Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher

Tips for Teacher Interviews

This is that time of year when new teachers begin looking for their first teaching job. It's also that time when current teachers start thinking about applying for a job closer to home or in a new grade level. Sadly, lots of teachers are also looking for new jobs after having their current position cut. I recently asked teachers on my Facebook page for their best teacher interview tips. They had such such great ideas, that I wanted to share them with anyone who might be interviewing for a teaching job. 

1. Do your research!

Make sure that you spend time really researching the school's and school district's websites before going to the interview. Take time to learn the school's mission statement. Look for any published goals or improvement plans. You might also want to take some time to look at teacher biographies and/or websites. Some of these teachers will probably be on the interview committee! 

2. Prepare for the typical questions.

There are certain questions that seem to get asked at almost every teacher interview. Do yourself a favor and spend some time writing answers to these questions. Then practice saying your answer. Ask for feedback from friends, coworkers and family. When you get asked the question during the interview, you will be able to answer without as much nervousness. 

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Talk about your classroom management strategies.
How do you differentiate in your classroom?
What is your biggest weakness and your biggest strength?
Tell about a time that you had to deal with a difficult student or parent and how you handled the situation.
Tell about a lesson you taught that failed and what you learned from that lesson.
Where do you see yourself in five years?

3. Bring samples or pictures.

Bringing samples of lessons that you created or pictures of your classroom can be a great way to set yourself apart. It shows that you are innovative and that you make learning fun. You can bring hard copies. It might be nice to give each person on the interview panel a page with pictures. You could also upload samples to Google drive and send a link to the file prior to your interview. Some principals will look at the material and appreciate the effort. Some principals will never look. I think it is better to be over prepared though! 

4. Be honest.

You are not perfect and you don't need to pretend that you are. If there is something that you don't know, you should just let them know that this is an area you will need some support in. This let's them know that you are willing to learn new things and able to admit when you need help. Principals like knowing what teacher need help with.

5. Send a thank you.

You know that teachers and administrators are very busy people. It takes a lot of time to conduct interviews. It is very polite to send them an email and thank them for taking the time to consider you for the position. One email will suffice. Don't be the crazy one that sends a message and calls every day! #creepy

Good luck with your interview and enjoy the next adventure!

A Typical Day of Writing in my Classroom

Take a look at how I use writer's workshop to teach writing everyday in my classroom.

Writing happens all day in my classroom. Students respond to text during reading. They write about their math strategies using math journals. Students write informational paragraphs in social studies and science. Even though our pencils are dulled from all of this writing- we still have a dedicated time for writing instruction. If you really want students to be better writers, you have to teach them explicit writing skills. I use writer's workshop to teach writing in my classroom. 

Here is a look at what writing looks like in my classroom:

Mini Lesson: 10-15 minutes

Writer's workshop starts with a mini lesson. It is a MINI lesson- not a MAXI lesson! This is the time when we are teaching our students a skill that we want them to use in their writing. If we spend too much time talking, then they never get to the writing! 

During my mini lesson, I love to share mentor texts. I think that reading great writing is the best way to grow great writers. There are wonderful picture book mentor texts for nearly every writing skill. However, I can't always find the books at the library and it gets pricey to buy them all. I started using mentor text passages instead. I like them because they can be used as a close read during reading and students can highlight and underline interesting words, dialogue and other great writing skills. Plus, students can glue the passages into their notebooks for future reference.

Most of my mini lessons also include anchor charts. The charts are a great way to practice a skill. I don't have a ton of wall space, so I prefer to display a digital version of an anchor chart and fill it in with student input. Students can create the same anchor chart and put it in their notebook as a reminder when they write.

Work Time: 25-35 minutes

The majority of writer's workshop is spent writing! Students are given a specific task to work on in their masterpiece story. 

If the mini lesson was about using transition words, their task will be to go back through their piece and add transition words. If the mini lesson was about using dialogue, students will be asked to add dialogue to their piece. Giving students a very specific task, and resources for reference, helps students to write for the entire time. When a student completes the task for the day, they are able to work on extra stories in the back of their notebook. They will come back to their masterpiece the next day when we learn a new skill during the mini lesson. 

