The school bells have rung!

I have been absent from the blog for a few weeks because as all teachers know, the beginning of the school year is always very busy and jam-packed.
There are bulletin boards to design, desks to arrange, seating assignments to mull over, and exciting back-to-school lessons to plan! There is not much time for anything else when you are getting your rooms and lessons ready for the new crop of fresh-faces students to arrive.
However, we all must remember to take time to breathe and relax in those first few days and weeks of school.
I’m one week in and now looking forward to what the rest of the year will bring since I’m now through the first long week!
I hope you all have a wonderful and restful Labor Day weekend.
I wish you all the best of luck on your school years!

Tweet me @barry_christine or leave me a comment here!

Your First Child Off To School

I have my first child going to school how do I prepare as a parent?

As a teacher how many times, have you heard, do you have any ideas to help my child become more successful? Or what about the parent who is afraid to ask, but wouldn’t mind some helpful tips? As an administrator, teacher or Parent Teacher Organization these tips can be offered as a resource from to help in supporting children to be successful.

Preparing Young Children for School

Preparing kids for school is a challenging, but necessary task for parents. All parents want their children to do well in school, but starting school is a huge milestone in a child’s development, and not every parent knows how to help their kids with school success.

Even if your children aren’t yet in school, you can still have a positive effect on their education and prepare them for school success. Your child’s educational experience in preschool or kindergarten will be better if he or she is well-prepared to start learning. By using some of the strategies below, you can ensure that your child is equipped to begin her or his academic career.

Everyday Tips

Support Early Literacy: Read to your child every day. As she grows older, ask that she read to you. Always keep plenty of books around (on shelves and bedside tables, in the car, and anywhere else you spend time) and make regular trips to the library for more.

Do: Add variety. Ask your librarian for suggestions on a variety of books and music that might be suitable for your child and encourage early literacy. Expose him to many different types of reading and listening.
Turn Learning Into Play: Young children love to count, name colors, and find letters of the alphabet in funny, unexpected places. Help your child find them on billboards, shampoo bottles, cereal boxes, and other places. Even things like the ABC game can help your child’s early literacy and learning skills.

Explore Your Options: If you choose to enroll your child in a preschool, visit several local schools with your child. Talk to teachers, students, and parents about how they like the program, if it’s been successful in preparing their students, and whether they would recommend it to others.

Be a Role Model: Model your own ongoing learning—read regularly, talk to your child about what you’re learning on the job, and consider taking a community education class to show that learning is a lifelong activity.

Socialize: Make playdates with other parents of preschoolers, or find out if your local library or community center offers free events for young children. Spending time with other children will help your child’s social and emotional development and prepare her for the school environment, and spending time with other parents will prepare you for being involved in your child’s school and education.

Make Learning Fun: You can incorporate learning into your child’s day in many ways—try using music, puzzles, early literacy books, blocks, and games to add variety to your child’s day. Many of these activities include educational content.

Do: Bring kids to different places to stimulate learning. Taking a trip to the beach to play in the sand, going to a playground on the other side of town, or visiting a children’s museum are all ways to engage your child intellectually.

Stay Involved: Parent involvement in school is important, even in preschool. Talk to your child’s preschool teacher (or child-care provider) regularly about his educational and social development. Many preschools offer developmental assessments, which can also provide insights on your child’s development.

Do: Attend open houses and other school events as often as possible to help your child begin bonding to the educational system. By being involved in schools, parents show great support for their children and their children’s education.

By beginning your child’s education early—even before she begins school—you’ll be preparing her for success. If you’re intentional about including educational experiences in your family’s everyday life and being involved in your child’s school, you will be setting your child up for a successful educational career through the establishment of your child’s literacy and a commitment to learning.

Routine, Communication, and Time Together

Today I was in Target and saw many children and teens with their parents shopping for school supplies. Too often we forget the emotional supportive list that we need to embrace with the new school year. Good luck parents and care-givers to another year of learning!

From the Parent’s View website-

Ways to help the ease of change and possible anxiety using Routine, Communication, and Time Together to help students ease into another new year of school.

You may be excited, but your child may not be sharing your excitement.

It can be really nerve wracking to think of all the new challenges that come with moving up in a grade, you’re not sure what to expect. They may be nervous about making new friends or if their teacher will like them. I mean change is stressful and that goes for adults and kids alike!

So to ease your child back into the routine of school and ease their nerves here are three really helpful ways you can make back 2 school a better experience.

1. Establish A Routine. Summer is all about free time but when you’re back in school, it can be hard to get back into the typical schedule. So prepare your child beforehand by establishing their regular school routine a week or two before classes begin. Routine helps ease anxiety about the big day, so establish their school bed time and wake up time again, limit TV use to the same amount that you would when they are in school, get them back into the routine of chores, etc. Using a checklist can help them see what to expect.

2. Talk It Out. If you notice that your child is really nervous/upset/angry about school starting again. Ask them what is upsetting them? Use open-ended questions since it invites them to share their thoughts and feelings. (open-ended questions are questions that don’t invite the person to answer with a simple “yes” or “no”).

