End-of-Year Teacher Survival Tips

Use these end of year teacher survival tips to thrive instead of survive the last days of school!

Are you counting days, hours, and minutes until summer vacation?  Do you give your school papers a ride home each night and find that it was merely a field trip?  Those ungraded papers remain just that…. ungraded.  Do your students seem to have forgotten all of the classroom rules and procedures?  Are you pushing your snooze button “just one more time” each morning?

Yep.  You’re suffering from end-of-year angst.  For most teachers, it’s inevitable, but surely comes sooner for some than others.

How do you push through?  And, better yet, how do you push through WHILE continuing to foster your students intellectually, socially, and emotionally?  Though you are beyond exhausted and your body is just going through the motions, there are a few things you can do that may make your life much more bearable.  You might even find yourself feeling excited about the prospect of next year!  GASP!  Yes, that little flame of anticipation might start to show signs of life.

  1.  Structure each day as if it were the first day of school.

    Pack every single minute with student engagement.  This is the worst time of year to be unprepared, even for a few moments.  Your students are just as anxious for summer as you are and their bodies will utilize every single unstructured moment to move and groove.  No joke.  On that note, part of your plan should include physical movement.  No matter the age, we all need to get up and move around at this time of year.  Can you do your lesson outside?  Do you have yoga cards or other structured movement exercises you can utilize more frequently during this time?  Use them!

  2. Try some new end-of-year reflections and activities! 

    Ask your teammates if they have any end-of-year traditions that their students love.  Check out free end-of-year activities on Teachers Pay Teachers.  If you want to have a plethora of activities at your disposal, consider using a Last Week of School Activity Pack designed for your grade level that includes class activities, reflections, and no prep printables.  When your students remain engaged in meaningful activities like these, you will see a huge decrease in disruptive behaviors and time will FLY!  As an aside, it is really important for you to provide opportunities for your class to reflect on their learning and overall experience during the year.  It allows them to feel a sense of closure and peace as the year comes to an end.  It is extremely normal for everyone to feel mixed emotions… including you!

  3. Recruit your students to help you organize and clean up!

    Does your classroom library need organizing?  Do your windowsills and bookshelves need dusting?  Carve out 10-15 minutes at the end of each day for end-of-year cleaning and organization.

  4. Plan something fun for yourself outside of school each week.

    Looking forward to fun, preplanned moments will allow you to feel like you are hitting milestones along the path to the ultimate prize…. summer!  Can you schedule a barbecue with a friend?  A massage?  A manicure or pedicure?  Happy hour at your favorite restaurant?  Go ahead and put them on your calendar.  Thinking about doing them isn’t enough.  Write them down and make a commitment to reward yourself each week.

  5. Do ONE thing to get yourself excited about teaching next year!

    Switch up the configuration of your classroom, choose a color scheme or decor theme that you love, search classroom decor on Pinterest and choose a couple of pins that you want to model your classroom after, or organize your most cluttered cabinet.  Though it may sound ridiculous, all of these activities will lift weight off your overburdened shoulders and give you a fresh perspective.  If nothing else, it will begin to light the flame of anticipation for next year’s class.  Here is a blog post that provides even more suggestions to keep your “teacher fire” lit when burnout is looming.

  6. Remember the love you have for each and every student!

    Before the last day of school, make a point to look at every single student and take note of three things you love (in your mind or on paper).  Yes, you CAN find three things to love about EVERY SINGLE student in your classroom.  On an energetic level, this shifts your mind from “get me outta here, I need summer” to “holy buckets, I love this group of kids” and that might be all you need to make it through the rest of the year with a smile.

Even if your eyes are half-closed and you’re ready for bed, peruse this list one more time and make a commitment to follow through on one suggestion.  When you notice that it’s working, come back and choose one more.  Before you know it, you’ll be turning your alarm clock off and enjoying the freedom that summer brings!

 

 

Curb Teacher Burnout

Are you a teacher that feels yourself slipping into burnout mode? As the weather warms and the kids squirm, it can feel like an act of Congress to get through the school day! Choose a few of these easy ways to curb teacher burnout! Go ahead, grasshopper! You've got this!

