The Importance of Establishing Positive Relationships



I'm about to share something about my life that very few people know about.

I was a behavior problem. 

When I tell people this, they usually don't believe me. I think it has to do with the fact that most of my teacher friends had a super positive experience in their schooling and my experience was far from that.

I was, what most teachers would label, a behavior problem as a child. I won't go into detail on this post but I know I had behavior issues because I was not allowed to return to preschool after attending one day. When we moved to Arizona I began kindergarten and my parents made it clear that I had to behave. I remember trying my best to stay under control but I realized something early on in Kindergarten. My teacher didn't like me and I knew it. It's been 30 years and I still remember how it felt.

She never flat out told me she didn't like me, but her feelings were very clear because of the way she acted towards me and how she treated me compared to the other students. I remember one time in specific. We took turns being the line leader in her class and when you were the line leader you got a prize at the end of the week. Boy was I excited to be the line leader and you can't imagine my excitement about that prize on Friday. Was it going to be a pencil? A dinosaur like Miguel got? My mind was spinning with all the possibilities. Well, Friday rolled around and I didn't get my prize. I thought back through the whole week and I was sure I had always been at the front of the line when it was time.  I brought it up to her, with very limited English as I had only been in school a couple of months, but the prize never came. I remember being so confused about it.

Now I don't want to vilify this teacher because if I'm being completely honest, with my history, I probably wasn't the best behaved child and she must have had her reasons to feel the way she did. But her not giving me that prize broke my heart a bit and I wish she would have either given me the prize for doing the job (even a sticker would have been nice) or if she had sat me down and helped me correct my behavior. Even at five, I knew there had to be a reason for me not to get my prize and I never knew why I didn't earn it.

Looking back at that year with my "teacher glasses" I learned some important lessons that I still draw upon that have helped me with my own students. Here are some of those key points:

1. Children know how you feel. 


Thinking back to my kindergarten teacher, even though she never said she didn't like me, I knew it. Children know how you feel about them whether you think you make it obvious or not. Let's talk about reality. Teachers are human and sometimes you will clash with certain personality types. You most likely will have a child in your class that you don't like at some point. Maybe your personalities don't mesh or maybe that child just gets under your skin. One of my biggest pieces of advice to everyone is to find a way to make your challenging students into your favorite students. If you find a way to do that, the year will be so much smoother. Best of all, if you are able to establish a good relationship with that child, it will help them so much in the long run.

So what do you do if you have a child that you don't connect with? I highly suggest making your very best and sincere effort to get to know this child. Whatever you do, don't act like you like them. Kids know when someone is acting. One of the easiest ways to connect with children is to ask lots of questions. Walking in line is a great time to ask some casual questions. I'll ask them about their family, friends, what they like to watch on TV. Give them some compliments. Compliments make everyone feel great! One of my favorite ways to connect is by eating lunch with my class and sitting BY children that I want to form a better connection with. When they start to share and ask questions about you, this is your sign that they are forming that relationship. They care about you too! Don't ever underestimate the power of a good connection.

2. Children will like you even if you don't like them. 


Have you ever seen those teachers that are super grouchy all the time and flat out mean to their kids? Then comes Valentine's day or their Christmas and the kids still bring them presents? That's because kids don't want to hate their teacher. I remember that even when I knew my kindergarten teacher didn't like me, I still liked her. So much that I saved up all my money (which took months because there wasn't much money to go around) to buy my first Barbie and I got one that looked just like her! Same hairdo and everything.

Even when you feel like a kid doesn't like you, the odds are that they do but they don't know how to show it.  After having a rough day, it is easy to slip into the theory that a kid lives to make you miserable. Whatever you do, don't give in to that feeling. If you have a rough day with someone, start each day fresh and with a smile. Each day really is a new chance to make that connection. In my twelve years of teaching, I have yet to see a kid that flat out intended to hate their teacher.

3. Behavior kids don't necessarily know they are behavior kids. 


Even though I was only five, I had a feeling I wasn't the best behaved kid in class.  But I didn't know how bad I was being or not being. I had just come from Mexico, I didn't understand the teacher, and my last experience in school wasn't great. I had no idea what I could have been doing that was considered bad. So when you have that tough kid on your roster, it's best to assume that they just don't know that what they are doing is bad in your eyes. Sometimes children just don't know and it's not their fault. Sometimes we forget that these little humans have only been on this planet for a few years and it is up to us to help them learn and develop as people. When you are struggling with those behaviors, it's best to pull the child aside and explain expectations. Those private and honest conversations can make a huge difference.

