Uncategorized

Spring Break Stay-cation – 5 Places to Visit with Toddlers Without Leaving Your Town

We finally made it to spring break! It always feels like an accomplishment to make it to spring break, doesn’t it? I mean, those winter months are tough. At school indoor recesses for cold, rainy, windy or who knows what kind of weather make you bonkers. The kids can’t play outside quite as much. It’s dark and dreary. Kids get very antsy too! My middle schoolers were either at each other’s throats or couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. I don’t know which is worse! Everyone just needs some space for a few days.

But now, spring break! I wish I could say I spent most of the week relaxing in the sun at some tropical beach location. Nope. Not when that would require a 12 hour plus drive (or way more with two young kids in the car) or paying for expensive air fare. So instead, we drove north 5 hours (which took more like 7 because of said two kids) and visited family in Michigan for a nice weekend before spending most of the week at home.

Staying home for the week is not a bad thing in my mind. There are always things to catch up on (like laundry… except whenever I do catch up, an hour later there is more to be done! How does that even happen?!). But spring break isn’t for more work. It is to take a break, even if you can’t lay on a beach. Instead of trying to catch up on everything, have a “stay-cation”. Do at least something different for your break.

When you have kids, especially toddlers and babies, “break” is rarely in your vocabulary. A break means going to the bathroom by yourself or sneaking chocolate from the pantry without your son spying you and insisting on getting some too. (Have you seen this video? So true!) Or maybe if you are really lucky, getting your husband to watch the kids for a couple hours while you go to Target.

Since I can stay home this week, I truly enjoy spending time with the kiddos doing normal things before the end of the year chaos ensues at school. I don’t mind not having as many breaks. But making a few interesting and different trips here and there make the stay-cation more fun and help create memories for a long time! Naps and feeding times can cause complications with scheduling, so I’ve made a list of five places you can visit with your littles that are easy, can be quick, are fun AND affordable!

Five Places to Visit With Toddlers Without Leaving Your Town

  1. Library story times and events

    Check your local library for their schedules. Most have programs available for children of all ages. We regularly attend an evening story time for toddlers at ours, but I know there are all sorts activities going on throughout the week. There may be special activities just for spring break!

  2. Get ice cream at the local shop

    For it to really be spring break, at least one ice cream trip is in order. Make it special by going to a place that you may not visit that frequently. We love the build your own fro-yo places. With all those topping options, everybody gets what they like!

  3. Visit a fire stations, police stations, etc.

    Our family has not done this yet, but we would like to. Our boy loves fire trucks, so making a visit to a station would be a blast. Check your city’s website for more information and how to schedule possible tours.

  4. Go to a pet store

    This one may seem a little odd, but our kids love it! Our son often asks to go to the “Fish Store”. He loves watching birds dart around, mice run on their wheels, and spot all the variety of fish. We don’t own any animals at our house (and don’t plan to) but it’s fun to just look!

  5. Check out a new park or playground

    We encourage playing outside as much as possible (when whether permits) so trips to the park occur often in warmer weather. Take a drive to find a park the kids have never been on before and watch them explore! Our mall even has a play area inside. I’ve taken the kids there on crummy weather days. Because we don’t go there often, even the tiny slides are a big hit!

A stay-cation does not need to be boring or mean you have to stay home all week. Find something new to do that the whole family will enjoy, without even leaving your town! Slow down, relax, and take pictures. And when the kids are napping, find that spot on the floor where the sun is shining. Lay there for a few minutes, basking in the warmth, and pretend you can hear the waves rolling in.

Happy spring break!

Trashketball – A Great Review Game for Any Subject!

A trash can, paper, and review questions are the only things you need to make “Trashketball” work!

It’s March Madness season. Anyone else get into this time of year? I love filling out my bracket in the hopes of predicting the most correct, and then quickly become disappointed when my teams lose. But that is the greatness of the tournament!

Both teachers and students get very into the games here at our Indiana school. Our PE teacher randomly assigns each class to a few teams in the tournament. If that time wins the whole thing, the class gets to do a special activity of their choosing. The teachers are in a pool where the winner gets a gift card (or maybe even their recess duties covered for a week!) I let the my middle school students fill out one and the top 5 or so overall get to have ice cream sundaes after lunch one day. It definitely makes watching the tournament a fun experience!

