You Can’t Count The Apples In A Seed

Hi! Just me again, saying one thing and doing another. I wrote about my blog schedule just last week and was ready to get right to work on it! But on Monday, I strayed right away from the schedule and wrote about schools opening in the Fall because it felt so relevant and something teachers needed to be reading right now. 

I had every intention to dedicate today to introducing Enneagram types and why it can be important in education, but again, another topic came up that I truly felt compelled to write about. I appreciate that I am not getting any hate emails because I’m not following the set schedule I just gave myself. Thanks for letting my intuition take the lead for now. 

Setting up fun, educational activities for my daughter has been a side job and hobby of mine for about two years now. She’s well trained in sensory bins and being responsible with paint, play dough, scissors, and more. I have also been well trained in when and where activities take place. When I’m making dinner it’s a perfect time for unsupervised activities she knows well and can do independently. When her little brother is napping it’s a great time to pull out something new when I can sit with her and walk her through, and help where needed. 

Usually, I am great at seeing the cues of when she needs something besides TV or her regular toys to entertain her. She gets a certain kind of antsy when I am busy and her brain just needs to think and create. But the other day I was so hyper-focused on what I was doing, I didn’t take the time to give her what she needed. She ended up finding some playdough in her bin of activities I keep organized and brought it to the kitchen table asking if she could play with it. She’s an extremely responsible three-year-old, I know! Within minutes she was bored and asking for something new, while I continued to work and ignore her needs. 

My husband was cleaning the kitchen and watching the interactions unfold, seeing both of our needs. I needed to work and my daughter needed an enriching, fun activity, not just play dough. He walked over with a container full of food picks, food stamps, measuring spoons, and my rolling pin and showed my daughter how to roll the playdough, then stamp the shapes or make the food picks stand up, They scooped the dough with the measuring spoons and packed them in tight to make 3D shapes. Less than 5 minutes of instruction and she was on her way to independent play. 

It made me realize that the activities I’ve set up around my house are maybe teaching more than just my daughter. My husband has seen enough of these setups to know what she needed to succeed, and I’m sure my son is picking up on the rules I’ve set by watching his older sister carry out her painting and sensory bins. I also thought about this quote I’ve seen often as a teacher. 

One seed that we plant as teachers will have lasting effects for generations and generations to come. A positive influence on one child can have lasting impressions on everyone they come in contact with, you never know what great work you are doing. 

This apple quote printable was made for me by Kelsie Housley. If you would like to download the PDF to print and hang in your classroom, the link is below. Do me a favor and leave her a comment of thanks if you downloaded it! I would love to show her our appreciation!

Let’s Grow With A Growth Mindset!

Have you heard of a growth mindset? Many schools are embracing and adopting this idea for their teachers and students to study and use in their work. What is a growth mindset? Why is it important? How can we use it to our advantage? 

There is research that our brains can and will grow. Our learning is not limited to our brain’s capacity, but to our drive and work, we put into the learning. Having a fixed mindset is thinking, “I am who I am. My personality, abilities, and intelligence cannot change because they were predetermined when I was born.” A growth mindset is saying “I can learn and change who I am and how I act if I am willing to put in the time and effort to grow, stretch, and learn.” 

Challenges, failures, and shortcomings are welcomed with open arms to those with a growth mindset because they view them as an opportunity to grow and learn. This infographic is one of my favorites to show the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. 

Carol Dweck Ph. D, who has researched the idea of a growth mindset and wrote a book on the idea states, 

“Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”

So now that we know what is it, why is it important to us? Well, the obvious is for our students. Let’s teach them to have a growth mindset, let’s show them how they can positively affirm in their minds that they may not be able to do it… yet. But with work, they can. 

But let’s also remember ourselves. Wherever you are in the education field, not only are you educating students, but you’re educating yourself as well. You are constantly learning about new teaching methods, new education findings, information on your students, information about your school. The education never stops when you’re an educator yourself, so apply this to you! 

Maybe that ESL endorsement class is hard for you. The homework is overwhelming and time management isn’t in your favor. You can’t do it… yet. But you can do it if you try! 

I have told my daughter for as long as she could understand me, “We can do hard things!” and I’ve said it to her often, as well as had her repeat it back to me while she is attempting something difficult such as riding a bike for the first time. I recently changed our positive affirmation to give her a little more information and confidence. 

“I can do it if I try.” 

We can do hard things and I want her to remember that. But I also want her to know that “if I try” is just as important in repeating and saying to ourselves. We can try new things, we can do hard things if we try!”. 

How do you use a growth mindset in your classroom? What have you seen as an outcome of using a growth mindset not only for your students but for yourself? 

