very special place in my heart!  

At home, my husband attacked his schooling with a renewed sense of passion and focus since we decided to take a TTC break and he finally finished his degree. He has been going to school and working full time for four years.  I am SO very proud of him! 

We have been cherishing our summer together, as we as finally have some free time to go dates, to relax by the fire pit, and do little things, like going to the grocery store together.  We have even started focusing on becoming healthier versions of ourselves this summer and have lost a combined total of forty pounds.  While we still haven't been blessed with a baby, we are at a much better place now and believe that in God's time and in God's way, he will grow our family.  Of course it's hard sometimes be the only couple without kids, sometimes really hard, but I've been trying to soak up all the baby cuddles I can get right now, in preparation for when it will finally be our turn.  

Rather than spending time chained to my computer each night, I was able to rediscover my other passions during the second half of the school year.  One of those passions was reading.  I read lots of young adult novels for my classroom, several beach/chic lit reads, and even some cheesy romances with my newly found spare time. Reading more and talking to my kids about how much I was reading was magical, as so many of them became passionate and avid readers this year.  

I also spent time being crafty to keep my fingers busy, and I made several new wreaths for our front door. It was a lot of fun getting creative in other ways, rather than just behind a computer screen.  I starting cooking every night again, cooking is one of my favorite hobbies.  This summer,  I even started running again.  For years, I ran almost every day.  I even ran a marathon a few years ago but running was one of the first things I said "goodbye" to when I started my TpT/blogging journey.  It has felt good to rediscover some of my other passions and interests.

This time away from blogging and TpT has been really good for my mental health.  However, I miss it.  I miss sharing things with you.  I miss creating things that teachers all over the world can benefit from.  However, after four years of trying to being a good teacher, wife, dog mom, friend, blogger, running coach, and curriculum designer, I needed a break.  

As I listen to my body, I know that the break is coming to an end.  I've started to feel a little restless and the curriculum designer in my head has taken over my daily walks and has kept me up at night a few times.  I've started to update a few older products and I have some ideas for new ones.  

The challenge now is to try and keep everything in balance, which I know will be very hard to do.  I appreciate your patience and support as I try my best to fit in all my passions in a healthy way.  

If you have ever felt overwhelmed with stress, please know you are not alone.  Reach out to your loved ones, your doctors, your friends.  Stress and anxiety are things that we all deal with, but rarely talk about.  I always thought that I managed stress pretty well, until this year when my body rebelled against it.  Luckily for me, I was able to find a solution to my headaches/anxiety fairly quickly. Please, listen to your body.  Take a break when you need it. Love yourself and remember you are not alone. 

With Love,

Thursday, April 2, 2015

2015 Teacher Tool Gift Exchange Linky

Hello, friends! I'm so excited to have some free time this week, so I can share with you a little bit about my recent trip to French Lick, Indiana for the 2015 Spring Teacher Blogger Meet Up!  
Today I wanted to share with you the fabulous gift I took home from our Teacher Tool Gift Exchange.  



Everyone who attended the meet up was asked to bring their favorite teacher tool for a gift exchange.  At the meet up, they separated us into grade level groups to exchange and share our gifts.  I LOVED seeing everyone's gifts, and add several new items to my Amazon wish list on the spot!  You can check out what I took to the meet up as my favorite teacher tool kit {here}.  So glad you liked the markers, Cindy! 

After playing a fun "swap" game, we were to open our goodies. I was lucky enough to receive a fabulous gift bag from The Primary Gal! 



The Primary Gal


There were so many fun and thoughtful goodies inside! 





Amanda shared with me that she always loves to have a cute box of Thank You cards in her desk at school.  I typically have some on hand as well, but they aren't this cute! :) I love them! 

I have also been using the Sharpies almost daily since I got home from French Lick a lot because they match my classroom perfectly! :) The colors are also perfect for spring!

There were also a few fun post notes in her gift bag as well! :) 




I have been using the hand print post it notes to write encouraging "high five" notes to my students.  I plan on using the thought bubble ones during my "reading is thinking" lesson at the next year.  


She even included a package of Reece's Peanut Butter Eggs in her gift as well! They are my favorite Easter candy and I had to carefully hid them from my husband when I got home! Thank you so much, Amanda for the thoughtful and generous gift!


The Teacher Tool Gift Exchange was just one of the fabulous parts of my weekend in French Lick and I can't wait to share the rest of my trip with you soon! Many thanks to my sweet friend, Christina, for hosting this fun link up! :)  I highly encourage you to click around on the links below to see some of the other posts. I did earlier this week and found some great Christmas/birthday gift ideas for my teacher friends at school!


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring Cleaning Sale

Happy Sunday! I am officially on spring break and can't wait to catch up with you. :)  

I'm just popping by today to let you know that I'm having a little Spring Cleaning Sale!


