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A Teacher Thing

Fostering Empathy Within Others

In my online mentoring institute this summer, the topic of empathy came up quite frequently.  In our discussion forums we talked about how to show empathy not sympathy to new teachers.  Empathy is simply putting yourself in someone else's shoes to become more in tune with their feelings so you can relate to their situation.  
We are starting school a week from tomorrow.  Yes, can you believe it?  It seems earlier and earlier each year!  We will not only have some new teachers in my school but new teacher aides and paras.  It's hard to stop and answer questions for adults when you are trying to keep everything in the classroom organized and keep your attention on the kids.  It's important to show empathy to these new people in your building to let them know you've been there, everything is going to be alright, work together as a team, and build each other up through positive interaction.  As you share this with other adults, guess who is watching?  That's right, the kids in your classroom.  
As I reflected back on our conversations, I researched ways to build empathy in the classroom.  In my school we teach in multi-age classrooms.  That means that I have a class of 20 students of both third and fourth graders.  In this article, "Empathy: The Most Important Back to School Supply" Homa Tavangar discusses how to develop a Fitness Plan for Building Empathy in the Classroom.  She shares ways to implement empathy in the everyday classroom by doing some prep work:
Creating the conditions in which empathy can thrive.
  • Create a Safe Space: A trust-based environment is core to unlocking empathy.
  • Lead by Example: Consider what empathy looks like in your interactions, and model this.
  • Develop Emotional Competency: Understand and manage your own emotions in order to identify and interpret these emotions in others.  I found these steps to be relatively easy to do most of the time but it's always good to have a quick reminder.  For me, I feel fortunate to have fourth graders to mentor my third graders in their first days at our grade level.  Here is the link to the article if you'd like read up on developing an empathetic classroom. 
  •  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/empathy-back-to-school-supply-homa-tavangar

Laughter in the Classroom

Have you ever been in an inservice that goes on and on about testing practices or insurance benefits and you get the giggles with a colleague.  I have and there's something about total quietness that seems to be contagious.  Laughter in the classroom can be the same way and everyone feels a little better after an uncontrollable gigglefest.  
I've just finished my online mentoring training to help new teachers this year.  One of the articles I ran across was, "Laughter and LearningK Humor Boosts Retention."  Studies show the power in laughter when used the correct way in the classroom.  I would agree, if children enjoy their learning, they can excel at a much higher rate.  I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did!
Photo Credits: http://thisreddressofmine.blogspot.com

10 Ways to Become More Resilient for Teachers

I'm part of an online mentoring community for teachers.  Experienced teachers can apply at The New Teacher Center each semester and become a mentor to new teachers.  This week in our discussion forum there was  a great article, "10 Ways to Become More Resilient".  It discusses precautions to put in place in order to take care of yourself as a teacher throughout the school year.  It's a great article to share with new teachers and for more experienced teachers as well.
Classroom Decor Burlap and Birds
 I made this DIY project from an old serving tray.  My son's baseball team was having an auction last summer and these came up for bid.  I paid like $2 for a stack of 15 of them.  I had no idea what I'd do with them.  I ended up painting them with chalk paint, drilling two holes at the top, and tieing wired ribbon with a big bow at the top for Christmas gifts.  I decided everyone had one but me so I made one for my classroom this summer.  I haven't decided what I'm going to write on it yet.  I may write the encouraging word of the month.
 A teacher friend of mine found this, "G" wall hanging in the dollor bins at Target and they were on clearance so she picked it up for me.
 This burlap ribbon really makes a statement on bulletin boards.  I got it at Hobby Lobby.  I believe it's the 6" with jute sewn throughout.  It is so easy to work with a really pops!
 I line all my bulletin boards with fabric.  It does fade like butcher paper but not as quickly and the colors remain vibrant for years.  I probably won't change the background colors for years.  I may or may not change the boards either unless I get tired of the color scheme. The fabric is from Wal-mart and relatively inexpensive, I think $3.94 a yard.

 These trimmers are from Mardel and called the Retro Chic Collection.  They are double sided, chevron on one side and polka dots on the other as you can see both above and below.  They were the inspiration for the burlap and turquoise accents in my classroom.  I started with the trimmer and built my decor from there.  
 I love these Language Arts Posters but I can't for the life of me find where I got them on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I will provide the link once I find them.  They are super cute and informative!
 You can find these Burlap and Birdies Editable Labels on Teachers Pay Teachers 
Aren't they just the cutest?  I typed my word wall words on mine.  They'll go perfect with all the turquoise, lime green, and burlap in my classroom!
These are burlap banners or swags and peel and sticks burlap letters.  My teacher friend Caitlin also got these on clearance at Target in the dollar bins.  

I found this burlap canvas in the crafting section at Wal-mart.  They have several burlap items such as these canvases that are 12" x 12" and the smaller ones that are 6" x 9" shown below.  

I bought these wooden letters at Wal-mart for around $1.97 each and a cheap bottle of acrylic paint.  My teenage daughter painted these in about 15 minutes for me.  I adhered them with a small finishing nail to the wooden part on the back by nailing from the back.  I will probably hang them with Command Velcro Strips since they aren't heavy.
Here are the Command Velcro Strips.  My friend Wendy turned me onto these for my classroom and they are an essential part of how I hang things now.  Since I had a brand new classroom last year, the paint was still fresh and chipped easily.  These hung things so wonderfully without ripping the paint off the walls.

Here is the, "Learn" project in better light.  My classroom has such poor lighting from fluorescent lights.  Sorry the pictures aren't the best.

I will be adding more as I continue to bring the whole room together.  Let me know what you think or have any questions about how I did the projects.

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