Giving Thanks And Exploring Solitude This November

Here in New Zeland November looks a little different. Thanksgiving is not a holiday that is celebrated here, but as an international teacher-author, the whole concept of Thanksgiving intrigues me just like a curious book looking at straight your soul when you enter a bookstore does. Well, this month I have experienced curiosity for both the holiday of Thanksgiving and a curious book. Let's start with the book. Yesterday morning I was browsing around the shops with my beautiful mini-me when a stray book caught my attention and wouldn't let it go. It was a book entitled Solitude. The title itself captured me with how peaceful it's simplicity was. I am a simplicity seeker. I live for stolen moments of solitude in between my love of being around my family. 

The concept of being a simplicity seeker is foreign to many folks who work online as I do. It is very hard between the bings of emails and dings of social media to find moments of solitude nowadays. Fortunately, for now, I have power over the use of my time on technology. I spend the majority of my screen time doing what I love best, creating. I love and am very thankful for my job as a teacher-author as I get to use the powers of technology for good without having to get too consumed in the whole social media world of the online web. I am in awe of some teacher-authors who can manage all the various forms of social media alongside their interests outside of work. However, for me, you will notice my absence on many platforms. I love Pinterest, blogging, and the occasional FB post. The rest of my social media presence is very simple as I get too overwhelmed with all the various forms of social media. This passion for simplicity is evident in my work, with a big emphasis on my products being put on not visually overwhelming students when it comes to learning. Simple, clean fonts, and engaging, relevant graphics is where it's at for me.

For Thanksgiving this year I'm getting in the overseas spirit and writing out five things I'm grateful for this year. 

My Five 'Things' Of Thanks 

#1 My Family 
I am very thankful to be spending this November as a Mumma bear. It has always been my dream to be a mum (yes, we spell mum funny here) and now I am, and I couldn't be happier (or more tired). 

#2 My Solitude 
I am very thankful for all the stolen moments of solitude I get daily. When I'm in the car waiting to pick someone up. When I get to go for a lone walk (even for 10 seconds). When I get to be alone with my thoughts in a nice warm bath. I love spending those stolen moments without my phone, otherwise, I find that technology steals those precious moments of solitude in return for the chaos that is being connected 24/7. 

#3 The Kindness of Humans 
I am very thankful for the small smiles shot my way during moments of my life path crossing that of a stranger. For the cheerful "morning" cheers I get when I wonder with my baby along the beach first thing. 

#4 The Christmas Spirit 
I am very thankful that the spirit of Christmas is so alive and prevalent. I'm not into consumerism by any means but the spirit of Christmas heck yes sign me up. After a few months of feeble health, the energy of Christmas has pulled me out of a terrible place and surrounded me with light and laughter.

#5 Nature 
I am very thankful that I live somewhere so surrounded by nature. The bird's noise calms my soul while the freshly cut grass keeps my sense alive. 

Diwali; The Festival of Lights

Wow. October is here. Where did the last 10 months go? I guess being a mama bear really does make time fly. October is a super fun month for many reasons. In American culture, October is dominated by Halloween. Trick or treat anyone? Here in New Zealand Halloween isn't all that big. I mean we try. But our trying is nothing compared to the scale of Halloween that is seen over in the U.S.A. New Zealand is a pretty relaxed country which is great, but it does mean costume party attire is more common than not met with stubbies (often male shorts that are too short depending on the angle), jandals (flip-flops), and a singlet (vest) as opposed to hippies, wizards, and minions no matter what theme you are going for. Maybe that is why Halloween isn't so big over here. **sigh**

Although costume parties are not at the forefront of October for us Kiwis we are lucky to be such a  multi-cultural society. We have lots going on in the month of October to celebrate cultures from all over the world. One of my favorite events of the year that happens to fall in October this year is Diwali. The festival of lights. 

Diwali is a beautiful cultural celebration that is full of beautiful colors and life. Here are some fun fact extracts from my Diwali booklet that helps kids learn all about the celebration of Diwali.

Fun fact #1 
In India, Diwali is the most commonly celebrated holiday.

Fun fact #2 
Diwali marks the Hindu New Year and it lasts for 5 days.

Fun fact #3 

Both men and woman often wear new clothes for Diwali as a symbol of the New Year.

Loved what you read? To save yourself time this Diwali click HERE to browse my Diwali booklet. 

