Behavior Management, Child Development, Creating a Community, Education, Self Care, Wellness

No rest for the weary….

I am the child of true work horses. Both of my parents, by example, showed the value of working exceptionally hard and consistently giving effort. This is a valuable and important skill set. As a teacher, I am known for my high expectations for working hard, pushing beyond what you think you are capable of, and the value of constantly having a next assignment, activity, etc. I am not a fan of down time, games, hanging out….which is highly ironic given that these were my skill set as a student.

I am however being gently nudged to rethink this concept. Here is how the nudging has happened… First, I get tired and worn out more as I get older, teach longer, and face the challenges all teachers face. Second, this year my students have required me to keep moving in new directions to meet them where they are. I have realized that the stamina required to work hard all day with our extra long day may just not be there…yet (growth mindset)! Third, I watched a fascinating news story on the increasing research that supports the power of a daily nap or rest time. As I watched in awe, the CEO of a major tech firm, WRITES IN HIS CALENDAR DAILY A 30 MINUTE NAP!!!!! My first thought was, I want to work there…I last truly slept around 15 years ago pre-kids….and that I was mesmerized to hear him discuss that his most effective and highest resulting ideas came as he was drifting off to sleep or waking up from sleep. Here is the news story if you are interested: https://www.cbsnews.com/video/the-benefits-of-napping-on-the-job/

So – I would like us to discuss the power of rest. The news story today had lots of medical, mental health, and other experts discussing rest. They also shared that historically some of the world’s greatest minds and leaders (Aristotle, Leonardo DaVinci, Roosevelt, Truman, etc.) spoke of regular naps in their journals and other historical documents. It is clear, that the American idea of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make anything out of yourself by hard work” is just not aligned with the concept of rest. As Americans, we view rest for the lazy, uninspired, and somehow damaged people. The challenge now is to alter our thinking enough to see the value of rest in an educational environment. So, I got to thinking…what could rest look like in the classroom? Here are some ideas I have either used in the past without knowing what I was doing or even better, have learned about someone else using this with great success.

  1. Brain Breaks, Yoga, Mindfulness, Movement in the classroom: This is a growing trend in education for a reason. Teaching children the value and importance of the mind, spirit, body connection is literally life saving. Check out this amazing article from Mindful.org https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-in-education/ and my favorite calming video by Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman (Wavecrest Films) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVA2N6tX2cg
  2. Outdoor Education: My first career was in the non-profit world running large resident and day camps (along with many other programs). I love nature and KNOW its value. Yet – I have become stagnant with gritting it out in my classroom…some days never seeing the sun. Taking your class outside for a lesson, activity, or even a 5 min. refresh and regroup walk can center and refocus the mind.
  3. Genius Hour: Genius hour is a new, trendy academic concept of giving students time to spend learning about whatever they want, however they want. It is based on the idea that Google has in their company of giving daily “down time” for people to play and create. I just learned about this at a conference and am toying with the idea of when, where, why, and how to integrate. Here is a great starter site I found: https://geniushour.com/what-is-genius-hour/
  4. Maker’s Space – Every year after Spring Break, I have opened a “Maker’s Space” in my classroom. It is designed to help make the final push to standardized testing more balanced with this highly engaging and out of the norm concept. Every year, I vow I will never do it again and every year, I see the value of this program. Here is a link to Authentic Teaching’s Maker’s Space packet that helps align this concept with standards https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Makers-Space-Package-4777241
  5. Explicit instruction in work pacing, study, and standardized testing stamina and focus skills: For most of us around the U.S., we are entering the time of final preparation for standardized testing. In our state, students starting in 3rd grade (8 years old), are expected to sit for up to 4 hours, completely silently, no movement, while the teacher paces the classroom, and take a test. This is something most of us adults could not do. So, until this kind of rigorous testing changes (advocate and vote, my friends!), we must teach our students healthy ways to pace their class work, studying, and during standardized tests. I use this resource every year as a way to encourage students to realize stamina and focus are HARD, but skills they can learn. http://staff.katyisd.org/sites/raefourth/PublishingImages/Pages/default/Test%20Anxiety%20-%20Taming%20the%20Test%20Monsters.pptx

My new goal for remainder of this school year, is to shift my paradigm ever so slightly, to see the value of rest. I get the idea that students must learn balance in order to achieve. I tend to be so driven, that I forget that balance for myself and for my students sometimes. Take a moment and reflect for yourself, with your team, and/or with your students on ways to add a little rest into the school day and beyond! Maybe, the best idea, will come when we rest!

Creating a Community, Education, PLC, Recipes, Self Care, Wellness

A Single Word

It is the beginning of a new year, new decade and for many of us a new era in teaching. We are seeing a rising up of educators asking to be treated with the respect and dignity their experience, education, and passion deserves. We are seeing a renewed focus on the whole child and how we can meet their real needs not just meet standardized testing scores. Trauma based education, multiple techniques of teaching, and a more comprehensive approach to intervention are all slowly working their way into education.

However, we continue to be impacted by people who do not truly understand the work teachers do. Politicians, parents, administrators, the community…we are often viewed through a lens that does not represent the complex and highly challenging skill set we bring to work every day. This can leave us not feeling the “newness” that is all around us or recognizing our power to do the job we are highly trained and highly capable of performing. So, what do we do? Go back to a single word…POSSIBLE. What is possible for us individually, collectively, and as a movement to make a difference in the lives of our students while maintaining a healthy balance and joy for ourselves?