Writing Conferences:

While students are writing, the teacher is conferencing with students. I used to conference one-on-one with writers, but I never seemed to be able to get to every student in a week. I also found that I was giving the same feedback to many of the students. I decided that it made more sense to meet with a small group of writers each day. Students were grouped based on their writing goals. Students with similar needs are grouped together and this drastically cut down on the amount of time I spent giving the same feedback. It also helps students to learn from one another. 

When students meet with me during conference, I will have them read their writing out loud. This is much faster than me trying to read all of the pieces. I don't have them read the entire story though. If we have just learned about writing leads that hook readers (or if that is a common goal for the group), I will have each student share their lead. This keeps the conferences short and focused. 

During conferences, I will take notes about strengths and areas for growth for each student. This helps me to remember things I want to follow up on. 

Share Time: 5 minutes

I think that it is important for authors to have opportunities to share their writing. I think that is the main reason that writers write! I used to have an author's chair and chose one student to come up each day to read their story. This took so long and meant that students were only able to share less than once per month. I want students to get to share everyday! Sharing doesn't always have to be in front of the whole class. Most days I just have my students share with their shoulder partner. 

I always give my students a very specific task during share time. It just takes too long to read an entire story. Instead, I might ask them to share a place where they used the "show, don't tell" writing strategy. I might ask them to share a place where they used dialogue. Giving a specific task helps to keep things moving and his a great way to close our lesson.

Take a look at how I use writer's workshop to teach writing everyday in my classroom.

Helpful Product!

Would you like to have an effective writing workshop without having to write the lesson plans, find the mentor texts or create the anchor charts? I have you covered! I did all of the hard. work, so you can start teaching writing in your class tomorrow! Click on the picture below to read more about this unit!

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I have more information about teaching writing!

End of Year Tips, Tricks and Resources!

Lots of ideas for end of year classroom activities to make the last weeks or days of school extra fun!

The end of the school year is fast approaching! Wether you have days or weeks left, I hope that these end of year tips and ideas will help you to have some fun with your students before summer break. 

The end of the school year is tough! So much is being asked of us. We are madly trying to complete report cards, inventory supplies, clean and somehow continue to provide meaningful instruction until the very last day! 

There are several mistakes that a teacher can make at the end of the year even though they mean well. These mistakes will make the end of the year more difficult.

Click HERE to read more about these mistakes and some simple solutions to make the end of year more manageable!

After testing is over we start to daydream about summer break. But the reality is that we still have several weeks of teaching time! What do you do with your students? We want to keep them learning, but we want to have some fun with them too. I have ten tips that will help you keep your students learning and engaged!

Click HERE to read more about fun ways to keep students engaged at the end of the year.

Ending the year with a theme day or an entire week of theme days- is super fun! They give students a something really special to look forward. You can sneak in academics if you need to, or you can just make it a celebration. It's up to you!

Click HERE to read about 12 different classroom theme day ideas!

The end of the year is a perfect time to hold a book raffle in your classroom! I give students a book as an end of year gift and the raffle is a fun way to give out the books and be certain that every student has a book that they are excited to read over the summer.

Click HERE to read more about having a book raffle in your classroom.

On the last day of school, my students always scrubbed the desks, tables and chairs. And they had a blast doing it. I know that sounds crazy, but it is so true. They loved helping to clean the classroom because I made it fun with bubbles! I only wish that I could find a way to make cleaning my house this much fun.

Click HERE to read more about cleaning desks with bubbles!

Imagine a summer break where you are sipping fruity drinks by the pool and NOT thinking about school. It may sound impossible to some of you. The trick is to get ready for back to school BEFORE summer break. I know that you are crazy tired, but I promise that I have some simple ways that you can get ahead of the game with little to no energy!

Click HERE to read about what you should prep before summer break!

End of Year Resources

I have a few resources that are perfect for the end of the year!

I love to have a ceremony and give every student in my class a special award. I always find an award that is perfect for each student in my class. The set includes 80 different awards and it is editable!

Click HERE to learn more about my end of year awards.

The school year has been lots of fun and my students love to document their favorite memories. There are lots of memory books out there, but I think that the paper bag format is extra fun and really unique!

Click HERE to learn more about my end of year paper bag memory book.

These end of year task cards are a fun way to reminisce about the school year. You can put them in a writing center or even use them as discussion starters during those last days of school!

Click HERE to learn more about my end of year task cards.

Lots of ideas for end of year classroom activities to make the last weeks or days of school extra fun!