Reflecting


At the end of the day, my kindergarten experience has helped me help the children I teach. I don't resent her because I can't possibly know what was going through her mind, but I can learn from it and grow as an educator because of it.  I'm going to wrap up by emphasizing that it is crucial to establish positive relationships with all your children, especially those that haven't had the most positive experiences in prior years. Establishing those relationships takes a while but the time invested will be worth it for you and your students.




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Meet the Teacher Letter

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I love several things about summertime, but one of my favorites is having some time to work on requests from you! One request that kept popping up was a Meet the Teacher Letter. A few months ago I saw a clip art pack that I knew would be perfect for this project and that got my wheels spinning. Fast forward to this week and I finally got a chance to put these together.


My goal while designing was to make them as user friendly as possible and save teachers time while helping you to create a great first impression with families. I included close to 100 image choices so that teachers have lots of options when searching for one that best resembles them.

Getting these ready is so easy! Just find your perfect character, edit the text, and print! For an extra pop, I suggest printing on Astrobrights. Talk about simple!

On my letter I like to include:


  • Where I'm from
  • A little bit about my home life
  • My educational experience
  • Contact info
  • Brief educational history 
  • Some fun facts 


Tip: Your fun facts can have something to do with your favorite things (stores, treats, drinks, colors etc) because in many districts parents use that info during Teacher Appreciation Week. Super sweet right?

My pack includes my exact letter that you can use as a guide. If you would like to save yourself some time, you can pick up a copy from my shop. Click here to download.


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Testing Buddy Notes Freebie

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State testing week has come and gone! We were paired up with a fifth grade class that took the "big" test and we sent over notes and treats to them throughout the week.

This was one of their favorites:

I found these chocolate bunnies while I was strolling through Target and I knew they would be perfect for our buddy class.
I shared a picture of these treats and had so many requests for the notes. I decided to make them a freebie in my shop for you! Just print them out and attach the bunnies! Click here for your copy! Don't forget to pin this image to refer back to. 
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Classroom Mailboxes

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During my first year of teaching, I made the mistake of not sending enough graded work home and some parents were shocked during conference time when they saw their child's grades. I learned a huge lesson from that year. Grades should never be a surprise on conference night. And so, I was on a mission to figure out a system that was easy for me and for my kids to implement to ensure enough work was going home to keep parents apprised and aware of grades, while at the same time, keeping enough work at school go over during conferences. These class mailboxes were the answer! I included direct links to my labels as well as Amazon Affiliate links to the bins I used for your convenience. If you use my link, I receive a very small commission for referring you over to Amazon. 

Class Mailboxes

How our mailboxes work:

We collect work samples in these bins. One week all graded work goes home, and the following week, my students file their work in these mailboxes. Come conference time, lots of work samples are ready to go! 

By sending home graded work every other week, parents have an opportunity to see how their child is progressing. Saving work on the alternating weeks provides material to discuss during our parent teacher conference. Therefore, the grades on the report card will not come as a surprise to any parent since they've been seeing graded work every other week. 

Last Minute Meeting Life SAVERS

These are also lifesavers when you get those last minute IEP meetings. I've been stuck in those situations where a meeting is scheduled for the same week and I have no work. I'm left scrambling to find anything I can to bring to our meetings. That no longer happens because there are always work samples in these bin ready to go.

Maintenance

This teacher does NOT enjoy filing, but did you know that all my kids love it?  I pass out the work and each child files away their own papers. If time doesn't permit, a classroom helper takes care of it! I'm a big fan of ideas that don't require extra work for the teacher. 

FAQ's

There were some questions I received on IG when I posted about this idea. 

  • Do you only place graded work here?
    • Yes, pretty much just graded work. If I notice something on non-graded classwork that would be worth holding onto, I'll also place it in there. Other good things to place in our mailboxes are behavior plans, IEP notes, intervention notes, tardy passes, etc. Anything that you might need down the road. 
  • Where are the bins from?
    • You can get them from multiple places. I found that the most reasonable place is Amazon. They sell them in sets of four with free Prime delivery. Click on the image below to check them out.

  • How do you attach the labels?
    • I attach them using double sided tape from Scotch and sticky dots. I made a video if you'd like to see how I do this.

