Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Surprise

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

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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.

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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…

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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

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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.

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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!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Top 5 Vegas TPT Tips!


Ok, my last Vegas post... I promise! I'm linking up with Becky over at Teaching, Learning & Loving to share the top 5 things I learned from the TPT Conference in Las Vegas.

Networking is huge. Since I started TPT before it was as large as it is today, I have always felt as though I needed to just work alone. I'm determined to network with a bunch of Middle School sellers this year to bring my audience (and theirs) a more well rounded look at Middle School education!

TPT Sellers and Staff are so kind. Seriously. I have never been around such a well rounded, kind hearted group of people. I think most sellers at the conference really have the best interest of everyone at heart. Usually in business, there's a lot of negativity going on, and that's something I didn't really see or hear.

Don't include links in your store to send people out if it. That was a face palm moment for me.

Make plans before! I'm a super shy person. Like, super duper shy. So flying to Vegas alone without plans to get together with others was kind of a silly move. Next year, we're having dinner together friends!

You don't need fancy technology or drawing apps to make your own clipart. Nikki from Melonheaz Illustrations draws all of her clipart by hand. Paper and marker. That's it! I've always been interested in creating clipart (like I have time for that right now) and have been frustrated with trying to create it digitally. I really appreciated her taking the time to show us how she creates her super cute clipart!



Monday Made It!

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Shew. This has been such a busy week!

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If you attended my session in Vegas, hopefully you picked up one of these little booklets. I had originally made them to use for marketing purposes, but they just required too much time! I picked up these little composition notebooks from Walmart and Target (I drove to 8 stores one day and cleaned them out) and used my favorite sticky glitter tape from Michael’s to jazz them up a bit! I keep one in my purse to record my mileage as I’m driving around for business purposes!

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I guess this is something I made as well. One of my hobbies (ok, my only hobby) is photography. I used to have a small business, but just don’t have time anymore. I still photograph friends and family because I really enjoy it! This little guy is the son of my brother’s best friend. He just turned one and we had his little 1st birthday photo session yesterday!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

TPT Conference 2014

The 1st annual {it better be annual} Teachers Pay Teachers Conference was everything I thought it would be and more. It was an amazing opportunity for almost 800 premium sellers to meet, network, have fun and grow as sellers. The keynote in the morning was the first time many of us had the opportunity to see and hear Paul in person. For someone who is as successful as him, I was floored by how down to earth he was. He spoke in a button up shirt, jeans and sneakers. Just as laid back as could be. He got choked up when he was talking about the impact we all have on education. It was amazing to get a first hand view of just how much this whole thing means to him. He even had his parents there. How cute is that? After the keynote, I had the opportunity to meet Paul for the first time. As I was talking to him and thanking him for creating this company that changed my life - I started crying. I was super crazy slightly embarrassed because I am not a cute crier. But I couldn't help it!

Before Paul spoke, Amy took the stage for a welcome and introduction. I LOVE Amy. Seriously. If you love her online, you'll triple love her in person. She's one of those people you meet and you instantly know she is a sincerely good person.

After Amy and Paul, Deanna Jump took the stage to share her story. I thought I had heard her story 10 times before, but never with the details she shared with us this time. She really is a phenomenal person who overcame a lot and deserves every single ounce of success she has today.

I'm not the type of person to stand out in a crowd. Ok, well maybe I am because I'm 5'10", but that would probably be the only reason. I'm shy. I'm reserved. I keep to myself. I've never been the girl to just walk to up someone and start a conversation.

On Friday, I had to start a HUGE conversation. One where I did ALL of the talking. The night before my presentation, I was alone in my hotel room, running through my slides.
I was using my note cards, stumbling over my words, and just sounding horrible. An hour before my session started, as I was sitting in another session listening the amazingly fabulous Rachel Lynette speak, I started to get insanely nervous. I knew it was almost my turn and 100% felt like I was going to pass out.

