Monday, June 19, 2017

My Review of Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club

During the 2016-2017 school year I considered leaving the teaching profession.  After 7 years in the classroom I felt burnt out, overworked, depressed about my job, and considered breaking my contract at the end of each quarter.  I had been teaching second grade for a year and a half at my current school and was desperately looking for another job that provided a similar income.

I applied for office types of jobs, marketing, and even considered going back to college to pursue another degree.  I finally ended up landing a couple of interviews in higher education for support positions.

Around the same time another teacher on my team mentioned the book "Unshakeable", written by Angela Watson.  She mentioned that it helped her get through the school year as a first year teacher and offered to lend me her copy.

I ended up purchasing a copy of the book on my Amazon Kindle on a whim hoping for a good read.  Up until this point in time, I had never heard of Angela Watson, so I was not sure what to expect.  My go-to resources for education included Fred Jones' "Tools for Teaching"and Robert Marzano books.  I expected Angela Watson's book would be similar.

Much to my surprise and delight, it was not.

Angela Watson's book "Unshakeable" addressed the reality of the impossibly unreachable expectations that are placed on teachers.  Reading this book allowed me to forgive myself for being a teacher this is also human.

The book was refreshing and the tone was empathic.  It was so nice to read something written by another teacher that didn't focus on classroom decoration themes, ways to attach a grass skirt to your horse-shoe table, or turn ottomans into kid chairs with storage.

Angela Watson addressed how teaching can drain your energy not only physically, but very much emotionally.  The book offered lots of ideas that she has actually put into practice to make the profession less stressful.

After reading "Unshakeable", I began to explore Angela Watson's website The Cornerstone for Teachers.  I read the blog posts and began to listen to the podcast: Truth for Teachers.  With each article and podcast, I listened to Angela Watson address the common struggles teachers face that are not always talked about.

Instead of blabbing about lesson ideas where I would need old magazines, a glue gun, dollar store junk, creatively shaped hole punches, and other time consuming things to make the cutest project ever; she talked about ways to save time, streamline my lesson planning, and focus my energy on the most important areas of teaching to actually be more effective.

Last spring as I was listening to one of her podcasts on Truths for Teachers she mentioned a program called "The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club".

This is an online course that promises teachers work/life balance.  The idea is that by implementing the strategies taught in the course, teachers will spend less time not only working on school work, but also less time thinking about school.  While it is impossible to completely shut off your school brain, the program actually does provide some pretty good strategies.

The program is approximately 1 year in length and includes a lesson for every week of the year.

Every Saturday you are given access to a new lesson.  Each weekly lesson includes an audio recording of the lesson (that can be downloaded an then listened to on almost any mobile device), a PDF script of the lesson and printable supplemental materials.

Some of the lesson topics include:

  • Creating a self running classroom by utilizing classroom jobs as well as the way you set up your classroom.
  • Ways to streamline your lesson planning to create more effective lessons in less time.
  • Easy solutions to organizing your paperwork instead of creating piles everywhere (this includes papers from lesson resources to newsletters to papers that need to be graded).
  • Effective ways to truly differentiate your instruction without having to write your own curriculum.
  • Strategies to shave off hours from your workweek to spend more time on your personal life. 
  • Multiple strategies to save time and sanity in almost every aspect of teaching.

The cost of the program is a little more than $100 (there are a few different payment plans which influence the overall cost of the program).  The cost of the program also covers life-time access to the lessons, audio recordings and printable materials that are available at the time of purchasing the membership.  (Any updates or additions will cost extra once your year in the club is up, but the content that was already published will be forever accessible).   While this seems expensive, I believe the cost was well worth it.  Not only did I end up working less hours, I became a more effective teacher because I was no longer burnt out.  I finally had strategies that I could implement to make the teaching profession sustainable for me.

If you are interested in learning more about Angela Watson, her books, or The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek club you can visit her website here at The Cornerstone for Teachers.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Back to School Deals in Arizona

image found here

It has been a while since I have even visited this blog.  Much has happened and changed since I last wrote, however, that story is a whole other blog post.  I just wanted to share some back to school deals that are going on in the Phoenix area of Arizona for both teachers and parents who come across this post.

I am going to make my list by school supply type instead of each store and their deals.  This list is not all inclusive.  I have only included items that are usually purchased by classroom teachers over and over again.

