Reflections



Tomorrow is the LAST DAY of school before Christmas break.  And although I may not have 3 weeks off like some people {cough, cough, Teeny}...the anticipation of 12 days off has provided me just enough energy to reflect on the past year.  Link up here, here or here!!
 
{one}
We started the year by announcing that our family was going to be growing by ONE!
 
{two}
Shortly thereafter, we made another announcement:
 
{three}
We spent Easter with my Georgia Family.  Our trip was full of beautiful weather, lots of good food AND an improv comedy show.
 

 
{four}
I spent the rest of April and May traveling all over PA to administer PSSAs (zZzZ) and graduate our kindergarteners.  Life as a Cyber School Kinder teacher was definitely different but the experience was worth it!
 
{five}
Despite not being able to attend TPT Vegas, I still managed to find my tribe.  I got together with these AMAZING women a few times over the summer and cannot wait to reunite in a week : )
Lauren : Teaching in Stripes
Caitlin : Cait's Cool School
Becky : The Literary Maven
Becky : The Class Couple
Kelli : Kelli Alaina
 
{six}
My amazing mom threw a beautiful baby shower complete with everything nautical. 
 
 
{seven}
I worked ALL summer--grad classes, baby prep AND I wrote lesson plans which were published on Education.com.  I knew I had to get it all in before baby boy's arrival!
 
 
 
{eight}
With the encouragement of my tribe, I interviewed for a teaching job while 8 months pregnant.  After interviewing for countless jobs without a human growing inside of me, I was SURE interviewers would take one look at my belly and politely decline (even though I know it is technically illegal to do so).  Well, guess what?! They didn't!! And I was hired for my very first contract position as a 2nd grade teacher! What a whirlwind!!
My classroom on the first day while kids were at special.
 
{nine}
SURPRISE!! Harrison was born the weekend after the first week of school.
 
{ten}
Enjoying life as a family of three : )  We spent Thanksgiving with both sides of our family and cannot wait to celebrate the holidays with our sweet boy!
 
{eleven}
A baby and a new job were obviously the most exciting aspects of my 2015.  BUT I also made a promise to myself that no matter what I would go to the next TPT conference and I am proud to say my hotel IS BOOKED!!! I couldn't be more pumped for July 2016 :)
teachers pay teachers
 
See you there?!
 
 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
 
 
 


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In the thick

New mom.  New teacher.  New wife (2 years is still new, right?). 
It has turned me into a new person, there is no doubt.
 
I don't know about you, but some days, trying to keep my head above water is my main goal. 
 
Not losing myself in baby's cries, sleepless nights,
lesson plans that don't go right,
grocery lists that get forgotten,
food stash in the deep freezer went rotten,
home project's lasted three times too long,
kids keep picking 'Whip Nay Nay' as their GoNoodle song,
the spiders on my door've been up too long,


 
dinners that we've ordered in,
forgetting to meal plan again,
haven't vacuumed for a week while,
maternity clothes going out of style, 
my #Instagramstyle is far from chic,
bank account is looking weak,
Daylight's Savings got me out of whack,
Christmas breathing down my back,
Pinterest-worthy presents--that's a joke,
Amazon Prime's making me broke,
in the thick of it all I have to believe, it will all work out and I have to...
 
 
 
 


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Currently: October

Currently is one of my favorite linky parties.  I have missed it the last few months but am definitely going to turn that around! Link up over at Farley's Blog: Oh Boy It's Fourth Grade

Oh' Boy 4th Grade


Listening:  My husband is doing such a great job helping out with baby duties.  This staying at home thing is more challenging than I anticipated.  He always takes the baby right away when he gets home.  We tag team putting him to sleep.  Then he makes him a bottle and changes him in the morning.  I don't know how people do it alone!!
 {how sweet are they?!}
Loving: I could complain that I have to go back to work after just 6 weeks of maternity leave BUT I am unbelievably thankful that I have an awesome job to return to--my DREAM job that I have waited SO long for.  I still can't really believe I am a 2nd grade teacher (or the fact I was hired 8 months preggers!!)

Thinking: I am the mom of a 1 month old! And I am not going to say "I can't believe it, it went by so fast." because honestly, it didn't.  It was a LONG, busy, tiring month.  Everything they say about being a parent is TRUE.  In the words of Wanda Sykes "Kids--they a lot of work, but they worth it."


