August 1, 2017

Maryland Teacher Meet Up and 5 BTS Tips for Teacher Moms

What a fun and busy week it has been so far! I've been to a Maryland Teacher Meet Up, started my own YouTube channel, and organized an Instagram hop and giveaway! Phew!

The Maryland Teacher Meet Up in Baltimore this past Saturday was a blast! It was organized and hosted by the fabulous Positively Learning, and she did a fantastic job! There was good food, great conversation, and lots of positive energy.

It was so good to see old friends and to make some new ones, too.

The highlight for me was spending time with Ashley from The Sassy Schoolteacher. She is probably regretting allowing me to drive her {rain + city driving = lots of honking horns and a touch of road rage}, but we had a great time, catching up! I can't wait to see pics of her sweet little guy when he arrives shortly!

Michelle from Pocketful of Primary gave us some amazing tips for starting our own YouTube channels. This is something that I've been mulling over for a long time, but I didn't think I had the tools or the know-how to do it successfully. After picking Michelle's brain {and with some encouragement from my husband}, I figured that it was time to give it a go!

I started small. I decided to create a video about something that I have some experience with, and that's how to get prepared for the Back to School season when you have are both a mom and a teacher. 


Most of these tips are no-brainers, and as I mentioned in my video, I sure as heck don't have all of the answers. But after weathering the Back to School season for the past 6 years, I've learned a few tricks!


Being a mom and a teacher, especially during the Back to school rush, ain't easy. By the end of a long day at school, it's hard to muster up the motivation to come up with something to cook for dinner that is quick, healthy, and enjoyed by everyone in the family.

So, I try to make a meal plan a week in advance. I use Google Keep to keep track of the meals that I want to prepare for the following week, and I use that list to make my grocery list. I'm lucky enough to live near a Harris Teeter that provides grocery pickup {game changer!!!}, and I place my grocery order online each Friday morning, so I can pick up my groceries on the way home from work. No more grocery shopping with the entire family for an hour and a half every Saturday morning!

My favorite recipe sites are Iowa Girl Eats, Skinnytaste, and Delish. The recipes on all three sites are healthy, fast, and family-approved!


My kiddos usually go to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 during the school year {early, I know}. They also are up and at it by 5:30 each morning, so an early bedtime is a necessity! During the summer, however, we let them stay up until between 8:30 and 9:00 {no, they don't sleep in the next morning, no matter how late we keep them up the night before!}. Once the school year starts to approach, we try to get them back into their normal bedtime routine, so that they're not grouchy or rushed once they have to be out the door by 7:30. Believe me, it helps!


Now that my husband and I have a BRAND NEW OFFICE {sorry, I'm still excited about it}, I found myself with a leftover three-drawer container from Target:
So, I decided to turn it into my family emergency kit, and I labeled each drawer {of course!} accordingly. The first drawer is for toiletries for the kiddos and for me. I included deodorant, toothbrushes for all three of us, toothpaste, pain relievers, cough drops, a lint roller, and the all-important Tide stick.

The second drawer is for a change of clothes for each of us. I can clearly recall a time when Princess A accidentally wore black tights instead of black leggings to school, and her dad had to bring pants to her. It will be nice to have a change of clothes readily available!

The third drawer relates to my fourth tip!


The third drawer is for snacks. How many times have you planned to leave immediately at the end of the school day, but you end up in an unexpected meeting or on a phone call with a parent? It's happened to my kids more time than I can count, and by 4:00, they are hangry! I plan to include granola bars, pretzels, almonds, and maybe some Crystal Light packets. I am going to make sure to keep a case of water bottles handy, too. {I may or may not keep a secret stash of K-cups and chocolate in that drawer.}


By the time my kiddos were in Kindergarten, they were being assigned nightly homework {I could get up on my soapbox on that topic, but I'll save it for another time}. I found that it was easier for them to complete their homework at the back table in my classroom before we left for the day while they were still "in the zone." By the time they get home, they want to throw their backpacks on the floor, kick off their shoes, and go outside to play.

If you want to check out my YouTube channel, click here. I would love it if you would subscribe!!

July 24, 2017

Monday Made It {FREEBIE Alert!!}

We've been busy since we returned from our week in Pennsylvania! OK, that's a slight mistruth: we have been busy being L-A-Z-Y. And it has been fantastic!

While we have spent a lot of time at the community pool these past few weeks, I did take the kiddos to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Cambridge, and it was incredible!
Sometimes, I forget that so much amazing history took place in my own backyard!
My kids worked hard while we were there to become Junior Rangers for the National Park Service. They loved every second of it!
If you're local {Marylander}, I strongly urge you to come and visit this amazing museum. I can't wait to take my students next year!

