#anchorword RECHARGE

avoid teacher burnout

The end of this school year really seemed to hit me like a ton of bricks! Life felt like it was moving at break-neck speed and the moment that one task was completed on my to-do-list, five other pressing tasks seemed to magically appear. As soon as school was out, the to-do-list of tasks just continued at home. For the first weeks of break, I was constantly busy catching up on tasks that I simply didn't have the time to keep up with during the school year. Three weeks into break, I still didn't feel like I've rested or recharged my batteries much. Since I head back to teach summer school soon, I really needed to find a way to recharge!

It took me a little time, but I finally retreated from my endless 'to-do' list at home and have settled into a holding pattern of doing as little 'real work' as possible, spending time with my family, reading, drinking iced coffee on the porch, going to the pool, visiting family, barbecuing on the grill.... It feels nice... but now I have less than a week before I'm back at summer school. If only time would slow down a little... 

As teachers (and moms, dads, husbands, wives...), we often become so focused on taking care of others that we forget about taking care of ourselves. *raises hand* I'm guilty of putting everyone first and forgetting to care for me. Recharging our own batteries is vital to our ability to engage fully at home and at work. Think about what the flight attendant says in their pre-flight safety speech: "Place the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping small children or others who may need assistance." I try to think of self-care as my oxygen mask; with out oxygen, I can do nothing.

Here's your reminder (and permission) to take care of yourself. Recharge your batteries; put on your oxygen mask first!

recharge batteries mindfulness for teachers

How do you #recharge your batteries and relax?

zen for teachers mindfulness burnout

Craft Store Score: Ten Frame Box

(affiliate links included for your convenience)

Last year, on one of my frequent strolls through the craft store, I found this plain little plastic box in the beading aisle (I don't even bead, so I'm not sure why I was even in this aisle in the first place!).

Ten Frame Box
Most people would be rather unimpressed with this little plastic craft supply storage, but I'm positive any teacher of young children will notice immediately why I was so enamored by it... It has 10 pace and is a real-life hands-on ten frame! Perfectly aligned with common core just as it is! (And I didn't have to make it myself, modify it or pay a ton of money for it at a teacher store!)

I promptly bought one of these magnificent little boxes and tested it out in in my classroom. My students absolutely loved counting little objects into the box and it worked perfectly for my students who struggled with fine motor challenges - the items stay in their spaces baring completely knocking the entire box off of the table!

Ten Box Counting
I did end up modifying the box just a tiny bit by using a little hot glue to affix the dividers securely in the box, but otherwise, it was perfect just as it is!

Initially, I kept the box in my circle time basket and had each of my preschoolers (this was a special education preschool classroom) choose a type of manipulative to count into the box to practice the number of the day. Each student took their turn while their peers practiced waiting, watching and listening to the students before him/her. The repetition and hands-on nature of this activity were perfect to reinforce counting, one-to-one correspondence, left-to-right object placement, order, organization, active looking and listening and more!

A colleague observed the little box in action and asked to borrow it to see if her students responded as well as mine had. I dutifully lent it to her, and never saw it again! Her students loved it just as much (maybe even more) than mine did. I bought another box and it too disappeared after lending it to another teacher in my building. I'm now on to my third or fourth box...

Recently, in my new classroom, I got brought the box out again and made some ten frame cards that fit almost perfectly under the box. The cards show the numeral and number word on the left and indicate which boxes should be filled to create the proper quantity.

I set it up as one of our Math works for March... I'll be changing out the manipulatives for Easter next week!

March Math Work

You can get a FREE set of ten frame cards HERE if you'd like to try them out in your classroom.

The actual box that I used can be found at Michaels Stores or online HERE

Amazon has similar pack of three Bead Boxes that are a little smaller in size (maybe easier to store if you need more than one of them).

Ten Frame Math Center

Easter Math Center FREEBIE!

(Affiliate links included for your convenience.)