Teachers have also been incorporating basketball into their curriculum as well. A 5th grade teacher did an inquiry lab on how the angle of the backboard affects your shot percentage. Another teacher in the lower grades has a bulletin board set up in the hallway about Indiana basketball history. What a fun way to connect students to content!

Because spring break was fast approaching, I needed some review games. Often I will use Kahoot (which kids love!) but I was inspired by some crazy basketball games over the weekend to do something different. Trashketball was a game from my own middle school memories and I was super excited to bring it back to my classroom!

All you need to do this review game is the following:
  • A set of questions that can be answered in a few words (or numbers)
  • A trashcan
  • A bunch of slips of paper

I used this for my math class, so I copied down a bunch of problems that I could project on the screen. Students had calculators and scratch paper to help them.

To set up the game:
  1. Prepare questions to give to students. The best way to do this is to have questions ready to display somewhere that all students can see at once.
  2. Cut up paper into small squares. Have a lot of paper ready (you can always use the extras for next time!)
  3. Place a trash can (I use a smaller can) in the middle of the room, and students place their desks or chairs in a circle around the can. It is up to you how far students are from the can. Farther away makes the game a little more challenging! Make sure students sit equal distance from the can and no one has a huge advantage.
Here is how to play the game:
  1. Students see a problem on the screen and have time to figure out the answer (depending on the question, I gave them between 30 seconds and 1 minute) and write their answer on a slip of paper with their name on it.
  2. Once the time was up, I would tell the students, “Shoot!”During this time, students would crumple up their slips of paper into mini “basketballs” and shoot their answers into the can.
    1. Students may NOT stand up or move around during this time. I told them their “bums” needed to stay in the seats!
  3. I gave 30 seconds for students to “shoot” their answers. There are two ways to do this:
    1. Students can shoot as many slips of paper with their answers on it as they can in that 30 seconds
    2. Students can shoot up to a certain amount (like 3) in a round.
  4. When shooting time is over, the teacher grabs the can and looks through all the papers that actually made it in. Any correct answer receives one point. Incorrect answers get zero points.
  5. Students keep track of their own points and whoever has the most at the end wins!

There are other versions of this game out on Pinterest. Here is a link to another version that sounds great too!  Mrs. E Teaches Math has great ideas, so be sure to check out the rest of the blog.

Students loved the game and already have requested to play it again! It was fun, engaging, and helped students review how to do their math problems! It does create a little craziness in the classroom, but hey, it’s March Madness!

Digestive System Mini Lessons – Part 2

Here is the Digestive System Mini Lessons – Part 2 post! There are three more simulations for parts of the digestive system. If you missed the first post on this, be sure to check it out by clicking here.

Sweet Teeth

This activity demonstrates how your teeth help in the digestive process. Students receive a sugar cube as well as a small cup of granulated sugar. They fill two cups with equal amounts of warm water, placing the sugar cube in one cup and the granulated sugar in the other. Students stir each cup and watch how the sugar dissolves. The granulated sugar dissolves much more quickly than the cube, just like your teeth break up food into smaller pieces so it is easier to break down the food later.

A student stirs a cup with granulated sugar and compares it to another that has sugar cubes.
Materials needed:

2 clear cups

Water

Sugar cubes

Granulated sugar

Stirring sticks

 

Surface Area Matters – How the Villi Help the Small Intestines


Villi help absorb as many nutrients as possible. To demonstrate this, students take four cups of water and fill each with the same amount. For the first cup, students take one sheet of paper towel, fold it several times, and dip into one of the cups to absorb the water. Then students take a graduated cylinder and measure whatever water is left in the cup that the towel didn’t absorb. Students repeat this using two paper towels folded together, three paper towels, and four paper towels. The four paper towels folded together should absorb the most water, leaving the least amount behind in the cup.  Often, I follow up on this by asking, “What would happen if there weren’t as many villi to absorb nutrients?” Students agree that some nutrients may be missed! This always reminds me of the Chocolate Factory clip from I Love Lucy – without enough villi, the intestines would be like Ethel and Lucy and miss a lot of good stuff!

