Make Time For the Struggling Student

April 1, 2023

Our world can be such a paradox, especially when it comes to education. Every student is an individual, with knowledge, skills and struggles uniquely their own.

For some, those struggles may required education plans to help them demonstrate their learning and show just how capable and intelligent they truly are. For others, those struggles could have nothing to do with academics, but interfere with them nonetheless.

But, a school environment also has very rigid structure and requirement that can sometimes contradict the student’s learning needs, and stifle their emotional or social needs.

We also see this in the everyday world as adults–embrace our individuality while also trying to fit into society’s everchanging norms.

I won’t dive into that subject today, but focus, instead on how we can support the student that is still learning how to fit into the world because they are still learning who they are and what they are capable of.

History is riddled with stories about people, including children, who didn’t fit an image of what they should be. It took them time to find who they were as a person and what their unique talents are.

The prodigal son that left and returned after having squandered his inheritance, being celebrated by dad and despised by the sibling that stayed and worked.

David, who was weak and yet killed Goliath with a sling and a stone, then became a great King.

Albert Einstein who didn’t speak until he was 5 years old, but went on to win a Nobel Prize.

Oprah Winfrey who was born into poverty and endured unspeakable acts as a child, only to grow up into the entrepreneur and philanthropist she is today.

So, how can we do the same thing with our students, even if on a much smaller scale?

TALK TIMES Students are humans that have stresses and worries of their own and they need a chance to talk about them, whether to seek advice and guidance, or to just vent out loud. Allowing some free talk time with peers throughout the week for a few minutes can be good. Sincerely checking in on them and asking about their game last night or their vacation after a break and listening gives them this chance and shows them they are valuable and someone wants to hear them. If they have deeper concerns, be sure to have access to a guidance counselor they can talk to as well, and let them know that sometimes we all need help and need to talk to someone.

MENU ACTIVITIES When it comes to learning strategies and demonstrating mastery of a skill, allowing students to choose from a variety of options that fit their comfort zone, interests, or skillset will allow them to truly show what they know and measure the skill you are looking for. Sometimes in life there is only one way to do something–a driver’s test requires driving an actual car on an actual road; standardized testing requires answering questions on a computer most times–but sometimes there are other options. Be open to alternatives so you can really see your student shine. This also helps when there are certain things that need to be done a particular way, they learn how to do that as well, but can concede that they will still have other times to show their individuality in their work.

OPEN OFFICE TIMES Having a time for a student to stop by your classroom, your zoom room, or call you (if you are not in a physical school campus with them) can create opportunities for students to reach out with questions if they aren’t comfortable during class time. It will also make them more likely to reach out if they don’t think they will be bothering you. I’ve used this technique for years and have had students pop in to say hi, chat about an issue they couldn’t bring up in class, ask a quick question on an assignment, or even get hands on time for a project they were completely lost on or didn’t have resources or space to work on at home and used my classroom. This is an additional step that truly shows students they are valuable and their unique learning style is okay and you will still support them.

LISTENING Not all students want an answer or solution, sometimes they just want to be heard without judgement and acknowledged by someone that their feelings or thoughts are okay. By actively listening to them–repeating what they said, acknowledging their feeling or thought–can go a long way in helping them work through a situation. I’ve had students in my room crying over a break up, and saying with an eye roll ” I know, I know, I’m young and it isn’t real love yet” and I let them know that if it is real to them, then it is real. My life experience level is different than theirs and not a fair comparison. I’ve had students also come in and feel they weren’t being challenged in class, they were placed based on test scores in remedial class but had been ill or lost a family member during testing and weren’t focused. So we talked about what we could do to challenge them and help them grow as a student, or even appeal on their behalf to change their course level with evidence of their learning.

RESPECT This is always my #1 unbreakable rule in my classroom, and life in general. If we show respect to everyone and everything, all the other rules and guidelines pretty much take care of themselves. Respecting a student and their situation, thoughts, feelings, or work is crucial to their development of both self-esteem and social etiquette. We won’t always agree with them, but we can still respect them and learn from them. I am not the person I was 16 years ago when I went searching for my first teaching job out of college, and part of that is because I learned, not only from professional training, but from my students. And that respect was acknowledged and reciprocated by my students and their families more often than not.

