Step Two – Having the Best School Year Ever
Become a successful time manager!
Just as step one to having the best school year ever was to have the best summer ever, such is the case for step two! Teachers work exceptionally hard and are all-in a vast majority of the time. Relaxing and refreshing are critical components of our success. Within this series, I suggest simple techniques that we can infuse into our lives during the summer that will help keep our lives and the lives of our students running smoothly throughout the school year! This post focuses on the critical skill of time management.
Write your lesson plans, differentiate them to meet the widely varied needs of the students, provide timely feedback, remediate, enrich, engage, connect, meet, meet again, meet about the meeting…
I find that in my life as a teacher as well as in my personal life, (Are these really two different things? That may be a subject for a future post!) the to-do lists never end. I love triumphantly checking off a task but usually follow that by adding several additional tasks to the list.
Effective time management is critical to our success. We must constantly prioritize and reprioritize our lists. Just as important, we must accept the fact that the list will rarely if ever be complete. That certainly doesn’t mean we are failing. It means that we are human, setting boundaries and preserving our sanity so that we can continue moving mountains day after day!
The slightly slower summer months are the best time for us to hone our skills as effective time managers.
Start by focusing on the following steps to master time management:
- Keep your work area consistently organized. Nobody has time to waste looking for a pen or trying to locate that nagging paperwork that must be tackled.
- Schedule your tasks just as you schedule parent-teacher conferences. You wouldn’t dream of having a conference simply whenever you get to it! The items that are on our calendar are the ones most likely to get accomplished.
- Schedule time to take proper care of yourself. For instance, blocking out the time to batch prepare several healthy meals for the week will keep you from grabbing and scarfing fast food. Too many trips through the drive-through will lead to lethargy and decreased productivity. That’s a cycle that is sure to defeat our time management abilities!
I’m willing to venture that 99 out of 100 of us, if not 999 out of 1000, are in this profession because we want to make a positive difference in this world by enriching the minds and abilities of our youth.
When we are able to properly manage our time, we can commit the highest percentage of our working day to engaging with and elevating our students. This allows us to come back fresh and inspired day after day.
Further, the better we become at mastering our time, the better we can instill this important skill in our students. By becoming proper time managers, students are able to commit quality focused time to their education, while maintaining reasonable and highly necessary leisure time. They still have time to pursue their own individual interests!
To read more about living and learning mindfully, refer to The Learning Bubble.
Please reach out as you embrace the process of becoming a more effective time manager! Let me know of both your trials and tribulations. Let’s support one another on this journey! Post comments here, but also get in touch and sign-up for free lesson plans.
As teachers, we enrich the world daily by helping students gain proficiency of their academic pursuits. While achieving this important goal, we get the added gift of being able to instill important life skills that will have our many efforts in the classroom creating immeasurable waves of positive change for society! Manage your time so that you can live fully, laugh often, and KEEP SHINING!!
Step One to Having the Best School Year Ever
Step one to having the best school year ever is to have the best summer ever! You are always in control of your mindset. Your mindset determines your mood, and your mood is a key determinate of your energy level! Whether you are preparing to take a week-long cruise or tackle a week’s worth of laundry, spend a few moments ahead focusing on the fact that this is something that you “get” to do, rather than something that you “have” to do.
Sure, it is easier to look forward to the cruise than the laundry, but come on… Most of us have the benefit of being able to launder our clothes within the comfort of our homes, with the added advantage of machines that do most of the work for us. The seven dwarfs had it right, “Whistle while you work!”
The best way to convince our students that they “get” to become proficient mathematicians is to lead by example. We have lots of opportunities over the summer to practice living in gratitude and keeping our mindset positive. It is easier to form this habit when we don’t have assignments to grade, meetings to attend and paperwork to complete.
When we are able to convince students to embrace the attitude that their education is a privilege, rather than a burden, we keep them coming back for more! We are all wonderful sales people when we fully believe in what we are selling. Give yourself the gift of a positive mindset this summer!
Get started right away!
- Take a moment and ponder the rest of your day.
- Make a list of the tasks that need to be completed. (Be reasonable and prioritize, but that is a topic for a future post!)
- Focus on the first task and imagine attacking the task with your most positive attitude and getting optimal results. Spending a bit of time mindfully preparing for a task can lead to a significantly better outcome.
