Friday, June 24, 2016

How to Get Organized and Keep the Joy in Teaching

Most new teachers begin their careers with passion and enthusiasm, excited to be able to work with children and to make a difference in their lives.

Unfortunately, that passion for teaching is too often buried under a crushing load of paperwork and job responsibilities they could never have imagined!

Enthusiasm is quickly replaced by a feeling of being overwhelmed, with way too much to do and never enough time to do it all. Piles of papers stack up everywhere, with no time to file anything away properly, and the number of messages in your inbox seems to grow exponentially!

What do you do? Spend 60 or 70 hours a week on schoolwork, only to realize you didn't make a dent in your total workload? Or should you do just enough to get by so that you can have a life outside of school?

No matter how much you love teaching, working 70 hours a week is a fast track to teacher burnout. But doing the bare minimum isn't the answer either. While it does give you a little more time at home, you start each school day feeling disorganized and overwhelmed. Over time, you'll start to feel guilty about neglecting your students and you'll feel increasingly ineffective as a teacher.

The Key to Unlocking Work Life Balance
Thankfully, there's a better way. The solution is to implement specific strategies to help you get more done in less time and achieve a healthy work/life balance. Sounds like an impossible dream, but I've discovered that it IS possible to find work/balance, and you won't have to sacrifice your effectiveness as a teacher. The key is knowing where to find these strategies and how to implement them effectively for the best results.

If you're a member of Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, you're probably nodding your head along with me because you know exactly what I mean! I've known Angela for many years, and I admire her tremendously. She is the creator of the Cornerstone for Teachers blog and the author of many motivational books for teachers. Angela is one of the most organized, productive people I know, and I'm constantly amazed at how she accomplishes so much in such a short time. When I found out that she had created a course to help teachers learn effective strategies for achieving work life balance, I knew it would be awesome!

I signed up at the end of December, and within a week, I was blown away by the club content and resources! Just to be clear, this course is not about trying to cut your workweek down to 40 hours. You have to admit that it's a catchy title, but not many teachers can be effective when only working 40 hours. However, if you're working way more than 40 hours, you'd be thrilled to shave even 10 hours off your week, and this goal is entirely doable.

After digging into the content for just a few days, I knew that this course would be the answer to many teachers' prayers, if only they knew about it. These strategies have the power to bring about massive change and can make a huge difference in the lives of dedicated educators who love teaching so much that they can never find time for themselves. I was so impressed with the course that I started sharing about it everywhere, including in my blog post How to Work Smarter and Keep the Joy in Teaching.

The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club is only open twice a year, and the next open enrollment is from Sunday, June 26th to Wednesday, July 6th. I've been enrolled in the club for 6 months now, so I thought this would be a great time to write a follow-up post.

Small Daily Changes Lead to BIG Results!
As I'm sure you are aware, change isn't always easy and it doesn't happen magically. However, Angela has done everything in her power to make the process as painless as possible, and you'll reap some big rewards almost immediately. She understands the challenges teachers face when trying to achieve a healthy work-life balance, and she knows that the best way to tackle any challenge is to make small changes day by day.

With that in mind, Angela organized the entire year's worth of content into 12 monthly topics. She then divided each monthly topic into 4 weekly chunks that she sends by email every Saturday morning. All of the audio recordings and documents are also stored in your 40 HTW Club account online so you can access them at any time. You can read or listen to the lesson over the weekend and implement the strategies throughout the week.

Wait. What??? You can LISTEN to the course content? Yes, that right... Angela not only creates a PDF of each week's content, she records an audio version you can listen to while driving or relaxing! Every time I listen to one of Angela's weekly lessons, I'm so astounded at the wealth of helpful information that I want to reach right through my phone and hug her! (I know that sounds silly, but it's true!)

Angela's Tips and Tricks for Overcoming Digital Clutter
May's topic was Technology Timesavers, and I loved Week 2, Overcoming Digital Clutter. I used to think of clutter as being piles of paper and junk, but after listening to about 30 seconds of Angela's recording, I realized that I have a serious problem with digital clutter, too. What I didn't expect was to learn so many specific, actionable strategies for dealing with this mess!

I decided to listen to Overcoming Digital Clutter while working out at my gym, and I remember stopping to look for paper to take notes! Luckily, I remembered that Angela also creates a PDF of the lesson so I didn't need to write down a thing. As soon as I got home, I started using her strategies to tackle my Inbox mess. What a relief to get that under control!

I later asked Angela if I could share the lesson with my followers. I was hesitant to ask because this is part of the paid content from her course. However, I thought that if teachers could listen to one of the weekly lessons, they would have a better idea of what the course is all about. I was thrilled when Angela agreed!

If you'd like to download Angela's lesson, Overcoming Digital Clutter, click on the title or image to open the form, fill it out, and I'll send the links to you right away.

Join a Facebook Group to Learn More  
Angela's course includes membership in one of two secret Facebook groups where club members can help and support each other as they implement the weekly strategies. I'm in both groups, and I wish I could give you access because you'd be amazed at what goes on there! I love the way teachers share helpful ideas about everything from classroom management to curriculum content. After reading just a few posts, I felt privileged to be a part of such an amazing community!

