It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect

#A2TImperfectTeacherClick the STAR to like this post and comment below with what you stress the most over as you start the school year.

August 4, 2021

For most teachers, summer is drawing to a close very soon, if not already. Classroom plans and projects are starting. Boxes are being unpacked. Meetings are beginning to appear on your schedule. Your email inbox is starting to fill up. And those mixed feelings of not wanting summer to be over, but ready to start fresh and execute all those visions and ideas are consuming you and you are ready to make them happen!

But, somewhere along the way in our school year, we lose this refreshed feeling, that excitement. How does that happen?

In short, we tried too hard to make everything perfect, putting too much on our plate and spreading ourselves too thin, and lost the most important thing we have to offer–ourselves.

When you work 14-16 hours a day, six or even seven days a week, you lose yourself. You are trying to fit in family and responsibility around work and you just burn out. Sound familiar?

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to have everything perfect, or even done on that first day they come back. There are two keys to successfully keeping that burnout at bay: keeping it simple and setting boundaries.

KISS Strategies–Keeping It Super Simple Strategies

Most of us have all had to calm a stressed out student that was overthinking a task or a question, yet we do this to ourselves on the regular. We put in crazy long hours to get our room ready for orientation or the first day of school, and by the time we get there, we already need a vacation. How do we let that happen?! Here’s a few things I have learned over the years to simplify and still be ready.

  • Two bulletin boards: one as an information posting area–calendars, lunch menus, due dates, resources, monthly tidbits–and the other for posting student work, pace or success tracking, tickets out the door, a parking lot for questions or ideas, whichever best suits your style of teaching. Both only need a basic background and a simple border. I have done the same border all year, or the quick change every month to rotate way. Bonus, I usually had a student, parent or a para/intern that wanted to do this for me, so I only had to choose which one.
  • Procedures. Every room has procedures for how to do things, so have them posted. Littles can’t remember them all and older students have multiple classes and different teachers with different procedures–compliance is easier when they know where to look. If you can work this in on your informational bulletin board, even better!
  • Supply and Work station: a turn in bin, an absent bin, and a place to finds needed supplies (borrow pencils, paper, handouts, student files or binders, etc.)
  • A clock. Realistically speaking, a digital is best, modern society doesn’t really use an analog clock, so why hang one that will cause a student to be distracted from your lesson or their work while they try to figure out the time for a hall pass or how long until class ends or lunch?
  • A place for students to work. Versatile seating can be great, depending on content area. Single seats, pairs, groups, floor seating, standing seats. Students work best in a variety of ways, so providing options can be great. Do you really need a seating chart? That is time you could save, especially at the beginning. Pro tip: if you must have a seating chart, seat them the first day and take a picture, then print this out as your seating chart. Faces will be way more helpful for a substitute than a name will be!
  • A place for YOU to work. I rarely sat, but needed a place for my computer and for grading and planning. Some years, it was a cart I could move around the room, but mostly it was a desk with everything needed.
  • A health station. Even pre-Covid, I needed a healthy classroom for myself and for my kids. I kept tissues, hand sanitizer, soap and towels (if I had a sink that year), alcohol pads for technology, wipes or spray and cloths for sanitizing desks (and a bucket for the cloths so I could take them home for washing–old t-shirts are great for this!). I also kept a broom and dustpan in the corner by my trash and recycling.
  • School/District Requirements. Some schools and districts have things they want posted in your room at all times. These can make it feel pretty cluttered. I met the requirements and reduced the overstimulation by creating a PowerPoint show that continuously looped and had all the things on the slides. I even included our agenda for the week. Then I set it up on the overhead to scroll unless I was using it for a lesson. I had a fellow teacher use this strategy, but had a spare computer and had it loop and it hung by the information wall.
  • Things to avoid: cluttered rooms, too much stuff, too much on the walls, Fire Marshall hazards (you don’t always know they are coming, so why play the “I’ll hide it when they get here” game). And of course avoid assigning too much work and additional work. You, and they, don’t need MORE, but rather, MORE MEANINGFUL. So get creative and cut that workload!

I use the “could I move and reset a room in an afternoon” mentality of setting up my room. Because changes happen, and I did not like giving up my weekend or evenings to have to get it done. I also try to use the “I should be able to grade the day’s work in one class period approach” as a means of measuring workload, although when I was an ELA teacher, that was harder. Pro tip-we wrote essays in chunks as “drafts” and I scored the draft each day, then it was turned in with the final so a quick read for corrections and technical elements made it possible.

But I digress…

Setting Boundaries

I have blogged about different strategies for making this happen, so I won’t revisit all of these again. But I will stress the importance of not letting your job consume your entire life–even if this is your passion, even if you feel like you have no life outside of teaching. Even Jesus took time off from his purpose on Earth to replenish himself, so there is nothing wrong with you doing the same. Learning how to get the desired outcome with less effort on your part is key to finding that balance of being an amazing teacher and getting that time you need to rejuvenate. There are many topics covered in my blogs, but here’s a compiled list and links for some of those areas to tackle:

Your students come through that door needing two things from you, an education on content areas and someone who truly cares about them. Focus on creating a space that facilitates those two areas. Be the teacher that has time to talk to the students. The place they can come eat lunch, do homework or get help before or after school, the safe space for the student that has a stressful life. In ten years, they may or may not remember that theme or poster you spent so much time stressing over, but they will remember the conversations, the time spent with them, the lunches in your room where they could relax, the place to get homework done since home wasn’t an option. Be that teacher.

When your teacher work days have come and gone in a blink and you didn’t get everything done, don’t worry. It is better to have an undecorated classroom that can come together over the first few weeks, than a burnt out teacher on day one. Remember your WHY-why you became a teacher, why you stay a teacher. Write it down and put it in your planner or as your background on your phone if you need to, just remind yourself regularly. You’ve got this!

