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If You Give A Teacher A Work Day...

If you give a teacher a day to work in her classroom...

If you give a teacher a day to work in her classroom, she will probably be so startled by the amazingly shiny, waxed floors, she won't notice the that all the computers have been piled in the sink.  

As she gazes across the shiny floor, she'll become so excited that she'll probably start unpacking the first box she gets her hands on, pulling out all the fun subitizing math centers with cute erasers from Dollar Tree.

That will remind her of all the bags of stuff she brought with her today from Target Dollar Spot that she's been amassing all summer long and hiding from her husband under the guest room bed.  She will start to go through all the bags, pulling out the alphabet cards, and felt fraction sets, and colorful clothespins, and some ceramic apple thing that she's not sure what to do with.

Then she'll realize she can't put any of those things away yet since every single piece of furniture is piled precariously in the corner, so she'll start to move tables.  And desks. And chairs. And shelves. 

When she moves the shelves, she'll remember all the categorized book labels she printed and laminated for her classroom library and start searching for them in the giant stack of boxes, none of which she actually labeled in the frenzy to get out of this place last June.  

As she's shoving boxes around everywhere, she'll get distracted by the bright, neatly folded, clean curtains she took home and washed over the summer.  

Since she can't find the curtain rods in any of the 37 boxes she has unpacked into the middle of the floor, she'll start putting up a bulletin board.  

While looking for the *good* stapler on her desk, she'll decide to try to put her desk in order and organize all her Sharpies, and Mr. Sketch markers, and Flair pens into color coordinated containers. She'll have to try every single color. Twice.

Her team mate will come in and ask her to go to lunch.  An actual meal out at a restaurant with colleagues that will last more than 7 minutes.

After lunch, she'll open the closet and discover the pocket charts, the birthday box, the easel charts, the curtain rods, and the word wall banner.  She'll realize she needs a step ladder because the last time she stood on a chair there was an accident report involved, so she will head out to find the keeper of the tall step ladder, the head custodian.

As she's searching all four million square feet of the building, always two steps behind the elusive custodian and the tall step ladder, she'll spot her teacher BFF's adorable classroom already set up and beautifully organized.  She'll become instantly convinced that her classroom will not be even remotely ready by the end of the week and she'll start to run at a full sprint, in a panic, back to her hot mess of a classroom.

It is now time to go home, every box is half unpacked, the room is destroyed, nothing is actually finished, and she'll need at least two more classroom work days to undo the damage.

Welcome Back to School!

The Dark Side of Inspirational Quotes

Don't let the inspirational, uplifting quotes that tell us how amazing teaching is supposed to be, drag you to the dark side of cynicism and guilt.

We have all seen them as we scroll through our FB, Instagram, and Twitter feeds. Those concise, inspirational zingers that get to the heart of a matter in 20 words or less.
Some of them are cute, some are political, some are snarky. They are judgy, cliche, uplifting, or clever. They have the power to make us feel joy, have a moment of introspection, feel vindicated, or hang our head in shame.

But the teaching related quotes - oh the feels, the excitement, the shame, the guilt.

"Teaching is a work of heart!"

“It takes a big heart to help shape little minds.”

“Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.”

“The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.”

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." 

"A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart."

"Some teachers taught the curriculum today. Other teachers taught students today. And there's a big difference."

 I know they are meant to be uplifting and inspiring, but they also can have a dark side - they can be stress and guilt inducing. It is so easy to fall into the trap of not feeling adequate when all you see is how teaching is the most heartwarming, altruistic, amazing experience on the planet and all you can think of is the massive workload, the endless data meetings, and the raw nerve endings from that kid that drove you completely insane today.

Yes, all of these quotes are true and of course, we take our professional purpose quite seriously.  By nature, those who enter this profession care deeply about young people, their well being, and their future. We can't help ourselves, I mean we aren't just pushing papers around here, we're working with little humans and it is a colossal responsibility.  

And so we become especially susceptible to allowing some of these quotes get to us.  We see the perfection, the goal, the expectation, and when we don't feel we measure up, we allow our spirits to be bruised and our confidence to fade.