Often this time of year, people are asked to pick a word to be their goal for the upcoming year. I was asked to do this at school and puzzled over words that embodied the way I feel at times …persevere, survive, or maintain. Finally, I realized for my next decade, I wanted my word to be more bold and a true goal – success. I want to achieve success in several areas of my life that are either struggles for me or dreams I have long held. So – I am focusing on success and the work that needs to happen to achieve success in these areas. While you are reflecting on what your word will be, remind yourself of the article before the holiday break “What is possible?” and think about what those fresh, new goals will be on that blank piece of paper. If you have no idea what I am talking about, it’s not too late to do that activity now – check out my last blog post. https://authenticteaching.blog/2019/12/09/what-is-possible/

But these big goals don’t stop the pressure, stress, and frustrations that come with teaching. So – for my shorter term, more specific goal of the next year – I am choosing GRANOLA. That’s right…granola. You see, I am a little bit granola/hippie/treehugger. But, I also LOVE making and eating granola. I promise this is going somewhere! So, while I made granola I started thinking about what that word granola could mean for the rest of the 2019/2020 school year in my life:

  1. SIMPLIFY – Part of the joy of making, eating, or being granola is the delicious simplicity of it. So, like granola, I want to simplify what I am doing as a teacher for the rest of the year. Keep my focus on my purpose. https://authenticteaching.blog/2019/10/27/remembering-your-purpose/
  2. PATIENCE – My biggest “growth area”. When I make granola, I have to stop and carefully turn the granola every 15 minutes for over an hour. Am I showing the patience I should to work with my students, my co-workers, my administration, my parents, etc?
  3. THE MIX – The best part of granola is the mix and the possibilities are endless. Am I embracing the unique things each student, each co-worker, each person I interact with brings to the table?
  4. HEALTHY – Granola for all of its delicious sweetness is very healthy. What am I doing to maintain my physical, mental, and spiritual health?
  5. WHIMSY – Granola just has some fun stuff in it – raisins, nuts, coconut, you name it. Am I remembering that whimsy and joy should be a part of EVERY DAY! We just get too serious as teachers sometimes…have a little fun!

So – one little word. Our reality often follows our intent. What do I envision for myself and how will make it happen? As you go into the new decade, new year, and new time in education focus on what one little word can do to help you set and follow a specific intent of possibility. Maybe the one little word is a big goal like success or a more daily goal like granola…but whatever the word is: remember the power of a single word…followed by a single intent… followed by specific plans to change things for the better.

Now – here is my favorite recipe for granola! Enjoy – generally I eat it two ways. First, I use greek yogurt, fruit, and granola to make a parfait or I fill a bowl with granola, add fruit and almond milk and enjoy as cereal. BUT, there are plenty of other great things to do with granola!

Granola Recipe

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Get out 2 sheet pans and a really big bowl!

  • 3 cups of old fashioned oats (DO NOT USE THE PACKETS OF INSTANT OATMEAL – TRUST ME IT DOES NOT WORK!)
  • 1.5 cups of sweetened coconut flakes
  • 2 cups of some sort of nuts
  • 1/3 c. of brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. of maple syrup (real maple syrup is best but I actually discovered when I ran out that sugar free syrup makes a pretty great granola)
  • 1/3 c. of vegetable oil
  • 1 t. of salt
  • 2-4 different kinds of dried fruit that you like (raisins (golden or regular), apricots, mango, banana chips, kiwi, apple, etc.)
  1. In a REALLY large bowl, get a big coffee cup and measure out 3 full cups of old fashioned oats. I use a coffee cup for all my measuring because it is really more about proportions than precise measurement)
  2. Add in 1.5 cups of sweetened coconut flakes (If you do not like coconut replace this with either more nuts or more oatmeal. But, trust me, you hardly taste the coconut and it makes it delish!)
  3. Add in 2 cups of some kind of nut (I generally use 2 different types of nuts – pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, etc.) This is a GREAT way to use up old mixed nut blends, trail mixes, etc.
  4. Lightly mix all these ingredients together with your hands or a big spoon.
  5. Now – in the coffee cup – mix 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of maple syrup, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil and 1 t. of salt. Stir it over the bowl of granola (this way you won’t make a mess all over the counter) with a fork until it looks like a pretty thick paste. Take the mixture and pour over the top of the oat mixture in the bowl.
  6. You can use your hands (messy but effective) or a big spoon (better) or the fork you stirred with (even better – less dishes) and stir in the mixture with the syrup/sugar/oil mixture until evenly coated.
  7. Now – spread the mixture on to two UNGREASED sheet pans. Get it as flat as possible – one layer is the goal.
  8. Now – the patience part – ugh…the most challenging part of the granola cooking. So – I multi-task while doing something else within hearing distance of my timer. Set the timer for 15 minutes and go watch some Real Housewives…. When the timer goes off, CAREULLY use a spatula to turn over the granola mixture and rotate your pans in the oven (top to bottom, front to back). Close the oven door and reset the timer for 15 more minutes. Repeat. Do this for 1.5 hours (six 15 minute timers).
  9. Pull out the granola – THE BEST PART IS THE SMELL. JUST TAKE A MOMENT!
  10. Let the granola cool for about 10-15 minutes. Cut up your dried fruit into small bite size pieces and sprinkle over the top of the warm granola.
  11. Let the granola fully cool on the counter (make sure to eat some at this stage to test…because seriously, it is delicious)
  12. Get a sealed container and carefully pour in your granola mixture. It lasts for up to a month in a well sealed container. Eat and enjoy!
#Classroom Community, Child Development, Creating a Community, Education, Self Care, Wellness

What is possible…

Oh, mylanta…as one of my good friends often says! The holiday season as a teacher is like riding a tornado, while holding an egg, and trying to still educate somebody! This short time between Thanksgiving and the winter break can be really challenging with special events, holiday festivities and crafts, and endless other things. All of this while we are trying to be merry, keep the order, and keep up with our own hectic holiday hustle and bustle outside of school.

