The Power of Asking: Creating Classroom Resources

Being a teacher means one absolute- paying for your own supplies. It is no secret that there are teachers across the nation paying out of pocket for staplers, books, and more. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a way we as teachers could find our own resources, but not pay out of pocket? What if I told you there is ONE simple way you could have access to copious amounts of supplies without spending a dime? Because there is a way, and it really can be simple. Here it is.

Ask. 

Asking for donations and supplies can be scary, scary enough that many don’t go this route. The way I like to look at it is, what is the worst that could happen? They tell you no? But let’s break it down- who do you ask, and how do you ask? 

Who- This comes with endless possibilities. Ask your principal, see what the school can offer you. Maybe they have staples and sticky notes and really cool classroom sets of books lying around that never get used because no one ever asked! 

Parents- Some parents may not want to contribute their time, money, or resources to your classroom, and that is fine! Others may not have the means do to so. That’s okay too. But there are also parents out there who can and will support you how you need, you may just need to ask. 

Friends and family- It might surprise you how willing people are to chip in a few dollars here or there to your classroom. Amazon Wishlists and DonorsChoose.org are great resources for sharing what your wants and needs are in a classroom, giving others the option to help fund and support those wants and needs. My dear friend Danielle Macias has been a great example of asking friends and family for support of her classrooms by sharing a donors choose platform when she has a need. She said,
   

“I’ve learned that social media, especially Twitter, can be a great platform to share any projects I may need help with. There are also many donors who are willing to help if you know whom to ask. I would advise teachers to familiarize themselves with Twitter hashtags like #clearthelist and join Donors Choose FB group. (Teachers need to make sure that it’s okay with their district.) I would also advise that teachers promote their donors to choose projects when there’s a promotion to increase their chances of getting funded.” 

Danielle was able to raise money to fund a classroom set of books and headphones. The options and possibilities can be endless if we do one simple thing- ask. 

How have you obtained classroom resources on a budget? 

Teacher Resources During COVID-19 School Shutdowns

Dear teachers, 

I know you’re stressed, we’re all walking in uncharted territory right now. Schools shutting down left and right, or if your school is still open, very few students showing up each day. How do we help our kids? How do we help them not regress during this stressful time? How do we calm their nerves as well as our own? 

It’s hard to be in the situation we are all in. It’s hard not to see your student’s faces every day, and have to worry about if they have enough food or if their behavior will regress (again) once they are back. So many variables for so many different situations. 

Luckily, we’re all going through this together and there are resources out there for us! Our community is banding together and helping where we can. Here is a quick list of the fun things you can send home to your parents for your students to do during their time away from school. 

Mo Willems is doing lunch doodles every day with kids. His first episode was 22 minutes long, his most recent episode was 27 minutes long. They are at 1 pm Eastern Time every day on YouTube, or they can watch them whenever they like later. 

On Instagram, @macbarnett is doing a live read-aloud of his books every day at noon PST. 

Cincinnati Zoo is doing a live video on their Facebook page each weekday at 3 pm Eastern Time. They will be highlighting their favorite animals and sending kids off to do an activity from home. 

Welcome back for our second Home Safari! Today we will be learning more about Rico the Brazilian porcupine! After the video check out this page on our website for a fun activity to work on at home – http://cincinnatizoo.org/home-safari-resources/ Join us each day at 3pm EDT as we highlight different animals that call the Cincinnati Zoo home.

Posted by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on Tuesday, March 17, 2020

At nps.gov kids can download special interest books. 

Our local library here in Utah is live-streaming their storytime on Instagram live every weekday at 11 am MST and a boredom buster for kids at 4 pm. You can follow them at @provolibrary 

Utah’s Hogle Zoo is doing a Facebook and Instagram live every day at 11:30 am MST featuring their fun animals and educating them on each one. 

Search around on every social media platform and you are certain to find a variety of posts and live videos geared towards educating kids because everyone can see the need right now. Also, a simple post to help parents make it through as well.

Other resources you most likely know as a teacher, but maybe haven’t mentioned to parents yet: 

GoNoodle, Khan Academy, Newsela, National Geographic Kids, PBS kids, Starfall ABC app and Starfall.com, VOOKS, Virtual Field Trips,  and Lucid Charts. Also, remind students they can still collaborate with peers via Google Drive. 


Guys, we can do this. It’s going to be hard and uncomfortable for most, but we can band together amidst the chaos and confusion. 

What other tips and resources do you have for parents and teachers? Let’s start a list together, we can go further with collaboration! 

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? 

Do You Have An ENTJ Student? Here Are A Few Tips

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

E- extroverted
N- I(n)tuition 
T- Thinking 
J- Judgement

Do you have a student who is driven to lead and succeed? One that may come off as overbearing to peers, or can easily push others too far in projects? This student may be an ENTJ personality type. 

These students are big advocates for well-executed plans and thrive in structure. If you ever notice that they are having a hard time focusing or learning, look around at their environment. Do they need more structure? Do they have a plan? Is future thinking in their minds? 

