Monday, July 16, 2018


It's time for a Q&A sesh! Step into my office. Although I'm just sitting at a local coffee shop with my MacBook responding to all of your questions, in my mind you're sitting across the table from me with a latte in hand as we chat about all things teaching & fashion.

I had too much fun watching your questions roll in on the fun new feature Instagram rolled out this last week. Thank you for your patience in waiting for my responses. I felt like these questions deserved deliberate answers with some explanation, so I thought this would be the best format to talk about it with you (although I would really prefer you were at this coffee shop with me 😊). 
Side Note: A few questions were duplicates or really similar so I combined questions to try to keep things more concise.
Alright, let's dive in!

Q: What is one thing that you wish you better prepared for the first day of school? 
A: Something I wish I had better prepared for the first day of school was flexibility. Being flexible is hard for me to plan for, but so important! I had my first day agenda all typed out with a check list of all of the procedures, routines, games, and activities I wanted to cover in the first day along with what I thought was a reasonable time schedule and all of my copies stapled and collated. But I didn't get to it all... and that was OKAY! Teachers develop this extra sense of intuition where we can tell when kids need to move, when we can optimize on their engagement and throw in more learning, and when it's time to just laugh and let loose. As I was getting to know my first group of students on the first day of school I could tell that my perfectly structured timeline needed some tweaking. Something I learned that day (and have done every year since) is  make sure that I have all of the copies I need and activities ready to go... but don't worry too much about making the perfect schedule. Some things need to be rigid such as when I teach morning routines, lunch procedures, end of day protocol... but other things you want to get to on the first day (or first few days) can ebb and flow as you're getting to know your kids. Trying to incorporate their input and personality is JUST as important (in my opinion) as teaching them expectations. Also just gonna throw this in here -- yes the first day of school is very very important, and yes this is your first time setting up your year, but please try not to stress out. Have fun and relax. Remember, this is YOUR classroom. Don't let the kids smell your fear and you will be GREAT! 😉

Q: What tips do you have for a first year teacher??
A: I heart new teachers! I have 4 main tips for a first year teacher -- but if we're being honest any teacher can take these tips as a good reminder.
  1. 1. Believe that you've got this!! I believe in you. You are (most likely) fresh out of college which means that you are up-to-date on what best practice is and have lots of ideas and strategies that you're excited to use. Capitalize on that! 
  2. 2. Reach out if you need it. Whether you feel more comfortable reaching out to a teammate, someone down the hall, or a teacher blogger/Instagrammer it doesn't matter... we are better when we work together! I've found I'm most successful when I have a few different "thinking partners" I can reach out to when I have a question about parent communication, wanting some ideas of how to help a particular student, or just needing some fresh inspiration/place to vent. Build your teacher tribe with the people you want to have the power to speak into your life and utilize them.
  3. 3. Take time for you! You can't pour out of an empty cup. Those papers will still be there for you to grade tomorrow. Find the balance between personal and professional life. This looks different for each and every person, but no matter your personality or availability Self Care is a must!
  4. 4. Reflect! You might feel like you're running from thing to thing, but take time to reflect -- you'll thank yourself later! In my Teacher Planner I will try to write quick little notes at the end of the day, after a lesson, or even the next morning while I'm getting ready, reflecting about what I want to repeat or what I want to tweak for a lesson. My notes are always very short and simple, but every year as I've sat down to plan, looking back at those little notes from the year prior has been helpful to spark my memory. Reflection is truly the best way to fine tune your practice. Don't repeat your mistakes -- learn from them. Don't forget your successes -- celebrate & reflect on them! Reflection = GROWTH! 

Q: Where is your favorite place to get affordable and fashionable professional clothing?
A: Finding cute, fashionable pieces that are professional and teacher-budget friendly is always a fun adventure for me! I have tried to build my wardrobe by finding classic, staple professional pieces first and then splurge on fun, trendy accessories from time to time. Here are my go-to stores to find different types of pieces depending on how I'm needing to build my wardrobe... 

Staple Pieces
Trendy Finds
Old Navy
Old Navy
Old Navy
Charming Charlie’s
Old Navy

My biggest tip for finding items that won't make your wallet cry is to go straight to the sales rack at any of these stores. This is where the fun adventure comes in! I usually have something in mind that I'm searching for and that helps me to stay on track as I hunt for it. If something else catches my eye I spend time asking myself how many "wears" I think I'll get out of it-- meaning how many different outfit combos could I make with this piece using my preexisting wardrobe, could this last me more than one season, will it still be in style this time next year?? When it comes to staple wardrobe pieces I'm okay with not waiting until things go on sale. These should be higher quality pieces that last me longer and are used more frequently, so if I have to spend more it's worth it! I also avoid going to these stores unless I am on the hunt for something specific... otherwise finding self control can be a struggle. 🙈

