August 20, 2015

Teaching Stuff and Things 8/20

Stuff, Things, etc.

I could talk about teaching all day.  I never really tire of the subject, though I may tire of the process.  I'm pretty lucky and blessed (not hashtag blessed, real blessed) to be able to pursue a career I actually love, because many don't get to do that.  Here's some tips and tricks that are from an ever-expanding list I'm compiling on the subject (i.e. an ebook).

+Hook labels.
I never labeled hooks in Alaska and this was the exact same set-up I had there.  In Missouri, I had cubbies, so those were labeled and then last year I labeled hooks because I was in the habit from Missouri.  Use numbers, not names, so they can last more than one year.  I covered these in packing tape to keep them on the wall.  Last year I stapled them because it was a different kind of wall material.

+Supply boxes/bags.
(see above) My hack for meet-the-teacher night.  Give kids a place to put their stuff and your life will automatically be made easier. It worked REALLY well. I put a detailed instruction list on each desk too, and parents and kids followed it.

+"I'm Done" sticks.
I've never tried these before, so we'll see how it goes.  I don't know if I'll push them or if the kids will want to use them or if they'll get stuffed away so like many of those grand ideas we have in August/September.  They took about 3 minutes to make and were essentially free, so they can take up space for awhile.  I have way too much shelf space this year.

+Borrowing pencils.
I'm really weird about pencils.  Specifically, pencil-sharpening.  The only way, I've found, to combat the issue of kids wanting to sharpen pencils all day is to come down with an iron fist from day one.  I got lucky this year and have a great hand-crank sharpener on the wall.  Electric ones are unreliable anyway.  And it's better if you take away the novelty of electricity.
These are my pencil rules.

I decided I'd give them the option of mini-pencil sharpeners until someone sets an example and the inevitable (a pencil shaving explosion) occurs.  That way, I'm not mean; I'm reacting to what they've done in a constructive way.

As for the borrowing of pencils...I don't lend pencils, ever.  I constructed this little set-up and then I thought, "Eh, now they can't use the erasers..." because of the popsicle stick. But the point is that this pencil should not be something they're comfortable with.  They shouldn't get to use it. They shouldn't have access to that eraser because then they'll want to keep the pencil.  They all have separate, bigger erasers anyway.

The most pencil issues I've ever had came the year I taught 2nd grade and it was a daily struggle because they were pretty young.  In Alaska, I started the rule of "no pencil sharpening" because we had an electric sharpener and they'd try to do that when I was teaching.  I've stuck with my pencil philosophy ever since.  My response to a kid with a pencil conundrum is always "Find a friend" because kids are usually willing to let others borrow a pencil.  Then the lender will smile at me, because they assume it puts them in my good graces.  It's cute.

+Routine slides.
I have found that it's easiest to lay out my expectations in the clearest way possible.  That way, there's no confusion and I have a go-to copy of "this is what we do during...{insert specific time of day}". I wrote up the rules/procedures and put them on Google slides so I can project them during the day.  I also printed a copy to put in the sub binder.

Sometimes just getting your ideas out and into word form will make things so much simpler.  It's also much simpler when the kids can refer to a slide on the board in front of them when they forget a procedure.


If I had more time, or if it wasn't 11pm and I just now wasn't finishing the stuff I needed to get done for tomorrow, I'd find some pictures to insert.  You all will just have to make do.  Hopefully I'll get my act together next week.  No promises.


  1. I am the same way about pencils!! It drives me nuts when the kids think I have an endless supply of pencils. I resorted to the "Find a friend" thing this year and it would work. I also worked with a teacher who during my part-time student teaching placement kept a box of golf pencils on her desk. If the kid forgot their pencil, they had to use the golf pencil. The small thing DEFINITELY force them to remember their stuff.

    And I have the same policy in regards to sharpening. It drives me NUTS when they do it while I am teaching. Because then I repeat myself 45 times.

  2. Most of my tuition students here have never seen a pencil with an eraser on the end of it--they think my American pencils are "crazy." Love hearing about how you're setting up the room and getting yourself in gear to start the year out strong!

  3. I have a huge amount of respect for people who teach (and who've found their true vocation!) because it's something I'd be absolutely awful at. I enjoy seeing the things people to do make their lives easier though, and I love the Pencil Policy! I'd be exactly the same.

  4. I did not know pencils were such a thing! I don't remember them being a thing. But I do remember the teacher being exasperated at people wanting to sharpen their pencils all the live long day so that made me laugh.

    Not sure if I missed it, what are I'm done sticks?

    I like your owl labels!

  5. I would love to be a teacher if only for the school supplies!!! Hahah ... which is probably why I'm not one, but I so remember wanting to sharpen my pencils all the time. I haven't used classic pencils in years but just found some cute mechanical ones in the $1 section at Target! :)

  6. I love your policies!! I am one strict nanny with SO many rules and regulations and they're all listed on a board in their mudroom. It makes my life easier and helps the kids function when they have a simple understanding of what is expected of them.

  7. I am the same way with pencils but I never thought about putting a popsicle stick or something on it to make sure it gets back to me. Going to tuck that one away for the future :) I did have a rule where we had a pencil sharpener as a job at the end of the day but like all jobs, it usually didn't get done.

  8. I love your policies!! Here is hoping they work this year.

  9. I love your policies, if I were teacher I would definitely be copying some of these ideas :)

  10. I've started to make middle school kids give me something for a pencil. Preferably a phone. Otherwise I have no pencils.

    I reread Harry Wong's book (First Day of School) every August. It gets me in the mindset for the beginning of the school year.

  11. What an awesome pencil policy, especially the personal sharpeners that will inevitably turn into a mess haha! Also, the popsicle sticks attached to the borrowed pencils are genius.

  12. It must be a teacher thing because I could talk about teaching forever, too! :) (In fact, I'm pretty sure WE have done this together. haha) I don't mind pencil sharpening. My only rule is that they can't sharpen while I'm teaching. If they're working independently or in groups, I have no problem with them getting up to sharpen the pencil. I do like the popsicle stick idea for borrowing pencils. I usually have a container with stray pencils that have been left behind in desks or on the floor, and kids "borrow" them, never to return. I think I'm going to steal that idea! (Mrs. Hopkins makes the kids give her a shoe if they borrow a pencil! lol I kind of love that idea, too!)

  13. I want my daughter to have you as a teacher. Not even kidding.


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