Self-Care Sunday: Exercise and Meditation Edition

When I’m exhausted or stressed out, the idea of vigorous exercise is often not appealing in any way whatsoever. I know that it helps me with my stress and anxious feelings. I know it has tons of benefits. But sometimes, I’m just tired.

Several months ago, I went to a class at my yoga studio in which the teacher blended yoga and pilates strategies for a calming and effective workout. Basically, we did core and arm workouts, but focused on slow, deliberate movements that allowed us to maintain a consistent, calm breathing pattern. And once we closed our eyes, it was like a meditative state while doing our crunches, or our forearm planks, or whatever else we were doing. Mainly because the focus was on maintaining our breath.

Deep, slow, consistent breathing patterns are so calming. Whenever I’m feeling stressed out, I find a few minutes to sit in a quiet place and just take a few breaths. 

So, today, if you’re feeling anxious and don’t have the time or energy for a long, vigorous workout, pick a few simple workout moves and try to perform them slowly while breathing calmly. This could be lunges, squats, push ups, sit ups, leg lifts, or any other activity. The slow, deliberate movement will enhance your muscle strength and control, and the calm breathing will help ease some of that anxiety.

#educationlesson - Reading and Annotating a Nonfiction Text

hithertokt said it was a DARE, and I just finished pl*nning, so WHY NOT. Here’s the thing though, I’m not required to type up or turn in formal lesson plans, so here are the bullet points from my pl*nner.

Success Starter: We’re going to listen to a song (probably “I’ll Be There for You” by the Rembrandts) and they’re going to write down as many details as they can. We’ll probably listen to it twice so they can write down some more. Our last academic vocabulary word/phrase was supporting details, so this will be a nice connection to last week. Then, they’ll work in their groups of four to agree on the five most important details. This will be our segue into our AV for the day: key details!

(I get my Success Starter and Academic Vocabulary ideas from these awesome books that I am never without!)

Pre-Reading: We’ll take a look at the article we’re going to read and talk about what we notice - title, author, date of publication, skim for types of evidence (numbers, quotes), and discuss what we know about the topic (this week, it’s e-cigarettes).

Reading and Annotating: Then, we’re going to read and annotate the article together (I got it from Kelly Gallagher’s website, which is full of awesome articles!), and they will be instructed to label evidence (that was our AV a couple of weeks ago), key details, important points, and things that confuse them. I like to have them write this at the top of their paper so if they forget they can check there instead of raising their hand and interrupting whatever we’ve moved on to.

The way I do reading in class is I ask for four or five kids to volunteer to read. I list them on the board. The first one starts, reads as long as they want, then stops. Then the next one starts, and so on until we’re done. This way, no one is forced to read aloud (I disagree with the “It’s good for them” philosophy), there’s no anxiety for anyone, and I can focus on modeling. Using the doc cam, I model while they read. Kids who need support in annotating are able to watch and copy, and kids who don’t can focus on their own paper. 

This early in the year, I also stop every few paragraphs and explain what we just read. Or I ask clarifying questions, or ask them to share something with their neighbor, or whatever else is needed.

Preparing to Write: When we’re done reading, we will fill out a graphic organizer that will prepare them to write a paragraph response that uses evidence from the article to prove their point. I usually model the first part, then they work on the second part in groups, then they do the last part on their own (Gradual Release of Responsibility, whaaaaaaaaaaat!).

Then they go home and write brilliant paragraph drafts, knowing they’ll have a chance to revise them later.

I’ve taught lessons like this for a while because it’s a main assignment all teachers in my grade level do at my school (in preparation for a common writing assessment), and I love it because it’s scaffolded and differentiated, and leads to high level thinking and writing for students of all ability levels. And the revision opportunity just motivates them so much to do that first draft because they’re less likely to give up because they think they can’t do it. 

And it bears mentioning that I follow this same process with poetry later in the year. And when they show they’re able, I start assigning the reading and annotating for homework because that’s what’s expected of them next year.

Self-Care Sunday - Gettin’ a Bit Sick Edition

After watching my husband run himself ragged this week and then get sick (he is surprised every time and I just roll my eyes and say, “Really?”), I thought I would focus on that today: HOW TO AVOID GETTING SICK.