Materials needed:

Four cups

Water

Paper towel (9 sheets)

Graduated cylinder

 

Let the Juices Flow!

Using orange juice, students see first hand how the acids in our stomachs help break down foods. Bread is torn into small pieces and placed into ziploc bags. Then they pour some orange juice into the bag. Make sure the bags are sealed (otherwise it gets messy!) and squish the bread around. The bread looks gross, but starts to dissolve before your eyes! Students carefully pour the liquid out, leaving behind the solid “waste”, which is then disposed of in the garbage can! This activity simulates several parts of the digestive system, but especially highlights the large intestines’ job.

The “stomach acids” at work.
The “solid waste” leftover. Gross!
Materials needed:

Ziploc bags

Bread

Orange juice (or another type of fruit juice)

Waste container or sink to empty juice into

 

I do have short worksheets for all of these activities. Students fill them out to help instruct and guide them throughout the lesson. Please comment or email if you would like to have them!

While students participate in their activities, I like to walk around and ask questions, clarify instructions or just listen to how students explain things to each other.  It is awesome to see students making the connections and teaching each other!

Please use these ideas in your own classroom, either in groups like I did, or even as full class demonstrations! Have fun digesting!

Digestive System Mini Lessons Part 1

Studying the human body creates excitement in my 7th grade classroom. One of the best systems to study (in my opinion) is the digestive system. I mean, we get to talk about food and taste and eating. Students enjoy the system too, because this means I will probably bring in some sort of snack to help us learn about the system in real time!

Really, we could spend weeks talking about one system in the body. However, in my class, we only have 2-3 days before we must move on. I love doing hands on activities with my students, and found several digestive simulations that I wanted to try. The simulations only take a few minutes each, so I decided to divide them up among the students.

Each group focused on one particular area of the digestive system and performed the activity as instructed. Activity sheets were filled out, and each group became responsible for understanding how their activity connected to the digestive system.

Once all the groups completed the tasks, they had to share their findings with the rest of the class. Students gave mini presentations sharing what they did, what happened, and how it relates to the digestive system.

I described two of the mini lessons below, and will post three more soon!

 

Digestive System Length

Students use yarn to show the length of our digestive systems. I used 4 different colors so each color could be used to represent a different organ in the system. Students measured, cut, and tied the pieces together. At the end, they could see just how long our digestive tract really is!

Materials needed:

Yarn (4 colors if available)

Scissors

Meterstick

Use this chart for lengths:

Organ Length in Centimeters
Esophagus 25 cm
Stomach 20 cm
Small Intestine 700 cm
Large Intestine 150 cm
Total Length 895 cm

 

Quick Crackers

Students like this activity because it actually involves eating. Each person in the group receives two crackers. One cracker is chewed up really quickly and swallowed. Students state that their mouths get a little dry because not much saliva was used. Next, the second cracker is placed in each of their mouths. Students allow the cracker to sit for at least a minute without chewing (allowing the saliva to do all the work). The cracker does dissolve eventually and will taste sweet in the process. The crackers demonstrate how chemical digestion works in our bodies. The chemicals in our saliva start breaking down the crackers into the sugars needed.

Materials needed:

Crackers (at least 2 for each member of the group)

Timer/Clock

 

See more activity ideas in Part 2 of this post!

Triangle Coloring – Making beautiful artwork while classifying triangles!

Does anyone have one of those new coloring books that are totally cool? Filled with awesome designs, these books encourage you to just sit and color. In fact, studies suggest that coloring helps relieve stress and improve relaxation. I would agree. I like to sit and color while sitting on the couch or watching tv. Which is why I came up with this lesson for my students!

We are working through our geometry unit right now in both my seventh and eighth grade classes. Lots of angles, triangles and other polygons going on! I wanted to do something a little different than just a regular worksheet and take a break from our normal routine of class. I was browsing Pinterest (what else is new) and saw a picture of a whole bunch of shapes in different colors; shapes that could be used as artwork on walls. Immediately,an idea popped into my head! Math + art = awesome!

