October 2013 Archive
Time Management

Time management was always my strong suit.  I knew how to fit in a full days work, plan for the following days/weeks, cook dinner and make it to a workout before bed.  Even when I had Lincoln, I knew how to fit it all in.  But lately… lately I think if I just fit in a shower, then it would be a good day.

But that has to change.  I have things I have to do.  I have to be a mom.  I have to be a wife.  I have to be a teacher.  And I have to do all of these things every single day.  And when I don’t plan out each of those roles, I’m not very good at any of them.  So I thought we could talk about time management today.

“If you fail you plan, you plan to fail.”

I saw the above quote on someones Instagram a few weeks back and have been thinking of it recently.  I used Beyonce, but you can use anyone you think is fierce.  The reason it resonated with me is because it’s true.  We are all given the same amount of time each day.  What we do with it is our responsibility.  I find that when I don’t plan my days, I end up with a lot of wasted time.  So I’ve started to sit down the night before and make a list of things to do the next day.  When I was in the classroom, I practiced the same routine and I managed to always fit everything in!  Why I lost touch with this routine, I don’t know.  But it makes such a difference.

For example, a list I made last night looked like this:

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 10.30.52 AM

[Sneak peek of a new shop product, coming November 8th!]

Now I realize that’s pretty specific, but that’s what I need.  Otherwise, I forget to do certain things (I actually forget to cook dinner sometimes because I have 825 other things running through my mind).  When I was a first grade teacher, I would make to-do lists for before school, during planning, and after school.  This helped me not chit-chat with other teachers during those times.  When I knew I had a to-do list, I could tackle more things and not be distracted.

*Also you’ll notice that I set my alarm to get up earlier than my child so I can get ready and enjoy my coffee in peace.  This makes a HUGE difference on how I start my day! 

Set Yourself Up For Success

To go along with the planning, you have to prepare.  I’ll lay my clothes and Lincoln’s clothes out the night before.  I’ll make arrangements to meet a friend at the gym so that I’m held accountable.  I’ll cut up the veggies for dinner the night before so in the morning, I just throw it in the crock pot.  I can even schedule the Keurig to start brewing my coffee at a certain time!  All of these things help me be successful and be a better mom, wife, teacher.

When Lincoln is home from school, I’ll make a list of nap-time to-do’s which often include grading papers, preparing for this weeks class, or fulfilling shop orders/writing a blog post.  The day before, I’ll set everything out, so as soon as he goes down, I can get to work!  It’s wonderful.  And on those days I’ll also get up a tad earlier even to get some of those to-do’s done before he’s even up for the day.

What will you do with your time?

Think about Beyonce.  What do you think she’s doing at this very minute?  Do I think she’s sitting on her couch watching reruns of Project Runway?  Probably not.  She’s probably planning her next world tour or something.  But that’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy some downtime.  We all need a break.  Sometimes we just have to schedule that downtime.  When I finish all of my to-do’s* and have a productive week, I’ll take all day Friday and then the weekend to enjoy my downtime.  I don’t have to worry about lesson planning, or shop maintenance or folding laundry on those days because I finished that throughout the week.  So my weekend is for nothing but spending time with my family, visiting food trucks, and enjoying the sunshine.  And that time spent doing what I love is what energizes me and gets me ready to tackle the week ahead.

*Yes.  Sometimes I don’t finish everything.  But don’t be so hard on yourself.  There’s always tomorrow.  Your list will get done.  But I find it’s best to let it go until the next day instead of sacrificing time from something else trying to fit in those last five papers to grade.

Now go make your list for tomorrow and go run the world.  Beyonce would want you to.



Grant Writing 101

I’ve written a lot of grants throughout  my years in the classroom.  Some were successfully funded and others weren’t.  It took a few years, but I think I nailed down a formula that seems to help me get grants funded every single time.  And I’m here to share!

In my absence of blogging (sorry guys) I thought about things that teachers can really use.  I’ve always wanted this blog to be a space for me to share personal and professional tools, tricks, and suggestions.  And one thing I constantly hear from teachers is, “that’s such a great idea, but I don’t have _____” (fill in the blank with supplies, technology, materials, a SMARTBoard, etc).  I don’t want you to be discouraged by things that you don’t have and in turn, your students can’t have.  So let’s get to writing!

