Monday, August 17, 2015


I'm excited! Tomorrow's the first day back. (Okay, I have to spend it in PD, but at least it should be good PD...) I've worked hard this summer getting all kinds of things made and organized and I can finally move it all out of the loft and into my room. Tuesday.

Between now and then, I'm jumping in with Denise, AKA #TeacherMom to offer you the chance to win some pretty sweet language tools for your classroom. I'm offering my Mentor Sentences for Big Kids interactive notebook pages. Mentor sentences are all the rage right now among the little kids for practicing grammar and writer's craft. I've adapted them for grades 4-6 and love them! Click on the picture to take you to its TpT listing
I've written about them in a blog post here.

Would you like to grab your very own set for free? Oh, yeah. We can do that!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
  Don't forget to visit all of the blogs in the giveaway! There are some great resources for the taking!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

BTS Blog Hop: Five Rules for Back to School

Welcome to The Big Kids' Hall! I'm getting ready to start another year - my 23rd - on it. I really do love school I'm just not a big fan of alarm clocks set to 5:20, so I'm enjoying my last few days of waking up to sun filtering in and birds chirping.

I'm glad you've hopped over! I'm teaming up with Tammy, The Owl Teacher and other amazing teacher bloggers for a day of tips, goodies and a giveaway to make the transition a little easier.

My part? Well, I'm giving away a set of my Mentor Sentences for Big Kids  interactive notebooks pages and offering you...

Five Rules to Own Back-to-School

1.  Set Reasonable Expectations for Yourself. This is my biggest problem. I super-duper love Pinterest. Where else can you find such amazing lessons? Such beautiful classrooms? THIS:
I have to remind myself, regularly, that Pinterest is not a challenge site. Really. I catch myself getting down on me because the chevron on the baskets doesn't perfectly pick up the color of the stripe in the rug, like it does here. That's not a good use of my energy, and when I go there, everything, even the pretty good stuff, registers as crap in my head. Luckily, I've got a teammate who's good at telling me to get over myself.

2. Try to go all Zen when your priorities and the district's don't intersect. At all. It is painful to watch the stupid epi-pen video for the zillionth time (and I've got a peanut kid at home!) but at least it sort of makes sense. What's really frustrating is some flavor of the day PD when you've got things to DO.
Case in point: Monday the 17th is not a workday; it's the last day of break. However, we are strongly encouraged to attend curriculum workshops, for which we won't be paid. I'm signed up for a Singapore Math training I'm actually looking forward to, but that's not the point. Here's the kicker: they are closing the buildings so that we CAN'T go to school and work in our rooms.  This ranks a total WTF? but long ago I learned: they simply don't get it. There's no point in getting wrapped up and stressed with things you can't control, and unfortunately, the first week workshop is a good place to practice that bit of self-discipline. Just make sure your phone's charged when you go in. There are some apps you can get set up or work with while you're nodding and appearing engaged.  

3. Put other people to work. Does the high school have teacher cadets? They looove to cut lamination. Email their sponsor. Are there teens in your neighborhood that need service hours? They're probably as desperate to help as you are to have some. My high-schooler has gotten pretty good at setting up classrooms and is allowed to hire himself out at school when I don't need him. (I really missed his help at the end of last year because his summer job at the movie theater had started.) Don't think you have to do it all yourself. 

4. Beat the K-2 teachers to the laminator. or you won't get any done. If you're a rookie and you think I'm kidding, I'm not. I have no idea where all of those teeny-tiny things come from or even what they're for, but I do know that if I'm not on that pile early, I'll be up until midnight the night before Open House cutting my laminating because we had to wait for a roll of film to come in.

5. Enjoy at least one lunch, especially if you're losing your mind. I teach in the South, so duty free lunch is not part of my experience. I eat with the kids (but at least I get to eat at the teacher table; not everyone does.) This is one of the few times that I can enjoy the company of my teammates without the cacophony of 130 kids and having to stand up and give the stink eye to some kid behaving badly. Make yourself take a time out, even when you're sure if you do you'll never get done.  You'll be glad you did.

Be sure to pin the rules to keep and to share the giveaway with your friends!
Here's to a happy and productive start of the year!
Would you like a free sample of my Mentor Sentences? You'll find the freebie Geek Edition right here!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Seasoned Sages Sundays: Setting Yourself Up for Success: The Questions (and Whom) to Ask Now

On a Facebook group page for upper elementary teachers, a new teacher asked, very intelligently, 'What questions should I be asking my principal or my team leader right now?'  There's so much that you'll have to manage, you want to know how it all rolls before you plan a room and a day.