Quote and info-graphic from brainpickings.org

Tips For Substitute Teachers

Substitute teachers! I know you’re out there and researching how to make the best of your time in this job. I’ve been subbing on and off for three years now and am here to share some of my tips with you. 

Bring your own classroom management strategy and make it positive. Stickers (yes, even for high school kids) can be a huge tool. 

Let the kids tell you something about themselves, it puts them at ease and builds a great bond. 

Tell the class stories about yourself, let them see the personal side of you too. 

If time allows, show them some of your cool hobbies or talents, like how to solve a Rubix cube. If you need to find ways to fill time, teach them your hobby.

Arrive early to read lesson plans and become familiar with the classroom and school. 

Greet kids at the door.

Know the newest technology for the age groups. Video games, social media, etc. and try to find ways to use it in your lesson.  It helps connect with kids. 

If you find a teacher you particularly liked subbing for, leave your contact info and availability so they can contact you if they need another sub. Teachers would rather leave their students with someone they have gotten to know in the past than with a brand new sub who doesn’t know them yet. 

Relax. You’ve got this. 

Good luck substitute teaching! It’s so much fun! 

What tips do you have for substitute teachers? 

Kids Become What You Tell Them They Are

I cannot tell you how many sub jobs I’ve walked into where the students blatantly say, “We are a bad class, it’s okay if you get frustrated with us, we’re the worst class in the whole school.” 

This is the most heartbreaking thing to hear come out of these students’ mouths. 

Kids become what you tell them they are. 

If you’re telling them how chatty, disruptive, and disrespectful they are, these attributes will remain on their mind and will not go away. 

If you tell them how respectful, helpful, and kind they are, I promise you they will live up to this standard you have set. I know, because I witnessed it. 

I did a long-term substitute teaching job in a first-grade classroom. Right away I had teachers saying under their breath to me, “Oh. You have that class? Good luck, they are the worst class in the whole school.” With this being my first real teaching job outside of graduating, it did not reassure me in any way. 

After observing this class a few times before I took over full time, I saw exactly what they meant. They were disrespectful, there was always side talking, someone was always out of their seat, and expectations were never met. The students even talked about how bad of a class they were because they were hearing it from teachers across the whole school. They believed it. I was grateful that I had time to witness this and process what was going on before my first day because I went in with a game plan that I truly believe helped shape our 8 weeks together. 

“Class, today is our first day together and we need to start it with the most important things first. Everyone come gather at the rug, I have some news for you.” 

They quickly took their place at the rug, everyone intrigued by what I was about to tell them. 

“Now, we all know your teacher is gone to have her baby for the next few weeks and I am here to teach you while she is gone. BUT, I want to tell you about the conversation your principal had with me when he called to ask if I would teach your class. Do you know what he told me?” 

“Yeah, that our class SUCKS.” A student yelled out. 

There it was. Not even five minutes into the day and they were already down on themselves for having the worst behavior.

I was determined to fix it. 

“No, actually, he said the opposite. He told me how kind, how respectful, and how fun you all are. He told me this classroom is a happy space and that I would be the luckiest teacher in the world to spend a few months with you.” 

Looks of shock covered their faces. I just went against everything they were ever told, who were they supposed to believe now? I continued to go on and on about how excellent of a class they were and how much potential they had. After a while, a little, shy voice popped up and said, “One lunch lady said we are a very nice class, so maybe it’s true.” 

A small smile grew on my face because it was working. Slowly, they would believe me. I knew it. 

It took time, lots of time. And it took a lot of reminding as well. I would walk them into P.E. or music and say out loud to the specialty teacher, “Have you met this class yet? They are the BEST class in the whole entire school. They are so respectful, so responsible, and are always ready to learn. They will be so good for you today!” 

I was shot a lot of confused looks at first, but it was incredibly helpful for my students to witness me talk so highly of them in front of other adults. It also became beneficial for other adults as well. As we would walk the halls of the school they would pass by my quietly lined up class and say, “Wow! Look how respectful these students are as they walk these halls! They are the best class!” 

I focused on their good behaviors and those shone through. 

I told them over and over how helpful, kind, and respectful they were and they started to not only believe it but act that way as well. 

I showed other teachers in the school just how great my class could be. 

A once rowdy, disrespectful class became an example to others throughout the school. 

Every single class and student out there has the potential to be amazing if you foster it and allow it. Look for the good and you’ll find more and more of it every single day. 

Four Day School Week: The Pros And Cons

Your typical school week: Monday-Friday with the hours sometime between 7 am- 4 pm. But slowly over the nation, schools are switching to a four day school week. Class runs Monday- Thursday with an added 40-60 minutes each day to compensate for the lost time by not having the schools run on Fridays. Sometimes even starting school earlier in the school year, or keeping kids a few days later in the spring to again, make up for the lost time. 