Q: Tips for beginning of the year reading instruction?
A: Reading is my JAM! But I know that's not true for every student. Because of that I feel like creating "buy in" for Reading is one of the most important things to start off with so that you can set the tone you want for the year. I allow for a lot of student voice and choice in my room. I do have a specific reading curriculum that my District has adapted, but before we even crack one of those books open I create the culture I want in my room. Here are some reading activities I start the year with to create that culture and introduce student voice/choice...
  1. - I start with sharing with my students my personal views of reading along with some "testimonials" from former students. I've always loved reading because it can take us places and give us a "mini-vacation", best friend, and lessons to last a life-time. I share these thoughts with them. I know that not all students share my sentiments so I let them know that I've had students who didn't like reading and struggled, but how they grew to "liking" it and finding books they enjoyed. To add a touch of humor, I remind them that reading is one of those skills that are essential to success in life -- if they plan on going to a restaurant, they'll need to read the menu... if they plan on driving some day, they'll need to read road signs and directions... you know, the important things! 
  2. - I divide students into small groups and give them an article about reading. Each group gets a different article and they know that their ultimate goal will be to become an "expert" about their article so they can share out with the class. I love doing this because it sets the tone right at the beginning of the year for collaboration and discussion of texts, along with ownership of learning. Each article I give students is focused on the benefits of daily reading and each one focuses on different reasons why. When students finish reading in small groups and becoming "experts",  I shuffle up groups and have students share their learning with students who read different statistics. At the end of the reading session, we have a whole class discussion where students share the benefits of reading that they learned about. This creates "buy in" for reading instruction and I refer back to this day and these statistics throughout the rest of the year. 
  3. - Before diving into our curriculum, I do an adaptation of this Close Reading Oreos activity. This also gives me the opportunity to start to set up the framework for Reciprocal Reading as we practice "previewing" our Oreos, "questioning" what could be in them, "clarifying" our observations, and "summarizing" the experience. Plus it is SO MUCH FUN!!!
  4. - As we shift from the first few days of school with these intro lessons, I always have my students do a fun scavenger hunt through the curriculum textbook so that they can see the types of things they'll get to read about in the upcoming year. The graphics are great and I always hear lot's of "ooohs" and "aaahs" as students flip through the materials.
These activities help get the beginning of the year started in a positive way as students get to practice being curious, engaged in their learning, and collaborative before we begin more rigorous reading. 

Q: What are some of your favorite apps/tech tools to use with your students?
A: My school is 1:1 with iPads for each student (2nd Grade and up). As a 5th Grade teacher I use apps or "Learning Platforms" that students should already know from usage in younger grades, while teaching them and building capacity in Platforms that they'll use in middle school and beyond. A few of my favorite platforms to use are...
  1. - SeeSaw- It's an awesome digital portfolio that allows students to submit work and reflect. It also provides space for that student and I to be in communication about their progress and gives them the opportunity to resubmit. 
  2. - Adobe Spark Video- This tech tool creates smooth, professional looking videos. I love how easy it is for kids to learn how to use and navigate. Students have used it for book summary projects, synthesizing information from multiple sources, and sight word practice in younger grades. 
  3. - Canva- This one was trickier for my 5th Graders to navigate at first, but with multiple exposures they became so comfortable they were teaching others! This platform creates beautiful posters and infographics. I used it with my students last year to create Revolutionary War Propaganda Posters that you might have seen on Instagram.
  4. - iMovie- Another movie app, but this one has some unique features. Students have used it to create trailers for different books we've read, "newscasts" sharing their learning, and YouTube worthy math tutorials. 

Q: What planner do you use to keep track of your professional/personal life?
A: For work I LOVE my Erin Condren Teacher Planner. They are so stylish, organized, and designed with a teacher in mind. I love the stickers and how my planner houses EVERYTHING I need. (If you're interested in an Erin Condren Teacher Planner of your own check out this link to get some $$$ off your first order-
For personal planning I use the calendar in my iPhone and sync it to my Apple Watch to get reminders about upcoming appointments and events.

Thanks for joining me for coffee today! Please don't hesitate to drop some follow-up questions in the comments below! 


  1. I love your planner! Do you wind up using your planner all year? I bought my sister one a few years ago, but I haven't made the EC $$ commitment yet! They are so pretty, though, and so tailored for what teachers need.

    1. Thank you Aubrey!! I do use my EC planner all year -- it is my life! I use to house all of my meeting notes, grades, parent communication, lesson plans, and meeting reminders. It's nice to have just one BEAUTIFUL place to hold all of those important things. I can't tell you how many meetings I've been in where I needed to access notes from a previous meeting, my schedule, etc and knowing that I have everything I need in just one planner instead of feeling scattered or carrying around multiple resource is so handy. To save $$ I try to wait for sales at the beginning/end of the school year. But I also feel like I can't put a price on the sanity this planner gives me ;)

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