Be sure to click the STAR to like this post and comment below with what you stress the most over each year. Also, be sure to share this blog with other teachers, and subscribe so future blogs come straight to your inbox! I blog about teaching, but also food, family, travel and other inspirations! You can also find me on Twitter (@addictedtoteac1), Facebook (Addicted2Teaching) or even on YouTube to check out some videos before I just focused on blogging (Sonya Barnes – Addicted to Teaching) and join the conversation, get more ideas, share your story or just interact with me.

Homemade Croutons – Louie’s Recipe

#A2TCroutonRecipe Be sure to click the STAR to like this post and comment below with whether you like croutons as a stand alone snack or if they need to be eaten with something else!

8/3/2021

The hardest part is watching them toast!

My 10 year old loves croutons and eats them like popcorn. Who am I kidding, everyone in our house does. Homemade ones can be lots of fun, and a way to use up bread that may not otherwise get eaten, and it’s a quick and an inexpensive treat! So when we had a part of a French baguette left from the weekend, I asked if he wanted to make some croutons. Spoiler alert–they were so GOOD! Here’s the super simple recipe we used.

Louie’s Garlic Parmesan Croutons

Ingredients:

  • French baguette chopped up (3/4 to full loaf, or substitute with any other bread that can toast well)
  • olive oil 2 tbsp
  • grated parmesan cheese 1/3 cup
  • garlic powder 1/2 to 1 1/4 teaspoon (depending on your preferences)

Start by cutting baguette into chunks. We found it easiest to cut it in half lengthwise, then cut those in half again, then cut into chunks. Next, place the olive oil into a gallon ziplock bag or large storage container. Then add in your parmesan and garlic and mix well into the olive oil. Add bread cubes and shake until evenly coated. (According to Louie, it’s best to taste test here to see if you need to shake or add more seasoning).

Spread out evenly on a baking sheet. We used a toaster oven today, but have done this in our conventional oven before, too. If you use the toaster oven, first, broil for 3-5 minutes to dry out a bit, then toast light to medium, flip and toast again. If you use a conventional oven, broil for 5-7 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.

Allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight container or a large baggy, keeping as much air out as possible. They will keep for up to 2 weeks this way, although they won’t last that long in our house! They can be eaten as a snack alone, or added to salads or pasta dishes.

Enjoy!

Be sure to click the STAR to like this post and comment below with whether you like croutons as a stand alone snack or if they need to be eaten with something else. Also, be sure to share this blog with other teachers, and subscribe so future blogs come straight to your inbox! I blog about teaching, but also food, family, travel and other inspirations! You can also find me on Twitter (@addictedtoteac1), Facebook (Addicted2Teaching) or even on YouTube to check out some videos before I just focused on blogging (Sonya Barnes – Addicted to Teaching) and join the conversation, get more ideas, share your story or just interact with me.

In The Kitchen for Shepherd’s Pie

July 29, 2021

2 Shepherd’s Pies – quick and easy to make, ready to cook in a flash!

Hey everyone! I hope your summer is going well, but, if you are like me, you are already plotting and planning how to be more efficient and getting ready for back to school season. One thing I am always trying to do is meal prep and plan to make life easier, so we are headed back to the kitchen this week for an old household favorite that can be made same day or prepped in advance, and both are pretty easy. I’m sharing my Shepherd’s Pie recipe!

There are four main ingredients and they are simple and can easily be substituted for your dietary needs or preferences. I’ll share what we use and you can substitute as needed. This recipe can make a large casserole dish that will easily feed 8-10 people, or can be split into two storage containers for reheating later. This recipe even freezes well and will keep for a few months, so can be prepped and stashed for the future.

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 10-12 servings of mashed potatoes
  • 1-2 cans of sweet corn
  • 4 cups of shredded cheese

First, brown your beef (or whatever meat you are using) and drain it. If you forgot to defrost your meat in advance, don’t worry! Ground meat can be put in the skillet on low-medium heat with a lid, then slowly cooked and then just scrape off the cooked layer until it is all defrosted and cooked!

Second, prepare your mashed potatoes (or substitute). We use potatoes a lot, but Florida humidity is not our friend, so we just keep dehydrated flakes on hand and prepare those. This recipe is great with homemade mashed potatoes from scratch or leftover potatoes from a holiday meal or take out.

Third, open your can of corn and drain the liquid. you can also use frozen corn or even mixed veggies for this recipe.

Next, is putting it together, and the method is a matter of preference. We like to mix ours all together, but some like theirs layered. If you mix, like me, just use a big mixing bowl and mix it well. Then, you can put it into your baking dish.

These are 8×8 baking pans from Amazon

Finally, add a layer of shredded cheese to the top as thin or thick a layer as you like. We like to use Mexican blend since we usually have that on hand for taco night, but I’ve used Mozarella left from Italian night before, or even used partial leftover bags of both mixed, and, in a pinch, have even just put sliced cheese on top. Whatever works for you!

At this point, you can either let it cool and then cover and freeze, or pop it in the oven to bake. If you go strait to the oven, bake at 350 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. If you prefer to freeze it, then you’ll want to let it set out from the freezer for a bit, if you can, then bake at 350 degrees F for about 45-60 minutes, or until hot all the way through.

And that is it! Enjoy!

I hope this helps make dinner, for at least a night or two, one less thing to worry about this month!

I’d love to hear your feedback on what your family thought of this recipe, or how you adapted it for your own tastes! Don’t forget to click that star and like this post, and be sure to subscribe to my blog to get them sent to your inbox every week! Wanna join the community? Find me on Twitter at @AddictedtoTeac1 or on Facebook at Addicted to Teaching where we all chat and share ideas, strategies, experiences, and job posts at our schools!

