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7 Ways to Prepare for Maternity Leave

Maternity Leave

To be quite honest, I never imagined myself having children this young, or this early in my career. After all, I only graduated from college about five years ago and am still a "newbie" to teaching.  
But hey.. sometimes fun, little blessings come in the form of BIG surprises :)

So here I am, 4 weeks postpartum, and wanting to share with you, our little teaching community, 7 ways to prepare for maternity leave. Why? Because honestly, aside from this one amazing blogpost from the lovely Miss De Carbo, there are not many posts about preparing for maternity leave. AND friends, let me just tell you, if you think preparing for a sick day is hard, you are kidding yourself! 
I would have gone crazy if I had not followed these 7 simple steps. 

In the Photo: My Husband :)

1. Walk in Grace.
May I offer some help advice/ thoughts... 
If you are super pregnant, ready to be done, your students are driving you crazy & your feet are so swollen that it hurts to walk up & down the hallways to drop your kids off for lunch/ recess, it's ok to say enough. I know how you feel and I know what you are going through!
 Just a word of encouragement, give yourself grace. 
Grace for extra copies, grace for random pee trips (tmi?), grace for being annoyed because you really don't want to be at school listening to all the complaining and whining, grace to say NO to staying late after school for random PTA meetings, staff meetings and long parent conferences (yes, I sat through about 30 of these & about lost my mind, y'all- I was over it) and grace to say, I just need to take a break.
Photo: Pinterest 

2. Maternity Sub Binder
I do not have a picture of my maternity sub binder because I was in such a rush towards the end of planning due to Christmas break. However, I will be very honest and tell you that there are not many long-term sub binders that do your long-term justice. 
I purchased Kelly McHaffie "Long Term Substitute Binder" which is editable on Teacher Pay Teachers. However, I only used a few items from her binder and had to create several of my own pages too. I had to add more for my own classroom because I was required for my sub to have more data, more passwords, more information etc. than a typical primary classroom.  
Side Note: I am currently completing my own to add to my TPT store soon that is geared towards upper elementary. I'll update the blog as soon as it is ready. For now check out Kelly's binder! :) 
Photo: Kelly McHaffie Long- Term Sub Binder

A few basics you need in a maternity sub binder:
*Class Checklist
Class Jobs & Class Lists
*Daily Schedule and Weekly Overview
* Class procedures, routines, and exceptions
*Student Information 
 I wrote one full page for each student’s academics and behavior. 
I also included parent phone numbers.... just in case :)
*School Information
Drills, phone numbers, maps, campus information
*Classroom Behavior and Positive Reinforcement procedures
** Note: I use Whole Brain Teaching strategies in my classroom, which you can read about here. However, I learned very quickly THIS DOES NOT WORK for a sub. The sub does have the extensive training that I have had so I had to plan for a different strategy. Some recommendations are Class Dojo or a Daily Planner/ Behavior Checks with daily parent signatures. Subs MUST have a daily routine in place. Do not expect them to just pick up your strategies-what works for you, may not work for them.
*Calendar, Scope and Sequence, TEKS Standards and topics to teach for each month
*Week by Week Lesson Plans
*I type all of my lesson plans in Google Drive.
 I use Meg's New Box of Crayon's Google Drive Lesson Plan Templates found here.
*Websites and Passwords
I Station, Education Galaxy, Safari Montage, Connect Ed, Social Studies Weekly
*Photo Tour

3.  Filing Crates + Hanging Folders
I used these crates & added a little fabric to each crate to help organize SS/ ELA / Reading. You can find similar crates here.  The hanging folders hold Day to Day lessons/ papers. I made copies for each student (this takes weeks to do so start early) and organized by each day. You can get similar hanging folders here. 

This is not new here, but I wish someone would have told me how to organize. I'm so thankful for the insta post by Thoughts in Third/ Target Teachers
Her colored clips to sort different subjects was exactly what I needed to see! I also just used regular, old rubber bands to section off large amounts of work. I know, genius lol
Photo: My awesome iPhone photo because 39 weeks pregnant.. you  don't care how the picture looks ha!

