Thursday, September 18, 2014

Can You Survive Teaching Middle School?

Yes you can.

Whenever people find out I spent 8 years teaching Middle School, their first reaction almost always is to say “Whew, I don’t know how you teach middle school!” This comes from other teachers too! For some reason {ok, we all know the reasons} everyone views Middle School as a tough place for both teachers and students.

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Here’s the reality of Middle School.

  1. The kids are mean. Even the nicest, sweetest children can get mean in Middle School. They’re growing and changing and trying to figure out who they are. Part of figuring out who they are is dealing with peer pressure, which can often make students act differently than the usually would. They are trying to establish themselves as big fish in an even bigger pond, and sometimes they’ll push down those other fish to try to get to the top.
  2. The kids are confused. They’re confused about their bodies, their friends, their parents, their feelings, their shoes. They’re confused about everything except how much they’d rather be ANYWHERE else than in school.
  3. School doesn’t matter to them. High school teachers have college and the workplace as leverage to keep students working. Elementary school teachers have the leverage of parents to keep students working. Middle school students often feel like school is pointless and are difficult to get motivated.

So, how do you not just teach middle school, but ENJOY teaching middle school?

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  1. Demonstrate respect before you demand it. Middle school students will not hesitate to disrespect you in order to save face. Before you can require that your students show respect, you have to do so as well. Before you get snappy with a kid, keep in mind all he/she probably has on their plate.
  2. Have a sense of humor. Middle school boys are goofy as all get out. They think things are funny that… well… nobody else on earth finds funny. Often their jokes don’t come out right and can be awkward and strange. Have a sense of humor and roll with it. If you can hang with them, they’ll respect you a lot more than if you shoot down every joke/comment.
  3. Don’t be their friend. But don’t be mean either. This is a toughy for many teachers. It is easy to try to be a “friend” to your students. If you’re too friendly and too nice, they’ll walk ALL over you. If you’re too mean, they’ll hate you. You need them to respect you. How do you do that? Set rules that are realistic and not ridiculous. Enforce them every single day for every single kid. If you say you don’t allow pens in math class, then don’t. If you say you don’t allow talking during the warm up, then don’t. Once you wiggle, they’ll knock you down. If you can get your students to respect you as an adult and not a friend, you’re golden.
  4. Leave your ego at the door. Middle school students are judgmental. Some days they won’t like your outfit. Or your shoes. Or your fingernail polish. And do you know what? They’ll probably tell you. And if they won’t tell you, they’ll tell a friend loud enough for you to hear.  Remember, these kids are just that… KIDS. Who cares what they think of you? Just roll with it.
  5. Don’t treat them like little kids. If you treat your students like they are still in elementary school, they’ll hate you for it. In their mind, they’re almost 20 and they want to be treated that way. Give them responsibilities and jobs. Teach them to be prepared and act like young adults. I taught at a school that still required students to be escorted to lunch by their teachers. They had to walk in straight and quite lines to AND from lunch. Part of it was because there were some issues with fighting, but the students didn’t see it that way. They felt like they were being treated like babies and pretty much always purposefully walked out of line or talked to friends.
  6. Don’t treat them like adults. Even though they’re not little kids, they’re still kids. Most are not even teenagers yet. They cannot be expected to have the same responsibilities as a 16 year old student. They still need guidance and structure, but not too much. Finding this balance can be tough if you’re a new teacher. But hang in there, you’ll get it!
  7. Don’t have more than 3 class rules. Seriously. My rules were: (1) Be Respectful. At all times. To everyone. (2) Be prepared. Every day. (3) Try. “IDK” is not an answer. Anymore than that and they’ll check out.
  8. DO have more than 3 class procedures. See what I did there? Eliminate the “rules” and turn them into procedures. This is where you’ll handle the restroom, turning in homework, getting makeup work, etc.

So yes, middle school is tough. It’s a time of learning and growing for both you and the students. I honestly believe you will need at least two years in the middle school classroom before you really find your groove. So hang in there – you got this!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Importance of YOU

As teachers we get a first hand look of little people who have all their needs taken care of. As I tell my daughter, her only job in the WORLD is to be a good person. That’s it!

As adults, we often get caught up in life and putting others first and we forget about the most important person in the world. Us – Me – You.

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I think we forget that everything else in our life wouldn’t be there without us. If we have kids, they wouldn’t be here without us. Our marriage wouldn’t exist without  us (and our spouse of course). Our home wouldn’t have the things in it without us. We are kind of a big deal and we forget that.

I’ve spent a good part of the last 6 years battling anxiety and {even though I have a hard time admitting it} depression. I have chosen to not taken medication because I KNOW what brings my heart joy. I KNOW what I need to do… I just forget it. (I’m not at all downgrading those who do require medication for depression and anxiety. I did at one point many years ago after the death of my mom. I just feel like, at this point in my life, I don’t need it).

