Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Daily Logs and Building Skills

I've been wanting to blog more regularly. However, the last few years have definitely provided an atmosphere that has made it difficult for consistency. Even when I do have an idea for a post many times I'm tired or I just can't bring myself to do it, and even when I do it takes a long time to actually get me to where I'm publishing it. So I decided to change things up a little bit and instead of waiting for the inspiration of a blog post or a big project to share, I decided to start sharing just simple activities and strategies that I use on a regular basis. I would love for this to be a weekly post focusing on something that I did that week. I feel like that might be a little ambitious so we'll shoot for once a month and if I get more than that it's bonus!

I'm cheating a little bit with this one, because this is a strategy that I used prior to Christmas break. But it's a good one so I feel like it's worth it. This a collaboration between my teacher, bestie, Becca Hawthorne, and myself. (PS...find yourself a good teacher friend who you can bounce idea off of. I can't tell you how many ideas have become awesome because of chatting with Becca).

We find ourselves doing a lot of projects, and trying to work in different employability skills. Incorporating those "soft skills" that students really need (and want) to learn to develop. One of the things our students constantly talk about wanting to improve is their time management and organization of many tasks over a series of days. We've played around with using daily logs before. But this final one that we came up with worked really well and had just a couple extra elements in it.

First off.. We start with a Got Done List. This term "got done list"  came to us from our amazing counselor. She uses it as a strategy at the end of the day rather than making a to-do for tomorrow she makes a got done list for the day. This way she can feel accomplished with things but she got done. (BRILLIANT!!! And definitely one for personal use as well as the classroom)

We figured this was a great strategy for students to use on project work days. So the first section of our daily log is the "Got Done List". What did you get done? They listed off in a bullet like format. Depending on what they worked on. It may be one thing. Or maybe they got three things done in a day. There's no specific requirement other than they have to be specific. They can't just say worked on research, they need to be specific on what they researched and where they researched it.

The next column is labeled "Goals" and asks students to make a list of what they like to try to work on tomorrow. This is that organization piece to the employability skills. They know they have a lot of tasks to complete, and trying to organize what needs to be done and when is an important life skill. This section is meant to help them develop that ability.

The final piece to this puzzle is the teacher signature. This was the brilliant addition by Miss Hawthorne! This allows the teacher to check in with each student on what they accomplished for the day. In order to get the signature they have to physically show what they claim to have accomplished. So if they worked on Google slides, they need to show me the specific slides they got done.  I won't sign off unless I can see proof of the work they accomplished. And then when I glance at their list for tomorrow. Gives me an opportunity to ask them if there's anything I can do to help or if there's anything they need from me to be successful. It's a great little check-in at the end of the class and gives me an opportunity to pick out anyone who may be struggling with time management and could use a little more guidance and attention from me. This might just be my favorite part of the entire log sheet! 

Now, I took this project log, that's meant for an individuals, and I adapted it for my class final group project. The log is essentially the same, except instead of my signature, they need a teammate to sign off on their log. This does two things. It helps with the time management organization piece that the individual log did, and it adds in an accountability piece as well. I make sure to take time at the beginning to explain the importance of their signature and verifying the work completed by their partners. They can't backtrack later and say, " well Janie really didn't do the work that she said she did, we were just being nice..."  That doesn't fly. This hopefully helps them to have conversations before there's conflict about work ethic. It's also allows me, as teacher, to facilitate having the difficult conversations if its needed. Typically I find if students know that the expectation is for them to log their progress each day, they tend to make more progress!

Want to copy of these logs? Just click below, make a copy and it's yours! Just don't actually claim that is yours... 😉

Also...follow my teacher bestie on Twitter! @MsHawthorne266  she's the best!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

REAL "Self" Care

If I have one more person tell me to take some time to "rest" and practice "self-care" by getting a massage and my nails done with a Starbucks coffee in the other hand, I may seriously lose it. (Although, I'll still take that Starbucks drink...). I am so tired of people thinking that all I need to do is ADD SOMETHING ELSE TO MY PLATE IN ORDER TO FEEL BETTER. 

Newsflash. My plate has been overflowing for the better part of 3 years!!!! 

Something needs to be done. The rate I'm going (and many other teachers) isn't sustainable. I need change, and I have some ideas. Yesterday I posted about my 2022 word of the year being "ok" and working on learning how to be "ok with ok". Now I'm going to tell you why I really chose that word. Yes, what I said in the post is true...but it's also necessary to help me on the path to REAL self-care.

You see...REAL self-care to me isn't just a mani-pedi and a girls night out. REAL self-care is making small changes to my daily routine that can help relieve some of the stress that has been balling itself up at the top of my shoulders for the better part of 3 years. 

In order to do this. I need some reflection. Some real, honest reflection on what is the most stressful things right now and how can I work on those areas to help relieve it. I thought I'd highlight two areas of growth in the classroom and two areas of growth outside of school where I'm going to focus my energy. Taking stress off my plate at growing at the same time. Win-Win


1. Being OK with OK - - I am very good at what I do. This is not me "bragging," this is my truth. I am very good at what I do (one of my resolutions a couple years ago was to own it and stop denying it because I was afraid of people judging me for being too cocky). I work incredibly hard, I am creative, I am a whiz with document formatting and creating engaging lessons. I can whip out a new activity in lightning speed (just ask my team...) My classroom just works. It works because I WORK. I collaborate with some of the BEST teachers on Twitter, I learn new strategies, I read, I talk with our curriculum specialists, I brainstorm with my all has made a HUGE difference in the quality of my teaching. The downside to this is that I am constantly creating new activities, lessons, and projects. I love it, I truly do. A lesson that went well would go even better if I did "this". I need to stop. I need to have a semester, or year, or couple of years, where I just deliver good lessons without adding to it. (Being "ok with ok") Everything that I did last semester was good work. Students had essential questions, quality activities, engaging projects, rigorous topics and participated in discussions. I can do all of that again, without making big changes that end up taking time away from other areas in my life. I will be the first to admit, this will be hard for me to do. I LOVE creating new lessons. I LOVE brainstorming new activities, and I LOVE the joy of seeing it all come together. But I need to hold off It's time to take a little step back from that so I can relieve some of my stress. PLUS...I need to model to new teachers a healthier way of teaching.

