This week has already produced a hodgepodge of activities for me. It started out with a visit to NBC's Education Nation in New York and moved quickly on to planning a Differentiated Instruction workshop, business lunches, charter school talk, and even a run to the store for some beloved Diet Mountain Dew.
In the spirit of random tasks, I'd like to share a list of random teacher tips that a colleague in Washington state sent to me. She found it on Education News. Click here to see the original. As always, feel free to use what you find to be helpful and ignore the rest; the first and last are my favorites.
Ten Totally Random Tips for Teachers
There are some little things I have and do which make life a little easier. Just thought I'd share some.
1. Keep a Snack Shelf
I have a shelf in my cabinet with my favorite drinks (Fuze and Cranergy Drinks - which taste fine at room temp) and some healthy snacks like almonds. When I'm having a rough time, I just go to the shelf and am not tempted to binge on candy bars in the machine.
2. Use Sandpaper to Sharpen Scissors
We do so many creative things that I end up with dull, sticky scissors - I keep a large piece of sandpaper and just cut the sandpaper a few times and it sharpens the scissors. It works on a papercutter too.
3. Keep a Paper Towel Tube of Power
OK, so you have to carry things around all the time. When I am inundated with those plastic bags from the grocery store and get to the end of a paper towel roll, I take the cardboard roll and jam it full of plastic bags and take it to school and put in a drawer. I never know when I'll use these but they come in handy.
4. Put Dry Erase Boards Everywhere
One of the coolest new things in my classroom are the six small dry erase boards I have now. I got tired of buying (and throwing away) poster board, so I bought 6 small magnetic dry erase boards and stuck them to the wall using double sided sticky velcro tabs. The student groups of three rip the boards off the wall and use them and stick them back up - I also stuck an eraser under each of them. The kids use these ALL the time - in homeroom, they are working math problems -- they use it for team projects. This is the single coolest new thing I have in my classroom.
5. Use Colored Duct Tape to Color Code
I've used colored duct tape to help color my walls but use it to color code all kinds of things - you can buy it in neon colors. I use it on the carpet, on chairs - on anything I need to color code or group - it is just so neat looking (and the colors actually match the neon of the Dry Erase boards in #4.) Just buy 4 neon colors and keep it - you'll see!
6. Poker Chips to Easily Make Cooperative Groups
I can't take credit for this one. Robert Marzano talks about using these to divide up teams in his book, but I take it one step further. I count out the number of teams I need (divide everyone by three as that is the ideal size for a team - may have 2 - 2 person teams.) Then, I write A, B,C, on the inside of the chip also - the kids draw a chip and then first start with the color of their team - then they will move to the letter for a nice jigsaw. I love using these for dividing up teams.
7. Use Magnetic Photo Frames to Organize
I have a lot of metal near my desk but not a lot of desk space. Wal-Mart has these tiny magnetic pliable photo frames that I am using all over the place. For example, if there is something I need to have handy by my desk, I'll print it out and then stick it on the filing cabinet next to my desk. I also use these for photos on the side of my filing cabinet and also one for the color coding and a list of major categories of files in each of my filing drawers. They are so useful!
8. Have Two of Everything
I have two staplers, two hole punchers - two of everything - one for my desk and one for the area where students process papers. I label clearly where my items are and (try) to keep them at my desk. I even have TWO trashcans. It helps!
9. Take Beauty Breaks
The toughest thing about my day is sometimes I feel rundown. Well, this year, I went to Walgreens and bought a small cosmetic bag - I have a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a whole other set of my makeup, a comb, and a few pony tail holders. So, each day after lunch I hop in there and mentally tell myself "Beauty Break." Now that I'm forty, just taking extra care of myself helps me hold my head high and I just feel better about myself and my day. As teachers, we often don't take care of ourselves and I've found this extra "umph" is great for me - and I don't have to remember to carry my pocketbook to the teacher's bathroom, I just keep it in there.
10. Embed Your Professional Development
The transformational practice that has made me into "Cool Cat Teacher" is that I take 15 minutes three times a week to learn something new and play with new tools - I keep a list handy and explore or just read my RSS reader. It is so easy to become self absorbed and forget everything out there, so I find a nice little appointment with myself helps me explore. (I'll have to share more about how I do this later.) I call it International Research and Development
Do you have some totally random tips you'd like to share?