Life is all about balance-balancing responsibility, time, relationships, and more. I struggle every day with making sure that my life is balanced in every way which is why I wanted to dedicate this post to that very thing. Over the past year, my life has gone through tremendous change-we moved a little over a year ago, I started a new teaching position last year, I completed graduate school in December and my most favorite of all was having my beautiful son eleven months ago. It has been a season of transition and change and has taught me some lessons on how to bring balance into my life. It is a struggle every day to make sure that I am meeting the needs of every direction I am pulled, but I've learned a few things that have helped as I've adapted and grown into all of the roles that I'm in.
The first thing that I've learned has been to utilize my time. There isn't a lot of time in the school day (or at home) that is left untouched, but I have tried to maximize the time that I do have. That means that I may not stop and have a lengthy conversation in the hallway (though there is a time and place for that), and I may work on projects during my lunch. I continually am evaluating how I am spending the time that I've been given and personally addressing how I can maximize it to get the most work done for the greatest benefit. I don't feel bad when I need a break and five minutes to just sit and be, but most of the time I am trying to use every second I have to get work done. This allows me to need to spend less time before or after work to complete the tasks I am needing to do.
The next thing that I've learned is the importance of knowing yourself. Some of us are morning people, and some of us are night people, and some of us are neither morning or night people. It is incredibly important to know when you are in the zone. For me, I do my best work in the morning. I've always known I was a morning person, but it didn't truly hit me how I was working against myself until this fall when I was writing my capstone paper for my masters degree. I would typically sleep as late as I could, get up and get ready for work then work on my paper at night. What I found was that I was too tired in the evening to be fully alert and I wasn't putting my best work out there. It hit me to switch my working time to where I was waking up early to work, then having my day and using the evening to relax. I was getting better work done in sometimes half the time. Do I wish I had put this into practice sooner in my graduate school? YOU BET! But the same goes for teaching. I have always realized that I got far more done and done more effectively when I would get to school early and get as much work as possible done. At the end of the day, I was zonked and would leave when our contract time was up. There are some people who can't operate that way. They need to come in right as school is starting and get more done working after school than before. There is not right or wrong way to approach this, only to know and understand yourself so that you are able to get your best work done most effectively.
The last thing I want to emphasize when searching for you home and work life balance is the importance of having a plan. I am a planner person-I like the old fashioned, write it down, not digital kind of planner. I spend some time each week making a plan of attack for the week. This helps me know what my goals are for each day. There are too many things that pop up throughout the week to wing it for me. I find that when I have a plan, I know my goals and what my focus is, and I can fit those "other" things into that. I love to write in my planner and I especially love to cross things off my to do list. You may prefer a digital planner, checklist or calendar. Whatever helps you, create a plan for the week so that you aren't trying to do too much at once (and definitely include some time to "sharpen the saw", however that may be).
We all search for balance in what we are doing because we are not one dimensional beings. I hope by using these techniques, effectively utilizing your time, knowing when you do your best work and having a plan, you are able to find a little more work and home balance in your life. I am always looking for new ideas, so if you have ideas on how you find balance, leave a comment below! I am so happy we get to start 2020 off together and I can't wait for all the learning that this year will bring.
It's that time again-my favorite time of year! Back to school season is upon us! I live for this time-getting my classroom ready, preparing new lesson plans, reimagining what our year will be. Inevitably, as exciting as this time of year is, it can also cause feelings of nerves for new teachers who are about to enter their very first classroom of their own. I wish I could tell you I remember exactly what I was thinking and feeling on my first day, but I can't-too many years have passed between and a lot of teaching has been done. But what I do know, is that every year I think about what is the best piece of advice I can give those new teachers in my school, and this year is no exception. I decided to write my five top pieces of advice (this year) for first year teachers in hopes that maybe I can provide some relief to those nerves as you get ready to begin your very first year of teaching!
1. Focus on routines-my first piece of advice is to begin your year focusing on your routines, procedures and building your classroom community. Taking this time now goes a long way throughout the year! I usually set aside the first few days to solely focus on those things, and then incorporate them in for the next two weeks. This helps students to establish mutual respect for one another, get to know each other and learn the expectations of your classroom. When they know what to expect and how procedures are done within your classroom, it can help them feel a sense of security and confidence within your room. There is a lot of positive reinforcement happening, as well as a lot of sharing-but don't forget to share about yourself too and model for your students what a strong classroom community looks like!
2. Find your tribe-It is my belief that the other educators in our schools are our most underutilized resource. In my school building, I am surrounded by people with such diverse interests and expertise. Find those people that you connect with and that can help you learn and grow. Don't be afraid to ask for help, ask how something is done, ask where things are at, or if there is anything you should be asking that you haven't asked because you don't know. Don't be afraid to make friends outside of your grade level and subject matter! We can learn a lot from those around us and those down the hall!