  • Where is this cubby system from?
    • We are fortunate to have these built into our wall. When I didn't have these, I put the bins along our countertop. I've also seen teachers put them on the floor or in cubbies from Ikea or Target. 
  • What if parents want all graded work going home?
    • I haven't had a problem with this in the years I've been using this system. If I did have parents asking about this, I would let them know at the beginning of the year of my plans for graded work so that they know what to expect going home. If you have a parent that prefers all work to go home, it might be good to photocopy this work or maybe that parent is fine with not having work samples during parent conference time.  Another idea might be to send all the work home and have that child return certain samples after the parents have taken a look at everything. I prefer options that don't require copies and wasting paper. This might be the perfect idea for those families. The key is to communicate with parents.
  • How about a filing cabinet or filing bin? 
    • I recommend filing cabinets/bins if you have a smaller classroom. 
  • Why not binders?
    • I've tried binders. First of all sturdy binders that last the whole year aren't cheap. My kids took a long time opening and closing them every single time to put their work in there. By the end of the year the binders were ready to be tossed so I ended up giving them to the kids to take home and then had to replace them for the next year. The bins can be kept forever and they hold up well even when children aren't careful with them. 

Our mailboxes are just so easy for us. Each child's name and image is on the front and there is no way to get confused. Plus, they are so stinkin' cute. My kids love being able to use their mailbox. 

If you would like to get a set of these labels (they include over 400 choices of kid clip art), you can pick them up by clicking on the image below:





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Whiteboard Horseshoe Table

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Did you know that whiteboard horseshoe tables exist? I didn't prior to a few months ago. Recently our principal asked us if there was something we'd want or need for our classrooms. You see, for the past ten years or so, AZ has been in a education budget crisis. We have had cut after cut which led to teachers not getting raises for years. This also meant that budgets were for supplies and furniture (much of what you see in my room was purchased by me) were cut as well.

When the opportunity came up to request something we'd like, I knew exactly that I would ask for! I asked for a whiteboard horseshoe table! It came in and we fell in love. 


Many teachers on IG were asking where it came from. You can find it via School Specialty. Click HERE for the link for this exact table. If you need one, I suggest asking your admin if there is a budget for a special request. If not, and you are teaching at a public school, I recommend trying to get one via a grant on DonorsChoose.

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Easy Valentine's Day Mailboxes

Office Depot compensated me for this sponsored post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.One of my favorite February projects are these cute Valentine's Day Mailboxes! They are super easy and the kids love them so much! If you're looking for a craft that your kids will enjoy and is easy to get done, this project is for you!


How to make these boxes:



1. Ask students to bring in a box from home. Shoe boxes are the perfect size! It is so easy to get the boxes in now because we get packages in the mail all the time. Some students brought in a few for their friends. I just ask the kids to check and see if the box fits in a backpack to make sure they aren't too big.

2. Get some bulletin board paper and wrap up the boxes. Wrap up a few each day or even better, have a volunteer to come in to help. Parents love to volunteer for this project!

3. Get some fun supplies for your kids! I got all the supplies I needed for my Valentine's Day project at Office Depot to treat my students. AND I used the Teacher Special Savings promotion they are running right now to get 20% back in rewards toward future purchases. Shopping at Office Depot for school craft supplies can help me save money for my classroom.


4. Let the kids decorate away! I had small groups of four or five working at a time on their boxes. They had so much fun putting them together.



I typed up their names as large as I could fit on a sheet of paper and had the kids decorate them before gluing onto their box. Then they were able to add glitter and other embellishments.




5. Use a box cutter and cut an opening at the top.

Just trace a rectangular opening and cut.

They are now ready to be stuffed with valentines! This is such an easy project that my kids always enjoy!


Some things to keep in mind:

  • If you go to OfficeDepot or OfficeMax and make a qualifying purchase you'll get 20% back in Rewards to use on future purchases! Teachers can receive 20% back in rewards on select purchases at Office Depot when they shop in-store now through February 28th.
  • You must present this coupon, your teacher ID and Office Depot® OfficeMax® Rewards # to cashier in-store. Valid in-store till 2/28/19
  • Non-members can sign up online or in store at any time and be eligible to receive the offer. To learn more, visit officedepot.com/rewards

    Materials Used:


    If you are looking for more Valentine's Day gift ideas, you can find lots more here!




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    Parent Teacher Conference Tips and Resources

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    It's February which means that parent teacher conferences are just around the corner! I wanted to share how I prep and get ready for PTC time.


    I like to have everything in one place to make it easy to go from one conference to another. We only have about 15 minutes with each family so saving time is crucial!

    Materials

    1. Conference Report



    I fill out five or so of these each day starting a couple of weeks prior to PTC's. This gives me a chance to provide thoughtful feedback for each child. I like to upload these to my Google Docs so I can edit wherever I am. This prevents me from having to save and send myself the file over and over again. You can also print them and handwrite the info.