*Office Max on Bell and 83rd Ave has their entire clearance section marked 50% off (reduction taken at register).  I scored a new X-acto electric pencil sharpener for $9.00. 

Pencil deals:

(Staples) Staples Pencils 12 count $0.68 (possible limit of 3, but may sell more to a teacher)
(Target)  Up & Up Presharpened Wood Pencils 24ct, 2 packs for $4

*You will notice that I did not include deals on mechanical pencils.  That is because I (and many other teachers) hate it when students show up with them, therefor, I do not find them useful to include on this list.  However, if you want to buy some mechanical pencils for yourself, 12 packs are on sale at Office Max for $2.00.

Marker Deals:

(Staples) Crayola Markers 10 ct.  $0.97
(Target)  Sharpie 4 ct.   2 for $4
(Office Max) Crayola Dry Erase Markers 4 ct. $3.00

Best deal:
(Wal-Mart) CraZart markers 10 ct. $0.50 each and no limit to how many packs.  I purchased 20 packs at the self check out without a problem.

Packaging Tape for Nametags:

(Office Max) Scotch packaging tape $2

These are the major deals of note that I have recently scored.  If you know of other deals in the Phoenix area, feel free to post in the comments.

Single Subject Spiral Notebook:
(Target) $0.25
(Staples) $0.25

Index Cards:
(Staples) $0.48


(Staples) 4 pack staples brand glue sticks $0.25
(Staples) Staples brand white liquid glue $0.10
(Staples) Staples brand cap erasers pack (these suck in quality by the way) $0.25

Friday, June 6, 2014

Get Your Dream Teaching Job: How I made myself #1 out of 130 candidates

I have been teaching elementary school for 6 years now.  Two years ago I gave birth to my lovely daughter and realized that the elementary school in which I was currently teaching was too far a commute.  My daily round trip was 70 miles and a good fifty minutes in the car one way.  Now that I was a Mommy, I needed to be home before 7pm each evening.

The only problem was, the school districts in my area were extremely competitive to land a job in.  Most of the teachers who were able to land jobs had used their network connections.  Every position that was being interviewed had over 100 applicants each.  Talk about intimidating odds!

Here is what I did...

1. I made sure that I was one of the first to inquire about the job.

For months I trolled the job opening boards of district websites for new openings.  The very first day that a position was posted, I would make sure that I had an application profile already filled out with the district and immediately apply.  I didn't stop there because I knew that was the same as tossing my  hat into a sea of other candidates.  I was not about to let my fate rest upon a program that scans resumes for buzz words and cross my fingers in hopes of being picked up.

2. I emailed the person (the school principal) doing the hiring directly.

Here is the catch... on some district websites, the email address for the principal of the school is not available on the site.

Here is a secret to getting that email address so you can sidestep the HR Department's screening process and email the principal (the person who chooses who to hire) directly...  Every email address in a company uses a pattern.  It might be firstname.lastname or it might be first

Find anyone's email address from the same company/school district (usually you can find a few email addresses of district office level employees on the district website) and figure out what the pattern is.  Then, apply that pattern to the principal's email address.

This strategy certainly isn't enough to land you the job, but it is enough to help you cut in line when more than 100 people are applying for the same position.  A lot of people just do the online application and hope that their application will get noticed by Human Resources in the sea of applicants.

This email approach is also helpful because a lot of principals have their emails directed to their smartphones, which allows them to read their email at home.  So, if you email in the evening after work hours, there is a chance that your introductory email may be read while your future boss is on the couch relaxing and watching baseball.

3. I found out who I would be interviewing with and then Facebook stalked them.

Okay, I know what you are thinking.  That is creepy...

When I did get a call for an interview (and I got 5 of them out of the 20 principals that I emailed) I would politely thank the school secretary for calling me and ask "Do you mind me asking whom I will be interviewing with?"  Four out of the 5 interviews I was notified of even the names of the people I would be interviewing with.  Once I figured out who would be in the interview (reading coach, general ed teacher, sped, assistant principal, principal, etc) I was able to anticipate the questions they would be asking me and the answers they would want to hear.

Also, I was able to look up these people on sites such as Facebook, Linked In and even school website pages to find out their background and learn a little more about them.