Not only is my entire sale on sale BUT a few of my favorite spring products are 25% off. :)  

You can check out my TpT store by clicking {here} or by clicking on the Spring Cleaning Sale image. :) 

Have a great Sunday! I'll be blogging at you soon!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fourth and Ten at Home: Winter Break Projects

Hello! Like many of you, I'm savoring my last few moments of Winter Break.  

My husband is at work today and I'm cuddled up on the couch marathon watching "The Office" like it's my job.  It is in one word, perfect. 

In a little bit, I'll get my teacher bag out of my office and organize the mess that it is.  I'll review this week's lesson plans, and grade a few papers.  Most of all, I'll savor the fact that the house is clean and the laundry is caught up because I know that after tomorrow it probably won't be until spring break.

Today, I want to share a few projects I tackled at home over break with you. Thus the reason for the post title "Fourth and Ten at Home." I used to have a home blog back in the day and I miss it a lot.  I don't have the time to keep with up with more than one blog right now, so I hope you don't mind me sharing an occasional recipe or home project from time to time with you to get my "fix".

I am not naturally a very organized person, and neither is my husband.  Thankfully there are blogs like I Heart Organizing and Two Twenty One to help a girl like me along. 

One project I wanted to tackle over Winter Break was organizing our catch all cabinet.  This cabinet holds our medicines, dog treats, serving platters, mail supplies, etc. 

I made some labels and shopped my house for some baskets/containers to organize everything in our catch all cabinet. 



There are still a few things in the cabinet that need a home but it's way better that what it was! :) 

I've also been using essential oils for the past few months.  They have helped my out my sinuses so much.  However, the only thing I have hated about using them was that I didn't have a great way to store them! Luckily I found some containers at The Container Store that were perfect! 


I used a lipstick holder for the 5ml bottles and a nail polish holder for the 15ml bottles and the glass bottles I put my carrier oils in. If you're interested in essential oils, feel free to email me. :) 

I also worked on adding some character to our kitchen.  We had our house painted a few years ago and hung some curtains, but many rooms are missing that "finishing" touch.  I hope to change that in 2015. 

One thing I wanted to add to our kitchen was a little coffee station.  

Luckily, Hobby Lobby was really good to me last week! I was able to get the metal basket and picture frame for half off.  The "But First, Coffee" print was purchased {here} and printed off at Walgreens.  This whole project cost a little more than $10 but added so much character, and much needed organization, to my kitchen.  I just love it!

We also have a ledge that separates our kitchen and our morning room, dinning area. I felt it needed a little TLC too and I love how it came together! I already had the green mason jar and the print was from Meijer of all places, and the frame was from Hobby Lobby.  The picture is one of my favorites from our wedding and I love looking over at it while I'm doing the dishes. 


We also had a blank wall that really needed a little something.  We've looked and looked but never really found anything we loved.  We went to Columbus over break and found this sign at a little shop called Celebrate Local and knew we had to have it.  I love looking at it every morning.  It has such a positive message. 


I paid a little attention to our entry way as well. 
I printed all the eighteen25 subway art prints off at Costco a few years go but for some reason, never switch them out.  I'm trying this year to actually keep them current because they do add a little "something" to our entry way. 



Yes, that is a turkey on my blog in January.  We have hosted Thanksgiving for the past two years.  I used the same core recipes both times but they weren't organized at all.  In fact, the printed copies were all over my cookbook basket.  So I made a cute cover, paper clipped them all together, and I'm already to go next year! 



I also picked up a little wicker tray at Hobby Lobby for our TV remotes.  It's literally been the best $5 I have spent lately. The hubs and I have actually done a good job at keeping our remotes inside it. Usually we have to spend a few minutes searching the family room and couch cousins before we can actually watch TV. 



 I also worked on thank you notes for my students. I have found that it's really hard for me to actually get them to my students before we go on break.  Call me crazy, but I just love to spend time with my kids that last day of school before break begins. Usually, I spend an hour or so over on my holiday thank you notes on day while I watch TV/bowl games etc.  This allows my notes to be a little bit more personalized. This template is one of many from my newest pack, Editable Winter Themed Homework Passes and Thank You Notes

They fit, once trimmed, in standard No. 6 3/4 envelopes,which you can find at any retailer.  I like to mail them to my kiddos but that is totally up to you. :) 

My Buckeyes also played in the Sugar Bowl.  So January 1st's projects were all about the Buckeyes. We had some friends and family over. So I made buffalo chicken sliders. They were yummy and delicious. I used {this} recipe.


One of my sweet students got me those paper towels. I think they they brought good luck, so I'll have them out next Monday too.  I bought Cheryl's cookies for all the humans and homemade script Ohio treats for my dogs. We all had a great time eating and cheering for our Buckeyes together. 