What do I (and you) need to do? Put yourself first each and EVERY day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. We spend so much of each day serving others. We cannot be a full, complete, happy person unless we serve ourselves and fill our own hearts.

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How can we put ourselves first when our To-Do list has 2345807 things on it? Easy. Prioritize that To-Do list. YOU are more important than laundry. YOU are more important than dusting your house or doing the dishes. Your chores can take a back seat when it comes to your happiness. You can leave just a few minutes later to go to the grocery store. The milk won’t be sold out by the time you get there. Those papers that need to be graded? They’ll still be sitting there 10 minutes from now. We need to stop prioritizing things that really can wait.

What are some things you can do each day for YOU?

  • Go for a walk / jog / run. It doesn’t have to be long. Put in your headphones, find a station on Pandora that makes you smile and go. You don’t have to be gone long but you’ll be amazed at the way you feel when you get back. You can take your little ones in a stroller or bring your dog, but I can tell ya, there isn’t much like the peace that comes from getting outside alone!
  • Take a bath. Not a shower, a bath. Lock the door and just relax. Bring a book if you enjoy reading.
  • Read a book. After the kids(spouse, cat, goldfish) go to bed, take a few minutes to sit down with a book to decompress.
  • Go get a cup of coffee. This time of year it’s usually gorgeous outside at some point during the day. Head to Starbucks (or anywhere with outdoor seating) and get a cup of coffee. Sit OUTSIDE to enjoy it. Watch the cars, the birds, the people… anything except your phone.
  • Ladies - Get your nails / toes / hair / eyebrows done. I’ve found that the way I feel about myself has a lot to do with my mood. When I feel better outside, I feel better inside. Exercising and eating right are more important than a manicure for this, but sometimes a girl just wants pretty nails.

There are a million other things I could add because each and every one of us is different. I just wanted to take a few minutes today to remind you how important you are (partially because I’m reminding myself). Tell me in the comments what you do each day (or most days) to take care of YOU!

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Scoop : 9/14/14

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It is WAY past my bedtime, but I couldn’t linking up with The Teaching Trio for their super cute Sunday Scoop linky.

Here’s my scoop for today:

Sunday Scoop Sept 14

I have to:

  • Get to bed. Seriously. Why I continue to stay up so late is beyond me, especially because my son has decided that waking up before 7am is for cool kids.
  • Eat. I had braces put on this past week and even thinking about food makes my teeth hurt. I thought this would be a great way to help me shed a few pounds… until I realized that ice cream doesn’t hurt my teeth one bit. I’m sitting here starving, but trying to stay away from the sweet goodies.
  • Stress less. I have such a hard time unwinding and I’m the world’s biggest worrier. I really need to chill and just let life happen sometimes.

I hope to:

  • I haven’t been to the gym regularly since March. Sad, sad, sad.
  • Revise my Mega Bundles. I have new things to add but I’m so afraid that even after they’ve been zipped and zipped, they’ll still be too big for TPT’s file limits.

I’m happy to:

  • My FAVORITE time of day is going in to check on my kids before I go to bed. I love them to death but they are SUPER busy these days. It’s so calming to see them sleeping peacefully. It puts a big smile on my heart before I go to bed.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Algebra 1 COMPLETE Unit Resources

Hello there! I’ve been MIA recently because I’ve been buried deep in Algebra 1 curriculum. When I re-entered the classroom I saw there was a desperate need for some guidance when it came to the Algebra 1 curriculum {in my district anyway}. We were given a scope and sequence and some “unpacked” curriculum documents but that was it. There was no textbook (I hate them anyway) and nothing but some links to the Illuminations activities. I was super stressed at the lack of structure. Teachers couldn’t plan together or share resources because everyone was just left to do their own thing.

Now, being told to “make sense of it” and go at it on your own might actually sound nice. There’s freedom right? Well, I quickly learned that with freedom comes confusion. And even though there’s freedom, there are still the expectations of teaching towards a common assessment. I decided to take the standards (which was pretty much all I got) and develop my own curriculum. It has been a FAR bigger task than I imagined, but I know it will benefit so many of you! And complete means COMPLETE. There are notes, examples, worksheets, homework and lesson plans.

Coming out soon will be Unit 1 of 10 that is aligned to the CCSS standards. Each Unit will probably take me a solid 2-3 weeks to develop so they’ll come out super slow. There will be two versions of each unit, one for Interactive Notebooks and one for teachers who prefer to use traditional binders and notebooks in their classrooms. Each unit will come with printables to be used under a document camera AND a digital version of notes and examples (that run in PPT) to be used on your SmartBoards or just computer/LCD hookups.

Here’s a sneak peak!

up next

And don’t worry middle school friends, I’m going to weave some 6-8 resources in too while I’m cranking out these units!

I can’t wait until the first one is out so you can see what I’ve been working so hard on!

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Five for Friday–September 5th

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Ummm so I’m not sure how it is already September, but I’m kind of happy about it. Summer heat didn’t decide to show up for real here until last week, so I’m glad August is gone! September is a super busy but fun month for us, so I’m looking forward to it! Today I’m linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share 5 things from this past week.