My students loved the self-checking St. Patrick's Day clip cards that I made a couple of weeks ago - so much that I made another set for Easter!

The set includes clip-cards for numbers 1-10 and have been carefully designed to be printed double-sided to create a self-checking center. 

I absolutely LOVE that my students can check their own work - and they love it too! I've put them up in my TpT store as a FREEBIE

Prep for this center is pretty easy - all you need to do is print (double-sided if you want them to be self-checking), laminate & cut. You'll need some kind of clips for students to mark the number - you could even use a dry erase marker or crayon if you wanted to! 

Skills: one-to-one correspondence, matching set of objects to numerals, counting to answer "how many?"

Aligned with Common Core standards: K.CC.A.1, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5

#anchorwords - BALANCE

The concept of 'balance' in the life of a working mother feels pretty much impossible. Despite the effort that we put into seeking that idea of balance, we never seem to get there and it never feels balanced enough regardless of how hard we try. *sigh*

I'm absolutely positive that I'm not alone in feeling like true 'balance' is just about impossible to achieve.

I've recently come to the understanding that seeking balance on a daily basis probably isn't possible, but looking at the bigger picture - like by the week or month - a different type of balance might actually be possible. I've adjusted my expectations of what and how much I can do in any given day and have started focusing on finding balance during the week.

During a given week, I attempt to balance how much I work with how much time I'm spending with my family, I balance housework with being a vegetable on the couch, healthy food with junk food... you get the idea. I figure if there's some semblance of balance in these things, I must be doing OK - right?!

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony" Thomas Merton

I also consider 'balance' in my classroom - as a teacher focus on balancing direct-instruction with student-led activities, academic work with fun activities, high-energy with calming activities etc. We can't expect our students (or ourselves) to constantly engage in highly academic, teacher-led activities - that's just exhausting for everyone! Striving for balance in the classroom aims to maximize the potential for student learning and enrich their learning experience without making us teachers completely bananas!

How to you approach the idea of 'balance' in your life?

A Few of My Favorite Books: Gail Gibbons

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I absolutely LOVE books by Gail Gibbons! She writes and illustrates amazing non-fiction picture books for young children on a wide variety of topics. I love these books so much that I have my very own personal collection of Gibbons’ books that I rarely let my students or my son touch.

I especially enjoy her holiday books that simply explain the origin of the holiday and associated traditions. Some of her other books delve deeply into a single topic such as Bats, Recycling or Weather and provide a great deal of detailed, but child friendly information on the topic. Her books usually appeal to a wide age range from early childhood through elementary school. I have found Gibbons books to be a rich supplement to early childhood and elementary school science and social studies activities and they align easily with the non-fiction literature common core standards (bonus!).

Here are a few of my favorite Gail Gibbons books for Spring:

From Seed to Plant
Monarch Butterfly


The Honey Makers



St. Patrick's Day 

What's your favorite Gail Gibbon's book?

10 Ways to Build a Classroom Library on a Budget

It's no secret that teachers don't make tons of money and that they often spend their own cash to purchase classroom supplies. I can't even tell you how much of my own money goes into my classroom each year - I really should be keeping track to deduct it from my taxes, but that's an entirely different post!

Over the years, I've acquired quite a collection of children's literature, amassing 20+ file boxes of books and miscellaneous teaching materials - It's a total mess right now since our move this past summer. I would love to have it all organized beautifully on bookshelves... but it looks like this right now:

My husband HATES this collection and is constantly pestering me to get rid of some of them. I repeatedly defend my ever growing collection by try to explain that being a teacher is a close cousin of having a hoarding problem...However, I am not actually a hoarder.  Teachers just keep anything and everything that they think might be useful in their classroom...  over the next 25 years!

I'm not a hoarder, I'm a teacher!
Back to the classroom library... So how have a created an extensive classroom library without going desperately broke?! The majority of my books have been acquired cheaply through donations, thrift stores, yard sales and school book clubs. You’d be surprised at what you might find when you make the effort to look through the stacks of books at your local thrift store or who might donate books once they know you’re a teacher trying to stock your classroom without breaking the bank.