Today, we managed to get our house ready for the holidays and my daughter is over the moon waiting for the return of our elf on the shelf. In our house, he does not make an appearance until the tree is up. So, tree is up…lights are on…and here comes Kelf. (My boys named him when they were little…enough said!) One tradition we have is after the tree is finished, we turn off every light we can find and sit for a minute to wonder at the beauty of the tree lighting the dark. In that moment, you can feel every one of us holding our breath and waiting for what is possible.

As a teacher in this season it is easy to lose sight of what is possible in our classrooms, with our teams, or in our schools. It is so easy to just be counting down the days with no objective but survival. So – I want to challenge us all to commit to determining what is possible. Here is the plan:

  1. Get a blank piece of paper and write “WHAT IS POSSIBLE” across the top. (If you are creative and color coordinated have at it…if you are like me…wipe the coffee stains off a piece of paper and find whatever writing utensil that will write closest to you and scribble it out.)
  2. Take that paper and seal it up in an envelope and address it to yourself.
  3. Choose one of two options: (1) Place this in your mailbox at school or on your desk when you have cleaned it off before break or (2) Actually place it in a mailbox (don’t forget a stamp) and mail it to yourself.

You see…when you return from this chaotic time and you are rested up…it is time to imagine and plan for what is possible. Do you have students who are struggling academically, emotionally, socially, or behaviorally? Are you struggling with the pacing for the remainder of the year – too much to teach, not enough time? Are you worrying about how to intervene with students not showing enough growth? Need to reset your classroom community and expectations? Whatever it is – open that envelope to find a blank paper where you can now write what is possible. New year, new possibilities, new opportunities to make a difference. It is an actual CLEAN SLATE – where you can imagine the possibilities.

For some reason, I have had several powerful reminders of what is possible when I am a teacher that doesn’t lose myself to the chaos. I have had students share strong emotions and feelings that need me to be my best. I keep running into former students these last few weeks who look at me and make me realize that for our time together, I made a difference. I have been unable to get one of these students off my mind…new mom to a 2 month old at 17, working at fast food, and seems better…much better than the last time I saw her in full trauma and crisis. I keep thinking about my time with her and how I never imagined this possibility for her. I hope that someone, something, and possibly in some small way my time with her has led her to a possibility that I hope will lead her to more possibilities.

You see…the holiday season for all of its extra work, craziness, and stress is really about what is possible. Regardless of your belief system, look around you at the faces waiting for something, some possibility. Every culture, faith, and people somehow view this time of year as the time of newness. What will you do to help make things possible? What will you do to move into the fresh new year with a focus on what is possible? It is a big job to be a teacher – but oh, the possibilities!

#Classroom Community, Behavior Management, Books, Creating a Community, Education, PLC, Reading, Self Care, Teamwork, Wellness

Giving Thanks

We are just a few school days away from Thanksgiving and every teacher and student is counting down the days. For some of us the countdown is all about “the break”…getting ready for sleeping in, using the bathroom whenever we want, drinking HOT coffee out of a regular coffee mug, eating food at a table at our own pace and other basic joys of the teacher at home. We may be excited about family, friends, and a big feast. Our students may be ready for no homework, video games, travel to distant relatives, or long days spent doing what they want.

For some children (and some teachers), the break is not a break they are looking forward to. 5 days is a long time to go without consistent food, experience domestic violence, addiction, or family fighting. For some it is 5 days to survive until the safety of school returns. Many children will escalate their negative behavior at school to prepare for the transition to this tumultuous environment. Studies have been done that show that our most challenging students must create chaos at school to mentally prepare for the chaos they may experience at home. So, as teachers we must pay attention to these needy children and help them these last few days before break with a little extra kindness and patience.

This year, our team of teachers, has started a “wellness plan”. Each month, we set up 2 – 3 wellness based activities a week to keep us as healthy as possible. We share food, take a power walk together, practice the calm app in PLC, schedule nights out, and every Friday after school meet for Gratitude Friday. This has rapidly become the most important part of the week for me. We share some candy, cry, vent, laugh, and then we each take a moment to write things we are grateful for. We read them aloud and then pass our books around to write for each person present what we appreciate about them. I enter the room miserable many Friday afternoons and leave the room ready to go home and be mom. So, let’s give some thanks and gratitude for all we have. Here is my list of things I am grateful for:

  1. My family and its good health.
  2. The students in my class are growing in many areas.
  3. I have made a difference in people’s lives – a true gift to me.
  4. I have friends who I can laugh or cry with.
  5. Teachers have a voice growing with unity across our state and nation.
  6. I have food on my table, a warm house, and all I need to live a comfortable life.
  7. I am constantly learning new things because I am teaching new things.
  8. There are endless books to read that give my life meaning.
  9. I have health care… which is a surprisingly important thing that almost wasn’t… here in NC.
  10. I saw 2 former students working at fast food restaurants in the last 2 days…their joy, excitement, and enthusiasm when they saw me made every hard day worthwhile.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving season? Share your list here or on our social media sites! Let’s start a gratitude chain! Wait and see how powerful it can be!