GRACE Students will make mistakes, lose their cool, refuse to work, or be mean sometimes. But we are the same way. Having grace when someone snaps or doesn’t work is crucial to changing the negative behavior into a positive outcome and learning from it. When a student is frustrated and yells out that something is stupid in class. Instead of getting onto them for the outburst, quietly go to them and give them a pass to a quiet place to regroup, or if it won’t escalate things, invite them into the hallway or office for a quick check in. Acknowledge and give them a chance to clarify. “It sounds like you are upset about something. What’s going on?” Let them vent, then ask what they should have done instead of yelling out and let them do that. Also, clearly state your forgiveness and your support for their success, and invite them to tell you another way next time they have an issue.

I can’t stress enough that our role as educators is to educate students, but that isn’t always just “reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic”, sometimes that will also be building character and helping them become who they are meant to be. Take the time to see them as individuals and be there for them, it can make a world of difference to them, and they can make a difference in the world.

And remember to do this for everyone, not just students in your classroom. Helping someone in need can have a huge impact in their world as an individual, and the world around them as a whole. If their struggle is beyond your expertise, then be there with them and guide them to someone that can help them through their struggles, don’t ignore it and let it grow to something uncontrollable. Be a helper, even in the little ways.

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My Experience with Intermittent Fasting

September 9, 2022

When you have a lot of food allergies, eating can be an annoyance, or even life threatening. Add in the stress of modern life and it is very easy to overeat or eat poorly. Diets are not my thing either–most of them have things I can’t or don’t eat or are way to exact and can’t be easily substituted. I’ve tried so many different tips and suggestions from doctors, articles, videos and friendly advise, but only one of them seems to work well.

Intermittent fasting.

Here’s the other thing–I see the impacts pretty quickly.

I’ve used this off and on several times. I’d start and then stop since it wasn’t convenient. I’ve recently started back again with the start of the school year and saw the benefits within a couple of days, and after a few weeks, notice a big difference in how I feel.

I’m not a health expert, by any means, so let me share what I have adapted and adopted after talking with my doctors and nutritionists, then you can talk to your doctors and find a plan that works for you.

I start my day with a walk or run six days a week, so I will drink a large glass of water first thing, complete my activity and then start my food window. I usually start eating/drinking other than water between 7AM and 9AM, and that opens my 4 hour window. During that time I will usually eat twice and consume my caffeine. I may have a protein shake, some fruit, cereal, or eggs and bacon or cornbeef hash. Usually I have a combo of two of these during that window, as well as my daily caffeine. If I started closer to 9AM or after, I may opt for a sandwich or something instead of breakfast items.

Four hours after I first ate, I switch to only water for the next four hours, so usually between 10AM and 12 Noon.

At the next 4 hour window, I eat again, usually around 4Pm or 5PM. I may have a light snack or a sweet treat since I try to stay away from sugar late in the day (insomnia!) and then we have our family dinner. If I am still hungry I will work in a snack of popcorn, chips, ice cream, or maybe a hot cocoa or glass of wine. By 8PM or 9PM, I stop eating for the day, switch again to only water until morning.

For the first day or two, I did feel hungry and had to make sure I didn’t overeat. But by the 3rd day, it leveled off and I got used to it. I did find that meal planning was still helpful so I didn’t rage eat from hunger or stress and overconsume, but this wasn’t too much of an issue. I also noticed that, if I happened to consume something that triggered my food allergies or sensitivities, it wouldn’t be as severe or require medicine, like it usually did.

Occasionally, a family or social event will fall during my fasting times and I don’t worry about it. I try to still eat lighter, but then I just fast for 4 hours after.

Why is this a good thing? Well, by constantly eating, our sugar levels stay constantly high and never get a chance to level off. This can result in all sorts of issues as well as struggles with losing weight.

While I tend to focus more on how I feel than on the scale, I noticed that, even if the scale only shifted slightly, my body composition shifted noticeably–a pleasant surprise. I also noticed that heartburn, insomnia, active dreams, restlessness, and focus issues also seemed to level out for me with this consistency.