It’s no wonder that teaching is right up there with police officer, military personnel, and firefighter as one of the most stressful careers.  The demands on teachers are multi-faceted and increasingly complex.  Let’s face it, teachers aren’t just teachers, right?  You are a counselor, a nurse, an accountant, a babysitter, a cheerleader, a coach, a data analyst, a curriculum designer, a child advocate, a surrogate parent, a mentor, a bookkeeper, an event planner, and a technology expert.  I’m sure you can add plenty more roles to that list as well.  In the face of such challenging job requirements, it is imperative to have some ammunition to fight off the burnout that is almost inevitable in the teaching profession.
Incorporating a few of these in your life will stave off burnout and increase your job satisfaction.
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1.  Identify two moments of pride each day.  Think about what YOU did well at work.  Teachers tend to put all their focus and attention on student achievement and that is fabulous, but make a point to give yourself credit for a job well done.  How were you awesome today?  If you have a few moments at the end of each day (don’t roll your eyes…. if it’s important, you can find two minutes), jot down your moments of pride in a journal that you can flip through when you need some inspiration.
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2.  Spend 10 minutes each day without your stress.  Call it meditation or relaxation or whatever you choose, but the important thing is that your stress and anxiety is NOT invited.  Imagine putting all your challenges in a locked safe where escape is impossible.  You can wave at your stress, send it some love, and allow it to stay outside of yourself for 10 minutes.  Compartmentalizing and displacing your stress and anxiety will bring peace and clarity that lasts longer than 10 minutes.  The beautiful thing is that the effects of this practice are cumulative.  The more you do it, the less overall stress you will feel.
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3.  Rearrange your space.  This might sound crazy, but when you mix things up a bit, your outlook will shift with it.  I’m not just talking about moving student desks or tables around, I’m talking about shifting your own personal space.  Move your desk, your computer, your book shelf, or your filing cabinet.  Go to the dollar store and buy some new office supplies to organize papers, pencils, and files.  Bring a lamp to school for your work area and turn off the blinding classroom lights while your students are gone.  The dim lighting might just bring a new sense of peace and calm to your day, which may morph into a regular thing even when students are there.  Hang holiday lights around a couple of bulletin boards to shift the mood in your space.  Any of these things will jostle your outlook and create a sense of freshness.
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4.  Be a problem solver, not a problem admirer.  There is nothing wrong with sharing your stress and anxiety with co-workers and friends.  There is, however, a tendency for some people to focus on the negative and spend their precious (and limited) energy admiring problems.  “I can’t stand Logan’s mom, she is driving me crazy!”  “This new evaluation system is a bunch of crap!”  “I have the worst class in the whole world!”  You know exactly who I’m talking about, right?  They are in every school building and their negativity can just about bring you to your knees.  Here’s the thing, friends…. that negativity creates REAL energy in your space that is detrimental to your mood, your perceptions, and your outlook.  The most effective way to combat the cloud of negativity is to first identify it as something aversive to your own energy field and then to block it.  If you have extra time and patience, you might even try to reframe that person’s problem into a solution.  “It sounds to me like you feel really frustrated with Logan’s mom.  I wonder if you could try…… “.  Negative Nellys will ALWAYS find something to complain about, but you don’t need to buy into it or feed it.
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5.  Find one new, fun resource to use in your classroom each week.  Hold up!  I don’t mean that you need to spend MORE time creating something new.  Quite the contrary, actually.  Simply search for a new resource or unit that makes your life easier.  Locating new resources may be just what you need to rediscover that love for teaching again.  There are THOUSANDS of FREE resources available on Teachers Pay Teachers, for example.  Do a search for something you are teaching next week and check out all there is to offer!  I pride myself on creating lessons for teachers that inspire you while also freeing you from the astronomical demands of your job.  Go ahead, treat yourself, print off something fun and FREE for an upcoming lesson!
If you had the diligence to read up to this point, you also have the will and determination to combat teacher burnout.  Spend the time to invest in yourself and it will have a lasting impact on your career and your health!
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Go get ’em, grasshopper!
But before you go… Here are some great (and free) products created by super talented teacher authors.  Some of these lessons are great for test review, a fun breather between your core lessons, games that will keep your students super engaged, an activity for maintaining a positive classroom climate, and there are even FREE sub plans!  If you have a favorite free product that you’d like to share, add the link to the comment section!
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25 FREE Student Rewards

 

Does your behavior management system need some love? How would you like to know about 25 no-cost, no-prep incentive ideas to beef up your student reward system? A sample of free printable certificates is also at your fingertips!

