My husband recently purchased an espresso maker, which prompted the need to clean out a kitchen cabinet so he could have his espresso cups easily available. This led to the discovery of many, many coffee mugs that sit in our cabinet and are never used, some of which I received as teacher gifts.
With the holidays approaching, many parents like to give teacher gifts, but I know as a parent, it gets tiresome each year trying to think of new ideas outside of the mug or candle. Here are 5 ideas that may spark your gift giving nature in a different direction this year.
Read To Grow
When I had my daughter ten years ago, this organization had volunteers come around to all the new moms with a book to keep to encourage literacy. Two years ago, one of my Kinder scholar’s parents made a donation to Read To Grow in my name. It was such a thoughtful gift, and one that stood out from all the mugs of candy that I’ve received over the years.
Check in your area to see if your local hospital has an organization like Read to Grow. Or, follow the link below and make a donation anyway! It is sure to bring a smile to your child’s teacher’s face.
Along the lines of Read to Grow, we all know someone, whether it is an adult or child, fighting a health battle. Instead of purchasing a gift that may not be meaningful, use that money towards a donation to a particular charity. Again, it is a thoughtful gift that will have lasting benefits.
If donations aren’t your thing, here are a few more tangible gift ideas that your child’s teacher will love.
Monogrammed Note Paper and Fancy Pen
Teachers write A LOT of notes! I loved it when I received paper and note cards with my name on it one year. Vistaprint allows you to customize to include the school address and phone number as well.
Gift Cards to Bookstores, Craft Stores, or Office Supply Stores
Many teachers supplement their classroom supplies with books, glue sticks, and colored pencils that they purchase out-of-pocket. Even just a few $5.00 gift cards add up and teachers definitely appreciate not having to dig into their own wallets to restock classroom supplies after the holidays.
School Supply Basket
Teachers LOVE school supplies! Create a basket with pencils, erasers, colored pencils, markers, post it notes, seasonal stickers, glue sticks, and other items that you think your teacher could use in the classroom. Even hand soap and tissues in the basket are much-needed and appreciated items that your kids use daily in the classroom. Better yet: get in touch with the Room Parent to coordinate a basket like this with one donation from each student! Every one can afford one small item and your teacher will appreciate the thoughtfulness behind this bountiful, useful gift.
I went back to work the August after an unexpected medical leave in January 2016.
It’s been good to be back, even with the challenges of a larger group of students with varying levels of specific needs.
One of the things I love about teaching Kindergarten is that I can literally shape how a child views anything–even the most mundane task–just by my reaction or how I present it to them. Work they need to do becomes “a project” or “a puzzle”. Assessments or small group work becomes “working with Mrs. T” time –-and everyone LOVES one on one time with the teacher! Even a little post-it lunch box note from Mom turns into a gloriouslove note. The kids BEAM when I gush, “OH LOOK!!!! Mommy wrote you a LOVE NOTE!!” We read it together and the child toddles off with a smile on his or her face, so happy they got a love note from home.
Sometimes, the children bring in pictures for me—beautiful Kindergarten drawings of us together, sometimes with a drawing of my faithful puppet Red Word Fred intermingled with the hearts and shapes and colors. This year, I’ve had a few of my scholars say, “I made you a love note,” handing their treasure over to me when we collect the mail at the start of the day. I gush and preen over each note, thanking the child and putting it up on my bulletin board behind my table. My bulletin board is already filled with these notes, and I decided it was time to give back the love to my students.
This past Friday, I sent each of them home with a love note from me. Since we do mail in the morning, I had to remind them they couldn’t open it up now, or on the bus, or at the YMCA program after school. They had to wait until they got home to share it with their families.
Their reactions were priceless as they were handed folded notes. Some said thank you, some sat there in awe, looking at their name and heart drawn on the front, reminding me of Charlie Bucket when he found the Golden Ticket, and others were literally just beaming with joy and smiles. I had enclosed both a note and a dot-to-dot page. I’m not sure what will transpire as far as an extra little goodie inside each week—I haven’t planned that far ahead– but my goal is to give them each a love note every Friday morning to read at home.