45 minutes later I found myself preparing my slides, putting on my microphone and standing in front of almost 200 sellers, all there to listen to ME. A bit later, I checked the time to see 2:59. My presentation started in one minute. I took a deep breath - and just let go. And do you know what? Something pretty amazing happened. The words started coming out, I didn't look at my note cards even once and my nerves were gone. Sure I stumbled a bit and made a few corny jokes, but that's me. I'm not perfect and I never hope to be. That would be a bit boring wouldn't it?

I spent 30 minutes after my session speaking to person after person, telling me how inspired they were by me. How much I motivated them. How much they appreciated my story.It was (and still is) all a bit surreal.


I'm just a normal woman. Living a normal life, who happened to be fortunate enough to find something she's really passionate about. I think that's why my presentation went a lot easier than I thought it would. I am 100% in love with my job and I know my story. Sharing something you love and talking about your own journey, the ups and downs, is so incredibly simple.
After chatting with those who attended my session, I headed upstairs to the last hoorah, the TPT happy hour. I found myself at a table with a few members of Team TPT. Can I please tell you how amazing EVERYONE is who works for this company? And I'm not just saying that. I 200% mean it. John, the CFO of the company {I mean, that's kind of a  big deal} applied some pretty sweet TPT temporary tattoos on all of us. How many CFO's do you know that just hang out with people way down the line and give them temp tattoos? I can only think of one. The quality of people who work for and sell on TPT are the highest quality peoples in the world. No exaggeration.

Now that the conference is over, I look forward to continuing to grow as a person and in my business. I know there are amazing things to come and I'm so excited to watch TPT continue to grow and change lives!

And just because the Venetian & Palazzo are AMAZING - here are a few photos!
 
 
 
 
 



Saturday, July 12, 2014

TPT Full Time - What I've Learned

When I submitted my proposal to present at the TPT conference, I honestly thought it was a shot in the dark. I've had a lot of success, but there are SO many more amazing people who I was sure would get a spot above me. When I found out I was selected, I was excited, honored and then... scared! It honestly took me MONTHS to work on my slideshow. It was changed, tweaked, edited probably 100 times. I wanted to make sure I touched on everything that was important to me as a full time seller, and also be true to my own personality.

The first and most important thing you can do when determining whether or not you'll make the leap to full time TPT status is to take ALL of these things into consideration:


Deciding to walk away from 8 years of teaching was not easy. It was exhilarating but scary.  Gone was my security - my guaranteed paycheck - my steps towards retirement. What I received in place of those things, has been SO much more rewarding. I've received quality time with my children and my husband. I've received the opportunity to grow and learn as a writer. I've been able to make some financial choices that would have not otherwise been possible.

The hardest part of my job now is that I have EVERY job. I am the boss, the secretary, the CFO, the financial advisor and the head of marketing. I have to do everything, all the time. Since I work from home, sometimes it's hard to find balance between work and my family. It's easy to get distracted by chores, grocery shopping, the television, the dog, etc. I've had to learn to be disciplined, and honestly, I'm still working on that.





 The number one concern (aside from finances) that many people have is where to find your inspiration when you leave the classroom and how you can provide quality resources that are not classroom tested. Ok, maybe there are two concerns. Here are my suggestions for staying relevant and staying inspired!
 


Trusting yourself is HUGE. If you have made the decision to make TPT your full time job, you have obviously achieved some level of success. This means your buyers trust you and they keep coming back. You know your content area, so stick to it. I think issues arise when you try to venture into a grade level or content area in which you don't have first hand experience. Keep yourself up to date on educational trends. Read blogs, check out what is going on in the classrooms in your school district. Talk to you former co-workers. Have those co-workers test out resources for you. Free resources for them = a classroom tested stamp for you! Lastly, volunteer! Even if you don't have children or children in school, you can still sign up to be a volunteer at a school near you. Schools LOVE volunteers and having a former teacher volunteer is even better!

I've been working from home now for a little over two years. I can't say I'm an expert. I'm still learning every single day. I'm trying to grow as a professional and grow as a person. Throughout it all, the one thing I am trying to remain is grateful. I'm grateful to have this opportunity to be there for my children. I'm grateful for everyone who has ever purchased something from me. I'm grateful for TPT giving me this opportunity. I am grateful to have the chance to help others reach their goals!