Posts in Mental Self-Care
My Plan to Get Through May State Testing...Alive

It is always good practice to revisit experiences that are similar from year to year. I wanted to look at the Testing Post from last year to see what I did to survive, and what my new additions are for this year.  The goal here? My students and I make to June with our sanity, AND we still are pushing ourselves to learn new information each day. 

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Weekly Blog Roundup: Teacher Bullet Journaling

I stumbled upon bullet journaling one day on Pinterest when I was looking for a new planner. As a middle school teacher, I, like many others, am addicted to office supplies. I know what pens I like, I know what size sticky notes I prefer, and I know that the idea of a fresh new notebook makes me almost giddy. I even started making my own notebooks with my dad as a hobby because I love notebooks so much.

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How to Make a Research Unit Plan in Three Hours

Whether you have one of those moments where you decide to change your whole game plan up, or if you have something (like I did) that caused you to go into an unexpected mad scramble, sometimes it is helpful to know how someone else tackled a difficult task in a short amount of time. Research is the mother of all daunting tasks that may be the hardest thing to accomplish imaginably...in a small amount of time. 

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The Teaching Ikigai: Passion, Mission, Vocation, and Profession

I love and hate the self-help book section. It is packed full of gems like Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, and many others that make the wheels in my teacher-entrepreneur brain go crazy. However, I also have visions of myself as the teacher that is seen staring at the self-help book section in a bookstore with a crazed look in her eye, teacher bag thrown over their shoulder, dark bags under each eye, that just seems in need of...help. How many of us can relate to this image as we struggle with the teaching profession as a whole and the day-ins and day-outs of being a teacher? Enter in why I picked up this cute little blue book by Penquin press. I was tired, and it seemingly seemed to address a question I ask myself all the time:

Is teaching my purpose in life?

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Weekly Blog Round Up: Growth Mindset

...Her concepts of the growth mindset and fixed mindset were not new, but the way they were phrased was profound and interesting to the English educator giving feedback. I initially keyed in on the type of feedback I was giving students. I wanted to make sure I said more than "good job." I was also saying things like, "I love the way you added detail" and "great job revising your paper" to give specific feedback. This idea of rewards and feedback was just one single aspect of growth mindset studies; it does not capture the entire picture. The best way to describe growth mindset is how you build new pathways to learning...without giving up. I have adopted this mantra with the teaching of writing.  I mean...my blog is called writing MINDSET after all. How we think about teaching, writing, and learning. This is what matters. It would be negligent to not discuss growth mindset in my practice as it has directly impacted how I think about teaching outside of the classroom in meaningful and significant ways

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The Writing Teacher's Guide to Sub Plans

I waited tables at a restaurant during college as many of my pre-education partners-in-crime did. I hated whenever I had to order something OTF or On The Fly. Why? Because immediacy demanded attention out of me, the cook line, and everyone else around me. I would dare say that the entire field of education operates under OTF standards. Every thing is an emergency in education, yet there is no fear like the fear that sets in when sub plans have to be made. In my 105 Ways to Make the Most of Winter Break post, I remind everyone to schedule those sick days...even if you aren't sick. However, the ultimate fear of scheduling sick/sub days-planned or not planned-is making sub plans. These lessons take hours, are a giant hassle, and sometimes will get printed or setup correctly, and then sometimes not. This post strives to give 25 different sub plan ideas for the writing teacher. These could be used for any teacher, but they are particularly helpful if you are an English teacher that focuses on writing. 

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The Best of Writing Mindset in 2017

Last year at New Years, my friends and I dubbed 2017 the #yearofselfish. What this meant was engage in more awareness when it came to self-care, workout, invest in personal opportunity, meditate, seek out a work to life balance, and try new things. I definitely tried new things. Writing Mindset was a leap out of nowhere that constantly challenged me on one end because I thought of it as a personal business move, but I also saw it as a way to reflect on teaching. Writing Mindset simply was a way to connect to my teaching and share my teaching with others. I set up my LLC, invested in a website hosting platform that I thought was aesthetically pleasing, and then tried to write a lot. Then, I realized that writing and working full-time were more difficult than I ever imagined. 