What Sports Can Teach Us About Behavior Management

Sports. They seem to be getting less and less of a focus in the classroom in between this test and that. But sports are detrimental to developing youth who will grow into respectful adults. Here's why. Sports teach us many concepts such as: 

+ teamwork 
+ that it is OK to lose 
+ that it is OK to win 
+ that determination and hard work will get you to where you want to be 
+ collaboration is better than a competition 
+ a goal isn't always achieved in the same way we thought it would be achieved 
+ that sometimes we need some time out 
+ if you fall down, pick yourself right back up 

These concepts are seen in the classroom on a day-to-day basis. With fewer sports going on, kids are starting to become less team focused as a result. It's all individual testing opposed to group explorations like it used to be in the good old days. 

So what are we as teachers to do? A great way to incorporate sports attitudes in the classroom is to implement sports into your behavior management system. Encourage your students to see themselves as part of a bigger entity. You could do this by: 

+giving your students player of the day awards 
+talking to your students about what makes a good team player 
+taking some time to allow your students to research their favorite sports player and then to compare themselves using a Venn diagram 
+using sports as a metaphor in your day-to-day teaching 
+having a sports themed behavior clip chart 

If you have any more ideas on how you could incorporate sports then feel free to leave your idea below. 

Finding Yourself This Summer

The term 'finding yourself' is one often met with questionable stares. Who is this hippy and what do they want from my sanity? Although I may be 50% hippy (and rising) I'm not here to take your sanity, I'm here to help you find it. After a tough school year on your emotions, you are bound to need some inner love time. But where do you start? Here are three ideas to get you started.

Idea #1 - Declutter 

Physical clutter can be symbolic of emotional clutter that is burning in your heart. Maybe you took on too much with after school activities and suddenly your garage is more cluttered than it has ever been? Slowly things build up and clutter forms. It takes a focused effort of tackling the clutter with full force to break the cycle of clutter. Be careful though. If you want to declutter you will need to allow yourself plenty of time to do so. Because our physical environment is linked to our mental state going through our belongings can bring up all sorts of emotions. Maybe get a friend over to support you and you could help them too.

Idea #2 - Find a New Hobby 

Class is dismissed for the school year. Your mind and body are no longer required to be at school full time.  Embrace the freedom. What did you spend the whole school year wishing you had more time for? The time is now; so dig out those cookbooks, workout gear, or TV remote and go get em' tiger.

Idea #3 - Reflect on the Year That Was 

We do everything to try to get our students to think as reflective learners. "So what have we learned about maths today kiddos?" Yet when it comes to personal reflection we are often too consumed with the idea that we don't have time for that. Now that you can take a breather, it is a great time to think back to the school year that was and give yourself credit for achievements you made and think forward to how you can tackle things differently next time on other things.

How to Start a Classroom Economy

The thought of starting up a classroom economy can be daunting, to say the least. I mean where would you even start? Do you need to make fake money? Then you get lost in thought thinking about how if you launch a classroom economy you would have more fake money in your classroom then you do in your real life purse. Teacher life 101. Then you get to thinking, if I have no money how could I afford to put fun prizes in my classroom shop? The teacher struggles are just so real. If you want a simple, fuss-free way to start up a class economy that will not cost you the earth then look no further. 

The Why 

First up, you will need to decide why you want to start a classroom economy. What do you want your students to learn from participating in it? What values do you want to be at the center of your economic system? Are you passionate about teaching your students the value of saving? Or are you more interested in getting their behavior on track first? 

The What 

Once you know why you want to start your economy, you will need to decide what jobs you want your students to do. This works best on a class by class basis. If you have a really reserved student, then you may have a job such as pet minder, or librarian in mind for them. Of course, it will be up to you whether you get your students to apply for their job or if you want to take the reigns and assign them jobs initially. Thinking of all the jobs, you want your students to do can be hard. Here is a list of all the jobs I have come across in the past: 

> arts materials coordinator 
> attendance monitor 
> whiteboard eraser 
> end of line monitor 
> calendar monitor 
> cleanup monitor 
> computer whiz
> door monitor 
> recycling monitor 
> first aid helper 
> homework monitor 
> learning display monitor 
> trash monitor 
> the official librarian 
> line leader 
> lunch monitor 
> messenger 
> table wiper 
> technician 
> paper monitor 
> sink monitor 
> substitute 
> water bottle monitor 
> weather reporter 
> teachers assistant 
> desk detective 
> math materials coordinator 
> travel agent 
> trustworthy cashier 
> money wise economist 
> pencil monitor 
> bathroom monitor 
> chair stacker 
> clean sweeper 
> pledge leader  
> plant monitor 
> journal helper 
> mat helper 
> snack helper 
> letter vest helper 
> hand sanitizer manager 
> pet minder 

