Monday, May 4, 2015

What Works: Successful Teachers Share Secrets from their Classrooms

"The best teachers teach from the heart, not the books."

Besides that quote being my tagline, I'm sure you've heard it before. We, teachers, seriously matter when it comes to everything else in the world. All politics aside, we matter and we need to stick together to build one another up and educate our youth. What better way to collaborate with one another than by sharing helpful teaching secrets!

Let me let you in on a little secret that hit me last week. April 23rd to be exact. It was THAT exact day that I finally felt like I had a 100% handle on my classroom as a whole. You'd think I would have felt that way in, mmm, maybe September or October. I'm sure I did somewhat, but if I'm being truthful, I was just surviving. The academics, the organization, the schedule... everything that goes in to teaching my special friends, and I finally feel like I have my ish together now. Sure, there's only 30-some days left in this school year, but it was that refreshing feeling I needed in the chaos that Spring brings. And you know what? It's OKAY! I tried many different things in my first year as a Life Skills teacher and I finally got it. Now I'm pumped up to finish out the school year strong and get everything ready for next school year. 

It's better late than never so don't give up! Keep going and know that you'll make it. It's normal to feel like you're just surviving and I promise you that it's okay. Your kids love you, they respect you, and they look forward to seeing your smiling face every morning. Remember that when the days get tough and you feel like you're sinking. You ARE making a difference and you ARE doing what you are meant to be doing... TEACHING! 

You've probably heard this before, so it may not be a secret, but it is one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given.
Make friends with the custodians, the secretaries, and the technology people in your school. Be friendly. Smile and say hello when you see them. It means so much to them, you'll make some new friends, and when an issue arises in your classroom when you need them, they'll make sure you get taken care of.

In my first school, the tech guy put the brand new Microsoft Office set up on my MacBookPro I had just gotten. For free. (And I may have used a Mac Apple decal to decorate the outside of his window that he couldn't reach... he was anti-Apple and I can be kind of a prankster). At my third school, one of the custodians was Vietnamese and the conversations we would have were so awesome (I secretly taught him American curse words... did I just admit that out loud?!) And I love the technology person in my current school. When I see her in the computer lab, we chit chat and have the kind of relationship where we can vaguely vent and support one another. Best. Teacher. Decision. Ever!
My third and final secret is to plan for the year when you can. Even just reading that sentence makes you feel overwhelmed, am I right? I don't blame you. It's a huge task, but I promise you that it's worth it. Start small, likes with your centers or your morning routine.

For me, I started with my writing center. When I started my second year of teaching, I needed a writing resource that would keep students engaged and was easy for me to manage, so I created these monthly-themed illustrated writing prompt cards. 
My favorite part of how these writing prompt cards on binder rings turned out is that my kids can toss them, flip them, drop them... and they don't get mixed up! The binder ring keep them in order and I never lose a prompt. 
By having my writing center finished and set up at the beginning of the year, I have one less thing to worry about. I've done the same with my calendar center, and my morning routine is literally stress free! This summer I will be working very hard on my yearly spelling program to have that set up for next school year.


  1. I love your blog! You are so write about making friends with the custodians, secretaries, and the technology people in your school!

    Neat Sweet & Hard to Beat

  2. Did you ever pick a winner for the 2nd pack?