Most importantly... I arrived at the interview with pre-planned questions tailored to each individual.  So, not only did I have smart questions prepared for the predictable and last "Do you have any questions?" question-- I had a smart and specific one planned for every single person there to answer.

4. I used Kate White's "Go Big or Go Home" philosophy.

I have been reading the career and mystery books written by Kate White (former Editor in Chief of Cosmo) for years.  In more than one of her books she explains the importance of either "Going Big" or "Going Home" with everything you do that matters.  "Going Big" means doing everything you can to push the envelope and create that "Wow" effect.

The school that I ended up being offered a position at was going to be piloting a "bring your own technology" program when the school year started.  Knowing this information I found a Powerpoint Presentation titled "32 Ways to Use an iPod Touch in the Classroom" online, brought printed in color copies for everyone I was interviewing with and offered to do a demonstration lesson during the interview.

I received a call with a job offer while I was driving home from the interview.

I would love to hear from you.  What do you do to set yourself apart from the pack and nail that job?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ten Clever (and funny) ways to avoid doing report cards

Oh Procrastination!  You get me every time.

It is the middle of my spring break (Thursday to be exact) and I wish I could tell you that I was relaxing without a care.  I am currently procrastinating grading weeks worth of papers, thus report cards are not being completed. With it being Thursday, technically I have until Sunday evening to finish before the break is over.

Dangerous thoughts...I know!

Instead of complaining about how much work to do, I will write this cleverly humorous blog to give you a giggle while I painfully procrastinate some more.

Ways to procrastinate getting your work (icky grading of papers and doing report cards) done:

1. Go to the nearest Casino with $40.00 and leave 15 minutes later with empty pockets.  (No, I didn't win)

2. Wash and dry two loads of laundry, but don't fold and put away the clothes (too much work).

3. Sit on the couch with your computer out and the pile of papers (which are spilling out of your turn in basket) on the coffee table next to you.

4. Visit your favorite dieting website, and start reading weight loss success stories for a pick me up.

5. Next, visit that excellent teacher blog,; which you haven't been to in over a year and decide now is a great time to catch up on at least a year's worth of blogs.

6. Suddenly remember that you start your own blog last summer and now would be a great time to update it with a post.

Still need some more tactics to avoid report cards?  Read on.

7. Facebook stalk everyone you are curious about and that chick at work that you don't like.

8. Run the dish washer, but don't put away the dishes (again, too much work).

9. Text message long lost friends (who will reply with, who is this?  and then clarify your last name to jog their memory)--I say this because teachers don't have social lives during the school year.  We're too busy with our profession between the months of August and June to have outside of school contact.

10. After you have written this blog, scour it for sentence fluency, conventions and weak verbs.  Edit and rewrite as long as it takes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My BEST EVER Classroom Management Tool (and it's not the clip chart!)

Today was the official first day back for teachers in my district.  Students come Monday of next week. 

I.  am.  so.  TIRED.  Please forgive any typos that may occur in this following post.  Read it any way.  It's a good one.

When we go back to school many of us like to involve students in the "Classroom Rules" making process.  Many popular rules end up being along the lines of "Keep your hands and feet to yourself", "Raise your hand before you speak", "Do your personal best".

Duh.  They go on a poster board and end up being wall paper for the rest of the year.

I don't do that.

I have automatically have 3 rules when the kids come in to my classroom on day 1.

These 3 rules are:

Red time.  Blue time.  Green time.

I also have posters that go with these rules.

Each color and it's accompanying poster signifies my expecatations of EXACTLY what the little pumpkins should be doing whle the arrow is pointed at one of the posters.

Red time is direct instruction.  If the teacher is talking/teaching the whole group this is what is expected of students:

1. eyes on the speaker
2. mouth quiet
3. be still (no wiggling, tipping in chairs, swaying back and forth)
4. hands  free
5. listen

I have the kids recite the following 5 expectations many, many, MANY times the first two weeks and whenever a pumpkin "forgets" and is caught not following directions we review these rules as a class.

I also emphasize that during red time students are not permited to get up to get a drink, sharpen their pencil, or go to the bathroom (unless it is an emergency).

Here is a closer look at my Red time poster.  I found that hand in a google image search.  It is a Marzano tool called "take 5".  I'm sure if you google search, you can find it too and design your own poster.