Group work is where they shine, especially with their extroverted tendencies. However, it is important to note that they will not thrive unless they take the lead. These students do not lead quietly, taking charge and managing people is their strong suit. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that their future careers usually end up in higher management, top executives, and CEOs. 

ENTJ students need a driving force in their learning. They need to know how and why this will benefit their future, and the more it logically makes sense, the more likely they are to dive deep into the subject. When they ask the common question, “When am I ever going to use this in my life?” if you can give them a solid, realistic answer, there is a good chance they will accept it and move forward with more appreciation for the topic. 

I personally interviewed a few ENFJ students to ask how best they learn and what they wish their teachers knew. A common answer among all of them was that any information given too fast or brushed over cannot and will not be learned. They need time to process information and many different ways to take it in, such as hearing it, reading it, then writing it.  

If you know of an ENTJ student who is struggling with understanding a concept on a deeper level, a great solution for them could be to make a focus group to discuss it further amongst peers. This can give them multiple perspectives to ponder and bring their comprehension to a greater level. 

Do you teach an ENTJ student? What personality traits do you see in them? How does knowing their personality type help you in your teaching? 

Featured Photo: https://www.mbtionline.com/

How Vulnerability Lead To My Greatest Breakthrough

Graduating with a teaching degree in December can be a tricky thing. For me, I was in an area with too many teachers and not enough classrooms. While it may be an ideal situation for a school district, it was hard on me for finding work, so my solution was to sign up as a substitute teacher. Within the first few weeks, a principal from a nearby school called offering me a job as a long term sub for a first-grade classroom while their teacher was on maternity leave. I was overjoyed! The job wouldn’t start for a few months, but the teacher requested me to come in a few times to get a feel for the classroom and learn their daily schedule. 

I spent the next two months visiting the classroom about once a week, helping here and there, and getting to know the students. Right away, I could tell they all really loved their teacher, and even though they were excited for her to have her baby, they were sad to see her leave. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but immediately, I was intimidated. I felt like these kids already knew I was less of a teacher and that they would resent me for taking her place. Without even realizing, I started promoting myself to them, trying to prove that I would be a sufficient replacement. 

Every time I visited the classroom I promised them new things. “Guys, when I come to teach you we will do fun things!” My list grew and grew with promises. 

You love legos? Great! I’ll bring legos!

We can color ALL OF THE TIME. 

I have some super fun books that I can read to you guys! We can do read alouds all day long! 

Do you play the violin? We should find a day for you to play it for us! 

This was me showing them that I could be a fun teacher too. I was doubting my abilities, so obviously they had to be doubting them as well. 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this would backfire. In fact, it only took one day. 

I walked in on my first day with the highest hopes and walked out at the end of the day in tears. Four kids had been shuttled to the principal’s office before lunch. During reading time we didn’t even make it through the text because there was too much side talking for anyone to concentrate. And walking through the hallways was a joke. I could not keep enough order to keep them in line, let alone quiet enough to not disrupt other classrooms. In fact, another teacher stepped into the hallway and yelled at the kids as we walked by because they were losing control. I was losing control. I knew I was failing. 

I had a 25-minute drive home to think about what went wrong and how I needed to fix it. As I pulled into my driveway, it all dawned on me. I never tried to be their teacher, I only tried to be their friend. And even though I truly believe in having a good relationship with your students and teaching to their needs, I also know that my prime role in the classroom is a teacher. 

Continuing on in my reflecting, I also came to realize that I actually didn’t have to prove myself to them. All of these inadequacies I was feeling came only from me, not from them. That night I sat down and made myself a plan for day two. Something needed to change in order for us to make it through the next 9 weeks together. 

Tuesday morning I started off different than their teacher ever had. I stood by the door, which immediately caught them off guard. I instructed each student as they entered to head to the rug for a meeting, to which most students gave me weird looks or protested because it was so out of the norm for them. 

Once we were all seated, I apologized to them for how the day had run previously. I apologized that I didn’t have better control of the class, that we were not able to learn much from the lack of management, and for the disruptions that hindered our day. I felt vulnerable in front of these first-graders apologizing for my mistakes, but it was a great learning moment for all of us. 

After apologizing to them, I laid out my expectations clear and simple for them. Talking while I am talking would not be tolerated. Walking through the hallways would look like quiet, respectful students who walked, not ran. Further expectations followed but ended with a powerful statement that I repeated to them for the remainder of my time there. I told them that they were the BEST class in the whole entire school and that they only sent me to be their teacher because of their exceptional behavior, and that I expected them to uphold this. 

Most of them did not believe me at first, they were known as a hard class throughout the school and they knew that. But I can promise you, I changed their minds by the time I left them. 

By the end of day two, I cannot say that we had a miraculous change. But I can say that there was an improvement. I took on the role of a teacher and it made a big difference. Little by little, we had better and better days. They were quietly walking through the hallways and raising their hands to speak more often. We still had our struggles and I still worked hard to maintain their confidence that they were the best class in the entire school, even when I was doubting it myself. 

I finally realized I had corrected my mistake a few weeks in as I walked my class to the library. They quietly filed in and followed the instructions of the librarian. Our school librarian looked at me in amazement and congratulated me. I asked what for and she said, “I have never seen this class behave so well, you are doing an incredible job with them! You must have been exactly what this class needed.” 