You know how it goes… student rewards and incentives get expensive!  Since most teachers don’t have a budget to offset the cost of student rewards, they end up ordering trinkets, shopping at the dollar store, and searching for deals on prizes.    If you are like me, you might even forget to stock up on rewards and your students don’t always end up loving the things that you have to offer.

Stop shopping and cluttering up their desks and bedrooms with junky prizes that cost you money…. their parents may even thank you!

Instead, here is a list of no prep ideas for student incentives that are both motivating and FREE!

Easy and fun student rewards that are FREE!

  1. Homework pass
  2. Eat lunch outside
  3. Read a book to a younger class
  4. Chew gum for a day
  5. Work with another adult in the building
  6. Eat lunch with the teacher
  7. Positive phone call home
  8. Wear your favorite hat to school
  9. Choose a class game to play
  10. Choose a partner during work time
  11. Take off your shoes and/or socks for the day
  12. Use the teacher’s chair for the day
  13. Choose a song to play during class
  14. Only complete the odd problems on an assignment
  15. Only complete the even problems on an assignment
  16. 20 extra minutes of computer time
  17. 20 extra minutes of art time
  18. 20 extra minutes of free time
  19. 20 extra credit points in any subject
  20. Bring headphones to listen to music in class
  21. Eat a snack during class
  22. Bring a game from home and teach the class how to play
  23. Bring a pet from home
  24. Teach the class how to play an educational app on a tablet
  25. Wear pajamas to school

Though most of these ideas are NOT rocket science, they are often forgotten in the midst of a teacher’s chaotic schedule.  If you’d like to give a few of them a try, here is a FREE product in my store that allows you to sample the ideas.

Does your classroom management need a boost? Are your students bored with the treasure box? These FREE Incentive Rewards Certificates for teachers are perfect for 1st-6th grade. Watch your student's behavior improve while you save money!

If you don’t want to spend time making your own certificates, the full product can be found here.

Easy, fun, no prep student rewards come in full color and black and white!

If you happen to be a lover of certificates for student motivation, you might also find these character traits awards useful for your students.  There is also an upper elementary version available here.

Celebrate their character traits with these colorful character awards. Your students will appreciate these awards any time of year!

Share your favorite, no cost, easy student rewards in the comments below!

Flip Out Over Flip Books!

 

Would you like to infuse your lessons with engaging, fun activities? Flip books provide an engaging, independent element to any school topic or lesson plan. Do you want to try out a flip book just for fun? Get one for free!

Sometimes discovering new things as a teacher can be commensurate to indulging in a huge slice of chocolate ice cream cake!  My most recent DELICIOUS discovery came in the form of a flip book template created by Danielle Knight of Study All Knight!  It’s nothing shy of brilliant and the editable format is perfection, to the millimeter.

After I created my first flip book product, I tried it out on my 8 year-old daughter before I took it to school for use with my students.  She emphatically told me that it was her new favorite product.  Of course it was!

The nature of the flip book creates interest in students because of the engaging format (it brings the creation of a “book” to a new level) and allows them to do some cutting to create the flaps.  Each page is a fun surprise, as the title shows but content can’t be seen until the students flips.

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Have your students tried creating a flip book?  If not, check out this reading log flip book… for FREE!  It is designed as a back to school reading log for September and is included in the Fall Reading Log Flip Book product for September, October, and November.  I’ve found that it is most efficient to staple the booklet together for students prior to distributing them.  Students are then responsible for cutting the flaps on each page and won’t bother you with “lost pages” and compilation issues.

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Don’t forget to check out Danielle Knight’s template product here, and if your students love them as much as mine do, you can click here to see all of my flip book products!

Happy Flipping January friends!

Vivacious Vocabulary

 

Teaching vocabulary doesn't have to be laborious and boring! Words create the mental picture of our worlds and teachers can make them count! These are five EASY ways to make vocabulary the best part of your student's day! #2 is PERFECT for students who love a fun challenge!

Do your students groan when it’s time for vocabulary?  Do you groan when it’s time for vocabulary?  Guess what?  Vocabulary doesn’t have to be boring.  Yes, perhaps your reading program (that you might be forced to use, and either like or dislike) may present vocabulary in a boring way, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.  Learning new vocabulary doesn’t have to be laborious or painstaking.  Here are a few ideas for spicing up your vocabulary time!

