Sunday, October 8, 2017

How to Be a Happier Teacher This School Year

By Justin Ashley

We are now a few weeks into the school year.

The back to school excitement has fizzled out and the realization of high expectations has kicked in, once again-the meetings, the lessons, the grading. As the paperwork piles up, here’s 17 little things you can do this week to fight against depression, anxiety, and burnout this school year.

1. Plan a family field trip for the fall.

During a quick break or while eating lunch, plan out an out-of-town adventure for an upcoming weekend this fall, maybe you could go pumpkin picking, to Tweetsie Railroad, Scarowinds, or visit a family farm. Once you pick one out, immediately put it on your calendar.

A research study showed that just planning and thinking about your next family vacay can raise your endorphin levels by 27 percent.

2. Buy your custodian or cafeteria lady a soda from the teacher’s lounge.
Research has proven that buying stuff doesn't make a lasting difference on our mood, with one exception-buying stuff for other people. This makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. Tis’ better to give than to receive.

3. Tell your class a funny story.
Your kids don’t want to just hear about the curriculum. They want to learn about you! Think of a story from your past that’s gotten laughs before. Tell them a silly story about yourself to get them giggling and lighten the mood in the room.

My middle schoolers like hearing about the day I proposed to my wife. We both threw a penny in a fountain and made a wish. My wish-her hand in marriage. Her wish-A raise at work.

When I taught elementary school, my kids loved to hear about my 1st visit to the zoo as a 5 year old boy, where I got too close to a fence and was attacked by a monkey, after I smiled at him. Never smile at monkeys. Never.

4. Start your lesson off with an inspirational video.
Find a Youtube video that’s motivating. Something that lights your fire and gives you chill bumps. Here’s one of my favorites…
40 speeches in 2 minutes

5. Leave your phone in your purse or workbag. 

It’s no secret that compulsive phone checking is damaging. It moves you away from your present environment and even further from each present moment. Check your phone between blocks, on breaks, or at lunch.

6. Meditate with Headspace.

Before the morning bell rings or during your planning, set aside a few minutes to get your mind right and meditate.

Don’t know where or how to start? Try downloading this free app, Headspace. This chill dude with a British accent will walk you through it. All you have to do is put your headphones in, turn off the lights, and find a chair. It’s that easy.

7. Make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for. 
Write them down and read them aloud. Here’s 3 of mine:
I’m grateful to have a job that’s also a calling, where I get paid to do something I enjoy doing.
I’m grateful to live in a democratic country, where I have guaranteed rights listed in my country’s constitution.
I’m grateful to pay my taxes, because this money makes better roads, better emergency services, better schools, and a better community. (*This last one’s a stretch. I know.)

8. Try a simple breathing technique periodically throughout the day.
A recent study showed that war veterans who suffer from PTSD could significantly reduce their cortisol levels (stress hormones) simply by using deep, slow breathing techniques. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is the easiest, most effective one I’ve found:
Inhale for 4 seconds
Hold your breath for 7 seconds
Exhale for 8 seconds
Try this a few times when you feel stressed and see if it helps.

9. Put motivational quotes cards on your desk. 
Use some index cards and google inspirational quotes or order some off Amazon and put them on your desk. Verses of scripture could also work. Read a few at a time for encouragement.

10. Write thank you cards to students or compliment them with a sticky note.
Pick out a kid or two in class, students who are working really hard, and write them a little note of recognition. We have a tendency to instinctively spot the negative, but make it a point to point out the positives, too.

11. Smile when you greet and talk with students. 
Smiles are infectious (mirror neurons), so smile when you they come into your room. Positive classroom culture starts and ends with you.

12. Set a fun short-term goal. 
Come up with a small goal. Not a SMART goal or some big resolution, just something simple, but exciting. It should take 13 weeks or less, so you can finish it around the New Year. After tomorrow, continue doing one thing each day to reach it. That’s what I did with my kids to make  STRAIGHT INTTA OREGON, a music video about Westward Expansion that went viral. Check it out!

13. Thank your principal.
Drop in their office or stop them in the hallway and tell them thank you for something they did recently. Maybe they helped you out with a resource, or stuck up for you when a parent complained. You might be a little down that summer is over and school is back in session, but they were probably working through the whole summer. Thank them for what they do behind the scenes on the daily.