Education, Self Care

Trusting your gut

Intuition…it is this magical force that can lead you in a direction you need to go. Depending on your belief system, you may credit a higher power for these gentle nudges. Whatever you believe causes you to have the intuition to move in a specific direction, intuition can be our best guide as a teacher.

In today’s teaching world, it is easy to lose sight of that small, quiet voice that tells us which way to go. Schedules, parents, paperwork, daily grind, school initiatives, and so much more can cause us to turn off our voice and follow somebody else’s expectations for our students or ourselves. Generally, I find that when I do this, I am the least successful as a teacher. An earlier blog post discussed the art vs. the science of teaching: https://authenticteaching.blog/2019/08/03/the-art-and-science-of-teaching/ This concept is easy to lose sight of at this point in the year.

I taught for many years in high poverty Title 1 schools. There were so many families just like mine, struggling to do the best for their children they could. For some parents, their own personal demons and issues prevented them from being the kind of parents they needed to be. One year, I had a student who was a strong, smart, capable student. She could have an attitude, but I quickly helped her see the benefit of treating people with respect and care. She became one of my proudest success stories of that year in the fall. Then, in February, it was like she became a different person. Angry, volatile, unwilling to try, and worst of all treating me like I was the enemy. In spite of my desire to be the best teacher I could be for her, it all came to a head one day when I could not tolerate her disrespect another minute. I marched her to the office and brought her to my principal explaining the decline in her behavior and attitude. He took her and I went to class feeling frustrated with myself for not staying as calm, cool, and collected as I wanted to be. So that night, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about her. Wondering, what could have caused the change and what could I do to help her? Then, my tiny voice (which is annoyingly loud at 3 am) told me to just be there and be consistent. Whatever was wrong, she needed me to just stay consistently in her corner and keep trying. So, I talked with her the next day and told her just that. I was in her corner and on her side. She cried, I cried, we apologized, and slowly over the next several weeks and months, she started to go back to her old self. On the last day of school after the promotion ceremony, we were saying goodbye as a class in my room. We were taking a group picture and her mom came in. Her mom was loud, wild, and clearly not fully with us when she entered the room. She ran up and slid across a table to lay on her side in the picture. My student was mortified. As the kids were leaving the classroom, her mom came to me and loudly said “Thanks so much for helping her when I went to jail in February. She was all alone taking care of the little ones and she said you helped her every day.” It hit me like a freight train….she had been a terrified little girl thrust into a situation beyond her years and she was mad. She had to know that I would take that anger and still keep trying (because ultimately I am that stubborn). So – that voice, that intuition, led me in the right direction. Be consistent and keep trying it had said. Because I listened, I made a terrible time for her a little bit better. Throughout our day as educators we can listen to our intuition for both big and small situations and we can move in the direction that can make a real difference. Here are some ideas to help you “trust your gut” and move in the right direction.

  • STOP – just stop and give yourself some time rest, rejuvenate, and relax. This may only be one planning period where you quietly sit and reflect in your room or stopping at a coffee shop for one hour before you head home or on the weekend locking yourself in a room you like for a few hours. Generally, we are unable to hear that tiny voice if we are going full speed. So, just stop.
  • Make a list – I love a good list. Often, when I am the most overwhelmed, I make a list of things I need to do. Just making the list makes me feel better. Make a list of the issues as a teacher that you need to focus on.
  • Now – look at that list and listen… As you look over the items on the list think to yourself “What would I do to fix a concern with a student, my schedule, a co-worker, a parent, my instruction, my test scores, etc??? What would I do if there was nothing standing in my way to solve the concern?” Listen…what is your intuition telling you?
  • As you listen to your inner voice, you will often see a pathway open up that you simply did not know was there. Now – purposefully and intentionally take that pathway.

There is a classic story about starfish that reminds me of why we should trust our gut. Hundreds of starfish had washed up onto a beach. An old man was walking down the beach, when a saw a young girl picking up starfish one by one and throwing them back out to sea. He came up and asked what she was doing. She replied “I am saving these starfish”. He said “There are too many, you will never make a difference for all these starfish.” The girl smiled, picked up another starfish and tossed it back to sea. She looked at the old man and said “I made a difference to that one.” Your gut will help you make a difference one small step at a time. Trust your gut, intuition, small voice, higher power….whatever you name it…it will help you make a difference for yourself and for others.

 

#Classroom Community, Character Education, PLC, Recipes, Self Care

Remembering your Purpose

Being a teacher comes with wearing many different hats. Today’s educators are instructors, counselors, social workers, behavioral specialists, special educators, nurses, and much more. These different roles can cause a teacher to feel overwhelmed or to struggle. So, it is time, in the late days of October when the weather causes inside recess more often; to reflect on your PURPOSE as an educator.

I watched two contestants on a singing competition who had both overcome great tragedy in their childhood and early adult life and were now on national TV. As they entered their first coaching session with superstars one of them looked at the other and said “There is a reason I am here so that some little girl can see someone like them who made it here and there is a reason you are here so that some little boy can see someone like them who made it here. Let’s go fulfill our purpose.” WOW…it was emotional and inspiring to watch people overcoming adversity, recognizing their power, and seeking to give back. So, we teachers need to take a breath and remind ourselves of our purpose. Here are a few words for thought:

  1. There is a child in your class who needs you. You…specifically you…to show them the way. Most likely they are your biggest challenge. So, remember your purpose!
  2. Take time to self-correct. I shared this amazing clip from the Ellen show when teaching a character lesson on helpfulness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QntBkDFkiuY&disable_polymer=true In it, the boys were noted for having the presence of mind to “self correct”. What are you doing that needs some self correcting? Complaining too much, overworking yourself, staying mired in the “admin says I have to” mindset….whatever it is self correct and remember your purpose.
  3. Be kind. Everybody is going through a struggle you know nothing about – be kind always. This quote is so important in our world today. Be intentionally kind to kids, parents, teammates, yourself – whether or not they deserve it or ask for it. Remember your purpose.
  4. Focus on your world inside your classroom. Never forget that there is ALWAYS more work than you can do in a day. You can always get caught up in the million issues outside your doors. So, re-focus on your classroom and remember your purpose.
  5. Remember to laugh. Sometimes you have to laugh so you don’t cry. That is absolutely true and sometimes you really do need to just have a good laugh (or a good cry) and remember your purpose.