- At day’s end, think back over your completed tasks and evaluate – Did you keep your mindset positive? Did you get positive results?
As you continue this practice, it will become a habit and you’ll be approaching all of your tasks as treasures without having to give your mindset much thought at all! By the time you have a bunch of grading to do and a list of meetings to attend, you’ll be welcoming the experience with the confidence that you will be rewarded with positive results. When we go into a situation with a positive outlook, we are able to exit the situation with a more positive outcome.
To read more about living and learning mindfully, refer to The Learning Bubble.
Please reach out as you embrace the process of developing a positive mindset! Let me know of both your trials and tribulations. Let’s support one another on this journey! Post comments here, but also get in touch and sign-up for free lesson plans.
Have the best summer ever and look forward to the best school year ever!
Expect and Welcome the Unexpected!
I’m definitely at a point in my life, both personally and professionally, where things are not status quo and not going as planned. Most days life is better than anything I would have planned. I’ve learned that frequently the random, simple moments in life often end up being the most impactful!
When my children were growing up, I planned elaborate birthday parties every year and they were a blast! We had lots of inflatables and a few rented large characters that delighted some and frightened others. There was even a “trip around the world,” in which all of the children got sailor hats and posed in front of the makeshift boat we created. We played a game and enjoyed a treat from each of five different countries. The children loved this! The pictures are beautiful! I worked myself into a tizzy, ran around like crazy and remember little of it!
The very best times were when the parties ended, the crowds drifted away and I was left to sit on the floor and watch as my children played and wandered over their new toys. Every parent knows that the toys are a big attraction, but often the boxes become an even bigger attraction! It is frequently the packaging that entices the most creative play. I was always amazed by the boundless imaginations of my children.
So, what does this have to do with teaching?
Everything! Although I welcome the unexpected, I am still very much a planner! I am very thorough and specific when I write lesson plans. I’m definitely a more effective teacher when I have a clear, well-researched roadmap headed straight toward the intended learning target. However, with each wrench that lands in my plans, I become more and more confident that the best learning occurs in the detours.
This isn’t what I planned!
When the students get caught up with a related concept, and I allow them the time and freedom to pursue their interest, they often land beyond the learning target. On their way, they build confidence in their abilities and feed what I hope becomes a voracious appetite for limitless learning.
Teachers need to set the course toward a learning target, but the students are frequently capable of choosing their own routes to get there. This is especially true in a classroom in which the teacher has taken the little bit of time necessary to build a Family of Learners.
A highly engaged class can look, on the surface, like play. When one listens in, it is easy to find evidence of meaningful learning taking place. Students will get involved in a topic, make assumptions, research and test their assumptions, adjust as necessary and then present and defend their findings.
While I still believe that it is important to create well-thought out, detailed lesson plans, I also emphatically encourage teachers to be willing to stray from the plans. Keep a constant eye on the target, but embrace and enjoy the detours!
I knew that I should be nervous. I’m going to be live on the radio! I am usually nervous when I’m about to give a presentation.
Where were the butterflies that I’d become so accustomed to housing in the pit of my stomach before a public speaking event? Part of my unprecedented calm may have stemmed from the fact that instead of speaking in front of a live audience, I’d be in a small studio being interviewed by a host who I feel quite comfortable with.
Public speaking definitely didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had many experiences in which my face turned beet red, my voice trembled and my mouth was so dry that it was a wonder any sound emerged at all. Those experiences were rather torturous and humiliating, so why did I keep applying to present at bigger conferences and speak on bigger stages. Did I thrive on pain and discomfort?
Why didn’t I just decide that I was an expert audience member and leave it at that?
The reason I kept pushing forward was because I’m so deeply committed to the message that I’m spreading. I aim to help people recognize and shine their inner light, to promote a more peaceful existence, where we all bring out the best in each other. My current main focus on this rewarding journey is to assist in transforming all classrooms into entirely safe and encouraging environments where both teachers and students thrive. Please check out and share Teaching Sunshine, my business page.
Once I learned to separate my ego from my message, public speaking became a much easier, more rewarding endeavor. It occurred to me that the audience members have committed their time to be uplifted by a message. They weren’t there to judge me and it certainly wasn’t about me!
I believe three factors contributed to my unprecedented confidence going into this interview.
First is my focus on how my very simple message has helped others to reach and exceed their potential, along with my will to spread this message far and wide.