Listen to their feelings and thoughts and discuss solutions to any concerns that they have to ease anxiety. Don’t dismiss their feelings, this is their moment to learn how to handle stressful situations and they won’t learn if they never talk about it and share their feelings.

(Consider your child’s personality though, some children aren’t as talkative so don’t push them if you notice they don’t want to share)

3. Create New Traditions. When I was a child, I LOVED back 2 school season. Mostly because it meant shopping with my mom and getting to organize it all with her. That for me, is an awesome memory and so I looked forward this season-only for that. Having that tradition of getting ready for new things with my mom by my side was awesome and it made the transition into returning to school-not so bad. So make this season an exciting time! Start a new tradition! Maybe go back 2 school shopping together, maybe read a book in bed together the night before school starts, have your child make cupcakes to bring to class, or throw a “end of summer” party or a “back to school” neighborhood bash and invite the neighborhood kids over. Just do something that makes this possibly stressful time, something fun as well.

It’s Back to School ~ “Tween Time”

I found this to-do list to support new teachers of teenagers. It’s a good list to consider when preparing for the beginning of school and new school year.

Author Marsha Ratzel teaches middle school math and science in Blue Valley, Kansas, where she has also served as a district-wide technology and curriculum coach. She’s National Board-certified and began her 18-year teaching journey after a first career in health care administration. Marsha’s 10 practical ideas can help novice educators better prepare for the first day of school and a successful year.

—John Norton, TLN moderator

Ratzel’s Top 10 To-Do List for New Teachers Starting School

1. Find your curriculum and read through it several times. Put Post-it notes in places where you have questions. Work with the principal to partner with an experienced teacher at least several weeks before school starts to get an overview of the entire year and do serious scrutiny of the first month’s goals.

2. Find all your supporting materials, both student and teacher copies. Know where and how the curriculum and the textbooks match up in a general sense. Do a more thorough matching for the first unit, so you’ll know exactly where and what you’ll be using. Be sure to scan through all the supplemental materials that most publishers provide. This can be overwhelming at the level of fine detail, so go for the big picture snapshot. You can come back later when you see a need, once you have some working knowledge of the possibilities.

3. Ask to look over last year’s yearbook. It’s a great place to see the kinds of activities that are important to your new school community. The faculty pictures and names will be there, too. If the school has a student newspaper, that’s another source for developing a sense of the school identity.

4. Create a birthday list for each class (celebrate half-birthdays for summer birthdays, six months from the actual date). Decide what small thing you might do to honor each child. Maybe it is a B-Day postcard you send home. Maybe it’s a Free Homework Pass. Maybe it’s a Birthday Pencil. Take the list and group birthdays by month and get everything ready to go for the whole year. Since I use Homework Passes, I put student names and the birthday date on each pass, then hand them out with some ceremony at the start of each month.

5. Develop some sort of impartial method for calling on students during class. Assigning student numbers and then randomly picking a number works well. You can put the numbers on craft sticks or ping pong balls (some gradebook programs have a student picker option). You may be able to number the desks and call on the student sitting in that desk. However you do it, you’re demonstrating a method that removes bias and gives all students an equal chance to be asked.

6. Figure out how you will capture students on the first day of school. Going over the rules or what they’ll be learning is not the way. Think of some easy-to-implement, highly engaging activity to snag their interests and build a bridge between you and them. (You can find many ideas on the Web.) I always try to give them a sense of who I am, my sense of humor, and what I love about my job and them. This helps students relax and realize you are their ally, their partner, their facilitator…not the enemy. The activity has to be structured, though, or it could descend into chaos. It’s a fine balance—so ask around and see what has worked in the past for other teachers.

7. Design some method to manage and keep track of daily paperwork, especially for absent students. If you have all of your students regularly asking you for their missed work assignments, you’ll lose your mind. There are so many options out there. My favorite is to have a hanging folder for each student in every class. If I pass out papers, the student at the front of each row is responsible for filing the handouts in the appropriate folder for every absent student in that row. When the student returns they know they can look in their folder for all their work.

8. Make an appointment to sit down with important building specialists. If your building has a staffed library, see if you can meet with the library media specialist to find out how you can best utilize their resources. Even if the discipline you are teaching doesn’t seem to require library resources, you will be amazed at the things that are possible and available if you only ask.

9. Introduce yourself to the school secretaries, the nurse, the bookkeepers and the paraprofessionals. Most importantly, find out who is going to clean your room and make sure to start building a close relationship with them. Friendliness leads to cleanliness!

10. Decide where and when you will fight your battles with the kids. Gum chewing, talking, a failure to bring pencil and paper to class—these are all potential danger zones. Pencils used to be a constant battle for me. Now I just buy about 1,000 of them during the Back to School supply sales for $5.00. It’s the best $5.00 I could ever spend. Your rules must adhere to district/school policies and be supported by your fellow teachers. But that still leaves lots of latitude. For example, our policy leaves gum chewing up to the discretion of each teacher. This can be tricky as students move through the day. When it comes to potentially conflicting policies, teachers need to know where they stand (vis a vis other teachers) before something becomes an issue with a student.

