Don’t Look Now

…but if your classroom isn’t nearly ready, it’s going to be too late.  At least in our district, because teachers report back to work on Tuesday.  It’s an all day marathon of district- and school-wide professional development, followed by VISIT YOUR TEACHER day.  So if your classroom isn’t ready, hide what needs to be hidden, because they are COMING.

I do look forward to this visit.  Not surprisingly, I have it orchestrated so that the students enter with their parents, receive a warm greeting from me, and then find explicit instructions on their desks.  The list tells them exactly what to do with each supply they’ve brought, and what to do if they’re planning to bring supplies on the first day of school  (which, BTW, is not my preference).  There’s also a very short project of sorts to complete – an All About Me sheet that, when finished, becomes our first bulletin board.  The last instruction on that list is, “Hand your project to Mrs. Tonnessen and say goodbye.”  And that’s it!  The kids and parents are busy, I’m free to circulate and chat, and there is an end point – which means I’m not hosting until the wee hours of the afternoon.  And if their paperwork remains on their desk, I can see that they weren’t able to visit – and that’s ok too.


Placing papers on desks, rather than in individual mailboxes or cubbies, is my teacher hack for today.  Many teachers have a separate mailbox center in their classroom with slots for individual students.  They place the paperwork in the correct slot and at some given point during the day, the students visit the mailbox and retrieve their papers.  For me, it’s unnecessary.  First of all, those mailboxes take up too much space that I’d rather appropriate for something else.  Secondly, they take up too much time.  The teacher has to call small groups of students to the mailbox, because they can’t all be crowding around it at once.  Then they have to carry the paperwork to their desks and place it in their folders.  Putting things directly on desks eliminates those steps.  They enter the classroom in the morning, after lunch, and after related arts, and usually find papers on their desks.  Papers go right in the folder, which goes right in the desk and voila.  Mission accomplished.  I  must admit – it’s one of those things that I think to myself, “Why doesn’t everyone do this??”

Now, if you’re reading this and you do use mailboxes, it’s not a dig.  You probably love your mailbox center for other reasons, just as I love certain things in my classroom that you see no need for.  That’s the beauty of the teaching world – we can see that there are other ways of doing things, and we can choose to try those ways or not.  NBD.  (no big deal – an acronym that’s almost as popular as LOL).

Tomorrow’s Labor Day.  I will spend it doing the opposite of labor, so as to save my energy for what follows.  I will also spend it trying to cope with the anticipation and apprehension that always accompany a new school year.  Did you ever read “First Day Jitters?”  It’s about a class on the first day of school, and throughout the book you think that it’s the students who are jittery.  But the punchline is that the teacher is the one who’s experiencing FDJ. (First Day Jitters – an acronym that will most likely never catch on). Because teachers are people too!



All Abuzz

Once upon a time, this was the day that the town phone lines would be jammed.  The day when parents and students called up their friends, asking breathlessly, “Who did you get?”  Of course, they couldn’t answer that question until the mail arrived, with that all-important letter – the TEACHER ASSIGNMENT.  So people camped out by the mailbox and shouted, “Here it comes!” when the mailtruck was spotted.  But we live in 2014, and this information is now available through PowerSchool, and shared almost instantly via social media.  So there’s less waiting.  But just as much excitement.



It may be disappointing if you don’t get the teacher you wanted (or thought you’d want – there is a difference!) or your friends aren’t your classmates this year.  But it almost always works out for the best.  Especially in our district where, if I do say so myself, we have an extraordinary staff.  Teachers that will do everything in their power to make this a stellar year.  I know.  I’ve witnessed it for 26 years.

So today I’ll be checking in on the town Facebook page, where eager parents post their children’s assignments, so as to gauge everyone’s excitement.  Cause I’m excited too!

On a completely unrelated and unnecessary note, here are a few more ecards.  No reason other than I saw them and I wanted them in my collection.