Step 1: Don’t run yourself ragged

Working for 10 hours a day is more than reasonable. Don’t bring more work home with you and then feel guilty about relaxing on the couch instead. Or worse, feel miserable while doing it and then start resenting your career choice. Just leave it at school. It’ll get done eventually. And if it doesn’t get done and your classroom keeps running, maybe question whether that assignment or task is really necessary in the first place.

If you don’t make time for yourself to relax a bit every day, you will have a hard time sleeping.

Step 2: SLEEP. Sleep a lot.

Without sleep, your immune system has no chance of warding off germs. Your immune system likely weakened over the summer because you weren’t constantly around the walking germ factories we love so much. So, give it a chance to power up again by resting! If you don’t sleep, you will get sick.

Step 3: Healthy beverages

Obviously water is important, but while you focus on drinking more water, consider drinking fewer sugary drinks too. This includes sodas and bottled juices and teas with lots of added sugar in them. Consider adding fresh fruits or veggies to water for a refreshing drink throughout the day without the added sugar. I love putting cucumber in my water, but berries or citrus slices work great too. :)

Also, tea. Oh, I love tea. Starbucks has amazing iced tea (I like the green tea and the passion tea), but they automatically put a TON of sweetener in them, so I ask for no sweetener or just one pump of it. And of course, any hot tea that you make or order anywhere is just yummy water, so drink up! It’s good for you! Just be aware of your caffeine intake. I usually drink herbal teas in the afternoon for this reason.

Step 4: EAT. Eat a lot.

Food is fuel. Delicious fuel. And your immune system needs it. Pack a few servings of fruit in your lunch to snack on throughout the day. Include some veggies and hummus for a healthy, filling snack. Or chips and salsa. Or anything that’s not full of sugar. You’ll feel great, and your body will be able to fight off germs - everybody wins!

Step 5: Make time for yourself. Every. Day.

This might mean watching your favorite TV show on Netflix each night after dinner. Or reading every night before bed. Or it might mean chatting with a friend on Facebook, or perusing Tumblr. Lately for me, it’s been watching hilarious videos on YouTube. I mean, who wouldn’t love watching Jenna Marbles wax Tyler Oakley’s legs? 

On the weekends, go outside! Exercise! Hang out at the coffee shop! Go shopping! Do something that makes you happy.

Without this, teaching can be all-consuming and miserable. Don’t let it take over your life. You deserve some You Time.

That’s it for this week. Take care!

Self-Care Sunday

I think this should be a thing.

After being sick for a week I’m on the mend, and I boarded the self-care train these last 24 hours and recommend you join me. Here are some ideas:

- Go find a new bath and body product that you absolutely love using, and USE IT. My new favorite is Soap and Glory’s Rich and Foamous body wash. It has a sweet and nutty smell that you’ll love if you like the nutty Body Shop body butters (my favorite is the cocoa butter one). When I feel exhausted or icky, this just makes getting in the shower worth it.

Take a bath  and do all the things you never have time to do in your morning shower. Exfoliate (here’s my favorite scrub). Moisturize. Soak. Relax. You can light candles. You can use bath salts (actual bath salts, not the terrifyingly synthetic drugs). You can drink wine. You can read. Whatever your heart desires. 

Use a face mask. I’ve only recently started using face masks, but they’re so awesome. I bought this one at Target, and it’s super affordable, and makes my skin feel like new. I use it in the middle of the week, or if I don’t have the energy, then I just use it on the weekend. Would be great to put on if you’re taking a bath. :) I was always weary of face masks because I have generally awful skin, and I thought a scrubby mask might make it more irritated. But, when I started researching I realized that there’s a mask for every skin type and every skin problem. There are cleansing masks, exfoliating masks, calming masks, any kind of mask you want exists. Treat yo self.

Go shopping and if you’re on a budget, buy one thing on sale that you love. Just the time spent wandering a store you love can be a relaxing endeavor. Or if you have more time and cash, try a few new things. I spent way too much time and money in Sephora today, and while I left with a few products I wanted/needed, I also tried new things and left with samples. I love samples. Perfume samples. Eye cream samples. Foundation samples.  Because they’re free! And hey, maybe pick up an amazing product that isn’t super expensive but that you can’t wait to use. Today I got Boscia’s Konjac Cleansing Sponge to help take care of my face. :)

(Disclaimer: If you go to Sephora, and people help you with samples, ask for a survey link and their name. They do not get commission, and the way they get recognition for their excellent customer service is through this customer survey. So. Get the link. Get their names. And take that survey. Include their names in the open comments section. They deserve it.)