As a teacher and busy mom, this technique also helped me avoid the short or non-existent lunches that tend to happen and I was able to get through most of my day without issue.

Again, I am not a health expert, so don’t just jump into a change like this without talking to a health professional. What works for one person may not for another, but I do hope you find what works for you.

Like or comment below, and share with others to support the blog. I post weekly about teaching, traveling and family. Until next time, you can find me on Tiktok @sonya.BOMSquadleader or our adventures at, Facebook & TikTok at @BarnesOnMove

Is Virtual Learning An Option For Your Family?

August 26, 2022

With so many options for in- person or virtual learning these days, many wonder if this may be a good option. I always loved the idea of home schooling, but my children do not learn well from me, and for some reason I have no patience with my own kids, even though I am fine with my students.

I get asked a lot about what virtual school is like and if it’s a good option for their family. I’ve been both a virtual school student in college, a virtual teacher for 3 years and the parent of a virtual student. I’ve been blessed with a variety of perspectives, so want to share some lessons we learned, if you are trying to make this decision for yourself or a child or family member.

TIME MANAGEMENT Many virtual programs have set times to meet, or at least working goals to meet, every week. That means that a schedule of what work to do when and around other family and extra-curricular activities will need to be in place. Students of all ages thrive under structure, but it can vary student to student. So this may be set times each day, or just set goals in a certain order each day to accomplish.

SELF-REGULATING Since they will often have both meet time and work time, it will be important they can sign in and work when they should be. Back to that structure, it can vary student to student, so figure out what is best. Many function best with the harder work first thing (see my blog on Eating the Frog for more), then easier work, and some need easier work for the “early win” to motivate them through the challenges. You may also notice they are a night owl or an early bird, or have practices to attend for special trainings to work around, so planning for this will be important.

INITIATIVE It is important that they are able to self-start and take initiative to get things done. If they only work when told or monitored, it may be more challenging than needed. Also, many classes need to be finished by a certain time to continue the progression of learning and not delay promotions or extend to the next term, so staying on top of their work is important. It’s not unusual to need a goal or reward, though. For our son, since his classes are only 4 days a week, he is encouraged to get work done and good grades to earn a 3 day weekend and earn free time for electronics on his extra day–this is his currency and it works. But he also doesn’t stress things that take more time since he knows he still has an extra day to work if needed.

ADVOCATING FOR THEMSELVES Since they are working from home and not in a classroom, there may be times they need to ask for help and not wait for someone to come to them. While many teachers have measures in place to reach out, learning to advocate for themselves and ask for help after trying to resolve it themselves is a fantastic life skill to have. This can be asking a parent or sibling for help or reaching out to the teacher or attending tutoring or live lesson options.

NON-TRADITIONAL IS OKAY Unless you are in a full-time program that says what and when for classes, it can be okay to scaffold class start dates and completions and still finish the whole year without doing them all at once. Some families start 2 classes every 2-4 weeks, or complete 1 a month on an accelerated plan. Many work through the summer but the whole year is a lighter load. You know what is best for you and your child, but don’t be afraid to follow a non-traditional pattern. I would suggest easing into this if they have been brick and mortar student and this is a trial, though. If it doesn’t work out and they need to return, you don’t want to cause a delay in their promotions.

TRIAL AND ERROR If you’re not sure, but this is something both parent/guardian and student want, go ahead and try. You can always return to brick and mortar schools. If you want to get a taste of it first, most allow signing up for 1 or 2 classes to work around your day.

Like or comment below, and share with others to support the blog. I post weekly about teaching, traveling and family. Until next time, you can find me on Tiktok @sonya.BOMSquadleader or our adventures at, Facebook & TikTok at @BarnesOnMove

Learning To Look Forward

July 19, 2022

I think the only thing I see my students dread more than school is getting negative feedback or in trouble for mistakes. And I can’t blame them.

I’ve been that teacher and parent that harped on the mistakes, ranting and making a big deal of it. It made them afraid to talk to me and afraid to take a chance on new things for fear of failure.