3d2bd8bcb88aa91effea86aeb3cabfa4Another one for Rebecca.  She’s really not that anti-social.  It’s just a running family joke.  Don’t read anything more into it than that!

MjAxMi0yZjAzZWQxYTY3MzM1MjA4No explanation needed.


Reverse this one and it’s spot on.  Vacuuming soothes me, and the floors are visible.  I can always hide the mess in the silverware drawer.


Tremble with excitement, that is.  See how the teacher is smiling?


Taking One for the Team

This blog title is a misnomer, because it’s really about helping to create a stronger team.  With the external pressures placed on teachers, both at the administrative and governmental levels, school climate can suffer.  Morale can plummet.  Let’s face it – we’re teachers, but we’re also human.  Very, very human.  We can’t always lessen the demands of the Common Core, PARCC assessments, Student Growth Objectives and the like.  So, what CAN we do?  We just DO it.  We rise to the occasion.   We add Common Core objectives, prepare students for assessments, measure growth.  Really, it’s what we’ve always done – it’s just a little (lot) (tons) more formalized in terms of documentation.  And this can drag you down.


What else can we do?  We can be there for one another.  We really, really have to be a team.  Not just in grade levels, but school and district wide.  So, with that in mind, and after talking to my principal and secretary, I offered to create a team building bulletin board.  Something that will help bring a smile to our weary faces, help to connect us with our colleagues and emphasize that we are all in the same boat, but together we can keep it afloat.  (Should have gone with a sports metaphor, but I’m sorely lacking in those).


This month each staff member was asked to bring in an elementary school photo of themselves.  I’m placing each on a sports-themed cutout, and when they are all up, I’ll add numbers.  During the first weeks of school, we can study the board and try to figure out who is who – just for fun.  I’ll create a numbered recording sheet which we’ll bring to the October faculty meeting, where the pictures will be presented on the Smart Board and all will be revealed.  The hope is that we’ll laugh and learn about one another, and then those good feelings of camaraderie will stay with us…and carry us through the less-than-great times that are always part and parcel of any school year.



A few of us early birds are already there – that’s my fourth grade picture on the left.  It’s the best one of my elementary school years, so that should tell you a lot!  I wasn’t winning any cute contests – not even in the ’70s!

My principal suggested that we carry this activity over throughout the year, possibly posting “Did You Know?” information, teachers’ favorite quotes and more every two months or so, and then share the results at faculty meetings as a way to bring us together.  It’s something that many of us are committed to – building a stronger team.  Because there is always room for improvement.  It’s not that our school was down for the count, but we’re ready to go the distance and knock this year out of the park.

(I actually had to google sports idioms, ’cause I’m a sports idiot.  But I can still be a team player!)


Yesterday’s post was supposed to be the last one re: decorating.  But I did promise (mostly myself, because I don’t think anyone else is all that interested!!) to post some pictures of my mini office redo.



Extra red and black decor from my room, which just happen to coordinate with the school’s colors.




Overboard on the border? I think not.

Wrapping it up

Mid-August means just one thing to most teachers – preparing for a new year, and more specifically, setting up the classroom.  Never one to do what most others are doing, for me mid-August means my classroom is pretty much done.  Now I can spend the last weeks of summer taking care of those last minute items, catching up with my colleagues as they return to school and offering my assistance to anyone who might want it.   Last minute whirlwinds are not for me.

And so, here are the last pictures (for a while, at least) of my decorating frenzy.


This is the year of the pennant.  It’s the fourth one I’ve done – two for my room, two for a first grade teacher’s room.  #craftyisthenewblack


I like how it dresses up the window area.  All I did was use a clothespin to attach it to the shades.  No tape required!


I finally jumped on the pom pom bandwagon.  I originally purchased six from Schoolgirl Style, but only four survived.  I ordered the largest size pom, found it too big, and experimented with resizing them.


Student desks, just waiting for name tags.