Where to find a grant?

I’m sure your district or area has local grants and those are the best ones to apply for.  They are smaller grants and really have an emphasis on providing supplies locally, so you have a better chance of getting your project funded.  I’m not saying don’t go for the national ones, but your odds are just better when you stay local or even state-wide.

Once you find a grant you want to apply for, thoroughly check out the guidelines.  Make sure you are eligible for the grant and that it fits the need for what you want.  I’ve seen teachers want SMARTBoards so badly that they apply for one in every grant opportunity.  I hate to tell you this, but an organization that wants to fund science projects is not going to buy you a SMARTBoard, no matter how much you try to convince them that it will benefit your science instruction.  So find a technology grant and go for it.  Otherwise, hold off.

I have a good idea.  Now what?

So you have something that you really want for your classroom.  Now what?  Well you have to do a little research on the front end first.  Let me use myself as an example:

In the spring of 2010, I wanted to purchase Simple Machine LEGO kits to help my students with their “forces of motion” unit.  Problem was, the kits were $115 each and I needed at least 4.  Our district had a business partnership grant where local businesses would fund grants for the schools in the district.  This was perfect!  I could find a business that encouraged elementary engineering and teamwork in the classroom and appeal to them.  But I needed to think about the total cost of this project, including the kits plus shipping and handling.  I also had to think about how many students this would impact.  We all know how sturdy LEGOs are, which means they will last for a long while.  Ultimately, I could meet the needs of 2,600 students over the life of these supplies!  Wow!  That’s a lot better investment than supplies that just meet the needs of 20 students in one classroom for one year.  As business owners, I knew they would see the value in that number and really appreciate the quality of these supplies.

This brings me to my next point… know your audience.

Most people who read grants aren’t teachers.  They are usually members of a company who don’t know education lingo and terms.  Also they don’t have a lot of time to read some long and drawn out explanation about all of the facets about how this will help your classroom.  They want to get straight to the point, know how much it will cost, and see a good reason why they will fund it.  Period. 

So if you know that those people are your audience, you can easily write a grant that will target your audience.  Take off your teacher hat when you write your grant.  Pretend you’re in the marketing division of a large company and you are trying to market your idea to the CEO.  And as much as you want to put in a little history of Common Core or list out every single center you can use with these supplies, don’t.  They’ll stop reading before they get to the good stuff and you won’t get your money!


So what do I need to include in my grant?

Well each grant is different.  You need to review the guidelines for your specific one.  But I’ve found that you need a few key components in every grant to make it appealing to the reader, which is how you’ll find success.

1. Goal – what do you want to do with these supplies?  Sounds like a simple question but I’ve read lots of fellow teacher’s grants and when I get finished, I have no idea why they want these materials.  (SMARTBoard example… just because it’s “cool” doesn’t mean it will best benefit your students)  So really think about why you need these materials or this technology.  And make a case for it in the first paragraph or two of your grant.

2. CCSS Correlation – obviously your materials must connect to the standards.  Common Core is a big buzzword right now and you need to connect them to your grant.  I wouldn’t go into tremendous detail, but you need to highlight how your idea will encompass these standards in your classroom.  Keep it short and to the point, but make sure they’re in there.

3. Budget – probably the most important part of your grant.  As I said before, these business men and women who read your proposal want to know one thing: how much will this cost?  So get right to it.  List out all of the costs up front and don’t leave anything out.  Also it may be helpful to break down the cost per student.  Often when we see this number it can make a big impact on someone reading your grant.  For example, a SMARTBoard is on average $1400.  If you use it for 180 days, that’s around $7 per day.  And if you divide that by 20 students who will use it, that’s 38 cents a student.  If I was the investor, I would think that I’d be getting my money’s worth when I look at all of the benefits of this piece of technology for only $7 a day.

