Don’t Want To Go Back? Create A Monday Folder!

As teachers, we’re given cards or notes from students, parents, and administration thanking us for our hard work or for going that extra mile.  This is especially true around the holidays or at the end of the year.  These kind gestures are somewhat expected and, most often, somewhat overlooked with a simple, “well, that was nice after a hellish year.” What do we do with these cards, notes, letters, drawings, etc? Typically, mine landed in a pile, stacked amongst binders and notebooks from the year. I might find them a few months later, read through a few, and at best, they’d continue to live amongst binders; at worst, they’d be thrown away. A few really good ones might make it home and into a memory bin store in the Let me introduce you to the “Monday Folder.” The Monday Folder is a folder or binder that stores meaningful cards and letter from students, parents, and administration. Why? Because when you don’t feel like going back on Monday, you’re reminded of the real value of your work and the power that you have within your classroom. Two weeks ago, I received a Facebook message from my 8th grade teacher. He said that he was looking in his basement for a painting he had done, and he came upon a letter that I had written to hi the day after graduation. To my teacher I wrote, “You can’t even begin to imagine all the days you helped my life become easier.” It continued, “Thank you. I know that those two words, thank you, seem so short for all I’m trying to say,...

Cure for a Bad Day

Cure for a Bad Day “I could either continue to be frustrated and unproductive or I could make a different decision.” #extraordinaryteachers Let’s face it, we all suffer from bad days or frustrating moments. As a teacher, it is super easy to let a bad moment or a bad lesson permeate the entire day. Of course this is true for all professions; however, as a teacher our day is super fast paced (no time for recovery or perspective) and often times negativity breeds negativity (ie: the Spanish teacher had a tough day, complained about it in the lounge, and now you feel drained too). When we are sucked into a bad day, we are robbed of all the joy the current moment can bring. I’m a huge proponent of “feeling what you have to feel,” but then move on. So if a pen explodes during your observation or if someone cuts you off while driving – feel frustrated, embarrassed, annoyed, angry – those things are awful, and then choose to MOVE ON. Notice that you have a choice. You have a choice to continue feeling crappy or a choice to move on and bring happy back. In this video, I breakdown the cure for a bad day. If you are a frustrated and overwhelmed teacher and want to find more happiness in and out of your classroom, sign up to receive my weekly video blogs...

Become The Happiest Teacher You Know In 3 Easy Steps

Become The Happiest Teacher You Know In 3 Easy Steps In our recent survey of 300+ teachers, we heard the following challenges again and again: “There’s not enough time!” “I’m overwhelmed!” “I feel unsupported!” Can you relate? I sure can! As a special education teacher for 9 years, I’ve had my fair share of tears, breakdowns and margaritas trying to cope with the stress of the job. Stressors including trying to plan and cope with IEP meetings, implementing the common core, behavioral management plans, all before breakfast. Truth be told, years ago I almost left teaching altogether. But I stuck it out and now I’m super happy, calm and fulfilled. So what changed? I learned tools to: Increase my happiness Identify my needs and how to communicate them with others Manage my time efficiently Set healthy boundaries with others (especially with people at work) Find joy (not stress) in trying times Foster supportive relationships And, most importantly… I learned and accepted the truth that I am the only person responsible for my happiness! Despite all the curriculum changes, evaluations, and people-pleasing…at the end of the day, your well-being trumps it all. And yet, how often do we focus on our own well-being? You may be thinking, “I don’t have time to focus on me!” I hear you! That’s why I’m sharing a 3 minute (yes, only 3 minutes!) strategy to incorporate in your busy day. Here’s the… 3 Minute Life-Changing, Happiness-Increasing Strategy: 1. Time It: Grab your phone and set a timer for 2 minutes. Easy enough, right? 2. Write It: Pick an area of your life and take 2 minutes to answer this question: To make BLANK (how...

