Guilt-Free Back to School Blues

Whew, is it ever a scorcher in Ohio today.  I’ve been keeping cool staying in the A/C working on my British literature homework (Beowulf, anyone?) and browsing Facebook.  My last foray into Facebook land left me feeling deflated and anxious.  I have “liked” several teaching pages over the years and they have taken over my feed lately.  Since it is nearing the end of July, most (if not all) are posting about Back-to-School.  School supply bargains.  Dollar store ideas for the classroom.  Flexible seating ideas.  Classroom painting, decor, and basic sprucing up.  More ways to spend your own money for your classroom.  First week of school activities.  Big teaching ideas and plans for the upcoming year.  So many teachers are simply oozing with their excitement for going back to school.

Guilt-Free Back-to-School Blues

Not me.  I don’t want to go back!  And you know something?  That’s okay!  It doesn’t make me less of a teacher.  It doesn’t mean I don’t care for and genuinely love my students.  I do.  It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be the very best teacher I can be.  I do.  It doesn’t mean I will be less prepared for the start of the year.  Trust me, I will be.  All it means is that I realize that I have just a few weeks left before I am required to go back to school.  I am about halfway through my teaching career.  I teach students with special needs.  It is exhausting.  I need this downtime in order to continue to give my students what they need during the year.  I’m refueling.

I also have two incredible kids of my own.  Summer is for them.  For US.  Summer is when we take long walks, spend days at the library, or go visiting every single playground in the area.  We have water balloon fights and build forts.  We read books and take naps in the middle of the day when it is too hot to be outside.  We watch movies and complete 4-H projects.  We laze around just chatting with glasses of lemonade.  We go to the drive-in every chance we get.  Our county fair is next week and we will have a blast.    This is my favorite time of the year because of them.  I am so very lucky to get to spend these days with a four-year-old who never fails to make me laugh and a ten-year-old who always makes me think a bit deeper.  They will never be this age again and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

So to all of you teachers who are feeling guilty for not being ready to embrace the Back-to-School frenzy: IT’S OKAY.  Your classroom and students will still be there.  Maybe you are enjoying little ones, too.  Or maybe you don’t like your current teaching position (or principal or coworker) and dread going back.  Or maybe you, too, are still recuperating from the last group of kids who you gave your all to.  Your reason doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t make you a bad teacher who should find a new career.  It just means you are not willing to let the frenzy eek into you…yet.  It means you aren’t giving any of your hard-earned time off back to your job – for free.  

And to those of you who say you will feel behind if you don’t start now: Does that actually work?  From the first day I step back into the school building I feel at least six months behind.  Every. Single. Year.  Even the years I prepared ALL summer.  No more!  I am taking back my whole summer and I am not accepting any guilt for not wanting to go back to school.  Not any more.  I have Back-to-School blues and I refuse to feel guilty about it!

Now I am off to curl up on the couch beside one of my boys to watch Battlebots and listen to him talk endlessly about his plans to build fighting robots when he grows up.  We’ll stay up late talking into the night until my eyes start to burn from exhaustion.  And when I am awakened tomorrow morning at 7AM by my other little boy and forced to play Legos while feeling groggy, all I will be able to think is how much my life is blessed during the summer.  

Enjoy your summer, Teachers.  You’ve earned it.  🙂



Pencil Wars

You know, when I was an undergrad dreaming of making a difference in the classroom, I had no idea that a simple school supply could make such an impact in the classroom.  Seriously.  No idea.  Now I know better.

Let’s just talk about pencils for a bit.  WHERE DO THEY ALL GO?   How can a student start the day with 20 pencils and have NONE by 1:00?  HOW?  Are they being used as emergency snacks?  Are they planting them in the grass during recess?

And the kids who manage to hang onto their pencils NEVER have them sharpened!  The constant noise of the sharpener drowning out the math lesson is a major annoyance to teachers everywhere!  I finally started providing a “community” supply of pencils that are not to be taken out of my room.  I sharpen them with my trusty little electric sharpener a couple times a week after the kids go home.  It takes FOREVER.  I has to take a break and cool down after sharpening two to three pencils.  Truly.Annoying.