2. Keeping up with Absent Student Work - - This (and attendance) my be my weakest area as a teacher. I get so bogged down with who missed which day, what work they need to do to make it up, when that work needs to be in and how to get it graded without losing track of who did it, what they did, and when they turned it in. Sheesh! I'm stressing just typing all of this. I have a plan of attack. In the time I'm going to save by not redoing perfectly good lessons, I'm going to work on organizing my absent daily lesson plans. Here's a picture of what my "unit plans" look like... 

Here's a picture of what I'm going to start adding to it. An email template that has the daily to-do list, with links copied, and instructions videoed. This way I can copy the text and send the email to my absent students each day.  This really isn't that much work...I already have the big stuff done. It's a matter of copy/paste and changing the page to landscape. 


1. Working out twice a week with a personal trainer. - -  I actually started this in mid-November and I LOVE it. I knew that exercise was listed as the #1 stress reliever, but trying to figure out how to add it to my plate, decide what to do, and then stick with it for longer than a week was just not happening. So I decided to take the money I was spending on getting my nails done twice a month and put that towards working with a personal trainer at my local YMCA. I decided on twice a week. And let me tell you...I LOVE IT SO MUCH! The stress of the day (week) just seems to melt away. But let me tell you why I really love it. I don't have to make ANY DECISIONS. Once I show up my trainer tells me what to do. I don't have have to think about anything other than my form (and how hard I'm breathing). He even counts for me! For 30 minutes, twice a week, I literally get to let go of all the pressure. And since I'm paying for it, I don't find a million and one excuses not to go. I have to be there. Even better...I WANT to be there! 

2. Laundry. - - This is my nemesis. I never can seem to get a handle on it, and when I do have time, I will literally make up another "to-do" list of things to keep me from it. I'm not trying to be unrealistic with my desire to get better at washing, drying, folding, and putting away laundry...remember, small changes that can have a big impact. I hate doing laundry...and I hate devoting my entire Saturday to trying to catch up on 12 loads. My small change? Trying to complete two loads of laundry through the week. That may not seem like much, but it's a start. A small change that can help relieve some of what I have to do on the weekend. PLUS...if I'm successful at my "ok with ok" initiative for school, I'm hoping to get home sooner in the afternoons that would hopefully free up a little time to complete a load. 

I'll say it again. To me REAL self-care is something that will help me improve my weak areas in order to relieve some of the stress and pressure of being a full-time working teacher-mom. I am a server. I love to help others, watch them learn and grow, and see them succeed. I know that in order to help my family and my students I need to help myself. Like all of us, I am a work in progress. I hope to see a new kind of progress in 2022. 

PS...want a link to the Lesson Plan Template for 2022? Click here and make a copy! 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

My "One Word" of 2022

I just love a fresh start. A new tube of toothpaste, fresh bottle of shampoo, dipping a clean knife into a smooth top of freshly opened peanut butter. All provide me with a strange sense of satisfaction. So it's no real surprise to anyone that I love New Year. I love the opportunity to start over, set new goals to achieve and make changes for the better. 

As a teacher, I technically get two "New Years" to celebrate. January and August. 

In January, the last few years, I have chosen a "one-word" to focus on my growth and goals. Words in the past have been "Consistency" and "Balance". Both good, solid words that can be applied in both my personal and professional life. 

This year I've had a hard time coming up with a word. It's not because I'm tired, burnt out, or just "don't care" it's more that I know what I'm wanting to improve on, but summing it all up in on word that's meaningful and powerful has been difficult. I just keep coming back to this one word. It's not fancy, powerful, or strong. But it just keeps popping up. 

Ready for the word. 


That's it. Two little letters that sum up my entire focus for the year. OK. 

I find myself constantly having to remind myself "It's ok." 

It's ok if I leave my desk cluttered at the end of the day in order to get home in time to see my son get off the bus from preschool.

It's ok that I don't volunteer for a committee, even if it's something I would enjoy.

It's ok if I don't have the essays graded in two days (or a week).

It's ok if I don't meticulously adjust an activity until it's perfect. 

It's ok if my lesson ended 10 minutes early and I let the kids just "chill" for the last bit of class. 

It's ok if I don't grade something and put it in as "participation" 

It's ok if I am not at school 30 minutes earlier than my contracted time.

It's ok if I don't email that parent back at 8:00 PM 

It's ok if I use exactly the same lesson plan that I used last semester, even if I know there are some places that need some tweaking. It's still going to be a kick-ass lesson. Because I'm a kick-ass teacher. 

It's ok for me to say that. 

It's ok. 

I'm trying to learn to take some of the pressure off of myself to be perfect. This is hard for me, not because I want to be perfect, but because the creation of new lessons, making small tweaks to improve the efficiency of an activity, and designing a new project are FUN for me. I love doing it. It fills my cup and gives me a "high" that I can't explain. 

But...on the other end of the "cup filling" creation is where I tend to find my stress. The piles of papers that need to be graded, the absent students who need instruction, the guilt for not providing timely feedback. You see...there's no real way for teachers to BOTH provide creative, engaging lessons AND provide timely effective feedback to help students grow. There's just not time to do both. order to improve I need to be ok with things being OK for a little while. 

And 2022 seems like a good time.