4. Ask for Help.
My teammates are my biggest advocates & have been the biggest help the last several days/ weeks.
I waited too long to ask for help, thinking I could handle everything on my own. But your teammates are your biggest supporters as a new teacher walks into your classroom. I might not have needed  help, but what I failed to realize is that my future sub was going to need my team a lot more than I had even realized. Looking back at it all, I have realized I need more help now than I did preparing for leave. Don't be ashamed to admit you can't do it all and just ask for help. 
Photo: Google Images

5. A Sweet Little Treat
Your long-term substitute has the HARDEST job in education. Your sub has to come in, middle of the year, figure out student names, seat spots, review random lesson plans that you wrote, figure out your passwords to access every technology plan you created (because this is the 21st century classroom & no one uses paper anymore), figure out your entire schedule Monday- Friday, insert grades, communicate with parents and overall- step in your shoes for several weeks. 
Your substitute is doing you the biggest favor in the world. 
Can we be real for a second- don't forget he/she does not have to be there, in your classroom, dealing with the crazy..... And she deserves a little something sweet. I left for leave during the Christmas holiday, so I gave my substitute a gold- wire basket (Target Dollar Spot) filled with lots of goodies and gift cards. I filled her basket with Starbucks Drinks, Chocolates, Gift Cards to Sonic & Starbucks as well as a Bath & Body Works Mini "Stress Relief Kit" w/ hand sanitizer, body lotion and candle. 
Photo: Similar idea on Instagram from Target Teachers. So Precious.


6. Take a Few Days Off to Prepare for Baby
I am so thankful I did this. I ended up on bed rest one week before I was schedule to have baby via C-Section... and let me tell you, I am so thankful for being able to rest. I was so stressed at school with holiday prep, crazy behaviors and being 38 weeks pregnant that I just needed to rest. Trust me when I say, you need the rest to prepare for baby .....because we all know that newborns don't sleep :)
Photo: Google Images

7. Enjoy Maternity Leave
This is probably the hardest part to even write because as great educators, we care about our students. But let me just say, maternity leave is incredible.
Gif: The Office Memes 
I love cuddling my precious newborn, wearing pjs all day & not worrying about a single email or assignment. 
It's just so beautiful.. I may not even go back...JK :)

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A Life-Changing Classroom... Seriously

A life-changing classroom can sound a little too good to be true right?


I recently went to the Whole Brain Teaching conference in Shreveport, Louisiana, and have been so excited to share with you the amazing and wonderful resources I have learned! 
There are so many resources FREE (yes, free!!!)  that can be shared in the classroom and so many techniques that can change your entire classroom into a more positive place. 
What teacher doesn't want a better classroom?

One of the best quotes I heard this week from a great Whole Brainer, Chris Rekstead was, "Teachers, for the first time, stop going home exhausted...instead let your students go home exhausted!" YES! How many of us are just tired of all the craziness of teaching? The joy I have found in Whole Brain Teaching has been incredibly rewarding and I cannot speak enough about this movement! 

There are a few takeaways I have that I want to share with you BEFORE you check out WBT website/ videos etc. that I have learned this week. 

#1. It's more than "Class/ Yes" 

You may have walked down your school and overheard the words "Class, Class/ Yes, Yes" by a wonderful teacher who is seeking the attention of her class after a young student rabbit trailed off talking about his adventure to Disneyworld with his family this past summer.... 

Friends, "Class, Yes" is more than just a call and respond. If you are implementing this wonderful tool, you have only started an initial WBT teaching style. There's so much more than just "class/yes" 

As a newbie to WBT, this picture represents is the BEST way to implement the  WBT style of teaching. 

1. Attention Getter
2. Mirror Words (students mimic with their hands/ words in order to activate their whole brain *duh*)
3. CHUNK your instruction (stop talking so much :) lol)
4. Teach/ Okay (less teacher talk & more student talk)
5. Assess the room (are your kiddos off topic? Fix the problem areas here in the short 30-45 seconds) 


This circle should happen over & over ALL day in EVERY subject. 

Here are some of my favorite videos. I basically aspire to be like these amazing teachers :) 

**NOTE: the bottom video is very long, but worth every minute. 
Kindergarten students read/ retell in WBT style a 5 paragraph essay.
(WHAT!? How many of our 4th graders don't even know how to write in complete sentences?) 

Credit: Andre DeShotel

Credit: Andrea Shindler 

#2. If you're selling Whole Brain Teaching products online, you don't understand the true message of WBT. 