Self-care is so important, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Also, beauty products aren’t just relegated to women who wear a lot of make-up. Make-up is just one small corner of the Treat Yo Self Beauty World - embrace the lotions, the fragrances, the cleansers, the sponges, the creams, and sprays that the beauty world has to offer! You deserve it.

(Second disclaimer: men are allowed to do all of these things too. You can use face masks. You can use body washes. And you can take baths. It’s all awesome. Join us!)

Why I Hated Meredith's First Grade Teacher: An Open Letter to America's Teachers


Don’t worry - the title is misleading.  :)

Love this. Here’s a snippet that spoke to me:

"But I promise, underneath that bravado of the seventh grader or swagger of the tenth grader you will find that small first grader who wonders, “Will my teacher like me?” And when that child – that teen – knows that you believe he or she matters, then that student will do most anything for you."

I met one of my students today; he was wandering campus with a friend looking for their classrooms.

And he was so small and so friendly with a big smile, and that smile reminded me that the students are the best part of this job.

And while I am not prepared and while my to-do list is long, I realized that I actually am ready to welcome my new batch of students with a friendly smile and high expectations (on Thursday, yikes).

Because I’ll get prepared eventually, and I’ll cross things off the list.

And I now remember that the reason I do all of this is them. And that I’m ready.


When students in your class don’t seem to be making a real effort to learn, try to shift your point of view. Consider that students are continually making choices. Every day they ask themselves, “Is participation a good idea? Is this activity worth my effort? Should I bother?” Contrary to popular belief, students don’t owe their teachers a thing. Most are in school because the law requires them to be there, and their friends are there.

But you, as a teacher, chose your job. As a teacher, you receive monetary compensation and some degree of emotional or vocational fulfillment in exchange for making your best effort to transform students’ lives. Remember, to lay the foundation for sustained motivation and effort in your classroom, you have to build relationships, demonstrate passion, and get buy-in.


Eric Jensen, Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind

So you’re a new teacher…


I’m getting ready to go into my second year of teaching, and I’ve been reflecting on what I learned last year. I thought writing it out might be helpful. Here it is, in a top ten tips. #Educhums, please add to this!

  1. Don’t worry, you’ve got this. I know, I know! Your final internship was ages ago, you’ve just been through all kinds of orientation, you sort of know where things are (including your supplies), and now there are students in your classroom. Terrifying! HOWEVER. Remember that fake confidence you used in student teaching until you felt real confidence? You still have it. Remember the lesson plan you made for today? It’s there for you to follow. Take your time and teach the routines and procedures first. That’s what you do first. See? Not so terrifying. 
  2. HR is your friend. Your district may automatically put part of your salary in a retirement fund. You have a right to decide how that money will be invested. You district  may pay you more if you have advanced degrees. You have to ask for the extra money. Your district may offer you an option to spread your paycheck out over the year, instead of only receiving a paycheck during the school year. You have to request this. Have you heard of a 401k? The ones for teachers is a 403b and you should start saving now. HR will help you with all of this, but you have to ask. 
  3. Don’t forget to eat. Try to pack your lunch the night before. Make dinners you really like and bring in the leftovers. Model healthy eating for the students by snacking on fruits and veggies during the day. 
  4. Don’t forget to hydrate. You will be able to get used to your bathroom schedule, I promise. So keep drinking whatever you enjoy - I bring in a big thermos of tea - throughout the day. And once the students have gone and you’re prepping for the next day, chug-a-lug (water). 
  5. Don’t forget to keep yourself tidy. If you can, when you can, set your clothes out the night before. Get make up wipes. I know, they’re wasteful, they’re not as good as washing your face. Yup. But some nights you may be very, very tired and a make up wipe is almost effortless and better than nothing. They are also great for a quick under-arm clean up when you’ve not got the time to shower and need fresh deodorant. 
  6. You have health insurance. Use it. There are a lot of things I could put here, like researching what you can spend your FSA money on and putting some money in that. But what I really want you to know is that health insurance covers therapy and you should not be afraid to use it. Teaching is challenging work! And perhaps the biggest challenge is how you are in charge of so much of what happens in the classroom. That student who is making you crazy is not going to change, but you can change your attitude. As a new teacher, you may just need a safe place to voice your insecurities and frustrations. I think cognitive behavioral therapy is best for improving your attitude in the classroom, but don’t be afraid to look around until you find a good fit. 
  7. Your district has resources for new teachers. Use them. Maybe you’ll get a mentor teacher, maybe not. But there should be workshops for new teachers, at the very least. Go to them. Meet other new teachers. You’re not alone!
  8. Ask questions. All those colleagues you have? They were in your shoes once. Your grade level chair? That person is there to help everyone in the grade. So ask the questions you have! And if the person you ask can’t or won’t help you, ask to see who can. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. Isn’t that what you tell your students? 
  9. Be confident and put yourself out there. So it’s your first year. Don’t let that stop you from taking on extra projects! School garden? Organizing a field trip? Teaching an after-school zumba class? I’m not saying take on everything. Getting the teaching-life balance right is an ongoing act, and sometimes you will take on too much. But what’s the worst thing that will happen? The garden  could be neglected. The field trip might not materialize. You can only do the zumba for one quarter. These are not consequences of devastation. 
  10. Keep learning. Join your local reading / math / science / social studies / music / art council. Read new books. Follow #education on tumblr. Sign up for professional development. Help to keep alive within yourself the reasons why you chose this profession. 

