Resource for Creating Sub Lesson Plans

This week I have to be out for a training. I started surfing around for some ideas for the sub and came across this great website resource. Listen to what the first paragraphs say:

There are days when you have conferences, workshops or scheduled doctor appointments planned and you know you will be out of the classroom. There are days when you are feeling under the weather and suspect you will be out the next day. Then there are days when you are unable to attend school with little or no warning at all.

Once upon a time I was sitting in my living room feeling fine. Within minutes I was in the worst pain of my life thinking I was in labor and wanting to die. (In my defense, I was 8.5 months pregnant so labor was a possibility). Turns out it was a kidney stone and I was completely useless for about 7 hours.

In case you were wondering, they do not give epidurals for kidney stones…though I think the should.

Food poisoning, car accidents, family emergencies and toddlers who decide to projectile vomit their breakfast as you are set to drop them off at daycare are just a few other examples of times when you have every intention of being in class and have no notice or ability to prepare for your sudden absence.

This week we are going to put together a sub binder and resource center that will make it easy for you to be out of the classroom without the added stress of worrying about what will happen to your class for that day.

We will be able to put the majority of this project together right now. It will be a work in progress because some of the items that need to be included will come into play once school starts.

We are going to start today by “gathering” activities that can be used on any day of the year for each subject area. Today you need to gather at least 5 activities for reading, writing, word study/spelling and math. I have spent the past few days creating some activities for each of those subjects using the guidelines below. You can purchase the ones I made through my store, gather them from other resources or create your own.

The preceding passage is via Clutter-Free Classroom: How to Prepare for a Sub {w/ FREE PRINTABLES}. Please visit and read the whole article.

Absorbing Common Core

3-kitchen-sponges-lgn-86344707Common Core is the innocuous name of a set of standards yet people treat it as if it were a religion. There are people for and against it and I think, as is true with religion, a middle ground is preferable. Of course I mean no respect to zealous religious folk, I just don’t live that way. Okay, hopefully my introduction has offended those to which I could never communicate with, now for my point.

ccss-sbacCommon Core is perplexing to some because it uses a multi-cognitive approach to lessons. While comedians and civilians will make fun of the approach, it really is neither better nor worse than what we teachers have been ordered to teach with snce as far back as 1997. We are given uniform state standards, materials and curriculum, and expected to show mastery of these standards in our student data. Common Core simply combines what was once 7-8 (say for instance) standards into one Common Core standard. We have to teach a concept to incorporate multiple standards from before. There is nothing more difficult in this. It does require imagination and creativity but hasn’t teaching always required that?

20130110-123237.jpgAs I move into the third week of lessons with my 4th graders currently, I find myself increasingly absorbing Common Core. It’s like a snowball effect. My hope is that this year on the blog I can bring more understanding to the public including teachers out there doing the same. How about we hear from you? How are you doing with internalizing the Common Core. If you are a blogging teacher, or a blogger in general, please feel free to leave a trackback or link to this post so I can help spread your ideas on the subject. Onward!

3 Offbeat Tips From My Classroom

These are offbeat tips that may or may not work for you. I offer them freely to you. All teachers in California as most of the country now are learning to teach with the “Common Core.” This is exciting to me but we shouldn’t lose sight of the timeless things that work with whatever curriculum you use. These are three offbeat things that I have tried and that have worked to foster literacy and meet academic goals in my classroom. Maybe these things are powerful or maybe it’s the intent behind them that seeks to reach human in the child and awaken her/his sense of wonder.

12506845744_0120be8609Kids are just like us only smaller. There is a reason music is a multi-billion dollar industry, people are inspired by it. Kids get burned out after hours of academic stuff. Occasionally I will pass out age-appropriate lyric packets and we sing together. The relieved look on some of their faces says to me that music heals and fosters. MY favorite song to do with kids so far is “The Rainbow Connection.”

9847439604_8e8a1b40f7When I graduated, I paid 50 bucks to have both my degrees mounted on wood. This was a great decision because it allows my kids to pass them around and look closely at them. I want my students to see a diploma and know they can do it just like their teacher did. At the very least, post your diplomas. Your kids are watching.