I do this to myself, too. And that negativity doesn’t do me any good as an adult, either.

I endured this negativity growing up and it taught me to take the easy road to a guaranteed success. It took me a long time in life to be willing to take risks and learn from failure.

Mistakes will happen, errors will be made, wrong answers will be given–the world will go on.

And, in true Thomas Edison fashion, that lesson is learning a way NOT to do something, and that knowledge is gold.

So, how can we use mistakes and wrong answers to help with growth and remove fear of failure or talking about it? By changing the dialogue we have with them, and with ourselves.

Whenever I talk to students that fail an assignment or go too long without working, I reassure them. I remind them that neither of us has a time machine, so let’s focus on what we should be doing now, and next to keep it from repeating, and learn from the mistake. Then we have a conversation about what that looks like. It could be helping them make a schedule, plan out steps, or talk about why an answer was wrong.

I start by asking questions of their plan or their ideas and don’t immediately try to solve the problem for them. They need to think and strategize. But if it’s an I don’t know or their plan isn’t clear and specific, or may not lead to success, I give feedback. But it is a conversation focused on the positive and helping them grow. Then I repeat it and TEXT IT TO THEM so they have it written down. We then schedule follow up time to check in within a week or two.

THAT is what we need to do for our children, as both parents and teachers.

This is also what we need to do for ourselves as successful adults.

How can you change the dialogue of conversations you are having to turn negatives into positives?

Like or comment below and share with others to support the blog. I post twice a week about teaching, traveling and family. Until next time, you can find me on Twitter @AddictedtoTeac1 or on Tiktok: @sonya.BOMSquadleader. You can find more about our adventures on our our website at, Facebook, TikTok & Twitter: @BarnesOnMove . Support us and get more in depth and personal interactions at Patreon: Barnes On Move

Summer Reset Series – Phase 1 – Classroom Supplies & Resources

May 31, 2022

Summer break.

The words educators and students alike look forward to for some much needed rest and catching up.

Some educators spend their summer rotating between rest and preparing for the upcoming school year while some educators enjoy summer and save those tasks for when school starts, or a week or two before. Whichever camp you fall into, I’ve got you covered.

Over the next few weeks, I will break down my routine for prepping for the new school year into phases and activities to do. I did this every year while I was in a brick and mortar school and it got faster each time. It helped me see what I have and reduced my inventory to smaller amounts, which made moves, prep and teaching go a lot smoother.

You can decide whether you do one task a week over the summer in small sessions, or you do one task a day when you return. Be sure to bookmark this page for when you return to it this year, or in future years, or to share with fellow educators.

So let’s tackle Phase 1 by starting with what we have. I’ve even made a *** printable checklist and shopping list *** to help you! And, since we educators love our acronyms to remember things, I’ve made one for this, too.

Phase 1: Classroom Supplies and Resources – let’s clean up the SPILLS

SORT Take every item you have in your cabinets, drawers and shelves out and sort it by category. Do the same with your digital inventory, or complete that in the next step

PURGE Go through each category and ask yourself: Does it still work/is it in good repair? Have I used this in the last 3 years? Will I use it next year? If the answer to ANY of these is no, either pass it on or recycle/trash it. If the answer is yes, set it aside and keep it in that category. Be sure to do this with everything from craft supplies to books to teaching resources. Leave nothing untouched!

This is also the time to go through all your digital files and group into folders as well as purge–if you are like me, every year is slightly adapted, so you may have several versions of the same thing–keep the most current or create a template for adapting and ditch them all.

INVENTORY (I like to combine this step with the next one and do them at the same time for efficiency and forgetfulness.) Now that you have cleared things out, you should see a reduction in what you have. Now take inventory of what is there and do a quick check–any redundancies or things that can do double duty to further reduce your inventory?

LIST Either make a separate list for each category OR use one sheet and just have it sorted by category. As you inventory each, if you find any gaps or items that need replaced or added, be sure they have been added to your list under the category needed, this will make your shopping step much easier. Don’t forget to think about how you will store things in the last step so you can gather boxes or baskets that you can repurpose from old packaging, gather from your home or sales, or purchase at the store. I have found these plastic shoe boxes and 3 tiered drawer organizer or file racks to be my favorite methods, especially the 3 tiered drawers for turn in bins so everything is already sorted for grading. They are versatile and symmetric in size, making it easier to fit more together when needed.

