Supplies Every New Teacher Needs

This year, I felt for some reason like I was drawing a blank when it was back to school time and I was trying to think of what I needed to make sure I had. I also was mentoring a new teacher so I was trying to be organized. After getting organized I thought of how I would have loved to have a list of what supplies I needed back when I was a new teacher... and apparently I could use some reminders now. So I put together a list of my most used and my favorite supplies for you with a little comment or two about each. Clicking on each image will bring you to Amazon to get more information (affiliate links).
                                                            FLAIR PENS
You already know teachers love their flair pens. Great for correcting, note taking at meetings, drawing... just A+!

Sharpies are my go to for writing on chart paper and labeling EVERYthing.

All sizes- for corralling papers of all kinds!

You need some kind of system for all of the papers and notes you will be sending home. If you don't invest in a mailbox system, put something else in place on day one. Don't try what I did my first year - trying to pass everyone out a notice, homework and other papers at the end of the day. Countless papers got lost and left behind!


More on this in an upcoming blog post but you don't need to go crazy as a new teacher with Pinterest worthy boards. Just get some papers and borders up. Shop around for good deals. And did you know there is now magnetic borders? Eek! Check Lakeshore for them - only sold in stores at this time.

Everyone needs one! Check for good deals at WalMart or ask parents to donate some.

Not one, but at least two or more. If your school only gives you one, you should look into getting extras. It's worth it!

Let't not kid ourselves. Dixon Ticonderoga is the best out there. Easiest to sharpen, last longer and those presharpened ones are amazing. I ask parents to donate them.

Get several sizes - plain yellow is fine but just have a bunch. Countless uses!

If you are new to teaching you might be surprised how many you need and how many uses there are: broken jewelry, game pieces, task cards, leftover snacks, and the list goes on. Have several sizes.
Essential! Have students wipe desks and tables daily.

Have a bunch because students will jam and break them. (just being real with you!) 

 Might seen obvious but needed! if you are new and have to get your own, just start with hand sharpener and ask parents to donate an electric one or hint that it would be a great holiday gift (If parents do that).

We have those terrible cinder block walls which are hard to hang on and my chalkboard (one whole wall of the room) isn't magnetic so Stikki Clips are a godsend.  You can also try things like  command hooks,  putty, and duct tape.

What is on your must have list for new teachers? Let me know what I missed with your comment below! 

How to get Organized with Parent Communication

Parent communication can be complicated, can't it? When I started teaching in 1997, these were the methods of parent communication: handwritten notes/memos, phone calls, and one or both of those were needed to arrange the third type of communication: in person meetings! Now it's a whole new, complicated, ball game! We have:

  • handwritten notes/memos
  • phone calls
  • in person meetings
  • classroom/teacher blogs
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • other Social Media
  • tools like
  • email
  • Google Drive
  • and more!
It's a lot to manage and to keep organized! I was recently talking with a colleague and she wanted to know how I organize my parent communication and while I was talking about  it with her, I thought I should share what I do on the blog, too!

We all use email on a  daily basis! But did you know you may be able to schedule some emails in advance, which is a great way to get organized? This depends on your email provider. For Gmail,  you can get an add-on or extension such as Boomerang that allows just that. Usually there is a certain amount of messages you can schedule out in advance (Boomerang has 10 free messages a month). I usually schedule out emails in advance for things that occur regularly or for reminding parents about upcoming events, such as reminders about due dates for book orders or monthly school spirit days. Also, you can save frequent or recurring emails* in a special folder inside your email. I call mine "templates". What is in there? Things like emails about the Halloween parade, which are pretty much the same every year.  When it's that time again, I go in, copy it, paste it in a new email,  and edit for anything that has changed, like the exact date, etc. Don't just hit forward on the email - you want to make it look as if you have taken the time to write a fresh message to parents.
*I find mine in the sent folder after I have sent them and the hit the check box and move them to my new/special folder for future use.