These straightforward, practical tips can help you get off to a good start by smoothing the path to the destination you care about most—teaching well. Start thinking, planning and preparing now, and you’ll get there.

Twas the night before school…

‘Twas the night before school starts, and all through the town,
Not a teacher was sleeping, just thrashing around.
Thoughts of the classroom brought a tear to each eye,
And all of them wished it could still be July.

The students, meanwhile, were doing just fine,
Texting and talking and typing online.
Yet they, too, were longing for more fun and games,
And hoping to hear that their school was in flames.

But the building was ready, the windows were clean,
The desks were now free of the rude and obscene.
The floors were well-polished and the lockers repaired,
All was in order, no effort was spared.

The next day the students will mope and they’ll fuss,
And with backpacks and lunch bags will climb on the bus.
The Welcome back, everyone! announcement will blare,
And the bell for first period will begin the despair.

Hallways will fill with the dazed and perplexed,
For nobody knows where they’re supposed to go next.
As the masses move slowly, lost and encumbered,
They’ll silently curse how the rooms have been numbered.

But sooner or later the classes will start,
Algebra, history, English, and art.
Summer vacation will fade from their minds,
As another semester slowly unwinds.

Within a few days they’ll resume their routine,
The relaxed and the happy will grow grouchy and mean.
Instructors will gripe that the kids are all lazy,
Students will swear that their teachers are crazy.

Quizzes will take the class by surprise,
While films will just teach them to all shut their eyes.
Lectures are met by simple, blank stares,
Tests will result in complaints of “Not fair!”

Assignments and projects and homework forgotten,
Answers unclear and writing that’s rotten.
Pupils will wonder what that book was about,
Exams will be graded, report cards sent out.

And the months will fly by, every one of the ten,
Then suddenly June will return once again,
Causing all parents to feel sad and unsteady,
Shocked that it’s summer vacation already.

So let’s be glad as September approaches,
Our kids are returning to the teachers and coaches.
We say to them now, as their hearts fill with fear,
“Good luck to all, and to all a good year!”

Compliments of Charles Gulotta
Publication: Mostly Bright Ideas

Advice on First Day Back

It’s always good to get the perspective of a student’s return to school. I ran into these tips about a teen’s first day back to school on an advice column for teenagers…

1. Before the Big Day, Run Through Your Class Schedule in Your Head
Picture yourself walking from class to class, and plan out the best times to stop by your locker. Or better yet, as soon as you and your friends get your schedules, stop by the school and do a “trial run” together. It’ll help keep you from getting lost, and showing up late, when you do it for real.

2. Wear Something That Makes You Feel Confident – and Comfortable
You might want to show off those new heels or micro-mini, but come lunchtime you’ll wish you were in something more suitable for lugging around a giant backpack. Stick with something practical.

3. Remember That Teachers are Always Extra-Mean the First Day
Don’t worry – they’re just doing that to scare you. They’ll mellow out next week. Still, be sure to show up to class on time, take notes and be diligent. You don’t want their first impression of you to be a bad one.

4. If Your Friends Aren’t in All Your Classes, Don’t Sweat It
Focus on getting to know your new classmates, and catch up with last year’s pals after school. In a couple of months, you’ll have more friends, not less.

5. Keep in Mind That the First Day Always Feels Super Long
It’s just a mental trick because you’re experiencing so much new stuff. Next week, when you’re more familiar with your classes, it won’t feel like that anymore.

6. Know That It’s OK to Feel Freaked-Out
The first day of school is nerve-wracking for everyone, even if some of your classmates don’t show it. Just try to stay as calm and focused as you can. As the school year gets rolling, you’ll wonder why you were so worried the first place.

Redditgifts for the Teachers 2014

Last year, I came across redditgifts for the Teachers 2013. Reddit runs various gift exchanges throughout the year where interested people, aka Santas, can sign up to send a gift to someone and receive one in return from someone else. Gift exchanges focus on a specific topic, such as bookmarks, bags, Christmas, Game of Thrones, etc.

The gift exchange for teachers is a little different. You sign up to send a gift to a teacher in need, or if you are a teacher, you can sign up to receive a gift from someone. This exchange is an awesome way for generous folks to send much needed classroom supplies to teachers around the country. Likewise, classrooms in need receive some much-needed supplies. The most often requested item are pencils. Pencils! Many schools have no budget for classroom supplies, and teachers end up paying out of their own pocket for supplies for their students.

Personally, my classroom receives no supply budget. Anything I purchase comes out of my own pocket, from pens and pencils for my students to baking soda and vinegar for science experiments. I’ve signed up for the exchange to hopefully receive a classroom donation. Last year, I signed up but was not matched, so I did not receive a donation.

Donators are needed to sign up as there are double the number of teachers requesting donations as there are gift-givers. The gift-givers, or Santas, don’t need to spend a ton of money either. The suggested amount is $20.
Won’t you consider signing up to donate today? If you are a teacher in need, consider signing up to receive a donation.
Here’s the link: reddit teacher exchange

Consider checking off some items from your back to school list or from a teacher’s list by participating in the Gifts for the Teachers exchange.

Tweet me @barry_christine or leave me a comment here.