Are You a Clean Desk Club Classroom?

I’m a proud member of the clean desk club! I was throughout school and still (somewhat) continue to be. 

As an elementary school student, I felt so much pride as a member of the clean desk club, as I’m sure many do! But what about those students that aren’t part of it? 

Becoming a mom and spending time teaching has widened my view of the clean desk club. I have one child who will clean and organize all day every day if I let her, and while I haven’t seen her desk at school, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was part of the clean desk club at any given moment, too. 

On the other hand, I have a child whose brain just does not work in a way where things around him are organized or clean. The more chaotic his surroundings, the better he does in general. 

What I’ve learned is that some people just genuinely don’t want or need their workspace to be clean. 

So why is the clean desk club a thing? Or desk cleaning days? Or teachers micromanaging the state of their student’s desks?

My first thought is that the teachers doing this know they are more productive when they are organized and tidy, so they feel like their students will be the same. However, we have to also consider the teacher’s needs as well as the students, maybe it’s taking time out of their day to constantly have to wait on students who are searching a messy desk for a paper or book. 

How can we as teachers find the balance between a well-run classroom, while also giving our students space to be themselves and feel comfortable in the classroom? 

Allot the time to your students who need it to find items in their desks. Give them an early heads-up to start their search while you finish up other miscellaneous tasks. 

Minimize the space your students have to keep tidy to cut down on clutter. A teacher I know got rid of desks in her classroom and switched her students to tables. They have their pencil boxes, a shelf in the classroom with book boxes for their books, and a spot in their coat cubby for papers. Everything has a place and it’s easy to eliminate clutter when there’s no space for it. 

Stop praising the clean desks. This automatically places shame and guilt on those with messy desks, which is not helpful for those students. 

Have real conversations with your students, ask them what their needs are. Do they like clean desks? Do they work better with messy desks? How can you work together as a classroom so that everyone wins? 

What is your stance on the clean desk club? 

School Affirmations Round Three

Last month we featured a post of affirmations for students to use at school. We also have a list of Back to School Affirmations. They were so popular that I knew right away we needed a part three. 

Affirmations can be so important to us when our bodies are feeling one way, but we need to remind ourselves what is important and who we are. They may be awkward at first to say to ourselves, but given practice and time, it can 

“When I want to shrink, I choose to expand” 

“I deserve to take up space” 

“I am enough”

” I am not responsible for others happiness” 

” I can feel hard feelings until they pass” 

“I can have restarts. I can try again. Mistakes help me grow” 

” I am doing warrior work” 

“I own peace and presence in all circumstances”

” I am brave” 

” I can communicate my needs clearly” 

” I am capable of moving forward” 

“I am still learning. I deserve grace” 

“I hold serenity and peace” 

” I am a champion” 

” I can feel frustrated and be calm.”

“My voice matters” 

“I embrace change and welcome challenges”

” I have the knowledge and space to overcome any obstacle I face”

Putting Homework in the Child’s Hands

Homework… it can be such a tricky topic! There is little research that shows homework being effective for children in elementary-aged classrooms. Upon a quick Google search, “Is homework effective for elementary-aged students?” There are pages of results full of articles denying that homework is academically effective. 

So as a teacher or a parent with higher-ups enforcing homework in the classroom, what can you do? 

Change the role of homework, stop seeing it as academic advancement, and start seeing it as an opportunity for students to build their self-awareness, self-fulfillment, and responsibility. And we do this by putting the homework in the child’s hands. 

This means as teachers we are encouraging parents to remind, but not nag, about the homework. 

It means, if possible, grading based on completion and participation instead of correctness. 

It means giving the responsibility of the homework, completion, and bringing it back and forth from home to school, to the child and not the teachers or the parents. 

It’s doing our best to teach them the intrinsic motivation of learning and practicing by watching them accomplish more and do better with the work they have put into their studies. 

It can also mean starting the conversation with your principal and superintendent about the research on homework in younger grades and seeing if you can help change school policies. 

In the end, putting the homework in the child’s hands and letting them take control of their learning can bring them more benefits later than actually doing the homework will.

11 Jokes to Use in the Classroom

Jokes in the classroom are important, you can read more about it from our earlier post here. Try these fun jokes in your classroom and let us know how they go! 

Why was 7 afraid of 8?
Because 7, 8 (ate), 9!

What did one wall say to the other wall?
I’ll meet you at the corner!

What do you call an illegally parked frog?
Toad!

What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?
Finding half of a worm in your apple!

Why are fish so smart?
Because they live in schools!