The When 

Advertise your heart away! Make up a 'jobs available' sign and get those applicants rolling in. Leave a pile of applications on a table next to your display of all your classroom jobs. The best and most fun way to introduce a classroom economy system is to surprise your students. Don't say a word and then prepare the classroom before your next school day. Put up all the job adverts, and related posters and let the children figure out what is going on for themselves! Dramatic play is best served with a side of exploration. 

The Who 

When all of the jobs you want to have have been sorted, you will need to then assign them. This could be done as randomly as getting all the applications for the same job and drawing a name out of a hat, or it could be done as strategically as matching the best fit applicant to each job. The later is the best one if your students are older and you want them to have an experience that is as close to real life as possible. 

The How 

So the jobs are created and assigned... now, how do you implement your economic system? Set up and print out some fake money to use in your class. Then, create and print bank transaction forms as well as bonus and fine information. Set up an area of your classroom for the class shop, which you can fill with reward coupons if you are on a tight budget. Put up a sign that states the opening hours of the classroom store to make it all that much more real. And you are ready to go. 

Let me know how your classroom economy goes in the comments below. 

If you would like to save the hassle of making it yourself by purchasing the gorgeous ready made classroom economy set shown in the photos then please CLICK HERE.  This set is fully editable and comes in full color and specs of black and white so that your kids can color in their own character on their classroom job. 



Six Reasons Why You Need Me Time This School Holidays

The sun is setting on another hectic school year. Your desk is a mess, your brain is fried, and your heart is full. The moment the term ends is the second your mind starts ticking on what you could do for the next school year. As much as you want to dive into planning for 2017-2018, you know that you need to just take five and have some me time. But after such a long school year where would you even start? 

While you were all systems-a-go, you may have counted things like brushing your teeth, cleaning the toilet, and feeding the cat as cherished me time. Well, move over Whiskers, because mama is going to have some real me time now. Here are six ways you can catch your breath this summer and connect with your inner self. 

1) Look at the clouds 

When was the last time you dropped everything and inhaled through your eyes the beauty this precious earth has on offer? With the weather heating up, spend some time outdoors with your face to the sky. Unlock that creative mind and let your thoughts naturally drift in tune with the clouds soft movements. 

2) Read a real life tangible book 

Do they even make these anymore? As enjoyable as reading on your phone seems to be, technology is extremely addicting. Getting back to the literature basics will not only prove to relax you more than being on a device, but it will also inspire you to read for longer while taking deeper breaths. 

3) Connect with your own inner child 

You spend the majority of your time minding young souls and all the fun that comes with being a child, but when did you last have a word with your own inner child? Ask your mini-me what they want to do this break. Do some baking that is more pre-school chaos than fine dining? Write poetry that is about everything and anything fictional? Make a fort that will protect you and your loved ones from a zombie apocalypse? 

4) Host a themed party 

Throw off that teacher hat for one full night with a fun themed party with your friends. Bring on the tequila and laughs! You could go with anything from beach theme to dress as the letter M! 

5) Spend time in nature 

It has been proven that we cannot feel anxious while spending time in nature. How amazing is that?! Shrug off all that negative energy that has collected over the past year with a stroll through nature. 

6) Create school free memories 

As fun as our jobs can be, it is vital that we have a well-rounded life. Creating memories outside of our familiar four walls at school is an essential part of allowing ourselves to be multi-level beings. Say yes to doing things that make your heart yearn these school holidays. Create a chill spot outdoors for me time? Check! Go out to the movies to watch something not made for kids? Check! Be called by your first name for several weeks on end? Check! 

5 Ways To Celebrate The End Of The School Year

The sun is rising earlier and earlier. The students' attention is less focused. Their energy; more scattershot. The end of the school year is fast approaching. After slogging through second semester, no teacher wants to plan a comprehensive lesson on the value of Memorial Day. So, forget it! Instead, try these 5 novel ways to celebrate the end of the year.