Second is knowing how much love, time and energy my parents put into raising me and wanting to honor them by sharing the many valuable lessons they taught me.
Third is the beautiful bond I’d previously built with the radio host. I had the incredible good fortune of meeting Eden Cook of Eden and Einstein Academy at a recent yoga retreat, and the immediate knowing that we share a common goal of elevating others to add beauty to the world.
Eden’s radio show is titled, “Out of the Box,” and is featured on AM1060 WMEL in Brevard County, Florida. Here is the link to my interview. I hope that you will listen, enjoy and share with others who will benefit! I am on for the first twenty-three minutes of the show.
I highly encourage you to live mindfully, recognize and shine your personal light to make a positive difference in the world!
I’ve been teaching the same grade in the same classroom for sixteen wonderful years. This is especially shocking, even to me, because I once thought teaching would be a terribly boring profession. Based on my own school experiences back in the dark ages, I thought teachers just stood in front of the class all day assigning and collecting worksheets. Why would anyone want to be a teacher?
The answer is because each day, in fact, each moment is highly unpredictable and full of new challenges and triumphs. I am completely on fire about building my business as a speaker and writer. I yearn to help people recognize and shine their inner light. I aim to empower people to build more rewarding and impactful lives.
The problem is that I’m also on fire for the classroom! After sixteen years of teaching the same grade with a curriculum that is in frequent flux and, more importantly, ever-changing and improving methods of instruction, I still don’t feel that I’ve come close to mastering life as a fifth grade teacher.
Each time I think, “OK, this couldn’t possibly become any more student-centered and engaging than it is NOW, it does! With newly emerging technology and the widespread teacher collaboration that occurs as a result of the many on-line platforms that connect us, I’m constantly bombarded with new and better ideas that I want to implement.
At the beginning of the last school year, I told my principal that I’d be ready for a change after that year. By the time we were six weeks into the school year, I had already told him that I changed my mind and wanted to stay another year. Now, here we are with one quarter left in this school year, and again, I’m still not sure that I’m ready to leave fifth grade. I’ve yet to experience a boring day or moment!
Although, I do feel that I have a very strong grip on the curriculum, I’m hungry for the opportunity to continue the shift to increasingly greater levels of student-driven instruction. Thanks to the infusion of several strong online learning platforms, and an innovative principal that has encouraged and supported us in developing as a blended learning school, the classroom has evolved far beyond my expectations.
I’m amazed at the level of differentiation that I’m able to provide due to the entry of online components such as Moby Max and IXL. During math instruction, while a portion of my class works online using programs that provide practice at their individually diagnosed levels, I’m able to pair others to move through engaging centers that help them gain mathematical proficiency while barely realizing that they are working. This environment is far from the skill and drill instruction from my own school days.
This allows me to pull individual students and small groups to work on specific needs demonstrated through on-going formative assessment. The students are enriched by the online programs, interactive engagement with their peers and individualized instruction from their teacher.
I am working toward making the students more aware of and able to drive their own instruction. I want to get to a point where the students decide when they are ready to assess and determine the format of their assessment I know there are wonderful teachers out there who are already successful with this practice. With each connection I make, I become increasingly inspired!
I know my principal won’t be surprised to hear, “Please give me just one more year in fifth grade!” I am addicted!
In the classroom, on speaking engagements and when teaching yoga, I can often be found with a bowl of rocks! I collect rocks and crystals that are polished on only one side. When turned with their dull side up, they look pretty much like any other pile of rocks. However, upon closer inspection, when turned to the side that has been polished and given attention, one finds that they are each unique, beautiful treasures.
It is the same with our students. By taking the time to appreciate each of their gifts and strengths, they each shine as the unique treasures that they are. In all groups, from classrooms to board rooms, when the members learn to focus on each other’s strengths, weaknesses diminish and the entire group is elevated.
I firmly believe that each individual has a powerful inner light. It is easy, even in the young lives of our students, to let life get in the way. People forget to allow their light to shine. The light gets dusty and dims. However, the light is still there. If we choose to focus on the best in each other, those lights strengthen and radiate out to affect positive change. Imagine a world in which we all honored each other’s light!
Taking the time to Build a Family of Learners in the classroom leads to a learning environment that is safe and highly encouraging for all. Students are free to take the necessary risks, make mistakes and fumble on their way to achieving proficiency of the learning targets. Students become enthusiastic creators of their own knowledge, each one benefiting from the contributions of their classmates.
