We’ve been M.I.A. because there’s a new kid in town! Barrett Max West was born March 24th at 8:03 am. Our little nugget weighed 6 pounds and 13 ounces and measured 20 inches long. Morgan and I have now added to our definition of love and boy is it sweet! Loving every minute with this peanut.
Hi, all! Have you been celebrating life this week? Or have the first weeks back to school left you feeling run down already, teach? The first few weeks back can be rough. My school is on the quarter system, so second semester I get an entirely new batch of students; which means Curriculum Night Round 2 for the year… I know what you’re thinking and yes I don’t know how we got to be so lucky! But as the second semester takes off at lightning speed, I’d like to share with you all some of the ways I’ve figured out how to teach smarter instead of harder so that I can get back to celebrating life. As a primary or secondary teacher, it’s almost impossible to leave school at the end of the day without taking some work with you, but there are ways that we can share the love and the load to become better teachers and still enjoy life outside the classroom. If you’re a teacher and entrepreneur, then this post is even more important for you to find time to do both.
Good teachers need good systems of support for themselves and each other to conquer each day. Good teachers are also good sharers… don’t reinvent the wheel people. I’ll be sharing some of the ways I’ve found teacher-life balance with you today and I hope you’ll share yours too! Can you make any of these ideas work for you this year so that you can get out of the classroom and back to life in 2017?
-Take advantage of your prep time! It’s easy to get in the habit of taking a break on your prep each day. You may walk down to the office and hang out for 10 minutes, check your personal email, stop into a friend’s classroom for some adult interaction, hop on over to facebook and before you know it your prep has vanished. You have got to be efficient with your time at school to be able to leave on time each day. Give yourself a five-minute break and then GET TO WORK! Grade papers, answer school emails, post classroom blogs for the week, prep curriculum… whatever you need to do.
-Collaborate with other teachers to create curriculum. Divide and conquer as we call it on my team. You will get so much more done and create half the work load for yourself if you all agree on curriculum together and then split up the curriculum design. Let go of the idea that EVERYTHING will be exactly how you would do it and be grateful that it’s done. Avoid the desire to recreate it again, because that’s pointless, but make small adjustments if need be.
-Create everything on Google Docs. Organize your Google Drive so that it works for you. By using Google Docs you can easily share all of the collaborated materials you just created. You can make quick updates and edits so that each document is ready to go for the next go-around. You can push out assignments electronically when possible, saving yourself the time in the duplicating room. It’s much more difficult to lose papers this way and if you organize your materials as you create them, they won’t get out of hand and unorganized over time.
-Don’t assign meaningless work that you have to grade. Before you assign homework tonight, take a good minute to think about its purpose. Is this facilitating learning and necessary practice in your classroom or is it just because you feel like you’re supposed to assign it? Chances are it’s unnecessary or it could be paired down. Your students will thank you and you’ll be amazed at the work load you’ve minimized for yourself. This one’s been huge for me!
-If you decided to assign it, streamline your grading and create work packets. By and large, students produce consistent quality of work. Rather than scrutinizing each piece of work, create a quality of product rubric for a handful of assignments and grade them all at once. This is something I’ve learned from my current team and it has made grading more purposeful but I also don’t waste my time grading every little thing. Stamp work for completion when it’s due so that students maintain accountability, but collect it at a later date in an organized packet you can fly through. Another teaching win, you get back precious teaching minutes by not collecting each and every assignment.
-Create a classroom blog. Seriously. If you didn’t read my last posts on creating a blog, stop what you’re doing now and go create one! If you’re like me, you can easily forget from year to year how you executed that unit and daily lesson plans… enter your classroom blog. Your blog will become the most accurate record of what happens on a day by day basis, has links to all of your assignments that have already been updated, and allows you to copy-paste from year to year exponentially minimizing your work load over time.
