Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dear New Teachers

Dear New Teachers of 2018,

If I could offer any advice for your first year of teaching, it would be this: Don't go into debt for your job. 

"But wait!" you're probably thinking. "I've got a classroom to decorate, cute teacher clothes to buy, supplies to get, flexible seating to set up..." 

Oh, I know all too well the Siren Song of Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Just remember though, we're only seeing the highlights of someone's life in those posts. We're not seeing the behind the scenes work and bloopers. We're not seeing the years invested in practicing skills and collecting items. Those images are supposed to inspire us, not expire us! 

For this first year, don't worry too much about room set-up. Your administrators will mostly care that your room is clean and organized, not that it is Pinterest-worthy.

I once read a story about an architect who had designed a new college campus. He was widely criticized when the new school year began and he still hadn't designed any pathways throughout the campus. He wasn't too concerned though because he had a plan. This brilliant thinker waited to see where students naturally traveled throughout the campus, and THEN he had those pathways paved. 

Your classroom is a lot like that architect's college campus. Since you're new to the school, wait to see what the natural flow of your class is before you firmly establish where you want everything. For example, I thought I wanted my desk at the front of the room so I could see everyone's face during independent work time. However, with the advent of Chromebooks in my class, I now want my desk in the back of the room so I can see what everyone's doing! 😉  It's important to stay flexible!

I would also advise keeping your decor simple for a couple of reasons. First, you'll want to establish your own decorating style, and that takes a few years to determine. You don't want to waste lots of time and money buying things that you won't even want in a couple of years. And don't forget that you'll have to find a place to store all of these things...classrooms are notorious for not having lots of storage space! Also, many students come to us with attention or sensory issues, and too many decorations can honestly become a distraction to their learning.

The longer I teach, the more of a minimalist I become. I try to keep my classroom bright and cheerful and free of clutter. At the beginning of the year, I tell my kiddos that I am the most dazzling, unique decoration in the room, so they should always be looking at me. 😘

Speaking of being a human decoration, I would adopt a wait-and-see attitude about your wardrobe for the year. I know, I know, it's so much fun to shop! However, you're new to the school, and you probably don't know how they dress. Sure, it's usually casual business attire, but just how casual and how business are they?

For instance, I've worked in schools where jeans were NEVER allowed unless there was a fundraiser of some kind, and then you had to pay dearly to wear the denim. I've also worked in buildings where you could wear shorts and flip-flops during the warm months. So before you plunk down the hard-earned cash you have yet to get, wear what you wore student teaching and diligently observe what your colleagues wear for the next couple of months. Your checkbook will thank you in the long run.

You will also most likely have school or team apparel that you are expected to wear on Fridays or special days. This really cuts down on the "what to wear" dilemma in the morning, and it can be a huge budget helper since you only need one Friday outfit. You'll come to appreciate those "school uniform" days toward the end of the year!

Best wishes for a great start on your teaching career! Remember that while you're finally living out your career dreams, you'll want to make your financial dreams come true, too. Don't set yourself up for a ride on the struggle bus--that's a ride that can go on for years! Don't ask me how I know...

As a recent college graduate, no one is going to expect you to have lots of money--embrace that! 😃 Never again in your lifetime will it be so socially acceptable to not have money. Enjoy that liberating freedom to its fullest!

So when you meet the Mr. and Mrs. Joneses down the hallway, don't be envious of their classrooms or the things they have. They've had years to accumulate their classroom treasures and hone their decorating skills. Truth be told, they probably wish they didn't have so much stuff!

And while you're walking down that hallway to your humble first classroom, many of them will be envious of you and the blank slate before you that's just waiting to be filled. 

Happy first year!

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Peanut Butter-Apple Butter French Toast

Happy Friday to you! Today's special at our Frugal Friday Diner is intended for the lumberjack in you--we're talking Paul Bunyan-size comfort food! There's so much sweetness in this particular recipe that you'll be smiling for a week!