13015781444_c483b14fd5Puppets are the weirdest things adults can do, that’s why we should use them! Kids are so freaked out by puppets that they just might listen. I have said some things through a puppet that are outside my personality type. Kids respond too. I’ve had better conversations with kids during “Say no to drugs” with my pig puppet than any teacher talk could ever generate. I highly recommend getting puppets in your room. You never know when one will come in handy. Like music, they are a temporary escape from the required rigor. In my opinion, music and opinion have the potential to teach just as much as the most rigorous of lesson plans. It’s all in how you incorporate them. Those are my three things to share. What are yours? I’d love to read about them and they don’t have to be as offbeat as mine.

Dr. Jim and Bob’s Entertaining Medical Topics

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of © Blue Shield of California for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

PhotobucketHealth should be a focus in all our lives. It's great to have a family doctor and even better when they can make housecalls. But unfortunately for many of us, a doctor visit isn't always convenient. In that situation, many people turn to the internet. This can be a good choice as long as the website you use is credible and trustworthy.

There's a new online doctor in town: Dr. Jim and Bob's Fun & Helpful Health Advice Check out a video I watched recently that he made:

Dr. Jim and Bob are medical experts who entertain but also lead you toward medical solutions. I have them bookmarked for when I need guidance on issues like: sunburn, insomnia, snoring, hiccups, etc. They are on Facebook and that includes all their free videos. One member of my family has a cold sore right now and we both laughed as we watch the above video on that ailment. Bob is a crack-up and appears to be part of the videos for comic relief. It's effective.

Dr. Jim and Bob are a product of Blue Shield, a non profit company. They have been an excellent access point to alternative care like chiropractors and acupuncture. They are a portal to great doctors and they offer a wide range of affordable health plans. As I am getting older I find myself more interested in issues of blood level like cholesterol. Blue Shield is an excellent source of information for that. I have Dr. Jim and Bob "Liked" on my Facebook and I look forward to getting tips and laughs from them in the future.

 

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Teaching, Inspiration, and Rock ‘n Roll

The world is so full of boring people. It’s important for leaders, teachers, writers, performers, and artists to share an influence that is NOT boring with this starved-for-passion world.

The world is so full of boring people. It’s important for leaders, teachers, writers, performers, and artists to share an influence that is NOT boring with this starved-for-passion world.

I started teaching at age 27. Though I thought I was old then, I look back now and see that I was most assuredly still a very young adult. Back then I was very much a self-starter. After subbing in a district for 3 months I managed to get hired on a year’s teaching contract with NO credential based purely on my wit and candor and my ability to speak Spanish and English. In California, this is called an “emergency credential” and it’s rarely done nowadays . . . for good reason. I had absolutely no classroom management skills, apart from being a sub which is vastly different from being the only grown-up in charge of 36 ten year olds for 185 days. Those first 3 years were very tough, but I got by on the inspiration of my twenties. It seems like my thirties have required more strategy than instinct to find success.

Now, 10 years later with a full credential and a Master’s degree, I still often find myself at a loss for inspiration. I never give up though. On those days that I am discouraged and unmotivated, I try and get away from the daily routine. I put aside the lessons I had planned (as much as is possible to stay within my responsibilities) and I focus on the things that I truly enjoy: guitar, art, poetry, reading, songwriting, nature, etc. Then I tap into that wonder I have for those things and bridge it to the material I have to teach. For example: if I have to teach reading data on a graph, I make a graph about the different guitars there are.

I adapt my lessons that day to whatever is really giving me personal inspiration at that moment. All people (even small ones) are attracted to a leader or performer who is passionate about what he is doing. Kids want to emulate that energy. I remember going to see REM in concert in my 20’s and being so drawn in to what singer Michael Stipe was doing onstage. I didn’t understand the weird symbols on the screen or the strange movements he made, like hitting a metal chair with a wooden rod on the off-beats on “World Leader Pretend,” but I tapped into his passion and energy for what he was doing, and when they left the stage I screamed for an encore. It was like a moth to a lightbulb, the lightbulb was passion. The world is so full of boring people. It’s important for leaders, teachers, writers, performers, and artists to share an influence that is NOT boring with this starved-for-passion world.

