I just recently got back from a conference. I love going to conferences. I mean, I REALLY love going to them. I think most teachers have a strong affinity for learning. After all, we have chosen to stay in school for the rest of our lives! I love learning. I love sitting in classrooms, I love listening to other people who are considered experts in their field, I love hearing new ideas that inspire me and make me want to try new things! If you have not been to an educational conference (or any conference for that matter), I would highly suggest it. That being said, it can be a bit overwhelming. So, here are some friendly tips on properly preparing for attending a conference.
Most teachers are well aware that we are one of the few professions (if not the only) where you have to do more work if you call in sick then if you were to just go to work and struggle through it. It doesn’t seem right that when we are feeling terrible we need to try and create or write up a coherent lesson plan that anyone could implement while taking our place in the classroom. Even if we want to just take a day off, we need to prepare ahead of time and come up with a plan-of-attack for our substitute. It’s unfair, but it is also the way things are. This is what I do to make my life easier when I am out of the classroom.
This is the time of year when we are able to reflect on what we are grateful for. I, for one, am eternally grateful for my amazing and supportive spouse, without whom I would not be be writing this blog. I am also grateful for my wonderful family and my adorably sweet dog. I am grateful for my job, my quirky and strong coworkers and, last but not least, my outstanding students! Gratitude is a beautiful thing that shines a light and brings our focus to all of the good that surrounds us (even when it appears that we are only surrounded by muck). So, how do we teach our students to be grateful?
As teachers, I think that we sometimes feel the need to tackle the world single-handedly. Although we are used to being the head-honcho of our classrooms, that doesn’t mean that we need to approach everything alone. There are so many wonderful resources out there for teachers that should be taken advantage of. Here are just a few of the resources that I find most helpful:
We all remember the excitement and anticipation we felt as Halloween neared when we were kids. Let’s be honest, some of us still feel that way as adults! I am one of those adults. As soon as my calendar turns to October 1st, I get up early to go to the store and buy mini pumpkins that I can distribute around my classroom (I usually buy about 10). Then, about half-way through the month, I decorate for Halloween. The week of Halloween is usually a delightful mash-up of Halloween themed lessons/demos (like this), labs (like this), activities (like this) and silly movies (like this). Sometimes I think I get more into this holiday then my students do (some of them, at least)!
Below are just a small sampling of my classroom decorations; I really hope you enjoy them!
(All decorations came from the Dollar Tree, the pumpkins came from the grocery store. In total, I spent less then 10 dollars total!)
These paper bats were pre cut, but decided to laminate them so that I can reuse them from year to year. I taped string to the back and tied that to a paper-clip that I used to hang the bats from my light fixtures. I really enjoy the 3-dimentionality that these hanging bats create in my classroom.
I have found that really working on building trusting relationships with my students is the best tool I have ever had for classroom management. Once your students trust you and respect you, the level of required classroom management drops significantly. I try to keep my classroom fun and feeling safe to them. Teenagers already feel targeted by adults and are so sensitive to any punishment; this is why I try to make my classroom management strategies more ‘friendly’ than serious as they are less likely to blow up and freak out. Here are my ‘friendly’ classroom management techniques:
I don’t know how many students you have, but each year I have around 150. To some, that might seem like a lot. To others, it might seem low. To me, it seems normal. With 150 students coming in and out of my classroom everyday, it is imperative that I stay organized. My main necessity for remaining as organized as possible is the amount of papers I need to keep track of. On average, I collect about 2 items from each student per day (usually their homework and then whatever worksheet/lab they used during class). If I don’t stay on top of my grading, I can easily have 600-900 papers on my desk. Without being hyper-organized, I could easily feel overwhelmed. Or worse: I could lose papers! Every teacher’s nightmare!! Students always think we lose their papers- but we know that more often then not they still have it in their binder or forgot to put their name on it.
Here are my various ways of staying organized:
I have noticed that as students get older, the classrooms that they inhabit can get a little more boring with each passing year. As a secondary teacher, I try very hard to keep my classroom just as visually stimulating and exciting as a primary classroom. Here is a tour of some of the decorations and ideas I have had for my classroom:
I have a LOT of color in my room (as you can see). I also like to keep my desks in groups to encourage collaboration time in class. Some of my tables are groups of 6 and some are groups of 4. I actually prefer to have all groups of 4, but when I do that the classroom becomes too tight to easily maneuver. For the table groups of 6, I split them down the middle to have smaller groups of 3 for labs and various activities.
I, like most teachers, cherish my summer break. It’s a time of reflection. I often find myself asking what I feel I did right, what I could have done better and what I will do to improve myself and my lessons for the next year. Summer is also a time to sleep in, get caught up on chores around the house that have been neglected for the past 9 months and speak to/hang out with friends who have seen me much less than my students have.
I usually enjoy the first two weeks of summer break before I begin to go stir-crazy. I feel as if I have cabin fever! It is so disorienting to go from such a structured and perfectly planned out schedule to an “oh, it’s 2pm and I’m still in my pajamas? Hmmm… I suppose I should change… ” kind of schedule.