Enjoy those last days of making a huge difference for this group of kiddos!

5 Mistakes Teachers Make at the End of the Year

The end of the year is stressful, but don't make these mistakes! Keep the last weeks and days of school fun with these simple ideas!

The end of the school year is full of emotions, stress and exhaustion. The to do lists are long. The student energy is high, while the teacher energy seems to be nonexistent. We want to end the year on a high note, but sometimes we are just causing ourselves undue stress. 

There are several mistakes that a teacher can make at the end of the year even though they mean well. These mistakes will make the end of the year even more difficult.

1. Completely Changing the Routine

Try your best to keep the routine in tact, even at the end of the year. I know that some days this will be next to impossible. There are assemblies, field trips, open house and so many other school events that flip our daily routine upside down. You can't change those things, but every other day- keep the routine! If you have been doing reading groups all year, keep having reading groups. You don't have to do the exact same thing in those reading groups. Maybe you want to do a book club instead of reading the curriculum stories. That is great! 

You can change small things while still keeping the routine. If you change the schedule too much or too often, it tends to lead to behavior challenges. Kids really like routine! Everyone likes to know what is expected.

2. Doing Too Much of the Work

When I first started teaching, I had a mentor that always said, "If you are going home tired, you are doing too much of the work." Although I often go home exhausted, I do see her point. We have a tendency to do too much of the talking, too much of the teaching and too much of the work. Make sure your students are doing their fair share to lead the classroom. They can do pair shares to teach and review topics. They can do team projects and work together to make a plan for the completion. They can help with grading by doing trade and grade with math facts and other simple assignments. Students can be cleaning and organizing the classroom. Are there tasks that can be done at home such pencil sharpening, lamination cutting, stapling, etc? Send an email to parents with your exact needs and see if they would be willing to volunteer. You are a classroom family and everyone has to do their share of the work!

3. Not Having Fun

I think that every day should include some fun. I am not a three-ring circus leader (even though it feels like it sometimes), but I still feel that simple activities can be lots of fun. The end of the year should be even more fun! You want to send your students home, on that last day, super excited to come back after break. You want to create long-lasting and positive memories. I know that you are tired and stressed, but do yourself a favor and a plan a few fun activities for the last weeks of school. Some ideas include:

4. Not Prepping for Next Year

I know that you are really busy trying to survive the end of this year. You probably think that I am crazy to even mention next year. Here's the thing- if you don't start prepping for next year, you will end up thinking about it and working during your summer break. You need a break! Prep now so that your break can be more enjoyable. 

In THIS post, I wrote about the things that you really should have prepped before you leave for summer break. It is doable! 

5. Focusing on the HUGE To Do List

I know that you have a ton to do. Do you ever just stare at the list, get frustrated and then not even start on the tasks? I hope I am not the only one! When we have a lot to do, we tend to spend a lot of time thinking and stressing over all that we have to do. The reality is that if we just used that time to make a plan and get started, we would finish much faster!

So let's make a plan! Start by doing a brain dump. Take a few minutes to write down everything that you need to do. 

Tips for tackling the huge teacher to do list!

Then try grouping items that are similar. By batching your tasks, you will save lots of time. For example, if you have to send a few emails- it makes more sense to sit down and write them all at once than it does to sit down multiple times to write the emails. After you have batched your tasks, look at your calendar. You can't do it all at one time, so schedule blocks of work time and write exactly what you want to accomplish during that time. Be reasonable and don't forget to block off time for family, sleep, exercise, etc.

Now you don't need to focus on the whole list. Just focus on what you have scheduled for today! You and your kids deserve this!

The end of the year is stressful, but don't make these mistakes! Keep the last weeks and days of school fun with these simple ideas!

I hope that you really enjoy your class during those last few weeks! You know you will miss them!

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End of Year Class Theme Days

During the last weeks or days of school, I am looking for fun ways to celebrate with my students. During the year we have become such great friends and I want to end the year with a bang! Having theme days during that last week can be so much fun. You can sneak in academics if you need to, or you can just make it a celebration. It's up to you! 

Here are 12 classroom theme day ideas:

1. Camping Day

The kids always love it when I transform the classroom into a camp site! We move the desks out of the way and students bring in sleeping bags and flashlights or lanterns. I play a YouTube channel that has a camp fire with crackle sounds. Students can read by flashlight. 