I hope the love gets passed around this year between home and school!
I officially went back to work on Thursday, August 25, 2016.
It was my first day of school since leaving on January 15, 2016.
And it was great.
It was like I never even left, outside of all the hugs and well wishes and “So glad to see your smiling face!” greetings. Even sweeter was a post it note from my new principal that he left in my classroom the night before, saying how welcoming everything looked and how happy he’s glad I’m able to return.
Prior to our “official” start date, I participated in the Kindergarten Classroom Summer Olympics. Usually, it can be a five-day or longer event . This year, due to scheduling issues, it was a 3 day affair with multiple-tiered activities.
I engaged in all sorts of games that had been previously set up by the individuals in my room, both adults and children, while I was out on sick leave. And let me tell you, they did a wonderful job of challenging me! I tried my best to complete each game to the best of my ability. Some of them were more challenging than others, but all in all, I think I represented my Kindergarten colleagues quite well!
“What’s In The Cabinet?” was great fun as I discovered all sorts of materials and paperwork out-of-place. Some cabinets I just opened and then quickly shut, while others I cleaned and organized without much fanfare. This multi-tiered event didn’t put me in the running for the gold or even bronze medal, but my efforts were rewarded with several empty cabinets. I still have several that need to be tackled, but that is for another day.
“Container Crash” was not an event I wanted to participate in due to the time constraints I was under, but it was necessary to complete. For about an hour, I sorted through the 16 years worth of containers that I have–baskets, boxes, and lids of all sorts of sizes and colors. Some matched, while others remained lonely. I managed to give away a few of them to some of my co-workers, but I still have a huge store of containers stacked in boxes over the cubbies. If you need any containers or lids, either matching ones or replacement parts, let me know. I’ll give them to you for FREE! (That is certainly worth a silver medal, right?)
“Book Jam I” was a difficult event. My trade books were not in any particular order, and I was unable to properly organize them to my satisfaction in the allotted time. I did ok with the “Book Jam II“, sorting Reading Workshop books into the correct bins and finding my personal collection of board books that I like to use to start out the year with. But the BEST part of “Book Jam II” was when I masterfully placed my outward-facing bookshelves so I actually have TWO book corners this year for my little Kindergarten scholars! I think that event was purposefully scheduled to try to trick me into getting rid of Kindergarten furniture. I get a double gold medal for that one!
“Where Are The Spacemen?” is still alluding me. During writing, we use these adorable spacemen clothespins created by Really Good Stuff for teaching about putting spaces between words. I can’t find any of them! They may have gone into Mr. Pail at the end of the year, or they may still be playing “What’s In The Cabinet?” Another level to this game is “Where Is The Smartboard Pen?” I had two pens, and one is missing. Clearly, no medal for me for this event.
At the start of “Kindergarten Kitchen Nightmare“, pocket books were filled with toy food, little scratch pads had one scribble on a page, dishes were mixed in with clothing, and the babies had bed head and were all naked. I had to get everything back in its correct, loving place. By the time I was done, the table was set with a tablecloth and napkins I made over the summer, the babies were all clothed and in bed with little handmade blankets, and the food and dishes were put away in the correct spots. Another gold medal for me! Sorry, no picture proof of this, but I can honestly say, the kitchen looked wonderful by the time I was done!
“Sharpen The 1,000 Pencils” was another non-medal event, sadly. My TWO electric pencil sharpeners are busted, so I’ll be purchasing one over the weekend. Guess I’ll be participating in that one on Monday morning!
And “What Did I Order?” is a game also still in progress. I purchased glue sticks prior to the start of the Kindergarten Classroom Summer Olympics while back to school shopping. Lo and behold on Friday, I received two boxes of glue sticks that I guess I ordered since my name was on them! Ah well…better extra glue than no glue!