LABEL With everything already sorted into categories, go ahead and create labels for them. You can simply hand write them, use a label maker, or get crafty and create them! This may sound a little OCD for your methods, but having a label for what you have either for the box, drawer or cabinet, will make it easier on you for prep, or on the students or substitute if you allow them access to supplies. We will store them in the next step, so don’t worry about containers. And if you need supplies for this step, add it to your list-just call it your LABEL category and add what you need for it.

SHOP & STORE IT Get those items on hand organized, labeled and stored away for now. After we complete the next two phases, we will be ready to shop. for now, place supply requests or work orders with your school, if they do that for you so it can be on it’s way. If you shop the dollar bins or back to school sales over the summer, just keep that list in your go bag and check it when you are at the store. As you acquire your items, add them to your storage or, if you store in your classroom, create a holding spot someplace so you’ll remember to take them with you.

Be sure to subscribe so Phase 2 will be delivered right to your inbox!

*links to Amazon items use my affiliate link to help me earn credit for every purchase

Like or comment below and share with others to support the blog. I post twice a week about teaching, traveling and family. Until next time, you can find me on Twitter @AddictedtoTeac1 or on Tiktok: @sonya.BOMSquadleader. You can find more about our adventures on our our website at, Facebook, TikTok & Twitter: @BarnesOnMove . Support us and get more in depth and personal interactions at Patreon: Barnes On Move

The Best Lunch Break – Walking Through the Woods

April 4, 2022

Last week we stayed at the Peace River RV and Camping Resort in Wauchula (south Central Florida) that is along the Peace River. It is a beautiful area with varying lengths of hiking trails, and we decided to take our lunch outside to enjoy it.

It was one of those late spring Florida days that are cool in the morning and warm during the day, but not so humid that you are miserable. We packed some sandwiches into a Tupperware box, filled our water bottles and stopped at the camp store for some chips before heading out for the 1.5 mile trek.

It meanders in and out of the trees, bouncing between the river and campsites. Being midday, we saw insects, birds and squirrels, alligators and fish in the river, and evidence of wild boar, but no other wildlife. A variety of trees and plants played up the midday sunlight and were stunning.

We stopped along the clear river and enjoyed our lunch. It looks like the spot we chose was a popular spot and someone had attempted to make a lean-to from branches and palm fronds.

Today the river was moving quickly, but clear enough, even with the brown-tinge, to see the various sandbars and rocks along the bottom. Sitting along the banks, rock and sand were carved by higher water levels and faster currents. It was clear this is the dry season and this shallow and wadable stream could be a powerful force of nature. Some families were panning for shark’s teeth and other treasures along some of the sand and gravel bars. We hope to get out there and try our luck before we leave.

While we were only out there for an hour, it was certainly an enjoyable break in the day’s work. We returned a few more times over the week, especially to look for shells and fossils. We found a great one of a plant and it came home with us.

There were a few other places we ventured out to explore along the Peace River nearby–Pioneer Park Animal Refuge and Pioneer Museum and Payne’s Creek Historical State Park. We learned a lot about this area, and enjoyed the peaceful area, and that it hasn’t been inundated with development. I look forward to a return visit and many more walks in the trees to see how it changes with the seasons.

What is your favorite outdoor lunch memory? I’d love to hear about it! Until next time, follow or interact with me on Twitter @AddictedtoTeac1

I Lost My Balance This Week

#A2TBalanceClick the STAR to like this post and comment below with your best ideas for keeping balance and not getting lost to the job.

September 24, 2021

It’s been a busy month. Not just with work and the start of the school year as a teacher, but with life. We have celebrated successes, grieved lost loved ones, had home projects and chores to tend to, refinanced our house (yay for lower interest rates) and prayed without ceasing over illness and struggle.

And there has been so much struggle.

