Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: April 2018

End of Year Student Gift Ideas

Student gifts do not need to be expensive! They should be meaningful. Check out these simple ideas for end of the school year gift ideas for your students!

As we get closer to the end of the school year, teachers in my Facebook groups are asking for end of year gift suggestions. I put together some of my best ideas!

First, gifts are not required! Don't feel like you have to give one. I honestly don't think that students expect them. The end of the year is a blur for students and teachers. If the gift is stressful- don't bother. It does not mean you don't love your students. Give hugs!

I liked to give a gift, but I am not the kind of teacher who is willing to waste money on dollar store junk. I am a mom and I know that those trinkets get broken and/or thrown away within a day or two. It might seem cheap, but really it ends up being a waste.

I also like for my student gifts to be meaningful and help my students to remember our year together. A sand pail or a beach ball just don't generally hold much meaning.

Instead, I like to give one of the following gifts...

1. Book

I always took great pride in helping all of my students to discover their love for reading. We shared many books during the year and so it makes lots of sense to give a book as a gift. Plus, I am encouraging a little summer reading.

Books can be purchased very inexpensively through Scholastic. I collect the $1 books or buy the sets that are discounted. If you plan ahead, you could try doing a Donors Choose project for books from Amazon.

Make the gift more meaningful by writing a personal message on the inside cover. My own children cherish books with notes from their former teachers.

Book Raffle

I really LOVE to make the book gift a fun end of year activity with a book raffle! Students can earn the raffle tickets based on behavior. This helps with the end of year itch! Students love the actual raffle and go home with a book that they can't wait to read. 

Click HERE for more information about book raffles.

2. Class Video

In my past life I must have been part of the paparazzi. I constantly took pictures of my students on field trips and doing fun activities in the classroom. 

At the end of the year, I would use iMovie to make all of these pictures into a movie. Pair it with some fun music and you have a special gift.

You can burn the song onto a DVD. I like this option because it becomes a keepsake. If you want a less expensive option, you can upload the video to a class website or Google drive and provide a link or a QR code for students to access the video.

I love this gift idea because it reminds students of all the fun we had together!

3. Class Picture

Not a big picture taker? If you didn't take a lot of photos during the school year, it might be difficult to put together a video.

That's ok! Gather your kiddos for a class photo shoot. Print the photo for each student and stick them in dollar store picture frames. 
So simple! And still meaningful!

4. Awards

Student gifts don't have to be elaborate to be meaningful! How about hosting a class awards ceremony? 

Print an award that is special for each of your students. As you present them make sure to tell the class exactly why you chose that particular award for each student. 

This is a feel good activity and gift! Students leave knowing just how proud you are.

These end of the year awards are the perfect gift!

Click HERE to check out these editable awards.

5. Handwritten Note

I feel that a handwritten note is one of the most meaningful gifts that you can give.

In this digital age, it is super rare to receive a handwritten note. That makes them a million times more special.

Grab some pretty stationary of notecards. Spend a few afternoons writing personal and heartfelt letters. What made you proud? How did they grow? What made you laugh? What is a fond memory that you have? What will you miss about them? What is your hope or dream for them?

If you feel comfortable, you might consider including a personal email address and giving students permission to write to you and keep you up-to-date on their family and schooling. They love this!

Whatever you decide, I hope that you are taking time to really enjoy your sweet students during the end of year chaos. These moments are fleeting.

Have a Not So Wimpy day!

Teacher Tips for Preparing for Maternity Leave

You’re almost ready! The baby is coming soon, and you’re tired but excited to get everything ready for your new addition at home. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of preparation that needs to be done at school as well. Getting ready for your maternity leave can be very stressful!

If you follow me on Facebook, then you probably saw my BIG announcement! My husband and I are super excited to be expecting baby number FIVE! Wowzers!

I know how hard it is to focus on work when you are pregnant. It's like my sweet little baby has completely sucked my brain right out of my head! All I can think about is car seat safety rankings and baby nursery decor.

I also know how hard it is to be a long-term substitute. Prior to becoming a full-time teacher I was a substitute for many years. I had the opportunity to substitute for many new mommies. I had some awesome long-term jobs and some that I couldn't wait to be over.