-Plan ahead to give your TAs or parent volunteers tasks that are a waste of your time. All those little things you leave for the last minute; counting out copies, returning work, recording grades, cutting any number of paper slips, delivering notices on campus, grading small assignments, you name it. Make the most of your TAs to free up time for the things that you need to do. If I don’t plan ahead, in the moment I’m faster and they’ll end up taking me more time instead of less. I often make grading rubrics for assignments my TAs can grade with a little guidance. Create the rubrics in a folder on google drive so the next time you can print and have them grade.
-Set mini grading goals and challenges. As an English teacher, I set mini-essay grading goals. For example, grade 10 essays a day. Usually, the daunting feat of grading hundreds of essays prevents you from starting and once you do the daunting pile instigates grading procrastination. Instead, set a goal to grade 10 essays a day. It’s a task that doesn’t seem overwhelming and you’ll have the brain capacity to blow through 10 essays before burn out, making the most of your time. Similarly, make grading challenges for yourself. For example, how many essays can I grade before class starts after my prep in 15 minutes… read, go! You’ll be amazed.
-Make a promise to yourself to leave work at a certain time every day. No exceptions. There’s only so much you can do in a day. Our job is never done but it’s done enough. Set a realistic time to leave work each day. If you have littles at home, perhaps give yourself some time to whatever you need to get done before picking them up, rather than trying to multitask at home. If that doesn’t work, try to reserve that time after they’ve gone to bed so you can enjoy your time with them while they’re awake.
-Don’t bring work home. Gasp! Blasphemous! I’ve tried a new strategy this year and it’s been awesome. I almost always take work home and then it stares at me… it just keeps staring. It ruins my night, haunting me. I’m tired, so I take forever to do it. Or I never do it and I feel guilty. So just don’t do it. Here’s the secret… if you don’t bring work home, you have to do it at school. Which means you have to be insanely productive at school. Granted, I have to break this rule and bring work home to grade large projects, essays, etc but not nearly like I used to.
-If possible, get to school early. I’ve found that I’m fresh and much more productive in the morning to tackle a bit of grading before the day has begun. Also, there are fewer people on campus in the morning to distract you and talk to you. So get there early and power stuff out.
My last and final tip… do whatever works for you. If this sounds like a bunch of hogwash to you… well then it’ll never work for you. But I do encourage you to take some time and figure out what does. If you have some awesome strategies to teaching smarter rather than harder please share them in the comments below. I’m always looking for new tools to fill up my arsenal! Go get ’em teach and start celebrating life!
2016… was a doozy. Needless to say, this past year has taught me to reevaluate my priorities in life, to stop and give time to the things that matter, to weed out the things that don’t, and to restructure my life so that I make the most of it. So as we start off 2017, I’m not making traditional resolutions, but rather seeking actionable ways to celebrate life. 2017 will be the year I strive to balance teaching, my new life as a mom, and my entrepreneurial dreams.
As I get ready to embark on my path of motherhood, I recognize that this will be a time of great change, learning, and flexibility; so I am dedicating the next two months before Baby West’s arrival to finding balance in my life. I’m certain his arrival will shake it all up and I’m ready for that, but I hope that I can continue through the year with the pursuit of balance in mind. As teachers and entrepreneurs, we take on too much. It’s who we are. It’s how we operate. My goal in this upcoming mini, blog series is to help us all weed through the systems that control our two separate, and often disjointed, careers and aspirations and make them more efficient. Let’s create systems so that we can continue to feed our souls, but also make time for the important things in life, like dinner with friends, play dates at the park, and lazy evenings on the couch. So if this sounds like a balance you’re striving for, join me on my journey in 2017 and strive to find balance in your life.