  1.  ACT IT OUT (with words):  Split your kids into groups of two or three randomly (or not so randomly depending on your class) and give each group ONE vocabulary word and 5 minutes to create a skit that illustrates their vocabulary word in some way.  You may wonder if it can work with ANY vocabulary list.  It can.  I promise.  This activity will force your students to think outside the box and come up with something you could never dream of yourself.  Allow them to use accessible props like paper, desks, chairs, the white board, and anything else is the room that is readily available.  Students then have one minute to present their skit to the class.  The group cues the class to listen by starting with the word “BEGIN” and alerts them to raise their hand to guess the vocabulary word by saying “END”.  I would allow the students to have their vocabulary list sitting in front of them.
  2. ACT IT OUT (without words):  Use the suggestions from #1, but don’t allow the students to talk during their skits.  This is, of course, more challenging, but when we challenge students, they rise to the occasion, right?  For what it’s worth, I used this method almost exclusively and you will definitely see some skits that you don’t understand, but the students will be engaged in their learning and will be forced to think in new ways while they learn the vocabulary words.
  3. HOW MANY WORDS?:  Place students in groups of three of four and give them the vocabulary list.  Instruct them to use as many vocabulary words in a four sentence story as possible.  The key to succeeding in this challenge (and you can make it a competition if you choose) is to use the words correctly AND be entertaining.  If you choose to make it a competition, you can swap stories with other classes in your grade level and ask the students to determine which story wins (it’s best to keep the names off the papers in this case).  Many times, I will set a minimum number of words that must be used (6 or 7 works well for a story with 4 sentences).  Do this activity one time and your students will be begging you to do it again.
  4. GUESS MY WORD:  Students each get a sticky note placed on their forehead (or back) and must ask questions to determine the word written (by you) on their sticky note.  Students can do this activity in a small group or you can have one student in the front of the room at a time (you must know your class to determine which scenario works best).  The student guessing his/her word can ask YES or NO questions like, “Am I a verb?  Am I a noun?  Am I an adjective?  Do I have a prefix?  Do I have a suffix?  Would I come after HOUSE in the dictionary?”  The student guessing his/her word DOES have access to the vocabulary list and can ask questions based on the list of words.  I like to make a rule that students only get TWO “official” guesses.  If the student gets the word within two guesses, he/she wins.
  5. DRAW A PICTURE:  Ask students to create an illustration for each vocabulary word.  Again, any vocabulary words will work.  If the word is abstract, you can tell students “to draw a picture that illustrates that words in some way.”  If it’s necessary to write a sentence under the picture to provide clarity, that is fine.  Again, students will be forced to think outside the box and will surely come up with some surprising pictures!

Let’s face it… learning words can be boring or it can be fun.  Students are savvy and will pick up vocabulary when we use it in context and have confidence in their abilities to use it.  Continue to use words in your daily interactions that might be “above their heads” because students are sophisticated enough to use context clues to figure out your message.

Let’s also face it… some words are more fun to learn.  Words that are fun to say, read, and write are a bright spot in a student’s day.  I’m not talking about words like fart, poop, and puke either.

Create a fun vocabulary program that infuses your reading and writing instruction with fancy words. Along with the sophistication that comes with these learning fancy words, your students will also receive vocabulary poster cards and printable worksheets.

I’m talking about sophisticated words that would impress even the most “word wise” adults.  I love words and that’s why I created fancy vocabulary products for upper elementary (and even middle school) students.  Check out my fancy vocabulary freebie here!  If your students like it, you can check out the products tied to this freebie at the links below (click on the pictures).  If you are a SERIOUS word loving teacher, there is also a bundle available at a reduced price!

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Cheers to arming our students with sophisticated words that add to their plethora of knowledge!

Happy 1st Birthday Bundle BASH!

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When I think back to the first week of September in 2014, I have very vivid memories of sitting on the edge of my bed asking my husband, “Should I do it?”

“I don’t know, what do you think?” he replied.

“I mean, I really love it and I just don’t see how it could hurt.”

Hem. Haw. Hem. Haw.

Then I hit the “CONFIRM” button…. and my life changed forever.

My Teachers Pay Teachers store turned ONE this week and in appreciation for the stellar buyers and supporters, all of my bundles (which are already reduced 20-30%) will be an additional 20% off this weekend (Sept. 5-6).

Happy Birthday to my little dream come true!

My bundles include literature units, figurative language units, character traits products, vocabulary, famous quotes, grammar, and more!  Check them out by clicking on the pictures below.

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