Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Little Something To Help You Get Ready For School!

Secondary Teacher's Binder in Polka Dot
In my first "Time to Get Organized" post I talked about how to select your organizational style and routine.  I shared that my best method of organization is through the use of binders and page protectors.  I created a "Secondary Teachers Binder" that has dividers for every type of paper  I find myself needing  from class lists and seating charts, to behavior records, IEP's and professional documents plus about 20 - 25 more!  I have also included monthly calendars  and weekly calendars to help plan out your entire year! 

As my first give away on this blog, I am going to give away a copy of the binder in whichever of the four patterns that you choose to one lucky follower.  Additionally, a second lucky follower will get a copy of my "Weekly and Monthly Calendars".  All you have to do is to use the rafflecopter below to enter! 


Friday, July 25, 2014

Time To Get Organized, Part Three!

I have found that a key to organization is planning ahead.  Easier said, than done, I know but if you have a goal in mind you can save time, energy and money!  Starting in early to mid-July the office supply stores starting running major sales.  These sales range from supplies for a penny, a quarter, a dollar, buy 2 get one free and mail-in rebates that make items free!
For example, in previewing next week's ad at Office Max/Depot (they merged!), I see that next week they will have 2 pocket folders on sale for a penny, 8 packs of pencils for a penny and 12-inch rulers for a penny! Further scrolling inside shows buy two get one free on packs of sharpies and dry erase markers.  Over the last two weeks they have also had index cards for $0.10/100, little pencil sharpeners for a penny, 25 packs of the pencil eraser caps for a penny. 

My boxes thus far
So, the question becomes how do you take advantage of these sales without buying unnecessary supplies because you get caught up in the savings?  I start by making a list before the sales season starts of what I need.  This usually consists of rulers, colored pencils, folders, index cards, glue sticks, more protractors, pencils and erasers, sticky notes, dry erase markers, pens, etc.  This year that list was a little longer because I am making group supply boxes for projects.  (see my post here).   Once I have my list made I start scanning the ads weekly (the previews for the next week are usually available on Friday of the previous week) to see what is coming up. 

Then I go in to "extreme couponer" mode as my husband calls it!  I plan out my route, my day and will sometimes take someone with me (like my husband) so they buy some too!  Since many of the stores have limits per purchase/person you may need to plan on going to multiple stores or on multiple days to get enough (if you want, for example, a classroom set of rulers).  I'm lucky in that I have two Office Maxes and one Office Depot in a two mile radius of each other.  (Or maybe that's not quite so lucky...)  I've also been known to hit Staples but since there isn't one close, it takes more planning.
Other things to keep in mind, if you sign up for a store reward card, some of the stores will allow you double the limit.  It's not advertised, but if you ask most give it!  Additionally, the major office supply stores have "Teacher Appreciation Days" in August.  During this time, you can get a canvas bag with samples, a 20-25% off your entire purchase coupon book and usually a coupon book to use over the next month as well! 
Searching online Office Max/Depot has their days scheduled for different states at different times.  If you click here you can put in your zip code and find the dates for your area!  I have searched and searched online, but unfortunately cannot find the dates for Staples.  You may need to ask in your local store.
If you are able to invest the time and energy, you can save a great deal of money on the supplies you
need!  In the picture below is the result of one stop.  I got enough erasers for the year, glue bottles and pencil sharpeners for all my boxes for $4.50.  I saved $12.00 on supplies that I needed.  Next week I'll be hitting the stores for the rulers, folders and pencils for pennies for sure!
One stop - cost me $4.50

Monday, July 7, 2014

Parent, Teacher...Protector?

Boo-boos that need a Band-Aid?  Check, I've got that covered.  Hurts that need a "mommy hug or kiss" to make it all better?  Check, I've got that covered too!  How to handle the following conversation, not so much...  One day not long before the school year let out I went to pick my daughter up from preschool only to find her sitting alone, trying not to cry, while the other little girls were all playing.  I asked her what was wrong and she said "mommy, they said they don't want to play with me and I need to go away".  She is a five year old, beautiful, sweet, little girl and at that moment my heart broke.  Thinking back on it now brings tears to my eyes.  I can protect her from the physical, make boo-boos go away with the magic of a Band-Aid and a kiss.  But, I cannot make other little girls be nice.  I can't protect her from the emotional hurts that potentially await her when she starts Kindergarten this fall.  That terrifies me. 

As a teacher at the secondary level I can and do intervene when I see bullying.  We have a support system in place and a zero tolerance policy.  I have spent years working to make sure that it doesn't happen in my classroom and as a school we work so hard to make sure that if it happens in the our building that there are outlets, support systems and interventions to stop it.  But as a parent, I don't have that same access.  She will be out of my sight, my reach, my "protection" all day, five days a week.  While I know that she is going to an excellent school, with a great reputation for stopping bullying in it's tracks, I also know that as parent I have to prepare her.  I have to give her tools to combat what she is already encountering.