I had a little smile on my face as I walked back to the classroom. Little did she know, our first days together were chaotic and we hadn’t learned a thing, and it wasn’t necessarily the student’s fault, it was mine. 

I learned so many things from my long term sub job. One big takeaway that has helped me in my teaching is that classroom management is key and that relationships with students thrive after expectations are set. I couldn’t connect with them because I couldn’t gain control long enough to know them. 

I ended my 9 weeks of teaching with some of the greatest student relationships I have ever made. I may have taught them phonics and how to add two-digit numbers, but they taught me how to be the best teacher. And the most satisfying moment was when another teacher commented on how my class was one of the best in the whole school. I knew the potential was there all along, we just all needed to believe it a little more. 

What does your classroom management look like? How do you establish it with each new class? 

Cover Photo: deathtothestockphoto.com

How ‘Empowered’ Can Make You Feel….. Empowered.

Let’s talk about books that help us become better teachers. There are typical books like What Works in Schools by Robert Marzano. There is also Teachers And Machines: The Classroom Use Of Technology Since 1920 by Larry Cuban. While I’ve never read either of them, I am certain they are excellent at giving all of the information they are trying to get across in a very explicit way. 

After I read the book Empowered by Nathan Cureton, I realized that not all informational, inspiring teacher books needed to be direct learning. While I do recognize that there are a time and a place for the more straightforward books, I appreciated the different aspect that Nathan used while writing Empowered

The book is a fictional story about a school counselor that meets with and helps the teachers of the school, both new and old, work through their classroom management to create an ideal classroom culture. He uses the power of a fictional storyline to bring you into a world that is very realistic with common situations and problems that teachers face today, then helps you solve these problems by watching Kris, the school counselor, work with each teacher on improving their classrooms day by day. All of these tips Kris is giving to the teachers are tips that each of us can glean for our own classrooms.

It amazed me how powerful the indirect text was as I read it. Reading about that teacher who struggled with students blurting out made me feel like someone knew exactly what I felt like trying to manage a 9th-grade class for the first time. I connected with the book and those fictional teachers on such a personal level. I found myself thinking a few times in the book, “No! Paul! That’s not how Kris told you to handle your classroom!! STOP!” 

Nathan talks about how each classroom has its own unique culture, it’s own way it functions and runs. Each teacher’s room has a different culture from the next, and in the book he points out how students go from one classroom to the next, transferring into different expectations from different people. This is why explicit expectations need to be taught because one teacher is fine with a dull roar throughout the classroom at all times. The next has a strict “no talking while I am” rule. While Mr. Smith across the hall has constant chatter. It’s only fair to the students to explicitly let them know what you expect in your classroom. 

After reading this, I had a moment of, “Oh. Duh.” This is what I needed to read before I started teaching. Isn’t it funny how I spent four years during undergrad learning this, yet after I had some teaching experience and read this book, that’s when it sunk in? 

Whether you’re still in school, it’s your first year teaching, or you’ve been teaching for years and years, I highly recommend reading Empowered. Lose yourself in Kris’ journey, and maybe learn a little classroom management while you’re at it! 

My Teacher Values

*Deep breath.* I know I shared last spring that I am planning on returning to the classroom in 2020, but I have decided to start applying to return to the classroom this year. Many back-to-school events have already started, so at the moment I’m looking at last-minute positions that have opened up unexpectedly, with little to no classroom prep time before the kids are in school.

I have said many times that there will be many changes to my approach to teaching and learning when I return to the classroom–it’s hard to know where to even start! So I’m trying to mentally organize and distill the strategies, ideas, & priorities that have meant most to me over the years. Not only do I want be oriented for a potential quick jump back into a classroom, but I want to be articulate when interviewing with administrators about what matters most to me as a teacher. So here are a few stand-outs:

Lens of strengths over lens of deficit ~Lanny Ball

Writing and reading workshops for independent tinkering & exploration. Marina Rodriguez (& all the teachers over at Two Writing Teachers!)

Caring for students vs simply caring about them. ~Taryn BondClegg

Helping students start with their why. ~Taryn BondClegg (also Taryn’s Questions, Problems, Ideas board, which I like a lot better than my old suggestion box)

#ClassroomBookADay ~ Jillian Heise

Self Regulation ~Aviva Dunsinger, Christine Hertz

“I intend to…because…” by Marina Gijzen

Culture of agency ~ Edna Sackson

Culture of inquiry ~ Kath Murdoch

Soft Starts ~ Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski

Need for cultivating both reading skills and love of reading ~ Pernille Ripp

Holistic, integrated approaches to subjects ~ Anamaria Ralph

Learning through play ~ Kelsey Corter

I don’t know exactly what the future holds at this moment (keep in mind that this post is queued up and changes may happen before this actually publishes!) But I do know that, although I have missed being in the classroom over the last 5 years, I am profoundly grateful for the time I’ve had to read, learn, and discuss learning with teachers all over the world. They have been so generous with their own learning and strategies. A PLN is truly an incredible gift! Thank you to all here, and to many more not on this particular list!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto