Tuesday, March 15, 2016

How do you start your day?! Making the most of it through life's baggage!

Hello all!

So first off, I just want to say that I appreciate honesty and truth. I try hard not to sugar coat things (I am not Willy Wonka) too much because a lot of times in the end it ends up all at the bottom of the bowl anyways right?

 I appreciate other blogs I read that are real and raw and discuss and showcase the true side of teaching/life. It is a hard job, I think we all know that. Is it the hardest job of all? mmmm probably not but it is up there. I say all of this because my post today is about setting the tone of your classroom. What I talk about today is not always 100% perfect and goes according to plan everyday... fire drills happen, crying happens (me and the kids lol), meetings happen, lice happens (me and the kids again lol), life happens. However, I just want to share some ideas of things that have seemed to work for me even through all of that chaos. I don't want to give an image that the classroom runs perfect all day, everyday, but that there are strategies and practices you can use to help it get there as much as possible.

I am going to break it down into two groups- the kids and myself.

First off, the kids. The thing about teaching is it is and can be so drastically different year to year, class to class. Some kids have backgrounds that could rival "The American Dream" and others can make you question "The American Dream". The classroom and teaching is essentially, in Forest Gump's words, "like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get." One thing I have learned over 8 years of teaching so far is to try hard to be compassionate to it all. Extend grace. Now like I said, I like to be real...there are some years it is more of a struggle to do this. I mean, I am trying to do my job here people and your issues make that difficult. But here is the thing, we ALL have issues. Big or small. Deep or shallow. Hence the reason we are human and need our own grace from our God. So how can you try to make it a positive environment in your classroom? Here are some ideas.

Greet at the door:

 (an oldy but goody) (as much as possible) like I said things happen- like the mornings we sometimes Noah's ark it to school because of all the rain we've gotten and things just aren't running as normal. Or maybe the morning your head won't stop itching and you just can't figure it out and lo and behold have some very special visitors, have to leave immediately to douse your head in bleach. The list can go on. BUT those are not everyday occurrences so do what you can to stand at that doorway and give that first smile.
I have also made sure to teach my friends to say good morning everyday. It actually gets to the point that if it doesn't happen I am a little sad lol. I tell them it is important to acknowledge others and make them feel welcome and visible.

Quiet time:

 At our school we have a moment of silence every morning before the announcements. I have tried to explain that this is their time to think about their day and set the tone for how they want it to go. What kind of choices do they want to make to lead into their day? We even try to rate our day on a scale of 1-5. 5 being an epic day and 1 being, well, just isn't my day. We do this before it even gets started to show them that how we see our day going can affect it and we want to try to start out on a positive note! Once again, are there days we forget to do that particular piece? yes, and if I notice I try to place it later on such as walking down the hallway rhetorically "How's your day going so far? Are you making the choices to give yourself an epic day?" I'll let them show me on their hands 1-5 quietly what they are thinking. Some of course don't feel the need and they are totally meditating on it in their heads eh? We also discuss that some days can be a roller coaster and can go from a 5 to a 2 and back up again. We have to learn to navigate those curves and bumps.

Morning Song:

So a few years ago I was pondering while laying in bed not being able to sleep. This is normally where I do all my good thinking haha that, or the gym. I wanted to find another way to positively start our days. I wanted it to be a song of some sort, but something original to our little classroom environment. Long story short, I came up with this:
Kids sing-
"We are Beierle Owl's and we work very hard! We do this everyday so we get really far."
I say-
"Are you ready to work hard?
Kids say-
"Yes we are!"
I say-
"Make each other proud?"
Kids say-
"Starting right now!"

Here's a little video of them in action.

We try so hard to do it as a start to our day. Again, truth, does not always get done, but we try! And now I have friends that will help remind me and say "We need to sing the Beierle Owl song!" 

**oh any singers out there need my assistance in songwriting-call my people...lol


Goodness doesn't everyone need this from time to time? But little kids who sometimes don't ever have that? Try to reassure them daily of your love for them and that you want the BEST for them. You are there to help and lead. The moment they walk through that door, whatever happened that morning at home, on the bus, in the car matters to you it does, but that once they are in that classroom you are there to love and guide. That our day does not always have to be determined by circumstances 2 hours prior or by another person. Yes, even  as adults it is hard to leave things at the door frame and walk in confident and ready for action. But also as adults we can lead by example. I often will share little things that go wrong in my own life, morning, or day so they can see a glimpse into the fact that everyone has struggles. It is what we do with them and how we react to them what can change the course. 
I had a little friend last week make a sad choice in cafeteria causing him to have a think time during fun stations. (classroom management post is in the works) I sat with him and discussed his choice and what happened and he started crying and said "I just made a sad choice and don't want to be in trouble" I immediately talked with him about how sometimes we do make choices that are not the best ones but it was a mistake. People make mistakes, what we do from here with it is up to us and will determine where we go. The important thing is knowing when it is a mistake, learning from it, and then making a decision to rectify it. 
At the end of the day they are just kids. Do I have my own moments when I am like "REALLY friend?! *head explosion* of course! Once again, human.


 I play it daily in the classroom. I play it while they come in and when we work. It helps to take the cold, uninvited vibes that might be trying to lurk around the room and dissipate them. (below in the next section I will discuss stations)

What about the teacher? Well here are some ideas along the same lines that you can use/do for making the most of your days.

Leave it at the door:

Do this for yourself too, just like we want our kids to do. There are days I wake up on the wrong side of the bed....no like literally, my hubs wanted to change sides and it was not happening. Spilled protein shake on my shirt, forgot my zip drive, dog threw up, etc, etc, etc. (I don't have any "kids got into a fight" analogies at this point in life...yet) Let's talk about that word GRACE again. Sometimes you have to give grace to yourself too just like you extend it to others. I use my morning drive to think. But one thing I have really cherished is I call my hubby right before I get to school and we pray before I get out of the car. Some days the prayers are short and some days a little longer, but it really helps set the tone before I walk in. Some days I don't feel the affects of the prayer until later, so I might still walk in with a sour mindset. And when that happens..it leads me to #2


I play music every morning while getting ready. Pandora is my BFF. I can really get lost in it and it helps to calm me. 
Some of my favorite stations:
Tenth Avenue North
Toby Mac
Calm Meditation
Jeremy Camp
Owl City
Capital Kings
Jack Johnson (for kids)
Pentatonix and Lindsey Stirling
Film Scores- fun to guess which movie it is from
Michael Buble
Jammy Jams-kids radio
80's hits

Moment of Silence:

 I use this time the kids are too. I think about my own day and typically ask God for his leadership in the classroom that day. 

Brain Breaks:

So this is more for the kids throughout the day to get them up and moving but, hey I can whip and nae nae with the best of them ;)

Pull out positive:

I will expand more on this when I do my class management post at another time. But, man it does pay off. Some days are tough!! Some days it is hard to find the positive when you feel buried in all the negative. I promise though, God promises, there is sweet victory in there somewhere. It may not be deer in headlights apparent or it may literally kick you in the chest (true story from my first year of teaching- got kicked by one of my sweet autistic babies- not on purpose of course, but still warranted paperwork for injury lol) You can find something to celebrate! I dare you!

Reflection & Journaling:

I have found that this works wonders not just for my OCD lol but for everything. If you truly want to be an effective educator you have to educate yourself too! Not just doing PD and reading books etc. But to reflect on your time. It is so important to reflect and learn from aspects that went/go really well and flawlessly but also that go bad too. 
How can you tweak it, make it better? 
What went wrong? 
What went right? 
Honesty time again- I am a hoarder....of journals...it's true I normally can't leave Ross, Marshalls, or Homegoods without one. I am always like "SO cute! I'll use that for sure!" well I plan to haha...

I have one (not so exciting or cute) journal for teaching. I have made tabs for ideas I get, you know, at the gym or while I am supposed to be sleeping. 

I also keep one for personal/bible journaling/prayer requests.

It really does help to take a step back sometimes. Mentally and physically. 

Find a Balance:

Well this is the pot calling the kettle black. I can be the worst with balance. Sometimes I do not know
when to SHUT IT DOWN! I will tell you, though I have found ways to do this better.

-Time management is key!

-Set goals for yourself (grading, plans, paperwork) get to what you can then pick up later.

-Prioritize- I was once given advice to create a list based on priority. Instead of just writing it all down in one long list (which is daunting) make a scale 1, 5, 10. 1 being not too important, still need to get done but I won't lose sleep over it. 5 being medium priority, it needs to get done with some alertness. 10 being most important, I better get this done now! These are things that might have time constraints. Now the real key is not writing it all on the 10 section. lol...comes with practice.

-You won't get to it all! Once you come to understand and accept this it makes it a lot easier to deal. Trust me, coming from someone that makes a list for everything and wanting to accomplish it all. I have learned what to let go of, that I am comfortable with. What I am comfortable with letting go of or not letting go, may not be the same for the next person. You have to decide. 

 My job, the kids, the work, the effect I can extend means the world to me but one thing has to be repeated to myself daily. "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life." My life is also at home waiting for me daily. My family. We get one shot at this blessing called life and we don't know how long our time in his temporary home will be. I take the gift God gave me seriously, but like everything requires balance. My husband has been helpful in reminding me of this....now I need to remind him too #workaholic ;) 

I have been struggling with some things lately and came across this verse. 
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17 (this could be a whole other post too!)

Life is messy people. I am sure you already know that. You never know what others are going through. Extend a hand, offer grace. If teaching is what God has called you to that is an amazing journey filled with up's and downs. Be the best YOU and lead by example. Those little minds will soak it up and you can leave a lasting effect on them you may not even realize. 
Keep it real! There are no perfect people, situations or classrooms. Everyone has a story. Being willing to share and be transparent and build that trust. 

**disclaimer- in no way am I saying to use the excuse of "life" craziness to slack on your job or responsibility at work. I am hoping that with some of the above ideas you can apply something into your daily routine to make the "craziness" a little easier to navigate around. Ain't nobody got time fo a slacker. ;) 


  1. I stumbled across this post today, and I agree with you: "I appreciate other blogs I read that are real and raw and discuss and showcase the true side of teaching/life."

    Our lives are a bit different, but I have taught my students/participants in workshops that what I teach is not specific to job-seeking, but it is about LIFE. Far too often we think we have to act/do differently, depending on the situations. I argue that it is life, and that we must live true to who we are at the core, and then find the right fit. I believe this is true whether or not we are looking for a job, finding a mate, with friendships, family, etc.

    I like your blog, Ashley, and hope to read more of it soon.


    1. Coral,
      Thank you SO much for leaving these thoughts! I appreciate you interacting and reading! I hope you continue to get "something" big or small out of this part of cyberspace! You are welcome to stop by anytime!!

    2. Coral,
      Thank you SO much for leaving these thoughts! I appreciate you interacting and reading! I hope you continue to get "something" big or small out of this part of cyberspace! You are welcome to stop by anytime!!