    What I love about these reports is that they focus on positives as well as areas of growth. I try to focus in on one or two areas of growth, otherwise parents get overwhelmed and it's just not helpful.

    These conference reports give me the opportunity to get everything out on paper that I want to communicate with families. It keeps us on track during our short 15 minute conferences.

    Teacher Tip:
    Always start out with positives. This will help parents understand that you are on their side. I've seen teachers say all negative things and that is the best way to get parents to dislike you and not take your advice seriously.

    2. Flipbook


    This flipbook gets handed out during curriculum night but we don't always have a good turn out that night so I save my extras to pass out during conferences. When I meet with families they often ask what they can do at home to help their child. These flipbooks are jam packed full of tips for parents.

    A Spanish version is included in this download and the text is completely EDITABLE!

    3. Student work


    I make sure to save plenty of work throughout the quarter. I do this by sending home every other assessment. One week I send all the graded work home and the following week I keep the graded work in their mailboxes. You want to make sure you have lots of samples to justify all grades on the child's report card.

    Teacher Tip:
    You do not want to surprise parents by keeping all the work and have them see F's on their child's report card during the conference. They will question why you have not let them know their child was struggling. If you see a student is struggling, make sure to send graded work home and preferably give parents a phone call to let them know what is going on. Report card grades should not be a surprise.

    4. Reminders



    Prior to meeting I send a request for preferred conference times via Remind. My school community is largely paper based so I send home some sign up sheets (my templates are included in my PTC bundle) for the families that have yet to sign up. Once they have signed up I send home the reminders. 

    Stickers



    On the day of each child's conferences, I pass out these stickers with their names and scheduled times. For some reason my kids are excited to get these and that helps them remind their parents. I use that to my benefit!

    5. Lightbox



    I made some conference lightbox inserts last fall and included them in the file. They are perfect to have outside your classroom. You can turn the light on to let parents know that there is a conference in progress at the moment.

    6. Sign in Sheet



    Last, but not least, I use a conference sign in sheet to keep track of all the parents that did show up for their scheduled time. We are required to meet with 100% of parents. We call or make a home visit with parents that do not show up. Teachers then submit their sign in sheet to admin.

    Teacher Tip:
    Have parents sign in as soon as they enter the room. I used to have them sign when we were done but I would sometimes forget all about it. This simple tip will save you a little stress when you have to submit it.

    Bonus Tip:

    Do you have any students that work with teachers outside of your classroom? Let them know when that child's conference will be. Our interventionist and resource teacher love to meet with parents and share progress that they are seeing. 


    To recap:

    • Have your conference forms in one place
    • Have plenty of work to support grades
    • Provide some resources that parents can use at home
    • Schedule your conferences electronically or on paper (both if your community needs that)
    • Get your sign in sheet ready to go and have parents sign it at the beginning of conferences


    I hope this post helps your PTC night run a little smoother! If you would like to pick up these resources, they are bundled together for big savings! Click on the image below to get conference ready!


    Some feedback from teachers:



    Don't forget to pin this image to refer back to during PTC time!


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    Easy to Maintain Classroom Jobs

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    It's going to sound crazy, but I have never had "official" class jobs in our room. Don't get me wrong, my kids have had jobs, but nothing was actually displayed. We kind of played it by ear and it worked well but I wanted to be more consistent on changing them out in order to give more kids an opportunity to take on some responsibilities. In the past, I just couldn't find the right way to organize and mange them but this year I found a solution to that! 

    I'm a fan of keeping things simple. I wanted to create a job chart that was easy to maintain and that my kids could refer to when they weren't sure what to do. These charts have detailed but easy to understand descriptions right under the title. If a child forgets what their job is, they can walk over to the chart and read the description. Here is my set up:




    I've received some questions about this jobs chart and wanted to address them here below.

    How are the kid cards held in place?

    I made the spaces the size of the Target Dollar Spot Square Adhesive Pockets and my kid labels fit right in there. Target brings them back every summer and sometimes in the winters. Don't have any of these pockets? Just use some velcro or tape. 

    How do we rotate jobs?

    I introduced these this year and my kids are so excited on the Mondays when we rotate. They are so eager to take on new responsibilities. Every time that we rotate jobs, we read over them as a class to make sure that everyone understands their new responsibilities. When it's time to assign new jobs, it is a piece of cake! All I have to do is rotate the cards down. 

    How long do the kids keep their jobs?