My seventh graders had just learned to classify triangles by their angles and sides. I decided to take triangles, and have students make them into cool designs while still practicing their classifying skills!

Triangle Coloring

Only a pencil, ruler, paper and colors were necessary for this activity.

Students drew lines across the page using their pencils and made several triangles. I warned students to not draw TOO many triangles because that might make way too much work for them later.

Next, students identified triangles on their page as scalene, isosceles or equilateral. They traced each type in a different color of their choosing, being sure to put their color choices on a key.

Finally, students shaded in each triangle according to the angles. Obtuse, acute and right triangles each received their own color. Colors used should also be recorded on the key.

The class loved the project. After I gave instructions, the class was quiet for several minutes, not because I told them to be, but because they were so focused on their triangles! Designs turned out really neat. I’m thinking a new bulletin board display is coming…!

Roller Coasters – Looking at Potential and Kinetic Energy

Who doesn’t like a roller coaster? Let me rephrase that… what middle schooler doesn’t like roller coasters? And if they don’t like riding them, I’m pretty sure they would still like the idea of building one!

This is one of my favorite activities of the year. It incorporates concepts of kinetic and potential energy, which is a big standard to cover in sixth grade, while engaging and challenging the students.

SLED Program

I definitely cannot take credit for coming up with this lesson. It was developed through the SLED program. (Science Learning Through Engineering Design) This program, funded by a grant through the NSTF, was a partnership between the SLED program directors and teachers of grades 3-6. Because the program was developed at Purdue University, many local school districts and teachers were able to be a part of developing these lessons. The focus was to increase science learning through engineering design. I worked with the SLED program and its amazing directors for several years and through it, added a bunch of awesome engineering-based projects that align perfectly to Indiana science standards. (Here   is more info if you want it!)

Before the Activity

Before starting the roller coasters, my students have learned/reviewed kinetic and potential energy. We do a lab where students “play” with wind up toys, mini circuits, bouncy balls and more, and trace how the energy is transferred in each situation.

I also LOVE showing them this video. It gets stuck in your head, so watch out! But then again, it will get stuck in students’ heads, which is fantastic!

I follow the SLED lesson plan, which you can find here

Designing the Roller Coasters

To introduce the activity to the students, we begin with the challenge: Indiana Beach wants to build a new roller coaster with a lot of loops, but wants to be as economical as possible. Can they help? Instantly, students are engaged. Indiana Beach? Roller Coasters? Hooked. However, we discuss several concepts before designing.

  • What’s the challenge? (To build a roller coaster with loops)
  • What is the goal? (The most loop diameter for a limited coast)
  • Who are we working for? (Indiana Beach)
  • What are somethings that might limit us? (Space, materials, TIME!)
  • What concepts in science have we been learning about that will help us here? (Kinetic and Potential energy!!!)
Materials used to build the coasters:
The tubing comes in packages like this. I find the 3/4″ works best.
  • Insulated pipe tubing. I use 3 ft sections cut in half. These make the “track” for our coaster. You can find them at any hardware store (Lowe’s, Home Depot) or online. You will have to cut them in half.
  • Duct tape
  • String
  • Tacks (longer tacks work better)
  • Large pieces of cardboard to secure the coasters on(think refrigerator, tv, large sporting equipment, etc. I had a connection to someone that worked in a bike shop and got several large boxes from him!

The tubing and cardboard can be reused, so you will not need to get all new supplies every year!

Once we review the materials and the goal, students get a few minutes to plan and sketch their designs individually. Next, I put them in groups of 3 (if necessary I make a group of two. Four students seems to be too many in this activity…) and together, they come up with ONE plan that they want to use for their roller coaster.

Each team gets a large cardboard piece which is propped up along the wall around my classroom. This is their roller coaster canvas. They may receive up to 5 pieces of “track” and unlimited amount of duct tape, string and tacks (although all come at a price!). Students typically need about 30 to 35 minutes to design and build their coasters (or really, that is all the time I can give them!). For the coaster, we use a marble. I do allow students to test their coasters as they go so they can make slight adjustments as needed.