Keep Hope Alive

Keep Hope Alive This week I had the opportunity to talk to a bunch of teachers from all over the country. Some had gone back to school mid-August and others just last week. When talking to teachers about how they’re managing their school year so far, the overwhelming response was, “exhausted, but hopeful.” School just started, and many teachers are already feeling overworked, overtired and exhausted. The more we feel this way, the more hope and promise diminish. I’m left wondering: How do we manage our workloads and exhaustion? And… How do we keep hope alive? When I hear about “managing workloads and exhaustion,” I almost want to cry! What this makes me think of is “another thing I have to do” or “another thing I have to fix.” If you feel the same way, I get it! Our list of action items include: lesson plans, student issues, parent needs, administrative requests, grading, assessments, politics, curriculum, bureaucracy, CCLS, APPRs, IEPs… —> it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting AND it’s also our profession, our love, or at the very least, our income. The only person to change this is us, so we have got to take control and the very first step is… Taking control of our thoughts. If we keep saying “it’s exhausting,” guess what, it will be! When we say something is exhausting, there’s no where to go from there. But if we say that something is challenging, we can choose to be up for the challenge (or not!). Do you see where I’m going here? Language is critical to how we perceive life. When we choose empowering language, we have room to...

Protect Yourself Against Curmudgeons

Protect Yourself Against Curmudgeons Curmudgeons: bad-tempered, surly, negative, difficult, cantankerous people. Typically after being around a curmudgeon for 5-minutes you feel drained, dragged down, frustrated, tired, etc. Do you know someone who has this affect on you? You must protect your energy against curmudgeons now! It’s the beginning of the school year and the amount of time you give them now, sets a precedent for how much time will be expected of you throughout the year. We’re teachers – we’re kind and loving and helpful – but at what cost to you, your energy, and your attitude? Here are some helpful tips to help you handle the energy suckers in your life. Let’s Set Some Healthy Boundaries… Or as I like to call it, loving from a distance. Set the intention now of how you want to handle the curmudgeons in your school and your life! Practice setting healthy boundaries and what type of loving communication you’d like to use. Remember that tone matters, so play around with it and see how they sound to you. Here are two of my favorite examples: “I’m so sorry you have to deal with that. I know (___) can be really difficult. I hope it gets resolved for you quickly. Please excuse me I have to (___).” “So you really think that this task is going to be challenging. Well, okay! Let’s just jump in and see how we can move it forward. One idea I had was (___).” Or… Unless you’re in an instructional coach position, administrator, or moonlight as a therapist, that should be all you need to do. As teachers, we must protect...

How To Relax This Summer

Congratulations! You did it! You finished another school year. Maybe it was the hardest year of your life, or maybe you had the best class ever, either way, another school year has come to a close. This means it’s summer!!! It’s one of the perks of being a teacher right? Summers off!! Yes…and… Many times summer flies by and you are walking back into your classroom feeling like you never left. Don’t let that happen to you! Here are three reminders for you to get the most out of your summer, and make sure you are ready to bring the happy back into your classroom in the fall: 1) Be Intentional With Your Time If you want to spend the day binge watching TV, do it! But be intentional that that is what you are doing – you are guiltlessly relaxing! Being intentional is just making sure you are in charge of your time. Each morning, take a few moments to really think about your day. How do you want to feel today? What needs to get accomplished? How might that look? Can you incorporate some of how you wanted to feel into your day? For example, if you want to feel pampered, can you find 15 minutes to pamper your toes and give yourself a pedicure? Or if you wanted to feel rested, can you schedule a short nap or time for a bath? You have the power to be in control of your summer! 2) Slow Down Summer goes fast enough. If you don’t slow down, before you know it you are back in your classroom looking...