Teaching Is Hard

July 22, 2021

You know the saying “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”? I heard someone say it recently and it got me thinking. And I personally think it’s not entirely true. But, then again, I don’t buy into the YOLO mindset either because, why would we do anything that wasn’t easy?

But I digress. I think that doing something you love actually means you will work harder than you ever did in a job you weren’t passionate about. And that is good. I loved DeeJaying at the skating rink in high school, but that meant we had the job of cleaning the bathrooms…used by little kids on wheels. I didn’t love that job, but I still did it well because who wants to do a hard job twice?

Teaching gets a bad rap, and mostly from people that don’t do the job or weren’t cut out for the job. No shame to either of those categories–things always look different through different perspectives and, until you’ve experienced it, you really don’t know. And if you had a negative experience, it can cloud perspectives, too.

Teaching is hard. And it doesn’t matter what you teach, this statement can apply to teaching in any field, not just in an academic classroom. You have a short amount of time to complete a bunch of items on a checklist required by various government agencies and departments in the district that want bell to bell teaching with tiered lesson plans that calculate precise and engaging learning for every student in your class, and for every minute of every day–and in writing. You have limited resources, materials, time–and in some subjects limited attention span from the students. And I can’t blame them–I am not good at some skills and I don’t work in those fields on purpose. Yet, in education, the lack of engagement reflects on teachers. And their job, their life, their family, depends on whether or not they can engage the student in the activity and make it stick long enough to pass a standardized test or licensing certification.

Then, there’s meetings, and paperwork, and duties, and committees…which usually mean work goes home with you. And, in a job that is never done, that can result in lost personal and family time and working 7 days a week if you don’t put boundaries in place. Of course, even when you do, you may endure public criticism or lack of promotion/high ratings.

And we all know teacher pay is not comparable to other occupations with similar requirements of degrees, certifications and experience.

But, from another perspective….

The challenge, while tall, can be so rewarding when you see that student get it and then light up, or better yet, share with someone else and help them. When you help that overwhelmed fellow teacher and cover their duty so they can catch up on grading or parent calls or tutoring that they are behind on. When you help out school leadership and join or lead a committee at school. When you take on a spot to coach a team in a sport you’ve never played, but you being there means that they get to play that year instead of not having a team. When you call a parent of a student you’ve called a hundred times for problems to brag about something they did well at that day and hear their pride (if they actually still answer your call). When you stay after school and help the school secretary copy and count out flyers to go in teacher’s mailboxes that need to go out tomorrow and dozen things went wrong so it’s getting done last minute and their duty day ended an hour ago, too. When you take the time to have students pick up trash, or stack chairs on desks, or you do sanitize your classroom, making it easier for that stretched too thin janitor to come in and quickly tend to your room before moving on to the next one, and the next school they have to clean during their short shift due to budget cuts. The rewards are endless and have lasting impacts on both us and them.

Teaching requires passion, but it also requires compassion.

Every person, at every level of education plays an important role in making it happen effectively.

I’ve heard the saying about how we should treat the CEO and the janitor with the same respect. I wholeheartedly believe this, and especially in education.

I’ve heard that we should never quit teaching on a bad year, but should come back for another one and try to do better. Then, if it still isn’t a good fit, at least you move on knowing you tried your best.

Most educators that chose to make this a career have bad days, too. But, after a bad day that left them screaming, crying, cursing, ready to quit–they talked to a co-teacher, a coach, an administrator, a mentor, and honed in on what went wrong, planned a new approach, and got back up the next day and tried again to get it right.

We have all had days where it wasn’t clicking, for whatever reason. The students were distracted by a holiday or a world event. You just weren’t feeling that lesson for whatever reason. The students weren’t connecting. You weren’t connecting. The students managed to sidetrack you with a million questions and the bell rang before you ever even got to the lesson (a life goal for many a middle school student). And we tried again the next day. We acknowledged that we weren’t connecting. We tried a new approach. We didn’t give up.

We’ve all had those days where we questioned ourselves. Did I do enough? Did I talk too much? Too little? Did I allow enough practice? Did I assign too much work or homework? Did they connect? Did I teach them all they need to know? Should I have done X instead of Y? What could I have done differently to get this student to engage or that student to understand and not leave frustrated?

Because, while we need to teach our content to our student, we are entrusted with teaching so much more. Kindness. Perseverance. Follow through. Keeping your word. Helping or serving others. Integrity. An open mind. Trustworthiness. An unbiased perspective. Respect.

And we do this with aching feet, sore backs, empty bellies and overflowing bladders through side effects of chronic dehydration. Because it’s our passion. Because we love what we do and want to pass on a love for the subject, the skill, the career field. And because we have compassion for each individual person that crosses our path.

Teaching is hard. And it isn’t for everyone. But, if it is for you, go do your best every day. And, if it’s a bad day, that’s okay, too. Keep getting up and trying again. Showing up matters. Yes, the world needs you, but so does that student that sits in the back, acting like they don’t want to be there, even though you are the only reason they came to school today. Or the student that is hungry that knows, if they give a correct answer and are paying attention, they will get a piece of candy to take home and have something to eat later when the hunger pains are too much. Or the student that waits until last to come into your room so they can get a few extra seconds to talk to you and a hug since that is the only kindness they will get in their day.

And just when we think we’ve got it down at the end of a great year, the curriculum changes, we get new resources, we are moved to a new school/grade/subject, the dynamic or achievement level of the new students is different from the last group. So those lessons we spent hours on and thought we’d be able to use again and again–it’s back to the drawing board.

But don’t let this distract you from your calling. The student is our entire reason for being here. Planting a seed and ensuring it will grow–whether it’s in our classroom or years later on their journey–is what we do.

You are amazing.

You are a teacher.

You are changing the world.