At first, this may not seem worth it. In the end, the time spent at school is the same, just spread differently. So what are the pros and cons? 

Pros: 

Schools that have shortened to four days saw an increase in student attendance. 

Utility bills were less, as well as a decrease in labor costs and bus expenses. 

Teachers are less stressed and happier because they have an extra day for their weekend. 

The fifth day of the week can be used for tutoring, school activities, and collaboration between teachers and peers, still leaving Saturday for free time, instead of taking up the entire weekend. 

Cons: 

Students who are special needs or behind academically had a harder transition to the shorter week. 

Juvenile crime rates went up significantly. 

Longer days of school can be harder on the students, especially the younger grades. 

Childcare expenses can become a problem for working parents. 

The research is scattered for four day school weeks, a study in one state shows thousands of dollars saved, with reading and math scores going up, while another school shows no money saved and test scores dropping for a few years before they start to rise again. 

One thing that does seem fairly consistent in the research is the first five or so years of adapting to the new schedule for schools with negative side effects before seeing improvement in the later years. This alone is a big reason districts are hesitant to change. But overall, will the change improve long-term results? Is it worth it at the cost of potentially putting students through a few hard years? Some are saying no, others are saying yes. 

What side of the fence are you on? What other pros and cons do you see?

My Favorite Positive Reinforcement Strategies In The Classroom

You can read countless research studies on a positive environment and how using these positive reinforcement strategies can help you see better behavior in kids, spouses, pets, co-workers and more. When it comes down to it, those who are properly praised for a task will statistically try harder and do better the next time it is expected of them. 

Creating a positive classroom culture starts with a simple positive comment toward your students. Here are a few of my favorite positive reinforcement ideas I came up with while teaching. 

A cheerio or other cereal placed on the desks of students who are following directions. 

Tally points on the board for groups that were working together or following directions, that ended up amounting to no reward other than “winning” against other groups. 

Little stickers for students showing correct behaviors. 

High-fives to those following directions. Oprah style worked best for us- “Johnny gets a high-five, Amelia gets a high-five, Andrew gets a high-five! Awesome job on following directions!” It’s amazing what kids will do for a simple high-five and a little public praise. 

Simple and subtle compliments to students working hard. 

We put a money economy system in place with coins. It’s fun to see the hard work first graders will put into cleaning up the floor at the end of the day when a plastic nickel is on the line. 

My favorite way by far was telling the class every single day what an amazing group of students they are. They become what you tell them they are- So tell them they are great and eventually they are going to believe you. I have more thoughts on this later, stayed tuned for another blog post regarding this. 

Praising positive behaviors yields productive results. It has been researched, it’s science. And on top of that, I’ve witnessed first-hand how well it works, not only with my students, but my children, and even, MY DOG. 

How have you made your classroom a positive place? 

What Substitute Teachers Wish Teachers Knew

Recently I wrote an open note to teachers from their subs. I’ve spent multiple school years substitute teaching in classrooms when full-time teaching wasn’t a possibility for me. After being in so many classrooms with vastly different situations each time, here are my best tips to teachers from their subs on how we can have a successful day with a few extra resources. 

  • Please don’t ever feel like you’re leaving too much information. We can be walking into a completely new school that day so assuming we know nothing is the best protocol. 
  • Giving us information on students is extremely helpful. Who might need extra help, who would be extra help, who to trust to run the classroom keys back down to the front office. Even certain behaviors to look out for and the best way to handle them. 
  • Knowing the attention-getters you use for your class can be a big tool for us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in front of a classroom singing out, “class, class” only to get weird stares from half the kids and louder talking from the other half. Leave us with at least one to use. 
  • Leave us with the name and directions to the classroom of one teacher close by that can help in a time of crisis. This can be something as small as turning on the projector, or as big as locking the classroom during a lockdown.   
  • We thrive on your lesson plans. I had a good friend tell me an awful story about a week-long sub job in a special ed classroom with no lesson plans. She had to come up with something to do every day that week with these students, in which she had no previous training on how to teach them, or what they are learning. In some states, a teaching degree or license is not required, so lesson plans are crucial. 
  • The classrooms I had the most success in had a binder with labeled maps, procedures, a class list, the lesson plans for the day. Everything we need to know right there, and something the teacher had to make once and only replace lesson plans as needed.  

We want to have a successful day teaching your students, and the more information we have to do this, the better! I have never walked into a classroom and thought the teacher left me with too much. Even if there was material that was never used it still helped me feel prepared.

Are you a substitute teacher? What other tips do you have? 
Are you a teacher? What tips do you have for subs?