Our visit to the museum inspired me to download a few historical fiction books on the topic of the Underground Railroad {both of these books are carried in the museum's bookstore}:
I couldn't put this book down. It recently won the Pulitzer Prize, and I can see why!
This is the other book I bought. It is by the author who wrote The Girl With the Pearl Earring. It is written from the perspective of a Quaker who moves to Ohio from England. She is befriended by a milliner who helps to hide runaway slaves, but her brother is a slave hunter. It is powerful!

Even though I have been reading voraciously, I have, however, managed to tackle a few small projects for TPT and for my classroom.
I dragged the kids to Dollar Tree last week {that makes it sound like they went against their will, which is definitely NOT true...they LOVE Dollar Tree!}. We picked out all of the goodies for my students' birthday bags, and this afternoon, we put them together.
25 bags for $1.00?? Perfect!
I got all of these goodies for next to nothing!
I created these little passes to add to the bags, too. {I used to include Homework Passes. but I don't plan to assign formal homework this year} You can grab these freebies in my TPT store!
The finished product! Thankfully, Princess A loves helping me with school projects, and she helped me put these together.
I've also added few products to my TPT store lately. My favorite is my Transportation Tags and Display bundle, and it is only $2.50! Hopefully, it will help alleviate some anxiety during those first few days of school.


I was planning to create a desktop organizer for my laptop, using my new blog button, but I didn't like anything that I'd created. So, instead, I decided to customize my desktop icons, using Amy Groesbeck's incredibly easy tutorial. She's a GENIUS!
Cute, right???
So, that's what I've been up to! Time to go shuck some local sweet corn and slice up watermelon for dinner. Enjoy the rest of your week!

July 10, 2017

Monday Made It

Happy Monday! Life has been super busy lately, so I'll share a little bit about what I've been up to, and then, I'll let you in on some of the projects I've been working on.

First, do you notice anything different? MY BLOG!! My updated blog is up and running, and I am absolutely loving it! Not sure how the gals at Blogs Fit for a Queen knew my style so well, but they definitely hit it out of the park.

We just returned from a week in western Pennsylvania, visiting my husband's family. We did a lot of four-wheeling, critter hunting, sleeping, and reading.


Princess A and Deedle spent a lot of time, hunting for salamanders and crayfish in the "crick," and I had the chance to catch up some reading. I usually gravitate toward contemporary fiction, but when I took the kiddos to the library a few weeks ago, I picked up an historical fiction book on a whim.

I devoured this book, and as soon as I finished it, I downloaded another book by the same author about Benjamin Franklin. I'm halfway through it, and I'm loving it!

The night that we returned from Pennsylvania, we had to get ready for the flooring company to come the following morning to replace the floors in our family room and kitchen {this is a long overdue project that we've been putting off for awhile}. An hour into the job, we found out that we had a pretty significant leak under our house, so the flooring project had to be put on hold, and a plumber had to be called to repair the problem. We have had to wait an additional four days for a carpenter to come out to repair the damaged sub-flooring. In the meantime, my house looks like this:

I can't even. My refrigerator is in my dining room, and I can't find a doggone thing.

Thankfully, the floors will be finished tomorrow. I don't think I've ever been so excited about anything in my life.

The only thing that has kept me sane {and I use that term very loosely} while my house has been in upheaval has been creating things for my classroom and TPT store. Let me show you what I've been up to!

Click on the picture above to head over to 4th Grade Frolics!


Now that my blog is updated and looking adorable, I decided to dress up my TPT store. So yesterday. while my husband was diligently working on building our chicken coop {don't ask...that's another long overdue project}, I created a new banner for my store.


Then, I watched Christi's fantastic tutorial for customizing your TPT store. I struggled, I'm not going to lie. Playing around with HTML code is not for the faint of heart! I love how it turned out, though!


I also finished a product that I started while we were in Pennsylvania: my Back to School Pack!

The pack is fully editable, and this is what it looks like after it's been customized to meet your needs. It's black and white, but I like to copy it on Astrobrights paper to match my classroom colors.

I used to type out all of the Common Core Standards to send home to my students. What was I thinking??? I decided to create QR codes that link directly to the Common Core Standards website. {You can find my favorite QR code site here.}


I also decided to create transportation tags for my students to wear on their backpacks during the first weeks of school. They really help to alleviate some of the anxiety we feel during those first few days!

The tags come in a few different colors, and they are completely editable, as well.


That's it for me! Head on over to 4th Grade Frolics and check out what other teachers have been hard at work on this summer!