Since there are several ideas just for email, let me sum them up:
  • Schedule e-mails in advance if possible
  • Look into extensions/add ons for your email
  • Put recurring e-mails in a special folder
  • Determine recurring events or reminders that could be scheduled in advance - I imagine there are other similar websites/tools, but I use Remind is a service that allows teachers to text parents (and students if you teach older students) without sharing your personal phone number. It's safe, secure and easy and reminders can be sent right away or scheduled out in advance. I find they have a much higher read rate then my blog. I wish I could get stats on email opens but I'd guess that the amount of messages read on people's phones via Remind is  much higher than email.

Do you have a classroom blog? When my school first asked us to start classroom blogs, one thing I did was look through my paper notices that I kept in a binder, and I typed them out for use in emails and on my blog. Easy and a good place to start if you are new to having a classroom blog. Another tip is that you may be able to schedule your blog posts in advance, as I can with my classroom blog. This is great if you know you have certain posts that you want to go out, such as at the beginning of the year when there is quite a lot of information to share with parents. Get organized and get it on your blog and schedule it out in advance! Also, if you have recurring blog posts, such as those back to school blog posts, there is no reason to retype the whole thing. For example, in Blogger, you can go in to your post listings, find the previous post, copy the text and paste into a new post! Just make sure, like with repeating past emails, you double check everything and edit for details such as dates!

To make new parents more comfortable with you as  their child's new teacher, consider an all about me parent brochure. I got a terrific editable one from Teachers Pay Teachers and if you want to know the exact one, just ask and I will look it up!  Here's an image of the one I did last year!
So, how do you stay organized with your parent communication? Let me know! 

Reasons Why You are So Tired After School

We all know that teachers go home exhausted every day and it is probably is just "the way it is" for all of us. At the end of last year, I was more exhausted than I had ever been and it took me a long time to decompress during the start of the summer. So, I've been thinking about why teachers are so completely spent at the end of each day. I decided to do some reading and personal reflection, and came up with five main reasons behind our fatigue.  Let's find out what they are!

When I was  a new teacher, a coworker told me "teachers make more decisions per minute than air traffic controllers" which definitely stuck with me, but this quote from Dr. Tina Boogren hits home too. Think of all the decisions you make in just a minute. Let's say it's arrival time, which in my second grade class is a particularly hectic time. In a one minute period I may have to decide the answers to these questions: "Where should I put this note from Tim's mother?" "Is Charles struggling with that math problem?" "Should I go to the hall and tell Skye to hurry up?" "Do I have time to get a cough drop?" "The school lunch calendar is not online. Should I call  the office and ask or just wait and see if they announce it?""The lunch sign up pencil isn't sharp - should I sharpen it, replace it, or get student's help?" and then, what do you know, the phone starts ringing or a kiddo asks you a question and the next minute starts! Just thinking about it all is tiring!

Sure, you might feel like  you have no willpower at all, especially when you  are shoving M&M's in your face during recess, but to be a teacher, you must use tons of willpower from the time your students walk in to dismissal time, and continue to do so even when checking email or talking with colleagues after work. A psychologist did research and found that exerting willpower results in a notable drop in blood sugar levels, which leads to feeling of fatigue. Also, it made me feel better when I heard that his research showed that using willpower in one part of your life meant a drop in willpower in other areas of your life. So,  what does that mean for teachers besides the exhaustion and an understanding of why we have trouble saying no to more M&Ms?  Well, it connects to what Dr. Boogren found - if teachers make upwards of 1,500 decisions a day, and many of them involve using willpower to decide to "stay strong" and keep to your classroom rules and guidelines and not give in to a whiny student or complaining parent,  or not check your phone in the middle of teaching, or not roll your eyes or have an cranky tone of voice when responding to an annoyance in class, it's a wonder we're just exhausted and not just flat out passed out cold on the floor!