Now – a vegetable with several purposes is the Zucchini. You may want to ask me “Why are you talking about zucchini all of the sudden?” That was an odd jump, I know! I am talking about zucchini because of my new obsession – zucchini bread. Zucchini can be savory or sweet. Zucchini has many purposes in the kitchen – just like a teacher does at school. So, here is my favorite recipe for zucchini bread – seriously delish! Enjoy!

Zucchini Bread

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Decide on your pan (traditional loaf or mini-loaf pans). Then, get your zucchini ready. I think the easiest way is to put it into your food processor until it is in little tiny bits. You can also grate it – but that takes forever…so go with the food processor.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 – 1 t. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. vegetable oil (not olive oil)
  • 2 1/4 c. white granulated sugar
  • 3 t. vanilla extract (real not imitation)
  • 2 c. grated (see directions above) zucchini
  • OPTIONAL – 1 c. nuts (walnuts or pecans are best) and/or 1/2 c. of raisins
  1. After you have grated your zucchini – set it to the side.
  2. Into a stand mixer or large mixing bowl (with a hand mixer) put your eggs, oil, and granulated sugar. Mix these for a good 2 – 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Add in flour with salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. NOW – I am not a sifter – but in theory – you should sift these together. What I do is measure out 1 c. of the flour and put the salt, baking soda, and baking powder on top. Then I mix that in fully. I then add in one more cup of flour with the cinnamon on top and mix that in fully. Finally, I add in the third cup of flour with the ground nutmeg on top (which I grate myself with a microplane) and mix that in fully.
  4. Add in your vanilla and zucchini – the batter will seem super thick and weird until you add in the zucchini. Magically, it will loosen up and form this sticky, amazing batter.
  5. Finally, if your kids are not picky like mine are – fold in the nuts and/or raisins. If your kids are picky – make one loaf pan WITH and one loaf pan without. (I pour out the batter without the good stuff in it first into a pan I have sprayed with cooking spray). Then, I add in my nuts/raisins to the leftover batter in my mixing bowl and pour that into the other loaf pan. The beauty of this is you get one whole loaf pan basically to yourself…since the kids will only eat when desperate.
  6. Bake for 40-60 min. until the center comes out clean. This bread is NOT great undercooked (like I suggested with banana bread). So, make sure it is cooked all the way. The top gets super crunchy, toasty brown, and delicious.
  7. NOW – if you are going for the “Be Kind” step up top – take it to work and share with your friends. If you are going for the “Remember to laugh”, then hide it in your kitchen and laugh while nobody else gets any! 🙂

We all have a purpose in the world. Zucchini has MANY purposes – which is why it is a delicious choice! What is your purpose in the world and how do you remind yourself of it? While you eat your zucchini bread – take some time to figure out your purpose right now, right here, in this place in your life and education career.

#Classroom Community, Behavior Management, Character Education, Creating a Community, Education, PLC, Self Care

Turn the Kaleidoscope

Sometimes in education, we have to take a step back, breathe, and look at things in a different light. We have to turn the kaleidoscope to see things uniquely. This can be what we need to do with a specific student we are struggling with, a class we are navigating, a team we work on, or our school at large. Shifting the kaleidoscope helps us take fragmented pieces and see them “lit up”. This light shining through the fragments often gives us our biggest breakthroughs.

Feeling like you are having trouble finding the next step forward with a problem at school? Here is my list of easy suggestions designed to help you move forward with a problem that you are unable to fix right now. Shift that kaleidoscope on the issue and see if you can find a new point of view.