Next is Blue time. 

Blue time is independant work time.  Students are allowed to get a drink, sharpen their pencil, and (unless they abuse it) use the restroom without having to ask (or bug me).  My only condition is there is only to be one student at a time doing each.  If a student is already at the drinking fountain, a friend will have to wait until that kid sits down before they get up to get a drink.  Same with the restroom.  One at a time.

Here is my Blue time poster.

Last is Green time.  Green time is only used at the beginning and end of the day in my classroom.  It is unpacking and packing up time. 

I have a laminated arrow that is constantly moved from poster to poster to signal what is expected at that time.  I usually include this on my classroom job chart and have a kid in charge of moving it.

I also made the posters on microsoft word.  Like I stated earlier, I found the hand on google image search and just typed out the rest on word.  I then ran larger paper through our copy machine to copy it onto a small poster size.  Last, I used marker to color in the letters.

Hope you enjoy this and I highly recommend it.  It is cheap, easy, and you will nagg much less often if you use this tool consistantly.

Friday, July 29, 2011

How to Kiss Butt the Correct Way--Tip Thursday (posted on Friday)

Sorry I missed tip Thursday yesterday.  I went into my classroom to start setting up and just didn't have time.  I did work on two new projects as well.  I will be sure to post pictures soon.

Today's blog is going to discuss the art of kissing butt. 

"Why would I ever want to be a 'butt kisser'"  you ask? 

Because it will get you what you want.  We all know that we love getting what we want.  Also, there are often people we cross paths with in our lives who can do something for us. 

Now, I am not saying that you should only be nice to people because there is something they can do for you.  You should always be a kind hearted person no matter what that person's status is.

However, it is often a good thing if your principal or boss likes you. 

Discipline is easier when Joey's mom already knows and likes you.

If you are trying to sell tutoring services over summer break to make extra money you will certainly be more successful if you build a rapport with your future customers. 

By doing a little bit of Butt Kissing you can get what you want. 

There is a wrong way of doing it though.  If you do it this way, it will backfire on you.

Here are some examples of the wrong way:

When I was in college I worked in the coffee shop inside of Borders Books.  At the time it was called Seattle's Best Coffee.  Every Saturday morning I saw the usual rush of frequent customers.  One set was a father and his son.  Dad was probably in his late forties or early fifties.  Son was a teenager.  To this day I can still remember their usual orders.  They were that regular of customers.

They weren't super friendly, but not rude either.  Just treated me like someone they didn't know.  They didn't know my name.  They didn't speak to me as if they recognized me each week.  They didn't make small talk.  They acted as an anonymous customer for about a year. 

Then one morning out of the blue the Dad seemed to be super friendly.  He actually made eye contact with me.  He looked at my name tag and called me by name.  He also smiled and made small talk.  I was enjoying the brief and friendly conversation and felt very comfortable.  He was being nice.

Then it came out like vomit.

He explained that he had just been laid off from his job as an engineer and what starting is own business.  He was teaching self defense classes.  He then invited me to his first class (for a high price) that would be happening within the week. 

He was only being nice to me because there was something I could do for him.  His sincerity did not feel genuine.  He was trying to sell me something.

I politely no thanks.  That my parents had put me in karate for years and years as a teenager and I wasn't interested.

He then retorted with raised eyebrows and made a comment about him hoping I know what to do if a certain scary and sexual situation happened to me.  He then gave me his business card, asked me to share it with my coworkers and left with his coffee. 

Do you think I passed along that business card?  Or even advertised to anyone about his brand new business?

No way!  I tore up his card and put it in the trash.

Do I think self defense lessons for women are important?  Absolutely.

Do I think I would benefit from them?  Yep.

It was his approach at Butt Kissing that ruined it for him. 

Pay attention, because this part is very important.

When you Butt Kiss, do not ask for your favor right afterward. 

It is okay to kiss someones butt if you there is something they can do for you.  It is okay to build a rapport with them to get what you want. 

However, the way to do it is to build a positive rapport with them for a period of time without any strings attached. 

Then, when you need a favor they will be 100 times more likely to help you out.

Have a micro manager boss/principal? 

Get them off your back and build a good rapport with them by emailing your grade level collaboration notes or lesson plans before he/she asks for them.