Over the weekend, we often like to have Breakfast for Supper. Anyone else like to do that? I am not much of a morning person, so it's always pretty much been an everyone-for-himself breakfast routine at my house. By late afternoon, however, I am thankfully a little more ambitious and hungry for traditional breakfast food. I know that brunch is a popular concept, but I vote we start a "lupper" or "linner" movement soon throughout the world.

Anyhoo, this super speedy, five-ingredient recipe will fill you up in no time! Without further ado, may I present Peanut Butter-Apple Butter French Toast...

It's a mouthful to say and a delicious mouthful to eat! Let's get started, shall we?

Our star ingredients are...
*Peanut butter
*Apple butter
*Bread (great use for stale bread)

1. Mix one egg and one cup of milk together in a shallow bowl. Set aside.

2. Spread peanut butter and apple butter on bread as though you were making a sandwich...
3. Slap another slice of bread on top and dip the "sandwich" into the egg-milk mixture.

Here's my French toast assembly line...
Why yes, those are real, genuine Formica counter tops from the 1960s...our summer diner has kind of a retro vibe going on here...

4. Fry those babies in a lightly greased skillet until they are golden brown on each side...
Oh, my stomach is starting to growl, my mouth is beginning to water, and I think my pancreas may be producing more insulin to accommodate the impending sugar rush.

And there you have it, folks! Faster than you can say...
Buttered Peanut Butter-Apple Butter French Toast (with syrup!). 

There's a lot of butter in that title...
...and a lot of yummy in every bite!

A quick, easy supper idea for under $5.00 total. Sweet! Literally...

May your weekend be as sweet as this French Toast!

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Amaze Me Monday

Sunday, June 17, 2018

So Rise and Shine

...And give God the glory, glory.

Are ya singing along with me, folks? Catchy tune, isn't it?

Oh, Summer Sunday, how I love you! No papers to grade, no emails to write, no planning for the rest of the week. Today is definitely a good day for a good day...

A good day of rest, that is. 

During the school year, Sunday is sometimes a dreaded day because it just gets so busy. After church and lunch, I have all the. things. to. do. to get ready for the upcoming week. I've promised myself that during the summer though, I'm going to learn the fine art of resting.

Won't you join me for at least an hour of putting your weary feet up? An hour of letting your overcrowded mind wander away from your perpetual to-do list and just allow yourself to...

Bask in the sunlight streaming in the window.

Take a short nap on the couch.

Call an old friend and chat for a bit.

Read a book.

Take a hot bubble bath.

Dote on a child, a spouse, or a furbaby.

Read this excellent article by Dr. James Dobson about slowing down and avoiding what he calls "routine panic."

Create a list of everything you're thankful for.

And most of all, don't forget to give God the glory, glory.

Happy Sunday, dear friends!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Hungry Boy Casserole

It's Friday afternoon and you're wiped out from a tough week of work...or vacation. Let's face it, sometimes you need a vacation to rest up from vacation.

But I digress.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes...

You're exhausted and you don't feel like preparing a meal, but you hate to spend the money on fast food.

In the time it would take to sit through the average drive-through (because in my experience fast food isn't exactly fast anymore), you could whip this baby together and be sitting on the couch! Right before the timer goes off, throw together a quick salad, and you're in business!

This quick and easy main dish has been a favorite at our house for years. It's also easy to stretch into more servings if you have unexpected guests.

Basic Ingredients:

1 lb. of hamburger

2 (15-oz.) cans pork and beans
1 cup barbecue sauce (I like Hunt's Hickory & Brown Sugar)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese (can use cheddar also)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown hamburger (you could add some chopped onion if you'd like); drain. In a bowl, combine drained hamburger, pork and beans, barbecue sauce, salt, and brown sugar. Mix thoroughly. Pour into a greased 2-quart casserole. Put casserole in oven and heat 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Sprinkle heated mixture with cheese and add refrigerated biscuits to the top.  Bake 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

Serves 4-6


If unexpected company drops by:

--Add extra hamburger and/or another can of beans. Increase barbecue sauce to the desired consistency (for me, usually half the bottle). Pour in a 9 X 13 cake pan and bake until bubbly. Add another can of biscuits to the top after sprinkling on cheese. You don't really have to add more brown sugar or cheese unless you want to.