While students are building:

I usually walk around during construction, asking questions such as:

  • Why did you need to make your second loop smaller than your first?
  • Why are you starting the marble so high?
  • I see that this loop isn’t working. What do you think the problem is?

Encourage students to think about kinetic and potential energy when responding!

 

Wrapping Up

Once time is up, student groups calculate their coaster’s final cost, measure the total loop diameter on the coaster, and calculate a team score. Team scores are the cost divided by the total loop diameter. Lower scores mean the coasters are more cost efficient or have a high loop diameter, which were the goals!

Finally, groups present and test their coasters in front of the class. We take a “roller coaster tour” and walk around the room. Students share their designs, their cost and their team score. Then the moment of truth… will the marble actually make it through the entire track!? I do give students several attempts, but usually there are a few groups that are unsuccessful, and that is ok! At each coaster, students put sticky notes on where they believe the most potential energy and the most kinetic energy are located–super helpful in reminding students  about these concepts!

Overall, this lesson takes me about three class periods. However, it solidifies students’ understanding on kinetic and potential energy. And it is fun! They will be talking about their coasters for weeks to come!

 

Quick Team Building or Just for Fun Tasks!

I believe that in any classroom, working as a team is important. However, dealing with others can be a challenge, no matter what the age! I like to incorporate activities throughout the year that focus on team building, but are also fun tasks for the students. These are just two of examples that are great for any grade level, any subject, or maybe even as a professional development exercise!

Marker Mayhem

  • Students are put into groups of 3 or 4 and given a marker with 3 or 4 strings attached
  • Each student may only hold the end of one string, and may not touch any other part of the string or the marker
  • Working together, students must draw a picture, write a word, etc.
The cat I drew that students tried to copy

When I did this activity, I first had students write letters, like ABC or CAT. They could talk and instruct each other on how and where to move the marker.

After the initial round, I asked the student groups to draw a picture of a cat. I drew a cat picture on the board and told the groups they should do their best to copy that picture. Right before they began, I said “You may not talk!”

Many protested initially, but when I said go, it was silent. Students were forced to communicate without words and make the best cat drawing they could.

It was hilarious watching some of the groups attempt the cat. A few looked like my 2 year old drew them (or worse), but some groups were surprisingly successful! With each round we did, groups improved on their communicating and improved on their drawings!

Straw Tower

The next activity is a simple one that uses straws and tape and that’s it! The goal is to use the materials to build the tallest straw tower possible in a short amount of time.

  • Students are put into groups of 2 or 3
  • Each group received 10 straws and about 30 inches of tape.
  • 2-3 minutes of planning time given.
  • About 10 minutes of building time given.

Before students were allowed to even TOUCH the supplies, I told them they had two minutes to talk with their partners and come up with a plan. They could sketch things out, strategize and share ideas.

Once the two minutes were up, I told students I hoped they were wise in how they spend their planning time because now they could NOT talk for the rest of the activity. I gave students 10 minutes to build their towers. And it HAD to be silent

It was very amusing watching students use other methods to communicate (and I did not allow any writing of messages either!) Hand motions, pointing and lots of head shaking were seen.

Some students had great plans that worked well. Others found their original plans did not work and that trying to form a new plan without talking was very difficult!

After the timer went off, students could no longer touch their towers. I came around and measured each tower with a meter stick to see who won the challenge!  (By the way, I LOVE using online-stop-watch. When the timer goes off, it always makes everyone in the room jump!)  

Discussion

We had a good class discussion afterwards about what was difficult and what worked well. Students agreed that making sure you had a plan ahead of time worked well. Communication is huge! If they couldn’t communicate, it made the task much more difficult to complete. We need to share our ideas, listen, and watch. If we can communicate more effectively, we can get a lot further!

These activities were very helpful in setting up how my students need to work together and communicate with each other. You can use these just for team building or class communication. And they can be done in middle school, high school, or even upper elementary grades!

Onion Cheese Loaf

When I first started my teaching career, I was single, living in a new town, and knew only one other person near by. Being a first year teacher is difficult by itself, but I also faced the challenges of trying to meet new people and figuring out a new area.

Luckily, the other teachers and staff at my school were amazing. And still are. I was immediately drawn into their circles and invited to events. Even though I was the only non-married person working at the school when I started (it’s a small school!) I didn’t feel lonely when I was there!