Pencil Sharpener

Then a few weeks ago, I received a new pencil sharpener to try out and review.  Now, I’m not going to lie to you, I was none too excited to try out a crank sharpener.  (Oh, the blisters!)  But, this was not like those old sharpeners bolted to the walls.  It grips the pencil and lets you know when the pencil is sharpened (the crank spins with no resistance).  It is definitely quieter than traditional or electric sharpeners.  AND it does the absolute BEST job sharpening of any sharpener I have ever used!  These points are wicked, people.  I may have had to go over expected classroom behaviors after sharpening pencils.  The students immediately wanted to use them as swords.  The kids love it so much that they will bring me hoards of pencils to sharpen for them (I am not yet ready to let them use it!).

Pencil JokeIf you’re looking for a fantastic pencil sharpener for your classroom, I highly recommend this one from Classroom Friendly Supplies.  If you already have one, tell us your experiences in the comments!  🙂

Joy of Teaching

Simple & Quick Technique for Improving Student Focus and Attention

This post contains affiliate links.  That means if you click on an Amazon link and make a purchase, I get a kickback.

It has been a whirlwind since school started this year.  I am so glad to have a bit of a break to get caught up.  Before I get into the absolutely AMAZING research-based technique I have been using with my students who exhibit ADD/ADHD tendencies, I wanted to update everyone on my Ultimate Math Facts Bundle.

Math Facts Ultimate Bundle Preview 1

I just this week added ANOTHER activity.  Seriously.  Now it also includes Math Fact Sorts for all four operations.  That’s 33 individual products.  For those of you who have already purchased my Ultimate Math Facts Bundle, go back and re-download it to get the most up-to-date version.  For anybody struggling with basic facts, you really should check this out.  I worked all summer on this.  There are more than 7 different resources for each operation.  And each resource is separated by number fact, so there is a BINGO game that practices just the “plus 8s”, a Checkers game for “times 4s”, a Four-in-a-Row game for “minus 6s”, and a BOOM! card game for “dividing by 7s”.  My students LOVE to play these games.  They actually ask to play them during indoor recess.  You can buy the individual activities separately, but you save over $120 by buying the Bundle.  I cannot believe how much it has helped my kids learn their facts.  🙂


Okay.  Now back to dealing with kids who have attention issues.  I have a handful of students who have significant attention and focus issues (who doesn’t?!).  Most are medicated for it, but it still gets in the way of their learning and completing work.  I’m talking about the fifth grader who will take an HOUR to write THREE SENTENCES.  Or the fourth grader who flits from one spot to another, and takes several class periods to finish one short activity.

I have a lot of techniques I’ve used in the past.  Incorporating large motor activities into the day, using multisensory teaching methods, having them wear noise cancelling headphones, letting them sit on stability balls or stand when they work (or lay on the floor) are all things I’ve tried — mostly unsuccessfully.  I will say that the more movement that is incorporated into their day, the better the results.  But none of these things made a huge difference.

Then one day, after having tried ALL of the above with the same student and being so frustrated I could’ve screamed, I started looking online for more suggestions.  That’s when the magic began.  I’ve now been doing this for several weeks and it is still working!  Are you ready?  Are you sure?


Have you heard of binaural beats?  I’m going to explain it the best I can.  Basically, you play an audio and the student wears headphones to listen to it.  The audio sends one frequency in one ear and a different frequency in the other ear (hence, why they need to use headphones).  By sending two different frequencies, it changes brainwaves.  Seriously.  I’ve spent a good amount of time researching this.  You can buy binaural beats CDs, but I’ve been using an app that let’s you choose what you want to work on (concentration, anxiety, and anger are just a few choices).  It just sounds like white noise, but the Ambi Science app (it was $2.99 when I bought it) let’s you choose other background noise to layer over it (like campfires, storms, etc.).  I’m pretty sure there is a free version, also.

It has made such a huge difference that the students will come and ask for it.  The kids are so proud of themselves for getting their work completed.  They listen to it during centers, silent reading, tests, and independent work.  It has been so exciting to see them physically calm down, almost immediately.  Not only that, but there seems to be some residual effect after they have listened to it for a half hour or more.  They are staying calm and focused even after they leave my room and aren’t listening to the binaural beats.  Incredible!

I’d absolutely LOVE to hear if you’ve tried this and what your results were.  And if you haven’t tried it…well, what are you waiting for?

Joy of Teaching