Sunday, March 4, 2018

Teacher Time Investments

Vlogging is great and all, but I want to do more.  I started finding a focus for my weekly vlogs when possible last week.  This week's focus was Teacher Time Savers.  I have more, lots more coming on this topic, but this week I went through my regular routines and discussed how they save time.  Overall, I spend more time on the front-end to save time - I like to think of these as time investments.

#1:  Print to SMART Notebook Document Writer
If you are SMART Notebook user, you should have the option to print to the "SMART Notebook Document Writer."  This will take any Word document or PDF, and convert it into a slide in SMART Notebook.  I use this feature weekly to display worksheets and activities that we are working on in class.  (Be careful if you want your pages to print landscape orientation instead of portrait.  You may have to change this option.)

#2:  How to Save Time Grading Tests
I actually already dedicated an entire post to this topic.  You can read about my routine here.

#3:  Quick & Easy Homework Passes
I make my homework passes out of business cards.  I've been using Vista Print for years for this purpose (not sponsored).  I choose a pre-made template, and add in my own info to convert the business card into a homework pass.  Vista Print often has sale codes available.  Last time I made a new set of homework passes, I paid $10 for 2,000 cards.  As a result, my homework passes are no-prep, and cannot easily be duplicated.

#4:  Print Notes for Absent Students
Teaching Geometry means that many lessons are new for students.  I mean completely new.  Students need a good base of background knowledge to be able to complete practice exercises, and I take notes very seriously.  Since I use SMART Notebook, I have all the notes on my computer, and can easily print them out.  Every day that I give new notes, I print out notes for all absents students during my morning prep.  I peek at SchoolTool for my later classes to estimate how many students are going to be absent, so I unless students are dismissed early, I don't have to worry about absences again throughout the day.

#5:  Save Notes for Students
This tip goes along with number 4.  After I print out the notes for absent students, I save a copy of the notes as a PDF.  When you're in the SMART Notebook file, go to "File," "Export As...," and select "PDF."  I save copy just in case, and I can upload the PDF files of the notes to our class website.  (These also come in handy when I have students assigned to ISS.  We have to send their work before school begins, and I won't have notes until after I've taught the lesson.  What I do to compensate is use the notes I saved from the previous year when possible.)

#6: Communicate with Absent Students
To easily communicate with my absent students, I created a slip to attach to any work that absent students need.  It lays out what students missed, what needs to be turned in, when it needs to be turned in, and if the student missed a quiz.  This eliminates questions that students would understandably have after receiving multiple pages of work after an absence.

#7:  Make Absent Work Easily Accessible
If you follow any teachers online to see how they organize their classrooms, you've probably seen an absent student system that includes a crate, and file folders for each day of the week.  Absent work is filed for each day, and students look for the materials from the day they were absent.  This is certainly easier than what I do. However, I don't think this would work for my students.  (They have a hard time finding the extra homework from the previous day because they start with the current day's folder.)  Also, there is nothing to grab their attention to remind them to look in the bin.

What I do is staple a folder for each class period to my bulletin board (pictured above).  I put the packets I make for absent students in the folders.  This grabs their attention, and when it doesn't, it grabs mine and I can remind students they have absent work.  (This is usually the case for the students that are rarely absent, and therefore forget the absence procedure.)  My process also streamlines where students have to look to find their missing work.

#8:  Organize Up-coming Materials
In the fall I made a video about how I organize worksheet/lesson materials here.  What I have changed since then is including the answer keys.  This has been very helpful.  Firstly, it keeps everything I need for the day in one location.  (Before I would start teaching, forget the key, have to look for the key, etc.)  Secondly, it separates each day's materials.

#9:  Prep for the Next Day
Most afternoons before leaving, I prepare for the next day.  I move the lesson materials I need for the next day to the front of my classroom, and I put the papers that students will pick up in their respective bins.  I update my whiteboards with the next day's standards, objectives, and information that students need, such as homework assignments.  Doing this each afternoon helps relax me, and makes my next morning much less stressful.  It only takes a few minutes, but it saves me more time in the morning when I'm moving slowly and have more on my mind.

See these tips in action in my latest vlog:

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Making Changes in 2018

Every year I plan to continue blogging throughout the school year.  Every year I fail.  Every year, when I finally get around to writing a blog post, I share my lament about not blogging regularly throughout the school year.  Here we are yet again.

Today I'm blogging about all the changes that I made/ am going through.

