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.

time waste

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.


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.


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!


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

Friday, August 29, 2014

My heart wasn’t in it…

Remember that brand new teaching job I just started? Well.. I quit.


Hear me out.

When I went back into the classroom, I was looking forward to feeling a sense of completeness. I was looking forward to feeling “at home” again with students. Having my own classroom, my own “kids”, my own… well, everything. I’ve learned so much over the last two years from being out of the classroom and creating resources, that I was excited to jump right in and put my resources to use.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. I found myself stressed. Like, super stressed. I was stressed over the fact that I was no longer going to be home to get my daughter off the bus. Stressed over how my “part time” teaching job was consuming every waking (and sleeping) second of my day. Stressed over how my heart just didn’t feel the joy I was looking forward to. I realized something that scared me. My heart, just wasn’t in it anymore. My heart is at home with my kids. My heart is in writing resources that other teachers love. My heart… has changed.

Change can be scary and change can be fun. Change can be confusing. This change was really messing with my mind. I talked to my husband a lot. We decided (ok, I decided and he supported me 100%) that it wasn’t my time to go back into the classroom. We don’t need the income, or the stress, or the change in routine for our children. Plus, I have the opportunity to work FULL TIME from home. Doing what I LOVE. So… I resigned.

I didn’t quit right away. That wouldn’t have been fair to my students or my principal. am going to stay on board through the end of next week, two weeks after I submitted my resignation. I offered to hand over my lesson plans to the new teacher and even leave my classroom d├ęcor in tact. I didn’t want my decision to leave to become a burden and a stress to the person coming in. I also wanted to leave gracefully.

do more of what makes you happy

I was nervous to tell my family and friends. I thought they’d think I was crazy. To my surprise, they didn’t. Well, at least I don’t think they did! They all agreed that my family needs to come first. My marriage, my children and my happiness are far more important than a job. The additional income can come later. Money isn’t everything. These precious moments with my children, like not rushing my son off to daycare in the morning, volunteering in my daughter’s class, going on every field trip… those moments can’t come later. With each day, my children grow. With each day, they inch closer to the day when they won’t want me the way they do now. These days and moments and seconds with them are what make my heart happy. With them, here at home, is where I belong! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How do you use Task Cards?

Task cards are quite the popular resource these days, and for good reason. They provide an endless variety of options for teachers, from using them as simple practice problems, to a way to get students up and moving. Rachel Lynette has a fabulous Task Card Handbook in her store, and it’s FREE!

Last week I had my Algebra 2 students get up and moving around the room to review writing and solving equations. I used my Writing and Solving Equations Task Cards for this activity.



I stuck two task cards together at various spots around my room, gave each student a copy of the answer sheet and sent them off in pairs. I didn’t time them, since I feel like giving students time limits can often encourage copying off one another or rushing. Instead, I made sure that I had more task cards available than groups of students. I told them they could start wherever they wanted, and then simply move to a different set of cards when they were finished.

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This class is very high functioning and only has 19 students, so getting them up and moving was very simple. I didn’t have to manage their behavior at all, and aside from answering a few questions about the content, it worked seamlessly. I think the students really appreciated the opportunity to move around the classroom and work with a partner, especially during their last class of the day!

So, what’s YOUR favorite way to incorporate task cards in your classroom? Link up below and share!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Teacher Week–Where Tuesday

Blog Hoppin BTS-02
This time last week, I wasn’t sure I’d have anything to share for this. I was called Monday for an interview on Wednesday. I was offered the job on Thursday and started on Friday! It’s been a whirlwind.

My classroom looked like this on Friday. It was super duper overwhelming.
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Today, I’m happy to say that it looks like this!

When I headed to the store last Thursday to pick up things for my new room (I kept NOTHING when I quit two years ago) I had absolutely no idea what I was looking for. I started being drawn to turquoise and black, so I just went with it. 7th and 8th grade honors students are a bit old for a theme, so I’m happy with it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Teacher Week–Who Monday

I’m linking up with Blog Hoppin this week for their annual Teacher Week!
Blog Hoppin BTS-01
The focus today is “Who Monday” where I share a little bit more about myself! My blog is an open book into my life, so many of you probably already know a lot about me already!