14. Exercise with kids at recess.
Join in on in the fun outside. You deserve a break, too. Walk the track with your students. Kick or throw a ball with them. Jump rope with them. Connect with kids while you are working out on the playground.

15. Do some fall cleaning. 
Purge some of your school files. Get rid of old resources. Set up a new filing system. Minimalism is a really neat documentary on Netflix that shows how liberating it can be to simplify your environment.

16. Dress super nice. 
Professional attire means more respect. Kids notice that you take the job seriously. It also feels good to get hat-tips from teachers and administrators.

17. Find your 30 minute thing.
You work ridiculously hard serving others each week, so you need to carve out 30 minutes each day to serve yourself.

Take this time to move. It could be jogging around your neighborhood, doing yoga, or playing soccer with your kid. For me, it’s boxing. Every day after school, I box for 30 minutes before I pick up my kids. That’s my ‘me’ time. It’s something I look forward to each day.

And research shows that just 30 minutes of exercise uplifts your mood for the next 3-4 hours, improves your quality of sleep, and has a similar impact on your brain as the strongest anti-depressants on the market, without the negative side effects.
____________________________________________________________________________
***Bottom Line-There are small things we can do to live healthier, happier lives today and tomorrow. Some are about the external (changing our actions and environment), others internal (changing our thought patterns). We don’t have to wait until the summertime to be happy. We don’t have to count down the  school days to each Friday.

We can be happier now.

References
Happiness Advantage
The Happiness Track

Justin Ashley is a teacher, author, and motivational speaker.  He will be facilitating a breakout session and will lead us in a closing celebration at this year's Elementary Conference! You won't want to miss him or his purple cows!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Can Elementary Teachers Explicitly Teach the Concept of “Adversity” to their Students?

By Rick Jetter, Ph.D.

     What if I told you that there is a gap in Character Education programs that have historically been administered to students in schools across the nation?  What if I told you that there is also a gap in the Emotional Intelligence (EI/EQ) research that is currently in the field of psychology and education and how we apply adversity training to student learning today?
     So, why is adversity important and what types of adversity exist in our students’ lives that you can help them tackle or cope with while also preparing them to proactively deal with any adverse situation no matter what age they are?  Think about your own life right now.  What adversities existed in your life since you were 5 years old?  10 years old?  16 years old?  21 years old?  And NOW?
     Take a look at this video and can you honestly say that YOUR students would know how to handle this kind of adversity without FREAKING out like the woman whose car was vandalized did?


Maybe this will help even more:

Adversity training is needed for students to learn how to deal with the following 6 kinds of adversity, including (but not limited to):
1.  Physical Adversity
2.  Mental Adversity
3.  Emotional Adversity
4.  Social Adversity
5.  Spiritual Adversity
6.  Financial Adversity

From those types of adversities, there are event subgroupings that are often neglected and are often experienced by not only our youth, but by adults no matter their age:
1.  Loss of a pet or loved one.
2.  Not achieving what they thought they would.
3.  Financial loss.
4.  Job loss.
5.  Illness/disease.
6.  Dealing with others when they suffer adversity (many do not know how to continue being friends or supportive of others during their time of adversity).
7.  Stress as a result of opposition or conflict.
8.  Addiction.
9.  Dealing with geographical disasters.
10.  Dealing with accidents.

From there, we can certainly “prevail” as human beings under pressure by living gracefully, living with gratitudes, living mindfully, and living with skills that emotionally healthy human beings possess--especially when we see how this weather man deals with adversity due to technical malfunctions within his meteorological newscast in Arizona:


Adversity training = grace under pressure for your students for the rest of their lives.

See you at NCAEE 2017 for Dr. Rick Jetter’s presentation: Teaching Adversity in Our Schools where you can learn more about how to not only prepare students for the next grade level, but how you can prepare students for life!

Rick Jetter, Ph.D., is currently a national educational consultant, author, speaker, trainer, and partner at Pushing Boundaries Consulting: http://www.pushboundconsulting.com 

Rick previously worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent of schools prior to becoming the Director of K-12 Education for the AEP Group which can be found at www.aepk12.com.  You can also find out more information about Rick by visiting www.rickjetter.com.  On Twitter, you will find him at @RickJetter. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Diagrams: Bringing Visual Learning to a Classroom Near You

By Amanda Kaestner

Your classroom is a melting pot of learning styles—and you might feel overwhelmed trying to meet so many different needs. 65% of people are categorized as visual learners, yet so much of what goes on in the classroom revolves around written and spoken instruction.

