Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Promote It to Win It!

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I'm going to try something new! Pick one item {$10 or less} from my store that you'd LOVE to have for this upcoming school year. Promote it in some way (Pin it on Pinterest, Share it on FB, Give it a blurb on your blog, Instagram it), leave the link to your promotion in the comment section of this blog post, or on my Facebook Page post about this contest.  I will pick TWO people randomly who will win the product they promoted! The more you promote, the greater your chances to win! Winners will be chosen on Sunday!


  • You can pick more than one item to promote.
  • You can promote the same item more than once.
  • Each link you leave below counts as one entry. More pins/posts/instagram pics/etc, more chances to win!
  • The item must be valued at $10 or less.

So you want to be a teacher?

When I was growing up, I had many different ideas about what I wanted to be when I was an adult. At first, I wanted to be a veterinarian. But then I realized that sometimes animals would die and I couldn’t deal with that.

Next on my list was a doctor. But then I realized the sight / thought of blood made me want to pass out. I had to quickly scratch that off my list.


I was always a child who loved learning. School came easy to me. I didn’t have to work as hard for my grades as other children did. I made the decision to become a teacher. My teachers always made a difference in my life, so I wanted to do the same for others.

I went to college and thought I picked the best job in the world. While my friends who were majoring in nursing, business, and computers were spending hours upon hours studying for final exams, I was using construction paper and markers to prepare my final projects. My courses on classroom management gave me so many wonderful ideas on how to manage my classes. I was ready to go!

I graduated a semester early and actually secured a job as a 4th grade teacher two weeks before receiving my degree. I was taken from my internship placement early and put in a classroom where the teacher just left mid-year. I was officially a “substitute” until I had my degree and could sign my contract. When I was introduced to the class, they cried. No joke. Boys were crying. The teacher before me had zero classroom management and didn’t give them anything to do. Ever. To say I had my work cut out for me was an understatement.

Within my first 6 months I dealt with my first dangerous student (he was almost as big as me as a 4th grader and was throwing desks in my room) had my first parent SCREAM at me on the phone because I wasn’t “making” his child complete work, and went home and cried at least 3 days a week. This was NOT what I learned in college. In fact, aside from teaching in a prison, I don’t know that anything could have prepared me for the real world. I made it another year in 4th grade before I made the switch to Middle School Math. I was much happier teaching one subject instead of 7, especially a subject I loved. But it still took me a while to get myself grounded in a difficult school. I pretty much had to forget everything I learned in college in order to be successful in the classroom. I learned from my co-workers more than anyone else.

Here is my advice for new teachers / anyone considering becoming a teacher:

  1. Where you teach makes a HUGE impact on everything else on this list. If you teach in a high functioning school with great parent involvement, I can’t relate to you and everything below #1 will probably be worthless to you. Truth.
  2. If you teach in a low functioning school, in a high crime area, and/or a school with little to no parent involvement, you need to forget everything you learned in college. Most of those classroom management tips you learned will not work on these students. What will work? Thick skin, building relationships, mutual respect, help from your co-workers.
  3. You will be expected to take vacations/family time/personal time in the summer. You will be given 3-5 personal days a year. Many districts roll over unused days as sick leave, so they’ll be worthless as personal days at the end of the year.
  4. You will NEED more than 3-5 personal days a year.
  5. You would rather go to school sick than writing sub plans. There seriously needs to be a course in college that requires you to write lesson plans for a full day in about 20 minutes. That’s real life.
  6. All of the things you learned in college about being cutesy and fun may not apply depending on your district. More and more districts are requiring all teachers within a content area to use the same materials and teach the same thing at the same time.
  7. If you teach middle school and higher and you try to teach / set up your room / act like an elementary school teacher, it won’t work. Just don’t do it.
  8. Yes, you will have the summer off. People will give you crap for it. If you’re going to be or already are a GOOD teacher, your summer will not necessarily be school-free. You will be setting up your classroom, planning lessons, attending collaborative planning meetings, writing curriculum, attending professional development classes and conferences. You will probably NOT spent all 8-10 weeks of summer break on the beach. But you will spend the majority of it with your family.

I don’t mean for this post to be all negative and bring down the dreams of those who want to be teachers. There are many fabulous parts of teaching and many teachers love their job! I’d even to venture to say that ALL teachers would love their jobs if the politics were removed. But that’ll never happen, so we need to deal with what we’re given. All I’m trying to say is that you need to be informed about what teaching is REALLY like before you jump right in.