My “family flower” sample on the board.  Surname in the center, family members’ names on the petals.  Going with a daisy look this year, so I’m using yellow and white.




Not everyone wants Mrs. Bossypants’s two cents on how to do their rooms, but luckily for me, a few don’t mind if I sprinkle a little pinterest on their walls.  Pennants are so easy to make, and make such a statement, I’m in danger of going overboard with them.   I know.  You’re surprised I’d ever go overboard on anything. #iamwhoiam

No Sweat

Anyone who knows me – even slightly – knows how I feel about the heat.  And sweat.  And yet, this summer I’ve done more perspiring than I ever have before.  Much of this has to do with my advancing age and time of life – some days are like one long hot flash.   Most of the melting is done at Jazzercise, where it is acceptable – desirable, even – to sweat.   But I’ve done my fair share of perspiring in my classroom, as well as others’ classrooms.  Even the a/c turned up to the arctic setting doesn’t always help this hot property! 

Here are a few things that I’ve poured some sweat equity into:


My second grade colleague moved to first grade (boo for me, yay for her!) and together with her entire family, we’ve painted, organized and decorated the room to within an inch of its life.  Here’s the pennant I made for her.  I was inspired by Melanie at Schoolgirl Style.


She’s doing a primary colored room.  Notice how the border and the banner are both triangular?  Totally not planned!  After I took this photo, I finished off the edges of the banner with apple cutouts.  It’s all in the details.


Here’s my room.  Last year I experimented with some of the Whole Brain Teaching techniques.  Here are my WBT rules.  In the background, over the door, you can see the pennant I made for myself.


Here’s a closer look.


I completely stole this ribbon-woven-in-a-plastic-basket look from Schoolgirl Style.  Some would say I have too much time on my hands.  I’ve been accused of worse.


Another classroom shot.  I have to work on taking pictures with my camera that are not off kilter.  

I’ve also been working on sprucing up the office bulletin boards and walls.  I’ll try to remember to take a few pictures of that as well.  As I’ve said in a previous post, once I get started….

Virtual Junk Drawer

This is a post with a few unrelated topics; therefore, I’ve categorized them. Kinda defeats the purpose of a junk drawer, but…

I keep seeing the word HACKS used everywhere, and I think it means tips or shortcuts. At least, that’s the way I’m using it. My number one back to school hack is NUMBERING. Before I ever get my class list, usually mid to late August, I prepare my students’ workboxes. They’re filled with pencils, an eraser, gluestick, marker, two kinds of pens and a highlighter. And I put a number on EVERY SINGLE ITEM. I do the same with their crayon boxes. Yes, a number on each of the 24 crayons. That’s at least 20 x 24 numbers on the CRAYONS ALONE. Sick, right? OCD, yes? Helpful?? YEAH! Sure, it takes quite a while to number everything, but not THAT long. I don’t mind spending the time if it’ll be worth it, and it is WELL WORTH the effort, because when a child drops a crayon or a pencil, it is easily returned to them. Before I started doing this, kids would have less than half of their “stuff” by the end of the first marking period, because it would get dropped and no one could claim it. When I receive my class list, I assign each student a number and that number is theirs throughout the year. It goes on their cubby, desk name tag, etc. And when I have to call groups to do things so there’s not a mad rush of 20+ students all going to the same place at the same time, I can call “two digit odd numbers” or “one digit even numbers.” A little math just snuck its way in there.

From my other posts, you can see that some serious decorating has been going on. I was happy to be able to use all of that red and black paper and trim that I overbought for my own classroom on the office bulletin boards. Yes, red and black are my Hollywood colors, but they are also our school colors, so they were put to good use. Lot of double bordering going on, and next week I’ll add a few pinwheels.

This one’s dedicated to my daughter.

So very, very true. And somewhat disturbing.

Very proud of this fact. And someday my students will say the same, thanks to youtube.

Working on this one. Every day.

Just because.