I thought I would combine a my mommy and substitute experience to put together some tips for preparing for your maternity leave. I hope these help you to get focused and prepared so that you can truly enjoy your new little addition!

Utilize other classroom teachers.

Let other grade level teachers know when your leave is and ask to use their lesson plans. Make extra copies to share with your substitute. Most colleagues are very understanding, especially if they’ve been through the leave process and having children. Offer to take over some of the load when you return. 

If you don’t have another teacher in your grade level, check out my grade level teacher groups. These communities allow you to interact with other teachers and find a tribe to support you! So many amazing ideas, tips and resources are shared every day.

Talk to your admin.

Every school/district has different expectations for how much a teacher must prep for a leave.

At my school, we were expected to loosely lesson plan for the entire leave and do the photo copying. I have heard of other schools that only require a week of lesson planning.

It is a good idea to find out early what will be required. You don't want to be surprised late into your pregnancy!

Arrange a sub weeks (or months) in advance.

Do not wait until the last minute to find a substitute teacher. Slots fill up fast, and great long term subs can be hard to secure. 

Ask your colleagues or other teachers in the district for recommendations for long term subs or request someone you may have had in the past. Even districts that do not allow you to request specific subs for short term absences typically encourage prearrangement and requests for maternity leave substitutes.

If possible, invite your substitute into the classroom so that she can observe your class. It gives you a chance to model your procedures and show her around your classroom.

Batch your maternity leave planning.

Don't plan on doing all of the lesson planning in just one weekend! That will really stress you out.

Instead, schedule a little time into your weekly schedule starting in your second trimester. Use this time to do planning and photo copying in batches. For example, spend a couple of weeks prepping math centers. Then spend a couple of weeks getting a writing unit prepped.

Rather than working week-to-week, save time by prepping a subject at a time for the entire leave.

Don't forget to think about holidays that will happen during your leave!

Keep your lesson plans and materials organized.

This is a good tip for any teacher but especially for those going on leave. Organizing your files and lesson plans to make them easier for your guest teacher to find and use will make your life a whole lot easier when you return. 

Make the copies you know your sub will need for your leave. Make copies early (for before your due date) in case your bundle makes an early appearance. Filing your copies into weekly folders and having daily drawers set up for your sub will make the experience more pleasant for them. 

They may even want to come back and sub when you have well-child checks or need to stay home with your infant after returning to work!

Don't forget the basics.

Your substitute will need lots of information in order to effectively run your classroom!

Things you may want to leave:
Class Roster
Allergies and medical concerns
Daily schedule
Specials schedule
Duty schedule
Passwords (for teacher computer and sites and for students)
Calendar of important dates (meetings, field trips, holidays, etc.)

Make a little packet and leave it in a binder or folder for your substitute. She will thank you later!

Would you like to use my FREE editable templates? #woohoo Click on the picture below to download!

Be flexible but firm when you return.

Know that even if your sub is wonderful, it’s not the same as having you in the classroom. Whether you take your leave at the start of the year or after 100 days of school, your kids will have an adjustment period when you return. Your guest teacher may have stricter or more lenient behavior expectations. 

When you return from your leave, share pictures of your baby, tell your kids about your family, but act like it’s the first day of school again. Praise positive behaviors and correct poor choices before they become habits. Review expectations and model them with your students. Check out THESE fun free activities for reviewing procedures. You could prep them before you go out on leave!

Following these teacher tips for preparing for maternity leave will help you focus on the most important thing during your time off: taking care of your child and yourself. Your students will be fine, but know that having that special bonding time with your child is the number one priority. Don’t worry about emails or phone calls. Let them pile in your inbox and go to voicemail. This is the time for you and your family! Congrats!

7 Ways to Save Money on Teachers Pay Teachers

Tips for saving some money when buying resources for your classroom from TpT

Teachers Pay Teachers made me a better teacher. That might sound cheesy to you, but it is the absolute truth. TpT gave me the ability to meet my students' needs in ways that went above and beyond the outdated curriculum. TpT made me look like a rockstar with super fun activities while saving me time that I could spend with my family.