And if you are a brand new teacher, welcome. Don’t give up too quickly. We’ve all been there and are here to help you succeed.

Be sure to like this post, share with fellow educators, post comments, and subscribe to my blog for future posts to be sent to your inbox. Want to join the community or personally connect? Find me on Twitter at @AddictedtoTeac1 or on Facebook at Addicted to Teaching.

Summer Reset Series – Part 2 The Home

#A2THomePurge

July 15, 2021

Last week I shared with you some tips to reset your classroom by purging items so you can be more efficient, so this week I wanted to share some tips to do something similar with your home. Wait! Before you close this, hear me out. By purging your home in at least a few key areas and making it more efficient in areas you touch daily, your schedule will be more efficient, making your days smoother when you are juggling work and home life. Don’t worry, we are not clearing your home of everything!

Still with me? Great!

So, let’s break it down by areas of our home so you can focus on those you need and skip those that you don’t, or don’t apply!

BEDROOM Starting here is vital since this is your sanctuary and place of rest and rejuvenation! The key in this space is to remove things that don’t bring you peace or make you feel relaxed. Eliminating clutter from surfaces will help your brain turn off, so find a place to tuck away those as many of those things on display as you can. Some experts say to even remove electronics from your sleeping area, but some of us like to curl up and watch shows before bed, so it’s up to you!

BATHROOM/DRESSING AREA I like sleep, or at least being lazy in the mornings, which means I wait until the last possible minute to get moving. It has helped me immensely to purge grooming products to only what I need (I even gave up make up to save myself 15 minutes!) so my morning routine takes me 10 minutes or less. Likewise, I keep my wardrobe super simple and rotate things out each month so it’s easy for me to get dressed in the morning. If you want to learn more about this, check out my post from a few weeks ago here and see how I live like I am on vacation.

LIVING SPACES Just like your bedroom, this is a place you use to unwind. If you come home from a crazy day and are greeted by clutter, piles, or a lot of visual stimulation, it can be overwhelming. Go through those stacks of books and magazines and create a home for those that you are waiting to read and pass on those that you are done with! Keep only pillows and blankets out that you use daily or tuck them away and grab them out when needed. Decluttering surfaces can be helpful here, too, since it won’t overwhelm you when relaxing and makes cleaning faster–when you can get to it!

KITCHEN/EATING AREAS These areas are used multiple times a day and often get the most use, so it makes sense that this is where everything gets dropped…and gets cluttered. Make sure you have the cooking items you use regularly readily available. Those items that are less frequently used can be stored in an out of reach shelf or cabinet, or boxed to find when you need it. If you don’t use it, pass it on! Next, take a few minutes each week to meal plan and do the shopping. There are many methods for doing this. In our house, I have a dry erase board calendar that we meal plan on and one for our shopping list. I splurged and use Instacart so once a week, I put in our grocery order and they are delivered within 2 hours. Coincidentally, this is also the time use to clean the house, so it all gets done at once! Since mail can be a huge clutter in this area, sort it as it comes in. I have a shredder for junk, an outgoing mail clip by my door, and a paper weight for bills that I clear out weekly (or biweekly, if it’s crazy times!).

WORKSPACE If you work from home, or have a home office you use for planning, grading, etc., this space can also get cluttered. That clutter can make us dread getting things done, so plan ahead for it. Sort through all your papers and items that are in the space, leaving only what you need on your desk surface, and have a place to put things you need to work on so you will know when they are on your TO DO list, or when they are a TADA item and done! Bookshelves can easily overflow, so make sure that what is on it is something you use at least once a year, can’t find online, isn’t outdated, or needs to be kept. Then just make sure they are organized in a way that works for you. I’m a bookworm, so ours has non-fiction on one shelf, then a fiction shelf for each of us. If we run out of room, something has to go, which makes it simple to decide what comes and goes.

STORAGE Whether you have a garage, carport, large closet or shed, you keep tools and supplies for your home, hobbies and possibly your vehicle. When you need them, you don’t want to have to search, or worse, go buy more since you can’t find them. So clearing extras, trash or what you don’t need (like those wiper blades from a car you haven’t owned for 5 years) you will be able to find what you do need quickly and easily. Organizing it into zones will help, too, and make it easier when you have time to go back and better organize it! And if it’s a garage–maybe you can park your car IN it, making life easier for coming and going!

CHORES Now that things have been decluttered and your home should be slightly less overwhelming, you can create a routine to keep up with everything. Some things will need done daily, some weekly, and others either as needed, or less frequently. If there are others that live in your home, this can be a great thing to meet and talk about and divvy up those tasks. Even little kids can do somethings, like a quick daily sweep, putting toys away, or gathering laundry. Dishes and cooking need done daily, so someone can take charge of that or you can rotate! Assigning weekly chores that can be done on a designated day as a family can help, but if that’s not possible in your busy household, try assigning at random around someone’s schedule, or better yet, assign everyone a room (in addition to their own room) and then you won’t have to worry about waiting for others to get your chore done. We also do a daily reset before bed to put away things like toys, blankets, things that came out and got used during the day, so that we can start our busy morning with a clean space. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen, but most days it does. And my rule with my little? If it’s out after he goes to bed, it’s mine to do with as I please. This tends to get things put away frequently!

See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? It may take some time to get each of these areas to a place that helps you, and you may have to do a reset every so often. In our home, we have crazy weeks of meetings, work schedules, appointments, or the weeks after a vacation that turn us upside down. Then we make the time to do a reset so we can get back on track when we get an hour or so.

Good luck to you! Be sure to like this post by clicking on the star if you like the idea of creating a relaxing home space, and comment below with your trouble areas–let’s work together to solve them! I’d love to see those before and after photos, so use the hashtag #A2THomePurge and post them on social media so I can check them out!