Incorporating visuals into your lesson plans might seem like a lot of effort just to cater to one learning style. But it’s not just your visual learners who benefit. We are all visually wired—we actually retain a whopping 80% of what we see and do, and our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Visuals help all students better understand and retain information—in fact, visual aids in the classroom can improve learning up to 400%.

But “visuals” is a vague term, and it’s hard to know how to add this new element to your lesson plans and classroom setup (especially when time is always scarce). As you’re looking to plunge into the world of visuals, diagramming can be the perfect way to get your feet wet. Diagrams offer many different formats for visually representing any type of information in a way that clarifies concepts and engages students.

  • Use a Venn diagram as a new spin when explaining the greatest common factor. 
  • Have students recreate a famous work of art from the time period you’re studying. 


  • Instead of assigning ten pages of reading on the food chain, have students map the flow of energy in a flowchart. 
  • After finishing your class book, check reading comprehension by asking students to build a timeline of the story rather than just asking verbal questions.



With the right tool, these diagrams can be simple for students to make. Lucidchart is a collaborative diagram software that helps anyone clearly understand and share ideas and information, and its product features make it particularly powerful for classroom use.

Ease of use
With an intuitive interface, getting started in Lucidchart is as simple as dragging and dropping shapes onto the canvas or customizing one of the many available templates.

Cloud-based
Lucidchart is accessible from any computer or device, regardless of operating system.

Real-time collaboration
You and your students can share documents with each other and edit them simultaneously. Commenting and chat features make collaboration seamless.

G Suite integration
Lucidchart integrates with Google Drive, Google Docs, and other G Suite programs. Students can insert diagrams into their assignments or submit a link to Google Classroom for you to grade.

Most importantly, Lucidchart is free to educators and students! Here’s how to get started:
1. Sign up for a free account with your educational email address.
2. Log in, click on your username located in the upper right-hand corner, and select “Account Settings” from the dropdown menu.
3. Select “Get a Free Educational Upgrade” in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.
4. Click the link in the confirmation email you receive, and you’re ready to diagram!

For inspiration in getting started, check out these lesson plans and see how other educators have used Lucidchart to bring visual learning to their classrooms.



Amanda Kaestner works with Lucidchart.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Flexible Seating in K-2

At this point everyone has probably heard of flexible seating, am I right?  There are still some who say “no way that is not for my classroom”, but many others who have bought in 100%.  I saw all the social media posts about flexible seating and loved all the changes teachers were making in their classrooms, but was not ready to jump in yet.  In these classrooms you could see how excited, yet engaged their students were with the new seating available to them.

Fast forward to this spring sitting in a professional development session and I was finally sold on flexible seating!  The presenter was positive (and realistic) as she discussed how she used it in her classroom, showed pictures, and even brought examples of seating with her.  The what-if’s and fears were calmed as we learned from the presenter.  Teachers could see a classroom very similar to what they taught in and saw it was working really well.  I was at Walmart, Five Below, and Goodwill that afternoon!   The types of flexible seating in my classroom are yoga balls, sensory cushions, small metal stools, 30” barstools, yoga mats, raised table, desks, traditional desk chairs, folding chairs, and carpet areas.

The first day of flexible seating all of the new seating was set up as students came in to the room.  Their faces were priceless as they looked around the room.  For the first week of flexible seating students had to pick a different type of seat each day and just try it out to learn what worked for them.  Students were in charge of their new seating and were driven to prove they could handle this new privilege.  From the teacher side of things I really had to sit back and watch them explore this new responsibility of not only picking the type of seat that worked for them, but taking care of these items.

Flexible seating did amazing things for the behavior management of my class.  You could hear and see the changes immediately.   There were some students who picked the same type of seat almost every day and others who would rotate different types of seating available.  The biggest fear I had with the younger students and flexible seating was that they would fight over whom sat where.  I never once had this problem!  One student who thought it was a big hit said “plain old chairs aren’t squishy like yoga balls; you can lie on a yoga mat, or stand if you like to stand up”.  If behavior would have been an issue I could have used a sign-up sheet for the seat options.  I will definitely be using flexible seating again and again.  It looks messy and a little chaotic, but the learning that takes place is magical.  