Before we begin though, let me toss in this thought: listen a lot more than you talk over the next few months. People-watch. Keep an eye on interactions and how they flow. Who are the power players? (They may not be the people you think!) They'll be your go-to people. The first week, full-staff meetings are good for starting this.

What should I be asking my principal?
As little as possible. He/she runs a building. Your job is to run your classroom. A young teacher I once worked with, having trouble managing a class went, often, to admin for help. Then, hurt and confused, she found herself on the wrong side of the principal and labeled as a poor teacher. Afterwards, she came to the veteran teachers on our staff saying, "But she said that if I needed help, I should go to her!" to which each of us answered, "And you believed her?!"
My boss is a great guy. He's affable and easy to work with. I leave him alone unless something needs his express approval (like an overnight field trip) is going to cause a phone call downtown he'll have to deal with (a particular child's crazy mama's on the warpath, wanting things she can't have. Again.) something that will affect several teachers (a schedule change) or is way over my head (a child in a criminally abusive situation). As a reward, he's always glad to see me, and on the rare occasion I need action, I get it.

Great. So, whom do I ask?
A not very well kept secret is that it's the secretaries who actually make everything work. (Ours aren't actually called 'secretaries', they're a bookkeeper and an attendance officer. Some can be a little touchy about it. Mine aren't, but the ones at my son's school are. Find out.) Most day-to-day questions or issues should be run by them first. From them, you need to find out:
*How is attendance done?
*How do I handle (Powerschool, or whatever platform's being used for grades, attendance, etc.) What if I get locked out of it?
*How do I get classroom supplies?
*How is money handled?
*What if a kid's hurling? Lousy? Bleeding?
*What if my kid's school/sitter calls and he or she is hurling/lousy/bleeding?
*How do I get a sub?

Your grade/department chair is the person to whom to direct most of your questions. These should be things like:
*Do we plan together or on our own? Will we turn in lesson plans? If so, when and how?
*What are the expectations for the literacy block? Other areas?
*How does our grade/department collect data? What's it used for? Who will see it?
* What's the daily schedule? How religiously does it have to be followed?
* What are the procedures for: beginning the day, using the bathroom (not just the kids - you too.   Welcome to the world of the steel bladder.) getting through the cafeteria, playground, dismissal? Get your lead to walk you through a day.
* How do you handle homework? Word study?
* How do papers go home to parents?
* What if a kid's doing horribly? What are the procedures for getting those kids help?
*What do teachers actually wear? Are there jeans Fridays? How does that work?
*What sends the boss over the edge?What quirks does he or she have that I should know about?

Assistant Principals sit an odd fence. I've loved most of mine and had my tail saved by a few. They live in the admin world, but still keep a toe in the classroom. Rarely, you'll run into one that's ambitious to the point of putting him/herself above what's good for teachers, in which case, principal rules apply, but as long as you lean sparingly, they can be a great resource. Specifically, you'll need to know:
*How and how often will I be evaluated?
*Who is my mentor? Are there particular times that teacher and I meet? Is documentation required?
*What do I do if there's a transportation issue?
* What's the procedure if a kid's totally out of control?

Finally, a few last bits of this and that:
Be nice to the lunch ladies. Make your kids behave in line and don't let them talk trash about the pizza until they're out of earshot. Clean up your tables; keep to the schedule.

Be even nicer to the custodians, unless you never want anything moved or dusted again. Don't leave the room trashed. I once had one say, "I know everything I need to know about a teacher just by looking at her floor at the end of the day." Think about it; she was telling the truth. My current hall custodian is awesome. I left a small bookcase in its box on my floor one afternoon in May, planning to put it together the next morning. When I came in, it was already built. While I never go to the office to tattle, I totally will to brag. Mr. Larry's the man!

If you have security staff and/or a CRO (Campus Resource Officer) get to know them. They're your guardian angels and can do a lot with your kids as an alternative for kicking them to the office.

I know this was lengthy, and if you stuck with it to the end, good job! Believe it or not, there's no way I've covered it all, so continue on to the other Sages' sites to learn more!

Before you go, be sure to pin this for your teacher friends!