It is also fun to celebrate your student authors by having them read their most recent story. Don't forget to serve s'mores for a snack! You can make solar ovens and make them outside or just put Golden Graham cereal, marshmallows and chocolate chips in a baggie for a less messy version.

2. STEM Day

STEM projects are lots of fun, but I don't get to nearly enough of them during the school year. So why not devote a day during the last week to STEM? You can put different activities around the room and have students rotate like centers, or do several all together. THESE free summer STEM projects look perfect!

3. Water Day

Nothing says, "Summer is coming!" like a water day! Have students bring a towel and wear old clothes or a swimsuit. Go outside and have a water balloon fight! 

You can throw in some academics by doing a STEM project to see who can build the boat that holds the most weight. I give students foil and we test the boats by putting pennies in them while they float in a bucket or sink of water. You could also do a science experiment to see which items dissolve in water: sugar, salt, coffee, rice or cocoa. Don't forget to do some watercoloring! Have students paint the first thing that comes too mind when they think of water!

4. Game Day

I like game day because it is very simple to plan and gives me a little time to take down a bulletin board or fill out one of the many spreadsheets that the end of year requires. Students like this day because it gives them a chance to play and chat with their friends before the long break. Have students bring in their favorite card or board games. You can put students in random groups or have them choose their own groups and enjoy the games. 

You could also play a whole group game like Bingo or Jeopardy. 

5. Hollywood Day

Roll out the red carpet (aka a piece of red fabric from a craft store!) and celebrate your student celebrities. This is the perfect day for a class awards ceremony. Every student receives an award! 

A photo booth would be awesome! You can be the paparazzi! If you have the proper technology, you have students use iMovie or another app to make movies about their favorite memories from the school year. You can watch the movies together while enjoying some popcorn. 

6. Sports Day

We were a team all year and so it makes sense to end the year playing as a team with a special sports day. You can ask students to wear a shirt or jersey with the logo of their favorite sports team. Enjoy a class game of soccer, kickball or basketball. 

End the day with hot dogs and Cracker Jacks while watching the movie Everyone's Hero. It's a cute movie about friendship from the point of view of a baseball bat and ball!

7. Decades Day

Encourage students to come dressed from a different decade! You can have a few centers to commemorate different decades. Students can learn the Hand Jive at the 50s center and do a tie dye art project at the 70s center. 

Put some Rubix cubes in the 80s center. You can play lots of fun music from the various decades! Throw in some academics by assigning groups to research the president, wars and famous people from various decades. They can present their research by creating a poster. 

8. Art Day

Art is another one of those activities that my students love, but I know I didn't do enough of during the year due to time. Students will love having an entire day dedicated to art! Students can paint, create something out of clay, do bubble art or shaving cream art

You can also have students research and write about some famous artists. 

9. Travel Day

How about taking your class on a trip without leaving the classroom?! This is a great way to extend your geography unit. You can have centers set up around the classroom for different countries or states. In Mexico students can make salsa. In France they can learn to count to ten in French. You can also give them Legos or Play-doh and have students build replicas of famous landmarks in different states or countries. Students can do some research and make travel brochures! How about some opinion writing about a place they want to visit?

On travel day, you might even t take your class on a "field trip" to the next grade! Arrange with the teacher. Pair your students with her students and have them ask questions about homework, centers, science units, etc.

10. Talent Day

Everyone has a talent! It's fun to have a day to celebrate those unique talents. Students can sing, dance, play an instrument, show a trophy, display an art project, etc.

11. Carnival Day

A carnival day is lots of fun and perfect for the last couple days of school. You might want to take this one outside. You can set up some simple carnival games such as a bean bag toss and throwing ping pong balls into mason jars. 

Enjoy some corn dogs and cotton candy, because everyone knows that the best part of a carnival is the food! If you want to add some academics to this day, do a STEM project where students build a rollercoaster with straws, paper, tape and a ping pong ball or marble. 

12. Make it Shine Day

Throw on some fun upbeat music and have students help to clean the classroom until it shines! They can test all of the markers and pens and throw away ones that don't work or are missing lids. Students can organize the classroom library and fix books that have been torn. You can have kiddos dust tables and shelves. My students especially love cleaning their desks and chairs with THIS activity.

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