Summer Reset Series- Part 1 The Classroom

#A2TClassroomPurge

July 8, 2021

Downsize to maximize. It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But it’s a truer statement than I ever realized myself, until I walked the walk. About 8 years ago, I started on a journey into minimalism because of how bad my allergies were, and because our family was bursting our great little house at the seams. While my family isn’t as eager as I am to be on this journey and I’ve made many changes for just myself, there are several things we did to our home and to our workplaces that really made us more efficient and made sure we were using what we had.

I recently heard a guiding question I want to share: “If the unthinkable happened and you lost everything, what would you need to replace and what would you never replace?”

This really opens our eyes to the intrinsic value of what we allow to take up space in our home, classrooms and minds.

So with summer upon us, how about dedicating some time to purge your classroom? I did this several years ago and cleared out so much, I was scared I wouldn’t be a good teacher. But the opposite happened. I knew what I had, where it was and used it all at some point during the year. So, let’s break it down into categories. You can focus on the areas you may need, or go through them all. Don’t try to do it all in one day, that can be too overwhelming, and not a good use of your summer or free time.

The trick to this being successful is putting hands on every single item in the category. Otherwise, you may overlook a box or bin, or procrastinate. Have a trash/recycling box and a donate bag/box right next to you and, as soon as it is filled, take it to it’s new home (for donations you can put them in your vehicle or a corner of the room to take all at once).

If you find it limiting to look at quantities, then set the boundaries of space and let storage be the deciding factor. This can really help if you tend to have little storage, have to move, or have to bring things home in the summer to store.

To get started, here’s what you need: trash bags, boxes and your camera to take before photos with. Once you’ve purged, you will need storage containers and labels of some sort, but I like to wait to get those until I’ve cleared out, unless you are limited on storage space and using that as your guide, then you will want those available now.

Decorations We all want our classrooms to have a look or theme, but for some children these days, too much can be, well, too much. Having only a few things of your theme then using color coordination can really help emphasize your theme without overwhelming students. If you rotate themes year to year or during the year with units or seasons, then do the same for each and then store them together.

Furniture This can be challenging, so be sure to think of how you use the space. Small groups? Pairs? Independent work? Free spaces? Floor, sitting, standing spaces? Choose versatile seating that can do all of these and have enough seating for the maximum number of students, plus a few extra for adults that may come through–parents visiting, administrators or guests observing. A basket of towels and blankets from the thrift store can be taken home and washed often and be great alternative seating for all ages. Be sure to talk to your administration about moving what you have or seeing if there is a district location where other items are stored that you can “shop” and have placed in your room. The year I found out about this, I swapped from desks to tables and it really decluttered my classroom space.

Books I know it’s hard, but this is the area you can really clear the most out of, especially if your school has a library! Librarians are amazing resources and can work with you to pull books for you to borrow on certain topics or genres, as needed. This is also a great place to donate your decluttered books to, then they haven’t gone far! Also, declutter those old textbooks. If you keep it around for one or two stories, make a copy or scan then get them gone. Be sure to check with your school on how to box and send them on since many follow certain protocols.

Supplies Bulletin boards, cleaning, crafts, projects, paper, pencils, crayons, glue, scissors–there’s a lot that is needed throughout the year. Most of us have more than we need. There are several ways to address this category. First, look at what you use daily/weekly. These you want to keep extra of. For those items that are for certain projects or units, you can keep enough for everyone to complete and store it in a box labeled for that unit so you can find it quickly. Bulletin board borders store well rolled up into icing containers and can be labeled by season/unit. For crayons, markers or color pencils, keep them all in one big box for each. As much as we like to keep them in small boxes and sorted, as soon as the frequent flyer color gets used, the whole box won’t be wasted, this just saves a step. Be sure to have a marker recycling bucket and one for old crayons–you can melt the wax and make new ones with candy molds or ice trays! As for your personal supplies like paper, pens and pencils–keep only what you use during the year.

Paper Files & Resources This is a tough category to purge since it is time consuming, but it is so worth it. Here’s some tips speed it up–if you have a digital copy, it goes. If you aren’t teaching that subject or grade, make a digital copy then let it go. If you are teaching that subject but haven’t used it in 2+ years, or have to alter it to use it, digitize and toss. I had 2 large 2-drawer file cabinets plus 4 boxes of old files and, using these guidelines, sent 4 large bags to recycling and everything else fit into a binder that was sorted by skill set.

Digital Files & Resources I think this is the hardest to declutter since it is out of sight and out of mind, but getting these purged and organized will help. Same rule as paper–if you aren’t teaching it, or haven’t used it, let it go, or put it on a flash drive and store that. If you have several variations of the same thing that you’ve changed for various units or change year to year, sort it and save it. Be sure to do 2 very important things with digital files. FIRST, give it a file name with words that you’d use to search like unit, skill, story title, etc. Some storage devices even let you add tags to help with these key words. SECOND, use folders to sort things. Since units can change, I have found that sorting by skill is most useful, unless it tied to a specific story unit I taught and used annually.

Finally, let’s get it organized and stored. Clear bins are always a bonus, and labeling items helps so much. The dollar discount stores can have some great deals, but be sure to check your big box stores and online places since sometimes you can buy in bulk and get a better deal with them–and some of your dollar discount stores don’t allow returns/refunds, so you don’t want to be stuck with extras!

Now, don’t you feel like you’ve accomplished so much? Don’t forget to take those after photos and share them with the hashtag #A2TClassroomPurge

Be sure to come back next week for Part 2 and check out how we can do the same thing at home (without making your family hate you) so you can be more efficient at home during the school year, too!

Be sure to click the STAR to like this post and subscribe so future blogs come straight to your inbox! Comment below or find me on Twitter (@addictedtoteac1) or Facebook (Addicted2Teaching) and share your story or, even better, your before and after photos of your accomplishments.