Which teachers have the greenest thumbs?
The Kinder GARDEN teachers

Why was the geometry class always so tired?
Because they were all out of shape

Why didn’t the skeleton go to the school dance?
Because he had no BODY to go with!

What is a cat’s favorite color?
Puuuurrrple

What did the teacher do when she got to the beach?
She tested the water

What vegetables do librarians like?
Quiet peas.

A Place For Jokes in the Classroom

When I was in sixth grade I had a teacher who would take the time every single day to read the Joke of the Day in the newspaper. Every day, without fail. 

We all looked forward to hearing the joke of the day and sometimes we would have a fun discussion about the joke, too. 

It was the very first thing we did in his classroom each day and it set the tone for the remainder of the school day. 

Laughing and joking immediately puts your mind at ease, it tells your body, “I am safe here, this place is okay.” This is why some people like to joke around when they are in dangerous or stressful situations, they are trying to trick their bodies into thinking they are safe and okay. 

School can feel stressful and scary for many students, but starting the school year, and even just your day, in a setting where joking and laughing and great discussions are held tells the mind, “This is somewhere we like to be. This is safe.”

If you’re not already doing something similar to Joke of the Day or adding humor into your classrooms or schools, I would strongly suggest finding a way to implement it. 

It’s a simple, easy way to tell your students that they are welcome, safe, needed, and happy in their environment. 

Do you do a joke of the day in your classroom? 

Photo by Katerina Holmes: https://www.pexels.com/photo/cheerful-black-teacher-with-diverse-schoolkids-5905918/

Talking to Students About Current World Events

The world is a heavy place right now. With wars raging in Ukraine, Israel, and multiple other places dotted across the globe, there is a lot to process. There is also a lot out there throughout the media to sift through, some facts being truthful and some unfortunately not. 

How do we talk to our students about these heartbreaking events going on right now? Especially in a day and age where teachers can easily be attacked for what is said in the classroom. 

Teach your students how to find factual sources. No need to lead them to specific news websites or bring up current events if it’s not on the schedule. But in almost every classroom, a lesson on how to find and cite factual sources is relevant. Help them to decipher the information on their own, if their parents allow. 

Remind your students that they are safe. Allow them to use your classroom as a safe space emotionally and remind them of all the safety protocols around your school that keep it physically safe as well. 

Just listen. Sometimes, human beings don’t need someone else to pass facts and opinions back and forth. Not everyone is out there looking for a debate. Sometimes, people just need a listening ear. No words are needed, just validating feelings and thoughts and turning into a listening ear. 

Stick to facts. If the topic of wars, presidential elections, or something else comes up in your classroom, stick to the facts. There is a time and place for debate and opinions, but to stay on the safe side, the classroom is not this place. Stick to facts when students have worries or questions, and refer them to school counselors when and if needed. 

We as humans need the time and space to process everything going on around us. It seems as if every day there is something new going on to add to our worry list. But as teachers, we can put on a strong face and support our students who have heavy hearts and are struggling during this time. 

What other tips would you add to this list?

A Pumpkin for Everyone

The annual first-grade field trip to the pumpkin patch is coming up. All students in the first grade are allowed to go as long as permission slips have been signed.

However, in order to pick a pumpkin out at the end of the field trip, a $5 fee must be paid by a certain date.

$5 for a school field trip isn’t a huge ask for parents… but for some parents, it’s everything. It’s more than they can give to allow their child the simple indulgence of picking a pumpkin at the end of the field trip.

On the day of the event, several kids will leave the farm with a small pumpkin.

And several will walk away empty-handed.

Maybe the parent forgot to send the money. Maybe the parent truly could not afford the money. Maybe the money was swapped with a 5th grader at recess for a candy bar, I don’t know the circumstances.

But what I did know was that some kids would be walking away without a pumpkin. And my heart broke for those students, regardless of the why.

So we sent an extra $20. It wasn’t much. It may not even cover every single child in the classroom that didn’t pay the $5 fee.

But I’m helping how and when I can, and I’m working hard to teach my children to do the same.

To find the friend on the playground who doesn’t have anyone else to play with and invite them into your game.

To notice the classmate feeling down and ask how you can help.

Because school is really cool, and we are there to learn how to read and add up numbers. But we’re also there to learn how to be really awesome human beings full of empathy and service.

So pay the extra field trip money.

Send a second sandwich in their lunch for someone who needs it.

Donate the dry-erase markers.

Because when our kids see us treating others in schools this way, they’ll turn around and do the same.