“Class List Confusion” is always a challenging event for even the most seasoned teacher. A new student was added to my class list and I wasn’t aware of this change when the children visited on Thursday, the 25th. I had to make her crayon cup with her instead of it already set for her at her seat. But on Friday, I made sure to make the labels for seat and cubby, so she will be all set for the first day of school the following week.
“Paperwork Paparazzi” started out as a challenge, but ended up being a silver medal event for me. Another side-event of “What’s in the Cabinet?”, I found student work and assessments from last year in two separate locations that needed to be sorted, organized, and distributed to the first grade teachers. I also located behavior charts for students, parent information, and other miscellaneous paperwork that just didn’t find its way into Mr. Pail at the end of the school year last year. About an hour and half later, all the pertinent paperwork was correctly organized and given to the proper people.
“Bulletin Board Brilliance” was a gold medal winner for me, for sure! Not only was the bulletin board I made adorable, it is highly effective in terms of student work placement. I made little cupcakes from bulletin boarders and tissue paper. The flame above lists my scholars’ birthdays. Underneath each one, there is a clothes pin hanging by a tack. Putting up and taking down student work is a snap! An added bonus: I’ll be putting their photos underneath by the 2nd week of school, so everyone who visits will quickly know which happy little cupcake belongs to which scholar.
The best game, though was “Toss It!” I KNOW I won the gold medal on this game! I had THE biggest pile of boxes, trash, a rug, broken containers, and other unusable items stacked up in three towers of trash. Too bad I didn’t take a picture of my award-winning dump pile! (You can see a bit of the pile creeping out of the hallway in this photo.)
All in all, I think I fared pretty well in this year’s Olympics.
Here are 5 things you need to be ready for Kindergarten!
BRING A BACKPACK that you can carry that has your name on it.
BRING ONE lunch box with your name on it to hold both your snack and lunch. More than one lunch box makes it hard for four and five year olds to figure out what to eat when. Also: be sure your child can open any food containers you send without assistance. If they can’t do it on their own, then it should not be sent to school. NO peanut/nut products or candy at school, please.
WEAR sturdy shoes and play clothes! Shoes should be close-toed for safety on the playground. NO LIGHT UP SHOES, JEWELRY, TOYS, OR TRINKETS, PLEASE.
BRING EXTRA CLOTHES TO KEEP AT SCHOOL. We get messy, have accidents, or get wet at the fountain. We want to avoid calls home for replacement clothes, so please send in clothes to keep at school. Please include an extra plastic bag to send soiled clothes home in and supply replacement clothes should the bag come home.
BE WELL-RESTEDAND EAT BREAKFAST BEFORE SCHOOL EVERY DAY! Four and five year olds need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night! We are busy learning from day 1, so it is very important to get to sleep early, eat a good breakfast, and be on time for school.
I can’t wait to see you on the first day of school!
Have you ever tried to wash and wax your kitchen floor in 90-degree heat? Most logically-thinking people would say, “Of course not! The floor will never dry!” Most people wait for cooler temperatures to wash and wax floors, since high temperatures directly impact how easily and quickly the task can be done.
And yet, that’s what our faithful custodians in my school must do every summer. The teachers pack up as much of their classroom materials as possible in June, storing things in cabinets, closets and cubbies. The custodians then remove all the furniture and any supplies and materials that didn’t fit in the classroom storage areas to the hallway. The floors are then washed and waxed, then the room is reassembled according to a map left by the teacher. Once all the rooms are done in the wing, then the hallways are done. It’s an exhausting, heat-infused, time consuming job. One wing in our building has at minimum 10 rooms. Multiply that by 4 wings…it’s a lot of work.
This year, we had both summer school and a preschool program running in our building, which impacted when the custodians could do their yearly summer routine. Since our summer school and pre-k programs weren’t completed until August 12th, it left only two and a half weeks for the custodians to get their work done, as our new earlier start date this year is August 29th. The classrooms in the wing that was slated for summer school were washed and waxed prior to summer school starting, but that still left the hallway to be done as well many classrooms left untouched until the Pre-k program let out.