Since I can't give you access to one of Angela's Facebook groups, I decided to create my own, Teachers Working Smarter, as a place where teachers who LOVE the program can connect with those who want to learn more about it. To request membership in this free Facebook group, click on the title above or the image on the right, and then on the Join button in the group. You won't be added immediately because it's a closed group, but a moderator will add you within a few hours.

Sign Up for Angela's Free Live Webinar 
There's so much more I could say to recommend the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, but I'd rather send you to Angela's website where you can find the answers to all of your questions. Angela is offering a free live webinar called 5 Summer Secrets for a Stress-Free Fall that's sure to be packed with helpful strategies, and I highly recommend that you sign up for it. At the end of the webinar, Angela will introduce you to the 40 HTW Club and show you around the members-only area.

Make a Personal Commitment to Achieve Work/Life Balance  
Angela offers several payment options, but the one-time payment for the full year is definitely the best value. As I said earlier, change isn't always easy, but you CAN turn things around and achieve work/life balance if you make up your mind to do so. Making that commitment starts from the moment you enroll. If you sign up for the monthly plan with the idea that you'll "give it a try" and cancel if it doesn't work out, you're doomed to fail. However, if you're able to pay for the full year in advance, not only will you save money, you'll be making a personal commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve work/life balance.

Remember that the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club is only open to new members twice a year, and the next enrollment period is from June 26th to July 6th. Don't procrastinate! Even if you're planning to be on vacation next week, sign up this Sunday. Then after you've had time to rest and relax, dig into the club content and prepare to have an awesome year! Not only will you keep the joy in teaching, you'll experience more joy in every aspect of your life!

Disclaimer: I'm an affiliate of Angela's 40 HTW Club which means I earn a commission each time someone purchases the course after clicking on my affiliate link. However, I would never spend this much time writing a blog post to recommend a course unless I was convinced it was absolutely amazing! I can assure you that if you're willing to do the work, your results will be amazing, even life-changing! If you don't believe me, sign up for my free Facebook group Teachers Working Smarter and read the testimonials of teachers enrolled in the club.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Attend the Teaching Resources Summer Conference for FREE!

Were you planning to attend the Teaching Resources Summer Conference in Virginia Beach this July? Maybe you'd LOVE to attend, but you just don't know how you can swing it since your school won't pay your way.

Don't give up hope, because if you're a public school teacher in the U.S., you might be able to get your registration, food, travel, and lodging covered with a DonorsChoose grant! They've just announced a program to allow teachers to submit requests for professional development funding.

If you're interested, drop everything and write that DonorsChoose proposal now! You need to submit your proposal as soon as possible in order to get it funded before the conference which takes place on July 28th and 29th.

May 29th Update: The DC guidelines say that you must submit the proposal 2 months in advance, but I found out that this isn't a firm deadline. They will approve projects for our conference if we will work with them on accepting payments closer to the workshop date. If you submit a proposal before June 5th, you should be fine as long as your project amount is less than $500. After June 5th you should email us to let us know that you're planning to submit a DC proposal so we can advise you about the best way to proceed.

Get Energized at the Teaching Resources Summer Conference
What??? You didn't know I was presenting a workshop this summer? No worries! Just click over to the Teaching Resources Summer Conference page to read about it. I'm teaming up with Pat Calfee, a former elementary teacher and awesome presenter, to offer an exciting two-day event that's sure to get you pumped up and energized for the 2016-2017 school year.

The Math Toolkit: Engaging Strategies for Success session will take place on July 28th, followed by Literacy Toolkit: Engaging Strategies for Success on July 29th. In both sessions, we not only share WHAT to teach, we dive into best practices and explore HOW to teach that content effectively. The outcome? Your students will love to learn and will soar to success!

How to Apply for DonorsChoose Teacher Development Funding
First, visit this page on DonorsChoose to read the requirements for submitting a teacher development project. If you haven't written a proposal recently, you'll be glad to know that DC has made proposal writing a LOT easier.

Tips for Writing Your  Proposal
I've compiled a few tips that should help you write a winning proposal with the best chance of getting funded. If you have any questions about how to write your proposal, head over to the Caring Classrooms Facebook page and post your questions there.
  • When you start writing your proposal, choose the Teacher Development option as shown here. As you write your description, explain how the information and strategies you expect to learn will impact your students next year. To help you with this part of the proposal, visit the Teaching Resources Summer Conference page to find specific details about what we'll be covering in each session.
  • Do NOT include technology in your project proposal. I know you wanted to ask for an iPad for taking notes, but you'll have to save that for another project! 
  • Unless you are experienced with DonorsChoose, keep the total amount of your proposal under $500 for the best chance to get it fully funded. Remember that if your project doesn't fully fund, you'll lose ALL the money donated to it! For example, if you plan to attend both days, the registration cost will be $300. If you request the full travel, lodging, and food allowance, your total cost will be over $600. If you only get $400 in donations before the project expires, you won't get ANY money at all! However, if you had originally only asked for $400, you would have at least gotten that amount.
  • Before you submit your proposal, ask your school administrators or PTA if they will pay part of your expenses or match what you get from DC funding. For example, perhaps they will pay your registration fee if you can get DonorsChoose funding for the other expenses. 
How the Caring Classrooms Community Can Help
Here's more good news! The Caring Classrooms community might be able to help you get your project funded when the total amount remaining is less than $500. Francie Kugelman and I are the admins of the Caring Classrooms Facebook page, and our mission is to help teachers get funds for their DC projects. Francie keeps us posted about the latest DC news, and that's how I found out about this teacher development funding opportunity.