I mean, I am a little biased here, but I think teachers care immensely about what they do and go to work each day hoping to do their best and help all of their students succeed. I don't have a research-based connection here, but I believe that brings anxiety. Most of the teachers I know are anxious about their job and their day in one way or another. I drive to school some days just trying to stave off the worries that Jake will act out, or that my principal will be critical, or that I will open email and have an angry parent message. I might be at school and worry that I didn't keep my face calm enough when that girl was irritating me. The most anxiety provoking situations for me personally are the big events, like conferences and open house nights. Not knowing what parents will say is scary to me, and as a teacher on a daily basis you never know what your students will say and do. Part of that is what makes it exciting to teach, but also anxiety is exhausting! Plus we have all been there where you are so tired but can't sleep because guess what  - you're lying awake worrying! 

 Since you started teaching, haven't you felt like the amount of tasks you are expected to complete just keeps growing? And it is even worst during the last month of the school school year when administrators and sometimes colleagues and parents add even more tasks you were not expecting to your already over full load. "Oh would you mind filling out this form for our pediatrician?" "We want Talia to go to private school in the fall. Please complete this recommendation", "Here is a new accountability form for special education. It is due next week". ACK! Just think about all you daily tasks that you don't even think about - they are so ingrained - checking your mail box, getting the lunch count form, writing the date on the board and then  the ones that take even more time - lesson planning, material prep, copying, laminating, setting up science experiments and math materials, replying to email, displaying the lessons goals for all your daily lessons, checking in with colleagues about something, collecting and checking homework, and that does not even include actually teaching the lessons and working with the students. NO WONDER we are like rag dolls by the end of the days. I worry that this kind of heavy load is related to why some teachers only last a couple years in the profession. More and more things that used to be administrator's  tasks keep getting passed on to classroom teachers and time to complete them is not added.

If we want to be mentally healthy, we can't be bringing home 50% of our work either. Teachers need time to rest and relax or just attend to family commitments and spend time with friends and family members. We take work home anyway because our work load is overwhelming , which is exhausting by itself, but we need to be careful to take care of ourselves too. I love Lindsay Paull's #okayteacher movement (her blog is Miss Johnston's Journey), which has made a lot of us feel better about not completing every single task perfectly or even completing every little things. Sometimes you have to let things go an be an okay, not a perfect teacher.  There is just too much!

When it comes down to it, we sometimes just  ignore the exhaustion and push through. Why? Teaching is worth it! When that student realizes they are able to solve that math problem, or that parent gets teary eyed seeing her child's reading progress, or you get a thank you note from a high school about what an impact you made... that's what makes it worth it. When you give a child positive reinforcement and boost up their self esteem and they finish the year feeling strong and confident, or when you finally get that little boy the academic support he needs - that is what matters.  Or when you talk with parents all year and in the spring they reach out to their pediatrician, or when that child who seemed resist your efforts all year hugs you on the last day of school and says "I'll miss you. You helped me so much", boy we forgot all that exhaustion and fatigue, don't we?

So what do you think it is about teaching that makes you so exhausted? And what makes it worth it to you? Feel free to comment below! Meanwhile, I will leave you will a couple of funny Pinterest pins for teacher tired!

Ways to Help a Classroom after a Disaster

It's been an extremely difficult few weeks for the millions of folks who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. The storms also coincided with back to school so many teachers have been wondering - how do I help? Or what can my school/classroom do to help? Since so many ideas are going around, I felt it might be helpful to put together a blog post with a compilation of ideas.
In order to help, first you have to find a classroom or or teacher who needs help. The quickest place is probably to look online and on social media. If you are in a Facebook teacher's group look for posts there. I found a comment on another teacher's Instagram story about a google doc sign up for adopting a classroom and used that. I also noticed there is a website called Adopt-a-Classroom.  My teacher blogger friend Barbara Balius sent me a message about her school's GoFund Me page. You can also go directly to GoFund Me because when I looked there there were plenty of places that needed to still raise funds. You can also reach out to your teacher friends. You probably know, especially via Facebook, people in areas affected by hurricane and other natural disasters. Send a message, see if they are okay, ask how their classroom is an find out what they need.