The best part of the conference was hearing the heart behind the movement. Coach B could charge for every single resource and be a multimillionaire because of the quality of every single item, but he felt the Lord spoke to him telling him to share all WBT for FREE. 

I was challenged by their statement that EVERYTHING IS FREE under "freebies" because I have personally seen MANY teachers charge WBT products. I personally have been guilty of paying for a product two years ago because I did not know how many resources are out there for free. 

After the second day, I decided to scroll through TPT just to see how many products were out there that people were charging for. Y'all, I cannot believe the amount being spent over "cute" products. 

I even saw a precious WBT bundle product that was $40.00 


#3. Whole Brain Teaching is NOT just a new classroom management system.
Although WBT is an incredible new way to manage your kiddos, there's more

Here are some examples of the classroom management piece:
1. The Scoreboard

Credit: Chris Biffle.. aka Coach B

2. Super Improvers
Credit: Mrs. Nelson's Classroom (Pinterest)

Credit: Lindsey Roush (Chris Biffle Youtube)

Ok, getting back to it's more than classroom management...

If you sign up as a member again it's free y'all you will instantly have access to hundreds of resources! 

Here are a few of mine that I use in my own classroom:

*my absolute favorite part of Whole Brain Teaching*
Credit: Lindsey Roush

Super Speed Grammar
Credit: Rebecca Crooks

Super Speed Math 
Credit: Farrah Shipley

The Crazy Professor Reading Game 
**fluency builder for upper elementary**
Credit: Chris Rekstead

Genius Ladder 
Credit: Coach B

Friends, please go register as a member for all of these amazing resources at Whole Brain Teaching. You can thank me later! ;) 

So why Whole Brain Teaching? 
If you are still asking yourself, is it really worth it.. the answer is yes! 
Coach B said it best- "If a student's whole brain is involved in learning, there isn't any mental area left over for challenging behavior." 

If WBT ONLY helps with challenging behaviors from those beloved rascals, it's worth it.

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Fierce & Focused during the Testing Season

Today's post is all about fierce and focused during this crazy testing season. I collaborated with #Gonoodle a few weeks ago about staying stress-free during this testing season. I wrote the article [here] if you want to read all about the different GoNoodle videos we use in our classroom to keep calm, stay focused and de-stress!

Photo Cred: Google/ Unknown

Keep calm they say...
Keep calm with 18-25 students who are stressed, over-worked, and ready to be done? Yes, that's a question. Keep calm during testing season, yet our kids just want to go outside and play?
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Maybe a little too familiar....

During this season, it can be a challenge for students and teachers to stay stress free. Teachers have grades to report, parent conferences, after school tasks, PLC's, and continuing to teach the rest of the year. You know normal things, but during testing season, it can be overwhelming! 

Tips to Stay Fierce and Focused 

My guest blogpost from GoNoodle is all about getting students up and moving when they are anxious, overwhelmed, and tired! 
  • Plan out 3-4 videos EACH day to help students get their wiggles out! This will help them stay focused and ready to learn, especially on the days of practice tests (insert emoji here) 
  • Allow VIP students or the MVP students to choose their favorite videos. This can work as a small classroom management incentive as well! Allowing students who are making positive choices and working hard to choose can be an effective reward for them. 
  • Enjoy the GoNoodle videos with your kiddos! I can't tell you how many times my students beg me to do GoNoodle dances with them even though I have no rhythm at all. Sometimes it's fun to be silly! You never know, you may find yourself loving Pop See Ko too :)

2) Set the Stage to Engage! Hope King has the BEST resources for Setting the Stage to Engage. Try mixing in fun task card games (with colorful board game pieces), allow students to get rid of the paper/ pencil test and review outside the box, and set up camp/ bootcamp/ cafe (any classroom transformation) to set the stage for engaged learners. (There are [many] resources out there, but the resources above are my favorite)

Task Cards
  • I LOVE task cards! Task cards are very engaging and take 2 seconds at the printer to copy. YAY #teacherproblems Here are some of my FAVORITE task card resources-



3) Pump them up!

Celebrate their hard work and effort by having a dance party, paper airplane throwing contest, and fun mixed review games!