About Melissa Mooney –
Melissa is a classroom teacher and has taught grades 2-5 (in a classroom and a trailer) for the past ten years.  Her two big focuses at the moment are flexible seating and personalized learning.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Engaging & Empowering Educators- Join Us!


NCAEE is proud to host the 14th Elementary School Conference this fall. This year's theme is Engaging and Empowering Educators and our goal is to do just that-- make sure our attendees are highly engaged throughout the conference and leave feeling empowered to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our students. This, in turn, will lead you to engage and empower your elementary students! Save the dates for October 22nd-24th and plan to attend the a conference specifically focused on elementary school teachers.

Once again, our conference will take place at the beautiful Charlotte-Concord Embassy Suites and Convention Center in Concord, NC. The Embassy Suites features spacious suites with separate living rooms, refrigerators and The Embassy Suites also offers a free, made-to-order, hot breakfast each morning and a nightly Manager's Reception. Staying at the Embassy Suites means you will have a great time, even when the sessions are over. The hotel is offering a reduced rate for our conference attendees so be sure to reserve a room early by clicking here.

Concord, NC is just minutes away from Charlotte and there are many things to do, including Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord Mills, and a variety of different restaurants.

Opening Kick-Off & Closing Celebration

We are mixing things up just a bit! Our conference begins on a Sunday afternoon and ends on a Tuesday afternoon. We will have an opening kick-off session on Monday morning and Dr. Pitre-Martin will bring greetings and an update from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. We are so excited to have her at our event!

For the first time ever, we will have a Closing Celebration on Tuesday afternoon and NCAEE fan favorite, Justin Ashley, will speak. You won't want to leave early and miss this!

It wasn't long after being named North Carolina History Teacher of the Year that Justin Ashley started noticing signs of burnout. He knew he needed to make some radical changes in how he handled his work and personal life. In his session The Balanced Teacher Path, Justin will share his personal story—illuminating how easy it is to give your job everything you've got and leave yourself with nothing outside of school—and will show new teachers and veterans alike the self-care techniques they can employ to create work-life balance and prevent burnout. With equal parts humor and wisdom, Justin will analyze four key aspects of every teacher's life—career, social, physical/emotional, and financial—and offer practical advice to bring these areas into sync, reigniting a passion for teaching in the process!

Luncheon Keynote Speaker

This year's luncheon keynote speaker is highly acclaimed educator- Dr. John Hodge. He will present BE THE ONE! He will discuss how the education of America's youth is a challenging prospect when one considers the many burdens faced by impoverished children and their families. Research indicates that poverty need not be a barrier to academic excellence. As co-author of the book  Standing in the Gap, Dr. Hodge states, "Across the nation, schools are demonstrating that it can be done: That students can reach high standards, that all children can succeed, that the gap between white and minority students, poor and affluent, can be closed." More often than not, one caring adult can make all the difference in the world. Dr. Hodge's presentation will encourage all of us to  BE THE ONE!

Featured Speakers & Breakout Sessions

We have secured a fantastic lineup of featured speakers--Kyle Greene, Rick Jetter, Justin Ashley, North Carolina's Teacher of the Year- Lisa Godwin, The Bag Ladies, and Kathy Bumgardner. Their session titles and descriptions can be accessed here.

In addition to our featured speakers, our conference boasts over 60 breakout sessions. Our Board of Directors has selected a wide range of high-quality sessions with engaging content in the strands of Educator Effectiveness, 21st Century Learning Approaches, Active Learning, and Social Emotional Learning. We are confident our participants will find sessions relevant and will be able to apply what they learn immediately in their classrooms.


On behalf of NCAEE, we wish you a wonderful summer and hope to see you in October!


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Engaging with the Arts

By: Leni Fragakis

As elementary educators, we all know the feeling of impending doom as we become frustrated with the number of standards to teach and the time allotted for instruction.  I have found that the only method to this superfluous standard madness is to integrate the content areas.  Here are some third grade ways to easily integrate science, social studies, and literacy standards by effectively using the arts as a means to weave together learning goals.

I use the Kennedy Center’s definition for Arts Integration as a guideline to creating deeper understanding for my students.  The Kennedy Center’s ARTSEDGE program even has lessons at your disposal!  My goal is to connect inquiry-based learning with arts integration to provide engaging learning opportunities.    