So, I did what all people do and I started researching how I could give her the tools to not only face what she *may* encounter, but also how to overcome it and not let it hurt her like that moment in preschool did.  I found an absolutely awesome series of blogs by a website named "A Mighty Girl" ( 
The first post is entitled ""The End of Bullying Begins With Me": Bullying Prevention Books for Young Mighty Girls" and has excellent books and resources for young girls (and I'm sure they would work for young boys too!) that begin the conversation about feelings, bullying and the result.  The post is broken down into "Another Person’s Shoes: Teaching Empathy" which features books about how other people are feeling, that they may feel the same way and that it's okay to be different.  It goes on to a section entitled "Beginning With Me: Dealing With Bullies" which showcases books about how face bullying, how to stop bullying and how to not let it stop you.  The post ends with "Additional Recommended Resources" which features links to other parts of the site and other types of books.  I spent a great deal of time with going through these sources and picked a few of them up to spend some time reading during our story time daily! 

From a teacher's standpoint I was quite interested in the second part of the series "Taking a Stand Against Bullying: Bullying Prevention Books for Tweens and Teens" (and the third  which I will address in just a minute!)  This entries in this part of the series features books that I think would be excellent to pick up and keep in my classroom for when I have students come to me with bullying problems or for when I notice them myself.  It features two types of books; ones about fictional bullies and also non-fiction books about how to deal with bullies.  In the first section "Mean Girls: Fictional Bullies" I found books that I think would greatly appeal to some of my students who need to read about others situations without it being "too real".  In the second section "Taking A Stand: Non-Fiction About Bullying" I found some wonderful workbooks and implementation types of resources that I am going to recommend to our counseling department!  I think that they would find them very useful for those students who come to them and need constructive ways to address the problems.

I spent a great deal of time on the last post from both a parent and teacher standpoint.  The last post in the series is "Leading the Way: Bullying Prevention Books for Parents and Educators"  and it is broken down into three phenomenal areas.  The first, "It Starts Young: Bullying in Preschool and Elementary School" has great resources for both parents and teachers of our youngest children.  (One I already ordered is " Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades").  The second area, "Social Drama: Bullying Among Tweens and Teens" helps parents and educators to carry the message on to the next level.  It features books to keep the conversation going when young girls really start to stop talking to the adults around them and are more influenced by their peers.  The last area, "New Dimensions of Bullying: Cyberbullying and Bullying Adults" has some amazing resources to address how bullying is being taken to the next level and how to shut it down.   

While I know that books alone will not solve the problem, at least they will help me to feel less helpless.  If I can arm my daughter and my son with the tools necessary to be strong against what they face, maybe next time my daughter won't feel so alone.  Maybe next time she'll have the words to speak back or the strength to go to her teacher.  By the way, I had a conversation with her preschool teacher after this incident.  Her teacher said that she is working hard to address these issues.  I forwarded the above blogs to her and she is going to order some of the books for her classroom library.  Every step helps.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Time To Get Organized, Part Two!

One of the many challenges of teaching is organization of not only myself, but also my classroom and my students.  I cannot tell you how often I have planned to do an activity and found that I was missing some basic essential such as glue sticks (because they dried out), scissors (because for some reason they just "grow legs" and walk away), color pencils, crayons, etc. 

Once I do have everything I need, I find myself in one of two situations for distribution of those supplies.  Situation one:  I spend way too much time walk from group to group handing out, counting out the required number of each item.  Situation two:  I have students come up to get them and then have this free-for-all grabbing.  Both situations waste a great deal of time and the second one leaves me with a mess.   The clean-up, on the flip side, is just as much of a nightmare, especially if a project is long and students work right up to the bell to finish.  This leads to students that are scrambling to clean-up, supplies left on desks, or having fallen on the floor, etc.

Really Useful Box 4.0 Liter
  So, what then, is the solution?  Well, the solution I am going to implement this fall involves boxes with lids, a checklist and student roles!  I found boxes at Office Max that are big enough to hold everything that I need (including rulers!) with lids.   While they come in multiple sizes, I found this size best able to fit my needs.  I will initially stock the boxes with whatever I feel a group needs and then change the supplies out (ahead of time!) if an activity requires something more specialized.  I can label the boxes with group numbers and best of all - the are stackable!  Easy and neat storage!

Once I found my box, I needed to address the question of accountability.  I created a "Resource Box Checklist" that I will include in each box.  One person in the group will be responsible for checking off at the end of the hour that all of the supplies are accounted for at the end of the hour.  If something is running low, then they can let me know so that I can restock it. 

While I won't know until fall whether this will "fix" all of the issues that I am finding, I know that it is the first proactive step in addressing them!  You can download the resource box checklist here in editable PowerPoint format!

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