Wanting: I am thinking of planning some pampering before returning to work so I don't feel like such a slob.  Seriously, I have worn nothing but pajamas or yoga pants for what feels like the past year.  Okay so it's been 5 weeks but really, I need to get my act together!
Needing: Since the only 5 days I was in school so far this year I was the size of an Orca whale, I am in desperate need of some new threads for when I return in 11 days.  I have been perusing Pinterest like crazy getting outfit ideas and putting together a shopping list.  Here are two of my favs:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/228557749816754459/https://www.pinterest.com/pin/228557749816754459/

Boo-tiful: Nights out are now few and far between.  We were lucky to be able to celebrate our anniversary last weekend without baby.  Just a few hours out alone makes such a big difference!! Getting to leave the house for something other than a diaper run or dr. appt. is ah-maz-ing.  We are blessed with awesome grandparents to our little boy : )

Baby overload, I know #sorrynotsorry

Happy October : )


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Trash Can Math


I have been wanting to share this game for SO LONG! 

 I learned this game two years ago when I was filling in for a teacher on maternity leave.  We got to spend 4 days together for transitioning (which now that I think back is AMAZING!)  I truly learned so much from her! And get this, she is also Mrs. Stahl!

Short story long: I was getting married that September so I started the school year off as Miss Fitzpatrick and then changed to Mrs. Stahl.  So I was Mrs. Stahl filling in for Mrs. Stahl.  Kind of confusing, no?  We made sure to warn the parents ahead of time so they weren’t wondering why pregnant Mrs. Stahl came back to school 2 weeks after having a baby.

Anywho.  The name of the game is Trash Can Math.  Although no actual trash cans are involved.  You could probably change that to make it more realistic but that’s up to you.

You will need:     -1 dice*
                                      -whiteboards*
                                             -dry erase markers
                            -erasers

The game is simple.  Tell students we are trying to make the BIGGEST number we can by rolling the dice 3 times (or 4 if you choose to include hundreds).  The catch is, we can only use the number once and we have to pick a spot for it before we roll again.  We CANNOT move the number once we picked its spot or that will be cheating.

The board set up is like this:




Chose a student to roll the dice.  Say they roll a “1”, well that’s easy—put it in the trash can.  You want nothing to do with that one because you can’t roll any lower—it’s only up from here.  But, of course, don’t reveal this thinking.  Make the kids do the work!



Then choose another kiddo to roll again.  Say this time you roll a “4”.  Well that’s a little trickier and you kind of have to gamble.  You could roll a 5 or 6 next time so maybe don’t put it in your tens place just yet.  Or maybe do because there’s a chance you will roll 1, 2 or 3.  See where I am going with this people? This is HIGH ORDER THINKING at its finest!!

Last kid rolls, and obviously you put that number in the last open spot. Let's say it is a "3".  Then evaluate if you have made the highest number or not. {Can you feel the rigor?} Congrats, you just won your first game of TCM!! 



The first few times we play as a class so we are all making mistakes or awesome decisions together.  After a few rounds, I let the kids put the numbers where they want but of course I question some of their decisions.  You always have that kid who throws out a 5 because he thinks someone will roll two sixes next.  And you ALWAYS have that sneakster who is trying to erase numbers so he “wins”.

*I use whiteboards but you could also laminate the page below and have kids write on that.  Or they could use index cards with numbers written on them.  Or something like that.  Possibilities are endless people! Click here or on the pic to get a free copy : )


*I was uber excited because I ordered these inflatable dice at the beginning of the year.  


However, I didn’t think to blow one up ahead of time.  And I was 9 months pregnant.  So blowing it up in a timely fashion wasn’t happening.  Instead, I panicked thought quickly and used this virtual dice. Which aren't actually called dice, they are referred to as "number cubes". While it’s cool, the "number cubes" only goes from 0-4 or 0-5 or something.

Overall, I love this game because it can be short or long so it’s a great go-to if you have some extra time at the end of the math block.  Once kids are experts, you could have it as a choice for centers or if they finish early.  Add the hundreds or thousands place to differentiate.  SO MANY OPTIONS!




Well I hope I wasn’t too confusing explaining that.  If you have any questions still, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.  Happy Teaching, all!




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What kept me going...

I joined the TPT community almost two years ago.  At that time, I had been substitute teaching for over a year in hopes that I would soon find my "forever classroom".  The next year passed--three more long term positions--but no luck.  Yet, the sting of rejection didn't seem to hurt as much that school year as I was creating resources which were being shared not only worldwide but with the teachers I filled in for everyday.  There was no greater feeling than seeing my products being used by teachers I admired (and envied) as they were living my dream.  Their support encouraged me that someday it would all work out.
{seeing my products in use by other teachers = greatest feeling ever!!}

Summer of 2014 I interviewed eight times for the district where I had been a faithful substitute for over two years.  Each time, I shared my passion and excitement for teaching and learning.  I also shared my journey on TPT and resources I was so proud of. Each time, I faced rejection.