When building your classroom library, I personally think that there are two primary challenges: knowing where to look and knowing what to look for (I'll get to my thoughts on this in another post). 

Where to Look:

1. Thrift Stores Check out your local thrift stores for a wide selection of used children’s books a low prices – often between $.25-$2.00 each. Don’t limit yourself to just the Goodwill or Salvation Army Store, but checkout smaller thrift stores and look for lesser-known shops. Consider the area that the thrift shop is located in; some of  my best finds  have come from thrift stores located near upscale neighborhoods!

2. Consignment Sales/Stores - Consignment stores can be a good place to find books for your classroom. Often the books at consignment stores are in better condition than thrift stores, as they have to meet certain standards to be accepted for consignment. Prices at consignment stores are often a little higher than thrift stores, but still very reasonable. 

3. Yard Sales/Garage Sales/Flea Markets - Yard sale season is coming up soon! A quick outing on a Saturday morning can be very productive for a motivated teacher. I usually mention that I’m a teacher while I’m searching through a seller's books and often they'll end up being extra generous with their pricing once they know that you’re a broke teacher trying to stock your classroom. I've even had sellers simply hand over boxes of books for free just to get rid of them and know that they'll be used again!

4. Freecycle.org - Freecycle groups are located all over the United States and are specific to cities and regions. You can find a local Freecycle group by simply using Google to search your state & city. Individuals post items that they want to get rid of or items that they’re seeking to the group and people respond via email to claim, pick up and offer items. Books are usually offered as a ‘lot’ and can sometimes be poor quality and selection, but whatever you don’t want can always be Freecycled again or donated to a local thrift shop after you’ve picked through them.

5. Amazon Used Books - I absolutely love Amazon used books! You can find just about any book that you’re searching for and usually pay only a few dollars for the book - often $.01 plus shipping! I have rarely had problems with the quality of the books, but shipping is usually media mail and can take several weeks to arrive.

6. Craigslist.org - Craigslist is a great place to find things for your classroom. Sometimes retiring teachers will post their items for sale on the site and you could score a huge lot of teaching materials for cheap. Books are often offered as a 'lot,' but since you can see the items before paying for them, you'll be more likely to get books that you can actually use. 

7. Library Sales - When the library clears out extra books, they usually offer them for purchase at a very cheap price. You might be surprised what the library is getting rid of! 

8. eBay - Often times, books can be purchased cheaply by 'lot' on ebay. If you take a little time to search through postings, you might find a seller that organizes book lots by age/reading level and/or type of book. Some sellers will even take special requests and create a custom book box for you. Don't be afraid to ask! 

9. School Book Clubs - Book clubs offered through school are a great way to purchase new books at low prices. I usually save my money for special collections of books based on seasonal theme, author or audio books. When the book order flyer arrives, I feel like a little kid with a pen and a toy catalogue! You might even earn points from all of the books that your students purchase that can be applied to purchases for your classroom! 

10. Warehouse Sales - If you have a Scholastic warehouse nearby (they're located all over the country), it's absolutely worth making a drive for their warehouse sales that they throw every few months. New books can be purchased for a couple of dollars and the selection is pretty good. Make sure that you go on one of the first days of the sale for the best selection! 

Scholastic Warehouse SALE... a teacher's dream!


11. Social Media - Why not harness the full power of your social media accounts?! Post a request for gently used books that would be suitable for your classroom and see what people have to offer. Who knows, you might get a huge donation from someone who was cleaning out their kids' old books! You might also look for people who are selling books on social media - this is relatively new, but there are many used book sellers on Instagram that offer hard to find books, in good condition and many will even take requests. Two of my favorite book sellers on IG are @togetherweread @retroriotreads

Any places that I left off of my list?