One of my favorite memories of that first year was one of these “events.” Another teacher, newly married, had been discussing how she wished she knew how to cook more things and ideas on what to make for dinner. She wanted to make meals for her husband and herself, but was stuck with the same recipes. I mentioned that I like to cook, but currently wasn’t cooking much since I was only making food for one. A more mature teacher, who had been married for more than a couple of decades, overheard this conversation. Immediately, an idea began to form and Cooking Class was invented!

My dear teacher friend invited another wise (and experienced in the kitchen) friend over to help a few of us younger ladies learn some kitchen tricks. We had an afternoon of grocery shopping and recipe sharing while prepping dinner. Then we stayed all night  to enjoy the yummy morsels we cooked up!

The first class (we ended up doing this about two more times throughout the next year or so!) had a soup and bread theme. The temperatures outside were blustery cold and soup with warm bread was exactly what we needed at that time of year. While we chopped vegetables, stirred soup and waited for bread to rise, we all shared stories about food and our lives. It was a moment where I felt at home, even though I wasn’t home, and I hadn’t known these people for very long. But there is something about slowly simmering soup, the smell of baking bread and the sound of laughter that brings immediate comfort. And that’s what I felt.

One of the recipes shared that day was for Onion Cheese Loaf. It has been one of my go to bread recipes since! It is hearty, tasty, and easy. No kneading or rising required in this one! I like to bake up a loaf with big batches of chili, or any kind of soup. It’s savory and delicious.

I hope you make a loaf for yourself. Invite friends over. While the bread is baking and the smell all things good is in the air, have time to sit, chat, laugh, and feel comfortable.

Onion Cheese Loaf

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine in mixing bowl:

1 cup white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (if you don’t have this, you can just use 2 cups of white flour and it will turn out fine! But in my opinion the wheat flour definitely makes this bread heartier and more rich in flavor!)

1 tablespoon sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

The dry ingredients

Cut in ¼ cup butter or margarine until the mixture resembles coarse meal

Add and stir lightly:

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (I like extra sharp best!)

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Combine in separate bowl:

1 cup milk

1 egg

Add milk and egg to cheese and flour mixture and mix with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn mixture into a greased loaf pan.

Sprinkle over batter:

½ cup finely chopped onion

Paprika (to taste)

Bake loaf for 1 hour. Cool slightly before removing from pan.

This is best when eaten warm, but will last for several days if wrapped with plastic wrap.

Enjoy!

Mathonopoly – Solving Equations Game

I can’t take any credit for this one, but I had to share. I recently stumbled upon this gem of a review game. My 7th graders have been learning how to solve one and two step equations. Solving equations can be difficult for some students. Practice, practice and more practice helps! And who doesn’t like a game?

Before I gave students a quiz on these concepts, I wanted to do some review. I feel lucky to have found this… and it is free! You can find the game here  and download it as a powerpoint for free. Again, I did not make this and cannot take credit for it, but HAD to share such a creative activity.

I couldn’t find exact rules listed, so I just made them up based on what parts there are and the rules I know from Monopoly, which I share below. You can definitely adjust these to better fit your class!

Preparations:

I made four different sets so my whole class could play at the same time, and 3 to 4 people can play with one set. Before my students played, I had to cut out all the pieces (not fun) and put them all individually through the laminator (even more not fun!).  I do love a good lamination, but our machine NEVER works properly so it is always a gamble – are you going to get a nicely laminated product, or a ruined mess of melted plastic and 30 minutes of your precious prep time gone? Luckily, the machine was in a good mood for me that day! And, I had students with no homework to finish in a study hall, so I made them my card cutting slaves for the period. Awesome!

 

Setting up the game:

Each group receives a board, Chance cards, Community Chest cards and a set of “Property” cards, a set of dice, and whatever playing pieces you want to use (I used chess pieces because I have them in my classroom!)

Students stack the sets of Chance and Community Chest cards in the designated places. The property cards are set to the side in an organized way.

