Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Organized Simplicity"

I tend to read a few books at a time, so while I'm reading The Together Teacher, I have also started rereading Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider. The premise of this book is not that people should get rid of all belongings and live in a hut, but that people should create a life that is as simple as possible, so that all of their time is not spent running around and managing all of the things they possess. Instead, they should spend time enjoying relationships with loved ones and on the things that truly matter to them. It reinforces the idea that life should not be spent spinning our wheels, running to an unlimited number of events/commitments, or trying to make more money to be able to have more things.

This book has me thinking a lot more about the number of things I have in my house. Now, I don't go on shopping sprees, I don't buy lots of decorative-type stuff for my house....I don't even buy all that many clothes or shoes. But in spite of that, there is still SO much stuff in my house (belonging to the 5 of us). Even though I know I have gotten rid of some things when other things were purchased, I still feel like I don't throw anything away. I do give a lot of children's clothes away because someone could definitely use them, but I hold on to so many things, "just in case" they could be used again. I started to think about why that is, and it occurred to me that it could be because my mother never threw anything away. Throwing things away was wasteful. My parents were children during World War II, and I know they did not have a lot of possessions. So, what they had, they saved. But this idea of saving everything so as not to waste has just seemed to lead to so much clutter for me. My husband is the same way - he just does not want to get rid of ANYthing. So, even though we don't buy all that much, it's probably still so much more than our parents bought. And since we don't throw much away, it's starting to feel like we're hoarders (not REALLY, but kind of....or we will be if we continue to save everything!)

So, how do I get past the idea that everything should be saved, just because it COULD be used for something? What can I do with everything? Do I just fight these habits and throw things away (continuing to give away the items that could definitely be used by someone else)??

I do want to get rid of the clutter in my house and simplify things, but I don't want to waste things!

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Busy? Anyone else? It occurred to me this morning that I haven't posted on the blog in 10 days and I missed my Workin' On It Wednesday! The days just keep flying by and unexpected events keep popping up:(

I wrote a bog post almost a week ago, but haven't gone back to proofread it to see if it made sense! And this is all I can get written right now (because I'm supposed to be getting other things done and it's almost time to make dinner already)!!

One good thing from the school week - I decided to make Fridays my math "game" days, and the kids have really enjoyed playing 2-digit multiplication "Survivor." It's been a fun and easy way to brush up on those skills at the beginning of the year.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Workin on it Wednesday

This week (and last week, and next week, and the week after), I am working on being more healthy! This mostly applies to my food choices, because I do a good job of working out regularly (except for the couple of weeks this summer when various parts of my lower body took turns rebelling against me....I may have been working out too much...) Anyway, junk food always tempts me, so I'm working on making healthier choices, and I've been pretty successful during this past week. Wish me luck for the coming weeks and please link up below!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Math Practices "Thought Catcher"

In the "Thought Catcher" chapter of The Together Teacher (chapter 4), the author mentioned specific examples of using thought catchers in regards to students: to monitor/record feedback, which could then be used when writing progress reports, or to record thoughts targeting specific writing skills. 

This led me to think about using something like this for the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practices. 
So, I made a chart with student names and the math practices; but....I'm not entirely sure how I'll use it a check mark system or to jot notes (there's not a whole lot of room for that, unless I redo it with fewer students per page). But, I thought I'd share anyway:)
Click to download


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Venus "Thought Traps!"

Today I finished Chapter 4 of The Together Teacher, titled Never Forget! Capture Your Thoughts.  As I kept reading the phrase thought catchers (which the author suggests teachers use so that we don't lose those ideas that pop into our heads at unpredictable times during the day, I kept thinking of dream catchers, so I needed to call them something else, and Venus Fly Traps somehow popped into my head. So, in my mind, my thought catchers will be called Venus Thought Traps instead:)

The idea of the thought catcher is that one should have a place to write the ideas that occur during the course of the day; and rather than popping into a colleague's room to share that thought (which I tend to do) or sending off a quick email to share the thought or question, one should organize those thoughts into categories so that several of the thoughts or questions can be addressed at the same time.  For example, if you work closely with a few different people - let's call them Ralph, George, and Sandy - when a thought for Ralph comes to mind, you should jot that thought in the "Ralph" category on your paper. If a question for Sandy comes up, jot it in the Sandy column. Assuming none of these thoughts/questions are urgent, save them until you are meeting with those individuals, or save them and send an email that includes several of the items. Organizing thoughts in this way may help you to save time and will help you to remember those things that you need to share with others (both professionally and personally). I know that I have often sent a quick email or text, with the exact words - "So that I don't forget to tell you later...."  If I can get myself into the habit of using a Venus Thought Trap, I will capture those thoughts on paper, not have to worry so much about forgetting (which I seem to do more frequently these days...), send fewer messages and interrupt fewer people.

My "Venus Thought Trap" - click to download
On my catcher, I included a "team" column, because I meet with my team every day and I should be able to save my thoughts until the meeting. I included lesson ideas since I often have thoughts about what to change and I don't write them down.

Of course, in order to capture randomly occurring thoughts on paper, you need to have your thought catcher with you at all times; the author suggests that your thought catcher go everywhere with you (I think I'll try keeping mine on a clipboard that I can carry with me).

Have you tried something like a thought catcher? What works for you?


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Planning My Planner...

I spent yesterday morning putting all of my school dates and all of my daughter's after-school commitments on my monthly calendars. On the calendar, I also included the plan for completing my units, which I have color-coded (I saw this idea on Pinterest and really felt the need to do it myself). I'm hoping that having all of this on month-at-a-glance calendars will help me stay on track a little better with completing my units "on time" and will help me be a little more organized all around.

Download editable template.
I also spent a bit of time tweaking my personal lesson planner. I've made my own planners on the computer for years, so that I didn't have to spend time writing out the class names, times, regularly scheduled parts of the day, etc on each new planner page. My planners have changed over the years, as I transitioned from teaching elementary to middle school, and as I've chosen to add different aspects to the planner (like standards, reflections, and notes sections). Part way through last year, I added a "supplementary" planning page for each week, to document differentiation, homework differences by class, and progress by class. So, yesterday I combined what I had on the regular weekly planner and the supplementary page to create a planner that is a 2-page spread for each week (I had kept everything to one page in the past - until I added that supplementary page last year.)

This template is different from the one I included in my organizational binder, because it's specific to my needs. You can download the ppt version of this template and edit it for your own needs, if you'd like (the version on Google docs is a little different from my ppt version, so if you want the ppt version, just email me and I'll send it to you - . I know the picture is hard to read, but the pages below should give you a better idea of what each section says.

I'm hoping this layout works well for me this year!


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