{a life goal list I made a long time ago...I found it last year. It was a reminder that things don't always go as planned}



I reached out to fellow TPTers and I had a few reach out to me.  The conversation was consistent: how to keep going? I entered the 2014-15 school year with high hopes despite the rough summer.  I got a call the day before teachers returned for PD about filling in for a 2nd grade teacher.  I, of course, said yes.
{last year after setting up the classroom for 2nd grade}

That next day, the keynote speaker for opening day was Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis.  If you don't recognize her name, you will recognize her story.  She was the 1st grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary who protected her students by locking them and herself in the bathroom of her classroom.  Her room was 10 feet away from where the shooting started.

I anticipated her presentation to be, without a doubt, very sad and upsetting, yet her message was one of hope and choice.  We cannot control what happens to us but we can control how we react.  Her story really put everything into perspective. My issue paled in comparison. But I took her message and chose to stay positive.  Something would happen soon.



Around the same time, I had interviewed for a cyber school position.  It wasn't until my long term position in 2nd ended that I was offered the job teaching Kindergarten in an online setting.  It wasn't my top choice but it was a job so I was thankful. It would provide me the opportunity to go back to school and start a family.  It didn't take long until I found myself in a Master's program for reading and expecting our first child, a baby boy.

Life was coming together but there was still a yearning to be a classroom teacher.  Working with students virtually just wasn't fulfilling my heart's passion.  Eight months pregnant in July, I went to my one and only interview of the summer.  I went out on a limb and put my blog button and link to my store in my resume.  When I arrived at the interview, I was greeted by the principal who asked "Are you The Sassy Sub?" "Wow! They have checked me out!" I thought. As I walked in the room, another principal asked me a few questions about information she had read on my blog. I immediately felt like these were educators who 'got me'.  And I was right.  I was offered a full time contract position in 2nd grade! Needless to say, I am over the moon with excitement.  I knew right away it would be a challenge setting up a classroom and starting the year out 8 1/2-9 months pregnant but I wouldn't trade it for anything! Life just works out that way.  I have reached my goal. I owe it to the amazing TPT community which has kept me lifted up, driven and focused through this journey.  I knew one day all of the hard work would pay off.  And that's what kept me going.


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Mix it up Monday: Pinterest

Happy Monday!! Today is my last Monday before I go back to work. Are you back to school already? Next Monday is a teacher work day and then the next one--it's go time!!

  Here we are in the third week of #tptSMsurge. I am super excited to be sharing with you all I have learned about Mixing it Up on Pinterest in the most effective ways!



Personally, I consider myself still a PIP {Pinner In Progress}.  When I came to the realization that Pinterest wasn’t just a fun, leisurely activity to do while drinking wine on a Saturday night, I can’t lie—I was a bit bummed! I felt like switching my mindset to using it strategically made it more like work and less like play.  However, I think you can balance the work and fun by just keeping some important tips in the back of your mind while you navigate the world of Pinning.


Pins

DO vary content.  Make pins informative: how-to’s and tips.  Think like Shark Tank: Does the pin you are offering solve a problem? Make sure you highlight the purpose and usefulness. Pin from blogs (including your own) and not just from Teachers Pay Teachers.  This isn’t to say you shouldn’t link your products back to TPT.  Create a pin (I use PowerPoint) and save as a JPEG.  Think of it as an another preview.  Pin the image then add the url to link to your store.

DON’T pin only your own pins.  Experts suggest a ratio like 10:1, others stuff vs. your stuff. However, there is no hard and fast rules around the optimum mix.  Just keep it balanced.  This is simply to avoid excessive self-promotion which is a major turn off.

DO add text your own Pinterest images.  Similar to Instagram, images with text are more pin-worthy!

Descriptions

DO write epic descriptions full of juicy keywords.  Practice what you preach as a teacher of writing!! You are showing your audience through your beautiful picture but they also need to be told about what makes your pin interesting. Highlight the effectiveness and importance of your pin.  Think about what people may search for when looking for a pin like yours.  If you don’t capitalize on this important space, your pin will get buried and likely forgotten.  Lauren highlighted some Pinners working their descriptions on her post here.


DON’T leave the description blank or write too little.  While Pinterest doesn’t let you off the hook with writing nothing, I have seen pins with just a “.” in the description.  Longer descriptions (approx. 300 characters) have been proven to be more pin-worthy.  

Boards

DO delete old pins which have not performed well.  In a nutshell, Pinterest is all about who is pinning popular pins. If you have a lot of pins with no repins and likes, Pinterest thinks you're not popular, and doesn't show your pins to as many people. Pins with 0 or 1 repin need to go. 