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Transform Your Teacher Weekend

Granted this upcoming weekend is a "winter break weekend," but it still counts as a weekend. Now is the time to practice amazing and nurturing habits for the back-to-the-grind that is about a week away. I have rested this past week between the Christmas holiday and New Years with the full intention of getting to my pile of papers next week after the last holiday (casually looks at all the teacher memes that say we aren't touching it even with the best intentions). I need to get into that stack. I have three preps worth of essays that I think I can get through using my rubric coding system with the six traits. I feel good about being updated with grades and lesson plans by the time we get back, yet, I know that it will be all too easy to get wrapped up in the Monday-Sunday, when we open our eyes to when we close our eyes, day-to-day that is teaching. The re-takeover of our time starts with the weekend. It was always meant to be ours anyway. 

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105 Ways to Make the Most of Winter Break

The final bell rang yesterday after our all-school assembly to start Winter Break! Congratulations fellow educators, we made it to break. This is the time of year when teachers get to rest and rejuvenate. How will you spend your winter break? Here are 105 different ideas on how you could incorporate some self-care into your Winter Break broken down by mental tips, physical tips, practical tips, social tips, writing teacher specific tips, and general teaching self-care tips.

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Making a Teacher Self-Care Kit

It is the time of year when you see all the memes of skeletons crawling and you know teachers are just trying to make it to Winter Break...alive. I listen year after year and hear teachers say, "we have four weeks to break this year." I laugh it off until I then realize that four weeks is longer than any professional development session, any mandated testing session, and any back-to-school training that is out there. This four weeks is real. As I am getting over my second round of being sick due to stress and being buried under papers, I came across a great post about a "self-care kit" on the Dani Dearest blog. She even has a great checklist for making a kit. I simply adapted it to my teacher needs. 

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First Week Reflections for the 2017-2018 School Year

It doesn't seem right that the school year is already heading into week three. I wanted to take a moment to pause as we approach the end of week two, and to take the time to reflect on how the first two weeks of school have gone. The goals for the first two weeks involves setting foundations, establishing systems, building community, and getting know to know each other in Writing Lab 615. There have been highs, mids, and lows in these two weeks. I am teaching on the split team this year. This means that I have two sections of General English 6, two sections of Advanced English 6, and one section of Advanced English 7. 

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Classroom Tour: Chalk Brights, Rainbows, and Burlap....Oh, My!

I always show my husband my classroom each year. I get the same feeling that I am sure Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper from HGTV get when they ask, "____, do you want to see your fixer upper?" Except, I'm like...."Honey, do you want to see where all of that Target and Hobby Lobby shopping went?" So begins the classroom tour. I went a little brighter this year with a Rainbow Chalk theme. Students from last year have already stopped by and asked why I am so fancy this year. The short answer? Because I can be. Each part of the Writing Lab has a purpose. Even though the cliche exists that elementary school teachers make the best decorated classrooms, I am hoping to inspire some secondary educators as well to setup classrooms in way that these rooms are also colorful, inviting, and meaningful.

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Ideas to Spark Your Culturally Responsive Teaching Mindset in Writers' Workshop

I just finished re-reading Zaretta Hammond's book Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. Something about this read resonated more with me than previous times I have read this book. Perhaps it is all my focus on writers' workshop as I prepare for back to school, or maybe it is while I get ready to help facilitate back-to-school professional development on this topic to my colleagues that I paid more attention to the conversation or lack thereof about culturally responsive teaching in the English classroom.  Either way, I like to call this the "brain-on-fire syndrome." You wake up thinking about an issue and have to write, talk, or meditate it out in order to get it through your teaching processing system. Culturally responsive teaching involves a shift in mindset about students in my classroom, but more specifically about students that I often will label as "struggling writers." It is not a coincidence in teaching that the term "culturally responsive teaching" often is parallel to conversations about students of color, English language learners, or students of lower socioeconomic status. My general education classroom looks entirely different from my advanced education classroom.