1. Have Class Outside

Students' gazes are slowly drifting from the board to the window, filling the world on the other side with imagined Summer adventures. Give it to them! Venture from the confines of the classroom this week, arrange your students in a circle on a grassy lawn, and encourage freer discussion than what would usually fill your classroom.

 2. Swap Classes

Short of going outdoors, swapping classes with a fellow teacher will allow students the adventure they so desire, but still within the structure of school. For best results, classes should not be given any advanced warning, but instead surprised with a field trip down the hall.

3. Let the Students Teach

In another effort to satisfy a late-Spring class's desire to break the mold, plan an activity wherein students research a subject, themselves, and then lead a lesson. Research has shown that instructing on subjects results in higher retention, so it's as pedagogically sound as it is radical.

4. Creative Projects

As was mentioned before, students are longing to live out their Summer lives at this point in the year. Entertain that desire by encouraging them to write stories or dramas about the vacation. Where do they intend to go? What do they intend to accomplish? Will they continue practicing their multiplication tables? (No)

5. Party!

It's an obvious one, but few teachers are willing to spring a party on students for fear that it might create conflict with other classrooms that are hard at work. Who cares! It's the end of the year. The administration isn't going to lock it down. The teachers in the lounge aren't going to be there around for a few months to shoot judgmental looks. Freedom, at last!

Teach Cultural Sensitivity By Celebrating Ramadan

Across the United States, students are largely unaware of Ramadan. It's often lumped in with KwanzaaChinese New Year, and Diwali -- all important holidays in their own rights, but victims of othering by American culture.

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. In Muslim tradition, it commemorates the first revelation of Quran to the prophet Muhammad, his first visit from the Archangel Gabriel. Muslims around the world observe the festival month by fasting from dawn until sunset. Many mosques will host feasts at sunset everyday of the month.

In the Gregorian calendar, Ramada falls between May 26th and June 25th.

It's no debate that Islam is a hot-button issue in contemporary America. Consider this Ramadan an opportunity to teach students about the rich cultural tradition Islam offers. It will, after all, be the largest world religion by 2070, according to the Pew Research Centre.

If your classroom includes Muslim students, allow them to discuss with the class what Ramadan means to them. Giving them space to safely express their religious beliefs will encourage self-assurance as well as respect from their peers.

Also invite them to share their culture past a purely religious context, perhaps throwing a party with traditional food and dance. Islam spans many countries and continents, so investigate your student's specific origin before diving in. In Iraq, for example, date-nut pastries are all the rage. All throughout different cultures, though, you will find halal food, or food that is prepared according to Muslim law. The keys to incorporating Islam tradition into your classroom are sensitivity and curiosity. Instill those same values in your class and you all enjoy a profound cultural learning experience.

Salaam-Alaikum, brothers and sisters. (Now you say “alaikum-salaam”).


Classroom Ideas For Teaching International Customs This Mother's Day

Our mothers (and mother figures) do so much for us. They drag us out of bed in morning for school, they provide us with a shoulder to cry on, they encourage us to grow into the best versions of ourselves possible; all while juggling day-to-day life. The least we can do is take one arbitrary day out of the year to make paper mobiles and homemade greeting cards for them at school, right?

What many don't know is that Mother's Day is not strictly an American holiday, nor is it celebrated the same all across the world. In Brazil, kids put together special performances for their mothers before a community barbecue at a local church or school. In Japan, kids present their mothers with red carnations, symbolic of her gentle strength. In Serbia, mothers are tied up until they acquiesce to give their children gifts and candy (this is real).

This Mother's Day, shake the routine in your classroom and introduce your students to some international customs.

Here's how:

Split your classroom into small groups. To each group, assign a country. It will be upon the groups to research Mother's Day customs from their assigned countries and prepare cultured gifts or tokens of gratitude for their mothers. If a group chooses France, for example, their research will likely lead them to writing poems. Remember to float around the classroom to keep your students on task. If a chosen country has seemingly blasé customs, encourage your students to be creative and create new (inoffensive) customs! If you want to get really creative you could even get all of your students to create their own country and a Mother's Day custom to go along with it. 

Introducing your students to international Mother's Days will contextualize the day for them and lead them to appreciate its significance as more than just another holiday. As a follow-up, you could talk to your students about other foreign analogs to American holidays. Tell them about Children's Day in China. That is sure to get a rise out of them.