  1. Identify your actual issue – Sometimes the work gets so overwhelming that you can simply feel like everything is awful. The first step is to identify the actual issue that is causing you the highest level of frustration and stress. For example, is it a specific student that you simply are unable to make a difference with? Or, is it a scheduling issue making you frustrated? Or, are you not getting enough time and energy to focus on the things that matter because you have too much paperwork? Dialing down to the actual issue helps to make it more manageable. Of course, often there are multiple issues – but take them one at a time starting with the biggest drain to your energy.
  2. Figure out what you are feeling – Now that you know what the specific issue is…take some time to identify what you feel about it. Sometimes our anger with a specific kid, team mate, or issue is masking a different feeling. Inadequacy, fear of failure, exhaustion, jealousy, or helplessness often come out as anger. Taking time to figure out what you are feeling in more detail helps to identify how you can begin problem solving. Often, I am frustrated because I feel helpless to fix a situation. Simply saying to myself “It is okay that you are not in control” will often shift me out of anger and into problem solving.
  3. Visualize what you want it to look like – Things happen so fast to us as teachers, it is hard to even know what you want. That kid who is out of control….I just want him to stop it. Lunch time with no time to sit and eat…I just want to sit quietly. But, visualizing the exact goal can help us achieve it. For example, that out of control student, what exactly would it look like FOR THEM to be in your class positively? Some students will never be a fully compliant, perfect little student. So, what would it look like for them to be in your class and for you to feel good about it? Visualizing more precisely can help you see the ways to make it happen.
  4. Think outside the box – Teachers by nature tend to be people pleasers and rule followers (not all of us….). We like our schedules precise, our bulletin boards neat, and everything to run smoothly. (not all of us…) But, we struggle to look for non traditional solutions to problems. My team has a reputation for finding a way to “make things work”. This is because we are willing to find solutions that nobody else thought of. Rather than struggling away with something that isn’t working, try something new and innovative to help you find a new solution.
  5. Determine the steps you need to take to make it happen – Now that you have a plan and vision for your problem, what has to happen to make it work? The old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is true for any big challenge. Setting specific, clear steps towards the goal keeps you focused on getting there rather than frustrated if you don’t solve the problem instantly.
  6. If at first you don’t succeed, try, and try again – The most frequent complaint about changing a student’s behavior from teachers that I hear is “I tried a behavior plan and it didn’t work…they didn’t care…the behavior was still happening.” Well – OF COURSE IT WAS! Changing a behavior, a class, a struggling team, a school-wide issue, takes time and effort to get better. Even more than this is requires PERSISTENCE!!! Ever tried to get a toddler to stop doing a dangerous behavior? Think about how many times you had to repeat the instructions, consequences, and praise to get them to stop that behavior. I bet it wasn’t a couple of times…and yet, we expected things at school to change with a snap of our fingers. Be persistent and keep trying to find solutions.
  7. Accept what you are unable to control – All this being said, sometimes you have to admit what you simply are unable to control. There are things with a challenging student that you will NEVER be able to fix or change. Love and help them anyways. There are challenges with a class of students that will remain all year. Love and help them anyways. There are difficulties with people you work with that you will not be able to alter. Love and help them anyways. There are issues and concerns at the school level that are out of your hands. Do your best anyways. Accepting what you are NOT in control of can help you stay focused on what you are in control of.
  8. Remember why you are there – My husband, who is also a teacher, often reminds me that I have a job to do. The job is inside my classroom shaping the lives of the people in front of me. Sometimes, I get so caught up in everything OUTSIDE my classroom that I forget why I am there. Taking the time to step out of the chaos and intentionally and purposefully refocusing yourself on your life altering JOB; can often simply remove the problems. Most of us got into teaching, because we love to TEACH! Take some time and consider how much of your time and energy is addressing problems with your TEACHING. If the balance is lopsided towards addressing problems that don’t impact your TEACHING, even it out.

I love the concept of a kaleidoscope and the way that there is beauty IN the brokenness and distortion. That kaleidoscopes require you to point this brokenness and distortion towards the light to see the beauty. Problems at school are no different. Take the problem with a student, class, teammate, or issue and point it at the light to see them differently. If you are feeling overwhelmed and angry you will never make good decisions that make things better. So, turn the kaleidoscope…

Here is one of my favorite videos to share with yourself, students, teammates that helps you to breathe and calm down! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVA2N6tX2cg

Recipes, Self Care, Teamwork

Preaching and trying to Practice

I may or may not be a bit of a know it all! I knew it had probably gone too far when I was called by a co-worker in my classroom to request orthopedic advice! That being said, I try to be a resource for my friends and family about experiences I have had that I hope might help them. One of my friends suggested I write about #ASKBARBERIO…which made me laugh out loud. Then, I decided to once again take the suggestion and write some advice.

By now, most educators have gone back to school. We have endured setting up our rooms, endless professional development, those calls to parents to welcome their child to your room, open house, the first day with students, and much more. The excitement of seeing your colleagues and starting a fresh year may have worn off. Many of us have hit the phase of overwhelmed, overworked, and overtired. So, I want to offer some ideas of my favorite things to relax, rest, indulge, unwind, and hopefully rejuvenate myself for the long year ahead.

As educators, we are in a marathon not a sprint. Today’s teaching world expects more than any one person could accomplish in the regular work day. It is so essential that we keep ourselves balanced to allow for us to do the truly pivotal work with our students. Many teachers are Type A overachievers and this can lead to burnout. So, as we start the year, I want all of us to practice what I am going to preach below regarding my Top 10 favorite ways to take care of myself as an educator, mom, wife, friend, daughter, and several other hats I wear. I am going to preach and try to practice! Hope you will do the same!