Ta-Da! The finished product...

Refrigerate the leftovers and heat up in the microwave for a quick lunch. Fast, easy, and economical--that's my kind of recipe!

I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does. Happy cooking, happy saving, AND happy Friday!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Summer TIME: Practice Telling Time

The following is a real conversation that happened WAY too many times in my 6th grade classroom this past year:

Student: Mrs. G, can you please tell me when it's 2:30?

Me: I can, but it would be much better if you just watch the 
        clock yourself. I might get busy and forget.

Student: But my mom is picking me up early, and I can't
                 tell time on that kind of clock!

Please note:

*First of all, most students did not pick up on my enunciated stress of the word can.  (Sadly, English teacher humor is lost on the majority of my students.)

*Secondly, we have lovely secretaries who phone our classroom anytime parents arrive to pick up kids for appointments. It's not like students will miss the Parent Express at 2:01 if they're not already boarded.


*When did it become okay to NOT have to do something just because you don't know how?!?

Not one of those kiddos showed the slightest bit of embarrassment or concern that they haven't learned an important life skill. They simply shrugged it off and carried on like it was no big deal.

Well, not in my!

I waited until summer vacation so that I could have the time to develop a resource for my kiddos to review and reinforce this necessary skill. I decided a series of task cards would be the most engaging for my students, so I started with telling time to the hour and half hour and moved on from there.

 Telling Time to the Hour and Half Hour
Telling Time to the Hour and Half Hour

Each set of task cards comes in a color version or black and white option. (I'll decide which ones to print when the copying budget is decided next month. Hee hee! If the sky's the limit, I'll print them in full color. If it's a stricter budget, I'll use some of the brightly colored card stock and the blackline option. Either way, they'll be fun to look at, and by laminating them, I'll get years of use of each set!

Telling Time to the Quarter Hour: Beach Edition

I went with a summer theme because I plan on using them during study hall the first two weeks of classes in August. I think we'll all still feel in summer mode then. Also, since I listed these in my Tpt store, I wanted to give others a summery product to use for tutoring and summer school.

Time to Swim: Telling Time to Five Minutes

Study hall in our building is always the last class of the day, so I figure by then kids will want to be up and about. I'm going to post a set of task cards around the hall each week and let the kids do a gallery walk to practice and review their time telling skills.

There are also two practice sheets that I can use to assess students' abilities. I can use them as a pre-test and post-test or for more independent practice. I'll just have to see what my kiddos' needs are when school starts.

I also developed this resource with my elementary teacher friends in mind. I think its simplistic design makes it attractive enough for lower elementary students, but it's not too "babyish" for my sixth graders to use for review and practice.

Time shall tell, dear friends...(See what I did there?!)😉

I also have all three telling time resources available in my FIRST ever bundle!
Summer TIME Bundle

All three products are available in one easy download pdf and at a great savings!

Now that I don't want to see a clock for quite some time, I am off to enjoy a little down time this afternoon. For some reason, I cannot stop thinking of the word "time"...

Anyway, I hope your summertime is off to a terrific start!

Until next time, friends! 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Little Place

I love a simple story that is big in meaning. I first came across "A Little Place" while reading Elizabeth George's Beautiful in His Eyes*. Unfortunately, the original author is unknown, but his/her message has become very well known to many.  I hope you enjoy this little verse as much as I do.

"Where shall I work today, dear Lord?"
And my love flowed warm and free.

He answered and said, 

"See that little place?

Tend that place for Me."
I answered and said, "Oh no, not there!

No one would ever see. 

No matter how well my work was done, 

Not that place for me!"
His voice, when He spoke, was soft and kind,

He answered tenderly,

"Little one, search that heart of thine,

Are you working for them or ME?
Nazareth was a little place...

So was Galilee."

May you have a most blessed Sunday!

* George, Elizabeth. Beautiful in His Eyes, author unknown. (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), p. 210.