Decide where you are going to teach. Will you need to move to be closer to a better district? If so, it will probably be worth it. Decide WHAT you want to teach. If you really honestly love little children and don’t mind being a second mommy or daddy to them, then go for elementary. Keep in mind, you will probably teach more than one subject and have little prep time. If you LOVE a certain subject, consider being a middle or high school teacher so you can teach what you love all day long. It takes a special kind of crazy person {and I say that with all the love in the world} to teach Middle School, and a special kind of patience to teach elementary school. Regardless of which direction you pick, you’re an amazing person and you’re going to touch a TON of lives!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Reading in Math

I always loved the looks my students would give me when we would start to discuss the importance of reading in math class.


Reading. Math. Reading in Math? AGGGGHHHHHHHHHH! But this is MATH class. We don’t READ in MATH class. WHYYYYYY????? It was honestly one of my favorite classes of the year. Is that bad of me? Oh well, if it is, let it be.

It was even more entertaining when I told them that, after our discussion, they were going to be given practice reading in math. Their reactions generally turned from confusion to panic.

mad baby

Most of us are math people or we are reading/language arts people. Students, middle school students especially, have a hard time understanding the concept of cross curricular learning. In Elementary School, many students stay in the same classroom for the better part of a day. They are used to learning multiple subjects in one room and receiving instruction from the same teacher. Once they get to middle school, everything is suddenly very separate. They have one teacher and one room for science. A different teacher in a different room for English / Language Arts. A different teacher still, in a different room for Math. They usually see 4-8 different teachers a day, in 4-8 different rooms. When they leave math, their math brain shuts down. I’m sure most science teachers would agree with me on that one!

Asking students to pull from their reading skills in math class is about as easy as pulling teeth. You bring up terms like “context clues” and “read entirely” and they kind of lose their minds. During my second year as a middle school teacher, I was SO frustrated with way my students reacted when given word problems. They would often look for the numbers in the problem and then perform some random operation on them.


I created a lesson that forced them encouraged them to read. I took pride in knowing that, even for one single lesson, they were forced to read. Their grade was dependent upon whether or not they were finding key words and identifying proper operations, not just coming up with an answer.

I think it is SO important for teachers at any level to incorporate cross curricular learning into their classrooms as much as possible. We tell our students that they need to learn the things we are teaching because it will make them better students, they’ll need to know it in the “real world”, etc. But, how can we expect them to believe that it’s actually information they’ll need if they don’t need it anywhere other than in one specific classroom? So math teachers, encourage your students to read more this year! English teachers, bring a little bit more history or science into what your students are reading. Art teachers, have students measure things (you’d be horrified over surprised at how many middle school students cannot use a ruler properly).

If you haven’t already picked it up, download my FREE Reading in Math lesson. This was the first product I posted on TPT and the resource I used in my own classroom to get my students reading!


Are you met with resistance when you try to work another subject into your classroom? If so, how do you manage it?


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Announcing - In The Middle

I am SO excited to share with you all a new collaborative blog I am honored to be part of. There are so many fabulous collaborative blogs out there for the lower grades, but we noticed that there didn’t seem to be ONE place for Middle School teachers to go! Of course, there are tons of great Middle School blogs that cater to 0ne subject {like mine} but we wanted to do more!
In The Middle – Maneuvering the Middle Grades is going to be a place Our goal is to make all posts over at In The Middle relevant to all middle school teachers, regardless of where {or what} you teach, what the demographics of your school are, or how long you've been teaching. We hope you'll find each post inspiring, useful and maybe a little bit funny!
So, who are WE? I’m joined by Erin Cobb {The fabulous Lovin’ Lit herself}, Shayna {The Super Fun Science Teaching Junkie}, Kathleen {The Marvelous Middle Grades Maven} and Mr. G {the Wonderful Mr. Educator}.
badge picmeprofile pic Erin Cobb
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Please head over and check out what we’ve got for you all so far! We want In the Middle to be a community, not just something you read! Head over to our blog, follow us on Blog Lovin and say HELLO on our Facebook page! We're SO excited to bring Middle School teachers together!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I've been a little quite around here lately, because I've been working with a few pretty great people on something that is missing from the Middle School Teacher world. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Middle School Classroom Management–My Journey


I spent 8 years in the classroom, so I am in no way an expert on… well… anything. But, I taught in a pretty tough environment. I think perception of classroom management differ greatly depending on where you teach. Many teachers work in schools with a large population of high functioning students, tons of parent involvement and little negative outside influences. Those teachers have a totally different set of challenges {ahem, parents} than students who teach in a school like mine.


