Friday, August 31, 2012

Bulletin Board #1

Even as a high school teacher, bulletin boards can make a BIG difference to send a welcoming message to students. The challenge is to try to make the bulletin boards not look "elementary-themed". Here's some examples of how I decorated my bulletin boards this year...

Starting with my color scheme--
black background and these boarder/accent colors!

Then, comes what to put on them --

I usually change these one a month or once every few weeks.

Also changed every month or so.

Puzzles or problem-solving questions are on each pencil, and the answers are inserted into Library Book Envelopes hidden from view until the students are ready to check their answer

Comics that I have collected over the years.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tech Tip: Schoology

Schoology is a great tool for spreading learning beyond the classroom! While schools are able to purchase use of Schoology to integrate with their grading/attendance/etc programs, it is also completely FREE for teachers (and also FREE for students) who do not have that option!

What is so special about Schoology?
- It looks just like Facebook (and operates similarly too)
- Students receive a "newsfeed" with highlights from courses on Schoology
- Dynamic Discussions, Posts, etc.
- The ability to "like" items or share comments
- Mass announcements

Monday, August 20, 2012


Ok, I will admit it, I have a bit of an obsession with office-related supplies. My newest purchase for this school year is... a laminator!
Already it has been used to get all sorts of items ready for my classroom! I wasn't sure how much I would use it, but I am super surprised! HIGHLY RECOMMEND! Mine is by Scotch, and I got it at the Back-To-School Sale at Target for $29.99. I have heard that you can get similar ones for even cheaper at Costco! All you have to get is the laminating pouches and you are set! Even though it will laminate up to 8.5x11", it is totally worth it! Go get one - you won't regret it!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tech Tip: Classroom Website

At my school, teachers are encouraged to maintain a classroom "portal" or website to adapt to education in this day and age. My portal serves as a primary part of my class, and I recommend my students check it at least once a day. Not only does it help parents stay in touch with what is going on in class, it tremendously helps with students are absent. They know the portal is the first place to look.

Things I keep on my portal:
  1. Announcements
  2. Calendars 
    1. Learning targets
    2. Daily notes (with my actual handwriting)
    3. Homework
    4. Answer keys, when necessary
  3. Textbook links
    1. Extra practice
    2. Online textbook
  4. Helpful links that I have collected over the years about a variety of topics both subject specific and more general
  5. School news
  6. Department news
  7. Parent tips and links
  8. Countdowns
  9. Extra credit submission forms
  10. Blank power point slides that they can print prior to class to allow them to focus upon the content instead of feverishly writing
I strongly recommend the use of GoogleSites to maintain a classroom website. All you need is a free gmail account. My school uses Google as our platform, so our email, portals, docs, etc. are all integrated; however, you can always create a free gmail account devoted solely to your classroom. After having created many GoogleSites over the years for both myself and others, I find it to be extremely user-friendly.

No matter what platform you use to maintain a class website, it has paid off ten-fold for me in a number of ways. I find that my students are MUCH more accountable and responsible. They appreciate how I tentatively plan in advance so they know what to expect (especially if they anticipate an absence). Parents like that they can get online and see the notes to better help their students at home if they have questions. In the world of "connected-ness" I would say, give a classroom website a try!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What's In Your Bag?

Every year there is one thing that causes SO MUCH excitement. SO MUCH research. Something that I must do... put together / organize my teacher bag! I have to admit, most years this also includes buying a new one! What pattern? How many pockets? How can I better stay organized!?

This year, I will be sporting the "Vera" bag by Vera Bradley. After much deliberation, I decided on the "Indigo" pattern. Check out the other awesome Vera Bradley bags here -

Things in my bag...

:: Color folder jackets from Staples - these are awesome to keep different periods' grading separated while minimizing any chance of losing things.
:: Ink Joy colored pens for grading - I don't like to always grade in red, so I usually change up the color pretty regularly.
:: Stickers - I have been stunned by how excited my high school students get when they have a sticker on their test. I buy stickers in bulk! It cracks me up how they will carefully peel off the stickers and put them on a binder or folder. Even my seniors... :) These Dr. Seuss ones were a big hit!

:: Binder Clips - I am a little obsessed with "fun" binder clips. I clip EVERYTHING (even if I am putting it in a folder). I haven't lost student work yet ;)

:: Flash Drive - My flash drive is my life. I don't save anything to my actual school computer it always gets saved to my flash drive. Best invention!
:: Portable External Hard Drive - You were probably thinking that I was pretty risky just saving my "stuff" to my flash drive, but have no fear... I also carry a portable external hard drive that I back the flash drive up to regularly. It's just a tad bigger than the size of a digital camera and is super lightweight. Highly recommended!

:: Calculator - As a math teacher, it is a must :)

:: Perfume - Never hurts to reapply halfway through the day.

:: Advil Liquid Gels - Ah-maze-ing! Who doesn't get the occasional headache at work?

:: Notebook - I am known to make lists or take notes all of the time. Often I resort to my notebook if I need to do some math, want to make a to-do list, etc. Comes in handy when technology is not always available.

:: School keys / ID - A must.

:: Snack - I usually throw some almonds or a granola bar in my bag along with a bottle of water.

I'm sure I am forgetting a few things that I put in my bag, but these are the biggies!

What do you put in your school bag?

Monday, August 13, 2012

A New Year

It always amazes me how fast summer flies! Teachers sooooo do not get the summer off (and our day does NOT end when the last bell rings for the record). As a new year approaches, I find myself starting to get the "back to school" dreams and butterflies. The night before students come is always the worst... even after so many "first days of school" both as a student and as a teacher, I still get the restlessness and excitement!

My school has experienced an astounding amount of hardship over the last year in the loss of five students. It has brought a tremendous amount of heartbreak and soul-searching amongst many in our community. Not all of them were from suicide or bullying, but all were due to some form of brokenness. Despite the immeasurable hurt and pain that many (students, teachers, parents, community members) continue to experience, it has also strengthened a message of "You are not alone." Just recently, a group of students and a prominent church in the area created a PSA / video about being brave when times get tough. The caption reads: "If you or someone you know has ever felt ignored, forgotten, alone, embarrassed or ridiculed, please take a moment to watch this and share it with your friends. Being Brave means that we don't let bullying or suicide continue. We must take a stand and help those who are hurting by talking to them or telling someone who can help. Be Brave, reach out, stand up and share this."

I start each year with the hope that it will be even better than the next. It is my personal goal to help educate students beyond the classroom as they pursue their dreams and achieve their fullest potential. Surrounded by students in a variety of capacities both in and out of the classroom, I constantly see the impact of the world around them on their always evolving environment, culture, and perspective. We can all be better and help make a positive impact upon future generations. Pay it forward.

You are not alone. Be brave. I hope you have a wonderful year!