To get help from the Caring Classrooms Community, participate in Fund-day Sunday each week until your project is fully funded or selected for our page. When you submit your project link, be sure to mention that the project is a request for funds to attend the Teaching Resources Summer Conference. If we select your project for our page, your funding is guaranteed, even if I have to fund it myself! We are wrapping up our 3rd year, and every single project added to the Caring Classrooms Giving Page has been fully funded!

If you do submit a proposal to get funding to attend this conference, please post a link to your DC proposal in a comment on this post along with your name and email address so that Pat or I can contact you with more details about how and when to register for the conference.

Good luck! We hope to see you in Virginia Beach in July!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Task Card Tales Plot Twist!

Who knew that planning a webinar could turn out to be such an adventure? Here's the backstory about why Rachel Lynette and I had to cancel our task cards webinar. You can also find the dates and times of our next TWO task card webinars!
Who knew that planning a webinar could turn out to be an adventure! Maybe that's stretching it a bit, but I sure felt like I was in the middle of a crazy adventure last night when a severe storm blew up at my house hours before Rachel Lynette and I were supposed to go live with Power Up Learning with Task Cards!

One of my favorite quotes is "When something goes wrong in your life, just yell 'Plot Twist!' and move on!" That saying describes what happened perfectly! Rachel and I experienced a plot twist in our webinar plans, and we've just moved on!

Task Card Tales and a Plot Twist
Before I tell you the story, I have to admit that we went a little overboard in packing the webinar with loads of activities and strategies for teaching with task cards. We just couldn't help ourselves! The more we talked, brainstormed, and  planned, the more tips, strategies, and resources would come to mind that we HAD to include!

So even though the presentation should have been finished long before yesterday, we were still working on it hours before the live webinar. Our plan was to combine them into one PowerPoint before the presentation, which seemed reasonable at the time. In retrospect, it wasn't the brightest plan in the world!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Task Card Talk: 6 Strategies to Boost Learning

Discover 6 cooperative learning task card strategies to foster meaningful discussion. You can also sign up for a free live webinar with Laura Candler and Rachel Lynette, Power Up Learning with Task Cards.
Register for a Live Task Cards Webinar!

Lately it seems that task cards are everywhere! If you don't believe me, search for teaching resources on virtually any topic, and count the number of task card sets that pop up in your results!

If you're new to task cards, you might not realize that they've actually been around for many years. Back in the day, task cards didn't look as cute as the current Pinterest-worthy creations. However, no matter what they look like, task cards are really nothing more than worksheets in a fun format! Because the academic content has been divided into manageable chunks, task cards seem less intimidating than a paper-and-pencil assignment.

This handy format makes task cards perfect for partner work and team work because they help kids focus on one problem or one question at a time. Years ago, I created task cards by writing questions or math problems on index cards. But that method was too time-consuming when preparing enough for each team to have a set. To make the process easier, I created a blank template with 6 or 8 empty boxes and I wrote or typed the questions directly onto the page. Then I printed one copy per team and cut the cards apart with a paper cutter. Those task cards weren't pretty, but they worked!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Math is More Than a Numbers Game

Math is more than a numbers game! Read this post to discover the key to math vocabulary instruction and to sign up for a free webinar with Laura Candler!
Have you ever considered the importance of vocabulary instruction in math? If you think about it, success in math often hinges more on the ability to read and understand the language of mathematics than on the ability to perform mathematics computation. In other words ...

Math is more than a numbers game. 

Years ago, standardized tests consisted of page after page of computation, but today's math tests require students to read challenging word problems and understand precise mathematical terminology in order find  the solution. For example, upper elementary students who don't know the difference between factor and multiple or range and median are going to struggle to perform well on tests. Geometry is another area where accurate knowledge of the key vocabulary is closely tied to understanding of the essential concepts.

It's pretty clear that mastering the language of math is just as important as mastering math facts or being able to solve complex computational problems.

So what's the best way to teach math vocabulary? I can assure you that having kids is memorize words and definitions is NOT the way to go! Besides being extremely boring, rote memorization does not provide students with the opportunity to explore the complex nuances of meaning inherent in math terminology.

The good news is that the most powerful strategies for helping kids learn the language of math are also the most motivating and fun! Why? Because those methods encourage kids to TALK about math concepts and practice using the vocabulary correctly as they take part in hands-on activities and math strategy games.