4. Maximum Participation – like I said in the LEGO example, you want to reach the maximum amount of students possible.  So if you are applying for a consumable product that can only be used for one year or only one time, you probably won’t get it funded.  Because that isn’t a good investment.  But if you can find something that will reach the maximum students each year and will last several years, that’s a much better investment.  So do this research and spell it out.  With the LEGO’s, I planned on sharing the kits with the other three first grade classes.  So that’s 80 students total in first grade that would use it each year.  Plus we could partner up with the kindergarten and second grades, since they have similar learning objectives about force and motion.  So that’s an additional 160 students.  Then if you think of the life expectancy of a LEGO kit being 5-10 years, we have the potential to service 2,400 students over the life span of this project.  That’s a pretty powerful statistic.

5. Summary – finally summarize your project one last time.  Think of it as the abstract for your total grant proposal.  It should be one paragraph that really describes the impact this idea will have on your classroom and classrooms to come.  Also I think it’s important to mention how the students needs aren’t being met without these materials.  That way the investors have one final reason to fund your grant.

So to sum it up, here’s a quick checklist.


As I said, you may have more things you need to include like a timeline of the project or demographics of your school, so make sure you read the fine print.  And if you don’t have a lot of grant opportunities in your area, you can follow these same guidelines to present a project on DonorsChoose.org.  You are still trying to appeal to people who will want to invest in your project, so the same rules apply.

And finally, before you submit your grant have another educator AND also a non-educator look over it.  While teachers can give you clarity on the project details, they aren’t the ones who will be reading it (usually).  My husband would read my grants and give me feedback because he is a business guy.  So if there’s something in the grant proposal that was too “education-y” or confusing, he could point it out.  Then I could avoid the actual grant readers from being confused when I submitted it.

Please feel free to let me know what questions you have in the grant writing process and don’t hesitate to apply.  You have nothing to lose!  And practice makes perfect.  So the more you enter, the better you’ll get at writing them.  Good luck!



Clear October

First up, big hugs to Rachel from The Tattooed Teacher!  She’s showing you how to use one of the anecdotal notepads from the shop and is giving one away too!  So head on over and enter!

Now on to something else that’s been on my mind: multitasking.  I’ve written about it before and I’m going to recap a bit again, but also discuss some new thoughts as well, including my Clear October list.


Lately I haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been focusing on preparing for my next course to start (I teach at a local University).  This weekend, we had a lot to do.  Lincoln had a fall festival at school, I wanted to read some articles and go visit the library to do some research, I was planning on meeting up with some other teacher bloggers for the evening, and I hadn’t seen my husband all week because he was traveling.  Not to mention, I wanted to blog and focus on ordering some holiday things for the C. Jayne Teach shop.  Of course, I tried to multitask.  I was reading articles at the library and texting people to meet up.  I was hanging out with Eric and Lincoln at the festival, but my mind was on the shop orders and that’s when it hit me.  Stop trying to multitask.  It doesn’t exist and you know that.

See, I hate the word multitasking.  I always have.  I made this graphic above feel very dreamy because I think that’s what “multitasking” is.  A dream that we imagine ourselves in, doing everything at once and doing it well because isn’t that the only way we’ll be a good ____ (mom, teacher, spouse, friend, etc).  As a teacher I always felt like this was something that not only existed but something I had to be good at.  I had to run a small group, while talking to a student on the side, all while answer a parent email.  And I actually tried that!  We all know how I reformed my email policy, but even after that, I still “multitasked”.  But I really wasn’t.  Because it doesn’t exist.  You cannot do two things (or more) at once.  You are either doing one thing or another.  I was either giving my attention to the students in my small group or I wasn’t.  I was either teaching a lesson or answering an email.  I was either collaborating with a colleague or checking Pinterest.  Or in the case of this past weekend, I was either spending time with my family or I wasn’t.  Seriously.  You. can. not. do. both.

It wasn’t until I heard Lara Casey say this exact statement to me last October that I realized, it was okay to feel this way.  At some point of trying to do multiple things at once, your attention and focus have to shift.  As a teacher and now as a mom, I’ve had to realize that I have to devote my attention to one thing at a time.  When I am playing with Lincoln, I am not answering email.  I am not scrolling Facebook or Instagram.  I am not talking on the phone.  I am being present as his mama.  Sure, there are times when he plays by himself and I talk to my sister on the phone or I scroll through my Insta-feed.  But I recognize that I’m doing one thing and he is doing another.  Regardless of your role, teacher-parent-administrator-spouse, don’t you want to be present in that role and be great in that role?  I do.  This was a big a-ha moment for me once I realized that the “multitasking” had to stop.  But especially in the classroom, I think we tend to feel like it we don’t try to multitask, then we’ll never “get it all done” – right?  Let’s try to sort that out here and now.