After adopting a classroom, if that is the route you are going, you will likely either get an email address for the teacher in need and/or a Amazon wish list. The teacher I adopted had both so I reached out via e-mail first. I also asked her what else is on her wish list besides what she posted on Amazon. From what I can tell, being affected by a natural disaster and losing everything in your classroom (or almost everything) is very overwhelming. Teachers may also be involved in the clean up and rebuilding efforts. My teacher was and so she was spending 8 hours a day at the school gutting it and told me she was more exhausted than she had ever been and felt like she had little time to make a mental list of what she would need.  So I thought of about ten high use items in my room and asked her if she needed them. Also, many teachers may be displaced from their room and be teaching in a different location or even a building that is not a school. My teacher's school is borrowing space from a church but they have to carry in and carry out what they will use every single day. Rebuilidng is tough, but teachers are very appreciative of help and support from anyone willing to give it.
 I started by discussing things with my principal and grade level team. A fellow teacher decided to adopt the teacher from Texas with me, since I felt she had a need for so much and we felt it was more like she would get more help if we worked to together. As a school we began discussing what we could do. We are a PreK-2 school so we decided that directly discussing the hurricane and showing images might be too scary for our littlest kids, so we are doing a coin drive and providing a link for parents to donate directly through the Red Cross. Our principal felt comfortable with the older students being more involved and adopting classrooms. I also reached out to my students' parents, explaining in an e-mail and detailed blog post what we are doing and how adopting a classroom works. I received some positive feedback and right away a few folks got our Texas teacher some of her wish list items.
I read some advice on different websites about how to talk to your class. has an article with some good advice.They state "While children may seek and benefit form basic information about what happened so that they can understand what is happening in their word, they (and adults) do not benefit from graphic details or exposure to disturbing images and sounds".  When I discussed the hurricane with my class, they all knew about it and I explained that because of the storm, there were terrible floods and that some classrooms were completely flooded and everything in the classroom was ruined. We talked about how the teacher and students might feel and how we would feel if it happened to us. The American Academy of Pediatrics also has a terrific post here. They mention the importance of acknowledging the children's feelings. They stress the importance of "listening and responding in an honest, consistent and supportive manner".
If you connect with a specific teacher, you will likely get an official Amazon wish list or a wish list via e-mail. Amazon is easy! I just looked up her wishlist, found an item to send, and added it to my cart. Then, once I went into the cart, her wishlist address popped up on the left in my addresses options, so I clicked that and proceeded to send and ship it (free with Prime).  Also because Amazon wish lists have a nice link, I just included that in my e-mail to parents and the blog post on our classroom blog.
Another idea I had was using Scholastic Book Points to send books to her. Here is a  quick (less than two minutes) video explaining it!
And if you are not a video fan, here is it in a nutshell. My students suggested books to send. I looked them up on the Scholastic Book Club site. If I found one I "saved" it by hitting the heart button and then choosing "wish list" (basically like favoriting it). Then I am going to go today and submit our own classroom order, which will give us more book club points. After that, I will put as many books as I can in an order, use the book club points so it won't cost a penny. *Additional information. I was just ordering the books for her, and technically you need one paid item to get free shipping, so I ordered one copy of Ralph S. Mouse, which cost $1.00! And another glitch - Scholastic Book Clubs does not seem to allow you to change your mailing address so the books will just have to be sent to me and I will take the box to the Post Office. I think they could go media mail which is the cheapest.   Still, I was able to get 29 free books for our Texas Teacher and just have to pay to ship them from the post office! Yay!
If it is a challenge to find a way to donate hard goods, you can do a coin drive with your class or school, you can encourage students and parents to donate to an organization with a good reputation like the Red Cross or use a site like GoFund Me to donate money. My school also one did a fund drive with a Hat Day. Students were allowed to wear hats but had to donate $1.00 or 50 cents and that money went to relief for the disaster in Haiti. There are definitely many ways to be creative with it!

So, do these ideas help or inspire you? What are some others ways that you and your class have helped out? Please comment and share them! Thank you!