At an event that I attended through the National Speaker’s Bureau, the keynote speaker, Deb Cheslow of the Cheslow Achievement Group, had us participate in an activity wherein we pointed forward with our right pointer finger. She then had us twist over our left shoulder as far as possible and point to an object behind us. When we couldn’t twist any further, she had us turn and look intensely at an object that was slightly beyond our reach. Upon turning back to the front, we spent less than one minute visualizing ourselves turning and easily pointing at the object that was previously out of reach. Then, she had us turn and try to reach the object. I’m sure you can guess that almost everyone in the room was able to easily reach this previously unreachable target. I have adopted this technique into many of my speaking engagements. It never fails to result in the “oohs” and “ahs,” that every speaker wants their audience to experience.
Having an, “I can,” attitude, along with choosing to see and bring out the best in those around us leads to the reaching and surpassing of even the most lofty goals. If we tune into a news report on any given day, at any given time, one can easily see that our beautiful world cannot afford for any of us to not meet and exceed our potential.
“The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.” ― Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking
Based on the way I was taught, way back in the dark ages, I thought teaching was the most boring career in the world! I thought teachers spent every day lecturing about the same subject over and over again, day after day and year after year.
I couldn’t have been more wrong! I’ve been teaching for sixteen wonderful years and one thing I can say for sure is that no two days are ever the same. I’ve learned that no matter how well-thought out and specific my lesson plans are, I will almost never follow them exactly as planned. In fact, I know I can expect days in which the plans will go straight out the window and those days can sometimes be the best ones of all!
Teaching is full of countless unexpected turns and twists, both good and bad. It is not unusual to have to switch gears at a moment’s notice. We have little control when it comes to the timing of a child becoming suddenly ill, technology that worked beautifully during planning suddenly malfunctioning, or a well-intentioned parent dropping off sugar laden cupcakes and artificially colored and flavored drinks. We have little control over the amount of meetings and trainings we are expected to attend, or the amount of paperwork that we must complete.
What we do ALWAYS have control over is our personal outlook! It is very easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed when things don’t go as planned. However, if we take a moment and reflect on our thoughts and actions and the way they affect us, we find that reacting negatively only serves to make any situation worse.
We are extremely talented and capable people. We all have the ability, in our teaching as well as in our personal lives, to choose our outlook and our reactions. When faced with the unexpected, the best thing we can do for ourselves and for our students is pause, take a deep breath and consciously decide to handle the situation from a positive perspective.
Like any habit, good or bad, this practice won’t become natural overnight. However, next time you find yourself reacting in a negative fashion, no matter how warranted that negativity seems, STOP. Instead, take a nice, slow, deep breath and decide to react from a place of understanding and peace. Know that a situation can only affect you negatively for as long as you allow it to.
One day, in the not too distant future, you will suddenly realize that it has been a while since your feathers have really been ruffled. I can practically promise you that it won’t be because life got easier. It will be because you’ve made choosing a positive outlook into a lifelong habit!
We live in an increasingly noisy world. However, we have amazingly powerful minds that can be trained to block out distractions and stick to a singular focus. When we live mindfully, we benefit from focusing on the here and now. How many times have you noticed a family or a couple out to dinner together, but caught up staring at their phones rather than spending quality time with the people they have the good fortune of being face to face with?
There is so much good that comes from our current information age. We have limitless opportunities for lifelong learning and personal growth. We also run the risk of having our attention split between numerous distractors and rarely using our full mental capabilities for one particular endeavor.
In school, our curriculum is rightfully rigorous. Our children deserve the very best education that we can provide. If we don’t invest a bit of time teaching them to block distractions in order to fully engage in the intended learning, few will gain optimum benefits. No matter how student-driven, interactive, engaging, and differentiated our lessons are, if students lack focus, they will absorb very little.
I refer to my classroom as a Learning Bubble. Many of my students come to school carrying far more baggage than anyone their age, or my age for that matter, is well equipped to handle. In my opinion, the worst thing I could do for them would be to let them use their circumstances as an excuse for not doing well in school.
“In my opinion, the worst thing I could do for them would be to let them use their circumstances as an excuse for not doing well in school.”