When I went in on the one day in August that the school was open to start working in my classroom, (Yes, teachers DO work in their classrooms over the summer to get ready for their new scholars!) the three custodians were busy all over the building. One was waxing the upper floor in my hallway, and the other two were in another section of the building, unloading classrooms and beginning to wash and wax those floors. It’s a thankless job made more stressful by the fact that school is set to open in two weeks.
This madness got me thinking of a few solutions to make their job a little more bearable in 90-degree temperatures with no air conditioning and possibly make the summer cleaning schedule a little more productive.
Start school after Labor Day if summer school and other programs must run through mid-August in school buildings. The extra few weeks will give the custodians ample time to do their work without having the pressure of school starting at the end of August.
Hold summer school in a different town building, like a Recreation Department or Community Center, freeing up the school buildings for custodians to use the months of June through August to work and get the schools ready for another school year.
Set up a schedule for all custodians to rotate through all the schools over the summer, helping to move all the furniture and clean the classrooms and hallways in each building, so there are more people to assist at each school and get the buildings ready sooner. A team of three custodians in each wing for a week could get more done than merely 3 per building. Many hands make light work, right?
I intend to send an email to our Superintendent about this issue once school starts. My hope is that those who make the school calendar for next year take into account the hard work of the custodians over the summer months, especially those who have to work around summer school and other educational programs. Without them and their efforts, we wouldn’t have the sparkling windows, doors, and floors that greet the children and staff every year.
What type of job do you have? Can you just leave your office at the end of the year, or do you have to pack up and set up each work year?
Ok, kids. Technology has made things easier to some degree in our lives, but not necessarily any smarter. Let’s go over a few things to keep in mind when you are granting ‘all access to you all the time’ on your Smartphone and social media accounts. And let’s see how you can be smarter for your kids and you at your child’s school for the next school year.
REMEMBER: SAFETY FIRST
Oftentimes, Facebook pages light up with parent complaints about not feeling ‘welcome’ anymore at their child’s school when it comes to attending school functions. Translation: they are upset that they have to sign up to attend school events and just can’t “show up” to “help out” anymore.
When frustration takes over at these seemingly unfriendly school rules, we as parents need to remember that schools are first and foremost, places of learning for students.
Sadly, we live in a much more socially dangerous time, where adults and children have access to guns and other weapons. They cause unthinkable carnage at schools and other public places. Innocent people are killed, families are destroyed, and schools are left trying to make sense of it all while still continuing on valiantly to educate students in the pressing age of data driven instruction and assessment.
Many schools now have systems and procedures in place to account for people in and out of the building as a result of the violence that occurs daily across our country. Principals request all dismissal information to be sent in paper format and parents to call if a child is absent. Schools have set arrival and dismissal times and procedures for all students, whether they are driven in, walk, or ride the bus. And schools have much tighter security during the day, where doors are locked and teachers use swipe keys to enter and exit.
These are safety measures for your children and the adults in the building. The rules that are in place are not made to make you feel unwelcome. They are put in place to keep everyone safe.
So don’t become upset when your child’s school asks for parents to sign to attend a school function. It’s much smarter to realize that your child is in a building with hundreds of other children who also deserve to be just as safe as your child. And you would want those parents to follow the safety rules for the sake of your child’s safety, too.
ANNOUNCE YOUR VISIT
Imagine this: You’ve got a big presentation to that you are working on for your job. You went in early to get a head start on the day. Then there’s a knock at your door and your boss is standing there. She needs to you work on some other task right away, even though she knows that you are in the middle of your presentation work. Not the best time, right?
You may think you are doing something loving for your child by a surprise visit to the school by dropping off the forgotten homework or instrument. These seemingly innocent little unannounced visits interrupt the secretary trying to manage the school, the teacher trying to work with students, and your child trying to learn.
A smarter way: pack and check the bag the night before with your child. And don’t worry. One day without the violin or the homework isn’t going to put an end to your child’s school career. Use the forgotten item as a way to remember to plan ahead instead of an excuse to just pop in at school.