25 More Pop Songs to Use with Students

I love music - I love listening to it, singing along, and I play a bunch of instruments too... and I love to share music and incorporate music with my second grade students. Plus, many of my friends have young kids and I know parents are always trying to find popular songs that are acceptable for their kids to listen to. When you look and listen closely to lyrics though, many are not acceptable, especially for younger elementary students. So, as a follow up to my previous blog post from a few years ago, 25 Pop Songs to Use with Students, I searched and found 25 more that will be okay for use with elementary school students or younger children.

How did I find them? Well, I listen to lots of music so as I was listening to the radio the last month or so, I kept a running list of ideas on my phone. Then I looked up about 60 songs on AZ Lyrics to see which ones could make the list. I had to eliminate more than half for reasons like such as curse words which I didn't know about, or they were about romance. The lyrics needed to be applicable and/or acceptable to students. My disclaimer is pretty much the same as in my previous blog posts about using music in the classroom. You should always listen to the entire song and read the lyrics yourself before playing it in class - the same thing you probably do when you play a video from Youtube for your students. And this list is for music only - I am not recommending playing any videos in class. I put the videos in the post so you can have a quick listen to the songs yourself only.

For each song, I included a brief summary of my interpretation and anything I think you should know about the song. You might also like to check out my blog post called 25 Oldies to Use with Kids if you are also a music lover and if if you just want to mix it up!

CAN'T STOP THE FEELING by Justin Timberlake
I really don't need to explain this one, right? Just listen and enjoy!
CENTURIES  by Fall Out Boy
The centuries in this song refer to how long the singer will be known. It's about being a legend beyond your own time.
SOLDIER by Gavin DeGraw
The video is also worth a watch. It's all about helping others and includes people who have faced hard times, those who come together to hep others, mentions of charitable organizations that you can donate to, and also includes Ed, a "schoolteacher who believes education matters". Preach, Gavin!
I'M BORN TO RUN by American Authors
This is a fun, upbeat song about traveling the world, meeting and befriending others, and living life to the fullest. The only caveat, is it may only be appropriate for older elementary students because of the line in the chorus: "I''m gonna live my life like I'm gone die young".  It's awfully catchy though! If this one doesn't work your class, try their song "Best Day of my Life".
BE ALRIGHT by Ariana Grande
This song is pretty much what the title implies - that even through hard times, we will be alright. It also talks about you can have some control over how things go by having a positive attitude and staying determined.

This song was also featured in the movie Pitch Perfect 2, so if it sounds familiar, that may be why. It's another tune about someone who supports others and how that can help others remain strong in tough times. A lot of these songs seems to have this theme, don't they? I think things in our world are pretty challenging right now and that may be why so many artists put this theme into their songs. This song could apply to friendship, family, or a love relationship. You can also play the Hailee Steinfeld version, whom some students may be more familiar with.

EYES CLOSER by In Real Life
This song was pretty high on iTunes this week. I had never heard of them, but they are just getting famous thanks to their appearance on the reality show Boy Band. The song is about a love interest, but it also has the possibility of applying to anyone. The chorus is, "even with my eyes close you're beautiful" and "I wish you could see what I'm seeing'. Basically, what is inside is more important.
THE FIGHTER by Keith Urban with Carrie Underwood
This song! It does not sound like a country song - definitely more like a pop/dance song. And is all about (again) supporting another person and staying strong for them, to help them stay strong. This may be one of my favorites on the list!

WELCOME TO NEW YORK  by Taylor Swift
I don't think she had an official music video for this song, but this might be just right for you if you teach or live in NYC or New York, or if you are heading on a field trip!  Sort of like with Frank Sinatra's New York, New York, it's all about the excitement of getting to the city and the possibilities of building a life here. You can also play the less dance-y, poppy version by Ryan Adams. He covered her entire album, 1989.
AIN'T NO MAN by the Avett Brothers
This is a very fun , catchy song by the Avett Brothers who have had a following for a while (did you know the dog food line I and Love and You was named after one of their songs?) but hadn't become well known until now. The theme is about staying positive, sharing love and not letting anything hold you back.