This mini, blog series is geared towards those Teacher/Etsy Seller Creatives specifically, but will have nuggets of actionable information for all teachers and self-made entrepreneurial spirits. Many of my friends balance multiple careers simultaneously; running a profitable tutoring business while working for a small company, creating a successful photography business while working for the family business, several friends working for Rodan + Fields while teaching or working as a hairdresser full-time, and all my friends conquering the world of Etsy while maintaining a full-time job. We’re not letting life happen to us, we’re creating the lives we want. So let’s give ourselves the time and space we need to make the most of it and take some time to create a big-picture master plan.
Today, let’s acknowledge the head space that we need to be in to make this all work. It’s no surprise that I am most active on my blog during my “breaks” from teaching and Etsy-madness. I finally have time to work on other things, which is part of it, but that’s really not why in my opinion. In order for creativity and inspiration to happen, we have to create head space. It seems counter-intuitive, but in order to turn out more product or reinvent yourself and your processes there needs to be a brain break from everything else and a lengthy period of rest. That’s right. If you want to be incredibly productive, you have to give yourself time to do absolutely nothing. Many authors and creative spirits purposefully take sabbaticals, or long breaks, from their careers to spend time doing nothing in an effort to come up with a whole slew of ideas. While it might not be feasible for us all to take a month off from life and go live in a cabin as a hermit and brainstorm, we can find ways to take mini-vacations to allow our brains to roam and explore. For me, I am always productive on an airplane when it comes to dreaming up new product ideas, or blog content. The dedicated time to myself, unable to do anything else, forces my brain to relax and simply roam.
The same goes for breaks from teaching. You would think I relish in the thought that I don’t have to do anything teaching related for a few weeks, but the exact opposite happens. During breaks from teaching my mind starts racing half-way through with new curriculum ideas or better ways to run my classroom (remember my post on my classroom blog?). As teachers, we have natural brain breaks created for us and we wouldn’t survive without them! So take advantage of your breaks to let your brain relax for a few days and you’ll be amazed at the content you’ll start to turn out. If you’re not a teacher, or need it to be more purposeful in order for it to happen, take a weekend away. Go camping by yourself or with one other person who will understand your intention. Check into a local hotel and lay out by the pool all day. You’ll put yourself in the right headspace to make the rest of these ideas work for you.
So if you do anything for yourself in 2017, let it be the time off that you give yourself. Take time to feed your soul and let your mind roam. But if you’re feeling up for looking deeper into the systems that run your life and making small adjustments to the way you do things to create better balance, join me in the upcoming blog posts to take some actionable steps to celebrate life in 2017.
I couldn’t be more excited to say sayonara to 2016 and aloha 2017! Our baby boy is due in just a few months and I’ve been dreaming up what his nursery space will look like. Now that holiday madness is behind us, it’s time to get crackin’ on his outdoor adventure inspired nursery. I’ve created an outdoor adventure inspiration board with some of the items from our registry and how I plan on pulling it all together. I can’t wait to show you how this all looks when it comes to fruition in real life. I better get workin’! But for now, I’ll leave you with this. If you like the look for yourself, check out the links below to all of the numbered items 🙂 Most things can be found at Target… doesn’t get much easier than that!
As I cozy up with yet another homemade pumpkin spice latte this week… it’s shameful how many I’ve had… I am reminded of how thankful I am for this time of year. Without a doubt, fall is hands down my favorite time of year, which is apparent in my Fall Fanatic Pinterest board (check it out), my undeniable love for outfits featuring scarves and boots, and my obsession with turning leaves. But adding fall into my home is just too much fun! So with that spirit in mind, I created a thanksgiving printable for you today! Enjoy your freebies!
These printables come in three different colors, all sized 8.5″ x 11″. Simply click on the download buttons below and print out a copy to frame in your home. So thankful for you! Enjoy :0)
Morgan and I couldn’t be more excited to finally announce to you all that we’re adding a little helper to our workshop this spring! Baby boy West is still name-less but is expected to grace us with his presence in mid-March. With the busy stocking season upon us and holidays just around the bend, we’ll be preparing for his arrival in no time! We can’t wait to meet you little man 🙂