PARK IT, PLEASE
Parking can also be an issue at schools. As a teacher, I’ve almost been hit by parents countless times zooming in or out of a school parking lot. Imagine how you would feel if your child were hit by a parent. Or what if, in your haste, you hit another child? Parking procedures are in place to keep everyone safe, including your child, as well as the other students in the school.
There are universal parking rules, like marked handicapped spaces, that need to be adhered to whenever you public places, including schools. And then there are signs at schools that indicate where you can and cannot park because of bus drop offs and fire regulations. At my school, the whole front lot is for parents, and teachers need to park on the side and in the back lots. We work there, and we as teachers need to follow the parking rules just like the parents. Disregarding the signs or rules because you are the PTA President or because you are ‘just running in’ to the school puts others at risk and also shows that you feel you are above any rules. It also sends a message to your child that if my adult doesn’t follow the rules, I don’t need to, either. Everyone: parents, children and teachers, who are part of a school community, needs to follow the parking and safety rules for the benefit of all.
TURN OFF YOUR PHONE
I love my phone. And I know we all have become so attached to all the aspects of a Smartphone: texting, taking pictures, tweeting, and instant access to online information-all.the.time. It’s a great device for quick communication, but with it comes responsibility of how much and when to use it.
When attending a function at your child’s school, please turn off your phone- especially on field trips, when you are in charge of students. No one likes to hear it ring, and if you really have to check it for messages, or text someone, or look on Facebook, then you’re not paying attention to the kids, and shouldn’t you be? And don’t post those photos that you took of your child performing with other kids. You know the ones…the ones you took while you were blocking the view of the parents behind you who were trying to watch their child.
Save the photo ops until you meet up with your child afterwards. You’ll be able to enjoy the performance from start to finish and get better close-ups later on.
WHICH OF THESE TWO IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER?
I had the opportunity to attend two spring school performances this past year. One was my daughter’s chorus and band concert and the other was my niece’s school play. I won’t pinpoint which event was which, but let’s see if you can spot the difference between the two events. At one event, all the audience members, parents and children, were seated quietly and respectfully, listening and clapping as appropriate. At the other, younger children were wandering all over the auditorium with their friends before and during the actual performance, switching seats and just generally being not good audience members like they are taught in school. A pair of parents sitting directly in front of me could hear their children making noise in balcony seats overhead and instead of retrieving their children and sitting with them, the adults just watched them from afar, gesturing to their kids to be quiet.
Can you tell which event was the more difficult of the two to enjoy? In both instances, the children and teachers had worked all year to perfect their skills, and yet only one audience really showed the proper respect for all their hard work. And sadly, it was the parents who were the ones who weren’t holding their children accountable for their concert behavior, not the teachers.
TEACHER TROUBLE? TALK IN PERSON
I really enjoy social media. I have gotten in touch with friends that I haven’t been in contact with in years, and family and friends who are out of state can keep in touch with my family and me. I use it as a way to have fun, and I try to be very cognizant and careful about what I post.
Once August hits and teacher assignments are determined, I often see posts from parents asking about whose kid has or had this teacher and whether the teacher was kind, nice, mean, etc. If you like or dislike a particular teacher, that is certainly is your right. But guess what? It also can remain your private business! It gives me a pit in my stomach, wondering what is being said about me. I am a teacher myself, and I know I work very hard to do the best job I can do for my students. I also know that I am human and have made errors in my career. I would just rather hear about it in person rather than read about it on social media.
Think of it this way: Would you like your kid to post on a social media site how mean, nice, or strict you are at home? Probably not. How about your boss posting on your work performance for everyone to formulate an opinion, regardless of whether or not all the facts are presented? Again, probably a negative.
Conversations about placement should be held in person with the teacher, not with your friends on Facebook.
That’s it for today. So, how do you measure up when it comes to social media and school relationships? Do you pass with flying colors or do you need to brush up on a few skills?
That’s why we go to school.
Track how often you check and use your phone for messages, texting, and checking your social media accounts for three days. Compare that to the amount of time you spend with your children and spouse.