June 18, 2017

7 Organizational Tips for Teachers

I've had this blog post in the back of my mind for a long time, so I decided to finally do something about it!

How many times has a new teacher asked you how you "do it all?" {Frankly, I think it's laughable to think that any teacher successfully "does it all." Something always has to give.} I always suggest two things. First, do what works for you. What works for the teacher down the hall may not work for you, and the sooner you realize and accept that, the less crazed and overwhelmed you'll be! Second, get and stay organized. Again, find a way to keep things organized that works for you. I've found a few ways that I stay organized, and I want to share them with you.

At the end of this post, I'd love for you to comment with some of your most helpful organization tips!


A good, sturdy teacher bag is an absolute must. And trust me, I'm pretty sure that I've tried them all! I've used Vera Bradley bags and Thirty-One bags, but my favorite, by far, is the Scout bag.

This is the Original Deano in Chalk the Line {love the name of the color}. I bought mine at a local boutique, but Amazon carries them in every shade you can imagine. The best part? It's only $39, you can wipe it clean, and it's ENORMOUS {I can fit my personal laminator, purse, laptop, lunch bag, and papers that need graded in it.} I also bought a cosmetic bag to keep all of my pens, Post-Its, and clips in. 


OK, I know that this probably seems like a no-brainer. But, seriously: find a planner that works for you. I had a really hard time finding one that was right for me, so a few years ago, I started making my own.

This is the binder that I used for about three years. I loved being able to edit it to fit my needs!
{Click on the picture above to find this and other Teacher Binders in my TPT store.} 

This past April, I was in an inservice with other first grade teachers in my district, and I sat next to a colleague with whom I used to work before I transferred to my current school. She is a perfectionist and loves to be organized as much as I do, and she showed me her Erin Condren planner. I had resisted buying one for so long, but having the opportunity to flip through hers and see all of its benefits up close {it didn't hurt that my teammate gave me a 10% off coupon, either!} convinced me that it was time to purchase my own.
Mine obviously says "Mrs. Shafer," not "Ms. Clark." I LOVE IT!!

I also nabbed these adorable stickers from Amazon to customize my planner. They were only $15, and there are 1,733 stickers in the pack! Michaels carries this set, too, but since the closest Michaels store is an hour away, I let Amazon do the work for me.


You already knew this, right? I don't know where I'd be without binder clips, Post-It notes, clothespins, and good pens. 

I had a set like these from Really Good Stuff that I LOVED! But as I was creating my new classroom decor set, I decided to make my own!
I just laminated and hot glued these little tags on clothespins. Game changer!



I honestly don't know how I lived before Google Keep came into my life. {Wait. That's not true. I do know. I used boring old Sticky Notes on my desktop.}  My husband introduced me to it, and it has transformed the way I keep myself organized, both personally and professionally. Never heard of it? Just Google "Google Keep" and check it out for yourself!

This is just a glimpse of the lists I keep on Google Keep. You can color code, add images, and insert links. Oh, and of course, there's an app, so you can access it on all of your devices!


This is another no-brainer. I've been buying baskets at Dollar Tree for years. My baskets have baskets. It's out of control. I use them for everything. I especially love the knock-off Gladware containers for storing all of my math manipulatives. And hey, guess what?? I have labels for them in my new decor set! {Shameless plug, I know.}

Just laminate the little buggers and hot glue them to the front of the containers. I've had mine for three years, and I've only had to replace one in all those years.

I saw Teacher Toolboxes all over Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest a few summers ago, and I knew I needed to make myself one.

This is what my old one looked like. Not the cutest, but it kept all of my supplies handy!

I made a new set of Teacher Toolbox labels to match my new classroom decor, PLUS I spray painted the container black {in case you're wondering, vegetable oil gets spray paint off your hands}. I wish I had taken a picture of the final product, but I was able to get it finished before the end of the school year, so it's in my closet at school.


I made two different options, and they're fully editable, so you can change them to meet your needs.

And finally...

When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. I label everything that isn't nailed down in my classroom: cabinets, drawers, baskets, containers. You name it, I've labeled it. I started doing this about ten years ago when I was preparing to go on maternity leave with Princess A, and I wanted to be sure that my substitute could find what she needed while I was out.

 Labels for Daily Five baskets.
 Labels for Fun Friday baskets.
 Labels for community school supplies.

Number labels {in every size you can imagine}.

Phew! So, there you have it. I realized as I was writing this post that I mentioned my new classroom decor set so much, I may as well give one away! Comment below AND head over to my Instagram page to be entered to win this HUGE 140 page pack!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enjoy what's left of your weekend!