  1. Be one thing at a time. I decided when I first had kids while teaching that when I was at school I was going to be 100% teacher and when I was at home I was going to be 100% mom as much as I could. So, I rarely take work home (unless grades are due). I participate in my kids school as a volunteer by taking a day off here and there. I leave work at a reasonable hour to be with my family. I try to keep answering emails to a minimum after school hours. It will all still be there when you get back and believe me you will get it done! Basically, whenever I can, I try to be present in the place I am at. It makes me a better teacher and hopefully, a better mom.
  2. Find your mental escape. I need something that takes me totally away from all my “hats”. So, every day, I look for an opportunity to escape with something I love. For me, it is a ridiculous fantasy novel series, Real Housewives of any city, or a binge worthy show on your streaming service or TV. (Stranger Things and Outlander were my summer binges. I began speaking in a Scottish accent for awhile…I was in that deep. ) The reality is that we are all capable of thinking, talking, breathing education at every minute of every day. You will bring more to the table, solve more problems, and just generally be happier if you intentionally give yourself a mental escape every day.
  3. Sleep enough and well. Teachers are early birds by necessity or design. Many of us continue to wear our “hats” well into the after-school and evening hours. This can make shutting off our brain and truly resting really hard. We care too much and it can impact our sleep. Every adult needs 8 solid hours of sleep daily….which sounds semi-impossible. I am working consciously to get as close to 8 hours of sleep nightly (which almost never happens – preaching not practicing yet). I have a consistent bedtime routine that involves prayer, meditation, gratitude, and reading to allow my brain to get the message to shut it all down. My electronic devices are plugged in for the night in another room. Work with your doctors if insomnia is an issue to ensure that you get true rest. Remember when you had a newborn baby, new puppy, or thought you were invincible in college? Exhausted people are more emotional, make less sound decisions, and have a host of physical repercussions. So, get some sleep!
  4. Ice Cream Yep, for me ice cream is a true piece of joy. Obviously, you are not able to eat it every day, but whenever I need a little gift to myself it is ice cream (or brownies, or salty chips, or the entire back the truck up appetizer menu at the local tavern…ok…focus….it is ice cream!) So, here are my favorite ice cream options – Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Brownie, Market Pantry (Target brand) Peanut Butter Fudge, McDonald’s Oreo Mcflurry snack size, Shake Shack’s Pie oh my (they work with a local bakery and change up a specific pie flavor every month or so…they mush up the pie into the most luscious vanilla custard ice cream), and if you live, specifically, in Union County, NC Dollar Cone (a mom and pop ice cream shop IN THE MIDDLE OF A CORNFIELD with the best soft serve ice cream cones they dip in the chocolate shell that hardens and you can have a variety of toppings FOR A DOLLAR!!!!)
  5. Monitor and address your physical and mental health early! Educators are one the largest groups of people on anxiety and depression medication. We need to make mental health without stigma – it is just another chronic, chemically based health concern. This is because teaching is one of the most challenging jobs in the world – more decisions per minute than most other careers. If you are going to be a great teacher, you have to be physically well and mentally well. Plus, is there ANYTHING worse than making sub plans? Teachers are notorious for waiting too long to address a physical need or a mental health need. It is time for us to bravely and confidently take care of ourselves first so we can take care of others. You know…put on your oxygen mask first….
  6. Purposefully have gratitude every day. Due to some ongoing health issues, I decided a year ago to start a nightly health journal that covered everything (sleep, diet, stress, physical, reactions, etc.) It has helped me find all kinds of trends in my physical and mental well being. But, the last thing I do every night is list 3 things I am grateful for from that day. I have heard this suggestion for years, but until I faithfully did it I was unaware of its benefits. Literally, the last thing I think of every night is what I am thankful and happy for. It has changed my focus completely! I now can take any day ranging from horrible to amazing and remind myself of how lucky I am. That is a gift!
  7. Get back to nature. Did you know in Japan a prescribed treatment for depression is go sit in a forest for an hour daily? WHY? We are inter-connected with our world and on some primitive level we all crave nature. Now, I have a few friends who like nature to be the well-groomed shrubs they pass on the way into Nordstrom’s…and some who literally “go off the grid” for a week. Regardless of where you fall on the back to nature spectrum, find a way to connect with the natural world. Plants in your classroom, walks in the park/greenway, go sit by a body of water that makes your happy (pool, lake, ocean, etc.), find a local park that has a great gazebo to grade papers at, whatever works to get you back to nature. It is a big world out there and there are days I literally never walk outside my building. Being in the big world keeps my focus on more than the little world I inhabit and create each day.
  8. Keep your friendships strong. Banana Bread Bribery discussed the importance of developing relationships with your colleagues. I am so lucky to have friends from all phases of my life (some for over 25 years….yep…I am that old). I make it a conscious goal to be a good friend. I seek my friends out and foster time to be with people who make me laugh, hold my hand when I cry, and listen when needed. Your friends will make every aspect of your life better – so keep your friendships strong.
  9. Laugh. Period…just laugh! Life is absolutely absurd at times. There are times as a teacher or parent if you don’t laugh, you will cry. Teachers can get waaaayyyyy too serious about everything. My husband, who is an elementary teacher surrounded by women every where he goes, is often amazed by the things that I get worked up about at school. He regularly encourages me to keep my focus on what I need to do for the people in my classroom and to stop worrying about the other stuff. He also makes me laugh. My friends make me laugh uncontrollably. I watch TV shows and movies that make me laugh. I diffuse so many situations in my classroom and with my kids with humor and laughter. Remember, we should find joy in what we do and who we are with…so laugh!
  10. Bake something delicious that makes your house smell fantastic! Banana Bread Bribery was a popular column, so I am going to give you my second favorite, foolproof recipe below for scones. Did you know that smell is the strongest of all the senses in impacting memory and emotion? I promise these scones will make your house smell fantastic and if you don’t want to eat them yourself consider them “Sucking up Scones” and give them to your co-workers!

Basic Scone Recipe

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Get on a good apron or old clothes because it tends to get messy. Now – look in your fridge for some fruit that appears to be closing in on not that great. You can also make chocolate or cinnamon if you are not a fruit fan.