Students also need score sheets. Using blank sheets of paper worked well for me, but you may want to come up with a quick score sheet. I started each student with 25 points. No money is necessary in this version of the game!

Answer sheets can either be distributed to each group, but I decided to hold on to one, and when students solved the equation, they called me over to check. This way, one student would not be able to see the answers ahead of time and know the correct response without trying to solve it first.

Instructions:

To play the game, students roll the dice (you can do one or two) and move their pieces across the board, just like in Monopoly.

When they land on a property space, students must solve the equation correctly in order to “buy” the property. If another student then lands on that property space, they must give the “rent”  in their points to the owner. Rent amount is the same as the number listed at the top of each property.

The rest of the game is played very similarly to the real Monopoly. However, I did not do anything for when they landed on railroads or Free Parking. Maybe you have an idea for these spaces? Let me know!

Ending the game:

I stopped the class when we only had a few minutes left. Students did not want to stop playing! We determined the winner by who had the most points at the end. I guess you could keep playing until one person has all the points, but just like in real Monopoly, that might take days and days!

It was a blast and the students got tons of practice with solving equations of all different difficulty levels! Thanks dannytheref for such an awesome idea!

How’s It Going? Returning to Teaching After Maternity Leave

Just over a month ago, I had to go back to work after having my baby girl. My leave this time around was over 10 weeks. It felt like a long time and no time at all. How does two and a half months go by that quickly? I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make coming back any easier.

Before the big day I had time to prepare and discuss a few things with the substitute who was there while I was gone (who was fantastic and made things go so smoothly!). I developed a few lessons and even found a few review games for my students.

The kids day care bags were packed, forms signed, and schedules planned. Meals cooked in advance for easy dinners were ready in the freezer.  I was ready on the outside.

How’s It Going?

People have been asking me, “How’s it going being back?” Well, that depends. How is it going leaving the two beings I love most in the world every Monday through Friday to the care of others? How is it going being away from them more than 40 hours a week throughout the school year? How is it going knowing that you will only have a few hours with them when you come home, but all that other home “stuff” that is pulling at my time? How is it going, knowing that I may be missing important milestones, missing smiles and laughs, or missing cuddles when they are sad? How do I answer that?

At the same time, I enjoy what I do. I like making lessons exciting for my students. There is a thrill in putting together an activity that will demonstrate exactly the point students need to know AND be one they continue talking about for the next few days. It’s awesome to see that light bulb moment for someone in the middle of class, especially from someone that normally struggles. I like joking with the kids in their awkward but endearing ways. The teasing, the lame puns, and silly talk. The students make me smile, cause frustration, laughs, and tears. This is why I do what I do.

It’s Going

So, how is it going? It’s going. It’s going because this is where God wants me to be right now. I know my place is to be at the school I am at, working with the kids I do. God has given me peace about the decision my husband and I made about our work situation. He has given me skills, that right now, I’m called to use in the workplace. Maybe in the future, he will call me to use those skills as a stay at home mom. Or maybe he won’t. But whatever happens, I know that God will keep me going and continue to give me peace as long as I am where he wants me to be.

I know many other of you moms are in similar positions. Maybe you need to work for financial reasons, or insurance reasons. Or both. Maybe you worked so hard for your degree (and have so many student loans) that you feel like this is the only option right now. Maybe you just love what you do so much, that you can’t imagine not working. There are so many reasons that moms have to leave their precious babies everyday.  

Or maybe some of you moms are at home, worried about finances because you aren’t working, feeling overwhelmed because you feel like you never have time to yourself and can’t even get a few minutes to go to the bathroom without little ones peeking under the door (It IS nice to be able to use the restroom in peace again, even if I only have a few seconds in between passing periods!). Maybe you selflessly gave up a career you adored to take care of your family.

It’s Going “Good”

Whatever situation you are in, trust that God knows where you need to be. I encourage you to continually seek out God for his plan, because God’s plans are greater than ours. He knows whether you need to be teaching other people’s precious babies. He knows if you need to be home with your own babies (no matter how old those babies are!). And if you are unsure of where you need to be, just ask Him!

So when people ask me “How is it going?”, I can simply say “Good.” God is good, and though life is a little crazy right now, my life is in Good hands.