1.  My Pencil System
I've updated my pencil system yet again.  I actually never shared my current pencil system on my blog before. 
I like to keep it simple.  I (or more accurately a student volunteer that receives community service hours) attach a piece of mini-duck tape to the top of each pencil to remind students that these pencils do not belong to them.  Then I clip them onto the cookie sheet attached to my wall as shown above.  Students take a pencil for the period when they need one, and (ideally) they put it back at the end of the period.  I know so many people like to have students write their name on the board when they borrow a pencil, but (a) I don't have time to hunt students down at the end of the period to make sure that they return my pencils, (b) I don't leave markers out because I have students that draw (sometimes inappropriate things) on my marker board, and (c) my marker board is not even magnetic, so keeping the pencils on my white board is not even an option.  I like to keep my system simple, and just accept that I won't always get 100% of my pencils back.

My students this year seem to eat my pencils.  I put up new pencils every Monday, then by Tuesday I have 1 or 2 pencils left.  One day, while angrily ruminating on this issue, I remembered something.  I changed the title of my "participation" grade to "professionalism."  Students can earn up to 5 points each day, and one of those points was meant to be preparedness, but I never thoroughly kept track of it.  Once I remembered this, I reminded my students that coming to class prepared is part of their job.  Then I told them that should they ask me for a pencil or to go back to their locker for a pencil because all of mine had disappeared, they would lose their preparedness point for the day.  This may seem harsh, but it forces them to solve the problem on their own (borrow from a friend, pick-up the pencil in the hallway, etc.).  There is always a way to come to class with a pencil.  And realistically, it's only 1/25 of their professionalism grade for the week that is only 5% of their overall grade. 

2.  My Attitude
Every teacher anywhere knows that our to-do lists are never ending.  I always used to panic about getting all the things done.  There's just never enough time.  I'm in my 6th year of teaching, and I've finally realized something.  Anything that I needed to have done was completed in time because I prioritize.  Realizing this has been life changing.  I can cut myself off when it's getting late and I'm getting tired because I will have the most important things done when they need to be done, and everything else that needs to get done will have it's own time.  My new motto for this year has been "it will get done when it needs to get done," and this motto has brought me so much freedom.  I've also noticed that I've really mellowed out the past few months, and I think it's because...

3.  I'm expecting!
Between the change in my attitude, having more experience as a teacher, and my involvement in the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, I finally feel ready to start a family.  It has been a fear of mine that I wouldn't be able to have a family of my own because teaching is so time consuming.  I'm sure that it will continue to be time consuming, but I feel that I can manage it so much better now than I ever did before.  In fact, most nights when I come home I don't have too much to do to prepare for school, and I need it to be that way right now because I've reached an all new level of exhaustion.
At this time I'm in my 19th week.  I'm due June 30th and will begin my third trimester as we *hopefully* start spring break.  My last day of school is June 22nd, so it will be fun to see what happens there.  I'm having a boy!  My husband and I are beyond excited, and enjoying the uninterrupted sleep when we do have it. 

I vlogged my experience as a teacher through my first trimester, and will continue to vlog through my second and third trimesters.

4.  My Classroom Management 
I saved this one for last because I am still working through this change.  I thought classroom management was one of those things that once you had it under your belt, you were done.  Not so much.  This year I learned that your classroom management techniques/style will continue to evolve with you.  One thing is guaranteed to change each year - your students.  My students this year are drastically different from the students I've had in the past.  In my Geometry classes, specifically, the boys outnumber the girls 2 to 1.  As I'm sure you can imagine, it makes my classes unusually difficult to manage compared to the years where my numbers are more even.  It is February, and I am still trying to adapt and find something that works long-term.

To add to my difficulty, I have been suffering from pregnancy congestion since we've returned from winter break.  (Fun fact:  Pregnant ladies don't get antibiotics.)  I've had a persistent cough and sometimes stuffy/runny nose.  This means that I've also had varying degrees of a sore throat and voice loss.  I still cannot use my teacher voice.  The bright side is I have no excuse to not work on talking less, which is a goal I've had for awhile. 

I currently have some solutions to try out for the next week.  Once I find something worth sharing, I will write a follow-up blog post.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Class Goals Poster

This year I decided to try something new regarding my class rules.  One piece of advice you always receive is to state rules positively, as in "do this," rather than "do not do that."  So instead of having class "rules" I decided to try class "goals."  I explained to students that these are the things we strive for in class every day (but we understand that some days we just aren't there).

All of this is coming from the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club.  I take no credit for the goals I am using (they all came from the club), but I do take credit for the signs that I am sharing in this post.
The goals are:
Listen with your full attention
Enter the room prepared and ready to learn
Always give your best effort on all your work
Respect yourself, others, and materials in the classroom
No excuses

Download your free copy here!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

My 40 HTWC Experience

As of yesterday, I am officially a graduate of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek  Club.  The club is a big investment, and I've heard from other teachers interested in the club, but not sure if the club is worth the money.  I can not definitively say if the club will work for you or not, but I can share my experience of the past year.