I’ll start from the beginning… On June 1st, 1983…. just kidding! I won’t do that to you! I’ll take you through a few important dates in my life that define who I am right now.

January 10, 2004 – This was the first “defining moment” in my life and it wasn’t a good one. On this day, I lost my mom to breast cancer. She died in our home after a very short 5 month fight. By the time she discovered the lump in her breast, the cancer had already spread into her spine and brain. With each year that passes, I miss her more and more.

May 25, 2005 – I lost my 18 year old cousin in a car accident. She was on her way to her senior picnic and I was finishing up my first school year. My dad called me right before my students walked in – and I immediately walked out. I stopped by the office and told them that I didn’t know when I’d be back. Pretty gutsy for a first year teacher, but I didn’t really care. I was 3 hours from my family and I had to leave right then. My cousins were more like sisters to me, and losing her was incredibly painful. When her sister got married last month, I couldn’t hold back tears during the ceremony as I kept wishing she was there with us, standing beside her sister.

October 14, 2006 – Got Hitched! I joke that I only married him because he’s tall. At 5’10” I always cursed my parents because I was taller than all the boys. When I met my 6’4” husband, I was so excited that I could actually wear heels around him!

March 16, 2008 – I became a momma. When Emma Grace entered the world, the doctor’s first words were “Wow, she’s loud!” Girlfriend came out with the most high pitched squeal and it hasn’t stopped yet! She’s feisty, strong and pretty much amazing. She’s so very smart and honestly the most loving and kind hearted person (not child, person) in my world.

April 13, 2012 – My last day of work. I took a leave of absence from teaching in preparation for our second (and last) child. My plan was for it to just be a year or two, but I’ve found so much joy in creating teaching resources, that I eventually quit. I work harder and longer now than I EVER did in the classroom, and there hasn’t been a day go by that I’ve regretted my decision. I know I’ll go back one day when the time is right.

May 9, 2012 – Enter  to the world, Gavin Joseph. This child is 100% a momma’s boy and 400% boy. His nickname is Gavin the Destroyer, and for good reason. He breaks just about everything he touches. I wouldn’t have him any other way though. He came into the world tiny at just  6 pounds 10 ounces, almost a full pound and two inches smaller than his sister… but he’s quickly grown far bigger than she was at 2. He’s our little linebacker.

August 18, 2014 – Right now today, I’m a 31 year old mommy of two. I LOVE spending time with my family and would live on vacation if I could. I’m completely obsessed with Disney World and would pack up our family to live on Disney property if that wasn’t totally insane. I enjoy photography and had a little business for a few years. I’ve got a love/hate relationship with cupcakes. I LOVE them, but hate that they don’t help me lose weight. How rude cupcakes. How rude.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Labor of Love… Kind of

I have spent the last THREE months updating every single resource in my store. That’s over 300 products. And it seriously just about killed me. One thing I’m most proud of is the update of the resource that gave this blog it’s name. My Beyond the Worksheet bundle includes 47 of my most engaging (and oldest but now updated) resources. If you’re teaching Middle School Math this year, I promise you’ll find this bundle useful!


I still have a few more things to touch up in my store (mostly bundles) but otherwise I’m excited to be able to shift my focus onto creating new products and teaching again!



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Here's the BEFORE...

I was SHOCKED to find out that I was going to have my own classroom as a part time teacher. I mean, certainly I would just share another teacher's classroom or even float right?


Introducing my classroom!

I've spent about 3 minutes in here and my students start on TUESDAY. I'm approaching panic mode. Thankfully my sweet hubs and daughter are going to come to work with me tomorrow to help me get the room under control so I can spend all day Monday focusing on what really matters... lesson planning! I haven't written a lesson plan for myself in over 2 years, so I'm actually quite nervous about it!

Can't wait to show you the "After" pictures!