  • 2 cups of Bisquick OR 2 cups of AP flour with 1 Tablespoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 – 1.5 cups of something (fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, some combo of something)
  • 1 cup of some kind of milk (buttermilk is my favorite, but I have made it with everything from almond milk to heavy cream)
  • Spices or zest that match your “something” above (apples and cinnamon, blueberry and lemon zest, strawberries and nutmeg, etc.)
  • For the glaze – 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 – 4 Tablespoons of some liquid (depending on how thick/thin you want it – fruit juice, milk, syrup, etc.), real vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon or so of zest or spices that match above, and a Tablespoon of butter.
  1. Look inside your fridge for that fruit (if you are going the fruit route). I have made this with apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, mixed berries, you name it. Cut up the fruit into small, bite sized pieces. I like them about the size of your thumbnail. Get about a cup to a cup and half of this fruit. Now set it to the side. Skip this step if you are going with chocolate or some other flavor of chips. You will just measure those out and pour in. No chopping required. Side note – If I am using apple, I put sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice/zest on the apples and toss before I set aside (like an apple pie filling).
  2. Put the 2 cups of bisquick or flour mixture into a bowl. With a fork (my favorite mixing tool) add in the sugar and briefly stir together. Now, I am NOT a sifter….I know…things are lighter and fluffier….so if you would rather sift them together it will probably make it better. Ain’t nobody got time for that….
  3. Your 5 Tablespoons of butter should be in the fridge or freezer so they are rock hard COLD. Take your trusty, regular sized cheese grater and grate the cold butter into the flour mixture. Use that fabulous fork and stir that around. Again, you can use a fancy pastry cutter tool and get the butter in chunks – but I promise the grating trick is AMAZING!
  4. Now decide what zest or spices or both goes well with what you plan to put in. My favorite combinations are apples with cinnamon, lemon, and nutmeg; blueberry and lemon zest; strawberry and nutmeg; or mixed berries with lemon zest. Stir this zest (use a microplane – buy one if you don’t have one…best tool ever!) or spices (again buy whole nutmeg and use the microplane – seriously, your life will be forever changed by grating in fresh, whole nutmeg…but if you don’t have it no worries!) Stir this in….
  5. Now take the fruit you cut up or measure out chocolate or other chips or nuts or do some combo… (apple, pecan, and chocolate would be delicious or peach and pecan) and make a well in your flour mixture (dig a hole like in the sand). Pour in the fruit/chip/nut and gently toss it around with your fork until each piece is coated with flour and spread throughout the mix.
  6. Next…even more gently to not smush up the fruit…dig another well. Pour in your 1 cup of milk product and stir until it forms a pretty dry ball of dough. If your batter is really wet and sticky – add in more bisquick or flour. If your dough is too dry and not coming together (lots of bits everywhere) add in more milk.
  7. Word of advice – I always skip this step and remember AFTER I do step 8. Believe me… you will get flour and dough EVERYWHERE! I know this from experience. So…get out 2 cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper, spray them with cooking spray, or the old fashioned butter and flour method. Have them RIGHT NEXT TO WHERE YOU PLAN TO ROLL OUT THE DOUGH!!! Seriously….
  8. Okay…at this point…MAKE SURE YOU ARE WEARING AN APRON OR OLD CLOTHES…put flour/bisquick all over your counter (clean it first) or a cutting board or your kitchen table. Somewhere you can spread out basically! Dump the bowl over onto the floured surface, put some flour on your hands, and lightly smush/form/pat the dough into a rectangle shaped, 1/2 inch thick even layer. Cut the dough down the middle like a hamburger fold (all the teachers know what I am talking about – if you are reading this and not a teacher…ask a teacher you know, what that is). Then, on each half begin cutting triangles. Take each triangle and place it onto that baking sheet you remembered to prepare and put next to you.
  9. Once you have cut them all out and they are on the baking sheet, I take cooking spray and spray the tops of each one. You could make an egg wash (one egg with some water or milk) or use milk or melted butter and brush it on – but I love the cooking spray method. Then I take some sort of sugar (regular old granulated, a coarser kind, etc.) and sprinkle with a spoon on top of each scone. This will give them a lovely, crunchy, sugary top!
  10. Watch until the scones are brown on the top and bottom and seem pretty firm (not hard). Start checking them around 10 minutes. They usually take 10 – 15 minutes. Take them out and let them cool as long as you can stand it. I generally leave them on the pan to cool, but you can put them on a cooling rack. Now, for our Step 10 of this article above remember to smell….isn’t it lovely????
  11. While they are cooling (this will stop you from eating them right away), make the glaze. Put 1 cup of powdered sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Pour in the 2 – 4 Tablespoons of liquid that matches the flavor of the scone. Try apple with maple syrup glaze…unbelievable. If you are going to add in zest or spices, put those in now. Pop this in the microwave for 30 seconds. Take it out and stir until it is smooth. If it is like water, add more powdered sugar. If it is a rock, add more liquid until you get it the way you want it. Once you like the texture pour in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and add in a softened or slightly melted tablespoon of butter. Stir until smooth and glossy. NOW HERE IS MY BEST ADVICE…. POUR THAT FABULOUS GLAZE IN A MASON JAR OR OTHER AIRTIGHT CONTAINER. Once you glaze those scones, their shelf life is going fast! They will be mushy and gross by the evening. Keep the glaze in the fridge and pull it out each time you plan to eat a scone or share a scone. You might have to shake it up if it has separated. Unglazed scones will last up to a week in the fridge. You can pop them in the toaster oven or regular oven – put on a little glaze and it is delicious. You can also freeze the scones once they have cooled and pull out individually to re-heat.
  12. Now…your house smells fabulous and is probably covered in flour. You are happy and calm. Decide if these are all for you scones, my secret treat in the freezer scones, my family can have a few scones, or if they are “Sucking up scones” and you are headed to school with them. Bring the scones in one container and that mason jar of glaze in the other and make some new friends or keep your old ones!