In November, I shared a video of my experience on my YouTube channel.  Initially, I wanted to write out a post for my blog, but since it's still winter break, I'd rather add an update and spend the time with my family.  Here's the link to my video:

Now that it is winter break, and my year is complete, I was able to accomplish something I never thought possible.  For the first time in my 6 years of teaching, I was able to do nothing work related over winter break.  I put in the work the week prior to break.  I have a routine that I previously blogged about in place that keeps me a week ahead.  I forced myself to maintain this routine despite everything else going on, I used a to do list from the club to organize my week, I was able to accept a minimum viable product (a good, not perfect project outline), and I even completed my household chores.  With the club, I was encouraged to try to reach this goal because I saw other teachers share their successes.  I'm empowered to give this strategy a try again this up-coming school week.  I hope that I can begin to take my weekends back.

The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club is accepting new members now through January 9th.  If the experience that I shared helped you decide to join, please include my name in your referral information - Brianne Beebe; email:

**This post is NOT sponsored.  All thoughts and opinions shared in the video and in this post are my own.

Friday, November 10, 2017

INB Templates

I use composition notebooks for my interactive notebooks.  An 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper (landscape orientation) cut in half fits perfectly in the notebooks. 

For the last 5 years I have been using the templates that I am sharing in this post.  With the first template I can choose to make a one-page or two-page spread.  With the second I make a mini-booklet of notes.

The templates can be downloaded below:
-INB Split-Page Template
-INB Mini-Booklet Template
(Print double-sided, flip on the short edge.)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Self Care #SundayFunday

This week's Sunday Funday prompt is "Self Care."

At first, I felt that I couldn't write this post, because I don't practice self care consistently.  Teaching takes so much out of us that it is imperative we take care of ourselves.  That being said, I took the time to think about ways that I do practice self care, and here are the ways that I've practiced self care in the past week:
  • I enjoy shopping, but don't have the time during the week, and I don't like the crowds on the weekend.  I prefer to go Saturday mornings before the stores are mobbed, and every now and then I will take time on Saturday mornings to go shopping alone.
  • One day last week I left school about 10 minutes after contract time to get home to exercise.
  • One night last week, I completed all of my priority school-related tasks for that day.  Instead of working on other school-related tasks to get ahead, I decided to spend some time on a project that I had been wanting to work on all week.  I enjoy crafting, and I want to make time to create more often. 
  • Every week I make time to clean my house.  Yes, again, this is something that I should always do.  I don't particularly enjoy cleaning, but I love being in a clean house.  It helps me enjoy my time at home more, and helps me stay calm.  I'm one of those people that cannot focus on my work if my work space is a mess.
  • Each school day, I tidy up my desk, classroom, and set out my materials for the next day.  Yes, these are things that I should do anyway.  But for me, some mornings can be extremely stressful.  This practice really cuts down potential stress for me. 
  • When possible, I put effort into my appearance.  I like to dress professionally, do something with my hair, and put on make up.  Ultimately, when I look good, I feel good.

Overall, I've found that every few days I need to make a task that makes me happy a priority.  This is not my definitive list of self care habits.  I'm still working on balancing work with home, but I thought it worthwhile to at least share what I have done recently for me.  The list turned out longer than I expected.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

My Week in Photos #SundayFunday

This week's Sunday Funday prompt is to share a photo of the week.
I'm cheating a little bit.  As much as I love blogging, I've been too busy to give it any attention.  I hate when this happens, and I always want to continue blogging consistently, but I'm starting to accept that this is just a reality of teaching.

Anyway, last year I started an Instagram account just for all of my teacher related posts.  This year I have been keeping up with my Instagram much better than my blog.  So instead of sharing just one photo from the week, I decided to share my week of Instagram photos instead.

I post daily Monday through Friday on Instagram.  I have been posting an outfit of the day, and a #teach180 post.  For #teach180 I like to share activities that we did, or pages we added to our interactive notebooks, or just some random tidbit from the day.  Last week I also started sharing a #ClassroomCloseup every Wednesday to show a part of my classroom in greater detail.

This year I've been enjoying using Instagram as a teacher, and I've found so many great teachers to follow.  I've also found so many great ideas and resources.  And while I love the teacher community we've formed on Twitter, Instagram is much more appealing to me.

If you want more details about the photos above, or want to keep with my daily teacher activity, follow me @busymissbeebe.

Teacher Time Investments

Vlogging is great and all, but I want to do more.  I started finding a focus for my weekly vlogs when possible last week.  This week's f...