3. Reflect-I have this one listed as number three, but truly this may be the best piece of advice that I can give-REFLECT ON YOUR PRACTICE. If you want to grow in your practice as an educator, you have to reflect on what you've done, what worked and what you can improve. You can do this in many different ways, but keep notes for the next year, because if you don't, by the time next year rolls around you may not remember. I like to keep a list going in Google Keep on what things I want to change or improve for the next year. You can also keep notes on your lesson plans so when you go back to look at them during planning, they are specifically with the lessons and times they go with. However you choose to do it, just make sure you do. We should look to improve every year, but if we don't take the time to think critically about what we are doing, we won't improve. Reflection is not informing us on how "bad of a teacher we are", but it does inform us on how we can learn and grow. Just as we expect students to have a growth mindset, teachers should also have and model this. Learning never stops!
4. Prepare-This one may seem simple, but take the time to prepare. There are so many curveballs that come your way during the day, that preparation can be key to not being thrown off track. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be flexible, because you definitely should be, but make sure that you know what you are doing. I am an early morning prepper-I like to get to school early to get everything ready for the day. Before I leave in the afternoon, I like to make sure my lesson plans are ready and any prep I need for the next day is ready to go, or ready to get ready in the morning when I arrive. I leave my lesson plans open on my desk or computer all day long so I have a reference throughout the day. However preparing looks for you, don't forget to prepare through the tiredness of the first few weeks of school. And once you are prepared, if things need to change-do that! We should be responsive to our students and their needs, not stuck to a rigid schedule and lesson plan.
5. Remember why you started teaching-my last piece of advice is to remember why you started teaching. The first six weeks of school are always the hardest for me. I come early, stay late, am exhausted, my feet hurt from not being on them all summer, I'm having to train my body to wait to go to the bathroom again, I am ravenous because I am going all day long and I come home to a baby, husband and dog to hang out with and take care of. It is tiring and overwhelming, but remembering why you started teaching in the first place can help give you the stamina to make it through those first few weeks. I love teaching, and I believe that it is the best way to affect change for the future. I believe in this generation of students and their ability to change the world. I remind myself of these things when I am tried or cranky at the end of the day, because ultimately, no matter how tired I am, that is a mission worth working for.
*Bonus-I was about to write my closing, and I thought of one bonus piece of advice that I feel it is really important you need to hear as well-it is ok to go home with things left undone! You do not have to have every paper graded every day. You are a human. You need rest. You have a family to go home to and spend time with and those things are vitally important. If you need to go home without everything being done, then do that and don't feel one bit bad about it!
So that's it-my top five (and a half) tips that I give to new teachers. I hope that through this blog post, you can garner a few pieces of advice and *hopefully* wisdom. What are your ideas? What do you think would be good advice for a first year teacher? Leave your comments on what you would include below! Good luck and happy new school year! I feel like it is Christmas morning!
I am so excited that spring has finally arrived. These last few months have been busy in the most fun ways, while also the most challenging time as well. We have had a lot going on in our lives that I am so excited to share with you!
My husband and I rescued a dog this spring. His name is Winston. He is our favorite little Puggle (pug & beagle mix) and has been such a fun addition to our little family. I have spent many years asking for a dog, and we finally decided it was the right time. I would like to think that it was due to me being the most spectacular persuasive letter writing teacher there ever was (as getting a dog is our topic yearly) but I think it has more to do with patience and persistence.
This spring, I have been working through my first semester of graduate school. I have been in the most interesting classes and have really enjoyed what I'm learning. I have had to focus on being incredibly scheduled to make sure everything gets done, but it has been a spectacular experience. I have also been blogging for the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies at Texas A&M (ogaps.tamu.edu/Blog) so if you are interested in some of the blogs I've published through them, go check it out!
Between a new dog, graduate school, getting ready for testing, and balancing family and friends, it can sometimes be an overwhelming amount. As exciting as the spring season is, it can bring on a lot of stress for educators. I am really trying to focus this year on how to not let that stress get me down. I have found, personally, that Winston has been a great distraction. Each day, we go out on a couple of walks which is not only healthy exercise, but gets me out of the house and into the fresh air. I also think another way to energize your spring is to find a great conference or book that you are really interested in. You can check out my 2017 and 2018 book lists for book suggestions. Recently I've finished Wonder, A Wrinkle in Time and am almost done with Towers Falling. Finding something that recharges you and renews your excitement for learning at this time of the year is a great way to bring back your spring! Lastly, don't forget to spend quality time with your family and friends. It can be so tempting to work so much that we get home and have nothing left in the tank for those closest to us, but don't fall into that trap. Pick a day that you leave earlier each week, without question. If that doesn't work for you, set a time that you will be done and leave work, and don't pick up work again until you return the next day. Both of those are great ways to make sure that you give your best at work and at home. What we do is incredibly important, but we can't forget the other people in our lives.