PRICE TAG by Jessie J
This song has been around a while but it's another one that might work in the classroom. In today's material - driven world, it's about focusing on happiness and joy (basically, in the form of "we just want to make the world dance"). You could play a version with or without the rap from B.O.B. depending on how you feel about it.
Apparently I missed the update when Pink became P!nk but on her Vevo channel, she has the exclamation point. My interpretation is the song is saying if you are your unique, powerful self, you will be able to do amazing things, and reminds you to not let the haters get you down!
HOW FAR I'LL GO by Alessia Cara
Yes, this song is from the Moana soundtrack, but don't knock it. Cara is becoming a hugely popular singer and  this song was in the iTunes top songs. This song is about being yourself and being true to what you love. It also reflects on the struggles so many of us have when we are torn between what our families and communities expect from us and what we really want to do with our lives.
This meaning of this song is a little hard to figure out so I did some research. It is about a fight that singer Isaac Slade had with his brother and former fellow bandmate. One verse is told from each brother's perspective. Slade said sometimes you just have to fight things out with someone and that now "he's one of my best friends today".
LOST BOY by Ruth B.
This song is, as you can tell, is a musical interpretation of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and about finding a home and support from kind, friendly others. This song is unique because it's a young woman singing about being a lost boy, and a fourth grader sang a beautiful version of this at one of our school assemblies.
WHAT'S MY NAME? by China Anne McClain
This one is also about being confident and determined and is from the soundtrack of Descendants 2, which seems to have a lot of catchy, popular songs.
MOONLIGHT by Grace Vanderwaal
She has a beautiful voice and unique style which is sort of a cross between pop and folk. The chorus is "The light from your eyes makes me feel like we were dancin' in the moonlight". Take a listen for yourself! It seems to be about having fun with friends and loved ones.
BELIEVER by Imagine Dragons
This is a really fun song that has become really popular. If you read the lyrics, it is a little confusing by my interpretation is that it expressing one's feelings (good and bad) through writing and art and that his drive to succeed, life and love came from getting through the pain of the past. I did read that the lead singer has ankylosing spondylitis and depression which has caused him a lot of suffering for many years.  His mental and physical health has done a 180 recently, however, which is why their new songs have a positive, powerful energy. The only caveat with this song is that there is a a lyric: "Oh let the bullets fly", however, the way the song is sung, it is really hard to tell. Up to you if you use it!
THUNDER by Imagine Dragons
Yes, another one by Imagine Dragons, because their new songs are terrific! Thunder is a great song which is basically about a comeback. The singer makes reference to being made fun of in school but now he is happy and loving performing on stage.
BELIEVE by Shawn Mendes
This cute, fun song is about believing in yourself and going for your dreams!
SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS by Chainsmokers with Coldplay
You don't even have to look up the lyrics because this creative video includes them! The video has a child's artwork with chalk lettered words and in it, the child becomes the superhero. Plus the song is uplifting and makes people want to dance!
I'M STILL STANDING by Taron Egerton
Yes, I know this is an "oldie" from Elton John but it has gotten new life with it's cover by Taron Egerton for the Sing Soundtrack and is now on the iTunes top 200. Plus, it's so positive and another set of lyrics that reinforces that we can go though tough times and get through them,
HEARTBEAT SONG by Kelly Clarkson
This is pretty much just a happy song, perhaps about coming out of tough times - or maybe Kelly had been feeling down and found new happiness in life. I think it was written when she was pregnant, so the heartbeat may have been that of her daughter, but it could have been interpreted as one's own heartbeat or that of any loved one.
I'M SHIPPING UP TO BOSTON  by Dropkick Murphys
Like Welcome to New York, this would be great for those of you who live in a certain area- Boston or New England. The song is is a huge deal at Boston sporting events. The only caveat is that the sailor in the song lost his leg in an accident which is a little unpleasant, so the reason he is going up to Boston is to get his wooden leg.

I hope you enjoyed this list and if you have any songs I should add to my next list, please let me know! 
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