Hurricane Prep Simplified – With the Planet and Life in Mind

July 1, 2021

I know, hurricane season started a month ago and many have already done their shopping. But some have not, and with a busy storm season already upon us here in the Southeastern U.S., many are just now getting around to it.

I like to be prepared for emergencies and natural disasters, but I also like to make choices that won’t hurt our environment or have a high impact on our family financially or in our living space. So many hurricane preparedness lists include disposable items that only fit that situation and, for many of us, they are things we don’t use in our daily life, so are an added expense that waste money if there isn’t an emergency.

Having lived in Florida for most of our lives, my husband and I have adapted many items in our kit to things we use regularly so they are cost effective, but also not wasteful or as damaging to the environment. I will break them down by the main categories of food, water, shelter, medical/first aid, and miscellaneous, then pets separately since that doesn’t apply to everyone. If you have ideas to add, I’d love for you to comment below and share them. Help our community out!

FOOD The experts tell us to ensure we have 3 days of food on hand to allow for emergency response teams to get into an area. My family has always made an effort to keep 30 days of non-perishable food on hand, which is great for sheltering in place, but may not be as realistic if you evacuate. We keep canned meats, fruits, and vegetables on hand, as well as dried pastas and canned meals like pasta cups, beanie weanies, and soups. We also keeps staples like rice, dehydrated potatoes, flour, sugar and cornmeal on hand. We keep a week’s worth of fresh produce on hand and a stocked freezer most of the year, as well, but if a storm is forecast for our area, we tend to eat a lot more of it, just in case we lose power. Should we need to evacuate, we have storage totes or reusable shopping bags to load them in that store away easily and can be used for other things during the off season. A grill can be very helpful for cooking and preparing meals since you can use some cooking pots and pans on an open flame. Be sure to keep your propane tank filled during the season, and a spare if you can. Helpful tip: if you are keeping can goods, be sure to have a manual can opener on hand. this can be a kitchen one with a knob, or something from a camping store called a P-38, it is inexpensive and small, plus can fit on a key chain. A fishing rod can also be helpful to keep on hand if you are near fishing areas since this can help supplement after a storm while awaiting things to reopen.

WATER The rule of thumb is one gallon of water per day, per person/pet to have on hand for drinking, then other water for use. Let’s talk about drinking water first. Many people resort to buying cases of bottled water. We don’t. We really don’t drink bottled water and opt for reusable insulated cups for our daily use, even on camping or boating days. We opted instead to purchase coolers that are well insulated and have a drinking spout on them. You can pick these up in all sizes and price ranges. Since we have family gatherings as well as go camping and boating, these get used regularly, but can store out of the way. This allows us to not have excess bottles on hand that we won’t use, or that will create extra debris in a post-storm situation when trash may not be running. Helpful tip: stock up on some inexpensive tupperware storage containers. If a storm is coming, you can fill these with water and place in your freezer and refrigerator to help insulate and maintain temperature, plus it gives extra water supply if you need more, or need for cooking. Fill those up a day before landfall, and your coolers within 12 hours of landfall. Now, let’s look at water for other uses. This can include cleaning dishes and cook surfaces, bathing and toilet flushing since electricity may be off and these won’t always function well. If you shelter in place, buckets, storage bins and bathtubs are great places to keep this water. To conserve how much we store, and may have to dump after, we tend to opt for baby wipes for bathing purposes and have spray bottles with cleaners and even dish soap made up for cleaning.

SHELTER If you have a solid home, it will hopefully hold up during the storm. Choose a room or area as your bugout room that has no windows and is close to the center of the home to keep you most secure. Stage your items like emergency supplies, bugout bags, lighting and sleeping bags here. Help secure it by hanging a blanket or standing up a mattress in front of access areas to protect from flying debris. If the storm is overnight or long lasting, it’s a great place to sleep. You can add additional items like window and door covers for added protection. These come in all price points and forms from roll shutters or storm-rated products, to plywood or corregated metal panels that store and are attached. It’s a good idea to already have your wood or metal panels precut and hardware in place to attach quickly. Do not use tape on your windows as protection, it won’t help. If you cannot block them from the outside, place large objects in front of it and stay away from windows during the storm. If you are not in a solid home, be sure to have an evacuation plan to leave the area or stay somewhere that is solid and safe. After a storm, you will need to have a plan in case your shelter sustains too much damage. Having tarps on hand for the roof, doors, windows or walls, as well as ropes, screws or nails to secure it will help short term. If you camp, having your tent handy can be a good option so you can shelter nearby. In the event of a power outage, you will need a few things to help. Candles are a fire hazard and a consumable we tend to not opt for. For indoor lighting, we get inexpensive oil lamps (home stores have these, but they are also easy to find at secondhand and antique stores, too) as well as a few good flashlights or lanterns, including a couple of headlamps. We stock up on batteries, but try to opt for rechargeable ones for sizes used often. A generator can be an expensive investment, but worthwhile since it can rotate between running a fan or your refrigerator. Be sure to have fuel and a proper extension cord for it, and be sure it is kept safely outdoors in an open and well ventilated area. Helpful tip: Don’t let your vehicles get less than half full during the season. You would much rather have a full tank if you must evacuate and get on the road than have to wait in line at a gas station or, worse, be stuck if they run out of fuel.

MEDICAL/FIRST AID Many of us keep basics like tylenol, band aids and ointment on hand. If you take prescriptions, be sure to keep a 30 day supply on hand, as well. Many home stores sell basic family first aid kits that can include additional items to help. Having these in a storage container you can find or grab to go easily can be a time saver, too. If you have medical conditions that require equipment that use electricity, be sure to know your locations that can support this and have equipment on hand to help power that. Many cars have 120 volt power supplies in them nowadays, which may not help during a storm, but can be helpful after a storm. Helpful tip: Having a 5 gallon bucket and some trash bags on hand can create a quick makeshift toilet in the event your shelter’s bathroom is out of order or damaged. Be sure to have these items (and toilet paper) in your kit, too.