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Technology has been my worst enemy this week. The computer attached to the SmartBoard in my classroom restarts itself whenever it wants. I have limited chalkboard space, so when the SmartBoard is down I’m left with nothing. Today is my last day (see my post here that explains why) and I’m SO nervous that my sub plans for next week won’t go well because of this crazy board.

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I did most of my sub plans from home over the long weekend and my printer betrayed me as well. I ran out of in the middle of printing my plans and my sweet husband ran out to get me another. He returned with the correct kind, but my printer rejected it for some reason. This week has reminded me that we are probably more dependent upon technology than we should be!

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My son is deep in the middle of the terrible twos. He’s literally crazy 100% of the time. We’ve found that the one thing that keeps him occupied is letting him play in the sink. We fill it up with some water and let him go to town with some dishes. The bad news is now we can’t let dirty dishes sit in our sink because he’ll turn them into toys! Ok, maybe being forced to actually put the dishes in the dishwasher is a good thing.

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Have you seen these couches? Do you own one? If so, please tell me all about it! I saw this couch on Instagram and fell in LOVE with all the different ways you could arrange it. My mind is always thinking about our new home (it won’t be complete until May/June but I’m acting like it’ll be ready next week) and I think this couch would be PERFECT for our living room. I’m a huge fan of furniture that’s comfy, cozy and inviting. Our house will never have a room full of furniture that nobody is allowed to sit on.

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This guy has been super snuggly this week. I love when he sits next to me and grabs my hand. I think it’s his way of trying to make me forget about all the naughty things he did that day.

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My daughter was eating ice cream two nights ago and accidentally tapped her front loose tooth with her spoon. It immediately became super wiggly and is now pretty much hanging out of her head. She is terrified to close her mouth or eat anything. She’s let me try to wiggle/pull on it but I can’t get it out. She won’t let her daddy try, she thinks he’s too strong! I can’t wait for it to come out so the drama will be over!

I hope you had a great week! Smile 

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Currently–September 2014

For the first time, I’m linking up with Farley over at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for her super popular Currently linky. Go check it out, you’ll see just how big and amazing it is!

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About September:

  • Listening – Whenever I’m working on my computer, I MUST have on Pandora. I’m currently obsessed with the 5 Seconds of Summer station because it’s great music without anything to sleepy or too hip hoppy.
  • Loving – My family. Always. I’ve not been the easiest person to live with these past few weeks thanks to the start of the school year (but that’ll all be ending Friday for me) so I’m loving them lots right now for dealing with me.
  • Thinking – Getting ready to go to work is SO hard for me. I hate putting on “real people” clothes. I put it off as long as possibly… sometimes a little too long and then I have to rush. Oh well I guess. I just work really well under pressure!
  • Wanting – We have found the perfect neighborhood to build our “Forever Home” in and we are waiting to hear that the final section is open and ready for contracts. Once that happens, we’ll be putting pen to paper and put an end to our tradition of moving every 1-2 years.
  • Needing – Starbucks. It’s only Day 2 of No Starbucks September and I’m already craving the stuff.
  • 3 Trips – This summer was a busy one for us when it came to travel. In June we spent 8 days in Disney, I was off to Vegas for 4 days in July and then our family headed to Myrtle Beach for 6 days in August.

What are you up to this September? Head over to Oh Boy 4th Grade to link up and share!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Time Savers in the Upper Grades

There are many challenges that face Middle School teachers. There are also some serious benefits. The main benefit {in my opinion} is that the students are young adults, not children. They can be given more responsibility and be held accountable for things that teachers need to take care of in Elementary School classrooms.

My first 6 years of middle school teaching were in a district that had 90 minute math blocks. There were days where those 90 minutes felt like 900 minutes, but I rarely felt pressed for time. When I started teaching in a new district that only had 45 minute math classes, I started to scramble for ways to save time. I had HALF the time to teach the exact same amount of material.

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The first thing I did was cut back on passing out papers. I didn’t have time for that. To solve that problem, I hung an organizer by my classroom door. My students know to look at it each time they enter the room and grab whatever is hanging there. I do not put in assessments or things to be graded, but I DO include things for their Interactive Notebooks and some classwork items. It has been amazing.

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The next thing I do is include on the warm up all the materials they will need that day. Before they get settled, they know to look and see what they need for the day. They know where everything is kept in my room and can quickly get what they need and have a seat.

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My glue, calculators, scissors, etc are all kept in bins. When class is over, to save time collecting those items, I simply place the bins on a table by the door and the students drop them off on their way out.

Collecting papers is also a chore, especially when your desks are close together. I have trays, labeled by class period, on my front table. Homework and make up work gets dropped off here in the beginning of class and classwork/exit tickets/etc. get dropped off here when students leave. The work is automatically sorted by class, so I just have to grab it and go!

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If you have any super time saving tips to share, leave them in the comments!

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