tl;dr: First year teachers, you’ve got this. Fake it till you make it, take care of yourself and your money, and ask, ask, ask questions. 

This advice is amazing. Yes to everything.

Dear first (and second, and third?) year teachers,
This is the best advice ever. And it is far more eloquent than what I repeat to my new colleagues each year, which is “You can only do the best you can do right now.”
Print this out. Put it by your desk. And give yourself a break.

Dear first (and second, and third?) year teachers,

This is the best advice ever. And it is far more eloquent than what I repeat to my new colleagues each year, which is “You can only do the best you can do right now.”

Print this out. Put it by your desk. And give yourself a break.

(Source: theyuniversity, via pilarsclassroom)

New Teachers: Try EVERYTHING

I’m preparing to meet with some new teachers in my department, and I just came across this amazing resource from @itsssnix, which I highly recommend and will be utilizing myself, but that’s another post for another day.

Her post and my upcoming meeting prompted me to think about what I should say to my colleagues tomorrow. One is a first-year teacher, and two are second-year teachers. I’m not that much more experienced than them, but I feel like year three, which I just completed, is where a teacher really finds the roots of their style. Where things really start to solidify and stick and grow.

My first semester as a teacher was just survival. My second was experimental. I tried all kinds of strategies and procedures and techniques.

My first semester as a second-year teacher was better, but I didn’t think I needed to be as strict about procedures and rules as Past Me and told Future Me to be. And I was wrong. 

But last year. Last year I finally got it. I was firm, but friendly. I had high expectations and welcomed all my students to reach them. It wasn’t a perfect year by any stretch, but the experience helped with the day-to-day management, and collaboration helped refine the teaching practices. And I still experimented with stuff, because that’s what teachers do.

So tomorrow, when I meet with these teachers, my main advice will be two-fold: follow through and try everything.

Follow through with all instructions for behavior and expectations. And don’t say anything you will not actually follow.

Try every kind of vocabulary activity, reading strategy, writing process you can find. Just see what works for you and for your students.

You’re going to have a very long mental list of all the things you are doing wrong (according to you) and all the things you want to start doing. And since that list will be so long, you will have to prioritize. And you’ll check things off this year, and then a few more things off next year, and so on. Don’t burn yourself out trying to get everything perfect this year. No year is ever perfect.

Teaching can be all-consuming during those first two years, and that is when anxiety can start (for me it had never been a problem until that first year) or peak (for others already battling anxiety, it can get worse), and self-care is essential. You actually will have 15 minutes before bed to read. Make that time. Drink your tea. Or wine. I love wine. And beer. Mmmm beer. 

Sorry, got distracted there.

Watch your favorite show. Hang out with your dog. Or that person you share a home with who may have forgotten your name since they never see you.

Make time for you. Don’t be a martyr. No one is still here because they go into their room with the Freedom Writers mentality. We’re here because we go in with realistic expectations of ourselves and we know that it’ll all get done eventually, or that June will come and even if it’s not done, it’s over. And if it wasn’t done by June, it probably wasn’t that important to begin with, and should probably be cut out next year.

You’ll make it. And so will your students. 

Just follow through, and try everything.