  • Celebration Ideas: Dance Party, Paper Airplane Throwing Contest, Camp Out Party, Easter Egg Hunt Scavenger Hunt, Human Hungry Hungry Hippo
Dance Party!
Video Cred: Go Noodle

Photo Cred: Classroom Magic

Human Hungry Hungry Hippos! 
Photo: Our 4th Grade students playing last week
Check out my Instagram for more videos!
Don't worry... blogpost coming soon on how we tied STAAR review in to our fun game  :)

Video Cred: Tanner Neilson

Stay Fierce & Focused during this crazy testing season, friends!

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Sentence Surgery!

Welcome back friends,

Today's blog post is all about Sentence Surgery!

I created this product to review for the STAAR Writing test coming up. (YIKES!)
Last April, I had the amazing opportunity to visit The Ron Clark Academy I should blog about that soon. While I was there, the fabulous Kim Bearden, inspired all of us with her ideas about turning your classroom into a place that is engaging to learners. She gave out 20+ ideas on how to set the stage to engage, which is also inspired by the wonderful Hope King. 
I had the opportunity to meet both of these sweet ladies, and let me just tell you, you will walk away thinking you have so much work to do because they will inspire you to the core.

As a result, I created the Sentence Surgery {Grammar & Writing activity} pack! 
When we did this unit in my classroom, I provided students with surgical masks, gloves and hair covers to help "set the stage" a little more.

Steps to Surgery: Setting the Stage

While there are many wonderful ideas for primary grades, I really needed to create a product with more in-depth, hands-on learning to help review. This product is specifically created for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students.

Here is a picture of the "patient" & a FREEBIE for you to help you get started!

If you have any other ideas/ ways to engage students comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts! I hope your students enjoy the product as much as my students! 

Thank you!

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Flexible Seating in the 21st Century!

Hello Friends!

I am jumping on board with my fellow teacher friends about the best new thing in town!

Flexible seating within a coffeeshop style classroom.

Photo Cred: Pinterest

My first encounter with this idea came from Top Dog Teaching's, Ms. Kayla Delzer, when she was asked about her creative classroom seating in this video and news article. You can also catch her amazing Ted Talks video here about reimagining classrooms.

Side note-if you aren't following her top dog kids Instagram, you are seriously missing out!
Photo Cred: Lucky Little Learners

Then I stumbled upon Meg's New Box of Crayons giveaway & Lucky Little Learners' tips & tricks on how to make this dream a reality within my own classroom. I took pieces of both of their ideas and I'm jumping in to get flexible seating within my classroom!

I also found this video from Edutopia that shows what flexible seating in the classroom really looks like. 

We use Class Dojo in my classroom as a reward system, you can check out the previous blog post here. I decided to give Meg's New Box of Crayons' idea a try within my own classroom. Now, my students must reach a goal of 3,000 dojo points combined in order to receive their special spot surprise. I'll be honest, this idea is completely out of my comfort zone. I allow students to sit on the floor, hallway, and have a special spot in the room, but to reimagine my classroom is scary. At first, when I started trying to process how I could do all of this, I realized I just don't have that kind of money right now, and I need financial support!

That's when I decided to post my project on Donor's Choose

That's where you come in, I need your help!

 I am holding a Donor's Choose Giveaway! YAY!

3 lucky donor's will win big prizes including....

(1) It Works Skinny Wraps
(1) Go Noodle Prize Packs
(1) Custom Header and Quote Box banner for your TPT store! 
 Here is how it works...
1. Donate to my Donor's Choose Project (click here for the link)
2) Email me @ to let me know you donated to my project
3) Enter into the Donor's Choose Giveaway (below)
4) Earn extra entries by sharing this blog post & tagging me on on Social Media! (@uncommonteaching)

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Books Teachers Love: January Edition

Happy New Year,  friends! 
I'm joining in with some of my favorite teacher bloggers for the January edition of Books Teachers Love. 

For January, one of my favorite books to read is "Martin's Big Words" It is a great time to read it being the month that we honor and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

We have limited resources at my school so I have to get really creative when searching for new books. My students love to "watch" books online
I found this wonderful activity pack from Teach Create Motivate here that I will be going through with my students as well. 

Another one of my favorite one of my favorite books to read in January is "White Socks Only."

If you don't have the book, you can have your students listen to it as it is read aloud online! (Storyline Online is my favorite!)

I like to have questions ready to go as I read, KWL chart and a few activities to do after we read this book aloud.

You can grab a copy of related activities from the Storyline Online website here.

Here is a few of the other read aloud for January

Thanks for stopping by! 

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