Sunday, 28 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions for Teachers: Maintaining a healthy work/life balance

It's that time of the year again. Christmas is over and 2015 is fast approaching. Of course so many people are thinking about losing weight, going to the gym more often, quitting an unhealthy habit, etc. I wonder how many people are thinking about being LESS committed to work. 

A common complaint from teachers is that during the academic year, they have too much to do and they work long hours. Most of my teachers friends do a several hours of school work once the children go home and then dedicate either one whole morning/afternoon/evening at the weekends catching up on planning, marking or making resources. 

Any non-teacher reading this who wishes to complain, we've all heard your argument. "Teachers should just suck it up. They have two month's holidays in the summer and many, many weeks off throughout the year." Does that mean it's right that teachers spend half of the year completely chilled out, doing nothing but spending their earnings and going on holidays to Thailand and then suffer from stress due to the long hours they work during term-time? Personally, I don't think so.

I'm not sure why it is that teachers feel OBLIGED to spend hours upon hours of overtime. I am one of those teachers who will work far too hard and burn myself out when I allow myself to do so. I can't fully explain my reasoning. I'm a very hard worker, passionate about my job and (maybe, unfortunately) enjoy blogging, which is also school-related. I sometimes find it hard to prioritise all of the things I need/want to do and don't manage my time as efficiently as I can.

I know in theory that working so much and not giving ample time to my personal life is detrimental to my well-being. Judging by the complaints I hear/read about from teachers, I am not alone in falling into this trap. So, this post is to encourage all you teachers to put "Maintain a healthy work/life balance" as the top priority on your list of resolutions! It will benefit you personally and you'll probably have more energy and a better attitude with your students if you start the day refreshed and not worn out!

In October, I decided that I needed to make some changes so it seems I've started my resolution a little early. I must say, it has worked wonders. Here are the little things I did to restore some balance. Obviously every teacher faces different demands due to their specific school/class/curriculum/timetable so these won't all necessarily by applicable to everybody. 
1. Take a morning break. In my school, we have a 20 minute break time. For some reason, we don't all go down to the staff room at the same time in my school. I found it very easy just to continue working through that break time. I decided to make myself take at least 10 or 15 minutes of that time to have a snack and browse through Facebook/Twitter.
2. Leave school work at school. This was a tough one. I was notorious for leaving school after an hour, bringing my planner home and working on the couch. I convinced myself that I worked better when I was more comfortable. Having decided to finish work in the school building, I managed to procrastinate less and work harder. It also created great closure mentally. Once I left the building, I stopped thinking about what I needed to do.
3. Bring a snack for after school. One of the reasons I used to leave school early was because I was drained of energy at the end of the school day. Bringing a piece of fruit to eat once the children left solved this problem. I take a quick break to have a chat and eat something and then get back to my planning, refreshed.
4. Try not to be such a perfectionist. This is a tough one for me. I'm quite indecisive and can spend a lot of time humming and hawing over things. I've forced myself to make decisions more quickly. I'm sure that my quality of teaching has not suffered due to this. It's just saved me a lot of thinking time that I had previously been wasting.
5. Free up weekends as much as possible. This goes well with no. 3. I have tried my best to bring NO school work home for the weekend. Though I might do one or two little jobs; when I don't have something urgent to do, I don't feel stressed to do it and it's not on my mind until Sunday evening when I stop procrastinating!

As you can see, some of these changes are very simple. If you have any other tips on how teachers could save time and be more productive, please comment below!

Wishing everybody a healthy and happy new year!

*Background, frame and clipart in image all from MyCuteGraphics

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Staff treat

Unfortunately, I've no resources to share with you today. Here's a quick peek at what I've been up to this evening. We have our Christmas show tomorrow so here's a little sugar pick-me-up for the teachers! 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Simple Snowflake Crafts (for all classes in primary school)

Just a week left! 

Time is flying by! 

Here are three simple snowflake crafts for lower, middle and upper primary school children. None of them require very many resources (though, for the first one, you'll need to pick up a few packs of lollipop sticks!)