I got consumed in trying to take care of everyone else, I forgot to take care of me. The other day, I lost it completely and was in tears. Major anxiety attacks over things that weren’t worth it. And I have never really been one to get to this point, until the pandemic. I could usually rationalize, make a list, go for a walk–something to regain balance, then tackle it and get through. None of that worked this time.

I called my husband, being the steady rock of logic that he is, and he helped me immensely. you know what he told me: stop worrying about helping everyone else and focus on you.


So I did. I went through my work schedule and cleared anything that wasn’t necessary. I had my youngest son help with a few tasks as his “big helper chores” for the week. I avoided committing myself to others, other than just to pray for them. The biggest thing he said that helped was taking a break from social media.

I’m like most people and check the streams on two or more apps several times a day. So I posted that I was hitting a rough road and taking a break. It’s now been a few days. Several friends and family members called or texted just to check on me, which was amazing. My brain hasn’t slowed down, but it has refocused. I got through this crazy week of obstacles and created a plan of attack for the next two super busy weeks at work, and I set my boundaries of hours and stuck to it. I said no, and that hardly ever happens. Most importantly, I focused on my faith–my anchor in life–and prayed several times a day, even if just to say hi and thank Him for my porch swing and the cookie I was enjoying.

If you are like me and feeling overwhelmed, I hope that you can also find balance by eliminating what isn’t necessary. I hope you also have someone you can reach out to that can help you and be a voice of reason. I hope that you have faith or a connection to a higher power or life force than just you.

We can’t escape struggle or challenge. There is no easy way around it, avoiding it makes it worse, so all we can do is get through it as best we can.

I may check my social media pages tomorrow, when I am off work and relaxed. Or maybe I will go for a walk, call and have a long chat with someone, or explore someplace new instead. It could really go either way.

Be sure to click the STAR to like this post and comment below with your best ideas for keeping balance and not getting lost to the job. 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.

Summer Reset Series- Part 1 The Classroom


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.

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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My Favorite Lesson to Teach – The End of Year “Letter to My Future Self”

May 13, 2021

Throughout the year, I always try to embed learning opportunities for my students to grow as a person or reflect on who they used to be.  At the end of the school year, it can get so busy and we need mini-lessons that can take one day here or there to fill in.  I started this one my very first year and, while I have adapted it for the grade I am teaching, or even used it for a beginning of year lesson, I have always fallen back on it. 

It’s pretty simple really, I have the students write a letter to their future self.  For my 6th graders, I would have them write it to themselves going into high school, then I would collect them and seal them up, with a promise to find them and deliver it as they were headed to high school. I live in an area where students move frequently, so this did prove challenging.  I later adapted it to seal it after adding a personal note to it, then returning it with a “Do not Open Until” instruction.  For my 8th graders, it was upon graduation.  So this time of year is exciting since I have students do this as an activity, and I have former students opening theirs and reflecting—and many reaching out to me.

So what do they write about? I do make a plan sheet for them to capture who they are now—favorite music, style, books, TV shows, best friends (boy/girlfriends), foods, places, goals and dreams both personal and professional, what they think they will be doing and a bit of advice for their future selves that they hope they don’t lose focus of through high school.

I collect them all and give a participation grade, but I also add a personal note to it as a motivator, a funny story or memory, or some personal touch.  Then I seal it up and tell them to stash it away or give to a parent. Many pin it on a mirror or wall, tuck it in their yearbook, or give it to mom or dad to hold onto until graduation.  Some open it right away, they can’t wait 4 years.  Some forget about it or lose it.  But several keep them and many reach out to me.  I love it! 

Because so many students have stayed in touch, courtesy of social media or their parents being or becoming friends of mine, I am able to get a reminder out to some of them and they spread the word. It is my favorite lesson every year and I always look forward to teaching it.  I think it is what I miss most about being in the classroom, too.

It can be fun to build those memories, strengthen those bonds and give them something to reflect on when they reach this milestone.  Keep in mind, you don’t have to add a personal note!  This can also be adapted to a first day of school lesson and they open on the last day, or so many other variations. 

If you are looking for an activity for the end of the year, I encourage you to give it a try.

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