Friday, November 15, 2013

Go Away Germs!

Here's a math equation:

Kids + Germs = Sick Teacher

It is almost inevitable that at least once during the school year, I will catch something from the classroom. I still shudder when I think about my first MAJOR germ attack. It was five years ago when I began my first teaching job in a nursery classroom. I'm hoping that was the worst flu I will ever get (or hopefully not get ever again).

Since then, I have been around enough kids and classrooms to build up a pretty good immunity to most common colds, sore throats, and stomach bugs. Still, I like being healthy, so I try VERY hard to minimize any risk of those germs sneaking in and throwing into the stuffy nose, congestion-y depths that I so despise! Since it is getting into winter, these types of sicknesses are out and about!

I'm sure many of you do most of these things on a daily basis, but here are some things that I feel have helped me stave off any sicknesses (knock on wood!)

Obviously, one of the most important (and easiest) ways to stay healthy is getting a good night's rest. Sometimes this can be hard, if our minds are running through all of the responsibilities we have to take care of: lesson plans, wedding plans, grocery lists, to-do's...

I find that drinking a cup of herbal tea about an hour before I go to bed calms me and gets my body all warm and snuggly for bed-time. I'm a big fan of chamomile, but I recently discovered Lady Grey, a lighter, herbal-ier version of the classic Earl. I'm usually a tea purist, but I like adding some honey and a splash of almond milk to the Lady Grey for a little more sweetness.

I love this print. I totally want to get it to put in my kitchen!

Once I'm all cozy in my bed, I usually read a bit on my Nook . My fiance bought me the GlowLight version last year, and since he got it for me, all arguments about when to turn off the lamp have ended! The light is dim enough that he can get right to sleep (I am so jealous of his ability to conk out as soon as his head hits the pillow), but bright enough that I can read without straining my eyes. I have always read that it is bad to have the TV on right before bed, and since I stopped doing that, I have to admit, I've been sleeping a lot better! Plus, reading provides just as much entertainment as TV! Wow, that was SUCH a teacher thing to say :)

I am a compulsive hand washer, but I feel that I have to be in my line of work. When I am not near a sink, I rely on the convenience of hand sanitizer. I usually keep a small bottle on my desk, and it doesn't hurt that it comes in a cute, sparkly purple case that is pretty to look at (from Target). The sugar plum scent smells amazing (a mix of fruity/spicy), and kind of takes me back to my days of sampling all of those Bath and Body Works  holiday scents at the mall with my sister in the mid-to-late 90's. I even have hand sanitizer in my car that I use after I fill up the tank. I know a lot of people claim that using too much hand sanitizer is unhealthy, so I try to be conservative with the amount I use each day. Washing my hands so much gets them pretty dried out, so I like to use L'Occitane's lavender hand cream to moisturize. My lips also tend to get drier in the winter-time, so I keep one of these lip balms on my desk/next to my bed at home/in my bag as well (I think I have about a million different lip balms floating around our apartment/in my purses).

As soon as I feel a cold coming on (the slightest sniffle or need for kleenex in my case), I rip open one of these Emergen-C packets.

Vitamin C is great for your immune system, and it comes from oranges and lemons, so it's going to taste good. The fizzy bubbles are also kinda fun!

Drinking water is another super easy, obvious way to stay healthy. I fill up this 27 oz. water bottle at the beginning of each day and try to finish it by 3:00. After school, I usually drink another 16 oz. at the gym and then another 16 oz. when I'm home for the evening.

I also keep a stash of tea and an electric kettle in my classroom for quick, warming relief when I feel a sore throat coming on. I also always have my favorite cough drops by my desk for those times when tea just won't cut it.

Hopefully all of these steps will keep me, and all of you, my dear readers, on top of (instead of under) the weather!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Conference Week!


 I have to admit, I have a slight obsession with Shark Week. (Although my fiance/family might say it is more than slight) I look forward to that week every August (usually when I happen to be at the beach) to learn all sorts of new things about these under-sea monsters. Ahh....summer. So that begs the question: what's more nerve-wracking? Parent/teacher conferences or great white sharks?

As you all know, I like to stay organized and on top of EVERYTHING so I don't stress out about the amount of work. When I get stressed, I can feel like I am in the presence of a terrifying shark with terrifying, sharp white teeth! So here are my suggestions to make parent/teacher conference prep, and the meetings themselves, be smooth sailing! (How are you enjoying my nautical/oceanic puns?)

Remember that "Student Info" binder I told you about in my second post? Well, since the year started, I have been adding various work to each child's section. Spelling reviews, math check-ins, reading conference notes are all present and accounted for in the binder.  Then I marked pages with a post-it in their reading/writing notebooks and math workbooks to highlight their progress on work we have been doing in the classroom. Finally, I went through their folders for any worksheets/graphic organizers from reading/writing/social studies.

Remember that stripey portable file folder from the previous post I mentioned above? It was perfect for separating each student's work to take home for conference prep:

At my school, teachers are required to hold a 40 minute conference for each student. Monday through Thursday, teachers can have up to six conferences scheduled between 3:30-8:15 that families sign up for (with an hour for dinner which is nicely provided for us!)

So when do we prepare for all of these meetings? At my school, every classroom has a head teacher (me) and an assistant teacher. During conference week, the assistant teachers team up with a specialist teacher to hold down the fort for the week.

Where am I, you might ask? Well...I get each morning AT HOME, Monday-Thursday, to prep and plan for the meetings with parents in the afternoon. It has proved to be quite nice. I get to sleep in an extra hour or so, hit the gym, make some coffee and focus on all of my students and their progress so far this year:

Although I love Philly, there are definitely things about NYC that I miss. I always think fondly of my old UWS neighborhood favorite, The Muffins Cafe, whenever I drink coffee out of this mug. If you are ever on 70th and Columbus, stop in and get the chicken salad sandwich, or a latte with one of their homemade pastries. Amazing stuff!

Anyway, I made a plan for myself for the kids I would work on each day. I decided to spend the end of the week before conferences writing up notes for the families I was to meet with on Monday, so Monday morning I worked on Tuesday's kids, Tuesday morning I worked on Wednesday' get the drift.

I organize my conference notes into categories:

1. Social/Emotional
2. Approach to learning
3. Math
4. Word Study/Writing
5. Reading
6. Social Studies

When parents come in for the conference, I always have paper and pens available for them to take notes. I also had a bowl of leftover Halloween candy (what else I was going to do with it? Eat it myself?) for parents to snack on.

I begin the conference by asking the parents how they feel the transition to 3rd/4th grade has been so far. Happy to say, mostly all of the parents have said VERY positive things about their child's transition to my classroom :)  Then, I get into the nuts and bolts of academics!

Of course, not ALL conferences are calm waters. Parents can get defensive or hung up on something that they feel passionate about that may not be a priority at the school/in the classroom. My best advice is to acknowledge their comments positively and suggest meeting again to discuss the issue further (maybe with an administrator/school psychologist/learning specialist). Luckily, I only had ONE awkward conference, and I let my principal know soon after how it went so she was in the loop. We have to remind ourselves as teachers that we are professionals who know what we are doing in the classroom and why we are doing it. We trained for this. It's a waste of time to beat ourselves up over nudge-y or high-stress parents!

I hope this advice is helpful for those of you in the midst of parent/teacher conferences. I am looking forward to a relaxing three-day weekend!

I leave you with some final Shark Week humor for the road (9 months in advance--always good to be prepared!)

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