1. Lower primary:
This lollipop snowflake is easy. Glue a few lollipop sticks together, paint them white and smother them with glitter. Glue on a loop of string to create a hanging Christmas tree decoration.
Image source

2. Middle primary:
This is what I'll be doing with my class this week (which ties in nicely with our latest maths topic of symmetry). It's a paper snowflake. Simply fold a circle of paper in half several times, cut out some triangles et voilà. Add some string if you want to hang it from the tree. Smother in glitter for effect.
Image source

One of my colleagues pointed me in the direction of "snowflake ballerinas" on Pinterest. You cut out a ballerina template from white card and the snowflake becomes her tutu. You can view the craft and download templates for the ballerina here.
Image source

3. Upper primary:
This giant snowflake is a little fiddly to make but very do-able for older primary school children. All you need to do is fold 6 squares of paper, cut in a certain way, tape it together. And, as per the other crafts, feel free to add a loop of string and (You've guessed it!) SMOTHER IT IN GLITTER. It works great if done in pairs. Check out this tutorial to see how to do it.

Here are some that my 7 year olds made two year's ago:

*Background, frame and clipart in image all from MyCuteGraphics

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas Party YouTube Playlist

Hello everyone,

Another Christmas-themed treat for you today. Here's a YouTube playlist that I made for our Christmas party. It's an hour long and includes lots of Christmas classics, singalongs, THE MINIONS and, love it or hate it, Frozen's "Let It Go." Hopefully YouTube isn't blocked in your school and you can make use of this resource!

Background and frame in the image from MyCuteGraphics

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Jingle Bell Rock Video Tutorial

Looking for something to keep your class entertained for a while during the last week of school? Want a dance that they can do in the classroom (even with limited space)? 

Well it's you're lucky day! It is with a great deal of embarrassment and a dollop of courage that I present to you a video tutorial of the dance that we created at my school for Jingle Bell Rock. It's really simple so even younger primary school children can do it and the song is not baby-ish so it should suit middle and upper primary school classes too.

I was hoping that this could be something that you could put on your interactive whiteboard/projector but the video quality isn't great. I had some serious issues trying to save it as a bigger file due to storage problems. However, it still might be useful for you to learn the dance, to teach the children.

Unfortunately, due to copyright issues, I couldn't use the official track. I suggest teaching the song and using this karaoke video to help with the lyrics. Then, when they're familiar with the song, use my dance tutorial to add in the moves.

I ho ho hope you like it (I've already uploaded a video of me dancing, I don't think that cheesy line can make me cringe any more)

Friday, 5 December 2014

FREE Christmas pelmanism (memory) card game

It's FRIIIIIIIIIIIDAY! And for some of us, it's a long weekend! Here's a festive freebie to keep your class busy during the last week of school. It's a pelmanism (memory) game. 

I'm sure you all know how to play! Just turn over two cards. If they match, you keep the pair and go again. If not, the next person takes a turn. Continue until no cards remain. The winner is the person with the most cards.

There are 15 picture cards and 15 matching labels in this set. You can use as many or as few of these pairs of cards to challenge your children appropriately. 

They could also be used for introducing basic Christmas vocabulary to students with English as a second language. 

You can download them for free from Google Drive or my TPT store.

P.S. A quick reminder: I have been shortlisted for an Edublog Award in the "Most Influential Blog Post of the Year" category. I would really appreciate any votes. You just have to click on the thumbs up under "A Crucial Week: 10 reasons NOT to date a girl who teaches." Click here to vote!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Crucial Week Shortlisted for the 2014 Edublog Awards

What a great surprise today to see that my blog post "10 Reasons NOT to Date a Girl Who Teaches" has been shortlisted in the "Most Influential Blog Post of the Year" category of the 11th international Edublog Awards. 

Thank you to everyone who voted for me in the last round of nominations!

If you would like to vote for me, please go to the Edublog Awards website

Monday, 1 December 2014

Kindness Elves

Image source: Erica's Ed-Ventures

Having just posted about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon, a post by Amy Lemons directing me towards Erica's Ed-Ventures grabbed my attention. It's about "Kindness Elves." They elf stays in your classroom and each day they have a note with an act of kindness. To make things even better, Erica has posted a freebie with lovely, heart-shaped notes, full of ideas. Just click here to view her post and download.