So today's post was just meant to be a quick update and some little tips on how to make your spring as fabulous as it can be. I will be blogging at OGAPS a couple of times a month, but will keep posting on here as well! Check out my other blogs and I hope that you have a great spring!
I am officially 6 weeks into my master's degree and I can honestly say I am loving every second of what I am learning. It has been the most informative, interesting, exciting time of my academic career thus far. With that said, I am not going to pretend teaching full-time and doing grad school is easy, because it's not. But I will give you a little insight into what I have learned over the past six weeks about surviving your career while working on a degree...
I consider myself an expert planner, but I have had to be EVEN MORE disciplined in my planning since I began. I started my semester going through my syllabus' and writing down every due date and assignment for the whole semester. This helped me to map out my weekly goals and when I wanted to accomplish each thing. This also helps to give me a heads up on those final projects that often sneak up on you. I can schedule my work for those out before I even start. I also use different colors to coordinate with my different classes. Visually, I am able to see what I have for each class without having to write the name down next to each assignment.
I have also found it incredibly important for myself to schedule in free time. I could work 'round the clock if I really wanted to, but it's not good for my health. I try to schedule in time to hang with my husband, catch dinner with friends and visit with family. I also try to schedule time to get out for a walk, go to the gym or hit up a yoga class. These times are paramount to my success academically and in my career. Without these times I don't think I would be able to have clarity of thought in the times that I am working or enjoy what I am doing as much as I do.
Now all of this planning working times and free times means nothing if I don't exercise self-discipline. My grad school is very different than my college experience because I am working full time, have bills to pay, have a husband to take care of and am completing my degree online, not in person. With all of these compounding factors, it would be easy to blow off my work to go out with friends, catch a movie or run to the mall. Those things are important to do, but ultimately I am the only one who can make the choice to complete what I need to get done. I find that if I have discipline in completing homework and work when I have it scheduled to complete, I have plenty of time for those extra things like free time to binge watch some TV and seeing family and friends.
I knew that it was the right move for me to begin working on my master's degree and I could not be more excited that I have. I can't wait to continue learning and growing as a person and educator. I know that these six semesters will go by in the blink of an eye and all this hard work, dedication and time will pay off in the end. If you want to know more about my grad school experience, feel free to message me or leave a comment and I would be happy to talk to you!
I love to read. It is one of the things I enjoy doing most in my free time, but find that I have little time to do. Because of time, each year my goal is to just read 12 books of my choosing, one per month. I may read them all in a two month span, or spread them out-either way it averages out. I wanted to share with you the books I have chosen as my books for this year. Some of these are brand new, others have been in my shopping cart for a while and others I know very little about. I may change things up throughout the year and find other books that I want to add...I try to be flexible when it comes to my reading list. Be looking throughout the year on mentions of these books or reviews here on the blog as I definitely want to share my thoughts on these books and how they have helped me professionally, and personally. So here are my 2018 Book List picks:
1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
2. Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets by Carmine Gallo
3. The Wild Card: 7 Steps to an Educator's Creative Breakthrough by Wade King, Hope King
4. Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School by Mark Barnes, Jennifer Gonzalez
5. Lead Like a Pirate: Making School Amazing for Your Students and Staff by Shelley Burgess, Beth Houf
6. Integrating the Arts Across the Elementary School Curriculum by Phyllis Gelineau
7. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley, David Kelley
8. Creativity Rules: Getting Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World by Tina Seelig
9. inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity by Tina Seelig
These last three I am leaving open as new books are released throughout the year or I come across other books I am interested in adding to my list.
I also wanted to share with you my list from 2017 as I feel it was an ALL STAR line up of books. I highly recommend these to anyone!
2017 Book List:
-Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths that Will Help You THRIVE as an Educator by Aaron Hogan
-Shift This: How to Implement Gradual Change for Massive Impact in Your Classroom by Joy Kirr
-Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess
-The Innovators Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros
-Kids Deserve It: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome
-Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani
-Ditch that Homework: Practical Strategies to Help Make Homework Obsolete by Matt Miller and Alice Keeler
-Ditch that Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom by Matt Miller
-Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Student by Spencer John and A.J. Juliani
-The Power of Branding: Telling Your School's Story by Tony Sinanis
-Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
-The Leader in Me by Stephen Covey
As I wrap up today I wanted to ask for any book recommendations from YOU! Have you read any of the books on my list? Happy Reading in 2018!