I love TpT, but I couldn't always afford as many resources as I wanted. Teachers are on seriously limited budgets. (Not that I need to tell you that!)

Over the years, I have come up with seven different ways to save a little on my TpT purchases. I want to share in hopes that this will help you!

1. Leave Feedback to Earn Credit

Teachers Pay Teachers values quality feedback on resources. The feedback helps other teachers to find the resource that will best meet their own classroom needs.

Since feedback is so important, TpT rewards you for leaving feedback! When you leave feedback on the resources that you have purchased and used in your classroom, TpT will give you credits. 

The amount of credits that you earn is based on the price of the resource that you purchased. For example, if you purchase a $3 resource, you will receive 3 credits when you leave feedback.

For every 20 credits that you earn, you can take $1 off of your whole cart.

Teachers Pay Teachers keeps track of the credits and you can choose to use them when you are checking out.

Before you check out, head to your purchases page and make sure you have left quality feedback on previous purchases!

2. Follow your Favorite Stores

Some sellers offer a discount on brand new resources. 

This discount is usually only available for a day or two. If you follow their store, Teachers Pay Teachers will send you an email when they add a new resource. Make sure you open this email right away to see if the new resource is something that you need and nit it is discounted.

Not sure how to follow a store? Head to the store and click on the star that says "Follow Me" directly under their store name.

Want to follow my store? I offer a 50% discount on new resources for the first 24 hours! You can follow by clicking HERE.

3. Follow your Favorite Sellers on Social Media

Most sellers have Facebook pages and/or Instagram accounts. 

Sometimes sellers will use their social media to announce a sale in their store or on a particular resource. Also, they might have special giveaways or contests on their social media. 

I often give away gift cards and large resource bundles on my Facebook page and my Instagram account

4. Join your Favorite Sellers' Newsletter Lists

Some sellers have email newsletter lists. You usually get a freebie just for signing up for their list!

Sellers will send likely send emails when they are having sales, giveaways or have new resources. This is a great chance to grab a deal!

What I love most about these emails is that the seller is sending lots of tips and ideas that help you to know if the resource will meet my needs and how to implement it in the classroom. This can help you to save money buying resources that just aren't what you need!

You can usually find information about signing up for a newsletter list on the seller's blog or social media. You can always send them an email or TpT question to ask if they have an email list.

It's super easy to get on my newsletter list! Just type your first name and PERSONAL email address in the boxes below.

5. Team Up to Take Advantage of Extra License Discounts

Do you plan with your team? Do you all end up purchasing the same resources on TpT?

Did you know that most sellers offer a discount on the purchase of multiple licenses? It's typically a 10% discount! 

If you know that one of your teaching buddies wants the same resource, team up and buy both licenses from one of TpT account. Then you can split the cost and you both save a little!

*Note: It is necessary to buy multiple licenses if you are going to be sharing a resource with a colleague. The terms of use on nearly every TpT resource state that the resource can be used by one classroom. Sharing would be a violation of copyright law. So it's a darn good thing we can get a discount on those extra licenses! 

6. Take Advantage of Bundle Discounts

Many sellers offer money saving bundles in their store. The bundles are a collection of resources from their store that they sell as a package at a discounted price.

I offer many bundle for 20% off of the price of buying each individual item in the bundle.

Buying a bundle costs more up front, but they can be a huge money saver in the long run!

7. Talk to your Admin about Signing Up for TpT for Schools

Teachers Pay Teachers has created a brand new program that is the bees knees! They worked with all types of schools (public, private, charts, parochial, etc) all over the country to create a TpT for Schools portal.

Basically, school can join and get and get an account for free. Teachers are then able to put TpT resources on a wish list. Their administrators can see the wish lists and purchase licenses for the teachers. 

You probably won't get everything that you ask for, but wouldn't it be amazing to get a few new and FREE to you resources?!

If your school is not already signed up for TpT for Schools, you can talk to your admin about getting signed up. 

You can get more information or have your admin get your school signed up by clicking HERE.

Have a Not So Wimpy day!