Instead, I teach them that when they are in the classroom, it is THEIR time to learn and grow. In the classroom, the only responsibilities they have are to open their minds, think positive, and support one another in the quest to become lifelong learners. I frequently remind them that the world is full of opportunities for them to become thriving, productive members of society. I encourage them to find and explore their passions and to build from each other’s strengths and reinforce to them that in The Learning Bubble, they are free to do this.
Through my ten years of experience teaching yoga and progressive relaxation, I have become very well acquainted with the power of breath. I teach students that taking a few deep intentional breaths helps them to become calm, energized and focused. If I notice that engagement is diminishing, I will pause our activities and remind students to enter their learning bubbles. They learn very quickly, after a bit of modeling on my part, that this means to take a moment to enjoy some deep breathing and refocus.
Before any large assessment, I lead the whole class in a bit of deep breathing and stretching. We intentionally breathe in positive energy and exhale any self-doubt they may have been holding onto. I remind them that the number one contributor to their success is to believe they have the ability to be successful, accompanied of course by committed effort toward achieving their goals. As long as they are prepared for an assessment, if they go into it feeling positive and with laser-like focus, they are highly likely to be pleased with their results.
Being that my classroom is the closest to the cafeteria, it is seldom ever a quiet learning environment. While this is not normally a problem during active learning times, it could become an issue during assessments. This is another benefit of the learning bubble. When students become adept at thriving within their own bubble, not only does it help them block out the figurative noise that surrounds them, but they are also able to block out the literal noise.
Students, teachers and people in all walks of life stand to benefit by learning to access their learning bubbles. When we give our full attention to one goal or activity at a time, the sky’s the limit to our achievement! Live mindfully and enjoy!!
When students trust and respect each other, and know that struggle is a normal condition encountered on the path to proficiency, the student to teacher ratio is improved dramatically. The students become able to effectively teach each other. They support and encourage one another, while collaboratively achieving academic success.
When several students gain proficiency of a learning target, I take the time to not only acknowledge those students, but also to briefly celebrate as a whole class. I use every opportunity to remind students that the success of each class member lends to the success of the entire group. If three students have strong understanding of dividing by fractions, there are four teachers who can help the rest of the class. We all know that the best way to learn is to teach.
It is extremely rewarding to watch my class grow as a cohesive unit. Keep in mind that children believe what we tell them. Rather than having the teacher as the only encourager in the classroom, when the students take responsibility for the learning of the group, they all become encouragers. Thus, each student receives a great deal of positive support throughout the school day. Each student takes an active role in driving the success of the class. Once students buy into this concept (and they will because it is human nature to want to meet with success and to be acknowledged for that success), there are no limits to the elevation that will result.
Part of the magic of collaboration is that each group member brings their individual strengths and skills. Of course, there are a few students who frequently get the opportunity to coach others, but all of the students find their time to shine. It is truly beautiful to observe a student, that by most standards would be referred to as “low achieving,” helping a classmate understand a concept or process. I have had the incredible privilege of watching children who once believed they were poor students transform into confident and enthusiastic learners.
In order to have a classroom in which the students are comfortable fumbling in front of one another, it is imperative that the teacher creates a safe learning environment. I refer to my classroom as, “The Total Positive Energy Zone.” When students are in the zone, they follow three simple rules, which I prominently display and strictly enforce.
The three rules that lead to student and teacher success are:
- Positive Interaction: Focus on the positive traits of each of your classmates. Speak kindly at all times. Be patient, encouraging and supportive of each other. Realize that each individual success contributes to the success of all.
- Positive Effort: Set high expectations. Stay committed to mastering the learning targets. Be willing to accept help from your teacher and from your classmates. Always be an active problem solver. Use all available resources to create the knowledge you need to achieve success.
- Positive Attitude: Have an “I can” attitude. Never say “can’t”, instead say, “not yet able.” Be an enthusiastic learner. Your current job is to learn all that you can. That isn’t going to change. If you choose to look at your daily routine positively, you will be open to learning productively. Aim to make learning a lifelong habit.
I promise that if you adopt and consistently enforce these rules in your classroom, you will find yourself bounding out of bed each morning, ready to greet the instructional day. Even more impressive is the fact that you will still feel enthused and accomplished at the end of the school day! For more information about “The Total Positive Energy Zone,” and “Building a Family of Learners” please check out my website www.teachingsunshine.com