MISCELLANEOUS This is the category I use to include things like changes of clothes, linens and toiletries, chargers for devices, weather radio, emergency paperwork, contact information, activities to do and cash. Having a grab bag with these things can be a huge time saver should you need to leave quickly. Be sure important papers like insurance documents and cards are someplace safe from damage and have a back up scanned digitally and stored on a cloud device or at a family or friends that lives out of the area can help maintain access to them should something happen. Chargers for your devices can also help. Many of us have vehicle chargers, and there are inexpensive battery packs, as well as portable solar panels, depending on your desired level of preparation and budget. A weather radio can be an inexpensive addition to your kit that can keep you informed and many have hand crank or solar chargers, as well as a built in flashlight and charge port for other devices. Having a deck of cards, coloring books or puzzles and board games can be good since it can distract small children and give the family something to do while riding out a storm or waiting for disaster relief to arrive. Cash is another thing people take for granted these days in our digital world, but there won’t be access to digital money if there is no power or internet, so cash can help for supplies like fuel, food and water, if you need them. A good rule of thumb is to have enough to fill your gas tank twice, find shelter for a few days, and $25 a day per person for food and water, for at least 3 days. For a family of four, this would be around $500.

PETS If you have pets, keeping them safe is important. Follow the same basics as you would for a person. Be sure to have food and water for at least 3 days, as well as any medications they take, or may need in an emergency. A pet first aid kit can be assembled, or included in your own since some things you will use are also pet friendly. check with your vet. Also be sure to have a safe carrier for them, and extra leashes for dogs and cats. Putting a shirt or blanket in the crate with your scent on it can help comfort them if they need to be secured. Ensure their collar is on and has your information, plus a microchip. Make sure you are aware of pet friendly shelters nearby in case you need to evacuate. Helpful tip: in case they escape somehow and slip a collar or the chip can’t be read, use a permanent marker to write your name and phone number on your pets belly to reunite them quickly.

This is not meant to be a complete and comprehensive list by any means, so I am sure there are elements I have left out. But I wanted to share some ideas that can help you save money on items you hope to never need, or share some items that do exist for emergencies. If you have other tips or ideas, please share them below in the comments.

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In the Kitchen for Taco Night – Recipe Blog

June 17, 2021

Yes, I know it’s not Tuesday the day this post is coming out, but two thoughts come to mind. One, you must have time to prepare and two, can’t every day be Taco Tuesday? In our house, it absolutely can.

This recipe has been modified over the years to become the favorite that it is now. I have both a pepper allergy and a wheat allergy, so this recipe is **GLUTEN FREE** for those of you also watching glutens, like me. The beauty of this recipe is that it can be adapted for small or large meals, or for crunchy or soft tacos or even nachos. I have premade the meat and frozen it before in both a serving dish and a freezer bag for camping.

Don’t worry, I won’t drag this out for you, I’ll get to the point, add in some pictures and tricks to help, as well as add in a savable/printable recipe card at the bottom. Prep takes about 20 minutes, bake for 7-10 minutes, then serve–which means this meal can be on the table in about 30 minutes, less if you prep the meat in advance. So let me share this delish dish with you!

First, let’s start with the ingredients you’ll need for shopping.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning mix
  • your choice of either crunchy shells (I recommend the stand and stuff), tortillas (if you choose flour tortillas, this is no longer gluten free), or tortilla chips (I recommend Tostito’s Scoops)
  • Toppings such as cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, or anything else your family may like!

Next, let’s talk kitchen supplies.

  • frying pan
  • spatula
  • oven (conventional or toaster, either will work)
  • colander
  • measuring cup
  • can opener
  • a baking dish, a 9×13 works perfectly for a 10 pack of stand and stuff shells or soft tacos, or that size or a 9×9 dish for the nachos, depending on how many you are feeding
  • optional-cutting board and knife (for those veggies, if you don’t buy precut!)
  • optional-parchment paper or foil (For lining the baking dish and to make for easy clean up)

Finally, let’s get cooking!

Step 1: Brown the meat, drain, return to pan

Step 2: Add in the seasoning. The packet should have instructions, but a helpful tip I have is to premix the seasoning with water in a measuring cup so it mixes better with the meat. Pour over and stir in. Let simmer for 5 minutes

Step 3: Add the refried beans into the meat mixture. I find this works best by spooning in and mashing it a little, then stirring it together. Let it simmer for another 3-5 minutes until it is thick and all mixes well. I like the beans in this recipe for a few reasons–better flavor, beans are a great source of protein (some may argue better than meat for you, and for the environment), and it doubles the amount of the primary ingredient which is a HUGE cost saver if you are on a budget.

Step 4: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (or 160 Celsius)

Step 5: Prep your baking dish of choice (you do not need to spray or line it, but if you want easy clean up, I suggest lining with foil or parchment paper) and put in your taco shells or tortilla chips

Step 6: Spoon the meat/bean mixture into your shells or chips. I suggest using a tablespoon and I usually put in about 1 1/2 tbsp per taco shell. If you use the 10 pack of the stand and stuff shells, this will leave some left over for a quick nacho lunch the next couple of days, or for a nacho dinner another night this week–maybe even as an addition tonight!

Step 7: Add cheese

Step 8: Bake at 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) for 7-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted

Step 9: While that is baking, you can chop your veggies and set the table. If you are lucky enough to have a kitchen helper or two, they could be taking care of this while you are doing the other steps before, so you can have a few minutes to clean up and load the dishwasher to have less clean up after dinner. If someone else does that, then enjoy a few minutes to yourself!