In the science standards for third grade, the reoccurring theme is the Renaissance Man who excels at many things.  An individual who influenced history with his careful examination of his surroundings was Leonardo da Vinci.  Teaching third graders about the Renaissance time period may seem unnecessary, but I have seen the connections generated and the creative understanding promoted.  

The theme of innovation and careful, detailed observation constructed an alternate universe for my students because they too wanted to become like da Vinci.  The classroom culture was transformed as the students learned that da Vinci would not have formulated his ideas about the universe without being reflective, dedicated, and meticulous.  If you have not already, you should view some of da Vinci sketches online or in person at an exhibit.  

In this unit of study, these were the main science objectives, but I do not feel that it is limited to these:

3.P.1 Understand motion and factors that affect motion
Students examined da Vinci’s sketches of catapults, military machines, crossbow, and hydraulics.
Students were provided minimal supplies such as a wooden dowel, paperclips, rubber bands, and a tongue depressor in order to create a marshmallow catapult that would launch the farthest.
After numerous trials, students would sketch (in da Vinci fashion) their catapult for the students in years to come.

3.L.1 Understand human body systems and how they are essential for life
Student will examine da Vinci’s bones and muscle sketches in true Renaissance fashion with dimmed lighting.
Students will use tracing paper to challenge themselves to use as much detail as da Vinci did in tracing his sketches.
Students will make observations about the interactions between bones and muscles.



Possible Literacy Connections
Compare and contrast in a Venn diagram the Mona Lisa and the Head of a Woman
Predict the story behind Mona Lisa’s smile

Study which facts from Magic Tree House Monday with a Mad Genius are true compared to the nonfiction text, Who Was Leonardo da Vinci?
Create, sketch, and write about your own invention and your inspiration to one of da Vinci’s sketches
After reading Magic Tree House, write on the prompt “If I had wings…”  Students wrote their stories on feathers to create class “wings.”


Knowing da Vinci’s ideas were progressive for the times, students will begin to make connections to today’s technological advances and be inspired to create their own inventions.


About the Author
Leni Fragakis has worked at The Arts Based School in Winston-Salem, NC, for five years, teaching 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades.  She has her BA (Elementary Education, minor Special Education), MEd (Literacy), and administration add-on from High Point University.  She is working toward her EdD in cultural foundations and leadership from UNCG.  Published by the International Literacy Association, Leni also presents on her passions of literacy and arts integration at workshops in and out of NC.    






Sunday, June 4, 2017

From Blank Stares to Understanding Main Idea

by: Denise Jones

Have you ever witnessed the blank stare of a student when asked to locate the main idea of a passage or paragraph? It’s all too common, but there could be a simple place where you can backtrack to. It’s a step that students may have missed along the way.


The missing link can be as simple as understanding categories and category titles.  It can be the beginning of making connections to finding the main idea.  The following lesson may seem simplistic, but can be THE THING that brings students to a point of understanding.

First, create an anchor chart with a list of categories but no title.  Students will analyze the list to establish a title.  Then, hand out index cards (which you have created)  that contain category titles.  Some examples are: transportation, seasons, sports, things you shine, types of money, presidents, etc. The students will receive this card with a partner, fold a piece of paper into four squares, and illustrate four pictures that represent this category. At this point, teachers need to emphasize the importance of utilizing details in the pictures.  Each team places their illustrations under an Elmo. The class determines the category title (main idea) from the illustrations drawn (supporting details). Students begin to make the connections, providing a basis for these larger concepts.

At a school in which I coach, third through fifth graders have completed these tasks.  I have seen light bulbs go off, and have noted significant improvement with continued practice.  Our fifth grade scores jumped from a 38% to a 79% on our formative assessments in just three weeks.  No more do blank stares greet me as I discuss main idea and supporting details with these students.


Denise Jones is an award winning educator.  She has twenty-three years of experience in this field, including eighteen years as an Elementary Education teacher and five years as an Instructional Coach. Denise has experience in grading educational portfolios for East Carolina University.  A graduate of William Paterson University, Mrs. Jones has a Bachelor of Arts in both Elementary Education and Sociology and has been a member of the NCAE organization for more than twenty years. Professional highlights include presenting at the NC Teachers of English Association in Asheboro NC, writing a published vignette,  and aiding a school with the Leader in Me process to attain Lighthouse Status through Steven Covey.