Be a little bit early for work and make sure she sees you.  You don't have to make over friendly, sickly sweet and fake conversation with her about your weekend.  Just make sure she sees you there early.

This is butt kissing without an obvious agenda.  That way, when you apply for another job you can rely on this person for a reference letter.

Plus, I have learned from experience that these few extra steps will keep a micro manager principal off your back and out of your classroom.

Other ways to kiss butt:

When somone does something nice for you, thank them with a brief hand written note.  This might be a parent who sent in an extra box of kleenex, or volunteered as a helper at the annual Turkey Trot.

Invite parents to volunteer in your classroom.  At the end of the year give them a thank you card with $5 gift card to Starbucks.  Many of them will offer to volunteer or make copies for your when their kids move up to different grades.  Or, they will request you when their younger children move to your grade and you will already have a parent volunteer who knows how to use the laminater or copy machine.

Smile and say "good morning" to all of your co workers.  Even the ones you are not too fond of.  This includes front office staff, parents, custodian, the para you don't even know the name of, lunch room staff, kids.

People you should give a small gift to around Christmas and end of the year (I usually give one of those huge Hershey chocolate bars you can get for $1 at Walgreen's):

your principal,
anyone who works in the front office,
 lunchroom staff,
curriculum coach,
team members,
parent volunteers and/or parents who donate supplies
specials teachers

Include a short note wishing them a happy holiday or stating what a wonderful year it was and hope they have a great summer. 

I should also note that you should become friends with the team of teachers the grade right below you.  Even if you don't like them very much.  They choose who goes into your class the next year.  Don't bribe them. I also don't recommend giving them end of the year gifts.  This is too obvious of what your agenda is.  However, if you can coordinate reading buddy time with them, pick up a duty for them, include them on your email list when you share cool websites you come across, they will be nicer to you when placing their students.

Also, if you borrow materials from someone..... when you return it, toss in a little pack of m&m's to say thank you.  Not something big, but the gesture goes a long way.

If you've been paying attention thus far you should know that when you give them that gift, that is not the time to ask for your favor.

However, when your printer runs out of toner, the secretary will be more likely to help you out.  The custodian will give you new trash bags or paper towels with a smile. 

Specials teachers may be more forgiving when you are a little bit late to pick up your class (as long as you are not always late).

I hope this helps.  Happy butt kissing to all.  :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Worn Out Wednesday, new uses for old things-make your own pore strips

Okay.  This is not really education related, however, if you are a woman with ANY level of vanity you are going to love this.  It will also save you money and we all know teachers LOVE to save money!

I am going to teach you how to make your own pore strips.

You know, like those Biore ones that you can purchase at Walgreen's or CVS?  It's a sticky material you put across your nose, let it sit for 10 minutes and then rip it off to yank out all the gunk in your pores?   

We all love playing with those but they are certainly pricey! 

Well, my friends, you can make these with 2 ingredients that can be found in your cupboard.  Therefore, this still counts as new uses for old things.

Here is what you need:

1 tbs milk (any type, 2%, whole, skim-doesn't matter)
1 tbs of unflavored gelatin (the brand I use is called Knox, but any type will do)
A few drops of vanilla extract (or imitation) This 3rd ingredient is optional, but I recommend using it to make the solution smell better.

Now, I must stress that when I say unflavored gelatin I don't mean a pack of powdered strawberry jello.  I mean unflavored gelatin that you use for cooking various things (including homemade jello).

Here is what the Knox brand looks like:


In a microwave safe cup mix 1 tbs milk and 1tbs unflavored gelatin.  Stir until chunky.

Microwave for 10 seconds.  It should come out gooey and liquidy.  If you are going to add a few drops of vanilla extract (or vanilla flavoring) do it now. Again, this is to make it smell better.  Give it about 30 seconds to cool off so it doesn't burn your skin.  You do want to spread it on while it is warm, but not burning your skin.

Using a Q-tip spread it over your nose in a medium to thick layer.  If you have left over you could also spread it over your chin or forehead-anywhere you would stick a pore strip.

Let it sit and dry on your face for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes peel it off and be amused at all the junk you pulled out of your pores.

**This idea was not originally my own.  I learned this from Michelle Phan.