    I like to have my kids keep their jobs for a full two weeks. I realized that this was the best for them because one week was just not long enough. By the time Wednesday rolled around, they were barely getting the hang of their job. Now they have a few days to learn and remember their responsibilities and several more days to do the job well.

    What jobs does our class have?

    For now, our class has 8 jobs. I might add some more depending on our needs. The beauty of this set up is that I can add or take away a job pretty easily! Here are the jobs:
    • Line Leader
    • Caboose
    • Lights Tech
    • Librarian
    • Helper
    • Substitue
    • Door Duty
    • Clean Up Crew
    • Chrome Tech

    I included my job descriptions in the file as a sample, but you can create as many as you need for your class. Some teachers prefer to just have a handful of jobs while other teachers choose to have a job for every child in class. The way that you run it is completely up to you! 


    I love to see the creative spins you all put on my resources! I loved this idea that @kaitys_classroom shared on IG. She used my book bin labels to keep track of where her kids are at all times. Just genius!



    If you are interested in getting these jobs charts, they are included in my book bin labels set for FREE! Yes, you read that right! They are a free bonus file! Click on the image below to check them out.

    Custom book bin labels for the primary classroom.



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    Fluency Tracker {Progress Monitoring Goal Setting}

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    I had used a goal tracking bulletin board for many years to keep track of our fluency goals. When I redid my room, I unfortunately didn’t have the space for it anymore. For the last couple of years I wasn’t able to keep track of our goals in a visible way. I noticed that my kids were not as excited about reaching or setting their goals as they used to be so I decided that it was time to bring it back. I am so glad I did. My class absolutely loves this data wall!

    PS. No one is on the bottom. That was an extra clip and I left it in the "Getting Ready" section so it's ready for a new student.

    If if look close up, you can see that each circle has a goal level. 

    I have the kids put their clips on the chart according to their beginning of the year scores. As soon as I start progress monitoring, the kids can move their clips up to show their progression. My students LOVE this. You can add the student names on clips or use numbers. I chose to use numbers.  I assign them randomly. The kids then move the clips when they have read to you and met their goal. The clips are placed in their 10’s spot. So let’s say a child reads 67 wpm. She will place her clip on the 60 wpm circle. 



    One way to assemble this chart (the way I chose due to spacing) is to have it go up vertically. To do so, I grabbed some thick ribbon from Joann’s and I hot glued the circles on there. Another way is to have it going horizontally. You can staple the cards up and then have ribbon or string for the kids to hang up their clips. That is how I used to display my old trackers.


    The clips I am using came from Target in the dollar spot. They usually bring them back every summer. You can also find super similar ones at Joann’s. Good ol’ regular tan clothes pins work just as well! I used those for years and the kids were just as excited about reaching their goals.


    I decided to include this goal tracker in my progress monitoring resource kit you can see below.

    If you would like to learn more about this progress monitoring kit, I have a blog post all about that! Click HERE to read it.

    If you just need the fluency tracker on it's own, you can pick up a copy below!


    FAQ'S

    Here are some questions that I have received from teachers from my campus about how I use this tracker:

    • Do all students have to be on the tracker? 

      • No, I always ask each child if he/she wants to be on the tracker. In the eight years that I had one of these in my room, I never had a child say no. My kids have loved seeing their growth on our chart. I do suggest to ask just to be sure though. 

    • Do the kids clip down if their score went down? 

      • Yes, I they do. I remind the children that part of success involves ups and downs. MOST times when children have gone down, I’ll ask them if they have been reading and they tell me that they haven’t been practicing. They see a direct correlation with their progress monitoring score and their practice at home. I find this very useful. I treat the subject pretty matter of fact. I don’t get upset or mad at them. I ask the child to think about what they can do to change the result next time. I think if it’s approached with anger or shame, it would be a missed opportunity for reflection and growth. The point of this tracker is to celebrate success, not to ruin a child’s day! If you think it would be harmful to move them down, then you don’t have to. These are your students and you know them best. 

    • How often do you move clips? 

      • We move the clips every time we have new progress monitoring scores. I like to test my kids at least twice a month. The more consistently you use this system, the better the results. 

    • Do you give any incentives for reaching the higher numbers?

      • I do. The BIG goal for my kid’s is always to get to 100 words per minute. When this happens, they are officially part of the “100” club. If your goal is different, you can call it that number club instead. The 100 club gets to eat lunch with me at least once per month. Sometimes I bring cookies for them or another small treat. It’s a big deal to them. 

    • Who moves the clips? 

      • The kids move the clips. This is so important! The kids love to see the physical movement from one number to the next.

    Just for fun, you can see my old fluency tree HERE :-) 


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