But you know what?  Some days, I don't feel like I shaped a mind or affected eternity.  Some days I gave busywork while I worked on endless data sheets. Some days I lost my patience and fussed at a kid.  Some days I showed a video because I didn't have the strength to plan another freaking lesson last night. Some days I rolled my eyes at meetings, and complained with my colleagues, and sent a kid to another class because my nerves were shot. Some days I went home and cried.

Social media is certainly a remarkable platform and I love the connection, collaboration, the opportunity to see across the planet in an instant.  But we need to remember that what comes across our feeds is generally carefully curated.  We need to be cautious about how we integrate the messages that bombard us as we scroll.

I probably bristle more than most at some of these posts because I tend to be a little more snarky and cynical than the average human (if you need convincing, just check out my Facebook and Instagram :)  But even I get caught on the dark side of the inspirational quote.  Heck, I've even written and shared some myself!

This post is just a reminder to us all that while yes, teaching is all about heart, and love, and rainbows, and unicorns, it is also about exhaustion, and aggravation, and snarkiness, and complaining.  All of that is okay - we need balance to survive.  Just don't get stuck in either place for too long!

So for every sweet, uplifting, selfless quote telling you how to be the Teacher of the Universe that you see scroll by on your feed like these...

 are a few things to keep you balanced.  You can live vicariously through my teacher fails, snarkiness, and hot mess moments.  Some of these days are not my proudest moments, but they are the real moments.

Don't buy into the Hallmark version of teaching.  Teaching is just too complicated, messy, and imperfect.

25 Sensory Fidget Ideas

Fidgets are small toys or items that can be used to provide sensory input in order to reduce distraction or anxiety. They help improve concentration or attention by allowing the brain to filter out the extra sensory information through the physical manipulation of the fidget toy.

Fidgets can be an invaluable tool for many students who have difficulty with sensory processing, attention and distraction, anxiety, etc.

Fortunately, there are plenty of great fidget items to help students calm anxiety or occupy their hands so they can focus.  I have only highlighted 25 here but there are hundreds of options out there.  The items listed below are linked to either a blog post or article that provides more information, or an affiliate link to the item.

1.  Sand timers - simple, inexpensive, yet calming and quiet. 
2.  Sensory bottles - calming, easy to make at home, endless possibilities
My friend Jamie at Play to Learn Preschool is a master at creating these bottles. Find out how HERE.

3.  Koosh Balls - lightweight, soft, textured.  And if they do happen to fly, they probably won't hurt ;)
4.  Play dough - a classic and you can make it right in your own kitchen!
Another link to Play to Learn Preschool for a great recipe.

5.  Tangles - they twist and turn all sorts of ways and they are QUIET!
6.  Fidget Cubes - Some of them make clicking noises, but they are small and inconspicuous.

7.  Stress Balloons - filled with flour, these are incredibly cheap to make at home and hold up really well.  Here's a TUTORIAL.

8.  Pencil Top Fidgets - small, quiet, always available

9.  Silly Putty - Another inexpensive classic!
10.  Stretchy Coil Keyring - These are available just about everywhere and super cheap.

11.  Sensory Ball - A different sensory experience than the koosh ball
12.  Spinning Ring - this would be a discreet fidget for older kids
13.  Bendeez - Flexible, twisty, soft, and quiet

14.  Plastic Chain - articulated, plastic chain, lightweight, quiet

15.  Nuts and Bolts - The plastic ones are probably quieter, but I love the texture of the wooded toys

16.  Wooden Cube Puzzle - small, quiet, articulated wooden blocks

17.  Beanbags - another great fidget to make at home for next to nothing.
18.  Monkey Fidgetz - a marble inside a tube of plastic mesh

19.  Worry Stones - Hard, smooth stones to turn over in your hands

20.  Twiddle Cat - This one is a bit pricey, but oh my gosh, this is amazing!

21.  Zipper Bracelet - this one might make a little noise, but what a great idea!

22.  Slinky - Even the plastic ones are a bit noisy, but they are small and inexpensive.

23.  DIY Bead Fidget - Easy to make, super inexpensive.
Make this DIY fidget tool for use in the classroom or at home while writing and reading to help kids focus, attend, and perform tasks with tactile sensory input and movement they need to help with fidgeting.

24.  Atom Ball - Squishy, quiet, textured.

25.  Spikey Bracelet - Textured and soft.