DON’T pin the same pin more than once.  Luckily, Pinterest is great about telling you something has already been pinned.  Because, really, who wants to see the same pin over and over again?!

DO categorize your boards.  Start with the board with the most pins and break it down into more definite topics.  For example, I have a board generically labeled “education”.  It would benefit to break it down into grade levels or by subject.  This helps keep boards organized and content specific so they don’t grow too large and out of control.  Along the same lines, make sure you don’t have a bunch of itty bitty boards with 5 pins.  Combine similar categories and change board names to make it work!

Collaboration

DO join collaborate boards with people of like interests and goals. The theme of this summer has been “Find your niche”.  The same rings true when pinning.  Collaborative boards increases your exposure and visibility which will increase your followers at a faster rate.  This also leads to more repins. How do you find a collaborative board? This can be a little tricky as Pinterest doesn’t currently have a way to search for them.  My advice is to “find your tribe” first and ask around about collaboration.  Maybe one exists already, maybe not.  Don’t be afraid to start one and invite your tribe members to join!

DON’T overpin.  More is not always better.  Some collaborative boards have guidelines about how often to pin.  Be respectful and follow these! You can be removed!! If no guidelines exist, keep in mind you should be pinning approximately 10-30 times per day at MOST and not all at once.  Flooding the board with too many pins by the same user can drive away interest and followers.

DO interact with fellow pinners.  Like pins and leave comments! Though Pinterest’s first impression feels more isolated than other social media forms, there are the same options for interaction.  Interaction leads to engagement which leads to repins and followers!!

As with each Social Media, it can become overwhelming and time-consuming.  Find what works best for you and your schedule and remember to use our *free* Social Media Strategies organizer to help prioritize.  Hope you found at least one new useful tip this Monday : )





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Instagram Follower Friday: #tptSMsurge



Thanks for being a part of the #tptSMsurge.  We are SO glad to have you!! 


Now in Week 2, the focus is on all things Instagram {IG}.  
It's FRIDAY and that means we are going to take a look at some TPTers doing great things on IG!




While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it's important to find your unique style when creating products, building your brand and posting on Social Media. BUT this doesn't mean we can't take a few pointers from some teacherpreneurs out there who are IG OGs!
SO who is SHINING on Instagram?

I don't think I can write a post about who to follow on IG without mentioning THE Amy Groesbeck. Let's take a look at what is working for her!

  Amy's pictures are animated, active and often, a hilarious glimpse into the life of a teacher. She did a fantastic job documenting her year day-by-day. With the simple addition of text, you see a life in progression. {learn how to add text via IG friendly apps in Becky's post here}


 She posts consistently keeping followers involved daily! Her pictures truly tell a story.

She uses LOTS of hashtags both to get her pictures out there (#teachersfollowteachers) and to make us laugh! She is sharing USEFUL teaching tips in an authentic, fun way : ) Aren't visuals and humor keys to catching our students' attention, too?



Next up is Bridget from LittleLovelyLeaders

Bridget's unique IG account combines school, jewelry and all things pretty!! I really like her balance of organization, fashion, quotes, and products. Her photos are clear and colorful.  Her overall style shines through--and not just her clothes and bling.  Bridget has a variety of posts which help us get to know about all aspects of her life.  While some argue, they don't *need* to know all about the TPTer behind the resources, no one wants to follow an Instagrammer who only posts product covers.
Bridget's advice: "I guess a little rule I made for myself was to have fun with Instagram and not just make it all about work."

Her use of quotes adds lightness and laughs. It spreads good vibes but you can tell she doesn't just post anything.  She is selective which shows her sense of humor.
She shares pictures of her adorable nieces and family making her IG account personable and relatable.  She doesn't overload with too much of one area of her life.  Getting to know one another on such a personal level through Social Media invests us.  It builds community and inspiration.  Did I mention her adorable nieces!?
Instagram is obviously all about the visual appeal.

Jill @ firstgrade_made posts a colorful variety of school related and personal pictures.  Her photos are BRIGHT which gets your attention.  And not just your attention, but the attention of others like @teacherspayteachers who has recognized Jill for her beautifully organized classroom set-up.



I love that Jill interacts with her followers by responding to their comments often! This is truly what makes IG an interactive experience! She tags people in her pics and the people she is responding to! This helps ensure they see what you said!


Jill says "Giving others positive feedback and support goes a long way! That has truly turned into a support system, both inside and outside of the classroom."

And isn't that what it's all about? Supporting one another, connecting and collaborating?
#togetherwearebetter

Let's wrap up what we learned from these lovely ladies:

That's it for me : ) Hope you found some useful tips or a new person to follow!

Thanks to Glitter Meets Glue Designs for the adorable IG Icon.



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