I lost my voice during the game, I was a little excited, and I am now trying to think of ways to fit in my dad's luggage since he is going to the National Championship in Dallas.  #jealous

The best part of break though was just spending lots of time with my husband. He was actually on winter break from school too, he goes to college and works full time, which never happens. We had so much fun over break together.  It has been a stressful few months for both of us and carefree time together was just what we needed. 

I hope that you had a wonderful break, teacher friends.  May your coffee be strong tomorrow and your day feel short! 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winter Party Recap



Hi, friends! I had a few questions on IG about my fall and winter parties, so I'm here today to share some simple tips on how I make our holiday parties fun and exciting BUT enjoyable and calm for their teacher as well. :) 

I try to keep things simple when it comes to parties.  I've learned that just works best.  I have set up parties every way you could think of. I've had parents plan the entire party, I've had parents plan games and crafts, I've done activities as a whole class, and I've done activities in smaller groups.  I've had parties where the games where the activities took so long that we didn't get to even touch the food the kids brought it.  I've also had parties where we revert to playing tic tac toe or hangman because the games/activities didn't take up enough time. 

Over time, I learned that things work best when I'm in charge.  Parents naturally flock to you during parties to ask questions about activities, games, or crafts.  Even if you announce a fellow parent was in charge of the party planning.   For me, nothing is more stressful than shrugging my shoulders and saying "I don't know," to a parent during a party. 

So a few years ago, I just started planning it all.  I reuse many of the same activities from year to year, so it takes literally minutes to put everything into place. :) 


We rock our parties out in rotations.  I have six tables.  We have six stations/rotations.  They move from station to station with their table.  When it's time to switch, I just move the name names to their new station. So easy.  The rotations allow my kids to have fun in a very controlled way.  This allows me to have fun too and many of my classroom parents have remarked at how it allows them to enjoy the experience of volunteering more as well.


I have my students take "party bags" from rotation to rotation.  They put the put any papers, activities, or snacks from each station in them during the party.  It's a great way to keep everything together and to keep the party rolling. :) 

One of the stations always involves a fun snack.  For our winter/Christmas party, we decorated graham crackers.  I am usually in charge of this station. 



Each student had a graham cracker, that they broke in half, a knife with a dollop of icing on it, and sprinkles that they used to make little graham cracker sandwiches with. 

Three of the stations involve a game of some kind.  At our winter party we played Don't Eat Rudolph, a variation of Don't Eat Pete,  Holiday Bingo, and a Holiday Hedbanz/Guessing Game.  My parent volunteers are each assigned one of these stations and run the same station throughout the entire party. 

A few of my kids had never played Hedbanz before, so we made sure to play it during brain breaks the week of the party.


Two of the stations are a bit calmer and can run without any help, which is great if you don't have a lot of extra help at your party.  

My kids LOVE word searches and we never ever get to do them, so we always have a word search.  


We also do a simple craft. For this party, my students decorated Christmas Tree Magic Scratch Ornaments. I got them from Oriental Trading



The rotations take about thirty minutes, give or take, and then we end things with some snacks and a movie. 


The parents typically man a little buffet for our snacks at our back table and allow students to go table by table.  I don't go crazy on the snacks because for many years, the kids were throwing SO much food away.  I let the kids pick what they want and there is usually very little food left at the end of the party.  I typically have a least one student with a peanut allergy, so we usually stick to Oreos, Rice Krispie Treats, pretzels, and fruit snacks.  This year I have a student with an egg/diary allergy and he just brings his own snack pack to the party and keeps his own game boards/coutners for any games involving food in his party bag.

While my students eat their snacks and enjoy the movie, the parents and I clean up the stations.  I also send home the leftover cookies, fruit snacks, pretzels, etc. with the students who sent them in to avoid cluttering up my cabinets/counters. The movie gives my students a chance to calm down and we can go to the buses safely and calmly. 

To keep things even less stressful on party day, I put the items needed for each station in plastic tubs as they come in.  I have a tub for each station and this allows us to begin our party as soon as our parent helpers show up. 


I use Signup Genius  for our party donations and volunteers.  It takes minutes to create a sign up and I love how I don't have to coordinate who is sending in items, the website does it for me.  I send the link out to my homeroom parents in an email and usually within a DAY, everything is taken care off.  The website also sends parents an email about their donation/volunteer time a few days before.  

Even though our Christmas/Winter Parties are over, hopefully you found something helpful/useful for your future class parties.  We use the same set up at every party and it always works out great, even with my most challenging classes!

I also just wanted to let you know that my store will be on sale today and tomorrow to celebrate the New Year! You can check out Fourth and Ten on TpT {here}.


Happy New Year!
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