Emotional Literacy in Education

What Is It And Why Should You Care? Emotional Literacy (or emotional intelligence as it’s more commonly referred to) is “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” (definition from Wikipedia) Whew, that is a mouthful. Basically emotional literacy is understanding and dealing with emotions. Why is this important as a teacher? Well, aren’t we already dealing with emotions everyday? I think emotions and feelings are the most important thing we should know how to deal with as teachers. Not only to understand our own emotions, but teach our students how to understand and deal with their own emotions. Our students are not getting as much emotional support at home. Especially if you work in a lower income district, students come to school with all of these feelings and look to teachers and the school day for them to be expressed. Many kids don’t understand what is going on with them, and many kids have high emotional literacy, but don’t have the space to learn how to understand it. Then you look at the teacher, we are overwhelmed and overworked, and our feelings are spilling out all over the place. We don’t have time to teach what we need to teach in 42 minutes so forget even talking about feelings. That is the problem. When we don’t understand it, even though they are happening all the time, feelings that is, then we ignore it and it becomes a huge problem. So, emotional literacy is super important for teachers...

Forming Meaningful Connections As Teachers

One of the most important aspects of our job as teachers is forming meaningful connections with the people around us. Not only does it make teaching more fun, it also increases our effectiveness as teachers. Here are three areas that are the most important in forming meaningful connections as teachers, and for you to feel happier in & out of your classroom! Know Who YOU Are: Connecting To Self! In order to really form amazing relationships with students and colleagues, it’s really important to have a firm sense of who you are. Here are some reminders for you to connect deeper with yourself on a daily basis. Listen to yourself – Are you complaining? Whining? What do you sound like to others? If you don’t like it, change it. Slow down – try not to act as if you are always in a hurry. All kids deserve someone who will have time for them. Show them you have time, even if you feel like you don’t. Make time for yourself as well, you deserve it! Get a life – outside your classroom. You don’t assign homework seven days a week, so don’t take work home every night. Do something for you outside of school. You will be happier and your students will benefit from it as well. Talk less, listen more, reflect daily – this applies to all aspects of your life. Spend time with people who are not teachers- it will help you get outside of school talk for a while. Or when you are with your teacher friends outside of school, do not talk about school! Know...

The Power of FOCUS

“The key to being insanely efficient is minimizing unproductive behavior.” @xordinaryteach Are you the type of teacher who never seems to have enough time? For many years that was the case for me. Before I learned tools to help me become more efficient, I always felt like I was drowning in paperwork and lesson plans. Although I had heard of many other time management strategies, they seemed inapplicable to me as a teacher. One of the best strategies that I have found for managing my time is called FOCUS. In this method you figure out your task and zoom in. You take one thing at a time and cut out unproductive behavior. You must remind yourself that the only one responsible for protecting your time is you. And lastly, set your mind on success. If you are feeling overwhelmed and feel as though you don’t have enough time, practice these steps and I guarantee you’ll understand the power of focus. In this video I breakdown a time management strategy called FOCUS. If you are an overwhelmed and busy teacher and want to find more happiness in your classroom and your life, sign up to receive my weekly video blogs...

How To Resist Checking Out

Tweetable: Resist checking out! Don’t miss your life! #happyteachers Learn how to resist checking out. This time of year screams overwhelm! It makes perfect sense if you think about it. We hibernate for months, and then… we’re wrapping up a school year sporting and extracurricular events are in full swing invitations for graduations, wedding showers, celebrations like Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, etc. kick in to high gear we’re busy making plans for summer (is anyone else booked until August already?) we’re planning for next school year (who’s retiring, moving grade levels, etc.) …and did I mention the weather’s nice and all you want to do is be outside?!          When things get overwhelming, it’s natural to start checking out. Energy, time, and motivation are lacking, and it’s easier to check out than freak out. In the last week, I’ve heard “I can’t wait until school’s out,” “I can’t wait until summer,” and “I can’t wait until the end of June,” more times than I can count. But that’s 4-6 weeks of our lives. In this video, I suggest quite possibly the easiest tip to avoid checking out. If you are a teacher and want to find more happiness in and out of your classroom, sign up to receive my weekly video blogs...

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