Discouragement that saps inspiration is the teacher’s biggest enemy. By tapping into and bridging my passions with my students, I am able to get through those tough days when I have to methodically put one foot in front of the other and keep remembering that I got into the profession to make a difference. With a brief look inward, it works every time.

10 Resources for Teachers to Manage Stress

Like any other professionals, teachers get stressed. Here are some links that can help get you back and feeling good again.

I wonder if most people think about teachers as being stressed. I think they do. Ironically, we teachers think it’s not necessary to worry about the health effects of stress? This could not be further from the truth. As teachers, we deal with big stress levels each day. We need management stress training. These levels are proven to cause physical problems like high blood pressure and a slew of other problems touched on in the pages below. As a teacher, I owe it to my family and my students to take my health and stress levels seriously. Prioritizing that can prevent a lot of life complications. These links below are all ones I have read and recommend to you:

Identify Stress – Buffalo Counseling offers this excellent resource for teachers or any other person trying to manage stress.

Empathy and Action for Stress Management – The NEA has put together this “empathetic” and educational page with information and resources about stress management for teachers.

Top 8 Fun Stress Relievers – These stress relievers may be easier to practice – because they’re fun.

Retired Teacher Shares Stress Management Tips – You’d think a retired teacher would know a lot about this topic and you’d be right!

Using Acronyms for Stress Management – An article I wrote a couple years back on personal development but it also works for reducing my stress at work.

Pressure Management for Teachers – An interesting page that focuses on the cause of pressure that is causing stress.

An excellent 8 minute video on this topic:

Time Management for Teachers: Your 7 Minute Guide to Mastering TThe most popular videos are here

Managing Stress to Avoid High Blood Pressure Etc. – This blog page talks about all the many symptoms of stress that teachers are prone to due to the stress of the job. Then it gives tips to deal with it.

Resource Blog for Teachers Dealing with Stress – This well written, close to home, blog gives real life example of stress and offers real solutions.

Recording Dealing with Stress Management in Teaching – This is a telecourse that was recorded and is available as an archive.

Stress management classes are not such a bad idea. Now, go be less-stressed!

My Solution to the Copy Machine Conundrum

If you are like me you have been frustrated many times by a traffic jam at the copy machine. You got your materials together and went to the copy room only to find two or three teachers ahead of you with what looks like reams of copies to make. You sort of get deflated at that point. If you’ve been reading my blog for a couple years, you might recall my article on “paperless teaching.” This was a cool concept and one of those that is excellent “in theory.” Unfortunately, the energy required to come up with solutions for paper really wears you down. As a result, it defeats the whole purpose for trying paperless teaching in the first place. I know I am a better teacher because I have some tested alternatives to the copy machine. At the same time, I now know it is unavoidable in our profession. That leads me to my solution.

One excellent solution to the copy machine conundrum is to pick one day of the week to do all your copying. It is definitely a paradigm shift because you can’t be successful “on the fly.” You must get a rhythm and a system to select your papers to copy so each week you have them sorted and ready to hit the copy machine. Of course you will still collide with other teachers but only one out of 5 days right? If you are mentally prepared to wait, it will cause you less stress as well. I have been doing this all year so far and it is going great! What do you think of my solution to the copy machine conundrum?

When I Was Huge in Teaching

teaching_2007I use that adjective with my tongue firmly in my cheek. On a physical level I’m 5’8″ 170 lbs. I don’t think huge is quite the word to describe my countenance. On a professional level, I’m happy to see growth in my students each year. There are no bestselling books on my resume. The point is, I felt huge one day in teaching. Have you ever done something you were so proud of it felt like walking on clouds? That’s what this day was for me. I’ve never been famous either. Maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. Nonetheless, on one fateful day several years ago I was asked by my Principal to do an EDI lesson for some noteworthy and unmistakeably “huge” guests. That’s not ironic because as you will see in the other photo, O’Connell and Herb are both about 6’4″. They are hulking guys. This picture is me teaching a lesson to my class for a Daily Press reporter, the Adelanto School Board, many Principals in the district, the Superintendent of San Bernardino County Herb Fischer, and the Secretary of Education for the State of California, Jack O’Connell. It was standing room only! Continue reading “When I Was Huge in Teaching”