Step 10: Serve and enjoy!

If you keep a recipe catalog, book, or file, Here’s a quick recap of the recipe for you!

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Live Like You’re on Vacation – Simplifying Your Wardrobe

June 10, 2021

As a busy mom, daughter and educator that can be a procrastinator, I am always looking for ways to get more done while doing less and to be more efficient, even if only a little bit. So, when seasons started to change and I knew I was teaching all summer again, but also working in vacations, I decided to make some changes to my wardrobe, and it has proven to be a huge success.

While I like the idea of being a fashionista, I tend to default to t-shirts and shorts, especially with working from home. But I do have zoom lessons and meetings, so still try to look professional.  I’ve always been intrigued by the minimalist capsule wardrobes or only a certain number of pieces, but never wanted to commit to that restricted a lifestyle. Living in Florida, fashion choices can be a challenge in the summer since it’s just so hot and humid. Also, with Covid restrictions lifting and travel plans returning, I wanted to create an easy style for whatever our plans were this summer, whether it was work, relaxing at home or travel. 

Last month while putting laundry away, I got this crazy idea to create a vacation wardrobe for the summer, and possibly continue this for each month/season.  My boundaries were making sure I had what I needed for professional work, house and yard work, exercise, date nights and relaxing at home or out and about. And it all had to fit into my suitcase if we went somewhere. I already do laundry every week to keep up with it, so I just made sure I had enough to get me through the week.

I started by pulling out my favorite items that I always grabbed to wear. Then I checked to make sure everything had a match and created a complete set, so the shirts had bottoms to go with, the skirt had tops, I had sweaters that went with everything since it can be cold in air-conditioned places—that sort of thing. Then I took everything else and folded it, placing off season items into a storage tote and in season items in an empty drawer in case I wanted to rotate something out.  I paired it down to 42 key items (insert Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference here, although this was not the targeted number originally!).  These items included shorts, pants, tops, dresses, sweaters, and swimsuits (socks and undergarments not included in the count).

I’ve been using this wardrobe for a month now and I absolutely love the simplicity of it.  I find myself wearing “cute” clothes more often instead of grabbing the trusty t-shirt I love. I have fewer decisions to make since each item has a coordinating item to default to and my closet isn’t so crowded, well, at least my side isn’t.  My husband’s is a whole other story!

While clearing my wardrobe has been a part of my ongoing minimalist journey, this decision wasn’t made for that reason, it was made to make my life simpler and to give me fewer decisions to think about. Reducing my mental clutter and decision fatigue has been a nice side effect of this change in lifestyle that has made my work and family life a lot less stressful and has inspired me to simplify other areas of my home in a similar “vacation house” style of having what I need and less decisions to make. It’s not always easy and something go into the donate box or holding box that come back out, but ultimately, I am free to worry about more important things, like where to travel to with my simplified wardrobe!

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Wrapping Up the School Year From Home – Tips for Distance Learners

May 27, 2021

It won’t take long, but this quick checklist can save you time later!

It has been a long and crazy school year, whether you have been at home or on a campus. For those of you that have been students at home, I thought it might be helpful to share some Teacher Tips to help you wrap things up for next year, whether you will still be working from home or plan to return to campus.  Taking these steps will help you start next year off successfully!

CLEAR MATERIALS Whether you purchased, printed, borrowed, or created your materials, chances are that you have LOTS of things collected from the year.  Start by pulling out all materials and sorting through them. What needs returned? What needs submitted? What needs retained for records? What can go? Can any of it be sold, recycled, or passed on? Making these decisions makes the next step of clearing them a breeze. Recycle or trash anything you don’t need.  Post any items for sale or donation on your local community board or drop at a local donation spot.  Anything that needs returned or submitted can be taken in one trip.  Finally, anything you need to retain can be put into a file folder or binder and marked for the school year. This would also be a great time to deep clean the space since it won’t be in constant use.

INVENTORY SUPPLIES Unless you graduated, you will need some school supplies next year, whether schooling at home or back on campus.  Take inventory of what you have and make yourself a shopping list now to pin to your fridge or bulletin board.  Then, you can shop sales all summer or be ready for the back-to-school shopping before school starts.

TRANSITION WORKSTATION Unless you will be doing some sort of summer learning program at home or online, chances are you won’t need to keep the workstation set up all summer.  Use this time to store away anything that won’t be needed (clean it first, you’ll thank me!) and set up the space for gaming, online lessons, or crafting this summer. Repurposing the space will keep from wasting valuable real estate in your home and allow you to truly relax this summer. Plus, if it’s a shared workspace with someone else still working, it will be a help to them.  This is also a great time to talk about how the space will be used next school year and plan for any changes that may need made so you can begin planning or save up for them now.

TRANSCRIPTS Depending on what type of home school choice you made, it may be your responsibility to collect those transcripts and submit that documentation to your local home school/distance learning office yourself.  This is the time to take care of it and you don’t want to be surprised when you go to start the next grade that there is no record of completing this one. 

PLANS FOR NEXT SCHOOL YEAR Whether you are returning to campus, remaining distance learning, or transferring to another school, whether by promotion or change in venue, be sure all parties are aware and planning for it.  Talk to your student about the plans so they can be aware, or even part of the decision, and prepare for it now.  Talk to the school and be sure they know your intentions. If you are leaving one location for another, they will need to get records sent over and waiting until the start can delay entry or be a very long wait. If you are returning to on campus, you will want to make sure they have a seat for you and your records to start smoothly and be prepared.

I know you are just ready for summer to start so you can relax and have one less BIG thing to worry about but taking an extra day or two now to get these things resolved will make it a much more restful summer!  Enjoy that break, you deserve it!

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