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Paper Problem Series Post 3: Make a Plan

After confessing the reason I would leave teaching, I wanted to tackle the whole paper problem head on. I often will get an idea in my head and have that "brain-on-fire" type of feeling when it comes to teaching. It is one of the reasons why I teach. However, taking on too huge of a problem without a step-by-step plan is going to lead to burnout.  I feel like the whole "paper problem" is too much to chew on before I am back practicing in real life in the classroom. I want to think about implementing some key changes that I took away from my readings over summer break to change not only my methods, but perhaps the way I do business. From my post where I identified the main problems that exist in my systems and mindset, I have concluded to focus on these three main areas for going back to school:

1.) Using mentors for the teaching of writing. 

2.) Restructuring the writing workshop. Students will write more in class, participate in stations, collaborate with each other and me, etc.

3.) Streamline processes that I have in place so that I am taking less paper home that does not need to go home. (I.E. paper that does not require extra feedback)

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Paper Problem Series Post 2: Reviewing My Systems

One of the biggest pieces of advice that I give to new teachers is to always be prepared. Not just the regular "I have got a plan prepared," but the "I have a plan and 2 backup plans just in case this whole thing goes to the birds" type of prepared. The term "systems" always has sounded fancy to me, but the instructional routines, expectations, and actual structures that are in place in any classroom dictate the quality of the learning environment and level of success regarding classroom management. Simply, the routines of how we do business in the day-to-day in my classroom impacts learning on all levels. I have a type of organized process for many things...and then for some things I don't. After coming to terms with the paper problem, I wanted to start by reviewing the systems I have in place so that I can take on the school year in the fall ready to give high-quality feedback in a high quantity without going completely insane. 

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Paper Problem Series Post 1: Identify the Problem

I love a good problem. Problems that seem to have impossible solutions seem to be the best puzzles to try to solve in the field of education. Something like getting Math teachers to love writing or eliminating tracking in student schedules or figuring out how to motivate the one student that seems like no strategy, plan, solution, or special team can figure out a plan to help. The problem that I am trying to tackle involves English teachers and how to take in, process, utilize, and implement grading practices/feedback during writing instruction and in the day-to-day ELA classroom. 

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The Reason I Would Leave Teaching

The post is titled "The Reason I Would Leave Teaching" because the reason I am going to discuss is the only and main reason I would ever consider getting a different profession. I could easily go to nonprofit work or even sit behind a desk. I wonder sometimes what it would be like to pee whenever I wanted to or to be able to go on a lunch hour to a spot "around the corner." These are luxuries that teachers don't have. And many reasons that teachers leave do not involve my main reason for contemplating leaving. In fact, I am in love with classroom management. I love tough kids. I see many teachers leave the profession because they are not getting the support when it comes to classroom management or organization. I also see teachers leave due to pay, working conditions, lack of supplies, lack of support from administration, class sizes, etc. Eddie B Comedy offers some amazing jokes about teacher issues and the Michigan Education Association wrote a pretty great article titled "The Disappearing Educator." I often give this article to interns to make sure they know what they are getting into in terms of this profession.

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Last Project of the Year: Students Design Their Own ELA Class

What is it that students want?

This was the question I asked my sixth graders in an alternative assignment to giving them an end of the year survey. I know some of the usual answers that sometimes we as teachers don't take as seriously (and maybe should) and I also was hopeful of the answers that may seem surprising and shocking. I have included both in this post to start a conversation. 

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Starting Fresh: A Reflection to Start Summer

The past week has been a whirlwind of starting to wind down and say goodbye to the 2016-2017 school year. Students finished their Common Growth Assessment writing test and also their last blog post. The final days are both bittersweet and painful. Mainly because everyone wants a break, but also because it isn't any fun to say goodbye. 

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A Day in the Life of a Middle School English Teacher

My pre-intern is ending his time working in my classroom, and I have asked him this question: "Are you sure you still want to be an English teacher?" I asked him this question with a hint of sarcasm, but also one of seriousness. The Michigan Education Association published an article about "The Disappearing Educator" that I think all teachers and those involved in education should read. Where are we going? The answer is leaving teaching and not choosing to become a teacher in the first place. We have all heard the statistic in education about teachers leaving before they reach five years. I would argue that teachers are in jeopardy well beyond five years. Put us on the endangered species list. 

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