Of the 8 years I spent in the classroom, 6 were in middle school. EVERY year (no joke) I had at least one student who was pregnant or already a parent. At least one student who was classified as homeless. I had students from jail, one who was a registered sex offender and many students who were gang members. The neighborhood around our school was an open air drug market that was full of crime and prostitution. My husband gave me explicit instructions on the roads I was allowed and not allowed to take going to and from work each day.

Here is a little bit of current crime information for the city where my former school was located. The second image is data for only about 1/2 of the city…



I spent my first year in this school learning A LOT. I made the huge mistake of trying to be “friends” with my students. I remember telling them on the first day that I didn’t care what they did last year, yesterday or 10 minutes before coming into my classroom. They were here for a fresh start. Little did I know, that would come back to haunt me. I was honestly, terrified of some of my students. I had fights in my room that involved chairs, and students, being thrown. It’s hard to command respect from people you fear.

My students mouthed off to my special education assistant one day (who was close to retirement) and I gave up. I was so frustrated with their lack of respect that I broke down in tears and walked away. I walked back into my classroom, grabbed my things, and told my principal I was going home sick. Looking back, I’m super glad I didn’t get fired! I hated my job that year. Every single second of it.

The next school year, I was pregnant throughout most of the school year with our first child. I gained a TON of weight and ended up swelling like crazy and having elevated blood pressure (imagine that). To avoid my doctor forcing me out of work, I did nothing but sit on a stool for the last few weeks before my daughter was born. My classroom management pretty much didn’t exist because I was miserable. I went out on maternity leave in March and returned mid-May. My long term sub was a “friend” to my students and my classroom was in disarray when I returned. I was not able to get things back on track and the remaining few weeks of the school year had me on survival mode. NOTE: If you have a baby, do NOT return for just a week or two at the end of the school year. Trust me on that one. Take the unpaid leave {if you can} and just stay home!

Year 3 in middle school was a HUGE year for me. It’s the year I finally figured it out. I didn’t try to make my students like me. I didn’t try to make my students fear me. I was determined to make my students respect me. I had very clear classroom expectations and procedures for every little thing. My students knew what to do if they were absent. They knew I 100% didn’t lend out pencils. Ever. They knew I didn’t take late homework/makeup work/projects. I didn’t bend for anyone. BUT… I respected my students. If they were having a bad day, or I heard they were troublesome earlier in the day, I’d find a way to touch base with them before class or during the warm up. If I knew a student was dealing with something at home, or had a sporting event coming up, I would talk to them about it. My students knew I cared about them – but they also knew my rules for them. My classroom was suddenly a much more manageable place than years before.

A few weeks into the school year we had an intake meeting for a new student. All I was told is that he was coming from an alternative education school in the next state and he was going to be in my math class. During the meeting, the vice principal and other classroom teachers were very stern with him. Almost mean. He was so polite to everyone, “Yes ma’am” and “No sir” to all the adults even though they were treating him as though he was a problem before he even started. I made the decision to treat him like my other students, regardless of his circumstances. A few days after our meeting, I asked about him. I was told that he had just been released from jail for armed robbery. Another teacher spoke to him about his involvement and asked him if it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He replied, “Nope. I was the one with the gun.” He ended up being a student who LOVED math, which made me super happy. He was one of my favorite students that year. He didn’t give me any problems, even though he had a tough thing going in the community and was an issue for other teachers.

From that year on, I maintained my philosophy that in order to have a truly successful classroom, my students were going to have to respect me. Not be afraid of me, not hate me, and not want to be my friend. Each year, the types of students I had didn’t change. I had many students come through my room who were absolutely terrible in other classrooms, but they were fabulous for me. Now, I certainly DID have my problem students. Whether they just hated math, or me, or my rules, they were not fun to have in class. But, I didn’t let those students bring down my attitude or the rest of my class. Even though we are the teachers and we are the adults, we need to RESPECT our students. They are people too and they deserve the same respect that we command from them. respect


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

First Grade Prep

My daughter is going to be entering 1st Grade this fall and she LOVES learning. We got pretty lucky with this girl! Each week this summer we are taking one day and focusing on learning. She loves using Dreambox Learning for math practice, but I wanted her to have something to physically use.


I purchased this Summer Review No Prep Packet from The Moffatt Girls and it has been perfect so far! I had it printed with coil binding so she has her own little booklet. I decided to keep the front of the booklet blank so she could add her own pictures to the front.

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If you have little ones at home and you are not a primary teacher yourself, I highly recommend grabbing this (or any) packet from The Moffatt Girls! It’s perfect for summer work!