This month, Lara is talking about Clear October (go follow her on Instagram @laraacasey – she’s such a light and inspiration in my life).  She’s focusing on those things that help “clear” your life this month.  I know, you have a million things to do and a million things running through your brain at once (at least if you’re like me you do).  But I’ve had to make a conscious effort to focus, both now and during my time in the classroom.  What I found was that when I was trying to do a bunch of things at the same time, none of it was done well.  When I stopped and focused on just one thing at a time, I realized that I was able to (for example) finish the small group more efficiently, meet the needs of my students, and still have time to plan for our next meeting.  The same thing happened after I established my email policy.  When I wasn’t trying to hastily write an email in between a math and a science lesson, I was able to concentrate and compose a more thoughtful and meaningful email to the parent or colleague.  My students also knew that I would only be doing one thing at a time.  I had implemented an “ask 3 then ask me” rule, so that if they had a question when I was speaking with another student or another adult, they had to ask three other friends to find the answer first.  If they still needed to speak to me, they had to wait until I was available.  After about a week or two of turning them away when I was busy, they got the hang of it.  It also made each question they had to ask me meaningful and purposeful.

So in the spirit of #clearOctober, I’m making my clear list.  Things I’m going to focus on and dedicate time to.


[Image by Lindsey Ocker Photography.  (List by me)  Her prints and photography are AMAZING.  Go go go check her out.]

My challenge to you is to make your own #clearOctober list and join in Lara’s movement.  And take time this month to re-focus on what is right in front of you.  Most of you are on fall break now or will be soon, so use this as a re-charge.  And don’t be too hard on yourself.  We all have moments, especially as educators and moms when we feel like we need to “multitask”.  But next time you get the urge, take a deep breath and focus.  Happy Clear October!

Walking Word Wall

Getting my students to use my word wall was always a challenge of mine.  I came up with unique, creative ways for them to spell, sing, and dance out the words on that wall.  I had activities that included writing, physical activity, and even food to get them to learn those pesky word wall words.  Honestly, nothing made them stick.  Until, I created the “walking word wall”.

I bought a package of cheap Haines tshirts at Target.  And each week as we’d add words to our word wall, we’d add words to our t-shirt.  By the end of the year, the shirt was covered on the front, back, sides, and sleeves.  The “helper of the week” (yes I had one helper do it all… line lead, pass out papers, lunch count, etc.) would wear the t-shirt all week.  This was totally optional but I never had anyone turn it down.  How does this work, you ask?

Think of all the “jobs” the helper does.  How many eyes are on the helper all the time?  The other students were constantly looking at the Helper of the Week as they lead the line, passed out papers, stood up in front of the class to lead a game, or chose a book for read-aloud.  And guess what happened when they looked at the helper?  They read the words on the shirt.  And they started to memorize the words on the shirt.  After seeing them over and over and over and over during lunch and recess and the Daily 5 and science lab, etc, etc…. something wonderful happened.  They started to learn the word wall words!!!  Now, I still did all of the “song and dance” activities that go along with incorporating those words into our vocabulary and our writing, but even if they weren’t actually looking at our physical word wall, they were learning the sight words by SEEING them on their classmate.  Genius.

Every Friday, I’d take the shirt home and give it a quick wash and when it got too worn out, I’d make a new one with the other t-shirts in the pack (that cost me about $3).  Also, another thing to note is that I always wrote the words.  I didn’t let my students do it because I wanted the letters to be clear and for each word to always be easy to read.  I thought about even doing a boy and a girl wear it each week, but didn’t ever implement that.  Since it’s still early in the year, I think this is a great tradition to start in your classroom soon.  Some of you have fall break coming up, so what a great thing to begin when you return!

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