Some Things About Teaching That Will Never Change

IMGP2724Common Core is the latest change that has teachers and families scurrying to absorb. Yes, it is the law of the law these days, the trend as well. Still, why get bent out of shape over something that is new and eventually, passing. The core standards of California are gone now, as an example. I internalized them along with teachers in the huge state I live in. We made progress toward goals and then they took the goals away. Any time there is change it causes stress. Technology is another thing that is causing millions of teachers to stress. This can, in turn, reduce the effectiveness of a teacher. Do you want to do that to your students? The reality is, rather than focus on the changing landscape of education, you can keep your feet securely planted. There are some things about teaching that will never change.

avstationAsk yourself, “What do I do with my students throughout the year that always works?” One thing I do is an incentive program using trophies. No matter what Common Core steers us toward, we can go there with recognition and my trophy program in hand. I feel stability in that. I have some examples I use with candy, no I do not give my students candy, that help explain fractions. I will still use those. I teach kids to write through the graphic organizer of a hamburger. It works in a stellar way! I see growth in writing when I use this method. It will most assuredly be compatible with Common Core. Instead of letting fear take over and reduce your effectiveness as a teacher, remember you are still there to light torches. Those kids will not remember the standards framework you used to teach them, they will remember how comfortable you were as you took them through the often uncomfortable process of learning. Don’t focus on the new things coming down the pike for teachers, focus on the things you know that work. I feel confident in saying, those things will never change. Common Core and technology will work better for you when you’re professional, self-assured, and confident.

Teachers, Testing, and the Coveted Pat on the Back

There are times as a teacher when you get no glory and seek no recognition. In fact, if you are doing it right, these are really the majority of your time. In theory, if you “keep your head down” and teach the objectives as you have mapped them, you shouldn’t need to get any pats on the back, or “second wind” along the way. It should just work and the kids should get high scores at assessment time. That should be the reward.

With_Supes

It is one of the most exciting things in the world to get your students’ scores back and see they did well. At the same time, it can really be a bummer when they don’t perform as well. For me, the challenge when they don’t perform is to just keep my head down, in other words: “teach without recognition.” Only I as a teacher can know where my kids are and what I need to “backward map” and/or reteach. This is a photo of me with then California State Secretary of Schools Jack O’Connell and San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, Herb Fisher. They were there to watch a few teachers at my school do an EDI lesson. That was the year we became a Distinguished school, only partly because of test scores. This was one of the biggest “pats on the back” I’ve received in my career. I did a lesson on cause and effect, 4th grade.

Teaching has a lot of small “instant gratification” moments where you can assess kids right there in the lesson and see if they “get it.” I have kids write on white boards and hold them up for me. At that point I can see the percentage of mastery.
There is no better feeling in those informal assessments than telling the class they have “100% mastery.” They clap and say “yesssss.” It’s really a great part of the job.

Harder moments are after your kids score low and you don’t have a chance to assess again. In the past I have made the error of reviewing quickly and reassessing hoping for high results. The hard truth is that in those times, you must spend a length of time keeping your head down teaching without recognition. All the while you should hold on to the hope that your quiet labors will pay off in your students’ public scores. As you proctor those tests you have a lot of stress about getting everything done the way the state wants it. You can’t talk about the test content with anyone and you especially can’t give any instruction while in motion. As I enter my 18th year of public school teaching, I can tell you the system is imperfect. When testing works, it is the most amazing high five. When it doesn’t you just have to grin and bear it. The key is to keep trying year after year whether you teach or develop these tests.

My opinion is that the primary motivation should always be to foster lifelong learners who develop rewarding lives as adults. The test is just the test. Lest we forget that …

Don’t get weary though while teaching without recognition. Doing the right thing consistently always pays off in the long run and you will get that coveted pat on the back..

Until then, you get a virtual pat on the back right here from me (via these guys)!

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